Shr1ke - A Curiosity and a Cat.

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Description: It is a tale as old as time. A traumatised monster made of blades and killing intent teams up with the world's strongest feline in order to save a drunk salaryman from unknown assailants in the dark.

Southtown at night is a dangerous place. All manner of dark and terrible beasts stalk the streets; from those all-too-human monsters who seek to prey on the weak, to the recent influx of supernatural horrors. Look to the glitz and glamour of certain fighting tournaments and it is easy to lose oneself in the bread and circuses provided; to forget that there are things out there going bump in the night.

For some, it is the only time they feel comfortable outside at all.

Shr1ke is good at moving quietly. For something so tall and so bladed, it is disturbing how softly she treads through the sidestreets and back alleys of Southtown. She had found the pressure of being outside in the full glare of the public eye difficult. Most looked at her with fear. Some with disgust. Few with admiration, having seen her fight in her public appearances. It was difficult to tell which was worse, but none of them made her feel good. All of them compounded the knowledge that she was separate now, pushed outside, apart.

But there was something going on in Southtown. Something she didn't understand completely, but she knew enough to know that it wasn't good. There were things out there which, near as she could tell, fed on pain and suffering.

Before the night was out, she was determined that there would be at least one less.

Predators of all sorts lurk in the shadows, lying in wait to take advantage of the underprivileged. Salarymen burning the midnight oil to finish the budgets on time. Less dutiful salarymen plundering their paychecks at the bars. Overstressed housewives working a second job just to make ends meet. If one of these people vanished, it might be a day or two before anyone even reports that they're missing.

And that doesn't sit right with a certain one-eyed cat.
Jubei is perched on the fire escape of a building, idly watching the streets for signs of danger. Homeless again -- the wife having torn up his only bedding in a fit of (justified) rage. The old cat retrieves a tin of sardines, working the key expertly with his non-opposable claws. One sardine is plucked from the tin -- dangled over his awaiting mouth.

And then a -most- peculiar shadow makes itself known, before vanishing again as it avoids the light.

Jubei snaps the sardine into his mouth.
He slips the satchel over his shoulder.
And then the only sign of his occupancy is the creaky, metallic shuddering of the now-vacant fire escape.

It would be difficult -- but not impossible -- to hear the feline's footsteps. The feline predator is exceptionally good at sneaking -- when he wants to be. And in this case, the nekomata's two tails are helping him to keep his balance as he creeps along the edge of the building providing shadow to Shr1ke. For the moment -- he is only following.

And then there will be a loud sound, interposed directly into Shr1ke's path.
The body of a drunk salaryman, collapsing practically face-first into the pavement. No sign of injury -- just a wrinkled white shirt, black slacks, and a tie thrown haphazardly over a shoulder.

Jubei's feline eyes watch Shr1ke from above, mindful of the long shadows cast by the moon.

Shr1ke is completely unaware of her tail; she is, apparently, not observant enough to notice the old cat watching her. The monstrous figure makes curious watching, that's for sure. The way she moves is very deliberate, graceful in the sense that there is no lost or wasted energy. Her every motion is carefully calculated. The blades erupting from every angle on her silhouette gleam and glimmer in the moonlight. She can't really fail to look anything but menacing.

The collapsing man, though, that gets her attention.

She steps towards him, carefully moving to pluck him up by the back of his jacket. Her claws slide into the material of his jacket carefully as she hoists him up to eye level. The jacket must be of pretty good construction, since it doesn't tear and she doesn't accidentally cut into the skin beneath.

There's not a noise from her as she opens up the front. He doesn't stir, either. Delicately, carefully, she begins rooting around - she's going to need to find this guy's wallet if she's going to get him home safe. Otherwise she'll have to drop him off at a hospital or police station just to make sure he eventually wakes up somewhere safe. What a hassle...

A crimson eye widens, high above.
Jubei cannot stop watching.
Or eating, as he flips another sardine into the air, only to snap it out of the air an instant later with his powerful jaws.
It's like popcorn, only... fishier.

He can tell from the way Shr1ke stopped that she does not plan to kill.
But he can tell from the way Shr1ke gets involved that she doesn't intend to leave the man alone, either.
Breathing a sigh, he shrugs out of his satchel. His oversized right paw wraps around the hilt of the sword protruding about his right shoulder. His eye narrows upon the wall nearest Shr1ke, as he focuses his chi.
He then stares at a point to the human porcupine's left.
And then he stares at a point a meter in front of her.

The bicolor cat closes his eye, and three hexagonal sigils appear at the appointed locations, painted in inky black, and bearing a three-toed paw in the center.

THRUM! The samurai cat appears in the first location, near to Shr1ke.

An instant later -- THRUM! The cat appears beside Shr1ke.

Another moment -- and the points of three razor-sharp claws appear directly in front of Shr1ke.
The pressure applied to Shr1ke's wallet-seeking hand sends a clear message -- Stop.
And the eye of the cat is narrowed in resolute strength.

The feline's mechanical claws -- attached to the sleeve of Jubei's bright orange jacket -- are easily the size of sickles. Their points and the bladed edges are turned away from the man.

But he still has his right paw on the hilt of a sword.

"Evenin'. Pardon me for judgin' off appearances."

The cat's not budging a centimeter.

It isn't until the feline appears at the first location that Shr1ke realises anything at all is up. She immediately begins to move to respond- drawing the man back and away from the perceived danger, only--

Her arm is stopped, as though it were nothing.

This is a new experience for her. She is not, by any means, undefeated. In fact, in all her major fighting world appearances, she has lost. But she is not used to someone capable of moving so much faster than her. The woman's speed is one of her greatest assets, and for once she understands how it must appear for those others when she pushes herself to the limit; she must have seemed as though she were moving in slow motion as far as the strange cat-like being was concerned.

More, she can't... move her arm. Not casually. Again, being out-powered is not, in itself, unheard of... but the amount of strength displayed by the smaller warrior in front of her is, impressive.

In other words, his paws give her pause.

When she speaks, her voice is like rusty iron being scraped with a knife, a harsh rasp with a guttural undercurrent to it.

"You... are not human."

A beat, as the utter pointlessness of such an obvious statement is given a few seconds to sink in for both of them.

"State your intention or I will be forced to assume you wish to initiate hostilities."

The words are very clipped, very severe; the drunk salaryman dangles between the pair of them, caught between the much smaller feline warrior and the bristling blades of the mechanical menace. Her bright red eyes, unblinking, stare down to meet the cat's gaze. This is, not what she had expected. She'd heard, and seen, all sorts of strange things - but Jubei does not meet the criteria of the kind of monster she was expecting to encounter, and the speed and strength on display here...

Part of her knows that she is outclassed. And yet, that very knowledge has her wanting to strike. The woman's muscles tense beneath all that steel and strange, dark material; coiled and ready to snap into action instantaneously. What secret arts does this strange warrior hold? What could she learn?!

Whiskers twitch.
Twin tails protrude outward, 30 degrees from vertical.
And the hooded cat lowers his chin in response.

"Them's fancy words you're usin' there."

Jubei prefers not to unleash his full speed at the start of a conflict. It lets his opponents know what he's capable of. But it also raises the bar -- and Jubei would rather not keep that pace for an entire battle.

The pressure on Shr1ke's blades eases.
The cat maintains his grip on the sword slung over his back.

"My intentions are to let this nice man nurse his hangover as he sees fit. How's that sit with yours?"

Shr1ke's head tilts to the side, like a confused dog... or a bird studying prey. Either description fits, really.

As the pressure eases, though, the woman steps backwards two quick paces. The man continues to dangle from her grasp, his jacket flapping around wildly in a rather undignified manner as she places him, as much as possible, behind her. She hasn't missed the sword. She's not particularly intimidated by swords as a general rule; particular fighting styles don't tend to mean much in the abstract. The strength and speed already displayed, though?

Yes, this might be a cat, but it is clearly a cat worth being intimidated by.

"I will return him to a secure location." She states, and, the longer she speaks, the easier it becomes to discern the voice beneath the rasping; feminine, definitely. Strange, lilting accent. Japanese is clearly not her native tongue, even if she is fluent in it.

"In the open he will only draw more attention. Further information is required."

The cat nods, allowing Shr1ke to draw herself and the man away from his threat -- though a portion of his feline mouth lifts in amused surprise at the way in which she treats the man so delicately. His tails slacken -- swishing about in sinuous curves from side to side.

His extended paw reaches for an inside fold of his jacket. His right paw is allowed to hang limply at his side, no longer clutched around the sword hilt.

"Fair 'nuff. I'll keep watch."

He frowns slightly as he retrieves a half-empty sardine can, dripping with fluid that runs down his long sleeve. The terrible, oversized claws are wielded just as expertly as the murderous spines protruding from Shr1ke, seeming less like mechanisms and more like the feline was born with them.

But his frown is temporary, as he raises his paw and spears a sardine.

"You're pretty lucky," he starts -- his gaze sliding over to the drunken salaryman. "You almost had two warriors in the shadows fightin' to see who gets to save ya."

With a quick glance to either side, the orange-coated feline steps to follow Shr1ke.
"It's dangerous here at night, now'days."

"... Acceptable."

It is a simple enough word, but she can't quite keep the confusion from her voice. She wasn't sure what she'd been expecting but it wasn't that.

Delicate is a strange descriptor to apply to such a tall form bedecked with so many sharp pointy things, but in actual fact it is very fitting. Shr1ke moves swiftly, but with perfect precision. She does not cause any undue harm, and she removed the salaryman's wallet with a surgeon's delicacy. Flipping it open, she glances down, and then back to the feline.

"It is not far."

The wallet is replaced, and immediately she takes off at a dead sprint. She has long legs, and the blades about her body rotate or retract, giving her a sleek, almost streamlined appearance as she darts down alleys, leaps fences, and generally streaks noiselessly through the night like a flung shuriken; all blades and deadly potential.

"I apologise if my earlier statement was rude." The hellish rasp comes as she leads the way; confident that the cat will be able to keep up with her. Hopefully that confidence is not misplaced, since she isn't looking over her shoulder to check. "I did not mean any offense. I was ... unaware of the existence of, entities, such as yourself."

The words are oddly faltering. She's groping around for some way to figure out where she can place Jubei in her understanding of the world, and she's obviously trying to do it without being rude, but... but social situations are HARD for her, and this one is made even more complex by his particular physiology. Is this what people feel like when they try to hold a conversation with her without mentioning the knives?

Jubei isn't... sure what he expected either, really.
But he still wants to finish his sardines.
So he pops another one into his mouth.
And just when he's about to ask if Shr1ke or the drunken gentleman would care for one...

She's tucked the wallet back, surprisingly. And they're off.

Jubei might be expected to run like a cat, but no -- he runs kind of like a samurai, if said samurai were to be lugging sleeves that look like they weigh fifty pounds apiece. His one claw cradles the mostly-empty can of sardines, while the other trails along behind him as he sprints to keep up with SHr1ke. His running is quite a bit louder, with sharpened nails clicking on the concrete with each hurried step. Though he lags a good ways behind at first, he's able to close the gap after a few seconds.

"Aww, heck. I didn't mean none either. I just try and know who I'm dealin' with before I start takin' actions that can't be taken back."

The cat is nimble, as can be seen when he jumps on top of a bike rack in the street, rather than slip sideways to avoid it as the tall Shr1ke had.

"Entities like cats, or entities like talking cats with swords?"
He masks his amusement by downing another sardine.
"I ain't never seen anyone like you either though, if y'don't mind my sayin'. Everyone's got a story, right?"

"Yes. Everyone has a story."

That... is the end of the conversation for the remainder of the run. Partly this is because it is a short run, as Shr1ke had said. Partly, it is because the monstrous woman is left thinking about the truth of those words. There is a story to her. There is a story to him, too, no doubt. There is even a story to the Salaryman and his drink-until-you-are-comatose lifestyle. Everyone has a story. She just wished she knew what hers was.

When they reach the apartment building, Shr1ke deposits the man on the inside of the front door. She's not going to go skulking around the interior, or fiddling around with locks; that sort of thing is... a step too far. He can wake up here and assume he managed to get himself most of the way home before his drunkenness took him out of the picture entirely. Now, though, she is left to consider the cat.

Turning, slowly, those burning red eyes of hers take him in for a long moment before she finds her voice again. It is softer this time; the tearing of paper, rather than the rasping of metal on metal.

"I would like to hear your story." She says, at last. "I am willing to share what I know of my own, if you would like. But most of that is ... gone, now. It is unlikely to be a fair trade."

She can't shake the feeling that all this is important, somehow. It can't just be coincidence that brought her into contact with such a strange being, can it? This has to be bound up with her own predicament, with the tournament, or... something. A piece so odd can't belong to another puzzle entirely.

The orange-clad cat slows to a stop as soon as his many-bladed companion does -- even as the dizzied and drunk man slumps giddily against the door frame. His stop is -- as one would expect from a cat -- graceful with a minimum of ruffled fur.

As Shr1ke tends to the man, he finishes off what's left of his sardines. He's tossing the can into a nearby recycle bin when Shr1ke turns to him with a honest and plainly stated question -- one that causes his left ear to twitch as he regards her with an insightful smile.

"Well... this old cat's not got much to tell, t'be honest."

He hops up onto the guardrail, not far from the trashcan. Balancing perfectly, he nonetheless rests his claws on the metal, curling the blades around it.

"Me and my brother started off doin' odd jobs for odd people. Turned into a long-term security gig. One day, I lost my brother. Next day, met some nice people, did a few things together. Everyone wants to save the world, right? Heh, that was us."

He draws in his breath, nodding contentedly like any feeble old man might.

"Got married, had a kid... Everything was good."
His expression sobers.
"And then it got turned ta hell. But I won't trouble you with the details."

Instead, he returns to smiling, such as it is.
"Had a bit of a fallin' out with the missus lately. An' now I'm here, tryin' to find purpose to my life again."

He tilts his chin downward, just slightly enough to signal interest.

And yet, he doesn't ask -- he simply prompts. Because if Shr1ke cannot or doesn't want to talk, he certainly won't want to force her.

Shr1ke listens. Intently. She gives Jubei every last scrap of her attention, and it can in fact feel a little... overwhelming. She doesn't take her eyes off him, doesn't so much as twitch a muscle, until he is finished. It answers a lot, but not nearly enough. The biggest hole is the most obvious - was he, always, a cat? But... she doesn't press him, for much the same reason that he does not wish to press her. There is a kind of respect, there. Two injured souls, each bearing the scars to the other.

He gives her just the barest hint of the outline of his life, and that alone is enough.

"There was a fire."

Four words which completely fail to paint the picture of that moment. The horror of the inferno into which she had been born. The scent of burning flesh, the furnace-heat and chemical fumes. The material of her suit burning, boiling, melting into skin. The moment of terrified realisation when she saw herself for the first time. The glimpse of that horrific face in shattered glass.

The blades rotate back out of her, sliding into their usual configuration with the barest whisper of sharpened steel. She twitches, a sudden, jerky motion of the head, and then she continues, her voice as calm and cold as a razor.

"My, designation, is Shr-one-ke." She says, "I believe this to be a reference to a shrike, a kind of bird which captures its prey on thorns and tears them to pieces."

She gestures expansively, to indicate the vast array of weaponry jutting from her body.

"I do not know who I was, but I know I was not always, this. My, instincts, tell me to kill. For instance, they designate you as a capable and unknown variable. I have an, urge, to attack you in order to classify that variable further."

There is something very strange about being told such in that calm, semi-mechanical voice. Especially as she continues, with the barest quiver of emotion trembling beneath the harsh exterior.

"I have no wish to kill other living beings. I suspect that I was intended to gather information on fighters of various sorts. It is my hope that by investigating such individuals I may uncover more information about my origins."

Shr1ke makes a good listener. And perhaps he may fill the details in for her, at some point. But for a warrior with a number of scars from battle lurking just beneath a sea of fluffy fur, perhaps the past is not so comfortable to be sharing with every stranger that comes along.

But, insofar as body language goes, Jubei is leaving himself far more vulnerable from a physical perspective than from a psychological one. He leaves himself open -- and gives the impression that if Shr1ke had wanted to strike him, that perhaps he would allow it; his monstrous, super-sized paws would only need to stay where they are.

But he is pleased that it doesn't come to that.
His twin tails swish back and forth, their sinuous undulating suggesting a curiosity with the young injured soul's words.

A fire.
His crimson eye dilates somewhat, regarding the shifting metal with mute admiration. To think that he can wield the claws of his hands and feet as an expert -- and the Dream Blades at his back. And to think that his blades number -fewer- than Shr1ke's by a power of ten or more.

"You fight that impulse, on a daily basis," he acknowledges. "It's what separates us from mindless beasts, who kill when they are hungry. Civilization suppresses instinct, for better or worse."

His words may seem judgmental, but his demeanor is not overtly so -- if anything, he presents himself more like an old man might -- curious, and insightful.

"I, for one, appreciate your restraint, though. Some folks might've put you in a box, but you gotta make your own way."

He smiles, afterwards.
"I don't think it'd be a good idea for me to start a tussle right now, though. Lately, near 'bout everything I cut falls to pieces."

"... and that would be terrible ..."

The words hang in the air between them for a long moment. Does she even really mean them? She has thought about death a great deal, of course. Quite aside from the fact that she was clearly designed to kill, her own death would mean an end to the constant feeling of alienation. It would be a final conclusion to her story, and it would be... over. In many ways it would be a relief. Whatever dark designs may have been in mind when she was created, they could not come to fruition if she was no more.

But, selfishly, she continued to cling to life out of hope that she could build something better. Call it civilisation. Call it naivety. She wasn't sure which was more accurate.

"To tell the truth, I DO want to fight you." She says, at last. "Not just my ... instincts, either. You are fast. Perhaps faster than me. That could be ... instructive."

Those burning red eyes turn towards the sky, as she finally stops staring so relentlessly at the tiny feline warrior.

"Also." She adds, "I have never fought a cat before. I do not think my, designers, included as much anatomical knowledge on your physiology. It would require on-the-fly adaptation which I would find quite stimulating."

Because that's not a creepy thing to say at all.

The silence does not go unappreciated -- or uninterrupted, as the ancient cat heaves a heavy sigh, allowing both his twin tails and his snout to hang low.

He has been through a great deal of emotional turmoil, and ending the life of someone clearly destined for greater works is not going to help him one bit.

The melancholy only faces when Shr1ke begins to speak again. Not to ask him to slay her, to end her pain... but to admit an honest desire for a test. A battle.

A single crimson eye is turned towards her -- searching for the truth in her words.
It would be so simple for him to peel the eyepatch back -- to unleash the Sekigan that could find the truth without so much effort.
But where is the fun in that?

The crimson iris narrows to a slit, as the cat rocks forward, slipping down from his guardrail.
"A cat?"
His whiskers twitch, mirth curling his lips into a grin.
"Who said anything about fighting a cat?"

Twin tails dart back and forth behind him as he tilts his head quietly to the side. His long-sleeved paws droop down to his knees as he watches, gauging the nature of the challenge.

"The swords will stay sheathed."
The cat smiles -- as both tails dip down dramatically.
"And your first step is to catch me."

With one mighty leap, he sails towards the nearest alleyway, and hits the ground running.
Another split second, and Jubei takes to the air again.
But when he lands this time, he is running on the wall of the alleyway. The narrow confines are just barely wide enough to accomodate a dump truck, if it were to back in -- but it should be more than enough room for the two fighters to strut their stuff.
If Shr1ke can catch him...

COMBATSYS: Jubei has started a fight here.

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Jubei            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke has joined the fight here.

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Shr1ke           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Jubei

Shr1ke was not lying when she said that her instincts were to attack the other warrior. Thus, when he moves, she follows. It is as though she were always ready to do so, and it is just now that the killing machine has been unleashed; allowed to fulfil the function for which it has so clearly been designed.

Even so, just as she had suspected, the cat puts on a burst of speed that is impossible for her to match at her usual loping run. Even as the blades once more swivel into their 'streamlined' configuration, she remains paces behind the dashing feline. Those unblinking red eyes are once more focused entirely on him. He has chosen a confined space; exactly the kind of conditions that the long-limbed, bladed warrior usually found to her advantage.

Talons rake into the brickwork as she takes off from the ground and, impossibly, that massive hulk of metal and death tenses against the wall. Her usual, soundless, approach is abandoned now - the crunch of mortar under her feet fills the space.

And then she is taking off.

Shr1ke takes to the air like her namesake, but where the shrike is a tiny bird, she descends like some terrifying, inescapable net. Arms spread wide, she aims to do precisely as Jubei had challenged her - grab him, catch him, and hold him close.

Against most warriors she would be utterly confident in her ability to pull this off... but now, she really had to hope that the power in her legs would be enough to close that distance before Jubei slipped out of her range completely!

COMBATSYS: Jubei takes no action.

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Shr1ke           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Jubei

COMBATSYS: Jubei blocks Shr1ke's Spiked Reverie.

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Shr1ke           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Jubei

The cat's hooded garment ripples as he dashes along the side of the brickwork -- for as he runs along the wall, he will need not only the claws of his feet, but those large mechanical behemoths at the ends of his sleees. Even still, his motions allow him to stick to the brickwork like glue, with only the faint tapping of points into the brick and mortar to signal his passing.

All the better for him to hear the impromptu opponent gaining on him from behind. His tails swish behind him for balance. And his whiskers twitch -- nose detecting the unique scent signature of the being chasing him.

A hard push off the wall, at the last instant, sends Jubei spinning away from the wall like a rifled bullet heeding the subtle suggestion of gravity. Deadly blades slice perilously close to his cloth sleeves, conjuring to the ear a staccato rhythm over fine threads of fabric.

But the rhythm will be changed considerably by the introduction of a second instrument -- the sliding steel of Jubei's claws, as it runs down the edges of the nearest blades. The cat's muscles can be felt pressing against the blades away from him -- Shr1ke's left arm pried upward, her right arm shoved down, by the opposing claws.

But even then, the rotational momentum wins out. With a grunt of effort, the spinning Jubei pries himself free of the grip, just as surely as a cat ought to. The fur of his twin tails practically teases at Shr1ke's face as they flit past.

The cat snaps out of his roll in mid-air, landing on the plastic lid of a trash dumpster. The lid starts to crumple, dampening his fall -- but before he can really test the limits of the flimsy material, he's already shifting his weight to spring back.

"Mm, mm~" he grunts in approval, twisting about to reorient his snout towards Shr1ke. His claws rake towards her in a wide arc -- a strike intended to test her own resolve and adaptability, sweeping towards her middle.

COMBATSYS: Jubei successfully hits Shr1ke with Random Strike.

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Shr1ke           0/-------/---====|-------\-------\0            Jubei

In some ways, Shr1ke is pleased that she had not completely misread the situation earlier. In other ways, her every instinct is screaming at her that this is NOT how these exchanges are supposed to go!

Jubei's reversal of her hug is, startling. Nobody has ever attempted to defuse the attack like that before, and even more surprisingly, it works! He's able to hold her blades at bay long enough that he can slip free from inside them with minimal effort. She struggles to keep up with his movements, and that alone is a delight. Her heart is pounding, her blood is up -

And just as she starts to try and step backwards, out of reach of those claws, they tear across her stomach as though it were the easiest thing in the world. Sparks fly from the clash of metal on metal, and the dark material binding it all together is torn asunder to reveal skin; human skin, dark, and now bloodied, but skin nonetheless.


She doesn't let it end there, though. He's slashed at her, she has to keep up the pressure. Stepping forwards, her fingers flex and those scalpel-sharp blades spring free from beneath her fingernails as she does her best to draw attention there -

Only to suddenly pirouette and aim to plant her heel against the side of the cat. He's proven his strength and speed beyond doubt; that initial strike hurt as much as any single blow she had ever taken, and it didn't seem like any great effort on his part... but just how good is he at reading a sudden change in style?

COMBATSYS: Jubei full-parries Shr1ke's Light Kick!!

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Shr1ke           0/-------/----===|==-----\-------\0            Jubei

Jubei has engaged in sparring matches many a time. He knows that blades do in fact cut the skin -- and he goes to great pains to ensure that the pain is not as great as it could be. For the swords on his back are sharp enough to cut through any known material -- and even the claws on his sleeves bear lethal edges. But as soon as those edges give the resistance of flesh, he withdraws -- unwilling to add disembowelment to the list of troubles miring the enigmatic Shr1ke.

A twist of his leg, a contortion of the body, is all it takes for the feline to withdraw; even aerial combat proves no particular impediment to his flexible motions. It would be, in a word, fascinating to nearly any observer. But his aim is not to impress but rather to meet the challenge offered to him -- and prepare for a counterattack.

His ears twitch with the sound of steel helixes returning to their preferred length. That slight creak, barely noticeable to human ears, is like an alarm klaxon to the feline. A warning -- enough to cause him to crane his head in kind.

And then his eye detects a quite different sound, the soft shifting of material as the spike-laden lady twists about to kick him.

The feline's spine curls, claws retracting mostly into their sleeves, with only 10% of their length revealed. It is in that 10% that the heel strikes -- a triple-edged blunt surface at the terminus of the cat's sleeve, a grip that prevents the heel from sliding to or fro, cancelling its use as anything other than a bludgeoning attack against the claw device.

And then the claw begins to fall away -- as the cat has let go of the weapon, the sleeve fabric itself being the only means of attachment for that one moment.

The cat wobbles from the shift in balance.
"Impressive..." is his answer, delivered in a low tone.
And yet, the master is in control.

For the cat slashes with the claws of his other sleeve -- aiming not for a raking strike this time, but rather an open, twisted hand -- one that will apply pressure but not deep enough to cut -- as he tries to cup his arm around Shr1ke.

Should he manage to ensnare her, he would whip around in a quick half-circular motion, uncoiling from his curled-up position to hurl Shr1ke at the further of the two walls.

And if that were to take place as he plans -- he would kick off of the wall nearest him.
And slam the side of his claws into Shr1ke, as if she were a volleyball to be spiked back to the ground.

COMBATSYS: Jubei successfully hits Shr1ke with Rising Phoenix EX.

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Shr1ke           1/------=/=======|====---\-------\0            Jubei

There is a moment of triumph for Shr1ke as she feels her heel connect with something - except, in the very next instant, her plans unravel as though they were a ball of yarn. Jubei demonstrates in an instant that he is no mere prodigy; his power and speed are matched with an intense mastery of the art of combat. In that instant, she does not doubt that this is indeed one of the warriors who saved the world. How had she not heard of him? A warrior this powerful... he could reshape the world if he wanted to.

But he didn't want to. He wanted his wife, his daughter.

The taller fighter slams into the wall with enough force to crush brickwork, and before she has even begun to process the fact that her blades are lodged in the building, she is being slammed down into the ground, where she bounces. She would not be a light target even if she wasn't wrapped in all that metal, but even so, she hits the ground hard enough to lift again a good foot before she finally comes to a halt.

When she does, she rolls onto one knee, head bowed, and for the first time, her breathing is audible. Blades are bent and broken, her breath wheezing like a billows. She could still fight if she had to, but in just two moves he has beaten her so hard her head is spinning.

"To think that such power exists in this world..."

Her voice is hoarse with emotion as she forces herself back to her feet. Interestingly, the black material over the slash in her stomach has already sealed up; the suit she's wearing is not something that she could just cut away from herself... no doubt those blades would somehow fix themselves over time as well. Just one more mystery about the strange fate that has befallen her.

"Thank you for indulging me." She says, and, suddenly, she... laughs? It is a disconcerting noise, the sound of ball bearings caught in a washing machine as she croaks out her amusement. She, doesn't remember the last time she laughed, but she does so now, as she forces her bruised and battered form into a low bow.

"I will never again think of someone as being as harmless... as a kitten..."

Is that a joke? Did she just discover a sense of humour?!

COMBATSYS: Shr1ke just stands there, like a scary statue.

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Shr1ke           1/------=/=======|====---\-------\0            Jubei

The old cat has seen through many challenges -- scars he wears like medals on himself. His lost eye, the socket memorialized with a patch. The few scars across his body, thankfully hidden by cloth. And as he springs back and away from the wall, landing nimbly upon the pavement, he lifts both of his voluminous sleeves high to either side.

And it seems he has a new medal: the threads nearly worn through upon one of his sleeves, frayed to the point at a sharp tug might tear them right apart.

And yet, he does not look at his sleeve, but rather at the fallen Shr1ke.
His first look is towards the wound from earlier -- his whiskers twitching as he attempts to detect the scent.

He finds himself searching harder than he should have needed to.

"There is no upper limit on power," he cautions, observing the bent blades, as if expecting them to bend back to their initial forms while he is watching. "Power, itself... can escalate to infinity. You have been given power -- and rather than succumb to it, becoming enslaved by it -- you control it well."

Thanks are given to him.... accompanied by a disorienting laugh.
And yet, the One-Eyed Twin Lotus finds himself laughing as well -- though a bit more softly.

"Kittens -are- rather ferocious," he agrees with a nod.
He returns the bow, as difficult as it may be to see upon the short feline form.
"It was my pleasure. I am glad that my concerns towards your well-being may have been unfounded."

He bows again -- and almost as an afterthought, he raises one sleeved paw.

"I forgot to answer, in my rudeness -- my name is Jubei. It was a pleasure to meet you, Shr-one-ke."
Another abbreviated bow.
"I am sure our paths will cross again."

And with three nimble springboards from one wall to the other, the cat ascends to the roofline -- presumably to resume his friendly neighborhood patrol.

Log created on 10:08:29 01/28/2018 by Shr1ke, and last modified on 03:07:10 01/29/2018.