Description: The internet superstar Lyraelle's engagement ratings have been soaring since her highly publicized entry into the Dead or Alive WCC. But the cunning darkstalker is forced to balance a number of agendas behind the scenes, between trying to get on top of whatever it is DOATEC is doing vs. actually advancing in the tournament itself. However, the tournament is constructed strangely, unlike any other before it, and she finds herself backstage at the Ultratech Exhibition Arena building trailing a very specific supernatural mark. It's there she meets her next matchup, as if she were expected. There's a lot of money still up in the air for contractors, and the otherwise nondescript man on the other side has come to investigate the youth's activities. You see, the Mishima syndicate has heard that Ultratech is planning to make a very big move, very soon, and this JANUS Project and its relation to Darkstalkers is number one on the list.
Life might seem like easy mode when you're one of the world's top internet personalities, but juggling that celebrity status with being a international entrepreneur in one of the biggest industries in global entertainment certainly cranks up the difficulty and necessary APM. Add in a dozen or more threads of interest that require personal pursuit to monitor and investigate and you're definitely playing on Nightmare.
When you choose to live with the amount of stress that Lyraelle does, it's important to find some time for cathartic release, like burning down a city block in Old Delhi.
It's also important to maintain plausible deniability. Fortunately (for her), Lyraelle happens to be a shapeshifter, and the best anyone trying to place Her Majesty at that particular Tandoori-gone-wrong could hope for is to pin some culpability on a tattooed British redhead calling herself 'Roisin Darkheart' who might or might not be her cousin - and even putting those remote pieces of jigsaw together would require dedication.
Memories of that fiery encounter with a familiar demon bring a smile to Lyraelle's face as the water from a private locker room shower washes away the supernatural hangover of a night fuelled by borrowed rage - the rough supernatural equivalent of way too much cocaine and resulting antisocial activity.
Minutes later, her usual strapless purple thong leotard having been equipped and thigh highs and gloves pulled on, the pink-haired demonette primes her smartphone for content creation and checks her lighting before starting toward the exit of the locker room while wiping a fluffy towel through her wet hair for a meticulously framed 'natural' shot.
She initiates audience engagement with a radiant smile.
"Hey, minions! <3 Just getting ready for my next match tonight! Hope you all caught my win in the first round! I really had to steal that one!"
A link to Lyraelle's victory over fellow American Lucky Glauber goes up in her stream, along with the hashtag #dunked.
The Demon Queen has never been known for mercy.
"Anyway, that's probably still hours away! You know, not every fight organizer works with perfect scheduling or anything..."
A 'crying while laughing' emoji version of Lyraelle pops up next to the Demon Queen's face as she smiles at the camera.
Suddenly, something interrupts Lyraelle's legendarily laser-like streamer focus, her pointed ears pricking at the supernatural sensation of a familiar presence nearby - her own.
"Anyway, watch my Hitter for a link when my match goes live! I just streamed to say I love you! Mwah!"
The towel discarded, the Demon Queen blows the camera a kiss before leaving her audience to speculate as to how she manages to shower in full makeup. A brief scan of the chat indicates that no one seems to have noticed the streamer's premature evacuation, providing her with some sense of relief. A simple exhalation, a shake of her head, and a sudden escalation of her own body temperature causes Lyraelle's soaked locks to explode with a burst of steam into her full cascading perfect pink mane, which she casually ties into a ponytail with a purple band decorated with a skull as she starts to wander through the hallways of the Ultratech Exhibition Arena, heels clicking on the hard floor, whistling while she lazily fixes her hair.
She's not sure where exactly she's going, but she's sure that she detected her brand somewhere nearby - and that would be too much of a coincidence to ignore even if she were in the habit of ignoring coincidences.
Missives sent to Mishima. Details covering the fight with Zepp's showpony. The report suggests that President Gabriel, in his zeal to showcase himself to the world, may let slip his ideals are a mask for ambition. That this bloodied nose of public relation is only a single moment. It might drive them to higher technological progress. At the same time, it will damper outside consideration of Zepp Chi-Tek. It could leave openings for the Mishima Zaibatsu to move into the field.
A second missive to Kolin and to the Illuminati lay out the suggestions he's made. He feeds information to multiple masters. One he suggests honestly, the other, he simply allows to know what strings are being pulled. Deception rarely requires complex lies and dishonesty. Much as the world, to Whitney Saulder's estimation, believes otherwise.
The man is where he needs to be at the moment, looking at an old phone, with the messages sent. He takes the phone in his hands. His fingertips run lightly over its contours, the shine of glass and plastic off the limited lighting. A push. A snap. The screen becomes a web of cracks. The phone placed aside. Let someone else find it.
The American puts his hands into the pockets of his rumpled blazer. Ill-fitting, large and hanging on a slouching man hiding his natural frame. He draws out a cigarette from a pack within the pocket.
He considers the appropriateness of the moment. It is not without poetics. Actors behind the stage. Waiting for the moment he knows to come. He knows he stands on his spike. He is waiting for his partner in the performance to arrive at hers.
There is no coincidence to the pageantry.
Clicking. Whistling. A cue for the tired eyed man among the service corridors of the backstage. He strikes up his lighter. The sizzle of paper catching flame plays in his hearing along with the tempo of clicking heels and the melody of whistling.
He looks over. He takes stock. He likes this one. So filled with lies. So blatant and open with it. But in a clever way, he thinks. At least one more clever than pat denial.
"Mere puppets they, who come and go at bidding of vast formless things," Whitney mutters to himself and pushes off the wall. His footfalls are louder, pointed, heel to toe, then a dragging scrape of a barely lifted foot. Heel, toe, scrape.
Heel toe scrape.
He hums to play to the tune of Lyarelle's whistle. A baritone noise at stage level. A call.
Notice me, and take your part, he thinks, in this pitiable showcase.
The twitch of Lyraelle's elf-like ears is subtle, and it happens before the footsteps approach - at the sound of the cigarette being lit. There's no other indication that the demoness has noticed the agent for some time as she continues her course only a little further, navigating the corridors through a door left open wider and longer than necessary into the gloom of the empty stage proper, a chamber that looks cold and sterile in the absence of the manifold possible electronic projections that would be engaged during an exhibition match. It's only once she's arrived in the middle of the room that she saunters to a stop, stretching her back and brushing her fingers through her hair.
"I noticed you're smoking," the young demonette calls in a sultry tone to the man that she judges by his footsteps to be standing some ways behind her, "I guess that makes two of us." The celebrity succubus shifts her weight from one hip to the other and turning her head over her shoulder as she strikes a provocative pose, every bit the personality one would expect on camera even in this clandestine encounter.
Turning around to face Whitney's direction fully, the black-horned hell-witch rests her hands on her waist, taking on a more imperious posture, as if sizing the man up.
"Mmm. Unshaven, bad posture, boring hair, poorly tailored outfit... it looks like I've finally found my antithesis. You realize that opposites attract is just a saying, right?"
Looking thoroughly disdainful, Lyraelle stretches her arms behind her head with a groan and a sigh. Then, mercurially, she drops them behind her back and puts on a bright, sincere-seeming smile.
"Just kidding, sweetie! It's always a pleasure to meet such an obviously dedicated fan. Did you bring something for me to autograph, or were you just looking for a selfie?"
Tired, slouching, unfitting. A man who looks disheveled, listless, and uncaring to a carefully cultivated degree. The cigarette that hangs from his lip twitches while his fingers adjust the buttons of the pale blue shirt underneath his brown coat. He does little to dissuade the sizing. He intends on it. It is all a matter of his own performance. He cares little, sloppy, is out of sorts. Despite his performance in defeating the Pride of Zepp in open combat. One truth of action. One truth of appearance. Both showcased to the world.
A show he sees in the well established internet icon. Someone who is always seemingly on stage. Always performing. It is not something he finds alien. He can respect, to a degree he is able to, the level of dedication to the craft. In so, he claps a single time before returning his hands to his blazer pockets.
"You are no Spangles," he remarks with a dull, cold judgmental tone. "But I suppose you will do for now. A darkstalker princess makes for a colorful pawn."
He labors to pluck the cigarette from his lips in an overhand grip. He exhales the smoke by letting it roll from his mouth like a curtain of ash. "I don't have a need for an autograph. Nor a photograph. I do have a question; one for someone like yourself."
He flicks the ashes from his cigarette off to the side. Another short drag and exhalation. "What is the measure of a monster?"
The answer to Whitney's question is given without hesitation.
"Ninety, sixty-two, ninety-three."
The succubus strikes a pose, two fingers of her left hand saluting in victory next to her slightly-tilted head as she winks and shifts her figure for coquettish presentation, her other hand resting confidently on her hip.
"Now, before you ask anymore personal questions, I'm gonna have to correct you on a couple of points."
Relaxing from the pose, she sashays forward a step, the middle finger of her left hand curling in as the index finger remains extended to waggle in playful admonition.
"Firstly, I'm not a pawn or a princess. I'm a Queen, whether we're talking chess or titles. I'll let that one slide, because I'm starting to get the vibe that you're not nearly as interested in me as you should be."
Swaying to a stop, Lyraelle rolls her head once slowly, ponytail swishing with the motion as her neck limbers.
"And as for me being 'no Spangles,' well..."
With a snap of the fingers of her left hand, the demonette wills a green cord of pure, unholy flame into being, taking hold of the trailing end with her right hand before starting to twirl the tip in a light, vertical circular motion at one side.
"I'll just assume you've never seen my lasso work, or met my pet bull, 'cause if it's a rodeo you're looking for," she says in an ever-smooth tone inviting as it is menacing, "I'm sure that I won't disappoint you."
She cocks her head slightly and smirks as her emerald-green eyes reflect the infernal glow of her manifested whirling weapon.
Whitney observes. He listens. He formulates a judgment. He has his suspicions. And he finds that the pigeon hole is quickly filling with pigeon. A longer smoke as he listens. Rolling the acrid tang of the tobacco in his mouth. Feeling the burn in his lungs. Exhaling.
He blinks, languid, at the corrections being offered to him. It makes him heave a beleaguered sigh. "There is no difference between pawn or queen. Each a piece to be sacrificed at the utility of the player. Metaphor, or otherwise." He looks out to the static, still, dull truth of a stage unlit and unperformed on.
He puts the cigarette back in his lips. "You're already disappointing," he says. "But you don't seem to be a liar. There is a raw beauty in a beast that knows it's just hungry, vain and selfish and you admit it. That's refreshing."
He rolls his shoulders, but he finds himself settling back with his hands in his blazer pockets. His still, blue eyes look back at Lyraelle. He sniffs and clears his throat. "I can see why your fans appreciate you."
COMBATSYS: Whitney has started a fight here.
The tendril of fire continues its revolution as the Demon Queen listens, eyes locked on the interloper's. There's a slight rise to the succubus' shoulders as the smoker speaks, a telltale indication of hackles raised. The demon girl's stance shifts slightly to a more combative pose as she turns a shoulder toward Whitney.
"All this negging isn't going to get you anywhere, you know."
She sniffs with derision, letting the flame rope droop to rest on the floor, the fire drawing forth acrid smoke as it hisses against the stony surface, trailing along behind her as she saunters forward another step, her body turning more toward the mysterious agent and her other hand remaining poised against her hip as her stance eases back toward its previous composure like a pair of fangs retracting behind smiling lips.
"You seem to be completely confused about who I am. You won't really know the difference between a pawn and a Queen till you try it for yourself. So, why don't you come have a taste?"
A puff of air pushes a few stray strands of pink from her eyes as they rove over Whitney in some deeper assessment.
"Let's see what you're really packing under there."
COMBATSYS: Lyraelle has joined the fight here.
[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > //////////////////////////////]
Whitney 0/-------/-======|=------\-------\0 Lyraelle
Whitney rolls his neck. He takes a deep, heavy breath. He watches the woman take on a harder stance. "Where would I would be going?" he asks her. "I am right where I am needed to be at this moment." He remains in his still, unpracticed, loose posture. His practice indecision. A trained and forced slouched. Watching and waiting for the devil girl to put herself where he wants.
The air shifts.
Whitney lurches forward. He throws his shoulder to move himself, and with it his weight bears down upon Lyraelle. He bobbles in the way he moves, half stumbling, but a close eye shows the assuredness of his feet and the lack of the shuffling limp he displayed earlier.
He turns when he closes in. The first knee lifts for the center of Lyarelle's stomach. A surging swing that seems as much to send the big man leaping as it is to strike his opponent. But with a sudden swiftness, the first kneeing strike is followed by a second. Both hammering upward, and obscuring the subtle shift in Whitney's hands.
Arms freeing, should this strike give Lyarelle airtime he is looking for, his grasping mitts seek to grip the woman by the legs and bring her down to the ground with a rug-beating slam to the concrete floor.
COMBATSYS: Whitney successfully hits Lyraelle with Painful Nuance.
-*- DEVASTATING HIT! -*-
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > /////////////////// ]
Whitney 1/-------/=======|=======\-------\1 Lyraelle
The man, bigger than he lets on, lurches toward Lyraelle with a speed that exceeds even her own cautious estimation of the threat. Her own arms rise to defend her gut, the sizzling whip dispelled as the purple gloves cross - but too late to intercept the knee aimed at her stomach. Her eyes widen in shock as Whitney's solid knee finds a soft place in the supernaturally resilient succubus' flesh and hammers right into her core.
Any facade fades fleetingly as the pain of the impact catches the Demon Queen completely by surprise, opening her up for the second impact as the pair take flight. The succubus' sculpted legs are captured by her foe before she can gather herself, and she finds herself slammed heavily into the concrete with a smack that resounds unpleasantly through the chamber. Bouncing free across the floor, she comes to a shuddering stop several feet away. Her left arm wraps around her battered midsection as she forces herself up to one knee with a moan.
"Fuck me, you are a big boy after all," she groans sabulously as she rests in a leaning kneel. "Guess I'd better kick it up a notch, since I promised I wouldn't disappoint you!"
With a whoosh of air, Lyraelle's leathery wings unfold behind her, propelling her from the ground and into the air. Wings beating to keep her aloft, the hell-maiden hovers above, flitting from point to point erratically. "I'm not going to be humiliated by some nobody in a bad shirt!" she calls out. "So let's see what we can do about that!"
With one more fanciful flit to reposition, the she-fiend locks her gaze on her opponent - before unleashing a torrent of focused green hellfire from her eyes. It seems that she intends, if nothing else, to eliminate the offending garment from the equation - though the blaze would be no less threatening to the well-being of the man wearing it.
COMBATSYS: Whitney blocks Lyraelle's Balefire Gaze.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > ////////////////// ]
Whitney 1/-------/=======|=======\=------\1 Lyraelle
Fire burns. The scorching green flames roll out at Whitney. A rushing gale he meets with raised arms and a cold, distant tenacity. The flames scour and scorch his blazer and his shirt. Lyraelle was aware of one very true aspect, Whitney's clothes are pretty cheap department store fair. They hold up the best that they can against the concentrated fire of the dark lady.
But the dead-eyed Saulder still seems more or less unimpressed. With a stern face of exhausted resignation, he slides the blazer off to throw aside and let smoulder itself out. The offending blue shirt on display as rumpled and slept in as a man could possible make happen. All, ultimately, a planned look. But an easy one when Whitney cared as little as he did about impressing people visually.
In the aftermath, he checks on the burnt end of his cigarette to make sure it's still there. The spots in his eyes lingering from the brightness of that intense green flame. "Is approval what you want? Do you fear humiliation? Why?" he questions. "What good is that to you, Darkstalker? When this world would no less care if you were in it?"
He asks, but as he is, he looks to his surroundings. He finds what he wants, a stage light. A step that carries him quicker than he appears to be able to move. A hand clenching the pole by the center. "Why is that your kind is so terribly human?" he asks, wrenching his arm and freely flinging the heavy stand through the air at the flitting dance of the fiery female.
COMBATSYS: Whitney successfully hits Lyraelle with Large Thrown Object.
-*- DEVASTATING HIT! -*-
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > /////// ]
Whitney 1/-----==/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2 Lyraelle
The fire in Lyraelle's eyes flickers out as the fiendish female floats above her newfound nemesis.
"I don't need approval," she spits with insistent vitriol, some lingering aftermath of her recent rage bender resurfacing. "And I am /beyond/ humiliation! I just don't like your /stupid, plebeian shirt/!"
For most actors and roleplayers, there's a concern of slipping out of character in the midst of a scene. Lyraelle, on the other hand, has the opposite problem: slipping too far into character, losing herself in the role of Her Infernal Majesty, Mistress of the Nine Hells, Sultana of Suffering, and Succubus Prime Queen Lyraelle Darkheart. This is one of those occasions, and the consequences are dire.
The notion elicits a bosom-quaking fit of full-ojou laughter from the pink-haired hell-maiden, a gloved hand lifted to her mouth in a faux effort to suppress the outburst. The flung stage light appears to go ignored - until, perchance, the hurtling lamp comes on along with several others in the room, likely the result of a power switch being flipped somewhere. The beam of light from the apparatus strikes the Demon Queen squarely in the eyes as it flies, blinding her momentarily and causing her to fling her arms over her face protectively.
She throws herself in a dazed, defensive flit to one side to avoid the projectile - and instead hurls herself into the stand, her own momentum doubling the impact of the collision in a startlingly improbable sequence. As it hits her, her wings give out, and Lyraelle simply drops, like one of the sandbags that hang above many theatre stages, toward the man in the plebeian shirt below. Though it may resemble one of her signature moves, the attack is executed with less intent and artistry than that with which it would ordinarily be delivered; should Whitney have the misfortune of failing to avoid being pinned by her plummeting posterior, he'd be subjected to a desperate attempt by the succubus' spaded tail to slither about his most available appendage to attempt to siphon off some of his essence for its owner's invigoration - but too late to meaningfully reassert the delirious demonette in the contest, her form slumping as her consciousness teeters on the brink before falling off.
It seems humiliation is on the table after all.
COMBATSYS: Lyraelle can no longer fight.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ <
COMBATSYS: Whitney counters Royal Requisition - Dark Queen's Throne from Lyraelle with Dreams Deferred.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ <
The demon drops.
The human stands waiting.
Whitney Saulder's hand lashes out and plucks Lyraelle from her descent by the throat. He holds her out, aloft and away from his body. Unmoved by her lashing tail. His hand squeezes like a vice. He looks at her with cold, considering eyes. He examines her like a child does an ant burning under a magnifying lens. As though he would wonder what she would do if her wings were torn from her body.
"The curtain, a funeral pall, comes down with the rush of a storm. While angels, pallid and wan, uprising unveiling affirm. The play is the tragedy, "Man"," he recites to what consciousness remains in Lyraelle. Rote words, mostly remembered, applied here in a dulled manner. More for himself and his boredom. Though for her sake, perhaps she might think on them.
With that, he swings the demon-witch to the ground with a disgusted dismissal. Ending the matter with a single, grinding, stomp upon her head.
And he stands. And he adjusts the cuffs of that hated blue shirt. And he turns. And he walks to retrieve the scorched blazer from the ground. There he fishes a card from an inside pocket. A small thing with few words. A name, a contact number; clean and simple information.
"You remind me of a woman I know," he states to the air, turning back to return to Lyraelle. "Perhaps next time, we can meet on more amenable terms. I find this part of the job dull."
He lowers himself in a sighing crouch to set the contact card near Lyraelle, guiding it along under the woman's fingers. "I think I saw a true ember in your eyes there. Something might shine yet."
And with his offering, he stands, and Whitney Saulder heads off into the darker places of the backstage. As any good operator, he has a great deal more to do in order to insure the stage his set for his employers.
COMBATSYS: Whitney has ended the fight here.
Log created on 12:27:03 03/05/2022 by Whitney, and last modified on 23:24:11 03/09/2022.