World Warrior 2023 - R1: Es vs Sub-Zero

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Description: The frozen killer of the Lin Kuei meets a strange young woman with a massive sword. Both mysterious in their own way. Both fighting towards victory. Only one of them is craving pudding, though.

Why, in fact, is Es up here in the mountains at this unadvertised dojo?

The search for her memories, of course.

She's never been here that she can remember, but then again, she can't remember a lot. Thus, she wanders the world, clashing with other fighters in the hopes of having something, anything, help her remember. If she can have some pudding on the way? That's fine too. It's why she signed up for the tournament in the first place. To face others in battle in the hopes her memories would awaken.

It hasn't happened yet.

Regardless, the young woman prowls the grounds, currently delicately moving through the rock garden. She stops to look at the stream, listening to the tranquil babble.

And why has Sub-Zero, champion of the Lin Kuei sought the silence of an empty dojo?

Because it isn't empty at all, of course-- or so the intel has told him.

As part of its traditional arts, the Lin Kuei's lead warriors learn to harness the many and varied powers of the natural world-- and in a world where information travels many times faster than the swiftest courier, and men build weapons capable of breaking ancient seals which once held otherworldly fiends back from Earthrealm, mastering nature simply isn't enough anymore. In order to retain its edge in a world where more and more people capable of wielding - or being wielded by - vast powers of Heaven, Hell, and Earth, the Lin Kuei has set its sights on outinnovating, outcreating, and ultimately outpacing nature. The cybernetic assassins Sektor and Cyrax represent its earliest successes towards that end, but they're ultimately a shallow step into the vast ocean of Creation; a taste of the wonders to come, given enough time.

Or, failing that -- sheer ingenuity and ruthless dedication.

The vast array of fighters present in the World Warrior tournament presented an opportunity to study the powers scattered throughout the globe-- and study the Lin Kuei did, building dossiers on every competitor announced for the event. Some, of course, were thicker than others: Ken Masters is an exponentially easier resource subject than enigmas like Ryu Hayabusa, Nagi Kirishima, or Seishirou Ryouhara, naturally-- but /their/ files were downright voluminous next to that of the woman known only as 'Es'.

Beyond scattered instances of participation in professional fighting leagues, what the Lin Kuei have are a collection of whispers and rumours painstakingly culled and vetted from a wealth of embedded sources-- enough to prepare for a bout, but not enough to determine what she's truly capable of.

Whether stories of inexplicable power and a mechanical demeanor are just that-- or something more; something with merit.

Something that the Lin Kuei can build its future on.

A breath of cold wind begins blowing downstream.

Leaves gently rustle in the distant woods.

Gradually, a delicate, arctic filigree creeping across the water draws into view, dragging on that frigid air's heels.

Rimefrost spreads across the stone bridge, bearding it with crystal-clear spikes.

A leaping fish is trapped above the stream, half of its body protruding from a freezing arc of water.

"Did you come here in search of peace...?" billows through the air, swirling around Es-- around and along the stream and the dojo as if the wind itself is speaking to her.

As if the very air around Es has grown so hostile -- so bitterly, coldly wrathful with the artificial woman's presence -- that it's formulating spiked hail to rain down upon her like frozen flechettes.

"Then marvel upon your fortune, for I offer you the cold peace of oblivion--!"

Through spiked hail bursts a figure clad in blue-- lots of blue. /All/ blue, wielding a curved sword with a spiked back--

All translucent, crackling blue, springing towards Es only to draw to a perfect stop mere inches from contact, poised to deliver a strike that will never come.

At least-- not from /that/ angle.

/Another/ sword - identical to the first - lashes towards the mysterious woman's back, aiming to run her through. Its wielder - a figure in blue armor and a blue mask with cold, blue eyes - has every intention of trying to end Es before their scheduled World Warrior match can even begin--!

It is odd, even at this altitude, for the stream to freeze at this time of year. The cold, the intensity of it, is shocking. Especially how fast it rolls in. Es, for her part, just tilts her head in curiosity. The voice confirms that this has a directed source. Interesting. "I came here," she says in reply, "To find answers." Her voice is flat. Lacking emotion. Almost robotic, but not quite. Detached.

Things move quickly. One blue blade comes as a feint, and she skips back half a step, only to be ambushed by another assassin strike. This one she does not dodge.

Instead, her massive sword, Signati Gladio Crystalis: Murakumo, appears, the flat of the blade intercepting the point of the thrust. She rests the tip of it on the ground, nearly having to reach above her head to maintain grip on the hilt.

"Oblivion is ... not where my memories lie. I reject your offer."

COMBATSYS: Sub-Zero has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Sub-Zero         0/-------/------=|

COMBATSYS: Es has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Sub-Zero         0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0               Es

Gazing past the cross of their blades, Sub-Zero regards the artificial woman as one might a side of beef hanging from a hook.

"It was not an offer, girl: I speak the prophecy of the grave."

Leaping and pushing backwards from the clash, Sub-Zero lets his sword melt into nothingness by the time he lands, several feet from Es. "That I am here at /all/ means that your life is forfeit," he sneers, lifting one fist near his head and setting the other low as he steps into a ready position.

"But I am not without mercy: tell me, Es--"

The clone hanging behind her melts as well, collapsing into a puddle at her feet and flowing towards the frozen pathway stretching forth from the blue-clad ninja with a sharp *krrk!*; meanwhile, Sub-Zero hops, then crouches low, sliding along the icy course fixed between he and Es. What's left of the clone draws near enough for sharp, *krrk!*ing contact just as the path bends to steer the ninja around Es' flank.

"Who are you?" he punctuates with a double palm thrust towards the artificial woman's spine, upon popping out of his slide.

"Even in death, the memory of you will linger... ... should you prove a worthy opponent, of course."

COMBATSYS: Es just-defends Sub-Zero's Cold Feet!

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Sub-Zero         0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0               Es

The best part about being an artificial mystical construct is you get magic. Sure, there are lots of downsides like no memories, no emotions and a hefty craving for pudding. In this instance, it's quite useful. Mostly because it lets her move that ridiculously big weapon like it weighs nothing. The ice clone melts behind her, flowing into a slick path. The Lin Kuei slides upon it, coming for her and she just plants her weapon in the ice with force. The slide kick impacts upon the Murakumo, but Es, who is not a large girl, does not move. She blinks owlishly at Sub Zero before she wrenches her blade free and hops backwards.

In midair, she swings her weapon effortlessly. It leaves behind it a glowing white arc with jagged, almost clock-like protrusions. At the bottom of the swing, the arc collapses back into the blade and it launches a glowing blade of magic towards the Forest Ghost.

"Who am I? I ...I am not sure. I am Es, that is all I truly know."

COMBATSYS: Sub-Zero blocks Es' Type - Shooter "Breunor".

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Sub-Zero         0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0               Es

Twisting fingers and crossed arms summon a short-lived sheath of ice around Sub-Zero's forearms. Radiant magic penetrates solid ice and drives the arctic ninja back a few steps while the protective coating melts away.

"And before this moment?" he replies, sliding back into his stance. "And before the one which preceded /that/ moment...? Is Es a thing forever cursed to be born anew with each passing minute?"

Despite the mask, the smirk and all its cruelty are plainly perceptible.

"And THIS is the torturous existence you wish to prolong? Pff--"

Dashing across the space between them, Sub-Zero feints low and telegraphs another low, sweeping kick only to roll through the crouch. Hitting the brakes just a couple feet past Es, he swiftly unfurls and pushes off for another charge, this time fully intent on lunging towards Es and driving his knee into her body.

"You may as well submit, if a mayfly existence of flitting blindly from moment to moment is all you can aspire to--!"

COMBATSYS: Sub-Zero successfully hits Es with Front Kick.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Sub-Zero         0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0               Es

Es doesn't know many ninjas. Honestly, she doesn't know any. She wasn't aware they were this talkative when fighting! This is an interesting fact. If she lives, she might get to share it with someone. The thought, and the insults to her worth are distracting enough that she falls for the feint kick, only to be brutally punished with the followthrough knee.

As light as she is, she goes sailing, hitting the cold, stony ground in a heap and wheezing to try and catch her breath. "I--urk--I learn more about this world, about life, every day I wander." She forces herself upright, gritting her teeth. "I still don't know -me- yet, but I'll keep trying!"

Power boils out of her in licks and motes of blue energy. It courses across her shoulders and down into her hands, passing into her readied weapon. The energy lights up the edge of the blade, casting strange and harsh shadows with its glow.

COMBATSYS: Es gathers her will.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Sub-Zero         0/-------/-----==|=======\=------\1               Es

"Es the Wanderer."

Drawing up to his full height, Sub-Zero draws his arms in close.

"Es, of the Void."

Palms parallel to one another, his arms continue moving, circling-- feeling out the edges of an invisible sphere in the air before him.

"Es, Who Tried To Exist."

No matter how it might /seem/, the Lin Kuei's attention is firmly on the artificial woman-- on the power blooming around her, filling the air with roiling azure. Cold blue eyes narrow, tracing coursing flows of energy to the massive blade she totes with improbable ease to the woman herself, slight but resilient-- small but /strong/, capable enough to have been chosen for a tournament of elites despite not even knowing herself.

"What do you love, Es, Empty Bearer?" he wonders, ice crystals sprouting from the ambient moisture between his hands, spinning, throbbing outwards, and melting away in intermittent waves.

"What do you fear...?" accompanies ice crystals sprouting from his fingertips like talons only to melt away.

"Devoid of meaning, what do you have to protect?"

COMBATSYS: Sub-Zero focuses on his next action.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Sub-Zero         0/-------/-----==|=======\=------\1               Es

Why is he asking so many questions? She doesn't understand. Love? She knows what that is on a textbook level, but she's never felt it. She thinks that realizing that should hurt, but she feels nothing. Fear? She knows self-preservation out of prudence. Fear does not exist. What does she have to protect?

"The answers to those questions are the same. Nothing. And everything. If I am devoid of love, then I must learn what it is. If I cannot fear, I must discover it. If I have nothing to protect, then I must find something."

Even her words, that if spoken by a normal person would come out heated and full of determination, are almost monotone. Her actions aren't. Empowered as she is, she hurls herself at Sub-Zero, her massive sword trailing. She swings it first in a horizontal arc, the tip of the blade leaving behind a semicircle of magical power that sprouts spikes. Her second swing is overhead, leaving the same trail.

Where the arcs cross, blue mystical energy erupts in a massive, burning spike of raw magic.

COMBATSYS: Es successfully hits Sub-Zero with Crest Arts.

[       \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Sub-Zero         0/-------/--=====|=======\==-----\1               Es

Since his earliest years, Sub-Zero was trained to make himself into an implement of death. To further the Lin Kuei's grand tradition of spinning sin into prosperity, he sacrificed all that he might have otherwise been in the name of hardening himself; emptied himself of all mercy and kindness, lest they thaw the killing kold sprawling through his heart.

So why, then, does he roil with questions for those whose heads he comes to take?

For the same reason one rarely takes pleasure in squashing an ant unless it's inconvenienced them: it doesn't /mean/ anything. A worker on its way to the hive, trampled underfoot by another worker on his way to a cubicle is little more than an indeterminate stain on the bottom of his shoe; one crushed before it can ruin a picnic is a relief.

It's a story -- /part/ of one, anyway.

So it goes as one moves up the chain of complexity: slipping into a stranger's home, slitting their throat, then leaving like a bladed shadow is an efficient way to earn money, but what does it really mean to a man born to be a weapon?

What does it mean, next to murdering a nexus of hopes, dreams, fears, and loves bound up in a name and a passionate defense of self?

His head cants, slightly, at her monotone declaration-- a first for someone in her position. What would, from any other lips be a burning statement of intent falls barely north of a TTS script reading; the words are all the same, but where's the heart?

Where is the passion?

Where is SHE?


A semicircle burst of magical power interrupts the Lin Kuei's contemplation. What /had/ been an expected angle of attack - sword swings, ready to be parried by a frozen blade of his own - abruptly becomes something else /entirely/, leaving him scrambling to dive clear. Instead of safety, however, his evasive efforts just rob him of any semblance of stability when the mystical spike batters into his gut, hurling him backwards with a trail of rapidly freezing blood droplets raining in his wake until he finally crashes through a gazebo pillar, bringing half its roof crumbling upon him.

It takes him a moment to push the debris from a body-- and several more, still, to haul himself back to his feet, his stance wide and uncertain until he manages to steady himself against a heap of ruined wood.

"Perhaps... Es, Champion of Nothing... WILL be remembered for something after /all/--" he spits out between deep, measured breaths.

Thrusting both palms forward, he hurls a throbbing mass of spiky, tightly packed ice meant to explode into a frozen coffin around her.

COMBATSYS: Es fails to interrupt Arctic Assault from Sub-Zero with Type - Slasher "Griflet".

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Sub-Zero         0/-------/-======|=======\====---\1               Es

Many beings in this world lack emotions for some reason or another. Some lose them through trauma, others by a willful subsuming of them for whatever 'Greater Good' they can see. Then there are the artificial beings who are crafted by human hands who are sent out to learn and develop these things. Es is none of these. Her origins are a mystery, but she may as well be a created being, but she has no mandate. No mission save the one she set for herself, which is to find out who, and what, she is.

None of this truly matters at this monent in time.

Sub-Zero reels from her mystic assault, and she hefts that massive weapon to the ready. When he moves, hurling spikes of ice her direction, she -explodes- into motion. The air itself seems to ripple as she launches herself towards the blast, intending to power through it and strike him. She did not expect the chill. The rawness of it.

The further she moves through the ice wave, the slower she gets, ice crystals growing at an unearthly pace as she gets closer and closer. She draws the Murakumo back, twisting to drive it forward.

It stops inches from the Lin Kuei. Es, and her weapon, are frozen and still.

After the ice connects, Sub-Zero sees fit to face the incoming Es with hands folding behind his back and a straightening posture, looking dead in the charging woman's eye.

He doesn't flinch.

He hardly /breathes/.

He simply waits--

-- for the inevitable--

-- until he and Es are looking at each other with inches between them.

/Then/ he releases a long breath and steps forward, arms extending; palms grasping for the woman's upper arms.

Gently, as if anything more might shatter her.

Gently, because nothing more's necessary for the frozen chi coursing through his body to flow towards hers, threatening to seep into the ice and harden it further.

"... hm," he softly huffs, brow furrowing slightly as he studies her up close. Without another sound, he drops one arm and shifts the other a couple inches inwards, throwing an explosive palm strike at the center of her body.

COMBATSYS: Sub-Zero dazes Es with Black Ice!

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Sub-Zero         1/-------/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2               Es

Frozen as she is, Es's mind still works. She can still see. Still hear. The fact that Sub-Zero is silent is not lost on her. She can feel jer limbs tightening, her muscles seizing under the lack of heat. She can almost feel her very molecules slowing. Is this how she ends? Frozen like a statue in a garden? There are worse ways to go.

These thoughts end with the brutal palm strike. Es is hurled from her feet, the ice around her shattering into a million million twinkling shards. Time slows for her as she flies, her gaze locked on the sparkling ice.


Time speeds again as she lands hard, tumbling and rolling in a swath of skirt and gravel, her sword clanking as she rolls with it. She is not in a fantastic spot physically. She hurts, every movement just hurts more. She still gets up, leveraging herself from the ground to a standing position, even if she does stagger with it. She breathes heavily, regarding Sub-Zero flatly when she speaks.

"Type: Exterminator Artorius."

Her sword seems to split down the middle, separating until both halves vanish, leaving her with a much smaller, and much less sword-like weapon. But it feels, to the mystical senses, Real. The most Real thing that Sub-Zero has likely set eyes on. Reality itself seems to become -less- in its presence. She launches herself at the Lin Kuei, sweeping the blade upwards as if to juggle.

COMBATSYS: Sub-Zero blocks Es' #Type - Exterminator "Artorius"#.

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Sub-Zero         1/-----==/=======|-------\-------\0               Es

The juggle starts, and Es is focused on finishing it. She pinballs off of angled platforms of raw magic taking them up and up. She barely seems to notice that this isn't hitting as hard as it should. It doesn't matter.

At the pinnacle, she strikes downward to throw the Lin Kuei back at the earth. She rockets down after him for a final strike, the air, reality itself, seeming to shatter like glass.

Blocking the initial blow doesn't matter; it still hurls him upwards.

Parrying those that follow with blades that shatter after each contact doesn't matter; they're still rising. Still ascending high above the dojo.

His skin's still bursting open in long, sweeping lines wherever the impact shocks of pure reality meeting its lesser lash across his body.

And even though he meets the final blow with crossed, frozen forearms, it /still/ fires him back to Earth /nearly/ as fast as anything has ever gone. For a moment, Es gives him a taste of the reality /beyond/ reality; for a brief, blinding instant, Sub-Zero's concept of Is and Is Not melts in the face of something undeniable, something unquestionable giving him his first taste of Real, True physical law.

The landing is a hard one: not only does it come with a thunderous rumble, it literally rubs the Lin Kuei's face in the grim fact that all he's ever known -- all that he /is/ -- is dust, in the face of what's Real. His limbs tremble as he forces himself up onto all fours and stares at the ground for a lingering, dazzled beat.

Shivering, he lets out a breath which spreads frost through the dirt, then scrambles back to his feet. Devoid of the efficient, lethal agility of moments ago, the ninja /charges/ at the swordswoman, eyes narrowed and radiating rage as he tries to batter her with a series of wild jabs.

COMBATSYS: Es blocks Sub-Zero's Rapid Jabs.

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Sub-Zero         1/-----==/=======|-------\-------\0               Es

Es rises from her landing, swinging the unleashed Murakumo up. That decisive Realness seems to throb in the air until the containment unit rematerializes around the blade, locking back in place with a hefty click.

"Murakumo: Sealed."

She brings it back up to the ready as Sub-Zero rises. This reaction is not what she expected. She has seen many, mostly in the form of disbelief and terror, but rage is new. Rage is different. She wants to ask questions, but this is a hostile and driven man.

She swings the sealed Murakumo around, taking the brunt of his fury upon the flat of it. Her head tilts as she slides back along the gravel, feeling the impacts in her arms, worsening her fatigue. She's not sure how he's feeling, but she isn't feeling great.

She shoves with the flat of her blade, stepping to the right as she grips the hilt in both hands. Like a giant cricket bat, she swings the flat towards the Forest Demon. Should she make good contact, the blow should throw him. The technical term is 'Hella Far'.

COMBATSYS: Es successfully hits Sub-Zero with Crest Saber.

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Sub-Zero         1/---====/=======|=------\-------\0               Es

That sword--

Whatever is IN that sword--

It MUST belong to the Lin Kuei.

Sub-Zero's so fixated on this inner declaration that he barely registers the shove that throws him off-balance-- and by the time he steadies himself, the follow-up strike catches him mid-crouch, launching him into the forest. Animals scatter; birds fly; Sub-Zero hurtles through trees until his spine slams against an ancient trunk.

He does not emerge.

Not /yet/, at least--

Not until he's taken a moment to collect himself-- to touch the earth and breathe deeply, swallowing lingering thoughts of Reality in favor of refocusing himself on the mission at hand-- and the one that's just joined it.

COMBATSYS: Sub-Zero gains composure.

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Sub-Zero         1/----===/=======|=------\-------\0               Es

Es is not a psychic. She cannot read minds, but she knows what Sub-Zero wants. It's the same thing that any power hungry person wants when they see Murakumo for what it is; The sword itself. Too bad he can't have it. For lots of reasons. Mostly that such weapons might just erase one from existence if they don't like you.

Tempermental things, aren't they?

She sees the trees in which he has settled to recover. This is not a problem. Raw magic boils through her body again, blazing into the Murakumo. She races towards the trees, her footsteps light and nimble despite all of the damage she has taken.

"Mordred .... Fall..."

She swings the massive blade in a wide, lateral arc, carving through the trees like they aren't even there, raw magic trailing from the blade as it goes through. If Sub-Zero happens to be in the way? Bonus.

COMBATSYS: Sub-Zero dodges Es' Type - Slasher "Mordred".

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Sub-Zero         1/----===/=======|==-----\-------\0               Es

Sub-Zero is not in the way.

"You," resonates from a few feet behind her.

"Are unworthy," comes from somewhere above her.

"Of /that/," declares a voice from the depths of the forest.

"/Surrender it!/"

Paired with that demand is a running slash aimed at the artificial woman's stomach, the ninja darting from one shadow to the next with a slender, wickedly sharp length of ice blurring in his hands as he moves.

"Or don't-- the outcome will be the same either way!"

COMBATSYS: Es fails to interrupt Krushing Blow from Sub-Zero with Intercepting Strike.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Sub-Zero         1/----===/=======|

COMBATSYS: Es can no longer fight.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Sub-Zero         1/----===/=======|

What is worthy? Who decides this? Is it might? Is it conviction? Is it the fact that one is chosen? All people are worthy in their own way, aren't they?

"I will not."

As Sub Zero charges, Es returns the favor, flinging herself towards the Lin Kuei. He proves to be the faster. The more skilled. His speed and more nimble blade strikes first, slashing her in a way that should spew gouts of blood and viscera everywhere, but she doesn't bleed. She clearly feels the hit as she cries out in pain and stumbles, but ... her body shows no damage. It's certainly odd.

Murakumo's tip hits the gravel with a crunch and she means on it, holding her abdomen where the strike was like she's holding her intestines inside. "You ...You cannot have it. Murakumo...We must go."

That sense of Reality strikes again. This time with another will behind it that isn't Es's. It grows heavy, the fabric of space rippling around the blade and it's wielder. With a sense of overwhelming, inhuman pressure, they both vanish without a sound, the ripples of reality visible for a moment before everything smoothes out and it's like they were never there to begin with.

A flurry of frozen spikes lance through the space Es just occupied. The light fades shortly afterwards, leaving a lone Sub-Zero to fall to his knees with tightly clutched fists, squeeze his eyes shut, and b r e a t h e.

Peace settles over the dojo grounds once more, but the man who brought war to its steps still boils with curious envy.

Log created on 21:21:31 09/13/2023 by Sub-Zero, and last modified on 00:36:13 09/16/2023.