Mortal Kombat - MK Round 2: Nakoruru vs Baiken

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Description: The elder gods often give us great tasks to carry out. Of honors in the land, there are none higher. However, in the great tournament, dispensing with your obligation often means that only one is left standing. NAKORURU. It is your task to meet steel with steel. You'll be facing BAIKEN, in the courtyard.

Baiken does not like Outworld.

She wasn't happy when she was summoned here and invited (or, as she could tell, 'invited') to participate in the tournament, even if she decided to accept the invitation for her own reasons. She doesn't like the freakish island, she doesn't like any of the people on it that she has met, and she doesn't like that she hasn't had a smoke or any sake for weeks. She doesn't have any more tobacco, and she didn't bring any sake at all.

It shows on her face.

Baiken has recovered from her trial by fire in the temple, mostly. Her trailing empty sleeve is a little charred along the bottom ripped and shredded section, and she hasn't trimmed the burned portion off, but she herself looks as healthy as she ever does. She is scowling, but that isn't unusual either.

This is a much more public location than her last battle. She is already in the courtyard, at the edge of the arena, leaning casually against one of the massive corner pillars. She has her kiseru in her hand but there's no smoke trickling from it; she spins it in her fingers occasionally. Baiken has completely ignored any guards, any crowd, aside from making sure she has her back to a wall so if someone jumps her, at least she'll see them.

The proof that she is supposed to be here is the disc of crystal set into the kashira on her sword, the cap on the base of the pommel. It glitters a deep garnet in the almost-natural light of the courtyard, almost black when it briefly falls into shade. Baiken seems to be paying it no mind. She looks - not relaxed, but ready; as if she knew something horrible was going to happen, she'd made her peace with it, and now it's nothing but the waiting.

Would that she could put it off any longer.

To give the world of Earth a fighting chance against the overwhelming power of Outworld, the Elder Gods instituted the complex edicts of Mortal Kombat - a trial by kombat to determine the fate of an entire planet.

But with each passing round of the grim event, the strength of both side is being sapped, powerful warriors falling, many in defeat, and a few to their deaths. The tournament promised humanity a chance to fight back against an unbeatable foe. But it promise that it would be easy or free from strife.

Once more, the Time Lost warrior found herself called to a battle - one she had no reason to look forward to. Her blood burns to turn her sharp blade against the oppressors, the monsters of Outworld that serve a cruel emperor, or to press it to the throat of the dark sorcerer who enacts his will upon this island. But the path to eliminating Outworld's minions and to toppling the tyrants that command them requires that she carve a path through those who should be fighting for the same thing she is. It is a grim request to draw her blade against a gifted fighter from Earth, but the Great and Abominable Tournament leaves no other option available to the reluctant fighter.

She strides into the arena at the appointed time, the afternoon sun bright high in the sky above. She spares no glance to those gathered to observe or the guards situated to prevent interference in the violence to come. Many had seen her about the island - Nakoruru, a long haired young woman dressed in white with crimson and azure trim, radiating concern and gentle sincerity.

But the one how steps onto the blood stained stone in front of Baiken is not that person. A full length robe of light grey covers down to her ankles. A geometric pattern of Royal Purple and Earthy Brown decorates the trim of the garment and a matching violet ribbon rests at the crown of her head and similarly colored moccasins cover her feet. Though her expression is neutral, a certain grim intensity can be found in the dark brown eyes that fix on the one eyed swordswoman. In her opponent, Baiken would find no reluctance, no hesitation for the fight to come.

And she has not arrived alone. Striding at her side, his back roughly two thirds as tall as the young woman he accompanies, is a large Siberian wolf with a thick grey coat. A beast of battle, the creature moves with a controlled pace, clearly eager for battle yet not leaping into it the first possible instant. Like Baiken, the wolf is missing an eye, his left eye socket replaced with an X-shaped scar. His snout his carved with a deep gouge, another badge of honor from some past konquest.

As Nakoruru comes to a stop some meters away, she stands up straight, two lengths of raven black hair framing her face and resting against her shoulders as she extends her right hand with a swift flick of her wrist and points toward her opponent. "Baiken, of Earth. In the fight to come, battle as if your life depends on it. While our causes may be aligned, I can afford you no quarter, no hesitation. The stakes..." She lowers her pointing hand to reach behind her back, gloved fingers clasping against the handle of her own short blade.

In the abundant light, the end of the sheath jutting out from the left side of her waist can be seen to be decorated with the lone element of red to be found on her - a gemstone is set there, the dark color of dried blood, her own gift from the Elder Gods, it would seem.

Leaning forward, her fingers closed on her sheathed blade, Nakoruru readies herself. "You are about to be tested - to your very limits, or perhaps even beyond." The large wolf at her side, Shikuru the Destroyer, leans down on his forward legs, reading to pounce as well.

A cry in the sky above echoes across the arena as a large brown hawk comes to rest at the top of one of the massive pillars, wings folding in behind her back as Mamahaha the Sentinel peers down on the warriors below.

"It is a heavy burden to shoulder the fate of the world." Nakoruru continues, her voice somber, bearing an edge so unlike the young woman others had encountered thus far.

"But by stepping into this arena, that is what you agreeing to do."

Would that she could put it off any longer. But a terrible duty affords her no such relief.

"Show me that you have the strength to carry it."

Her right arm moves slightly, the first half inch of her kodachi sliding out of its sheath.

"Or forfeit this battle at once."

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru has started a fight here.

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Nakoruru         0/-------/------=|

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru is empowered by Nature's Wrath!

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Nakoruru [E]     0/-------/------=|

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru equips a gleaming Carmine Soul Shard.

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Nakoruru [E]     0/-------/------=|

It's not a battle Baiken was looking forward to, either. Though not for the same reasons, not entirely.

Baiken knew her opponent was not part of Outworld's forces. She was - and is - treating it as an obstacle Shang Tsung has chosen to put in her path, to try to eliminate her (or her opponent) with no threat toward him. Possibly it was some sort of twisted result of her last battle ending up the way it did.

But 'not looking forward to it' does not mean she was reluctant. She is not. Baiken is ready before Nakoruru shows up, and she is ready after she does. She no longer leans against the pillar as if resting or waiting; she striaghtens, tucking the metal-tipped pipe into her robe, stretching her fingers out and then flexing them.

The menagerie Nakoruru appears with gets a look, but they are under control. The wolf, who she respects as a threat even if he is an animal; the hawk. Her eye narrows as she looks toward Nakoruru. Who /is/ this woman? Most of Baiken's attention remains on Nakoruru - and when Nakoruru speaks to her, it is all Baiken can do to not laugh in her face.

As far as Baiken is concerned, nobody - /nobody/ - would consider Baiken the sort of person suitable for defending the world. She certainly doesn't lift herself up that high. She is a dead woman walking, someone who has hung on for years by stubbornness and to achieve one certain goal that she can't meet here.

But she does not laugh. Her expression shifts away from a scowl into a more neutral expression; she rests her hand on the hilt of her sword, not quite a combat grip but within an instant of being one. "I know what the stakes are," she says, and she does. That's why she stayed, after she was summoned; that's why she agreed to do all of this.

"Won't be the first struggle I've been through. Won't be the last."

Baiken is not a hero. She's violent, sometimes cruel, often uncaring. But put the monsters of Outland on one side and the humans of Earthrealm on the other, and she knows very well which side she chooses - and she made that decision weeks ago.

Maybe this is the kind of 'hero', the kind of defender, they need in Outrealm.

Baiken steps into the ring proper, further away from the pillar and away from the boundary. There she waits perhaps three seconds, long enough for Nakoruru to fully realize that the gauntlet, such as it is, has been taken up by her opponent.

And then she moves. Fast, too; not quite a blur but she's moving with remarkable speed toward Nakoruru. She keeps her arm held across her upper body, almost defensively, while the empty sleeve flutters out behind her. Baiken judges the position of the wolf, the hawk - and at the last moment, she goes into a sliding kick, throwing herself down and trying to slam into Nakoruru's lower body. No blade, yet, but it's only a matter of time.

COMBATSYS: Baiken has joined the fight here.

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Baiken           0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0     [E] Nakoruru

COMBATSYS: Baiken equips a warm Garnet Soul Shard.

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Baiken [E]       0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0     [E] Nakoruru

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru full-parries Baiken's Suzuran!!

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Baiken [E]       0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0     [E] Nakoruru

"Good." answers the apparent zoo keeper, a low growl escaping the mouth of the fierce creature at her side. "In one look, I can see that you know what it means to suffer." The swordswoman is a walking tapestry of battle wounds, bearing the demeanor of one who has forged her way through hell and beyond. Her body tenses, eyes focused on every bit of motion executed by the lonely hunter. "But suffering alone is not enough."

The fight is joined, the two placing their lives on the line to clash with dangerous weaponry and intense skill. A thick cloud rolls in over the island, blotting out the sun and casting a dull shadow over the arena. It doesn't seem quite fair that she enters the arena with the battle worthy creatures at her side and in the sky above, but everything about this tournament seems to flaunt the very idea of honor or equity. The grey robed Avatar of the Violent Wilds certainly shows no reservations of deploying every advantage possible, taking advantage of even the slightest perceived weakness.

"To continue," she continues just as Baiken eliminates the distance between them in almost an instant. "You will need to fight for more than yourself!"

While to the impassive observers, it seems as if Baiken is joining the young blade wielder in an open section of the stone arena. But down in the battlefield, it is as if she is sliding into a den of wolves as both girl and beast move as one to surround her, becoming a blur. Rather than retreat, they spring forward to meet Baiken, the wolf leaping, aiming to grip her empty sleeve with his teeth while Nakoruru slips around her other side, her two foot long kodachi drawn in the process, the gemstone in her sheath glowing brilliantly in the dimming light.

Beset upon by both at once, the wolf's attack is clearly meant to be a distraction, bearing no lethal threat beyond the inconvenience it might provide. It is the purple-trimmed warrior maiden that Baiken need worry about as she explodes right back toward her from only two meters out, diving into a low lunge, blade flashing as she slashes it out in front of her, sharp edge forward, vibrant, rainbow hued chi exploding into a front that would accompany any impact of the sword with additional concussive force, targeting the Japanese woman's stomach with a potential shallow gash.

The attack is dangerously fast and, should her chi infused slashing dash collide with skin, bone, or steel, Nakoruru would use the point of impact to correct her movement, springing backward, slashing back handed into a secondary slash at torso level while buying herself distance at the same time!

The large wolf would not seek to pursue any further assault beyond his initial attempt to impair Baiken's ability to move and defend herself, instead springing back himself to land opposite of the swordswoman and begin circling around the circumference of the arena.

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru successfully hits Baiken with Annu Mutsube EX.

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Baiken [E]       0/-------/-======|======-\-------\0     [E] Nakoruru

Baiken knows better than to object to the battle being unfair. Life is not fair; she does not expect it to be. This is something she has internalized deeper than conscious thought, years ago and a world away: The world does not care about you.

And she does know how to suffer. She has felt more pain than most, struggled since she was quite young. She fights for herself. She hears Nakoruru's words, all right, but she's not sure whether to call her naive or simply let them wash over her along with everything else.

It ends up being the second, simply because of the facts of the battle. The wolf snags her loose sleeve, which is not enough to stop Baiken entirely but is enough to change the angle of her slide, twisted by her clothes into a new direction. It's enough for Nakoruru to slip in with the rainbow chi on her blade, tearing into Baiken's stomach and down toward her hip. It may have been intended to be shallow, but it was not; swung into the path of the blade, it bit deeper than it otherwise might.

Nakoruru springs away, and Baiken rises after her. For all the blood trickling down her side, she seems able to ignore the injury at least over the short term; it's messy but not life-threatening. Her lone eye narrows as she concentrates, keeping track of all three of her opponents at once. Now she looks quite serious, her hand brushing across her side momentarily.

"Hnn. I suppose I can't take any of you lightly, can I? But I don't intend to /stop/." Baiken's hand is back on the hilt of her sword, still undrawn as she begins to circle herself. She's looking for a prime position, edging toward Nakoruru; her own blade is shorter than a true katana, meant to be used only one-handed for fairly obvious reasons, and so she must be planning to come in close if she intends to use it.

And indeed she does.

With a kiai, Baiken takes a half step forward to finish chasing Nakoruru down and draws her sword, cutting up at an angle from hip to shoulder, all in the same motion. She puts her entire body into the swing, a powerful stroke, and returns the blade to its scabbard afterwards with a soft 'click'. Though visually simple, the strike is skilled; the rumours of her sword skills are not especially exaggerated, especially given she is fighting with only her left arm.

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru blocks Baiken's Tetsuzansen.

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Baiken [E]       0/-------/=======|=======\-------\0     [E] Nakoruru

Someone as experienced in the ways of the blade as Baiken would recognize that while her opponent aimed to deliver a shallow slash with her opening strike, it was by no means an attempt at being merciful on her or going easier to start with. It was simply as vicious as she felt she could afford to be without over extending, a precisely calculated risk verses reward, decided and executed all in an instant.

Such is every exchange of attacks between blade wielders of this caliber. Gentleness has no place in this sea of blood and sweat, restraint will not win the day when the machine of destruction known as Outworld comes to claim its prize should the Earthen fighters fall.

She dove in, struck, and aimed to disengage all in one smooth, almost dance like motion, spinning back through the air with the intent to land with some distance between them. Distance is her friend, left to hit and run the kodachi user is dangerously effective. But Baiken is having none of that.

On her nearly an instant before Nakoruru's feet touch the stone floor, the smaller fighter is forced to be defensive immediately. Her right hand swings forward the instant her toes touch down, her left hand pressing upward to brace against the back of it as the metallic clang echoes throughout the palace courtyard. Finally, the audience is treated to steel on steel, the smaller Kodachi still bloodied from the last violent slash.

Though spared actually being struck cleanly, the strength behind the one handed slash clearly staggers the girl, sending her sliding back, her weapon arm forced out to her side as she reels for over a meter. The threat behind Baiken's blade cannot be mistaken now, the woman's strength undeniable. Gritting her teeth, Nakoruru sweeps the blood streaked kodachi back in front of her, held horizontally, blade forward as she leans forward and presents a low profile target. Her eyes glimmer with the thrill of the fight engaged, a new appreciation for the power of Baiken's stroke.

"I understand better how you have survived the long war you call life. Such ferocity... that the world still produces sword users of your strength and skill is a relief."

Her right hand slips behind her, flipping the blade from reverse grip to forward as she returns the kodachi to its gem-endowed sheath behind her waist. "Maybe there is hope yet."

Rather than closing distance, she sweeps her right hand out, gloved finger extended. "Mamahaha!"

The Japanese Monster Hunter might sense rather than see the great bird that has taken flight up behind her back, no longer perched atop the pillar. At the falconer's call, the bird dives, its body wreathed in vibrant, multi-hued chi as it aims to crash talon first into Baiken's upper back. Should it secure a grip, it would attempt to claw at her and thrash about her head and shoulder with wings and nails in a bid to force her attention that way...

And of course, should that end up being the case, Nakoruru will already be bolting in, fingers on her blade, clearly intending to close in and take advantage of any opening the mighty hawk might create for her!

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru successfully hits Baiken with Shichikap Etu.

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Baiken [E]       1/------=/=======|=======\-------\1     [E] Nakoruru

Baiken has a reasonable chance of being able to call herself the best swordswoman in the world.

Oh, there are better fighters than her, both male and female. There's no question of whether Baiken is the most skilled combatant alive: she isn't. But most of them do not use the sword the way she does. They don't have the same monomaniacal focus on the blade; for Baiken, the sword is less a tool and more a part of her body, as much as the set of tools she has instead of a right arm. It's an extension of her reach, and all the more impressive for being mostly self-taught.

"Few," she admits in response to Nakoruru, and that is all. Even among the world of fighters, she's driven in a way and by things that many of them aren't. She's intense. Fighting is her life; she has little else left to her.

Baiken presses her attack from the fast draw, continuing to step forward and pace Nakoruru. She doesn't want to give the smaller woman space to maneuver or call in her animals. She can stay close enough that the wolf would find it very close quarters.

And indeed it's not the wolf that comes in, but the bird. The falcon dives, slamming into Baiken's back with enough force to knock her off balance, raking at her back and shoulders and eliciting a yell - some pain, mostly anger - from Baiken.

With an angry bird hanging on her back, Baiken knows that she's going to have trouble defending herself from Nakoruru; dislodging it is vital. But so is keeping Nakoruru at bay. Stomping her foot, Baiken summons what looks like nothing so much as a plank of green chi on the ground as her foot descends; when her foot actually impacts it, it flips up to the vertical, a spray of pink energy blasting out from 'underneath' it and hopefully interrupting Nakoruru's approach.

It gives her the moment she needs to twist and try to dislodge Mamahaha. Something clinks from the shoulder that has no arm as she moves, but nothing comes out; she tries to free herself by the simple expedient of beating at wings with the flat of her blade, because birds' wings are brittle and she doesn't want to risk her sword getting stuck in a falcon's corpse. If she can convince it to let go, that's enough for now.

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru full-parries Baiken's Tatami Gaeshi!!

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Baiken [E]       1/------=/=======|=======\===----\1     [E] Nakoruru

The challenge facing the swordswoman is that while she is capable of moving as quickly as her opponent, she also has the two additional vectors of attack to contend with. In some ways, while the creatures that besiege her at every moment are not equal to Nakoruru in threat, they keep creating openings for the young fighter and she continues to capitalize on them with perfect timing. To a degree, the three fight as one, working in a coordinated fashion to create the whirlwind of claws, teeth, winds, and blade that Baiken has to contend with every step of the way.

With a swing of her hand and cry of her voice, the young beast master calls the sky predator down upon Baiken from behind, once again shunning what most would consider honorable tactics in order to wedge any possible opening into her techniques. There isn't a maliciousness to her approach to fighting, simply a ruthless efficiency that tries to take advantage of any opportunity she can create. She declared that the fight would challenge the katana wielder from the onset, and she does nothing to hold back on her promise to deliver that test.

By now, the stalking wolf has circled the arena, pacing with controlled steps as he ends up behind Nakoruru near the edge of the stone tablet upon which they fight. As Mamahaha courts death by providing ample, relentless harassment from above Baiken's head and shoulders, Shikuru breaks into a dash from behind Nakoruru, becoming a grey blur, his long strides spanning the distance like a cruise missile of teeth and fangs.

The entire combination assault appears to be choreographed from the moment it was executed, the light, small fighter springing backward to land on the wolf like he's some kind of battle mount, hunched down against his back, her left hand gripping his thick fur, her right hand holding her drawn blade as the duo bolts toward the badgered swordswoman.

What none of the coordinated trio anticipated was Baiken's preemptive response to the threat, slamming her foot down, creating an attack from the ground while also applying her sword to the task of freeing herself from the bird's tenacious clawing and flapping. The hawk is battered with the edge of the katana and sent hurtling to the right, spiraling to the stone to slide some meters in a cloud of feathers before coming to a stop on the stone.

As far as the girl and her wolf, however, there is no hesitation at the sight of the counter attack meant to ward them off. Without a word, without a moment to decide, they speed into the blast of chi. Shikuru is struck, the wolf sent flying backward, a vicious growl of frustrated pain escaping his lips. But his purpose was accomplished, ferrying Nakoruru through the counter attack so that she can lunge from it, flying horizontally at Baiken at roughly chest level.

Lightning from above strikes the end of her weapon as she swings the kodachi reverse-grip style, aiming to deliver a lightning empowered, decisive strike in the process of attempting to fly right on past the woman.

Meanwhile, both wolf and bird appear wounded, the larger beast slowly collecting himself, while the hawk lies still. For the sake of delivering an attack, both creatures suffered a blow; to wrest victory on this island of the damned, all lives might be equally expendable.

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru channels the strength of the killing fist.

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Baiken [E]       1/------=/=======|=======\===----\1     [E] Nakoruru

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru successfully hits Baiken with Mer Shikite EX.

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Baiken [E]       1/--=====/=======|=======\=====--\1     [E] Nakoruru

COMBATSYS: Baiken channels the veins of the burning blood.

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Baiken [E]       2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\=====--\1     [E] Nakoruru

If Baiken has an overwhelming strategy (besides 'endure', which is generally her go-to), it is aggression. Strike first, strike hard, and hopefully you won't need to strike twice. It is entirely in character for her to react to the attempted hindering by the falcon by striking back.

And while it successfully got Mamahaha away from her, that doesn't mean anything for the other two opponents.

Baiken is hard-pressed to keep up with the three of them - two, right this moment. Freed from Mamahaha's clawed embrace, she spins, trying to keep her single good eye on the pair. She has blood running down her back, even trickling down her face in places from Mamahaha's assault; some of it is getting in her eye, but she has no time nor free hands to wipe it away.

Shifting her grip on the sword, Baiken holds it low, expecting another low- or mid-level strike from Nakoruru as she hears the wolf impact her sudden burst of chi. She's half right; her sword would be capable of parrying the blade, if only she was slightly faster and there wasn't the electrical discharge to go with it.

Baiken takes a second wound on her other side, leaving her matched with a cut on each side of her torso. This one bleeds less, probably because it is partially burned from the bolt; Baiken jerks as she tries to keep the tremors of her body under control, not letting the electricity shock her out of line.

She keeps a professional stance, body low. She even gives Nakoruru a very slight nod, admiration from one fighter to another. And then -

Baiken disappears.

There's little but a blur of motion, barely visible as Baiken moves so fast the human eye simply cannot keep up with it. It streaks past Nakoruru after Nakoruru passes by, a flicker of white and red and silver in the courtyard arena. Nakoruru may not even be aware what Baiken has done for a few moments.

It resolves into Baiken, several yards past Nakoruru and with her blade out. She is breathing hard, bloody herself, but she is going down fighting. She flicks the blade, dislodging any blood on it in a wide, almost artful spray before she clicks it back into her scabbard.

It's then that Nakoruru gets to see what Baiken did, as any of the injuries she delivered as she passed by with that superspeed slash abruptly resolve themselves in equally artful sprays of blood. Baiken is certainly not holding back, if ever she was before.

COMBATSYS: Baiken channels the strength of the killing fist.

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Baiken [E]       2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\=====--\1     [E] Nakoruru

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru channels the spread of the lightning nerves.

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Baiken [E]       0/-------/-------|=======\=====--\1     [E] Nakoruru

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru blocks Baiken's #Garyou Tensei#.

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Baiken [E]       0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2     [E] Nakoruru

Her momentum carries her fast and far, Nakoruru tumbling into a forward roll along the stone before coming to a rest in a low crouch some meters away. Her blade is still drawn, having not been returned to its sheath since the start of the match, reverse gripped in her right hand. A breath exhaled as she pushes up to standing and whirls around. A glance is cast toward the still hawk, the feathered lump not showing signs of life at the moment, but if the sight of her winged companion being wounded or possible even worse troubles her, it would be impossible to read in the assessing flick of her eyes that then scan the wolf left behind - a sacrificed piece to get her within striking distance of Baiken at any cost. Unlike the bird, he moves, struggling up to his feet, but he will be slow to be rendered relevant anytime soon. The same clinical analysis afforded the fallen hawk passes over Shikuru without so much as a flicker of concern.

Her jaw is set, her eyes dark and focused as they come to rest once more on the fierce katana wielder. For now, it has been reduced to just the two of them in the arena, the menagerie of additional threat vectors at last neutralize by the swordswoman's fast thinking while being assailed by all three. Victory at any cost seems to be the long haired girl's disposition as she slides her right foot forward, right arm moving to place her kodachi in front of her, blade out, left hand pressed against the back of it as if already preparing for the assault to come.

A nod is offered by the one armed warrior and she receives an equally prompt, silent nod in response. Nothing else needs to be said with their voices here, weapons alone can speak for the two of them. Once again, the fight is engaged but the audience will be denied any knowledge of what transpired in that instantaneous moment of pure conflict - a potentially life ending technique of skill beyond the point of being understood by those who have never faced such lethal, extreme talent themselves.

A whirl of wind bursts out from around Nakoruru as Baiken comes to a state of near motionless, a calm after the storm of slicing she just executed in an instant. The blade is flicked, droplets of blood scattered across the stone, then sheathed with a click.

A soft cry escapes the lips of her opponent as she gasps, dropping to one knee, her left hand planting against the stone floor, the evidence of the violence delivered to her body made manifest. One hundred tiny lines of red become visible on her arms, her cheeks, her neck. Equally precise slashes appear on her sides, bleeding through thin cuts in the fabric of her robe.

So many attacks, so close to a decisive, fight ending blow, but whatever transpired in that instant of one thousand strikes, Nakoruru managed to turn each blow into a grazing hit, nicked, sliced, cut, but never stabbed, maimed, gouged, or slashed open. The extent of the defense is evident as blood trickles down her arm, her breaths coming as desperate pants.

But slowly she rises back to standing up straight, right arm extending out, blade toward Baiken, her expression neutral as her arm trembles in spite her efforts to hold it straight. One more nod, a single blink, and then she becomes a blur of motion herself. While never achieving the instantaneous speed Baiken just demonstrated, she is fast, finally applying her kodachi for its strengths - a small, sharp weapon, capable of being flicked between reverse grip and forward grip even mid swing, Nakoruru blitzes into Baiken with a frenzy of slashes, right, then left, high to low. Behind each movement of her blade is a trail of glimmering, golden chi. No one attack aims for going devastatingly deep, but rather focuses on an accumulation of small, aggravated slashes that will amount to decisive, fight ending strikes when all combined.

There are limits to the storm, however, and after eleven slashes, she would be forced to stop, twisting her weapon back up to a defensive angle to respond to any potential ebb and flow of the close quarters combat between the two.

COMBATSYS: Baiken channels the spread of the lightning nerves.

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Baiken [E]       0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\-------\1     [E] Nakoruru

COMBATSYS: Baiken dodges Nakoruru's Inep Ikashima Wanpe Chuie.

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Baiken [E]       0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\-------\1     [E] Nakoruru

Baiken strained herself to even do as much as she did. She's not lost yet, but she's certainly on the back foot here; just because she's driven off the animals (for now at least) doesn't mean that she's in a winning position.

Her breath is ragged as she watches Nakoruru, battered but unwilling to admit defeat. There is blood in her single eye now, from a wound on her forehead; she blinks several times rapidly to clear it, which works well enough that she can at least still see.

She's good, Baiken thinks. Very good. But she's not going to give Nakoruru the pleasure of her admitting it. She wants a test, she'll get one.

Nakoruru's speed is no surprise. What may be a surprise is that Baiken can continue to match it, though she's clearly drawing on her reserves to do it. The red disc of crystal glitters at the hilt of her sword, and the blade leaves garnet streaks in the air as she moves to parry, first one way and then the next. Every time the red-streaked blade turns away Nakoruru's, there is a flash of gold and red, with the red sparks fading into Baiken's usual pink chi as the get away from the blade.

Baiken is forced to give ground during the assault; she backs up, getting closer to a pillar. The very pillar she started from, in fact, having been turned around sufficiently that it is now behind her again. She only parried perhaps a third of those attacks; the rest she just stayed in front of, moving (if unwillingly). She hates being cornered, and Nakoruru is getting close to managing it.

Suddenly, at the last strike, Baiken drops down. She ends up almost on one knee for a moment, her arm - her /right/ arm, the empty sleeve - swinging forward as if thrusting. And there's actually something there.

It looks like a slim pole, carefully shaped and polished. At the end of the pole is a disc with a yin-yang, and on the disc is a fan of knives. Baiken thrusts the concealed tool at Nakoruru, trying to force /her/ to give ground and allow Baiken to push forward; as she rises from her first bracing position, she swings the strange knife-arm horizontally in a slash before, with a very specific shrug of her wounded shoulder, it slides at least partially back into her sleeve. A glint of steel suggest the arm is still... well, armed, though.

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru channels the glare of the vicious eye.

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Baiken [E]       0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\-------\1     [E] Nakoruru

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru interrupts Random Strike from Baiken with Chitenzan EX.

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Baiken [E]       0/-------/-----==|=======\===----\1     [E] Nakoruru

That her target can evade her fastest technique is beyond remarkable - but given what she's seen, the bursts of movement that defy the eye's ability to track, perhaps she should have expected as much. The violet beribboned young woman continues to strike, swinging, slashing, and lunging forward, attempting to close the distance just enough with her relentless attack to finally catch Baiken out of position for even one instant.

In the end, it proves impossible, her smaller blade parried aside, and the battle worn warrior's movements putting her just out of reach of the kodachi's edge as to deny any opportunity to connect a single strike. The shadowed arena stone is aglow with the sparks of clashing chi as fierce offense is met with precision defense.

But throughout it all, the kodachi wielder is able to slowly push her opponent backward, even if it means aggravating her own hundred slices of concentrated pain. Little by little, the space of the arena closes in around Baiken, leaving her with fewer and fewer options to navigate. A whirlwind of swings and not a single one hits until at last the kimono-draped woman decides she's had enough of that and strikes back in one of the more unorthodox methods seen by the smaller fighter.

Given a choice to retreat or press on with her own assault in spite the injurious weapon hurtling her way at the end of a hidden chain, the resolute fighter refuses to be forced to back off. Twisting so that the weapon slashes along her upper back instead of gouging into her chest, a spray of black, severed hair scatters in the wind as the multi-bladed weapon rakes out, the fervent warrior drops low, gripping her weapon with both hands now as she kicks into a low, forward roll, leaving streaks of her own blood against the stone.

She would only complete two forward rolls in her tumble past Baiken, but with the way she's holding her blade, her roll has a buzzsaw's edge to it, executing another two swift slashes against the thighs of the swords woman, clearly intending to rob her of any further mobility.

She comes to a stop a meter later in a low crouch, left hand pressed to stone, breaths escaping her lips as blood seeps down her arm and stains the back of her robe beneath her lengthy hair - what portions of it aren't currently lying on the arena floor at least. Another exhale, another resolve to continue, and she stands, whirling around, lifting her blade back to a horizontal defensive position in front of her.

The tips of the multibladed weapon extend out from the lower, scorched edge of Baiken's sleeve even after she retracts the thing, as if warning Nakoruru: it's still a threat, as is Baiken. She's not out of the woods yet.

Though given Nakoruru, she may have preferred to be in the woods.

Pressed back near the pillar, Baiken is running out of options. She continues to keep the sword out as a defensive tool as much as offensive, perhaps planning how to maneuver so she can use the tool in her sleeve to best effect. Her eye flicks left, then right, judging her options.

There aren't many.

Nakoruru rolls in low, and Baiken does not have a useful defense. She blocks the first slash with the flat of the sword, but not the continuing forward roll, which gashes into her leg deeply. It's in synchronization with Baiken's actual attack, an overhead strike with the right arm; the knives have fanned out around the disc and spin viciously with the speed of their descent, sawing in the overhead strike.

But Baiken almost immediately falls, catching herself on one knee with the other unable to support her. She catches herself on her sword and tries to rise, but cannot; the leg simply gives out from under her when she tries, and she remains down, trembling, with her weight on one knee and the sword. If she was any less determined than she is, she would be passing out; as is, sheer willpower keeps her concious, though not mobile.

"So," she gets out, rough. "If you're going to kill me, make it quick. I don't feel like giving Shang Tsung the pleasure of a show."

She always knew it could come to that, if she fought here.

COMBATSYS: Baiken can no longer fight.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Nakoruru [E]     1/----===/=======|

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru interrupts Zakuro from Baiken with Ruten Kyougekijin.

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Nakoruru [E]     1/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|

One buzzsaw deserves another, it seems, as Baiken's bladed weapon proves to be even more versatile than originally anticipated. Nakoruru's attempt to glide past with another one of her hit and run strikes is cut off as the spinning knives are swung down, attempting to slash into her before the lithe Ainu fighter can slip away. Her only recourse is a desperate lunge into Baiken's side, springing inside the reach of the chain to complete the effort of knocking the swordswoman to the stained stonework as if injury and blood loss were not already going to be enough.

The escape lacks the grace and poise of her earlier movements, but it's enough that the fanning blades slash down her arm instead of gouging deep into her back, shredding sleeve and flesh as it glances off her. Rolling to her knees, her left arm presses against the severe slash on her right shoulder and bicep, wincing with pain as she grits her teeth and tries to will through it. Blood seeps around her fingers, joining that which has already been spilt by countless others against the cold stone of the arena floor.

Looking up, dark brown eyes lock on the fallen warrior as Baiken finally succumbs, if barely, to the collective wounds received throughout the violent fight. The Japanese wanderer's request is made - that if this is to be her end, she wishes to be done with it quickly, and Nakoruru rises slowly to her feet, standing up straight, her weapon still drawn, bloody from use, her skill with it put to the test for which it was made.

Behind her, the large wolf has finally pulled himself to his feet and, limping, moved over to nudge at the downed hawk with his nose, sniffing at the winged creature that finally begins to stir, recovering from whatever unconsciousness a katana thwack inflicted on it. But Nakoruru pays the two guardian animals no heed, focusing only on the swords woman with whom she had clashed blade, speed, and strength.

Her expression is hard to read - perhaps since it seems so torn. Slowly, she looks down at the kodachi in her right hand, blood seeping over the weapon with a frosty blue gem in its pommel. "I can't ask you to understand," she stats, stepping forward, closing the distance between the two. "To say that your death is essential does not make it any easier to accept."

Her mouth shuts, lips forming a tight line as her right hand trembles, the small blade suddenly feeling so very heavy now. Breathing in, steeling her resolve, she extends her right foot, kicking Baiken over onto her back. In another step, she has dropped to sit on her opponent's stomach, looking face to face with the woman who had seen more with her one eye than most do with two in their entire lifetime.

"In the end," Nakoruru continues, gripping her kodachi with both hands as she lifts it over her head. She can't hesitate - in a moment, Baiken will have her strength back, she'll be a threat once more. "Sacrifices must be made." She freezes, weapon held over her head, ready to stab downward with piercing force. Why does it have to come to this? Finally, her expression breaks, eyes shimmering, mouth twisting into a tormented look of reluctant resolve and grief.

"F-for the world to survive."

Tears pool at the edges of her eyes.
Would that there was any other way.

She closes her eyes, forcing the tears to her cheeks, and at last the kodachi is swung downward with both hands, seeking Baiken's heart with a plunging, life-stealing stab.

"Farewell, Baiken of Earth."

COMBATSYS: Nakoruru has ended the fight here.

One champion sits atop another, raised kodachi showing no sign of the quavering resolve within. The fait of her opponent hovers on the tip of that blade, the one-eyed warrior's soul subject to the Ainu's judgement.

Life, or death?

The short sword begins to descend, parting the air with a whispering hiss only audible due to the silence that has crept about the two women. As it falls, purple light reflects from the flat of the weapon, glittering on the edge and throwing their surroundings into stark shadow. The light highlights the sparkling tears in Nakoruru's eyes, as well as the look of grim resolve carved into Baiken's face below her.


For the briefest of moments a sword can be heard passing through the air, the sound transforming itself into the high, pure ring of steel on steel. As the shimmering note resonates through the air, the purple glow fades from the combatant's surroundings, revealing a newcomer in their midst's.

The man that now kneels over Baiken's head is clad from neck to boots in black and silver armor, the suit bringing to mind a mixture of traditional samurai and tactical military. Over this he wears a sleeveless coat of dark crimson, currently plastered with a thin layer of powdery sand. yet more sand drips from his dark hair, and dusts his salt and pepper beard. However, his most notable feature is either the tattered crimson blindfold tied about his head, or the long, jagged sword held in his left hand.

The sword in question might once have been a katana, blade sleek and dark. Now, however, that has changed. The blade has been broken, shards jagged and slightly misaligned, while the cracks between glow bloody red. Whatever shattered the weapon reforged it, patching it with veins of crystal.

The katana is held firmly, blade twisted at an angle to lock the uneven back with the base of Nakoruru's kodachi. His gloved right hand rests against the flat of the sword, adding strength and support to the block so that the fierce girl can't simply throw her weight behind her shorter weapon and finish her task.

"Nakoruru, champion of nature, and chosen of the elder gods." The newly arrived man states, his voice quiet but firm, "I do believe, you were about to end the life of a potential servant. Such is, wasteful behavior."

Though the words are soft, the blind man's posture as casual as possible while holding her weapon back, there is tension just beneath the surface. Mortal Kombat is a tournament of rules. Rules that can be twisted, but never broken. Would blocking another's blade short of the killing stroke be considered interfering with the fight? How could it be, when the fight was over? But if this itself became a fight, well, the territory tread is treacherous indeed.

Still, the words offered by this new warrior were carefully chosen. Though it isn't often spoken of, death is not the only way a fight can end.

Soul charges need not be taken by force.

Kenshi kneels, silent and still, as he awaits the decision that may seal all three of their faits.

So this is how it's going to end.

Baiken expected to go out fighting. She's expected that since she was about ten, when her life really ended in the fires of her home. Everything past then hasn't been living. It's merely been ...continuing.

And yet she can't be calm about it. She failed: she never did get her revenge on That Man. She failed: she couldn't even defeat Nakoruru, whoever - whatever - she actually is. She didn't even make it to Shang Tsung, or kill any of the Outworld monsters she knows are here.

So, even to the last, Baiken struggles. She cannot go peacefully. When rolled onto her back, she tries to push herself up, but can't; Nakoruru pushes her back down with the weight of her body. She reaches for her sword, dropped when Nakoruru moved her, but it is on the wrong side of her body and she doesn't have an arm there. Dazed and hurt as she is, she cannot stop Nakoruru. Maybe she's right, and if Baiken had time to recover she would keep fighting, but she doesn't and she can't.

But she can look Nakoruru in the eye. Her own is filled with something: not quite hate, but not acceptance. Disgust at her own weakness, perhaps, or the remnants of the mad intensity she sometimes gets.

"Japan," she corrects. "Of a town that no longer exists. You would understand." Sometimes she sees more than she lets on.

Baiken says nothing else as Nakoruru raises the kodachi. She doesn't look at it. She keeps looking Nakoruru right in the eye, as she apparently will right to the end. Her lips curl back in something between a snarl and a feral grin at the last moment, bare instants before she expects impact. She apparently has no final words beyond those she's already used.

And because she refuses to look away, Baiken clearly sees the third sword flit past her face and interrupt Nakoruru's blade's descent.

Her single eye widens, then narrows. She does not know this man. She does not know /anyone/ on this island who would stick themselves out for her, personally; Baiken does not make friends easily, almost never shares anything about herself. Nakoruru herself has heard more about Baiken's past than almost anyone living, just from the few words she shared earlier on it.

Is this a trap? Did they plot this, to convince her to do something? She can't think clearly enough to tell; for all that she's trying to look strong, she's on the verge of unconciousness. The only thing keeping her up is the intensity; if she's going to die, she's going to do it on her terms as much as possible. Her own paranoid thoughts are difficult to focus on.

Baiken lets out a hiss through her teeth. She continues to look up, her eye slackening once as she starts to pass out before she visibly refocuses, meeting Nakoruru's gaze until Nakoruru breaks it. Nakoruru can probably still do it, if she wants, unless the strange man works even harder to stop her.

But she's going to do it with Baiken's uncomfortable regard the whole way.

Her eyes stayed on Baiken's the entire time. She would send this warrior to the next life with the respect due to her, eye to eye, rather than the coward's way out with a knife to the back. She paused only an instant at the utterance of what seemed to be the woman's final words - behind the simple phrasing is a lifetime of pain, loss, and suffering survived only because the will that pours through her veins is simply that strong. So it is to be, then, here her story ends, perhaps she can find peace in the afterlife when this existence afforded her none.

There can be no doubt as to the intent of that final stab - its aim was precise, targeting one of the few locations guaranteed to end even the hardiest, most stubborn of fighters when skewered with fourteen inches of forged steel. And as to leave no question of its efficacy, she had put her whole upper body behind the finishing strike.

The clash of metal on metal, the strain of muscles pressing against this unexpected interference, and then finally a release of strength as she finds her fatal blow prevented by this unexpected interloper. Dark brown eyes flash to the man who has taken the chance on his own life to insert himself into the grand arena and interfere with the conclusion of the violent, bloody match.

The look on her face as she studies the older man is difficult to read, alternating between anger and relief, fury and understanding. Her arms press down again as if to test his own resolve to keep her blade at bay, but his own strength, fresh and untested by the rigors of violent kombat, is more than enough to prevent her second, less intense attempt.

Finally, she exhales, the tension going out of her arms, her shoulders slouching. Wearily, she pulls her weapon back, keeping it in her hand, held between Kenshi's weapon and herself, as if still not entirely ready to let down her guard with him so close. With speed far lower than what she had displayed during the fight, she stands up off of Baiken and takes a step back, then another. The young woman's right arm now hangs against her side, her left hand reaching over to resume trying to hold the blood back from spilling out of the wound on her upper arm.

Slowly, she lifts her right hand to look at the kodachi gripped there, its length coated in blood, the handle and even her gloves drenched in the crimson victory she had earned. Unlike her own blade, this one had never claimed a life. And, now, thanks to the blind swordsman, it looks like it still won't... A curious intervention, to say the least. Breathing in again, she exhales softly, shaking her head slowly, "I understand why you would stay my hand."

She wipes her marred kodachi on her own robe before turning it toward her back to slide into the sheath behind her waist. "What's done is done. I accept your request for clemency on the behalf of Baiken, of Japan. Another besides me will have to go on to face Shang Tsung's challenge... I pray that they are up to the task."

Turning toward Baiken, Nakoruru bows her head. Another look toward Kenshi, studying him for a moment. As the match had been decided, his interference seems to rest right on the border of the edicts of the Elder Gods... but since neither kontestant is likely to voice a objection, it will not be the infraction he risked it being.

Turning, Nakoruru walks slowly over to where her wolf waits next to the barely moving bird and bends down to scoop Mamahaha into her arms, cradling the stunned creature in front of her. Without further word, Nature's Avenger walks from the arena, never looking back.

The two blades are disengaged with a soft 'shlink', Kenshi's own being lifted and slid into its sheath almost immediately. It seems that he fears violent retaliation much less than the apparently young girl before him. Still, he does not relax entirely until her own blade is stowed. His shoulders slump, head bowing in mingled respect and relief to the departing Ainu.

Remaining silent as Nakoruru's soft steps fade into the distance, Kenshi reaches down to press his palm lightly to Baiken's forehead. The worn black leather is warm, dust gritting against her bloody skin. He pays no mind to the cut there, nor to the savage woman's various near fatal wounds. Behind his hand, far above her, his covered gaze seems to meet her own with uncanny accuracy.

"You must give what power remains to her. This tournament is no longer yours to win, and you would do well to find her and receive guidance. This is no place for lone warriors, your usual ways have failed you."

Having delivered what advice he can with quiet intent, the ronin removes his hand from her person and rises smoothly to his feet. Stepping over her, he passes fully through her field of vision, before moving quickly out of sight. For a moment boots can be heard tramping over stone, then there is a flash of purple light, and all is quiet.

There is but one left in the courtyard. One wounded, barely conscious, and alone with many things to resolve. But as always, her path is her own.

She is not dead.

Baiken does not know what to think of this. The intervention was completely unexpected, not only beyond her expectation but almost beyond belief. Once again she survives, and not because of anything she did. Because someone else chose it.

The first time Baiken failed to die, it was because they didn't think she was worth killing. After losing everything that mattered to the fire, she had tried to fight back with a stick and lost her arm and eye for her trouble - and then was just left, ignored, no longer worthy of their time.

This time... it's different. And yet still similar, in some ways, except the person who does not think she is worth anything is not even here. Shang Tsung is not That Man, who was burned into her memory. But he has the same disregard for life. It's not even a conscious decision, and Baiken doesn't know why she makes it. She's never been altruistic before.

"I will," she rasps to Nakoruru, or thinks she does, as she steps away. It's presumptious, perhaps, to say that she will challenge Shang Tsung after her loss today. It's unclear if Baiken will be /able/ to take up that challenge - not only whether she'll be allowed, but whether she is even capable of it. There is no way Baiken is thinking clearly, between hitting her head and blood loss. But she's said it, and she can't - or won't - take the words back now.

Baiken shifts her gaze from Nakoruru, when she moves out of sight, to Kenshi, who is still above her at that time. Her eye still has that glint, though she's having more and more trouble focusing as her body wants nothing more than to pass out.

And despite everything, she smiles. It is not a pleasant smile. Any trace of humour burned out of Baiken years ago. "We'll see," is what she says. She wants to ask him more - starting with 'who are you and what do you want' - but he's already moving, and for a few moments Baiken loses track of time entirely.

She does manage to get out of the arena before completely passing out. But going anywhere far, right now, is completely beyond her.

Log created on 16:19:22 10/09/2016 by Baiken, and last modified on 17:17:25 10/10/2016.