Mortal Kombat - From Bad To Worse

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Description: Ryu, the World Warrior, has had a rough few days. His battle with Kotal during the Divinement left him with wounds both physical and mental that he very clearly needs time to heal. And that's absolutely why I-No drops out of the sky to make fun of him until he decides to try and punch her face clean off. Hilarity ensues.

A warrior stands alone, surrounded by the empty sounds of dread, the lifeless scents of decay, and the sightless depths of darkness. Only the lattermost detail is held at bay - and only just! - by the grotesque facial sculptures of fantastical demons beholding torches within their eyes and mouths. What running water can be heard elsewhere... isn't here.
A white karate gi stands dirtied, covered in dust and soot from recent trials and tribulations that he did not appear to surmount. This is a young man that has no shortage of challenges before him - and within him. Whatever stirs within, the disquiet is at present quiet. It is not gone. His back is turned towards virtually every available angle one has to observe him.
The grievous wounds have largely sbusided. The natural resilience of a fighter, even when pushed to near death, usually may see one through near-death. There is no mistaking how close Ryu's mortality came to the preicipice of going over the line.
He was inscrutible to most people even before whatever fell incident came before him from some time ago. Now, he seems nearly as a statuesque fixture as he stands at a crossroads of no great importance or meaning, standing quietly and motionlessly within the underground passages beneath Shang Tsung's castle.
Is he at peace? Is he at rest?
The warm glow of the Elder blessing set within one of his handguards may be the only risk-free window for inquiry.

Some people were 'summoned' here. Some took a boat. Some were kidnapped. All ways of arriving at Shang Tsung's seemingly otherwise-hidden island for the Monday Night Football of interdimensional war, Mortal Kombat that are approved by whatever beings are behind the entire event. And then there's I-No who, in between a shift change of the guards down at the docks, was literally just SITTING on the edge of the docks when she wasn't before, looking out at the sea. One of the guards unwisely thought to question her presence in a get-up-in-your-shit way which was, let me tell you, a really bad plan.

The guard, attempting to look upwards at the figure standing over him with her red leather platform boot on his neck, had a difficult time, for certain. Meanwhile, a little farther up, I-No spun a glittering blue object on a short cord on her finger, in front of her breasts which -- rather than enticing -- seemed just as threatening as the boot.

Letting the rotation of her finger stop, the object's rotational force eventually died down, the weight of it causing it to drop, gently spinning in the air: a guitar pick made of perfectly carved turquoise, polished so brightly that it seems to shine with an inner spark all its own.

"To recap," purred I-No's voice from far above said guard's eyes, "this means your boss knows I'm here and I was invited, so how about you fuck off and we'll forget this ever happened, alright, Renfaire Rent-a-Cop? Super."

The guards have given her a wide berth since.

For whatever reason, this woman -- who through the possession of a soul shard is very clearly here for Mortal Kombat -- was entirely left out of The Divinement, a situation she sulkily attributed to Shang Tsung being mad that she dommed one of his guards without letting him watch. But the problem is that a bored I-No is a dangerous I-No, and with nothing but time on her hands, the Red Witch (the REAL one) has taken to wandering the palace grounds, amusing herself in whatever small way. This meant a few rounds of watching fights from the typical Anime Villain Vantage Point of some nearby but impossibly tall and narrow perch like a pillar. Most were boring -- did anyone die? Maybe that one guy died -- but one... one caught her eye.

For a second, as she watches one of Earth's greatest fighters battle an otherworldly ruler, all color drains from her sight. Statues crumble. Light fades.

In less time than it takes to blink your eyes, everything's normal again. Ideally, she's far enough away that neither Ryu nor Kotal hears a woman's alto voice bellow "FUCK!" in the distance midway through their fight.

Flash forward to now, where Ryu is about to get the worst interruption of his life, or if not the worst then probably in the top 5 least good. The whole way down into this cave, someone whose senses are attuned as Ryu's might have noticed occasional flashes of a nearby presence; too far too see or hear, but so robust a spirit as I-No's leaves a mark no matter how sneaky she's trying to be (or how hard she cheats by teleporting). But now, from the tunnel entrance he came in from, the sound of platform heels clicking on a stone floor with an easy, rhythmic pace is unmistakable.

When she steps out of the gloom, I-No's head is slightly bowed, making her crimson witch hat the only thing visible until she raises her hear and points a pair of finger guns at Ryu, smiling in a catlike way.

"Fancy meeting you here, tiger."

Somewhere half-way around 'tiger,' the form of Ryu does a sudden one-eighty, a bare foot slamming down upon the earth with such ferocity that the entire chamber shakes. Fists tightly clenched, arms horizontal - the famed horse stance - the glare in his eyes matches the ferocity... three-fold? Three-fold. A magenta glow grows warmer from one of his fists, teeth clenched. Aggravation? Anger? A mounting desire for--
As the shuddering of the room ends, so too does the body language dull. It does not soften. The way limbs rear up and back, the whole of the picture could be seen as like a coiled serpent. Ryu is one of the foremost, if not the foremost, martial artists in the world. Just about every movement he employs, there is reasonable assumption that a well-honed striking technique is imminent. Ansatsuken has extremely few wasted motions. Every breath, every thought, every action. It's dry, humorless.
Flecks of red, almost imperceptibly, rise from the gathered aura around the World Warrior. The gnawing, insatiable, less than gentle suggestions as to how to approach an opponent. How to see them. How to...
"Ngh," Ryu grunts eloquently, his gaze turning ever slightly to the left, before a voice spoken far less humbly than one has known for him to speak decides to partake in the lost art of human conversation.
"Who dares approach?"

A hand comes up and touches the brim of the red hat at that greeting, tipping it down somewhat, but despite the show of power and the clearly perceivable tension in the cavern the woman from whom Ryu has demanded a name seems totally, entirely calm. And her green eyes -- weren't those blue, a second ago? -- regard the gi-clad warrior before them with a sort of curious amusement. "'Who dares'? Wow. Buddy, the cup overfloweth on this island with powerful dudes swinging their dicks around like it's time to play jumprope and talking like bad 80s cartoon villains. Do yourself the favor and don't start that shit. You gotta keep your personal brand distinct."

She saw it, in this man's fight with Kotal. Whatever it is that's filling the room right now, like a kind of pissed off mist formed from pure masculine bullshit, she saw it then too. But not at this scale. Compared to Ryu's dusty white gi, and the shadowy depths of the cave, I-No's scarlet attire stands out like a firework in a clear night sky. And what she saw, well...

There's a reason she followed him down here.

Rolling her head on her neck a bit, I-No fixes her gaze on the tense, coiled spring that is Ryu, and stretches her arms over her head. "But I'm feeling nice, so I'll answer the question. I'm just a girl who's here for this running-with-scissors fuckfest and I dare because that is my goddamned JOB. I'm a shit-stirrer, son, and you look like shit," she adds, lips quirking into an entirely mocking smile, "so maybe you need to be stirred up." Taking a step or two to the right, like someone circling a used car they're thinking of buying, she studies Ryu carefully... though she is equally careful not to move *toward* him and to keep her motions unthreatening, at least for now. Her tone is as blithe as ever when she speaks again. "Boy that Taco Bell mascot-looking motherfucker worked you over good, too. You mad about it, Princess? That why you're down here in the Sulk Cave talking like Cobra Commander to innocent women?"

The underground caverns do not fill with the mirthful laughter of a humble target of a good-natured roast. As if shameful, the World Warrior's gaze further averts itself at the blu-- green-eyed witch's japes and jabs. There is the tensing of a fist further, the stress of fabrics making its faint aural cues. (Shame?)
Someone did not find the initial comparisons delicious.
As I-No paces around, there's a sense of someone not wanting to look her in the eye. (Shame?) Yet, the rest of his body seems to follow the expected rhythms of someone on alert, something keeping watch for that predatory pounce. Over-correcting, for one whose present teasing is physically passive.
"You don't--" Says a voice, vaguely concerned. It is cut off by silence. (Shame?) Though she circles, he does not back away. The same red flecks stir, with a slight increase in intensity. One fist lowers to the side - the fist whose handguard holds an embedded magenta gem, the fingers fighting to loosen.
There is a sneer that does not look like it belongs on this man's face as Ryu's face looks to meet the scarlet-clad guitarist's own in a deathly glare. The way the eyelids tense around his eyes... the facial muscles seem uncomfortable with the form they inhabit.
Less uncertain about the way things move and position themselves is the way that half-clenched hand balls up into a fist and goes into a hooking punch.
The surrounding air grows noticeably warmer in its wake.

COMBATSYS: Ryu has wandered into a fight here on the right meter side.

                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0              Ryu

COMBATSYS: I-No has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
I-No             0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0              Ryu

COMBATSYS: I-No endures Ryu's Medium Punch.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
I-No             0/-------/-----==|-------\-------\0              Ryu

The ground cracks. The walls quake. The very air feels like it's being boiled by the dark, violently pulsing waves of Ryu's aura. This man is a consummate warrior. Even in this state, that punch is an explication of the fighter's art and skill. It sails through the air like a meteor, as if one can actually SEE the acceleration.

With seemingly no resistance at all, the fist slams into I-No's face.

The problem is that a blow like that should have taken the woman off her feet and onto the ground and instead she doesn't actually move. That doesn't mean she didn't FEEL it -- it's clear just from the feeling of flesh giving under his knuckles that it connected and oh, she FELT it -- but through whatever power she has in that lithe body of hers, she didn't let it move her.

Her eyes, visible briefly crimson, are quickly obscured as her hat brim falls over them, her head snapping forward from the blow, but her mouth -- once she's less punched -- curls up in a feral grin. "Not bad, but how about next time..."

And then, at point-blank range ideally before Ryu can retreat, she swings both hands up from the side... which are holding, against all logic, a sky-blue guitar thrumming with sonic energy. "...YOU ACTUALLY PUT SOME EFFORT IN?!"

COMBATSYS: I-No successfully hits Ryu with Fierce Strike.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
I-No             0/-------/---====|>>>----\-------\0              Ryu

The clash of a guitar against what was once a grimace sends a reverberating echo through the entire underground networks. Stalactites rock, rattle, and some even rupture as they collapse upon the cold, dead rock. Splintering into smaller rocks, the newly descending natural decorations now disintegrate, nondescript dust.
Footing surrendered to fly through the air, the warrior's landing is the only graceful thing in its aftermath, a backwards roll onto one's feet as the arms cross into a shape in front of them. Eyes possessed of an unkind light peek out anew from underneath, as the jewel-like construct embedded within his fist sparkles a magenta hue anew while blood almost goes unnoticed going down the side of his mouth.
Arms uncross, fists now tightly formed, arms settling to either side as the feet start to move in that ready stance - an awakening? An agreement? There is a coherency that is fleeting, at best. It is only a matter of time before yet another series of mental fractures manifest again, words held back.

COMBATSYS: Ryu equips a warm Magenta Soul Shard.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
I-No             0/-------/---====|>>>----\-------\0          [E] Ryu

A hand comes up to wipe the spit from her mouth, once I-No's impromptu swing has put some distance between the two fighters. That hurt, not that she's going to admit it even under torture. The other hand is still holding the guitar by the strap, the instrument of both music and combat dangling a bit. Out comes the... something or other, on Ryu's part. A gem of some kind? The feel of it is familiar, of course; she has one of these herself, and the dramatic gesture on Ryu's part brings it to mind.

With a sudden flick of the wrist, as if she were flipping a coin into the air, the turquoise pick sparkles as it flips through the air before I-No snaps out a hand and catches it, bringing the guitar up and running the pick down the strings, the air splitting with a perfectly audible, grinding metal arpeggio (without an amp, which is weird enough).

"You got spark, I'll give you that," she teases, weapon at the ready, hips swaying back and forth somewhat as she also waits to see what happens. "You good and angry? Wanna kill me? You can, right? Just go ahead and wipe my ass out, see what happens. If you can, anyway."

COMBATSYS: I-No equips a dim Electric Blue Soul Shard.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
I-No [E]         0/-------/---====|>>>----\-------\0          [E] Ryu

There returns the sneer that does not fit the young man's face. Something is spat through the lips, incomprehensible and almost like choking without any of the typical signs associated with this (gagging, coughing, nothing), his head turning slightly as the magenta light flashes a little brighter while the hands go drawn back.
The red flecks return, more visible, concentrated between the nothingness that is formed between the cupped hands drawn back. Purple growth... a faded blue fizzle. A more violent purple sphere starts to pulsate between those hands as the warrior's body leans forward a little more than is necessary, as the light blue and more virulent purple alternate.
"This isn't--"
Yes? No? Yes? No? What?
The internal politics behind its formation become irrelevant the moment it launches free of his hands with a somewhat slurred cry of...
A chaotic, pulsating mass of blue and purple that yet launches towards I-No at worrying speeds and - on impact - explosively dissipates back into the nothingness from whence it came, casting its conflicting lights across the lengths and depths of the cavern.

COMBATSYS: Ryu channels the strength of the killing fist.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
I-No [E]         0/-------/---====|>>>----\-------\0          [E] Ryu

COMBATSYS: I-No blocks Ryu's Weakened Hadouken.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
I-No [E]         0/-------/---====|>>>----\-------\0          [E] Ryu

The guitar pick comes up. And then, like a tiny electric blue meteor, it falls.

Marlene sings.

It's not like Ryu knows the guitar's name and there is probably very little chance indeed that he has enough knowledge of electric guitars to understand the quality Strat he's looking at in terms of its construction but as far as what's happening right now, none of that is relevant. What IS relevant is that her hand sweeps down like a god passing judgment and the guitar explodes with an incredible chord, the kind of concert speaker-level shit that makes your bones rattle. The cave's structure makes it echo, reverberate, and feed back in on itself, until it feels like the sound is a living thing.

Ryu's signature attack splashes against, of all things, the upheld guitar, the forceful two-toned chi -- still powerful, even if hampered by its user's conflicted state -- caught against it in a coruscating field of sky blue and pale gold, the sonic element of the chord literally straining against the incoming attack. The resulting lights are as good as any tour laser light show, and by the time the chord fades away, only the tiniest ghost of Ryu's Hadouken remains, a tiny burst of blue-purple.

"Okay can I just take a second and observe that these acoustics..." And here, she strums another chord that dances around the room like some sort of mad, metallic audio sprite, "...are fucking INCREDIBLE. No wonder I sound so good. What the fuck's YOUR excuse?"

The red-clad woman advances on her opponent with a slow, sure, swaggery walk, like some sort of rock and roll pirate on the deck of her own ship. "This is fucking incredible. Did that Aztec lawn ornament kick your testicles off and I missed that part of the fight? I can see it in your eyes. You wanna kill me. You wanna rip my tits off and use them for a hat." Her face contorts into a grin, a hideous visage, taunting and violent. "You got anything better than that little love tap in your arsenal? Or do I gotta hurt your feefees some more before you whip out the good shit?!"

She punctuates this request by suddenly inverting herself, doing what can only be called a midair full split, guitar held between her legs. One platform booted foot looks to impact with Ryu's face; it's accompanied by a torrent of gold sonic energy that delivers an equally powerful kick.

COMBATSYS: Ryu dodges I-No's Horizontal Chemical Love.

[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
I-No [E]         0/-------/---====|>>>----\-------\0          [E] Ryu

In the waves of sound and air that follow the impact, a puff of air runs through Ryu's hair and clothes. The competing powers at play seem far too large for even this spacious part of the underground caverns to contain, a number of cracks across the ground and ceiling widening with the chord.
I-No's approach stands opposite of Ryu's held position. Legs bend in ways suggesting there is fighting the desire to move forward, to intercept her as she goes into those graphic details of her opponent's inner desires. (With that ill-fitting frown, she may not be completely incorrect.) A growl gathers within the recesses of Ryu's throat...
The gymnatics and resulting exposure go unrewarded with neither impact nor observation, as Ryu's upper body shifts back, turning around as his left leg bends inward - a chambered kick - while the noisy golden kick passes overhead to the rustling of his hair.
A sure hit, what could have been a clean intercept, is sacrificed to a moment of hesitation.
Internal whispers - conspirational, single-minded, goading - manifest anew with red flecks that escape up about Ryu's shoulders.
The bent leg is thrust backwards and up high, air compressing around the heel as the one foot supporting his body against the ground slides against the uneven, rough stone underneath, a thrusting kick now on a catastrophic crash-course somewhere around face-level (assuming she were standing with feet on the ground at the time of impact) with a loud kiai.

COMBATSYS: Ryu channels the strength of the killing fist.

[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
I-No [E]         0/-------/---====|>>>----\-------\0          [E] Ryu

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits I-No with Joudan Sokutou Geri.

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
I-No [E]         0/-------/=======|>>>>---\-------\0          [E] Ryu

I-No doesn't appear to even bother to move when Ryu drives at her, just like before; clearly, she has every intention of weathering the storm again. This time, though... Ryu may be conflicted, but it's pretty clear one side is starting to win, because the force behind that blade-like straight kick is more than even I-No can just shrug off like it didn't happen; the red-clad rocker sails across the cave as the blow connects, slamming into a stalagmite that breaks her fall, but crumbles to dust in the process. I-No herself lands on her ass just past the now-shattered remains of the stone fang she impacted.

Getting to her feet, she reaches down and dusts off her knees, then gives Ryu an approving nod and smile. "Little better. Felt like you maybe kinda sorta actually meant that one but I'm pretty sure you can do better, can't you, Princess?"

She stalks forward, every step sultry despite the injuries she just suffered, supremely confident. "This is Mortal Kombat, Bubbles, not Olympic judo. I know they got your pussy ass here to defend Earthrealm because there's no way a fucking goody-two-shoes like you rolls with fuckers like General Guacamole."

Another step. Her hand comes up. The guitar's at the ready. "Of course that's good news for me, right? This is your C-game, kid, and if I wasn't fucking around for kicks and I wanted to kill you, I'd be drinking a margarita out of your hollowed-out skull by now. So you got two choices. You gonna grow a pair and rip my throat out..."

Another chord gets played. A bright green eighth note -- some flight of fancy on I-No's part, perhaps -- soars across the distance toward her opponent. "...or are you gonna bitch out and be some Outworlder's fucking coffee table trophy?!"

COMBATSYS: I-No successfully hits Ryu with Antidepressant Scale.
- Power hit! -

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
I-No [E]         1/-------/=======|=======\-------\0          [E] Ryu

An eighth note leaves an impact worthy of a whole, shaking Ryu's body violently as it reverberates through his very bones and into the ground he stands on. A shockwave rolls outwards, hurling loose particle matter all about the musty underground about the same time the Ansatsuken student is given another impromptu primer on aerodynamics. The anguished yell of pain seems to last almost as long, nearly monotone rather than the sharp upward inflection most would come off as.
Flying into a wall, a newly-formed passage is made from the rock that crumbles behind him. The contents that lie beyond will be for another's curiosity to uncover, as the new cloud of (probably toxic) dust only serves to give him a blackened, almost dramatic outline as he stands.
Internally, every feeling shouts with each else, as he leans forward limply towards his right-hand side. It is impossible for him to bring a coherent word in upon I-no's impolite insults. The gnawing invasive presence has plenty to bark. 'Insolent woman!' 'Strike her down at once, I command you!'
The refracting light within the magenta gem-like object residing within his handguard, too, swarms with the opinions of souls residing within. 'Destroy.' 'Injure.' 'Subjugate.' There are some thoughts that might be synonyms to the above, but do not register as anything remotely familiar to an Earthrealm tongue. These other words may be used in frustration that he is not doing that fine a job heeding words that are confirmed to be among those he speaks and understands.
Then, there is the primal, dangerous instinct that runs deepest of all, threatening to scratch out the very surface...
Facing up to I-no with blood running down the side of his head in addition to his mouth... what principles can he stick to, in a wasteland devoid of virtue, modesty, or mercy? Whatever argues within him, they haven't completely won him over even with the severity of the situation.
Mortal Kombat puts lives on the line. Were it not for the mercy of Kotal, he would probably be as I-no described - someone's conversation piece over an awful cup of blood, or something macabre.
Swinging a leg up and outward, comes the familiar cry as he takes to the air...
"Tatsumakiii!" It is one of Ryu's dirtiest tricks to the voices he fights. If they affix themselves to his consciousness, they do not have his resilience to the resulting dizziness that this rapid, hovering spinkick inflicts upon all but the most dedicated and mentally hardened of Ansatsuken students. It is the briefest reprieve he has in his return volley to I-no, spinning towards her with an extended leg that looks to strike her several times over before landing face-forward.
The chaos would quickly resume. The singular moment of calm... it is uncertain through his eyes as to what thought he might have accomplished for that short span of time he has.
She is far less burdened by competing wills compare to himself. Any course of action or thought might meet stiff opposition both within and without, yet.

COMBATSYS: I-No fails to interrupt Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku from Ryu with Megalomania.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
I-No [E]         0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\1          [E] Ryu

There. There's the control. There's the moment. Good or bad, win or lose, there it is.

As Ryu sails toward his opponent, her whole body is suddenly alive with power. And while she's certainly shown skill so far -- enough skill to keep up with her opponent, at any rate -- the amount of energy that fills the air around I-No, as Ryu whirls in, might give even the World Warrior pause in its intensity.

This is roughly when Ryu's foot connects with her jaw.

For all its speed and skill, the blow isn't quite as crippling as the one she just took; it sends her spinning away, but the red-clad songstress snaps a hand down and catches the ground at the last second, vaulting back to a standing position and shaking out her arms, brushing the brim of her hat with her hands for a second before placing a hand on her hip, grinning at Ryu.

It should be noted that while that aura of gathering power is less intense right now... 'less intense' does not mean 'is gone'.

"Getting better." She pinches her right index finger down near her thumb. "Little better. Almost there. Christ, I'm a woman here to kill you, not your fucking prom date. Is your plan to angst me to death, or what?" Why is she goading him? It's not that I-No hasn't landed some good hits of her own -- the two she's put out have been telling indeed -- but Ryu has, by far and despite his indecision, certainly landed more hits with more regularity. But she seems pretty confident that the World Warrior isn't even going to be able to scratch her in the long term, a confidence that doesn't seem supported by events.

A clever observer might be asking themselves: what does she know that she's not saying?

Adjusting her shoulders, a move that makes her all-too-on-display cleavage bob around under clothes that seem more pro forma than actual attempts to cover her body, I-No locks eyes with Ryu, the violet shade of her gaze boring into the young fighter's face. "We ain't done. The dance is still going, sweetheart. If you want to take me to the finish you're gonna have to show me the big stuff."

Keep spinning. The hairs on the back of his neck, what honed familiarity he has with the undercurrent of energy through all living things, the planet itself... he dares not break concentration for as long as he can grip it, until the momentum of the Tatsumaki gives out on its own.
Face-to-face with I-no, uncomfortably close with the lingering remnants of an incredible power that would have been ratcheted far beyond just 'uncomfortable,' to look at the seductive free-spirited hedonist eye-to-eye. For her smaller stature, the carefree nature in which she stokes the inner violence stuns him to silence as he enters the inner argument with voices unhappy about his attempts to shake them anew, a heavy, uncomfortable breath escaping from his maw, left arm slowly raised in a cursory defensive posture. Woeful, damnable hesitation!!
Somewhere around the point of 'show me the big stuff...'
This next attack, this next effort... is more courtesy of the uninvited guest. Decisive. Arrogant. Heedless of the lingering power in the air that has not yet fully dispersed, where a Ryu who is more in hold of his senses - if never entirely unopposed - would have felt it in him to pause, reflect, take measure of what power remains eminating from the enigmatic witch. To take in what his opponent brings forth. Their every discipline, their every being, conveyed as a fighter. What would be a routine pleasure, in better times.
The uninvited guest in question, affixing that horrible stretched-out looking sneer that does not fit Ryu's face again, has no patience nor respect for any of this.
"Begone!" A shout goes through, in a tone of voice Ryu has never spoken openly. The true owner of this word... they suffer this interloper no more, putting Ryu's body into a crouching position.
Neither does the low forward kick that races out via Ryu's left foot suggest any desire to have her loiter among the living, supporting his balance against the ground with his left arm. I-no could probably sense it. That unshakable feeling of impatience. Why is she being entertained, instead of being snuffed out on the spot?!
The very ground he leans on shudders, as though growing increasingly damaged just by being in the presence of her. Something that survives, only for a lack of a great power being successfully unleashed in intended form.

COMBATSYS: I-No just-defends Ryu's Medium Kick!

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I-No [E]         0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\1          [E] Ryu

He's kicked her. Beat her. Sent her hurtling through a stone formation. Comparatively she smacked him with a guitar that one time. And yet the lady in red does not seem to think this is a problem and, when Ryu drops low to try and effectively knock her over by pushing his foot into her shin. What happens next proves why: she pivots just before the kick connects, when Ryu's leg is at full extension, too far to immediately pull back. Her *right* foot, the one she DIDN'T take the first step with, is still in the way... but at the last second she raises it just enough to plant her platform heeled foot right on Ryu's ankle, pinning his leg -- however briefly -- in place.

I-No has just-dominatrixed Ryu's medium kick.

Looking down at her opponent, the woman's eyes -- what the hell color ARE they now anyway? the shadow of her hat brim obscures this -- are cold and hard, to match her utterly unamused facial expression. "I will leave when I'm damn good and ready, and not a minute before, Cupcake. Capice?"

And with that, she removes her foot and takes a step back. Ryu definitely has time to stand up and face her again. Which begs the question: why? She was at close range, and had entirely deflected the World Warrior's assault without so much as a scratch to herself. So why not capitalize on that opening and immediately attack?

A good question.

"Bubbles, you might be the world's worst conversationalist, you know that?" she asks, rolling one shoulder. "I've had better banter with the fucking guards and I'm PRETTY sure some of them are just cardboard standups with an mp3 player of looping dialogue taped to the back. If you're gonna roll with 'Begone!' and all this Doctor Doom comic book crap can you at least like, give me some consistency? Tell ole I-No you're gonna rip her heart out and make it into an art installation. Because lemme tell you, this half-hearted 'should I punch her? no I guess not NO WAIT maybe I should' bullshit is gettin' REAL old."

Well that answers that question. She might or might not be privy to Ryu's private thoughts but she can definitely tell what's going on with his literal punches and kicks.

She suddenly whips out a hand, trailing -- of all things -- a stray guitar string. "So how about you quit the foreplay and COME FUCK THIS ALREADY, YOU INDECISIVE PIECE OF SHIT!"

With a snap of the wrist she attempts to snag Ryu with the guitar string... by preference, by the NECK. If she gets purchase, she yanks him close, twining the string tighter, before yanking it away HARD, sending the Ansatsuken fighter spinning away like a human top.

COMBATSYS: Ryu channels the strength of the killing fist.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
I-No [E]         0/-------/------=|=======\-------\1          [E] Ryu

COMBATSYS: Ryu fails to interrupt This Is My Show from I-No with Weakened Shoryuken EX.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
I-No [E]         0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1          [E] Ryu

There is such an exaggerated bit of anger that is so outlandishly cartoon-like on a face not meant to have skin stretch as far as it does to be fitting for another's facial shape and movements when the crouching medium kick is almost jovially dominated.
"You---!" The offended party starts, cut off with the 'Bubbles' lecture as they're allowed to rise back to something that can be reasonably construed as a fighting stance. Arms raised. The sparkle of a purplish hue. The lecturing. The mocking! The way she seems to almost effortlessly put the momentum of their encounter and casually take back hold of it...
The individual nuances between the uninvited, the souls, and the killing intent are irrelevant, when all three major influences fighting for hold of Ryu are all of the same mind. The way her upper body lies open, even as she begins to snap out a guitar string for his very neck...
His eyes close as the unifying urges see him crouch down, the jewel within the handguard flickering once more. The wispy red hues that ebb away from his body. The unsightly purple that lives behind those eyes, clenching teeth tighter and spreading the skin of his lips far too wide to be comfortable for his face horizontally...!
A rising uppercut. I-no could sense it. The famed Shoryuken, in its infancy - the technique that felled Sagat, the greatest Muay Thai practitioner of the modern era--
No to the grinning devil that pressed his palm into his psyche.
No to the gibbering, disembodied wills that have begun to take residence within the blessing granted by the Elder Gods.
No, to the desire seated under the surface that wants far more than just the fight between himself and his opponent.
No to the romantic invitation. The Shoryuken, in prime killing form like what befell the scarred Sagat, is yanked away within millimetres of connecting against I-no's jaw. She might get, at best, a gust of displaced air.
She also gets that guitar string around his neck without meaningful defense beyond turning his gaze away, which ultimately affects nothing. Suffocating, gagging, followed by the angry howling of the entire chorus of influences that express his defiance only with sheer rage as he's sent spinning, twirling, rotating... eventually flying...
Through at least three natural stone structures, each impact more catstrophic than the last.
The reward for sticking to his values and reticence to give in to the desire to kill, is to be rolled ever closer towards the welcome mat of death in this cruel world, as he rests doubled-over against an incline facing upwards, breath heavy and bleeding wounds anew further decorated with bruises and black dusty matter caked all over.
The handguard adorned with the magenta jewel glows dimly, the fist wearing it violently shaking.

It's over in an instant. A glorious, freeze frame-y instant in which Ryu's fist sails JUST past the guitar string coming from the other direction; his knuckles are close enough to brush the brim of that curious red hat. And then she has him, yanking him close. For just a moment, their faces are ridiculously near to each other, near enough for her to see the still-ongoing battle of wills and souls consuming the man in the dirty white gi.

She rolls her eyes at that before pirouetting Ryu away from her forcefully with the rotational momentum of yanking the guitar string back.

For a long moment, she just sort of stares at Ryu, as if trying to make a decision about things. Briefly, she looks at the guitar pick, slung around her wrist like a charm bracelet, the thing glowing like a living being with some inner hue, like a fragment of lightning. Then she looks back at the tortured World Warrior and says, with a surprisingly low, growling voice: "...fuck it."

She begins walking that sultry walk towards her opponent as he stands up, and while the violent expressions of Ryu's conflict -- internal or otherwise -- have been resonating with and leaving their mark on the room, I-No has been relatively less impactful on the surroundings. Until now, anyway.

She brings up the hand with the guitar pick dangling from it, and snaps her fingers. Instantly, the turquoise pick surges with light, bolts of seeming electricity suddenly running all over the lady in red's body. Her aura, that cloak of humming, vibrating power -- appropriate, all things considered -- starts to fill the room like a white noise that you suddenly hear because the volume leapt up.

"Listen. I'm a pinball wizard who LOVES a good multiball scenario," she says, glancing at Ryu with a distracted expression, lips slightly parted. "But only if that player really knows how to play the silver ball and put those fingers to work on the flippers. You get me? Right now I'd be shocked if you could play Candy Land, let alone a more... precision instrument."

There's a pause, and then she shrugs. "Basically... you're boring and I'm not your therapist. How about you work out your fucking issues and then we'll see if you can REALLY give me a good fisting when you've got it worked out, kay?"

I-No brings her fingertips to her mouth and kisses them, flicking the fingers forward, releasing the phantom kiss into god knows where. For a fraction of second, it almost looks as if an actual, honest to god <3 appears in the air. "Until then... sweet dreams, Bubbles."

The rest happens in an instant. The guitar is in her hands. She's doing a front flip, landing in a full split. She strums a chord. And in an expanding circle, her sonic energy lashes out in a rainbow-hued wave of force intended to decisively end this situation here and now.

COMBATSYS: I-No channels the veins of the burning blood.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
I-No [E]         0/-------/-======|=======\-------\1          [E] Ryu

COMBATSYS: I-No successfully hits Ryu with Ultimate Fortissimo.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///                           ]
I-No [E]         0/-------/-----==|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2          [E] Ryu

Ryu remains hunched over on the ground. Vulnerable, injured. His breathing grows ever more labored with every passing moment. His throat is tinged with any number of vocal cues for... irritation. Frustration. Rage, as expressed through the wills that compete and only rarely cooperate.
Those attention-grabbing legs keep moving closer. Every muscle in Ryu's body has their rote instincts and instructions to... move this way. Get up. Leap at them. Strike. Attack. Why are you staying on the ground? She's coming closer...
'I'm a pinball wizard who LOVES a good multiball scenario...' KILL HER.
'You're boring and I'm not your therapist. How about--' KILL HER.
'Until then, sweet--' KILL HER.
Ryu's heart beats ever faster with these repeated demands and urges. Her words grow more muddled, unfocused, with every repetition of the wills that would will him to force someone, anyone, to have to read I-no's will in a brutal, bloody aftermath - though the ultimate disappointment and intent for her to put an end to this is crystal clear, even to his... burdened... senses. He faces upwards after a momentary dip as if to contemplate the delicate arrangement of interesting elements not typically found in Earthrealm underneath him... that fist continues to quake.
A cursory raise of the shard-bearing arm is, to the oncoming wave of rainbow-hued sound energy, ultimately an empty gesture incapable of affecting much to stop its ceaseless circular crescive crusade.
The earth rumbles. It shakes. All goes to white, and with a final echoing yell lost to the chord. He is thrown free into a hell-ride across fractured underground terrain, losing all sense of where he is in relation to the ground, how fast he's going... where he's going....
They begin to deliberate.
This body is powerful. This technique is masterful. This mind is sharp. This spirit is willful. This instinct is deadly. Ryu should be the greatest weapon within the fingers of a man of great amibition, within the whispers of the incorporeal that inhabit what is close to his fist, to the very desire to kill underneath.
Why? Why do you resist when your very existence - and even that of the Earthrealm - hang in the balance? Why? Why? Why? WHY? WHY?
'Why,' they all scream, to the darkening sight of the Ansatsuken warrior. To the ringing ears. To the addled mind. They keep screaming at him.
He has no answer for them.
He does not feel compelled to give them one.
They will, for lack of pacification nor expulsion, instead continue to demand.
Demand, and redouble their grip in their attempts to keep this... asset... among the corporeal, the living, the tangible, to continue to compete to exercise their wills.

COMBATSYS: Ryu channels the fortress of the steel will.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///                           ]
I-No [E]         0/-------/-----==|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2          [E] Ryu

COMBATSYS: Ryu takes no action.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
I-No [E]         0/-------/-----==|

COMBATSYS: Ryu can no longer fight.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
I-No [E]         0/-------/-----==|

One of the greatest fighters of the age accelerates away from her in a low roll like a cannonball and all I-No does is sit there and watch it happen. She barely moves until he's out of sight, and even then, it's to put one hand on her hip, and sigh heavily.

She was sure about this one. There was no mistaking it. Either he or Kotal... were pivotal influences. One or the other. And something in her head is saying: it's not the dude dressed like he was headed to audition for The Incredible Hulk that wandered into the costume department for a remake of Cher's "Half Breed" video.

"Well, Bubbles," she says to empty air. "Either you're gonna settle this shit, or someone's gonna barbecue you and use your spare ribs as a xylophone. My money's on settle this shit, though, so... try not to fuckin' die."

And with that, she vanishes into the shadows of the tunnel, the rapidly-fading clicking of her heels -- and the low whistle of a tune -- are the last remnants of her passing.

Log created on 19:10:44 09/28/2016 by I-No, and last modified on 03:57:37 09/29/2016.