Mortal Kombat - MK Round 4: Baiken vs Akuma

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Description: "Bloodlust. Earthrealm is not without those who walk the roads stained with blood. BAIKEN, AKUMA. Both of you have spoken much of your desire to fight Outworld's finest. But it is presumptuous to assume I would merely concede such an honor! I am charged merely with carrying out the will of the Elder Gods. Prove yourselves by battling for the station of the DRAGON at the Warrior Shrine, and find your way to the Grand Trials. Insult the gods with lackluster performance, and find yourself just one of the many bodies you have thought to claim."

This was a place he could agree with, at least on some middling, superficial level. A place where those destroyed in the chaos of battle are deified is something that rises the bile in his throat, but the stomach-churning implications of humans who were not good enough being honored is ultimately not his concern.

It was the impression that a man who stands up only to die is better than those who do ot fight at all. The craft is a bloody one, and those who elect to pursue it until death... that is understanding.

The sage stands at the far end of the shrine, in front of the massive four armed monstrosity arrayed central to most of the warriors here, the crown of flame atop his head bowed as he contemplates the strength of those here in silence. The dry air settles as he lifts an arm, the dark and shredded gi he wears folding and shifting with the motion. There is no absence of mind as he tightens the hemp binding his fists, the whites of his dagger teeth showing even in the ink black crawling over his face.

"I've spent this entire battle killing those who thought they were the strongest, that they were the most vicious. I have seen the gates of Hell open and consecrate the unworthy, at once throwing the vengeant back onto the sands of life, naiad skin slick with the mucus of disgust."

Muscles tense, flesh to steel.
He speaks now only because he senses a battle.
There is no such thing as people in war.

"But I tire of plucking the lives from weaklings. I came here to brutalize the demons who call themselves gods.... to tear down this farce and bring this world to its knees...!!"

Before Akuma got here, the shrine was silent. Nobody seemed to be in it when he entered, moving to the far side of the shrine. There was no movement indicating someone shifting around, none of the tension of someone hiding but ready to fight.

As a result, Akuma may think he's speaking to nobody, or to himself.

And, in fact, he may have been, for part of it. Baiken is often not early to her battles, arriving where and when she pleases. But by the time he finishes, he is not alone, as Baiken has joined him in the shrine.

Baiken is in the shadow of the pedestal engraved with The Paladin. There's no statue there, of course; that is one of the destroyed icons, holding only dust and steel. That's why she's sitting; it's the only way to keep her low enough against the pedestal that she could possibly be in its shadow, even with the erratic, flickering light of the multiple flames set around the room its only illumination.

But now she rises. The slack sleeve of her missing arm billows as she leaps over the powdered stone, landing on the side of the statue closer to Akuma; her single eye glitters in the torchlight as it passes over the line of statues, lips curling back. Is that what they wanted? To die and live in stone? She'd rather just be dead. There's a finality to that.

"I wouldn't call myself a god or a demon," Baiken says, speaking for the first time tonight. "But I've been called the second." She rolls her shoulder to loosen it as she looks across the shrine at the other warrior. "I hope that's good enough for you, because I'm here to challenge you as long as you stand behind me and the rest of the Outlanders. Between me and the /rest/ of the monsters."

"And I'm not taking no for an answer."

"What you are will be left up to my fist..."

Decades of rage bathes the warrior's voice, the tide crashing violently against weathered rock. As he speaks, he raises his hands, one half open and the other balled in a sure fist. The ragged hemp creaks, a holy rigging bearing the weight of an entire ocean of killing.

Waraji grind the dust as he changes his stance, one foot driving a piling into the ground. In truth he cannot tell if his opponent is late or early to her battle, or really even if she is here at all. He is ultimately indifferent to her appearance. To that, it is more to say and simple enough to do so that he does not care. What difference does the hour make if it is not the killing hour? What difference does it make if the person who stands before him is not a warrior. He could have waited a year, a day, a month or a second.

The tide of chaos always returns.

Do not misunderstand. Akuma has no particular knowledge of where or what his opponent is any more than he has any particular care. But he speaks in infinite surety. To underestimate the reach of his sense is to underestimate mayhem itself. Akuma does not react to his opponent's chi, for there is surely none, nor does he react to a sound for she moves as whispers. He responds to nothing less than the crawling insanity that arrives before every fight. An entropy of peace to which he has spent countless decades becoming uniquely attuned.

The ronin can taste it, heady and pervasive, the moment she stands in the same 'space' as him. Chaos made real. It penetrates into every sense she has, into every layer of clothing, and nothing past. The world is reasonless...

"Only strength, blood, and the true killing intent can discern gods from devils, flesh from oil and feather. But if it is your wish to insult death by throwing a broken, feeble and ignoble body before me, you would do best to fall on your sword now..."

In a glance, he susses out Baiken's injuries, the boneless slack in her sleeve and the darkness in her face. He susses it out in an instant, and that much, if nothing else, brings rich ire to eyes that kindle with their own internal fire, glowing pyre orange with constrained anger. He riles at her audacity, but for reasons known only to him, he does not reject the challenge. Akuma enters his battle stance, and the ceiling grows a little closer, the air a little more cramped. Bare hands raise in martial readiness. He watches the warrior sharply.

"A one eyed dog," Akuma growls, "has already been answered once."

COMBATSYS: Akuma has started a fight here.

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Akuma            0/-------/-------|

Baiken's entrance was made in strictly mundane ways. She's quiet when she wants to be, and she did not feel like disturbing Akuma before the time was right. The increasing tension she always feels before a battle seemed to indicate the correct time to her.

That tension is not a sensation Baiken is ignorant of.

Baiken fights with death in the air every time she goes to battle, but her attitude toward it is different than Akuma's. Having accepted her own death decades ago, she goes to war with no fear of it today. She has almost no life beyond combat. She expects, that one day, it will end up with her dead, and nobody will trouble themselves to mourn her, a warrior almost out of time with no living family and nobody for her to call friend.

She only hopes that she'll get her revenge before that day comes.

As Akuma judges her, Baiken stands straight. She does not try to hide her maiming, nor do they seem to disturb her overmuch; the one eye she has is bright and alert and focused, very intently, on Akuma himself. The sleeve hangs slack, but there's something about the robe on that side that suggests she has /something/ there, even if it is not currently visible. They are very old injuries, and she moves as if they do not bother her.

Her lips curl back. It's not a smile, unless you're particularly generous; it's not - quite - a snarl, but it wouldn't take very much additional tension to pull her upper lip back far enough to be one. "A dog, am I? At least dogs will fight. Better to be a dog than a sheep or a rat, like some of the people I've defeated!"

A moment's tension - physical this time, rather than atmospheric - and a brief shift of her stance as she scuffs her feet against the stone is the only warning Akuma gets before Baiken is in motion. One moment she's still, and the next she's running, drawing her blade in the same motion - and the crystal disc glimmers near the pommel, so dark red as to look nearly black and half-covered with Baiken's hand.

She holds her arm across her upper body, sleeve covering her chest and the sword pointed tip down as she runs. Baiken does not run quite at Akuma but just to his side, lashing out with the blade in a cutting slash as she passes, continuing for two steps - almost to the statue - and whirling to face him again. Even that doesn't stop her entirely, but now she moves at a slower pace, constantly repositioning herself.

COMBATSYS: Baiken has joined the fight here.

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Akuma            0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0           Baiken

COMBATSYS: Baiken equips a lustrous Garnet Soul Shard.

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

COMBATSYS: Akuma blocks Baiken's Suzuran.

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

"Hrnph," Akuma grouses as Baiken stiffens and riles underneath his estimation, his breathing even and calm, the rumbling discontent rolling from his chest in time to his breathing. The conversation rakes away in the sand slowly, threads of thought scattered in the fire winds of pent-up violence. She barks at him.

"We will see ... the time for talk is over."

She rushes into him, and the master of the fist steps forward, opening his hand and slamming it into the edge of her blade as she cuts across him. There is a resounding thud as the razor edge meets flesh. But the feeling is all wrong. There is no break of resistance. The steel drags against meat as opposing to slicing into it, the tsuka of the weapon shuddering in Baiken's grip as she slips past.

She would realize the truth instantly, as Akuma turns to face her, inspecting only briefly the reddened mark across the fingers of his hand, a broken and muted line of red clenched into his fist. There comes a time when warriors battle so fiercely, spearing their hands into sand, against iron and cooling magma countless thousands of times that their hands become little more than rocks, vestigial for the purposes of anything but the most important thing. Those weathered hands, little more than spearheads given battleship force would be even harder to breach than armor...

He takes two steps around, orienting on the fellow warrior, before he balls that spear fist, and, anchoring his stance, whirls his trunk, lowering all of his body weight into the oncoming blow. If Baiken doesn't move, he will hit her once with that hemp wrapped fist, square in the jaw.

COMBATSYS: Akuma successfully hits Baiken with Medium Punch.

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

It isn't the first time Baiken has fought someone whose training was so intense, their battle experience so significant, that they could catch her blade /by/ the blade.

Akuma is amongst the best of the best; he's one of the people who have almost turned their back on humanity in the pursuit of power and skill. It does not surprise Baiken when he does so, though it is - as every time - an unpleasant shock. Fortunately, she does not have to destroy his hands. She only has to strike past them, at the core of Akuma.

Unfortunately, that may actually be harder.

Baiken recovers from the bad blow, keeping her blade in a ready position instead of going for a second, immediate attack. "It is," she says, and nothing more. The rest of her attention is on the battle itself. The sensation of pressure, of power... it's intense.

Isn't this what she expected in Mortal Kombat - what she wanted? To fight people like this?

The powerful blow comes faster than Baiken expected. Halfway through a backstep, Akuma's reaching punch catches Baiken in the jaw. It does not /quite/ pick her up and whirl her around, but it's the next thing to it; it certainly causes her to finish that step backwards in a stagger, squeezing her eye shut momentarily before reopening it to recover from the dazing blow.

This time she does snarl. Her empty sleeve whips forward at Akuma's face - but it is truly empty this time, and nothing but a feint, the slap of cloth against skin completely harmless and only moderately annoying at that. But it /does/ cover, for a bare instant, what Baiken is doing; not a blow with her sword hand, which Baiken expects Akuma to be prepared for.

No, instead she stomps her foot. "TATAMI GAESHI!"

A green block of chi flips up from the ground, a 'tile' made of nothing but energy. And underneath it is a different kind of energy: a pink blast, angled upward and outward to catch Akuma from below, launching him back and away if he can't either withstand or avoid it. The pink geyser faintens and fades away, leaving nothing but glittering (pink) chi drifting like petals.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Akuma with Tatami Gaeshi.
Glancing Blow

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

Past a certain measure, you get to a point where you are taken aback if enemies do not have a particular capacity. How long has it been since Baiken has seen such hands before? A year? Months? Days? It isn't the point of it. One does not come this far in this world -- this brutal, terror-lit world -- without having seen such feats and atrocities. Had Baiken flinched, it would have been her head.

No, the point of the spear blow is merely to acquaint himself with the strength of her bones. Just a little blood, just enough to ignite the fire that calls for more. His fist retracts as quickly as it came, leaving the force of his check to stumble Baiken as he returns, his stance slowly returning to neutral. There is a cautious deliberation about him, the ire and rage that makes up the master of the fist forged into steel. He steps forward after Baiken's recovery, one leg raising in a third step as Baiken flips her sleeve into his view.

If it were that, it would have been enough. As it is, the earth ruptures beneath him, a tatami mat cut from nothing but chi slamming into him just long enough for a pink blast to shake his body. But there's something different about the way Akuma moves. Something that shrinks the earth. Something that churns the waves of the blast to vague flickers. As he grunts, dropping from one stance to another to guard the blast, he narrows his eyes dangerously.

And then tries to cut through it all with his kick alone.

Akuma does not exactly cut through the afterhaze of that pastel force in as much as he cuts everything down, whirling into the air with a brutal scything kick, setting free a cutting blow with force enough to rotate his body in a full 1080 degrees, the axle kick scything into a minor hurricane of black force, threatening to lay the warrior open with his response, faster in practice than one could design a fathom to. Over history, there have been geniuses of tactics, whom history has lauded as gods. In the face of such tactical competency, he doesn't relent, he doesn't pause, he doesn't even think.

The master of the fist merely responds, with incrementally more lethal force.

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Akuma's Tatsumaki Zankuu Kyaku.

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

Baiken does not flinch.

Rather the inverse, if anything; the threat of danger stirs her to action, and not only a reflexive attempt to get away. Akuma might be moving toward cautious deliberation; Baiken tends to be aggressive or at least in motion, rarely entirely still.

This isn't to say she pays no attention to her defense, nor that she mindlessly attacks without cease like some kind of berserker. Baiken is clever and experienced both. She just prefers to be in motion rather than to wait for death to come to her, and even when she's defending she's looking for an opening to attack again.

Such as right now.

Akuma turns his deflection of Baiken's chi into an assault, a whirl of feet and black force, and Baiken withstands it. She transitions into a guard, using her arm as a shield for her body. She's rocked back by the force anyway, more injuries to add to the ones she's already taken, but she presses on regardless, pushing against the impact with her arm but not legs to simultaneously keep Akuma away from her and allow herself to slide backwards, away from Akuma and the statue he still stands in front of.

It doesn't open much distance, but it's enough. Baiken switches from guard to attack in an instant, a downward diagonal slash with her sword coming practically out of nowhere as she closes the distance she just opened. This is not a blow to test Akuma's defenses or to feel him out, but a strike to lay waste to those less skilled or damage even the powerful. It's a maneuver that would have been a two-handed stroke for a traditional swordsman; even with only one it is powerful as Baiken commits to the blow with no trace of hesitation and no words. This is a time for action.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Akuma with Crushing Strike.
- Power hit! -

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

Daggering blows fold together with scything, as the three-piece kick ends in a brutal thrust of his leg, his waraji slamming into Baiken's arm with stone-murdering force, the black blades of power that built that whirling fortress flaying at the edges of her sleeve. A lesser opponent's forearm would have popped apart like dry wood, the black winds driving her back as he plants both feet into the ground.

He tests her defenses, and does not find them wanting.
But with his momentum bled dry, he tilts into the response, a waiting blow from a tilted guillotine, her slash coming down into him. He recognizes the intent. In ancient times, the ko-ryu schools of kenjutsu were focused not on sparring or achieving an understanding with an opponent, but cutting them down entirely. The concept of a slash devoid of commitment, and a fully committed cut that fells the opponent. It is the closest to the spirit of the thing itself that he will recognize. This is not a dance.
And no defense would be useful here.


"Impressive... it takes a brutal blade to cut me."
A knife-edged grin. When Baiken's sword finds its way into Akuma, it only stops when it reaches to the stone cut bone of the master of the fist, the earth holding up the sage underneath what surely would have been a killing or maiming blow against another body. To cut Akuma is like cutting the mountain itself, and blood wells openly around the wound, with hot steel still lodged dangerously close to his neck.

The trapezius muscle is cut, Akuma surmises. It will make lifting particularly difficult. Good. Good. One hand, spiderwebbed in trails of blood, lifts up, to try and grip onto the guard of Baiken's sword. It is an anchoring grip, enough to trap her hand entirely. His free hand locks into a monstrous claw, as black force bleeds into it. "Now, your sins call for your blood."

The breathable air in the shrine crumples, shrinking in half and churning away into the small hole to hell he conjures in his palm. Energy, force, and the exact amount of care he has for Baiken's well-being gather in one hand, a wound in the world. This scar churns, broils, cutting into his arm as much as anything else. He tries to tractor Baiken into him with pure strength alone, his weight dropping into and across the bound spine of her sword. If her balance fails her, even for a moment, Akuma will drive a black blast of pure killing into her middle, a knot of blades striking her square in the obi. Though the blasts can fly errantly and cut down the area around them, his attempts at a sure grip mean he will pull her into it with authority should she lag against him. The intent is nothing less than to pierce through her core and leave nothing left, if she is weak.

But then he will do it again. And again.

She must necessarily break free of him.
Break free, or die at his feet.

COMBATSYS: Baiken channels the fortress of the steel will.

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

COMBATSYS: Baiken fails to interrupt Tenma Gou Zankuu EX from Akuma with Sakura.

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

Baiken has no named style that Akuma can determine. It has similarities to a number of Japanese sword schools - unsurprising, given the sword she carries - but is of none of them. Unable to find a long-term trainer as a one-armed, one-eyed child - for she was a child before she learned the sword - she simply trained herself, assembling scraps of knowledge into a cohesive style and avoiding the traps inherent in any sort of self-training.

And her intent /is/ to strike to kill. Baiken is no stranger to that, and for Mortal Kombat, she is not holding back. She has spared at least one of her previous opponents, but until she won she did not pull her blows, and if her opponent had died during the battle she would have called it a necessary event. Akuma, of course, can tell.

Baiken presses the blade downward for an instant longer before deciding that it will not penetrate any further, no matter how hard she pushes - not at that angle, and not with that power.

"Even a one-eyed dog may bite," she snarls, beginning to pull back the blade - but not fast enough. Akuma grips her by the hand and holds her. He won't be able to hold her for long, but he doesn't need to, and what he manages is enough.

Baiken fails to free her hand fast enough to avoid being pressed in place by Akuma's weight and strength. She twists, then, and does indeed manage to free herself an instant before the first blast hits her. It seems, for a moment, she might be able to strike despite the poor angle and the lack of time in which to react; her sword lashes around, thrusting toward Akuma's other shoulder as she tries to disrupt his art, shimmering with pink chi.

But the bolt of purest force impacts her in the stomach before she manages it. Since she was already freeing herself from his grip, it actually launches her; throwing her back yards. She lands on her feet, but that's about the best that can be said for her reaction. Now she /is/ hurt, though fighting through it, snarling in defiance and pushing the pain away by sheer willpower.

The distance means that Akuma has several moments longer to continue to blast the area around her, though Baiken is not a still target even with the injuries she's taken. Her eye blazes with defiance as she stares at Akuma across the distance, rarely blinking, as if trying to divine his intentions and read his mind.

"A dog has teeth," Akuma seethes rabidly, moving through the motions of a stance. The dark gi hanging from his frame is stained by the blood, but the rivulets of drying crimson are hard to see in pitch fabric and the lines of dusky muscle. Even so, he moves as if blood were a part of some true kata he pursues. The spirit of the thing itself undeniable. There's no point to a battle that isn't real. Turning his wrists, Akuma lifts one leg off the ground.

"If it didn't, it wouldn't even be worth drowning."

The space shrinks between them in an instant. It is something altogether different than a man rushing down the battlefield, the jangled gait of men and horses as they crash together in war. No, it is something violent occurring to space itself, the safety of the air between them folding away, space crushed and the ground made smaller. Akuma does not so much approach Baiken, for that would require actual physical movement. It is more that he determines himself to be in a different location, and then simply he is.

It's easier to believe that he pulls Baiken--and consequently, the rest of the world--towards him, than the other way around.

By the time Akuma's waraji slams into the basalt once again, he flanks Baiken, and the weight of his arrival is perhaps the only meaningful warning she gets. It's all she may need. But Akuma is not content with letting her breathe, not content with letting her gain grace. He senses that she has more. And he will get to it. One hand opens, and as he arrives from the twist of space between them, he drops it with axe force, throwing his full weight into the blow across her shoulder.

She has more. And her other arm is on the line if she brings the sage of fists any less.

COMBATSYS: Baiken just-defends Akuma's Zugai Hasatsu!

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

It is rare for Baiken to show patience on the battlefield. Rare, but not impossible.

She lets Akuma come to her by any means he chooses, never looking away from him as he does. If Akuma did not want to allow Baiken to regain her center, he would need to move fast; sheer force of will keeps her moving, and sheer force of will keeps her ready. If she's hurt - and she is hurt - she refuses to show it in front of Akuma.

You don't advertise weakness to a predator.

As Akuma strikes downward, Baiken goes to a half-crouch and strikes upward, holding her blade parallel to the ground and using the flat to interrupt the blow. It is like hitting an iron bar held in Baiken's hand as she pushes upward with all the force in her body, repelling Akuma's strike with every ounce of strength she can muster and simply /holding/ it. It's not easy. But nothing worth doing is easy, and this is something Baiken needs to do - to survive, if no other reason.

With a grunt, Baiken finds more strength from somewhere. Not a lot, just enough to push Akuma's hand up a fraction of a fraction of an inch and give her a literal instant's relief. But that's enough for her to act in.

Baiken slashes. This time it's not vertical but horizontal, taking advantage of her positioning to turn even her rising into an attack. One slash, then she reverses the blade and swings it back along the way it came, rising upwards as she does to regain her footing.

The /third/ blow is the vertical one, the most powerful of the three. Baiken roars as she strikes, a wordless defiance of Akuma as she puts her power to the test. The blade shifts in her grip, as if thirsty for more blood - but that might just be Baiken's eagerness.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Akuma with Tsurane Sanzu Watashi.

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

A battle where life is on the line is the only battle worth fighting.

The ronin defiantly holds off the axeblow of his hand, the weight of the world itself straining against her sword, the spring steel in the spine of the blade shuddering against the force. This close, the intention of that man is suffocating. It's not a battle where half measures can be used, where intellect matters. There is no room for breath, no room for thought, no room for anything but the next attack. Akuma leaves no space for anything else. A weathered, hemp-wrapped hand tenses against steel, and the creak of those ropes is audible in that moment.

In the next, blood.

In the next whirling moments, Baiken cuts into Akuma, carving a brutal cruciform into his chest. The rocketing upper slash of her blade drives Akuma back, his body succumbing to the cut of the blade. One thumb runs across the clean cut across his chest, thumbing the edge of the muscle with an iron fingertip. He raises the bloodied thumb to his lip, already marked with a whiplash of red, the spray from the woman's successful cut. The ragged breath, the blood that now reaches bare toes. He licks his hand, clearing the blood from it absently.

"You attack as if putting on an old coat.." Akuma judges, red eyes gleaming ember-bright in the dark that falls on him. "You mistake aggression for force. Fear for bravery. Insulting. The capacity boils and foams in the back of your throat. Embrace it..."

That force wells deep in his hand, as he lifts it to the ceiling. Even as he does, the ceiling shudders, dust from the whiled centuries falling away in curtains around him, crackling force snapping between the particles as it passes. The earth feels twisted, a whirlpool collapsing into his hand. Akuma glares. "Embrace your helplessness before chaos... or be crippled forever!!!"

He steps forward. It takes only one to bring Baiken into the eclipse. And when Akuma slams his fist into the earth, the ground shatters instantly. The shockwave of black force that emanates out from him is enough to shatter the entire shrine, save that he keeps it condensed into one, consecrating point....!!!

COMBATSYS: Baiken channels the fortress of the steel will.

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

COMBATSYS: Baiken dodges Akuma's Kongou Kokuretsu Zan.

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

Baiken flicks her sword to the side to clear at least most of the blood from it with a single sharp motion. It will need more cleaning afterwards, but it will do for now.

"Is that what you think?" Baiken's voice is low, despite her yelling moments earlier. "It hardly matters what you think of me." One of them will lie dead after this battle; she can tell. There's no purpose in either of them speaking to the other, for one of them will be gone and forgotten.

Baiken doesn't intend that to be her, but has accepted that it might be. In the chaos of battle between opponents as skilled as the two of them are, nobody could say for certain who will survive and who will fall. Baiken isn't egotistical enough to assume she can.

Power gathers on Akuma's hand, and Baiken does feel /something/. It isn't fear, but it is something. The sensation of battle has rarely been stronger, and she feels her defiance rising again as the black light compresses into Akuma's grip. She knows, on that front at least, she is outclassed. But 'outclassed' does not mean 'defeated'. Baiken trains every day to fight people stronger and more powerful than she is, for how else could she learn?

"But I was helpless once. /Once/. I don't intend to be again!"

As Akuma slams his fist downward, Baiken throws her hand up - and not the hand holding her blade, but the other one, the arm that isn't there. This time there is a whisper of steel, and something slides out of the 'empty' sleeve. 'Empty', because she's just proven it isn't; a strange device on a faintly clinking chain, some sort of hand. But it's not a hand at all; it's a boxy metal framework of a hand, a nearly square 'palm' with 'fingers' made of blunted hooks.

The chain is not long enough to reach the ceiling. Baiken has tossed it at a supporting pillar instead, lifting her only about ten feet off the ground; she yanks herself upward and away from Akuma, leaving the destruction behind her, so close she can feel it in her bones.

But mere moments later she's swinging right back, like a pendulum. Baiken's claw detaches from where it's hooked around the pillar as she picks up momentum, sending herself over Akuma's head in a somersaulting spin.

And her blade is out when she does it. It lashes at Akuma's back an instant after she passes overhead as Baiken finishes her last rotation, landing on her feet some moments later on the cracked ground and turning to face Akuma in the same motion.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Akuma with Ouren.

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

"If you think," Akuma spits, "you are already dead."

Akuma has no interest in opinions, or the self-esteems of fighters too weak to carve away lives with their fists. And so he strikes. The crippling shockwave grinds stone to powder and rips a gouge into the earth cascading clear through to the basements and sublevels beneath the shrine, ancient levels stacked upon levels. At the edge of the precipice, Akuma stands, the yawning chasm tugging at the ragged bloodstained fringes of his gi.

The ronin herself passes like the wind over Akuma, slashing into him with a white cutting flash as she passes. The defense of Akuma is merely that--though she certainly means to kill him, this wouldn't be the stroke that does it, and so as Akuma stands, he merely shifts just so--enough that though the blade may razor into him, the steel itself is deflected by the rise of his shoulderblade, much as a man might roll his shoulder to throw off an old coat.

He says nothing, a low growl accompanying his next motion.

Despite the master's injuries, he raises one arm and then slams the ball of his foot into the ground beside him, welling power into his hands from an iron horse stance. The blood at his back begins to visibly steam as he moves. Deadly focus turns into force, black energy crawling from the mantle of the man-made-demon, before he thrusts forward--this time both hands lock into a fierce claw, as he kindles the ember fire in his eyes into a great conflagration. And from between his hands, the coruscating blaze blooms, a fiery wave eating the air between the ronin and the demon. The strength of the killing hadou, channelled into a single violent blast.

Nothing impure survives beneath his eye.

COMBATSYS: Baiken dodges Akuma's Shakunetsu Hadouken.

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

The shrine is increasingly a mess.

Baiken does not strike in such a way as to cause random damage to the place, but Akuma does that enough for both of them, and it isn't like Baiken is causing /no/ damage. About the only thing that can be said is that neither of them have damaged any of the memorials... if they can be damaged. Baiken would not be surprised if they were enchanted to stay in place.

Baiken is not really thinking about that right now, though. Akuma is correct, even if she does not agree with all his conclusions: she has to empty her mind of distractions or she will not survive the night. Once she's thrown herself past Akuma and landed on her feet, she continues to move, retracting the chain with the strange artificial claw-hand on it back up her sleeve with a shrug as she sidesteps, again and again and again.

She's turning the battle parallel to the new cleft in the stone floor, and it's that angle that Akuma discharges his destructive, violent energies down. They blast toward her, the dark energies prepared to destroy her if she was impure enough.

But the question of whether Baiken is or not is not answered yet, because she is not there for them to strike.

For all that Baiken circled, she did not move away from where she landed, and she's not very far from Akuma. She goes down into a low crouch, hand holding her blade at her side as if it was still in the scabbard, and moves forward instead of away; pressuring Akuma, not letting him recover from his energetic discharge. She feels it pass over her, so close she can feel its pressure, but she ignores it as best she can despite the killing tension.

Instead she 'draws' the sword in a single upwards blow, slashing hard, and resheathes it - actually doing so, this time - in the same motion. It clicks home, and Baiken's hand is left empty afterwards. This time she no longer speaks; her face is set not just in concentration but purest focus on the battle proper.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Akuma with Tetsuzansen.
- Power hit! -

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

What an annoyance.

In this world of dead that do not die, the ronin proved herself a visibly capable opponent, capable of dealing with his soul crippling blows with grace. But grace itself is not killing intent. All that is is survival, and any animal is programmed from birth to survive. The network of cuts he's accumulated across his body are proof of his vexation -- none being a blow mortal enough to merit his attention. But she weaves into his guard. She slashes into him. And slowly, the blood loss begins to register.

It is a familiar sensation, being on the edge of living.

Akuma does not rile at being cut into, in being driven this far. That would assume that there is an ego to bruise. The faintest raised lip of annoyance is only at this much: The idea of a battle within his interest is being cut short. Quite an annoyance. When Akuma is struck, as Baiken continues putting the pressure upon him with a false cut into an iai stance, Akuma recognizes it for what it is. And then he strikes out.

The blow comes fast, a solid bloodstained punch to the middle, his entire body rotating at the waist with the thrusting strike hunting the center of the cerise sword's chest, force enough to cave in a man's ribcage. The blow is meant to break her guard, to check her blade before she can even think of drawing it again.

Because his next kick is enough to slay her on the spot. Kicking off from the spot, Akuma will lift into the air to carry on his attack, unleashing a whirling kick. It is enough to wreathe him in destruction, black force scissoring into being after the blade of his foot, curtaining away from the blow and flailing away the walls of the shrine. And therein lies the strength of true killing intent.

Even when death makes a direct overture against him, Akuma does not move to kick at, but through Baiken, her sword, and everything she stands for. Anything less is an insult.

COMBATSYS: Akuma can no longer fight.

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

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Akuma's Tenshou Kaireki Jin.

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

Baiken is pushing herself to her limits to fight Akuma. She knows it, she imagines he knows it - it's a deadly serious match on both sides. If that's what he desires, that's what he's getting.

Her approach is not slow and steady. She attacks, and attacks again, pressing the advantage wherever she finds it. She keeps herself fighting on energy and willpower and sheer determination even when, like now, she's pained and wounded.

But after the strike, she pauses a moment to react, and that's what saves her.

Akuma misjudged one thing: Baiken does not need the sword to fight. It's a tool - it's her favoured tool, and she's very good with it. But she isn't entirely dependent on it. It gives her reach, the ability to strike from different angles, a sharp edge - but none of that are as important as her will.

Baiken does not even try to draw the sword again, not yet. She uses her arm and bare hand instead, catching the punch in her open hand. It's much smaller than Akuma's, and yet - for an instant - she stands as his equal, her palm impacting the fist with enormous force and holding it away from her.

Baiken does not even try to absorb the kick. Having caught the opening, she is an active and elusive target, not a stunned one as Akuma might be hoping; she twists her body, /pushing/ him past her and avoiding the return of his foot as he continues to spin and circle, along with the black energy that wreathes it. It's a narrow thing, again; Baiken avoids getting her face caved in by the slimmest of margins. But 'slim' is, in this case, enough. Once again she cheats death.

She advances on him, afterwards. Apparently she really does intend to finish the job.

The scything winds expend themselves slowly, and with prejudice.

The three piece exchange moves quickly, a lightning-fast interlude of martial arts that would be the pride of any technician, but by the time the winds die, Akuma is on the ground, standing in squared stance somewhere past Baiken, his bloody, ragged muscle at his side. It is the first time his back is truly, fully exposed to her. Currently, despite all of his strength, it takes a titanic will to remain standing, to remain stoic. His fist loosens, the crown of fire atop his head bowed slightly.

There is no point in further exchange.
"Hell cannot contain my strength..."
The blood red kanji embers to life at his back, lighting up the spiderweb of blood that crawls through his gi. At its center, the 'TEN' symbol flares, inhuman, incomprehensible, unknowable. Even an angel can be a monster.

"Now.. embrace the only truth worth knowing. Finish it!!!"

For all her words - and the fact that Baiken is not opposed to it - she has not killed anybody this tournament.

In her first round, Baiken lost. Later, when she did win, one of her opponents was given the protection of a pale Soul Shard, and Baiken could not have killed her no matter how hard she tried. The next she chose to spare for reasons she couldn't explain now or then, even if she wanted to. To spite Shang Tsung, perhaps, who seemed to want her to kill Kitana.

Akuma does not have any supernatural protection. Nor does she have any reason to spare him.

"One day," she says, "I will probably meet you there."

The strike is fast. It isn't mercy but efficiency; Baiken takes no particular joy in causing pain for no reason, and has no desire to see Akuma linger. So it isn't an agonizing fatality like many of the combatants here may have gone for, but a simple mercy stroke; one thrust into the side of the throat from behind, and then continuing it into a slash forward and away. It will be /messy/, but not on her, and it will be brief.

Now, stripped of his titanic constitution, he barely even feels it.

Silently, the demon turns, looking over his shoulder, rage flaying at his features. Was that it...?! He turns slowly, ominously, taking one step towards Baiken, then another, fully unaware of the growing arc of blood at his side. The embers burn in his eyes as he remembers the world below him, the one in which that woman seemingly returned. It meant that there was still a battle to be fought. A dark satisfaction consumes him. Yes...feel the killing intent.

By the time Akuma collapses to his knees, most of the blood in his body is gone. He falls forward, in two pieces, with his head rolling free, into the abyss carved behind Baiken.

Those ember eyes burn all the way, lighting a gory tumble into the black.

Baiken lets the head fall. She ignores the body once there is no life in it, except to step away from it. Pressed near her limits, Baiken has enough respect for Akuma's skill to not kick it into the pit after his head, but has nowhere to take it. She supposes, when they fix this room, they will add a statue to him.

And now she has to keep fighting, until they add one of her. Always another battle, and for what? The right to challenge Shang Tsung? To fight on behalf of Earthrealm?

No use worrying about it, and Baiken doesn't as she walks away, making her exit almost as quietly as she entered. She'll keep fighting until she can't fight anymore.

COMBATSYS: Baiken has ended the fight here.

Log created on 21:07:05 12/11/2016 by Baiken, and last modified on 11:41:54 12/17/2016.