World Warrior 2018 - World Warrior Qualifiers - Baiken vs Jubei

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Description: Two samurai meet at the docks of Cannes. The expected happens.

A wristwatch, really? Jubei remembers similar devices being all the rage some years back. And then they largely went away when everyone and their brother was snapping up these "cell phone" devices which not only told the time, but also allowed one to make calls anywhere in the world. And just when the old cat has learned the trick of talking to the device, he's forced to wear a wristwatch again.

At least he's figured out that he can wrap the wristwatch on the -outside- of his sleeve. It wasn't doing much good on his actual wrist, nice and toasty inside his jacket, but thoroughly unusable. It still bothers the heck out of the one-eyed cat though -- as he jabs it with his paw.

"Damn thing's beeping again," he mutters to himself.

His tails flick about in irritation. The masters at Strolheim "helpfully" gave the diminutive samurai master a smaller-sized watch. It just means he has a hell of a time actually reading it, or actuating buttons with his claws.

His whiskers twitch as he looks south to the Mediterranean. The cat has always loved the coast, for any number of reasons: the salt air, the fish, the pleasant breeze, the fish, the relaxing sound of the waves, the fish... And with closest family members acting not-so-close to him right now, he figured he would take advantage of the opportunity to travel the world. To take his sweet time exploring the world on his own time -- and hopefully avoiding the watchful eyes of the NOL.

And that is how he found his way to the docks of Cannes, France. His hind paws make barely a sound upon the wooden docks as he makes his way. Every so often the feline stops to sniff the air, nose twitching away. Every few seconds, his watch bleats plaintively in a futile attempt at vying for the old cat's attention. Sure -- a name might pop up on his screen. But they'll just have to meet the codgery cat on his own terms. And considering the huge freaking swords slung over his right shoulder and the giant paws, and the fact that he's a walking, talking, one-eyed -cat-, well. Not too many people are keen on opening that can of worms.

Jubei isn't the only person who doesn't like wristwatches.

Baiken never bothered to wear them, even when they were popular, for a very simple reason. Well, two: one, it really doesn't fit her whole motif. But there's a much more significant reason why she never wore them:

Have you ever tried to put a wristwatch on when you only have one arm?

Baiken eventually got the damn thing on her left wrist, the only one she actually has, but she has no real way to manipulate it since she doesn't have an opposite hand. She has no idea which of the other World Warrior fighters she's been tracking for the past while because of it; she only knows which way to go.

Jubei's watch beeps annoyingly once again, and it's echoed by another beep coming from a second Strolhelm 'watch' within hearing distance. If he looks up and around, he can find the source of it: a pink-haired woman in a complex robe with a sword at her hip, single eye narrowed, the glass eyepatch holding a tsuba over her empty socket glittering in the evening light. he's scowling. The scowl deepens as she points herself the right way, walking directly toward Jubei.

"A beast?" Baiken chews the base of a long stalk of grass, or something, before spitting it to the side. "They sent me to fight a /beast/?" She sounds irritated. Baiken isn't sure if Strolhelm is insulting her by sending her to fight Jubei, or... what. Yes, she could have retargeted her tracker, but that takes things like 'more fingers'.

Jubei turns towards the sound, as the beeping of Baiken's watch begins to approximate the volume of his own. His ears fold back -- though the difference would be nigh unnoticeable beneath his custom Kaka-clan hood.

His eye narrows, his mouth curling in an expression of mild disgust. His bright orange jacket -- held fast with ties to the left and right of center -- certainly stands out, even amidst the bright lights and colors of the French Riviera, just before the sun dips down below the level of the buildings to the west. The light breeze flicks at his tawny, bicolored fur, making it quite obvious that if he weren't human, he'd be arrested for not wearing more clothes.

The cat smiles, good-naturedly.

"And how do you think =I= feel right now? I was =proud= t'hear that Strolheim had picked =only= the strongest, only the =best= fighters in the world."

He raises both of his oversized paws, within their voluminous sleeves, gesturing at Baiken.

"And here I am, put up against not only a weakling, but..." He manages to keep smiling while his jaw falls agape: "... a -woman-."

His left arm pleads his case, while he lets his right arm fall limp, sleeve billowing in the breeze.

"And with only one arm, at that!"

He smiles -- broadly and good-naturedly, in contrast to words which can charitably be called "fightin' words."

"So, my name's Jubei, yeah." He glances over to his watch, as his tails flick back and forth. "And you're Baiken, so this thing says."

The one-eyed cat supinates his paw, extending one metal claw, and beckoning the wandering swordswoman closer.

"So lemme ask ya. You here to fight, or just make nasty remarks?"

He spreads his stance -- hind paws bracing themselves along the wooden docks. Aside from that, he looks almost as casual as before -- but with the confidence he's practically exuding, it looks like he's more than ready for a fight

COMBATSYS: Jubei has started a fight here.

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Jubei            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Baiken has joined the fight here.

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Baiken           0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0            Jubei

As Jubei speaks, Baiken immediately sees red.

She's had a short temper in the past. Though she's actually gotten it under control over the past few years, it's no secret that the rogue samurai is hot-headed, impolite, and poor at working or dealing with others - to say the least.

But there's this /beastman/, this /Darkstalker/, saying these words to her, and it all comes rushing back in a burst of fury that threatens to overwhelm her control.

The first visible sign is that Baiken's face turns slightly redder, and her back stiffens slightly. Her hand, resting against the base of the hilt of her sword, shifts to a grip as if she intended to draw it immediately and hack the offending cat where he stands.

"You think I'm a crippled weakling? I'll make you eat those words, /cat/," Baiken snarls. "You had better be prepared for a fight, because you're getting one."

She suits actions to words, rushing toward Jubei in a charge that looks reckless. It isn't, or at least isn't /quite/ as wild as it looks; it's aggressive, but Baiken is skilled enough to have control when she opens up. Her forward rush is arrested by Baiken drawing her sword and slashing all in the same motion, the tip of the blade trailing pink chi like a banner following the arc of her slash as she keeps moving, right past Jubei to skid to a slow stop behind him.

COMBATSYS: Jubei blocks Baiken's Rokkonsogi.

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Baiken           0/-------/-----==|-------\-------\0            Jubei

Jubei has been around the block a few times. He's faced discrimination before -- he faces it every day in fact, being a cat in a world that doesn't much like sentient beings that aren't strictly homo sapiens. And he wagers -- correctly -- that Baiken would not like having her own faults called out.

The One-Eyed Twin Lotus wonders, idly, what she would've said if he'd called her out for missing an eye. But, as she's already gnashing her teeth at the remarks he -has- made, perhaps that was enough. The cat's smile only grows larger as Baiken grows more... red. Is that embarassment, rage, or both? Or does that even matter at this point?

"Maybe," is his cagey response, as his left paw reaches behind is back in a seemingly lackadaisical manner. "I was hoping to catch the shrimping boats as they came in. They're always tossin' aside scraps."

And just when it seems like the cat would be run through for his careless remarks, he casually steps sideways. The sword -should- have hit him, but instead of the distinctive feel of Baiken's sword biting through flesh, it will instead nibble across the surface of a lacquered wooden scabbard, resounding with a hollow clack as he allows it to yield under the pressure, as the pink energy dragged along in its wake sears at his outstretched paw -- the one clutching the scabbard, and the Dream Blades within.

Even with that lazy defense, the cat is still forced to stagger sideways with a choked grunt. His smile has faded considerably, crimson eye narrowing with growing alarm.

The cat swings himself around to face Baiken -- but drops his left shoulder low, thrusting his right shoulder forward. An iaijutsu stance...

"Bein' judged by people sure is a bitch, ain't it? Always an uphill battle, tryin' to get people t'respect you..."

All of a sudden, the cat isn't standing there -- but rather, he's closed the gap to Baiken with an impressive burst of speed.
Two arcs of seithr-forged steel flash out to reflect the fading sunlight, a trail of ebony chi in their wake.
The first, naturally, is the expected iaijutsu opener, a wide horizontal slash.
The second, though, is a vertical slice -- difficult even for someone with two hands.
The second blade is being swung not with a hand -- but by the nekomata's twin tails -- a cross-cut, vertical slice.

And as the feline warrior is still kinda grinning... well, it seems he's done this trick before.

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Jubei's Form One - Shadow Wolf.

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Baiken           0/-------/----===|=------\-------\0            Jubei

Baiken at least has a comeback for the missing eye. It's not like Jubei isn't missing one too, as far as she can tell. On top of that, usually she doesn't consider the arm and eye a fault; it happened so long ago that she wouldn't know what to do with two arms.

Mostly, she is angry that the /animal/ spoke back to her. Baiken does not like beastmen, Darkstalkers, or anything of the sort. She was hurt too long ago and has dedicated much of her life to fighting them to let that go. Even though, under some other circumstances, if Jubei was a human, she might have liked him.

Baiken feels her sword bite wood, not flesh. She's familiar with the sensation, and she turns her blade just slightly to skim across it rather than dulling it by scraping down the side of the lacquered scabbard, leaving it in position for the energy to strike against Jubei's hand. Paw. Whatever.

Baiken returns to a neutral guard, having turned to face Jubei. She may not like him, but she's taking him seriously; anyone in World Warrior has to be someone of sufficient skill to challenge her, or they wouldn't have invited them. "I don't really care what people like you think of me," Baiken says, just before Jubei rushes /her/.

As fast as thought, Baiken is moving. She sees the movement of the draw and is on guard against it, sidestepping, her hair whirling; her blade slips out to deflect the second strike, and she's almost fast enough. Almost: he draws first blood, though it's no more than a shallow scrape along her lower arm, a slim line of red more than a gushing wound.

Taking advantage of the proximity, Baiken stomps her foot in front of her, switching to a more forward stance, presenting the side of her body to Jubei rather than facing him head-on. The stomp causes an eruption of pink chi to blast upward from the ground as Baiken tries to force Jubei back, letting her use her reach to advantage; Baiken is short, but Jubei is shorter, and even wielding his sword in his tails isn't going to give him as much reach as she has at full extension.

She hopes.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Jubei with Tetsuzansen.

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Baiken           0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0            Jubei

The cat's response is not quite quick enough to score a full success against the one-armed swordswoman. As the perilous swipes conclude, the cat leaps backwards to a safer distance -- fully mindful of Baiken's close proximity. His tails return their blade back to their scabbard, as he wriggles his nose back at Baiken.

The blasted cat is still, at this point, smiling. He can see the woman's blade, and he has one of his own blades raised in defense. Despite being a cat, his arms are artificially long -- what seem like enlarged paws are actually mechanical devices to aid the cat in his lack of opposable thumbs. He -has- reach.

But it won't do him any good in this case, when the woman's sword is not the weapon of choice.

The cat starts to leap backwards, but he hadn't expected the geyser force of chi beneath him -- the pink energy slams into him from below, causing his crimson eye to open wide with a shock, as he grunts with pain. No armor or clothing -there- -- and his tails snap out with proportional alarm.

Still. "People like you" is a step up from "beasts like you" or that accursed slur "darkstalker" he's come to loathe so much. And even as he staggers backward from the uprising of chi, the warrior still has enough focus to collect himself.

"Indeed, my opinion of you certainly doesn't seem to bother you."
The cat is fully mindful of how infuriating it can be to have those words slung back to you, with just that extra pinch of judgment.

But he will not withdraw -- not yet.
No - he will stow his second sword.
But in the midst of that move, he will twist counterclockwise, slamming the scabbard forward in an attempt to bash Baiken with the pommel of his upper sword.

If he connects with that attack, he will leap back to spring off of one of the raised posts along the dock, uncoiling into a little ball of fury. That coil will be punctuated as he swings -both- his swords out in a parallel cleave, splitting the air with parallel waves of ebony-colored chi -- extending beyond the length of his infinitely sharp blades to slam against Baiken!

COMBATSYS: Jubei successfully hits Baiken with Miroku - Spherical Illusion EX.

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

Baiken is old. Old enough that she doesn't always drop to 'Darkstalker', mostly because she predates the term (which says a bit about her, given the Internet made it, like so many other things, popular). She used people, but she doesn't really think of Jubei as one; he's an animal, a monster.

And her opponent.

Jubei is a legitimate challenge. Baiken hadn't had one in a while; then there was Blood, and now, Jubei. She's starting to feel alive again, as she only does in battle; not the grey dreary existence focused around her search for That Man, but the heart-pumping vigour that energizes her whole body and soul.

It's all she has to live for, beyond revenge. She seizes it when she can. Even against someone like this, when she's not trying to kill them even though part of her cries out for his death. She'll settle for defeat.

This time, Baiken does not rise to the bait offered by Jubei's words. She does not snap back at him - which is unusual enough, and a mark of respect even if he's unlikely to recognize it as such. She's fully occupied, anyway, with trying to deal with his assault, and with less than perfect success; the pommel catches her in the stomach.

There's only a moment when Baiken recoils, moving with the blow to minimize injury, but in a swordfight like this an instant is an eternity, and Jubei capitalizes. His pouncing bound strikes home, the twin lines of chi drawn across Baiken's body causing her to hiss through her teeth as she gets a painful surprise.

And once again she presses the assault, though less recklessly. Her blade is still in hand, and she uses it to strike, a sudden blow that's half punch, half hilt bash; spinning the blade so she's holding it reversed, like a gigantic knife, she drives her weapon's hilt directly toward Jubei's jaw with sufficient force to break the bones of a lesser combatant or rattle the skull of someone stronger. But it's a controlled blow, not a wild one, and Baiken recovers more quickly than her previous assaults.

She's pacing herself. Her single eye watches Jubei, almost unblinking. Expectant.

COMBATSYS: Jubei dodges Baiken's Medium Strike.

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

Jubei harbors no ill will towards Baiken whatsoever. In fact -- he does not even hold prejudice over her, contrary to his own claims. The words he spoke are just that -- words, intended to garner a reaction. That Baiken can allow the words to slip past her is noted, recognized as a mark of discipline. It may not be an apology, no. But actions speak louder than words, and Baiken has exceptional command of the vocabulary of war.

Jubei, as well, is giving this fight his full attention: appearances can be deceiving. The feline warrior has lived far beyond the typical life expectancy for a cat -- and he's not about to give it up now. The swords are sheathed once again, after their strike hits home. The cat's smile fades, as he is not without empathy for his opponent's position. But neither is he relenting - he -expects- retaliation.

And in the next moment, he receives it. As Baiken swings the blunt end of the sword towards him, he falls backwards, landing on a bipod created by his twin tails. His whiskers twitch as he catches the aroma of the cord-wrapped hilt and the hand that grasps it, carried aloft by the sheer wind from such a swift strike.

But just as soon as he falls -- he surges forward in a counterattack. His tails bob with the weight, as he pitches sharply to his right. As his right paw hits the deck with a *thunk*, his hind paws thrust outward with a powerful mule kick, rocketing forward to catch Baiken in the abdomen!

COMBATSYS: Baiken dodges Jubei's Crushing Strike.

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

With both of them concentrating entirely on the battle, it's certainly a quieter affair. Though only in some ways; in other ways, it's starting to get louder.

The battle is starting to attract attention. They're not the only people on the docks; workers, sailors, fishermen are all starting to come over and see what the heck is going on. It's not unexpected, really. Battles aren't unheard of, World Warrior is pretty public due to Krauser's tendency to hijack the airwaves, and both of them are distinctive enough that they were probably identified as soon as they set foot in Cannes.

Baiken doesn't care about the audience. They don't even rate in her thought processes except, slightly, as obstacles - though this isn't the kind of situation she really wants to fling Jubei into them, or jump off them, or anything else. But they are starting to arrive.

Baiken isn't used to fighting someone with the size and body profile of Jubei. Her strike misses as he uses his tails as support, but she sees him starting to pitch to the side and predicts what's coming next. A kick, with all his power behind it...

Baiken leaps backwards, abandoning her close proximity to Jubei; she nearly gets hit by the high-speed mule kick anyway, as it brushes the skirt-like segment of her robe without quite connecting with Baiken's leg. This is generally not a great idea in a swordfight - momentum and initiative are key - but this isn't /just/ a swordfight, after all, and she uses that to her advantage by changing the rules again.

Stomping her foot, Baiken summons a trio of greenish platforms in a line in front of her, pointing toward Jubei. Her foot stomps on the edge of the closest, causing it to flip up and in turn flip the one next in line, which flips the final one; from beneath each of the boxy chi formations comes another one of those pink geysers of chi. "TATAMI GAESHI," she roars, by way of a kiai - though it's probably too late to help Jubei respond to her voice, at least he gets to know what he's encountering after the fact?

COMBATSYS: Jubei full-parries Baiken's Sanmai Tatami Gaeshi!!

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Baiken           0/-------/--=====|===----\-------\0            Jubei

Peripherally, Jubei notices the rising audience count. If he was concerned about being spotted, he wouldn't be wearing prison convict orange. And honestly -- he kind of -likes- that he's out and about, showing that creatures like him can be seen out in public, taking part in such civil festivities as fighting a swordswoman wearing remarkably revealing robes.

But, like Baiken, Jubei is a master of focus and discipline. As long as the audience does not attempt to interfere with all this live steel swinging around, he has but one objective on his mind at the moment -- defeating Baiken. And anything -she- does will be noted, catalogued, prioritized, and dealt with accordingly.

Once his kick falls short, the cat pitches forward, spinning about so that his leg can be drawn back in as safe a manner as possible. Log-rolling along the ground, the cat can innately sense the welling of another burst of the swordswoman's unique flavor of chi. He remembers the last -- and he does not relish the idea of getting caught by surprise again.

... Unfortunately, this means he has to chance touching the first green platform he comes across.
But fortunately, he hits it with all four paws at the same time -- two hind paws, and two comically oversized artificial paws.
And he springs backwards at the perfect moment, nullifying the shock and sending him flying into the air! "Hup!"
The second platform is close to striking him -- but he bends his limbs, braces himself -- and leaps off that platform as well. "Hup!"

By the time the third platform is in the air, he's gotten the hang of it -- and he angles himself towards Baiken.
When the platform goes off, he kicks off it sharply with both of his hind paws.
And he hurtles forwards -- flipping around into a ball, and unfurling -both- of his infinitely sharp Dream Blades in a dizzying array of swiping blows. It will be difficult to predict -when- a blade will be protruding from the spinning mass of cat and cloth, but each time he will aim to slash at Baiken's extremities, drawing blood when possible but not carving so deep as to sever a limb. She really needs to keep the ones she has, after all! "Hrrrraaah!"

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Jubei's Form Three - Ranjishi EX.

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Baiken           0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0            Jubei

Baiken doesn't think anything about her robe. It's just what she wears. She gave up worrying about being feminine... well, forever ago; she can't remember a time when that was a concern of hers. It keeps what needs to be covered covered (technically), even though it isn't great in the cold, and it has long, trailing sleeves.

The sleeves are something Baiken actually does put thought into. They have a tactical purpose, after all. The cleavage does not.

Baiken hasn't seen anyone deal with her imitation tatami mats quite like that before. People have tried to jump over or roll around them, but jump /on/ them? Only someone Jubei's size could really have tried, and only someone of Jubei's skill could have succeeded. Her eye flicks to follow him, though she keeps the surprise mostly off her face at his success.

She expects him to go on the offense again, and she's not wrong. Jubei's assault is so complex that Baiken cannot follow it - indeed, she's not entirely sure Jubei can consciously follow it, or if he's swinging entirely on instinct and the feel of the moment. Which means she has to do the same thing: react on instinct.

Baiken shifts her footing, half bracing and half preparing to push /into/ the assault, to hold it off. Her sword comes up to catch some of the strikes, though more trace across her arm and shoulders shallowly, drawing more red lines; more surprisingly Baiken snaps her empty sleeve forward, as if swinging the arm that would have been in it to point ahead.

The sleeve proves to be less empty than expected as a spherical weight on a chain whips out of it, snapped through the air to ring against the flat of one of Jubei's sword like a bell. She tries to push him away with the weight, then twist her body and the chain just so to wrap it around his leg; if she manages it, Baiken cracks it downward, smashing him against the ground like he was a bludgeon himself!

COMBATSYS: Jubei counters Medium Throw from Baiken with Immovable Object.

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

In ancient times, the sharpness of a katana was expressed in how many bodies it could slice through without catching. And there is no doubt that the of the blade's sharpness -- for the master cat's keen hearing can pick out the sine-wave hamon's distinctive sound as it ripples through the air.

Jubei has no doubt of the swordswoman's skill. It takes a disciplined learner to wield a blade without injuring oneself. It takes a true master to wield a blade with the intent to injure instead of kill outright. Jubei had trained for literally decades to master the arts -- and he is quite impressed to find in Baiken another scholar.

It is further testament to Baiken's skill and speed that the one-eyed cat has, himself, fallen silent. Her swift strikes have forced him to set his genial taunts aside, to focus on the fight rather than the psychology of his opponent. The opponent may have begun the fight with an expression of disgust -- but she shows nothing but martial respect for the cat now, devoting the whole of her consciousness to the fight. And he can do no differently.

Jubei has entered the state of the Empty Mind -- a state in which every movement is borne not of conscious effort, but of disciplined effort. There is but one conscious directive in place -- and that is to succeed in battle without ending life. All thoughts that do not contribute to that goal are extraneous information, to be filed and processed at a later time.

As such -- no compliments on the swordswoman's form will be forthcoming.

Jubei subconsciously registers each attack -- the ones that land, and the ones that do not. And he subconsciously regards the sleeve as it is drawn out. The fully-cognizant Jubei would know she has no arm there. The Empty Mind, though, is a product of disciplined response, and he treats it as a legitimate threat. The cat -- in a different caliber of physical agility than most humans -- is able to respond in a much quicker fashion.

Certainly, he is less concerned about the spherical weight slamming into the side of his Nox Nyctores -- the material is practically unbreakable as it is, and he's certainly got the battle experience to know.

But when that weight moves to push him away, he treats the weapon as if it were a grasping hand, swinging out of the way. If an arm were to loop around him, then slicing it with the weapon would betray the primary directive.

Which is why one sword is replaced into its scabbard, and why the long hilt of one blade is swung into the path of the encircling chain instead. As the weight whips around the extended hilt, he allows his paw to follow the motion, slackening his grip on the sword while still keeping his claws curled loosely around it. And when the chain is tugged downward, the cat puts his own agility to use.

The ball and chain are tugged.
And the blade is released, its point slamming into the decking boards.
But the cat is not where he ought to be -- instead, he has leapt over the nearly-empty sleeve.

Jubei will become a feline missile, his shoulder and curled forearm slamming hard into Baiken's sternum.

And only then will he pirouette away -- not for show, but for conservation of angular momentum.

He will reclaim his Dream Blade in a moment. It's not going anywhere, embedded in the boards -- and he's still got one, anyway.

Baiken's use of the blade is idiosyncratic, unique - as Jubei's own must be, given his unusual form. Having never even tried to fight when she had both hands, Baiken's stance and maneuvers are suitable only for the use of one.

Her blade is shorter and lighter than many of the long katanas, more similar to Jubei's own dual-wielded weapons, not because Baiken is too weak for a long blade but because she never has another hand to use for leverage. Her stance is side-forward, because her right arm does not exist. Baiken uses the sleeve to conceal tricks and traps, and the tools it conceals certainly give her an edge in a fight, but it is not part of her ability to use a sword - she can do that without the strange array of equipment she keeps at the ready.

Even her strikes are different. Baiken's balance is not the same as a two-handed fighter, and more than that: she trained herself from nothing, all sheer determination, immense willpower, and prodigial skill, and so she had no master to push her to do things the way they have always been done before. It's an unusual style, a counterpoint to Jubei's, but there are some similarities by virtue of the type of sword they use, and in Jubei's Empty Mind Baiken finds something that feels familiar, though not identical, to her own state of battle.

Baiken is not sure she appreciates the feeling of kinship between her and the other master of the sword. But it helps her understand Jubei's response, fast enough that conscious thought barely seems to be involved when he lets the chain wrap around his hilt instead of his body, causing Baiken to drive the point into the boards of the dock rather than slam Jubei against it.

Baiken retracts the chain almost immediately with a peculiar shrugging gesture that causes it to vanish back up her sleeve, but she's still off-balance from the attempt and Jubei impacts her breastbone with force. She staggers back as the chain finishes sliding away, stepping with the blow, but it's still knocked the air out of her, and she's getting irritated at her failure -

Calm. Breathe.

Baiken takes in a breath and lets it out as she focuses once again on Jubei, returning her sword to its scabbard with a click. Now with a free hand, she's more free to manipulate tools from her sleeve; she reaches forward with the missing arm, causing a different chained weapon to fly forward. This one is a four-'fingered' hand, the mechanical 'fingers' set in a rough cross shape like a grasping claw; and she tries to grab Jubei with it. With her free hand, she yanks at the chain to drag him closer, whether he wants to approach or not; it has the side effect of (hopefully) keeping him away from his fallen weapon, if she can control his movements with the weapon.

COMBATSYS: Jubei blocks Baiken's Kabari.

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

It has been a long time since Jubei has fought against another master of the blade. It's been so long, in fact, that the line between the techniques of his master and the techniques he's honed through rigorous practice have been blurred. Besides, his wrists can act as a second pair of elbows, allowing maneuvers tailored for a cat wielding extension paws, practically impossible for a humanoid to duplicate. So he can certainly appreciate the unique adaptations of Baiken's style and form, in concert with the basics necessary to operate the weapon alone.

Not that she is using the sword now -- as she instead reveals another weapon in her arsenal, and in effect, keeping Jubei from his other sword. The cat raises both his sleeved paws in a warding gesture, the claws sliding out of their sockets, demonstrating that he, too, has an arsenal, smaller though it may be. He bobs lightly on his hind paws, remaining nimble and fluid in his gestures as he studies Baiken with his crimson eye. And when that weapon is unfurled, the cat of the Empty Mind sways backwards, raising those claws to protect his face from the piercing weapon, deciding the sharp pain of the claw digging into his underlying paw to be an acceptable compromise.

He finds out a moment later that the weapon was not intended to gouge his eyes, but rather entangle him. He jerks backwards against the tether with a grunt of dismay, finding his forepaws strained in manners that are quite uncomfortable indeed!

But the Empty Mind sees this not as an inconvenience, but an opportunity. For in a tug of war, the option always exists to let go of the rope.

In this case, that means resisting against Baiken's pull to ensure she's holding fast -- and then, without warning, beginning to dash -towards- her.

In doing so, the nimble cat leaps up into the air, giving enough slack to the chain that he can vault upwards into a flip, sailing right over Baiken's head and landing a fair distance away. His trajectory brings him no closer to his sword, but as he brings his paws to the ready, he proves that he doesn't really need it at the moment.

Indeed -- as he sweeps his paws past one another, they begin to emit a black, inklike form of chi. Much like oil dripped into a pool of water, the ink begins to spread outwards from the cat -- and as he sweeps his paws in a circle, the ink smears to follow his path.

The cat's crimson eye stares at Baiken, as he breathes out, concentrating intently. With prolonged exposure to the air, the chi will dissipate -- but with each moment, more and more of the chi will flood outward to fill the void. He keeps tracing a circle with his paws, drawing more and more energy from the world around him, keeping focus on Baiken to see how she will react.

COMBATSYS: Jubei gathers his will.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Baiken           1/----===/=======|>>>>>>>\>>-----\1            Jubei

For Jubei, the option exists to let go of the rope.

For Baiken, it does not - in a very literal sense, since the chain is affixed somewhere to her body. There's no possible way for Baiken to drop it any more than she could choose to drop her other arm to prevent someone from manipulating it; the most she can do is open the clawed 'hand' and release her grip on whatever she is holding.

Which she does, letting Jubei free, but he's already used the increased momentum from the tug to his advantage. He goes straight over her head as her claw flies free, Baiken already withdrawing the chain back up her sleeve as it serves no purpose dangling around uselessly.

She /can/ tell what he's doing. She, too, can build chi, though she tends to do it differently than Jubei does; not so deliberately or patiently. Baiken feels the power build, and her reaction is swift; she comes at him hard and fast, not letting him gather as much as he'd probably like.

With a kiai, Baiken charges, stomping her foot down right in front of Jubei; drawing her sword, she slashes in the same motion, a remarkably powerful horizontal swipe that she puts her entire body into. The strike is classic, and to do so as smoothly as Baiken does is a mark of mastery all on its own, but it's not the only one.

She follows it up, reversing the sword and swinging back the way it came, and this time the blade begins to ignite with pink chi along its length. It's not drawing from Jubei's; it clashes with it, a point of brightness against the ink-black darkness he brings to himself.

Raising the sword high and pointing vertically, Baiken sweeps it, deliberately, through a full circle that doesn't touch Jubei. The gathering power intensifies, the entire blade glowing a pure pink as the building power surges through the full circle of her arc and causing an audible hum - and when it is pointing straight upward again, it burns bright enough to cast a shadow.

And then, Baiken swings, a single blow aimed diagonally across Jubei's body from shoulder to hip. The pink chi streams from the blade, flecks drifting off to blow in the wind like cherry blossoms as Baiken performs a final, near-perfect blow.

COMBATSYS: Jubei blocks Baiken's Tsurane Sanzu Watashi.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Baiken           0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>>---\1            Jubei

As he roots himself to the ground, his hind paws spreading apart slightly upon the wooden decking, he becomes increasingly aware of the audience that has gathered. Citizens of France, citizens of the EU, some tourists from all across the world. Most will have no idea who these two individuals are -- their confusion is evident, as words are exchanged in hushed whispers. A woman with pink hair, a sword, and one arm... fighting a cat.

You better -believe- that a good number of the people have whipped out their cellphones to take footage of the event.

Jubei hears the voices, feels the enthusiasm of their presence -- but ignores the sensations, forcibly evicting them from his Empty Mind. He cares only for two things at the moment. One is Baiken, naturally; the other is conducting the flow of chi from his feet, up through his core, out through his paws, and sweeping it into the fading wisps of jet-black ink.

His eye blinks back patiently at Baiken, his feline jaw parted as he draws in his breath. There will be no surprises for the moment, as the beastman links himself to the pathways of chi, sensing them as clearly as if he was ensnared in the midst of a spider's web. When Baiken shouts, he feels the cry resounding through each tuft of fur, each pore in his skin. When he charges forward, his fur responds to the powerful gusts of of chi, his orange jacket fluttering about from the wind kicked up.

And he responds, near instantaneously.
The Dream Blade is drawn from its scabbard.
Its tip points down to the deck. The infinitely sharp edge is turned away from Baiken's.
And with the hilt raised high, Jubei brings his second paw behind the blade.
Nowhere close to the blade, the motion is merely a gesture to balance his form.

Baiken's blade strikes the blunt edge of the blade in a shower of sparks, forcing Jubei's arm to shudder. The whorls of chi are disturbed, a vicious rent left in the pattern to show the path of Baiken's blade.

The blade flips on its axis, as Jubei doubles his paws up. His jaw tenses for the second strike. Again the blade shudders, clashing with a shower of sparks -- but then the wavefront of pink chi crashes into his blade, slamming into his shoulder. He's knocked sideways -- a motion which the feline seems hesitant to react to, but eventually clambers sideways to prevent a fall.

Pink energy flares. And Jubei is forced to look away from the brilliant light -- past her, to a spot beyond her.

The void ink slips from view.
And an instant later, it is pulled back into view.
Just beyond his sword.

Baiken cleaves from shoulder to hip -- and he turns his sword an an acute angle, holding it with both paws. The blades screech out at one another, the clash of steel unleashing an unholy clamor -- and you thought nails on chalkboards were bad?

And still, Jubei is not strong enough to counter the might all by himself. He turns to yield to Baiken's leverage, unwilling to die on that hill.
And he looks up.
A second whorl of black, inky chi pools into existence there.

The cat leaps into the air, continuing to spin about. In mid-air, he catches sight of his opponent again...
A third pool of ebony chi oozes onto the boards...

And then the beastman looks upwards, for no reason other than to complete his last target.

The singing Dream Blade returns to its scabbard, with a click.

And then Jubei, the One-Eyed Twin Lotus, blurs forward, practically vanishing from view -- as the whirls of black energy solidify into thick-rimmed hexagons, with a sigil of a paw inlaid within.

Jubei's blurred form drives past Baiken without incident, diving into a roll, tugging his previously-abandoned sword free from the decking, and landing in a half-step.

Jubei suddenly twists, reversing direction, and raking his claws across Baiken on his path to the second sigil. He moves like lightning -- a prepared technique honed over decades of practice to allow him to move at phenomenal speed as he drags his chi-saturated claws in an upward angle.

COMBATSYS: Baiken parries Jubei's Shiranui!

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Baiken           0/-------/------=|>>>>>>>\>>-----\1            Jubei

Upon contacting the second sigil, the samurai cat reverses direction again, driving him back downward to the point on the ground nearest Baiken's foot. By this time, his entire form is wreathed in ebony chi. His claws will shred a second time, seeking to draw blood...

Regardless, the cat's momentum is unmatched. The feline rushes upwards, this time aiming to soar high into the air, raking his claws against Baiken's ironclad defenses -- but at this point, he will sail upwards without meeting his goal, without carrying her into the air alongside him.

Of course people are watching.

Baiken expects it, by now. She's popular, for some reason, even if she has no idea why; the mysterious samurai woman who came out of nowhere a year or two ago to start some very impressive challenges caught audiences by surprise, and her appearances are rare enough that she still fires their imagination. Especially when she doesn't answer any questions about herself.

/Especially/ when she's very... Baiken.

Like Jubei, Baiken pays no attention to them; the people may as well be slightly ambulatory obstacles and little more. Neither samurai has time for a crowd when they have each other to focus on; Jubei to channel his chi and defend himself from Baiken's assault, Baiken on her own offense and trying to break through Jubei's guard.

With every shower of sparks, Baiken redoubles her effort. She's both strong and skilled, but Jubei is equal to the task. The first blow leaves a line in the chi, but dims that of her own blade; the second forces Jubei to move, which causes Baiken to shift her follow-through. The third...

Baiken ignores the unholy racket of blade on blade to press in, even as Jubei forms targets behind her. Baiken does not recognize them, does not consciously know what they can do, but she is ready to react as soon as Jubei stops taking the defensive.

His first roll takes him away from her, and Baiken whirls, actually making a twirling leap toward Jubei's new position as he retrieves his sword. When he reverses, coming at Baiken, she is ready; her blade clashes against the outstretched claws as she uses the momentum of her spin to partially absorb the impact.

At the same time, she lashes out with her 'empty' sleeve. No chain this time; instead a wickedly curved blade, a heavy chopper, protrudes from the trailing and somewhat tattered fabric; she finishes her spin with an arching chop at Jubei as his momentum brings him up and past her, attempting to catch him as he bounds.

To the audience, the two of them jumped at each other, Jubei sheathed in inky chi and Baiken trailing wisps of leftover cherry-blossom pink energy, and clashed off with ringing steel and possibly one blow delivered. Baiken only lands after she's struck with the chopping blade, having had only one opening and opportunity to leverage the weapon against the fast-moving Jubei.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Jubei with Youzansen EX.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Baiken           0/-------/----===|>>>>>>>\>>>>---\1            Jubei

In the state of the Empty Mind, the strategy is always the same -- to deal with opportunities as they come up, never looking far beyond the next strikes, and never lingering upon past successes or failures.

The strategy is, at times, his greatest strength. For when the strategy is laid too deep, a changing situation can topple it. But in this case, he had not anticipated that Baiken would be able to deal with -two- of his blindingly fast attacks. His claws ring from the clashes with her blades, affecting his path -- and threatening to upset the zen of the Empty Mind.

But he had not predicted that Baiken would rise to meet him in midair. He did not have a blade to meet her -- only those claws. And the feline samurai had only been anticipating the most deadly weapon in Baiken's arsenal -- not the curved blade she had kept concealed.

His eye goes wide for the moment as he feels a particular stinging sensation raking across his torso.
His jacket flutters, the garment sporting a fresh new cut through the side.
And a fine mist of red sprays outward -- a poignant signal that the blade had met its mark.

A reminder that the skilled cat is not immortal, nor infallible.

He veers off-course, momentum being all that pulls him towards the fourth and final sigil.
He grits his teeth, choking back the howl of pain that yearns to be set free.
And yet, the Empty Mind demands that he put the weakness out of his mind, and focus on the outcome.
His blood-spattered jacket flaps about as he twists in mid-air. With Baiken on the ground, the cat sets one foot on the sigil -- which glows brightly, and then flexes as the hind paw presses against it.

Jubei unsheathes the Dream Blades, awash in the whirls of ebony chi.
He thrusts himself off of the sigil -- searing downward. He slashes downward once with the Dream Blade -- a seemingly chaotic swipe, nowhere near injuring the earthbound Baiken.
His ebony chi surges with the motion, rushing ahead in a meter-wide wave.

He slashes the other direction, crossing the wave of chi with a swing from his second sword. He roars like a lion -- the aggravated muscle strands of his abdomen no longer allowing the samurai to keep his peace.
Again, the ebony ink surges -- zig-zagging the wave in mid air as it thunders downward.

A third strike, a third wave.
A fourth strike, a fourth wave.
Each wave builds upon the previous, their strengths and speed culminating in a riotous and powerful surge of energy, crashing down upon Baiken.

And if all of the collected energy collides with her -- then she will have two more swipes of the Dream Blades to contend with as well -- shallow cuts, backed with the the concussive force of his ebony chi.

COMBATSYS: Jubei successfully hits Baiken with Twin Guardians - Mourning Shore.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Baiken           1/------=/=======|>>>>>--\-------\0            Jubei

The number of weapons Baiken has concealed is impressive. In the physical sense, of course - how does she keep all of them concealed beneath her robe? The mantle doesn't seem that big, and Jubei hasn't even seen everything she wields from there.

But also in the stylistic sense. Baiken is capable of using them, fluidly, to supplement her kenjutsu. She is willing to seize any advantage they give her, and she values the flexibility they add to her style. She keeps her opponent guessing, even when they think they understand her.

Baiken bares her teeth when she feels her blade strike home. Not quite a grin, not a crazed look, but a fierce one; it amplifies her determination to not be shown up by the feline swordsman. She can still fight - and as long as she /can/ fight, she will. That, more than anything else, is her greatest asset.

Having landed, she looks up at Jubei, expecting a follow-up. And she isn't disappointed; his ability to spring in midair off his chi sigil is impressive, she can't do anything of the sort. She expects a diving assault, and she's half right.

The first lashing wave of chi only clips Baiken, barely impacting her but forcing her to move to the side, away from it. It's a predictable movement, and she hates doing it at all because it /is/ so predictable, but there is no other way she can see to avoid the sudden blow. The second, zig-zagging wave corrals her movement even further, leaving her with only one place to stand, and at that point she knows she is trapped.

Surge after surge of inky energy cascade down around Baiken, as she draws her own chi in to attempt to counteract it. It builds in her, a bright feeling that isn't visible to the onlookers but may be felt by the attuned Jubei as an expectant tension - but it does not protect her from the riotous wave, nor the slashes from the Dream blades that tear along her arm and upper body. All she can manage to do is avoid being thrown back, bracing herself against the concussive force.

And when the force ends, Baiken is still moving.

Battered, lashed by shallow cut after shallow cut, most people - even fighters of Baiken's caliber - would have accepted defeat. Baiken does not - she cannot. She forces herself to fight beyond where she should, and now she does it by - however improbably - taking the offense once more against Jubei with a roar.

Baiken's empty hand is outstretched toward Jubei as she rushes, palm out and glowing a faint pink, light streaking behind it as she moves. As she reaches for him, she releases the power about two steps before she is close enough to try reaching down to grab him.

A sigil of her own forms in the air; an ornate calligraphy-style character, complex and difficult to read for the uninitiated: Baku, the seal.

If the aura strikes Jubei, he finds his own chi bound. Not permanently, Baiken could not do such a thing, and in the manner she's done it not even particularly dangerous - but the sealing magic slows the flow of chi and interrupts his ability to gather it. Worse, as chi is the flow of fighting energy, he may find his very body sluggish and fatigued, until he can break away from Baiken's sealing magic.

COMBATSYS: Jubei blocks Baiken's Baku.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Baiken           0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\-------\0            Jubei

Jubei takes no particular joy in the sensation of his chi slamming into Baiken. Right now, his heart is thumping the tune of a battle hymn -- a riotous, fast-paced anthem that demands quick, decisive action, not the slow introspection of a strategist. The samurai cat simply feels the impact of his chi shockwaves, the vibrations through his blades as they slice fissures into his opponent's guard -- and notes them for later with unemotional precision. The heady rush of a magnificent battle is best experienced as an afterglow, with hearty congratulations and a well-deserved bottle of sake.

As Jubei lands, he conserves his momentum by dropping low and swinging both blades wide. Waves of black chi sweep along his arms, crashing into one another, dissipating into black mist that seeps into his pores, particularly the raw wound at his side. What the revitalizing tingles of chi cannot solve, the adrenaline coursing through his veins will help him to ignore. The Empty Mind brooks no room for contemplation or indecision -- just snap impulses, forged by life experience, the harshest teacher of all.

At the sudden roar from his opponent, his crimson eye snaps up to address Baiken's. At a more opportune time, he might consider why the women that intrigue him most in life mirror his own ruined eye? But at this time, he reads only raw, unbridled determination -- a need to power through the pain in much the same way as he is.

A kindred soul, in some regards.
But in a more pertinent sense, the mirror allows him to consider her impulses as he might his own in such an unenvious position -- a need to shut the speedy feline down.

He crouches low, as Baiken draws close.
He raises one paw -- with blades retracted.
He braces the raised paw with his other.

The sealing magic would likely sap him dry if it were to touch his skin, or even his fur, or cloth.
But as Baiken wields an arsenal, so too does Jubei -- in this case, the simple mechanical claws associated with the Kaka clan style.

Baku, the seal, draws the ebony chi towards it like a whirlpool. The waves crest, swirling rapidly towards the seal's inexorable pull. Not even Jubei's magic can stop that quantity of chi from being leeched away...

But it is drawn from the air, the overwhelming torrent of chi drawn up from his earlier tap of the earth's energies. The artificial paws provided the distance needed to keep the seal from making contact with his flesh -- the distance needed to reduce the pull to a slight tug, rather than the blow that would seal his fate.

And as Jubei bends down like a willow from the shove, he has the stored potential to be redirected elsewhere.
Jubei sails upwards in a powerful backflip, allowing the chi left in his wake to be drawn in. Its loss -- regrettable.

His two hind paws land hard on the slats, followed sharply thereafter by his two weaponized paws. The impact was harder than he'd have liked -- the seal may have stolen more of his energy than he'd like to admit.

It is a simple matter to gain more.
His paws flare with bright white light -- which then swirls around, mixing with the black energy he had left.
Ebony, and ivory, coalescing together into a steely grey.

Jubei pulls his jaw shut, his whiskers twitching.
His twin tails flick about with revitalized interest.
Once to the left.
And once to the right.

And then the One-Eyed Twin Lotus thunders forward, with a shockwave of milky grey chi in his wake. Three arcs glisten in the fading sunlight -- air perforated with his left claws.

Three more arcs glisten from his right claws, as he thunders forward.

It looks like the barrage of a berserker -- but there is a method to the madness. The cat still has speed left in him -- and with that leonine roar, he hopes to unleash savage, feline fury upon Baiken's guard.

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Jubei's Fissuring Slash.

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Baiken           0/-------/------=|>>>>>--\-------\0            Jubei

This battle, like all battles between two people of sufficient skill, comes down to the soul as much as the body.

Skill is important. Without skill, you will lose, and lose quickly; 'beginner's luck' is not a concept that really applies to combat. But when two skilled fighters compete, it becomes a contest of will, spirit, and determination.

Baiken is determined to not fall behind, to not lose to the strange feline samurai she considers some kind of lesser being despite his skill; a monster, an animal, though he seems less monstrous than some and is clearly more than an animal in his skill and mind (though that is something Baiken is deliberately putting aside from her thoughts for the moment). Jubei, too, is determined, though for his own reasons; Baiken cannot guess at them, though she can feel his desire to fight as much as her own. There's a certain sense of desire for the fight in and of itself, too, which she shares; compared to battle, everything else feels so flat and dead.

Even when she feels her sealing magic grasp at energy, but not Jubei, Baiken doesn't give up. She turns the aura aside, dispersing what she's collected from the chi left in the wake of Jubei's escape, closing her hand and causing a burst of pink and inky black wispy energy from her fist. It's impressive to look at, even though it is a waste, and to the noncombatants in the crowd, they have gotten a flashy light show... though the battle, and the contest, continues.

Jubei calls white energy, now, to mix with the black. Baiken's eye narrows as she attempts to distinguish the difference, but decides it ultimately does not matter. He's on the move now, and so is she.

Baiken flips her scabbarded sword out of her belt, still in the scabbard, as Jubei's tails flick. She recognizes it as an impending signal of his rush, and she's rushing too, forward at the same time. The scabbard comes down, tumbling, the sword beginning to fall from it; Baiken somehow catches both, impossibly given she only has one hand to catch with -

The two rushes collide. Baiken is holding off Jubei's claws with her sword and her scabbard, crossed in a plus-shape, the sword vertical and the scabbard horizontal. The sword is in her hand, point down with the back braced against the scabbard; the scabbard is held crosswise /in her teeth/, giving her something to brace it against.

Baiken's expression is impossible to read; her lips are drawn back and her teeth bared as much to stop her from biting them when she holds the scabbard as in a rictus or a grin, and she lets out a sound somewhere between a muffled, obscured word and a growl. She twists her upper body, attempting to push Jubei back and to the side slightly to give her enough room to strike; she uses the sword in an awkward-looking but very well practiced reverse-grip slice, almost like an oversized knife in the hands of a skilled knife-fighter.

COMBATSYS: Jubei fails to interrupt Random Strike from Baiken with Form Two - Demon Fox EX.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
Baiken           0/-------/-----==|>>-----\-------\0            Jubei

Among all the observers, only a minority has the requisite fight-viewing experience to keep up with the rapid movements of the two samurai. Sure, any layperson can see them -standing- there, and they might be able to see the sparks fly, but actually catch a glimpse of the clashes of metal... that's gonna take some doing.

The One-Eyed Lotus has been yearning for a fight like this for quite some time. Battling against unarmed foes is nice -- rarely would the nimble feline need to worry about securing immediate medical aid against an opponent with no blades at all. But those sorts of fights don't really get his blood pumping in the same way. The dance of live steel sings to his heart in a way that no other style of martial combat can.

If he were not throughly inundated beneath the shroud of the Empty Mind, he might actually share that thought, at the risk of ruining the purity of the mood. But now, as he is brought ever closer to the feral call of the wild, the fight itself is all that matters. And his ferocious claws are stayed by a raised blade -- and a scabbard. His rushing charge is not only stopped, but the cat will find himself shoved backwards.

You can't just -make- a cat to do something without expecting retaliation of some sort.

The cat's tails puff out. And as the claws are pulled back, each paw reaches for one of its swords. Retaliation would be swift -- and most undeniably painful -- as he flips around, bringing both Dream Blades to bear. One swings in a roughly vertical orientation, while the other arcs around a split-second afterwards from a horizontal angle.

But in this case -- neither will land true. For Baiken's tactic is, in this case, the one to land first. Her reverse-gripped slash shreds the cat's right sleeve apart, peeling loose a helical ribbon of crimson fluid from the furred arm lying beneath the cloth.

"Gnnngh!" protests the cat, his rotational momentum brought to an abrupt end by Baiken's interference. He finds himself overpowered by the less altitudinally-challenged of the two fighters, the crimson ribbons thinning as he sails backwards.

He manages to sheathe the swords again with the aid of his twin tails, an instant before he hits the deck, rolling axially for a few solid revolutions before he can throw his limbs out to either side and rein in his momentum. Springing back to his feet, he leans forward slightly -- left arm clapped down onto the fresh wound.

He looks up once again at Baiken, breath hissing through bared teeth. One who isn't used to fighting beastmen might think this is a fearsome look -- but in all actuality, the samurai feels no anger, no malice. Just pain, that he is hoping to bite back.

Baiken understands. When you're in the zone - call it Empty Mind, a state of perfect battle, or merely intense focus, whatever you like - it's hard to hold a conversation. It's part of why she so rarely says much beyond the occasional phrase or a kiai when she's in the middle of a swordfight.

She understands feeling alive in battle, too. She's lived for little else for years. But, like Jubei, she's not going to say so - though her reasons are different. It's personal.

Baiken seizes the advantage, and continues to do so, as she feels Jubei give up ground (figuratively as much as literally) at her assault. She's interrupted his retaliation and flung him, however fortuitously, to the ground; it would be a waste to let that go uncapitalized on. If she can force the samurai cat to act as she expects or hopes, then she can take control of this battle and lead herself to victory.

And really, isn't that the goal here? Victory?

She flips her sword in her hand until she's holding it forward instead of reversing it. With a shake of her head, she flips the scabbard up and away, catching it with a metallic clatter with something concealed in her 'empty' sleeve and not revealing itself; the concealed tool, whatever it may be, slides the scabbard back into its accustomed place on Baiken's hip.

But that's not the focus of her maneuver, impressive as it is to watch the tumbling scabbard for the artistry of it. Baiken's lunge is gathering pinkish chi on the tip of her blade once again, spreading it along the length of it, and she stabs at Jubei more than slashes; one single blow to penetrate his shoulder. Baiken's expression /is/ clear, now: it's complete focus, dedication, as she ignores the pain from the multiple wounds along her arm and upper body to complete the attack just so.

The chi, having spread along the blade, snaps back to the tip, exploding off in a shower of pink, little flakes drifting once again like cherry blossoms.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Jubei with Sakura.
Grazing Hit

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Baiken           0/-------/-----==|>>>----\-------\0            Jubei

The cat's ribcage heaves mightily, his breath beginning to crystallize in the cooling air. Even out here on the French Riviera, the temperatures can still drop into single digits Celsius, and not even the heat of battle will be able to keep the chill off his bones -- a chill that even now teases at the blood-slicked fur of his right forelimb. But the old warrior can sense that the battle will not be going on for much longer -- one way or another.

The nekomata's tails dance from side to side as he stares back at the one-armed samurai. The flip of her sword is noted -- as is the concealment of her scabbard. But the lion's share of his attention is focused upon the perilous tip of the woman's blade. His paws curl around their weapons, the chilled pads pressing tightly against the handles. And as he believes in his speed, he attempts to leap back, out of the way of the stabbing thrust...

His response is insufficient -- the pain lances clear through his shoulder, just as the swordswoman had intended. The fabric gives way -- and the pink wavefront of chi succeeds at drawing another small geyser of blood from the new fissure. "Gyaaaaoh!" he howls -- releasing the pain in that one fierce shout, rather than allow it to remain welled up within his lungs.

He shrinks back on that side -- feeling the added sting of a second wound to the same arm, landing unsteadily on his feet.
And then his claws dig into the wooden boards.
And then Jubei surges forward with speed that would no doubt be remarkable had it not been easily preceded with his earlier techniques.

His goal is to close the gap, using his lesser height as an advantage against the tall warrior woman. His weapon of choice is not one of the infinitely sharp Nox Nyctores blades -- but instead, he will swing his left paw upwards towards the hidden sleeve.

His oversized paw -- and the claws it bears -- will have a grip more than capable of sweeping both upwards in one fell swoop. Grounded as he is -- the old warrior channels his momentum into a significant leverage advantage to toss Baiken into the air.

The samurai cat had been relatively quiet for most of the match. But some exertions require a mighty shout.

And if he manages that -- he will vault into the air to follow her. One scant moment after Baiken leaves the ground , those three metal claws would sharply reverse her momentum, raking across her side and slamming her back to the boards!

COMBATSYS: Jubei successfully hits Baiken with Rising Phoenix.

[                           \\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Baiken           0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0            Jubei

The chill doesn't bother Baiken. She'll let herself feel it later, but right now it isn't even recognized - not even an ignored distraction, it may as well not exist at all. If it was icy, that would be something else, but the slickness under her feet is from water, not ice, and she's already taken it into account.

Especially because, ultimately, Jubei is right. Baiken knows the battle can't last much longer; one decisive blow on either side could finish it, now more than ever. That's why she's trying so hard to be the one that delivers the next solid strike; there's unlikely to be much more afterwards.

She thinks she has him on the ropes when he lets out a howl, shrinking back, and steps forward to continue her inevitable assault. Baiken misses, until it is almost too late, Jubei's toeclaws digging in in preparation to spring forward with incredible feline speed.

He slams into her, actually lifting her into the air in a manner Baiken would not have expected any cat, even one Jubei's size, to be capable of. If that was all - if it was just a toss - it would have been mostly harmless; she would have taken some minor damage but landed on her feet.

Unfortunately for her, it was not.

Jubei vaults up after her, and Baiken - with nothing to push against, no leverage - cannot defend herself. She has nothing to spring from, no way to move, and she feels the claws rake across her side. That's it, she knows; after an injury like that, her body will not let her fight, and she's still falling...

But in the last instants of her fall, Baiken's chained claw arm snaps out again. She tries to grab ahold of Jubei with it, twisting in such a way as to slam Jubei against the ground with the full force of her rise and fall, imparting all the momentum of her falling body to him and crashing him against the boards next to her.

Whether or not she manages it, though, after Baiken's hard landing on the docks, she does not immediately rise, too stunned and out of it. The audience doesn't seem to know whether to applaud or not.

COMBATSYS: Baiken can no longer fight.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  <
Jubei            0/-------/---====|

COMBATSYS: Jubei blocks Baiken's Himawari.

[                       \\\\\\\  <
Jubei            0/-------/--=====|

The claws rake downward against Baiken, points spearing into her. It's difficult to know how much it would have hurt -- but Jubei simply estimates 'a decent amount' from the amount of give and resistance. Another figure to be silently tabulated and recorded in the midst of recovery, his own flight slowed by the dramatic impact.

The last waves of ebony and ivory chi wash away from his form, ephemeral and diffuse. Breath hisses once more, through nostrils and closing teeth as he reorients himself. And then -- he hears the jangle of chain, even as he falls.

Claws whip out. And her four-pronged claw clashes against his blades, entangling itself with the tines. The cat seals his mouth shut -- and pulls the chain upwards and away from himself, targeting his feet towards the ground. As the chain tugs downward, the cat's stayed center of gravity buoys him in midair -- allowing his hand to be drawn towards the ground, rather than the rest of his bulk.

And as such, his claw hits the ground first.

The sleeve buckles in a most unsightly fashion.
If it were a human arm, it would clearly be broken -- a fact which the audience members gasp at.
But the cat, himself, is not holding the weaponized paw at that moment. The sleeve pulls the weapon along -- allowing it to tumble freely, as the cat lands on his true left paw.

His landing is less than graceful -- he turns onto his left shoulder, rolling about. His hind legs fly into the air as he twists clockwise around his axis.

But then he lands on those hind paws, a *galumph* upon the board. That 'broken' left arm snaps back into a ready stance, while his right sleeve -- the one with the serious injuries -- flaps around in a noticeably less controlled fashion.

But he looks not to the audience -- he looks to his downed opponent.

And once he sees that she remains down, declining the impetus to rise and continue the battle...

He looses a sigh.
And -then- he feels the chill of the twilight breeze on his slickened right arm.
The sun has revealed its lack of patience for the masters' battle.
And Jubei finds his left paw absently rubbing along the wounds on the right -- artificial paw prodding gently at it.

He finds himself hissing with pain, once more.

"Maaaaaaaa..." he says, ending the silence.
And earning a small round of polite applause.

He bows -- the pain lancing through his abdominal muscles made obvious after the first twenty degrees of pitch.

"I didn't mean no offense, ma'am. It was an honor fightin' against another master of the blade."

His accent is rough. And yet, the syllables of Osaka are not so far removed to be unrecognizable in the ancient capital of Kyoto -- he means nothing but respect, despite his unpolished tone.

He rises to his full 123cm, drawing in another breath before continuing.
"... Once I get these nicks wrapped up, ah'm gonna see if I can snag me some shrimp. And then see if I can hunt down some sake."

A smile flickers across the feline's jaw.
"Wanna join me? My treat."

COMBATSYS: Jubei takes no action.

[                       \\\\\\\  <
Jubei            0/-------/---====|

COMBATSYS: Jubei has ended the fight here.

Baiken is down, and remains down even when Jubei addresses her, which she hears distantly at first until she can focus. Not by choice, precisely, but by a sudden inability to get up.

She hurts. She hurts, and she hates the very nature of her opponent, and yet she feels more alive than she has in /months/. Even the battle with Blood where she recieved her invitation didn't hit her like that. It's thrilling, and it's what she lives for. If he wasn't what he is, Baiken would accept Jubei's offer without reservation. But because it's Jubei asking, things are a little different.

Baiken scowls as she pushes herself up to her knees. She'll get to her feet in a moment, once she's steadier. "No," she says, voice rough. "I'm not going drinking with someone like you." Maybe someday she'll be able to convince herself that there can be beastmen that aren't horrible monsters that she wants nothing to do with but to kill. Jubei came closer than anyone has ever done to making her think of him as a master of the sword, rather than a monstrosity.

But that day is not today.

Baiken finally forces herself to her feet. Injured, she ignores both Jubei and the crowd and turns to walk away - slowly, painfully, but under her own power, more or less. She's likely to collapse when she's out of sight, but her pride is sufficient that she refuses to fall (again) where Jubei can see her.

The samurai woman pushes up to her feet.

The cat slides his hood down, freeing his leonine mane from its confines. The bicolor fur is wet, and matted -- owing to the sweat he'd been completely disregarding in his battle-discplined state. Now with his mane unbound, it works to advantage, allowing him to feel the bracing chill even moreso. A welcome counterpoint to the burning he feels along his abdomen, and along his right arm.

He cracks his neck first to the left, then to the right.

And then Baiken reveals that her respect meter has slid back to the 'unabiding disgust' extreme of the scale.

The cat frowns, for one moment. The pain of that one word, and the sentence that follows. Certainly, the words cannot hurt as much as sticks and stones against his bones. But they do carry weight, lumping more upon the solitary warrior's shoulders.

And yet.
The cat forges a smile, bowing his head.
"I wish you well in the tournament."

Jubei stands there for a moment, watching Baiken's robes as they recede into the distance.

He passes a brief glance at the audience members who look to him, hoping the victor of the battle would have some nice, inspirational words to say.

He simply offers them a one-eyed smirk, while adjusting the strap of the scabbard upon his back.
He begins to walk in the direction of the shrimping boats.

"Take a picture," he suggests in a quiet voice. "It'll last longer."
Because it's not -quite- as rude as asking rhetorically if they'd never seen a cat before.

Log created on 18:32:26 02/07/2018 by Baiken, and last modified on 01:11:40 02/10/2018.