Description: In the wake of DOA, two felines meet and discuss the shifts in the world. To look at how the other has grown, and to remind each other of the lengths they both have to go.
A mountain retreat within China. A refuge in the natural splendor of mountaintop seclusion. A place of repose in the wake of a personal war. A place where friends can be met, people who have connections to those she fought alongside during a chase after ghosts of the past. A chase that yielded little but more questions, and more dangerous shadows.
Jeanne Gado, AKA Shina, closes her eyes against the wind that whips cool air through the mountaintops. She rests against the safety rail of an observation platform. She feels a degree of calm on the high ledge, with the wind and the quietude of personal anonymity. Even if a flash drive within the pocket of her denim jacket burns in her mind.
She sees a red haired fox woman fighting alongside her against a Mercenary king. A definitive victory, a callous stab in the back. But not so much a one as DOATECH's manipulation of Darkstalkers. Shina knows she isn't one of them. A zoanthrope like herself was made to fight the Darkstalkers claw to claw, but the idea of fooling them with false hope and unity is a bitter afront to Shina's morality. She wants to fight the dangerous ones, not dupe the innocent for who knows what end. To use them as political puppets.
And her father may still be involved somehow.
Shina's fingers dig deep into her palm as her mind wanders. She inhales and opens her eyes, looking out at the real world and grounds herself. She smiles at the natural world she sees. She knows her contact will be arriving. And that makes for a much better outlook ahead of her.
Yao Meifeng travels a lot. Considering her single status, the revelation often strikes her coworkers as unusual. But in the pragmatic tigress' mind, one should make use of any vacation time provided.
Suffice to say, she knows the way here. And she also knows a thing or two about the locals. Which would probably start to explain the telltale puffs of steam floating out from a small canvas tote looped about her arm. Oversized yellow lenses are, per usual, perched precariously upon her nose. The tigress' attire suits her well -- an airy silk blouse, red in color, and a pale-colored, loose-fitting pair of pants -- allowing her to feel the breeze without it becoming an undue burden. And as she walks, her tail gently swishes back and forth as a counterbalance, ensuring the tiger has no trouble ascending the path to where her friend is perched.
Before long, she emerges at the peak of the observation platform, bearing a warm smile and, presumably, warmer snacks. "Ahh, such a -lovely- day! I trust you had no trouble finding the place..."
She lifts up the bag, so that she can hold it with both hands. The canvas tote sags a little, showing the bamboo steamer inside.
"Steamed pork buns, if you are hungry. I have some bottles of tea as well. You must have had quite the trip!"
An approaching sound. Approaching smells. An anticipatory taste on the air of coming steamed pork and tea. A delightful combination that sets Shina's stomach to rumble with expectation. The young woman presses fingertips against her belly, turning about to look out to see what her other senses have already told her approaching. The friend in the Librarium. The Darkstalker. The bringer of lunch and the contact for adaptative footwear better suited for handling more unique anatomical needs.
The wave that Shina gives is a short one, with crooked elbow and an only partially forced familiarity and casualness. "It really is," the Frenchwoman agrees. "The nature is so beautiful. I am glad you could meet me here. I would not have heard of it without you." She knows that, with her tastes, she would have ended up in a more rough and dirty surroundings. But this view is something she can appreciate after the cities of India and the cramped corridors of scientific facilities.
She offers out a hand to Meifeng, "And I will not be turning down a pork bun. Spicy, non?" she asks with a specific degree of hope in her voice. She's found a joy of the spice. "I am hungry, but I have not traveled long. Too long." She looks aside, the wind blowing her short blonde hair into even more of a spikey mess than is normally is. "I was in India, putting in work for some people while on an investigation."
Meifeng smiles, lifting her nose to sample the fresh mountaintop air. It's quite different up here, free from the aroma of civilization, free from the hassles of towns and cities. And even more relaxing to spend restful time with a friend.
Meifeng's tail lashes lazily back and forth, as she slips back into the moment. A pork bun is retrieved from the steamer, and presented to Shina in turn. "This one is spicy, yes. If it is too hot there are others which are not." If Shina reaches for tea, she wouldn't have any trouble getting it; Meifeng just chooses to err on the side of fewer words in this case.
"India, mm. So your taste buds must surely be tuned to spicier fare." The striped face contorts into a broader smile. "I would love to hear about it, if you would like to share. It is good to catch up with you, my friend."
That tea is taken without hesitation. As is the presented bun. Shina holds the precious treasure in hand, inhaling deep the aroma that wafts up from the steamed snack. She sighs in exhalation, holding it close and protectively as her other hand works dexterous fingers trying to get the cap of the tea open enough to drink.
"It does involve you, so I do not feel a reason to hide the information," Shina says. Important as things might be, the bao is more important and Shina takes a chunk out of the dumpling before continuing through chewing. "Are you. . ." swallowing, "Are you familiar with the Zoanthrope Liberation Front? They promise themselves as people in service to those like you."
Shina takes a pause to drink, and reflect on her words. "Or us. Not as though anyone sees difference, most of the time."
She shifts herself to lean against the railing, trusting it to hold her slender frame. "But the point is, it is a lie. They are in bed with DOATEC; the ones that promise a cure."
Meifeng plucks out a bun from the steamer for herself. It doesn't bear the signs of one that looks spicy. She takes a little nibble off the side, savoring the flavor with a deep breath.
"The Zoanthrope Liberation Front, mm..." she repeats, looking thoughtfully off into the distance. "I have come across the name in reports, but I have not yet had cause to interact with them." She offers a faint, distant frown, at that.
Still -- she has a meatbun. And as Shina talks, she takes another nibble.
"Mm. I had suspected as such, for the 'promise.' I had not drawn inferences on a connection with DOATEC though." She uncaps a bottle of tea, taking a swish of it quietly, as her ears fold down. "I wish it were not marketed as a 'cure.' It does not seem either of the groups has our best intentions in mind."
The young mercenary continues to eat with famished gusto. Big bites, chewed thoroughly, savored through labored breath and flushed with great gulps of tea. Done in a flash while Meifeng has time to process the openness of Shina's findings.
Chewing, drinking, heaving a sweet breath of mountain air to ventilate the spice, and settling, Shina savors the moment. She has spice, she has a friend, and that makes life good in the moment. She would need to find Tarmo again, but Meifeng had much more at stake here. The big Finn was good company, but this was not his fight.
"In an Ultratech facility, I ran into one of you. A girl with fox ears and a tail. She was good to fight alongside." Shina leaves out their opponent in that struggle, and the complex web of loyalties and deceit that lead to the matter at hand. "She is right to pursue Ultratech. But she will need someone to look out for her. Someone like herself."
She looks down at the meat bun's innards, sticky spicy and delicious. A nod. "I was intended to fight your kind. Fire with fire. Funny that it would seem that there is only fire in the end."
Seeing that Shina is enjoying her meatbun, Officer Yao feels comfortable in increasing her pace of consumption as well. She offers seconds of both food and drink to Shina with a slight grin -- never one to force a hard sell.
"Ah, hmm." She represses a snicker at the description. "Warrant Officer Kaneko, it sounds like. I have not had the pleasure of meeting her, though I know she is quite talented."
Meifeng nods at the suggestion that the foxgirl in question could use some backup, murmuring in approval. "Ultratech, they are... making some kind of arrangement with DOATEC as well, now, yes?" This would normally be where the by-the-books lieutenant would note that they tend to stay out of corporate affairs, and yet she seems to be giving the matter a bit more thought.
But instead, she taps her temple. "I will... talk with her. And perhaps compare notes. We do need to stick together." Sipping at her tea, she lifts a wary ear. "I am fairly certain the Librarium would not... -like- what is going on in these companies' back offices. I am glad you made it out in one piece."
Shina is far from turning down available food. This bun, however, is eaten with more dignity and temperance than the first one. One to take time with, to enjoy for more purpose than just filling her empty stomach. Similarly enjoyed is the tea. Now tasted and let to roll over her tongue. To take time with food and friend.
"That is her name," Shina says on Meifeng's confirmation. "Ultratech is involved in a number of things. They have interest in zoanthropes." She takes a bite of the bun. "They are also backstabbers. Do not trust any work they do. And be careful of 'accidents' if you find yourself dealing with them." The pointedness of the tone suggests a great deal of personal and professional experience.
Shina turns and rests her arms on the rail, she tenses and relaxes, stretching herself with a pop of her spine. "What of you? Have you been up to anything exciting? I should not be the only one talking of themself, non?"
It may have been a while since Meifeng and Shina spoke, but over a shared meal of meatbuns, the time seems to just melt away. Meifeng's tail lashes back and forth slowly as she leans into the conversation.
"Their weapons development programs are hardly ethical. I have not made a habit of intruding on their space, and... honestly, I am not sure that I would want to, alone." She chuckles darkly, choosing to take another bite of her meatbun rather than expand on that topic.
Of course, things get easier once Shina steps back and rests against the rail. "Oh. Well, that." She breaks into a laugh. "Did you hear about the Rising Stars tournament? It was... quite a challenge. And quite frustrating, as... I found myself pushed much closer to my wild side than I have been in a long time." The tiger flashes a humble smile.
Shina takes occasional glances toward Meifeng. She tries to read the feline woman, watching her eyes, the movements of her hands in talking, back toward the twitching of her tail. That part was one Shina didn't mind being able to keep hidden. Even if the comfort and calm she felt being around Meifeng was more than visible in her expressiveness.
"The Rising Star?" Shina asks, she sucks on her teeth, "I have not been focused on the tournament fighters. I have been busy. You will tell me though?" she asks, hope in her tone. "I would love to hear of your exploits."
A look down and toward the side, drifting from Meifeng's face to her tail again. "Is that a problem? You are your best weapon, after all. You should use that side of your more."
Meifeng is generally a pretty trusty sort. And, knowing herself as well as she does, if there -were- the need to hide her more obvious tells, she feels reasonably certain she could. Just not much point in being anyone other than herself around a friend like Shina though, naturally.
"Ah... well, I entered, of course." She flashes a self-effacing grin. "Fought a number of opponents. A quite talented fighter from Sunshine City." The tiger's general disposition falters as troublesome memories come back to the surface -- though it would only come to light with the way her gaze droops downward for a moment. "... and that would be when the trouble started. I felt the rage boil forward. But where I was accustomed to wielding the Azure, instead, my hands felt slick with blood."
Generally, Meifeng sails on a pretty even keel. But as she looks back to Shina, she looks unsettled. Scared.
"It felt wrong. Not the rush I get of fighting as a tiger, exactly... but more like... relapsing back to the time where I had no control."
She takes another small bite from her meatbun. "I feel as though I have it under control now. As the tournament went on. I know now that it is like a... qi infection, that other people have become afflicted with as well."
The moment Meifeng's generally pleasant and formal demeanor drops, Shina's own face goes drawn and thin-lipped. An amber hue slips into the blue of her eyes. A twitch of her lip shows teeth grown longer and sharper. A defensive reflex, provoked by a protected person appearing threatened. An instinct bit back and suppressed in the moment. She doesn't want it to be more obvious than it is.
"A good fight is one thing, but something else?" Shina asks, crossing her arms at her stomach, tucking an elbow into a palm. Slender claws pressing out from padding fingertips as her knuckles go white with grip. "Something of a rage? But not the animal?" less questions, more statements, something to think on.
Shina forces a shake of her head. "I'm not a scientist," she admits, "I only know what I can do, not really how it works. Do you have anyone that can help you with it? You say it's under control?"
Meifeng snorts. She was trying to laugh, but it just came out wrong.
"Yes... it was like... when I call the Azure, it feels like tapping from a wellspring of energy around me. When I was in the middle of that one fight, I was drawing from that same well, but instead of the familiar aura, all I could feel was -blood-." She sniffs, ears folding to either side as she remembers the sensation. "And smelling the blood just... brought with it senses I had thought were buried."
The tiger's tail had stopped for a moment. But it begins to sweep into motion again, driven by conscious thought.
"So I controlled it the same way I had before. Reminded myself that I am in charge. The beast within is strong, but I aim her claws, guide her teeth."
She thinks for a moment -- and then slowly shakes her head. "It has been a topic of discussion at the Librarium for quite some time. But Medical has no leads, and Intelligence has no qualms about keeping things quiet. And my division, Infantry, well..." She offers a resigned shrug, forging a fraction of her usual smile. "We 'suck it up' as always, as they say. So no... no one at the Librarium has been able to help me."
The tenseness seems to be bleeding off the more the tigress talks. Now... it seems she's a bit more calm. "I regret to admit it, but I did not like many of my opponents. They were quite rude. Though the tournament organizer was pleasant, and made for a quite good battle."
Shina's grip of her own stomach loosens with the clearer relaxation of Meifeng over her condition. This release of tension turns into a long drink of her tea and a focused listening to Meifeng. The physical signs of the leopard fade the more that Meifeng clears the air. She nods along, Shina knows the pull of a fight and the release of claw and fang. It feels right to be in those moments. Maybe, Shina considers, that's why it bothers her so much that Meifeng is faced with a bad trip of what should be a natural state.
"I was raised with companies of mercenaries. I know 'suck it up'," she says with a laugh, "I would probably say the same thing. If I didn't know you, and know what you're talking about."
Shina rolls her wrist, the half-filled tea bottle sloshes. "At least there is that. But is it a normal thing to fight the people putting the tournament on?" she asks, head tilting quizzically. "Maybe I have spent too much time with real combat that I forget what the competition types do sometimes."
'Raised by mercenaries.' Meifeng favors Shina with another glance as she sips a spot of tea. It's easy for the tigress to forget that her easygoing leopard friend has such a tumultuous past. Meifeng finds herself nodding long at the idea that 'suck it up,' is, sadly, par for the course. "Clues and my personal experience are all I have to go on, for the moment. Discipline has helped me control it -- I know that the bloodrage will not manifest if I do not attempt to access the Azure. But -- and this is another 'pro' for the tournament -- I no longer need my sword as a focus. So perhaps I did grow closer to my inner strength in the tournament." She smiles, hopefully, at that.
The question, though, is enough to cause the tigress to blink behind her amber lenses. And, after a moment, she looks down meekly.
"It is not normal, no."
"It was a special request."
She keeps looking down for a moment, shyly. And only after the silence becomes too much to bear does she look up again, with a sheepish smile. "She wanted to challenge the... winner."
She hides her emotion behind her bottle of tea. Or at least she tried to hide it -- her lashing tail reveals all.
Control. Only using that magic causes it. No longer needing the sword? How much the tigress has grown. It's exciting news, so much more so than a bit of corporate espionage, political maneuvering, and dead end trails of lost fathers. Certainly in the mind of Shina, at least. And when Meifeng lets it slip that she won, that is when the excitement comes across Shina's face.
"You won!?" Shina cries out excitedly, laughing loud enough to echo off distant mountain walls. "That's wonderful. Why didn't you start with that!" She excitedly claps Meifeng on the shoulders and gives the other woman a deep squeeze of a hug before releasing. "You won, did you not?" she asks with a deep curiosity once Meifeng is release to her own two paws.
Standing square, hands gone to her hips, Shina looks Meifeng over with proud eyes. "Who do I kid, of course you won! It was a tournament promotor. You are a soldier. No contest." Her arms cross and Shina nods once. "Why, That is exciting. I would think that now you could even beat me."
Each peal of laughter buffets Meifeng backward. Part of that is because she's leaning into the shyness act -- part of it is because Shina's enthusiasm can be -really- loud! "Ah.. ahahaha... I..." Redness starts to show beneath the thin fur of her face, as she leans back gratefully into the hug. "I-I did not want to seem boastful! I truly felt that the journey was... m-more important." When the question is repeated, she nods once more, combining it with a deep and grateful bow. "Yes, I did. I learned something in every battle -- and the 'tournament organizer' showed signs of a hidden power deep within her. So I would certainly not count her out in the future."
Even when talking about her successes, Meifeng minimizes her own pride, preferring to keep it at a distance. But it is difficult not to smile under Shina's beaming gaze; Meifeng copes by lowering her gaze to Shina's boots, shimmying around from side to side. "I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you flatter me so, Shina." She laughs, quietly. "Thank you."
The suggestion of a fight, though, gives rise to a sobering thought. "Ah..." she starts, lifting her gaze once more. "Perhaps?" she asks. "But I am sure that your own fighting skills must surely have increased since our last battle as well. A warrior like yourself cannot function in a vacuum." The tigress looks hopeful for a moment -- but then adds, "I am not sure if the qi malady might be contagious though. I would feel guilty if it spread to you..."
Shina balls her hand into a fist. "Few things are better than a victory, Meifeng. The satisfaction of knowing that you can stand on your own," she tells Meifeng. A bit of a prideful stance herself, the leopard is, in fact, the daughter of a lion after all.
She drops the melodrama and adopts a cross armed stance. "You earned it by being strong," she tells Meifeng. "I've only been investigating some things. I can't say I've had the chance to get tournament winning good."
She is almost ready to fight, it's clear from her posture's subtle shifts of weight and angle. But it all evaporates at the mention of the qi malady. Shina's head hangs, and she nods. "If that is the case, then you may be right. I shouldn't take that risk. I barely know the hows of that sort of thing anyways. What chance would I have at figuring it out?"
Meifeng rises back to her full height, scratching the back of her head. Winning is everything? Sure, some people at her old dojo used to think that. But so did the unruly tiger who was -enrolled- in the dojo. It took a patient family and an even more patient sifu to train that aggressiveness out of her.
She laughs, awkwardly, in reply. "I do not know that I would say all that..." But even still, the tigress finds herself smiling through it. "There are so many good fighters out there, and so many different fighting styles. It is good to know kung fu can still hold its own."
Still. A -spark- of competitiveness was fired up within her when Shina mentioned a rematch of sorts. And that fuse is still flickering when Shina seems to be following Meifeng's anxious disclaimers about the qi malady. Though she can't fight the -logic- of refraining from combat, she does not hesitate to point out: "... Well, as far as my own personal experience, it does not seem to be that bad. It only really flares up in fighting. And even then, it is just... a little extra unsteadiness, that makes my abilities harder to control. Some people with the affliction say it actually helps them fight." She laughs. "There is not -much- to figuring it out. Just learning to work with it, I suppose."
Even with her brash proclamation, Shina's strive for victory comes from a soldier's background. Lost battles means lost lives, not just lessons learned. To suffer a loss meant you may not get the chance to lose again. Shina can see that something about the boast hit the mark however. The laugh and the change in approach toward this sickness.
Shina's head tilts. Her lips purse. And her head lowers. She chuckles. "So, you really do want to compete, huh? After winning your big tournament, the bug's bit you, hasn't it?"
Shina's posture shifts, her boot slides across the wooden platform of the viewing deck. She rolls her arm, a small pop coming from a jerk of her neck. "You really sure about that?"
"I am certain."
Meifeng can be choosy about her words from time to time. But this time, there was no hesitation. Her body language is sincere: squared shoulders, perked ears. "Since the tournament, I have only exhibited the unusual problems when in a tense combat situation. At home? Nothing unusual. Meditation, likewise: nothing. If I were to fight against a subordinate who does not pose a legitimate threat, nothing."
She raises both fists, elbows locked at the lower extent of her ribcage. She breathes in, solemnly, before continuing, her tail swishing back and forth slowly. "It does not impact me on a day-to-day level. I have studied the malady from afar: the majority of my fighter contacts have already contracted the malady in some form already. Very few of my actual -co-workers- have it though. And even amongst those who have it, no one has been, well... sent to the hospital for the illness." Her ears fold back, as she purses her lips in thought. She looks down with concern.
It has been a while since she's spent any amount of time with Shina -- and she -does- want to enjoy this time. But it is with sadness that she makes an admission.
"My own personal experience has allowed me to put bounds on all but one of the variables: I am not sure how it is transmitted." The tigress offers a bittersweet smile. "I would want to see how we have changed, but I cannot do so in good conscience without telling you this much."
Jeanne Gado is not a woman greatly familiar with the world of magic and the arcane esoterica of Ki research. She is, like many fighters on the planet, capable of wielding her own in ways that are natural to her. Zoanthropy, the Gears project, none of that has stopped her from being able to feel the flow of power extend from her. The crackling purple lightning is a manifestation of herself. An extension of her will and drive toward victory. She simply knows it for what it is, not the underlying maths, rules, or purpose. But she knows that's what the Librarians handle. And that's where her mind goes.
"Maybe it's magic shit," she offers with a shrug, her posture still ready and squared, the tension crawling beneath her skin visible in the subtle shifts and rolls from heel to ball of her foot. "Your guys use weapons that use chi, right? It's not a part of them? You're different, maybe that's got to do with it?" It's an hypothesis, and about as deep at Shina can reason on the matter with anything but speculation.
Shina isn't alien to the doubt and desire that Meifeng has in the moment. She's itching for a fight, but she's also being honest to Shina about the danger. So the younger Gado decides it's probably for the best to have confidence for both of them. "Screw it. I'm harder than any chi bug. Let's do this thing and show me how much better you've gotten!" she calls out, laughing boisterously in the face of uncertainty. Hoping all to put the tigress in a more comfortable mood.
COMBATSYS: Shina has started a fight here.
Lt Yao's right ear flicks, as she watches Jeanne Gado's response. The shrug, the anxiety, the urge to do -something- other than talk. It's contagious, and much moreso than the malady the Librarian has been talking about.
It brings a more sincere smile to the tigress' face.
"I suppose you are right. There is a warm solace in the words I hear the enlisted corps use."
Meifeng slides her right foot back, and brings her left elbow forward, her forearm now perpendicular to the ground.
"'You only live once,' isn't it?"
The tigress's tail flicks about, as she curls a fist about her core -- and then draws outward. One after another, three azure orbs begin to grow around her right fist. And almost as swiftly, the orbs rise like balloons before swirling into the eddies of an unseen current, sweeping into a wide orbit around herself.
Her cheeks dimple with an ebullient smile. "I feel like I started off too slow, last time... Will you be offended if I go all out?"
COMBATSYS: Meifeng has joined the fight here.
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Meifeng 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Shina
Shina lives for action. She isn't one to talk or muse when confronted with a situation. She has a friend in Mei Feng, she has someone that feels somewhat kindred; though one can opt out of the fur coat when she so feels like it. Shina cannot just be around and beat around the bush talking lamentations for sickness. Not when Meifeng has shown herself to be so capable, someone so grown in skill since the last time they could get together and speak. And Shina would never feel comfortable letting that accomplishment go by without presentation.
"I would be offended if you did not," Shina tells Meifeng with a glint in her eye and a hint of growing fang in her smile.
Shina skips off with a cloud of dust kicking up off the wooden slats of the observation platform. Her boots scuff, quick movements called with subtle taps, the woman light on her feet and moving with feline deftness even in a human form. She sweeps up with a slight lifting jump. She hurls herself up toward Meifeng. Her arms snapping out to grab ahold of Meifeng's head. An aggressive attempt to capitalize on the immediacy of the moment to grapple Meifeng and take her in a way outside of her striking base.
COMBATSYS: Meifeng blocks Shina's Brainbuster.
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Meifeng 0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0 Shina
In the back of her throat, Meifeng responds with a low growl. It's one of many natural responses the tigress has been unsuccessful in removing from her behavior patterns. Fortunately, it's not a social gaffe to respond to Shina in such a way at this time.
Meifeng's tail stiffens, as she lurches forward, presenting Shina with a folded elbow to grapple with in lieu of her head. The tiger continues to pivot forward, unfolding her arm to pry open the grip and break free of the hold. "... good!" she comments, finally finding an appropriate accompaniment for her growl.
But while there was a moment to catch her breath, Lt Yao does not intend to linger for long. A moment later, her muscles grow taut once more as she snaps forward, aiming to plow her shoulder at Shina. Her orbs change orbit, moving to circle about Shina instead. Meifeng then follows with a sudden snap kick, aimed at launching Shina upward -- with her azure orbs seeking to close in and swat away attempts at retaliation!
COMBATSYS: Meifeng successfully hits Shina with Form Three - Rising Gale.
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Meifeng 0/-------/-----==|===----\-------\0 Shina
Thump! Shoulder strikes breast. A whoofing breath barks from deep in Shina's chest. Lt. Yao finds her home. The follow up orbs circle around. Filling the breach, tightening the danger radius. Lifted, captured, open for striking. Exposed.
With a wild eye, Shina twists in the air. Close in, she opts to fight the best way she knows how. She reaches out in front of her and grapples for Meifeng's shoulders. The aim is simple, to grab on, to mantle, and the escape the presence of Meifeng and her orbs by way of surging forward and putting Lt. Yao and her magic behind Shina. Behind enough, that the wereleopard can get her bearings about herself.
COMBATSYS: Meifeng interrupts Scramble Snatch from Shina with Form Seven - Whistling Gust.
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Meifeng 0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\0 Shina
Jeanne Gado's response is not one Meifeng learned in her training -- rather, it's an improvisation born from a perfect storm of opportunity. A simple, elegant approach at making the most of a disadvantaged situation.
It's something of a fluke, really, that Meifeng's connection with the ebb and flow of chi -- herself, and the field extended to Shina via her orbs -- allows her to sense what needs to be done. As Shina reaches out for both her shoulders, the tigress shifts her stance backward to present only one. As Shina's palm presses down, Meifeng's leading hand slips into clamp against her friend's forearm. The lieutenant grunts, as her ribcage rocks backward from the force, all the same... "... Quick."
Her response is swift, though: a blindingly fast snap kick from her leading leg. Her shin and the top of her foot unfold into Shina with precision, the tigress' tilting posture neatly counterbalanced by an outstretched arm and a taut tail.
In the next moment, her toes curl upward. A growl forms in the back of her throat. Wielding her shin and foot like a lacrosse stick, the tiger applies a quick torque, hoping to cut off that escape route entirely!
Cracking pain. A snapping light fills Shina's eyes. A sharp snap. Shina's belted to the ground, sent down with skill and efficiency. Left a lump on the ground. She rolls, weight on her hip, hands planted in the planks of the viewing platform. She punches the flooring and spits a gob of saliva and blood to the planks. "Don't make fun of me," she hisses. "I do not need pity compliments."
Shina slams her fist down against the platform again, a rippling flows up from her hand, a coating of yellow fur dotted with rosettes. A cascade over her form. Shoulders hunch, posture shifts. Body and frame distorting in a crackling burst of chi. Spread claws dig into the platform, custom boots vented to accomodate the shift in size and shape of the woman wearing them. A sign that Shina has taken her friend's suggestions in specialists.
The changed leopard surges forward for Meifeng. Jaws spreading, claws opening wide. She bolts swiftly, to sweep through Meifeng with predatory precision. A bestial raging, slashing through, carving for her target.
But the madcap assault is not just the blinding rush of the beast. She pounces, and her body contorts before she even lands. A human woman's boots striking the ground, catching her, swinging her about with a crackling fistful of lightning. Swinging like a hammer to blast in full force at Meifeng's back.
COMBATSYS: Shina blitzes into action and acts again!
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Meifeng 0/-------/-----==|======-\-------\0 Shina
COMBATSYS: Meifeng blocks Shina's Demolition Fang.
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Meifeng 0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\0 Shina
COMBATSYS: Meifeng just-defends Shina's Assault Blow!
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Meifeng 0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\1 Shina
Meifeng's face falls at the criticism, as her body slips back into the tried and true Baji stance: left forearm perpendicular to the platform, right hand supinated at her core.
"I am not," she insists. The tigress's forehead wrinkles in consternation as she puzzles out her follow-up in the brief respite between attacks.
The respite is brought to an explosive end: enter the leopard. The tigress' eyes catch sight of the custom footwear, breaking her out of the momentary standstill. The three orbs -- no longer tightly encircling Shina -- sweep back around to Meifeng in a wide arc, leaving the space between the two women uncontested for the moment.
Her statement is cut off by a primal slash. Knifehands clench into fists. Furry forearms are employed as shields, thrust into the paths of swiping claws. Blood founts outward, a fine mist in the air, as the tiger is forced back three steps from the ferocious assault.
The tacit tiger is left hissing through her teeth -- an even larger loss for words, as her sharp eyes track the leopard. But the second transformation causes a glare on her amber lenses, forcing her to drop her chin and raise a hand reflexively.
In that blink of an eye, her reflexive action saved her. Jeanne's fist makes an impact, but not upon its intended target: one of Meifeng's orbs had just happened to sweep into her path just at the exact instant. The orb glows white-hot, pancaking backward from the impact and shuddering backward, before exploding into a shower of sparks. The others swing a wider orbit to avoid colliding with the up-close Shina, now that her new location has been identified. Meifeng hops away a couple steps, shaking the numbness out of her forearms as she pivots in mid-air.
She stamps into a horse stance as she lands, clearing her throat.
"I meant no offense! It is thrilling to fight you."
If battle were to pause there, it would be in defiance of the 'going all out' claim. So Meifeng persists, striding forward as she gate-swings her forearm outward for a clearing strike, following up by driving in with an elbow blast! "Hrrooooaw!"
COMBATSYS: Meifeng successfully hits Shina with Fierce Punch.
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Meifeng 0/-------/-----==|=======\===----\1 Shina
Going all out. The assault was fast, but terrible. The response, faster and more terrible still. A humbling moment. An elbow cracks with vicious purpose. Shina's head snaps to the side, she hammers against the railing of the raised platform. Wood creaks. Nails struggle. Bolt wobble.
"Merde!" Shina spits out, looking over the railing. "This is nothing. You've gotten far better than me. I'm falling behind," she mutters, pushing from the rail. "Tarmo. Yourself. The ninjas. The mercenary king was correct. Perhaps my father is correct. I am not best suited for war."
She turns about. Chest heaving. She skips forward. It's all she has in the moment, a snapping kick. A basic strike. Simple. Direct. Nothing more, nothing less.
COMBATSYS: Shina successfully hits Meifeng with Light Kick.
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Meifeng 0/-------/---====|=======\===----\1 Shina
Meifeng pauses in her assault, giving Shina the time she needs to regain her equilibrium. There is 'going all out' and then there is cornering a cat -- which is generally unwise. She steps back, raising her Baji guard once again.
At that distance, she's able to hear Shina more fully -- to hear the voice of self-doubt speaking loudly and clearly. But while the subjects sound familiar, the mention of a father sounds... unusually current.
An ear quirks to the side, as Meifeng's eyes widen with interest. "Your father?" Did she hear that right?
She asks the question, but she's quick to act in response -- bringing her hands up in an attempt to ward off the snap kick. The trouble with relying on her forearms for both attack and defense is that sometimes, the muscles just get tired. Her response time suffers -- and the kick sails right past her tardy defense, cracking her right in the ribcage and forcing her to double back. "Nngh!" Sucking in her breath, she spreads her toes on the boards, widening her stance. "Have you heard word from him?"
Changing demands bring forth the need for a change in tactics. With her forearms still rattled, she shifts to the wheeling motions of pigua -- hopping forward, and then scything a heel kick down at Shina's thigh! But in the midst of her swing, she looses a grunt of pained anguish -- and when the heel comes crashing down, her lower leg is coated with crimson. Which is especially strange, as it was not so a mere moment ago. "Graaaah!"
COMBATSYS: Shina dodges Meifeng's Medium Kick.
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Meifeng 0/-------/---====|=======\===----\1 Shina
The long wheel gives Shina the moment she needs to reposition herself. Slow exhalation, a side step, and a reposition. Basics. Simple. Direct. "Not in the least," she says, a dour dead pan of a tone. "I chased him through India. But I find only ghosts and a Legend."
She changes her motion, sidestepping opposite her dodge. She eyes the crimson streak. "That is your sickness, non?" she questions, her voice is low, steady and spoken in tones to avoid stressing the beat of her breaths. "I would say this is not a time of struggle for you. Perhaps it is getting worse?"
Her moment comes, the time she sees worth striking. A low sweep to begin with, but the momentum of the turning kick is just the forerunner for the true meat of the attack. A low grab, meant to take down, a clinching CQC grapple. Intent to shake, and to open, to keep one close to the other and to give a moment of advantage to the Frenchwoman.
COMBATSYS: Shina successfully hits Meifeng with Combo Grapple.
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Meifeng 0/-------/-======|=======\====---\1 Shina
Lt Yao nods with a slight frown. She understands now that her father's judgment was passed down from quite a while back. She pauses to suck in her breath, and to salivate, rinsing the metallic tang from her mouth. "You will surely find him. And show him how much you have changed." Wiping her forearm against her face, she shakes her head in disagreement.
"Mmm... no. We are engaged in precisely the sort of struggle that brings it forth."
Lt Yao offers a thin smile.
She does not want to offend again.
She steadies herself, raises her forearm. Perhaps they have recovered. But Shina's next strike obviates their involvement entirely, as the sweep succeeds in taking Meifeng right off her feet. A yowl of surprise escapes her throat as she sees the world spin around her, her shoulder crashing into the platform.
The fighting feline struggles against the holds, hoping her sleek fur makes for a difficult handhold. She fights to free herself -- and if she can get a hand and a foot to flatten themselves against the platform, she'd use said platform as leverage to press back sharply, launching herself hip-first at Shina! Should she manage to break free and make impact, she'd launch into a "heavy hands" whirling attack, her palms windmilling about for a three-strike attack! The Librarian's two remaining azure orbs would glow brightly, acting as extensions of her palms -- and glowing bright as they seek to detonate against Shina!
COMBATSYS: Shina counters Form Five - Howling Whirlwind EX from Meifeng with Rising Razor.
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Meifeng 0/-------/=======|=======\===----\1 Shina
'Show him how much you have changed. . .'
Shina finds herself low, crouched, fingers of her left hand splay out over the boards of the platform and her body a coiled spring of potential. Right hand held in a low check. The blonde woman's eyes an intense, steady look of amusement at what she's heard. "It is not me that has changed. I fear for how much he has," she tells Meifeng, clearing the truth of what bothers Shina.
She knows her father has always wanted her to live "normally" to be the little girl. To live a life of schools and civility. It was never to be the life for her. And now, with the beast inside of her so readily unleashed, she knows that will never be a problem. Gados are not tepid people. They have their pride as warriors to uphold. And they will live as such.
Which is why the pain of doubt in Alain Gado's potential dishonor strikes so deeply to Jeanne's core.
Focus, Shina! The woman readies herself, she knows Meifeng will not be so slow to react. A push. A flash of a moment. The leopard bursts forward from underneath Shina's skin. Her body twists with feline grace. Curling and sweeping upward. Lightning crackles, pops and shines on the heavy claws of the wereleopard.
The downward swing of the windmill strike cleaves through the air. With liquid momentum, Shina turns around the swinging blow, slipping between Meifeng's arms, and slashes upward with a raking uppercut. Claws cutting upward. Lightening sparking between the points. Crackling violently violet arcs spread outward as Shina rises into the air up and back away.
Paws thud quietly on the wood when she lands, claws dig at the wood. Tail tip swaying, twitching with irate tension. Heavy breathing and a predator's eye settle on Meifeng, almost challenging in their distant way. Her more feral countenance more cold and inscrutable than Meifeng's opposite.
The Librarian offers a neutral nod in response to Shina's words. There's more that could be said, to be sure -- but perhaps a spar between two friends is not the proper time or place.
Windmill strikes slice harmlessly through the air. Meifeng can tell that her qi is off its mark, but she's committed to the move -- and as such, fully in the path of a raking uppercut. The tigress' body flies back from a spray of crimson mist, her arms spread wide like wings. The flight is cut short as she drags her fingernails into the rail beside her, dropping into a low crouch. Even -that- takes its toll, drawing loud grunts from the tigress.
She spots the eye of the predator.
And she grins back.
Pain has a way of clarifying things. Of providing focus. And in this case, pain brings her back to her roots as a tiger.
She sucks in her breath. Muscles ripple beneath her flesh, causing her stripes to ruffle slightly. And instead of reacting immediately... she remembers the truth that she'd learned in the tournament.
The tiger keeps her back curled. Prepared to strike. Circling, warily, keeping her opponent in a set distance as she waits for the right opportunity. Her tail darts back and forth, like a serpent's tongue tasting the air currents.
The bloodied tiger steels herself, fur raising on the back of her neck. The previous strikes were a warmup -- the real fight between the feline combatants begins now.
COMBATSYS: Meifeng focuses on her next action.
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Meifeng 0/-------/-======|=======\===----\1 Shina
Shina the Leopard. Meifeng the Tigress. The feline fight seems poised to start with the ferocity inherit to the two beasts. Shina's tail lashes behind her, though she rises up and returns to a composed, studied poise. She may resemble a monster, but she carries herself with her militaristic poise. Bouncing from paw to paw, studying the focused, powerful form of her opponent. Reading what Meifeng is planning.
Seeing the few roads she has ahead of her.
Back against the wall, Shina can not but sally forth. She rolls forward, lowering herself to a deep crouch. Running, her tail out back for balance, she swipes at Meifeng's torso with a razor sharp claw. The force of the motion slipping to a tucking shoulder charge flowing to slam Meifeng off of her feet.
Should the shoulder charge move the tigress off balance, she follows through with a pouncing double leg takedown. Lifting, rolling to slam the both of them down into the ground in a swift rush of a combination. Overwhelm, and stagger.
COMBATSYS: Meifeng just-defends Shina's Fierce Combo!
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Meifeng 0/-------/-======|=======\==-----\1 Shina
While the tournament had helped Meifeng tap into her primal roots once again, discipline and patience remain as key elements of her style.
Not long after she regains her footing, the two remaining orbs return to a parking orbit. Her trailing hand sweeps away from her core, drawing out a third orb to replace the one destroyed earlier. She offers a detached grin to her opponent -- proud to showcase her gains, but too humble to give an actual voice to the thought.
The orbs come to her aid in the attack that follows. As Shina swipes at her torso, an orb swoops into her path, sandwiched between Shina and a pair of tilted, crossed forearms. When Shina follows up with a shoulder charge, the tigress leaps backwards, creating a void that is soon filled by her other two orbs sweeping in. The orbs -- caught between the two feline fighters -- flare white at the considerable pressure -- and Meifeng is, nonetheless, knocked back from her feet.
The distance opened up, though, gives her a bit more space and time to act. When Shina goes for her legs, she has an extra split-second for her leg muscles to fire, giving her the opportunity to vault sideways into a tail-assisted roll. Fur brushes against Shina's hands, but just -barely- so...
Meifeng grunts as her shoulder rolls across the deck. In the next moment, the treads of her shoes touch down -- and she sharply reverses her momentum with a noticeable squeak of rubber.
With a hand gesture, she signals her orbs to launch into a succession of diving attacks! But, while the orbs attack, the tiger herself seeks to follow up with a left backhand strike strike, then a right elbow strike, then a broadside blow from her left knee and shin. A final shoulder slam and a stomp will signal the end of the powerful Baji combination -- presuming all goes according to her planned intent!
COMBATSYS: Meifeng successfully hits Shina with Form Four - Roaring Tempest.
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Meifeng 1/-------/=======|=======\======-\1 Shina
A wall of arcane assistance. Defensive measure that stands the tough directness of Shina's basic wrestling mixed with a predator's pressure. The brilliant light holds her back, keeps Shina at bay. A slowing pace. An opening in the rush. The orbs crack down. Bang! Bang! Bang! The strikes thump down and batter against Shina. She stalls. The Leopardess drops her feline form, the human shape stumbling back. Open, a knee strikes hard into her ribs. A bark of air is forced from her lungs. She rocks to the side, and the combination strikes her back down to the ground.
The world turns, Shina slaps the wooden platform as she pushes up to her knees, arm trembling. A seething exhalation, a sucking breath, and Shina rises to her boots. Fists raise, she sways, adopting her ready stance. In her head, she runs the situation over in her head. She shakes her head, sucks down a breath, and sets her sights on Meifeng. "I will be serious about this. You have gotten much more improved, Meifeng. It has been fun."
Steadied now, Shina shifts to a more readied defensive posture to prepare herself for any oncoming assaults.
COMBATSYS: Shina gains composure.
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Meifeng 1/-------/=======|=======\=====--\1 Shina
The Librarian pauses after her stomp, grounding her heels and drawing in qi from her surroundings. Her hair bristles. She remains in stasis there, the heaves of her ribcage and the sways of her tail being the only signs of movement in the stoic tigress for several moments. The pause expected in a spar between friends.
She reflects on Shina's words for a further moment before replying.
She offers a humble smile.
"I... do not mean this to sound rude, but... I feel as if I hesitate less than before. Acting and reacting feel more... natural now."
She turns the word over in her mind with a frown. She calls it 'natural' to use the arts taught to suppress her nature. She opens her mouth, but reconsiders against voicing that thought.
She smiles, again, with more of a hopeful expression on her face. "... I feel like you taught me, you know. You move as if you fully trust your body to know the right way to move."
Meifeng rocks her shoulders backwards, stretching both palms out towards Shina. Her stance grows more casual, knees bent slightly. "Here I come, Shina. Prepare yourself."
Palms shoot forward; the sound of loose fabric rustling in the swift movements. Heralds of the true attack to follow. For Meifeng thrusts a third punch into the air just in front of her knees -- and then sails up into the air, arms windmilling overhead. She whirls about in midair -- but only then is her true attack unveiled as she whips around sharply, her leg scything down upon Shina in an elegant, revolving kick. Should she connect with that, she would lean backwards, pistoning two quick kicks as a followup strike!
COMBATSYS: Shina counters Diving Kick from Meifeng with Mad Trap.
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Meifeng 1/------=/=======|=======\-------\0 Shina
Eyes close, a smile forms, a short sigh of a laugh. "I taught you?" Shina's eyes open again and focus down on Meifeng. "You are moving better, yes. You don't seem to be fighting yourself so much." She rolls her shoulders and her posture dips lower, a deep stance with a wider base.
She scoffs when Meifeng warns her. An announcement of an approach. Almost a taunt. Good. Shina's grin grows. And behind her lips, her fangs grow in. She slips back with a spinning motion, boots scraping over the wooden deck, dust kicking into a rolling cloud. Meifeng's hammering blows cutting the air mere millimeters from where Shina is. Just missing in the closest moments. The human is, once more replaced by a leopard. From boots come claws, tail lashing out for balance. Claws grip the platform, and in a moment, leads her to pounce.
She lashes up as the wheel kick comes down. Feline reaction speed twisting her about Meifeng's dropping heel. Around the kick, and going for the throat. A predatory, atavistic, strike. A lashing, slamming to the ground. Landing in a mantle position straddled over Meifeng. A snap of her neck, a standing twist, hurling Meifeng over and into the air. Violent tossing. A fully bestial assault. Leaving Shina behind, wiping her mouth with the back of a claw, the beast unleashed.
In that respite between attacks, the tigress had agreed with a grin. "Right."
Just after her scything kick misses its mark, however, a pained expression takes the place of that grin. Meifeng had started to howl out, but that was cut short by the pressure on her throat: a convenient yet painful handhold by which to wrench her off her feet. When she's pulled to the ground, Shina will likely feel the tiger straining in opposition, staring up at her with wide, intense eyes, full of impotent frustration at her inability to overcome the leverage.
But that moment is short in comparison -- as Shina hurls the full-time feline up into the air, time and time again. The tiger's equilibrium is thrown off-balance from the attack -- her attempts to regain control in mid-air falter. Her orbs follow behind her, unable to keep pace.
Mercifully, she lands -- crumpling into a pile on the deck. Finally, she's able to catch her breath in the form of a low groan, planting her hands and knees down and reorienting herself with the pull of gravity.
"That was quite the joyride..." she offers as commentary, pulling up first to a crouch, then to a hunched-over stance. A hand goes to her neck -- and comes back more wet and more red than it started, which she notes with a dismayed frown.
She licks her lips, grinning in spite of herself. "More."
That would be the only warning, this time. For in the very next instant, Meifeng lunges forward, swinging her right hand overhead in the heavy-hands style. But instead of the palm strikes of pigua -- her fingers will be clenched into the claws of her animal form, for a vicious overhand slash! "Graaaaaooh!" And if she should make contact, she will continue surging forward, attacking again with the same limb: a driving elbow strike to shake the rhythm up just that much more!
COMBATSYS: Meifeng successfully hits Shina with Aggressive Strike.
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Meifeng 1/-----==/=======|=======\=------\1 Shina
Leopard takes tiger claw to claw. Shina surges forward to take the brunt of the blow. A momentary clash, and Meifeng finds herself with the advantage. Shina's arm buckles down, and Meifeng hits hard against her face. A staggering hit, stumbling the leopard into a rolling gait.
Without option, Shina is left open to the continuing combination. Meifeng hammers down with the second and Shina's cast farther to the side. But soon comes the elbow. Crack! Shina is put to her knee. Her claws dig deep into the wood of the platform. Her tail lashes left and right. Jaws open, heavy pants heaving her chest. The sensory world a spin around her.
A low growl rumbles from deep within. The sound mixes with the sparking, crackling lightning that begins to dance at the edge of her claws. Arcing lights of violet lifts from Shina's hand as she takes it from the platform. Her form slipping low to the ground, keeping to fours, a bestial weapon. Muscle tense as the hammer of a gun. And just as quickly, the trigger pulls, and she fires.
A bolt races for Meifeng, claws bared, the call for "More" answered with just so.
Three sweeping strikes. Cross the body with heavy laces of lightning left in the air in the wake of the rush. The opening strikes in a combination, to be followed with a heavy lifting blow meant to raise Meifeng into the air, up and off the ground. A way to hold Meifeng skybound. Where shina intends to blast through her friend and opponent, leaving a cross of crackling power behind.
COMBATSYS: Shina successfully hits Meifeng with Cross Blade Zapper.
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Meifeng 1/-======/=======|-------\-------\0 Shina
Meifeng hasn't felt this way in a long time. Humans are soft, weak little things, easily broken. She has long since understood that using her gifts against mankind is more akin to bullying than competition. But in her prior fight with Shina, and her fight with Gallon, her ties to her human trainers were far too strong.
Now? The metallic tang of blood is intoxicating. Overpowering. And with the rapid regeneration of demihumans now factored in, the threshold of good taste edges closer to mortality itself.
'More,' indeed. There are no such limits. There is no need to punch a timeclock after this rendezvous, no egregiously short lunch break.
Meifeng's expression as Shina falls is grim at first. Her sharpest teeth are bared, though, when she sees the tendrils of lightning creeping their way down Shina's fingertips. The lieutenant lowers her shoulders in response, raising her forearms once more in an attempt to absorb the blast. The orbs -- always present, but mere afterthoughts -- spring to life, swooping into an arc in front of her.
Pop, pop, pop -- the orbs explode into smear into semicircular streaks in the wake of Ms Gado's lightning-charged strikes. Meifeng manages to deflect the first strike, but the savagery of the assault leaves her torso undefended for the successive blows. Meifeng chokes out a wet gurgle as she's carried aloft... but if she has any sound at all to offer, it is drowned out in the thunderous clamor that follows in the wake of the cross-shaped blast!
A moment later: thud, th-thud.
Meifeng grimaces, coming to an instant later.
She sees herself sprawled out upon the observation platform.
And she chokes out a chuckle.
Adrenaline is one hell of a drug.
She leans to one side, shoving rapidly. Her feet twist first, her waist and shoulders following suit, resulting in her standing yet again, tail trailing behind to describe the quick arcs of motion. Her lenses glint in the sun as she drops down low with a feral, predatory grin.
And then, as her muscles tense, the remnants of her qi orbs spark into flame, wreathing the tigress' form.
Actions speak louder than words. And Meifeng charges forward in a move unlike any before -- a ferocious charge with her head tucked low like a bull. Not on all fours like Shina's -- but -close-. When she roars in mid-strike, her whole body unhinges like a jacknife to plow her left shoulder -- and potentially her head as well -- up towards Shina's abdomen! She'd aim to continue the momentum with a palm to the ribcage -- only to hold on tight, long enough for her to ratchet back the other way and return with a downward slash from her left hand's claws, with an aim to knock Shina back down again! A fierce, animalistic barrage, guided in only tenuous connections to her sifu's teachings...
COMBATSYS: Meifeng successfully hits Shina with Strong Punch.
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Meifeng 2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|===----\-------\0 Shina
The rush of a fight. The thrill in the moment. The interplay of pain and pressure. There is, through that, a unconscious comfort in facing down an associate in a friendly spar. To tear free, cut loose with someone who you know is looking to push and needs pushing in return. Yet there is a lightness not present compared to a fight for life. The dark server room in India facing down a robotic hunter. A group of Japanese Yakuza with guns opening fire in a harbor yard. A ninja in a poisoned land. The tang of the fight was different. Adrenaline to survive keeps one alive, adrenaline to thrive is the reason to stay alive.
She skips aside, trying to hold firm against the bulk of the tigress hurling herself toward her. The power of Meifeng's body is too much, though, she's sent back, thudding against the ground. A whoof of air. A claw smacks Shina down to a knee. Her head lolls and wavers. Her focus tightens and thrums into a tunnel. She slumps.
The pummel contimnues. Bang. Bang. Bang. The pummeling crunches down on top of Shina. She can feel the fight flow out of her. She has little left in the tank. But she has a spirit. She roars, bestial, furious, and lurches back up toward Meifeng.
One last go. One last push. A choking grip reaching up for Meifeng's throat. A last, sagging surge. A final shot to take Meifeng down with a heavy body wrenching slam to the ground, herself dropping atop Meifeng. A full body press with the last legs that Shina can manage.
COMBATSYS: Shina can no longer fight.
[ \\\\\\\\\ <
COMBATSYS: Shina successfully hits Meifeng with Strong Throw.
[ \\\ <
Blue flames wreath Meifeng's form -- the start of a conflagration that could grow ever higher. Her heart is pounding in her chest, a sledgehammer rattling her ribcage. But Meifeng pulls back, pursing her lips, forcing herself to exhale a long breath with her ragged lungs. The Librarian holds her ground, loping from side to side, unwilling to push further; not now, not yet. Her tail flails about, whiplike; her ears fold down, keen to pick up on the sounds of her companion.
Shina rises again. And those ears perk upward. She gives herself free rein to indulge the waiting beast. She rushes forward, a bit too eager to swing her forearms up, to swat the grasping hands away. She overestimates -- her adrenaline-spiked swings coming far too early.
Once again, her throat is at Shina's mercy.
This time, the tiger is too offensive, too loose, too shaky to withstand the attack.
She hisses through clenched teeth as the pressure re-engages earlier wounds.
She falls like a sack of potatoes, collapsing on the deck.
Her heart pounds, blood thrumming in her head -- get up! Move! -- but then the leopard drops atop her, pinning her utterly.
Meifeng flattens against the observation platform, panting heavily for breath. Her hair's a complete wreck, her sunglasses far askew from their usual prim-and-proper level. Her arms happened to get trapped beneath Shina's body as well -- a token amount of wriggling is carried out to ensure that they're not going anywhere without permission.
Fur matted with sweat, the Librarium looks up at the mercenary.
She wriggles once more, for effect.
And laughs, as the azure flames snuff out completely.
COMBATSYS: Meifeng takes no action.
COMBATSYS: Meifeng can no longer fight.
The leopard does not move at the wriggle. She does not move at the call of a draw. Her first motion is with a shiver of potential rolling through her, reducing her form from beast to human. And only then does she flop off Meifeng into an awkward, ungainly sprawl on the viewing platform aside the tigress. Her chest rises and falls with each gulping breath. One hand lifts weakly as if to make a point only to fall with a thump to the deck.
Askew, disheveled, bloodied, Shina still stares up to the sky above with a joy about her in the aftermath. "You have gotten quite a good deal better," the haggard complement comes out through worn breaths. "I'll have to work to get better too."
The young mercenary closes her eyes and laughs quietly. This was a far, far better time than she has had lately. She feels good. She feels right in a way not since the pits of the ULTRATECH Labs.
Seeing Shina transform is nowhere near the same as personally sensing the dramatic shift in weight when it occurs. Meifeng gasps in amazement at what's, by now, commonplace for the leopard merc. But -- on top of her usual stoicism, she's winded as well, and having trouble finding words to adequately describe her emotional state.
Maybe her amazement will show as she nudges her glasses back onto her nose properly, once her arms are free again. Of course, as soon as that's done, she starts kneading some feeling back into her numbed, battle-hardened forearms.
Relaxing against the platform, she coughs out a polite laugh in response to Shina's statement. "And I am sure I will need to work just as hard to keep pace. That fight was..." A hand sweeps up, brushing locks of hair out of her eyes. "... exhilarating! Keeping track of you was a special challenge."
She smiles warmly, bending an elbow to prop her head up with her palm so that she can watch Shina's expression. She can still feel her heart pounding, her lungs aching to keep up. It's painful, but it's a -good- burn, and her nearly giddy expression shows it.
"You surprised me several times! Particularly with the, er... " She gestures with her free hand, twirling it about in the air. "... the... bouncing me into the air part." She cracks a broad grin.
Shina's shift is often near instantaneous, a sliding spark of one body to the next. Fluid and easy. She doesn't know why it is with zoanthropes, or maybe just the militaristic experimentation that created her, that she can change so swiftly when others seem pained by the alteration. All she knows is that she simply does. And she hardly thinks on it. But she does appreciated the boots that Meifeng helped her source. They hold up a lot better between changes.
She continues to splay out, eyes staying closed in the face of the sun. "Your base is strong and your legs are sturdy. Why would I not try to take that away from you?" She answers in a matter-of-fact way. Then, with a wince, she adds. "But I did forget your balls. I don't think I like them very much."
She sits still for a long beat. Then she snorts and bursts out into laughter. "I did not mean anything like that!"
Meifeng wrinkles her nose as she listens to Shina. Gathering intel about her environment is just one of those aspects of nature she can't quite shut off. She does look away for a moment, though, stopping to idly rub the bits of dried blood from her fingertips.
The tiger was listening. And she hadn't registered Shina's remark as particularly juvenile at first. But without looking at her face, the snort and subsequent laughter catch her off-guard. Her eyes widen as they dart towards Shina's, an unknowing grin creeping across her striped face.
But then the quick retraction explains everything.
Her job is training teenagers and young adults.
She gets the joke.
She breaks into even -louder- laughter as a result.
It lasts a few moments, as her ribcage quivers -- as much from the silliness as the injuries sustained. "Well... hah... rest assured, I cannot judge you harshly in that regard!" She snickers for a few more moments.
As she settles, she smooths out her ruffled attire. "Your close-quarters combat was formidable. You were able to exploit openings I did not know I h--"
Meifeng coughs into a balled fist.
"Now look what you have started..."
She rests on the precipice of another brink of laughter.
It takes a time before Shina's laughter subsides enough that she remembers the ache permeating her body. She does not bother to sit up yet, the recline is still to comfortable. But she ends with a waving hand uselessly batting at the concepts floating in front of her. "I do not think this will get us anywhere," she says, settling.
She touches the corner of her mouth with a thumb and rubs it with her forefinger. "I bit you," she says, less amused with the connotation now, more pensive and considerate. "Not too much blood, I hope?" she asks. Her head turns, her brow raising questioningly.
She looks over her opponent, the dishevelment, knowing she herself does not look well. Her only saving grace is that she does not have to wear the fancier attire that the tigress tends to.
It is pretty though.
"I suppose our kind does heal quickly."
Meifeng releases a small snicker, allowing her to maintain the bulk of her control. She settles for a smile in agreement.
So as to fit in with her companion, she lowers her shoulders back to the deck, crossing her arms behind her head as a pillow, and generally smiling up at the partial cloud cover through her tinted lenses. "Hmm? Oh." She presses fingers against the bloody wounds, wincing as if she was noticing the injuries for the first time. "Ow. I suppose you did..." she agrees, pulling her hand back to inspect her fingertips once more. "Not too much, no. If it had not stopped, I would be more worried. ... The fact of the matter is, the bite served to... stoke a fire I've gone far too long in ignoring."
The tigress closes her eyes for a moment, thinking back along the moments of the fight. It's a warm thought, and brings about a serene smile.
She brushes the wound with the back of her hand, slicking her fur back along the grain. "I... suppose we do, yes. The human officers who work with me generally make far more visits to the infirmary."
She blinks, on that thought, and glances back over to Shina. "Oh. Forgive me, I had neglected to ask: how are your injuries?"
"I'm okay," Shina states, finally rising up into a sit. Drawing a knee up, she rests her elbow on it and turns her head to look toward the cliffside. "You are dangerous, but after the run in with the head of the Ikari, I have felt worse pains."
She arches her back and neck, working out the creeping stiffness of a body screaming for post-stress rest. The wind from the overlook catches her brush of hair, and she goes quiet for a moment, just to feel the air.
"But," she states, raising a hand in question as though the thought just now hit like a bullet. "I don't know what you mean. What kind of fire is lit by a bite?" This time she catches herself and laughs first. "You know what I mean."
Meifeng throws her hands forward, springing back to a seated position. Her tail fluffs out, swaying along behind her as she speaks. Curling her arms around her legs, she grins. "Oh, was that the opponent?" She squints for a moment, one fingernail scratching at her temple. "Ah, right. Commander Heidern... " Meifeng stares off quietly into the distance, pensive for a moment. "I am glad you survived. He has a pretty large bounty on his head."
The tiger sniffs at the air. Her tail acts as a metronome for an unheard melody, as she considers many things. Like taking someone of Heidern's reputation on. Just thinking about it starts to twist her stomach into knots...
But then, a hand is raised, a shadow is cast. The tigress turns instantly, cocking her head to the side to address Shina. A faint smile is offered.
"Oh! That... that was the moment when I truly understood what it meant to fight with another Beast. Not as a Librarian, not in a life-or-death battle. But someone who was just..." Meifeng clenches her fists, wrapping her arms about her knees. "On the perfect level."
Her tail coils around herself, tightly. "In many fights I either have to be cautious, to dial it back to prevent a calamity from occurring. In others, I feel... outmatched. Weak, ineffective."
Her lenses gleam in reflected sunlight. "But I feel like you bring out the best in me. It is a nice feeling."
"Bounty or not," Shina says, "He and his soldiers were not my enemy. I don't think he is your enemy either." She looks at Meifeng, watching the tigress' posture, the sway of her tail, the tell of her ears. Jeanne Gado has a degree of trust in the Librarian. Moreso with each wild facet revealed. Shina was intended to combat the Darkstalkers. Frankly, she found more kindred in the blunt honesty some of them seemed so ready to give her. There was freedom in that existence.
"The fox girl. Koneko. Remember to speak with her about them."
A simple reminder, the thought bubbling to the surface in Shina's mind. Then comes the compliment. Jeanne's face, not covered in fur at the moment, shifts to red. "We're a good match. We need to keep being one. Keep getting better. As long as we keep pushing each other, we will be able to take on the likes of Heidern one on one some day."
Shina lifts a fist wrapped up toward Meifeng with a grin bearing the hint of a fang.
"... Ah, yes." Meifeng crosses her eyes; her tongue juts out slightly. "... Warrant Officer Kaneko." Meifeng's right ear cocks to the side, and just beneath the light coat of fur, her cheeks darken with embarassment. "... It seems I may have taken a bump or two, hee-hee," she answers with a laugh.
A moment later, though, she sees a similar expression from Jeanne for an altogether different reason -- which only makes her smile more.
"We -do- make a good team!" Meifeng agrees, raising her fist in a similar gesture. "So, yes. One day!"
Log created on 11:30:23 09/29/2022 by Shina, and last modified on 14:00:52 11/02/2022.