Hotaru - The Road: Journey's Start

Description: Every fighter's journey has to start somewhere. For Hotaru Futaba, years of practice and preparation have brought her to this bout - a small-font lead-in fight to much greater fighters, facing off against fellow rookie Haru Sakuraba. Experience is not the arbiter of spirit, however, and both fighters demonstrate they have plenty of that to give.



She shouldn't be so nervous. This is just one of many steps along the way, right?

She closes her right hand into a fist and presses her left over it, trying to squelch the trembling in her arms as she pictures what is about to happen.

The likelihood of pain, the possibility of humiliation...

Her heart beats rapidly in anticipation and no small amount of fear.

She had been preparing for this moment for years. But now that it is here, she begins to wish for more time. But she had made this her goal - to enter this world in her sixteenth year and it has taken this long to finally get accepted. And now? The final seconds are ticking down; the time is nigh upon her.

The hours of practice, exercise, striking, kicking, running... what was it all for if she didn't have the courage to walk out that door in front of her here and now?

She closes her eyes, picturing the front of a house. She was standing on the porch. She can see it as clears as if it was happening now. Her brother walking away, his back to her. That brief pause.

"In this world," he had uttered.

Why did he pause to tell her this? Was there hesitation in his heart that day?

"- humans are the loneliest living beings."

First their mother's death, then their father vanishing without a word, then that? What did he want her to understand? Blue eyes open as the girl glares at the door before her now, new-found resolve filling her heart.

It had been seven years since that day and yet the memory remains strong even now. She will show him he need not walk the Champion's Road alone. She will be as strong as he is.

The orphaned girl sucks in her breath, lowering her hands to her sides, forcing herself by sheer willpower to uncurl her fists. This will be her first real fight - a battle where victory will be determined when either participant can no longer continue. How can one even prepare themselves for that? All the practice in the world isn't enough to prepare for stepping into the public's eye and facing someone who is just as resolved to be the last one standing as she is.

There is a single knock on the door before it is opened. The event staffer gives the quiet girl a nod then vanishes.

Now it's her time to step out onto that road.

"Brother," she murmurs, closing her eyes for a moment.
"Just you watch. I will show you."

Her eyes snap open and Hotaru Futaba steps forward through the door. The arena lies just down the hall.

"I will follow you into that world."

Sucking in her breath, she strides toward the stairs leading up into the arena. The sounds of the audience grow larger and the pressure builds beyond anything she had ever felt before. Maybe she is just the opening act to far more famous fighters fight fans are actually here to see. But that doesn't matter. Her brother had to start this way. Now it's her turn

"I'm on my way now."


It was time.
For years she had prepared for this moment, eyes on the horizon of her ambition, her decision to train and enter the world of the professional fighter. She knew her brother was out there, participating in matches somewhere in the world. And now she would follow in his footsteps. Her dreams of the future, her hope for a different future, carried the girl through years of grueling training, practice, and preparation to reach this moment.
And now she would like to wait another day, thank you very much. She had an outfit tailored for her - a blue and white Chinese styled blouse with gold embroidered cords tying it closed in front and white, short puffy sleeves. Comfortable, white trousers are tied off at her ankles, just a pair of comfortable blue Kung Fu shoes. Her black hair has been tied off into two pigtails with large red ribbons. For all the concerns she has had in life, having a home and a budget to live off of has not been of them. Her father and brother left her that much at least.
And right now, as she walks down the hallway leading to the opening to the great Howard Arena floor itself, she can't help but tremble as adrenaline mixed with fear courses through her body. She stops at the base of a series of stone steps leading to the exit. She can hear it from here - the roar of the crow, the loud voice over speakers announcing the match to kick off tonight's venue of exciting battles.
She knows full well that no one is there to see her. Her name was in the smallest legible font on the promotional posters for this event. But somehow, in some way, she has managed to convince them to give her a fighting chance. Persistence in begging for any opportunity at every agency that brokers this kind of thing has finally afforded her this moment and she's not about to back out now.
To do so would be to throw it all away. Sucking in her breath, Hotaru looks up the steps, clenching her fists at her sides. She can't do anything about the trembling, but she can at least pretend to be confident as she strides out there. Step after step, she climbs before exiting out into the famous arena itself. And immediately freezes, big blue eyes on the lights above, on the crowd she can't even see behind the glare, at the arena itself in the middle of all this.
She had hoped to get her first chance at a far smaller venue, of course. Something local, cozy, and ideally, /not/ broadcast. But someone, somewhere, took pity on the orphened girl's persistent inquiries into opportunities so, when a last minute dropout came up, she knew she had no choice but to accept.
She wishes to look ready for this, like a fighter, like the ones she's seen on the fight streams. But right now, all she can do is hug herself tightly, lower her head, and step forward and then climb up the steps to the elevated arena of slate tiles. She can't hear anything over the roaring in her ears as she stands on that stage, unable to keep from simply hugging herself tightly, too overwhelmed to try and think her way through the stage firght she feels now.
What has she gotten herself into??
Somewhere she hears a voice calling out her name - Hotaru Futaba, making her first appearance in Howard Arena, as if she had some kind of fight record anywhere else. Little do they know, she thinks to herself, that she's never done this before! How can she avoid making a fool of herself? Even now as she struggles to shift into some kind of respectable fighting stance, she begins to imagine the awkwardness her visible fright is causing for the audience and event organizers, which only sets her teeth to chattering.
She has made a horrible mistake.

An oft-ignored element of fighting culture, one that isn't terribly glamorous or interesting if what you want out of the hobby is people punching fire at each other, is the logistical concerns of young fighters like Hotaru getting these gigs in the first place. Consider that most of them are under the age of legal majority in their home country, let alone in countries they may travel to. There's injury indemnity, legal responsibility, and a whole bunch of other boring, ridiculous nonsense. How would any fighter handle that? Especially since what they usually say is: "would like to punch now please"

And so an entire worker class of promoters and agents is born. Some of them are straight-up celebrities themselves, taking notes from the pro wrestling playbook, with larger than life personalities and media appearances. Most, however, are people willing to deal with the paper trail of this profession for a modest share of whatever the take is from any given match up.

The one Haru Sakuraba met when he decided to make this fighting thing a reality was... unusual. A spry, feisty woman of 75 who ran her booking business out of her suburban Southtown home full of cats, she was the aging Japanese version of a classic American stereotype. Amazingly, Sanae-san had come recommended to him, and in many ways she came through for him and had the patience to deal with a young fighter full of energy and dreams and, oh right, ANXIETY.

This is probably for the best, since the Justice student appeared in her home recently after his fighting world debut on SNF in which he fought Sagat, the Emperor of Muay Thai. Though his team won -- somehow -- the experience was... let's use the word 'jarring' in Haru's case. The sense of terror was so much greater than he anticipated, never mind the sudden, brief, and unusual moment he experienced of being all but a puppet to some force he couldn't identify.

And so he came to her house, sat seiza with her at her work table, accepted a cup of tea, and rather sheepishly said: "can my next fight be something a little less terror-inducing, please."

So here we are.

The young man entering the arena opposite Hotaru cuts a contrasting figure indeed. With his Ryukyu heritage his tanned skin stands out, and he has yet to imagine any sort of particular costume or outfit for himself. Thus he wears his black uniform slacks and a long-sleeved grey cotton shirt, with the gold of his Justice uniform outfit jacket tied around his waist by the sleeves the only splash of color in the entire affair.

There's... a couple of small cheers from the crowd? Winning an SNF against Sagat can do that, but much like Hotaru, nobody knows who this guy is and they're here to see the big names these two are headlining for. As he enters the stage, he gives Hotaru a sheepish smile, even waves in a friendly-enough manner. "H-hi..." he says, shaking out his hands like a piano player limbering up before a concerto. "I, uh... I'm Haru," he finishes.

Smooth, Sakuraba.

By the time Haru gets onto the impressive stone tablet at the heart of the arena, some of the event orgnaizers off to the side are starting to worry if the first time fighter in the blue and white is going to have a nervous breakdown. While awkward and a bad start to the night's venue, it wouldn't be the end of the world or would it be entirely unprecidented.
She wouldn't be the first young hopeful to take step on the stage of history and realize this was not at all a world they could survive in. It's just that usually, that realization struck AFTER they got pounded to meat, not before. All the training, practice, and friendly spars in the world can't prepare one for it what it is like to be out here like this. And to have it be at Howard Arena, at that? If she breaks down, it will be a long time before she can convince anyone to give her another shot!
Teeth chattering, the teen fighter notices movement across the way as Haru comes up onto the stage. This must be who she is supposed to fight, the thought vaguely registers in her mind. That is something she can at least try to wrap her mind around. She should show him respect, as well, she considers, rather than standing there like a terrified child. Sucking in her breath and holding it in a bid to get her breathing under control, she very stiffly unfolds her arms and holds them against her sides, hands clenched in too-tight fists.
And then her vision settles on his face, noticing the sheepish smile, the friendly wave. She should do something back, she thinks to herself, only to find her body too paralyzed to move.
But then there's the introduction and that noticeable stammer. She has to respond to that, right? He might feel nervous himself, and it would be rude to just stand there shivering rather than saying something back. "I-I'm Hotaru," she replies, still completely stiff, eyes wide, the girl still on high alert before the fight has even begun. She does, at that point, manage a forward bow, hands clasped at her sides, pigtails draped against her shoulders. "Thank you for this honor!" she continues. It seems she's finally found her voice. And speaking to a live human being who looks a bit uncertain himself seems to have broken her out of her stage fright a little.
Now that she's bowed, she should go into her ready stance, she tells herself, falling into routines driven home by repeated practice with the trainers she was able to learn from. And so she transitions, slightly on auto-pilot, standing up straighter, extending her hands, one arm forward, one back and bent at the elbow, palms open.
She is deaf to whatever is being said across the loud speakers, the words blending into the undecipherable cacophany that is the roaring crowd. Only the sound of the bell will eventually alert her to anything starting at all. Meanwhile, she sucks in her breath again, trying to get her breathing into a controlled, ready rhythm as she has practiced, and then slowly begins to bob on her feet.
"L-let's do our best," she states, likely for her own good moreso than her opponent's, but he looked like maybe a little encouragement wouldn't hurt?

COMBATSYS: Hotaru has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Hotaru           0/-------/-------|

She *bows*. Oh god she bowed. The panic that actually brings to Haru's face is palpable, because if sweatdrops were a real thing and not just anime physics he would suddenly be sporting one in a fit of panic. But he was raised properly in a Japanese household with a martial tradition, so reflexes and propriety kick in with impressive speed. His arms snap to his sides, and his torso leans forward in a customary return bow before he straightens. "Ah, the uh... the honor is mine!"

What is even going on in this arena right now.

Let's just say that Hotaru Futaba is a very different scenario than Sagat, and Haru is secretly thanking Sanae in his head for actually delivering on her promise to find him something a little lower impact than one of the world's toughest, strongest people. After the snap reflex of the bow, Haru too has a moment to relax, feeling some of the tension drain out of his body. Much like his opponent, seeing that someone else is up on this stage looking a tiny bit like they wouldn't mind a fire drill right now does reassure him.

The Justice student has a moment to examine Hotaru's countenance carefully, letting a bit of his analytical eye kick in. She might be nervous, but the years of training she's undergone burn underneath Hotaru's visible anxiety; there's a strength there that she doesn't project, but which is possible to detect if you know where to look. Yet at the same time, to his eyes, she has a very... gentle aura. Reassuring, even. It draws him in, somewhat, unlike the intense and terrifying aura of the Muay Thai Emperor.

"Thank you, Sanae-san," he whispers, before taking a breath and getting ready to start.

Unlike the practiced, smooth stance of a martial artist like Hotaru, Haru's fighting 'stance' seems... like it isn't one? A quick flash of grey at the edge of his right sleeve and one of his weapons, a gunmetal grey yoyo, slaps into his palm. He experimentally flicks it out and then back, then nods, seemingly satisfied, before squaring off properly with Hotaru.

Which... kinda goes on for a MOMENT OR TWO too long.

"Y-yeah. I, uh... good luck to us both," he finishes. Yeah, a little encouragement probably DID help.

And then he's starting the fight, deciding to be nice and deliberate about it. Taking a few leading steps in, Haru plants his feet within Hotaru's reach and then whips out his hand, flicking the yoyo toward her stomach. The result is basically like a punch to the gut, if it connects... a simple attack to test the waters.

COMBATSYS: Haru has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Hotaru           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Haru

COMBATSYS: Hotaru dodges Haru's Medium Strike.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Hotaru           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Haru

The exchange has a calming effect. This opponent seems like someone she could get along with outside of the arena. So much for her brother's insistence that fighters are lonely people by design. A smile works its way across her mouth as she bounces on her feet lightly in preparation. Okay, he's not a monster. He's not a big, huge, scary beast of a man. He has Justice's colors. He's just a High School student like herself. This will be fine, right?!
She nods in agreement to his expression of luck, sharing the sentiment without resevation. If this experience is anything like she imagined it would be, there is no need for hostile feelings between the two of them. Fighters CAN face each other with respect, she's certain!
Eyes snap to the flick of the yoyo as he produces it from some place hidden. Interesting. Is he intending to use it in the fight? She's well aware many in the fighting world lean on weapons of some kind in their combat techniques. It is the way of a warrior to not discount an opponent's skill simply because they chose to augment their abilities with weapons. If her own skills are worth anything, she will need to be able to hold her own even unarmed against any style she might encounter. Her brother would tolerate no excuse for failure...
The fight is announced to start and Hotaru blinks, snapping her attention back to the present. She's being aggressed upon, the curious implement zipping out at her from close enough range that she COULD strike back but her gut tells her to wait and see what he does next lest she run into something she isn't prepared for. A first glance at an opponent's technique can often be quite telling.
A second later, she's twisting to the side, avoiding the yoyo that would have struck her abdomen if she had failed to defend properly. The speed at which it snapped out is impressive, but so too is her reaction, stepping around the trajectory of the spinning object in order to get in even closer. Her intent seems to be some kind of grapple, the girl reaching out with her hands, fingers splayed, going for his grey shirt...
But if she gets a hold, he'll find her intent is far more aggressive than simply testing the fabric of his shirt as the girl continues rushing forward into a series of rapid, stomping kicks right up the front of the boy - it would culminate with a backflip from his shoulders, the newcomer showing of her acrobatic talents right at the start. If it works out, it might be enough to catch the public's eyes as a viable rookie... and if it fails, the results might be catastrophic!

COMBATSYS: Haru dodges Hotaru's Shinjou Tai.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Hotaru           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Haru

Haru's very fortunate that his choice of weapon, while not letting him make 'long-distance' strikes, does give him a fraction of a second of time while people deal with the extra, say, foot or two of reach the yoyo presents, much like a staff or spear fighter does. Beyond the fact that it synergizes with a lifetime of training in the meteor hammer, this was a very deliberate choice on his part, since Haru's physical abilities are utterly average (well, for someone of fighting caliber, anyway). His greatest weapon -- in more ways than one -- is always going to be his mind.

Thus as he's pulling his weapon back into his hand, Haru's eyes are still on Hotaru, gauging her movements carefully. When she gets in real close and her first gestures are with her hands, he surmises the likely result is indeed some sort of grappling maneuver, and he reacts accordingly... sort of.

In a universe where Haru is the suavest, most impressive fighter, he nimbly backflips away from Hotaru, possibly rising with a rose in his teeth and a winning grin or something like that. As it is, he mostly just goes "Whoa!" and kicks off the ground, sending himself hopping backwards through the air to land in a crouch just out of Hotaru's reach, his left hand on the ground to steady him. Rising to his feet, he blinks a few times, then gives Hotaru an embarassed expression like he's... apologizing for not getting hit? Or something. It's one of those things where if you trust that he's not a jerk, it's a sort of self-deprecating sheepishness.

Taking a breath, he steadies himself, then heads right back into the fray. "Okay. My turn!" The general thrust of his attack seems similar to before: whipping out his hand, looking to send the yoyo Hotaru's way. However, rather than striking, he suddenly twists his wrist, trying to... well, lasso Hotaru's extended throwing arm with the yoyo. If he can get her snagged, he heaves her towards him, swinging her into a horizontal circle before snapping the yoyo back into his hand, letting Hotaru fly... before whipping out his OTHER hand with a *second* yoyo and snagging her out of midair, slamming her back down to earth. Like her own technique, it COULD be really impressive if it connects, but it is also similarly a gamble, especially against someone who is as nimble as Hotaru seems to be!

COMBATSYS: Hotaru blocks Haru's Jade Turbulence.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Hotaru           0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0             Haru

She knew it wouldn't be easy. Even as aggressive as her opening charge might have been, even as carefully as she tried to slip in close enough get a solid grip before he could recover from his initial strike, she knew that he wasn't about to just stand there and start up a new career as part time stepladder and training dummy.
Still, the speed he escapes with is remarkable for how, well, unadroit it might have appeared to the viewing audience. "So fast," she murmurs to herself, sliding to a stop, feed skidding along the stone. With each passing second it becomes easier to forget about the audience at all. It is just her and this young man. Haru. And they are fighters, each doing their best with what they came prepared with. That's all that matters.
Her arms draw back, the girl having over extended a little in her lunge, and the next moment she finds the yoyo string expertly wrapped around her wrist. Sapphire eyes widen in surprise at the adaptability of Haru's techniques - it isn't just for smacking people with, it appears! Responding on reflex, the girl attempts to dig her heels in but the stone is not exceptionally helpful in getting defiant traction here.
The fastened string serves its purpose in whipping her forward into a turn. Airborn, her arms flail as she tries to take control of being put in a situation that NO amount of practice can prepare one for. Still, she's congizant enough of her situation to notice the yoyo snap back and her arm freed. Twisting mid-air, she is in no position to realize that it is a second weapon. All she can focus on is swinging her foot out, kicking the yoyo astray before it can entangle her for the intended slam.
The last ditch defense allows her to finish her free fall in a more controlled manner, landing in a roll and coming to stop in a crouch. "Nice one!" she calls out even as she is spinning back to standing. The Futaba girl doesn't hesitate a moment. Her style may not be about hitting like a truck, but it does involve relentless pressure to keep her opponents on the defensive if possible.
Thus it is that she aggresses, attempting to get in tight again, both hands pressing out swiftly in a double palm press toward his sternum. It means getting up to nearly point blank range to execute the strike with enough force to even matter, the girl sliding in the last meter, an eager grin already on her face in anticipation of how surprised he'll be!

COMBATSYS: Haru fails to counter Medium Punch from Hotaru with Moonstone Tenacity.

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Hotaru           0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0             Haru

Now that is impressive. Of all the ways Haru can imagine someone dealing with the second stage of that (admittedly complicated) attack, literally kicking the second yoyo away was not high on the list. HE doesn't know that Hotaru maybe did it like 50% on accident, and so the result is that his eyes widen with surprise and a bit of appreciation, too. He wouldn't have thought of doing that, in her position. And for a moment, he reflects on the fact that he DID have a moment to look at her and say: 'that was cool' in his head. Without the steep drop of being pasted into a subway tunnel wall gaping at his feet, it's almost like he has the emotional energy to not be a wreck of jangled nerves.

Oh right now she's punching him in the face.

Reacting on instinct, Haru blinks, then brings his hands up, which begin to glow with a faint, pearlescent white light. In his mind, this light becomes a shield which interposes itself between himself and Hotaru, deflecting the force of her blow and then striking back at her with that same psychic force. It was the first real technique using his powers that he developed, one he's quite happy and proficient with. It should be a no brainer.

And then something in his mind's eye clicks and Hotaru's not standing in front of him it's Sagat and it's Sagat's fist and at the end of this vision it's Haru dazed and nearly broken on a dark subway floor with the taste of blood in his mo--

The light blinks out as quickly as it came, Haru's concentration broken by the sudden and unasked-for intrusion of that memory. Already, Hotaru's strike was quick and precise enough that he'd need to be paying close attention to handle it properly; with his concentration broken, her success is all but guaranteed. Psychic abilities, after all, require a strong will to control them... and right now, Haru's will isn't terribly strong. Her palm strike slams into his chest and basically knocks an unprepared, wide-eyed Haru over backwards onto the stone with a loud *WHMP* noise.

It takes a second, but the Justice student does pull himself to his feet, coughing one or twice and then settling his gaze back on his opponent. Just a teenager, like him. She's just here to have a good fight, like you. This isn't the same.

"This isn't the same," he mutters under his breath.

Shaking his head, Haru gets back into 'stance' and gives his opponent a sheepish smile. "S... sorry. Nice punch!" He seems alright. Mostly.

Her dash in and double palm press proves to be highly effective! It's hard for her to tell just how much of that success was her own speed and how much of it was a moment of trauma revisisted for Haru. She saw the flash of energy, oblivious as to what it represented only that she was mentally bracing for something painful. But she's committed and there's no backing out - momentum alone will not afford her any such chance.
She was already stopped at the point of impact, transfering all forward energy into her palm press to give it that extra umph in spite her small stature, the heels of her hands driving the Justice student back hard enough to take him off his feet. The technique didn't leave her particularly vulnerable, only having to slide one foot forward and shift her arms to already be back into her ready stance. But what of her opponent? Unlike before where was no hesitation to be found... now that she's finally connected with a hit she isn't so sure about what to do next!
No doubt many in the audience are expecting her to follow through on her strike with some kind of quick attack while Haru is down, just to make good on her success. Her pause gives him time to get back to his feet - something he manages quickly enough that just recklessly charging him might have been a bad idea. Whether she left him up on purpose or just couldn't decide how to handle the situation is something even SHE isn't sure about, so fast is her mind racing throughout this contest of fighting talent.
But the girl did hear something - what isn't the same? And there was the look in his eyes - so focused on him as she struck, there was no way she could have missed it. She returns his smile with a quiet one of her own. This might not be the bloodbath people were hoping for, but it isn't entirely unheard of either... Sometimes it takes time for new fighters to really get into the swing of relentless battle. Some might express their disapproval with noises, but at this point, they are still largely being drown out by the ambient volume of such a packed stadium.
"Thank you," she replies to his open compliment, but there is a tinge of uncertainty in her voice. Is he back here now? She's certain that, for just a fleeting moment when it mattered most... he was somewhere else entirely.
"Get ready!" she warns, sprinting forward again.
She takes to the air easily, jumping high for a fighter of her caliber.
"We have to do our best!"
Accompanying the cry is a dive, the girl forward flipping into a knee drop targeting Haru's right shoulder. Should she connect, she would immediately follow up by swinging her other leg forward, soft-shoe clad foot connecting with his brow as she uses the impact to backspring away in another graceful flip. "YA!"

COMBATSYS: Haru blocks Hotaru's Rengeki Shuu.

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Hotaru           0/-------/------=|===----\-------\0             Haru

Against all logic, he can actually feel that, coming from Hotaru: genuine concern. Not a feigned, pro-forma worry about her opponent so she doesn't seem like a jerk on camera, but an actual sense that she gives a damn about his well being one way or the other. It's a surprise, but it's not an unpleasant one, and it is perhaps exactly the tonic needed for the growing maw of anxiety forming in the pit of Haru's stomach.

'We have to do our best!'

Haru's jaw sets. That's right. He did this fighting thing for a reason. It was to meet people, to expand his boundaries. To face his fears.

Maybe Hotaru shouldn't be so nice, though, because the wake up call... pretty much does wake Haru up from the sluggishness of the moment. As Hotaru drops out of the air, she slams into Haru's upraised, crossed arms, which he then shoves outward with all his strength (and for once doesn't look like he's cowering! Small victories!). His forearms sting from basically bearing all of Hotaru's weight and the force of her blow for that brief moment but it's better than getting kicked in the face, that's for sure.

As she backflips away and the two separate, Haru looks to Hotaru and says cryptically, "Your light is... a very warm light." Whatever THAT means. To be honest, even HE looks like he's confused a bit by what he just said.

But he can't let himself get mired in philosophical silliness. Ducking in low toward Hotaru, Haru snaps out a wrist and throws a yoyo out low, seeming like he's going to trip Hotaru up like Luke Skywalker with an AT-AT; instead, however, *he* rises and brings the yoyo with him, looking to slam it into the underside of her chin like an uppercut instead.

COMBATSYS: Haru successfully hits Hotaru with Power Strike.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Hotaru           0/-------/--=====|====---\-------\0             Haru

She lands lightly out of her backflip, knees bending slightly before she slips comfortably back into her fighting stane. She has been practicing the fundamentals for years. Attack, defend, recenter, stay focused, pace yourself... She doesn't need to think through the cycle actively. She knows this much by rote habit, releasing a soft exhale as she finishes bringing her arms back up to she needs them to be in order to transition to any number of her possible techniques.
He speaks and she blinks, thoughts derailed for a moment. It sounds like some kind of compliment... but she has never heard anyone comment on another's light before. Is it some kind of formal expression from wherever he hails? She isn't a worldly traveller. She hasn't even really been outside of Southtown often. Her home is here, her training is here, and she, well, doesn't really know anyone else, really, outside of some girls at school that she gets along with okay. "Thanks," she manages to reply. It... it seems like the right thing to say?
But she hasn't let her guard down. He's already on the move and she has to be ready. As he closes in, she debates the merit of contesting with his momentum in a more direct exchange. It is one of the more difficult things to get used to in fighting - to understand you can't run from every attack, that sometimes the right move is to not escape at all...
But her indecision leaves her forced to fall back on the only other option that makes sense. Avoid that yoyo! His control over the weapon is remarkable, and he is adjusting the way he strikes out with it to make it less obvious what trajectory his techniques are going to take. She slides one foot to the side, bringing it closer to her other, thinking to avoid what looked like an incoming blow to her shin or knee-
When it collides with her chin, it feels like it came out of no where. The impact is enough to send the small fighter reeling, feet sliding over the stone until she gets enough friction to come to a stop. Getting clocked in the chin with a fast moving yoyo hurts... just about as bad as she feared, really. Her right hand goes to her chin rub there for a moment. There will undoubtedly be a bruise eventually. That's a badge she can live with though. It would be proof to the girls at Seijyun that she really did it - really took the first step.
"Oof," she allows. That really did smart! At least she knows her opponent's head is in the game!
That thought brings another faint smile to her lips in spite the pain. It should be okay to try something that requires a bit more effort out of her than just about anything else. There might be fighters who can unleash an unending assault of energy attacks against their opponents. She is not one of them. But as she braces now, she decides to respond to Haru's earlier display of energy with one of her own.
Drawing her right hand back, a surge of cerulean chi surges along the girl's limb. It's bright and indicitive of a fair amount of power. If she executes it properly, no one will know just how hard it is for her to fire such an attack. Drawing her hand from behind her side to forward in a smooth, half-circular motion, the girl completes the shaping of the chi in an instant, extending her hand, and shoving it forward through the air.
Consistenting of pure, concussive force, the girl pours her heart into the attack. "YA!"

COMBATSYS: Haru dodges Hotaru's Hakki Shou EX.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Hotaru           0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0             Haru

Yanking his hand back, Haru blinks in surprise as the yoyo slaps into his palm. He almost didn't really expect that attack to hit, considering Hotaru's defensive efforts have been top notch so far. He even winces a bit, realizing he just hit a girl in the face... the sort of thing most women fighters probably don't care about, but which if you were raised in a pretty traditional Japanese household you probably take at least a little bit seriously. He's about to apologize to her when he realizes that Hotaru's wasted no time going on the offensive again. Which makes total sense, but it also gives him verrrrrry little time to react.

And since he's been fired on, Haru does the only thing that he can think of: he hits the deck. Which is to say he immediately drops to his stomach in an ungainly sprawl, Hotaru's swift chi strike *still* basically brushing the top of his hair as he does so.

That gets a... combination gasp/laugh from the audience because let's be real, that was dramatic but it was also hilarious. And in truth, when Haru yanks himself standing again, he too actually joins in the laughter a little bit. "I, uh, did that just to let you know you're fighting a real professional, Futaba-san," he adds, tossing out a little self-deprecating joke to hopefully cut the tension.

He doesn't attack right away, though; things have gotten serious, and so he has to get serious too. He doesn't mind looking foolish as long as he can keep engaging the way he has. For example, Hotaru's attack didn't send him into a nightmare spiral of reliving Sagat's final strike against him!

Small victories.

"You must have trained a long time to acquire your skills," he says to his opponent, circling slowly, watching her movements. "Your form is amazing."

COMBATSYS: Haru calculates his next move.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Hotaru           0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0             Haru

The chi blast is sent flying, narrowly missing Haru as he drops the stone tablet to avoid the azure sphere. The projectile continues onward unabated to eventually splash against the stadium wall in the distant, the energy vaporizing, leaving no scorch mark on the sturdy structure. But of course she isn't focusing on it by then. Haru's evasive technique was more than effective even if it did provoke a noise she can hear echo through the audience that sounds a bit like open amusement.
For her own part, she looks openly impressed, hand drawn back after launching the concencrated force ball. At his comment, her expression shifts into a grin she has no interest in suppressing.
"Well." she observes.
"You didn't get hit."
And that's what it comes down to, right? Whether it is simple or flashy, minimalist or acrobatic, he achieved the most important goal of the exchange - avoiding the speeding chi bullet by any means necessary.
Readying herself again, she finds herself being circled, turning slowly on her feet in a very precise step that requires only slight shift in the front of her feet to keep up with him. It will suffice to keep her from being caught flatfooted mid-step which would be a risk with larger steps.
He compliments her style then, however, and a light blush strikes her cheeks in that moment. "T-thank you," she stammers, caught off guard by the open admiration of the style she is finally putting on display in the public eye. "You're full of suprises yourself. You're planning something."
The standoff exists between them for a number of seconds as she continues to face him directly, eyes sharply looking for his next move... when she decides to get out of the circle all together!
A spring forward has the girl slamming her heel down for Haru's shoulder. It will be a solid kick if it connects but her main goal is to use it as a launch point to jump even further beyond him, putting some distance between them as she spins down to a landing already facing him!

COMBATSYS: Haru counters Koushuu Da from Hotaru with Topaz Vigilance.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Hotaru           0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0             Haru


Haru delivers this thoughtful-sounding line as he sweeps his arm up, the silver flash of a yoyo following swiftly in the arc of his movement, snapping upwards and coiling around Hotaru's extended kicking leg, snagging her in midair. It's the type of technique that requires a perfect storm of preparation, opportunity, and execution to make successful, but in this instance, Haru was able to make all three factors come together. "To be honest, yeah."

The grip he has isn't terribly strong, and so he can't do much more with it than redirect Hotaru's momentum but that, thankfully, is enough -- against all logic, he actually pulls the yoyo *toward* him as he snaps his wrist to uncoil it from Hotaru's leg; he's able to redirect her descent enough so that she falls onto a suddenly extended kicking leg of his own rather than onto his, you know, HEAD.

His reprisal delivered, Haru hops backward, putting some distance between the two fighters again. "In my defense, I have to be. I'm not very strong, very fast, or very tough... so I have to work all the much harder to be smart and prepared." He pauses, seeming to realize the implications of what he said, and panicks a little bit. "Not that people who ARE strong or fast don't need to be smart, too! Or that I'm smarter than..." He pauses, grimacing, and just stops talking altogether for a moment before exhaling a long, slow breath and even closing his eyes for a second, a gesture of trust in Hotaru, that's for sure.

When he opens them again, for a second all the anxiety and silliness seems to drop away from his tone of voice, and he says quietly, "Sorry. I'm new at this. I don't really know the right things to do or say to make the crowd happy. To be honest with you, I find the whole thing kinda... scary."

Maybe don't tell her THAT, you idiot.

But when he finally seems to get back into 'fighting' mode, he looks somewhere between embarassed and grateful. "I just... hope you feel like you're getting a good challenge. I know I am."

He had to be waiting for her to do /something/. Of that she was certain. All she can hope for is that her airborn vector proves to be a direction the Justice High student wasn't accounting for. As the string wraps around her leg, it becomes abundantly clear that the airborn approach was already factored into Haru's plans. Eyes widen, arms extended upward, as she realizes from this angle, no amount of acrobatic correction is going to get her out this one.
Not that she doesn't try. The instant he tugs on his end of the weapon the nimble fighter is twisting, adjusting her own angle to try and prepare to kick out with her other leg when she gets close enough to connect. But there is the minor issue of his own leg being in the way. A precision strike to her stomach and already out of control plummet sends the girl tumbling over the stone before she finally rolls out of it into a crouch, one hand against the arena floor.
Even as Hotaru comes out of the rough landing, it's clear she was already preparing to be attacked again and took measures to minimize the moments during which she would be vulnerable. As it turns out, she needn't worry. Just as she had given Haru a moment to get back on his feet, it seems she is afforded the same opportunity as the young man to return to standing. A bit dusty from her fall, she focuses only on her opponent for the moment. He has proven to be crafty in spite his possibly too-open nature.
A bit dazed, she doesn't seem to react at all to his comments about being smart, tough, or fast. There is a flickering thought in her mind that he has described attributes that will need to be evolved in equal amounts in order for any fighter to truly excel, but she can't quite bring herself to reply in that moment.
It's his confession that causes her eyes to widen a little, expression soften slightly as she resumes bouncing on her feet. "Scary? That's putting it lightly." the pig-tailed girl replies.
"But others must have gone through this too."
These are steps her brother tread she reminds herself, muscles tensing as she tries to rethink how to get around the yoyo wielder's guard to deliver a clean attack. He looks ready just as she settles on her next course of action.
"We are not the first down this road."
It will pass, she tells herself. This nervousness. All she needs to do is prove she's worth allowing into events; that she has the skill to compete. She just needs to reach that first step.
She starts forward, finally, sprinting for Haru once more. His words about challenge are heard as she rushes faster. "You better not be holding back!" Her course would bring her close, hands reaching for him again, this time going for his right forearm and bicep. If she gets a tight enough hold, she'll pull his arm up and twist around, spinning Haru to the stone floor to drop him on his back! "HAA!"

COMBATSYS: Haru blocks Hotaru's Medium Throw.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Hotaru           0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0             Haru

From the crowd's point of view, this fight is just plain WEIRD. Matches between newbies are often the most exciting because people just entering the fighting world are ~*so excited to be here*~ and are often feeling like they're the most skilled fighters in the world, ready to take on anyone and everyone. People like Hotaru and Haru, fighters who have the skills to compete but who are maybe lacking in the confidence to deploy them without reservation or restraint. It's not as if the duo haven't offered a good fight so far, to each other or to the crowd. But... let's just say mutual admissions of terrified relief are not high on the list of dramatic fighting content.

"I would--!" Haru starts, aghast at the idea that he was holding back, until he seems to process that Hotaru doesn't ACTUALLY think he's holding back (probably); rather, her exhortation is more of a goad to keep him from sinking too badly into morose reflection on the terrifying world of fighting. He smiles in embarassed gratefulness once he works that out, and simply nods, saying: "You too."

By then, though, the fleet Miss Futaba has crossed the distance between them, looking to snag his arm. Haru's not swift enough to stop that, and Hotaru's firm grasp sends the Justice student up and over. However, he's able to shift his weight in mid-fall JUST enough so that he hits the stone floor in an immediate roll rather than flat on his back. The roll-out is ungainly, mind; he stops of flops to a stop after teetering away from Hotaru for a yard or two, but with a grimace of pain he nevertheless hauls himself standing.

"Maybe... we could, ah, talk some after the match?" he offers, clearing his throat, cleverly oblivious to the fact that it sounds like he just asked Hotaru out on a date. But maybe this is also a sign he's getting over his own jitters and anxieties? He brings both arms up, then slams them down, whipping one yoyo across the space in front of him using BOTH hands. The result is a sort of... X-slash that might make avoiding them both that much more difficult!

COMBATSYS: Hotaru avoids Haru's Random Strike.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Hotaru           0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0             Haru

His response to her exclamation provokes a slight smile to her lips. Now that she's in it, now that she's moving, putting her well practiced skills to work, she hardly even feels the nervousness that nearly paralyzed her as she stepped foot up onto the stage of the world famouse Howard Arena! But it's only worthwhile if her opponent is imersed in the spirit of the fight as well. She doesn't want an easy bout against someone lost in the sheer magnitude of it all.
When his mind is on the fight, he's remarkable and his technique testing her ability to predict what is even going on moment to moment. In execution, this is all around so much harder than what she practiced for and her abilities to respond fast enough moment to moment are definitely being put to the test!
The young man tumbles out of her attack effectively but fortunately for her, it was not one that left her over reaching or off balance either, allowing the girl to blend right back into being at the ready without a moment lost. Already facing him, she doesn't pause for a moment, determined to keep the pressure on now that she is building momentum, kicking off into a new sprint to close the distance.
"Yes!" she answers without reservation. To know another fighter - the first one who is actually out doing this like she is compared to the girls at Seijyun that act tough but haven't actually put themselves in the public eye.
They have...
No idea what they're missing.
The thought flashes through her mind as Haru launches both yoyos in her direction. There's no way through them and even darting around would be tough. And so she drops into a slide beneath the crisscrossing strings, feet first, dust kicked up from the stone in the process.
Coming out of the slide too early to kick him with that momentum, the girl rolls up to her feet, slamming her left hand out, palm first, for his sternum. "HYA!" Intended to break through his defenses, the follow up would come an instant later as she stepped into a second attack with her right palm at the same spot - this strike would bear all of the girl's forward momentum, converting it into a kinetic strike with enough force to definitely be felt!

COMBATSYS: Haru endures Hotaru's Strong Punch!

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Hotaru           0/-------/=======|=======\-------\1             Haru

...the look on Haru's face, which Hotaru is in a perfect position to see, says everything that needs to be said about whether or not what he just did was a good idea. Considering that he weighed his options, thought this was the best tactic, and decided to do it, the wide-eyed look followed by the wincing grimace probably doesn't sell it very well. Nevertheless, when Hotaru decides to slam right into him, Haru grits his teeth (visibly), takes a breath (audibly), plants his feet (unfortunately), and...

Takes the hit (successfully).

Haru weighs practically nothing and Hotaru has more strength in her well-trained limbs than she might think; the force required to not just be knocked on his backside is considerable. However, somehow, he manages to do it. "O...ow," he says, grimacing, with Hotaru's hand pressed against his sternum. His reluctance to use this sort of technique does have a LITTLE bit to do with Haru not being all taht tough. Moreso, though, it's because of his powers. While like many psions he has the power to get a sense of a person just being in their presence, for Haru physical contact makes the bond that much stronger. Clothes are enough to keep it from becoming overwhelming, for the most part. But in this case, the prolonged contact is enough to give Haru a momentary burst of Hotaru's mental state. Excitement, maybe a bit of remaining anxiety... even anticipation, hope? None of the darkness, or the aggression, he recalls from his SNF.

And then, in the blink of an eye, it's over. Haru pushes away from Hotaru's strike just far enough so that he's inside her guard, still, then tries to scythe Hotaru's feet from under her by sweeping his leg through hers; if he can, he follows by whipping a hand out and snagging her mid-fall with a yoyo, applying just enough force to send his opponent rolling away across the floor. He seems as if he's going to follow that up, since his other yoyo is visibly in his left hand, yet he doesn't. Maybe something he felt just now changed his mind?

COMBATSYS: Hotaru interrupts Armed Combo from Haru with Tenshin Shou.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Hotaru           1/------=/=======|=======\===----\1             Haru

Left palm strike to soften the target, right palm strike to drive the hit home. She had practiced the two step attack countless times against punching bags at first, due to their softer surface and more give. But then she graduated to striking training posts with the heels of her hands, coping with the early pain and bruises as she poured every effort into toughening herself up as much as a girl with her slight build could hope to manage.
Haru is the first opponent outside of training spars to receive her strikes and, in that brief moment of contact where her emotions are running strong, he will have no problem perceiving the utter exhileration Hotaru Futaba feels at being here in this fight with him.
The earlier anxietys have been forgotten, his friendly greeting, his show of open nervousness, and losing herself to the ebb and flow have all combined to bolster her focus and help her drown out the bright lights, the huge crowd, and the countless cameras recording every moment of this battle from every angle.
Haru grunts, wincing from the two stage strike, as Hotaru starts to push back against her toes, arms snapping back, her body ever in motion from the moment the two engaged in this tighter range exchange. His response does not provoke even the slightest satisfaction at having inflicted him with pain. There is, however, a surge of overwhelming pride at the power of her strikes.
She will not be ignored in this world. Her journey has just begun. And only her own strength can carry her through.
There is the impression that the young man took the hits deliberately - he must be in the very process of executing one of his plans again. What it might be is almost impossible to guess from what flexibility she has seen in the Justice student's tactics...
Which might be why she forgoes trying to figure it out at all. It's time to spring a surprise on /him/. He caught her off guard with his own counter defenses... she'll show she's no shrinking violet. Fear of getting hit is drown out immediately with the desire to engage him directly as he just did her.
As he moves in close, she's already winding up, kness bending, torso turning, feet flexing... "Tenshin-"
What comes next is best described as a spinning shoulder tackle as the featherweight fighter straightens out, lunging into Haru's chest shoulder first, springing with enough velocity to drive herself airborn in the process. "Shou!"
At first glance, it seems the small fighter simply leaping into someone would hardly make much of an impact at all. But that would be missing the precision with which she lunges, the way every muscle in her body acts in a coordinated effort to deliver as much force as she can in a single strike. Airborn for a second, she would drop back to the stadium stone a moment later, an exhale escaping her lips. She feels good about that hit.
Whether it will be enough is what she isn't sure about, rising to standing to turn back toward Haru, arms lifting to a defensive posture as quickly as she can muster. The demands of the fight are taxing, but she has trained to pace herself, pushing her body as fast as possible then pulling back long enough to catch her breath.
But now? She has a feeling there will be no more time for pacing.

'The best laid plans of mice and men' and all that.

It was, indeed, part of a greater plan on Haru's part, but he hadn't anticipated Hotaru simply trying to power through his attack with one of her own, considering that such an aggressive maneuver hadn't been part of the nimble fighter's repertoire up to this point. Ironic, perhaps, given that for a moment Haru had forged a powerful connection to her. But his eyes do indeed widen as the spiralling ascent carries both fighters into the air. Unfortunately only one of them is going to make a gentle, controlled escent. The other is going to drop onto the stone stage like... well, a rock.

There's a loud "oof!" as Haru drops, and not in an elegant way at all. He grimaces, feeling the ache of that spread through his limbs as he slowly gets up. That blow was actually pretty comparable to the others Hotaru has landed, but the swiftness and deft execution definitely put it a cut above. Putting a hand to his chest, Haru takes a few deep breaths in, considering the situation. He's probably not going to be able to withstand another one of those. If he wants to make a good showing he's going to have to give it his all, now. No luring Hotaru into traps, no trick shots or risky strategy. Sometimes, you just have to risk a frontal assault.

"N...nice," he says to Hotaru with a sheepish smile, before shaking out his hands. "I guess I'll--"

And then, weirdly, he feels it again: the sense of something entering his body, of a presence around and even within him that he doesn't recognize, but which feels strangely familiar. But unlike in SNF, it doesn't all but wrest control of his body away, suppressing his consciousness. If anything, NOW it feels like... a sudden surge of warmth? A broadening of his awareness. An 'awakening' of a sort.

He glances at Hotaru, and blinks in confusion at what he sees. Before, he perceived her aura as a sort of sixth sense, not as a real tangible thing, but now? The young Futaba's aura shines like a star, radiating the true potential of her abilities. And as for himself? That pearly white light from before returns, limning him like faerie fire, spilling off his movements in tiny flutters like the petals of a flower that vanish as quickly as they appear.

It's not entirely clear what's going on, but within, Haru just... feels the right thing to do. And so he does it: kicking off the ground, he rushes Hotaru, saying only "Get ready...!" before whipping a hand out, a familiar lashing out of the yoyo the precursor to his strike...

COMBATSYS: Haru successfully hits Hotaru with Crystal Ferocity.

[                        \\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Hotaru           1/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|-------\-------\0             Haru

Finding he has a grip, Haru leaps into action, unleashing the strongest technique in his arsenal. Unlike before, when he really needed to throw his whole body into throwing with the yoyo, it takes only a sweep of the arm for Hotaru to find herself flying into the air. Concentrating, Haru extends his other hand, but rather than throwing the yoyo, a burst of psychic energy slams into Hotaru in midair, sending her sailing in another direction... but Haru's yoyo is there, again, with a sudden strike that knocks her off in a different direction. This... game of tennis where Hotaru is the 'ball' continues for two repetitions more before the final strike sends her down to the stage.

Even as Haru's yoyo slaps back into his hands, however, he's leaning forward, hands on knees, taking deep breaths. The aura of light still clings to him, but apparently it's exhausting. There's no indication how long he can keep this up...

When she first turns to face him, Hotaru's expression is one of intense focus. Lost, perhaps, in the heat of the moment of charging directly into a real person's attack and not flinching, not hesitating. This time she was rewarded with a direct hit. How often will that risky exchange actually bear out though? It when he speaks that her azure eyes blink, a faint smile forming at the corner of her mouth. Where her cheeks not already a little flushed at the exertion of the match, a faint blush might have been visible beneath the stadium lights.
He starts to say something else when his voice cuts out and Hotaru pauses, eyes blinking in surprise. Maybe it took a moment for the impact of her blow to be fully felt? Just as she begins to realize now the lingering ache of his leg having cracked against her shins the moment she launched her shoulder into him moments prior.
No... he isn't balking in pain. Something else has captured his thoughts. A flicker of concern flashes over her expression as she pants for breath. There is no doubt he is not holding back. The feeling of facing someone giving it their all just like she is, even in this lead in match of tonight's venue, is a rush of exhilaration beyond anything she had anticipated feeling. But what of her opponent? Is he too awash in the thrill of the fight? The change seemed so sudden...
As he studies her aura, now plainly visible to his eyes, she is looking back at him, hands still raised, posture at the ready to move into offense or defense. But then the young man begins to glow unlike anything she had seen out of him thus far in the bout. Surplus energy trails behind his movements, spilling off in abundance. Is this what he is capable of? How could he possibly be nervous to fight?
He moves, a blur of man and energy, calling out a warning to the girl. It happens to be just enough.
It might not seem like it at first as his weapon of choice is whipped out, snaking out around the small fighter. There's an effort on her part to get hold of the string, to pull back in what might be a short lived contest of strength. Or... she can get pulled clean off her feet. Airborn again, but not of her own volition, the Futaba daughter grits her teeth, twisting to face Haru for a fleeting moment, hands brought together, a flare of blue energy surging to life between her palms -
The intent is clear. She intends to attack him from mid-air with another sapphire chi blast while's focused on his own assault!
That's the moment his hand extends and a burst of energy surges for her. That she had prepared her attack in advance from the verbal warning offered spares her the full strength of that first psychic pulse as it explodes through her chi, scattering the prepared projectile but losing some of its vigor in the process!
Of course, that doesn't save her from the attacks that come next - the girl flung in another direction, no longer able to twist her body against the forces utilized on her. The next blast elicits a cry of pain, only for it to be cut short as she's caught again and then blasted again.
After a point, she's no longer able to keep track. The plummet to the stage ends with an ungraceful impact, the girl landing in a heap. Her nerves frayed, her ears ringing, her body in pain completely foreign to anything she had prepared for in advance of this match...
A thought arises that it would be a good time to stop. She showed well, she believes... but it only lasts an instant. If she has time to think about it, then she has time to keep on fighting. And that is exactly what she is going to do, she decides.
Small hands smack down against the stone surface of the Howard Arena as Hotaru pushes herself up, shifting her legs beneath her center of mass and then stretching back up to standing. She has to make a ninty degree turn to find Haru. That he's been pushed to his limits is a thought that registers in her mind, but she can't spend time focusing on it now.
A step forward is taken, the girl's mouth twisting into a radiant grin. This feeling is incredible, of being the focus of a fellow worthy fighter's attack, to muster through it to keep going, to demand her body push itself to its limits. She isn't quitting yet!
Sucking in her breath, the girl finally bolts forward. This is it - a moment to make it all count. Even if it doesn't work, she will know she gave it her all. It is her hope and prayer that her all is enough to make it into this difficult world. "Thank you," she finally exhales from meters out.
And then she springs into a twisting hop, windmilling her arms into rapid strikes against the young man. "Soushou-" It would be his burden to steel his defense, execute his plan, or escape the onslaught of spinning palm strikes that come next - each strike laced with her hue of azure chi. "Tenrenge!"
The finishing hit would come if she finds an opening, however. Should he be caught in her relentless assault, should his guard falter, Hotaru will execute one final full bodied shoulder lunge, her entire form encased in chi, before diving right back down into Haru to knock him to the stadium floor before she would finally be able to come to a stop!

COMBATSYS: Haru blocks Hotaru's Soushou Tenrenge.

[                         \\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Hotaru           0/-------/------<|==-----\-------\0             Haru

It is literally all Haru can do to defend against Hotaru's sudden onslaught, and it shows. In fact, it's likely that if he were not apparently filled with... something, right now, he wouldn't even have been able to pull this off. Her motions are smooth, polished, displaying the intense amount of training she has put into perfecting her art. Each strike, empowered by that azure energy, flows from one to the next. Meanwhile, Haru's responses seem instinctive, rushed, and far from graceful by comparison. He's steadily forced back along the huge stone slab arena, his crossed arms being hammered by each of Hotaru's blows. On the tanned face it's obvious that his teeth are gritted, his breathing short. Even though he manages to defend against taking the full brunt of it, having been saved from being drawn into the air with Hotaru, the final diving blow of her combination STILL hammers him to the floor of the arena, driving the Justice student down to one knee.

For a moment, he does nothing; his hands drop to the cold stone of the arena floor, palms down, and he takes in big gulps of air. But against all expectation, he actually starts laughing aloud. Not a crazed, mocking laughter... if anything it's the laughter of someone's tension finally breaking, a sound of relief more than anything else. And it's because he could feel Hotaru's exultation in the moment. Every time they made contact, that momentary connection actually made the joy in expressing her skill, in testing her limits, flow through HIS body too.

Haru's own motivations for fighting were different, in their own ways. For him it was about coming out of his shell. Almost like making a dare with himself to see if he even could do it. That might not be so different from this young woman's goals, but it isn't exactly the same... yet the thing he is most afraid of -- his powers -- actually was a source of incredible wonder and beauty in this fight right now. No ache or pain or flashback can take that away from him, now.

"I didn't know..." Haru says, pulling himself standing, "that it could be like this." What does THAT mean? He's awfully cryptic, this one. Maybe it's just the fate of psions to think aloud in flowery language?

Either way, he locks gazes with Hotaru and sets his jaw. "But... I can still keep going. Just a bit further. I think it's the only way... I can thank you!"

He rushes her, the light suffusing him still, and swings his hands out in front of him, palms extended. The yoyos have gone; now there is just Haru, and his power. The light gathers, becomes something beautiful: a lotus flower, which blooms and then vanishes, leaving only a storm of spectral petals to carry Hotaru away if she's not careful.

COMBATSYS: Hotaru reflects Moonstone Tenacity from Haru with Kobi Kyaku EX.

[                         \\\\\  < >  ///                           ]
Hotaru           0/-------/-----<<|====---\-------\0             Haru

That the young man manages to stand strong in spite her relentless assault says magnitudes about his caliber as a fighter. She doesn't know he has already stared into the face of the once Emperor of Muay Thai and lived to tell about it. She doesn't know what trials he has endured before reaching this point. All she knows, with each palm strike she slams against his guard, he is not yielding one bit.
She takes a chance, diving into him, attempting one final crush of his guard on her ascent. The following dive has her sliding past, skidding along stone, coming to rest some meters later in a crouch.
The energy that she had made manifest over her whole body fades, the girl releasing a long exhale, head bowing slightly, a drop of perspiration falling from her chin to splash against stone. He's still moving, she tells herself. He isn't finished. Even when she saw his knee buckle from her pressure, she knew Haru still had fight left in him.
But her own effort has taxed her abilities, pushing her to the limits of her endurance. Every fighter has to start somewhere. Her brother may have years on her, but she will follow this road as far as she can go in pursuit of him.
Gritting her teeth, Hotaru pushes herself to standing. Her arms are weary but she bids them to rise into position to focus on Haru, trying to control her breathing as she is pushed to the point of being unable to ignore the fatigue invading her body, assaulting her ability to fight as quickly as she could at first.
It's his words that give her pause, brow furrowed at first as she slowly starts bouncing on her toes in preparation. His first words seem cryptic to most watching, but the perceptive girl quickly takes their meaning to heart.
A smile tugs at her mouth in spite her exhaustion.
"And this is just the beginning."
What opportunities, what dreams, what growth exist out there for the both of them to pursue? Her eyes meet his. The final exchange is determined to take place now. The Kung Fu artist nods her head slightly.
"I could not have said it any better."
Fight until one can't go on. The very concept terrified her in the locker room before the fight. But now? It's the most thrilling thing she can think of.
It is on instinct honed by practice that she acts next. She has, it appears, one trick she has been holding in reserve. One technique she unleashes now. As Haru rushes forward, Hotaru steps into a turn. Azure chi surges down her leg as her foot leaves the ground, her body twisting as she swings her limb up into a very high, reverse roundhouse. A swath of energy is left in the wake of her foot. She can't see Haru as she moves but she knew where he was a moment before she lost sight. "KYA!"
With her cry, the energy solidifies into a shimmering mirror for only an instant. It would be unyielding to energy and, in the aftermath, even detonate out into the path of her kick - a burst of blue concussive force...
Her foot touches down moments later as she completes the turn, hands snapping up on reflex rather than active thought. The roar of the crowd as these young fighters exchange some of their best techniques is deafening to the girl. She's really doing this - the dream years in the making has begun.

Having your own powers turned back on you can be an enlightening experience. On the one hand, you would think you'd known your own powers best, and be totally prepared for it. On the other hand, how often do you have to deal with being the victim of *your own attack*? Answer: basically never. And so when Hotaru effectively kicks Haru's blow back into his face -- laced with her own potent energies -- he's caught entirely unawares by it, sent stumbling back to land in a crouch, taking deep breaths that are now increasingly raggedy.

For a moment, part of him wants to use the last of his energy in one last gasp, try to even the score, see if he can't push Hotaru over the brink with one last gasp. But after he considers it a moment, the Justice student decides he's against it. And how does he show that? By closing his eyes, then toppling over backwards onto the stone arena, staring up at the ceiling and the bright lights above. His chest rises and falls as he tries to get enough air in his lungs to compensate, but it doesn't seem serious; his breaths are deep, but no longer rapid. The white glow that limned his body also fades, until what is left is... one exhausted fighter, having given his all, barely clinging to consciousness.

A part of him feels like he should try to get up, try to tell Hotaru congratulations, maybe even REALLY try to throw out one last strike. But part of him is also entirely satisfied that he gave enough, today, and so he says nothing.

But he DOES smile.

COMBATSYS: Haru takes no action.

[                         \\\\\  <
Hotaru           0/-------/-----<<|

COMBATSYS: Haru can no longer fight.

[                         \\\\\  <
Hotaru           0/-------/-----<<|

Haru's opponent is barely hanging in there, herself. This battle on the stage of the legendary Howard Arena has been everything she dreamed it would be and more. Meeting a new fighter who, like herself, faced uncertainties in embarking on this bold endeavor was just the link she needed to realize that she wasn't alone in her feras. No doubt many others have felt the same way in their early careers only to go on to become great fighters. So too will she.
As Haru falls back, Hotaru lowers her arms and releases the breath she had been holding for the entire time they stood facing each other following her defense. Her first impulse is to rush forward, worried about the young man's condition. But she pauses - is that what fighters want? To be consoled by their opponent after a match? How would she feel if it was reversed?
She struggles with this dilemna for several seconds as the crowd cheers the outcome of the rookie fighter match. No doubt this was more than they had expected when the young opponents first stepped into view. The girl takes a tentative step forward. She should say something. Thank him for the match, for what she learned just in fighting him, for finding someone who was not afraid to express his fears of this violent world they were trying to work their way into.
But then she sees the smile crease his face and the girl pauses.
Nothing needs to be said. He already knows.
Finally she becomes aware of the cheering and the girl turns toward the crowd, hands snapping to her sides as she bows in each of the four directions in turn. Rising out of her fourth bow, she waves, her expression glowing.
'Thank you, Haru.' she thinks to herself.
'We must meet again.'
Already officials are eager to get the two off the stage for the matches to come and the girl complies by heading back the way she came. She will savor this memory for some time to come. Of that, she is certain.

COMBATSYS: Hotaru has ended the fight here.

Log created on 22:17:59 11/12/2014 by Hotaru, and last modified on 04:57:37 11/14/2014.