Honoka - Mutually Assured Indifference

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Description: Dahlia shows an interest in fighting Juri, in the heart of the elusive Shadaloo compound. But not too much interest. Because speaking your mind is just, like, boring, right?

In the depths of Shadaloo's subterranean base, the doors to the training center are hung wide open. The sounds of violence are plain for anyone to hear -- hardened metal slapping against flesh, slamming into bone. Bodies hitting the padded floor with concussion-inducing force. The servos of cybernetic automatons whine, pop, and hiss, with loud clangs preceding their precipitous falls to the floor as well. And layered beneath that soundtrack is... wait. Is that J-rock playing on the speaker system?

One might expect a ten-on-ten free-for-all. But no, at the center of the tempestuous melee is just one fighter, garbed in white with sashes of purple and red. Scarlet Dahlia -- the calm eye of the storm. Her weapon of choice is a three-sectioned staff -- and so far as one can tell, none of the Shadaloo rank-and-file has managed to get within arms' reach of her yet. It's not because of ineptness: Shadaloo's armed forces has one of the most robust training regimens on the planet. And the cyborgs are -not- dialed back onto easy mode.

Yet, she actually looks -bored- with all this. It's not because of her own performance. Crimson and violet sashes whip around with each graceful motion. Eased fabric snaps into sharp angles with sudden reversals, punctuated with dissonant clangs of metal and crunches of bone. No -- it's because it all plays out like a rehearsed performance to the acrobatic Shadaloo associate.

Three soldiers approach on her from divergent angles. And, just as seamlessly, Dahlia leaps into the air, whipping her sectional staff around in concert with a revolving kick. And an instant later, three soldiers find themselves flat on their backs, staring at the ceiling.

Dahlia lands, raising one hand to sweep her forelocks away from her eyes. -Most- of her hair is collected into a long ponytail, swishing about as she draws up to her full height. The sectional staff is retracted, doubled against her right forearm as she raises her left hand in a wary stance.

"Tch. If you'd -started- with that teamwork, maybe I'd have broken a sweat by now..."

The cyborgs lie inert on the floor. The soldiers know better than to stand up right away...

J-Rock goes abruptly quiet as someone cuts the speakers dead.

Off to the side, far outside the range of this tempest, is Juri Han. She's got her finger on a button, on the wall, and she's pushed the full shut-down. The lights in the room flicker a little, and then she flips them back up to max.

She looks as if she might be about to do a sarcastic clap, but, she holds it.

Instead, Juri starts to walk toward Dahlia. There are men on the ground around the other woman, but Juri does not seem to care; it seems she barely notices. She steps right on a downed cyborg's stomach, pressing with her bare foot. It does not break the stride of her approach.

"Well well. Look who's up and moving," she says, her voice hoarse. "Looks like you're enjoying taking advantage of the facilities here."

Dahlia casts her eyes over to the door, pretty much as soon as the music stops. Out in public, she might prefer to downplay her psychic abilities, but here in the stronghold ruled by the Chinniest Of Them All, there's scarcely a reason to -hide- such things. She might not have noticed when Juri arrived, but now with the workout screeching to a halt, it's hard -not- noticing someone with the taekwondoka prodigy's overwhelming presence.

When the lights come on, Dahlia is decidedly -not- the same overconfident person she was moments prior. Her brow is a bit more damp. Her skin, just a bit more pale. And her stance, a smidge less steady, as she takes a few hesitant steps back. It isn't till Juri's bare foot touches metal that Dahlia even realizes how far she'd backpedaled -- and consciously stops herself. She cannot show fear -- not against a viper of -Juri's- tenacity.

"'Enjoy' isn't the word I'd use. Barely a warmup." She casts a sideglance towards one of the soldiers who seemed to take offense at being written off like so... "But I hope it was instructional, all the same..."

A palm is flattened, slapped against her thigh, as she looks more directly at Juri. She shows confidence -- but not exactly -defiance- against the talented taekwondoka. "Can't complain about the -service- though. Shadaloo composites are lightyears beyond what's on the market now. So... thanks for that." She lowers her chin, flashing a feral smile -- and not -quite- meeting Juri's gaze.

A tongue darts across dry lips. A simple reminder to herself that she'd been sparring for a while now. "... What luck, though -- I was -hoping- someone stronger would come along." It's now that Dahlia raises her eyes, veins of amber glistening in the light. "Unless you've -retired- from fighting, that is..."

Juri inhales slightly through her nose when Dahlia slides back, as if she is inhaling her fear. It has a certain taste to it, that her own augmented Psycho Power can pick up.

She makes a small 'pssth' sound when Dahlia suggests she's retired. "As if. I just don't like to bother with punks too far beneath my weight class." She slowly rolls out a wrist. One foot lifts off the ground, as if she's preparing herself for a combat stance. It's such a light and casual gesture it's hardly notable. Her balance is like floating. "Weak opponents die so quickly. Where's the fun in that? I need someone I can make HURT first."

Then she lowers her foot again. "All of you, get out," she says, suddenly louder and more harshly to the men on the ground. They'll get up and scramble if they know what's good for them, in spite of their states of various injury. "It seems like WE need to have a private conversation."

Fear is a weapon -- and just like a double-edged sword, it can cut both ways. If Dahlia gives into her fear, then she loses all agency in the face of someone so bold, so assertive as Juri Han. It takes only a moment to assess the situation and reassert her own control.

She nods in agreement. It's barely even -worth- it to fight those of such lesser skill. But is Juri actually talking about -her- in this instance? Dahlia's careful to agree -too- readily, lest she be written off as some spineless sycophant. She's fairly confident of her role in the 'hurt' rather than 'kill' category.

The men -- the conscious ones anyway -- snap to their feet at the barked order. And the ones who have less cognizant 'friends' kick them in the ribs to make sure the order is communicated to them as well.

And while the men are rushing for the exits, Dahlia calmly peels off her white jacket, letting the crimson-and-violet sash stay in place upon her hips. Keeping hold of her sectional staff, she tosses the jacket aside; gray sportswear shows off her toned shoulders and forearms. She flashes a confident look back to Juri, nodding quietly. "Thought you'd never ask." One section of the staff whistles about on its chain tether, as she adopts a more casual stance. "What's on your mind... Juri?"

Juri stalks a few steps closer. She watches Dahlia's feet, as if daring her to take even one more step back away. Her approach is still slow and predatory, walking with a sway in her hips, each foot planted firmly. "Oh. It sounded like you were challenging me just then."

She keeps approaching... and walks all the way over, close enough to reach out and put a hand under the other woman's chin. She looks at her directly, eye to enhanced-eye. Her voice is practically cooing. "Was I mistaken? Because if so, I'll look for my entertainment elsewhere."

A smirk teases across her lips, and she leans back again. "But I don't think so. You seemed really bored with the riff-raff." Juri straightens one shoulder, and ever so slightly, she lifts a foot from the ball, to her toes. That's probably all the invitation Dhalia needs to realize that she's either counter-challenging, or simply accepting an offer not entirely spoken.

COMBATSYS: Juri has started a fight here.

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Juri             0/-------/-------|

Soldiers have left the immediate vicinity -- though it'd be farcical to presume that the soldiers would be completely disinterested in watching two of the compound's strongest inhabitants commencing in a 1v1. Where there's a hallway and remote camera recording, there's a way to watch the fight.

And now that Dahlia receives the reasonable assurances that Juri was leading into a fight and not an actual honest-to-goodness conversation, Dahlia responds in kind. She holds her ground, not retreating in the slightest. Just flashing a self-assured half-smirk, while keeping the loose section of her staff whirling around in a lazy circle. And just as she's about to provide an answer to Juri's rhetorical question, Juri goes ahead and answers it. And Dahlia seizes the opportunity, snapping her left foot into a kick at Juri's midrange. It's a two-part maneuver though -- for Dahlia twists around to wheel her right heel in an immediate followup -- a much more -powerful- followup, wreathed in fuschia psi-flames.

One thing that's -not- terribly obvious, though, is that her white jacket suddenly flies off the floor. And from it -- two round spinny things. They're diabolos, and their airborne arcs can be rather difficult to predict -- unless one has spent the years of practice that Dahlia has.

COMBATSYS: Honoka has joined the fight here.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0             Juri

COMBATSYS: Juri dodges Honoka's Strong Kick.

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Honoka           1/------=/=======|-------\-------\0             Juri

Juri was of course more than ready for the attack to come for her. Though Dahlia issued the challenge in her own way, Juri also accepted it in hers. And she positioned herself in such a way that she knew she'd be able to side-step, even in close proximity. She dances to one side. The psychic heel that comes for her slips by her midriff by inches. Juri takes a breath, an inhale that's suprisingly slow given how quickly a fight can go. She is tasting the power, judging it.

In the space of that moment, the little diabolos floating up do not exactly slide past her keen eye. It is, after all, one of the strongest things about her. She follows one with a glance, but then her eye snaps back to Dahlia.

That raised foot, which was floating so delicately, comes up very high, and Juri wraps it all the way around Dahlia's neck, around her back. She is... quite limber. Standing with such a dramatic split doesn't seem to stress her in the least. "That'a girl. But... you're going to have to be a lot faster than that," she creaks.

And then she suddenly twists her leg around to execute a dramatic leg throw.

COMBATSYS: Honoka just-defends Juri's Karen Geri!

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Honoka           1/------=/=======|-------\-------\0             Juri

So maybe tracking moving targets isn't the -exclusive- domain of jugglers. The fact remains that even world-renowned martial artists lose track of the slippery little juggling props on the battleground, especially as Dahlia doesn't make a point of advertising their locations. Dahlia wonders if Juri will be so keen to track them a few moments later, after they've rolled to a stop, seeking to be stepped upon like a rogue Lego in the darkened living room.

Ultimately, the props have very little to do with a double kick thundering bare inches past a midriff, or the martial artists who thrive upon each other's raw psychic presence.

Juri's bare heel arches around towards the back of Dahlia's neck. But if there is one thing about Dahlia -- it's that she, too, is quite flexible. Juri's heel scrapes across Dahlia's back -- but Dahlia's still spinning about on her primary axis, both elbows drawn close to her abdomen to facilitate the spin. An instant later, it's her own forearm that brushes against Juri's heel, knocking it aside in the midst of her spin.

One foot lands awkwardly on the ground, while her other remains stretched out. A normal martial artist would find it impossible to rebalance themselves in such a position. But a normal martial artist wouldn't be able to launch herself off the ground with a concentrated burst of psycho power, allowing her to backflip free -- catapulting her upwards and away from Juri's unorthodox grapple.

"Done and done," chirps Scarlet Dahlia in reply, her ponytail whipping over her forehead from the rapid flip. She lands on her extended fingers, allowing her to spring back to her feet.

Landing properly, she raises her knee, counterbalancing herself to stop the whirling momentum. "I'm full of surprises...!" And then she rocks forward, lashing her sectional staff outward. She aims to lash the chained weapon out at Juri's leg, hoping to ensnare her in its length. And if she manages that, she'd seek to whip her sideways. Here, as well, she'd be 'cheating' with her psychic abilities -- an invisible shove to send her opponent off-balance, and possibly into an obstacle wall -- or possibly into those diabolos!

COMBATSYS: Juri blocks Honoka's Kohumumatki.

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Honoka           1/-------/=======|-------\-------\0             Juri

Juri has one leg still up, standing on the other. Dahlia aims for her downed leg, and wraps her staff around Juri's ankle. Dahlia manages that much, but Juri senses the psychic push incoming after. The taekwondo champion twirls around in place, and plants her other foot down, using one unorthodox manuver to block another. With the last twist of her hip, Juri steps on a section of the staff, then slides her locked foot back. She corrects her stance with a little hop. She got scraped, but didn't fall, even with the shove aimed in her direction.

She looks somehow pleased, perhaps just because Dahlia made a solid attempt to trip her, and is using her better tactics. "That could've been vicious," Juri says, with a slight narrowing to her eyes.

She pulls her right knee up toward her chest, and a bit of light collects around her foot. It glows with a purple aura, her own Psycho Power charging around her as she gets just slightly more serious about the fight. Now that even a little blood was drawn, she's more invested.

She kicks her foot out with a loud "HA!" The wave of energy flies away from her, pushed away in a V-shaped comet that echoes the arc of her kick. It's fast, and light. Where the diabolos travel in confusing arcs, Juri tends to be much more about the direct approach. The fast projectile flies straight and true.

COMBATSYS: Honoka fully avoids Juri's Fuhajin.

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Honoka           1/------=/=======|-------\-------\0             Juri

As her staff makes a fleeting but ultimately less than satisfactory impact, Dahlia arches an eyebrow. Her skepticism turns to a half-smiling nod, though; even from someone whose words are just as likely sour as sweet, a compliment is still a compliment.

Dahlia has long felt that the human condition thrives on being pushed beyond its mortal limits. The opportunity to be an underdog in this fight, with -less- mortal peril than usual, is... invigorating.

And yet, the prospect of getting bodied by a wave of Psycho Power just doesn't bear the same appeal. Scarlet Dahlia snaps her sectional staff back to her grip, drawing it close and whipping a tight pirouette to the side. Psycho Power blisters past her, close enough that she can feel its prickly pull on her nerves as she whirls past.

"Likewise..." comments Dahlia. She's never been one to be -particularly- verbose while fighting.

And when she snaps out of her spin? Juri will be greeted with all three sections of the staff, curled up in her right hand -- slammed into her like a cudgel. Dahlia will let her grip falter on the followup strike, allowing one section of the staff to hang loosely on its chain -- long enough to whip around Juri's arm in hopes of entangling her now where she couldn't before. Should she sustain the grip, she'd lurch forward, slamming her knee into Juri once, then twice -- and then slamming an open palm into Juri's sternum. There'd then be a sudden explosive blossom of Psycho Power -- powerful enough to send Juri off-balance, with a tug on the chain ensuring she hits the ground sooner rather than later!

COMBATSYS: Juri just-defends Honoka's Seta-pagoat EX!

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Honoka           1/------=/=======|=------\-------\0             Juri

Juri did not mean to merely compliment; she meant to follow up with something more cruel, so when her attack is avoided, she is offended by the other woman's gall. Watching Dahlia evade the projectile strike, her eyes narrow. Her focus sharpens. She's ever on guard for something more, holding her ground for the next attack.

Dahlia swings a grip around her arm, and this becomes the start of her combination attack. However, it is disrupted. Though it momentarily tangles Juri's arm, Juri grabs onto the staff with her other hand. With a sideswipe of her knife-edge, she dislodges the staff, freeing herself before the followup can connect. Dahlia can't make the effort to slide forward, and that keeps the distance clear. But since Dahlia was expecting to rush, Juri uses the opening to retaliate, to gain a positional advantage she might have otherwise lacked. She leaps forward, and twists into a downward angle diving kick.

It would be powerful enough, but immediately upon connecting with that, she turns her entire body backward, throwing out a second kick before she can even come close to hitting the ground. Then she twists her hips around forward again and throws another kick, this one designed to throw Dahlia into the air so she can keep her off-balance. The Psycho Power allows Juri to levitate, keeping her body light enough for this trick. But as for the flipping of her legs and twisting of her body, that is merely training and skill.

COMBATSYS: Juri successfully hits Honoka with Shikusen.
- Power hit! -

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Honoka           1/----===/=======|==-----\-------\0             Juri

Receiving a sarcastic compliment as a sincere one really -can- be fun, right? It helps, in that moment, that Dahlia was quick enough to actually avoid the attack.

In this case, however, Dahlia mistakenly overcommitted to the attack, allowing herself to become ensnared in the spider's web. As the stave's segments are swept away, Dahlia is pulled along for the ride -- and finds a foot planted right into her sternum. Slammed backward, her shoulder threatens to dislocate -- but then the staff is mercifully released before a second and a third kick slam their way home! The acrobatic fighter is launched into the air: an element with which she is not unfamiliar, but with the forceful compressions upon her ribcage, she finds it difficult to muster the breath necessary to regain control of her flight.

WHAM! Dahlia's back slams hard into a reinforced wall of the training center, her head cracking back against the padded wall for an instant before she peels forward, slipping off limply from the surface. She manages to regain -some- control before landing on all fours upon the floor with a clink-clank of chain links, shaking out some dizziness.

"Nnngh..." she grumbles unproductively, head craning up from her low, feral crouch, as she matches gaze with her opponent. For a good moment, she stands there -- staring, panting with belabored breaths.

Dahlia's eyes gleam with a blindingly bright flare of golden radiance. And all of a sudden...

... she's =gone=, replaced by three illusive copies of herself, spiriting off in multiple directions at once! Each copy leaps in a different angle, but all hit the ground at the same time -- leaping once again at Juri with a right hand outstretched

An instant later, Juri will find herself with the knowledge of -which- of the three is the real Dahlia -- for that's the one that will try to grab hold of Juri's face! And with a sharp twist, Dahlia will attempt to wrest the taekwondoka off her feet, slamming her head into the ground with a psychokinetic fury -- punctuated by a magnificent bolt of lightning streaming down from the ceiling! "KURAAAAAAE!"

COMBATSYS: Juri interrupts Niwen Horobi from Honoka with Shotenha.
~ Cruel hit! ~

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Honoka           1/----===/=======|===----\-------\0             Juri

Juri finally gets a powerful, decisive hit, and her speed follows it up, until Dahlia is reeling and flying backward. Juri hits the ground lightly, a cruel smile growing on her lips. "That- serves you right." She puts her hands on her hips, dropping her combat stance for a moment while Dahlia catches her breath. "Your pathethic little moaning... By the time we're done, you'll be screaming in pain."

Dahlia's eyes flash.

In response to this, in an instantaneous reaction, Juri's left eye also shimmers, with a purple fire, the iris slightly glowing. She tracks the motion of the illusions, not with a look of shock, but with cold and calculating calm. Juri's hands loosen up, then go tense, fingers bent as if her painted nails were claws ready to scratch. She watches all the copies with her eyes flickering fast, keeping sight on each one.

The psychic senses in her powerful Eye narrow in on the real Dahlia just at the critical moment. And when she does get her lock on the true Dahlia... Juri laughs.

A bubbling giggle escapes her throat. Her foot drives straight up into the air, a flash of Psycho Power trailing behind it in a wave of magenta. The strike cracks into Dahlia's face - the real Dahlia, that is.

From her spot by the wall, Dahlia seethes. There's no words needed at this point -- her fury would be more than evident. Every fiber of her being is dedicated to wiping that cruel smile right off Juri's face.

In an instant, there were three intent glares.

And just as lightning fast, Dahlia's face would be impacted by a soulfire-shrouded kick.

The sound Dahlia makes is considerably more shrill than the last, as she's kicked sideways, hauled right off her feet and sent whirling to the side. The chain from her staff -- currently collapsed into her left hand -- jangles as she's thrown into a rapid axial spin from the impact of the kick.

This time, though -- the acrobat has a bit more of a chance to regain her stride. An arched hand flings out, touching down upon the floor to keep her -face- from slamming into it. Dahlia's body uncoils into the very picture of control as she bounds a few paces back.

And then it becomes so very clear -where- Juri hit her. Partly because the makeup -- or whatever was adorning her ravaged lower face -- has been scorched away. And part of her cheek is rapidly turning purple.

Yet, Dahlia insists on showing -some- bravado, even while her right eye screws shut from the pain.

The staff unfurls. One section falls loose -- and she spins it around -- preferring the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh to the sound of her ragged, belabored breathing.


And then Dahlia squints back at Juri -- raising her right hand in a beckoning gesture. Is she ... catching her breath? Or is the Ainu-Japanese woman actually -daring- Juri to come at her?

COMBATSYS: Honoka issues a challenge!!

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Honoka           1/----===/=======|===----\-------\0             Juri

COMBATSYS: Honoka focuses on her next action.

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Honoka           1/----===/=======|===----\-------\0             Juri

"That's it," Juri says, coldly, in response to the high-pitched shriek that Dahlia emits. She chuckles again, this laugh deeper in her throat. "But louder," she says.

Then she notices Dahlia prepare herself, challenging Juri to come at her in spite of the pain. Juri doesn't seem to be able to contain her amusement at this, putting the back of her hand to her mouth as she guffaws. "Aw. You're losing your FACE but you aren't losing your nerve? We're gonna have to change that."

Juri licks her upper lip, then bites the lower in anticipation. She's ready to taste something good: the pain of her opponent, swallowing it to fuel the negative energies of her power.

It hasn't escaped her that Dahlia is fueling her own energy with the intensity of the match. But Juri still believes she has the upper hand, as the other woman is waiting for her to come.

A trap. Yes, certainly. But Juri is confident it doesn't matter. She rushes in.

She lifts her leg in a wide swing, a roundhouse designed as a feint. Then she swaps abruptly to her other leg, and does a backward flip. Her legs flare up in a pinwheel of light as she cartwheels backward, striking out with Psycho Power-infused kicks again and again on her ascent.

COMBATSYS: Honoka fails to reflect Senpusha from Juri with Kunne Chup Kamui.

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Honoka           2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\-------\0             Juri

Dahlia prefers picking on the low-hanging fruit. It's easy, really, to pick on people much less talented than herself. People she can push around, manipulate at will. People she can make sing and dance for her.

But both times she came face-to-face with Duke Burkoff, it became clear that her focus on appearances far outpaced her actual martial ability. Her ability to sway the crowds had no effect on a veritable juggernaut, someone who was not convinced by flash and panache -- someone who ignored subjective reason in favor of objective truth. How much, Dahlia wondered, of her skill was true, and how much was rooted in merely -pretending- to be strong?

Waves of dark energy roil outward from the Ainu tusukur, practically invisible in the indirect lighting of the training chamber, perceptible only by the two combatants within. Dahlia focuses her breath, pushing past the twinges of pain shooting their way through her sternum, her lungs, her cheek. Her eyebrows dive low, so intent is she on interrupting Juri, on proving her substance to be more than sheer style.

Fuschia psychic flame spills down the length of her chained staves. Her body curls with anticipation -- the intent being to whip around sharply, to overpower Juri with her psychic might. To wipe that damned smile off her face as the trap is sprung.

But then Dahlia's eyes go wide. She knows Juri's arsenal. She's done the research. She knows Juri's spinning buzzsaw-blade of death attack. And it was -not- on the list of attacks that the manipulator had a ready response for. Dahlia pivots back in panic, her left hand swinging forward instead of her right.

Whoosh-whoosh-KAPOW! Dahlia recoils backward, her chin snapping back from the first kick, as she looses a -most- anguished cry. A second flaming kick slams into her defenseless ribcage, the crack drawing a wheezing pant. A third kick blasts her upward, slamming squarely into her stomach -- and a very -wet- groan spills from her lips.

Once again, she slams into the wall. Once again, she slides down it, Juri's fiery flames refusing to be snuffed out. Though, when she rises this time, she's -far- from the plucky challenger she was mere moments prior.

She stands on shaky legs, one arm curled around her middle. She tumbles forward, -almost- keeling right over before snapping the staff into its full six-foot length, using it as balance. "Nngh... fuckin'... "

The last time she felt this terrible, this -defeated-... was in her fight with Duke.

Her knuckles turn white as she clenches the center of the staff. Shaking her head, she draws in her breath. Her pupils contract. And her body -glows- with golden radiance.

Dahlia begins to chuckle.
And then the chuckle grows louder, and louder, until it becomes a guffaw.

The joke -- well, it doesn't seem like she's going to give away the punchline, as she walks in a sideways arc around Juri. Encircling her as a predator, as incredulous as that could sound. The underdog... with an alpha's swagger. Cackling all the while, as waves of golden energy rise from her shoulders and arms, hollow eyes fixating upon Juri. Either she will turn this around -- or she will -not-.

Juri lands on her feet from the whirlwind of strikes. She is not one to back down from a challenge, after all. She remains in her combat stance, knee up, eyes focused, as Dhalia flies back, and hits the wall.

She lowers her leg lightly, watching. She runs a hand behind her neck, and rolls her head to one side. She breathes in. A sharp eye might notice she's showing just a little fatigue from the bout, as she's had to exert herself on a few of these strikes. But it's nowhere near what Dahila is feeling right now. Juri looks, overall, smug, even as the other woman rises...

And begins to build intensity.

Juri finds this turn of events quite interesting. She is unafraid. If there is a challenge still remaining that is worthy of her, she welcomes it, even the pain it may bring to her. "Mmm-hm. So. Are you finally going to play with me for real?" she asks, almost purring in the lower part of her register. "Too bad it's too little, too late."

She leans back. Her hands are behind her back, almost as if she's casually stretching.

Then her eye intakes power. It flickers purple, then flashes a brilliant white for just a fraction of a second...

It locks on to Dahlia. Juri moves- fast.

She rushes the other woman down, kicking with a powerful purple strike, then another, then another. She shouts out as she turns her body, working into a backward kick. She leaps, still moving. Juggling upward, the next kick Juri fires off is so charged with Psycho Power that it shoots out an arc of light. Only then, after this explosive finisher, does she touch the ground, settling back into her previous stance.

COMBATSYS: Honoka fully avoids Juri's Fuharenjin.

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Honoka           2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|==-----\-------\0             Juri

The laughter reaches a feverish pitch, as she continues to pace in a wide arc around Juri. Even on the verge of utter collapse, Juri's boldness gives her strength. Now that she's gotten past the fearsome attack, the urge to wipe that grin off her face just seems to be making Dahlia's will to succeed all the more greater.

So it is, that Dahlia's shoulders hunch down a little lower to the ground. Surely, in her current state, she's operating on little more than weaponized bravado? And yet, as Juri kicks, the Ainu juggler uncoils, leaping backwards. She leans up as the kick whistles close to her forelocks. She leans sideways, her ponytail tickling the very tips of Juri's kicking toes. Each of Juri's blisteringly fast moves falls just a centimeter or two shy, the taekwondoka's only reward being the inexplicable -heat- radiating from Scarlet Dahlia's gold-laced form.

A backward kick, a stream of light -- each of those is met with nimble footwork that should be completely beyond the grasp of someone given such a humbling beatdown... Unless...?

No. It -can't- be. After Juri's final attack, Dahlia lists hard to the side. It looks like she's about to fall over. There's -no way- she can still be standing, is there?

And then Dahlia's eyes glint.

And all of a sudden, Dahlia is standing upright -- her left fist lurching straight for Juri's center mass. She's aiming to grab hold. -Somehow-.

COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Juri with Iomante EX.

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Honoka           0/-------/---<<<<|=====--\-------\0             Juri

That in itself wouldn't hurt so much. But what -would- hurt is the savage barrage of strikes from her staff, as Dahlia relies on the leverage to do what her mere strength could not. And all through the attacks Juri might feel that the radiance is building around her. Heat rising, suffusing through her pores, through her very fibers -- and lifting her up from the floor. And just when the sensation becomes tangible -- something -real- that can be lashed out against...

That's when Dahlia's blistering assault gives way. And the Ainu acrobat leans into a backflipping kick, timed to perfectly coincide with the accumulated radiance reaching a breaking point. Clashing kick, combined with a furious explosion of Psycho Power -- massive enough to send Juri airborne!

And as Dahlia snaps out of her kick, her hands float out to either side, steadying her fall. Maybe... -perhaps-... the adrenaline is letting her push the pain out of mind, now...?

Juri's fury of blows does not connect, much to her surprise. Finally, the other woman is showing some sense of fighting spirit, some real challenge that Juri can latch on to.

She dances out of the way of Juri's attack, and, glowing with heat, launches a retaliation...

Grabbing onto the other woman, pulling her close. Then striking her with hit after hit. Juri did try to evade, to brace herself against this, but this time, her defenses fail. She takes her punishment, the strikes smashing against her one at a time. Each elicits a grunt of pain.

The final hit launches her into the air. Her body twists over itself again and again, rolling. She falls down to the floor with a crack, her arm pinning underneath her.

There's a short pause. And then, she laughs.

She laughs before even getting up, and then, as she pushes her downed arm to raise her shoulder from the ground, she's still laughing. "That's the spirit. I knew you could try a little harder than THAT."

Juri rolls up to her feet again almost lazily. It's clear from the way she's holding her arm to one side that she took a rough landing, probably wrenched something. But this hasn't brought her mood down. She takes one step forward, then a slide-step, that brings her closer to Dahlia. Even if Juri was struck, her way of handling pain is much different. In fact, she seems to like it. "You gotta learn to take your beating with some dignity!"


She suddenly turns her body into a fast axe kick. The kick, once again blazing with energy, comes out in a forward flip, and she splits her legs wide as she delivers it.

COMBATSYS: Juri successfully hits Honoka with Ryodansatsu.
- Power hit! -

[                             \  < >  /////////////////             ]
Honoka           0/-------/---<<<<|=======\-------\1             Juri

The first attempt to sway Juri using psychic illusions may not have worked. The second attempt seems to have fared considerably better -- not because she was attempting to appear -faster- than she's capable of moving, but because she was intentionally making herself appear -slower-.

The Ainu won't be able to keep fighting like that for much longer though. As she flips back to her feet, it becomes clear that her breathing is ragged. After all, not even adrenaline can drown out the very physical obstructions in her lungs. And without a ready supply of oxygen, Dahlia finds herself listing back dizzily, clenching hold of her staff for both balance and comfort.

She wants to insist that, yes, she was -trying-. But that'd be whining -- and fueling Juri's rage, moreso. Not one of Dahlia's goals in this fight. The point of the staff slams into the ground -- and while she -is- agreeing with Juri with the need for dignity, it's more out of a need to push herself upright in this case. "Mmm," is her noncommittal agreement.

However, she's caught flat-footed. Propping oneself up is just a terrible way to deal with the taekwondo prodigy's attack -- and it shows when Dahlia slips a bit in trying to dive out of the path. The staff is caught first -- but then the back of Dahlia's neck and shoulder are clipped in the attack, imparting a severe torque upon her, partially crushing her against the floor, partly skipping her -across- it. It'd be bad enough if her arm -weren't- wrenched about by the leverage of the staff -- a testament to Juri's battle prowess.

Dahlia hits the ground in a roll. And it looks like a really bad spill, actually -- for when she hits the ground, she practically -tumbles-.

How much of -that- is an illusion, though?
For after a moment, the spinning, falling Dahlia ignites into golden flame.
Another moment, the spinning form then splits into three identical copies.
A moment further, the three images of Dahlia each split in half.

The six copies whirl around Juri, surrounding her. And when their collective tumbling comes to a stop -- all six are extending their hands towards Juri. All of them bristling with golden, psychic flames -- and -all- of them squinting back through weary eyes.

"Can you -lose- with dignity, though...? Hahahahaha!"

Six Dahlias. Six orbs, brimming over with radiant golden flames. And -all- of them unleash a brilliant burst of light, in a sign that threatens to burn out even the most sensitive of Shadaloo's electro-psycho receptors -- power that erupts forth like six spectral lances, each threatening to skewer Juri whole with pure, unmitigated -pain-.

Only -two- of them will actually hurt -- the rest will pass through her harmlessly. One would hope, though, that Juri hasn't forgotten about the deadly trip hazards Dahlia placed on the floor at the beginning of the fight -- round juggling props that would be a menace for bare feet.

One by one, the six images wink out of existence -- as the one true Dahlia reveals herself. Just as weak -- just as exhausted. But refusing to ruin her dignity -- or Juri's fun -- by simply passing out. Determined, to the last, to see this through.

COMBATSYS: Honoka can no longer fight.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Juri             1/-------/=======|

COMBATSYS: Juri blocks Honoka's Nochiu-o Kando.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Juri             1/------=/=======|

Juri would have to admit that her senses can't entirely keep up with this amount of illusion. Her Eye flares, the purple glow filling it completely. The eye that is not bright with light darts around, watching the illusions for shadows, looking for clues. She has a sixth-sense to rely on as well...

But in the end, it's mostly her intuition that allows her to successfully block. Even without the help of her cybernetics, or her Psycho Power, she's a fighting prodigy with incredible skill. The images begin to attack, and Juri keeps watching, keeping up with their motions. She takes a backward leap over the obstacles on the ground, and...

She holds her leg up, pulling it back, and blocks one of the critical strikes. The illusory ones pass through her harmlessly. One strike does make it through, smashing into her upper shoulder, but she was braced for it. It leaves a scratch and burn on her... She closes her eyes for a moment as she processes the pain, that purple light again winking out. But she does not cry out.

Then she lowers her leg, and looks at Dahlia.

She waits a beat. Her voice is cold. "Did you really expect me to lose?"

She takes a slow breath through her nose. "All I ask is for you to come at me with everything you have."

Juri dusts off her shoulders, wiping at the place where that attack struck. "I guess that was it!"

Dahlia won't pass out. But Juri knows she's finished, so she turns away.

Dahlia's been holding back on crying out. Because if she -does-, she will collapse in the despair of just how much of a gauntlet she's been through. But with her soulfired power ebbing away, lancing into Juri with only a fraction of its intended impact, there's little left for her to cling to. There is no stage magic left to prop herself up with -- no reasonable way for her to even -pretend- to win.

A cold response -- confident, cocky. And yet -- not entirely abrasive. Not -completely- rude.

The golden radiance subsides, leaving little more than a woman in workout attire, folded upon one knee, her hands lowering to the floor in sheer exhaustion.

Pant, pant, pant.

"Surely there's worse ways to have spent your time."

Dahlia looks back, a sullen expression on her fatigued face. She's not some whelp, about to cry. Neither is she the defiant firebrand, determined to insist against insurmountable odds that she can, in fact, win. Just a realist, cognizant of the considerable gulf between the two.

She shifts, shutting her eyes to get a better understanding of her pain. And then, a belabored breath, and a simple question.

"... I'm dying to know. How often do you work out?"

Nostrils flare, as she draws in her breath. Hands curl, close to her heart. ... Yep. She's starting to feel the rasp in her lungs again.

Juri doesn't entirely turn around, but she tilts her head back. It's not in response to the question exactly. She's riding high off the other woman's wave of pain. She feels a resonance from her that fuels her own power, gives her strength. It ripples behind her unusual eye... which flickers with a little flash as she looks over her shoulder. Another chuckle bubbles from her throat. "I'm not about to tell all my secrets. Hang out enough and maybe you'll find out."

Then she starts to finish walking away. "But this was hardly a workout," she says, that dismissive tone coming back. "For me."

COMBATSYS: Juri has ended the fight here.

Log created on 19:57:44 02/24/2019 by Honoka, and last modified on 16:52:03 03/02/2019.