Honoka - Ohsaki

Description: Associating with a crazy chick who calls herself the Empress is bad enough, but denying her request to burn down a house could get a man killed. Unless that man has connections that the Empress doesn't know about. Connections that may or may not involve a tanuki named Don-chan.

Warehouses generally have terrible acoustics. Especially large, vacant ones in the middle of nowhere. Well... almost nowhere -- it's a good five-minute walk from the Tsukanome train station in Ohsaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, but it's well past dark, and the populace has long gone home and snuggled deep in their beds. Only one person is here -- Kazuo Niijima -- and he's seated in a chair in the middle of the cavernous production floor for what was once a small-time shipping company.

He's tapping his foot on the floor. It's obvious from the echoes.

The heat is off. It's 60 degrees. And the man is sweating bullets -- a fact made even more obvious as the only lightsource is the smartphone in the middle-aged gentleman's lap.

The reason why becomes more clear when the service door opens up, a flood of pale moonlight splashing into the room. A young woman, dressed in all black, walks up, a living silhouette against the moonlight. She wears completely unnecessary sunglasses of a purple tint, her jet black hair pulled back into a severe bun. She does not seem to need the light -- either she can see perfectly well, or doesn't care to look around.

Besides, her objective is clear.

"Niijima-san... it's been a long time. You... do know why I summoned you here, yes?" The young woman's tone: unsettlingly level. As she walks close, it becomes clear that she's masking all emotion from her face as well, instead waiting to let Niijima's response decide the guise she'll take.

Niijima shudders, hesitant to respond. He knows damn well why she's here. And nods slowly. "Y-y-yes, Empress. I know."

And he knows something that the self-proclaimed "Empress" does -not- know, as well.

Ibuki had caught a lucky break. Instead of being punished for skipping a rigorous training session to go to the mall, which she'd omitted from the 'excuse' phase of her relationship with her elders, she'd been sent on a mission. What was her mission? It was delivered to her by a bespectacled individual, who began the lecture, "In order for our clan to function we sometimes Wawa. Wawa. Niijima-san. Wawawawawa..." For just a few minutes, she spaced out, Elder Sanjou's statement devolving into white noise, "Ibuki are you even listening?"

A hand moves to the nape of her neck as she flashes him a grin, "What? Of course I was listening! You want me to poke around in Ohsaki City right?" Elder Sanjou sighed, given that she was missing some critical details, putting a hand to his face. "Let's go over it again, Ibuki."

~Somewhat Later~

Ibuki does cartwheels atop the bullet train to Ohsaki City between bouts of dodging the various hazards of riding atop a train. It's the best. "THIS IS THE BEST DON-CHAN!" The Tanuki clung to her back for dear life, his bushy tail tied with a red scarf fluttering in the breeze behind him, squeaks in disagreement in regards to her gymnastic capering.

~A little later~

Inside the warehouse, shrouded under the cover of darkness, Ibuki had a great vantage point of the proceedings. At first she'd been tempted to tap her finger against cardboard in time with Niijima's nervous steps, but instead she remains completely silent despite the boredom. The sudden light which pierces through the dark causes her to squint into the distance, as she watched the approach of the Queen, no... 'The Empress'. That was the impression she got even before Niijima named her. It was absolutely fitting, given the way she carried herself.

Ibuki stroked Don-chan behind his left ear, then his right, and tapped him in the center of his forehead. The Tanuki suddenly skittered off in near silence at the signal, but where to? She then listens, and waits just a tad longer, a sharp sliver of metal finding it's way into her palm, just in case she needed it to deflect any hasty actions. She had decided to intervene, just not, yet.

"Is that right...?" continues the Empress, looking down at the smartphone. With one quick motion of her wrist, the smartphone flies from the man's lap with a loud crunch of crumpling electronics, its cold light spilling about the room for one brief instant before the battery connection severs. The Empress pauses deliberately, allowing Niijima time for his vision to adjust to the near-complete darkness of the moonlit room. He might nonetheless hear the sick clack-clack of the phone as it hits the concrete floor, but with the dimly-lit form of the Empress in front of him, he knows better than to make any move to retrieve it. It's worthless now, anyway.

*SNAP-hisssssss* is the sound of an road flare igniting, courtesy of the Empress. Light dances along the inside of the warehouse, casting the features of Niijima and the Empress into stark relief -- a much more powerful light than the dim smartphone would've ever been capable of. Blindingly bright, too, unless you happen to have welding-grade sunglasses on.

The Empress smirks. She tucks the long cylindrical flare right between the knees of her captive. "Be a dear, and -listen-. Since you -failed- to do that last time." Her tone pitches just a bit more severely, as she begins to walk around Niijima's chair.

"You seem to have forgotten two things," continues the Empress, her rubber-soled boots making hardly any sound at all as she circles around behind Niijima. "Number one... I do not tolerate disobedience. You either prove your worth to me, or I dispose of you."

She continues walking around -- her soft footfalls ceasing as she picks up the phone, presumably to dispose of it. "Number two... I do not like to repeat myself. You had one job. ONE. I've not asked you or your family members of... anything yet. You had one very simple assignment."

The Empress turns back towards Niijima and the hissing flare. Sweat beads roll down the sides of Niijima's terrified face.

"I would normally stop to listen to an excuse. Begging for mercy. But the fact remains that... the house still stands. They were on vacation, Niijima. No one would have been hurt..."

The Empress breathes a heavy sigh, lightly rapping the half-destroyed phone against her wrist. "Now? You're forcing my hand. So now tell me. Why didn't you burn it down when I asked?"

The Empress narrows her eyes at Niigata, paralyzed with fear. A merciless grin pulls up at the corners of her lips. She's... enjoying this.

But a slight facial tic betrays that something else is on the interrogator's mind. Something's... not right about this.

COMBATSYS: Honoka has started a fight here.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|

COMBATSYS: Ibuki has joined the fight here.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0            Ibuki

Kunoichi in Ibuki's village weren't allowed to own cell phones. Despite how useful technology was to the modern world, how much it could aid in their missions, it was considered a liability to their clandestine world. Ibuki however, was an adolescent girl, and that was one rule she couldn't abide by. She winces in sympathy as the man's own phone was crushed in one swift, violent motion, her hand drawn back, ready to throw the kunai within it in case she followed up with an execution. And yet she didn't. The ignition of the road flare causes her to squint before she looks frantically over at her 'partner' who was now on a seperate high warehouse rack and wave him backwards and out of sight.

Don-chan did so, but not before he first, gently... set down a cell phone which he'd grasped by the case. Ibuki gave him a thumbs up, and blew an impromptu kiss. Don-chan scampered a ways back, tail wrapped in his scarf twitching. By the time she looks back, the road-flare is nervously clenched in between the man's knees, and she can't help but wince. 'Brutal' were her only thoughts on this 'Empress' of the gangs as she listed off his various sins. In a way, it reminded her of how a Princess of one of the larger ninja clans might treat a failure.

Eventually as she asks her question for the final time, Ibuki decides to intervene herself, bringing herself up into an easy crouch. "Now now, Empress-sama." Her chiding voice rings out, echoing throughout the warehouse, there's not even a touch of irony in her voice at the title, though. "I really appreciate how you've got high standards for the men you're involved with. And that forthright..." And sadistic, but she doesn't say that, "...personality that makes the boys weak in the knees? That's so admirable!" There's a pregnant pause that lingers in the air, before she continues, "But your forgiveness when people fail to meet those standards is.."

A beat as she flings the sharp piece of metal in an attempt to hit the hand holding the cell phone, "...lacking. What are you going to do when it spreads that you can't just let the little things go?" She somersaults down to the warehouse floor, landing balanced on the toes of a single foot, "If that happens you'll never land a date again! I've got to save you from this tragic blow to your reputation!"

COMBATSYS: Honoka instinctively blocks Ibuki's Kunai.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0            Ibuki

The Empress looks up at the sound of her voice, having already been more-or-less facing Ibuki. She should have been more careful... but it wasn't until Niijima's fear and hesitation had reached a fever pitch that she was able to tell that there was another presence in this nigh-abandoned warehouse. And not just one other, but two. (Sorry, Don-chan!)

Looking over her sunglasses at the kunoichi lurking in the shadows, the Empress purses her lips. She looks between the speaking voice and the shuddering, cowering man with the flare clutched between his legs. She's being mocked -- it doesn't take an idiot to notice that, especially considering the level of sarcasm the Empress can dish out when the situation allows.

The situation is not now. The Empress has decided exactly what will happen, and she fixes her gaze on Ibuki. Twirling her finger, leaving the gesture to do the talking for her: Get on with it.

And when the knife comes whistling out, the Empress just shakes her head. "Predictable."

The cellphone goes up. The piece of metal embeds itself within the cellphone, even going the extra inch or so into the Empress' palm. Blood slowly begins to trickle down her wrist. "I've no particular interest in your two-faced friend here. He's lied to me. And he led -you- here."

She smirks back at Niijima -- who seems even -more- terrified. Calmly withdrawing the piece of metal from her hand and from the phone, she smirks back at the man. "Oh, you didn't think I'd noticed?" The Empress flips the shard of metal around in one hand, idly.

And then she rams it into his thigh, pinning him to the wooden chair just as she'd had the phone secured to her palm. Only, perhaps, a little deeper.

Niijima had been quiet before, but his screams are loud enough to wake the dead now.

And the Empress seems to enjoy that too, as a smile creeps across her sporadically lit face. The flare... is not remaining still now, considering its holder is screaming bloody murder.

But neither is the light consistent enough to see exactly what the Empress is doing either. One can certainly see her hands lash out into the darkness -- but not -directly- at Ibuki. Once, twice... it's hard to know exactly -what- she did, other than perhaps the slight sound of something sticky hitting the concrete. "I think..." she intones, loudly enough to be heard even over the screaming. "... my reputation is safe."

And her hand flicks out again -- though this strike is a little more clear. It's a throwing knife. And it's aimed with deadly precision at the mysterious visitor's solar plexus.

COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Ibuki with Thrown Object.
Grazing Hit

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Honoka           1/-------/=======|==-----\-------\0            Ibuki

Ibuki had to admire her skill, for so effortlessly blocking her kunai, and with just half-broken cell phone to boot. However, what was more telling is how 'unconcerned' she sounded by the presence of a kunoichi in the room. How she took the time to punish Niijima, who had started screaming from that retribution that caused even Ibuki to wince. She wasn't just a formidable woman, but she was a formidable fighter as well, dangerous in all the ways that matter.

Which meant, she had to concentrate, and trying to save Niijima would create so many distractions. She had to find a way to get him out of here and quick, but first she needed an opening so she wouldn't risk her partner doing that. She calmly, while warily begins a dance of expert on the balls of her feet, ignoring the cold of the warehouse floor, keeping her eyes on eerie smile, lit by what was almost a strobe effect.

Her opponent makes her move, with a throwing knife of her own, though aimed with far less mercy. Ibuki twists and bends over backwards, just as the knife carves a laceration over the fron of her tan dogi. "Predic-" She almost returned the verbal riposte, but something stops her, as that word ends in a yelp. That's when her wrist strikes the small explosive trigger which sends her rolling from the microexplosion to land sprawled out on the floor. Although she springs up in recovery, it's not as quickly as she'd like, and she finds herself waving the smoking handwraps of the hand which had triggered it. "Okay, /not/ so predictable." She murmurs, clearly impressed.

With one hand injured already, she can't really rely on her hands for a while. Instead she begins her dance anew, more warily, moving towards her opponent with a feinted spinning palm strike which is sent purposefully wide. "Safe? I'm not so sure..." She tries to use that to lead her into the path of the foot she's curling up against her body. "...people are talking. Someone's got to look out for you, Empress-sama!" She lashes out repeatedly with a vicious series of whirlwind kicks, leaving streamers of azure chi in their wake, attempting to strike through her guard and punish her mid-section. "You don't want to be viewed as some aloof ice queen by your adoring public do you?"

COMBATSYS: Honoka blocks Ibuki's Tsumuji.

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Honoka           1/-------/=======|===----\-------\0            Ibuki

The Empress known -something- was wrong when Niijima wasn't just silent -- he was -hiding- something. She'd given him plenty of opportunity to speak and put a quick end to his torture, and despite her fearsome reputation, well... he obviously had something interrogation wasn't going to make him spill the beans on.

But... that's done and over with. Niijima's stopped howling with pain, instead dropping to a mere sobbing and whimpering -- clearly, he's used to -ordering- people to do bad things, but when the piece of metal gets rammed into your own leg, that's something different entirely.

Amateurs. The Empress brushes a fingertip across the small rivulets of blood running down her wrist, calmly striding over towards Ibuki. She quietly notes the detonation of her explosive, quietly curious as to whether Ibuki will inadvertently stumble into another. Her grin only grows as the term 'ice queen' is bandied about. She raises her forearms into a cross pattern, calmly loosening her stance as Ibuki's kicks lash out at her.

The typical human radius and ulna can only withstand a small amount of pressure before snapping -- and this amount is -usually- exceeded by the amount of force delivered by just -one- of Ibuki's kicks. This is one reason (of many) that the Empress keeps reinforced rods of a composite ally up her sleeves. The reverberation may cause some problems, but it's a pittance compared to the wear and tear on her bones. The Empress' soles squeak against the concrete as she's driven back by the successive strikes, but she's not putting up -too- much resistance -- as Ibuki's driving her back towards the light. Literally, -not- figuratively.

"Hmm, see?" she responds, the exertion showing in her eyes, but not marring her maniacal grin. "Maybe that's the image I -want- to cultivate."

And with Ibuki at close range, the Empress will lash her unbloodied hand forward, attempting to grab her dogi by the front. She'd follow that up by planting her boot right into Ibuki's waistline, and then fall backwards into a semblance of a tomoe nage grapple. But in the midst of that attack, her heel would also be plunging a spike of dark energy through her -- an attempt to purge Ibuki of her will to fight.

COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Ibuki with Wakka Pururuse.

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Honoka           1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\0            Ibuki

The metallic clangs against Ibuki's foot give her pause, but she doesn't stop the kicking. There would certainly be a bruise there, on the top of her foot in the morning, and she hops up and down in the aftermath on the single foot that remained planted, using it to carry most of her weight.

Ibuki tries to hop backwards on that foot, but there the Empress is, serpent quick, grabbing her dogi, and the Kunoichi's eyes go wide, as she tries to prevent what is happening from happening by a desperate grab with her... injured hand. Even the attempt pains her, but not so much as when she's grappled, and the boot is driven into her waist, lifting her up and over. Trying to ready herself for rolling with the landing, she believes she's steeled herself completely, when the spike of dark energy is driven right through her.

Spasming in agony, Ibuki cannot even catch herself mid flight to arrest her impact, she hits it hard, her back striking it with a metallic clang, that bends the side of one of the racks lining the warehouse, right before it collapses, showering the area in cardboard boxes and all but burying her beneath it. For a moment, all is still, before one of them shifts, and she drags herself out of it on trembling arms lined with bruises. She felt, drained of her will to even continue fighting.

Eventually however, she does stand, perhaps too tenacious to do the smart thing here, grinning like a fool beneath her half mask, even if it's just a front. "Well if that's what you want. Can't blame a girl for trying, right?" Falling back into the rhythm of the fight, she tests one injured foot, by dantily pressing it against the ground. "Word of advice though." Finding that it holds, she breathes an inward sigh of relief.

"If that's the image you want, you should get lose the sunglasses at night look." Moving in flanking circles, her footwork is slow at first, but eventually picks up, as the Kunoichi becomes a blur of motion. Somersaulting quickly enough to leave afterimages her wake, she attempts to stomp both of her feet against her shoulders, and if all goes well, use Empress as a springboard to carry her to a higher vantage point and try to take her focus away from the tortured form of Niijima. "It's so nineteen eighty three!"

COMBATSYS: Ibuki successfully hits Honoka with Hien.

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Honoka           1/----===/=======|=======\=------\1            Ibuki

Niijima has fumbled around with the torch, managing to knock it onto the concrete floor where it's unlikely to hurt anything. He's still pinned to the chair -- which was the main reason he wanted the light -- but there's still just enough for him to see by. How did that shard of metal get slammed down so hard, anyway, he wonders...

The Empress's grin grows larger as her exchange sends Ibuki flying into a storage rack, and resumes her slow, steady advance forward. Until she realizes that... maybe she's far enough from her prey as it is.

Ditching the sunglasses isn't a bad idea, from how fast the kunoichi is moving. They clearly aren't helping her track the shinobi as she's flitting around like that; when the Empress anticipated an attack from the right, she instead got nailed from head-on! Reeling backwards from the heels slammed into her, the Empress exhales sharply in pain, arms windmilling in a futile effort to keep her balance. She would have succeeded, had that cardboard box not been there, causing her to twist sharply to one side.

1983. A good year. And one with no real cultural relevance to the Empress, sadly, so the reference is lost on her. Gritting her teeth as she pulls herself out of the crumpled box and off the concrete floor, she begrudingly takes Ibuki's advice, taking off the shades. She's apparently content to slide the shades across the floor, somewhere out of the way. "You may regret giving me fashion advice when I steal all your handsome boys away." Pausing a moment to dust herself off, she flicks her right arm down by her side. The reinforced metal rod from her sleeve slides down compliantly into her open hand.

"I don't suppose your handlers happened to tell you the /real/ reason I'm here. That would give you too much credit." It was nothing more than a calculated guess -- a hypothesis based on Ibuki's youthfulness and the relative boldness of her attack. Coupled with the lack of grandiose rhetoric that more experienced trackers might employ in convincing the Empress to put a stop to her wicked ways.

The Empress smiles pointedly, cautiously keeping herself positioned between Ibuki and Niijima as she keeps her azure eyes focused intently on the kunoichi. Daring her to make the next move when she's -not- encumbered by those sunglasses.

COMBATSYS: Honoka focuses on her next action.

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Honoka           1/----===/=======|=======\=------\1            Ibuki

Despite the hit, Ibuki springs right atop another storage rack, kicking off of it, to send her upwards back to her original position. She almost slips right off the cardboard, which isn't the most solid surface for the teenager, but manages to balance herself just in time. Turning around, she offers a thumbs up at the Empress, "Oh come on, don't be like that! Even an Empress can't keep track of /all/ the cute boys!" Putting both of her palms against her cheeks, she offers facetiously, "I'm sure I'll be able to 'ninja ninja' a few away with my girlish charms!"

Ibuki whistles however, at her next comment, before replying irritably, "Rudeeeeeeee! Haven't you watched any anime? Kunoichi are kind of on a 'need to know' basis when it comes to their missions."

It's at that moment mid-speech, that she leaps, somersaulting towards the Empress gracefully, before uncurling, moving towards her with one arm drawn back. "I don't really mind not knowing why I have to kick your butt, and save the day. Just that I have to do it!" When she gets close enough, she'd deliver a forceful palm strike, aimed towards the center of her chest. Perhaps she's trying to be unpredictable by being so predictable that the Empress wouldn't think to anticipate it in advance?

That /must/ be it, right?

COMBATSYS: Ibuki successfully hits Honoka with Medium Punch.

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Honoka           1/---====/=======|=======\=------\1            Ibuki

No. The Empress can't hoard all the cute boys. But she believes she can change the world and maybe THEN all the cute boys will be hers. But until then, the Empress is all business. ... Mostly all business. What do you know?!

Despite Ibuki's protests, though, the Empress got the information she was looking for, in both the quick candor of the reply, and the information stated. In other words, it's quicker for Ibuki to confirm the truth than it would be to make up a lie.

Not to mention, the Empress can -feel- when someone's lying.

If the Empress had extended that sort of logic to Ibuki's palm strike, she may have been able to dodge it. But as she was expecting the ninja to be -sneaky-, well, the direct application of force just wasn't planned on. Despite her eyes never leaving Ibuki, her arms are -still- ringing from those kicks, and she's a bit sluggish to respond. As such... the palm to her sternum is strong enough to knock all the wind out of her chest - and not only that, send the Empress flying off her feet.

Right into the chair that Niijima's still furiously working to free himself from. "YEEEEEEEARGH!"

The Empress may be in pain, but she takes special delight in that as she starts to push herself off the concrete floor. She picks up the flare, all but forgotten about in the ensuing battle. While Niijima's howls start to subside, it's... just not enough for her -- boldly, she plants one boot on Niijima's other leg. And wags the torch at Ibuki demonstratively. "Tsk, tsk. Did you forget -why- you were here? There must have been -two- objectives, then... weren't there?"

And then she kicks the chair over, setting off another round of howling.

And then she -throws- the torch at Ibuki, light rocketing straight towards Ibuki -- the overpowering, single source of light casting no illumination to anything =else= in the room.

COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Ibuki with Nochiu-o Kando.

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Honoka           0/-------/--=====|=======\=======\1            Ibuki

Masked in the glow of the flames, the Empress had raised her reinforced metal rod. Tracing a quick circle, she inscribes a star within it -- and a brilliant pink-purple light infused the circle. The Empress's eyes close, but she does not need her vision for this -- as a powerful psychic blast is aimed directly at her current ninjutsu-wielding antagonist. It'd be like experiencing a nuclear furnace -- if only within the confines of the mind and soul, rather than the flesh.

Not to mention... Ibuki seems to have found another one of the explosive traps the Empress had planted earlier.

And through it all... the Empress' baleful grin.

Ibuki winces as she sees that she'd just sent the Empress exactly where she /didn't/ want her. Right on top of Niijima. At first, she moves forward, to try to wrest the man away from the situation, but as she picks up the flare and plants one boot on his uninjured leg she stops short. She had hoped that she could simply be enough of a distraction to keep her from focusing on the fact that Niijima was still here.

Unfortunately, the Empress was far more perceptive and cunning than she'd given her credit for, and it becomes a hostage situation. As it stood now, there were at a least a dozen angles from which she could attack her, but only one would help poor, unfortunate Niijima. And that was the one she was expecting. So instead of moving forward, she falls back. "I haven't forgotten." Ibuki says coldly, bluntly, eyes flickering to another part of the room. When they look back, the torch is coming at her. And she's momentarily blinded, putting her arms up in front of her face and dancing to the side to try to avoid any coming attack.

She doesn't even see it coming. The psychic blast hits Ibuki head on, and she has no time to even scream, at first. Falling down to her knees, she puts her hand to her head, and makes an muffled, agonized noise. For a moment, her eyes roll back and the Empress can only see the whites of her eyes, and then comes the scream. The pain of being atomized, melted in the middle of a nuclear furnace, injected right into her soul. The kunoichi falls over to her side, and for a moment she's in the fetal position, trembling and shivering.

Honoka's attack wasn't to be underestimated, but neither was the kunoichi's recovery time. From her position on the ground, she mutters a word, almost inaudible at first. "Don-chan." And then she screams it aloud, "DONNNNNN-CHANNNNN!" From above, something rolled off the rack, to land right next to Ibuki, creating an obfuscating haze of smoke over her immediate position. The little Tanuki then scampers off back into his hiding spot.

Poor Niijima doesn't get the same benefit, which is likely for the best, however that was the kunoichi's intent. Had Niijima been covered, then the Empress might have killed him where he stood. Instead, it was meant to mask her...

Getting up.

Suddenly a tan blur bursts out of the haze of smoke, though not quite as quickly as before, not with the same speed, or power, or even resolve, given the impressive amount of force she'd hit her with. However, every movement trails azure chi which she's been limmed with. Ibuki attempts a grab right towards the arm holding the metal rod, and tries to tug her forward, before spinning and driving the same arm right into her into a powerful elbow strike to try to drive her right off her position over Niijima. However she wouldn't relent if it hits, trying to leave the elbow there anyhow.

She'd felt the metallic clangs earlier, she knew she was armored. Fortunately, she had a solution to that. "You're kind of heartless." She says bluntly, coldly, as she draws her other arm backwards, incandescent light glimmers in her palm, and she drives it forward into the elbow of her other arm. "But take my ultimate heart-breaking attack anyway!" The energy carries forward, through one arm, and down the other, out through her elbow before attempting to lance through their target, which explodes from within, to create a powerful, spherical burst of her chi that would envelop both the Empress and Ibuki, before dissipating. "YOROITOSHI!" A tanto of chi, meant to pierce even the thickest of armor, just like the samurai of auld.

COMBATSYS: Ibuki successfully hits Honoka with Yoroitoshi.

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Honoka           0/-------/--=====|===----\-------\0            Ibuki

Niijima is... in a lot of pain. He definitely won't be able to use his leg again soon. And depending on when he can get to medical care, he might not use it again -ever-. But such is the price he pays for neglecting to do what the Empress asked him to. And if Ibuki doesn't put a stop to her, it's quite possible that might not be the end of his trials.

The Empress isn't worried about him right now though. Folding her arms across herself, she grins ear-to-ear as her psychic onslaught works its way into Ibuki's psyche. She'd worked long and hard to hone her skills, refining the exact procedures to make pain hurt that much more... without even laying a finger on her target. She's pretty dang smug about it too -- which anyone could see if the torch hadn't been tossed so far away.

Or... y'know, if a... what is that, a ferret? Raccoon? It's hard to see in a room suddenly full of smoke, that's for sure. The Empress grimaces, raising her reinforced rod in anticipation: kunoichi plus smoke bomb equals sneaky-sneaky.

One would think it'd be easy to see azure chi in the moonlight, but when you're the -focus- of the attack, it's a whole 'nother story. The Empress starts to leap away from Niijima, but her rod ends up working against her, as Ibuki uses the leverage against her, grabbing her by the wrist. Tugged forward, the Empress grits her teeth, knowing on one level what -might- be coming next. And she's right, about the elbow strike. Predictable!

But she was much less able to predict the appeal to her ego. Heartless? That's so /sweet/ of you to say...

She doesn't have time to respond though, as she's doubled over =wheezing= at the time. Ibuki hits hard. Real hard. And as she attempts to stagger back, she finds her arm still held tight -- and Ibuki's elbow slammed into her -again-. What in the world?!

The Empress's eyes go wide at this second strike -- she'd kept them half-lidded for most of the fight, but it's impossible to ignore the even more powerful impact. If it were a knife, it would be able to pierce through her armor -- but as a potent chi weapon, it's able to do orders of magnitude more.

The Empress may find that she does not -like- having all of her synapses firing at once, all of her nerve clusters registering the same sensation of pain. She does not like all of her muscles convulsing -at the same time- from the awesome, terrifying outpouring of chi from her opponent. Nope. Her howls... are loud enough to drown out Niijima's, as she's blasted backwards from the attack, propelled backwards -- her body blasting a pallet of wooden storage crates to naught more than splinters. Even hitting the concrete floor isn't enough to stop her flight -- she tumbles sideways, the metal rod she's been keeping a grip on clanking and clacking with each rotation.

If it weren't for her fortitude, she might have given in. The Empress's face is contorted in pain, her body battered and bruised, her darkened clothing ripped and shredded from the numerous dances with wooden crates. Thin red lines criss-cross her face as she pushes back to her feet, her outline fringed by moonlight, her features painted dimly by the reflections on the smooth concrete floor.

"The hell was that, anyway?" she says, casually winding her way past the shattered detritus to return back to the flare's light, and her would-be prey. "A ferret? A raccoon?"

Her eyes take on a maddened bent, as she narrows them in mocking derision. She makes a mocking gesture, flicking the back of her hand at Ibuki. "And you named it /Don-chan?/ Seriously?"

She is most definitely =suffering= from pain... But adrenaline lets her refrain from =acknowledging= it. Not until this is done.

Irritably, the Empress' hand is still bleeding. But as she makes that mocking gesture one more time, the bleeding becomes more obvious, as it's drawn upwards into a spherical shape -- tracing the flow of her psychic energy as it adopts a simple, sphereical form -- one quick enough to be flung straight at Ibuki's face. Screw honor!

COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Ibuki with Ishirishina.

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  ////                          ]
Honoka           0/-------/-----==|=======\=====--\1            Ibuki

Ibuki just stands there, with her elbow outstretched after the strike, her chest heaves like the bellows for a few moments, before it sags back to her side. Initially she starts to turn around to face Niijima, with the intent of going to him. Getting him out of here.

It's a premature notion, as she hears the broken crates, the crunch of cardboard, the scattered contents moving aside, as she sees her foe angrily advancing on her like some sort of imperial juggernaut. In the light of the flare, it looks like the fury of hell comes with her.

Ibuki has no time to answer, she tries to steel herself against a coming physical attack, but she didn't expect the true intent of a psychic one. Nor does she know enough about such attacks to adequately defend against it. Her mind is an open book to it. As she's struck head on in the face, feeling fire in her mind and throughout her body. The kunoichi falls over backwards, holding her face, features contorted in a silent scream.

It saps all of her remaining willpower to fight. Her body doesn't feel like it's much better off, like the blast had caused some sort of severe physical, and mental concussion. A wave of nausea hits her, and for just a moment, she turns over onto her belly, away from her opponent, tearing away her half-mask as she heaves, the contents of her stomach lost upon the warehouse floor. Fortunately, it lands her right next to the... flare. Her trembling hand moves away from her mouth, and grasps it. Without looking Honoka's way, she picks it up and smashes the lit end against the ground. Broken off, the flare dies in a space of seconds, forcing everyone in the room's vision to adjust to the sudden looming darkness.

Unable to see, her attack would be unlikely to be accurate, but a desperate plan occurs to her. Honoka might hear her feet leaving the ground, as she springs directly upward. She might 'see' the faint outline of the kunoichi against the moonlight. "Ninjitsu..." Numerous objects flicker out of the outline, each one glinting in the low light of the moon, tell tale signs of their positions. "...Kasumi Suzaku! I won't forgive anyone who insults Don-chan's /kawaiiii/ name!" %
It's entirely bluster at this point. Unable to see her target, but with her target able to see the signs that they're coming would any of her kunai even hit home? What was the purpose of cutting out the lights at all? How long could the adrenaline of this situation keep her upright, much less conscious? It's over in a matter of seconds, and the warehouse is blanketed by silence, which might only be broken by Niijima's sobbing.

COMBATSYS: Ibuki can no longer fight.

[                      \\\\\\\\  <
Honoka           0/-------/-----==|

COMBATSYS: Honoka has ended the fight here.

COMBATSYS: Ibuki can no longer fight.

[                      \\\\\\\\  <
Honoka           0/-------/-----==|

COMBATSYS: Ibuki successfully hits Honoka with Kasumi Suzaku.
- Power hit! -

[                            \\  <
Honoka           0/-------/-----==|

The Empress takes a deep breath after slinging her attack Ibuki's way. She cuts a terribly imposing presence, towering over the kunoichi -- if they were standing they'd be eye-to-eye, but with Ibuki doubled over... the Empress clearly feels the ball is in her court.

As the shinobi reaches for the flare, the self-declared Empress clucks her tongue. "Really? I suppose you think you can even stand a -chance- against me now?" She slaps the metal rod into her open palm, spattering a few sticky droplets of blood in the process.

And then... the light is gone. The Empress had seemed amused at first, but now, with the light off, this becomes tedious to her. All Ibuki has done is rob her of the expression on her face... "Tedious, but futile." The Empress takes long strides forward, closing those last few feet to the fallen shinobi, aiming to make her show of force complete.

Her boot steps down onto what -should- have been Ibuki's shoulder -- a split second after she'd left the ground.

The Empress realizes, in one torturously long instant, just how much she'd underestimated the kunoichi.

And in the next instant, she hears a voice above her. And probably the fevered scurrying of that blasted rodent, too.

If the Empress had released the rod, she might have had a bit more time. But from how -close- Ibuki is... she would have needed a miracle. Gripping the rod tightly, her hand ignites in purple flame: the Empress begins to leap for cover.

When one studies the martial arts, certain things become rote, second nature. Throwing weapons is one such art -- even when a pattern is not obvious, it is nonetheless still present. It's just hard for the Empress to appreciate the bladed weapons when they're ripping through her jacket, shredding her pant legs, or slicing across her ears and face. Each fresh red line etched across her skin elicits a barely-restrained whimper from the Empress, still fully inebriated by the adrenaline coursing through her veins but still doggedly determined to mask the true extent of her pain.

Each knife that hits her is, by itself, something that the Empress can cope with. But together, as a whole... it's too much for the criminal puppetmaster to just shrug off. She'd been able to vault a fair distance, but, woozy, she's not able to maintain equilibrium, thoroughly unbalanced by the perfect storm of kunai missiles. Haphazardly, she steps off to the side in an attempt to regain balance

And then her foot finds the broken-off remainder of the flare; along with the illusion of control, the Empress tumbles gracelessly to the floor like a toppled house of cards.

The sound of a skull going 'clonk' as it rebounds off a concrete floor is pretty unmistakable, just for the record.

Hissing out a sudden rush of air as she hits the ground, the Empress fights to stay awake. She rights her head, glaring as she looks around the moonlit floor. How many times had she been turned around, she wonders? But it's not long before she gets her bearings. Hears the sobbing. And catches the sight of a kunai glistening upon the floor. Sliding it into her grasp, she closes her eyes. Focuses on the sound.

The Empress had decided before she'd arrived that Niijima would live, if he could live under her imperial fist. But if not, if she judged him unworthy, he would die. She has no need for words to punctuate this thought -- nor any voice to speak them.

As the Empress finds her will to stay conscious fading, she relies on raw vengeance to guide the blade towards Niijima's throat.

COMBATSYS: Honoka takes no action.

COMBATSYS: Honoka can no longer fight.

Ibuki had little idea whether her throwing knives had found purchase or not, in the sudden shift from macabre light of the flare to the faint illumination of the moon. Only the fact that she hadn't heard the clatter of metal on concrete or metal directly after a few of them gave her some inkling of that fact, with Empress' whimpers being drowned out by far by the agonized sobs of Niijima.

When she touches back down, she doesn't so much as roll, but hits hard when her foot slips out beneath her, the wind being knocked out of her side hits hard. She's still for a few crucial moments, other than the sharp intake, and exhalation of breath. What was worse wasn't so much the physical pain, but the fact that her mind, it still felt like it was smoldering.

How do you shut out the pain, when it's seared into the mind, into the soul? That's a question she wishes she knew the answer to.. The kunoichi can only lay there, and try to deal with it, Niijima's sobs became white noise, what she was trying to pick up, was... Empress. In her blurred vision, she saw something, moving towards him, in the dark, one movement after another. For a while, she can't even process what it is, with her mind feeling like it's some charred wasteland containing her screaming thoughts.

And then she's moving herself. Crawling across the warehouse floor, willing her thoughts to stop screaming in agony, willing her body to obey her. However, she's not going to be in time. Metal gleamed within the moonlight, as Honoka's strike falls. With one last surge of adrenaline, Ibuki presses with the toes of her feet against the ground, and like some coiled spring moves forward.

Except she had no Kunai in her hand to parry the strike. Her leather armguard lashes out to try to bat the kunai out of the way, feeling the angular point dig into the side as she does so, throwing the strike wide and upward just as it meets flesh. The man's sobs become the piercing shriek of a salaryman who had never known 'true' pain, more panicked than ever, and garbled. Even now, the Empress' strength was considerable as a result of her iron Imperial will, and Ibuki keeps her armguard there, against the knife, struggling to do so. Willing both her mind and body to obey.

She was so certain that Niijima was a dead man already, half expected his shrieks to fade into nothingness in a matter of moments, but... they didn't. Puzzled, she steals a glance and sees the canyon carved out across the center of his throat. The descending stab, the awkward parry of her armguard, it started deeply between his right carotid artery and trachea, it moved upwards to a superficial cut right above his trachea, finally stopping before it would nick his other parallel life-giving vessel. He looked like he should be dead, or at least dying at a glance, until you /really/ looked.

"Don-chan. Phone." The girl mumbled, as the Empress' strike finally fell limp, which at first she didn't believe, and raised her arm to block a subsequent strike that never came. Something skittered down from one of the storage racks, and tentatively crawled up to the kunoichi with the phone hanging tentatively out of his mouth, by the cover. He sniffs the wailing Niijima, then snorts as if unimpressed. She held it up to her ear: "1-9-9? Got a worker who..."

~A short time later~

After she blacked out for the fourth time in which only God or her Tanuki knew how long, she managed to get the mess that Niijima had become to the front of the warehouse, delivering him into the waiting hands of the medics. Fortunately they had bought her lie over the phone, so no law enforcement were present... yet, though she did have to wave off their own offers for care once they got over the fact that she was 'cosplaying' as a ninja.

The cops would be coming as soon as one of the medics radioed into the dispatcher, though they certainly wouldn't be looking for Empress. Who would tell them? Who would /believe/ them if they did? By the time they mustered the manpower for an actual search of the warehouse in total, she'd be long gone.

Ibuki limped into an alleyway, then finally collapsed for good against a wall, a tiny creature pulling pieces of smelly refuse over her to mask her presence for as long as it would take to recover. That might be a while.

- A short distance away -

Consciousness came in a sudden rush to Honoka. Eyelids flicking wide open, she stares, adjusting not to the moonlight, but to the pale orange illumination of the interior of a compact SUV.

"Where is he--"

Sudo's arm bars across Honoka, restricting her against the back seat of the SUV. The man has ridden alongside Honoka for many of her trips to the 'countryside,' and... not all of them go well. "Don't speak."

Honoka bristles, the fury barely kept in check. But she soon realizes the wisdom of his advice as her muscles strain under her protest. "Fine. Answer my question."

"You missed the signa--"

"I know the procedure, I -made- the procedure," the Empress snaps -- even drowsy and drugged, she's still full of fire. "Where. Is. He."

"He was gone when we got there," answers Sudo, keeping his arm locked against Honoka's shoulder.

The criminal empress grits her teeth. If Sudo's arm -weren't- there she'd have likely slapped him. As it is... she chokes back her anger, seething.

"I see," she states, practically hissing through her teeth. "Ohsaki is lost, then. A minor setback."

Log created on 18:41:16 12/02/2014 by Honoka, and last modified on 21:48:43 12/03/2014.