Description: Location: The Living Forest - Water Depth: 5cm and Rising - The bloodthirsty murderer LOTUS has left a wide enough wake of tragedy to earn her resurrection at the Tyrant Sorceror's hand. She has no need for orders -- she serves the machinations of Shang Tsung well enough without them. When the island is struck, the Living Forest was one of the hardest areas hit. The living embodiment of the lost, the deluded victims of centuries past, the Forest is terrified at the prospect of its food sources being swallowed up by the seas. As the shoreline begins to encroach upon the northern edges of the Forest, JAO wanders a bit too close to one of the ravenous trees. Will the tree devour him? Will Lotus? Or will his father RUST be able to write a happier ending to this perilous situation?
The nefarious kidnapper SAWDUST still prowls around at large...! Kind of. Sort of. We all know who he really is, by now, as both 'kidnapper' and 'victim' once again tour the dangerous islands... after who knows how much time passed...
"I... I don't see any others, father," says the young teenage boy, as the two unwisely take a moment to rest at the edge of the forest, facing out to the greater purple-hued wastes of Shang Tsung's island.
"Ahh, don't worry about it, eh?" Says the 'kidnapper,' sitting down and wrapping his EVIL CHILD KIDNAPPING ARM around the boy. "I liked the idea! Long as they think I'm really fighting in, they'd get stronger enough to really drop the gloves on their champion. Maybe there was only the one left..."
A sobering thought, that they may be among the few remaining Earthrealm survivors.
"It's... it's been a while," so says the 'victim' - one Jao Puntasrima - turning his gaze away from the dreary purple haze, "do you think... they may have already won?"
"Who knows!" The fool of a father doesn't commit to the idea that they may now be dead to rights, that the tenth and final tournament for Earthrealm's salvation against invasion could have been lost...
What they do know, now, is that something is wrong. How, one may ask? The ground shakes. The air roars. The everything... fractures.
"F-FATHER!!" Jao cries as he bolts up.
"Well ain't this something!" The father laughs in the face of mortal danger (again) as he clumsily tumbles across a spike of rock that stabs through the ground where he was less than a second ago. "Yep. Might be good news--"
"HOW?! EVERYTHING IS, IT'S," Jao chokes in fear as he maneuvers the increasingly dangerous terrain none more nimbly than his adoptive father.
"Well, if they won," this man miraculously reasons as the ground around them seems keen on dropping out to take them into a terrible fall, "don't think this place would be falling apart at--"
It's hard to argue with this logic, but this is no place for logic. It's fight or flight, and the two find themselves doubling back towards the very forests they have traversed - multiple times - with such miraculous luck and cunning alike that the two of them may have become two of the foremost authorities on how to safely (or luckily) get through the forest.
...But there are no guarantees on this island, beyond an eventual, painful, tormented end everlasting as the two make their way through the forest for what might be the last time. No tree is still. What was anger, envy, and desire is replaced by fear - the trees quake. They no longer have animosity to spare for the trespassers... only the imminent threat of demise, falling upon the base instinct to consume for sustenance. With footing uncertain and unstable, the two make it only a short ways in before one fell stumble sees Jao stagger a bit too close towards one particular tree.
With something in its grasp, the tree does what comes natural, lifting the panicked boy off the ground.
"FATHER!!" Screams Jao, whose repetition of this word has not dulled in urgency, nor comprehension, as the bumbling beige-clad ninja looks up over his shoulder.
"Be there!" He calls to his distressed son, whose struggling seems to be only just enough that his imminent doom is delayed. The arm that has grabbed the son is aged, worn, damaged. Even one who cannot muster much physical might is a challenge, but time is not on anyone's side.
There are powers, yet, that are further willing to join forces with the cold-hearted concept of mere happenstance...
Cat like eyes, pale yellow in the gloom, track the pair as they traverse the forest. They are not alone, and whatever it is just waits for the right time to strike....
A time like right now!
With a huge leap and a cackling warcry, the now-revived Black Lotus leaps high from the branch of one of the trees, descending towards Rust with daggers out and leading with an attempt to impale him in the shoulders, in the soft spots between the shoulder joints and ribcage but beneath the collarbones! After impact if she hits, she leaps off him stopping in a crouch to size him up further.....
... and to relish the bleeding. Cause the giggles told her to!
COMBATSYS: Lotus has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Rust has joined the fight here on the right meter side.
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Lotus 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Rust
COMBATSYS: Lotus equips a gleaming Dark Red Soul Shard.
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Rust
COMBATSYS: Rust blocks Lotus' Catch the Prey.
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0 Rust
The boy screams a word of warning as the yellow-eyed monster reappears for the fresh hunt of blood anew - their purpose singular, without nuance nor compromise. Death. Destruction. He struggles against the damaged tree arm that still holds him precariously close towards oblivion... and yet, familiar voices worm their way back into his head. The meanings behind the colors of their bracelets. His father's is... blue, his is yellow... their meanings! His eyes widen.
'To begin! Tuck that arm away, hide that damnable bracelet.' A mysterious woman, one who helped him when he was lost in the graveyard, gives that sage advice as he peers upon the horrible thing that hs tried to pounce his father.
'The beads on your wrist, the yellow ones you bear specifically, are unable to protect you from death like your father's are.' So spoke the sage of the forest.
He wraps the bracelet within the dirtied, tattered cloth that remains of the finest silks he was thrust into during that fateful encounter with Alexis. So fixated upon the father, Lotus may miss the warm yellow glow now obscured.
...As for the father.
He pivots a full one-eighty as Lotus dives upon the seemingly unwary prey, lifting up a knee and an elbow in an awkward, glancing deflection of the dagger strikes. The raised elbow - his left - is there to support the draw of a length of pipe from a toolbelt. This overweight man's ninja garb - identical to some of the more... famous colors to come to Mortal Kombat in composition of the costume itself - seems to obscure any immediate hint of where, or what, the Elder Gods' blessing might be.
As far as Lotus may care in the hunt for bodies to turn to death - and thus into further soldiers - it seems like this is as good as open season, but there's a near-absence of fear in the eyes beyond the simple turn of his head away for a moment.
"Yep! Be right there," he seems certain enough as he swings the pipe outward in a wide arc to try and push the terrible creature that is human only in body (mostly), boots planting against the fouled earth now under a layer of pooling water.
COMBATSYS: Rust successfully hits Lotus with Medium Strike.
-**- LUNATIC HIT!! -**-
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/----===|==-----\-------\0 Rust
Her strikes blocked, Lotus seems to hang in the air dramaticly for a moment, her madly grinning face staring point-blank at Rusts, before gravity finishes it's pull and she lands with a small sploosh. Her footing due to the now-sloshy ground is not the best, and a mixed expression of concentration and anger gives way to a third expression: suprise.
Did he REALLY just pull out a piece of pipe to fight HER with?
This question is answered nanoseconds later as Rusts pipe connects squarely with her face, sending her spinning through the air to land on the wet ground a few feet away. Lotus comes up in a roll, her left eye socket blackened and the socket crushed. "Ooohhh.... delicious. Being dead was SO boring!" the return from the grave has had SOME effect on the already-batty bloodletter. Her grin seems a biiiiiiit too wide than human anatomy should normally allow for.... and her teeth are much pointier. A faint yellow glow from her slitted cat-like eyes makes them stand out a bit more prominantly in the gloom. Finally, her fingernails are tinted green from the venom dripping from their tips..... "I think i might just eat you to show my.... appreciation!".
COMBATSYS: Lotus takes no action.
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/----===|==-----\-------\0 Rust
%Hardly celebrating the solid hit, the man who is now currently playing Dress-Up Palette Swap ninja draws back the pipe as his newfound enemy - one that would prove the greatest, most dangerous foe as of yet in their relentlessness - displays their evil smiles, the venom-dripping claws. Even the scrapes on the flesh exposed by the warded-off blows may yet stand to take an interesting hue.
"Oh, were you?" Having seen the miracle of happenstance that brought the sage of a time and place long lost back within the trappings of mortal flesh, the idea unto itself evokes nary a surprise as feet pace across wet ground. They may not be able to stay on this level for long, as the forest appears ready to sink into the depths around them. The aging ninja - whether a real practitioner of its shadowy disciplines, or simply a flight of terrible childish fantasy he has yet to outgrow, of which these life-and-death situations have continually failed to provide a meaningful answer for - edges closer to the tree.
"Ah, don't tell me what it's like, if you don't mind," he casually comments as he ducks under a swinging tree arm, "figure I'll see for myself in fifty years or so, eh?"
'He will not be here for you forever little one,' was a warning given by the mysterious stranger of the graveyard. Even with the blessing of the Elder Gods, Jao knows... his father may be too optimistic about his remaining lifespan.
"You remember what I do?" The father says to the son. "Keep swinging the legs--"
With a flourish and a turn, he moves back forward into one of the swinging tree arms. Once again, Lotus can see that yes - a length of pipe is, for all intents and purposes, a sincere attempt at an offense.
The tree arm is batted downward, lined up to backhand Lotus against their forehead if they don't move or intercept it.
"They can't lift 'em up if you keep pulling 'em down!"
Jao, already struggling for his life, does not seem to show any improvement nor worsening of his predicament for effectively following what he's already doing!
COMBATSYS: Lotus dodges Rust's Large Thrown Object.
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/----===|==-----\-------\0 Rust
Lotus' head tilts at a slight angle, and with a blur of speed she rushes in on Rust. When he releases the tree branch, she ducks at the last second, the wood centimeters from her grinning face, as she quickly closes the distance on the elder ninja practicioner! Running her fingertips along her knife as she goes, she attempts to impale Rust deeply in the lower abdoman with the now-envenomed tip! "Oh, don't worry. I hate spoilers too!"
COMBATSYS: Lotus successfully hits Rust with Exsanguinate.
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/---====|====---\-------\0 Rust
The spoiler is, should either of them fall, their souls, minds, and bodies will be forfeit to one of two ill wills. That Lotus respectfully declines to hand out spoilers is, in equal parts, a mercy and a cruelty as her lunging knife ushers the story further and further to the inevitable conclusion that awaits all whom draw breath.
Jao shrieks in terror anew when, mid-swinging, he sees his father fail to clear away enough space in a back hop to avoid getting run through. He inwardly hopes for any one of the well-meaning strangers to come by to help - the woman from the graveyard, the sage Nakoruru, the displaced soul Frei, or the blind swordsman Kenshi! Even... even someone like Alexis, who struck him... or... that cold-spewing woman who seemed intent on sparing him... or the very young dancer girl, or... anyone!!
Staggering back in unmitigated, undisguised, pure shock, Rust Jr.'s right hand goes to one of the nastiest wounds he's suffered in... well... some time, and don't ask him to name comparisons. This should be sobering, at last a break in the streak of nonchalance and devil-may-care--
"Ow." He says eloquently, as a tree arm snatches him up.
Jao yells again, as the father coughs and comes to his senses, wrapping himself around the waving branch. Using the leverage of the motion, his right arm grabs for one of Lotus' arms while his legs wrap around the branch. Attempting to lift her up from the muck, he appears to follow this one up with a singular wide outward swing as if to bat her further away.
The wound from his abdomen stains the branch, already decorated with years upon years of accumulated ichor and misery, red anew.
COMBATSYS: Lotus fails to interrupt Armed Combo from Rust with Intercepting Strike.
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/--=====|=====--\-------\0 Rust
With great delight, Lotus peruses around her victim as her attack hits cleanly. Being ever the huntress of sorts, she unfortunately lets her hubris get in the way of her senses.
Particularly at a time like this!
Rust gets a clean grab on her arm, and being smaller and lighter she is easily lifted off the ground! She sees his attack coming, and attempts to slice the attacking limb with the same poisoned dagger with which she impaled him mere moments ago!
Her timing, however, is off and the edge misses, instead striking her full force. Once more she is sent flying several feet to land in the muck. Slowly she climbs to her feet, her crushed eye socket clearly impeding her vision.....
As Lotus hits the muck a ways away, Jao has himself a nearer and nearer call, coming ever closer to being eaten.
"Father, help, help," Jao stammers.
"You got this, Jao!" So calls the father, who doesn't even look his adopted son back as they press a leg up against the bark, inches away from the open maw. Does the father speak of confidence, or ignorance? Is he giving in to tunnel vision against this horrible cat-like creature, or does he truly hold trust in the poor boy who has been running, screaming, fleeing at every opportunity for his lack of might?
Lotus is a damned-near unstoppable force of nature in motion. Visibly, the aging man sucks in air, some inner acknowledgement of searing pain he seems to be trying to tough out as his guts continue to feel on fire. Tossing the pipe up into the air, he reasserts his grip on the current wildly swinging tree branch to get up to some more wild swinging himself.
Looping and looping, he seems poised to simply kick Lotus in the face with these almost circus-worthy acrobatics in action, as if to try and increase the distance between the two of them.
COMBATSYS: Lotus dodges Rust's Strong Kick.
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/--=====|======-\-------\0 Rust
Snapping her head up and staring right at Rust seemingly at the last moment, Lotus moves once more with supernatural-seeming speed, the kick missing by so small a distance her red hair blows as if by a strong wind! With a similar motion, she blurs forwards, striking at Rust with a punch and a kick before ending the combination with a pommel-strike using the blunt end of one of her knives!
COMBATSYS: Rust blocks Lotus' Crushing Strike.
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/---====|=======\-------\1 Rust
With a giggle, Lotus watches Rust handl the impact of her weapons pommel. Blocked or not, that HAD to hurt! "Oh, you GOT this do you!? This old man can't help you, child. You'll be tree food! Lucky tree..... heeeeeeeeeeeheeheehee"
With his continued swinging motions - inertia on his side - the defense should mostly be on Rust Jr.'s side. The first punch is neatly deflected with a raised leg. Another rotation. The kick is met with one of his own. The two of them clash mightily, spraying the pooling water underneath aside with every connecting blow between them...
But that final pmmel-strike, which puts the most force into the combination, is enough that it throws the man completely off the flailing branch. It is not a clean hit, but it is simply enough to throw him off of his superior position.
The pipe falls back down and bounces off his scalp, as if to mock him for this. He doesn't catch it with the same grace as he had those series of kicks and defenses, scrambling to pick it up out of the rising water.
"Father, no, I don't... I don't want to--"
"You won't!" So Rust Jr. exclaims. He's probably smiling, but he's got the face mask on. The pipe is swung into the trunk of the tree to make it flinch, and Jao slips back down lower in the tree's grasp.
"I won't lie to you, it's been a blast! As my father always said," he says as he readies the pipe again, struggling to stay upright as he sucks in breath anew, "you gotta enjoy what life throws at in, no matter what..."
The guiding philosophy that sees this crazy son of a bitch, somehow, appear to psychologically weather so much that has broken - and will break - people well after the fact.
Jao is lifted anew again, and Rust Jr.'s head turns back.
"Ah, sorry, got to wait," he says, seeming to try and casually dismiss Lotus' continued interest by attempting to press his right hand atop her scalp and attempt to push her down, perhaps as a further launching point to leap up towards his son in distress - maybe he recognizes that his son is almost at his limit...
...Would this slow Lotus any more than the previous strikes inflicted up to this point?
COMBATSYS: Lotus interrupts Brick Stacker from Rust with Vicious Rake.
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/=======|=======\=------\1 Rust
Even now, looking at her, despite the damage done, Rust would clearly see that the crushed eye he had caused earlier is starting to heal already, if only enough to function and belying the internal damage yet recovered. This is enough for her to be able to tell just how far he is, and to take advantage of his movements!
When he is brave enough to put his hand on her head to push off of her, she grabs the wrist, and pulls herself up onto him! Using her claws, she tears large gashes with reckless abandon into his body! Luckily it seems to be a case of quantity over quality, but it's still enough to seriously hurt! That finished, she leaps into a backflip off of him before he can muster a counterattack, landing on the ground in a crouch. Casually she reaches up to lick the fresh blood off her fingertips!
Lotus can't help but be snarky...... "Tastes like chicken!"
With every slash and slice, though impossible to see under the mask, the older man's face contorts in silly ways that seem to stretch the believability of human anatomy with every painful, cloth-rending, blood-drawing hit before he's left staggering up against the deadly tree.
A sweep of the hand just misses lifting him into its law - instead, it pulls off the mask of the nefarious SAWDUST, revealing who... has already been referred to as Rust Jr. several times throughout this encounter. It is no surprise, but it does at last add a proper human face to the proceedings.
"No," Jao cries, as Lotus seems to gain strength, ferocity, and power with every passing moment. His father, while certainly spirited given his...less than ideal physical conditioning, does not enjoy this level of energy within, shaking and quaking with his sapping strength.
Sinkholes are beginning to form as moisture fills and collapses dirt without a steady foundation underneath. To continue to fight on the ground is, and this word shall be repeated as oft as needed, treacherous.
"kfdgjpudrslljglmj," quoth the ninja, right arm folded around their body. He blinks a few times, looking upon the sadist who will not be satiated with such a slight sample of the sanguine snack.
"Well, uhh, I guess... you want to do this the hard way," the aging man's tone of voice turns to a lower octave. With the sounds of destruction all around them, the cries of terror of the living, the calls to battle by the dead, the crumbling and sinking scenery, he draws back his right hand, eyeing Jao's struggle.
Surely, it is now or never, for some great, final, hidden power that he's kept under wraps. They've seen flashes of immense competence. Even floundering about in Shang Tsung's court, did he overwhelm the Ruby Tiger's magicks with cunning, technique, and might. Whether it is an intentional manifestation of his mastery, or just the stars aligning, something of that nature must surely exist to be called upon at will, as he thrusts a single finger from his right hand forward, into Lotus' shoulderblace--
"SAWDUST DUSTER POKE OF DUSTING!!!"
In a life or death situation, he would merely resort to something so rude and very uncomfortable?
He can't be for serious.
Even Jao goes motionless for a moment, terror giving way to utter confusion.
COMBATSYS: Lotus endures Rust's Weapon Jab.
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Lotus [E] 1/-------/=======|=======\===----\1 Rust
Jao isn't the only one confused by this. Lotus simply watches as Rust, whom she has never met before and honestly has no knowledge of the history of, comes at her with what she believes to be a dangerous attack! Then she hears the name, and she simply watches the poke..... poke her. She stops, standing there, her confused look slowly becoming that monsterous grin again.
She sends a quick kick at Rusts midsection, right where she impaled him earlier, in preperation for her next strike: With a big leap as a followup, she comes down with both daggers down, attempting to impale Rust with both at once right in the chest with two arcing overhead stabs!
COMBATSYS: Rust endures Lotus' Spider Bite!
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/-------|=======\=======\1 Rust
There is that poignant pause between predator and prey. The eyes of the 'prey' do not falter. This man...
...He's clearly deluded.
Lotus can be assured that there is no delayed organ-exploding nerve pinch in play. That was, from start to finish, a rude and uncomfortable finger poke that is far, far, far from being an acceptable part of the arsenal of a kombatant.
Why were these two involved, in the end? Jao, who could not fight. The father, who might be certifiably insane. Neither are a fit for the environs around them, foreign kontaminants of unprecedented karacter. This disintegrating land will no longer humor them, long after they have expended the patience of certain malevolent forces surrounding them.
As Lotus kicks the unquestionable idiot, he sticks the attacking arm back against the trunk for balance as she goes up, up, up...
...and he stands underneath Jao's branch, as Lotus comes crashing back down.
The daggers strike through the weakened branch of the arm that had held the man's son hostage, and with it, boy and severed tree limb collapse into the growing muck as Lotus comes down with both daggers into his chest---
They don't get too far in. His right fist is raised, clenched, in what is the unmistakable application of his father's most famed defensive technique - the body-hardening stance that, barring matters of inertia, refuses to budge an inch. Rigid, unmoving, and now drenched in disgusting mud from the corrupted forest, the father works up a defiant smile...
Joints pop loudly as his body moves into motion, working past the stiffness of his joints - the singular weakness of adopting his father's stance - to press the now raised right hand down upon Lotus with an offensive maneuver notably uncharacteristic to what has been understood of his capabilities.
"Hate to rush things," he says, as he attempt to lift himself above her as he raises the pipe on high.
"Jao," he says his son's name. No instructions.
His son nods, stabbing the weakened branch into the ground and clutching tight.
The so-called ninja, one Howard Rust Jr., thrusts the pipe down upon Lotus with such amazing force that - whether she is there or not - the travel of the pipe's impact against the water... no, the water doesn't slow it.
Against the /muddy ground/, even that doesn't dampen the shock.
The seismic force spreading out from the impact separates the water in a distressingly wide radius, splashing it outward in large waves. Jao clings on for dear life as the water washes past him and out, collapsing noisily before the liquid pooling around the sinking island sweeps back inwards to settle the temporary gap.
Needless to say, a tremendous, singular blow that damn near fells the one-armed tree behind them...
...But will that stop Lotus, whom herself has been found hardly inconvenienced by oblivion...?
COMBATSYS: Rust successfully hits Lotus with Complete Renovation.
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/---====|====---\-------\0 Rust
There is no sound from the impact, at least that Lotus herself hears. The raw force of the strike is incredible from one such as this man, whom you would never expect it from!
All she knows is one moment she's stabbing him, to less avail than believed, then the next he's hit her so hard the water and ground give way beneath the impact!
The stab-happy woman is sent flying, this time further than any previous hits! She clips against a tree or two such is the force and distance of her trajectory! Once she lands, she lies still.....
For a moment, at least.
Slowly, she once more starts to pull herself up! Her left arm hangs limply at an unnatural angle, the bones crushed and jutting through the skin! Her left side shows further evidence of damage, with a few ribs sticking out through the meat of her chest cavity! However even THIS damage hasn't put her down!
With a snarl of pain she begins to hobble towards Rust and Jao, when something unexpected happens!
The tree she landed near grabs her, in it's attempt at sating it's hunger! It can smell her blood that now leaks out in ample supply, despite her monsterous healing ability. Though it seems unable to muster the force needed to drag her into it's gaping maw, it DOES tie her up for the time being, as she attempts to stab and slash her way free with her still-good arm.
As the water settles back around where it was parted momentarily in a respectable act of might, one Howard Rust, Jr. remains knelt. Jao, miraculously, stayed on his feet throughout the entire ordeal. He staggers over to his father, wrapping arms around him as they watch the embodiment of violence without meaning, beauty, form, or remorse fall into the clutches of the tree Jao just only narrowly escaped.
"Father," Jao says, "we have to--"
"Yep. Yep! Yep, I--" The man stands, clutching his midsection with his right hand...
His rise is uncertain. Like the man he is the son of, there is some element of this man that oft appears as untouchable as he is apparently oblivious. He's a Rust, through and through - a Rust is known, first and foremost, to endure.
The previous generation Rust, anyway. This one is known for all sorts of colorful things, and not all of them glowing. This is beyond the point. Enduring is somewhere on that list. Maybe 'lingering' is more appropriate, when viewed as the recurring irritant he tends to be.
He coughs, clutching his side anew, as he falls into a crouch with a small splash.
"No! You can't... you can't be done now," Jao says, tears streaming down his face. Mortal fear. All that stands between them and Lotus having the final pick is that tree holding her.
The tree, nearly ageless and sustained by suffering and desire...
In a cruel diablo ex machina, a trick of fate that at last works against the Rust duo, no longer has the strength to keep fighting... to keep hold. Lotus need not struggle long - she will outlast the tormented tree.
The other limb snaps, releasing her.
The water continues to rise around the knelt ninja, the scared son, the merciless monster.
There is nothing more Howard Rust, Jr., can do to protect himself or his son through force, as he remains knelt...
Lotus' strength would be renewed.
COMBATSYS: Rust takes no action.
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/---====|
COMBATSYS: Rust can no longer fight.
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Lotus [E] 0/-------/---====|
"No! Stand. You must, you must," Jao panics.
'His love for you is a danger to him; did you listen to him when you were so afraid you ran? Though he is never lost, he lost you. Though he is never scared he will be afraid for you. You are his weakness.' So warned the stranger, as Jao now sees that his father has no more strength to fight back - and unlike before, no friend of any stripe that will swoop in to save them.
'The beads on your wrist, the yellow ones you bear specifically, are unable to protect you from death like your father's are.' So the sage of the forests spoke, reminding him of his imminent mortality.
The boy's heart beats faster, eyes shut, tears streaming to be miniscule additions to the rising water that contains no pity, no salvation - only the drowned remenants of broken lives, unfulfilled dreams, and who knows what else eldritch melancholy.
"Yep," the man stifles a laugh. It's very nervous laughter. The kind of laughter that is one of his tells, where he appears to be coming to grips with their situation. Lotus will be claiming a life soon - to bring another soul into the fell army of Shang Tsung.
The sorceror must have some miniscule, long-denied sense of fulfillment coming onto his person to know that he will finally instill despair into at least one of these souls, and consume them. The Elder Gods would intervene only so much. The kontest is over, but his konquest will not be stalled forever...
"Father," Jao repeats again, "please,"
"Aww, Jao, you know--"
"Father," Jao gets insistent, pulling his father's right hand behind their back - out of eyeshot of Lotus...
...Words are exchanged. What words?
The father smiles, weakly. He hasn't the strength to grin, as he raises his right hand - now bare of a glove, any glove - revealing an ugly hand with dried skin. It is dreadful to look at, painful to imagine.
Around the wrist are warm, glowing, misshapen yellow beads.
"All right," he wheezes out, maintaining the smile, "looks like ya got me, fair and square, eh? Can't wait to see what death looks like on the other end at," he says, drawing the beaded hand back behind him hastily.
If that's the blessing his form takes by the Elder Gods...
Lotus stands to feast.
Jao edges away, arms hidden under the cloth, breathing unsteady but eyes set upon Lotus.
The father, who has failed to defend his son, is vulnerable and open.
With a snap, Lotus gets her elbow back into joint, as the bones and flesh knit before their very eyes! The trees branch gives way, and as she walks towards them her ribs begin to heal, though will take substantially longer. Her approach slowly begins to quicken, until she reaches minimum distance, and LEAPS, weapons poised to inflict a killing blow on Rust once and for all! "Give my regards to the reaper!
Death comes. The child is moved to deathly silence, and the father's fate seems sealed.
Die, die, die. The reaper would say in encouragement to Lotus' efforts, going into him like a blossom of death.
Cloth is torn asunder to the relentless assault, and Lotus will once again feast. There's not that much blood to splash out on her - perhaps she bled him out already earlier? The flesh seems stubborn. Even poking in the same place four times, she gets no deeper than the first. Distressing, and weird, against bare exposed flesh in the upper torso. He can't be that tough. No one is...
His right arm jerks outwards again, at which point there is another curious detail for the murderous fiend to sink their sharp, unsettling teeth into as he twists and contorts under the final, deadly, life-taking volley of the blood-soaked daggers.
The bracelet of beads on his right hand is now a series of dim, misshapen blue beads.
No, they were yellow before - the Elder Gods would not so much as magically turn them /blue/ of all things now. That's preposterous. This man and child are not of any great significance!!
It is a detail that changes the nature of everything, as wounds that should go deep, wounds that should stop the heart, rupture the organs, cut the arteries, just turn this man into a shredded pile of meat, blood, and bile... don't.
The man laughs, as though he were being... tickled, as if having a sharp knife being pressed up against you were to ever be ticklish.
The boy, on the other hand, clenches one of his fists as he sees this happen. His eyes shut tight again, looking away as the Lotus moves in... he flinches. He is rooted to the spot again, watching the sheer relentlessness of the monster in action. He couldn't bear to take one step closer...
He really is just a coward, a weakling, at best, in a world dominated and defined by fighters with strength he does not personally have, and...
'Resolve to do better the next time, better and stronger again the time after that.' The stranger at the graveyard told him. 'I pray you do that by becoming a confidant and competent man rather than hiding away from the world.'
He removes his arms from under his clothes. The yellow... the same shape as what was seen on the father, which means...
They switched, if momentarily. The blessing of the Elder Gods cannot be exchanged between one another. In mere seconds, they would return where they belong - a fact a certain someone had learned, some time ago, when he first met with a ghost displaced in time, and the corpse of someone said ghost desperately wanted to help.
...In truth, Jao probably attempted the same with his father, more than once.
By obscuring their soul shards throughout the battle, Lotus could not have known... and now...!
A warmth envelopes him. He can see the faces the souls contained within remember having. They manifest in brief. Through the corner of Lotus' eye, they may be familiar. No, not victims like Aya, or Lita... perhaps some from before, who have cruelly been swept across the leylines to this cursed isle, to be captured within the beads.
Jao's eyes flash an unearthly yellow. He hisses, shaking, unaware of how exactly one manifests and controls these powers - so he asks these powers to help. Please. He must. He has to...
'You are strong, Jao. Strong in the face of so much adversity, so much loss.' So encouraged Nakoruru, towards the end of their meeting. 'No matter what happened in your fights, the world owes you a debt of gratitude for going through them all the same.'
His innocence of childhood was taken through the wanton cruelty of tyrants years ago, and even now, his fears challenged again...
...He rushes forward, not with the powerful stride of an experienced fighter, but that of one engaging their fight-or-flight reflex. Rushing to their father's side, to a monster whose apparent meal had been ripped clean away from them, empowered by the kindness and sacrifices of strangers - even those as extreme as Alexis choosing to 'win' to mercifully remove him from the kontest, to the simple warnings of Kenshi as they took over one of his hideouts - and the far less kind, the truly vengeful spirits who now have found an outlet through this boy to express their displeasure to Lotus.
And so, empowered by the souls that have fallen into the Elder Gods' blessing, given righteousness by the spirits - some of whom must have belonged to those Lotus may have indeed slaughtered outside of the victims claimed by Mortal Kombat proper - channel themselves through Jao. The warm yellow glow flashes ever brighter around him...
"LEAVE US ALONE!!" He screams, with all the sorrow and fright of a child scared, rushing towards Lotus in a final, desperate shove with both hands outward.
He moves to shove her towards the very maws of one of those trees. They will not stop her, in the long run. She is a killer who will not be satisfied, a revenant whom defies death.
Jao's ultimate contribution, however small, will be to stop one of the Netherrealm's most successful killers from conscripting those who still live under Shang Tsung's sway, for however long it takes for Lotus to escape the tree.
He may never have the power to shape the world around him like his father, or his many acquaintances, or the countless beyond his communication or notice...
But today, Jao Puntasrima will not be a victim.
Lotus does indeed notice something is wrong. Rust is not dying like he should be.
Normally when she stabs something it has more effect!
The hint of colors gives it away, but sadly, far too late. Jaos strike hits home, him being an unexpected source of danger, and she goes flying! He is right in that it will not kill her, as she stabs the tree on either side of it's mouth, halting progress. However, it does get a firm grip, and holds her in place at least for the time being, much to her annoyance!
The imminent threat trapped, this should be a time for relief.
Jao starts to break down crying at the rush of emotions that go through him. He has never, until now, been possessed of any true capacity for violence. To feel what those souls - those people - did, in that moment. To have those feelings manifest into intent, into power. The mental, emotional, and spiritual drain cannot be understated as he staggers back into his injured, sluggish father.
Wordlessly, he gives the boy a good, fatherly hug. Lotus can have herself a front row seat of what it is that familial love is like. Trust, understanding, care, sacrifice. A mutual fulfillment of one another's worth and being, a warmth not brought forth by fire or light. A small, miniscule taste of something she has forgone in embracing her id.
No goodbyes are said to Lotus. The father is helped up, and the two start to tread the water away together.
Jao, for a moment, has an idea. Taking a pouch of dust, he tries to throw it into the ground. It is far too damp, and merely just absorbs the majority of its contents with a pathetic little puff of dust.
The father laughs, tiredly, wheezing and coughing to punctuate the end of it. He says some words of sage advice (probably, this is Rust Jr. we're talking about here) that may or may not apply to the optimal environmental conditions in which one uses a smoke bomb, as the two walk through the sinking land of ruin.
The father's head peeks up, just as the two are about to leave Lotus' field of vision. Something seems to have his attention, his thought... and what might be urgency, with the added speed in which he limps.
Lotus becomes an afterthought, to be relegated to little more than a bad dream...
Log created on 22:14:35 03/17/2017 by Rust, and last modified on 13:07:30 03/18/2017.