Ayame - Mission #10: The Moon of Absolution

Description: Beneath cold winter's moon, an assassin slips across sacred ground to put an end to one of the blights that torment her kind... If the killer has her way, the legacy of the Ichijo would come to an end.

For centuries, the Ichijo clan operating out of the Meian Jinja has stood sentinel over the southern regions of Japan. Supernatural threats of all forms and manifestations have been suppressed or eliminated by the powerful spiritualists born from this lineage. Ayame Ichijo is merely the latest in a long line of priestesses dedicated to the task of rooting out darkness wherever it may lurk... though she, in particular, has proven to be maybe overly zealous in her pursuit of the so-called creatures of the night.

Any stray Darkstalker who doesn't know how to stay off the radar around Southtown stands a risk of eventually finding themselves hunted down by the relentless miko. While she will chase any, those guilty of crimes are more likely to show up on her radar. But she will take any opportunity she can to erradicate or chase off the creatures she blames for corrupting society and strengthening the shadows that seem to always linger over Southtown itself.

With a brilliant mind and sharp memory, she is one of the most dangerous investigators of the supernatural around. Any and all clues, rumors, and trails are recalled with near perfect recollection, allowing her to find even some of the more difficult to find elements hiding underground. News, rumor boards, and good old fashioned patrols through the city at all hours of the day or night are the basis of her investigations. All it takes is the smallest kernal of information of something supernatural taking place for her to latch on and pursue it until the trail goes cold or she succeeds in her objective.

It would be easy enough to set up a patsy for the austere demon hunter. Just get any creature in the news, leave any clue at the scene, any breadcrumbs that only someone imersed in the world of shadows would be able to find, and Ayame will go on the hunt. One such ghoul would make the perfect bait. Plant just the right details regarding a sighting and the Ichijo priestess would hunt it down. Undead receive no mercy from the severe miko. They already lived their lives, they needn't have a second chance.

Thus it is that poor Harold the Ghoul would have met his end this evening, caught sleeping in an alley. His only crimes were petty theft and minor vandalism as he foraged garbage dumpsters for food. Oh, yes, and the crime of being a darkstalker. The undead was now re-dead and Ayame returned to her remote home with a feeling of satisfaction and nothing in the way of remorse. Travel to and from the remote Meian Jinja was conducted by way of a very old, 70's era station wagon with rotting wood paneling and severely chipped paint. Hardly the chariot of champions, but the old beast had been in the family for more than one generation now and no one seemed to have the sense of buying a new car that wasn't a dinosaur.

The shrine itself was miles outside of Southtown, located deep in a lush bamboo forest, surrounded by a vast grove of ancient cherry trees. The wall that surrounds the compound is inlaid with countless ancient seals designed to ward off evil, but the ancient wooden gates leading into the courtyard hang open, even in the night hours. Judging by the growth of plantlife around the massive wooden doors that would seal off the courtyard itself, it has been decades since they have been closed. Certain traditions and precautious have waned as the world rushed into the digital age... afterall, it isn't like it was in the dangerous past, where demons roamed the countrysides each night, waging warfare on humanity, right?

At night, the compound would be peaceful. Lanterns hanging in the courtyard would illuminate the paths to and from the various structures, but even they would only be dimmly lit. Most of the household and staff of the shrine retired early at night. There was no point in pouring too much fuel into the lanterns no one would even be awake to appreciate.

The living structure is simple and old. It is likely that it has not been rebuilt in over a hundred and fifty years, following traditional Japanese architecture practices dating back to the nineteenth century. Two rows of rooms with rice paper doors offer the residence a place to dwell. Each room opens in two directions - one door opens to the outside, the other opens into the central hallway that runs along the length of the building.

Once it is sufficiently late, all the rooms are dark. Many of the rooms were dark to begin with for they sit empty. The staff of the Meian Jinja is nothing compared to what it had been in years past. Only a skeleton crew maintains it now.

The last living quarters to go dark is the one on the far end. With a penchant for late nights spent studying, Ayame had moved to the room on the end furthest from everyone else. It allowed her to study without keeping anyone else awake, and also afforded her the most peace and quiet, free of distractions for her meditations and intricate experiments with chi arts, wards, and talismans. But eventually even the night owl must snooze, and the last candle is snuffed out.

The Children of the Night is a small pack of Darkstalkers that roams across the world, constantly seeking others like them to join their ranks and fight with them toward the same goal : destroying humanity. Their ideals is lofty, considering their numbers and they are well aware they lack the power to achieve such a goal. Though they strive to ensure a better future by eliminating any and all humans who prove to be a menace to Darkstalkers. Lack of power for killing all of them, they can at least remove from the surface of the earth those who are the most threatening to their kin.

This band never stays in place for too long. They do not wish to be known, nor hunted down, after all. They've lived long enough to know that, the moment Darkstalkers settle in place for too long, humans will inevitably find them. Rumors will spread, and hunters will come. History repeats itself, and the legends are always born from Darkstalkers who tries to live in the margin of human society.

When the pack's travels brought them near Southtown and across other Darkstalkers, they learned about the Ichijo clan. Some had been lucky to be left alive and were banished from the vecinity, less they wanted to be slain at the hand of the priestess who had first caught them.

Southtown was a too vast city for most of the pack to wander in without risking getting caught. However, one of their member, was a cunning master of disguise, stealth and deceit. The perfect person to send as an assassin to liberate the region from the most zealous members of this clan.

A simple yet clever trap was setup for her. They expected her to come after Darkstalkers in her region, and when she did, all they had to do was follow the trail she had left behind. She might have not realized it, but to master hunters and werewolves in the pack, tracking down Ayame was not an overtly rough feat.

Kiyomi ventures in the bamboo forest along with a werewolf who leads her to the shrine. From this moment on though, Kiyomi would be on her own. The werewolf would watch over her and wait for her to return. He gives her one last piece of advice, and a general indication of the scent he can pick up, before he lets her go.

Kiyomi was no stranger to seals and wards against evil when she approached. Her parents both lived the tradional way... A long, long time ago. It brings back memories. Painful memories.

The kitsune makes her way into the shrine's compound. Her step as light as a feather, she scans her surrounding and slowly makes her way through. She uses her mysterious powers to shroud herself in a veil of illusions, should anyone stumble on her, though who knows if it'll be effective, but it proves to be her best use of stealth she possesses.

Kiyomi had a general description of the woman who was hunting and oppressing Darkstalkers relentlessly, and this is the one person she came here for. All the rest she could assassinate before leaving would be extras. The werewolve's indication were enough to guide her through the courtyard and toward the living quarters. The kitsune waited for the right time to strike -- the light of the moon and of the lantern enough to guide her toward her first victim. No need to rush. Kiyomi patiently waits until everything goes dark, and even a bit further. If she can catch them while they sleep, their death while be swift and painless...

The Kitsune approaches the old structure, marching on the wooden porch. Her sandals making a faint clank noise against the structure. Her hand reaches out for a panel and she slowly slides it open, peering inside.

The intruder will have to be careful with her steps along the wooden platform that runs along the length of the living quarters. The wood itself is dry and old, cracking in many places. No doubt it the entire platform has been replaced more than once over the centuries since it was first built in this sacred valley, but it looks like it might be due for such renovations again soon. Only her expert step would keep her from sending a loud creaking noise echoing along the way to announce her presence.

The paper and wood door outside of the room she has selected offers little in the way of defenses. Even if it were to possess some kind of lock, such a fragile construction would not really be considered a barrier of any kind. Within the compound in general, there might be a vague sense of ill-ease for the infiltrator. These grounds were hallowed ages ago and while the powerful wards that linger in the walls may have lost a lot of their potency, there is still a pervading sense of discomfort for any creatures of the night that would think to enter this compound of demon hunters and spiritualists.

But their strength has waned, their ability to keep the creatures of the night at bay simply by sealing the gates each night no longer in place, and Kyomi will be able to move through the night undetected.

Within the room itself, Ayame Ichijo, latest of the Ichijo clan legacy, sleeps atop a flat mat on the smoothly polished wooden floor. Clad in a white thigh lengthed kimono, her hands folded over her stomach as she sleeps on her back. Unlike the severe expression she harbors for anyone who observes her while awake, she rests with a faint smile at her lips, a gentle countenance in tranquil repose. It seems that she is not at all troubled by her actions against the ghoul earlier this night. She sleeps with a conscience devoid of any regret. Unless stopped, this Scourge of the Darkstalkers would do it again without any reservation.

The rest of the furnishings are simple enough, but stepping into the room might increase the sense of malaise. Atop the desk against the right wall are strewn countless small talismans of varying colors of paper, shades and shapes of inscriptions, and sizes. On the floor adjacent to her mat is a long, wooden staff that has been intricately carved with runes and symbols from top to bottom.

Other than a dressor to other side, and a closet, there doesn't seem to be much else of interest within the room.

After the first creak of protest that comes from the wooden plank under her feet, Kiyomi opts to take off her geta for precaution, hoping her socks will make less noise. Doubtful she will be able to come back for her geta, but it's a small sacrifice.

The intangible protection within the compound causes a shiver down the Kitsune's spine. Her fur bristles from the sensation of uneasiness and the sudden burden she feels on her shoulder, enough perfect to distract her and make her progress harder and hinder her silent steps and focus that someone will notice her presence.

The Kitsune gives a cursorary glance around the room before she proceeds to walk in further. The woman's discomfort only increases as she approaches Ayame : her angelic feature in her sleep, not an hint of remorse on her face. It fuels the anger she feels within, those sensation in the pit of her stomach. The effect of the wards mistaken by the rage and hate she nourishes against humans, especially those like this girl.

The Kitsune reaches out for the pommel of her katana, slowly pulling it out from its sheath with a soft hushed metallic grind as she brandishes the weapon up. She steps in closer, right by the side of Ayame's mat. The woman moves both of her hands on the handle and she contemplates Ayame. No expression betrayed the cold glare she gave her.

Mercy, she would give her none, giving her the same treatment she had with Darkstalkers. Her only regret is how her precise blow will send her into an eternal slumber with little suffering. Swift and painless, in her sleep -- almost too good for someone like her.

The katana is right above Ayame's right breasts, held high up, like the Sword of Damocles. Kiyomi prepares her precise strike -- if all goes well, she should pierce her heart and end her existence. With all her might, Kiyomi then plunges the blade down.

COMBATSYS: Ayame has started a fight here.

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Ayame            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Kiyomi has joined the fight here.

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Ayame            0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0           Kiyomi

COMBATSYS: Kiyomi successfully hits Ayame with Deep Strike.
Grazing Hit

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Ayame            0/-------/-----==|=======\=------\1           Kiyomi

Inside the room, the floor has been better preserved. Safe from the elements and frequently cleaned and oiled, the wooden surface smooth and creak-free. Combined with the assassin's subtle step, entering without a sound once the door has been opened would not present a challenge.

The vindictive demon hunter continues to sleep soundly, showing no response to the Uninvited One. The rest of the shrine is silent outside other than the occasional 'clack' of the deer startler off in the distant garden. She will be able to complete her objective and leave silently. The deed would probably not be discovered until sometime come morning and by then she could be long gone...

But as she moves into the room, one of the talimans on the desk begins glimmering a dim, pale ghostly blue. Kiyomi would feel nothing from it - no heat, no stress trying to keep her at bay, no invisible wall preventing her entrance. But it would glow slightly brighter the further in she stepped. It seems harmless enough though?

The shift in ambient lighting is just enough to cast a glow across the room, rendering everything more visible than just the moon outside managed. The sharp katana reflects a hint of that light as the assassin prepares to end this swiftly and silently.

It is any wonder what caused her target's eyes to snap open just before the blade plunged to end her life. The shift in lighting, a creak barely heard, the near-silent sound of steel slipping free, or just the presence of malevolent intent in her room? She's rolling to the side even as the sword comes down, leaving it to skewer through her mat and into the wood below. But she did not escape unharmed, a slash of cloth and streak of blood on her left side evidence of how close she came to getting pierced through!

On her feet, her expression is one of wide-eyed alarm and panic - hardly the composed, confident demon hunter that went out stalking her prey earlier this night. "Who- what are-" eyes dart around the room. She seems confused about where she even is as she backs away quickly toward her desk. Her eyes dart to the sword in the killer's hand, shaking her head rapidly. She seems another person all together, her hip bumping into the desk.

Until she glances to the side, noticing the array of talismans spread out there, arranged in neat rows and columns. A change swiftly comes over her, eyes narrowing, mouth closing, the panic melting away like a figment of another time as her right hand snatches out to secure the nearest piece of paper from the wooden surface.

"You have some audacity..." she snarls, lips drawn back to reveal white teeth in the faint blue glow. "At least you have saved me the trouble-" She whips her right hand out, her short white kimono staining with blood on her left side. The talisman is hurled, the paper picking up speed as it ignites into pale fire on course for Kiyomi.

"Of hunting you down myself!!"

COMBATSYS: Kiyomi blocks Ayame's Binding of the Condemned Soul.

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Ayame            0/-------/----===|=======\=------\1           Kiyomi

Upon impact, the talisman explodes into a small flare of cool fire... mostly harmless in its own right. But immediately out of the flame, pale, white ghostly chains surge forth from the point of impact, attempting to entangle the darkstalker's limbs!

The Darkstalkers notice the glimmer from the corner of her eye. A quick glance. Then back at Ayame. The shimmering and growing light causing Kiyomi's shadow to loom over Ayame, stirring her from her slumber.

The vixen grits her teeth in anger and delivers her blow as rapidly as possible, lacking the precision she would have wanted to make this strike unforgiving and lethal -- even so, Ayame was woken up just in time to partially avoid the deadly attack. The tip of the blade pierces through the mat as well as the wooden floor. Kiyomi had given enough strength in her single strike that it requires a good push for her to pull the sword out, giving Ayame enough time to roll away before Kiyomi can give her another slash of katana.

The sudden out burst of power she gave, both to strike and pull out her sword, as well as her anger leaves the woman panting softly. She glares up at Ayame, a stray lock of raven hair in front of her visage. Her veil of illusion slowly fades away -- there was no need to hide her features, after all. The mirage behind her disappears, like heat waves in the distance that distorts what Ayame sees until she can see the myriad of snow white tails flailing behind the Kitsune, as well as the long and pointy fox ears atop her head.

Both hands clenching the handle of her blade, Kiyomi's expression is cold and ruthless. She lifts her katana up and she slashes the air to slice through the searing piece of paper to cut through it harmlessly.

However, the moment she slices through it, it explodes into a blinding flare of flames. The sprouted chains wrap up around her body, forcing the Kitsune's arms against her and crushing her in its coil. The way her blade is placed though, Kiyomi manages to cut through the ghostly chains before they render her totally helpless.

Her lips curl into a wry smirk as she looks down at Ayame, "It's a little early to reverse our roles, my dear, but your naivety brings a smile to my face,"

She lunges at Ayame with her blade, delivering a rapid vertical blow with it, followed by another at a different angle. Kiyomi at least has the advantage, she believes, of having caught this hunter unprepared and she intents to push it as much as she can. She attacks aggressively, delivering a flurry of rapid slices meant to leave Ayame bleeding out more, obviously meant to make her suffer.

COMBATSYS: Ayame blocks Kiyomi's Rafale d'Entailles.

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Ayame            0/-------/----===|=======\====---\1           Kiyomi

The severed talisman's effect is severely reduced in its effectiveness as it gets sliced in half, but the flurry of chi chains that errupt out of it serve as distraction enough as Ayame sweeps her arm over her desk, grabbing a handful of the ofuda she had just finished crafting the night before. With a blur of motion, she shoves her right hand into her left sleeve, leaving them stashed in one of the hidden pockets her sleeves are full of. It won't be nearly as sorted as she normally does, which might mean things can get a bit haphazard with regards to which card she pulls out, but in the heat of the moment, it's the best she can do.

The pain in her side is concerning. She's barely awake enough to register that she's been cut let alone how bad the damage is. But whatever her barely-awake state of mind might be, she continues to be a blur of motion, circling around her slashed mat, stuffing still scattered in the air from when the blade was swiftly drawn out.

Ayame has a target in mind, but getting to it is risky - the staff near Kiyomi's feet, lying uselessly on the floor, is her only hope of fighting the blade user. Lunging into a forward roll, the agile girl manages to grip the weapon in passing, coming up into low crouch just as the katana swings.

Instead of unprotected flesh, the blade clacks against solid wood, sending a small fragment flying through the air. Ayame is posed in a low crouch still, the staff over her shoulder, the upper end having caught the blade that would have slashed her deeply had it gotten through. And now that it is in her hand, the wooden weapon is glimmering a dim crimson hue. Looking over her shoulder, Ayame smirks, teeth bared.

"Do you have any idea..."

She surges to her feet, twisting the staff off her shoulder in the process so that it whips outward in a violent arc that might catch the kitsune if she isn't swift enough.

"Who you are messing with!?"

But that would be more than just a distraction - it is the opening volley of an intricate dance, Ayame spinning to bring the weapon around a second time to clobber Kiyomi from the other side, before twirling the imbued weapon up over her head and bringing it crashing down to try and smack her in the top of her head hard enough to drive her to the floor!

"To think - one of you would come here - you are in my house now!!"

COMBATSYS: Ayame successfully hits Kiyomi with Requiem For Fallen Blossoms.

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Ayame            0/-------/---====|=======\====---\1           Kiyomi

The katana's first swings pass over Ayame as she rolls around and Kiyomi swiftly turns on her heels to deliver a second cleaving blow to the unarmed girl -- alas, she doesn't remain unarmed for long as the blade of her katana is met with the wood of Ayame's runic staff. Holding the handle of her sword with both hands, Kiyomi tries to press the sword further despite the clash between the two weapons in an happen to further cut and inflict pain on the priestess.

The dim glows that surrounds her staff does surprise the silent assassin momentarily, her eyes widening a moment. The sudden surge of strength from Ayame enough to break the woman off from her, forcing her to take two steps back to recover her balance -- enough time for Ayame to carry on her assault. The woman lets a femine gasp out of her throat from Ayame's disarming strike : the kitsune would have not expected such agility from this demon hunter, though perhaps the seals and wards were affecting the Kitsune's reactions and reflexes in their own way, if only slightly.

The second blow to her side leaves her staggered a moment, the kitsune biting her lips roughly as she has to plant her foot violently to the opposite side not to be knocked over. She grips tightly on her katana, but before she has the chance to retaliate, the final blow over her head finishes the job of fulling knocking her down, causing her to splatter down on the ground.

The way she flops on the ground, with the swarm of fluffy tails atop of her, it makes her look like a mass of fur, like a huge sort of pelt. They snake up rapidly though, swaying in an enthralling and almost hypnotic pattern as Kiyomi forces herself back to her knees, gritting her teeth as she glares up at Ayame. "It's the thrill of the hunt -- how does it feel, hum? How many of us do you think you've come to kill into their households," Kiyomi replies with a growl.

She may not realize it, but the Kitsune's subtle powers slowly try to alter her senses to make her see reality slightly differently, to deceit her and trick her and to allow the Kitsune to break through her guard more easily.

She attemtps to recover from her position on the ground by a sudden lunge at Ayame : a quick draw of her blade straight for Ayame's midsection. It seems Ayame's dance had left Kiyomi slightly dazed though as her attack seems to lack the deadly speed one would expect from a katana wielder, like she's a second off.

She moistens her lips at the thought, a wicked grin crossing her lips, "How I will enjoy ending your miserable existence -- like all the others like you before..."

COMBATSYS: Ayame counters Celerite Nocturne from Kiyomi with The Sunrise of Broken Dreams.

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Ayame            0/-------/---====|=======\======-\1           Kiyomi

Her strike delivered, Ayame exhales, drawing her staff back toward her, holding it in a defensive angle, its crimson glow illuminating the room brighter than the pale blue talisman still glimmering on her desk where she left it, creating clashes of violet light where the two ambient blooms meet. "I understand the idea of it," Ayame replies, right leg bending as she adjusts her posture. The gouge on her staff - where the katana had clashed against it - glows brighter for a fleeting moment before dimming... leaving the surface exactly how it was before it was struck.

"But do not feel any such thrill myself," she asserts, her expression severe, lit up from below by her glimmering staff. "My pursuits are for duty, for humanity." She twirls the staff once in front of her, having it end up in the same defensive angle as it started. "Not for the exhiliration of the chase or the gratification of a job well done..."

But a smile works its way into her lips. "But I must thank you... tonight is the inauguration of my newest creation." She hefts her staff up slightly without surrendering her defensive posture in the slightest. She wields the weapon with confidence, leaving no obvious openings. Though there is one challenge - given its length, she has to stay positioned near the center of the room... such larger weapons become unwieldly when pressed up against a wall, afterall.

"Behold, Absolution."
"You should feel lucky... your defeat will be its initiation!"

Her eyes narrow on the fallen darkstalker, noticing the evidence of a large number of tails, her mouth curling into a faint frown. Such a collection suggests longevity among the kitsune. She is fighting something that might be hundreds of years older than she is. And with such time comes the skill to manipulate, to deceive... Especially among the fox-tailed creatures that have been part of the land's folklore for ages.

She can't trust what she sees. Yet... that is all she can act on?

The two clash again, sword verses the staff that seems capable of repairing itself. Ayame wasn't entirely sure when to catch it. She knew something was off... but fortunately, the long weapon allows her to cover a large part of her body behind her wooden staff. Kiyomi swings for where Ayame's kimono belt wraps around her stomach, but the defensive weapon is already there, twisted at the last moment to intersect and deflect the sword. She steps into it, moving closer to the kitsune, the crimson staff swept up and then down fiercely, targeting Kiyomi's lower back, just above the base of all those alluring tails.

The impact sends several motes of glimmering chi flying into the air before they begin to descend, drifting in swirling patterns like so many blossoms of energy. Ayame is already working her way back to an area of the room that affords her the most space possible to work with - she can't risk getting cornered now!

This assassination attempt did not go as well as Kiyomi had first planned. The hunter's charms had rid her of the element of surprise and the longer she fought with Ayame, the more dangerous it would be for her well being. If other humans like her were around, after all, each second that passed lowered her odds of survival.

The magic of the staff allows Ayame to defend herself against Kiyomi's sharp blade. Kiyomi barely has the time to react to Ayame's swift movement, the smack at the base of her tail making her growl in pain, the chi leaving a numbing and tingling sensation pain through all of her sensitive tails.

Kiyomi staggers few steps to regain her composure and keep some distance between her and Ayame. When she repositions herself, so does Kiyomi. She turns on her heels and lifts her blade up, ready to continue into this dance. Her lack of agility caused a few locks of hair to curl down her face, showing the obvious lack of control she had on this battle in the past seconds.

The tails still require some time to recover though, their movements obviously less enthralling than they were before. Kiyomi's lips curl into a faint smile, "How ironic, that we share so much in common -- it disgusts me. You, a hunter of the Children of the Night, and I, a hunter of humanity, both having made an oath to defend its kin..."

She lifts the blade above her head and charges at Ayame and swings her katana down in a mighty cleaving strike. She opts for sheer strength, to see if her magical staff will be able to resist the sharpness of her blade should she choice to try and defend herself with it.

COMBATSYS: Kiyomi successfully hits Ayame with Crushing Strike.

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Ayame            1/------=/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2           Kiyomi

"We have nothing in common!!" Ayame growls back, the words incensing her beyond any even the obvious attempt on her life. "Do not compare me to devilspawn like yourself!" She stomps her right foot forward, whipping her staff to her left side, held by her left hand while her right hand darts for her sleeve. That she's reaching for one of those talismans is obvious enough, but the gesture comes at a very ill opportune time, the miko beyond offended at being compared to the assassin.

As Kiyomi moves in, Ayame clearly intends to meet her attack with her staff - but the confines of the room finally turn against her as the long weapon sweeps up and then rebounds off her dressor, preventing it from being moved into position in time! The end result of the catastrophic error in spacing costs the priestess dearly, her body exposed to the full danger of the slash without hardly any means of defending herself. Caught flat footed and without the sturdy weapon to ward off any assault, the young demon hunter is slashed violently down the front.

A splash of blood splatters against the floor and wall behind the girl as she staggers backward, her kimono slashed open, the obi around her waist severed clean through. Already her whole front begins to be stained in red as she backs against the wall, eyes wide with alarm at having been sliced severely by the assault.

"Y-you..." she stammers, gritting her teeth. Blood stained fingers reach for her sleeve again, grasping hold of the first talisman she finds stowed there. She doesn't even look at it as she lunges forward, aiming to smash it against Kiyomi's chest with the palm of her hand, a spark of chi coursing down her limb to trigger whatever prepared enchantment is contained therein. If her last talisman was any indication, it is probably not a good thing to be caught by!

COMBATSYS: Kiyomi interrupts Slumber for the Weary Dead from Ayame with Riposte de la Lune.

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Ayame            0/-------/--=====|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\1           Kiyomi

It seems Ayame is driven by less than the most pragmatic of emotions as she dives at Kiyomi, hellbent on slapping that crimson hued talisman against her no matter what the cost. The green inscriptions on its surface are already glimmering before she even slaps her hand out. Even if it means being cut, she intends to apply the vicious sealing ward!

And it would only take that moment of contact before it would burn to cinders in an instant, leaving a glimmering, glowing rune at the point of impact. And in that instant, dark portals form all around the kitsune as grasping, clutching spectral hands reach out and begin to seize hold wherever they can get a grip. Their touch is draining of strength as they try to pull her down to the floor. Being caught in them for too long will only let them secure more and more holds in a bid to trap the assassin in place - the only hope is a quick escape!

The assassin had been well trained to seize such opportunies -- the moment her blade is drawn, Kiyomi's eyes notice the opening in her guard. She has her flat-footed in a crucial moment, which might prove to be an horrible mistake the demon huntress might have a hard time recovering from.

The moment her katana goes down, Ayame might be able to catch a glimpse of Kiyomi's sadistic and cruel smile : the vixen knew, at this point, that her blow would leave a debilating wound that'll disable and hinder Ayame. The precise strike draws more blood after the full swipe, splashing the floor and wall. Kiyomi moistens her lips gently : it was something she had learned, had been conditioned to crave by her pack. The bloodlust of the predator, the instinct to kill and turn asunder her foes. It was a hunt for survival, though not to nourish herself but to exterminate every threat. "Who gave humans the right to claim superiority? To slaughter us like mindless beasts,"

A quick flick of the wrist allows her to clean her blade from the blood, the red liquid hurled off the blade and splattering against the floor. The woman glares at Ayame and takes a step foward, her sword held offensively, ready to strike again. Show them no mercy for they shall show you none. Those thoughts echo in her mind as it guides Kiyomi's actions.

Her expression is cold and ruthless. No hints of remorse or guilt as she injuries Ayame : to her, she was as much of a beast as Kiyomi was to Ayame. The only good humans were dead humans. "You're the devilspawn to me!"

Kiyomi lunges at Ayame, intending not to give her the time to defend herself or attack her. As soon as she's within the reach of her blade, Kiyomi gives a quick horizontal strike to slice Ayame's abdomen. She turns on her heels to spin completly on herself, flowing with the momentum of her first blow and pressing herself closer to Ayame to deliver an uprising slash while gripping the handle of her sword with both hands.

The Kitsune barely noticed Ayame's touch against her own obi : neither the glowing rune that appeared down there. It might have well saved Ayame from further attacks as part of the spectral hands grasp out for the vixen and partially immobolize her. A high pitched shriek, almost inhuman one, escapes the woman's throat as she feels the energy being drained away from her, slowly sapped by those spiritual apparition.

They cling to her and weaken her, enough that the Kitsune falls to her knees. She didn't feel physical pain -- it was much more intense than that, getting drained at her very core of her energy.

Fortunately, her quick movements allowed her to avoid some of the spectrals hand, but even so the experience was rather unpleasant. The assassin might have ended up pinned down and drained wholely had it not been from an instinctively response to slice through arms that held her with her katana, empowering the blade with her own spiritual energy to break free from them.

In the end, Kiyomi barely seems to be holding herself still -- panting from exhaustion from this surnatural manifestation. She clenches the handle of her blade, pressing it against the ground to stay still on her knees, using it almost like a cane and support to try and push herself back to her feet. "Our salvation..." The woman says through ragged breathes, "Will come through... Ruination of humanity... Earth will... survive the passage of mankind... Like it did... with other species before,"

In her haste to land the pernicious talisman, the zealous demon huntress through caution to the wind, failing to mount any viable defense against the deadly weaving of the assassin's blade. Such reckless urgency gives her the success she was hoping for, the card landing, the chi spark delivered to unleash the prepared attack stored within... but it was at a severe cost. The once-white kimono she had been wearing is slashed to pieces by the twin strikes delivered, the girl staggering back, her right hand going to her stomach as a fresh wound begins to bleed.

Clenching her teeth, she feels her strength waning. She won't be able to last much longer. She's been close to this point before - pushed to the brink of termination by the creatures she has dedicated her life to combating, but that does not make this situation any less terrifying. This much damage, this much blood lost - her room now painted in splashes of crimson victory - soon her body will fall into shock and her capacity to resist will be at an end. But... but maybe she's done enough?

Pale green ghostly hands reach for Kiyomi, attempting to drag her to the floor and smother her there. They appear as if summoned from the afterworld itself, the rune on her stomach serving as beacon for the stretching unliving fingers thirsty to take hold of, to drain, to pin. "What right?" Ayame gasps, now on her knees on the other side of her ruined mat. "What /right/?" she repeats, spitting the words from bloodied lips.

"We have done everything! Everything you see around you has been built by human hands. Cities, socities, governments, and nations. We have come together to create sustainable food, discover innovations that have brought living conditions into the modern era, and to explore the galaxy. We do all this... while being leeched from by vermin like you! What have you built? What have you created? You only loot, plunder, steal, and kill. You are nothing more than termites gnawing at the foundations of our great works!"

But Kiyomi is not to be defeated by the relentless swarm of attacks, putting her sword to use once more to slash away the tenacious claws before they claim her life's energy for their own. The bloodied miko waits, eyes glaring at the darkstalker as she speaks of outlasting the extinction of the human race.

"Whatever the future holds..."

Ayame knows trying to land another talisman on the kitsune will be extremely hazardous - if anything, engaging her at all risks a final, leathl slice of that deadly katana. But what choice does she have? This will only end when one or the other is dead.

"You, least of all, need be concerned..."

Both hands grip her runed staff as she uses it to pull herself to her feet. Legs trembling, arms shivering, it's all she can do to stay upright. She has one shot - one last gambit, all the rest of her strength poured into a single assault... or all is lost.

Concentrating, she pulls her right hand away from her staff, yet it comes away not empty handed - instead a glimmering pure energy clone of the wooden weapon is gripped, giving her two staves - one of the earth, the other of light itself.

Sucking in her breath, dripping blood as she moves, the priestess lunges across the distance between them.

"For you will not be alive to see it!!"

Both weapons would be put to work in one brutal combination of swings, wooden staff and energy staff striking one after the other as the girl spins, pivots, weaves, through an intricate but savage series of blows designed to target elbows, knees, the side of the neck, the temples on the head - any and all points of vulnerability are sought as Ayame tries to beat her attacker into submission. Even furniture and walls are not spared in the onslaught, the whirling attacks smashing through her desk and nearby walls, sending splinters of wood flying in all directions as she devastates the room with her violent strikes!

COMBATSYS: Ayame successfully hits Kiyomi with Final Solstice.

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  ////                          ]
Ayame            0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2           Kiyomi

The Kitsune's stance wavers as she manages to push herself back to her feet : even if she managed to free herself from the spritual grasp, she felt drained of her strength at her very core. Despite the obvious weakness she felt, she forced herself to carry on this battle for the outcome would be obvious : kill or be killed. It was the way of the Children of the Night, and it had been for generations.

The woman lifts her katana up despite the exertition she feels due to Ayame's talismans, preparing herself for the final clash. The demon hunter's resilience and tenacity were commendable, but Kiyomi knew her resolve to fight matched her own as both fought for their life. Destined to be mortal enemies at birth.

Her lips curl into a wry smirk and Kiyomi retorts, "You are so vain... Had humans not oppressed us and chased us since the ends of times, do you truly believe this would have not happened? It is true -- we loot, plunder, steal and kill!" Kiyomi says with a growl of rage, "As do humans loot, plunder, steal and kill when they're pushed to the wall, when it is their only mean of survival,"

She moves her blade to the side, ready to face Ayame's final attack. "Had humans not existed, Darkstalker would have had their society of their own -- much akin to yours," She says. This was the future she fought for, and the only one for them to achieve this would be through the death of all of mankind.

Her lips curl into a wide grin at Ayame's last words, "I could say the same to you," She murmurs under her breath.

The appearance of the second staff causes the Kitsune's eyes to narrow into a glare. Her expression grows cold and focused though as Ayame charges on her. The vixen's katana rises up to block the first strike on the side of her head, though she lacks the reflex to move her blade to defend herself against the other, leaving her vulnerable for a second shot behind at her knee.

The blow causes the Kitsune to fall to one knee, her katana lowered down to the ground, giving Ayame an opportunity to strike her at the neck a second time. Before a third blow can come in though, the Kitsune performs a low roll on the ground, her tail spinning around and most likely ending up brushing Ayame's arms in the process. She was in a bad posture, forced on the defensive, never given an opportunity to retaliate, constantly defending herself.

She tries to ignore her exhaustion and pain, quickly rising back to her feet even though her legs tremble from the fatigue. The katana is brought up just in time to block a blow that still hits her arms and makes her growl, forcing her to stagger back a few steps to withstand the force of Ayame's strike. Her wide arced strike smashing through the things on her desks and the furniture around as collateral damage through their fight.

The demon hunter though manages to deliver what seems to be the coup de grace : a powerful thrust with her earth staff right between Kiyomi's breasts, knocksthe wind out of her, but also forces her to stagger back. The kitsune flails as she attempts to regain her balance but fails, tearing through one of the paper wall back outside. She stumbles and falls on the ground once her feet reaches the porch though, and she turns around mid-fall to actually fall into her knees

In her current condition, attempting to pursue this fight would mean her death. Survival instincts were strong in the Darkstalkers who managed to stay alive so long, after all. The woman groans painfully and attempts to crawl away. She lifts her gaze to the moon, letting a painful and feminine howl escape her throat, akin to a wolfen one.

The Kitsune seemed like a wounded animal : her kimono slightly open, showing her the curve of her right leg, as well as her shoulder, a few stray lock of hair dangling over her sweat covered face. Her skin glistens in the moonlight, thanks to the thin layer of sweat across of it. She averts her gaze meekly from Ayame, off into the distance. Perhaps an instinctive posture : one to inspire mercy in the heart of male demon hunters who might see an opportunity of an alluring woman in a posture of submission, though such a trick is less likely to work on Ayame.

It might seem like a desperate move from a wounded foe who knew her end was near. It was -- she would be at Ayame's mercy, though the Kitsune still had, she hoped, one ace up her sleeve at this point, to help her survive this encounter...

COMBATSYS: Kiyomi takes no action.

[                       \\\\\\\  <
Ayame            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Kiyomi can no longer fight.

[                       \\\\\\\  <
Ayame            0/-------/-------|

Seconds before the final staff thrust, the crimson energy clone loses its form, scattering into a thousand blood-red embers that flicker and fade. But the wooden staff is still dangerous enough to deliver a debilitating blow, sending her fellow predator crashing through the fragile structure to the porch outside. So alike in purpose, but for opposing sides that can never come to terms, can they?

The last hit had her collapsing to her knees amid the ruin of her room, barely propping herself up with the rune engravened staff now streaked with her own blood. One glance is all it would take to understand the danger she was in - the slashes and cuts across the front of her body are only partially hidden by her shreaded kimono robe, now thoroughly stained with her life's blood.

Leaning against her weapon for several seconds, the girl wants to collapse forward, to let her body rest, to catch her breath. But she knows full well that with each passing second, her remaining strength wanes. If she doesn't act now, she won't be able to. But first she needs it... the tool to finish this decisively. No second chance could be given - not for one who attacked her in her sleep, in the sanctuary of her own home. Crawling on hands and knees, she runs her hands through the wreckage of her desk. She could sense it there - the talisman she sought, the final solution against a wounded target. Finally, her fingers seize upon something in the darkness and she pauses.

There would be no going back from this, the act she was about to do. Against a weakened target, the hellish seal contained within the ofuda would almost certainly be terminal. But this was not the time for hesitation, no room for second thoughts. Gritting her teeth, the vehement priestess forces herself to her feet, standing in a slick of her own blood, supported by her trusted weapon.

The wounded kitsune would hear the thunk of the huntress's staff as Ayame moves out onto the moonlit porch, drawing closer and closer. The beautiful creature's allure would have no effect on the dispassionate self-proclaimed sentinel of Southtown... yet still there seemed to be hesitation. She would hear her breaths, she would hear that final thump of the supporting staff as Ayame stops only a meter away.

Along the long building, lights have started to come on. Whether it was Ayame or Kiyomi's shouts, the destructive smashing of the walls and furniture, or the desperate cry of the kitsune still echoing throughout the courtyard, people are beginning to stir.

Chancing a glance at her attacker would show the truth of it - Ayame propped up by her left hand gripping her staff. Her right hand was lowered at her side, her fingers closed over a cinder-black talisman, its surface painted with finely drawn symbols rendered in dried blood. But instead of hurling it down to unleash the finishing attack, she was hesitating. Her eyes show resolve and no sign of reluctance, her mouth curled into a frown, her cheeks stained dark in the moonlight.

But a decision seems to be reached, the miko lifting her right hand, readying to fling that all consuming, sealing ward...

The demon huntress was in bad shape, but the Kitsune was in an even worse shape. The woman does not seem to have the strength to carry herself on her legs, using her hands to crawl her body against the snow. She coughs a bit of blood into the snow and tries to drag herself away from her : the instinct of survival pushing her to live. It was one of the most fundamental instinct of all animals, humans and Darkstalkers alike.

Her wounds were not as apparent as Ayame, but she was totally drained of her vitality and strength. Ayame's staff would leave rather nasty bruises and perhaps broken bones, but the adrenaline allowed her to ignore the pain somewhat. Though her body failed to comply and obey her will. It had been overloaded and unable to take more of this abuse.

The chase doesn't last long -- a foot or two of crawling in snow before Ayame catches up with her. She still held her katana limply in one hand, though Ayame was wise enough to stay out of reach. The woman averts her eyes from Ayame, as if expecting the fatal blow to come, though after a second of hesitation, a pristine feminine chuckle escape her throat. Laughter in the face of death, perhaps? The myriad of tails offered the Darkstalker some sort of cushion to lie on, like some sort of exotic beauty tormented by saddness and suffering, something almost out of painting.

A side glance was enough for Kiyomi to see Ayame's hesitation with that final seal in her fingers. Her lips curl into a smile, noting the irony, "What holds your hand, o, demon huntress... Is it because you realize, how this could have been you, had you been unfortunate to be born a monster..."

A desperate chuckle escape her throat, making her cough some more blood on the ground, her hands trembling as she tries to keep the dignity of at least not crumbling in front of her, "Or because we'd have had reverse role had the Darkstalkers been the dominant race instead of you, humans..."

When Ayame lifts her arm up, Kiyomi lifts her gaze up toward the moon. She closes her eyes in resignation, letting the cold wind caress her face one last time. Kill or be killed : this was the axiom of this world for a Darkstalker, her existence would come to a natural conclusion this way eventually and she seemed to accept this...

The only thing that might disrupt Ayame's concentration on the final seal is a sudden shadow cast over them -- the moon no longer casting its light upon them both as a large beastial humanoid falls from afar, as if it had jumped right off the roof of one of the building within the compound. The beast voluntarly skids upon landing, sending a wave of snow over Ayame's feature. His sudden appearance both meant to protect the Kitsune, but also distract Ayame momentarly. When the snow finally falls down she gets a chance to see the features of the creature more clearly -- fur as dark as the starless night, with a large wolf head and maw with sharp teeth. A large mane covers the beast's neck, making it seem more massive. His whole body was athletic and muscular, his torso is broad and his height impressive. Yet despite his beastial appearance, his eyes show the a glee of cunning and intelligence unlike that of true beasts. A powerful beastial snarls escapes its throat : like a warning growl from an animal protecting its territory. It lasts a moment, as it snaps the air with his fang, as if he had tried to snap Ayame's arm and break it, though it was obviously too far from her to do it : it was more a way to show his intentions.

He doesn't stay to fight with Ayame though, quick to leap back behind the wounded Kitsune. His ears perk up on his head : he hears the sounds of people stirring up, coming here, and the werewolf has no intention of fighting them on his own.

He keeps his eyes fixed on Ayame, glaring at her, still showing his fang menacingly as he kneels in front of the Kitsune and lifts her up in his strong arms. A relieved and weary smile crosses the Kitsune's face as she presses her head against the werewolf's chest, craddling herself in his arms, like a damsel in distress getting rescued.

The contrast was obvious between the two : like ying and yang. His fur as dark as the night, hers as white as immaculate snow. She was soft and delicate like a flower and he was beastial and powerful. He does not say anything to Ayame though -- the hatred and bloodlust in his eyes was obvious, and his posture and demeanor were more eloquent than any words.

Before anyone comes to witness the scene or hinder their escape though, the werewolf quickly turns on his heels and kneels, before jumping off in the air. His powerful legs allow him to perform an incredible leap, reaching back to the top of the building he came from -- his silhouette melts into the darkness as he runs off with incredible speed to jump over the walls around the compound of this shrine.

As Kiyomi pulled herself agonizingly into the snow, Ayame followed, standing now in bare feet amid the blood-stained powder. She couldn't feel a thing, standing with her weapons of choice - the intricately runed staff in her left and the malevolently glimmering dark talisman in her right. The ofuda is held up now, its miasmic green glow casting a light against the snow and opposed hunters. She waits out of reach of that blade, unsure if she could even lift her left hand to deflect another strike... but her skill with flinging her powerful sealing wards would more than sufface at this range against the wounded target.

She is silent at the chuckle, expression not shifting from the quiet, grim observation of her next target. She doesn't even respond to the first question other than to blink once slowly, impassively, as if she wasn't listening at all. But as the injured kitsune coughs then continues her pointed line of accusing questions, the miko finally smirks.

"I hesitate because I have never killed a kitsune before. I was pausing to reflect that I am not entirely confident that I know how. But," the card in her hand ignites in a small, sickly flame that doesn't seem to burn her hand. "...I suppose this will be a learning experience for the both of us." Her arm draws back, readied to launch the most devastating attack she has created - a hellfire inferno certain to burn her target to ash-

She doesn't halt at the presence of a new shadow - in her adrenaline fueled ambition, she doesn't even notice. But the wave of snow that splashes over her is far harder to ignore, the ruthless priestess gasping in surprise, stumbling to the side, her staff jamming down into the sullied powder to keep from falling over all together. Her right arm draws back at the sound of snapping jaws as at last her eyes settle upon Lune, the girl grits her teeth, bracing for the anticipated lunge.

So. There was not just one. Of course, she realizes. Even human assassins rarely infiltrate on their own - there is always a handler, a fallback, a support or spotter. But the powerful form standing before her now seems every bit as dangerous as the creature she barely defeated. She doesn't say a word as he scoops the kitsune from the snow, legs trembling with the urge to collapse, her bloodloss as of yet unstemmed. And she knows - the only reason he won't make good on his glaring desire to end her is because he places the safety of the vixen over his hunger for revenge. Such... human sentiment. She does not know she would make the same decision in his situation.

Finally he leaps and Ayame falls to her hands and knees in the snow. By now, doors are sliding open along the long building as staff and family rush out to see what all the midnight commotion is about. She is about to collapse to her face when a gentle but firm arm wraps around her chest just beneath her arms and offers the necessary support to catch her.

"Father..." she murmurs, eyes slipping closed.

Log created on 12:52:24 02/08/2015 by Ayame, and last modified on 12:03:39 02/11/2015.