Description: The Syndicate's resident cyberninjutsu expert Nagase encounters a storm of kicks, quips, and violence shaped like a woman tearing through a minor Syndicate business in Sunshine City, leading the KOF 2017 runner-up to test her mettle.
... GODDAMNIT, AGAIN??
'Officer' Chun-Li Xiang's got quotes around her title because her badge is currently locked in a desk somewhere in Southtown. This has not stopped her from tracking the incidents caused by cartels both local and foreign as the past summer's tidal wave of blood has settled into a more manageable flow. Of blood, still.
If there's an upside here, it's that at least the local authorities have had time to adjust to these new rhythms-- not to mention the variable effects of highly motivated street racers and/or fighters on keeping criminality in check.
Still: there are warehouses that Black Dragon traffickers and neatly attired men from Southtown enter, only for the latter to leave richer and bloodier than before. There's snow imported directly from Mexico blowing all over Southtown streets; buried news stories about Seijyun graduates seeking warmer climes for the winter and vanishing in them, forever.
There are still plenty of reasons for Chun-Li to come to Sunshine City, like it or not.
At least that fucking trainyard's still under reconstruction from last time.
/This/ time, she's perched above and across from a storefront church that has way too many cars parked in its lot at 11:30 PM on a Tuesday, squatting and peering through binoculars. Bright white 'horns' adorn the sides of her head while bold blue and gold clings - or drapes between her thighs and lightly drags on the roof, as the case may be - everywhere else. This time, there aren't any smarmy 'art dealers', unhinged murderers, dead-eyed soldiers, or fascinatingly crude witches to confound or distract her from doing the needful.
This time, there's just a woman, her binoculars, a probable Syndicate gambling parlor, and legs that can pulverize a watermelon in a dozen distinct ways.
She feels pretty good about this time!
There are plenty of reasons for Nagase to be here in Sunshine City, as well. No amount of sassy negotiation tactics proved to be enough for the Iga-ryuu ninja to slip out of this obligation though. Financial transactions between two allied partners are tricky business, and electronic transfers haven't been the most trustworthy, not since the Incident...
"I'm telling you, Chuck..."
Nagase grins, brushing off the correction as if, well, -obviously- Charles would like his name pronounced correctly. "Yeah, if it weren't for Dahlia and Chaolan's little team-up deal we wouldn't even be standin' here chattin'. And that'd be a real shame, Chuck!"
Charles glowers, but offers a begrudging nod -- pointedly casting his eyes down to the aluminum briefcase dangling from the fingers of the little slip-of-a-girl ninja before him.
"Oh, yeah. Guess we should make this official, huh?" The Syndicate ninja, clad in a black party dress with a fake-fur stole about her shoulders, lifts the briefcase up and pops the clasps, showing the goods to Charles: Just under a million dollars in US currency, in unmarked, non-sequential bills as per the standard. "This'll be your advance..."
And that's when the commotion outside starts to intrude on the private conversation between Nagase, Charles, and a quartet of their muscular, contractually-obligated friends. Nagase narrows her eyes to slits, arching an inquisitive eyebrow at him through her circular amber lenses.
Charles shakes his head, as if to say 'Not my guys!'
The Syndicate ninjette calmly closes the briefcase, pressing it into Charles' awaiting hands. "Well. Call us once you're in a safe spot, Chuck, 'cause I'm about to pick a -different- safe spot. Ciao!"
And that's when the door to the secluded downstairs office bursts open under the weight of a now-unconscious gangster. Nagase snaps a quick salute to Charlie, and whirls around to face the door.
Nagase's accompanying pair of Syndicate bodyguards turns towards the door as well!
But they're left behind, as the littlest ninjette suddenly vaporizes into thin black line, racing out the open door and into the hallway outside! Nagase appears suddenly, folding into existence on the other end of the secretive casino.
And to her wondering eyes appears the grim reality of the situation -- a one-woman army, tearing through one scumbag goon after another! Unconscious bodies lay on the floor in various states of twitching. The nerve of this lady! These guys weren't doing anything wrong, were they? Other than -organized crime- and all that...
Nagase just can't -resist- sticking around to survey the scene. "Ma'am, did you happen to have a -warrant-, or were Miranda rights just a suggestion to you?"
THINGS THAT ARE AS OR LESS STURDY THAN A WATERMELON (an incomplete list):
* A wooden chair
* The human sternum
* A roulette wheel, no matter how bladed
* Gun elbows
* The movable brick partition separating the high rollers table from the rest
* The willpower of a Syndicate goon who's hoping to work his way up from overseas guard duty
At /this/ point, Matsuo just wants to go home and sleep for a week. He would even take curling up right here, right now and letting everything go dark while he waits for a cozy cell to sleep it off in 'til a lawyer almost as slick and well-dressed as he is gets him out of there.
He'd like nothing more than to rest, but the taut, bulging calf muscle hooked around and clenched against his throat won't let him.
Chun-Li's gaze snaps up and fixes on a former blur without delay. Brown eyes begin narrowing to a fiery point... then recognition flickers. She's poised on the toes of one foot with the other leg coiled around Matsuo; not a muscle moves that doesn't /need/ to.
A thin-edged smile begins to spread.
"Oh, hold on--"
Brown eyes fall to a steadily reddening face trapped in a nylon vice.
"Hey, friend: d'you have anything you'd like to say for yourself, before some greasy lawyer comes and yanks you away from dealing with any consequences beyond, gosh, right now?"
She waits a polite beat. Her brows arch; he sputters wordlessly.
"No? Huh; okay."
Back to Nagase as her upper teeth show.
"I think /he's/ got the silence part figured out. /You/, on the other hand..."
"You seem like maybe /you've/ still got some questions," her voice has fallen into the lowly playful register of a lioness with her eye on an antelope-- albeit one who is a ninja/gangster with one hell of an impressive resume; the smile is not entirely for effect, "Nagase; anything I can help you clear up while you've got my attention, you just let me know. Or don't; I feel like we'll be getting to the bottom of things pretty soon, here, one way or another."
Matsuo begins to frantically tap Chun-Li's knee.
It wouldn't be hard to recognize Chun-Li. Not with those 'horns,' or that lovely blue and gold attire she's so fond of. But Nagase? She's still working on building out that reputation. Second place for King of Fighters was a start, of course, but by and large, very few people would actually -notice- the flame-haired kunoichi outside of her usual battle regalia.
Maybe that's what makes Chun-Li so good at her job.
From her vantage point near the exit -- or, at the least, nearer than Chun-Li -- Nagase scans the room. It's a freakin' disaster area, with all the hallmarks of illicit gambling revenues scattered about in various states of disrepair.
But none of that matters, not as much as the simple flicker of recognition in Chun-Li's eyes, as she decides on an impromptu interrogation, staying true to the trappings of the position if not the strictest -letter- of the law. The smug ninjette taps her foot, waiting for Chun-Li.
And then her expression warms considerably, once the badgeless officer calls her by her chosen name. The Syndicate ninja whistles, rubbing her palms against one another in eager anticipation. "Wow, I would've figured you to be one of those 'honorable' sorts, rather than the shoot-first-ask-questions-laters."
She wriggles her nose, flashing a smirk for effect. "... Yeah, I got a question." Her head tilts sideways, the light catching the rim of her glasses. "How many -hours- of paperwork did you make for yourself, with your little rampage just now?"
Now that Nagase has her attention, the ninja's two companions exit the back room -- slowly. Tiptoeing -- as if they would be -able- to escape the detective's all-seeing gaze.
Her amber lenses flick another piece of data across her lenses. And then her eyes widen. "Oh, oh, and... what about a badge? How do we know you're not just some sort of asshole vigilante, or another tragic cop-turned-bad, just taking out your rage on the innocent?"
Nagase shifts slightly in her stance -- but she keeps her hands together for now, watching Chun-Li intently for the officer's response.
CHUN-LI'S CHARACTER SHEET (also incomplete):
Kicks (Spec: Fancy): *****
Knowledge (Pro Fighters): *****
Chun-Li is a bit of a twink; sad, but true. At least she chose her Abilities wisely:
"I would be /happy/ to listen to any answers you'd like to give..."
Those bright - bordering on blazing - eyes follow the ninjette's lead, scanning over broken tables and the bodies crumpled amidst some of them; dollar and yen flurries, some of which are only /just/ settling to the ground; a tipped and dented keg with a free-spewing tap...
Back to Nagase--
"... if you're interested in avoiding the guns. You aren't your boss..."
-- then a snap towards furtive movement at the very edges of her periphery. Her head follows suit a split-second later with a flutter of white ribbons; afterwards comes the the whipcrack of steel-corded hips flaring from a stone-cut core with readily recognizable power--
-- and then it's /Matsuo's/ turn to orient towards desperate footfalls-- /Matsuo's/ body flying through a door, down a hallway, leaving Chun-Li poised on the tip of her left boot while the right slowly releases its tautly drawn angle.
(Technically, it is a kick. Technically; Specialization: Fancy covers it. ... kind of. She really /is/ a twink.)
"... so whatever you say might actually be worth listening to."
It's a /wild/ shot, and odds are good that Matsuo will crash into a wall on the way to or beyond the fleeing Syndicate men. Stopping or not stopping them isn't really the point, though. It isn't like /they're/ the 2017 King of Fighters second place finalists... are they?
Back to Nagase.
"Zero hours, by the way."
She shows a few more teeth. A white leather sole touches the ground and she flows right into advancing on the Syndicate's technoninja, slowly; palms up and facing her.
"There's work that Interpol can't do with its standard resources that I can; leads they can't chase, criminals they can't subude..."
But... what /about/ her badge...?
Can those miraculous lenses /see/ into the depths of Interpol's systems? Into the file labeled 'XIANG; CHUN-LI' stamped with big, bold red letters that serve no practical purpose beyond giving enterprising hackers a dramatic visual metaphor to catch their attention?
"... why do you think they hire people like me?"
('S A B B A T I C A L')
"What makes you think you're /innocent/? You or /any/ of the people sucking money out of /another/ city's pockets to line your own."
She stops just shy of her optimal poking range as a show of good faith. They're technically still in neutral, property damage aside; technically.
"Why didn't you run, Nagase?" she deliberately wonders, then. "It wasn't just to show of your... ... d'you /have/ a law degree?" Her brows arch as she makes a show of giving the cyber-kunoichi a squint and thoughtful pursing. "Are you one of his /lawyers/," her index finger taps her lip while her other hand gives her raised elbow something to balance on, "slinking around this hole in the wall casino just to make sure his goons are getting due process? You must have a /very/ busy schedule."
Nagase is attentive, and a little devious in some ways. She may be impulsive, but the fact remains that her prodigous talents in ninjutsu remain in play even when her conscious mind is not.
And that means that, yes, she looked around to the fallen men. But she pointedly -avoided- looking towards the door she exited from -- for the reason which becomes apparent just a few moments later as Matsuo hurtles towards her two so-called bodyguards, Barnes and Wegener.
She certainly looks their way -after- Chun-Li turns though. But once she realizes Chun-Li's looked away, the ninja girl surreptitiously slides her foot forward, scrubbing it against the floor. A faint pool of black mist is left behind, seeping into the floor.
When Chun-Li's attention snaps back to Nagase, she might see her eyes a -bit- wider than before, her smug smirk replaced by a look of cautious alarm. The officer is -smiling?-
Can Nagase -see- into Interpol's systems? Well, that's the trick, isn't it? How far -has- Nagase delved into the records? Or maybe it's that her advanced AI has some sort of x-ray vision? It's difficult to tell, and it'd be even more difficult to get a straight answer out of the elusive kunoichi -- particularly as Chun-Li delivers a veiled threat and a dramatic closing of the gap. Ever-vigilant, the shinobi in a party dress steps backward, leaving behind a shadowy afterimage of herself, which falls to the floor in her wake as if it were made out of coal ash.
Recovering a meter from where she stood, satisfied that she's out of sweep range, Nagase answers with a raised eyebrow. "Pfft, no, I'm not a lawyer -- I've got -morals-." She settles, resting her hands on her hips as her foot impresses another misty seal into the carpet, under the guise of an idle gesture.
"Besides, it don't matter to -me- if you break the law, but wouldn't your claim to a moral high road have vaporized the minute you started doling out the harshness without even asking for names or evidence?" She shrugs, as a stream of information flickers across her amber lenses. "Why didn't I run?" She flicks her hand at the door at her back. "Why, I'm -innocent-, Miss Xiang, I just got here. How could I have known what a den of sin and iniquity this was? Whereas you..."
She raises a hand to her mouth. In overacted melodrama, she takes a step back -- innocently stamping another misty ninpo seal into the floor in the process. Eyes wide, she exclaims, "Oh my goodness. Did you say you're -not- an officer? Then this is a -crime scene!- I should file a police report!"
The officer's smiling even more after the back dash leaves her momentarily frozen on her toes, mid-step.
How far has Nagase delved /indeed/?
"The ~ethical~ kind of gang affiliate," Chun-Li agrees with a high arch and a higher lilt.
She doesn't see the seals. Would she still be smiling if she could...?
What about if the Syndicate's info specialist has managed to infiltrate the depths of her records, where they keep the things not everyone needs to know?
"You're a known associate of Duke Burkoff, Nagase; Duke Burkoff is known to be involved in the command hierarchy of the Syndicate," she rattles off. "Innocent my /ass/-- you think I need /evidence/ to do the right thing?"
Just one step forward, once the after-image fades. The mocking finger falls from her lips so she can folds both arms beneath her bosom, hands barely resting and at the ready along her forearms.
"Christ. You and /him/..."
* Captured by Shadaloo special agent codenamed 'V1', AKA Zach Glenn
"... who do you think you /are/?"
* Held for [REDACTED] weeks at Shadaloo facility in the Baja California region codenamed 'SCARLET ABLUTION'
"Who do you think /I/ am, that you feed me this snow white baby lamb /bull/shit, like Interpol doesn't have /files/ on what the Syndicate's about?"
There's no more play but the smile lingers, drawn taut and a little weary; she claims another step.
* Subjected to intensive physical and psychological torture
"I'm," Chun-Li picks up as Nagase indulges in infocrime and dramatic irony, "just here to keep as much money as I /can/ from funding someth"
* Indefinite sabbatical requested and granted due to extenuating circumstances
The exclamation hits like a roundhouse to the gut; every muscle in her body tenses accordingly as a breath flees her lungs.
"... what?" demands a barely audible growl.
Can 'Officer' Chun-Li Xiang still summon a smile once it's clear her prey knows more than she should...?
She cannot. Shock glows in her eyes as the last remnants of that taut line finish collapsing into a disbelieving 'o'.
* Officer Xiang's psychological profile indicates an extremely high likelihood for vigilante activity. Monitor accordingly for the Agency's sake and hers.
What /else/ does Nagase know...? It's impossible to say, but there's /one/ detail -- one lingering fact -- that gives Chun-Li the resolve to push distress down and screw a glare into place:
"... okay, Nagase," she slowly exhales once her resolve's set, at least for now, "sure: let's play it your way, where you tell the police how I'm /bullying/ these poor, innocent gangsters in the middle of their poor, innocent illegal gambling parlor."
Her palms are still set against her forearm; the restraint her file calls into question in several places, along with Nagase's constant evasions keep her well out of limb's length.
But inch after nigh-endless inch of nylon-caged muscle still twitches and ripples with the promise of thundering violence, just the same.
"Too bad you /aren't/ a lawyer, huh? I bet they'd really /want/ one once the 'what's and 'why's and 'who's started flying."
In some cases, a reputation as a world-famous hacker can be a tremendous downside. Paranoid crime lords clutch their pears and lock up their phones if they know Nagase's en route. She'll never get a frilly invite to the best white-hat hacker conventions. And, outside of extenuating, potentially world-ending circumstances, the chance to go legit and leave a life of crime behind just isn't an option.
But the panic that flickers across Chun-Li's face, at the mere -suggestion- that Nagase has access to a secret file of hers? That's priceless.
When Nagase draws her right hand away from her hips, a cellphone is in it. Where on that party dress could she keep a phone that size? Don't worry about it, chief, that's -ninjutsu- for ya. The flash fires as she takes a few discreet pictures of the 'crime scene' for her own perusal. "The 'right thing?' Hahaha, that's adorable! Whatever lets you sleep at night, huh? Fact of the matter is, 'right' is defined by whoever ends up on top. And, well..."
Nagase frowns, gesturing to the carnage before her. "It sure does -look- like you're gonna end up the winner here, doesn't it?" She pivots away, taking another few strides towards the door. "... I mean, in Southtown, we're top dogs, but out here... you're just grabbing for the low-hanging fruit."
She swings her hips for emphasis before turning around again. "So Interpol's 'top cop' gets stuck cleaning up the -minor- messes, all because she has no clue about what's -really- cooking in this city?"
Again, the kunoichi's hands rest on her hips as she leans forward, gazing at Chun-Li through amber lenses. Her lips curl into a smile. "But no. You were having -fun- choking the life outta people who don't know no better. It's the right thing to do -- if you're nothing more than a sadistic bully."
But then Nagase draws herself up, clicking the heels of her formal pumps together. And her expression shifts from the teasing, know-it-all attitude of a punk into one more level-headed, mature, and reserved. "Or you could... get to the bottom of the case. Actually -fix- this god-forsaken city. And wrench it out of the hands of the despotic warlords who -don't- give two shits about the people living here. Which, by the way, has -never- been the approach of the Syndicate."
She raises the phone, twirling it about on an extended index finger, Globetrotter-style.
She draws in a sigh, before asking: "So what's it gonna be, 'Officer?'"
Vigilante activities are tricky in Southtown. They /know/ Chun-Li in Southtown as more than just a boot heel smashing through an engine block on live TV; Interpol, the police...
And it's never easy to tell who'll parse an unexpected roomful of battered gangsters as a gift or a problem, especially in a city that has seen and continues to see so /much/ wide-angled violence.
Here, at least, she's a little harder to pin down... and with a less broadly developed infrastructure for and baked in tolerance for the kinds of problems that come from highly trained fighters clashing, she feels more confident that she'll get gratitude even if she /is/.
(where /did/ the cell phone come from...?)
"What happens here... it affects the way you do business elsewhere," she lowly hisses as bare nails ever so slightly bite into tensing biceps. "I--"
Nagase swings, turns, and jabs.
Chun-Li's eyes widen for a beat; when it passes, she lets a sharply drawn breath pass her lips at a modest, measured pace. Smoldering chestnut daggers lock to the taunting ninja.
Blue and gold ribbons faintly sparkle and spiral around her arms and legs only to vanish after a few steps forward.
"Those guys didn't win a /contest/, Nagase," she growls, sparing an idle thought (where could she have /possibly/ been...?) for the twirling phone but nothing more, "and the Syndicate gives plenty of shits about people's /wallets/, but otherwise...?" Her arms relax, then unfold so she can plant the left on her hip.
"/How/ much for a trunk ride out of Southtown, again...?" she wonders with a curious cant of head and pelvis. Curious-- ready; the motion brings a white leather sole a few inches forward, just in case.
Brings it right over a seal with her toes poised atop it.
"If you want me to listen:" The taller woman leans forward, now, thrusting a finger towards Nagase for emphasis: "cut. The. /Shit/," then setting her hand on her other hip. "We /both/ know /exactly/ who the /fuck/ you and your boss are, lady, so please:"
Daily training. Digging for cases that 'normal' cops 'probably' can't handle. Signing up for every low rent exhibition and tourney that winds up in her inbox because someone at the SNF would /definitely/ think it's good ratings(read: 'kind of funny') to book her for a match on a bullet train's roof...
Chun-Li is not a woman built for lazy sabbaticals, nor for gorging on small game. Choking low level thugs in the ruins of an incidental to the Syndicate's bottom-line isn't /fun/, but next to the alternatives...?
Endless nights of strobes and sweat and spirits bleeding into bleary days of dragging herself through well-worn regimens?
Burrowing into more covers than she can count, 'til the memory of the cell's a distant scream?
Bucking and smashing her way /back/ into another, even lonelier prison?
... it keeps her going, anyway. Surviving, while she tries to adjust to the chaotic rhythms of her life.
"treat me like an adult who knows where her attention's gonna go when your competition's taken care of, and just /talk/ to me." The growl subtly subsides along the way until it's more of a pointed rumble in the back of her throat.
Those incredible, amber eyes of Nagase's: can they see the hunger growing in Chun-Li's as the possibilities of a worthy fight she /can/ chase, /right now/ sink in...?
Nagase listens as Chun-Li casually deflects her way through the carnival of double-edged daggers that have been flung her way, pausing to roll her eyes at the world-weariness. It's such a drag, really, to hear Chun-Li at her wits' end. Not because it bothers Nagase, but because it robs her of the favored pastime of ragging on the white knights of the world.
Nagase's cellphone taps at her ear as she pantomimes a thought process. "Price's the same as usual, I guess. I've been flyin' first class for so long I can't even remember."
And yet, Officer Xiang continues the chase, stepping past one unconscious goon, stepping past fragments of a shattered roulette wheel. And stepping onto a certain confluence of chi dribbled onto the floor.
Nagase holds her hands up with an expression of surrender. She's -right- in position, and Nagase's shift of demeanor is an attempt to keep her there. "Hey, hey, you... you got a point. Duke's not, um... nice to everyone all the time, I guess, but... gosh, you... I wish you could see him the way I do, Miss Xiang."
Her hands are clasped together, and brought to her heart. "And yeah, I got it. Adults. Adults have real problems, right? And real problems come with real solutions -- and real, -adult- solutions tend to come with some sort of catch. A compromise, a -bargain-. Adults can kiss their hopes of a complete victory goodbye -- all an -adult- can do is hope to move forward in the exchange.
Nagase cranes her neck, her lenses shimmering with reflected light.
"So yeah, I'll treat you like an adult."
Her hands slip apart. Index fingers cross over one another. The tips of her pinky fingers touch.
"An adult who just stepped on a Lego brick while fumbling for the lightswitch."
And then her hands twist in contrasting directions.
Suddenly, a burst of chi explodes from the floor beneath Chun-Li's foot. Black, tarry tendrils whip out, latching down tight against the pristine white leather of the officer's boot.
And yet -- that's the extent of the trap -- an attempt to keep Chun-Li immobilized, and nothing more, as Nagase calmly pivots to the side, gesturing for Barnes and Wegener to climb back to their feet, and begin making their way to the front of the room.
"I respect you, Chun-Li. But as a fighter, not as... what, a vigilante? A goddamn -thug?- So I'm gonna give you a chance to make it up to us. To prove you're a woman whose word still -counts- for somethin'."
Nagase claps her hands together, cocking her head to the left. Her hands slide apart -- and her form begins to flicker, rapidly. The one signature hallmark of the Iga-ryuu ninja's style: Swift, unbelievably fast motion. When she cocks her head to the right... all of a sudden, she's wearing armored, bright yellow boots instead of her fashionable pumps. And when she returns her head to vertical, her wrists and hands are armored as well, by the same gaudy yellow contraptions that accompanied her in most of her publicized battles to date. But, of course, -everything- matches with a little black dress, hmm?
She flashes a confident grin, raising one freshly-armored finger. "I've got info on the Illuminati and the Black Dragon Clan for you. But.... you're gonna have to fight me for it. Win, and I'll transfer every bit of info I have to your hot little hands."
That finger pushes her glasses up along the bridge of her nose -- even as Barnes and Wegener continue their attempts at waking up the rest of the dispatched Syndicate goons. So there's -two- things Nagase would gain from a fight: bonus training for the plateaued prodigy, and stalling for the Syndicate to make an escape. And, banking on the -true- nature of her combatant, she might get away scot-free either way.
But, of course, she says -none- of that -- just flashes a cocky, self-confident grin.
Nagase casts a pointed look down to Chun-Li's foot, before lifting her gaze back to those chestnut daggered eyes. "Deal?"
Megaton hips switch the other way as Chun-Li straightens and refolds her arms. The quip brings rolling eyes and a barely incredulous snort; first class on blood and drug money, of course.
"Glad you guys take such good care of all that money you suck out of the people you give two shits about," she spits once her eyes are back on Nagase. Once she's poised and in position-- as it begins to feel that perhaps this woman - for all her frustrating, smirky arrogance - lacks the destructive, superior edge that makes Duke the monster that he is, Chun-Li manages to find a smile. Thin, mirthless, edged-- but a smile, just the same.
There's even a clipped chuckle after Nagase all but insists that maybe Duke's not so bad, if only Chun-Li could just-- see him the way ~she~ does...!
... but she waits until the kunoichi agrees to her terms to wonder, "Awwww," while bringing a hand to her cheek, "does someone have herself a little /cru"
Scratch that: start to wonder. Chun-Li /starts/ to wonder this thing before twisting fingers complete a mystical circuit and black tendrils have erupted over pristine white. Her eyes snap down, widening; a crushing calf flexes, the boot lifts--
-- tendrils elongate, thicken, and quiver--
-- and after several seconds of thrashing, she's still trapped. By a ninja! By a goddamn ninja! Who she knew was a ninja from the top and won't stop being smug at her!
Back to Nagase with a scowl and teeth once more bared. They part--
Where was she keeping the boots?? /Where was she keeping any of it??/
The scowl is /noticeably/ worse now that there's too much frustration from too many angles to keep it all tucked behind threats and the rest.
At least the ninja's kind enough to /ask/ for what Chun-Li was all set to give her for free once that last, inky, immobolizing straw hit her back.
At least she knows how to make it even more interesting than a KOF runner-up/Syndicate info-kunoichi already might be.
Hot little hands harden into molten fists. Whoever they are, Nagase's bodyguards have a clear shot to freedom while Chun-Li forges that seething word and lets her eyes roam appraisingly over her devious antagonist. Clearly, Nagase's clever; footage tells Chun-Li more about the ninja's speed than tonight has, beyond the base implications of her just-- /appearing/ mid-goon beating without a sound or a trace.
"And just to show you how /nice/ this 'goddamn thug' is: when /you/ tap out, I promise I'll let you hit the ground /easy/."
COMBATSYS: Chun-Li has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Nagase has joined the fight here.
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > //////////////////////////////]
Nagase 0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0 Chun-Li
"It's not a crush!" Nagase had been quick to snap back with that answer, but her -other- plans for Chun-Li had forced the train of thought to take a back seat. And speaking of back seats...
Ding, ding, ding, ding. Out in the parking lot beside this storefront, there is a black car with its door hanging ajar. And inside said car, on the (drum roll) back seat, is a thick aluminum case with a panda logo stuck to one side. The case is empty, but locked. The car is not empty, but unlocked. Because -priorities-.
Inside the casino, Nagase squeezes her hand shut, bringing the scent of fresh leather back to her nose. The kunoichi was fine wearing a daring little dress when talking to those of her own kind. But against someone who could kick through a wall without a second thought, the set of armor that's gotten her through thick and thin is the only attire which could provide any comfort at all. And with the full sensor suite of her Battle Disc System now online... Nagase is ready to take in the details with calm confidence. Nagase sweeps her gauntlet around, allowing the infrared scanners to create a full virtual map of the environment, while also doubling as a tacit reminder of just how effective her chi seal technology has been.
"Great! And yeah, that's rather thoughtful of you! But, just so you know -- I don't -plan- on hitting the ground at all..."
While her bodyguards make their rounds, rousing the fallen gangsters whenever they can, Nagase slowly begins to walk closer ... kinda, as she takes a long, arcing path that just happens to have Chun-Li at the terminus. Still wearing that faint smile, she chuckles -- "Now, if I could only remember how to -release- the sealing jutsu..."
The kunoichi's narrowing spiral takes her behind Chun-Li, just out of her field of view...
And at that very moment, the pressure is released: Chun-Li is free to move about the cabin.
But the very next instant, Nagase is seeking to latch -both- her arms around Chun-Li's waist, from behind. Fire would run in twin circuits, tracing along Nagase's arms and dancing onto the Interpol agent's form. And if she manages to grab hold, the armored shinobi would be seeking to vault upward, carrying both herself and Chun-Li into a spinning, flaming helix!! The flight would be a quick one -- and a painful one, if the kunoichi manages to complete her goal of slamming Chun-Li's head and shoulders into a mostly-intact craps table!
COMBATSYS: Nagase successfully hits Chun-Li with Nagase Spiral.
- Power hit! -
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > ////////////////////////// ]
Nagase 0/-------/------=|===----\-------\0 Chun-Li
At that very moment, Chun-Li's slowly but surely testing the tendrils' limits: her freed leg's as far forward as the other will allow (which: /p r e t t y far/; unfortunately, Chun-Li's absurd flexibility is going to be a problem, shortly) while the other's tensed and fighting against stubborn sorcery. Blue and gold scintilla swirl along rippling muscle while she tries--
-- /tries/-- grunts, clenches, /struggles/--
-- to whirl into Nagase's spiral and meet her with a scything roundhouse. Her engulfed boot toe shakes a foot or so off the ground, gaining in inches with each of the kunoichi's steps. Stubborn tendrils stretch-- stretch-- streeeeetch--
-- s t r e t c h --
-- and then they're gone.
Turning a few dozen hard-fought inches into a whirlwind of unexpected motion. 'Turn' being a kind word for the stumbling, fluttering flurry of limbs and ribbons and qipao that occurs when the World's Strongest Roundhouse and a perilously elongated stance are turned against her. She manages to end up balanced, only /barely/ shaking, and briskly tossing ribbons out of her scowling face within a few beats, but it feels /much/ longer.
Then nimble arms lock around her waist and remind her what time it is.
The best she can do once they're airborne is try to roll through the impact, but that damn craps table -- it grows ominously beneath her, taunts her for not breaking it /sooner/ -- doesn't give her much to work with, does it? Indeed: after the back of of her neck and shoulders crash through its edge, the burning rush down her arms suggests that perhaps she ought to instead just go limp and concentrate on getting up afterwards.
If only the broken halves of the table weren't making such a weighty argument against it, right to the heart. And lungs. And ribs...
At least Nagase's with her-- probably. She must've been close, if only for a moment; maybe a bit more, however long it takes to slither from the wreckage. The ~Officer grimaces, works her hips until she can curl up and mount her soles against shattered wood, then-- well. Then she just does what she does several times a week, obsessively; the only difference is the rocketing craps table subbing in for gliding metal weights.
And, okay, snapping over to her belly afterwards so she can /lunge/ after Nagase, intent on burying a knee into her belly-- or spine, or side, as the case may be. That part's different too, but it's got the potential to be almost as rewarding as the usual thing, by this point.
COMBATSYS: Nagase blocks Chun-Li's Medium Kick.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > ////////////////////////// ]
Nagase 0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0 Chun-Li
Chun-Li's legs are fearsome, even when only one of them can be brought to bear, that's an absolute truth in life. And staying out of her reach is a principle Nagase has no trouble abiding by -- as she gives Chun-Li plenty of a wide berth. The tech-shinobi's Battle Disc System has full diagnostics showing the extent of the World's Strongest Woman's reach, as limited by her skeletal structure and the grip of the curious ninjutsu seals keeping her bound. There is one variable -- the one variable Nagase controls by cutting her loose, vanishing in a puff of smoke.
There is a slight snicker from the ninjette as Chun-Li finds herself unable to compensate in time -- a snicker that pivots as quickly as the nimble kunoichi does, towards the rogue officer's aft quarter.
The rest is history, of course, as Nagase falls into the regular rhythm of one of her clan's most time-tested techniques, a fiery whirling helix that leaves opponents in a heavy state of disorientation. And, in this case, Nagase parts ways with Chun-Li only an instant before impact, kicking away into a flip and landing in a low crouch on the lip of the table. "Nin-nin~" chirps the girl^H^H^H^H mature woman as she watches Chun-Li struggle with the wooden amalgamation.
"Oh. I guess that was how..." she concludes, finally -- no small amount of sarcasm, there.
When the trapped agent begins to shove her way out of the table, Nagase takes the opportunity to backflip to safety. Which ends up being a good decision, as the bifurcated table hurtles off in two separate directions, with one winging end-over-end and colliding against -other- broken pieces of furniture.
And -almost- clipping Barnes, if not for him ducking at the very last instant. "Fuckin' hell, Nagase!"
"Sorry!" is the shinobi's reply, suffering a small amount of doppler distortion as she wheels around in the pursuit of her AI's recommended mitigation route. As she leans backwards, with both legs curled in front of her, she realizes her AI upgrades are bearing fruit. A hardened, nylon-clad shin slams into the glossy yellow finish of her boots, powerful enough to rattle her legs underneath, strong enough to force a pained grunt from her throat even through the armor. But it's nothing the ninja can't handle -- for she's being carried aloft, and thus, she's able to backflip out of the strike, planting the tread of her boots against a conveniently placed squared-off column.
Nagase curls up, compressing like a spring.
"... it isn't about..."
And then she uncoils, launching herself high overhead, into a scything kick that crashes the toe of her boot directly onto Chun-Li's already-injured shoulders.
"... you losing the belt to Duke, is it?"
If it lands as expected, there would also be an explosive blossom of flame at ground zero of the brutal impact!
COMBATSYS: Chun-Li blocks Nagase's Medium Kick.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > ///////////////////////// ]
Nagase 0/-------/------=|====---\-------\0 Chun-Li
A flaming toe meets crossed forearms, leaving Chun-Li smoking after she recovers from being shoved a few steps backwards. Her balance is still unsteady; Nagase's kick comes /moments/ after Chun-Li pushes up to her feet, while she's still adopting her stance.
Losing to Duke was where it /started/. Live on television, full of fire and fury, she interrogated a monster about his business while digging for the answer to something that'd nagged her since 2017: could she have made it, then? If she hadn't let the job distract her, if she hadn't been so wrapped up in chasing down the last (/ha/!) remnants of Shadaloo... how far could she have made it in the King of Fighters? Could she have /won/?
The world watched her swallow a bitter cocktail, but once the taste settled... Duke left her resolved and ready to /fight/ the evils invading Sunshine City.
* Held for [REDACTED] weeks at Shadaloo facility in the Baja California region codenamed 'SCARLET ABLUTION'
She answers Nagase with a chestnut glare. Once uncrossed, her still-burning, stinging arm hangs heavy after its second brush with Nagase's brand of violence. Even when she /finally/ slides into her trademark stance - right leg forward, both poised, hands out and ready - that arm's lower than it ought to be. A brisk toss sheds some of the splinters clinging to her hair, but nowhere near all of them. Slowly, she fills her lungs...
"... 'It's not a crush'!" she eventually exhales.
"God, Nagase... please don't tell me a bright girl like /you/ is sleeping with /him/," she continues with a low, mocking edge and disgust affected through a curling lip. "Or /worse/, that you /aren't/, and you just... /believe/ in him, buy /in/to whatever bullshit excuses he gives you for poisoning the world. I'd /get/ it if you were just in it for the money; if you wanted to spend the rest of your life before prison in pretty dresses, flying first class, but honey..."
Subtly bent knees and rippling nylon offer a wealth of data to the right senses - sensors - as she hisses poison. Which is a blessing...
"... sweetie: forget what /I'm/ doing /here/... what are /you/ doing with your /life/ if you're trusting it to /that/?"
... because that data's all the warning Nagase gets before Chun-Li's /gone/, a blue and white blur that only resumes being a woman when she's approaching the end of a backwards, falling arc above Nagase's head. Her right leg thrusts down through the descent, intent on /slamming/ into the ninja's skull before using it as a platform from which to bound away.
COMBATSYS: Nagase fails to counter Yousou Kyaku from Chun-Li with Tricky Rounder.
- Power fail! -
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > /////////////////////// ]
Nagase 0/-------/---====|=====--\-------\0 Chun-Li
The truth of the matter is -- the treasure trove of files Nagase had stolen from Interpol servers was irrevocably lost. Destroyed, by a virus planted by Lee Chaolan into a laptop, and innocently placed within the Syndicate network by her lovably tech-ignorant boss. And any information gleaned on Chun-Li would have been limited to bits and pieces of information culled from public broadcasts, from personal encounters, and... from real-time data collection.
Sure -- she's -wanted- to crack back into Interpol servers. But after the considerable dispute with Japan, the scene was too hot. Conditions were -terrible- for regaining entry. And contacts would need to be reclaimed, their certifications re-established. It's a lot of work -- and there are other tasks to worry about.
That's her -paying- job. And this -- diversion? Fighting Chun-Li? A personal stepping stone, in a relentless pursuit of self-improvement. A need to challenge herself, recklessly, in a way that only she can.
Nagase hurtles backward -- righting herself just before alighting upon the bisected craps table. The table rocks backward unsteadily, voicing its crackling complaints. With catlike agility and her arms spread wide, the kunoichi is nonetheless able to balance herself, shaking her head. "Pfft," she exclaims, with a perhaps overexaggerated roll of her eyes. "With -his- temper? Hell and no, ma'am. It's for the money, plain and simple."
It's always easier to lie for a multiple-choice question than a fill-in-the-blank. Particularly when she's trying to get a word in edgewise before Chun-Li steals all the choice material.
In her haste, though, Nagase happened to neglect two pertinent pieces of information. One, that Chun-Li wasn't done talking. And two, that her Battle Disc System was blaring cautions at her about rippling muscles or some such. Warnings that lead to a very confusing turn of events.
For Chun-Li can, under certain circumstances, perform feats of ninjutsu as well.
"What the hell's that supp--"
And just like that, Chun-Li is gone, flickering out of her field of view.
Nagase draws in her hands.
She claps them together.
She starts to slide them across each other -- right hand up, left hand down.
And that's when it hits her.
Chun-Li's boot, planted squarely upon her cranium.
The hunched-over shinobi buckles like a piece of spring steel, no longer buoyed by outstretched arms, no longer stable enough to leap away. Perfectly poised for one and one purpose only: to act as a stepping-stone for Chun-Li's bounding attack.
And the very next instant is heralded by a series of cracks, as the structural stability of the halved craps table is utterly compromised. Splintered into smithereens, the wood disintegrates under the ninjas boots, sending her plummeting to the floor -- and also dragging a craggy 2x4 across her back.
"GYAAAAAAAAAAAH--" she howls, doubling over as soon as Chun-Li's departure makes that viable in a physical sense. A crimson furrow runs down her back. Her pretty black party dress: sheared and struggling to maintain its composure just as much as its wearer. One hand snakes back to confirm the damage, armored fingers pressing into the sticky red morass of her back.
"W-w-wowwwww. P-poisoning the -world?- Do you actually believe the shit coming out of your mouth?" Biting back tears from the pain, she nonetheless forces herself to laugh as she pulls back and away from the demolished table. Unsteadily, she rises back to her feet, pacing backwards a half-meter as she turns to face Chun-Li once again.
"'Oh, Nagase, have you considered not being so violent? Like maybe you shouldn't let people ruin their fuckin' lives...' News flash, sister -- people're gonna fuck up their lives with or without us. It's what people -do-."
One eye screws shut -- and a small message flickers across her eyeglass lenses: 'INJECTING ANALGESIC INTO BLOODSTREAM'. The tip of her tongue darts across her lips, as she nods in understanding.
Nagase hops backward, placing one of her ebony seals from earlier between herself and Chun-Li. "But hey. Keep telling yourself you're making an impact. You do you."
The right words, the right attitude can do wonders for a smart girl^H^H^H^H experienced, distinguished kunoichi. Nagase's Interpol data is gone... but for Chun-Li, they're a blade looming in darkness, waiting to fall upon her neck.
"God forbid you let someone /else/ profit on misery, right?" she retorts rather than squint into the darkness. Leather soles slide through carnage, drawing towards a halt but never quite reaching it; instead, a slight but potent hip-switch shifts her momentum forward and gives her a little extra boost to fuel sprinting.
"'People're gonna fuck up their lives...'," she hisses with a smoldering glare fixed upon the Syndicate hacker. She sees the dash, of course; she knows what the seals can do. She has yet to connect the two; Nagase's multi-pronged display of 21st Century Ninjutsu has left the Officer(?) too angry, /too/ focused on Nagase /herself/ to track the other woman's little black workings. The gash running down her little black party dress is more interesting, by far; she doesn't know more than what she's already seen or experienced about the seals, but blood is universal. It tells her that she's that much closer to valuable intel of a fight worth chasing...
... and that if - when? - that intel turns out to be bullshit, at least she's making the most of /this/ fight. At least /tonight/ wasn't the rote affair it could have been.
"... so why not help them do it? You could do whatever you wanted - make /money/ however you wanted--"
All of this is to say: when she misses the seal, it isn't because she planned it; it's just that she's feeling fancy. /This/ time, she opts to abruptly pivot, hunch, then spring towards her right with a few feet to spare between herself and the seal; the next time she approaches one may be a different story.
"-- you aren't stupid-- you have /options/! And THIS is the one you chose! Neither of us is innocent and NEITHER of us /naive/--!"
A portable banker's cage tilts and wobbles when Chun-Li hits it boots first then launches herself along an angle meant to carry her towards Nagase's side.
"We KNOW you prey on people for money-- we KNOW you don't give a SHIT about them-- we both KNOW that, Nagase--!"
It might look like a kick is imminent when her knees are drawn towards her chest and the qipao swirls around her hips-- when sheer power courses through an unfurling thigh and sharply hooking knee. It may /feel/ like her heel's poised to smash into Nagase's skull, but the AI probably knows different.
Probably, the AI knows that it's the /knee/ she ought to watch for, because the back of it's screaming towards the kunoichi's throat, intent on subjecting her to a fate that the AI /won't/ have to warn her of because she's witnessed it first hand.
"I just want to know /why/! Why, if you could get rich a million ways-- if you don't /believe/ in /him/-- why HELP people destroy themselves?!"
COMBATSYS: Chun-Li successfully hits Nagase with Medium Throw.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > /////////////////////// ]
Nagase 0/-------/=======|=======\-------\0 Chun-Li
Nagase bristles as Chun-Li's blistering assault on her life choices continues unabated. Really -- how is a "top cop" like her supposed to understand the myriad intricacies of growing up in an elite ninja village? As much as Chun-Li believes in her own sense of right and wrong, so too Nagase has her own intricate code of what separates a crime from simple manipulation for one's own ends.
She could be bristling from the pain lancing through her back, too. It's hard to tell.
Even still -- the tried-and-true way for a ninja is not head-on confrontation, but diversion and deflection. Wary of the approach, Nagase cartwheels to the side, grimacing as her injured lats are pulled a bit more than they probably should have been pulled. And yet -- she springs back to her feet with a smirk. "Hey, Chunners -- can I call you that? Chunners? When was the last time you checked your freakin' blood pressure?! You're about to pop a vein, there..."
But then Chun-Li fires off a remark she -can't- ignore, or parry aside. The claim that she doesn't give a shit about people. A slam that wipes the good humor right off her face. "That's--"
The kick -- if that's what it was -- was easily avoided by a sway to the side. Her hands had been planted together -- no doubt in advance of one of her prized translocation ninpo. But those are a valuable commodity, and once Nagase finds herself safe, she opts against...
Only to get cold-cocked in the back of the head with the back of Chun-Li's knee.
The smartaleck kunoichi is hauled right off her feet, caught in the vice-grip of Chun-Li's leg. Her attempt to reply is choked off, with both armored gauntlets clapping down onto the leather in a vain attempt to free herself. Her face floods with crimson rage as she kicks and wriggles about to free herself.
And then she just screws her eyes, claps her hands together, and slides them apart.
And just like that, Chun-Li's quarry disappears, leaving behind a cloud of cold black mist.
The sound comes from across the room, as Nagase reappears with both hands rubbing vainly at her windpipe. Y'know -- the futile gesture to reassure oneself that it's still actually normally-proportioned and not, like, a crushed Pringles can. "Chunners... *koff* don't even -front-. ... We all know your next stop after chokin' these bitches out... will be collectin' a finder's fee from the chiro clinic down the street!"
With one eye screwed shut, she reaches up to the bridge of her nose, nudging her amber glasses back to their proper position. A steady stream of numerical data flows across her lenses as she... well, stalls for a moment, catching her breath.
"Seriously though, you wanna post in the 'you work for bad guys and you should feel bad' thread? Sure, I'll bite. Let's get judgmental, shall we? Let's talk about how many lives Interpol has ruined due to complete misunderstandings, due to unfair incarceration. Oh, hey, or we could talk about how -Interpol- decided that, hey, the Darkstalkers that took over Metro City -aren't even real-, they're just -figments of 8.6 million people's imagination.-"
Her face was red before -- now her eyes are narrowed to slits, her features pulled taut. But even while the tech-kunoichi is rattling off words, her AI system is hard at work -- catching up with the battle, and recalibrating to a new set of circumstances. After all -- Chun-Li is -much- stronger than just about anyone Nagase's faced before. With the possible exception of Ryu Hayabusa, of course...
"'Yeah, sorry, folks, it's real fuckin' tragic that three thousand of ya died in a building collapse, but nah, we don't fuckin' believe in ghosts an' vampires an' shit.'"
Nagase hops down -- but instead of hitting the ground, she slides her hands sideways, translocating a good thirty feet to her right in the span of an eyeblink. And there, her foot lands as if the cabinet she'd descended from were right there all along. And now -- her intensity fades, replaced by a look of condescending disappointment.
"Oh, Chunners, you're so adorable... Money is just a shortcut for -power- and -control-, Miss Xiang. And control is what your bosses want. Ask Daniel Jack how bad they screwed -him- over. At least I'm fuckin' honest about what -I- want outta life."
COMBATSYS: Nagase calculates her next move.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > /////////////////////// ]
Nagase 1/---====/=======|=======\-------\0 Chun-Li
Nylon, meet ninpo.
Nagase frees herself, leaving Chun-Li a tangle of briskly shifting legs and fabric for a moment.
"You don't even give a shit about /your/ people!" she spits back while whipping chestnut daggers towards the ninja. "Your /'bitches'/!"
She may have missed the ninpo seals, but that /look/-- the one Nagase gave when one of her barbs struck true? It's almost as vivid as a jagged, crimson interruption in a party dress; she and her highly trained senses have their priorities.
(XIANG FACT #24: Sometimes, instead of nerve strikes, Gen ambushes Chun-Li with vicious sessions of The Dozens at 3 AM to sharpen her will/tongue.)
Scoffing while she whirls into a handstand, she waits 'til she's done snapping back to her feet to add, "This isn't about /money/ for me, it's about /people/! The ones you don't think a /thing/ about ruining--"
Like a tanto between the ribs, Nagase finds just the right downbeat in Chun-Li's proclamation to slide in a retort. The 'Officer' actually presses onward at first - the last several of her words compete with the first of Nagase's - until the accusation's driven all the way home, eliciting tensed muscles and recoil.
In short order, there are /two/ red faces to match paired sets of narrowed slits.
"How /dare/ you--" she hisses... but Nagase's not done yet, because the littlest ninja is just /that/ daring. Fists clench and tremble just south of the spikes while Chun-li's teeth grind and Nagase...
... gives her...
... /disappointment/ while descending from her high cabinet.
"I wasn't INVOLVED in Metro City," is shoved through her teeth, vibrating like a chain stretched taut between a post and a pit bull, "in ANYTHING that happened with Daniel-- how dare you," while the steady rise and fall of her chest grows deeper, less rhythmic by the moment.
-- let's talk about Chun-Li's arms for a moment. Her legs have gotten plenty of attention, and for good reason: shapely, muscle-dense cannons capable of launching terrible violence across great distances in the blink of an eye are hard to ignore, qipao or no. Those /arms/, though... even at /rest/, tell-tale dips and curves clearly mark her dedication to fitness and/or crime-busting, and she is most certainly /not/ at rest right now. Beneath the puffs topping her shoulders, the divided segments of her sleeve are slightly lifted and separated by the intricately defined swells of bi's and tri's. Blue-gold chi trickles along lightly tanned striations like sand vipers, following deep-cut trails towards the spikes and the delicate, trembling hammers just below.
"How DARE you use those people as props?!"
In another act of circumstantial ninjutsu, Chun-Li is gone; her route is mercifully direct, however, for certain values of mercy.
"Do you think I AGREE with how they handled Metro City?! I SAW the news, the REPORTS--"
Saw them, after the fact. Sometimes in digest form, in the grey hours between chasing skull-shaped shadows and crashing so she could get ready to do it all over again, And again. And again.
And again. And again... and again... and...
Can Nagase's upgraded AI parse self-loathing rage? Or is it just the hard /stop/ when her feet plant; the whipcord twist of her hips; and the forceful drive of an arm strong enough to hurl a sofa across a living room that cues it to the raw, boiling power roaring towards the ninja's chin?
"-- but their FUCK UP doesn't give /YOU/ the right to judge me, Nagase!"
COMBATSYS: Chun-Li successfully hits Nagase with Strong Punch.
[ \\\\\\\\ < > /////////////////////// ]
Nagase 2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\=------\1 Chun-Li
All through the extended discourse ... people have been moving. The very gangsters that Nagase supposedly cares nothing about? Well -- the combat has given many of them time to be roused back to wakefulness. To see the Syndicate's resident IT and ninjutsu expert going head-to-head with one of the world's most fearsome fighters. Not for her own gain. But for -them-, because she'd cared so much about them.
Also, because she's pretty sick and tired of the Syndicate losing more and more territory our here on the West Coast. And losing -good workers- in what is effectively just an entertainment hub? That's just -terrible- for morale.
But Nagase can't focus on the slow march of her co-workers for the exit doors. She can't even look their way -- lest she break Chun-Li's singular focus. The Chinese beauty's monomanic rage has not been lost on the Iga-ryuu ninja; in fact, she's been -relying- on it, tweaking every last nerve in the annoying fashion she does best.
"How dare -I?-" Nagase smirks -- almost as if she isn't even -caring- about the accusations slung her way. And in a way... well, she baited them out. She -expected- Chun-Li to miss the point of her seemingly nonsensical tangent. And she also expects a very physical, visceral retaliation in kind.
It's just that, well, she figured her ninja speed -- leaping backwards, in this case -- would defeat a wild strike of blind rage. In this case... it doesn't. And Chun-Li will know the bone-crunching satisfaction of breaking her nose, of bending the ninja's metal eyeglass frames, of... seeing her arms and legs flail behind her like party streamers.
And the satisfaction of slamming the armored ninja into a column, some five feet back.
Blood streams from the kunoichi's off-kilter nose as she hisses in her breath, cupping both hands over her nose to confirm the damage. Already, her BDS is automating the process of administering another injection of analgesics -- but that won't reset a nose. But, as one can probably surmise, Nagase has experience with this edge case.
And with a series of dazed blinks to chase away the firestorm of stars in her vision, Nagase lists sideways a few steps. Her arms fall slack -- no longer the spry, pep-filled kunoichi she'd started the fight as. Punch-drunk and exhausted, she glares back at Chun-Li over the rims of her scratched, dented glasses.
And yet, she's not done running her mouth yet. Spitting blood on the floor, and wiping her nose on the fabric padding of her palm, she quips -- in a nasal tone -- "Wow, Chunners, do you mean to tell me that you're just -individual- instead of the whole shit smorgasboard? Damn... I ought to be sorry for writing your ass off like that, huh?"
And then Nagase lists sideways again -- flickering into nothingness.
Chun-Li may suddenly notice opposition from two fronts simultaneously. On the left -- the half-visible form of Nagase flickers into existence with a snap kick for Chun-li's thigh. On the right -- a similarly semi-transparent form drives a punch for her shoulder. So the series continues, with one attack after another interleaved from seemingly impossible angles -- an elbow strike, an armored kick to the hip, a roundhouse kick to the collarbone. An altogether -brutal- string of a dozen attacks, all occurring in rapid succession, all occurring in a few blinks of an eye.
And, should each attack land, -both- Nagase shadow-clones would lean into a backflip kick, powerful enough to bring Chun-Li aloft with three stutter-stepped kicks -- before a sudden -reversal- of momentum sends a kick scything -down- onto the corded muscle of Chun-Li's neck!
"... Go to hell, you judgmental, stuck-up bitch!"
COMBATSYS: Chun-Li dodges Nagase's Punishment Mode - Mirage Assault.
[ \\\\\\\\ < > /////////////////////// ]
Nagase 0/-------/-<<<<<<|=======\=------\1 Chun-Li
A hurricane hit this little island of crime and her name is Chun-Li. Blistering speed, shattering strikes, and chi crackling with the promise of lightning gave the men slowly limping to safety around her no end of souvenirs to take home with them. They've allowed her to meet the challenge of a KOF runner-up thus far, rending relentlessly; the *KRNCH!* of flesh and bone flattening beneath her fist isn't satisfying /enough/. A moment after hitting full extension, she retracts into a tight, low hunch; a moment after that, she launches into a high arc, limbs tucked close while she tumbles towards the ninja. A sharp, visceral note slices the air on her way up, telling her that the other woman's getting /serious/ amidst the smirks and the smart mouth. On the way down...
... a dart strikes true, widening her eyes a beat before impact. Words alone aren't enough to stop a shell in motion, no matter /how/ efficient and pointed they are, so there's an impact.
It leaves a heel-sized crater and cracks shooting through the pillar. Words alone aren't enough; ninjutsu, a different story.
And once there's a break in the violent pace, words /can/ bring those near-pristine white boots to a halt after they hit the ground.
Chun-Li is a vengeful hurricane; Nagase, a stinging honey bee.
No-- a one woman /swarm/ of information and deadly barbs, flowing through battle at breakneck speeds even as she's swatted. Nagase strikes - /fights/, period - along angles that leave the ~officer constantly guessing. A stormy impetus to keep moving, keep /swinging/ has allowed her to barrel through the most obvious layers of the Syndicate ninja's tactics, but venom pumps ever deeper from the ones that slip through. Nagase's weathered sacrifices - a couple of broken bones, spilled blood - to drive those stingers where they need to be, but a swarm can handle a few losses.
Nagase has people to consider, after all.
A one woman swarm becomes two. Chun-Li's head twitches between them as she tries to drag her jagged breathing into some semblance of order.
Inhale, shift right to avoid a bruised thigh; exhale, duck to let knuckles graze a shoulder puff. Inhale, sway back from an elbow and spin away from a kick; exhale, backbend beneath a roundhouse and roll around the sweep that follows...
One hurricane; one swarm divided by two. The swarm is a swift, resourceful, tenacious, vicious... honey bee swarm; the hurricane is a hurricane. In the end it writes itself, doesn't it?
A few blinks of an eye is a long, long time to spend with a mature woman scorned. The final cartwheel that takes Chun-Li free of Nagase's onslaught leaves her crouched and panting heavily, though the tempo's getting steadier. The fire's still in her eyes, but it's screened as she lifts her chin towards the ninja screaming at her. A hurricane and a swarm; an officer and a criminal. A contender and a finalist.
A person and a person.
Chun-Li's chin falls as she hauls herself upright, standing-- /just/ standing, stance free. Tense and ready without being cocked and loaded.
"I asked you a question, Nagase," she states, low and simmering. "I asked you a question, and you--" Her brow twitches, just a little. She and Nagase could do this all night, picking at each other-- lobbing blame and shame back and forth until one of them cracks or passes out. She draws a long, slow breath in, and when she lets it out the scintilla coursing over her form fade.
"My entire career's been dedicated to shutting the Shadaloo cartel down. It isn't a secret; obviously not to /you/," confidential files or not. Slender fingers slowly uncurl until they're taut at Chun-Li's sides. "Last KOF, I was trying to chase what was left after Admiral Ass-Chin died-- disappeared, /whatever/ happened on that island. When the Metro City Incident happened... my detail was elsewhere. I first came /here/ because it was where Duke was, but I /stayed/ once I found out that the cartel was here too-- that it was stealing /children/..."
"I have nothing to show for any of it but nightmares," eventually comes, just above a whisper. Her eyes finally lift in search of Nagase's. "/You/ asked /me/ a question," she adds while loosely folding her arms across her stomach. A /lot/ of questions, even if she's only answering one.
"I do these things because I lost someone I /loved/, and even if I can't bring them back... I want to be able to stop others from having to feel that pain. If I /stop/, it's... I'm admitting /defeat/. It's /failure/; if I /don't/ stop..."
That she knows her quest could easily end up killing her or worse one day gives /all/ of her quiet explanation a dour gravity, so she doesn't bother filling in the blank.
"So I get angry," she concludes instead.
Chun-Li hazards a slow step towards the other woman.
"Why do you do this? You, the individual in the dress and the armor with the brilliant mind. You, with the ninjutsu who gave me a damn stinger first thing-- why do /you/ do /this/? What do /you/ care about that makes whatever you feel when you think about what your life costs you-- what it does to /others/-- worthwhile? Because I saw your face before it went red, Nagase... it must be /something/. Some/one/, even."
"I said I'd listen if you were willing to talk - for /real/ - and I meant it."
COMBATSYS: Chun-Li takes no action.
[ \\\\\\\\ < > /////////////////////// ]
Nagase 0/-------/-<<<<<<|=======\=------\1 Chun-Li
To compare Chun-Li's gracefulness to poetry in motion is to do both a disservice. Poetry is beautiful in its own way, in rhythm and meter, in rhyme and structure, or the absence of either. Poetry is defined in whichever terms the author wills it to be defined -- a subjective truth. But as each irrational attack presses down upon the not-quite-officer, an equal and opposite reaction is provided to carry her out of harm's way -- an objective beauty, one which ought to inspire awe in even the most ardent opponent of poetic structure. Despite the stochastic delivery of assault vectors -- a staccato sequence designed to batter down even the most steadfast defense -- Chun-Li manages to take hardly any damage at all, save for the torment upon already-weary lungs.
And with each and every missed opportunity, each and every swing that fails to connect, Nagase's face gets redder and redder. To the point that once she backflips -- she aborts the rest of the sequence entirely, landing in a low crouch, and rising slowly to her feet. Like Chun-Li, she bears no stance: none of the raised hands which typify the Iga clan, slacked shoulders roughly squared up with Chin-Li.
The battle -- as such as it was -- is on pause. The signs are clear, even without an AI blaring at her that the entire lack of a stance might only be a feint.
She'd asked Nagase a question. So the reminder goes. And bloodied lips part, as if to provide an answer, only to be cut off by a slow intake of breath. The universal sign of 'But wait, there's more.'
And she listens. She, with the look of a teenager dressing up in big girl clothes. She, with the slack anti-expression, with a disconcertingly focused gaze. Attention -- paid not to the last of the Syndicate operatives dragging their asses out the door, not to the trickle of blood from a broken-and-reset-nose, but to the lovely, minimally scarred woman standing before her.
The question was 'why.'
"Because I don't have any sympathy for stupid people. The Syndicate is principled. The Syndicate always gives people a choice. People die from drug overdoses every day. This makes people want drugs, because, fuck, I dunno, /stupid?/"
She closes her eyes -- drawing an audible alarm from her AI, but whatever -- drawing in a petulant breath of her own. "You can beat me up all you like, but you can't make me give two flips about someone who burns their hand on the stove 27 times in a row, or someone who loves playing in traffic."
She opens her eyes, and one hand lifts to take the annoying AI offline. Her glasses, broken though they be, removed, and neatly folded up in her hands. She stares at them, not -quite- ready to resume eye contact.
"I don't feel -anything- for those people. Trash, lumped together with Scarlet Dahlia and Major Ass-Chin. They lie through their teeth, fuck up -everyone's- lives, and... no one's ever been able to stop 'em."
The kunoichi looks up from her hands, sniffing -- and wiping the web of her glove against her trickling nose. "But I actually -do- give a damn about people who make honest mistakes, and take steps to avoid them. People fuck up all the time. =I= fuck up all the time."
She pivots her right gauntlet to the side, pulling her fist closed. After she whispers some quiet syllables, a little door opens on the supine side -- and it's in here that she places her glasses. And it's also here that she pulls out a little rounded-rectangle device, about the size of a flash drive.
"Yeah, a deal's a deal. I'm not such an impetuous little shit that I'd forget that."
"I gave you a choice too, remember? At the beginning: answers or guns."
The AI isn't wrong to blare: Chun-Li can go from 0 to kicking in an eyeblink. Muscles unclench with each step, but all it'd really take is a thigh-twitch and a shift towards just the right (wrong) forward angle.
"But you were always gonna pick guns, weren't you? You had to /know/, just like I did." One fighter shares a small, tight smile with another and spreads her hands. This still doesn't preclude curling and hammering, but the most moving her shoulders do for now is lightly lifting. "And you have a smart-ass mouth on you, just like I do. So even though you could've spared your dress, your nose, your throat... you didn't; you /couldn't/. I let you choose between pointing me at your rivals for free, or doing it after risking your body, and... well. Here we /are/."
The taller woman's hands turn outwards a little to indicate the carnage, then she folds her arms over her chest.
"Because I gave you a choice," she quietly continues, "and the choice was rigged, because I /wanted/ a fight. /Any/ fight; when /you/ showed up, made it /easy/ for me..." The semi-officer's eyes lid as she bites her lip for a moment. There's no shame in spoiling for a fight with a skilled opponent, especially with Nagase's cache... but there were probably /better/ ways to challenge her to it. More noble ones, anyway, even if they would've lacked the tempting allure of stealing a psychological edge.
"So what does that make you?"
The AI only gets more insistent, the closer she gets. One sudden tempo change and she could unleash a thunderstorm of kicks in the space of a second; a dip and twist could turn her into a spinning thresher. A hard plant and a forward flip--
"You knew what the stove would do, right?" she wonders as the AI goes dead, and despite the implication -- despite the /lead-up/...
"I'm not trying to lecture you," she assures in a gentling voice, "because you're going to do what you're going to do, regardless... like me. I just..." Her eyes flick down for a tick, "People fuck up in all /kinds/ of ways, don't they? And maybe we can't save them all from themselves - we can't /make/ them decide to take care of themselves, love themselves enough not to /destroy/ themselves - but we /can/ choose whether to rig the game for them or not."
-- and twitching biceps--
-- snap Chun-Li's hands forward--
-- towards Nagase's, intent on enfolding it and the little device it holds in gentle, firm pressure. If she makes contact, she'll just hang on without trying to take the drive.
"You're a smart woman; just think about it sometime. Then call me stuck up and tell me to go fuck myself, probably," she briefly deadpans, "but at least think about it, if you haven't." She smile's still not /happy/, per se, but it grows a little. There's a /little/ warmth, hesitant and conflicted though it may be: trusting the Iga kunoichi at /all/, much less to the extent she has is a fool's gambit... but people fuck up all the time, don't they? In all kinds of ways.
At least there's a /chance/ that /this/ time, /this/ way brings something other than pain and misery.
"Thank you for sharing that with me."
The temptation to just -flee- is practically deafening. There's really no reason the ninja should stay rooted in place any more. The contacts she'd met with are long-gone. Her crew has practically evacuated the casino, with only one or two stragglers trying to limp their way out the door. And after the melee, the casino itself is practically beyond salvaging. She should just go.
Yes, Nagase was always going to pick guns. Chalk it up to her early life in an Iga ninja village, where pop quizzes presented the same peril as a final examination. Threats were -real- for her then, with the possibility of maiming, disfiguring injuries. The village elders wouldn't present her with things she couldn't handle, to be sure, but...
"Plucking things off a hot wood stove was a basic first-grade challenge for us, to be honest. Or, TL;DR: No pain, no gain." She flashes a smug grin, which... well, it might be a -bit- hard to pull off with bloodstains on her lips, but Nagase manages.
"And yeah. I admit, I could left you be. But I needed to learn from you -- someone who could legit threaten me without me havin' to worry about doin' =too= much to my unconscious body."
Her eyes narrow in mock accusation. "I mean, the odds are -kinda- against you doin' freaky shit to people while they're out cold. But that's where I gotta tempt fate."
She flashes a more genuine smile, rolling her left arm around in its socket. "Besides, heck, when -else- am I gonna see the World's Strongest Woman in a shitty enough mood where she could tear through dozens of my dearest not-friends and still be thirsty for more?"
She runs her fingers along the bridge of her nose -- a gesture she'd likely do even if her nose -hadn't- been broken and reset. "I admit, I wanted to see how -you- dealt with anger. Figuring you of all people would know how the best way to calm y'self down." She flashes a brief smirk. "But nah. Now I know you're human too. ... Sorry about testing your patience like that."
The urge for flight is strong. Even without her AI, she can tell that Chun-Li still bears the potential for violence -- can still see the muscles firing beyond conscious control. But Nagase swallows her breath, shuddering slightly as the Chinese beauty clasps her hands around the device in her hand. The kunoichi nods dully, giving up the device without any resistance. It's a worn USB drive, with a worn, barely-visible logo of Violet Systems on the side. Needless to say, the device has seen its fair share of pockets and desks over the past few months.
"There's three things on that drive you should be aware of. One is a list of Illuminati, Black Dragon, and Shadaloo transactions in and out of the city, so far as I've been able to collect and correlate. Recent data, too, but a high margin of error. Should be good enough leads for an investigation."
She adds, unable to resist a smirk and a wink of her eye: "If you keep a level head, of course."
Nagase steps back, presenting an open palm. "Second thing -- a map of the metro area here. I've conveniently edited out the Syndicate presence, but the other guys' points of presence should be plenty obvious for you to fill in the blanks."
Then she raises an armored finger, tapping herself in the temple. "Third thing, muy importante - the hardware malware's still active. My BDS can bypass it, but your run-of-the-mill laptop can't. Good thing is, as long as you click 'no' to installing CombziBuddy every twenty minutes you can use this like any other flash drive."
But with that, Nagase takes a confident step backward, clapping her palms together. "But yeah, you're probably right." Her face lights in an amiable grin. "Go fuck yourself! Don't take it personal or nothin', we're just on the different sides of the law an' shit. If I ever put jail time on my personal growth agenda, I might just let you slap the cuffs."
The injured kunoichi's left hand slips forward, her right hand sliding back. And Nagase begins to flicker from view. Nagase's voice begins to doppler, before she finally fades out of view.
COMBATSYS: Nagase takes no action.
[ \\\\\\\\ < > /////////////////////// ]
Nagase 0/-------/-======|=======\=------\1 Chun-Li
COMBATSYS: Nagase has left the fight here.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ <
Nagase's mock accusation puts a real arch in Chun-Li's brows for a beat as she comes in for the hand-grapple. Burning rage hungry for nimble fingers to not-lecturing calm was a long journey compressed into a fairly short timespan; trash-talk instincts are still stowed in the overhead compartment.
It only takes a moment to recover them and flick her eyes towards a bloody, smug grin, though. Once she does, she softly snorts, shows Nagase her palms and offers, "Conscious people only, promise. You were /very/ confident, though, risks and all. You picked... I /guess/ it was the right night...? But you did well."
Her gaze falls for a moment after that, because-- how /does/ she deal with anger...? Even before her sabbatical, before her [REDACTED] weeks in the desert, the hunt for Shadaloo was a feedback loop of righteous rage more satisfying by far than the crack of a rude ninja's nose. She didn't miss the Metro City Incident for lack of faith in monsters or care for people crushed by buildings, but there are so /many/ monsters in the world; so many people being crushed. Given a choice between flavors of outrage, she stuck with the familiar and it kept her going; gave her something to fight and train obsessively for.
Nagase's seen the best way Chun-Li knows to deal with anger and seek calm; sadly, it's just another piece of fucked up humanity.
"No promises," she shoots back of her level head. Nagase's smirk and wink are mirrored but the mirth's not much more than skin-deep. The other instructions are easier to manage and she nods through them, taking a small step back when Nagase does.
"Thanks for the--"
Nagase grins. It takes her a beat and a deep breath, but Chun-Li returns it.
"Fair enough," she says while tucking the drive into her belt. "And I might just go easy on you when I'm done with /this/ batch of assholes." She glances up, and--
"/Maybe/," she echoes with a final flash of teeth.
A beat later, she's gone too in a flurry of blue and swirling bills. The night's still young; there are bound to be stragglers.
Chun-Li's still not satisfied yet.
COMBATSYS: Chun-Li has ended the fight here.
Log created on 13:06:48 01/15/2019 by Chun-Li, and last modified on 09:28:56 01/24/2019.