Description: Shortly after receiving his 'wristwatch' from Wolfgang Krauser in Castle Strolheim, Valkenhayn R. Hellsing - recently restored to a younger form by his Mistress - tracks down one specific individual amongst the list of World Warrior competitors: Jubei. What better opponent to sharpen his own skills on, than the One-Eyed Twin Lotus?
The past few days have been confusing - to say the least - for Valkenhayn R. Hellsing. Madam Rachel, realizing that the troubled times that lay ahead were no place for a man of his age, had led him into a bizarre device held - in secret - within one of the many spires around the Estate... the Chroniker of Eternity, created by a Magus of Time known as 'Zuthral Bernard'. Stood on a platform in the middle of the room full of gears, pulleys, and levers, the aged manservant disappeared as decades of life were rewound in both his body /and/ mind... what was left standing, when the process was complete, was Valkenhayn the Legend of his youth.
Not quite returned to those savage, bloodthirsty days spent alongside Relius Clover as an Immortal Breaker - Rachel was wise enough to not turn back the clock /that/ far - but rather a man only recently in the service of her father, Clavis Alucard.
And still believing that Vampire Lord who he had sworn a lifetime of service to was alive. Even if the Lycanthrope had fully understood the effects of that arcane process - his memories of the past several decades being wiped away in an instant, returned to some less-polished, less-professional version of himself - there was no way he could have rejected the offer.
It was his duty, as always, to serve. And Madam Rachel had deemed that it was in this way that he could best serve the interests of her House.
Passed on the invitation that was sent to the Vampiress, Valkenhayn had made his way to Castle Strolheim - hidden deep in the mountains of Germany - without truly understanding the nature of his task... there he met the Nobleman, Wolfgang Krauser, who had seemed rather intrigued by his current state. Given a wristwatch with the names and locations of other 'candidates', he had been shown out of those illustrious halls by a bizarrely-dressed man with a cape around his left forearm... 'Blood', or something like that.
The majority of the names contained within the watch's database meant nothing... but there was one that struck a note of recognition within the foggy mind of the werewolf...
Jubei. He /knew/ a Jubei. Perhaps if he found that man for his first fight, he might also learn something more about the current state of things... an ironic reversal of roles, considering the discussion the older Valkenhayn had with the One-Eyed Twin Lotus, upon /his/ recent return to Castle Alucard. Another memory that the butler cannot recollect... as far as he's concerned, Yuuki Terumi is still trapped in the Boundary, and all is well.
As he walks through a mountain pass, following both the direction stated on the face of his watch - and his own keen sense of smell - there are two phrases that stick in his mind, echoing over and over in his head.
'And you spoke of an oath. The day you can remember those words is the day you are to return home. Not a moment sooner.'
The words of Madam Rachel Alucard; the last thing she had said to him, before he was transported away from the Castle. What had she meant by that? And why would she not allow him to see Master Clavis; particularly since his last memory prior to that point was the Vampire Lord requesting his presence?
'I was expecting your Mistress, not her dog. Interesting; the 'Sagacious Gray Wolf' doesn't seem quite so gray these days, hmmm?'
Wolfgang Krauser's reaction to Valkenhayn R. Hellsing being ushered into his massive, high-ceilinged meeting hall... 'Sagacious Gray Wolf'? An odd monicker - one he had never heard before - considering the deep chestnut brown colour of his hair /and/ fur... and the fact that the youthful, less-refined Lycanthrope could never be considered 'sagacious'... no, he was still learning his manners, attempting to unlearn what he had in the time spent as a ruthless savage.
He is pulled out of his thoughts by a familiar scent upon the wind, and a beeping from the wristwatch to notify him that the man he is seeking out - the closest thing Valkenhayn might have to a friend on this realm or any other - is close. Rather than continue tracking him, he simply stops in his place - in the middle of a wide trail cutting it's way through the pass - and sniffs the air one final time.
"Jubei. It's me."
It is not a shout, simply a loud, determined utterance which carries far in the crisp, noiseless air of the Strolheim Mountains. Rather than the usual smooth, cool tones of the elder Lycanthrope, his voice has a certain growl to it - a roughness around the edges that has yet to be smoothed away with decades and decades of service to the Alucards... a vitality and barely-contained wolfish side that speaks to the passage of time, recently reversed.
Jubei has been without a home for a long, long time. A Class S Bounty is a liability to any place he might call a home, and the NOL has eyes everywhere.
And apparently, Strolheim has more eyes than that, for an envelope was left on Jubei's favored seat, at an izakaya on the north side of Yokohama, for the one moment he decided to get up and walk around.
That envelope is why he's here in Strolheim now.
And it also explains the curious wristwatch he keeps squinting at with one crimson eye.
The wristwatch dangles from one of his tails, arched so as to suspend the device in front of his face. His whiskers twitch in frustration; both his sleeved paws are wrapped around a large styrofoam mug of piping-hot coffee (heavily inundated with milk, because of course). He can tell that it's beeping. But he can't figure out why Valkenhayn's name is getting larger.
He's about to throw the beeping nuisance into a pocket, at the time he hears a familiar -- and yet, -young- -- voice to his side. The bicolor cat looks to the sound of the voice -- and then the watch's notification makes a bit more sense.
"... Valkenhayn R. Hellsing, you sly ol' dog! Lookin' awfully spry, compared to the last time we spoke!"
The cat takes a sip of his coffee, before striding forward to close the gap between himself and his good friend.
"This darn thing -told- me you were nearby, but I thought it was broken. ... Guess not, right? I suppose that means you got invited to this test of strength too... which leaves me with one question."
The wily cat grins. His hands are still occupied -- it's harder to one-hand a coffee cup without opposable thumbs -- but he lifts the watch up with his prehensile tail.
"How do you shut off the damn noise from this thing?"
One of the fringe benefits of the recent transformation is that any NOL agents or independent bounty hunters, out searching for a 'gray wolf' or utilizing the posted photographs, might pass by the younger Lycanthrope without realizing he was the very man with $360,000.00 on his head.
As Jubei makes his presence known, a wolfish, tooth-baring grin crosses the youthful face of Valkenhayn R. Hellsing - accompanied with a slight nod towards the feline warrior.
While his fellow World Warrior contestant speaks, the Lycanthrope's mind is still considering the numerous changes that seem to have taken place in this world since he were last here. /Everything/ seems different... except Jubei who, aside from not being clad in the samurai armour which he remembers him frequently wearing, looks just as he would expect.
"Same as ever, my friend."
Why has everyone been suggesting that he seems different? As far as the Alucard's servant is concerned, he hasn't changed at all... well, he's certainly better dressed than he did as an Immortal Breaker, and possessing a long, brown ponytail instead of the short spiky hair he once did, but... Jubei isn't the first one to suggest that he seems more youthful than he ought to. Then comes the comment about him being invited to Castle Strolheim, which elicits a low chuckle before he replies.
"Not I. Rachel received an invitation, and saw fit to pass it along to me..."
These words are accompanied by a minor furrowing of his brow, as yet another question pops into his head that he hadn't previously considered; why did Rachel Alucard receive an invitiation and not her far more powerful father, Clavis? Why was she the one to pass it along to him, considering the fact that he /technically/ serves the Vampire Lord and not his daughter?
The noise emitted by the wristwatch had been annoying the Lycanthrope as well; particurly with his hyper-sensitive hearing, it's been almost maddening ever since it began beeping to alert him that Jubei was nearby. A pointless thing, considering his own nose would have led him wherever he needed to go - perhaps a bit slower, yes, but certainly less bothersome than this computerized pinging sound.
"These devices seem more of an annoyance than anything else. I never had any issues tracking my prey, but then I suppose these humans lack our keen senses..."
His gruff voice is filled with a noticeable derision towards the native species of this realm. Among all the places he'd walked, he'd never met anything as weak and helpless as the human race - and even the thought of their frailty brings out that killer, predator's instinct in him.
"I would throw this damned thing away, if it didn't mean disqualification. Apparently I'm meant to represent House Alucard, and I would hate to disappoint Lord Clavis or Madam Rachel... particularly after the second chance the Vampire granted me."
Even with the slow realization that something isn't /quite/ right, it's clear that Valkenhayn still believes the Vampire Lord - who spared his life after defeating him in battle - is still alive back at the Alucard Estate. But so much in /this/ realm is radically different from the 'earth' that he remembers, as though years worth of changes had occured while he was... doing what?
Certainly his new, domestic duties around the Castle had not occupied him so much that he would have missed decades of history unfolding on the earthrealm...
"Perhaps once we begin our business here..." he states with a sharp glint in his cold, blue irises - an oddly dangerous look that hasn't crossed over his eyes in quite some time. It seems that not only has the physical body of the Lycanthrope been returned to a more youthful state, but his mind as well... a lust for battle he had tried so hard for so many years to ignore, or maintain control of, has been restored by the Chroniker of Eternity.
"The noise will cease? At the very least, it'll be drowned out by the sound of battle, for a small time..."
Crossing his arms over his chest, the werewolf's head is held high and proud as he stares down across the distance towards his feline friend; a small, self-assured smirk crosses his expression as he tilts his head to one side, regarding Jubei in silence for a few moments before his voice rumbles out with a question.
"So what do you say, Jubei? Care to show Herr Krauser what /we're/ capable of, before he's inundated with footage from lesser warriors?"
It's hard for Jubei to miss the differences in his dear friend's disposition. It's relatively easy for him to realize that he's been rewound in time, to an earlier state. And when he speaks of Clavis in the present tense...
Well, a smile creeps up on the feline's mouth, in between the occasional sip of coffee as he listens.
The watch continues to beep incessantly on the watch suspended in front of him. Even as Valkenhayn mentions the sound ceasing for a short time. "Short? Pff. Can you do -anything- quickly?" With a good-natured snort, he sees that the blinking light is oriented towards one section -- and with a single claw from his voluminous sleeves, he reaches up to prod at the nearest button.
"... Huh." he says, as the sound ceases. "Guess we had to be close."
His crimson eye flicks back to Valkenhayn, a sigh expelling from his nostrils. He seems pleased, if for no other reason, that the werewolf's youthful vigor has been restored -- he can only assume that it took a feat of Boundary-skipping much like the one that restored his own mental faculties.
He's even more pleased that his friend will be the first of many opponents. "... I suppose. If it's for the -honor- of House Alucard." The samurai cat takes another sip of his coffee, finding a boundary wall upon which to set the cup.
Considering the manner in which the apparently time-displaced werewolf speaks of Rachel, he asks, "Oh, how -is- Lady Alucard doing?"
Lady Alucard -- not Miss Alucard, he said with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
As his left sleeve falls limp, a slit opens up in the old cat's garment. A feline paw darts out, allowing that pesky wristwatch manner to be put to bed. Or arm, as the case may be. His arm darts back into that sleeve, leading one to wonder how useful such a device could be, if Jubei will never be able to see it on his actual wrist! Better there than being out where it can distract him from his task, though.
And then Jubei's arm springs to life again, properly controlled by the feline paw within. It's hard to believe, from the graceful way in which the warrior moves, that at his core he has the skeleton of a large cat -- and yet, that is the reality of the situation. One cat... with nearly a million-dollar bounty on his hooded head.
"Let us fight, then -- and see how well our skills have aged."
The cat's paws lift from the ground, but only barely. He does not need to look around for a safe fighting area -- he's always watching for those, and ever mindful of his environment. But as the bridge of his nose wrinkles, and his tails begin to swish sinuously from side to side, one thing becomes perfectly obvious.
The samurai cat is ready to fight.
COMBATSYS: Jubei has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn has joined the fight here.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Jubei
Valkenhayn might correct his friend, but at this point in time he has yet to learn the proper etiquette in such matters; certainly, he recognizes the error in title, but he doesn't /care/ enough about it to say anything. And Jubei himself is hardly the regal type - likely just an error on the part of the feline warrior, he assumes.
Still, those two words stick in his mind like a dagger... there seems to be a slight glimmer of recognition or realization that crosses his eyes; there, for just an instant, and then gone. Replaced, once again, with that growing lust for battle which the younger man was once famed - and feared - for.
Mirroring Jubei's motion on the wristwatch to turn that damnable beeping off, Valkenhayn lowers his arm back to his side once the annoying ping-ping-ping has ceased - with a barely visible sigh of relief. That thing has been playing hell with his hyper-sensitive ears since it first started up... half the reason he sought out an opponent so early in the Qualifying period was in the hopes that it might silence that noise.
He never was terrible good with technology himself.
"Madam Rachel is fine, I suppose. The same as ever: lofty, arrogant, patronizing... I really must speak to Lord Clavis about teaching the young one some manners, if she's expected to take his place some day."
Words that would /never/ have come from the wiser, older, more servile Valkenhayn come tumbling out of the mouth of the youthful Lycanthrope, spoken with a gruff tone that betrays a man who has not yet learned his place in the hierarchy of affairs at Castle Alucard. Certainly, his respect for Clavis Alucard is already set in stone... but it will still take some time before he fully warms up to the man's daughter, and comes to appreciate her moods.
"But enough about the Alucards, my friend. It /feels/ like it's been decades since I saw you use that blade," he says - though in his memory it has certainly not been so long.
"I wish to test myself, against the second most fiercesome competitor in this blasted affair."
His tone of voice is confident, self-assured; even after being defeated at the hands of Lord Clavis, it took the young werewolf some time before he came to grips with the fact that he was not quite the unbeatable warrior he always believed himself to be.
Perhaps this encounter will go some ways towards teaching him that lesson. Perhaps not.
Moving forward with a speed he hasn't displayed in years, the Lycanthrope strides ahead on well-polished black shoes; his lips curling back to reveal teeth that are already beginning to elongate and grow sharper, turning into fangs before the first blow has even been struck. Every movement displays a savagery that he is not even /attempting/ to contain - a large difference from the man he was just a week ago.
Closing the distance as he dashes quickly towards Jubei, Valkenhayn's right arm is suddenly covered with a blazing purple chi from elbow to fingertips. As he nears his opponent and friend, that limb is brought up from his side in a vicious upwards elbow aimed to knock the feline into the air.
COMBATSYS: Jubei blocks Valkenhayn's Nacht Rozen.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Jubei
Jubei's feline grin flashes back at Valkenhayn. Of course it's a cat face, every face he makes is a cat face. He doesn't see the need to correct Valkenhayn -- that might get him angry, and having remembered Valkenhayn's skills from so long ago, he knows that making him angry would really not be the best of circumstances.
"That's good to hear. I sure do miss hangin' out with you all. Especially liked that stew you made last time I was over."
Again, he twists the knife -- hoping that he might be able to trigger a memory in his old friend -- or, if nothing else, confirm that the memories are gone for good. Jubei is nothing if not constantly strategizing, after all...
"Second most fearsome?" he echoes. Baring his teeth -- after all, the cat didn't need to shapeshift to possess them -- he comments, "Don't think I.won't steal the first place crown from you there, old friend."
The cat's fur bristles, as he leans forward -- fully prepared.
And when Valkenhayn thunders forward to unleash a savage elbow, the Master Cat is leaping up to meet it. As purple chi sears the fluffy fur of his leg, the bones underneath collide with one another, changing Jubei's trajectory from forward to upward. He bites back a grunt of pain -- not wanting to let his dear friend know how much it smarts!
The cat whirls about in mid-air, maintaining control of his flight with well-timed flicks of his twin tails. He guides himself around, bringing his long sleeves around to bear.
Slash! Slash! Slash! Two trios of terrifying claws carve through the air in a menacing display of tenacity, as the One-Eyed Twin Lotus tests his opponent's defenses. The two may be good friends -- but he knows full well of the lycanthrope's regenerative abilities. -Not- treating him like a threat would be a grave insult -- and besides that, the fight's being recorded, somehow -- and Krauser will be paying close attention!
COMBATSYS: Jubei successfully hits Valkenhayn with Power Strike.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/----===|=------\-------\0 Jubei
There isn't the slightest hint of recognition on Valkenhayn's face at the mention of Jubei's last visit, nor does he have the time or inclination to reminisce with his friend now that he has agreed to do battle. Gone is the gentlemanly, polite manservant who would be more than happy to stand here and chat with his comrade for hours - replaced by a more vigorous, impetuous man who simply wishes to test himself against one of the most skilled warriors he has met in his lifetime.
"We shall see..."
Those words come out as an animalistic growl from the werewolf, voice already twisted with the presence of fangs growing into his still-human jaw - to say nothing of the bubbling fury that begins to rush through his brain. He'd truly forgotten how good it was to charge into conflict without the slightest concern for his own well-being... he'd say it made him feel young again, if that weren't already the case.
As it is, it simply seems like a reminder of his days as an Immortal Breaker - which, in his mind, was not as long ago as his /real/ age would indicate. The memories of his days fighting alongside Relius Clover are fresher than they've ever been... and rather than attempt to fight those thoughts, as he would come to do in his older years, he /relishes/ them. Basks in the recollection of bloodlust and savage assaults upon his targets; only holding back as much as is required to not attempt tearing his friend to shreds.
Of course, he will find that Jubei is a far more dangerous quarry than even he is used to preying upon.
His elbow does not strike as solidly as he would have hoped, the feline warrior one of the most agile and speedy fighers this world - or any other - has ever seen. A growl of frustration leaves the mouth of Valkenhayn, as the chi covering his arm burns out; he's already twisting into a follow-up strike, a vigor and vitality that /had/ left him long ago once again filling his body once again.
Before he's even completed a spin to lash back out with a fresh attack, Jubei himself has whirled about - the feline being far quicker than the canine in terms of sheer speed and reflexes - and clawed into him with both paws.
Nowhere near as composed as the samurai cat - or as he, himself, would become one day - a sudden shout of frustration comes out of Valkenhayn's mouth as the cuts tear through his white dress-shirt and into the flesh below, staining the material a deep red crimson as his hot blood pours out of the wounds.
Moving back a series of steps - but still remaining within close quarters - the Lycanthrope raises two hands to chest level, gloved fingers curling into fists as he raises his head to the sky above and lets out a long howl... in an instant, his entire body is radiating the same bright purple energy that had just recently covered his arm. Jubei will likely feel a great rush of power through the youthful body of his opponent; and when Valkenhayn lowers his head back to stare at the feline, his eyes are no longer cold and blue, but a burning red.
The surge of energy around his frame suddenly flashes out, and the butler is once again on the move. As his first stride hits the ground, rushing towards Jubei, his head is replaced with that of his Lycanthropic form - slavering jaw opening wide to expose long, pointed fangs that gleam in the sunlight of the high mountain pass.
A savage lunge of his now-wolfish head is aimed towards the feline's shoulder, attempting to bite into the fur and flesh to keep him in place... should he be successful in finding a grasp, the head suddenly shifts back into that of Valkenhayn the Man as he follows up with a flurry of blows.
Each limb that strikes out towards Jubei is transformed into a Lycanthropic paw before it strikes, clawing out with hands and feet in rapid succession before one leg is suddenly wreathed in purple, leveling a flurry of kicks at his opponent before twisting his body in a savage side-kick to knock him away.
COMBATSYS: Jubei full-parries Valkenhayn's Sturm Wolf!!
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0 Jubei
Perhaps that is why the men of Strolheim often fight without shirts -- no shirts to cut means no shirts to replace. Perhaps Jubei will find his jacket cut to shreds before the fight is through; while it would be tougher to replace, cats have much less shame than people.
Jubei uses his last swipe as leverage to shove backwards and away from Valkenhayn. He lands in a low crouch, both of his large paws held parallel with the ground as he flashes a feral grin in reply. His tail flicks about, and his fur sticks out in response to the primal howl, but the bicolor cat is not cowed by the show of intimidation. Anything but! He had wanted to duel the wolfman in Rachel's mansion, but it seemed like every room had some sort of priceless artifact. Here, though, the only thing priceless is timeless friendship. Aww.
As Valkenhayn thunders forward, the cat pivots to his right, twisting up so that his body is what now parallels the ground. The ferocious bite of his opponent is dealt -- though rather than the savory aroma and taste of lean feline muscle, those devilish teeth will instead bite down onto nothing but the smooth, lacquered wood of Jubei's twin sword scabbard. After the clickety-clacking sound, Jubei will pivot back around the other way, leaping free of the charging assault!
It's with the scabbard itself that each of the lycanthrope's flurried attacks is deflected, batted aside with a substantial impact, but inconsequential damage to the One-Eyed Twin Lotus. The cat's crimson eye gleams back at Valkenhayn as each strike is delivered, and subsequently parried with the non-weapon -- it's a substantial expenditure of time and effort, but the aged samurai seems to relish every moment of witnessing and responding to his good friend.
The scabbard will be needing a fresh coat of paint afterwards, though, most definitely -- as the purple flames and scratches are certainly leaving their marks.
Each strike had hammered Jubei backwards -- but the last seems to have knocked him back furthest of all. He lands perpendicular to Valkenhayn's path of travel, his claws digging into the grass and partially-frozen soil. He draws both of his paws backwards, flashing a feral grin back at his friend -- sure, the werewolf can unleash his rage, but that doesn't mean the cat has to mirror his moods!
His sleeved paws light up with blue energy, his billowy coat fluttering around from the chi-borne wind. The energy begins to take the form of a curled up form, whirling around.
It may be difficult to identify the shape at first.
But then Jubei lobs the mighty spherical form forward, towards Valkenhayn.
The spinning mass whirls about, cerulean energy roiling off it with each revolution.
And it becomes obvious what the form resembles.
It's a cat. A freaking cat made out of energy is going to slam into Valkenhayn.
And Jubei's over there flashing his own cat smile.
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn blocks Jubei's Rising Justice EX.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/------=|===----\-------\0 Jubei
His thirst for battle temporarily overcoming his better judgment, Valkenhayn R. Hellsing had dashed in towards Jubei in a similar fashion to the move which he had opened the fight with - a mistake, given how perceptive and dextrous the feline is in combat. Predictabo, even.
Sinking his fangs deep into the samurai's wooden scabbard, the werewolf lets out another savage, low growl of frustration; his increased detachment from any higher reasoning or critical thought is obvious by his reaction... this is a man who is still struggling to contain his animalistic side, and it shows in the heat of battle - even more than it did in his mannerisms and tone of voice prior to combat.
Even knowing that his friend is likely expecting the follow-up punches and kicks after the missed bite, there is no way for the furious Lycanthrope to possibly pull back now... not only due to the boiling blood that rushes through his veins and drives him forward... but also some vague knowledge that - should he break off the combination mid-attack - he would surely leave himself open to a vicious counter attack from the skilled swordsman he faces.
So he continues striking out with feet and hands that transform into paws as they are thrust forward; and each blow is deftly diverted by Jubei's scabbard, until that final side-kick pushes his opponent backwards far enough for Valkenhayn to take a safe step away and compose himself anew - his brain attempting to re-assess the situation even through that fog of rage and bloodlust.
The toothy smile shot his way by his friend is met with a wolfish, fang-lined grin of his own, as two sets of red eyes shine brightly at eachother across the distance.
Yes, /this/ is this is the battle that he'd longed for! No weak human who would fumble and be pushed back in the face of such a brutal assault... but an equal - superior, even - animal who is capable of matching his pure strength with impossible reflexes.
Falling into a sudden crouch and tensing the muscles running up and down his legs, the Lycanthrope executes a quick leap that carries him towards Jubei - and as he travels, he begins to execute a front-flip.
In mid-air, Valkenhayn shifts from his human shape to that of his pure-wolf form - the fur now a chestnut brown instead of the stark gray and white it was just days prior to this encounter - continuing to spin as he transforms. The trajectory carries him into the path of the projectile, meeting the bizarre attack with his spine just as another flare of purple chi covers his furred backside to absorb some of the impact and energy.
The feline-shaped chi blast fizzles out after striking him, and the Lycanthrope is still spinning through the air towards his friend and temporary opponent.
Less than a foot away, the wolf's massive tail lashes out towards Jubei - sizzling with that potent, Byzantium-purple hued energy that he seems able to control with an almost casual ease.
COMBATSYS: Jubei dodges Valkenhayn's Rigoros Schweif.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/------=|===----\-------\0 Jubei
It wouldn't seem like a wooden scabbard should hold up to Valkenhayn's blistering onslaught -- and if the hollow tube were stationary, it wouldn't hold up. But the scabbard, like all of Jubei's arsenal, is just a tool. Its strength is not solely based upon physical characteristics, but rather in how the samurai wields it. And in this case, as soon as the lycanthrope's claws gain purchase, Jubei is pulling the scabbard away. The attack lands -- and yet, it does so only at the feline's behest, to reassure -both- of the non-human fighters of their respective skills.
An appetizer, for the main course of combat.
Jubei is not a fighter who can be cowed by brutal, unrelenting violence. A weapon forged from sheer discipline and persistence, he adjusts his pace to perfectly counteract that of the opponent; Valkenhayn's blistering attacks call for a more patient response. That was the intent behind gathering his chi into a ball -- and it was the intent behind placing more distance between himself and his opponent.
The cat watches as his longtime friend spins through the projectile, his burst of chi shredded apart into mere gusts on the wind before dispelling entirely. But at that point, the master samurai is already on the move, leaping to the side with the agility expected of a much less encumbered cat.
As Valkenhayn's massive tail lashes outward, the perturbed air is enough to send a flutter through Jubei's jacket, and just enough to send his twin tails rippling away. He was close -- but the cat was just a smidge faster.
The cat doesn't stop with that leap -- for as soon as he lands, with massive foreclaws and his hindpaws landing simultaneously -- he takes flight again, bounding roughly eight meters distant from his lupine friend.
A crimson eye turns back towards Valkenhayn. A sleeved paw raises. His mouth parts, as if he was about to say something pithy.
And then he decides against that, closing his mouth in a canny smile. His paw instead swings around in a semicircle, its twin mirroring the action. Ebony chi drips away from both paws: inky streaks painted upon the air itself that only fade away after a second or more, as a circle is traced into the air. The paws cross over, the circle bending in half...
Jubei brings both paws backwards sharply, the inky chi splattering outward -- and then whirling into a vortex with Jubei at its center. His hood and jacket flap upwards, propelled upward by wind currents flecked with specks of black. His fluffy black and white fur are far from immune to the effect -- the tails dancing around vigorously.
And still, that one-eyed feline smiles back at Valkenhayn. The maddeningly patience of a disciplined warrior -- the perfect counterpoint to wild, unchecked aggression.
COMBATSYS: Jubei gathers his will.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/------=|=======\-------\0 Jubei
The tail whips harmlessly through the air, where Jubei was standing a fraction of a second ago... even with his renewed youthfulness and vigor, the Lycanthrope is clearly outclassed by his opponent when it comes to speed. It's a testament to the feline's abilities that he's able to deal with his friend's ferocity and swiftness, utilizing a deftness and agility which seems to be based almost entirely on instinct alone.
There is a reason that the One-Eyed Twin Lotus stood as a Legend, even among the Six Heroes - he is perhaps one of the most capable warriors wandering this realm. The perfect fighter for Valkenhayn to practice his own abilities against; for if he is able to perform well against such a foe, surely he will be capable of standing against the other competitors in the World Warrior.
Valkenhayn lands back on the ground facing towards Jubei, now several meters in the distance. His front paws, still in full-wolf form, scratch the dirt of the mountain trail as he continues to bare his fangs - covered with spittle that drips onto the earth, as though it were rain. Despite their close friendship and history fighting together, the animal side of the werewolf clearly wants nothing more than to dig those sharpened teeth into the samurai and taste the blood that flows in his veins.
Nothing personal, of course.
Burning red canine eyes narrow noticeably at the sudden surge of energy unleashed by his opponent; not hesitation, but appreciation for the amount of power which he can /smell/ coming off of the feline's slight frame. It certainly eclipses even his ability to harness that savage, burning chi that courses throughout his own body - in a way that is almost entirely different from that ferocious power which Valkenhayn himself displays.
Less wild and uncontrolled, more focused and determined. Two sides of the same coin, perhaps.
Suddenly, his paws cease scuffing at the ground as the wolf lunges forward once more; a quick leap takes him up into the air once more, hurtling towards Jubei with great speed and unrestrained strength. But this time, it is not his fangs or claws that lash out - another transformation takes place in an instant, the youthful human form of Valkenhayn once again replacing that wolf mid-leap as he continues on towards his opponent.
Rearing back with his right leg in mid-air, the Lycanthrope sends a vicious flying kick towards his friend; well-polished Oxford-style shoe headed straight towards the feline's chest.
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn successfully hits Jubei with Aggressive Strike.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/------=|=======\=------\1 Jubei
As high as the other opinions of him may be, the One-Eyed Twin Lotus has never been one to heap accolades on himself. Humility, and not pride, is the proper path to enlightenment, and Jubei will be the first to mention that the Black Beast would not have been slain without the joint efforts of all the Six Heroes -- and Valkenhayn's tenacity proved to be a major asset in that battle. The fact remains that Jubei would only place his utmost trust in two of the other five Heroes.
And recent events have even caused him to doubt the one not named Valkenhayn.
He would rather do battle with no other, right now. The youthful werewolf reminds him of a more carefree life -- one in which battle was not the be-all, end-all of existence. And that is, largely, one reason the elder cat has decided to allow himself to be tested here. For without constant attention, a blade will lose its edge -- and there is no way of knowing when that superior edge will be needed.
If the splashes of chi were ink, the cat would be hopelessly awash in black by now. As it is -- the misty haze left behind simply serves as a reminder that Jubei has effectively anchored himself in place, drawing chi from the earth into his feline frame.
And, anchored as such, he is considerably more vulnerable to the ingress of his relentless friend.
Jubei does not attempt to leap aside again.
He does not attempt to circumvent the attack.
With a grin, he balls his paws up, widening his stance.
He intends to take the extended shoe head-on.
... It doesn't work as well as he'd expected. Valkenhayn is much too quick -- too powerful for that.
And Jubei's eye goes wide as he's broken loose from his anchored stance, his body flying backwards -- and then tumbling, five full revolutions across half-frozen grass and cobblestone pathway alike. A few of said cobblestones are dislodged in the process, thrown about in the air in a disappointing shower.
It is at this point, though, that Jubei stops his roll, digging his paws into the ground, cutting furrows into the ground. His grin is gone, as he pitches forward and spits out blood onto the ground.
One moment of recovery later, he leaps back into the fray. The distance is closed in half a second.
And then the berserker barrage begins.
Claws are unsheathed -- dragged diagonally across Valkenhayn's body, in one vicious overhand swing after another. Left, right, left, right -- the claws will swing down four times without cessation.
And if the last two slashes land, Jubei will pull both of his paws backwards, and then swing in a terrifying upwards slash with both sets of claws in perfect unison!
COMBATSYS: Jubei successfully hits Valkenhayn with Fissuring Slash.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/---====|=======\==-----\1 Jubei
Valkenhayn's long leg manages to strike the feline, the impact running up the length of that limb and widening the grin plastered to his face. His opponent is sent backwards, tumbling several feet away, as the Lycanthrope's shoes land gracefully on the ground.
Both hands are lifted up, one after the other, to pull down on the ends of his gloves. One habit that has carried on into the butler's old age - the trademark adjusting of his spotless white gloves. As he does so, a firm nod is offered across the path towards Jubei; giving him the courtesy of recovering from that kick before pressing the attack any further.
Now that blood has been spilt on the /other/ side of the fight, as well, it seems as though some of Valkenhayn's manners - such as they are in his youthful, impetuous state - are returning. Though his eyes still burn a bright crimson and his teeth are still elongated into fangs, he doesn't seem quite as thirsty for blood as he was just moments ago.
His opponent doesn't need long to recover, leaping back towards the servant with unsheathed claws carving their way through the air. As he approaches, the werewolf crouches down and begins to leap backwards - his body transforming back into wolf-form as he attempts to put some distance between himself and the barrage of slashes from Jubei...
...but again, his friend's speed gets the better of him and those razor-sharp claws slash into his brown fur - digging deep wounds in the flesh underneath and staining the ground red.
Hitting the ground in a roll, the Lycanthrope tumbles backwards on his side and eventually - slowly - skids to a halt. It takes him a moment, before he's back on all four paws and staring sharply across the distance at Jubei.
Scratching at the path under his paws, the wolf's wounds suddenly begin to heal over at an accelerated rate - the flow of blood slowing to a trickle and then stopping entirely. Fractions of a second later, the canine's body is suddenly erupting with a bright, deep purple chi that sizzles and crackles the oxygen surrounding his form.
Raising his head to the sky high above the mountain pass, Valkenhayn opens up his jaws and lets out a mighty howl that pierces the tranquil silence.
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn raises his head and AWROOOOOOOOOOOOOs.
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Valkenhayn 1/------=/=======|=======\==-----\1 Jubei
When one enters combat, one must decide how hard to push oneself. Push too hard, and one will become exhausted, leaving oneself at their opponent's mercy. Push too lightly, and one can leave oneself open for a vicious attack.
Pace is everything. And as Jubei has managed to avoid the vast majority of Valkenhayn's attacks, the samurai master has shown that he is more than a savage beast, but also a strategist, capable of steering the fight beyond the actual clashes of tooth and claw. And the feline's strategy has reached the point where predictability is not something that will win him any favors.
As his harrying slashes have proven, battering his longtime friend backwards -- the pace shift has borne fruit. And the lycanthrope is lapsing into his beast form -- drawing up his power reserves in much the same was as Jubei had just moments prior, purple chi welling up from within -- innervating the very soul of the beast.
Jubei's crimson eye gleams.
He flashes a toothy, feral grin.
He bursts forward, like a clap of thunder.
The cat leaps into the air -- himself whirling as a missile, similar to the blue orb he had thrown earlier, but orange and deadly. Fabric ruffles as the feline flies outward -- but above that, a very different sound can be heard.
The sliding of metal, out from wooden scabbards.
The seithr-forged Dream Blades are drawn.
Blades reputed to bear infinitely sharp edges that can slice through any material.
The blades whistle as they protrude from the whirling cat's mass at apparently random angles. The fact, of course, could be even more terrifying -- that the cat's perception is so high, he knows exactly -how- to cut, -where- to cut, and -when- to cut to deal a non-trivial and yet recoverable amount of damage to his foe -- deep enough to be felt, but not so deep as to slice through bone.
Cat versus dog -- living in harmony, but still leaving scratches.
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn blocks Jubei's Form Three - Ranjishi EX.
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Valkenhayn 1/----===/=======|=======\===----\1 Jubei
The bestial howl carries on, echoing throughout the mountain pass, for seconds /after/ the wolf shuts his jaw. The surge of purple that covered his frame suddenly dies out, although the power radiating from the canine's form can likely still be felt by his opponent...
Valkenhayn seems to have tapped into some fresh reserve of power, deep inside his Lycanthropic body - no longer bleeding from multiple wounds, only the bloodstains on his fur stand as evidence of the damage he's taken thus far. His gaze is steely and determined; still displaying the same intense ferocity, but more composed, controlled... perhaps even focused.
The howl continues to bounce around the air - as though the sound had a will of it's own - causing a flock of birds to scatter into the sky overhead...
...and the wolf simply waits, scraping away at the stones underneath his paws as it's body heaves up and down with deep breaths - a low growl emitted from it's throat on every exhale. If one didn't know these two were friends, they might easily mistake this for a battle to the death - at least with the way that Valkenhayn is carrying himself.
But such was always his way, before the decades of domestic servitude and proper etiquette taught him how to leash the animal inside. This youthful form of the butler has yet to learn such a lesson, and it shows with the barely restrained fury that courses through his body during every second of the fight.
Unfortunately for him, the feline samurai is - and always has been - far more adept at controlling his own emotions, utilizing proper focus instead of animal instincts and sheer ferocity. Their clash is much like a finely honed katana against a dull, but overpowering bludgeon. Perhaps against another opponent, Valkenhayn's wild strength and ceaseless assaults would overcome their defenses.
But Jubei is far too skilled for such a thing; and what's more, he /knows/ how his friend fights, and to expect such rage and brutality.
Suddenly, the feline is leaping through the air towards him - and the wolf's keen ears pick up the sound coming from the blur... a blade, sliding from a scabbard. Even through the haze of red that clouds his mind, Valkenhayn realizes what to expect from his opponent; and before Jubei reaches his position, he once again returns to his human form.
Both arms come up in front of his body, the long limbs covered with chi just a fraction of a second before that blade begins to bite into them... even with his own energy attempting to absorb the sharp cuts, it's enough to slice through the sleeves of his well-pressed dress shirt - staining the immaculate white material with blood as the sword cuts into his flesh.
Rather than give his friend a chance to recover, /this/ time he is ready to press the attack... and he /needs/ to, if he is to have any chance of striking such a deft and agile opponent. Jubei can be given no time to compose himself, to prepare another deflection of the butler's brutal offense.
The Lycanthrope's right foot comes lashing out in a low-kick towards Jubei's legs, his limb transforming into a wolfish paw and suddenly wreathed in blazing purple energy. A quick, probing strike that is quickly followed up with another blow - as Valkenhayn spins on one heel and lashes out with a swift, pawed backhand covered in the same firey chi.
COMBATSYS: Jubei counters Schwarz Jagd from Valkenhayn with Immovable Object.
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Valkenhayn 1/--=====/=======|=======\====---\1 Jubei
Sometimes, the life of the animal kingdom appeals to Jubei. There are no tricks there, no lies -- with the exception of colorful camouflage, everyone means exactly what they say. Prey will be eaten. And on a long enough timeframe, predators will try to kill you. Simple rules.
If he were smaller, Jubei might have given up on his life amongst the civilized people of the world. Maybe. There's a certain allure to disappearing into the crowd, shedding off all his fears and inhibitions for the life of an stupid, itinerant cat.
But through it all -- there are people he cares for. A daughter, recently rediscovered. A wife, recently returned from the dead. A noble family, instrumental not only in saving the world, but protecting that same daughter and wife. And there is Valkenhayn, removed from the wisdom of his older, wiser self, and removed a second time from that as he roots against the ground, growling and hissing with the charm of a wild animal, infused with the chi-borne energy of a raging demon.
Valkenhayn shifts back to his human form. The twin blades sing -- slicing through cloth and flesh, a fine crimson mist loosed in the process. Jubei has forced him to react -- and he chose to direct the blades away from himself.
The self-preservation instincts of the wild are still keen in this one.
Jubei smiles from the midst of his whirling frenzy.
And then one leg snaps out of the spin.
Then the other, as he lands in a three-point crouch.
In that instant, the hilt of one Dream Blades is cinched in his teeth; its twin is drawn parallel to the ground in that pose of impeccable balance. His tails flick outwards as his jacket takes the moment to settle. And his crimson eye looks up to Valkenhayn -- knowing that -now-... -now- the true fight has begun.
Neither of the two can say they weren't ready. They've -both- upped the ante -- and they've -both- entered that ephemeral, elusive state where every action is borne out of sheer -instinct- rather than the bog of second thoughts. And the lycanthrope's foot is snapping down -- a brilliant, snap decision that could only be made by a beast, and not a butler hoping to draw out the battle indefinitely.
The cat lunges back, in kind, rising from his paws to his full height. The Dream Blade Musashi in his mouth cleaves right through the wavefront of purple chi, splashing it to either side. The lupine paw slams against the flat of the blade -- surely, the edge would bite into the flesh of the lycanthrope's paw, but the sting would likely prevent it from being driven too deeply in the process.
Even as the paw is withdrawn, Jubei is continuing forward. As Valkenhayn plants his foot, chambering his backfist, Jubei is already way ahead of him -- or perhaps more accurately, just to his left. One sword is sheathed, with a simple *clack* of metal upon lacquered wood. The other sword is surrendered to a sleeved paw -- and the cat whirls around in a sharp circle.
When the backfist slams downward, it is caught on an upraised paw. Inky black chi spurts outward, clashing with the purple chi in a violent clash of energies. The remaining Dream Blade is dangled just out of reach by a twin-helix tail.
And yet, Jubei is -still- moving. For with Valkenhayn's arm caught, it will be difficult for the wily wolf to escape.
And that is when Jubei unleashes his potential energy -- springing his opposite shoulder squarely into Valkenhayn's chest with such force to knock the wind right out of him.
It's enough of a powerful motion to knock the hood right off of Jubei, actually -- for as the cat pulls away from the shoulder slam, his black-and-white mane is released from imprisonment, fluttering about in the elegance of the feline master's graceful spin.
Once more, the crimson eye is turned back to Valkenhayn.
And with a second *clack*, his tails return the other sword to its resting place -- for it is once again Valkenhayn's turn to strike.
The blade used to counter his kick bites into the flesh of that wolfish leg, and the spinning backhand is caught by Jubei with a speed that is almost blinding; once again displaying why he has earned the title of Legend among the few who can remember his past deeds.
Attempting to pull his arm back to defend himself, Valkenhayn finds the strength of his opponent's grip prevents such a manuever; and in an instant, he knows to expect a vicious follow-up. It comes in the form of a chi-imbued shoulder-slam to his chest, the feline actually managing to send the taller Lycanthrope hurtling backwards through the air from the force of the blow.
Once again, Valkenhayn's body tumbles along the dirt and stone of the trail, scuffing his fine attire even further - utterly ruining his work uniform in the process. He's down for a few moments, before the butler summons up the strength of will to pull himself back to his feet - burning eyes staring across at Jubei, lips pulled back in a snarl...
...before the look softens, and is replaced with a knowing smirk.
"Heh..." - a single laugh from the butler, just before he inclines his head to the side to spit out a glob of blood from his leaking mouth. His stance seems less steady, as crimson fluid drains out of his body to stain his attire - utterly ruining the previously spotless clothing he was wearing when he first approached the samurai.
"I should have expected as much..."
It's a simple statement of fact - the idea that the ruthless and bloodthirsty Lycanthrope could ever best his feline opponent was a fantasy at best... but yet, it doesn't serve as an admission of defeat. Merely an acknowledgement of the samurai's superior focus and skill - both with that blade, and without.
Even with his renewed youthfulness, the servant's only realistic hope in this battle would be to compete well - to offer a good showing to himself, to his friend, and to Herr Krauser back in Castle Strolheim. Jubei is a hard stone, upon which to sharpen his own skills; hardly a fair opponent, in terms of an even match...
...but if he is capable of striking a foe so swift and deft, his chances against the other contestants within the World Warrior are much greater.
Moving forward on polished shoes, a transformation again takes place mid-strike - two feet becoming four paws, which hit the ground in a run towards the small - yet deadly - form of the feline warrior.
A sudden eruption of purple from the wolf's body fills the entire surrounding area with burning chi, as Valkenhayn takes off like a missile towards Jubei. He lowers his canine head and leads the rush with a shoulder, charging in with little regard for his own wellbeing - or his opponent's abilities to counter or evade his attacks thus far.
Any reasoning skills are long gone; the Lycanthrope simply throwing himself blindly back into the fray, desperate to display his own skill and strength against his cunning friend.
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn successfully hits Jubei with Kaiser Wolf.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/-======|=======\======-\1 Jubei
In more ways than one, this is an initiation to the high caliber of combat expected of Strolheim. If either fighter gave less than his best to the fight, the fight would serve as a sub-par advertisement of his skills. And, perhaps more damaging, neither fighter would get the experience of a truly thrilling battle -- they would remain acclimated to "easy mode," as it were.
Jubei may have not have been attacking as ardently as he -could-, but he was in no means taking it easy. That would mean keeping the Dream Blades stowed, witholding from them the taste of a hot-blooded werewolf's flesh -- and in doing so, sacrificing the perfect opportunity to gain practice in wielding them. For as proficient as Jubei the One-Eyed Twin Lotus may be, training dummies are no substitute for a living, breathing opponent who can hold his own in the courts of speed and agility. Discipline and practice, as such, can only take one so far.
Jubei leans forward, placing much of his weight on his forward leg. Valkenhayn's earlier injuries are starting to bruise over, and he can feel the pressure on his aging bones and muscles. The butler may look up to Jubei for his skill and deeds, but the fact remains that Jubei is neither infallible nor invincible. And he is mindful of this as he steps sideways, slowly at first before accelerating into a light jog. Staying in place as he had before would be a death knell against an agitated Valkenhayn -- which he may or may not be, judging from the good-natured smirk that is flashed. But even Jubei cannot afford to give too much leeway to another of the Six Heroes.
This is borne out as the lycanthrope bursts towards him, wreathed in a blossom of heliotrope. Already in mid-dash, his escape options were limited to leaping upwards or forwards -- neither of which would have been executed with the speed required.
The feline samurai decides to hop into the air, curling his sleeved paws before him.
He does not manage to raise his defense in time -- a point noted with a pained growl.
The impact bowls him over backwards, clawed paws flaring out to either side, unable to gain purchase on the hurtling Valkenhayn.
An instant later, Jubei finds his back slammed into the flat surface of a boundary wall. Pulverized brickwork chokes the lungs, hurled up from the literal impact crater left behind by the Legendary Heroes' collision.
And an instant later, the distinct sound of two heavy paws slamming into the same surface can be heard -- just a few feet away.
The second impact -- as Jubei's diminutive body has -skipped- across the wall.
He lands in a roll, tumbling three times side over side before coming to a stop.
His feet tumble over his head, his legs bent, as his roll slows.
And then his eye raises, crimson eye narrowing upon Valkenhayn.
The unhooded feline flashes a hasty smile to his friend.
And then the feet land on the ground, toes digging into the soil.
The very next instant, Jubei is airborne -- high overhead.
The blades are removed from their sleeves -- a stereoscopic *shiiiiink!*
Ebony chi roils outward from the cat's swords, like an ink stick dipped in water. Air pressure builds up in front of the swords' edges -- a double shockwave distorting the imagery behind.
And then the air itself is cleaved in two with a booming crack of thunder. The air erupts outward, bleeding a twin helix of ebony chi in its wake. The swords themselves are only the instigators of change -- the true terror is the chain reaction of concussive force wrought onto the point of target -- the werewolf himself. Or, if he is agile enough to dodge, perhaps the ground beneath him -- sure to become a second crater on the pock-marked landscape of Strolheim.
COMBATSYS: Jubei successfully hits Valkenhayn with Twin Guardians - Mourning Shore EX.
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Valkenhayn 1/-------/=======|=======\-------\1 Jubei
His fury now fully unleashed - any memories of his close friendship with the feline temporarily banished from his rage-fueled mind - the Lycanthrope hurtles through the air like a veritable missile of fur, flesh and burning chi. The speed with which he travels is almost akin to that of a bullet fired from a high-powered rifle; barely visible as little more than a blur of purple and brown spinning towards Jubei, giving him almost no time to prepare a defense.
It seems as though the impact has transferred some fresh power into the weakened body of Valkenhayn - the purple colour surrounding the wolf's form blazing brighter and hotter after the strike.
Utilizing the backwards force created from slamming into Jubei, the canine flips backwards through the air and lands - skidding - on the ground with four paws, a few moments before the chi around him burns out into nothingness; sizzling the air as it dissipates.
Jubei's smile is met with a widening, fanged grin from the wolf - slavering tongue lolling out and running across it's blood-stained teeth.
Moments later, the samurai is airborne - and the speed of his own assault easily matches that of Valkenhayn/s previous attack... yet, the wolf still attempts to spin out of the way, beginning a short hop in the air as it twists it's body to the side...
But the sheer area affected by the concussive force unleashed by his opponent is too great, too large, for him to truly escape. He's taken out of the air by the shockwave and /slammed/ back down into the earth, the power of the impact leaving a sizeable crater as stones and dirt are launched upwards into the air as a result of the chain reaction.
For a few moments, Jubei might actually believe he's won the day with that attack alone - for the werewolf lays in a heap for several seconds, the rising and falling of it's side the only sign of life in that canine body.
And then, it begins to move... paws stretch out, looking for some purchase on the ruined ground - before finding enough of a foothold to scrabble back to a standing position... it's body rises and falls with ragged, uneven breaths. Blood oozes out of it's open mouths, crimson fluid dribbling into the crater as crimson eyes narrow in an attempt to focus...
Despite the blood, the heaving breaths, the savage cuts that have sliced past his thick fur and into the tough, muscled flesh underneath... the wolf still finds the power within himself to jump suddenly into the air. And what's more; as he travels upwards, he once again assumes his human form. This time, his outfit is showing many more cuts; wounds carried over from the damage inflicted upon him in his Lycanthropic aspect... his white shirt is positively dripping with blood, even though the wounds are already beginning to close up.
His leap reaching an apex, the direction suddenly changes diagonally downwards - leading with one foot in a diving kick aimed straight towards the feline's shoulder, his brown ponytail whipping in the air behind him. Seconds after his feet strike the earth again - whether he was able to cleanly hit his opponent or not - Valkenhayn leaps back up into the air and flips forward...
...once again turning back his wolf form, hanging in the air for a split-second as the purple colour washes over him anew, before hurtling back down towards Jubei in another vicious shoulder-slam - this time from above.
Two quick transformations in the span of seconds; a testament to Valkenhayn's own control over his Lycanthropic aspect, able to switch forms at will in the blink of an eye. Against any other opponent, it would make him dangerously unpredictable; but Jubei has faced him before in friendly combat, and has seen him perform against other foes... he would have come to expect such behaviour from the werewolf. Even still, it may prove to make his attacks more difficult to read than if he remained in a single form throughout the entirety of the fight.
And through it all, the steady, low growl of a canine thirsting for blood... his friend will find that he is forced to fight the butler to the very last. Though there is no enmity between these two warriors, the wolf was never the sort - even in his older age, to say nothing of his youthful self which he has been returned to - to end a battle prematurely.
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn successfully hits Jubei with Konig Flug.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>----\1 Jubei
As Valkenhayn collapses into the midst of a freshly-formed crater, the samurai cat lands nimbly a few feet away -- first one hind paw, then the other. His left shoulder pitches forward, an expression of pain shooting through his furred face as he returns the Dream Blades to their sheath. And yet -- even through the pain, his crimson eye remains focused on the limp werewolf -- partly out of concern, and partly out of the implied need to keep the lycanthrope's attention while he is in this feral state.
He draws in another long breath, sidestepping in a wide arc around the fallen beast. His whiskers twitch -- his nose wrinkles at the scent of blood. He knows good and well that his old friend isn't dead from the sound of wind rasping out of his lungs, but that isn't the only thing he's concerned with.
He's concerned about him getting back up.
The samurai's paws hang at either side, poised to strike or defend in the event of a sudden sneak attack. And black, inky chi begins to gush outwards from his sleeves, an unseen wind beginning to ripple outward from the feline.
And then -- the moment he was waiting for happens. He sees the look in his friend's eye -- and he knows Valkenhayn has thrown the entirety of his focus into completing the fight. Such dedication and determination...!
Paws begin to raise -- but he prepares for the lycanthrope to obey the call of gravity -- not to interrupt it.
The arms are not raised in time.
Jubei is contacted clear in the shoulder -- with the sound of the werewolf's bones cracking against his own. The cat stumbles backwards, eye screwing half-shut as he lets out a pained howl.
He's still regaining his wits when the lycanthrope hits the ground and leaps back. He tilts his shoulders and arms skyward to meet his foe -- but again, the shifted wolf's rapid follow-up is too much for the feline warrior to deal with.
A black shockwave of chi slams into the ground, but its net effect is muted by the cat himself slamming down the instant afterwards, grass molded into a perfect cast of the Dream Blades' scabbard and Jubei's jacketed backside.A geyser of blood founts from the cat's mouth as his chest ends up as the cushion for Valkenhayn's fall.
A moment passes -- blackness crowding in at the edges of Jubei's vision.
And, one gurgle later, he rolls over onto his side, planting all four paws against the grass concavity.
With all four limbs, he springs backwards, whirling to his feet, shadowy chi pulsing in his wake.
His paws will hit the ground.
And then he will pivot abruptly into another vector.
His left claws slide out with the sound of metal grinding against metal.
Valkenhayn might expect them to slice through his skin -- but the angle is wrong.
Jubei aims to bludgeon him with those three tines -- to force him to stagger backwards.
And then he will flip sideways, another outpouring of black chi displaying the vigorous momentum of the move. His mouth, ringed with blood, will let out a ferocious roar as he springboards off the boundary wall to his side.
And then the Dream Blades will whistle out of their scabbard -- a haunting dirge that culminates in a criss-cross of ebony chi -- a precision wavefront of concussive chi rippling towards Valkenhayn, backed with Jubei's formidable will and the infinitely sharp blades of legend...!
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn dodges Jubei's Miroku - Spherical Illusion.
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Valkenhayn 0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>-----\1 Jubei
Once again, the full-speed shoulder charge slams down onto the feline - Valkenhayn kicking off in the opposite direction once he impacts Jubei. Utilizing the momentum from the ricochet to spin in mid-air, he completes another swift transformation before landing on two feet some distance away.
Almost immediately, his footing gives way - the exhaustion and pain of the savage encounter against his friend suddenly taking it's toll, as he's forced to one knee. Pressing the palm of one gloved hand onto the ground to steady himself, the werewolf inclines his head up to stare at Jubei.
His eyes burn red and firey as he offers a wide, toothy, blood-stained grin towards the samurai...
...and he laughs; a deep, feral, rumbling sound that is suddenly cut off as he coughs - ending in a spew of blood from his own mouth, still smiling as he spits out the crimson fluid.
Finding a fresh reserve of strength, the butler stands tall once again - pushing off the ground with the palm of his hand. Letting one arm dangle loosely at his side, a single gloved hand is raised at Jubei - curling his fingers towards his palm in a beckoning gesture.
"Let us finish this, /friend/..." he says, his voice dark, threatening... though Jubei should know him well enough to know that the tone is nothing personal; this is simply Valkenhayn's way - at least, it was during his youth... a youth he seems to have been returned to, as he displays a ferocity and lust for violence that he has not shown in decades.
As the agile feline lunges back in to attack, the Lycanthrope is actually prepared this time - his keen senses honed in, finally, on the movements of his opponent. Now, he can actually rely on his instincts to be correct; and when the bludgeoning strikes are aimed his way, each one is knocked aside by the back of his hand...
...although he /is/ still forced back by the rapid approach of Jubei. The werewolf eventually takes a sudden leap several feet backwards and tenses his body up - he knows the feline cannot possibly be done /yet/...
And he is not disappointed, as the Dream Blades cut through the air and unleash a cross of black chi towards his position.
The concussive wave pushes the air aside as it travels towards Valkenhayn's human form... a cross of energy, almost impossible for such a large target to avoid.
So the Lycanthrope makes himself smaller, leaping forward as his form shifts into the wolf once more - twisting his body deftly to evade the entire blast area of the chi, his fur rippling from the passing wave...
With the blast of energy now behind him, Valkenhayn straightens his wolfish body; still whistling through the air towards his friend, he attempts to veer to one side, aiming a single clawed paw to rake across Jubei's torso as he does so.
COMBATSYS: Jubei full-parries Valkenhayn's Medium Claw!!
[ \\\\\\\ < > //////////// ]
Valkenhayn 0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>>---\1 Jubei
Let us finish this, friend...
Jubei's blood-spattered maw curls into a tacit smile. He had a choice, of course -- he could engage in friendly banter and conversation with the man, or he could maintain the fast, harried pace of combat that the wolf would prefer. But, given said that choice, the grizzled warrior would choose combat each and every time. For while there is always time to talk after combat, the heady rush of rapid-fire tactical decisions is a relatively rare sensation -- a state in which he'd like to remain as long as possible. And, given recent events -- if he could choose to be engaged in constant conflict for an entire hour, day or even week -- he would, without hesitation.
His feline body would, naturally, lodge a protest against that. His shoulder blades ache, his ribs ache, his head is pounding -- and yet, adrenaline is the panacea to all his ills, numbing the pain to an acceptable volume of background noise, allowing him to focus his brute force attack upon the lycanthrope. Allowing him to realize when the sneaky shapeshifter twists out of the way, opting for a hot mist massage in lieu of a concussive shockwave to the gut. The master swordscat is wise to the trick -- already twisting away to stow his swords, with a twin clatter.
And when that clawed paw rakes across Jubei's torso...
Jubei's already in the air, cartwheeling aside.
His torso is ninety degrees askew of where it should be -- and about half a meter back.
And yet, Valkenhayn will feel his claws slide across the polished steel of Jubei's extended claws -- a clash that sends sparks flying as the cat twists through the air.
But the reflexive evasion will serve the cat a dual purpose.
For as long as Jubei maintains contact with Valkenhayn, his eye is free to roam.
He fixates on a spot behind Valkenhayn -- still roiling with the aftermath of his ebony chi attack.
As he twists, he turns his head to the spot directly below him.
As he twists again, he focuses on a spot in the air above both.
And as he rights himself, he looks once again at the ground -- sliding his claws free of the contest of wills.
His paw slides back to the hilt of his lower Dream Blade.
And that crimson eye snaps right back up to Valkenhayn.
His mouth parts -- not to speak a word, but to draw in breath.
Each of the four spots he identified in that moment suddenly bloom with in whorls of black chi -- blossoms that resolve into the form of hexagonal shapes.
And then suddenly, the cat's form appears to dissolve -- when in actuality, he is rocketing forward so fast, aided by his chi, that he is practically invisible.
He will rush towards the first spot -- unsheathing the lower sword with an iai strike that could be deadly in the right circumstances, but in this case is merely a shallow upward swipe of the flat of the blade, intended to thwack Valkenhayn into the air.
His form will reverse instantly, the blade reined in by his twin tails as he flips an about-face, thundering to the second point with a backflipping slash of the sword. This strike would also be tempered -- if all goes as planned he would juggle the airborne Valkenhayn into an uncontrollable spin.
His transit towards the third point would sheathe both blades as he extends his foot in a riotously fast kick, his hind claws extended to pummel his friend in the abdomen -- even as he twists about!
Upon reaching that fourth point, Jubei will sharply reverse direction again, bounding off the ebony seal. This will be a taste of the lycanthrope's own medicine -- a bestial rush of a chi-inflamed shoulder intended to slam him back into the ground!
The Shiranui Hagane -- the ultimate expression of the blinding speed of iaijutsu.
COMBATSYS: Jubei successfully hits Valkenhayn with Shiranui Steel EX.
[ < > ///////////// ]
Valkenhayn 0/-------/--=====|>>-----\-------\0 Jubei
The noise of canine claws sliding across the steel of the feline's is almost ear-piercing - particularly considering the keen hearing of the werewolf.
Hurtling past Jubei, the wounds covering Valkenhayn's flesh continue to heal over as a fresh vitality seems to course through his body... perhaps if he were capable of extending this battle long enough, his renewed, youthful vigor might prove enough to overcome the impeccable defenses of the samurai.
But it seems as though his friend has other plans; looking to end this fight as soon as he is able.
Before the Lycanthrope is even able to touch the earth after his mad, clawing rush towards his foe, he is struck from below by the flat of the cat's blade - sending him up even further off the ground.
A low growl starts deep in his throat, clearly building towards something - but it is cut off by a yelp, as he is again struck upwards into the air.
Again, the noise begins, able to build in volume; but, once more, he is unable to reach the peak of his howl - Jubei's kick planting a paw into his abdomen and spinning his body in mid-air, another yelp escaping the wolf's fanged mouth.
Finally, the feline reverses direction yet again; this time to plant his shoulder into the center of the Lycanthrope's mass - redirecting his upwards momentum straight down towards the mountain trail...
As Jubei slams into Valkenhayn - knocking him down to the ground - a fresh spray of blood leaves his open jaws... and with it, a roar even louder than any he's unleashed thus far.
The ground actually seems to rumble from the deep, low noise emitted from between his bloody fangs, even as he lays in a heap on the ground. It grows and grows in volume, until it finally reaches a critical point...
...then, there's a sudden flash of purple chi that explodes outwards - the wolf's body being the focal point, as it expands out in a circle around the defeated Lycanthrope.
That brilliant, blazing energy continues on it's path for almost a dozen feet, burning grass and scorching the stone pathway before it finally fizzles out, as the wolf's jaws slam shut - echoing howl dying off into a pitiful, beaten whine - and it's head falls down to the earth.
Only the deep breaths that rise and fall in it's chest give any sign of life, as Valkenhayn R. Hellsing lay slumped - stuck in wolf form - in a small crater which was created by the sheer kinetic force of Jubei's chi-infused shoulder-slam striking him.
COMBATSYS: Valkenhayn can no longer fight.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\ <
COMBATSYS: Jubei blocks Valkenhayn's Vormund Wolf.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\ <
Raising the bar is all Jubei has ever been interested in. Not success, not failure -- just a calm, gradual ascension to perfection. Now that the samurai has his own memories back, the steady climb can continue.
Valkenhayn may consider Jubei to be the stronger fighter -- whether that is or is not the case is immaterial to the challenge in place. The point is, the lycanthrope butler committed himself to challenging Jubei -- and managed to point out the deficiencies in the samurai master's defenses. And he certainly tested the cat's stamina, bringing him to the high plateau of peak combat awareness and keeping him locked in.
The One-Eyed Twin Lotus may not have specifically called upon the art of the Empty Mind -- but the frenetic pace of battle prevented him from even having the -luxury- of thought. And that is a pace very few of the human competitors could match.
But this voyage was not solely for Jubei's benefit.
It was also for Valkenhayn's.
The competition will be fierce.
Challengers will lose points for granting mercy.
The ear-splitting roar causes Jubei to flinch. His ears fold down, as he leaps backwards, inklike chi continuing to trail behind each of his graceful movements. And he lands, some three meters away from the source of the traumatic howl, the rapidly expanding shockwave of purple chi.
Metal claws retract. Two sleeved paws slam together. And Jubei expels his breath. Whorls of ebony and ivory chi spiral outward from their junction.
Purple waves of chi slam into the growing orb. In some cases, the wavefront perturbs the chi sphere, diluting the black and white into a murky gray, puncturing the orb before the spinning can restore it. Jubei is buffeted backwards some six steps, in all -- the sphere being the lone buoy fighting against a formidable tide of pressure.
The violet energy is soon expended.
And with it, the whorls of ebony and ivory spin away into cobweb wisps, vanishing entirely.
The One-Eyed Twin Lotus sees the ever-Sagacious, the not-currently Grey, the Wolf sprawled unconscious along the path, in a crater of his own creation.
Jubei draws another breath... holding it, as his crimson eye passes over his friend, watching the rise and fall of a ribcage.
And then he expels it -- a look of faint satisfaction upon his face.
Right before his own ribcage shudders, and his own lungs quake with a saturated cough -- one that leaves a bloody mark upon an upraised sleeve.
Nostrils flare. And his eyelid closes partially.
He sits on his hind paws, right where he was.
"What a magnificent battle, old friend."
And he presses his paws together, as they were a bare moment again.
If he is to render first aid, he would need to catch his breath first.
But for now -- he has the expectation that Valkenhayn R. Hellsing's regenerative capacities have the matter well in hand.
COMBATSYS: Jubei takes no action.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\ <
COMBATSYS: Jubei has ended the fight here.
Laying in the small crater caused by the shockwave of force when he slammed down to the earth, the wolf's battered, bruised and bloody body continues to heave with sharp, painful breaths. His chest rises and falls, fresh oxygen taken in through his canine nostrils slowly returning some of the stamina and vigor spent in the intense battle which just played out in the deserted mountain pass.
Inside his dizzied, fatigued mind, a series of half-remembered scenes play out: a proud, vicious man bowing on one knee - defeated in front of the Vampire Lord Clavis Alucard. A savage brute fighting back-to-back with a younger Relius Clover, the scientist's mechanical limbs striking out at their foes, to match the motions of Lycanthrope's razor-sharp claws. Clambering atop the Black Beast and tearing into it's steel-like flesh with his bare hands, shooting a sideways glance and seeing the armour-clad body of Jubei - whirling away with his Dream Blades in a storm of slashes.
Watching the form of Yuuki Terumi recede into the Boundary once more...
...and something else; standing alongside Madam Rachel, in a spire filled with massive gears and levers... the entire room acting as one giant machine, it's purpose unknown to Valkenhayn himself. The last sight he can recall, before he was sent away from Castle Alucard to this realm - to seek out Wolfgang Krauser in his mountain lair.
It's this thought that finally snaps the werewolf back into wakefulness - opening eyes that are a cold blue, rather than the bloody crimson they were during the course of the fight against his old friend Jubei. As though it were instinct, his mouth opens to speak; emitting only a short bark, before he realizes what form he is in.
Still crumpled in the dirt, the large wolf slowly shifts back into the human form of Valkenhayn R. Hellsing - clothes shredded, bloodstained and covered with dirt... but the various wounds which were inflicted against him, completely healed - leaving visible scars that will surely disappear entirely, given enough time.
Though the cuts may have healed over, he is still woozy, exhausted, barely able to push himself back up to one knee - forced to press a torn and ruined glove pressed into the crater, to keep himself upright. His head hangs low for a few moments, attempting to focus his gaze on his scuffed and dirty shoes before leveling them back up towards Jubei.
And when he manages to face his friend, he's smiling once again - and not a vicious, bloodthirsty, fang-baring grin... but one of genuine warmth and appreciation. He cannot recall the last time - having spent years in the employ of Clavis Alucard, carrying out domestic duties about the Estate - that he has been tested so thoroughly.
Something he has sorely missed since taking up the oath of service with that Vampire Lord; the few unwanted guests who have made their way to the otherworldly Castle have hardly been a match for the One-Eyed Twin Lotus... such sport is rarely found on any realm.
"I believe I may have lost my head, Jubei," he says, voice gruff although his words are polite enough - it will still take him many years to learn the smooth, professional tones of a proper butler - as his smile widens, "Lord Clavis has been /attempting/ to teach me how to control myself, both in and out of battle..."
A small groan, as he pushes himself out of his kneeling crouch and stands up straight once more - his stiff posture and hanging arms looking mildly comical, considering the ruined state of his attire.
"...apparently, I still have much to learn."
Jubei does not know the mental battles which his longtime friend is waging. He has no way of peering into the fleeting memories, or making any sense of them.
He only knows that the Valkenhayn R. Hellsing who rises back to his knee, and then to his feet, is a much younger one, in both mind and body.
And the cat sits, his eye half-lidded, looking up to him with a pleasant smile. The adrenaline has worn off, and if it were not for the pressure his palms exert upon one another, he would surely be in more dire straits. Meditation is a way to focus the soul -- to keep from crying out at the pain his muscles and bones are communicating to him.
He looks up, with that smile.
And he offers a moment of wisdom.
"I have heard it said: the man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life."
Truly -- Valkenhayn is older than fifty, whether he knows it or not. And he has, in effect, -forgotten- much of his life.
But the quote is not intended to have a rooting in truth, but rather to jog the mind. To get him thinking about the possibilities. To understand that every battle is an experience to learn.
"The way of the warrior is the path to enlightenment. Every day is an opportunity to learn. And I am glad to have you walk the path by my side, Valkenhayn."
He draws in his breath -- and then plants his paws upon the ground, rising to his own feet. He leans forward a bit more than he ought to.
"I believe we have done enough learning for one day. Now our task is much simpler..."
He offers a chuckle, as he steps forward, reaching up to clap Valkenhayn on the back. (Because he probably can't reach his shoulders that easily...)
"... Let's get the Representative of the House of Alucard presentable again, shall we?"
Log created on 12:25:44 01/31/2018 by Valkenhayn, and last modified on 15:35:20 02/05/2018.