IHST - Inter-High School Tournament: Daigo vs Natsu

Description: Natsu and Daigo have been avoiding fighting for a while, but the Gorin volleyball player can't run away forever! The third round of the Inter-High School Tournament is on fire -- but which phoenix will rise from the ashes as the victor?! (Winner: Daigo)

Gorin's Dome Arena is huge, and the seats are packed chock full of people for this third round match in the Inter-High School Tournament. Students and parents from Gedo and Gorin alike are gathered to watch Gorin's last, best hope of making it through to the tournament semifinals -- and judging from their opponent's fearsome reputation, Natsu Ayuhara is going to have her work cut out for her. The dome has been arranged to provide a clear and level area for this mid-afternoon fight, a rectangle of wooden floor planks providing the fight surface, surrounded by waist-high barricades to keep stray attacks from reaching the audience. Clearly, they know what Daigo Kazama is capable of.

Natsu is, admittedly, hesitant. The past few days have been something of a blur for her: just six months ago she hadn't even considered fighting as a viable career path, and yet here she is in the third round of the tournament. Coupled with her trepidation towards the fight itself is residual anxiety over the unusual circumstances surrounding the tournament organizers and the Atelier Group medical facilities; situations may have been resolved in name, but they still weigh heavily on the first-year student's mind.

Amidst hooting and hollering from the Gedo contingent, and cheers and riotous applause from the home team, the star of Gorin High's volleyball team strides out to the rectangle. Dressed in red and white, she's showing a very different look from the past few days: a broad and cheerful smile as she waves to all the fans.

There were always the smaller gangs of Gedo High students around. The hardcore ones weren't afraid of anything, and they sure made their presence felt. Gedo High and Gorin High were known for the animosity they shared. The only thing that prevented them from actually starting any trouble to prove themselves is the fact their leader told them to behave.

A few moments after Natsu's arrival in the fighting ground, Daigo Kazama makes his way in. He has his own share of applause from the crowd, from the supporters that came for him but it pales in comparaison to the cheerings Natsu had gotten. Obviously, this was her school and she had much more supporters than Daigo had here.

The tall man strides in and he folds his arms against his chest. He stares silently at Natsu, his expression stern and cold. The radiant smile on her face is quite a change from what Daigo has been used to see from her, and he wonders if that will last... Is it the fighting experience that changed her that way? He can only wonder.

Daigo nods his head to Natsu, "Natsu..." He says in greeting, his voice almost in a murmur, "May the best fighter win this match, and carry on the hopes of the loser,"

COMBATSYS: Natsu has started a fight here.

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Natsu            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Daigo has joined the fight here.

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Daigo            0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0            Natsu

Gorin High has -plenty- of reason to distrust, even despise Gedo High. Through Natsu and the volleyball team, rumors have spread like wildfire, promoted as the great truth behind Daigo's misguided attempts to spread awareness and respect for the tarnished reputation of Gedo High. For all his talk and bluster, he might have gained respect elsewhere... but not here.

And Gorin High is determined to keep its reputation as the one recognized leader of sportsmanship and athleticism in Southtown. That means letting Gedo do what they need to -- as the true glory shall be on the squared-off battlefield in the center of the Dome Arena.

Their representative is all smiles, raising her arms to work the crowd into a frenzy of cheering. She could easily turn sour, attempt to turn the tide against the towering Kazama as he walks in. But she's better than that: she turns to face him, her smile fading only a degree as she sees him once again. Swallowing back her fear, she fidgets with her sleeves for a moment before offering him a formal bow, silently.

As she rises back to her full height, the Gorin volleyball team spills out onto the wooden platform. They're not attacking, though -- they're placing volleyballs all around the court for Natsu to access as needed, with circular stands so that they do not roll away.

Ayuhara notes them with a faint chuckle, still bearing a tight-lipped smile as she addresses Kazama properly.

"May the best fighter win, and gain the respect they deserve." A week ago, such a comment from Natsu might come out with a petty, vindictive tone. But she's starting to understand, having watched his fight with Athena, just how much school pride matters to him -- as much as it does to her, really.

As the volleyball team disperses, the match official walks out to ringside. "Fighters ready?" Once seeing confirmation from both Natsu and Daigo, he drops his hand after a count of three -- "FIGHT!"

And without hesitation, Natsu launches forward. Nothing fancy, just straight, unbridled fury -- she lashes forward, levelling a backhand at Daigo's face -- possibly even enough of a strike to fell the gigantic tower of Kazama. He'd more or less -asked- her to do just a few weeks ago; the time wasn't right then. It is now.

COMBATSYS: Daigo endures Natsu's Medium Punch.

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Daigo            0/-------/-----==|-------\-------\0            Natsu

Daigo spares a glance around him once he's on the wooden platform for the battle. The presence of the rest of the volleyball team is a bit unsettling, but Daigo doesn't show any sign of distress or anything. His posture and expression remains of ice as he turns his eyes back into Natsu.

Unlike her, Daigo did not have the chance to see any of her fighting. Not out of disrespect, more because he lacked the time to actually watch them. He can't help but wonder what might be Natsu's fighting style -- after all, Gedo High students practiced martial arts, but Gorin's style was more sport than martial arts.

When Natsu lunges at him, Daigo doesn't even move from his position, he just braces for impact and waits her. His face tilts to the side, allowing her to smack his right cheek. He can feel her fury -- her strength in this blow, even though Daigo's posture allowed him to withstand the blow without flinching much.

As soon as Natsu's fist connected with Daigo Kazama's hard face, his left hand already moves to get a hold of Natsu's arm, as if to restrain her and keep her close to him. His right hand clenches into a fist and Daigo growls loudly to exteriorize his pain and might as he swings his fist straight for Natsu's midsection, to knock her away. He releases her arm the moment his fist feels like it is about to hit her.

COMBATSYS: Natsu interrupts Fierce Punch from Daigo with Knock It Off!.
-@- Dazing Hit! -@-

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Daigo            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1            Natsu

"Go go Natsu! Fai-to! Fai-to! Go go Natsu! Fai-to! Fai-to!" Even with the surge of adrenaline that comes from being able to finally, after over a month of waiting, getting the proper moment to deliver a powerful backhand to Daigo's face.

It was everything she'd hoped it would be -- the powerful sting throughout her flesh, the reverberation rippling up her carpal bones, through her radius and ulna all the way up through her elbow. She practically -hurt- herself smacking the wall of iron -- but it was a pain she was more than willing to live with after all that's taken place.

She hadn't really thought much further past this, however. So when Daigo stands and takes the blow... well, okay. When he grabs her -arm?- Uhhhhhh...

Fear sets in instantly. She knew he -could- retaliate, surely. And that's why she hadn't struck him outside of the school -- outside of the eye of her teammates, her classmates, her school officials. She'd thought herself safer now. But she realizes with sickening dread that she's far from safe -- she's played right into Daigo's hands. Her right hand, still stinging from the blow, is snared in his iron grip. Ayuhara clenches her jaw, adrenaline pumping through her at feverish rates as she squirms under his grasp -- she is tall, but he is nonetheless taller, and he could wrench the arm from its socket if he so chose. Pain knits across her forehead.

And then something happens. Natsu draws in breath, and for one moment of crystal clarity, connected to Daigo via his arm -- she has a realization of what to do next.

Her frame ignites with fiery intensity, chi rushing outwards at a degree unprecented for the young woman. She's... ticked, to say nothing else. Months of anger and hostility -- and her target is so close.

She feels the slight release in his grip. She can tell what's coming. And just as soon as the fist -almost- hits, Natsu leaps into the air, twisting just so. The fist slams into her midsection, similarly to his intent -- but with the sudden shift in position, it clips her in the side rather than full in the stomach.

Because Natsu has leapt up and taken grasp of Daigo's gakuran coat. Balling it up in her left fist, she rears back with her right hand for another strike.

*SLAP!* An open palm slams into the Gedo Boss's left cheek.

*BACKHAND!* Natsu shifts direction, once more cracking the backs of her knuckles into the right side of Daigo's face.

*SLAM!* Natsu reverses direction again -- and much like Daigo scant instants before, she lets go with her left hand as her right connects.

The intensity of her blow is enough to send her flying backwards, safely out of Daigo's grasp -- at least for a few moments.

She'll probably need those moments to get any sensation back into her right hand.

Daigo Kazama had not forgotten the boiling rage that was inside of Natsu in their previous encounter. He had wanted to give her a chance to get over it, once and for all, but then was not the time... Her radiant smile and her expression made him believe she might have gotten over it, but the fierce way she battles him might prove him wrong in the end.

The tall man's eye widens a moment as Natsu, instead of trying to defend herself, forces her assault forward against him. It was a bold and courageous move to perform. The way she pushes aside her own safety to attack him like this shows him how much she must have been craving this moment, this opportunity.

The open slap catches him off guard, and the sheer ferocity and strength Natsu forces into each of her blows forces Daigo to stagger backward. Every smack against his face seems to daze him just a bit more.

What the Gorin High volleyball captain is doing is doing is no small feat : her repeated smacks to his face breaches the iron man's resistance. Where he often managed to withstand most attack with unwavering might, Natsu's onslaught left him wobbling and sluggish.

The last blow even causes the tall man to drop to one knee, disoriented by so many blows to his head, no matter how hard it might have seem. A bit of blood trails down his lips, the smack leaving red welts across his cheeks.

One fist is pressed against the ground to hold himself, while the other goes up to his head, trying to stabilize the room and prevent it from moving.

The tall behemoth knew nothing was more dangerous than someone who fought with all his heart, who had a passion to fight their opponent... And Daigo knows Natsu's reasons are burning her, and that she has a good reason to try and defeat him... Him more than any opponent he fought. It probably gives her the extra strength and vitality she might need to overcome impossible obstacles.

Alas, Daigo Kazama's own reasons were just as important and he would not let her defeat him, not today.

"You do your friend honor, Natsu... Had we fought before, your resolve might have been enough to defeat me... But not here, not today while I fight for all of my school!" Daigo growls and quickly rises back to his feet, lunging at Natsu. His movements are a bit sluggish and he doesn't seem to charge in a straight line, thanks to the blows he got to his head.

As he draws close to Natsu, Daigo swings his fist down right at her feet -- a failed attack, perhaps? Doesn't seem like it though when his fist hits the ground and causes a part of the wooden platform to explode into a burst of flames, sending an massive inferno at Natsu along with wooden debris hurled at her by the blast.

COMBATSYS: Natsu just-defends Daigo's Phoenix Fire!

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Daigo            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1            Natsu

Natsu's shoulders slump as the excitement of landing two bruising backhands and two smashing open-handed slaps starts to fade away. The tendrils of chi-borne flames still waft from her shoulders, her fiery intensity fading to some degree, but not entirely.

Adrenaline can stave away some of the pain of getting Daigo's knuckles plowed right into her abdominal muscles, but it can't keep them from hurting in the moments afterwards -- and the precise moment Natsu feels it is when she lurches sideways, curling her left hand to her side, as pain ripples through her forehead. That took more out of her than she wants to admit, but in this moment of respite, she feels like she can humor her body's plaintive pleas to stop fighting for just a moment. Just this once -- just at the sight of Daigo, dropped to one knee.

But... when she sees that Daigo is able to rise back to his full height, her heart starts to pump more and more. The fire in her rises again, the flames stoked to a new height. Up till now, her flames had only been present when she's focused her will onto the volleyball, to defeat her foes with a crucial serve, or to block the ball from landing on the Gorin side of the net. Now? Daigo seems to have unlocked her true potential. She sees him not as a opponent to be whittled down with a volleyball -- but as an opposing /fighter/.

Drawing in her breath, she nods back in reply to Daigo. She regains her stance -- not her full height, but the low-armed stance of readiness she adopts in a match. It seems similar -- but her eyes are different. Burning hot, not a slate grey, dull as an overcast day.

When he punches, Natsu raises her arms in defense, preparing to meet the attack with her forearms instead of her face. Natsu's flames peak in anticipation -- but then wood splinters beneath Daigo's fist.

And this is when watching fight videos pays off: when the inferno blazes out of control -- Natsu actually draws inward, dropping her elbows to her waist, balling her fists before her. The inferno should envelop Natsu entirely, burn her with the fury of a thousand suns.

But when Daigo's inferno sweeps past, it's -Natsu's- flames that burn more brightly. Her skin glows a luminous orange from the intensity of her chi, as she opens her eyes -- no longer afraid of Daigo.

"You make it sound like =I'm= not fighting for =my= school!" Natsu wastes no further time -- she leaps forward, aiming to put her SLAMFEST instruction into good use as she rams her shoulder into Daigo, /hard/. Her chi flames waft behind her in the sudden aggression, as she then aims to use her shoulder as a fulcrum to knock Daigo backwards -- then grab for his arm, and use it as leverage to jerk him suddenly and sharply to the side, using the big man's mass against him as she throws him down. Physics may or may not be on her side for this -- but she'll never know if she doesn't try!

COMBATSYS: Daigo blocks Natsu's Combo Grapple.

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Daigo            0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0            Natsu

The floor is slowly growing more steady after Daigo's charge. The towering man slowly rises back to his feet after his chi created this blazing inferno, which has been snuffed out by Natsu's own burning flames.

There is no expression of surprise on the man's face, only that stern stare set at Natsu. At the very least, it seems like Daigo Kazama is taking the tall girl from Gorin High very seriously. He knows how fiercely her fighting spirit must be burning and that her desire to defeat him must rival his own to vanquish her, and he knows that a fighter's resolve is his strongest asset. He lowers his gaze, a thin smirk growing on his lips, "You are, but in this fight," Daigo says, not having the chance to finish his sentence as Natsu lunge at him. He takes a step back and braces for Natsu's charge, to catch her shoulder. Her amazonian built and frame made Daigo seem less imposing, and she even manages to make the tall man slide back an inch or two with her shoulder tackle, even though Daigo absorbed the impact with his forearm. "Is this really what motivates you and give you the strength to fight on against me?"

He doesn't even move when she gets a hold of his arm and instead rolls with it, allowing her to throw him off and slam him down. He doesn't go off too far off from Natsu though, and from his position on the ground, Daigo growls loudly as he attempts to slam his boot right into Natsu's face to knock her off and away from him.

Whether or not he's succesful, Daigo will give himself a swing to roll on his back and then back on his feet, slowly rising back to his full height.

"I may be mistaken... But I can feel in every of your blows your resolve and drive, Natsu,"

COMBATSYS: Natsu blocks Daigo's Medium Kick.

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Daigo            0/-------/---====|=======\=------\1            Natsu

Natsu is pleased that he hasn't made any particular motions to evade her charge -- but her enthuiasm flags just a notch when it takes but one forearm of the hulking giant to halt her forward motion. Natsu may be fast, and strong -- but managing to push Daigo Kazama down when he's =actually= ready for it may be a feat beyond her current capabilities. But yet -- Daigo rolls with her momentum, allows her to do what she'd intended -- only to land the ground on his own terms.

In all honesty, Natsu should expect no less from the Gedo Boss. Her flames flicker in mute reflection of her disappointment, but as she springs back to her feet, approaching the edge of the floor surrounded with volleyballs, she has an answer for him.

"Why wouldn't it be?!" answers Natsu, kicking a volleyball upwards with her toe even as Kazama rolls back to his feet. "I fight for the honor of all the students here -- with every ounce of my being! This isn't just -my- resolve..."

The cheerleaders and the volleyball team's chants echo in her periphery, as she stares back at Daigo, a confident grin crossing her face.

The volleyball is tapped with the fingers of her left hand. It's paddled into the air with an audible slap.

Natsu takes flight, the flames once again peaking. But when she slams her hand forward, placing her knuckles to the ball, the flames swell to engulf it. The flaming projectile shines a brilliant orange-yellow, stretching into an oval as it rockets towards Daigo at breakneck speed.

"... it's from ALL of us!"

COMBATSYS: Daigo just-defends Natsu's Blazing Serve!

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Daigo            0/-------/---====|=------\-------\0            Natsu

The chants and cheers from every students in the crowds are more than enough to show the spirit that animates all the students of Gorin High. The indomitable support they all show to Natsu, all the positive thoughts they are sending to her.

Daigo Kazama knew all too well what it meant to fight, not for oneself, but for all the others. What it meant to carry the dreams and hopes of every single students on your shoulder.

The tall man closes his eyes for a moment, letting this symphony lull him for a moment. The same kind of energy was present in the Gorin Dome than the one that was present in the Gedo Dojo a few days prior.

"You have changed, Natsu," Daigo says, his intonation soft and almost gentle as he opens his eye, "You are not the same girl you were the last time we met," The tall man shifts his posture as Natsu prepares her next attack : spreading his legs to brace for it, one hand at his waist and the other palm turned toward his face.

"You've changed for the better!" Daigo says, his voice higher, "I can feel it, all of your school supporting you, empowering you! You fight not for yourself, but for all of them," His lips curl into a wide pleasant grin, "There is nothing more honorable than this,"

When the flaming projectile flies in, Daigo rises his forearms to block the incoming blow. At the last moment though, the tall behemoth lets a loud scream out of his throat, his forearms igniting with raging crimson flames that burst outward to meet the projectile's, letting the wave of flames absorb and engulf that ball and reduces it into ashes, leaving Daigo Kazama totally unscathed.

He moves his arms away from his body, his stern expression on his feature as he stares at Natsu, "You and I are alike, Natsu... I see no cause nobler than this to fight," He bows his head respectfully in his direction, "For that, you will always have my respect..."

Daigo adjusts his posture, his feature growing harsher a moment, "But today..." Daigo says, leaning down and taking a long step and starting a slow, but incredibly dangerous and seemingly unstoppable charge in Natsu's direction, "Only one shall stand...!" He shouts.

The juggernaut takes a swing with his right hand, his massive arm coming down in one fell swoop to knock Natsu over, "And one shall fall!"

As simple as this. No matter how noble both of their causes and reasons to fight were, only one could emerge victorious, and both had their reasons to fight on to the very end, and both deserved this victory.

COMBATSYS: Daigo knocks away Natsu with Phoenix Backfist.

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Daigo            0/-------/--=====|=======\-------\0            Natsu

Daigo's words give small comfort to Natsu. They're inspiring, to be sure... but for him to be speaking of honor in light of all the -dishonorable- things he's done in the past few months, it brings the sick feeling back to Natsu's stomach, the unwelcome rage that had been plaguing her all along. The past week had seen a necessary catharsis, a renewed focus on hope and spirit... and his heartfelt reminder at the sorrow she'd felt gives her pause.

The treads of her shoes squeak on the wooden platform as she lands, the tips of her fingers touching against the surface. She's got to keep her strong face on, she keeps telling herself, but her body betrays the signs of an extended combat. Against any other opponent she's faced, this would just be the start of the battle. Against Kazama, it feels like she's already been shoved through the wringer -- her side aches, her right arm burns. The flames had been drawn out of her with that volleyball -- and snuffed out in the glare of Daigo's superior will, mixed with the flame just as surely as the leather fibers turned to ash.

Alike, he says. Respect, he says. He uses the right words now, but his prior actions are what made her angry. Her enthusiasm flags again -- but his snarl, his harsh demeanor puts her head back into the game.

But while her mind may be invigorated, thinking of all the way she can turn this back around onto Daigo, the thoughts of reaction come much too late. Arms still ringing from her previous attacks, they are slow to raise as commanded. She's not able to bring them up to defend against an attack so swift -- and Natsu is hit so hard, she may as well have been tried to give a hug to a passing train.

The force is enough to blast her backwards, knock her into one of the ABS plastic barricades surrounding the ring. There is no ring-out in this match, Natsu can not be simply disqualified so quickly -- these barricades are simply there to protect the wide-eyed audience. If Natsu couldn't react quickly enough, how could untrained onlookers be expected to fare?

The wound wouldn't show directly, but as the battered Ayuhara falls away from the barricade, the heat from Daigo's fist is now made apparent -- the uneven impressions of his knuckles seared into the fabric of her volleyball jersey. The bruises, of course, would have been concealed -- and in fact, Natsu would find it hard to move from the next -week- from how hard she'd been nailed, if she opts to avoid the medical wonders of the Atelier Group yet again. But as she pushes to her feet, arms hanging like rags from her shoulders, she nods quietly.

Honor. Respect. These are things she can appreciate. "Yeah," she agrees -- no platitudes forthcoming. Daigo's the one who's good with words right now.

Natsu lurches forward, forging a smile. She looks a bit crazy -- and why shouldn't it, as black spots start to creep into her vision? But she's not about to give up just yet. She starts running at Daigo -- with blatant disregard for the state of her body. She throws her shoulder -- the good one -- at the ground, breaking into a roll.

And when she snaps back up to her feet, the motion is smoothly chained together into a rising strike -- her fingers lace together to drive an axehandle blow right into Daigo's chest.

COMBATSYS: Daigo endures Natsu's Rolling Receive.

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Daigo            0/-------/-======|=======\-------\0            Natsu

His last words more or less sealed the fate of the two fighters. Neither of them would give up in this crucial fight, both having too much at stakes in this fight. Had it been a different occassion than this fight, Daigo might have not used his full strength on Natsu : he did not enjoy solving things using violence, but when he was forced to, nothing holds him back.

After his violent assault, Daigo takes a moment to recover, turning on his heels slightly to watch where Daigo had knocked Natsu. He shows no sign of remorse on his feature, his expression adamant. It was a clash of similar visions right now. His brows furrow gently as Natsu comes lunging back at him.

In normal condition, he would offer her a chance to surrender, a chance to stop all of this, but he knew well enough that doing so would only hurt her pride. Both of them had to fight to the end, until only one stands in the arena.

When Natsu brings her hands to hit his chest, the tall man buffs his torso a bit, as if presenting it to Natsu for her to hit him. He braces for the impact, growling in pain as he feels her hands pressing roughly against his ribcage. Though as he lets her hit him like that, his massive arms have risen both above his head, as if he was about to give Natsu a deadly hug.

It leaves her barely a second to react before the giant's arms coil up around of her slender frame to get a hold of her, to prevent her from squirming out of his grasp. If he manages to get a hold of her, arms wrapped around her waist, Daigo will swing her over his head, arching his back to suplex the volleyball player against the wooden platform.

COMBATSYS: Natsu fails to interrupt German Suplex from Daigo with Pile Driver.

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Daigo            0/-------/=======|=======\=====--\1            Natsu

COMBATSYS: Natsu keeps on fighting!

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Daigo            0/-------/=======|=======\=====--\1            Natsu

No more words need be spoken -- especially not with as hard as Natsu was just slammed into the barricades. Natsu is determined, and -definitely- not a quitter, as Daigo has already assessed. And she's just about as stubborn as he is, for better or worse.

She already knows how hard she -ought- to be pushing herself: she should've stopped a few strikes ago. But she'd never be able to live with herself if she didn't give this fight her all, this one chance to prove to the world of how -awesome- it is to be a Gorin student, to be surrounded by all sorts of people who throw themselves against unbeatable odds and still emerge champions.

It's that notion that drives her to keep going, even as her axehandle blow swings into Daigo's chest, even as it rebounds off his coat without any sign of damage. Natsu is strong, there's no doubt about that, but Daigo's defenses are tenfold so.

And it's that notion that causes her to roar out in defiance as Daigo reaches to envelop her in his grasp. She leaps upwards, hoping to snare her arm around the back of his head.

Natsu is not fast enough to apply her SLAMFEST training in such a fashion -- not today, and not against the nearly-2m tall Daigo Kazama. All she manages to do it get herself a bit higher -- to no avail.

The world spins out of control: the sky turns green, the grass turns blue in a dizzying spin. Mercifully, the blurry vision ends in a sudden field of black. The audience can see and hear Natsu's shoulders crack down on the wooden platform, her skull thumping a split second afterwards. Natsu's body crumples like a rag doll, flops over to one side.

And just as quickly as it happens, as assuredly as Natsu -ought- to have been motionless, her body slumping to a stop -- her fingers twitch. Her leg flicks, spasming.

And with a sudden slap of her palm against the wood, she's pushed herself back to her feet. Woozy, lurching uncontrollably to the side, she's fighting for the very balance to even -stand-, her body moving seemingly of its own accord. She -ought- to have stayed down, but she's not.

Still doubled over, one eye screwed shut from the pain, she cranes her neck to look up at Daigo.

And balls her fists, drawing in a very ragged breath. "Not... done yet," she insists, before pressing her lips into a tight, determined smile. Her hands unclench, fingers at the ready. Game on!

After his suplex, Daigo slowly rises to his feet. The goliath was known for his relatively slow pace, except for the sudden outburst of speed he showed during his attacks. He spares a glance in Natsu's direction : he sees her body motionless, caught with a few spams.

This was the end, Daigo thought, closing his eye and turning on his heels, turning his back to Natsu.

The sudden burst of cheers and screams from the crowd causes him to open his eyes once more. He recognized them : the cries of hopes from Natsu's fellows, all their chants beckoning her to carry her, instilling a second breath into her, giving her renewed vigor.

Daigo Kazama recognized it, because the very same happened to him a few days prior, in his school's dojo. He turns on his heels to face Natsu, no surprise on his feature, the same cold and harsh expression on his face as he stares at her. A thin smirle spreads on his lips when he hears Natsu's resolve, words under her ragged breaths. She was impressive.

Alas, he had the ungrateful task of crushing Gorin High's hopes and dreams -- their last chance in this tournament. He had no choice : all of Gedo High counted on him, he had to fight through this round.

He gets into his fighting stance, his hand turned palm over him, his other fist at his side. He stares at her but he hesitates for a moment, "Come, Natsu... Let us finish this," He says, inviting her to give it all she has for the final showdown between the two of them.

COMBATSYS: Daigo takes no action.

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Daigo            0/-------/=======|=======\=====--\1            Natsu

When the time came to fill out the application for Gorin High, Natsu believed she had her entire life planned out. Attend Gorin High. Win the championships. Breeze through college on a full volleyball scholarship. Hang a few Olympic gold medals on the wall.

Nowhere did her plan involve fighting with the champion of a rival school -- or even fighting anyone at all. The very notion of fighting was something of a lark, at first -- but, as with volleyball, she'd become determined to master it utterly. Every moment not spent on volleyball was poured into studying fight videos, learning new techniques and, when feasible, practicing against other opponents.

The trope a master challenging his student with a supine hand is one she had experienced often. And seeing it now, in person, the challenge is one she couldn't ignore. A wry smile works its way across Ayuhara's face as she looks back at the hand.

Angry dark splotches are forming across her body (though some are hidden by her jersey), badges of honor showing the numerous injuries she's accumulated thus far. Unconsciousness is a mere breath away, held at bay only through the Gorin challenger's tenacious determination, her willingness to see this through. Her arms: pretty much trashed right now. Her legs, though? She's eager to find out just how much punishment they can dole out. With a sudden tilt forward, she begins executing what could easily be her last drive for the fight. Her sore arms pump back and forth, aiding her body in the effort it takes to propel her as fast as she can manage.

Once she reaches the Gedo Boss, she twists about into a high kick -- arms little more than counterweights flung to the side, her heel is poised to blast right into his chin, punctuated with a rather loud howl: "HAAAAAA!" She'd failed to knock the big man off his feet before, but with her momentum and leverage, perhaps it's a goal that's now in reach?!

COMBATSYS: Daigo fails to interrupt Rival Launcher from Natsu with Phoenix Fist.
- Power fail! -

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////                         ]
Daigo            0/-------/=======|===----\-------\0            Natsu

Once her kick lands, though -- Natsu is not content to rest on her laurels. Harnessing what's left of her dashing motion, she whirls back to face Daigo -- but by this time, she's dropping low to a crouch.

Natsu then springs up into the air to capitalize on Daigo's momentary departure from the ground. She's able to catch up to him in mid-air, and slam the back of her left hand into Daigo once more. And then she follows this rotation with a right kick, sending her whipping back to the other side. A left knee follows, then another knee from the right. Just as Ayuhara's starting to get out of range of the Gedo Boss, she whips her left arm up overhead -- and brings it scything down in an off-handed spike to send him flying towards the ground. "HAAAAAA!"

It was the final clash between Gedo High and Gorin High. Against all odds, Natsu kept on fighting even though she had received one hell of a beating from the iron man, Daigo Kazama. The tall man seemed in a much better shape than Natsu and instead of smashing her while she was still painfully recovering, he gave her a chance to rise.

Despite all of his actions lately, Daigo would fight Natsu honorably. He had been in her situation a few days ago, and knows what it is to be on the brink of defeat. When Natsu finally lunges at him, so does the giant man. A loud scream escape his throat as he gives Natsu all he has to offer : an incredible burst of speed from the tall man who attempts to exchange mighty blows with her until there would be only one standing.

His fist burns fierce as he hurls it in Natsu's direction to intercept her attack but her nasty kick hits him square under his chin, twisting his attacking wail into a painful groan as his massive frame is literally lifted up the ground.

An amazing feat no less, one that restores the burning passions of the students in the crowd, who cheers loudly at Natsu's comeback. Daigo Kazama could feel it -- not only in their cheer, but in the strength of Natsu's kick. It bore with it all of the weight of her school's pride, of everyone who were behind her, empowered by her resolve to fight till the end, to exhaustion.

The same burning spirit and resolve Daigo had -- he was not underestimating her in the least. He knew how much it could inspire one to greatness, like Natsu in this moment... And the ones who were there supporting her only gave her even more strength to overcome him.

Daigo's form goes high up in the air, his body seeming limp, sluggish. He's unable to defend himself against the flurry of blows from Natsu, from her aerial combo, squirming and cowering at the blows, growling in pain from each hit against his body until Natsu's final slam sends his body back down more rapidly, crashing back into the wooden platform.

The impact causes a small crater around of him -- the wooden plank breaking under his weight and the force of impact. Daigo Kazama lies there for a moment, the time it takes for Natsu to land back after her jump.

This display of might from Natsu certainly sets the crowd on fire as they chant and cheer for her in unisson. Alas, Daigo was not done with. He lets a loud painful growl escape his throat, his body slowly rising back to his full height, obviously shaken by Natsu's onslaught. He staggers a little, trying to regain his composure, trying to stand back up to his full height.

This was not over yet. Not on her part, not on his.

Natsu's been in front of cheering crowds for many, many occasions. She's learned to tune out the cheers, to relegate them to a background process -- she knows they're present, she appreciates their presence, but it's extraneous information when she needs to focus on her own performance. There are many ways to feel the crowd's energy coursing through her -- hearing is one method, seeing is another.

But right now, she's focused on seeing her attack land, on both hearing -and- feeling the crunch of her bones impacting Daigo's -- the culmination of months of rigorous training and dedicated study, resulting in, for at least a few fleeting moments, the complete authority over what happens to Daigo Kazama.

She lets gravity continue the tag-team effort, relishes the thud of his back into the wooden platform as it cracks and gives way. Buoyant and light from her sudden transfer of momentum into the Gedo Boss, she lands a few moments afterwards. Her sneakers tap down a few feet away from Kazama's crater. As before... her shoulders slump, her arms hang limply. She could stand up straight, like Daigo -- but she's more comfortable this way. Not only is it really painful, but -- conveniently -- it's also her default volleyball stance.

It's right about then that she can hear the crowd again, like ears popping after a change in altitude. The roars of cheering, the thunderous applause. She beams at the response, her smiling muscles being less injured than the rest. This feeling? This is what she fights for.

Her ribcage heaves with each and every breath. She nods back at Daigo, pleased to see that he's still standing. She may not be for much longer -- but when she makes another leap to close the distance at him, she'll be content with that. No matter what else happens, this rush of endorphins won't be forgotten, and it won't go away.

The volleyball captain steps to the side of the ring. Several volleyballs are left for the taking: she leans over, scoops one up with her hand. Having met the sensei's challenge, she issues one of her own, leveling her arm at Daigo and extending her index finger at him. Calling her shot: right at the face.

Taking flight once more, Ayuhara leaps into the air, and practically slings her arm at the ball, too weak to use her normal methods, but still able to follow through with a powerful serve strong enough to smear the letters printed on the ball into a nearly-illegible mess, stretching the ball into an oval shape as it hurtles towards Daigo. Her flames may not be hot enough to light the ball on fire at the moment, but her determination is clear. "ATTAAAAAACKU!"

COMBATSYS: Daigo blocks Natsu's Tokkun Spike.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////                          ]
Daigo            1/-------/=======|====---\-------\0            Natsu

Daigo had taken quite a beating from Natsu -- she had proven to be a lot more tenacious than he had expected out of her. The battle was slowly wearing him out, the various smacks and hits she gave him to his face showing : the red welts on his cheek, the soreness of his chest. The bruises on his body were hidden thanks to his large coat, and the man had always been good at hiding his injuries.

Still when he stood before him, his stance was not as adamant as it used to be. She had managed to breach through the iron man's defenses. He was unsteady on his feet, her strength dazing him somewhat, even if it was momentarily. Daigo Kazama breathes loudly, his chest heaving back and forth from the fatigue. His eye rests on Natsu as she reaches out for the ball and takes it.

His response to the powerful serve? Daigo moves his broad arm and swings it in the way of the incoming ball, knocking it away with his arm, meeting her force with his own. He prevents it from hitting his face, but still feels it rippling through his forearm.

Even though a little nudge might be enough to make Natsu fall, Daigo Kazama did not want to disrespect her -- to the very end, he would fight her with all his might.

Daigo quickly covers up the distance between him and Natsu, his determination to end this fight growing stronger every second. He could not affort to let her beat him here.

Daigo folds his arms against his chest, taking a stone-like stance, letting his burning passion manifests into a maelstrom of flames all around of him. The swirling flames rise from the ground like a blazing inferno, a tornado of flames that engulfs him and are meant to engulf Natsu with him as well.

COMBATSYS: Natsu fails to interrupt Super Phoenix Fire from Daigo with Set and Spike.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Daigo            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Natsu can no longer fight.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Daigo            0/-------/-------|

As Natsu's volleyball slaps against Daigo's guard, the volleyball captain is nonetheless smiling. There's no dishonor in taking a loss against a champion who's half a foot taller and several times more powerful. She gave it her best shot, no matter what -- and the gulf between the capabilities of the two is clear.

The cheering at her back -- the indomitable spirit of Gorin? That's what keeps her standing, keeps her from just giving up. And when Kazama takes the long strides necessary to meet her, Ayuhara strides up to meet him almost as quickly, emboldened in part by her previous luck in hitting the Gedo Boss, and in equal measure, her determination to give him the best fight she's capable of.

When he stops, Natsu keeps going, raising her palms in front of her, as if to charge right through him. If she'd managed what she was attempting, she'd have shoved him right over, knocked him squarely into the air, and followed him to deliver a painful aerial spike, yet again.

Regarding Natsu's capabilities, Daigo's phoenix flames have a difference of opinion. She hadn't been ready to leap into the air, but the rising heatwave pushes her up anyway. As she runs, she practically runs into Daigo, her outstretched palms and her face hitting his uniform coat at the same instant. The inferno rages, blasting the Gorin athlete upwards. Her eyes screw shut from the pain; her mouth gapes open in surprise; her feet leave the ground; her world spins, yet again.

The cheering for Gorin stops, a collective hush falling over the crowd. Will she make it? Will she manage to defeat the odds yet again?

As Natsu's side impacts the ground, leaving spider-web shaped cracks, it's clear that, this time, the answer will be a resounding no. The girl's eyes are closed. And they stay closed, her crumpled-over body motionless save for the nigh-imperceptible rise and fall of her ribcage.

She feels none of this -- she was unconscious before she'd even finished flying upwards.

"AND THE WINNER, BY KNOCKOUT, IS... DAIGO KAZAMA OF GEDO HIGH SCHOOL!" The Gedo crowd's cheers are loud enough to drown out anything else.

Already, the Atelier Group's medical personnel are on the move, with a stretcher and a portable medical kit. And this time, the Gorin High volleyball team is not barring their path.

With the final blast, Daigo keeps the his stance : his eye follows Natsu's descend from the sky. He waits for her to fall, and waits... Until he hears his name being proclaimed as the victor of this battle.

Daigo lifts his gaze up, thoughtfully, a faint smile spreading on his lips. Natsu had fought with all her heart and resolve, and had given Daigo a much rougher time than he expected. Though in the end, Daigo has prevailed, and so the hopes of Gedo High carries on to the fourth round of the tournament.

COMBATSYS: Daigo has ended the fight here.

Log created on 18:04:16 01/13/2015 by Natsu, and last modified on 19:30:47 01/14/2015.