KOF 2017 - S2: Hungry Wolves vs Balance

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Description: With a last minute reschedule, a local sumo wrestling champion has generously offered his training facility within the male side of the sento. Housing a wrestling ring for the trainees of the sumo style, the facility serves to be adequate for the fight between the Hungry Wolves against the ninja-styles of Team Balance. The mild Rock Howard, after overcoming overwhelming femininity, will get a chance to face overwhelming masculinity as he is paired against the master ninja Ryu Hayabusa for the semi-finals. Who will make it to the finals? And who will end up washing down the drain?

Steam. Since man first discovered a hot spring in the wilderness, realized that water boiled, harnessed fire-- it's cleansed the lungs, the skin, the very soul of man. It's purified mankind's raiments, it's powered mankind's engines-- led, in its noteworthy part, to the precipice upon which much more than the fate of Violet Systems or its nefarious affiliates precariously teetes.

Now, the master shinobi breathes it deep. He's been here for some time, unseen, unheard, unnoticed amongst the excited VIPs gathered for the most enticing of battles-- one forbidden, by international decree, from being fought. Someone made a great deal of money on this fight.

It's not for prizes or glory that Hayabusa shows up for the bout-- it's a question of honor, and more than that, it's a question of delving forward in the wake of the devastation Ultratech's efforts and the wrath of Raiden have already wrought. Of figuring out who amongst this pool of top contenders might be tied to the heart of things... and which might similarly seek to lop off the head of the proverbially serpentine crisis. As the appointed time draws near, but safely before the commentators seriously begin to question if the Balance will forfeit this match, the illusive Prince gathers his things, towels himself dry, and abandons his meditation and shrouded alcove.

The weapon he carries is, at a first glance, more attention-grabbing than the man, clad only in loose grey-blue pants traditional to his art. Of no remarkable height, the metal-capped bo that Ryu carries is nearly as tall as he is. Neither is he of remarkable mass-- the Lunar Staff's intricate, weaving katas as Hayabusa calmly, effortlessly parts the crowd and leaps the rope barrier around the hidebound arena, drawing silvery blur through the air, easily capture the attention before the master shinobi. The wiser eye knows the truth-- the weapon, its flair, its evident power, is noteworthy... but little more than stagecraft in the hands of such a threat, an instrument; nay, a vary extension of the Dragon Ninja's will and skill.

Every inch of Hayabusa's form is honed, his lithe frame little more than a nigh-perfectly crafted weapon, all corded muscle and impossible grace. It's in his delicate, effortless leap... it's in every utterly silent footfall of his bare feet. It's in the last scion of the Dragon Lineage's poweful stance, and hushed reserves of ancient power, murmuring on the edges of consciousness for those who heed the sage whispers of spirits. Hayabusa steps forth rested, in body and mind, and resolute of purpose.

Prepared, fearless in the face of this fight... and the looming, greater wars to come, analytical eyes of gold-flecked emerald focus on the opposing side of the circle. "Rock Howard." the way he says the name, it's clear Ryu /knows/ it, perhaps in a way few do-- or perhaps he's simply duly wary of all with power on the level of Geese Howard's. "I have been looking forward to this." The words are offered with rare sincerity, and a polite bow, stave parallel to his graceful motion, when the lead of the Hungry Wolves steps forth.

"I need to see everything you are capable of." The shinobi gravely intones, as though it carries far more weight than his fate in the tournament. King of Fighters, indeed. Where others balk at the power the young ninja wields-- strength, potential he can't avoid sensing in Rock-- Hayabusa Ryu welcomes it.

More VIPs pour in at their leisure, violating the tranquility of the baths. Fat, chubby-cheeked men who boast of their bets loudly to peers and rivals alike, accompanied by souls at work. The staff of Violet Systems have their status designated by vibrant armbands, and each are busy with a particular task regarding setup. Cameras, microphones, running messages. Or not, whatever is their wont.

Rock's arrival is not heralded by fanfare or even acknowledgement. He might as well be an intruding wraith, quietly drifting into the bathhouse and finding himself awash with steam. Silken locks of fair hair lose their lustre and cling in sodden strands to his head and neck. It's hard to see through the haze, crimson eyes searching for the ring that can only lie ahead. Slender fingers pinch the ribbed collar of his t-shirt, fanning himself with it gently. While moisture has caused his exposed skin to glisten with a slight sheen, it also penetrates raw cuts hidden beneath the fabric that grows heavier by the second.

Attractive though the kid may be even when soaked through, his face is a mess. Like someone had tried unsuccessfully to tear half of it off. Pushing a hand back through his hair reveals it in full, scabbed over and an ugly blemish.

He doesn't remain alone for long, hovering at the fringes of the circle in uncertainty. Hayabusa appears as if summoned by magic, when in reality he was here first, perhaps even before those crowing gloaters, still nattering on about the cash cows that they have figuratively sat upon. Rock is silently struck by Ryu's presence; not in awe, not in jealousy. Once, he met a true demon, and there's just something stifling about this man that is all too familiar. It has nothing to do with the air...

It feels... like the sky is cramped.

Rock isn't attuned to auras. He hasn't found the peace of meditation or the company of spirits.

But he is intimately au fait with power.

At least, one difference made almost immediately apparent, there is no killing intent here. Unless the Dragon Ninja loses all sense of sanity and self-government will the disowned heir find himself at risk. Considering that Brandon was attacked by a friend's teammate and Felicia's spiralling descent into bloodthirsty madness, this isn't impossible. Rock uses the inside of his cheek for thoughtful damage control.

The bow that the American boy commits himself to in return is respectfully lower in acknowledgement of seniority. No doubt he wasn't expected to, foreign as they come, but years spent in Japan means that he's not completely oblivious to the societal norms. After he straightens to his full height, Rock notices that they're roughly the same feet and inches tall.

Looking forward to this? A ponderous thing. Why's that, chewed back before it has the chance to escape. Whatever the reason, he feels the same in his own way upon careful consideration. Only through testing himself against the strong does Rock become stronger in turn. He nods, equally polite, and braces his bare feet against the ring's black rim of tiles.

"Might not be the best place for that," the teen finally deigns to speak, in measured cadence, "Another time, another place, and I'd be happy to show you what I'm capable of." Does Hayabusa know? Beyond Ultratech's darker dealings, is he aware of how Violet Systems has been dipping their hand into the pool of fighters and creating replicas that mimic their abilities? Rock's cursed blood boils. If they want to copy what he has gained from being the only son of Geese Howard, then it's up to them to hunt down that very man himself. Let them throw themselves to ruin, for the benefit of all.

In many ways, the two youths should be peers. Their potentials both eclipse those of all but the rarest of the generations, and their age is but a stone's throw away. Both were trained by the masters of ancient, mythical arts from a young age. But Hayabusa, the privileged heir to a lofty, deadly, but ultimately benevolent legacy, likely has a very different picture of the world than the Howard scion-- the boy always resented by his selfish and possessive father for bearing the face of his treacherous mother. At least, in the mind of the man Geese is; behind closed doors.

Yet in other ways it is Rock who is the sheltered prodigy-- the Peregrine Falcon has claimed more lives than many nations' standing armies. It doesn't show in those vibrant eyes that watch Rock, intense, dangerous-- but no, not the cold-blooded eyes of a killer, nor the berserk rage of the truly bloodthirsty.

Howard was right about more than one thing: the Shinobi Prince had been here for some time. Or perhaps another ninja flitted amongst them while they set up, as they gathered. Perhaps some other even more illusory force prepared the battlefield. "This is no time for games." Ryu asserts calmly. The announcer hypes the legendary ninja versus the young wolf, and counts down to the fight--

-- as if ineed on cue, a cacophany goes up about the arena. Technology set up by Violet staff suffers a cascade failure reminiscent of sabotage, electrical arcs shooting out here and there in the darkness, zapping one suddenly shrieking tech. cameras short, the bathhouse lights vastly illuminate and crackle as they die forever-- or until some poor custodian changes them.

Then the power cuts out entirely. Wall sconces-- were those there before-- along the perimeter of the ring bathe the arena in warm, blue light. This, staff on site readily take credit for-- but not the hadware failure. Throughout it all Ryu is stoic-- focused on his opponent.

"This is not about them." Not really. This has become more dangerous than Lee Chaolan. The crude automatons miming ancient jutsus are perhaps the least of the perversions disturbing the balance.

The Dragon Ninja whirls the Lunar Staff in several three-hundred sixty degree rotations about his form, passing the weapon from right to left as he strides towards the center of the ring, culminating in a poised, defense stance with the weapon keenly balanced in the fingertips of his right hand. The other beckons Rock on. The last scion of the Dragon Lineage narrows his eyes.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa has started a fight here.

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Ryu Hayabusa     0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa equips the Lunar Staff.

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Ryu Hayabusa [E] 0/-------/-------|

Isn't it strange, how he is assessed by his potential. What he could indeed become, on that very day where he would surpass teachings and mentors in tandem. Because Rock is a prodigy sheltered by abuse and his steadfast commitment to the pursuit of vengeance, such a time is a long way off, if it even exists beyond a glimmering prospect in his future.

Hayabusa, regarding the teenage scion as an equal, delivers both a great honour and unknowingly triggers crushing disappointment. Rock lacks the confidence to think himself worthy.

"Who said this was a game?" bristles the wolf pup, momentarily taken aback in misunderstanding. He certainly wasn't playing around. The threat of Violet Systems using their wacky HitBit to abscond with fighter data is a very real thing, a fact that he took both seriously and to heart after minimal off-screen investigation. Rock withdraws a pair of fingerless leather gloves from his shorts' pocket. Tugging them on, he flexes thin digits to ensure comfort and range of motion. "If you're ready, then so am I."

A countdown. It proceeds with clamour, and until the very end, nothing seems amiss.

When mass equipment failure pitches the bathhouse into darkness, the American boy searches for the source like all the others. Eventually, his handsome visage marred by surface lacerations, lit by soft blue light, turns back to his opponent. The Dragon Ninja. Known to him through the brief bio that accompanied a package with details of their next match, and whatever he glimpsed on the television from previous publicized events. Stoic though the man's expression may be, pupils set like obsidian stones in blood rubies narrow sharply in scrutiny. "Did you...?" Rock begins to say, his gentle tenor lost in the barked commands to subordinates to find the emergency battery packs.

Suddenly, the broody-faced ward smiles broadly. It's unpracticed, but possesses a youthful glow. "I get it." He's not about to balk at the danger, because doing so will get him nowhere in life. But finally, FINALLY Rock can fight without hesitation. If he destroys a camera or something else of noted import, so be it. There's a bounce in his barefooted step even as he stares down the spinning staff, "Don't have to tell me twice." Let's go!

He whips one arm through the air in a wide arc, following it up with the next with explosive force... Literally. Not a second goes to waste, nor a moment to engage in pre-fight banter. "DOUBLE..." Springing from his fingertips, the shining blade of cerulean chi tears into the tiled floor as it tastes sweet freedom. The teen's sopping wet hair is blown back by an unseen breeze. Rock's energy rips through the room in a wild current, and fuses with the crescent, adding to its building might. "REPPUKEN!" Like a rushing wave, it charges. What it lacks in speed, it makes up for in destructive force...

Something that the staff of Violet Systems may need to contend with, if Ryu Hayabusa removes himself from the path.

COMBATSYS: Rock has joined the fight here.

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Rock             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa dodges Rock's Double Reppuken.

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Rock             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

One warrior was brought to this point being reminded he was unworthy; the other, perpetually inspired to prove it. The difference in attitude is stark, despite their similarities. "I intended no offense." The master shinobi humbly non-apologizes. "I merely suspect our time is limited, due to more than you know." There's a pause, consideration. "More than either of us knows."

As to his own culpability in the cacophany yet to come? Hayabusa makes no sign, "I have been here." the illusive Prince observes slyly, if matter-of-factly. The fried and frying HitBit gear isn't the only hardware at risk, however-- the bank of cameras behind Hayabusa is well and thoroughly torn asunder by the rampant wave of energy, the staff around them scattered, the crowd moving back, barriers or no. Mobile phone cameras come out to replace them, the fight perhaps destined to be little more than a bootleg, and many spectators find their N-Gage family of devices non-responsive.

The innocent Dragon Ninja, for his part, scarcely grazes across the top of that maelstrom in a tight, singular forward flip. He lands on agile, sure footing in its wake, dangerously near to Rock rather suddenly. The rest of that space is covered in a forceful lunge that blurs to the onlookers' eyes, lashing out with a free left hand in a duet of swift, sharp strikes. Each snaps straight for the young Howard's face, then Hayabusa's weight would shift to his right, bringing that hefty stave around in a solid, staggering blow meant to repulse as much as harm-- it would shake the footing and momentum of a much, much larger man.

But then Rock is stronger than his size might suggest, isn't he Geese? Something else the two combat veterans have distinctly in common. The last scion of the Dragon Lineage similarly eschews conversation for these opening moments, saving his voice for a fiercely focused kiai with each strike of his flurry. "Hah! Ya! HYAAAH!!"

COMBATSYS: Rock blocks Ryu Hayabusa's Redan Gekisai Sho.

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Rock             0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

More than either of us know?

Cryptic. If he wants to ask, if the question nips at the backs of his teeth, all available opportunity is lost as the match begins in earnest. Now they are beholden to the ebb and flow of the fight; the natural rhythm that mimics the tide. Watching Hayabusa gracefully soar over the bladed chi, Rock feels a modicum of cold satisfaction in where it winds up. The charged rip-roaring crescent makes short work of cameras and other collection data alike, indescriminate of what havoc it wreaks. What's left are ruined reminders of what once was. Don't send the bill to him; he's not gonna pay it.

Ryu not only lands uncomfortably close, but launches into an offensive of his own. It's expected, some might even say... PREDICTABO. Palms strikes seek the broody teen's face, wiping his small smile from damaged features. They find the hard bone of his ulna, instead. Dewy alabaster skin ripples upon impact. Noting subtle shifts of stance, intent is made plain. As the Lunar Staff of metal and willow attempts to club him directly at the centre of his mass, Rock flexes his abdominal obliques beneath his red t-shirt, contorting his body in how he knows to absorb it best.

The bo is heavy, and a sharp sting pierces him through from his left to right side, almost as though he were cleaved in twain...

But Rock refuses to budge even a single inch, jaw set with grim determination. Jagged cuts across his chest protest. Is this strength, or stubborn bullheadedness? Maybe he gets it from Terry? He does grimace, eventually, and he utters softly, "Hn!" Thank God he was built sturdy.

Allowing the stave to relocate unhindered, by whim of its master or because the Howard scion guides it away, the wolf pup curls further in on himself. It's reminiscent of a cornered animal, dangerous despite his calm disposition. Next thing, he's throwing himself directly at the ninja. Rock leads with his shoulder, the entirety of his weight behind it, attempting to capitalize on close proximity and to body check fiercely. Back off, if his actions could speak.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa blocks Rock's Aggressive Strike.

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Rock             0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

Rock's ready defense isn't a surprise to Hayabusa-- indeed, he had expected the young wolf to be quick, to be skilled. The Dragon Ninja knew that much at a glance, and as the initial blows are exchanged, it's soundly confirmed. Rather that giving ground, Ryu meets the charge shoulder to shoulder, the impact reverberating painfully through the shinobi's resilient frame.. but he refuses the request, locked into the collision for a lingering instant.

Fierce eyes previously locked on Rock are lost amidst the Shinobi Prince's sudden pirouette, turning an abrupt rotation away from and then around the impact to reorient himself towards his adversary from the opposite side.

Ryu's careful study of the techniques used against him, of the nature of Rock Howard's power, is a subtle thing-- but both enduring and skillful. Many fighters have made it a core lesson to learn from and analyze their adversary's every move... but few are a keenly versed in doing so in such a diverse set of battlefield conditions or against such a robust cast of threats as the last scion of the Dragon Lineage.

It translates to a patient, analytical authority, to a razor-sharp alertness towards every quiet tell in the other young warrior's stance and attitude. In the silent exchanges of force, the youthful master learns much about this previously unknown peer; much more than could be shared in words within such a breakneck span of seconds.

Rather than immediately press the offensive into Rock's rear flank, the Dragon Ninja whirls the staff about himself in an adaptive, ready guard, drawing silver-blue lines through the air as the dull metal capping the bo's ends blurs through the flickering otherworldly light. A simple nod of acknowledgement or approval is passed to Rock... and Hayabusa's immersion in the fluid currents of that maelstrom of conflict redoubles as the illusive Prince fearlessly sets in to sail onward.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa calculates his next move.

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Rock             0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

While his skillful fortification may not have surprised Hayabusa, it should. If the Dragon Ninja can read him through action, he will eventually discern the truth when it becomes apparent. More times than Rock can count, luck was his saviour before experience or any true defensive understanding. It just wasn't taught to him. Geese always ensured his growth as a fighter was stymied by allowing his son to hurtle wholeheartedly into oblivion, only to knock him away. At the very least, the disowned heir learned from repeated failure how to redirect momentum. His abilities remain lopsided, unbalanced, leaning heavily towards the offensive.

Bone, muscle, and sinew meet the stone wall of Ryu's frame, hardly a clash and more jarring collision. Rather than press on in an exercise of futility, Rock relaxes back onto his heels. Tension is shook from his limber body with a bounce, and he readies arms for the retaliation that doesn't come...

Much to his chagrin, he's to chase.

This is playing out in a manner that almost disturbs him, a reflection of the past in the mirror of his mind.

Inhaling a lungful of steam and oxygen, a sharp pivot brings him face to face with the Ninja Prince again, who had elected to pirouette to his flank. Still nothing? His crimson-eyed gaze pierces through the whirling shroud, fingers reaching to ruffle through his perpetually mussed, but sodden hair. Rock settles his weight against his trailing leg, rotating to coil like a spring. Having no space to run, the student and ward of the Legendary Wolf launches himself into the air.

Rock hauls back his arm until his bare knuckles are parallel to his shoulder. The blue-lit tendrils of mist waver at his back, parting or devoured soon after when an elegant wing of amethyst bursts to life with a blinding brilliance that causes the cerulean-hued scones to wither momentarily. He's a fair-haired angel, and the Howard scion plummets back to Earth. His pinion unfurls as far as to reveal plumage, all of the primary and secondary flights, in clear definition. During this, a shout of "DUNK!" escapes from his lips. The riled pup attempts to knock the ninja's head off with a face-seeking fist-missile, to put it succinctly.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa dodges Rock's Rage Run Dunk.

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Rock             0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

Still nothing. Or, more accurately, the subtle acclimation to the current, to the rhythm, the familiarization of Hayabusa to his unconventional adversary's personalized style. No, no attack comes immediately, yielding the offensive once more to the boy who excells there-- but the Dragon Ninja is not passive. He's waiting, watching, studying the unfolding bout with all of his senses-- several of which reach decidedly beyond the normal awareness of a human being.

The illusive Prince paces sidelong, two steps back, providing just enough distance without sacrificing his positioning for what's to come. Rock's dedication to the onslaught does not disappoint-- but the master shinobi is prepared for it. The Howard heir launches himself skyward, and Ryu's dark ponytail flits from point to point as his emerald eyes follow the dangerous opponent in a flash every bit as electric smooth as the ascent itself.

The blonde careens to Earth like a rocket, led by that proverbial warhead that is his fist clutching the tumult of chi, and at the very last moment... the last scion of the Dragon Lineage is no longer there to be pummeled about the head and neck into the arena. He blurs into motion, gliding as much as weaving aside and beneath Rock's abrupt descent, dropping fluidly into a crouch to keep his head from colliding with any part of Howard's charge and pivoting sharply once more to come to his feet facing Rock anew.

This time, there is no delay-- should the blonde warrior once more turn his gaze immediately to the master shinobi upon landing, he'll find the metal butt of that artifact bo hurtling straight in, a steady jab aligned squarely with his nose. That unbalancing probe would be followed up by the staff's opposite end, as it's whipped about and brought down from overhead, aligned with the top of Rock's skull an carrying force enough to slam him into the ground.. less voluntarily, to put it mildly.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa successfully hits Rock with Blade of the Wisdom King.

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Rock             0/-------/---====|=======\-------\1 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

Ryu Hayabusa says, "That's rght, niice"

A moment there, gone the next. Rock's downward trajectory cannot be turned on a dime; he has no way to change course. The ninja's ducking escape means he pulls his punch, bursting through energy of his own design. Upon hitting the tiled floor, it's hard enough that the uncomfortable sensation of pins and needles shoots up either leg, halting just below his knees that were bent to cushion his descent. The beautiful wing burns itself out into motes and wisps, and the wall scones flare brightly, resuming their duty of bathing the bathhouse in warm light.

Without preamble, Hayabusa confronts him again, and aims to break the young wolf's nose. Unable to compete with the speed of the attack as the bo staff jabs forward, he hopes only to endure what's to come. He turns his beaten visage away from it and is stuck squarely in the cheek. "Ghk!" The bruise is instant, spreading around the welt to turn his pale skin an ugly combination of black, blue, and purple. One eye, watering, is forced closed temporarily. Rock isn't... against being smacked in the mush, per se. He's not vain. But this does give him cause to pause, because what the heck is it with everyone and trying to pulverize his face?


That ain't a love-tap rapping against his noggin. It's the willow stave, spun up and brought down against his crown mercilessly. The slender teen buckles, crumbling like a house of cards. Stars are born and die in his vision; black to supernova to black again. To his credit, his skull might just be thick enough to have saved him from being concussed. Now sitting on the backs of his heels, his hands pressed to the damp tiles, Rock breathes in, holds it, and exhales. A headache erupts right there, painful enough that his stomach rolls in a bid to empty its contents all over the floor...

Thankfully, he hasn't eaten anything today.

Choking back the sour bile that rises in his throat, it takes a second to see clearly, although he's light-sensitive. Subdued and blue though the scones may glow, it's a hell for him as the horrible headache refuses to wane. If Rock ever wanted to know how an egg feels, he is quite aware.

Another breath, a slow expulsion. Will the Howard scion get back up? Is he going to kneel here forever? He appears to collapse into prostrating himself in reverence, but without arms extended, elbows tucked against his chest beneath him, it's deceptive. All of his weight finds itself thrust upon those limbs. Using his elbows as a fulcrum point, Rock lifts his lower half into the air. Sodden strands of flax mop through the moisture on the ground.

Because he excels at the offensive, Rock has to press onward. There is no other option. By pushing his body up onto his hands, he's able to rotate in a handstand before his torso twists. The American heartthrob's legs snap apart like a marathon sprinter, seeking to close as a vice around Hayabusa's neck. Ryu would be trapped between heel and the top of the foot that hooks him in preparation for what happens next.

If successful, Rock swings on the axis, curling in at the shoulder. Momentum will take care of the rest, dragging the Dragon Ninja off his feet and sending him on a short flight into a shallow bath. "Uryaaaaaaaa!"

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa blocks Rock's Medium Throw.

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Rock             0/-------/---====|=======\==-----\1 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

While Hayabusa demonstrates little revel in further marring Rock's priorly picturesque mug, what the Dragon Ninja has in spades is grim, indomitable efficiency. He's fully invested in each motion, almost uncanny at picking his moment and selecting those punishing blows-- it's simply a moment where an opening is presented to that whistling willow staff.

In the next, Rock's hand closes like a vise about the master shinobi's throat, chokes off his breath, painfully crushes with the curl of each finger. The last scion of the Dragon Lineage is too easy to pluck, however-- too light in the fulcrum that sends Ryu hurtling end over end across the bathhouse.

The illusive shinobi skips like a stone into the pool on the edge of their arena, flipping off the surface of the water with impressive agility rather than sinking... barely a splash is unleashed whilst Hayabusa winds up inverted upon the ceiling, leaping back to the circle.

Amidst this display of alarming alacrity, the master shinobi unleashes four shuriken all but in tandem, which blur through the air seperating him from the young Howard in an instant-- one aligned for a leg, one for each shoulder, and one whirring like a miniaturized buzzsaw for his bruised face.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa successfully hits Rock with Four Rings EX.

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Rock             0/-------/-======|=======\===----\1 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

The teen's animated form does a fine job, spinning them both in a blur like a vertical roulette wheel. Although Ryu's bathhouse tour takes less effort than expected, Rock is preoccupied with a slew of problems of his own. Many involve not face-planting. Why it was uncomplicated or where the Dragon Ninja soars are the last things on his stick-addled brain. Soles of bare feet clap obnoxiously loud against the tiles at the edge of the ring; he pitches forward gracelessly, but manages to balance precariously on his toes. Shortly after, he straightens to his full height.

Rock moves to push his tangled fringe out of sight, or perhaps to sort the front of his t-shirt that has crawled ever so slightly up his midsection. He remains divided between the two actions until, upon turning, he realizes there is no time for either. Crimson eyes espy a Prince reenacting that famous bit when Jesus walked on water... But in a distinctly ninja fashion. Something else is glimpsed, as well. Multiple shuriken, heading in disowned heir's direction.

F-- !
"Is this for real?" mutters the blonde-haired American. Lips drawn down to a broody frown, he rushes at them all, a lean engine gathering steam. Twirling steel glints, reflecting the light with a nasty glimmer. Unable to bat away the ones that embed in his shoulders, nor a third that sticks him in the thigh, he has minimal cause to celebrate over 'catching' the fourth. Instead of his face, it plants directly in the centre of his palm, shredding through leather glove and skin discriminately. If he had moved suddenly, missed the grab, or even tried to duck, Rock could've lost an eye.

Why are weapons even allowed, he wonders. The question is redundant, and the answer so simply obvious. It's for the same reason Rock is permitted to do more than just swing his fists in circles. Still, he feels a bit sour about it, ripping the four-pronged concave crescent out of his hand. "Tch!"

Not only do new wounds bleed freely, but ones of old reopen beneath his shirt. S'why wearing red works in his favour. He should've listened to the doctors that insisted on stitching up the worst of it at the hospital Duck had dragged him to, but nah.

Scars are pretty gnarly, or something.

(The various cat-scratches and puncture marks are all superficial injuries, not likely to leave a lasting mark. They all hurt like a bitch, though.)

For an instant, he's been slowed, but it's not enough to delay the wild young wolf for long. The charge resumes with renewed fervour -- faster, harder, jaw set and molars gnashed together. How kind of Hayabusa to meet him halfway. Aware that this is quickly becoming a hard-fought uphill battle, determination burns in his chest to succeed in any small way. Rock's feet slide and he cuts through mist that had settled in the absence of the two swatting it around. Rolling his hips, the kid drags his leg higher than perpendicular, aiming a brutal roundhouse kick directly at the princely inheritor of the Dragon Lineage's ribcage.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa attempts to counter Medium Kick from Rock with Mekkyaku - Ranryu.

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Rock             0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

Truth be told, every participant in the King of Fighters is something of a living weapon, paramount relative to the population in their destructive capacity and potential to unleash hellish pain and death. Pick up or put down a weapon-- it makes little difference. When operating on such a peak, the force of arms is little more than an extension of the fighter wielding the tool, an implement of style more than the escalation it might be amongst the 'common' people. ... Of course, it's harder to maintain perspective on that truism when picking razor-edged shuriken out of one's repeatedly shredded musculature.

Hayabusa lands light on his feet, ready-- nay, eager-- to continue the bout. He strides once, twice steadily into the blonde warrior's renewed charge, deftly twisting around that swinging foot and catching it on the outside with a swiftly rotating bo. The kick to his ribs is driven clear, accelerated back to the bathhouse floor in an effort to put the Howard heir off balance, even as Hayabusa strikes in on Rock's flank, opposite the orientation of that lashing limb.

The Dragon Ninja twists impossibly quickly, stepping around Rock in a smooth pirouette and reorienting in a flash to gliiide in low, sliding into a snap-kick with enough force to take his opponent's feet from under him, to start an ascent into the air that would be followed up with a rising arc of the Lunar Staff's metal-capped end, launching Rock higher and providing an instant of opening in which Hayabusa would shoulder-charge upwards like a missile, bo whirling about him in three-hundred sixty degrees of punishing impact as he'd hurtle from the ground towards the other prodigy with violent intensity.

It's not that Hayabusa doesn't care about the other youth's well-being or extant injuries-- quite the opposite, truth be told. But they're here for a certain kind of fight, with consequences neither fully grasps hinging on their capacity to fight well and truly beyond their actualized potential.

COMBATSYS: Rock fails to reverse Mekkyaku - Ranryu from Ryu Hayabusa with Joudan Crack Counter EX.

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Rock             1/----===/=======|====---\-------\0 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

By this point, he would say the fight has pushed him well beyond his potential, even past the upper echelon of his limit, and so it should. In his form, in his every movement, it speaks of nothing but absolute dedication to the present. Pulling punches for the sake of propriety, or watchful eyes, was abandoned in the face of the very real danger Hayabusa represents. Rock engages with fierce resolve, and this becomes more to him than a tournament, a grab for fame and recognition, or even acknowledgment of Violet Systems and their nefarious plans.

The world has two people in it, will only have two, until the blonde prodigy collapses.

That time is coming soon.

His foot is slapped down, jarring, a vibration effect rippling upwards from point of impact. Its spread reaches his knee, and shudders his thigh. The shuriken falls of its own accord, tainted by Rock's blood and landing with a wet smack.

Understanding of his situation is swift, carried on the tendrils of steam that waft into his lungs unbidden at a gasp. Rock is the rat, and the trap springs, taking out his legs. A following snap-kick means he isn't permitted to fall, but launched into ascent.

Rock does not possess a sixth sense to make him worldly in the way that the Dragon Ninja is, but he can feel intent. It's close behind, rapidly gaining on his aerial flight. Tucking in, contorting to flip over, the upwards swing of bo meets sole that the only son of Geese Howard utilizes to spring higher. Unfortunately, the ceiling encroaches from above on all available space.

He has nowhere to go, no maneuvering room to redirect momentum, and the teen curses his lack of judgment.

When Ryu collides, it's at the fore, his shoulder plowing into the kid's thin frame, hard enough to force the air from his chest. Rock bounces off the top while being struck simultaneously by the Lunar Staff, thudding along his left side as it turns end over end. Then his head cracks the finishing plaster, so it rains in white chips, both on him and the floor that rushes up to greet him.

Plummeting like a broken bird, toppling, he smashes the tiles with all of his weight. He lays face-down and the wolf pup's eyes of scarlet are closed; they remain as such before he emits a low groan. "Goddammit." A heartbeat. Rock begins to collect himself and finds that there's still fight left in him yet, albeit not as much as he'd like. For now, collapse has been postponed for just a little longer.

His cursed blood boils.

That proverbial sixth sense, because let's be fair five senses is a tremendous myth to begin with, is something inherent in living things, in those with the patience and discipline to listen; to truly hear. That Rock possesses it is a given to Hayabusa-- that the Howard heir has yet to open his ears, his eyes to that larger world of interconnectivity and symphonic beauty, a tragedy of his upbringing. Of the deafening rage that burns within, the burbling resentment that threatens, at any moment, to consume Rock-- swiftly, or slowly. It's a cancer that speaks in echoes of the sins of the father, that stymies that great potential... that forcibly dissociates the Dragon Ninja's opponent. Seperates his awareness from that of the spirit world, from that of all life around him.

Ryu touches down far more lightly from the technique, making nary a sound on the finely tiled floor. The waters he so recently sprang off of bare scarcely a ripple to speak of his passage... but that current of energy, the legendary ninja's acumen and tenacious fervour, it rings subtly on, a clear and extended medley of intricate notes.

Hayabusa draws his own affirming, steadying breath, and pauses for a moment to allow Rock to find his footing, to regain his bearings. The battle is all but over, the last scion of the Dragon Lineage can sense that clearly, barring some miraculous feat on behalf of the struggling warrior.

Still, such turnabout is hardly out of the realm of possibility-- the cacophany of dissonant chords building to crescendo within the other youth's boiling blood is testament enough to that. Rock's limits may be pressed, cracking-- but his potential has scarcely been touched, dangerous as the better-hearted Howard may already be.

Even with his body protesting, his spirit burns with defiance, and the Dragon Ninja seeks to test not where Rock might one day be.... but just how much fiercer his contemporary, this beacon of a new generation, might fight -today-. "You fight well; you are strong." Ryu observes with humility and seemingly paradoxical lack of doubt, for the young champion has scarcely broken a sweat of yet.

"There would be no shame to quit the field even now." Yet Hayabusa knows that is not Rock's choice, and the observation is no suggestion. The last scion of the Dragon Lineage is keenly aware there is fight in Rock yet; if perhaps only for another moment, or two. He does not wait them out, but seeks that burning maelstrom of conflict, that crucible upon which the truth, the future might share itself in volatile glimpses-- in sparks of light yet to come.

A second breath is drawn, deeper still, and then the illusive Prince is upon Rock, bo whirling like diffuse torches of dull blues reflected in metal that's scarcely reflective, cast in beautiful tones along the hardwood stave's lustrous finish. One. Two. It's deceptively simple, the duet of blows intended to drop to either side of Rock's collarbone, jarring the youth from one side to the other, harshly, and drop him back to the ground.

The strikes are delivered not as direct punctuation to one another, but amidst difficult to predict, whirling feint, launching a half-step out of rhythm, a touch of chaos amidst the precisely ordered, perfectly honed ninjutsu that the Dragon Ninja wield with alarming mastery. With a roar rather than a whimper, a climactic clash rather than a fade, Hayabusa seeks to end this battle-- and turn his eyes to the next ahead of him. The next of many; oh so very many to come.

COMBATSYS: Rock blocks Ryu Hayabusa's Power Strike.

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Rock             1/---====/=======|====---\-------\0 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

COMBATSYS: Rock keeps on fighting!

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Rock             0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

But the battle does not end, even though a definitive conclusion is sought.

It continues because it must. For Rock's sake.

The Howard scion's chest heaves with each breath, his head throbbing to the rhythm of his heartbeat. Give up? He vents a gentle snort that causes his nostrils to flare. Yes, only an observation and not a suggestion, because as he chooses to disregard sound advice, none are surprised, least of all Hayabusa. Rock's adamant refusal is driven by pride, resistance to letting down his teammates, or worse, himself. If he cannot bring the Dragon Ninja to a kneel, then perhaps he may pose enough of a nuisance to slow him down. Terry can take over from there.

Rock's brow furrows in concentration. He rolls to his back, kipping up onto his feet with one fluid, practiced motion. Probably the most elegant thing he's done, thus far. Bearings gathered and set to rights, the boy ruffles his fair hair, shades darker now that it is as soaked through as his vestments. Pupils narrow to the size of a pinhead. "Not strong enough..." he counters grimly, pursing his lips. "It ain't about to stop me, however."

A feint; a deliberate misdirection; the calculated, puzzling steps of a master of subterfuge. The wild young wolf has focus so intense that the deceptive stratagem is futile. Throughout the whirl of distraction, he's able to discern the willow stave's true destination in a moment of clarity. Rock shrugs off half, allowing it to hammer to little effect against one broad shoulder; the second is denied by a ruthless palm thrust in its path when the Lunar Staff whistles down. The metal cap draws away bloody.

Hoping against hope that it's enough to knock Ryu temporarily off-balance, he doesn't need more than a nanosecond. Fully animated as he swings his arms and unleashes the energy that had been building within him, a single helix is called into being. His curse rejoices. It splits twice, into thirds, fourths. Rallied to suppress the disturbance, the steam condenses, its sheer pressure crumbling tile to dust. The floor craters inward beneath Rock. "Raging..."

Violent purple chi wreathes his limbs, clashing with the pure cerulean that follows. Their battle is fierce, a reflection of Rock's inner conflict occurring in tandem. The first schism that appears rends the side of the main bath, tearing it asunder. Warm water spills through, washing away busted camera equipment to the far wall and anyone foolish enough to be caught in the deluge...

Oh, so there were still onlookers. The numbers significantly decreased to only a few, at some point. How strange he didn't notice.

Wrestling himself back to the ground, energy flows through Rock; he's always been an excellent chi conduit. It cycles from the floor to him to the floor again. Water rushes over his hands, scalding his fingers. After a threatening tremor that rattles the blue light in their scones, the web of cracks below grow exponentially. Fissures suck the spilling pool into them, to be lost forever...

Or spewed out like a volcano's contents.


His last vestiges of control are on the verge of collapse. Digging his thumb through the shredded palm of his glove, widening the punctured hole beneath it, he can feel sinew against the pad of the digit. Rock can feel pain. Sharp scythes of brilliant amethyst leap from the fractured tiles, joining their whirlwind brethren. The maelstrom screams of emotion, but is the Ninja Prince privy to it, as well? Can he hear the subtle story of the blonde American in detail -- the goodness of his nature, the grief at losing his mother, the hatred that drives him to pursue vengeance? Strength, agony, sympathy... All blends as one as the crescents each reach their zenith and roam as a stampede.

To be so aware is a detriment to some, especially when the turmoil is made manifest... Rock does not regret his deafness, not always.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa blocks Rock's Raging Storm EX+.

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Rock             0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

Ceramics shatter, water rushes, and that maelstrom of chi roars in to fill the gaps, to saturate the air. With his close proximity, there is little for the Dragon Ninja to do but seek to weather that localized hurricane; so this is exactly what Hayabusa battens down the hatches to do.

His form curled inward about itself for protection, both active defense and to limit the surface area of the Raging Storm that pummels him, the last scion of the Dragon Lineage is blasted back, and upwards, blown like a leaf on the wind to the outskirts of the blast. It's as much by design as necessity, his own formidable inner chi channeled, reinforcing those points of contact and visibly battling against the violet eruption in an auric shockwaves some multitudes more intense and volatile than the flickering sconces of mystical energy previously providing the sole light to the arena.

Silvery light and dark energy clash as the illusive prince is driven away, his footing unfaltering upon the slickened floor as bare feet splash into water, drive a miniaturized wave away from his impact, cresting across the floor and over electronics and spectators standing nearby.

Part of the VIP areas roped off for viewing are labeled an advisory 'Splash Zone' like a Seaworld attraction or a Gallagher show-- and it certainly proves prophetic now, as steam is augmented by the rampant spray of displaced droplets and the surging prior contents of that lovely public bath. His defending forearms a mess of angry red welts, some of which carry over to the Dragon Ninja's resilient, bare torso, Ryu nonethless wastes little time in righting himself, regaining his stance... and then renewing the offensive.

There is little flashy or overzealous in these final moments, pacing himself for the battle in his immediate future as well as acknowledging that Rock is somewhat beyond needing a legendary technique or further, brutal punishment-- at least, that's the working theory.

Truth be told, the Howard heir fights on with fury that fails to shock, but does surprise the master shinobi's best predictions-- that the blonde is still on his feet -now- is impressive. What, then, do the next moments hold? It's a mystery that Hayabusa is swift to plumb, stepping in on Rock in a flash and twirling once more about the abused prodigy's flank.

This time, the momentum-building twist is accompanied by a strike low, a sweep of that hardwood artifact intended to abruptly, violently strip Rock's footing from him, intended to drop the blonde harshly to the shattered remnants of the floor on which he stands.

The followup is a whirling overhead strike from the bo's other end, a harsh and singular smack that arould be aligned with Rock's shoulderblades should he fall-- intended to keep the dangerous Howard -down-.

COMBATSYS: Rock counters Improvised Grapple from Ryu Hayabusa with Gedan Crack Counter.

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Ryu Hayabusa [E] 1/-----==/=======|

COMBATSYS: Rock can no longer fight.

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Ryu Hayabusa [E] 1/-----==/=======|

Although the wild storm rages, its time is finite. With every second, the cyclones decrease in ferocity. Eventually, they peter out into wafts of blistering hot steam, quickly rising. A dozen small eddies appear, siphoning remnants of the public pool through crevices in the floor. Ryu has weathered the hurricane surprisingly well, far better than the arena, but does not escape completely unscathed. To Rock's credit, few ever have, thus far.

The blonde scion does not straighten with grace so much as he lumbers and staggers, swaying unsteadily on the spot. His t-shirt of red sports a multitude of little rips and tears that were not present prior, and half of his face is painted a crimson to match from wounds made fresh anew. It glistens grotesquely, but thankfully the room lighting has dimmed. Rock persists out of sheer stubbornness, because by this point, he should have slipped into a world much darker, quiet, and unfeeling. Is it really that impressive?

Grinding one mandible against the other, he is forced to acknowledge that his adrenaline levels are heavily depleted, unlikely to see a resurgence. Hayabusa isn't so similarly affected; the Dragon Ninja hasn't even broken a sweat. Why would he, when Rock has yet to land a single hit? There is nothing but acceptance as the other young man twirls to flank. The American teen doesn't flinch at the bo that intends to sweep his feet out from under him.

However, he sure as hell isn't going to let this be over on anyone else's terms.

It would seem that he's caught too easily by an attack of some sympathy; to spare him from legendary techniques or brutal punishment was erroneous. Geese Howard's only heir rolls his ankle, but the other foot steps up onto the hardwood stave, like a complicated dance. Spinning one-eighty to face his opponent for the final hurrah, Rock probably registers surprise before he leaps away and allows it to carry on without him. The metal cap rebounds against broken tiles...

In retaliation, he slams the back of his heel onto the trapezius muscle above the clavicle.

No, it's not enough to topple the long-haired prince, but it will certainly leave a bruise to remember. The ward of the Legendary Hungry Wolf tumbles out of the drop to land one part kneeling, one part crouched. Next time, he'll do better... If there ever is a 'next time'. Still barely conscious, but unable to move, the remaining fight-staff members rush in collectively. They shoulder Rock from the... thoroughly trashed bathhouse, save maybe the cordoned off VIP section to the side. "Sorry, Terry..." he mumbles to his mentor, who he doesn't know may not be picking up his slack.

It's a vulnerability in technique that Hayabusa was aware of-- some commentators would say it's a gamble the master shinobi made to slip past Rock's tiring guard and finish things off without further exhausting himself. Some that it was actually desirable to the Illusive Prince to see that infamous Howard expertise in action.

There may be elements of truth in both assessments, but what can't be argued is the end result: a formidable foot hammering into Ryu's formidable frame. The impact, bruising indeed, reverses Hayabusa's momentum and sends the last scion of the Dragon Lineage sliding back from whence he came in violent fashion, scarcely controlled, barely keeping his footing. He drops to one knee, the hand clenching the staff slaming to the wetted floor as wood and metal speak swift objection to their trauma-- and his own.

He skids to a stop in that forced three-point crouch, ponytail whipping behind him as the Dragon Ninja's gold-flecked emerald gaze snaps back to Rock in a flash. Is it finished? His dangerous opponent, deceptively disarmed by the skill of the ninja finally out of tricks to unleash his punishing style? As Rock locks here he stumbles, fails to rise, as his inner chi diminishes rather than burbling up anew-- Ryu has his answer.

A respectful nod is given to the youth, their last volatile exchange at last breaching his fortified defenses to confirm the threat the young Howard posed, the strength Hayabusa sensed leading into this bout. Ryu pushes back to his feet with a deep, steadying breath, the staff whipping about as water droplets lash from it to spatter on the ground, leaving the weapon dry even as it's tucked swiftly under one arm, its lowered point angled behind him.

Steadying himself, centering his own reserves of abundant, obfuscated power, the Dragon Ninja turns once more to face the point on the circle's circumference occupied by the Hungry Wolves. He'll greet his next opponent much as he did Rock, when they step forth-- with a deep, respectful bow, and intent gaze, one almost haunted by the weight of the duty now before him. A task with both everything and nothing to do with the fight at hand. Paradox is, thankfully, by now an accepted norm of the youth's unusual life.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa awaits the next challenger.

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Ryu Hayabusa [E] 1/-----==/=======|

"Yo, Terry....YO! You paying attention?"

Duck King nudges the Lone Wolf who seems to break from his daze. Truth be told Terry had been watching the entire fight progress with interest, but it was hard not to let his mind wander. This tournament he entered for fun and for a challenge. The latter he has experienced, but when someone tried to kill Brandon during the last fight the fun sort of went out the window.

He was soaked already from the storm of energy that Rock released during his encounter with Ryu and he shed the denim jacket he usuall wears. Even the hat is discarded as he gives a shake of his head and tries to focus. He should have paid more attention. He did watch Rock and even felt proud of what he saw. In defeat the young Howard showed he is not easily beaten. "Take care or Rock. He has had a long few weeks."

The team in general has had a few long ones. Duck King has been the lucky one since he was an alternate, but he has been rushing about to gather information for Brandon as well as being a bit of a caretaker for Rock between the last fight and now this one. "Hey you got it. Good luck. I think you are going to need it." The comment just elicits a bit of a smile and Terry nods before he starts to step forward.

His gaze meets that of the ninja and he gives a bit of a bow in respect. "Good fight. You are impressive." he tells Ryu before taking a deep breath and slips into his fighting stance. His mind trying to focus on the fight itself and not what is going on outside the tournament. Brandon had told him about this tournament being a bit of a ruse, but now Terry is starting to realize there are some shady things going on. Even if he is distracted he owes his opponent a proper fight.

A deep breath is taken. "OUKEI!" he says and seems to push back the worry from his mind. Duck King will make sure Rock is okay and he can hope Brandon doesn't get in over his head with the investigation. "Here is to a good fight."

With that the Lone Wolf is in motion. He closes the short distance between himself and Ryu as he kicks up bits of debris still all over the ground from Rock's Raging Storm. His first attack is a bit no nonsense. Just a simple jump forward and he extends his leg in an attempt to plant it right into Ryu's chest. He knows the ninja is fast and skilled, but time to figure out how to approach this fight without going balls out just yet.

COMBATSYS: Terry has wandered into the fight here.

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Terry            0/-------/-------|=======\==-----\1 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

COMBATSYS: Terry successfully hits Ryu Hayabusa with Medium Kick.

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Terry            0/-------/-------|=======\=====--\1 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

As Terry steps into the ring, Hayabusa smiles a small smile. "I am Hayabusa Ryu." he politely informs Terry of what the Wolf already knows, with formal and respectful politesse. "It is an honor to face you at last, Legendary Wolf." the somewhat more surreptitiously legendary ninja sincerely and humbly informs Bogard. "I suspect we will have little difficulty fulfilling that wish." A good fight. -Another- good fight.

Terry is correct-- Rock fought hard, and was closer to victory than the outcome of their bout might suggest at a glance. Such is the way of the currents that rapidly froth about the clash of such experts; such living weapons. Hayabusa is moments too slow to flow like the water about that opening jump-kick, and instead it clashes squarely into his chest, once more sending the Dragon Ninja skidding on his defiant footing back towards his end of the arena.

It hurts, it stings, it batters an already bruised body; but it does not inspire Ryu to relent for even an instant. Instead, as he surges back into his own ready stance his bo whirls about, and then lashes out in an extended strike, straight-on with one end, for Terry's skull as the Hungry Wolf lands.

It's a technique utilized in his bout with Rock, forcing some measure of distance almost regardless of the outcome, particularly as the other end of the Lunar Staff whips about in a blurring rotation and descends from on high in a crescent arc intended to bring that opposite, metal-capped end off the willow stave down atop Bogard's head with a focused, "HAAAH!!"

COMBATSYS: Terry blocks Ryu Hayabusa's Blade of the Wisdom King.

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Terry            0/-------/------=|=======\======-\1 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

With an opponent like this at least Terry can get more into the fight. Much like facing honorable wrestlers like Jaguar King and Tizoc the Lone Wolf can appreciate someone who like him wishes to fight to better themselves and engage in new challenges. "It is an honor to fight you. Let us both give it our best." he says and he manages a smile for a moment. This won't be like facing Eliza. This is not a monster, but a competitor that will test Terry and make him bring out his best.

He lands in a crouch after delivering his blow and quickly rises up, his guard already prepared for what Ryu might bring in retaliation. He has to be at his best right now because the movements of the ninja are quick and precise. Any falter in his defense or miscalculation can end badly.

The staff comes swinging downwards and Terry is quick to raise his arms. He crosses them at the forearms and the staff hits hard enough to elicit a grunt. Terry's knees buckle slightly then he pushes upwards to hopefully throw the ninja off balance. At least off balance enough as he brings a fist back then throws it forward, the firey chi he wields igniting as he looks to once again strike right into the chest of Ryu. "Burrrrrrn.......KNUCKLE!"

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa just-defends Terry's Burn Knuckle!

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Terry            0/-------/------=|=======\======-\1 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

"What is ahead... will take nothing less.." The words lack the boastful pride that many fighters on Hayabusa's level would express. On the surface, the observation is true enough, respectful of Bogard's level of skill and strength, and aware of his own. The meaning rather soundly outstrips that obvious observation, however.

As Hokkaido is subsumed by storm and flood, as Ultratech and Violet Systems clash in locations worldwide, as the world governments jockey for position and push their questionable agendas, Ryu is sure of two things. This is liable to get worse, before it gets better; and it is liable to fall on his shoulders, on the shoulders of those like Rock and Terry, to put this right. To bring the light.

Rather than being thrown off his balance by the swift defense, by the powerful shove, the bo whirls back to Hayabusa's side fluidly and flexibly, the master shinobi immediately prepared for the followup he suspected would come, perhaps even this specific, trademark technique. A whirl of that bo, perfectly timed, connects almost softly with the outside of Terry's forearm, just above the wrist, as he strikes for the Illusive Prince.

The energy brought to the fore is all but wiped away in the stroke-- or so it might appear. Instead, it courses through the artifact and actually refreshes the bearer of the Lunar Staff, a surge of power easy to miss in the diffuse luminescence of their battleground, or against the flare of that initial, flaming fist.

Ryu's own intent for an instant somewhat mirrors the Legendary Wolf's, as the master shinobi shoves off the defense hard, and then strikes out at Terry low. The Dragon Ninja seeks to abruptly sweep Bogard's feet from under him, and flash forward in a lunging grab that would see his free hand launch the Hungry Wolf skyward..

.. before following him up, a sharp three-hundred sixty degree rotation of the bo bringing its harsh end up underneath to launch the blonde skyward.... and outpace his ascent in a flash. At which point the reversed spin comes down from above, intent on brutally striking the Wolf back to the storm-shattered battlefield.

COMBATSYS: Terry endures Ryu Hayabusa's Mekkyaku - Soryu.

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Terry            0/-------/---====|=======\=======\1 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

Fist meets staff and Terry quickly pulls his punch once it doesn't seem like it is going to strike Ryu flush. It leaves him with a brief moment on what to do next before finding Ryu making a quick counter attack that leaves Terry with little chance to defend himself.

He braces for what is come and isn't sure what Ryu is up to, but soon he finds his legs taken out from under him and his body thrown skyward.

And while he has a lot of power being his strikes Terry is not exactly a heavy fighter. He is rather easily thrown upwards and he tries to think of how to best handle the sitation knowing he is pretty much lacking a good way to defend himself. The best option he has is to try and steel himself and prepare for whatever the ninja has in mind. That is when he is struck and quickly sent back to the ground.

He lands hard on the ground and pieces of the tile from the bath house are flung about and a nice little Terry shaped indentation is left there.

He doesn't remain on the ground for long and quickly gives a kip up. Hopefully his movements are enough to quickly catch Ryu off guard as he looks to jump right towards the ninja and drive his knee into the ninja's waist before bringing his energy charged fist downwards to drive Ryu into the ground this time.

COMBATSYS: Terry successfully hits Ryu Hayabusa with Power Dunk.

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Terry            0/-------/-======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

Turnabout is fair play, and Terry demonstrates just that synchronicity in dramatic fashion. He's hammered groundward, but Bogard is back on Hayabusa like he was slapped down onto a trampoline, surging back into the sky with alarming acceleration and impacting the Dragon Ninja on the shinobi's return to solid ground.

Launched momentarily upwards, the -explosion- of fist and chi blast Ryu to the ground rather more harshly than he had intended to land, bouncing through the shattered tile once as bits of it stick in his arms and chest, and he kick-flips back to his feet out of the violent skid.

Wasting no breath on lamenting his pain or the sudden turn of fortune, nor speaking what they both already know about the Hungry Wolf's skill, the last scion of the Dragon Lineage instead pours the whole of his focus into the battle, emerald eyes /locking/ on Bogard as the Legendary Wolf takes his turn to land from a punishing technique... and the Illusive Prince seeks once more to reverse fortunes.

Hayabusa doesn't so much rush forward as he translocates to a point on the descending Terry's flank, seeking to launch him upwards one more time with a furious singular rising arc from the metal-capped edge of his staff, standing in in this case for the ever-popular uppercut. It's a brutal blow on its own, enough to hammer lesser men to unconsciousness; if not worse.

It scarcely ends there, however-- should that initial blow land, the Dragon Ninja vanishes in a flash once more, only to rematerialize along Bogard's ascending trajectory and firmly but not the least bit tenderly embrace the Legendary Wolf in a vise-like death-embrace. Then, they would both abruptly invert, and spiral to Earth like a fighter pilot's nightmare tailspin, Terry's head leading the tile-shattering impact with the floor at the fore of a punishing ninja dive-bomb.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa successfully hits Terry with Izuna Drop EX.

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Terry            1/-----==/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

The delivery of that punch is brutal and Terry for the most part hopes it gives him a moment to recover after suffering quite a lot of damage from that last hit from Ryu. His body has been hurting since the first round and he has fought through the pain even when facing Eliza and somehow taking the vampire down with him. At this point adrenaline has done well at keeping him moving and he feels he can keep going.

And he feels ready for the strike when Ryu comes in. His eyes narrow and he looks ready to stop that uppercut, but his movements are much to slow. That fist slams into his jaw and a lesser man would be unconcious, but despite his size Terry is made of sterner stuff.

He remains concious, but also he doesn't have his wits about him to stop what happens next. Ryu slips his arms around the Lone Wolf and turns things about. Then downwards at high speed do they go. The bath house is going to need a lot of work to get back into its former glory at this point because another big impact is made into the ground sending tile and the earth underneath flying about.

Terry sort of lays there for a moment, but he starts to move and he pulls his head out of the hole it has planted itself in. He is still a bit dazed, but he manages a smile. "Strong. I am glad to fight you." he manages to say while drawing himself back up to a standing position.

He then takes a deep breath and the air around him grows thick with the energy he draws in. The firey chi he wields starting to form around his entire body for a moment. Then it starts to focus into his right arm as he rears it back and he then leans down to slam his fist into the ground. The power unleashed from him turning into three large blasts looking to consume Ryu.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa blocks Terry's Trinity Geyser.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Terry            0/-------/------=|>>>>>>>\>>>>---\1 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

A nod of respectful agreement comes to Terry's words, even and steady despite Ryu's bloodied body, despite his bruised muscles, despite the danger still clear and present before him. He draws a deep, calming breath that does nothing but hone the wellspring of energy within him, channel it through him, suffuse his spirit with fighting fervour.

Hayabusa's mind remains sharp, his spirit remains eager, the deadly threat the master shinobi poses, equally present at this proverbial late hour of conflict. After the impact, the Illusive Prince flipped gracefully clear, coming down poised in battle stance and prepared for a furious followup-- and Bogard does not disappoint.

The triumverate of coalescent eruptions burst forth and, for a moment, the pillars of energy seem to engulf Hayabusa entirely. Much like the weathering of the Raging Storm, however, the Legendary Ninja is resilient, is ready, his arms crossed against the onslaught, his body coiled inward, his mass, for a moment, all but weightless as he's driven back, skipped into the air like a leaf on the wind-- a very, very stern gust indeed.

Through a mix of ancient jutsu and defiant will, the Dragon Ninja's aura battles back against the torrent, his mass shifts easily, readily away from it at the crest of the wave, and he slides clear of the tremendous cascade somewhat farther removed from Bogard than he was a moment before-- to put it mildly.

A second nod is offered, acknowledging the threat of that mastered technique, and another breath is drawn-- this one largely to refresh what was lost at the moment of impact. "Your legend is well-earned." the shinobi calmly, humbly acknowledges.

"Let us finish this." This clash of kindred spirits, of epic warriors, each the living pinnacle of their style; perhaps amongst the greatest practitioners of the forms to ever live. The peregrine falcon's eyes narrow, his grip tightens on the Lunar Staff, his breath steadily exhales through his lips-- he is ready for this. He was born to this.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa calculates his next move.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Terry            0/-------/------=|>>>>>>>\>>>>---\1 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

As if the damage hasn't already been done to the bath house. More of it is torn up by the unleashing of Terry's energy as tile and water fly about. There is no safe zone as far as staying dry is concerned. There isn't much of a safe zone at all given how this fight has been going between the two teams.

Terry straightens back up and he his gaze fixates on Ryu when it seems the ninja has survived the attack. He honestly isn't too surprised given Ryu was also able to endure the storm Rock unleashed earlier. "I try not to disappoint." he replies and with that a bit of a chuckle. Even if for a few fleeting moments Terry's mind isn't weighing heavily on other things. He is enjoying himself and even if he meets defeat here he has no regrets. He can only hope Rock has learned some lessons during this fight as well and will continue to improve.

When there is the mention of finishing this fight Terry only gives a nod. He takes a deep breath and takes a moment to think of his next move.

Where Ryu is more of a calculating fighter that plans ahead, Terry is more a man that acts on instinct. Something that often hinders him as much as it helps. He surges forward once more and he pulls back his right fist. There is no energy put behind it, but only pure physical power when he looks to bring that fist right around into Ryu's jaw.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa interrupts Strong Punch from Terry with Art of the Inferno EX.

[                          \\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Terry            1/-------/=======|====---\-------\0 [E] Ryu Hayabusa

Instinct can carry a man through great trials and tribulations, can save one from certain doom, or highlight a momentary opportunity that the over-analytical might miss. The Legendary Wolf's impulsive fervour has served him well in his life, but here he faces down a similarly attuned predator, a killer born and raised with rather paradoxical levels of calm and poise.

There is nothing berserk in the Dragon Ninja, every motion, every instinct honed to razor sharpness, efficient and deadly. But make no mistake-- Bogard now faces down instinct and cunning wielded expertly by the youth named for the dragon, born of the clan of the falcon. Hayabusa lives up to his heritage now, staring down his passionate adversary, studying every flex of muscle, the inevitable burst of motion, biding his time for the scant instants he must to perfectly apply his intended trap-- and time it right Ryu does indeed.

As Terry closes the distance between them, the last scion of the Dragon Lineage whirls his bo around in front of him, holds it out before him parallel to the ground, perpendicular to his body. It's not a ready defense, and in the build-up, commentators here and there shut down their mics to wonder, while amateur livestream bloggers ponder aloud if the master shinobi is simply -giving up-.

It's a foolish thought, however, and this becomes abundantly, crystal clear in the following instants. Ryu's hands slide together at the middle of the Lunar Staff, balancing it perfectly between his fingertips as they press together, forming an ancient sign.

The Dragon Ninja's lips murmur unheard words, and his inner reserves of rampant chi pour to the forefront as the floodgates are loosed, and the fires of heaven rush from the champion of the Celestial Dragons like their mythic breath of ages long past.

Surrounded by tendrils of roaring fire, meteors orbit Ryu in multitudes, summoned in an instant. Bogard's fist clips off his jaw-- but it comes in in tandem with the conjuration of those spheres. The first hits at nearly the same half an eye-blink it takes the Hungry Wolf's fierce strike to cleave in, and it alone is enough to cost Terry his momentum, to save Ryu a painfully broken jaw and an abrupt abatement of his fighting spirit.

It does not stop with one, however: Two, three, four, five, a full half-dozen meteoric strikes lance out at Bogard in rapid succession, leaving their orbit with unshakeable purpose and trailing tails of fire. The fireballs pursue him as he's blasted back across the shattered, flooded bathhouse time and again, seared and harried by the seemingly ceaseless discharge, even more water turning instantly to vapor and filling the already steamy room with thick, nigh-impenetrable haze....

Terry has faced quite a variety of opponents through the tournament already, but even if Ryu may not be the strongest he may be the most dangerous given that poise and calmness. The ability to not let things shake him and take his time to plan ahead for what comes next. This is a game of chess and Hayabusa just got a check mate from the looks of it.

The forward momentum is too much for Terry to stop himself. He sees the fire start to form and all he can do is continue crashing forward and at least try to hit his mark. It doesn't have the full impact he wanted, but he can feel his fist against jaw momentarily. That is before the pain of being blasted away by the fire and he sails across the room as each strike chases him down and just consumes him in fire as he slams into the wall and gets pummeled by the last of the fireballs.

The room has gotten extremely steamy due to the attack and Terry lays in a heap with singed hair and shirtless at this point due to it being eaten by flame. There is the smell of burned flesh and it isn't a pleasant one. Terry should be done, but somehow he is moving.

He looks disoriented, but somehow he at least gets up to a knee. His eyes squint as he tries to peer towards where he thinks he sees Ryu. Given the blurred vision it could be dangerous, but it is instinct that perhaps his strike doesn't end up being an errant one. "Power....." he raises his hand, the last of his energy starting to be focused into his fist before he strikes it down hard on the ground. The blast not near as strong as the trio from earlier, but still one that should be avoided as it hurtles across the floor and tearing things up even more as it goes right towards the ninja. "WAVE!"

COMBATSYS: Terry can no longer fight.

[                        \\\\\\  <
Ryu Hayabusa [E] 0/-------/---====|

And with that release of energy it is all Terry had left. His body slumps forward and he ends up face down into the ground where he doesn't move again. If he had the strength he would congratulate Ryu for being the better fighter this day, but it is something that will have to wait as the medics move in to tend to Terry quickly as Team Balance is soon announced as moving onto the finals of the tournament.

COMBATSYS: Terry successfully hits Ryu Hayabusa with Power Wave EX.

[                           \\\  <
Ryu Hayabusa [E] 0/-------/=======|

Hayabusa has put everything he has into this fight, at this juncture. The conjuration of the Art of the Inferno, indeed, is properly read as a last chance to put Bogard in checkmate before Ryu's own side of the board is entirely cleared through attrition and the skill of the opposing team.

Like Rock before him, the Dragon Ninja is pushed to, and then well beyond, all limits the rational mind might assign to his body and fighting spirit, stepping up at every intersection of fate to carry himself forward... where it would be all too easy to collapse. To leave the rest of the fight to Kasumi, and take, perhaps, a well-earned nap.

The last scion of the Dragon Lineage is far too strong-willed and disciplined to succumb at any point before he absolutely -must-, however, and is left teetering on the precipice in the moments after the exchange of blows with Terry.

Even burnt and battered the Hungry Wolf poses a most noteworthy threat, and squinting into that haze of steam left behind by one of his most formidable Ninpo Arts, Hayabusa senses the incoming wave of chi well before he sees it. Once again he centers himself and aligns his guard-- but this time, it's a yard too far. The Power Wave washes over and through him, taking Ryu's footing from him in volatile fashion.

Much like Bogard, Hayabusa is upended onto the harsh ground amidst the draining water and punished tile, letting out a low groan as the announcer pauses a beat, glances to another official, and then finishes his spiel declaring Balance the victors over the Wolves.

Any respectful words are lost in turn, replaced by that pained vocalization. One of the Dragon Ninja's hands reaching for the fallen staff at his side.... before Hayabusa lays still instead, his breath an instinctive rise and fall as darkness swallows him.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa takes no action.

COMBATSYS: Ryu Hayabusa can no longer fight.

Log created on 02:23:32 09/13/2017 by Ryu Hayabusa, and last modified on 18:12:04 09/24/2017.