World Warrior 2023 - R1: Frei vs Daniel

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Description: Rei and Daniel face off at Le Petit Chien in Southtown for the World Warrior tournament, combining the elegant act of fighting with brutal no-holds-barred philosophical discussions on some of the heaviest subjects imaginable. Such as Anne Rice, Baptists, and Zooters.

The World Warrior match would take place at Le Petit Chien

Le Petit Chien had long been a reoccurring site for serious face offs in the rich legacy of Southtown Street Fights. Down the side-street in downtown Southtown, you could see the elaborate awnings shield glass-topped tables from afternoon's bright glare, filtered daylight casting the cross-hatched shadows of wire-frame chairs across the sun-kissed cobbles The broad windows against which the outdoor furniture is lined up, its shining glass frosted with the cafe's small logo, an adorable little dog innocently half-turned toward the viewer, a half-eaten ice cream cone by its paws. The area along the side street was already closed off for the World Warrior match. Rei Hazuki versus Daniel Jack. The judges were at a cafe table, the medical and camera crew at another. The atmosphere was relaxed as they waited for the arrival of the two fighters.

There also were the Ladykillers.

Some of the tables and chairs were occupied by what seemed like a snapshot out of time. A good dozen folks of various races, ages, and social status were all dressed in a chromatic spread of zoot suits. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violets, the whole Roy G Biv was represented with some edge cases of white, black, grey, and a very proud pink. The only one out of their seats was the dame in the strapless red gown, lounging on a glass topped table, peering out with one eye behind crimson-dyed peek a boo bangs. Normally there might be issues with folks loitering around like that, especially with the thick haze of cigarette smoke lurking in the air. But Daniel practically needed his Ladykillers to get around now. Besides, they were ordering coffee and cakes regularly. There wasn't any problem about the cost.

They just put everything under Daniel's tab.

Considering right now he's busy being a mentor (of sorts) and sponsor (kinda) in the NFG, one might wonder why Rei Hazuki would sign up for World Warrior. Certainly, in terms of the bookies and commentators, he's nobody's favorite to win because his public fighting appearances have been pretty minimial, all things considered. So why would he get involved?

Well, the answer is: these things tend to erupt into world-ending calamities on the regular, in his experience, and he DID kinda promise Nakoruru he wouldn't turn away from that stuff.

Still, when the round one matches are announced, he's sitting at a cafe in Metro, thankfully a little out of the way place in the East Village, because it means there's nobody there to catch the resulting spittake. "Yeah," he mutters to himself, dabbing at his shirt with a napkin. "I suppose this was inevitable on some level."

That brings us to now, and the familiar environs of Southtown, which is good, because the typically placid Rei is feeling increasingly anxious, for reasons that aren't realy Daniel Jack's fault. It's just that thinking about HIM means thinking about the last time they saw each other, which means thinking about Relius Clover, and that...

Well. Training in the mountains away from the world means not having access to therapy and, frankly, Rei could probably use some, on that front.

Never mind that as he enters the designated space for the bout, it's impossible not to spot the rainbow coalition of Daniel supporters-slash-sidekicks in evidence. "Alright," the xian mutters, looking around. "Apparently it's Dick Tracy day here in Southtown Village."

Perhaps his distraction means he's wrong, but the redhead believes he got here first, and so steps into the airquotes 'ring' with a nod to the organizing staff. Running through a handful of warmup tai chi forms, his green eyes continue to scan the crowd, looking for Daniel as much as just taking it all in. "Please let this be the time I'm wrong," he says, primarily under his breath. "Please please please."

It's the comment of the 'Dick Tracy' day that begins to ritual.

Snap. Snap. Snap. The zoot suit crew begin to snap their fingers to a soundless rhythm, while the femme fatale in scarlet watches Rei with a smirk. The dozen rises up, snapping their fingers. They look at Rei, leering with cruel faces, as they gradually form a circle. They expand out, and then, with a swirl of their jackets, turn back in, rushing into the middle, their fingers snapping. Faster. Faster. Shadows swirls around the cafe, every bit of the darkness almost swelling against the daylight. There is a rush of shadows, surging across the side street and crowd. The twelve fan their hands, the snapping stopping as they sway back and forth, before falling to the ground. A pillar of darkness rises up, before taking an all too familiar Zoot Suit'd shape, it's outline complete darkness, as yellow eyes burn from within the face of the shadowman. "Well, well, well Scuzzies," Comes the voice of Daniel Jack as he emerges from the center of the dozen. "What's the noise on the fl-"

"Oh my god"

Daniel interrupts himself as he stares at Rei in absolute horror. His yellow eyes wide, the fact his shadowy facade can't blush doesn't do anything to hide his embarassment. The man in the proud pink suit kneels at Daniel's side, taking his hand. "Master! We can dig it!" He declares boldly as he holds Daniel's hand like a squire to a knight. "Your Ladykillers have called you on a time of need: a tournament has started, the World Warrior, and we believe that there is darkness within. A shadow that only the Shadowy Master like Yourself Can Traverse, and your first enemy we suspect is a Man With A Secret with Answers Against Our Enemy. Your first opponent is Rei Hazuki, and his weaknnesses are as fo-"

"No no stop stop stop we're good."

Daniel hastily pulls his hand away. He looks to the crew of Zoot Suiters, and then back to Rei. He looks back. "Did you hurt him?" Daniel asks, a building tone of scolding rushing over him. When there isn't a response, the shadowman doesn't waste time, raising a finger. "Okay, Scuzzies, a reminder: Unless someone is attacking you, don't start trouble. Rei's a -friend- he- he literally rescued me from a fate worst than death. You don't need- you don't need to make it's a big song and dance number everytim-" "You want a song and dance number?" The dozen suddenly spread out in positions, as the Green Suited Zooter begins to get a boombox ready. The first few notes of a Caravan Palace song breaks out before Daniel -bristles-, shouting as the music stops dead. "NO! No, just... please drink coffee." The man in pink pauses a moment, and then shrugs, giving one more flourishing bow before the Zoot Suit Crew returns to their chair. The lady in red starts cackling, before rolling over on the table. Daniel shuts his eyes, grabbing his temples. After taking a moment to compose himself, he returns back to Rei.

"Well hello!"

Daniel states brightly. "It's been a while! I'm apparently in a tournament because there's uh, well, a lead I guess. As you can see, uh, I'm doing fine! These are my Ladykillers, um, they are good guys. They follow leads on, well, we're good guys and it's healthy and fine. It's just, well. They are better now, and I'm better now." Daniel explains, before the Zoot Suiter in Black pipes up. "Oh, Master, do you need to feed on us before you fight? Our energy is your energy boss!" Daniel looks back over, lips curled up as he grimaces at the crew. "SSSHHHHHHHHUSH!" Daniel states through fanged teeth, before looking back at Rei, fanged smiles practically frozen on his face.

"How have you been?"

'His weaknesses are as fo--' Wait, what? There is a fraction of a second where a furrow-browed Rei almost interrupts and demands Daniel let the guy finish his sentence.

You have a long row to hoe saying ANYTHING that's going to disconcert, discombobulate, or otherwise dis-anything Rei Hazuki. Even not accounting for his extensive superntural life history, he's also just sort of naturally chill. But this? Color-coded girl/guy groups? Followers? A musical number that is thankfully stopped before it can begin?

"This... is a LOT," is all he can say aloud.

Still, in a weird way -- musical follies aside -- it does the xian a little good to see Daniel in something approaching... well, normal. After all, Rei had to swallow his initial greeting ('Eat any good souls lately?') because it 1.) felt tacky even by his standards and 2.) SOUNDS INSANE. But while the 'saving' Daniel refers to was more Ayame's doing, it was at the very least partly Rei's belief that Daniel could be a functioning, non-serial killing member of what we'd loosely call society that at least CONTRIBUTED.

"A lead?" Oh, right, detective. "Well... I suppose tournaments are..." A pause as he watches the interaction of the Ladykiller (BRANDING, DANIEL, YOU NEED TO RECONSIDER YOUR SEO) with their 'leader' for a moment, before clearing his throat. "I mean. If you're here for work, then hopefully it's nothing, you know... too dangerous."

Rolling his head on his shoulders a little bit, Rei gets into a loose tai chi stance, nodding at Daniel. "Anyhow. Whenever you're ready."

There's a brief pause, and then, because he can't stop himself, the redhead glances at the rainbow-attired Ladykillers, then back at Daniel. "Is this like... a Lestat thing?"

Oh lord.

"It's so, so much." Daniel murmurs softly, shaking his head.

The man in Green squees at Rei's question, pointing back at the xian. "See, somebody has read Interview with a Vampire! It would be our master who would have the good taste to befriend a fellow fan of Anne Rice!" Daniel blinks a bit, trying very hard to endure an assault more brutal than anything he's been made to face so far. "It's like a- I kind of got a following of folks who, uh, misunderstood the whole Ladykiller thing. I took that energy, and got them on the right track away from idolizing brutalizing women and towards dealing with, well, you know. The Black Dahlia's compatriots. Which I -guess- they think are involved here? Anyways, it's just directing their energy and imagination into something constructive, not destructive. So if that means uh, well, some extra theatrics to keep them happy, well, it's a net positive. It keeps them from like," The shadowman lowers his voice.

"Keeps them from attacking women?"

Daniel glares back at the dozen, before raising his voice again. "We also have a kind of understanding on, well, my dietary restrictions. It's all consensual." A beat, as he looks towards the camera. "So Ayame doesn't have to worry about -anything- unfortunate about letting me stay alive!" He looks back at Rei, and pauses a moment. "Oh! Oh! right, when I am- when I am ready." Daniel eases into his defensive stance of Todoh. Palms up, one in front of the other. A broad, even stance, legs apart, leading with his left side. The gang starts hooting and cheering, as they put down their coffees and imitate their leader. Daniel tries very, very hard to ignore them, as shadows begin to spread out along the ground and walls of the side street. It seems easier once he is back in his fighting stance. "Thank you though, Rei, I- I'm still a little scared about it. This is a lot, and I never know if someone's gonna try and kill me. I really, really appreciate you saving me from the NOL. There probably isn't anything dangerous here, but you know, if something happens. I'll cover you." He gives a nod to the judge. "I'm ready." And the fight begins. Daniel doesn't approach, but he gestures for Rei to approach.

"Come on, scuzzy, lay it on me-"

"LAY IT ON HIM SCAT CAT!" Comes the roar of his followers.

Daniel cringes in despair.

COMBATSYS: Daniel has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Daniel           0/-------/-------|

In a weird way, Daniel Jack with a legion of followers who are DEEPLY missing the point, but which he has herded into the world's weirdest oudendan, is a kind of poetic justice. Rei truly doesn't have the heart to correct them, given their glee, that he RECOGNIZES Anne Rice but is not necessarily a FAN of Anne Rice.

One thing does give him legitimate pause, however: the mention of the 'Dahlia' and her compatriots. What does Honoka have to do with this? Of course, his minds eye thinks back to the announcement of the matches and, as if watching everything on a slowed-down replay, there's her name, next to the name of someone Rei doesn't recognize. Given their encounters so far -- in Mortal Kombat and after Golden Angel -- the xian can't help but wonder what she's DOING here.

Story for another time, however.

"I, ah... I should be good. There's been some... developments... for me too, since last we saw each other," the redhead says, with genuine patience. "But thanks for thinking of me."

The pleasantries, however, appear to be over, now that Daniel has encouraged his groupies not to rush the stage. "Right, then. En garde, and all that."

Stepping forward, Rei aims a simple, quick kick at Daniel's midsection, the blow wreathed in a faint aura of scarlet flame. Testing the waters, as it were; he might seem goofy, but Rei is more aware than most that Daniel is a very serious combatant with a lot of tools at his disposal, when he's of the mind.

COMBATSYS: Frei has joined the fight here.

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Frei             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Daniel

COMBATSYS: Daniel dodges Frei's Light Kick.

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Frei             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Daniel

As Rei steps forward, the shadows twitch.

Daniel takes a deliberate step to match with Rei's own. Despite the supernatural state he's in, speed is speed, especially with the scarlet flame. Assisting with the evasion, Daniel brings forward palm over. The kick connects with shadows, as the detective guides his palm against his opponent's calf. A buffer of his own shadowy force meets against the flame, as Daniel pushes around, repositioning around the kick deftly and precisely.

All while the ghastly detective continues to have a coffee chat.

"What kind of developments?" Daniel asks with genuine interest, as continues his deliberate movement to complete the reposition with sturdy footwork. "Good? Bad? Somewhere in between?" Daniel completes his pivot, moving into routine as he steps into Rei. "Don't let it distract you, It's getting so hard to keep up with people and places now." Daniel gives a palm strike with the left, a hand chop with the right, his own testing of his opponent's defenses before he steadies himself. "I don't get newspaper deliveries where I'm in now, and the Ladykillers, eeeeeh." The Zooters start snapping to a rhythm, as the Green Zooter tries to find just the right fight song to play.

"You might imagine what they give me the latest updates in."

COMBATSYS: Daniel successfully hits Frei with Quick Punch.

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Frei             0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0           Daniel

Really, Rei should learn his own lesson and remember the thoughts that were JUST in his head: Daniel hits harder than you'd imagine, looking at him. The redhead's plan was to power through the blow and position himself to retaliate in kind, but doing that means estimating how much power your opponent can put behind the blow, and he underestimates enough that Daniel's one-two sends him reeling back a step or two. It's not like either blow hit debilitatingly hard, but it is just enough to ruin Rei's attempt at positioning.

"Uh... good. I think. Mostly." It's not like there's a greeting card for 'Congrats on reaching enlightenment' or whatever, so he hardly could blame Daniel for not saying anything even IF he'd known, and how could he have? "A paradigm shift, for sure, but not a bad one. Looking at things in a different light, now."

The rhythmic snapping yanks Rei's attention away from Daniel for a crucial second, which hopefully will not spell his doom; the green eyes squint for a second, and he mutters, "They sure are, uh... enthusiastic." It's so magical when normally unflappable people are hit with their kryptonite.

For his part, however, Rei shakes it off and decides to continue his assault, now that the waters have been tested on both sides. The aura of flame around the xian returns, stronger this time, until it blazes off him to take a roughly human-sized shape; lunging forward, both Rei and the fire clone take turns striking Daniel, the double vectors of attack hopefully being enough to keep him on his toes!

COMBATSYS: Frei successfully hits Daniel with Kindle the Inner Flame.

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Frei             0/-------/----===|===----\-------\0           Daniel

Daniel was prepared, though he wasn't quite ready.

As he lands those two nasty hits, the detective recovers almost instantly, returning back to center. He gives Rei a moment to reposition, though he wouldn't give him -too- much space, as he takes another step towards him to demonstrate the pressure. "A paradigm shift can be a big deal, and you never know how it can work out. I mean, look at me. I hoped in your case it didn't involve making whoopie with-" Rei unleashes the aura of flame, as -two- Reis come at him. Daniel moves quickly and deliberately. He actually catches the clone, dissipating it roughly with both of his palms. Unfortunately, both of palms. While he tries to drag it over to intercept the other more tangible Rei, the martial artist collides into him severely.

And launches Daniel with a splat into the wall by the cafe.

The cries of anguish come from the Ladykillers, as the shadow dumps out to the ground in a heap. "Very nice!" Comes from Daniel himself as he rises back up from the shadowy smear, his outline becoming rather indistinct. While 'damage' wasn't as simple as bruises, the lingering cling of the flames of Rei's aura seem to be still burning his shadow as he straightens himself out. "That's a lot of control over your aura too, has a real good feel on it. Is that part of the paradigm shift, or just practice?" Before an answer could come out though, some electro swing music begins to play. Looks like the playlist for the round 1 fight was picked. Royalty free stuff too, very considerate for the livestreamers. "Really?" Daniel asks, exasperated, before he returns back to his stance. He flickers, reappearing a few meters closer to Rei. "Still, good for you!" Another flicker comes, and there is a rush of shadow energy as Daniel is now -at- the side of Rei.

Already repeating himself.

It opens with a palm strike and hand chop, a rhythm that Daniel sticks too in life and death. This time, though, they were pouring out that dark shadow energy that made up Daniel's spirit-stuff. From the sidelines, the Ladykillers copy the movements in cultish devotion, and begin to even preempt it. "Are there any lessons I could learn from it?" Daniel continues as he pours on the combination chain. An elbow jab from the opposite flank of Rei, before a slashes of energy come from the left and right. Tiny Kasane Ates, with the remains of the old orange energy flare up within. Dim, corrupted energy, that almost seemed to grow fainter after every Kasane Ate. The assault would end as Daniel would lurch in, attempting to bring a pivot throw to throw towards the tables, towards the miming Zooters and the cheesy electric jazz. You know, just short of hitting them and the boombox.

Maybe just short.

COMBATSYS: Frei fails to interrupt Harlem Sunset from Daniel with Time and Tide.

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Frei             0/-------/--=====|======-\-------\0           Daniel

The theme of today's fight appears to be "it's a lot," in the end; the sudden soundscape of royalty-free jazz is kind of... unexpected, and indeed yanks Rei's attention away, as he gets back into stance after landing his own combination strike on Daniel. The detective's defense was an interesting maneuver, however, and for the first time, the xian seems to really SEE the shadowy aura that has nonetheless been there the entire time.

One might wonder if he just straight up has a blind spot for it?

"It's, ah... well." The redhead REALLY doesn't want to say a definite 'no', if only because it feels a little cruel to do so. At the same time, he has an EXTREMELY hard time imagining Daniel transcending his mortal limits through extensive meditation in a remote location, though hilariously, he DOES have the other prerequisite of having died and then being brought back in an unexpected way via Mortal Kombat.

Rei tails off and blinks as he realizes that, genuinely gobsmacked by the realization. Does Daniel Little, of all people, have the potential to become a zhenren? He's already supernatural, so would it really be that big a jump?

That's a lot to ponder and it's probably why, when Daniel comes back in at him, that Rei gets a late start on his defensive technique, which goes very awry; he's not going to fall for the jab-chop again, but the xian was NOT expecting the rest, and his attempt to gather spirals of water to his side to enact a more aggressive defense fall apart once Daniel's baby Kasane Ate's start landing. At the very last second, Rei manages to pivot some of this in his favor; the water that he HAD gathered suddenly freezes into chunks of makeshift armor that soak up some of the damage of Daniel's rain of blows... but there wasn't that much to begin with, and they're totally gone by the time it comes to throw the redhead into the tables.

There's a loud crash, obviously, and then a long pause before a table suddenly flips over and Rei emerges from underneath it, dusting himself off, taking some deep breaths. "Only myself to blame for that," he says, amused but chagrined.

It was something to think about through the fight.

The rhythm comes with the swirl of protective water, and it's a very close one for Daniel. Having a lot of little attacks can help, but all it takes is one big one to break the entire sequence. Unfortunately, he didn't stop the music. After he makes his throw, he shifts, fading in and out as he approaches. As the table flips over, Daniel is there to help it off. Well, help. "Is it the music? The music can be very -distracting- I think." Daniel raises his voice, hoping the Ladykillers get the hint. Well, they get a hint, as they turn up the volume with the intention to distract. Daniel backs off a bit, taking deliberate steps as he holds on to the table.

Corrupting it quietly with his shadowy energy.

"It's something I noticed with the folks in Makai. A lot of folks, you dig?" Daniel continues as he levels out the table. He was telegraphing pretty hard now, as he does a few practice swings with the table, the shadowy energy beginning to leech the color from it as it flickers with a flame. Frowning, he pulls off a chunk of it, and absorbs it in his body. The glass wasn't shattering. Its being was becoming one with Daniel, as he steadies it out. He was reforming now. "That aura. Paradigm changes. I'm just curious now." Daniel spins around once, preparing the hammer throw, as he flings the whole table back at Rei. It leaves a shadowy trail in the air, and should it hit, it would become a shadowy smear like Daniel had when he hit the wall.

"Did you become something more than human, too?"

COMBATSYS: Daniel successfully hits Frei with Dirty Business EX.

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Frei             1/-------/=======|=======\-------\1           Daniel

More than human?

The question, as he recovers from his aborted defense, seems to occupy most of Rei's attention. It's a difficult question to answer. Certainly, by most people's reckoning, the xian IS not entirely human, anymore. But the problem comes, of course, when you start then asking the followup question: 'what is human to begin with'? Rei's own argument, however long ago, about Daniel himself was that deep down, whatever ELSE has happened, he's still human, somewhere in there.

Wiping a hand across his mouth -- getting thrown into a table hurts -- Rei watches his opponent carefully, considering the question. "That's hard to say. Can we compromise on 'differently human'?" he asks, entirely serious. In his own mind's eye, from Rei's point of view, the moment he stops thinking of himself as 'human' is the moment all of this starts to go completely south, probably in a hurry. That's how you get Final Fantasy villains or whatever.

The idea that Rei's aura shares any similarities with what Daniel's encountered in Makai is jarring, and would be even more so if Rei had the knowledge to connect 'Makai' with Jedah Dohma, another source of lingering trauma for the fledgling xian. "But... not factory standard, anymore, no."

The shadow builds. Daniel is preparing SOMETHING. The problem is that because of the shadow building, and his own growing awareness that the shadowy aura is somehow Rei's own blindspot, for reasons he will have GREAT fun interrogating after this fight is over, the xian overfocuses on that... so as he prepares his defenses to receive the resulting attack, he is NOT prepared for A TABLE. To his credit, the redhead does NOT go ass over teakettle after taking a table to the face, which is a testament to him being considerably tougher than he looks. However, that hurt. Kind of a lot, and the new trickle of blood from Rei's nose definitely speaks to that.

There's a moment where he gets a thousand-yard stare looking into the distance, well past Daniel, trying to impose his will upon his own person. Succeeding at doing so with a pair of slaps of his own hands against his cheeks, the redhead squares off with Daniel, hands in front of him. For a moment, a silvery-gold light builds around the redhead like faerie flame, suffusing his body, before he throws out a hand and an orb of light, almost metallic in appearance, streaks across the distance toward the detective. "But people who've gone through stuff like you and I have," he offers, as the attack fires off, "were probably never going to be 'normal' humans to begin with. Right?"

COMBATSYS: Daniel blocks Frei's Elemental Burst.

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Frei             1/------=/=======|=======\==-----\1           Daniel

The line was blurred, wasn't it.

The penumbra around Daniel ebbs and flows as he sends that table soaring. As Rei takes it head on, he grins that fanged grin. The grin fades a bit though, as Rei confirms his theory. Somewhat. "Differently human. I mean I guess." There is a flash of anger, envy. As Rei builds his will, the shadow man does the same. The Ladykillers stop their cheering and shooting and dancing apparently they were dancing right then. But it stopped, because Daniel was looking a lot like a dragon punch. That is, down right fierce. Snarling, his own will lashes back, and the blast comes at him. The orb of light comes, and a sea of darkness floods out. Daniel snarls as his essence rips into the orb. The light pierces as waves of shadows hammer against it as a bulwark. "Course I bet you aren't having folks after your head. I bet folks wouldn't see -you- as a monster." Daniel takes a stray beam from the stubborn orb to the head, before all his effort brings it before his chest. Clenching his fists, he crushes the remains of the orb with his darkness, the burst of light slicing his body. Darkness, only darkness now. Lowering his eyes, he practically snarled. "And I bet some freaky scientist isn't going to be putting a pin in -you- and seeing how long you can go without eating." For a moment, there is a surge of shadowy energy, tendrils of shadowstuff beginning the spiderweb around him. Tendrils that crawl up towards Rei when- Daniel suddenly lifts his head up. His anger melts away.

"But that's cause you took a hard way, not an easy way."

The shadow web dissolves, and so does Daniel, his form shifting and reforming. This time, surging right up from under Rei's feet. Lifting up with a surging rising palm, he attempts to plow it straight up into the xian's chest. "I went with a deal with the devil, Lord Do- Jedah Dohma. And I broke that pact with Makai." Should he connect, he would attempt to grip his other hand into Rei's flank, and proceed to sink back down as he throws the xian. Not to the ground per say, but into that quagmire of shadowstuff bordering between the real and unreal, substantial and nothingness. All with a fleeting thought from the detective.

"That's the easy way, but you know, easy just means the hard work comes after, you dig?"

COMBATSYS: Frei blocks Daniel's Skiffle Drop.

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Frei             1/-----==/=======|=======\==-----\1           Daniel

Oooookay what's happening now?

You'd have to be an idiot to not feel the frustration in Daniel's presence, hear the hurt and anger in his voice. It very genuinely and briefly takes Rei by surprise, just as much as the unexpectedly aggressive way Daniel has of defending himself against that attack does. Yes, there's a demon (sort of) in there, but even in that situation, Rei's never known Daniel to be... well. Whatever THIS is.

"Well..." the redhead says, listening carefully, and when he speaks, there's a certain ponderous quality to it, "'re not wrong. I 'pass', I guess you could say." But then Daniel mentions being trapped to see how long he could go without being eating, and for a brief moment Rei is back in an NOL basement, staring down a maw of the same shadows currently tendril-ing through the venue, the tall and utterly placid figure of Relius Clover at his back.

Rei's not going to deny Daniel's victimhood in that situation, but... well. He wasn't the only one.

And JUST when it seems like he's gotten over it, Daniel both does a sharp personal 180 and THEN brings up Jedah Dohma, BY NAME, and the typically placid xian's expression goes instantly, frighteningly cold. Memories sleet by at a terrifying pace: drowning in a prison of blood. Monstrous teeth clawing in the dark. A literal Soul Eater claiming Ayame Ichijo as a future 'meal', and...

'It's only a matter of time before the allure of the Infinite claims her soul as well as it has Daniel Jack's...'


Daniel's palm strike lands cleanly, but as he makes a grab for the rest of his attack, Rei gently shunts the grab attempt aside... but with an expression of glassy-eyed distance, as if he's not even seeing who he's talking to.

He doesn't have time to strike at Daniel before he leaves Rei's proverbial airspace, but when the two have separated a bit, the detective will note a hazy flare of energy building around his opponent, as if in answer to the growing shadows, but opposite in nature: multicolored and shifting, like the energy can't decide what form to take and is thus cycling through them all at random.

When Rei finds his voice again, it is simply to say: "Hard work, huh."

Now it's Rei's turn to do one of these multi-stage attacks that have proven to be Daniel's specialty: he suddenly surges forward, turning slightly so that his back and shoulder will ram right into the detective, a classic tetsuzanko; provided he's not stopped, the xian pivots, grabs Daniel, and with a spinning toss simply throws him into the distance, before making two forceful gestures with his palms: up, then out. At the outward palm extension, the air around Daniel simply explodes with unattenuated force in the middle of his 'flight'.

COMBATSYS: Daniel dodges Frei's Heart of the Mountain EX.

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Frei             1/------=/=======|=======\==-----\1           Daniel

The boombox was playing, but nobody was dancing.

As Daniel surges up at Rei, his shapes flicker and weave. He could see the calm. He could practically taste the reactions under the surface. But that tang comes with a building torrent of aura, flaring up, the chaos of the energy whirling unpredictably. Recoiling away from it, he sinks backwards into his own shadows. "Yeah, Hard work. Always knowing that the moment that I lose control, every one of my friends will kill me. And how terrible they will feel doing it, how -justified-." As the back and shoulder check comes, Daniel collapses in himself. Rei slams through the shadows, slams into the indistinct shape of Daniel that's... nothing. Nothing but haze and darkness. Rei grabs a shadow, and throws it, and blasts it into nothingness. Real and unreal, shapes and figures. The air explodes and there is -nothing-. Light and darkness. The Zooters seem apprehensive. Visually, it's not clear what Daniel is. Spiritually, where Daniel -is-, is everywhere now. There is a moment. The voice comes at Rei's feet.

Inside his own shadow.

"And that I deserve it, because of what I did to them, because of what I am." Daniel doesn't blitz in with another upwards assault. He doesn't exploit an ambush. No, he slithers out, slinking up into a stand. The music plays, but Daniel seemed distracted too. Introspective. "Yeah. You pass, because you deserve to pass. I'm just on borrowed time, hoping to do enough good before I make that last mistake. Maybe." Daniel reforms up, fully committing to his Todoh-Ryuu stance. Raising both of his hands out, he gives the smooth, familiar motion of a downward chop, bringing a wave of shadowy energy infused with orange down. The Kasane Ate, the Certified Todoh-Ryuu Classic. A short wave that attempts to pile down on the xian. Daniel doesn't even call out the name of the attack, just continuing on. His words are almost a whisper. "You know, Ultratech's been talking about fixing Darkstalkers, letting them go back to being human." Advice. Wisdom. Transcendent insight from an eternal sage who sits upon the mountain.

"You think that's another easy way out?"

COMBATSYS: Frei blocks Daniel's Kasane Ate.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Frei             1/-----==/=======|=======\===----\1           Daniel

This has gotten very real, very quickly.

As the slicing waves of energy come his way, and Rei adapts as best he can to Daniel's sinking into -- even dispersing in -- shadow, he reflects on the attacks the detective has used so far. It's obvious that his Darkstalker 'side' gives him access to plenty of offensive options a normal human wouldn't. But so far, everything he's done, every attack he's used, has been... well, human. Punches, grabs, improvised weapons. Chi techniques he learned not from demons, but from Ryuhaku Todoh.

It COULD be shadows and fangs and all sorts of other inhuman things. But Daniel is choosing to attack as a human.

If the xian seems daunted by Daniel's shadow presence techniques, he doesn't show it; as the orange blades come down, he raises an arm, shimmering with a faint silver-gold light, interposing it in the path of the attack. The energies clash for a moment, and Rei grits his teeth against the pain; this sort of defense always has a cost, no matter what it looks like to an outside observer. He does not escape scot free by any means... but it does give him an opportunity to answer Daniel's question.

"I can't tell," Rei says guardedly, watching his opponent, "if you're mad that people don't have faith in you, or frustrated that you don't have faith in yourself." Worried his friends will turn on him? That's not unfounded; not everyone is willing to give second (or third, or fourth, or whatever-th) chances, and plenty of people get off on the heady righteousness of taking down 'evil beings', after all. But... well.

Rei does not think of himself as 'powerful', and certainly even among experts in the field of qigong, there are plenty 'stronger' than he is. But sometimes, well... sometimes being a little flashy to let people know you mean business is a good thing.

Palms come up, and around Rei's feet, a hazy white glow spreads out from around him, creating a circle in the growing shadow, pushing it back. "But do you... do you think I just wandered off somewhere and came back 'something else'?" the redhead asks, voice suddenly sharp. "Daniel, I've been at this for DECADES. You of all people know I'm older than I look. I've died before! Multiple times actually!" Should you have said that in front of all these cameras? Well, too late now. "And only now is some of that starting to bear fruit. So does a corporation promising to fix it for free sound like an 'easy way' out?"

Palms thrust forward. Rei pushes the aura of light, which flares sharply, right at Daniel and his shadows, the message clear. "Yes, *obviously*. Anything worthwhile takes time and effort."

COMBATSYS: Daniel fails to interrupt Quintessential Truths EX from Frei with Jumping Jack Flash EX.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Frei             0/-------/---====|=======\======-\1           Daniel

The Kasane Ate comes, and Daniel -feels- the rebuttal.

It hurt. Worried about his friends? Or was it really directed at himself? And when Rei has the audacity to imply that yes it was short sighted and -stupid- to even think in that direction, Daniel felt a heat inside him. Shame, rage. As Rei begins to thrust his palms forward, the shadowman makes his own move. The detective surges into the flames, sweeping his arms to give a staggering upwards strike aimed squarely at Rei's center. To stun him, to pivot rising up. All while he retaliates at the xian's comment on the whole 'But do you... do you think I just wandered off somewhere and came back 'something else'?' "I mean Zach-" Daniel begins, before he is ripped apart by the blast of the palm strike. Absolutely disintegrated by Rei's Quintessential Truths, along with his quintessential truths. He could have very well been atomized, and those particles scoured by the purifying flames of the xian. He's not gone, his presence makes that clear even as the shadows scattered. In a moment, the particles of darkness reform, trickling together into a singular pustule of darkness. Yellow eyes peer out, as an agonized set of fangs unleash a groan.


Daniel states firmly, as he dredges his shape into a vague Danielly lump. "Okay, yes, -ow-, I get your point. Jesus. Yes, I am angry. I'm angry at myself for making stupid short-sighted decisions to -survive-, and I keep making stupid short-sighted decisions to keep surviving! I can see where my stupidity is going to go, and it just drives me into the next stupid short term choice! And it's easy to be angry at -other people- for my own stupidity. But what's my path to peace and enlightenment then? Is it going to be decades? Centuries? Eons to eternity? I just wanted to help people..." Daniel finally brings himself up to standing position, bringing his palms forward and behind. "Oh don't let my venting distract you from fighting, you are doing great, I'm just- you're right and it hurts that you're right." The shadowman quickly adds, gesturing for Rei to make his next move. The Zooters are quiet, as the electro swing rattles behind them. Except the one in green, he is practically starry eyed.

"Totally like Lestat, that man really is a genius." He coos, awestruck.

Bringing his hands back in front of him and exhaling, Rei doesn't go on the offensive, which is probably a strategic error, but as is usually the case for him as a professional fighter, what's happening in the fight right now is more personally meaningful than winning. Instead, he simply watches Daniel and lets the blinding flash of the aura of light settle down to a dull, warm faerie fire around him.

"Are you asking me the secret to not making mistakes?" the xian asks, genuinely curious, "because I definitely do not know the answer to THAT, and anyway, even if I did, I dunno that knowledge would help anyone. Mistakes are how we learn, which I know sounds dumb and trite, but it's the truth."

Part of him realizes his own wariness right now, which is somewhat to be expected -- this IS a fight -- yet Rei pauses and, as he waits for Daniel's next move, extends his palms to ready stance and reaches out, awareness-wise, to a thing he had been unconsciously avoiding:

Daniel's shadow.

The conversation comes to an unexpected halt as he does so. Why? Well... that shadow, that darkness, is considerably more complex than the red-haired sage had anticipated. There is something ALIVE about it, which should surprise no one, but the impression that Rei gets -- an impression only, obviously, as it's not as if the darkness is literally speaking to him -- is of HUNGER. That the shadow wants to consume. What it wants to consume is anyone's guess.

"But," he mutters, likely too quiet to be heard by anyone, but who knows with these mic setups, "hunger is just part of life. Everything hungers."

Looking up, the redhead tilts his head at Daniel. "Everyone's journey is different. But maybe the question you should be asking isn't 'how long is this gonna take', but 'what does enlightenment even mean'?" He flashes back to his first meeting with Ichika, and telling her she was starting with the wrong question, and would get unhelpful answers as a result.

"Does it mean being... something other than who you are? Because if that's the case, it kinda feels doomed from the jump, doesn't it?"

COMBATSYS: Frei gathers his will.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Frei             1/-------/=======|=======\======-\1           Daniel

"Something other than... who I am?"

Daniel's yellow eyes begin to blaze. That shadow, that hungry, devouring shadow was everywhere, anchored in place by Daniel, present because of Daniel. The hunger was building, encircling, cornering at Rei. And when Rei presents more things Daniel doesn't really want to hear, he suddenly fills with a passion, a power.

"I'm not -this-."

Daniel starts his stride at Rei, fangs bared, eyes blazing. The Hungry Darkness... suddenly becomes smothered, suppressed, as Daniel's resolve overflows. "I'm not some plague or pest. I'm Daniel Little, scuzzy. I'm a nice guy from Kansas, who got his ass kicked in Metro City again and again, and found out that there are ways to help. WHo was taught and trained in Todoh-Ryuu. I became a detective to -stop- injustice and help people. That's me. Not some funny shadow man in a goofy suit! I get it, I really get it scuzzy. All enlightenment is to me, I guess, is knowing that I am the one in control of all that. And not the -hunger-." Daniel reaches out instinctively to his side. There's a young lady there. She, she wasn't there before. But there was a yawning darkness across the cafe now, a new sound, a new music.

That's a ghost.

The essence emerges from the shadows, a figure, a spiritual entity half digested, half endured. It's a young lady with black, stringy hair spread over her eyes. She's pale, so pale. And her long robes are.... pale. There is no color, just black and greys. And she's smiling. BUt she's not forced here, she's not... forced. The shape and shadows of Zooters are behind her. Not the ones here, no. It's not even -clear- that the real living Zooters could see anything BUt the shape and imprints of how many he's -fed- on willingly. All willingly. Staring into the darkness was like staring into a hall of mirrors, a little gap in between the shadows into an abyss so deep and dark that it felt like pulling your mind in. A glimmer of Makai? A glimmer of Daniel's... personal space? There was something being brought from it. Something the shapes and forms from within the abyss was dragging out.

It's a baseball bat.

Daniel tilts his hat politely to the young lady as she brings the bat into his hands. It's not real, not entirely real. But it's real enough. The opening shuts, as Daniel gives some practice swings. Every swing seems to be a blur, an inconsistent existence. "This is what I needed, Rei. NOt the baseball bat, -this-. This is why you're the sage and I'm not. I'm -not- THe Butcher. I'm not some Makai stooge. I'm Daniel Jack, Ace Detective. OKay, get those kneecaps ready scuzzy."

I'm coming in."

DAniel does a full straight swing with the blazing shadowbat, before pivoting into a backswing with a step. That's how he was gonna settle this aura business. He would continue straight into an elbow check to knock Rei off balanced, before trying to seize him. Should he succeed? He would proceed to pivot toss him into the air with a spin, and then finish up with a homerun swing that would absolutely -obliterate- the shadow bat in an explosion of shadow energy, the tendrils daring to rush over Rei. But not the hungry shadow, no. Not the feeding shadow. Something that was lurking even deeper, of even more terrible implications. A joining shadow. A unity shadow.

A shadow looking for one more pallbearer for company.

COMBATSYS: Frei blocks Daniel's Ragtime Riot.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Frei             1/---====/=======|=======\=------\1           Daniel

From a purely martial standpoint, one has to admire Daniel Jack's technique. Each attack he throws out has multiple parts, as if they're little puzzle boxes the opponent is being asked to figure out in a very compressed space of time, and the punishment for guessing wrong is pain and lost momentum. From a more... artistic?... point of view, Rei observes that the fighting style and the man have much in common: a lot of moving parts that are, frankly, a lot to deal with.

The appearance of a ghostly... something from within the shadow does not surprise the red-haired xian, but the implications involved -- that these are Daniel's WILLING victims, Lestat jokes aside -- says a lot that he hears and wonders if Daniel does NOT hear. A willing victim means someone who saw what was in front of them and didn't turn away. A willing victim is acceptance in human form. But... easy to not see that if you're in a dark place.

The initial bat swing, the elbow, the toss -- they're too swift for Rei to get in front of. The shadowy aftereffect, however... the beckoning into the proverbial, or maybe literal, dark... he is more able to deal with. The shimmering aura with which he repudiated the shadow before never really went away, and as Rei rights himself in midair, the light surges a second time to protect him, pushing the darkness away enough so the xian can get to his feet, bringing his hands up.

Daniel had argued, strenuously, that he's a good guy, a nice guy, who just got caught in circumstances. He's not his hunger or his mistakes.

"I believe you," Rei says simply, and it's the truth. He does believe that Daniel isn't defined SOLELY by his hunger. But his mistakes, well...

The aura of light around the redhead suddenly streaks crimson, the energy shifting states, attenuating into a swirling aura of scarlet flame. The sage's green eyes shine behind the flickering pulses of fire. "But the hunger's not going away. The mistakes it compels aren't going away either. Even if they don't define you, they're real and they happen. And if you want my opinion... wishing that wasn't the case isn't going to get you any closer to whatever enlightment means for you."

The fire surges, and Rei braces himself against the ground, a foot sliding back slightly. "Get ready."

And then he streaks across the distance to Daniel, body an arrow of fire as he cannons past, before spinning, the flame red becoming liquid blue as water erupts from the ground, looking to carry Daniel skyward. Blue, to green; wind blades that soar into the air after him, which shimmer yellow-gold, spectral stones seeking to carry the detective back to earth.

COMBATSYS: Daniel blocks Frei's All Creation ES+.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Frei             0/-------/-----==|=======\====---\1           Daniel

As the final swing comes, Daniel is disarmed once more.

He listens, and he recognize the truth of the mistakes. Daniel.... Daniel's angst was his own, and he needed to accept his mistakes. And accept his future mistakes. The hunger would not go away. And he would have to be the master of it. As REi builds the font of power around him, Daniel builds up his own shadowy buffer. "Thank you, Rei." Daniel says with honesty, as the light and the dark begin to swirl. The ebony and ivory. The Earth, Wind, and Fire. And Water. Rei launches at him.

And Daniel uses the darkness as his shield.

There isn't a wall, or a goofy reference. It's the souls backing up the shadow man, as he takes all his will and resolve to pour his energy straight back into the streak of elemental power. There isn't much more than that, in detail. Every blow Rei does, the detective follows along with the intent. The rush of water launching him up, the wind blades, and the stones that send him down. But every step Daniel becomes more and more indistinct, more and more shapeless as he pours his raw essence right back against the elemental barrage. That despite the assault, he was in control of himself. Defending against it, even as it consumes away at him. ANd when he is finally sent hurtling down? He is neatly splattered into a pile of darkness. For a moment, it stays there, as the Zooters watch apprehensively.


Daniel roars out as he surges through the depths of the darkness, his blazing fist breaching it's surface like a shark fin. Cruising straight back, he was practically swimming up through the air, the shadows stretching out to Rei. Tendrils were spreading, as the half-formed shape and yellow eyes close in.


The shadows spread past Rei, stretching to the wall across the street. The color leeches, as Daniel swings with all his might.


Daniel would attempt to bring the palm strike hard into Rei's torso, hooking him in. Should he succeed, he would carry them both into the opposite wall of the street. He wasn't going to smash him through. No, what would happen would be more strange: they would splatter. Absolutely splatter into the wall, the detective's shadow energy bending the boundaries of the world as both himself and Rei would sink into the shadow stuff. A moment to know what it was to be whole in the shadow man's world. Before both being unceremoniously being dumped out... from the ground of the street, the darkness clinging like a cloak.

On both Daniel and Rei, if the xian was caught and carried.

COMBATSYS: Frei blocks Daniel's Fantastic Todoh Punch.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////                 ]
Frei             0/-------/---====|=------\-------\0           Daniel


Any fighter of a certain level of experience can just feel it when a blow doesn't land cleanly, even without seeing it; as Daniel uses the shadows to his defense with great skill, Rei is getting to his feet and preparing for the counterassault. The two fighters' auras are like duelling photonegatives at this point; shadows cling to Daniel and answer his beck and call, while the elemental energy of Rei's own technique clings to him like a halo, the formerly pale white light of the energy he'd gathered now streaking erratically with a multitude of colors.

And then Daniel erupts out of the ground like some sort of vengeful horror movie beast.

The xian has enough time to partially deflect the initial blow, to steady himself slightly for the toss that comes, but there is no avoiding the end of the attack: to the potential interest of the Ladykillers, and the combined confusion/anxiety of the watching audience, both Daniel and Rei disappear into whatever murky shadow universe that shroud leads to, before being ejected back into real space like so much detritus.

Coughing, the redhead gets to his feet, and the impact of Daniel's technique is very visibly real: the multicolored aura of energy now crackles, intermittently, with inky black. Visually, it's quite dramatic, as the two forces appear to battle back and forth for supremacy, neither quite winning just yet. And as for the red-haired sage himself?

Body hunched forward ever so slightly, breathing heavy, Rei sure does look done in... though in his case, it is as much mental as physical. Whatever happened in that shadow realm felt uncomfortably close to Jedah Dohma trapping him in a sphere of blood, an experience Rei has 0 interest in repeating.

But both fighters are still going, and so the fight itself continues apace.

"You know," Rei says hoarsely, "I don't really fight to win, but for the experience, more or less. But weirdly, right now? I... kinda want to win." A pause, and a genuine question, head tilting. "Is that weird?"

Will Daniel have time to answer, however? Rei kicks off the ground, leaping at the shadowy detective with a pinwheeling series of hand and palm strikes to his torso, the spiral motions of his hands trailing crimson flame... but all the while, the lingering effects of both fighters' techniques continue to play out on Rei's aura.

COMBATSYS: Frei successfully hits Daniel with Scatter the Red Lotus.
- Power hit! -

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Frei             0/-------/-----==|=====--\-------\0           Daniel

Daniel pulls out of the shadows.

The taint of his dark power was still hanging over Rei, and over himself for that matter. It wasn't as strong as it could be, but it was plenty strong. The shadow man was struggling now. Between his defense against Rei's strongest attack, and his own counter attack, it was becoming very clear that his endurance was not endless. As he steadies himself out, Rei asks a question. And no he doesn't have time to answer. As Rei kicks off, the pinwheel actually catches him -off- guard. Staggering with every spiraling strikes, the auras intermingle, as the crimson flame -pierces- through, knocking Daniel back into his own black mush. The flame spreads, consuming and purifying. Daniel was in agony as he writhes. But finally, he musters a response to the question. "Don't ask me, Rei" Daniel groans out, dredging up the sludge of his shadow stuff with his good arm.

"You're the sage, you tell me!"

Daniel forces himself up, and the tide shifts. Fatigue was consuming him. He lurches, half-formed, half intact. He could pace himself sure. He could reset things. But Rei's words filled him with resolution. He needed to up the ante, for the sake of the light and the dark. He fires back, responding the sweeping assault with his own bread and butter. A palm strike with the left, a hand chop with the right, both ablaze with shadow energy. He then pivots into an overhead kasane ate chopping down, followed by a low kick sweeping with it. And the assault ends with the dreaded FIFTH attack in the rekka chain.

A rising palm strike aimed right for Rei's throat.

COMBATSYS: Daniel successfully hits Frei with Zoot Suit Riot.

[                         \\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Frei             0/-------/--=====|======-\-------\0           Daniel

Rekka? More like 'wreck-a', am I right? [laugh track]

While Daniel shows fewer signs of it, it's quite obvious that Rei's fatigue is showing, and thensome. The heavy breathing and somewhat sagging posture are the big obvious signs. Still, when the detective comes roaring in with yet another multi-hit combination, there is -- for just a second -- a flicker in Rei's eye that there's more in the tank than might be thought at first.

Unfortunately, no amount of energy can help you if your opponent is just good at what they do, and Daniel is indeed good at it (ironically, probably moreso than his former master, but don't say that around Kasumi). Blow after blow slams into the xian, sending him back step after step until the final hit makes him slam against a table, the redhead throwing out a hand to steady himself at JUST the last second, bangs falling in his eyes briefly as he turns back to Daniel.

"Would I be asking if I knew the answer?" He can't help it; there is something very -- and perhaps Daniel would cringe to hear it -- Tran-like about this conversation, and as much as the little steam-powered anger engine had been a pain in Rei's (or, more accurately, Frei's) ass, there was still... well.

He cared.

When he creakingly gets back into stance, it's obvious Rei is on the brink. But he is still standing, and refuses to go down until he's seen this through. "Ironic, I guess," he mutters, cupping his hands near his chest, a swirl of emerald-green wind forming there, "that it took something not related to fighting at all, for me to care about fighting."

Stumbling forward a little bit, Rei nevertheless gives his all as he ducks forward, looking to get in range and detonate that little wind bomb at point-blank range, blasting Daniel away to give him some space. "I guess it IS weird."

COMBATSYS: Daniel just-defends Frei's Elemental Mastery EX!!

[                         \\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Frei             0/-------/----===|======-\-------\0           Daniel

"Jeeze, Socrates, you want me to write a book on it?"

Daniel snaps back with a tang in his tone. Not mean, but well aware of what the exchange is gonna be like. As Rei admits what he knew, though, Daniel slips, his shadowy form nearly collapsing into what little darkness was still around. He doesn't press on Rei. He waits, palms out, gauging whether to push the offense, or let Rei yield if the case comes up.

Rei doesn't yield.

As he gets back into stance, Daniel tightens up his own stance. He was ready now, focused, and the shadowy energy that was clinging through Rei was... the connection he needed. The wind bomb is caught by Daniel's palms, topping it dead. And... the shadows wave over it. The energy warps and corrupts, the green fading into the black and greys. Digging his fingers in, he pulls it back, the shadowy wind energy swirling all around him. The fatigue that had been creeping up was now gone. "Well I mean fighting is fun too."

"You can't deny you enjoy it at least once in a while."

Daniel doesn't consume the energy entirely. Instead, he shifts the borrowed energy around, and pours back the corrupted energy with a blazing palm strike with the left. Should it connect, he would immediately seize up Rei by his upper arm and hip, and with a pivot, hurl him down the cafe street, letting his own shadowy chi carry along with him. "Something about hungers,"

"Maybe enlightenment is just a different appetite for your hunger?"

COMBATSYS: Daniel successfully hits Frei with Harlem Shuffle.

[                            \\  < >  /////////                     ]
Frei             0/-------/-======|=======\-------\1           Daniel

Whatever he poured into that last strike at Daniel was very definitely more or less all Rei had left; when the shadowy detective comes in with another attack, the xian simply has very little less to fight it off with, and it shows; Rei gets his hands in front of the palm strike, but they just don't DO anything; numbed and sore from fending off numerous multi-part assaults on Daniel's part already, merely positioning accomplishes nothing if you can't exert some counterforce, which the redhead simply cannot, sending him to the street.

It seems as if this might be completely decided... but, well. Daniel said something worth responding to, and unfortunately, Rei doesn't know when to shut up. Plus... well. Something else. Something he very legitimately -- and Daniel was right on this front -- didn't necessarily let himself think about often over these long years:

Sometimes, fighting just to see what you can do with it IS fun.

"That was... always my problem with Buddhism, you know?" he says to Daniel, standing but slumped forward a bit, grabbing his left elbow with his right hand, one eye squinted shut. "That desire was the root of suffering. Desire CAN lead to suffering, but ANYTHING can lead to suffering. I don't think emptying myself of wanting things was what got me here. So yeah, I guess it IS a kind of hunger. But..."

The xian's mouth twists into a grin as he stares Daniel down with the one open eye, and as he does, it truly feels like there is a surge of SOMETHING. Call it "will" or "determination;" not enough to keep the fight going past this moment right here, but enough to act because Rei doesn't want this to end without him having done everything it is possible for him to do.

"If you're telling me to be honest about my hunger, shouldn't you do the same for yourself?"

Epigram delivered, Rei suddenly... well. "Surges" isn't the best word for how fatigue-slowed he is; "lurches" might be better. Either way, the xian attempts to grab Daniel by his suited torso and, with the fluid motions of Wing Chun, send him to the ground... accelerated by a burst of green wind chi he sets off as Daniel begins to fall. But at this point, this is the dying embers of a fire, and Daniel has showed himself quite adept on the defensive thus far.

Regardless, afterwards, the redhead breathes out heavily, then slumps over to one of the remaining cafe chairs that's still standing and all but falls into it. "That's all from me, I guess."

COMBATSYS: Frei can no longer fight.

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

COMBATSYS: Daniel dodges Frei's Autumn Leaves.

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

Will and determination, or perhaps guts.

Daniel himself had a similar ironclad resolve, the blazing spirit that kept him going. Sure, he was impulsive in that regard, but that was as much a side effect of the resolve: having the impression you can strong-will through any challenge just made you have a big appetite for risk. The palm strike overcomes Rei's defense, and the pivot throw comes. The same core principles of fighting, repeated and executed in cycles. But it wasn't truly the end. Rei had a parting shot, and Daniel wasn't reset in position.

The blast of wind comes, and Daniel is already swaying.

Without his feet giving him the positioning he needs, the shadowman begins to focus hard. Shifting side to side, the detective pushes against the chi with his palms. He doesn't push it away, per say. He pushes himself away from it, repositioning with the shifts. He stumbles on the pivot, as much as his body wasn't entirely intact as much as the lack of positioning. It's a crude dodge, but Daniel manages to evade free of the wind, far on the other side of the street from the cafe. Holding fast, he waits, slowly returning back to his position.

But Rei calls it, and then, the judges.

It's over. The ramble of the fight comes, but Daniel doesn't really listen to it. He doesn't even listen to the snapping from the Zooters. Except maybe the Green Zooter, who had a certain look on his face that made it seem he really, really wanted to talk to Rei about his opinions about Anne Rice's post-born again Christian career and writing. No, Daniel wasn't going to let Rei get stuck with that. Striding with slow, plodding steps towards Rei, he grabs a chair, and puts his own seat down. Laying out, he slowly, ever slowly begins the long process of dredging himself back to shape. Hanging over the chair, there is a moment of silence. There was a lot to think about. Honesty about hunger and desire. Daniel's own struggles, compared to Rei's. There was a lot to digest in the exhausting post-fight refractory period. And then, he raises his voice, an air of legitimate concern.

"So wait, you aren't a Buddhist?"

Green eyes track Daniel as he comes to sit down and pull himself together (literally, on one level). It's probably for the best that he never knows about the fate he was saved from, as well, since his knowledge of Anne Rice begins and ends with 'she wrote Interview with a Vampire'.

The question that gets posed to him, however, comes as a bit of a surprise, and despite his fatigue -- there's a definite 'awake, but looking to remedy that shortly' heaviness to his eyelids and thickness to his speech -- the xian feels like it deserves an answer, all things considered.

"I'm... hmm. I'd say I'm a little bit of everything, and a lot of nothing?" What a typically obtuse answer, and with a little shake of the head, Rei realizes he's falling into exactly the trap he told Nakoruru he'd like to avoid. No remote mountain valleys for him, damnit.

He puts up a hand to forestall Daniel demanding an explanation. "What I mean is... I spent a lot of time with Buddhists. I spent a lot of time reading Taoist scripture. And that's just southeast Asian stuff; I've picked up ideas here and there from Western religion too." He shrugs, stretching a bit; that fight really did leave him VERY sore in a way that's gonna persist for days. "The point is that I took what I thought was useful and resonant from all of that, and that's what I kept. The things that didn't feel right to me, I left behind; not because they were wrong in some way, but because they didn't feel right *for me*. You know?"

"Jack of all trades, master of, well, I guess the four elements." Daniel breathes as a response. "Okay, that makes sense, it's like a new age religion thing but without the crystals. That's clever. And you discard and draw useful spiritual lessons, and you transcended from those foundational lessons. Very clever... So you got different fighting techniques pulled from them too then, I bet." Daniel kind of lounges there as the medical staff seem... uncertain whether to -help- the duo, or to let them talk. "Which one were the Buddhist inspired moves? The Taoist inspired ones? Maybe a little bit of Ayame's Shinto stuff. Wind, Water, Earth..." The is a pause, and then, a mild tone of revulsion. With great ache, Daniel leans over from his chair, looking directly back at Rei with his yellow eyes.

"Was one of them Southern Baptist inspired, Rei?"

There's a long moment where Rei just... LOOKS at Daniel, before putting his hand over his face and leaning on the table, muttering: "Cue fade to black, credits."

Log created on 10:46:14 09/05/2023 by Daniel, and last modified on 12:51:25 09/12/2023.