Description: You cannot escape wrong death.
The Spilt Bean is more than just your average coffee shop. More than a typical corner cafe. Owned by a smiling old Japanese man by the name of Sugiwara, he was a world renowned patissier in the 1970s. This is his retirement, the culmination of a life spent toiling in flour and sugar. Quaint but chic, the windows of the Bean display decadent treats on platters... Matcha macarons, chocolate profiteroles, even beignets. Sugiwara employs mostly students from nearby Taiyo High, and one of his senior staff just so happens to be Rock Howard. Congrats, now you can stalk him.
As it is only 4:30 PM, the shop stands emptier than usual. It's the break between school kids and besuited businesstypes. Rock, preparing for his shift, pulls on his plain apron of blue over a crisp white button-up, smoothing out the folds in the heavy cotton. His attractive face has seen better days, still sporting nasty long gashes, but the teen doesn't look... as bad as he did after the fight with Ryu Hayabusa. He's healed up some. The heartthrob of Taiyo High runs fingers through his blonde fringe in an effort to appear groomed, however, he abandons the task as his hair refuses to be tamed.
Much like Rock himself.
His job is a combination of stock, assisting Sugiwara with heavy lifting (bags of flour are not light), order prep and delivery. It's all relatively easy, except when herding his fan club out the front door. Rock likes it. He likes the smell of fresh pastries and green tea. He clocks in early as per usual, and quietly closes the door to the employee break room at the back. Spotting the owner and another staff member in the midst of greeting a customer who had just entered, he stoops low in a courteous bow. After straightening, the ward of the legendary wolf smiles broadly and acknowledgement-chatter begins. 'Oh, please take care of me today.' 'You too!'
Working at a Japanese coffee shop when you're very OBVIOUSLY Caucasian and having to mimic their customs is a bit strange.
The door rings lightly as three men slither inside; none appear at first glance to be the traditional clientele. Well-built and imposing, wearing simplistic clothing that reeks of expensive high fashion. The man at the forefront has frosted hair swept back, mirrored shades likely closer to ten thousand yen than not. They move with that smooth, self-assured cockiness that breaches personal strength, people who think they cannot be touch.
Professional criminals, in other words.
The clack of leather shoes rings in the comfy room as the man in the front holds up a sleek phone, shifting his gaze across the room. "Rock, huh? What kinda stupid name is Rock?"
One of the other two, a much larger individual rippling with muscles and draped in gold jewelry, seems nervous. "He's done well in the tournament circuits..."
"Tch. Won't help him in a REAL fight...!"
Oh boy, are you kidding me? Since when did career criminals stop in for a cup of joe at a little cafe?
Sugiwara and the employee that I have yet to name extend another welcome to the new 'guests', but Rock isn't feeling it. He rudely remains upright. Suits, shades, that cocksure attitude. Upon hearing his name, cutting through the din and the soft twinkle of jazz music, he stiffens. It's like a rod has been rammed into his spine. The smile that had been worn fades away, replaced by something both cautious and disapproving. His employer and coworker attempt to defer to him for his opinion, and as if to ask 'Are you okay?' "Hello," the blonde teenager speaks through bared teeth, his jaw clenching, "This is the Spilt Bean. How can we help you?"
Unhelpful. Exhaling a sigh of suffering, Sugiwara politely indicates the menu atop the long counter, detailing various coffee beans and other delicacies. Of course, they could just take note of the neat display, too. "Gentlemen, is there anything you're looking for?" He is kindly and old.
Rock puts his back to the three, fully aware of how they're not the type of people that belong in the Bean. Twisting the tap almost viciously, he runs his hands under cool water that pours from the faucet. It's not to rinse them clean for work, but so that he can grip his fingers tightly. Holding onto them so hard his knuckles blanche, it keeps the young scion from arguing pointlessly or jeopardizing his only source of income. What do those idiots know about a real fight, anyway?
All attention has fallen to Rock, snidely ignoring the comment from the second employee and Sugiwara himself. The phone is turned, showing a picture of the young Taiyo student. If he is keenly aware, it seems to be very recent. Perhaps in the last weeks, or even days. "That's you, isn't it? Pretty boy?" jeers the apparent leader. All three have strong bodies, but such muscles are empty show. Developed for looks, there is no hint of true technique there. These men are the worst sort of bullies, those empty of true skill beyond whatever man backs them.
"You're coming with us. We got hired to bring you in..." Fingers slowly crack one by one, followed by a roll of the larger man's neck. If someone was naive enough to judge this conflict by looks, Rock would assuredly seem hopelessly outmatched. "By force, if I have to. You wanna play nice, or do I need to get rough?"
The third, a much more slender individual who wears a small pair of spectacles, seems rather disinterested. He bears a few scars, and the look of one more experienced in this lifestyle. He presents no particular front about being strong, although compared to a mundane person he is likely quite dangerous compared to his colleagues. "It's smarter to avoid conflict with our boss... who knows what might happen to this establishment if you try to start something?"
Hard to get an answer from a kid who isn't facing them, am I right? But Sugiwara expresses recognition, and the other fellow adjusts circle-style spectacles before weighing in himself. Their heads turn in unison to Rock.
'Pretty boy'. Finding the hole in his palm, the urge to peel off the scab is suppressed. Gross, for one, and messy. Rock hunches his shoulders when he turns back, a cornered wolf with his hackles raised. "You think I'm gonna fight in here?" he spits while toweling off both hands, crimson eyes boring into the lead thug who dares to casually toss around threats. If only he knew that the outraged teen heartthrob could probably, MOST LIKELY beat the ever-living shit out of him.
It's not about to happen, of course. A shame.
Glancing at the third and disinterested party, that man causes him to reconsider taking the brawl to the streets outside. Arrogance, the folly of many, is not present. Rock clicks his tongue audiably. "Mister Sugiwara, I'm very sorry, but I need to leave." He can hope that the job will still be there when the day is done, but at least the establishment won't be ripped to shreds in his absence. You know, provided that the young scion cooperates to some degree.
With more force than necessary, the blonde American pulls off his blue apron, slamming it down against the rear counter. Retrieving his school bag is left for later. "Let's get this over with," Rock snaps. He silently wishes that these goons had just ordered something and pissed off. Did whatever it is that career criminals do, such as make their disparaging remarks elsewhere.
And just who the hell hired them? Cursing his lineage, Rock's life would be infinitely less complicated if he weren't the only son of Geese Howard...
There's a look of genuine disappointment on the lead goon with the bleached hair. His scowl stretches down, exposing clenched teeth as the eyes of a sadist flash bright. "Oooh? You're coming with us...? You think that'll satisfy me, brat?!" He slips his hand free from his pocket, and then draws it back with intent. The motion is transparent and terrible, really.
Perhaps luckily, the slender man's own hand snaps out and catches the frontal thug by the wrist before he can attempt to punch. "Oye, oye, oye. What're you doing, Sakaki-kun?" There's an obvious strain from the bleached thug at being held back, but it doesn't seem to cause the older man to budge even an inch. "If you can't even properly compare your own strength to someone else, you need to go back to courier work..."
"Tch." Sakaki yanks his hand away, although clearly he was allowed to take it back. The more muscular of the trio exhales, seeming relieved that no fight took place. Outside is a great limousine, sleek black and gleaming with tinted windows. The trio move to the rear, pulling open the door. Sakaki and the muscular individual get in first, but the last lingers outside.
"Don't mind Sakaki too much. You know how it is... being a predator is just in his blood, eh?" His smile grows extra toothy.
For a moment, a split second, there's a collective holding of breath. Even Rock, as he walks around the counter to the fore, can't help but join Sugiwara and his coworker. Sakaki's fist is gonna fly, cocked back with clear intent. Every muscle in the teen's body tenses, his lean biceps bulging. His feet root him to the spot because like HELL this kid will budge and cause untold damage, go right ahead and sock him in the face.
Wary, but relieved, the young wolf exhales. He sneers that Sakaki is put in his place so succinctly, so easily, but with luck, perhaps he can be assisted in swallowing his teeth another time. Rock impatiently dashes back his fringe of blonde hair, its state in perpetual disarray. "Bet you were a shit courier." That, he wasn't able to resist.
Rock exits the Spilt Bean with a rigid stride, and needs to mask the shock that would've been clearly broadcasted across his handsome features otherwise. Who ponied up the cash for a limousine for these dicks?
Luxury isn't something the ward of the Legendary Wolf is unaccustomed to, but judging from his hesitation, he's uncomfortable. Perhaps it just dredges up the worst memories, all involving that man or an ailing mother. Two pile into the back, but the third holds the door and offers something that causes Rock to approach the limo with mounting apprehension. "/Shut up/."
The young Howard scion throws himself onto the seat furthest from the others, intentionally manspreading so he cannot be joined... once his seatbelt is on. Head tilting back, strands like flax drift away from his bruised and clawed face. A long stare out the window and stony silence are Rock's contributions to any conversation looking to include him, snide and provoking though they may be.
There's just a slight laugh as Rock slips into the car. It is the utmost in luxury. Fine leather, soft and supple as a maiden's cheek. Lightly scented air circulates gently. An incredible sound system plays a rich orchestral choir in the background. Sakaki has already plucked a bottle of wine from a bucket of ice, the worn and faded label of French origin and clearly old.
The rich scent of aged grapes fills the air as a splash of the liquid is put into crystal glasses and passed around. The last is hefted to Rock, although if he neglects to take it, it will just be set on the arm of his seat carelessly.
Memories, indeed. A casual display of wealth. How many criminals in this city could do this? How many would? The mystery is no longer who, but why. There's likely no surprise when the almost silent thrum of the limousine ends at Geese Tower, slipping into the underground parking lot and coming up to the executive elevator.
Only the slender, older scarred man gets out this time. When Rock begins to follow, he makes his way to a small elevator flanked by guards obviously more competent than the thugs. "Heh. That Sakaki, huh? Didn't even recognize the son of his boss..."
Offering alcohol to a minor! They are literally the worst of the worst!
But Rock, consumed by his ignoring, doesn't engage in any illegal imbibing. He's a saint among them.
The wine slops lazily around in its crystal prison, and the scenery remains familiar for the duration of the voyage. In fact, it gets so distressingly bold that Rock is able to surmise the destination long before arrival. Why? He mulls it over and answers don't come easily. What could that man want?
When the limo pulls smoothly into the underground parkade of Geese Tower, the younger Howard doesn't know whether to be impressed at his deduction or dissatisfied with the results. Both, maybe. He knocks over the glass on his way out as a parting shot, soon after ushered to the executive elevator while flanked by guards. "Like you'd know, if it were you," Rock blurts, coiling against a wall of the box and using his dirty shoes to scuff it up. Much to his chagrin, the blonde Southtown-native can only protest in this situation like an insolent child.
It shudders as elevators do, the cables above pulled taut and lifting the steel prison. The ride, to the office or the roof, doesn't take long enough that some damn asshole teenager can do more damage than a few black marks on white. Rock pops the top button of his dress shirt loose and shoulders his way forward at the first opportunity. Hell, if hired muscle doesn't show inclination to stop him, he'll march straight up to Geese and snarl, "Are you /HAPPY/? Anything else you'd like to take away from me? Do you fucking think I'm your dog?!"
"Hah. There's one thing I can say. In the Southside Syndicate, never once have I heard even an iota of pride about you... then again, barely anyone knows Geese Howard is the one in the reigns at all, anyway. Maybe it's not so strange you aren't famous." He enters the elevator at the same moment, and it thrums upwards. There's plenty of time to build up aggravation before the gentle ding of the door. When Rock begins to stamp forward, the slender man merely states, "Oye..."
And then a body hurtles past Rock, a spatter of blood likely hitting him. Whether this actually stops his advance given the situation is another matter entirely. A horrible thump as the form hits the wall beside the elevator and slides down. This is the rooftop suite, grand wood and fine art centered around a massive central area for training and sparring, with Geese Howard's desk settled at the end.
Surrounding him are twelve men wearing black belt karate gi's. The one thrown away was apparently the last, Geese still poised in a stance with his arm outthrust. He is wearing his standard uniform, great crimson pants embroidered with golden dragons and white gi-like top loose, rolled up to the elbows with similar red forearm gards. A slow exhale disperses heated wind around him, the air heavy with the energy of his chi. Some men at his feet are twitching and groaning. Some might never move again.
"These were insufficient. I barely warmed up. Bring me better sparring opponents... money is no object." Only then does his gaze shift to Rock. There's no emotion there. Not anger, not sadness. Neutrality. Even disappointment doesn't reach his gaze.
"Boy. So you came without making a scene. Are you finally growing up...? Although you are acting as impertinent as always. At least before, you were wise enough to treat me with respect..." It might become clear that Geese is not even percieving Rock as a threat at this point. Despite all his accomplishments, his performance in King of Fighters, recognition on the world circuits, the way his father looks down on him like an insect has not changed in the slightest.
Well, he wasn't expecting that. The forward charge is not stymied by a flying body, cautionary words, or the splatter of blood that hits him in the cheek. It takes even longer, after his venting a handful of grievances, before Rock notices the sparring floor littered with insufficient opponents. Groans, pitiful whimpers. He rocks back a step, fingers passing through the wetness on his face, coming away red. Crimson eyes widen for a heartbeat. His head whips around on the axis of his neck to the wall and the crumpled form at its base.
They say anger makes a man blind. He doesn't care. Quick as lightning, Rock remembers his rage, further incensed. A flood, darkening his irises, so similar to those of Marie Heinlein. There's nothing he can do to help the fallen, the injured. "Respect?" Almost given over to scoffing openly, the boy bites it all back with a click of his jaw. His hands ball into trembling fists. "You threw me out. You disowned me. You don't deserve a single shred of /respect/!!" Punctuated by errant flecks of spittle from his mouth, his wrath is like using a pail of water to stop a tidal wave.
"Why am I here?" As having a tantrum will yield little in the way of results, this is ground out in the softest, most threatening tone that his tenor permits. Balefully glaring, the young scion, heir to blood curse and criminal legacy, can see that some things have not changed since his departure, whereas he's an entirely different person. Defiant, accomplished in some ways, kind and sympathetic. The child who begged for help having grown into the thing that his father despises. Rock, nothing more than a blight on the family tree.
It's painfully obvious that he wants to beat acknowledgement into the older Howard. Not to instill pride that the guard says is lacking, or to recognize Rock for his performance in the King of Fighters. Just LOOK AT ME, everything about the wolf pup howls.
He's not an insect.
He's your son!
LOOK AT ME, DAMMIT!
The complete lack of emotion, even disgust, unnerves Rock in ways he cannot describe. Explain to him what he was brought here for, his employer put at risk, if it didn't matter? "You want someone better to hurt? I'm the best you've got, right now." He's not ready, the high schooler unprepared and still battered.
But he didn't back down from Akuma.
He stood up to Kain.
In a way, the strength Rock seeks is already his, even if he's yet unable to wield it to its full potential.
One hand carefully tightens the straps at the base of Geese's forearm guard. In that moment, when more than anything Rock wishes to at least be seen as an opponent, his eyes do not fall on him. Respect as a person, as a son, as a member of his family, might never come to pass. But Geese is one of the strongest men in the world, and acknowledgement at least of being a fighter should be possible...
"A dog." Geese suddenly states. He turns to look at Rock, head tilting to the side. It might take a few moments for Rock to remember that he began this conversation with that phrase. "You ask if you are my dog. Yet a dog knows it's place. At the heels of it's master. A dog who tries to bite it's master..." A last yank, and the forearm creaks tightly.
"Is put down. Isn't that right? But I brought you here for a simple reason. You were discarded as someone with no potential. Not as my heir, and not even as an opponent. But you've reached far in the King of Fighters, a tournament worthy of respect I myself have run multiple times... So I have only this question to ask."
Arms spread before Rock then. "How long do you think you can stand in Terry's shadow?" A few suited men have come and dragged off the defeated men, a few slicks of blood left behind. "He is a fool, not to see your lacking potential. Even all these years later, you still retain my techniques. Because they are superior to Terry's unrefined edge, are they not? Had you won King of Fighters, or even made it to the finals, you might have become worth my time..."
He then draws out a simple crimson cloth from within his gi. "So you want to play, then? Very well! I will carve in your flesh why Terry is nothing to me... and why you are not even worth my time as a foe." Abruptly he lifts up the cloth, and tightly wraps it over both eyes and ears.
"Perhaps this... will bring me closer to your level. Would you like me to also only use one arm?" Geese then folds his right arm behind himself, bringing it up tightly to his lower back. "If this is not enough, I might be able to wear some weights..."
His fury swells like a crescendo, the beat of his heart rapid and deafening. Colour flushes his neck, his face, his ears. A breeze that Rock is privy to alone stirs feather-light flaxen strands, lifting them off the brow that further creases. It reaches climax, the insurmountable apex of rage, setting blood to boil, searing his veins.
Rock swipes his arm through the air between them, as if the motion could slap harsh condemnation to the floor. The young scion is no stranger to comparisons to a savage beast, unaffected by superficial reasons to discard even a member of kin, but the accusation that he stands in Terry's shadow...!
"Terry Bogard is someone that neither of us will ever be!!" A good person, a true friend, a better father. Genuine and caring, he lives his life with integrity. Rock admires him so goddamn much that it literally kills him that the Legendary Wolf is slandered by a lesser man... "He sees what you never could!"
Heaving a breath that shudders his entire frame, the teen bellows with finality, "You claim that I'm not worth your time, because you've done nothing but hold me back!!"
Hatred is stacked atop hatred, grudge atop grudge. Everything Geese is responsible for, everything that he needs to answer for, motivates the boy to action like spurs driven into a horse's flank. His grip on the reins is loose, at best. Rock snarls at the memory revived as the older Howard proceeds to mock him with blindfolds and handicaps. "I don't need your /BULLSHIT/!" He hops away, hauling his fist up parallel to the ground.
All it took was a few careful words, culminating in the straw that broke the camel's back. Banished are any notions of control to the far reaches of Rock's mind. The mild-mannered, even-tempered persona disintegrates in the presence of that man, eventually and always.
Lips pull back to reveal rows of pearly white teeth, his expression growing increasingly feral. Subservient goons may collect the unfortunate victims of Geese's fists, but once the hall is clear, he shoots across it with the speed of a bullet and the force of a battering ram. Unrefined and clearly something adopted to his style from Bogard, his chi ignites a blazing line on the floor. Rock attempts to plant his elbow directly in the middle of the arrogant bastard's sternum. In tandem, a wing rips free from his shoulder, amethyst warring for supremacy with pure, innocent blue. With splendor and flourish as it unfurls, the pinion hovers above him as a handful of the same energy is meant to be shoved in faces.
Or just one very specific face.
COMBATSYS: Rock has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Geese has joined the fight here as a boss! You cannot escape wrong death.
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COMBATSYS: Geese blocks Rock's Hard Edge.
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"Do not presume I would ever want to be compared with Terry...!" Geese states, seeming offended for the first time. The blindfold is tightly bound now, and it seems he was serious about the arm, given it remains settled out of sight. When Rock was still a child, he used to do this -- back then, Rock could not land a single blow, and would always end up crushed. Has the last several years of intensive training closed that gap at all? "Compassion is a weakness. One's personal goals must be absolute... no matter the cost...!"
And then he can hear Rock's advance. Geese's head is tilted slightly to the left, relying on the noise. He can feel the raw, angry chi of Rock as he advances forward. The moment Rock seems to vanish in a raging elbow, he'd feel it impact heavily into Geese's palm. The area around the pair billows with force, but Rock's father is not budged even an inch backwards. The blast of chi roars past Geese's head, singing the side of his blindfold but not making contact. "Predictable. Of course you go for the most vulnerable spot. I did not even have to guess!!"
And then he twists, clamping down on the held elbow, attempting to dominate Rock's center of gravity and bring him along for a wicked overhead throw, with the intention of depositing him into the stone floor opposite face down!
COMBATSYS: Rock blocks Geese's Weakened Crushing Throw.
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"Who said I was comparing?! You just can't accept that someone is head and shoulders above you, because they're capable of feeling everything you're not!!" Even him. Rock himself isn't truly able. Compassion, gentleness, honesty -- these virtues do not come naturally.
He will continue to reach, however. To aspire. To emulate Terry. Fuelled by his determination to be more than what he could become, no matter how futile. It would be only too easy to allow his curse to rule, to reign. Live life as Geese intended for Rock, a law unto his own. A tyrant ever in search of power, the embodiment of Wrath...
His greatest fear.
This terrifies Rock even now, how quickly he dissolves in spite of himself.
Lurching right into a trap, he discovers nothing for him here but dissatisfying results, both physical and verbal. His elbow meets not the flesh, bone and sinew for which it was intended, but a palm of cold denial. The chi blows past them, howling in dismay before it tears itself asunder. Crimson eyes snap to Geese, piercing and ineffective. "Why don't you shut the hell up--!?" Rock's entire arm is the fulcrum as he is lifted into the air.
There's something about that, something permitted. He sails away, flailing limbs before not face-down, but cat-like does the boy land. Control remains his, for now. The young wolf vents a guttural growl. Rock gnashes his teeth as he coils like a spring. "Predict /THIS/!" he yells in challenge.
Rock is a shooting star, and a mighty leap reduces the gap that lies between teenager and man. During his descent, his lean torso twists, leg extending. A jump kick; his form is impressive to behold. If the elder Howard wasn't such a dick and concerning himself with playing games long since dead and buried, he may have had the opportunity to look deep into the passionate prodigy's soul.
COMBATSYS: Geese fails to counter Medium Kick from Rock with Weakened Chuudan Atemi Nage.
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Oho? A simple principal, but using the power of the throw to reposition himself behind Geese is a sound plan. And with the blindfold on, he's not entirely sure where his son is. He's rather loud, but general locations are not going to suffice. He twists, shifting his stance perfectly. Rock would see it, then. Geese's right arm was closest. He did not use it; and as a result, his left hand sweeps up a microsecond too late. The kick flashes through and strikes Geese right in the face. One foot shifts backwards, catching himself.
It was like kicking a mountain. Geese's center of gravity was not affected, and the damage is clearly minimal. But for the first time in his life, he managed a clean hit on his father. Yet, clear perhaps to both of them, only due to the limitations placed on himself at the start...
That would not have hit Geese were he trying.
"Hmph." A spit to the side hits the floor, lightly stained with blood. Before beckoning at Rock calmly, seeming to not have found the incident worthy of further comment.
Where credit is due, Geese does not deign to acknowledge him. Those chumps dead or worse? Rock's abilities are clearly superior - he even landed a clean hit!
But to expect anything? The attractive kid might as well take a long walk off a short pier.
It doesn't feel as good as he hoped, heel crunching against cheek. Not even the entirety of his weight is enough to do more than shift the father by a mere hairsbreadth. The thing about kicking mountains? It may take thousands, millions of years, but they erode due to constant exposure to the elements. The wind, the rain, the snow. Eventually, he'll succeed in breaking the elder Howard down, even if Rock knows that the day won't be today. He doesn't believe in miracles.
For now, the teen will settle for ripping off that damnable blindfold.
Doesn't matter how, Rock isn't fussy about the methods.
He springs off and lands with a bounce, the loose stance prepared for retaliation. Was that grasping left hand the only retort? Is there more? Wary and suspicious, crimson eyes flash in a blink that is honestly surprised to see blood-tainted spit. Rock sneers, "So, even you can bleed. How /weak/."
Beckoning is for dogs and children. Rock doesn't need the gesture, but he accepts the invitation. Forget flash and fancy. Not beats the straight face-seeking fist-missile. A broken nose may occur. Unlikely, since the first time he was able to even TOUCH the Southtown Syndicate boss was just minutes ago.
COMBATSYS: Geese blocks Rock's Strong Punch.
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"..." There's a flutter of tension from Geese. It seems that mockery has succeeded in raising the hackles of Rock's father, if that was one of his goals. "You should watch your tongue. The only thing keeping you in sight of my league is this. Are you truly rushing for death so recklessly?!"
Geese's left arm snaps up, the forearm hitting Rock's own and deflecting the fist sideways to graze his face. The blindfold is knocked slightly askew. But in the same motion, he thrusts out the attacking arm, trying to grasp Rock by the front of his clothing...
In order to twist him around in a brutal overhead throw, and *SLAM* him down with catastrophic force on the other side; a whirl of deep chi builds up in the instance, let loose in a literal crack of thunder that tries to shock Rock head to toe the moment he hits the ground, adding further debilitation to the attack!!
COMBATSYS: Geese successfully hits Rock with Weakened Raimei Gouha Nage.
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Rock hammers away at the button of Geese's patience as though it were a dispenser of gum drops, rainbows, and Make-A-Wish Foundation fundraisers. He hates this man with every fibre of his being, to the point where it threatens to consume him. Why wouldn't pissing off the father be a goal? Any actual reaction to his presence is what the teen is gunning for.
Alas, from arrival until the instant blue eyes disappear behind the slightly skewed blindfold, Rock is still an insect. ALWAYS an insect. Or maybe a disease that is not contagious, but not deadly. Invisible. When you apologize to a friend who suffers from Hashimoto's, are you really sorry for them once your back is turned? Do you lose sleep, pondering the trials and tribulations of their life to great detail? No, no one does. Why would they?
That was his childhood. Everything he knew, once.
If what it takes to change the air around them is to mock, pester, annoy, infuriate? Let it be done, Rock is old enough to engage in malicious, manipulative derision. To regard him with anything but insufferable contempt after is something like victory, in the son's mind.
"Like I care!" He does care, maybe. "Don't underestimate me, you're nothing but trash!!"
His tongue clicks, brow furrowed. "Tch." Of course lightning wouldn't strike twice, not this soon. Left extended, there is no recourse for him but to accept the fist that bundles the front of his freshly laundered as of this morning dress shirt. No escape. Rock pushes from the floor before he is hauled overhead, but slammed down against the polished wood, it's far harder than he imagined. From the tail of his spine to the back of his head, it's like each vertebrae connects individually.
Then, he's shocked. Chi surges through the heir-apparent, his legs spasming involuntarily. Fingers twitch, blonde hair stands on end. The breath is forced from his lungs in an audiable whoosh. Rock gasps as he seeks its return, fine features contorting with pain, but the flow of venom has briefly abated.
He allows only a single grunt to eke past the barrier of his lips, the only sound of weakness. Thankfully, Geese can't see the watery crimson eyes glaring daggers, or note that continued pressure on the kid's clavicle means irritating the cuts underneath. Beneath Rock's shoulders, multiple hairline fractures twist out in a complicated, irreparable web. The prodigy would be proud to know that he's caused at least a few thousand dollars in damages.
"Get offa me!" A wild grab for the arm that anchors him is the lead in, unwilling to lay supine and obedient for long. Rock refuses to let things go unanswered. What follows is spinning like a top just enough to bury his foot in either abdomen or side; the ward of the Legendary Wolf never learned Judo, but he sure has seen a lot on television. This is his interpretation of the Hikikomi-gaeshi sacrifical throw. Powerful, able to support the weight that would bear down on him, and using his legs to send Geese hurtling through his stupid sparring office penthouse!
COMBATSYS: Geese fails to counter Medium Throw from Rock with Weakened Gedan Atemi Nage.
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After the brutal assault, Geese raises back up. Although drawing his son close like that was a double edged close. Most people who get close to the master of throwing arts wish to get away. Instead, his son throws himself fiercely forward with no hesitation. For once, the lack of blindfold is decisive. He was not sure how Rock was attacking. Hands shift up intending to grasp an arm, but instead finds himself caught by ankles. A moment later and he's sent bodily away, crashing into his massive desk and shattering it to pieces. For the first time in the pair's life...
Rock has brought Geese to the ground.
A few moments pass where Geese just lays there. And then his left arm raises to grasp the remnants of his desk to the left. Before his right follows, and he drags up to his feet fluidly. "Do you truly think Terry so noble?" is stated, with a seething anger of his own beneath him. "Do you think it was his drive for justice that let him in my league?! Fool! It was his HATE! It was his burning drive for REVENGE... And if you keep resisting this... flirting with the edge of the fury in your veins..."
He grasps his blindfold and rips it off, hurtling it to the side.
"You will never reach me. When you were young, you fought hard against your birthright. Against your true strength. That is why I threw you out. For all my taunts, all my sneers, in the end you were a barking dog. Fighting against falling into depravity. But I feel it now... feel it in your fists. Feel it in your chi!!"
He then lifts both of his arms high, spreading his stance broadly. "I'm almost intrigued, Rock..." His name. He actually said his name. "Don't disappoint me now!!"
He knows, his legs burdened with the weight of the much larger man, that this would be impossible under different circumstances. That once the blindfold was removed, Geese will retaliate with strength and skill unparalleled. Rock completely understands that, as he throws the father off and he smashes his desk as easily as glass, he won't have the advantage for long.
Indeed, just as the slender teen kips up from the cracked floor with the hard snap of his body, he watches the object of his absolute hatred pull off the blinding cloth and toss it away.
Now is the time to be afraid...
But he is not, perhaps unwisely. He's so far from fear and terror that they exist in another universe, another timeline, a past that can only be recalled. The blonde boy's frame vibrates visibly as his anger grows even more, swelling like a crescendo. "All you ever do..." Rock pauses as he bares his teeth, "is talk a lot of shit." Head turning to the side, a spit of disgust.
"I'm sick of it."
The clipped tones of his tenor dip in rage, "I'm sick of /you/."
"If you think strength is giving into this curse, then I won't, not for as long as I live!!" One foot slams down. The other follows decisively. "I'll fight it forever if I have to!" His chi is summoned and his blood boils, responding to the elder Howard in the room. It's agreeing with him, tearing at Rock with displeasure at his defiance. "Because the last thing I want? To be anything like the man who did NOTHING while mother DIED waiting for him!!"
Rock's bleeding, as each scab separates in pieces on his cheek, his hand, his torso. The scion's eyes are like rubies, shining through the strands of hair as fair as flax. Whipping his arm through the air, it blurs. Crimson dots seep through to stain his shirt. Amethyst chi tainted ever so slightly by the purest blue rises from between the split web of fissures in the hardwood. "REPPUKEN!" A rip-roaring crescent, shredding the floor and sent long, its target gloating in the ruins of mahogany. Geese's own technique, now wielded against him.
A son is called by his given name for the first time... Far from finding reason to rejoice, Rock screams and practically hurls his emotions at the secret subjugator of Southtown, allowing them to combine with the twisted chi-scythe that hurtles through the penthouse, "Don't use my name as if you're familiar with me!!" Pain, despair, grief, WEAKNESS. It's all there, broadcast so clearly on his handsome face.
COMBATSYS: Geese fails to slow Reppuken from Rock with Double Reppuken.
- Power fail! -
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Geese shifts backwards, his own hand building up chi of his own. "Don't you talk to me as if you understand us...!! We made a promise! A promise to never meet again!! SHE is the one who tried to break it!! HER!!" Something beyond mere rage twists Geese's face. A much deeper and more complex emotion that seems to disrupt his chi.
He sweeps his arm forward, building up a swirling ball of wind-like energy. But then Rock's own energy impacts it. Shattering the whirling cerulean away, and then colliding directly with Geese. He looks genuinely surprised; that should have been more than sufficient to nullify Rock's ability. But the color... the way his chi is rising...
The explosion launches him backwards again. He hits the wall hard, leaving a heavy dent that shatters wood and sends a priceless vase shattering to the ground. He manages to staggeringly stay on his feet, grasping his stomach where the blow seared away his fabric.
"...!! Good! Yes! This... this is just like fighting Terry!! Do you see, Rock?! The power... the power inside of you?! Just like this!! The urge to DESTROY that which you hate! Hahahaha!!"
"You're going to defend yourself to ME, her SON?!"
"All she wanted was to see /YOU/!!"
Please help mother, you have to...
"You never deserved either of us! The only thing in this world that--"
She's going to die, don't let her die!
The chi bursts like a firework, shredding through that insulting wimper of power from his father. In the cacophonous racket, all else he has to shout is lost. Rock angrily tosses back his head, fingers slipping through flax in disarray, further mussing it. Energy whips around him in a frenzy for just a moment more, and now the boy has new injuries to heap upon the old as they mark him like a minor pox.
He pulls at the reins to find them broken.
A hard, crimson-eyed gaze makes note of the dented wall, the shattered remnants of ceramic. Was that a Ming vase? The Japanese used to use molten gold to repair pots, and thereby enhanced their beauty; he doubts that will have the same effect on such a priceless item. Rock frowns, not mourning its destruction, but his last vestiges of control.
Geese has been struck, toppled, and wounded, but he still stands. Rock's nostrils flare, bull-like. He launches into a wild run that culminates in another leap, soaring over the mahogany wreckage below. The joints of fingers pop as they curl to his palm, fist drawn, cocked and ready. Violet-blue streams from behind his lithe frame like a long banner, trembling as it tries to force itself into an angellic wing. It's blindingly bright, the young teenage scion's fair hair reflecting a tinted halo.
"Shut your mouth, stop fucking talking!!" The heir-apparent becomes a shooting star, in his own way. He commands his fall, his path, descending like a hellish rocket upon the elder Howard. His arm extends as far as it can reach and the chi precedes him. It emits a banshee's wail, a shriek that he feels in his very soul. Rock's birthright, this curse...
If he were dead, would he be free?
COMBATSYS: Geese attempts to interrupt Rage Run Dunk from Rock with Raging Storm+.
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"Don't tell me what I wanted...! It surely wasn't you. A soft man afraid of his own power and potential!! I did not treat you with anything but hate, because hate is your greatest power. Lament your own weakness, not me!!"
Hands continue to remain upwards, in preparation. And then as Rock seethes with his own chi and rushes forward, Geese merely grins, a line of blood running down the corner of his lip.
"If you want me to stop talking, then MAKE ME!!" It's then that a whirlwind of force blows out around him, ionizing the air with crackles as he channels in his wind-based energy.
And then his fists strike down, hitting the ground. A horrendous eruption of bladed energy surges straight upwards, aiming to rip into Rock in an irrevocable wall of bladed energy as he draws dangerously close. The ground shudders, tile shattering, debris floating wildly before some self-destructs and shatters in the wake of arcing lightning.
COMBATSYS: Rock attempts to interrupt Raging Storm+ from Geese with Raging Storm EX+.
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Ah, tell him something he doesn't know. Lie to him. Spin a story, a web of fallacies, that he may weep over like a babe, alone in the dark. Life, as it could have been. SHOULD have been. The man who Marie Heinlein spoke so highly of, coming to her aid in her most desperate time of need. She'd see the sunrise. Rock would have a family. Fairy tales must conclude with Happily Ever After. They're merely flights of fancy intended to delight, after all.
But Geese is far from a white knight sitting astride a valiant palomino, and no lie could truly suspend disbelief long enough. He would never coddle even the most beloved wife or child, so the bastard attempts to break the boy's spirit, instead...
The road is familiar and worn.
"If you didn't want me, then why was I born?!" Stupid fucking...! With all the power he commands, the hired muscle, and every crime he has committed, since when did the elder Howard decide that murdering pregnant women or infants crossed the line? Rock can't possibly fathom it, incapable of considering the point and unable to 'see' further than his fist. He demands his answer, no matter how he plummets directly at his opponent's aged face, "What was stopping you from killing me and trying again!!"
"My only weakness is having you for a /father/!"
Another first, at least since that day.
A prodigy whose ability here is unappreciated, Rock has higher understanding of momentum and redirection than given credit for. He learned from the two greatest fighters in the world... Created a style reminiscent, but unique to his own. His strike may be hardly worthy of that designation, glancing, but the agile teenager turns on a dime and retreats at breakneck speed...
Not far enough to escape, however. He's within a leg's range, alight with his curse and shining like a beacon. As the wolf pup is batted about by wind shears, pummelled, weathering all that the hurricane has in store for him, Rock stubbornly persists just so he can turn the tide. An opening doesn't present itself, but he can feel the exact moment stirring deep in his chest. Violent purple chi ripples. "Raging..."
Truly a wonder, a marvellous sight to behold. There is no need to rupture the floor further, but it happens. New schisms mean new blades, which rend all that the Southtown Syndicate crime boss had to pieces.
Wait, more accurately, they consume them.
Amethyst overwhelms everything, a hungry beast in pursuit of slow, sickly prey. Every single one, it's like they never existed. At the epicentre of the young storm, Rock feels the weight of his birthright as if it pushed against his shoulders. Beneath him, the hardwood and concrete beams begin to crater inwards. "/STOOOOOOORM/!" His boiling blood races, rips through his veins, heartbeat heard and eclipsing all else. The scion's hand clamps down around his arm below the crook of his elbow, but it's too late. He can't keep it at bay.
COMBATSYS: Geese slows Raging Storm EX+ from Rock with Shippuken.
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"You pathetic fool. Did you never once stop to consider... that I never wanted you in the first place? You were nothing more than a pet for that woman. To keep her quiet. To keep her away!!" Although Geese is genuinely surprised to see Rock burst forward in the same moment. His own power still rips through Rock viciously before Geese abandons it, lunging backwards and away as the cerulean pillar thrusts at his chest with full intent to impale. Instead energy coalesces in his arm, and with a grunt of genuine effort, Geese swings his arm.
A flash of energy, an explosion of whirling chi, and the elder Howard lands on his feet a short distance away. Slowly standing upright, and then brushing away at his chest. "Do you yearn for death, boy? Is that what you desire? Then so be it. I will end this pointless charade. I would prefer to have no blood in this world, than some young, weak curr so easily broken...!!"
Despite forcing the energy through his arm, piss-poor conduit though he may be, when Rock eases back onto his heels, there's still more. Chi arcs like lightning across his shoulders, or twists as tendrils reaching for the ceiling. His chest heaves, the effort it takes to breathe, to battle inner demons, causing him more pain than anything else. Blonde fringe stuck to his forehead from sweating, crimson jewels glare past the flaxen strands. Unblinking and fierce, pupils the size of a pin's head.
Rock struggles to his feet, staggering, unsteady once he gets there. A sleeve hangs by threads, and his clenching fingers leave five clear impressions in otherwise pale alabaster skin. "How dare you..." Besmirch is not a word suited to a teen's vocabulary, so he wracks his brain for an alternative. "How dare you disgrace her memory!! Mother loved you, you /worthless/ piece of fucking /garbage/!!"
Further obscenities occur, but that's just Rock making full use of all the profanity he DOESN'T say on a regular basis.
The only son of Geese Howard doesn't flinch when he sees that his storm is more of a trickle, nor does he shade his eyes at the cataclysmic clash of two energies so alike, but entirely different. For a moment, bright light is burned into his retinas. "You're gonna kill me, then? I wish you luck," he simpers sarcastically, even cutting a mock salute, "because you've been SO SUCCESSFUL already!!" Shouldn't have let him grow up! Rock gets moving, a furious, hateful locomotion gathering steam.
Darting along the debris-littered floor, crushing mahogany, ceramic, and all else in his stampede, Rock puts himself in a precarious position, because there is no place more dangerous than being directly in front of that man. Reaching to gather the back of the mangled gi with both hands, the disobedient child attempts to drive his knee straight into solar plexus, abdomen, or anything else that hits the hard bone of his kneecap first.
Slowly but surely, the outline of amethyst begins to fade...
And any fatalistic thoughts? Only Rock is privy to them.
COMBATSYS: Geese endures Rock's Aggressive Strike.
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"I could have killed you at any point. You are the one who believed that had any meaning." Geese seethes. "It would do that woman a mercy, to remove your pointless existence. When she died, your only worth died with her!!"
A foot stamps forward. Rock finds that his knee impacts Geese right in the stomach. However, that was easy. Far too easy. The reason becomes apparent, as whirling arms swish. Attempting to grasp Rock and then brutally whirl him upwards in a great eruption of centrifugal force, displacing the surrounding area in a whirl of angry wind chi from the mere exertion of the two charged warriors. Rock would impact the ceiling hard enough to shatter the glass domes, as Geese carefully prepares his body.
Breath exhales. Muscles relax. Inner focus. The hopefully broken form of Rock would tumble into a sudden dual arm palmstrike, aiming to connect with his center mass. The explosion of kinetic force is as much internal as external, a roar of defiance as he throws every ounce of that irrevocable skill into a maneuver easily fatal to someone of his level...!!
"LET ME PROVE TO YOU HOW LITTLE HER MEMORY MEANS TO ME... WITH YOUR TOMBSTONE!!"
Deep inside, distant memories flicker and boil. 'Geese... just promise me. You'll never hurt our son...'
COMBATSYS: Rock fails to counter Rashoumon from Geese with Joudan Crack Counter EX.
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COMBATSYS: Rock can no longer fight.
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No, that's bad. Predictable, but bad.
Klaxons and alarms blare, bells and shrill whistles of warning. Rock reflexively tenses, feeling just how easy it is to thrust his knee at an immovable wall. His fighter's instinct demands immediate withdrawal or consequences await. Get out, NOW!
But the whirling arms bring down hands that catch, the grip like a vice and forcing his shoulder to pop. Rock gasps as pain lances through him. Time briefly slows to a crawl, and the young scion looks up at his father. 'Why would you do this?!'
He is still nothing but an insect, even at the end.
In flight, Rock rotates in the air. Graceless and uncomplicated, he'll crack the solid heel of his shoe against Geese's crown...
Or, that was the plan, up until his head and back collide bodily with the dome-shaped skylight. Glass rains from the ceiling, crystalline shards twinkling like stars. Crimson eyes roll up, and Rock's world turns to darkness.
The violent, surging chi bleeds off him, seperating entirely as its lifeline is cut by temporary unconsciousness. It has nowhere to go and nothing to be, so the energy explodes into firefly-like motes and wisps of cerulean. Rock drops straight, his unknowing descent into harm's way punctuated by lids blissfully closed.
Awakened rudely by double strikes to the centre of his mass, a harsh snap causes the boy to jerk. His focus is slow to return, but shocked all the same. That was a rib, Rock notes, features contorting. The teen spirals off with a wordless cry so far that when he crashes against the hardwood floor, he's left a permanent groove in the rough size of his shape. Blood bubbles up to the barrier of thin lips, trickling down the side of his abused yet attractive face. So, this is as far as he can go...
The farthest he can reach...
Just to stick it to Geese for the last time during this meeting, that battered, bruised, broken form rises again. Mockery radiates from every pore, and Rock's sneer baring bloody teeth. He can't speak, he can barely even breathe, and it feels as though his chest were on fire, but the stubborn ward of the Legendary Wolf can stand.
Slowly, Geese strides through the glass, brushing it aside with his sandals. His expression is solemn, now. Neither happy nor sad. Detached, perhaps. He reaches down to grasp Rock by the front of his clothing and haul him up, to dangle limply like some discarded doll.
'I forbid it.' Geese can hear himself saying. 'A son is a weakness. One my enemies will try to exploit. I am not giving up my ambitions for anyone, Marie...! Even you. You know that!'
Step by step he begins to drag Rock along the floor, leaving a small amount of blood in his wake. It's eerie quiet now, just the sound of wind through the broken glass dome.
'I know, Geese... I know... But I can't give him up. I just can't. I'll take him with me. I'll never bother you again. I promise. No matter what, I'll never bother you again...'
A hand yanks open a sliding glass door, hard enough to shatter it. The roar of the city skyline is heard now. Rock is drawn upon the broad balcony at the apex of Geese Tower, past small palms and ferns within ceramic pots. No words. No threats. A cruel, meticulous action.
'Just promise me, Geese...'
Rock is dropped, before that large hand grasps him by the throat and yanks him upwards. A moment later, he will find his feet dangling over oblivion. A long, irrevocably fatal drop to the streets of Southtown before.
'Just promise me. You'll never hurt our son.'
For long moments Geese stares at Rock. An unexpected delay. There's no sadism to it, which might be a surprise. No snide grin. cruel remark. Just those eyes, as if finally looking at him for the first time.
'I told you, Marie.'
'I have no son.'
He then hurls Rock away. The wind begins to billow past him faster and faster. Up becomes down. Glass and concrete blurring past. This is it. There is no way in Rock's state to possibly survive.
After a longer time of aerial reflection than might have been expected, Rock impacts the glass roof of a poolhouse. People scream, before a moment later he hits the surface of the water, plunging down. He slows majorly, but still hits the concrete on the bottom incredibly hard. Within a dozen seconds, he is fished out and pulled to the side.
"Isn't that... the King of Fighters guy?" "Rock...!" "Call emergency services!!"
Within the endless minefield of certain death, Rock just happened to land on the penthouse of an adjacent small building, landing right in the pool. And nothing permanently injured, on top of it. Of all the places he could have possibly ended up, it was the one that ended up not killing him.
A chance, one might reflect, that is far too small to be simple luck.
COMBATSYS: Geese has ended the fight here.
Log created on 15:49:59 09/28/2017 by Rock, and last modified on 03:43:12 10/06/2017.