KOF 2017 - The Crimson Circle

[Toggle Names]

Description: Aokigahara, the "Suicide Forest," was one of many regions irradiated as a result of the attack on Mt. Fuji. The bonds between Earth and the mystical leylines are more vulnerable here than they have been in a long time - and certain powers have sought to take advantage of the weakness. All the more reason for a certain monster hunter to start snooping around...

Northwest of Mt Fuji lies the sprawling forest of Aokigahara -- or, as many throughout Japan call it, the "Suicide Forest." It is estimated that as many as a hundred people successfully end their lives within the boughs of Aokigahara. And with Japanese corporate interests ramping up in a major conflict against the United Nations, suicide has been on the rise for desperate Japanese citizens who see no way out for themselves or their families.

On the outer extremities of the forest, paper leaflets litter the ground, remnants of a short humanitarian campaign from the United Nations as a preamble to the show of force that triggered volcanic activity in the mouth of Mt Fuji. Hand-held counters would show radiation levels in Aokigahara to be significantly higher than normal, though still relatively safe for short-term exposure -- even for non-suicidal humans. Moonlight lances through the forest canopy, the trunks of the trees casting long shadows onto the forest floor. No breeze is present -- hardly unusual for such a dense forest. Any visitors to the forest would be pleasantly surprised to find that a path has already been cleared through the thick branches, affording safe passage for anyone below seven feet in height. What's more, the passage has been freshly cut, sap and syrup glistening in the pale moonlight as they lie forgotten on the forest path.

It will, nonetheless, take five minutes of walking along the path before the lanterns will be visible. At regular intervals, spherical Chinese lanterns themselves are hung upon the trees, casting an ethereal aquamarine glow, bathing the surrounding trees in soft blue-green light.

If one stares at a single lantern long enough, one might be able to pick out the traces of a single Chinese character, floating in the sky.

Further along the path, silhouettes can be seen, occasionally lit from behind as they hang lanterns upon the trees. Each silhouetted figure appears to be wearing a tall hat of some sort, and wears a garment with long sleeves. Once each lantern is hung, the figures move as a group to the next location -- with a peculiar hopping gait.

At least six can be picked out from the surrounding shadows.
One can rest assured that there are more.

Human desperation and fear always lures the dark beings that thrive on feeding off of human emotions, that much was one of the first lessons Grimm learned under his tutor. There were other things that could lure in evils, of course, but negative emotion often topped the list, and local rumor regarding the forest only reaffirmed that something might off. Of course he had no intention of purifying a haunted forest, no, that sort of thing was well out of his league, but what would the harm in looking be. And if he were to find one or two dark spirits he could banish, well, at least he'd be doing something.

So it is that Brother Hans Grimm found himself walking along darkened forst paths in the middle of the night. In fact, if he ignored the shape of the leaves on the trees, it didn't feel too different from home. Except the Chinese lanterns, that was different.

Once the figures come into view, he gets off the path and behind a tree, hopefully before he is spotted. He watches in silence as the creatures hang their warning lanterns and move on, following to another tree with the ease of someone who's ben navigating alpine forests since childhood. Each move he tries to get in closer, to get a better look at the strange creatures and figure out what they're doing. Hanging warning lanterns is no great sin, after all.

China is quite a long ways from Japan. And yet, standing just a short distance away from Brother Hans Grimm is a small group of jiangshi -- also known as the Chinese "hopping vampires." Each undead creature is clothed in robes dating back from the Qing Dynasty -- fabulously ornate, and colored dark purple, trimmed with red and golden thread, with special ornamentation along the hem of the sleeves. Their skin is a cold blue-green pallor, not quite the same hue as the unnatural light from the lanterns, but not entirely dissimilar either. Their hats are inverted conical sections, flared out more widely at the top, and adorned with red fabric spheres. From each hat hangs a long paper ward in parchment-like paper, descending to below the chin of each creature and marked with an elaborate Chinese script -- and glowing with a faint golden energy.

As a lantern is set in place by one jiangshi, a companion will raise his arms, dragging a calligraphy brush across the air in an intricate pattern. So it is that the letter of 'warning' is inscribed upon each lantern -- a milky-white trace of smoke left in the air by the dry brush. And just as the group nearest to Brother Grimm finishes with their lantern...

A sound can be heard.
From -behind- Brother Grimm.

A long, thick rod of some sorts -- red crimson in color, with an irregular waxy coating -- is being rubbed onto the path behind him. Two jiangshi are in attendance for the process -- one to smear the end of the waxy pigment across the leaves and fallen branches, and another to anoint the waxy residue with an oily liquid, dispensed from a small mixing bowl.

It seems that this pair is hard at work. Every thirty-seven seconds, the path they have painted pulses with a ruddy crimson glow -- showing that they have already traversed a semicircle around the accursed woods. The supernatural light flares -- long runes in a foreign, unknown language, erupting upward in the span of a second before fading away into the night sky.

The jiangshi's objective becomes a bit more clear, in the context of what has happened here recently. With the wards left by the various ninja clans destroyed, there remains no barrier to the undead. Where their path would have forbidden before -- and even blocked -- there are no passive barriers to their progress. For the time being, the creatures are free to roam the forest unmolested now.

And in less than a minute, they will be close enough to spot Brother Grimm. After that... who knows?

COMBATSYS: Jiangshi Squad has started a fight here on the right meter side.

                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

Brother Grimm is watching the strange creatures through narrowed eyes. Part of him wishes he had taken a few more books about eastern spirits with him, western ones he was well acquainted with, but these ones. Well, they just seemed stange to him. Stranger. The noise behind him causes him to turn his head around whip fast, a knife dropping from his sleeve and into the palm of his hand as he twists his wrist just so.

He quickly and quietly as possible shifts to another vantage point watching the two creatures with the rod. But whatever ritual they are performing, and he's not entirely sure of what it is, large circles in bright red usually aren't a good thing. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he is sincerely hoping that is not blood.

And so he finds himself in a dillemma, stop what they are doing, or continue observing, and he can't help but think he's not going to figure out what they are doing simply by watching. As far as he's concerned, there's only one thing to do. He steps out from behind the tree and brandishes his knife, pointing to one of the creatures, the one with the rod. "Stop and explain yourself, creature." Japanese, rough, but he's much better at that than any form of Chinese, which he has yet to figure out how to work around with his accent. He likely would have said the plum is orange or some nonsense if he had tried.

A little voice in the back of his head squeaks that he should have taken the ambush, as it was available, but he just wasn't sure enough of these creature's intentions to take the risk. Cursed morals, always in the way.

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm has joined the fight here on the left meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

Further inspection would be necessary to determine whether the chemical is blood or not -- it doesn't -smell- like blood, though that's likely due to the strong scent of wax which would be detected by getting any closer to it.

As luck would have it, an intrepid monster hunter happens to be stepping -remarkably- close to the two nearest jiangshi. The undead creatures freeze completely -- moving not even a muscle once the roughly-accented Japanese is uttered. And yet, time has not stopped, for the paper talismans dangling from their head continue to sweep forward, continuing the motion before realizing that their owners have halted, and then swinging pendulously back to the call of gravity.

The sky grows black -- the moon occluded by a passing cloud.
Darkness descends across the creepy forest.
Shadows occlude the aquamarine light from the lanterns in the distance.

And an instant later, the experienced monster hunter will be sure to hear the signs of the creatures approaching. And he will see the glowing yellow rectangles dangling from their hats.
From before him.
From beside him.
From behind him.

In the passing of a cloud, all the jiangshi in the area have abandoned their work efforts. The crimson pigment stick thumps end-first into the ground, lumbering to its side.

But Brother Grimm is probably more concerned about the hands of the creatures as they all reach out to him. Easily ten pairs of hands, glowing with a sickly green glow, all converging on his position. To close off any avenue of attack -- and suffocate him under the terrifying presence of their fearsome aura. To grab hold of him, and weigh him down to the forest floor.

Apparently, while they have the time to stop, they are less interested in talking than Brother Grimm is.

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm blocks Jiangshi Squad's Silent Judgment.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

That... may have been a miscalculation. Though going on the offensive is likely a pretty good sign they were up to no good. So in a way, his plan did work. Just maybe not in the way he had hoped. Though who would hope for a bunch of Chinese vampires trying to pin you to the forest floor?

He crouches down, perhaps at first looking like he's trying to help them along in their efforts, other than keeping his hands moving, fending off anything that tries to grip him. He's mostly successful, they get a few holds on him, digging into him before he can ward them off completely. But for the most part he remains unperturbed at the center of their circle.

He just needs a momentary clearing.

And once it presents itself he takes it, there's a small click from his boots as he moves from his crouch and into a backflip away from the hopping horde. Their prey isn't just escaping though, the click was a blade springing from the toe of his boot, the leg lashing out in a knife-tipped kick to the vampire or vampires unlucky enough to be infront of him as his feet go from ground to air.

His Hands touch the ground and one handspring later he's back on his feet with hopefully a little distance between him and the creatures.

COMBATSYS: Jiangshi Squad blocks Brother Grimm's Aschenputtel.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

As languid slivers of moonlight thrust into the depths of the forest once again, the hideous forms of the jiangshi are revealed once again. Their faces stand as rictus masks, frozen in expressions which run the gamut from simple dismay to abject horror -- residual shock at being awakened from their eternal slumber. Their grasping hands close ever downward, preventing the returning moonlight from stabbing below. And while they manage to make contact, the wax-laden hands are not able to sustain purchase for long -- and the monster hunter is able to make a swift escape from their slickened grasp.

As Brother Grimm backflips away, the two jiangshi closest to his bladed footwear would find themselves trapped by their brethren, unable to withdraw to a completely safe distance. One jiangshi loses a nose, and the corner of its binding talisman, in the process of the cut -- though the chasm carved across its upper torso and face is testament to the blade doing quite a bit more in its travel. The line carved through its torso begins to flood with a saplike, ichorous substance - perhaps closer to tar than blood, but not sufficiently close for either noun to be entirely accurate.

The creatures moan -- either out of sympathy or out of the distress of a lost body part. But the reanimated corpses do not falter -- instead, the circle breaks, spreading into a wider semicircle.

And in unison, the jiangshi take one hop towards Brother Grimm.
And then immediately afterwards, a second -- their arms uniformly outstretched towards him.

This time is different -- each of the creatures surges forward with a burst of aquamarine light, with the aim to grab hold with him. Five grab for the arms and shoulders, while five more leap for his feet, hoping to prevent further flight.

And then they would seek to move as a unit, swinging the monster hunter sideways, and dashing his neck across the nearest tree trunk. Their skin, should he have the questionably luxury of contacting it, would be cool to the touch, and yet burn with the sensation of acrid, primordial flames.

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm parries Jiangshi Squad's Strong Throw!!

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

And Hans thought zombies were bad. At least they didn't do synchronized hopping, like so bad Halloween music video. Not that he watched much in the way of music videos, that he would ever admit. He takes one step back, then another, in time with the hopping only to find his back bumping up against a tree. That was no good.

His eyes cast slowly across the figures and instead of stepping back he moves forwards, right into them, moving past and around the grasping hands, giving them only the lightest touch on his clothing in return. He flicks his left hand, a little vial dropping out of his sleeve. A little vial that he smashes on the ground.

A dark cloud comes billowing out of the broken glass, concealing everything around him. Himself from the jiangshi, the jiangshi from each other, and supposedly the jiangshi from himself. Supposedly.

The darkness doesn't last long, just a passing cloud. But when it clears the hunter has relocated himself to the rear of the zombie horde, sight returning just in time to see him plunging his blade in a twisting thrust at the back of the nearest hopper.

COMBATSYS: Jiangshi Squad dodges Brother Grimm's Rumpelstiltzchen EX.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

As the jiangshi close in, the small army seems like an advancing wall of decay-free flesh, muscles pulsing in perfect unison beneath ancient robes of fine cloth. Predictable in their motion, and yet unstoppable, a veritable force of supernatural might. Odd ranks leap towards the ground, while even ranks surge forward like the interleaved tines of a thresher.

And yet, as the Chinese vampires are -almost- able to make contact, the sound of shattering glass fills them with fear.

The standing ones lurch backwards, recoiling as if warded off by a torch's blazing heat. The collapsed ones draw back like reversing inchworms, steering clear of the broken vial.

And when the hunter relocates, the once-uniform wall of vampire-zombies has dispelled -- breaking ranks entirely. The blade is swung towards a zombie

And just as surely as they were there one moment, they are gone the next.

An instant later, each jiangshi has relocated five feet forwards, in the direction it was previously moving.
Which is to say, -away- from the shattered vial.
Leaving the expertly-wielded blade to whistle through nothing but empty space, in the interim.

The wailing begins anew, as the Chinese vampires whirl about, pivoting in place with perfect, unearthly precision. The shrieks increase in pitch. Blue flames rush outward from their fingertips, threatening to engulf Brother Grimm whole, even if it might place some of their brethren in apparent jeopardy.

Should the blue flames envelop the demon hunter, the tongues of ethereal flame would elevate him upwards -- spinning him about in midair before slamming him back to the ground a fair distance away.

They will not take their chances with the glass.

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm blocks Jiangshi Squad's Catoptrophobia.

[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/---====|-------\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

There's an annoyed growl under Grimm's breath as the creatures blink away from his attack. That was going to be annoying. He needed to land a clean hit. He notices their response to the shattering vial and files it away in the back of his mind for later. You never knew what these creatures would have an aversion to. But for now, he couldn't let up.

He charges headlong towards the undead creatures once again, blue flames licking across his flesh, but like the previous times, he's a bit too slippery to get a clean hold of. He's quick, that much is certain, and even more strangely, even as the wounds may appear on him, they seem to be stitching themselves shut. Slowly in the scheme of things, but much quicker than any human has a right to be able to heal.

And then he's ontop of the vampires again, bursting into their midst with dagger lashing. He's less precise this time, licking out with the tip towards the face of once zombie then turning around and aiming for the leg ov another, doing everything in his ability to simply put them off balance and find an opening in their coordinated assault.

COMBATSYS: Jiangshi Squad interrupts Random Strike from Brother Grimm with Cannibal Corpse.

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/-======|======-\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

Talismans flutter as the jiangshi's chaotic arrangement leads to them approaching Brother Grimm in conflicting, intersecting paths. They each have a shared goal -- to stop the interloper from disturbing their ritual -- but their methods of dealing with it were thrown into disarray by the shattering vial. And yet, they can all sense his motions, as if they are responding to his essential life force, rather than relying on the pale moonlight.

The flashing dagger gives them no pause whatsoever -- for, as the Brother may have noticed, the sap oozing from their skin appears to be having a restorative effect of its own. More of the tarlike substance oozes from the cuts opened upon the jiangshi nearest to Grimm, but when he drives the blade low, he will find a curiously powerful grip squeezing down onto his shoulder.

Their lack of order would, in this instance, prove to be an advantage for them.

The Chinese vampires wrench his shoulder backward from behind, keeping the blade from digging any deeper into their brethren. As the buoy in the middle of a sea of conflicting grapples, Grimm is lurched first backwards, and then shoved painfully to the side, with the bony arm of one jiangshi being shoved into him by a second and third.

And then he will feel another distinctly unpleasurable sensation -- the hard sting of uneven teeth tearing down into his upper arm, sharpened incisors ripping through the fabric of his cassock.

A moment later, the same thing happens to his opposing thigh, as one of the jiangshi who would have been trampled underfoot decides to make its presence known.

The throng, however, is much too disorganized to make use of the grapple -- too much pushing, too much shoving. And with one final shove, Grimm will be ejected from the mob, thrown to the hard-packed forest floor as the group attempts to return to a more rational formation...

Brother Grimm mutters something under his breath as he feels the hand closing around him. It's in German, and it's likely something the abbot would take displeasure in hearing pass from his lips. Luckily for him, there's no one around to care. And he's soon occupied by other matters. He struggles against the clawing and biting, not even screaming out, though some gutteral grunts do escape him as the vampires taste his blood. Even as he's ejected from the circle of creatures and thrown to the ground, he's quickly getting himself to his feet.

The tear in his cassock at the shoulder reveals a bit of a tattoo design on his flesh. His fingers go to the bite, testing the flesh with a bit of pressure. He looks annoyed, shaking his head at the wound. "Good thing I have extras." It's more a mutter to himself than for the jiangshi's benefit.

Undettered, he moves back in, this time towards the side of the horde than towards its center. At least he's varying his tactics a bit. He moves by one of the monsters, knife in a reverse grip to dig into the creature and tear out a chunk as he moves by, barely halting in his movements.

He's learned to try to stay mobile, these vampires are much too grabby for his taste.

COMBATSYS: Jiangshi Squad endures Brother Grimm's Power Strike.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/=======|=======\-------\1   Jiangshi Squad

The Jiangshi's hollow eyes stare back impassively with a marked lack of comprehension. Thankfully, their job does not require them to communicate in any verbal fashion, let alone debate the merits of keeping an extra outfit in their respective wardrobes. Not that the utterance was loud enough for them to participate even if they could.

With the varied tactics, though, comes a varied response. The jiangshi may have been moving like zombies before, but they are not wholly without intelligence -- particularly since the nimble demonslayer was able to elude their grasp before. So when the blade moves to slice across one of the jiangshi, the creature moves to impale itself on the blade, relying on its own accursed flames to cauterize the wound -- or whatever the equivalent might be for its tar-like blood to take full effect.

The aim would be to entrap the man's hand -- slowing his progress so that he wouldn't be able to mow through them all as easily as he might hope. And in doing so...

The far end of the 'wall' would hop forward with alacrity, much faster than the section of 'wall' nearest him.

The circle would enclose around him -- and though their steady and overwhelming pressure might not pulverize his bones, their might might force the wind from his lungs.

COMBATSYS: Jiangshi Squad successfully hits Brother Grimm with Great Wall.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Brother Grimm    1/----===/=======|-------\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

And the plan works. As Grimm tries to continue on his hit and run, he instead finds himself lurched backwards, hard hand stuck in the tar-like goop that leaks from the creatures. He tugs and tugs, barely making any progress on freeing himself as the circle encloses around him.

A strangled noise escapes his throat as he finds himself crushed in the press of vampires, his teeth gritted as their crushing assault pushes against wounds from their previous attack.

He lets out a yell of rage as his hand suddenly wrenches free, no longer the hand that was entrapped but larger, stronger, and tipped with a wicked set of claws that glint in the moonlight. Even his eyes have lost their blue color, glinting a wicked yellow as he uses the momentum of tearing his hand free of its prison to lash out in an arc at the jiangshi around him, claws seeking to tear through their flesh.

And as quickly as the appendage altered, at the end of the swipe it returns back to it's normal appearance, though he has his fingers curled in as if it pains him, what he just did.

Jiangshi Squad falls asleep.

Jiangshi Squad wakes up.

COMBATSYS: Jiangshi Squad dodges Brother Grimm's Allerleirauh.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Brother Grimm    1/----===/=======|-------\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

As the zombies swarm about, it becomes patently obvious that even though their skin is deathly cold, getting that many bodies pressed up against one is bound to create a fair amount of heat. Even in the span of moments it begins to feel like an oven --

And yet, ovens do not fall apart at a booming yell -- and yet, these Chinese vampires withdraw. Not out of fear -- but out of anxiety for what they see before them. Yellow eyes instead of blue -- and claws instead of fingernails.

Their eyes grow wide, their rictus masks shifting slightly into anxious frowns as they begin to back away. And when the swipe of claws is lashed out, the vampires spirit backwards, flickering out of existence for a moment before reconstituting themselves three feet further away.

Their wail changes pitch -- low, then high -- in what could be considered a signal to some.

And a moment later, a shadow passes over the moon.
Two wings, curled like scythes, and yet bent so as to be practically useless for the clearing of wheat. A head, adorned with similarly curved and jagged shapes. And long limbs which border on impossible -- for if the figure overhead were to be a man, it would have to be a incredibly -tall- man.
And yet, the figure does not hover in place -- it simply continues circling in a languid flight path, lazily arcing about as it drifts lower and lower in altitude.

But all this happens in a few blinks of an eye, as the jiangshi glance back and forth to one another, weighing the decision.

One moves as if to strike, but hesitates.
A second starts to lunge, but pulls himself back.
And then a third moves -- and does not waver.
The rest follow on his mark, an instant later.

The leading blow is simple -- a kung-fu punch, brutal in its efficiency, and direct in its impact, lunged straight for the hunter's face.
The expert hunter should have an easier time dealing with the vampires' lack of commitment, as all of the followup punches come from the same 60-degree arc, and are all aimed roughly towards his midsection. And the blue flames appear to have dimmed considerably...

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm parries Jiangshi Squad's Medium Punches!!

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Brother Grimm    1/--=====/=======|-------\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

The hunter's eyes have returned to their steel blue, brightened by the blue flames of the vampires, but once more human in appearance. Though there's a hint of something back there. The beast temporarily unfettered even for a moment still lingers behind his eyes, a malice that the normally calm hunter rarely shows. Not that the Jiangshi likely care beyond the fact that this man is now looking at them much more like prey.

He bats the first punch away as he steps back, the second being knocked away from him as well. He moves away from the zombies step by step, forcing them to follow after him to continue their assault which never lands a blow, until he is once more backing towards a tree. With a quick flick of his wrists a pair of knives fall into his hand, one to replace the one lost in the tar-like substance, and another for good measure.

Then the eyes are back, yellow and reflective, belonging to a nocturnal hunter, and his lips part in a predatory grin with teeth a bit too sharp.

In a moment his entire body bulks up, not just his hand, arms and legs suddenly surge with strength, his face even more wild and feral. No, this hunter isn't human.

He makes a quick leap backwards, twisting in the air so his feet impact into the tree, crushing the bark underboot. And then he's kicking off again, extra strength sending him soaring upwards and forwards towards the rear section of the group.

And then gravity works it's magic, bringing him back down, a cannonball of muscle, anger, and stabbing knives that falls upon the jiangshi, tearing into him with all the strength his altered form can muster.

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm successfully hits Jiangshi Squad with Eisenhans EX.

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

The jiangshi may be clever, but they are not so clever to avoid seeing through this particular trap. Collectively, the creatures overextend themselves, each leaning past his brother in a vain attempt to slam their knuckles into the dextrous hunter, with the closest strikes rewarded with well-timed parries.

It's only when the yellowed eyes return that they give pause -- and the man becomes a monster himself -- that the hollow eyes widen again. The leap catches them by surprise -- but so does the fact that he targets the slackened creatures in the rear rather than the hostile aggressors up front. The middle of the pack is struck in the head, sent teetering backwards, only to fall off to the side when they encounter their brethren. The rear of the pack is bowled into with the hunter's mass -- while ribbons of flesh and cloth are torn loose from the jiangshi on Grimm's left and right. Fragile flesh is torn away from the bone by the stabbing attacks -- for once the directed blade is applied, the torsion is enough to pull clear the sinew.

When the jiangshi pull back, four of their number lay upon the ground. Arms have been dismembered, twitching helplessly on the road. The creatures' heads and shoulders writhe about, dazzled by the confusion.

And the six remaining jiangshi regroup -- not without injuries of their own. And -- perhaps emboldened by the hunter's own weaponry -- they flick their own wrists out to either side.
Daggers whip out from each sleeve.

And forward they stab. Twelve razor-sharp points, thrust in perfect horizontals straight for their prey.

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm blocks Jiangshi Squad's Hidden Daggers.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

The hunter is soon returning to his former self. Whatever his particular issue is, it comes in fits and starts, he doesn't seem able to maintain it. Nor does it seem to do his body any good, as he reverts back down, blood starts to drip from one of his nostrils, his teeth gritted against the pain of his body wrenching itself in and out of shape.

He's also seemingly used to the pain, as it doesn't stop him from deflecting some of the blades directed at him off of his own knives with the ring of metal on metal. Some manage to taste his flesh, but the majority of the stabs are wasted as he keeps the knives at bay.

Nimbly, the knife in one hand disappears back up his sleeve, another knife being drawn out. Though this one doesn't have the cool glint of metal reflecting the blue flames around him. No, this knife seems to refracts the light, shimmering like a prism.


He flicks out with the glass blade towards the nearest hopper, hopefully sinking it into their cold flesh. And should it lodge in them, he wrenches the blade, sudden and sharp, causing the fragile blade to break apart into splinters and shards, left sitting in the jiangshi's wound.

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm successfully hits Jiangshi Squad with Blaubart.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////                 ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/----===|=====--\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

While there are indeed six of the jiangshi stabbing at him, the hunter is proof that it's not the quantity of blades that counts, but the quality of the bladesmanship. Metal is deflected aside in cases, manages to pierce through the cassock in others, but ultimately the bulk of the blades fail to meet their mark -- and the jiangshi are flummoxed. Determined, they attempt to redouble their attacks, only to find themselves met with the flashing blade -- the reflective surface.

Arms are raised high, blocking their eyes from the prismatic blade. They shy away -- as if the transparent surface were kryptonite.

And the nearest hopper -shrieks- as the blade is sunk striaght into its flesh -- scarcely able to avoid it as it had before. The glass is twisted, dissembling into shards -- and the jiangshi furiously bats at its pierced flesh, making the agony even worse as the shards splinter into even smaller portions, embedding themselves into the unfortunate wounds.

The afflicted jiangshi backpedals away, arms flailing about.

But with the glass blade now clearly visible, the remaining five circle around. They swoop in from the left and the right -- wheeling an array of kicks to the shin, to the knee, to the waist. Percussive impacts, intending to pummel Grimm into submission as the nightmare reaper circles in lazy circles overhead.

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm dodges Jiangshi Squad's Strong Kicks.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/----===|======-\-------\0   Jiangshi Squad

The now useless handle of the glass blade is flung aside, having served its purpose. There's plenty of those where that one came from. Indeed, it served more than its desired function, it confirmed the strange reaction the creatures had earlier to the vial. Glass, not the smoke inside. That was different in Grimm's experience. And not unwelcome.

He nimbly dances away from the kicks being sent his way, dancing away and around the monsters. Beast, indeed. Injured and bleeding, he's fighting his best. And even now, those wounds are still slowly but surely sealing themselves closed, returning his strength drop by drop.

His quick movements through the underbrush come to a stop behind one of the jiangshi, his knife once more lashing out to taste undead flesh, the palm of his other hand on the pommel of the blade helping to drive it home with even more impact.

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm successfully hits Jiangshi Squad with Crushing Strike.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1   Jiangshi Squad

The shrieking jiangshi continues to hop about ineffectually, arms flailing out to their sides in a vain attempt to rid itself of the glass shards.
But in doing so, it momentarily forgets its surroundings, slamming headfirst into a tree.
It rebounds backwards, makes another hop, and slams into the tree again with a groan.
Third time's the charm, apparently: it recovers from the strike, and phases -through- the tree on its final attempt -- and the freed glass shards fall to the ground in its wake, no longer anchored in the body of the jiangshi.
And yet, the creature is far too terrified to return to the fight...

The five jiangshi recover from their strike, drawing back and away, tilting their talisman-adorned faces to track the hunter. Low moans emanate from the creatures as they extend their arms outward once more, hop-hop-hopping their way to follow him through the underbrush. The forest growth does not seem to inhibit their movement...

But the stabbing knife sure does, plunging clear through the nearest jiangshi.

And then it pins that jiangshi clear through to a -second- jiangshi, sticking the two together. A fluid like black bile thoroughly inundates the blade, spurting out in jets along the hunter's hands and arms. The pinned jiangshi's bodies stubbornly cling to the knife as he shoves them away -- putting the level of effort to retrieve it at a record high.

As the disabled jiangshi totter off to the side, the three remaining jiangshi pivot around upon their feet, swinging their arms about like windmills. When they strike, it is with intent to club the hunter about the head -- and batter him into submission for their Dark Lord overhead. Their agonized wails echo through the forest, clipped into strange and alien patterns by the trees' interference patterns.

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm blocks Jiangshi Squad's Stiff Arm Defense.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1   Jiangshi Squad

A hunter learns not to be too attached to his tools. Lose enough knives to acidic blood reptilians, or have them turned to rust by ancient undead, and you just learn to carry more knives. That's the wonderful thing about the smaller blades, you can keep a few tucked away. And so the blade is reliquished to the hopping vampires.

Hans goes to a knee, raising his arms over his head to take the majority of the blows which fall upon his extended limbs with all the impotence of a five year old throwing a tantrum.

Well, maybe not that much impotence, but the brother isn't going to let on that he's starting to flag a little. Even quick healing can only help so much.

Once the blows cease he rolls away from the vampires, coming to a halt a few feet away, back on one knee, leaves now stuck to his cassock after his little somersault through the underbrush. his hand tucked behind him, inside his cassock at the back of his belt.

With another of his wicked grins, he flicks his arm forward, another glass vial soaring through the air towards the remaining creatures. He certainly does like those.

This one cracks open at the feet of the jiangshi, not a black haze, this one is white. Nor does it block the senses.

As the white cloud billows across the creatures, it's bitter and cold as a mid-winter night. Colder than death. To the living it numbs and slows the movements, and even the undead would find the chill working down into their very bones, slowing and lagging their movements.

COMBATSYS: Jiangshi Squad endures Brother Grimm's Schneewittchen.

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  /                             ]
Brother Grimm    0/-------/--=====|=======\==-----\1   Jiangshi Squad

The windmilling jiangshi's arms batter against an ironclad defense, their wails perforated by the choppy rhythm of their colliding wrists and fists. They swing themselves back to a static position, rising back to their full hopping height, and start to advance again.

When Grimm whips forward with a glass vial, they instantly begin to withdraw -- though they are much slower to retreat, as the vial doesn't -quite- look like the object of their most primal fear.

Luckily for the Brother, though, the reflection isn't what he intended to weaponize, but the mist within. The white cloud blurs their sight, and even though they can sense the hunter moving around, they are powerless to stop it from permeating their bones, or to prevent it from slowing their movements.

Their wail adopts a desperate timbre as they find their limbs restricted. They will not be able to mount the assault with their own grievous bones locked in place.

But, as their muscles begin to freeze up, all but calcifying to their bones, their shriek grows so loud as to be overpowering.

And their blue flames shoot forth -- a thunderous boom welling up, blasting the white mist out of its path as it seeks to bowl Grimm over -- and through -- with cerulean fury blazing hot enough to blister the bark from the trees.

And just thirty feet away, two wingbeats flutter, stirring the leaves from the ground. And in the midst of the shadowed silhouette glare two vibrant red eyes, easily seven feet above from the ground -- and a mouth full of dagger-sharp teeth.

"My, my, my..."
A voice as smooth as silk, as refined as the eldest nobles of Italy.

"What grand deed has brought -you- here this evening, hunter?"

COMBATSYS: Jiangshi Squad can no longer fight.

[                      \\\\\\\\  <
Brother Grimm    0/-------/--=====|

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm blocks Jiangshi Squad's Imperial Decree.

[                       \\\\\\\  <
Brother Grimm    0/-------/-======|

It's lucky that Hans is already crouching, making himself a small target in the chaotic attack. He turns his face away from the approaching flames, shielding it with his arm.

It buffets against the cassock, searing at the cloth, and even reaching the garments and flesh beneath.

He endures the worst of the heat, close to the ground where the underbrush can take the brunt of the blow for him, and as it passes he slowly stands, turning towards the voice that speaks out to him.

He's battered and bruised, but he has his pride. Even his clothes are charred cinders, and the tattoo on his shoulder is almost completely visible now, centered on an old scar that looks like a bite mark.

At the accent, he slips into Italian. Much better than his Japanese, in fact, nearly fluent and only slightly marred by his German accent. If there's any complaint, he's a bit stuffy and formal, but an old nobleman might like that.

"Strange lights and dark rumors. It seems both were true." He rolls his shoulders, blue eyes casting about for what might be his best route of escape. He knows his limits, and he knows he's there. And this being, whatever he is, sets his teeth almost immediately on edge.\

COMBATSYS: Brother Grimm has ended the fight here.

As the cloud dissipates, the jiangshi begin to fall limp. Though, with their Dark Lord and Master present, the three most aggressive jiangshi lift their arms back to their stiff stance, and begin a series of long hops backwards, until they have all arrayed themselves in a steady line. Their bones creak, and their movements are shaky -- not to mention, their faces remain a frosty white from the aftereffects of the alchemical solution.

Their master rises -- hovering a foot from the ground, adorned in magnificent purple and gold finery. He arches a blond eyebrow -- one which is much too long for any human to have grown in their natural lifetime -- at the use of his mother tongue.

"Strange lights and dark rumors..." he repeats in Italian, an amused smirk on his cold blue face. "They have brought you so far from home. Surely, you belong back in the Old World, not here in the midst of all this turmoil and strife.

The keen edges of his cruelly curved wings gleam in the moonlight as he pivots, turning his side towards Grimm, while keeping his malevolent gaze locked upon his own. "And yet, you are no ordinary mortal. You fight with the ferocity of a cornered beast -- but not only that, the -weapons- of one. Perhaps I shall overlook this transgression... if you consider becoming a loyal citizen of Majigen."

The Dark Noble tears his gaze away from Grimm and the defeated jiangshi. In his sweep of the area, he finds the two jiangshi pinned together. The four which had been felled -- dashed through, and cut apart like saplings, still squirming about in the midst of the pathway. And all around... the warning lanterns, still humming a soft tune and still broadcasting a faint blue light.

And the circle -- incomplete.
The Jiangshi had not finished their task.
Their stick of pigment -- conveniently blocked from the noble's view, as he calmly scans the area.

Lest he not look too long, he continues, "It would be an excellent opportunity... to refine your skills. To atone for the grave crime of disrupting my minions' work here. Time grows short, you see..."

His scan of the area is almost complete. And if Grimm delays any further, the Blood Weaver will be back to looking right at Grimm -- with no opportunity for the embattled hunter to escape.
Or to further disrupt his plans.

"Lands in turmoil and strife are often where I am needed." The good brother spreads his hands just a little. "I am but His servant and I go where He calls me." The ways he says His and He leaves no doubt in the mind. Sanctimonious as the pious can be, they do often hold fast to their convictions when prodded. He stays where he stands as long as Jedah's eyes remain upon him. Making no move to advance upon him, but also not going into retreat.

As in everything. Timing is key.

As Jedah looks away, Grimm sees his opportunity. He doesn't know what powers this demon may have, but he doesn't seem keen on taking any risks. And so as the eyes are turned away, Jedah would hear the clink and crack of a few more glass vials breaking upon the ground.

Black smoke, billows where the hunter was once standing. And in about three different places besides that. But the hunter took his chance to bolt, and his hasty concealment of his true path would only stand up so long to a basic search. Quick is not careful, after all.

Though hopefully, he has enough of a lead and quick enough feet to get free of the woods, and perhaps find some reinforcements to the threat. It was not going to be something he could handle alone.


The word is uttered with a derisive tone, and followed by an even more derisive snort.

"If He had any sway here, would you have been blessed with the gift of eternal life? If He exists, He only gives His companions life to toy with their short and pathetic lives... He merely blesses them an eternity of oblivion, of -inconsequence-..."

He snorts again, crossing his arms. And he slowly begins to swivel his shoulders back to Brother Grimm...

And then he hears the tink, tink, tink of glass vials cracking upon the ground.

Eyebrows lower. And his right hand lashes out -- a motion mirrored by the bladed wing on his back, which stretches into an impossibly thin membrane, not unlike a prehensile cloak. Sweeping both hand and cloak-like wing to the right, the billowing smoke is immediately dissipated. There is no longer any doubt -- Hunter Grimm is not hiding within the most obvious of the smoke plumes.

Those blond eyebrows lower once again, lips parting to reveal his rows of daggersharp teeth.
He could follow. But exertion is beneath him -- a task better fit for his legions.

"Run along then, little man."
The wing returns to its former shape -- and while his right hand returns to a lounging position by his side, the index of his left hand stretches out into the distance.
Pointing at the stick of red pigment.

The remaining jiangshi take heed of the subverbal command, and begin hopping in that direction. In a few moments they will reach it -- and in a few more, their toil and torment will resume. It will take longer, now, with many of their number injured -- but perhaps they will be able to complete their labor all the same.

"Run," he reiterates, his silky-smooth voice echoing through the trees. "You've done nothing but delay the inevitable. Nothing to deter my grand plan to restore order to this chaotic maelstrom."

Log created on 18:56:24 10/16/2017 by Jedah, and last modified on 10:20:29 10/18/2017.