Neo League 0064 - NL#0070: Ryu vs Honoka

Description: The Santa Maria is under attack from pirates! A fierce naval battle is the setting for a clash of wills between Honoka, of the Twilight Star Circus, and the famed World Warrior, Ryu! [ Winner: Ryu ]

Since mankind created the first ships to sail upon it, countless battles have been fought upon the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Tonight, another battle will unfold upon a wooden ship crafted in the ancient ways, a two-thirds-scale replica of the Santa Maria which once served as the flagship for an Italian explorer known as Cristoforo Colombo.

In addition to the crew normally involved with manning the rigging of the carrack, a dozen or so crewmembers from the Twilight Star Circus -- currently touring eastern Japan -- are on-hand to assist in the festivities. For this one very special combat will involve a member of the circus troupe: Honoka Kawamoto.

As the ship is already making its way in a lazy trip across the Mediterranean, the Santa Maria crew is happily explaining the function of the various pieces of shipboard equipment to the Twilight Star members. Honoka's eyes are as wide as saucers as she takes in the details. It's exhilarating, the scent and feel of the Mediterranean breeze rustling through her pink-highlighted hair. She's missed these sensations.

The juggler knows not why they've decided to stage the battle here, per se -- or even who she's -fighting- against. But she's determined to focus on the good of the battle, and prays that she can keep her own dark memories locked below deck.

Much can be waxed poetic about the open seas, the distant waters of which man went through great pains and sacrifice to discover what lie beyond to the other end. Even today, the seas can hardly be considered tamed by the advances - or perhaps trespasses - of mankind. A boat is only so solid as footing when it is still at the mercy of the water it floats upon.
The Twilight Star Circus would not be the only ones whose tour would take them upon the waters of the Mediterranean. With the promise - or threat? - of battle looming ever closer, few would fault any for finding the beauty and wonder upon taking to the sea. It is a treat to the senses that would be receptive to what it's like to step out of the domain of firm ground.
Bare feet step out onto the deck. The unadorned heels feel every groove, every tiny fracture, every (real) possibility of a splinter, or two, or more, with the gentle care of one who would wander anywhere and everywhere he could in search of what he truly seeks.
The wind blows through. The extra fabric from the knot of a tied bandanna sway outwards with a flair. The simple clothing - a sleeveless white gi and matching pants - similarly shudder to the passing air atop the boat.
With the way the visible light seems to come from behind, it may even cast almost a vaguely sinister air. Fists already remain clenched in anticipation for what come next, eyebrows furrowed as narrowed eyes consider the prospects... or, perhaps, hide the inner excitement and youthful anticipation for what they know to be imminent.
Unwittingly(?), he walks along the deck a ways towards Honoka's side. Stopping a fair ways to her right, his head tilts upwards to look a touch higher to the sky. Contemplatively, he brings his right hand in front of himself. It wasn't all that long since his meeting with the boxer of peculiar attitudes towards their own abilities - of all the dark, worrying things that had come to mind in wake of the final exchanges between them.
What does it truly mean to give their all? What does one stand to sacrifice in their pursuit of this? If these were questions he were hoping to ask to just about anyone who would listen, he hasn't seemed to say them in the company of the one he now stands a ways away from.
Is he waiting for one to appear? His next opponent? Is he choosing to collect himself in what time remains before the next inevitable battle?
The wanderer called Ryu stands motionless near his future challenge, perhaps too polite to interrupt with small talk somewhere in-between his own musings among another fellow passenger.

COMBATSYS: Honoka has started a fight here.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|

COMBATSYS: Ryu has wandered into the fight here.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0              Ryu

Honoka is, unlike many of Ryu's opponents, unusually responsive to the emotions of those around her. She can sense when people are happy or sad; can respond strongly to elation or crushing ennui. But her opponent is different, somehow. In the midst of the crowd of unfamiliar faces, Ryu is just one more face -- if anything, his -lack- of overgushing enthusiasm cloaks him even further from her radar.

Honoka's first sign that the fight may be ready to begin is when the Santa Maria crewman (who'd been explaining the purpose of the crows' nest mere moments before) stops in mid-sentence with a quizzical eyebrow raised in Ryu's general direction. The Ainu descendant blinks, turning slowly to follow the crewman's gaze -- and finds a man whose purpose for being is as plain as the moon hanging overhead.

She stares dumbfounded for a few moments more, as a Neo League official -- dressed in an outfit charitably described as a cross between a double-breasted suit and a pirate's outfit, with a wide-brimmed hat on -- makes his own presence known. He passes open-handed gestures in equal measures towards Honoka and Ryu, smiling with the magnanimity of a captain of times past.

Honoka smiles broadly, sparing a hand to sweep her pink-highlighted bangs out of her eyes -- a futile gesture, considering the five-knot breeze. "Looks like I'm your opponent today, wanderer," she notes, curiously substituting the man's reputation for his proper name. While one Twilight Star staffer hands over her wands and two diabolos, the rest of the crew clear space upon the spacious deck.

Honoka walks to one end of the deck, adopting an open stance. Flashing an enigmatic smile in Ryu's direction, she allows her two diabolos to drop towards the deck -- only for the two juggling props to defy gravity's call, obeying instead that of the two wands in her hands. The diabolos adopt a roughly circular orbit as the performer hops from one foot to another, steadily gauging her opponent.

She's well aware of his fighting background. It excites her to be fighting against a living legend. And she's hoping that enthusiasm shows up on camera. As the match begins, on word from the pirate official, she sidearms her wand sharply. A diabolo flying out towards Ryu's solar plexus should provide a definitive answer to the unspoken question of: is she seriously intending to -fight- with these things?!

COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Ryu with Large Thrown Object.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|==-----\-------\0              Ryu

For the simplicity of his motives, Ryu has delved deep into the complexities of motive, ability, risk, and means. Whatever the stirring mix resounds to those receptive, the tranquility that still marks the ship's voyage about the Mediterranean has yet to be broken with anything as simple as an 'excuse me, I'm looking for so-and-so.'
The turn of his head is nearly imperceptible as Honoka is the one to break the silence, to add her voice to the chorus of the waves against the boat, of the wind through cloth. Wordlessly, he turns to face her proper, and there is a nod - it may well be he has an understanding that the two of them both understand why they are here, who they are. The handshake with the official seems almost an afterthought on his part...
Her mysterious smile does little to affect the sharpness of his gaze as he raises his fists in a ready stance. He acclimates to the sway of the boat well enough in the rhythm he goes up and down on his feet, as though studying her movement.
Honoka's mastery of the diablos show through with that first move, the racing diablo managing to scrape underneath his elbow to peg him solidly and clearly in the solar plexus.
The boat sways in such a way that the amount of give he gives to the impact sees him slide back a touch further. A rude wake-up call? A stern reminder?
"I'm honored to meet your acquaintance," his earnest response comes. The optimism creeps back into that voice as this first play dispels some of the uneasiness of the recent past and reminds him why he's here today. Why he's anywhere at all, on any given day, for that matter. His purpose is without doubt, given the amount of deference he gives to a complete stranger he now meets in the metaphorical ring.
He has sought a challenge, and his newest opponent - Honoka Kawamoto - shows themselves more than capable with their skillful coordination of balance, movement, and dexterity. Truly, exciting! This much appears to be shared between them.
His hands draw back as per the honed maneuver he practiced endlessly, ensuring there is emptiness of distraction between both hands, focusing himself in the void between to summon forth that familiar blue chi light that would cast another source of illumination upon the moonlight-touched deck - however briefly - as if now choosing to play in Honoka's seeming comfort zone of a distance between them.
"HADOUKEN!" He calls with the forward thrust of his arms, letting loose with the fire-like ball of energy that now flies through the night towards the master juggler as yet another thing to... well... juggle.

COMBATSYS: Honoka dodges Ryu's Hadouken.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|==-----\-------\0              Ryu

Travel by boat is romanticized not only for the isolation from shore, but also for the calming, soothing effect that the waves have upon the mindset. It's hard to care about earthly concerns when anything resembling earth is so very far away. But the solitude of the sea can be alluring, and moreover, deceptive...

Even with the boat tilting under its forward motion, the juggler hardly misses a beat -- indeed, the second diabolo never truly gets the chance to fall out of its lockstep, having been in midair the moment that Honoka sent its partner flying off towards Ryu. It's clear that the performer has both (a) been on a ship such as this many times before, and (b) knows how to juggle quite effectively. Her diabolo seems to be forgotten for the moment as it rolls about, fully at the mercy of the rocking deck, as the performer passes a quick glance to her surroundings -- the crewmen stationed upon the rigging, the defensive cannons stationed across the deck...

Honoka's eyes go wide as she sees the signature blue energy of her opponent well up between his palms. As the blue flames reflect upon the freshly-shellacked deck, her mind wanders slightly -- doesn't this remind her of someone? Someone she'd never -really- associated with the champion of the World Warrior tournament, the fight watched 'round the world...

The recollection happens in the blink of an eye -- the acrobatic performer has things to do first. Like -move-. With one flick of her right wrist, the diabolo she retains flies up over her shoulder -- a flick from the left sends the corresponding wand hurling into the air after it. Leaving her wands in the possession of her hurtling diabolo, she flips backwards towards the nearest tangle of netting. The net bows as her feet plunge into them, swaying as she casually raises her hands to catch the aerial diabolo wands. The diabolo falls back into heel as the performer flashes a relaxed smile, making this all look like childs' play... Even though she knows Ryu's gathered chi would have likely scorched that elusive smile right off her face had it managed to land.

But that's... hey, wait a minute, let's back up! Why would you need defensive cannons on a ship of exploration, anyway?! Why, to defend against piracy, of course: pirates were the scourge of the seven seas, waylaying passing boats and looting their crew, passengers, and cargo as spoils of battle. And such as it is: there's a pirate boat en route -right now-. One of the two above-deck starboard cannons opens fire, rolling sharply inboard upon its heavy iron wheels.

And that's when Ryu might find that her forgotten diabolo might come into play, as the small motion sends the diabolo rolling threateningly underfoot.

It wouldn't be a problem, really, if Honoka weren't -also- using the springiness of the netting to send her hurtling into Ryu, targeting the heel of her foot to land right into the solar plexus last visited by her first diabolo. If she manages to get a hold here, she'd project a spike of psychic energy into his chest, using it as leverage as she twists sideways. Her shoulders would keep going forward, in such a case, as she hopes her momentum will finish the job of slinging the Ansatsuken fighter down and across the deck!

COMBATSYS: Ryu parries Honoka's Wakka Pururuse!

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Honoka           0/-------/=======|===----\-------\0              Ryu

The environment appears in favor of the acrobatic ace that is Honoka. Ryu, for his strength, determination, and technique, does not display quite that level of agility in navigating one's surroundings. Even then, the way his eyes move in the following moments of Honoka's key evasion of his first return volley, he appears unafraid.
Those who are charged with watching and protecting the ship, rightfully, less so with the encroaching pirates.
Some might accuse Ryu - maybe rightly - of a bit of tunnel vision in regards to the fight. The way he elevates the complex dance of aggression between himself and whoever he has the honor to cross fists with. To say so would be to sell short just the level of focus he can put forth in accounting for environment, risk, movement...
The deafening sounds of cannon fire pass into nothingness, a muted hum to his ears - a single sour note in the chorus of the clash between two warriors.
A foot touches down upon the diablo with all the classic expectations of his balance being forfeit. Skillfully, one foot touches down against the wooden deck as it just brushes past his heel. There is no recoil in his leg to account for this new leverage he has to account for with the rocking boat. It doesn't pass on to the next foot, but for the moment he has little cause to lift it as his stance lowers, the back leg sliding against.
"Hnn!" Ryu grunts loudly, teeth clenched as her heel clashes against the decisive swing of an elbow. A flash of blue light envelops from the point of impact, stirring dust and particle matter free from where it gathered around him within a meter radius. A nearby set of netting shudders at withstanding the air rushing from the impact of heel to elbow.
In truth, Honoka stands to move past Ryu clean off of momentum alone, the way the elbow is swinging to outright deflect the pounce. Most strikingly, there is hardly a hint of hesitation in his next action. He moves smoothly, swiftly, assuredly as he swings a leg up, straightening himself out with a short hot upwards...
He starts to whirl, spinning a leg outward. Deftly, he turns his momentum in the direction of Honoka's midair self as he rotates. With any probable impact, or even any miss, there is no loss of speed nor force with every kick that whirls around at risk of striking the circus performer.
More tellingly is his confidence in his footing that he's willing to take to the air and threaten to surrender his balance and focus to the circular movement, as though assured of how the ground will be aligned whenever he might touch back down. After three kicks? Four?
The conversion of an aggressive deflection into a trademark technique is but one of several reasons he earned the title of the World Warrior."--SENPUU KYAKU!"

COMBATSYS: Honoka dodges Ryu's Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku EX.

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Honoka           0/-------/=======|====---\-------\0              Ryu

Onstage, Honoka and the other performers of the Twilight Star speak with their motions rather than their mouths; wireless microphones are unsightly irritations that usually end up breaking anyway. To speak would distract the audience from the poetry of movement, a beauty that is rarely appreciated in the fast-moving Age of Information -- and one that lucky patrons have paid a pretty penny for.

So it is that Honoka remains silent in response to the kind greeting -- even a little aloof in answering it. Moreso: there's more pressing concerns on her mind, such as the telltale signs of a legendary martial artist preparing to respond with lightning-quick reflexes. It's easy for a psion like Honoka to sense -- it's much more difficult for one to do something with this information. But luckily, her quick and daring attack was not overcommitted; rather, she'd aimed to redirect her momentum aside. When her foot lands across an elbow, her psychic spike met with a flash of blue, the juggler winces -- using the motion as a temporary foothold to kick away into a backflip. The acrobatic performer touches three fingertips to the deck of the rocking boat, giving her just enough extra momentum to carry herself free of the helicoptering feet. She lands in a low crouch, raising a wand-carrying hand to catch the diabolo that had been dutifully shadowing her every motion, a heavy pant of air escaping her lips as she stares back at the feet whistling so nearby, deadly feet that could have sent her flying back into the main mast.

Rising to her feet, Honoka's characteristic silence is broken with a simple statement: "I've fought... a girl who burns with your azure fire." Her mouth sets into a line as she steeling herself; against such a formidable opponent, she can sense that luck has been playing more of a role in her success than skill.

Doubling her wands up in her right hand, she tosses the diabolo into the air with her left, advancing once. A second lunging step has her swinging the wands like a tonfa against Ryu's guard, as she tests her strength against his, eager to gauge Ryu's resilience.

COMBATSYS: Ryu dodges Honoka's Random Weapon.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0              Ryu

Both display remarkable feats of agility, Honoka converting an overturned approach into a safe retreat from the flurry of spinning kicks, and Ryu's feet touching down upon a boat growing increasingly turbulent with no loss of footing or sense of where he and his opponent is relative to everything else happening - or about to happen.
There is nothing suggesting any hint of dizziness after such a spin on Ryu's part. He has surrendered himself to the whirling so many times that one imagines he could never lose his center. The way he can touch back down and move again is something to behold as the two find themselves at a distance once more, fists continuing to be held at the ready. Few approaches could shake him.
Words... they take the form of one of the first true surprises of their encounter.
"A girl?" He is no stranger to women fighting. He's fighting one right now. Given the ferocity he displays with those recent strikes, there is no sense of underestimation... or disregard.
A potential is implanted upon his psyche as the next in a long line of meaningful questions - he has never known of any women trained in Ansatsuken. His master never spoke of any. Ken's never spoken of attempting to take any sort of pupils. The wandering demon themselves... would never see it fit to withhold information about such a thing.
Another student of Ansatsuken... could they, too, possibly be--
"I see." He murmurs as Honoka moves on the offensive anew. The disarming question, on nearly any other fighter out there, may as well treat a defensive stance as though it were lacking an arm.
It seems he may have been intending, moments before, to raise an arm. The sway of his upper body backwards is a split- of a split-second decision, the air rushing into his eyes as the lunging tonfa come short of finding purchase upon his chin.
"Thank you." He doesn't even need to say those words for his soul to voice its gratitude as to what this may entail - someone he may yet have to find to see for himself. The consequences of such a revelation could yet prove dire...
Already commiting himself defensively to a backwards sway, he reaches out with his left hand to try and grab Honoka's wrist, to fall backwards against the deck and use the opposite leg to guide her body up and behind him in a somersault throw - perhaps a bid to create distance between them anew to regather himself upon the mention of this girl who 'burns with your (his) azure fire.'
This thought, threatening to become pressing, may yet stand to be a chink in his fierce offensive. A foothold that one may yet further dig deeper...

COMBATSYS: Honoka fails to interrupt Tomoe Nage from Ryu with Sarak Kamui.

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Honoka           0/-------/---====|=====--\-------\0              Ryu

Reading the legend's emotions is an exercise in futility: he's not expressing any. Three sentences of two words apiece are not scripture worth poring over for, or even re-reading a second time: just simple acknowledgement of the information provided to him by a fellow Neo League participant. There're no feelings to be expressed, aside from the plain gratitude offered.

Honoka misreads this, somehow. In her experience, terse, clipped responses indicate that the speaker is tense -- and possibly brittle, about to break. Experience tells her this -- and it's in direct conflict with the sheer skill on display here as her opponent avoids not only her direct attack, but the calculated guess that a second diabolo would gain purchase against him. But no -- with a deft twist, he's neatly avoided both her attacks, and a quick release of one of the paired wands is enough to snare her diabolo back into her grasp, lest it get too far out of reach.

What Honoka does -not- expect, though, is for the World Warrior to grab for her wrist. His mind is not clouded; there is nothing to read. He does not draft plans in the way an average fighter does, leaves no hint of his intentions. It's baffling -- and yet, the juggler's analytical mind is already working on ways to bend the situation to her favor. He is not tense, as his words suggest, but fluid and flexible -- which suggests she should be the same.

She allows him this grip upon her right wrist, but not without a plan for recompense, as her left hand curls into an underhanded claw, pink flames teasing their way along her fingertips. She throws her shoulders and hips into the motion as Ryu suggests, allowing herself to be lifted up by his foot...

He's not as fluid as she'd predicted in that split second, and nor are his legs as short. His leg acts as a lever to send her flying over his head and behind him.

The diabolo cannot handle being jerked about like this, with Honoka's control over the juggling prop being shaken by Ryu's grip. Clacking loudly, it skids harmlessly across the deck, momentarily out of reach.

Honoka, for her part, finds her back making a similar sound as it cracks against a deck rail. She grunts, curling up like a jacknife upon the deck once she lands...

But pain is a sensation she can choke back, as she springs to her feet. Her diabolo wands -- secondary at first -- become the primary weapon, as she swings them about like the bastardized offspring of a nunchaku and a jumprope, using them to keep Ryu at bay until the rocking of the ship can bring her diabolo close again. Or until he knocks her out, of course, whichever comes first!

"Her name is ---" Her mouth moves, but it's -really- hard to hear because a cannon on the invading pirate ship just fired its cannon. She begins to restate herself, just as the Santa Maria knockoff rocks sharply to the side from the impact of a cannonball. Her shoulders remain level, self-balancing like the head of a captain's parrot even as her legs adjust to the changing incline of the deck. With a faint huff, she restates herself a second time with more success: "Her name is Sakura Kasugano."

And then one eye winces shut. Adrenaline can only keep the pain at bay for so long...

There is nothing that would speak of resting on one's laurels after a play in their favor. No complacency that dulls his return to an upright position. He adapts to the sway of the boat underfoot, striking down one foot firmly against the wood as though to stake this would be the sanctuary of his center of gravity when he rises - and rise he does, still fists clenched and body moving and bobbing as he does.
This 'idle' state, if one decides to use such a term in the absolute loosest sense, does not last long as he moves to pursue after the juggler. The gap between fighters he tends to be noted for seeming to find most comfortable - somewhere just out of arm's length of his opponent - appears foregone as the momentum of the fight between the two switch.
The first words - any words that could've been said by anyone - are lost to the deafening cannon fire in the ditance.
If none knew better, one might think with the way that Ryu chooses to take to the air that he might've BEEN the thing fired from the enemy cannon. It is pure serendipity that he does not have to deal with the violent shakes that would see far lesser than these two lose their footing.
For lack of a nod or other body language that would say he heard the name spoken above the cacophony of combat that now surrounds their set piece - further an uncertain point given his mid-air stature in his forward leap - she must have been heard clear. For a man of such incredible focus, every detail, every utterance, processed through rote training turned instinct...
All he has to speak with in turn is the earnest leaping kick - one fist pointed forward in the air, one leg outstretched, the other leg bent back as if to make his body a horizontal bolt from the heavens as he comes in from on high with a sharp shout.
The angle makes it seem more likely he'd clip her with the bent knee than strike with the outstretched kicking leg - did he mistakenly go too high?

COMBATSYS: Honoka instinctively dodges Ryu's Medium Kick.

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Honoka           0/-------/---====|====---\-------\0              Ryu

Honoka appears mildly frustrated, but most of that is because the sound of the cannons is drowning out her words on one of the rare occasions she tries to actually speak in the fight. Her frustration is lessened when she sees that even an "idle" Ryu is still charging towards her to try and clear the gap, and that lessened agitation is communicated with a thin smile. To heck with words, anyway!

But Ryu might not only notice the change in her demeanor, but also in the fact that her tea-leaf-colored eyes cast downward to the spot where his foot leaves the deck. As her body's reflexes take over, sending her into a quick tumbling roll to her left, she makes a quick calculation as to Ryu's trajectory -- knowing full well that he'd probably need to use one of his fancy chi techniques to change his path. And as she rolls, one of the diabolo wands snakes out to the spot she'd just left -- perhaps she -dropped- it?!

Meanwhile, the rocking of the deck seems to work in her favor, bringing the -other- diabolo into theatre once again. It seems like it's too low to hit anything at the moment, though...

Honoka's tumble comes to an abrupt spot an instant before Ryu's kick would have hit her. Or... soared over her...? Honoka doesn't know the intention behind that attack, but it hardly factors into her plan so neatly as her intended counterattack, as she uncoils from a crouch like a striking rattlesnake -- if a rattlesnake were swinging a baton with an attempt to deal an overhand smash into the skull of a mongoose! Tortured analogies aside, Honoka aims to crack her wand into an aerial Ryu one, two, three times. Should she manage to land her hits...? Well, that's when her seeming carelessness comes into play... The cord between the wands would act as a bolo to coil around Ryu's leg -- and thus allowing the shorter-statured fighter to sling the World Warrior like a hammer back to the aft of the ship's deck!

COMBATSYS: Ryu instinctively blocks Honoka's Shitumbe Marapto.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|======-\-------\0              Ryu

The world of fighting is full of surprises and uncertain gestures with purpose oft hidden until it's too late. Honoka's calculated counterattack makes its claim upon one who has committed their aerial advance unto attack. The start of a brutal combination!
The escalation would invite more gasps and camera flashes were the crew not already occupied with the encroaching pirate threat - the incredible play would stand to put the momentum firmly back unto Honoka's favor, the cord wrapping around the trouser cloth that covers his leg.
"Nn!" His teeth grit as he seems to find himself one step behind in the rapid encounter from concussive blows to a back-breaking slam against an uneven deck that could yet fracture under pressure of either flung bodies or heavy cannon fire.
This would sell the understanding of one fundamental short.
The importance of a good defense is, at heart, minimizing impact and injury. The hits to his head were clean. There is little he - or much of anyone - could do after that. To go to the air is, with few exceptions, to surrender one's defensive stature in placing all faith to one's approach. The faith, this once, was misplaced.
Ryu is not disheartened.
Skillfully, his hands touch down upon the deck as he is hurled, catching much of his momentum. A good yank of one of his legs on his part frees him from the cord, assuming the act of throwing him alone wouldn't see him free. The frequent change in slant of the ship threatens this momentum-halting catch of himself...
He manages, with the dull aches of his head and the fading cramp of a leg his souvenirs for the encounter, his back facing Honoka in brief as he lifts up the previously grabbed leg.
In stopping himself from being hurled as far as he could have been, he remains threateningly close to striking range.
The breeze gently pushes against his face, as though to nudge him back whence he came towards Honoka. The ship's slant sees that there would be a decline behind him.
Whether these factor into his next choice or not, wordlessly, he thrusts his leg backwards in a lunging kick that displaces the air as such it distorts and compresses around his heel, guided forward where he instinctually believes Honoka awaits with a mighty shout.

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Honoka with Joudan Sokutou Geri.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|=======\-------\0              Ryu

The juggler is pleased to have predicted the motion, and been in the proper place to act accordingly. Her skill for tracking objects simultaneously is unparalleled, even amongst the talented performers of the Twilight Star Circus. But moving objects obey simple rules: mass, gravity, inertia, wind resistance; these variables can be accounted for with acute observation and years of practice. What cannot be predicted, though, is the followup action of a man considered, by some, to be the best finest martial artist in the world. The rush of excitement from landing her attacks barely has a chance to fade before she realizes that he won't be landing quite as far away as she'd hoped. No, anything but.

If he'd managed to be tossed even a meter further, she might have had time to pull free and leap to safety, but with her own diabolo wands tethering her in the direction of Ryu, she makes a snap decision to keep the most versatile of her tools in her grasp; this proves to be a tactical liability, as it slows her escape. The only thing she can manage in this instance, with the kick veering narrowly between both her arms, is to screw her eyes shut, turn her face to the side, and hope for the best.

The 'best', in this instance, is a rather loud cracking sound, as Honoka finds her cheekbone impacted by the rushing heel of her opponent. She does not offer resistance to this strike, letting the rest of her body twist like a limber tree -- for she knows that trying to resist a kick of that power would definitely displace bones in her spine. As it is... well, she twists like a tornado, her arms windmilling out to either side as she spins to the deck of the ship.

Her emotions are not normally on display: the juggling expert is normally pretty good about concealing such things. But a kick that could have ended her life is cause to allow it, here: moisture pools in the corners of her eyes, and an anguished cry begs to be released from her lips. But to lie down here and admit defeat... well, that'd be putting all the effort of orchestrating this magnificent venue to waste! With one hand soothing her face, she nonetheless gathers one of her wands in one hand and leaps back to her feet, taking careful note that her opponent might be pressing an advantage. As soon as she gains a respectable distance, she wheels about again, whipping the wand in what appears to be a defensive gesture... But is actually a motion to sweep one of her diabolos off the deck.

One hand drops to catch the diabolo, revealing an already-angry discoloration upon her face, battle scar for the time being. Panting heavily, she nonetheless forces herself to smile -- for this challenge -is- what she's here for, after all!

"Perhaps I should not have been so bold to think that I could land a true hit on the World Warrior, after all..." she comments, warily taking steps back towards the main mast. And when she's only a few meters away -- her back arches, and she leans into a backflip, one which propels her up, up, and into the netting which leads up towards the crows' nest. With the pirate vessel firing all around, it might be difficult to hear these words as well. Her intention is clear all the same, however: She felt disoriented, and needs to take a moment to resolve that, fixing her analytical eyes upon the Ansatsuken master.

COMBATSYS: Honoka focuses on her next action.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Honoka           0/-------/-======|=======\-------\0              Ryu

One may - and many do - express frustration when up the wandering Ansatsuken student can appear to dismantle an opponent's entire game with any manner of technique within his masery. For the oft quiet nature in which he embodies, he may even seem almost cold to the efforts of those he faces...
...Little could be further from the truth as he pulls his leg back from the jaw-shattering blow, returning his orientation to face Honoka and her current whereabouts as she tumbles from impact with his heel. His expression holds its even, inscrutible neutrality even surrounded by an environment at mercy of force.
An environment where the water never settles, where the boat never fully resists the sea's pull, where other men wage a battle separate between the one being held between these two. Even the very Earth itself - great, vast, so incredible in scope - is beholden to outside forces. There is a chilling tranquility to it all. Acceptance? Indifference?
No. With a clarity of what he seeks and his purpose, he is enamored, even as Honoka goes on the retreat for a breather.
He takes the now great difference in distance - and elevation! - between the two as another challenge in which to overcome in his endless journey. On the inside awed by Honoka's resourcefulness, agility, and familiarity with her surroundings, he would say without hesitation that she is his superior in manners of acrobatics and similar feats of agility.
He does not have to ask if she is truly all right and capable of fighting.
It is much of what empowers him on his journey - treating each and every opponent as someone with something to teach, something to learn, each one holding value to fight no matter how insignificant it may seem to anyone else. Honoka holds as much value to him as any of his many opponents.
As she pushes her limits, so too does he chooses to exceed his, lowering his stance as he eyes her movements and silently gauges how she'll move next. Drawing his hands back, he forms emptiness within the space between open palms... a little larger.
Noticeably redder, as though like fire, illuminating the evening under the warmth of energy channeled into the simulated nothingness between hands.
"SHAKUNETSU!" He shouts, throwing his arms close forward, palms open and fingers curled to guide the reddish ball at a sharper, more vertical angle than he would normally put in his comfort zone. It is in this fashion he challenges himself this time to strike at Honoka as she looks down upon him from high to calculate her next move. The chi ball's reddish energy spirals unwaveringly through the night, making its own.
He has zero doubt in Honoka's own abilities - to give less would be to dishonor their fight.

COMBATSYS: Honoka reflects Shakunetsu Hadouken from Ryu with Kunne Chup Kamui.

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

It may not seem like the cameramen are paying much heed to the battle at this point -- the truth is, there -are- cameras in place who are. It's just that the -drama- of the fight is focused upon the ship combat -- a special request by the Twilight Star event crew who really wanted a dynamic battleground. The point, of course, is to show just how unflappable and focused the two fighters are -- that they can continue to throw their all into a fight even knowing that one wrong move could lead to an accidental death by cannonball and/or drowning! Honoka loves it right on the cutting edge, exults in drawing her fans to enjoy the life-or-death situation vicariously from the comfort of their own seats. What better way to draw fans to pay for overpriced seats in a cutthroat circus bigtop, than to give them a cinematic experience right on the Neo League screen?

The audience is just one of many thoughts in the performer's mind as she clings to the netting of the main mast. She watches Ryu keenly: in the absence of any innate ability to sense the ebb and flow of chi, she is instead forced to watch his eyes, -- the window to the soul -- and the motions of his body for any signs of attack. But as loathe as she is to wait for too long, and the subsequent risk of boring her audience, it would seem her patience is rewarded as Ryu once again unleashes one of his signature attacks.

She believes she has an opportunity to reveal one of her own. As the orange light from the fiery sphere reflects in her tear-soaked eyes, the performer's body tenses, coiling against the net. A miscalculation would mean that not only she, but possibly the main sail as well, would be embroiled in a terrifying conflagration. But she's not about to allow that. With one shift of her mass, she rocks to the fore of the vessel, and when she swings aftward again, she uses the springy fibers to catapult herself right into the path of the fireball, her body moving in the makings of a forward flip as well.

That's when her diabolo and one of its wands lash out, both glowing with a brilliant pink aura. They seem to miss their mark, lashing out far to the right of the Shakunetsu Hadouken -- but a quick flick of the wrist and a pirouette from the juggler give truth to the movement. The pink energy intertwines into the fiery orange fabric of the fireball as the combined entity whirls around the spinning performer, an ear-to-ear smile visible on her face as she spins into view. Paired perfectly with her glowing diabolo, the raging mass seems ready to explode -- the heat from the flames is enough to draw beads of perspiration from the axeling performer -- but yet, she somehow manages to stabilize the mass by spinning it faster. She continues to raise the metaphorical bar, every bit as much as Ryu has.

Honoka of the Dancing Flames completes the turn just as she reaches the apex of her leap, loosing the fireball and the psychic downwards in a near-perfect vertical down onto her opponent. If it hits the World Warrior, it would likely pass most of its kinetic power onto him -- but if it misses, it's sure to blast its way down through to the lower decks. More excitement for the audience, in either form... But in the meantime, Honoka will snap her arms and legs out to either side, halting her spin like a flying squirrel as she prepares for a safer landing -- and the inevitable conclusion of the fight!

COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Ryu with Reflected Shakunetsu Hadouken.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Honoka           1/---====/=======|=======\=------\1              Ryu

In their own way, both parties take their fights to one another. Ryu, impressed by her show of agility against the first Hadouken, doubtlessly wished to tease out more. There was more yet to Honoka he wanted to experience...
To watch her expertly catch and send back the Shakunetsu Hadouken...! He does not buckle nor hide, nor think of giving up ground as it twists and turns back towards him with an added pink layer of packaging. The nearly vertical angle does not intimidate, even for the unfamilarity.
Resolute, aware of the precariousness of his position, Ryu puts his full confidence into the mass the descends. He gives little time to even consider the character of what is returned to him, for there is none left for charity in the urgency of its approach as he - for the first time - swings a forearm forcefully into the mass.
To be able to treat even the many vague nuances in how the expression of energy is brought forth - from that of the world, or that of the self - as little different from a typical strike with their much clearer expressions of what constitutes injury-capable force is one of the rarest gifts.
When both forces of energy, by rare happenstance, intertwine... even fewer yet could muster such absolute precision required to catch the rhythm of their impact.
Once is not enough to halt its course, let alone redirect. He does not settle for once, as a spark of blue erupts from the first impact.
Twice, there is a blue flash to be seen as his own flame-like manifestations and Honoka's pink-hued power test themselves against the precise nature in which he swings his forearm with the full intent to deflect in virtually identical nature to how he threw aside Honoka's approach at the beginning.
The third - what would've been the final time he'd have had to repeated this motion - sees the forearm slip between the cracks that keep the two energies together, whiffing the central focus points of this collected mass.
The orange fire bursts, engulfing Ryu with a muted grunt as he disappears into his own flames. Honoka's own touch spirals around him like a ribbon. The energies of earth, the manifestation of Honoka herself given power... both conspire to disorient and erode Ryu as he momentarily loses sense of the alignment of the decks under sway.
As he first makes contact with the ground on his back, they disperse. He bounces a second off how his back rests on what is a soft incline, sliding further against the wood. His efforts, as a silver lining, did not shoot him down through the Lower Decks.
That he takes a moment to rise, crouching for half a second as if there were, at last, questions as to how stable the footing is where he stood, it should be clear enough to the bold circus performer that this World Warrior is anything but untouchable.
The subtle, but real signs of duress start to show with the small delay in which he returns to battle-ready form. Honoka might manage her safe landing, but Ryu - once again - appears compelled to take once more to the air in a forward leap to close the gap.
Drawing back the further fist, he hurls forth a straight punch as he descends upon Honoka, twisting his upper torso to give the added reach to it may yet require to strike against such a slippery opponent.
The body may suffer bruising and wounds - a very tiny dot of red on the back of his gi may suggest he's got a cut from that impact - but his spirit does not appear any closer to being broken.

COMBATSYS: Honoka just-defends Ryu's Medium Punch!

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Honoka           1/---====/=======|=======\=------\1              Ryu

The pirate ship has pulled along the starboard side of the Santa Maria, and from the sound of the first mate barking out orders, it's about to get -intense-. Cannons are loaded, gunpowder is chambered, and fuses are set... it's going to be a blast!

Honoka may be falling back to the deck, but the juggler is keeping her eyes on her opponent all the same; the bruise swelling up her cheek may prevent true binocular vision before long, though. As Ryu closes in, the Twilight Star performer begins to get a bit nervous -- will she make it to the deck before he lands his attack? The wands within her lightly-curled fingertips twitch and flutter, a sign of her growing anxiety; she'd never though she'd want to land -sooner-, after all!

But somehow, gravity pulls her down just in time, landing her to the starboard side of Ryu. She crouches, and curls both wands over her head in a defensive 'X' pattern. The wands aren't her only line of defense against the overhead punch, however: the rapid motion pops her diabolo up to meet the World Warrior's knuckles as the first point of contact. And as Honoka's brow knits with intense concentration, a small disc of pink light appears behind the diabolo -- a disc that catches the diabolo, and flexes and stretches to absorbing some of the kinetic pressure from the punch. By itself, the diaphanous membrane is not enough to stop the blow, but it is enough to lessen the load placed upon her diabolo wands -- and moreover, it's enough to buy Honoka the time she needs to hop backwards safely.

Her hands are quivering from the blow as she lands a good couple meters away, the force of Ryu's punch having sent the diabolo flying backwards along a similar trajectory. The juggler cracks a light smile, dipping her chin in approval of the exchange. She'd say something, but it seems he prefers to speak with actions -- and she tends to agree. Her wands catch the diabolo once more, and begin weaving an arcane pattern in the rope...

Right about then is when the entire Santa Maria shudders, as all its starboard cannons open fire simultaneously! As the ship rocks violently, Honoka continues weaving her pattern, even though her hair and shoulders begin to tilt Ryu-ward. The completed pattern is that of a star, etched first only with the cord. But in a split second, the cord flares white-hot. And in another, a torrent of psychic energy yawns outward in a star-shaped column, roaring out in a searing column as if to envelop Ryu whole! But with the sudden unexpected motion of the ship... is the column of energy even going to hit its mark!?

COMBATSYS: Ryu guards against Honoka's Nochiu-o Kando.

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

Ryu touches back down upon on the turbulent turf of the Santa Maria, drawing back his striking fist with faint particles of pink light trailing behind the withdrawal. It is as though his knuckles were but claws poised to tear through the timely defense done just in the nick of time - a narrow save.
The landing is, notably, a touch less fluid than earlier within their bout, the momentary delay allowing Honoka the spacing she needs to make that hop, to start setting up the intricate patterns that serve as the focus to her return volley in this dance.
The violent shuddering of the ship, too, may yet play the part as Ryu draws a foot back for sake of balance in staying upright - every gesture that serves to keep himself aloft is another measure of time for the star shape to be completed, to take on the light that signifies the next impressive maneuver.
Ryu disappears into the column of energy, the stars above standing to be temporarily rendered lost to the pollution of light. The particulars of the situation as they are, whether Ryu disappears/evaporates into the aether or not might be a secondary concern to the clash with the aggressing pirates.
A faint outline of a man can be made out from the column, starting at the worn gloved hand. Additional color starts to filter in. Texture. The muscle mass of a man who surrenders much in the way of material comfort and society's safety for the sake of training, all just a limb to a young man wearing white... to the thin strands of fabric that dare stand out as a visible detail from the column.
His teeth clench in palpable tension, eyes narrowed as he appears to put his all to staying on his feet even as the wood grinds against his bare heels...!
Sheer determination sees his struggle against physics and momentum, a backwards push aided by the way to Honoka temporarily being an uphill climb while the ship stabilizes itself. It could rock back and forth - it may well be doing just that - but Ryu girds himself to keep his center.
When he dares to take a step forward, he does so not with the force of a stampede, nor the measure of a cautious stalker.
He takes that step to close the distance that exists between them with the confidence and familiarity as much as one might on a casual walk on even ground, choosing to master the shifting slant of his footing and move forth with one raised right arm going high...
A straight right punch that curves sharply downwards as it is thrown, collecting the potential of two solid hits into one downward flowing motion as he closes upon Honoka again, pushing forward again yet to keep her on her toes as it moves ever closer to the climax.

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Honoka with Sakotsu Wari.

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

Honoka had been deliberately waiting for the cannons to fire before launching her attack, hoping that her tsunami of psychic energy would slam into her opponent at the exact moment it did. It seems to be at least a partial success, as the "Starry Heavens" attack appears to completely engulf Ryu. The psion can tell that the World Warrior is weathering the storm a bit better than she planned, but the fact that it's even a struggle to someone of Ryu's stature puts a slight uptick in the performer's smile. She had her doubts about fighting Ryu, to be sure, but even getting to go toe-to-toe with the legend has been... educational, to say the least.

As the Santa Maria begins to level off again from the cannon fire, the side of the pirate ship explodes in a shower of shattered planks and sawdust. Like the Ansatsuken disciple, Honoka seems to be less affected from the environment: as her attack fades out and she coils the diabolo back into a steady orbit, she strides about the buffeting ship without too much trouble.

Though, she hadn't expected Ryu to step out of the gale force of her attack quite so -quickly-... even after bearing the onslaught, he's still able to rocket forward with an overhead attack? Honoka falters: dropping to one knee, the nimble acrobat appears to be preparing to get out of the way, but she vastly underestimates the speed of her opponent. Knuckles crash down onto her cranium, knocking her head and shoulders backwards to crash into deck, sending up her own little storm of splintered floorboards in the process.

Jagged wooden spires impale the Twilight Star performer's shoulder, but more tellingly, the rhythm of her swinging diabolo is interrupted -- something she's able to maintain against many of her other opponents. As the diabolo clacks back to the deck, Honoka finds herself with a slight reach disadvantage to the man standing over her: a gap not even her wands can close. Teeth clenching as she wriggles to extricate herself from the miniature crater, she sidearms one of the wands out of her hand, hoping to leverage its cord's momentum to deliver a powerful crack across Ryu's right temple. She's a bit dizzy from taking two shots to the head -- it's his turn now, right?

COMBATSYS: Ryu dodges Honoka's Large Thrown Object.

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

What makes a legend? What is the true measure to be - and seen as - strong? What tethers a larger than life figure's person, skill, and worldview into being that of true legend, even when they on occasion stumble and falter? Do the great ultimately live in fear of being humbled by one they - or others - would consider 'lesser'?
Is a legend decided by a single event, marked by a momentous occasion that defines their entire legacy? Is it something to be met with in a stream of constant glory?
Are these questions Ryu struggles with when he meets opponents who can hold their own, even exceed him, in certain disciplines and feats?
The way he continues his approach after Honoka in wake of the collarbone breaking two-for-one punch speaks of anything but burden, drawing in breath, heartbeat, thought, and faith between the beats of movement - nary a moment to waste to think of anything other than the fight itself between him and Honoka.
Once more, his facial expression speaks of no bully-like sadism in knocking her over anew as floorboards fracture into sharper edges that seem rife to find purchase in his bare feet should he dare to press his luck too close.
He weaves in low with a crouch to allow the wand to pass harmlessly overhead, moving with the jarring dip that . Reaching in with both hands, he looks to grasp Honoka - perhaps by her arms, somewhere where he can find purchase - to attempt to yank her up and out as she struggles to re-compose herself mentally and physically.
Relentless as his pursuit is, if he can get a hold of her, his left knee moves in to bash at her midsection a small number of times - roughly three - before turning and tossing her over his shoulder to some distance away from this break in the floor.
He holds nothing back even in her moment of weakness - he is of the fullest belief that neither have approached their very limits yet.

COMBATSYS: Honoka blocks Ryu's Combo Grapple.

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

It's unlikely that the outcome of one single battle will have any lasting effect on either fighter's legacy; the battlefields of Neo League are notoriously unpredictable. Honoka had always viewed these sorts of bouts as an advertising venue, a way to get a fighter's name up in lights for a few seconds and possibly score a more momentous appearance. But it would be a shame to write any battle off as meaningless or trivial: the opportunity for a relative amateur to fight against a world-renowned master is not one to be taken lightly!

Likewise, it would be an insult to Honoka if the World Warrior were to go easy on the performer. Forged in the flames of battle, she can take what he's dishing out -- even if she might spend more time recuperating than she'd prefer. And, after facing someone with the might of Vega, she definitely wants to see how much further she can push herself.

The Twilight Star performer winces as her wild swing whiffs; a quick jerk of her wrist pulls the cord and its wand back to her grasp. But then she finds Ryu's hands grabbing at her arms, pulling her bodily out of the crater. With a pained hiss as the splintered wood is pulled out of her shoulder, spattering blood across her violet jacket, she nonetheless senses that his seemingly chivalrous gesture doesn't come without its own side effects. As Ryu grips onto her upper arms, he might find that the jacket hangs a bit more loosely than it appears, as she's able to curl one knee up to her chest, using Ryu's grip as leverage to haul herself up away from the floor. Her shin is able to mitigate some of the effects of his powerful knee strikes, but only by redirecting injurious force to her legs rather than her considerably-less-sturdy abdomen.

Gratefully, she finds release in being tossed across to the port side of the ship -- at least now, airborne and free of Ryu's constricting hold, she's able to put her acrobatic knowledge to use. Tucking into a somersault, she regains control of her flight and lands in a three-point crouch, an ear-to-ear smile upon her face as she looks back up at Ryu, several meters away. She seems to favor fighting at range -- even if it hasn't always worked to her favor due to Ryu's impressive fleet-footedness, it does afford her attack posture more flexibility.

In this case, she spares a split-second to glance down at Ryu's feet, or rather to a point behind them. Her calculation taking hold, she unleashes the energy stored in her crouching stance, plummeting herself forward. As Ryu's not holding back, she sees no point in it either. Should Ryu have a burning desire to find out how hard it hurts to have the tips of two 50cm-long diabolo wands plunged straight at him... well, here's his chance!

COMBATSYS: Ryu interrupts Medium Strike from Honoka with Shoryuken EX.

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

The boat rocks, rattles, and otherwise cracks from where damage already exists thanks to conflict within and without. With his close proximity to where Honoka had left a small crater out of floorboards that had taken too much, one board where he stands starts to take a dip from the lack of support afforded to the structure.
The rock of the boat that would put him at higher elevation to Honoka adds further a push to footing that seems about ready to give out. Ryu might have been thinking - and based on anecdotal body language where he seems to be shifting his weight off a bit to the right, is thinking - of moving his position closer to some of the netting.
Honoka, with the fire in her heart, a smile on her face, and a plan in motion, would not allow him to correct his position. With one good strike, Honoka could stand to force him below, either through the hole her body had created, or through the collateral of simply standing fairly close to the gap.
Ryu's eyes close within the miniscule time window he has to truly react, his stance dipping lower to a crouch. Is he anticipating Honoka aiming to go high? No, that would be foolish to believe, especially now that he has a higher elevation at the point of this boat's dangerous swaying. The way his right forearm dips... is he compensating for shakier and shakier balance?
The tips of the diabolo wands are thrust into cloth that hardly do much to blunt the impact of it before much more can be done from there. Debilitating, painful, just from the initial touch of the lunging dual-diabolo wand whack. Hell, he might even be damn near run through.
The verbosity of these previous paragraphs, unfortunately, stand to blemish what comes within fractions of fractions of a second between first contact and the next.
The next? It's from him, to her. Freeing his mind of residual concern, worry, and doubt of the world around him, he grasps a hold of the nothingness, embraces it...
The lowered arm rises, his fist all but taking the rest of him hostage with its momentum as he breaks the diabolo wand thrust with the punch that has halted countless numbers of aggressive advances.
The words ring out, echoing to the open sea with a ferocity that may well match or even surpass the sounds of ongoing naval battle, a young man rising with his fist skyward, hardly slowed from whatever resistance the impact of his fist against Honoka. The lingering echoes of a dangerous thrust leaves a visible bruise just around his solar plexus - alone, a blow that would knock the wind out of virtually anyone. And yet, even suffering that, it did not halt his course... and somehow, in some fashion, managed to maintain enough air in his lungs to shout the name of the legendary rising punch in his triumphant ascent.
Even the ends of his headband have trouble doing anything other than cling against the back of his head for the duration of this ride up to the night sky, until gravity dares to take him back down towards the damaged decks where the two fight to the finish of one of many of their individual chapters of their lives.

The pirate ship has been all but humbled from getting a broadside full of cannonballs, but they're not going down without a fight! It just goes to show that this Neo League fight also doubles as a none-too-subtle advertisement for an Italian company specializing in historical replicas -- every second of camera footage that shows pieces of the hull giving way is a testament to how accurate the Shipmasters of Genoa creations can really be! The only thing that's missing is the phone number and website... Rest assured, the home viewers will be able to read those!

Dealing with the trauma of some really painful bumps to the head makes thinking up a clear strategy a bit more... difficult than one might otherwise think. So while it was a perfectly good idea at the time for Honoka to charge back at the World Warrior -- and indeed, it -did- land as intended -- she sees now that placing herself within range of the Ansatsuken disciple's right fist was probably not so good, in retrospect. The metallic diabolo wands are superheated rapidly from the sudden force imparted upon them. From both the impact and the inordinate temperature increase, Honoka's double-handed grip falters, the wands snapping free, tethered only by a reflexive grab from their wielder.

It must be reflexive, because there's no way Honoka would have been able to snag them any other way with the intense pain coursing throughout her sternum. She'd been holding the wands close to her body, bracing them against her breastbone, so when the wands are knocked aside... well, the thin layers of cloth don't serve as effective armor against an attack as legendary as the Shoryuken. Honoka's lungs are evacuated, along with a spurt of blood, as she's propelled upwards in ways she really, -really- hadn't intended on. Eyes screw shut from the pain, to say nothing of the earlier swelling. But still, her wands trail along behind her as she flies into the air, almost but not quite independently of Ryu.
Is this how you're going to let it end, girl?
Honoka's eyes open, as she finds herself nearly at the level of the crows' nest, her chest and shoulders feeling as if lit aflame. Her throat scratchy, and dark veins clouding her vision, she looks down to see a particular headband... and a torn gi. And beyond that... the plan form of the boat, seen from an unusually high vantage point. Her focus shifts to the singular cord fluttering about in her loose grip.
Waiting for gravity again? Pathetic! What about that audience you're so eager to please? Will -this- make them happy?
Her hands move almost without thought. The diabolo cord snaps tight as she whips her hand downward, one wand -- still hot like the embers of a dying fire -- retracted immediately to a firmly clenched hand. The other wand? It's pulling the cord taut as it winds a path around Ryu's chest, like a boa constrictor coiling up around its next meal. Landing in the crater scarring the deck of the Santa Maria would be a lot more comfortable, if she only had a martial arts master to cushion the fall.

"I have to keep... trying my best..." she whispers into the rushing wind. Is she apologizing to Ryu, or herself?

COMBATSYS: Honoka can no longer fight.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Ryu              1/--=====/=======|

COMBATSYS: Ryu endures Honoka's Large Thrown Object.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  <
Ryu              1/=======/=======|

To commit to the Shoryuken, to surrender oneself to the fist akin to that of a rising dragon, is one not taken lightly. One could wax poetic about unleashing one great, violent, singular burst of force that could take heads clean off.
One should also consider the vulnerable descent, the wind-down in which one regains their footing upon the Earth (or in this case, the ship). Once more, Honoka takes advantage of his momentary mid-air vulnerability, and there is a constricting squeeze around his chest. His solar plexus, having suffered the brunt of abuse, makes its discomfort known through the universal language of pain.
His eyes widen as he touches down, as the tugging further serves to make it difficult to take in any more oxygen. Coming down, coming fast, the acrobatic Honoka's whispered words might seem lost in the heat of the moment.
The ship violently rocks anew. Ryu falls to a knee, twisting his upper body sharply to the left to better maintain line of sight with Honoka as gravity decides to take its turn with both of them.
His arms reach upward as Honoka and himself meet in a head-on collision, and the deck gives out. Already so close in proximity to the hole, it is too much for the unsupported floorboards to bear.
Together, they fall. Ryu, as planned in the last ditch, is the shield that softens Honoka's fall as he takes the brunt of whatever dangerous architecture awaits their approach.
Ryu does not keep much of a running count, gritting his teeth as he falls knee-first into the lower decks. Pieces of wood from above soon give way and fall with. Battered by the head, by his arms, just about everywhere imaginable, it's hard to call this anything other than an unqualified success in further wearing him down.
Ryu comes to a hard stop wordlessly in a crouching posture, dust and particle matter clouding the air... irritating the eyes, clogging the nose, finding unwelcome homes in one's throat...
Clad in the darkness cast by what carpentry would transpose itself between the two fighters and the night sky, there is some primal undercurrent of danger in a posture barely visible outside of the vague outline.
Little detail separates a man of this posture from being compared to that of someone looking as though ready to cradle a kill. It's not hard to imagine those thick hands, powered by thicker muscles, grasping onto the neck of the prone and vulnerable to choke the life out of them as part of a cold-hearted agreement with a third party. The lack of illumination from this vantage point to give color and detail to these eyes, surrounded by collapsed deck material and at least one crate for good measure.
Slowly, his figure rises to a stand. The firm, uncompromising grasp gives way to gentleness to allow Honoka to lay gently upon what ground there is to be considered suitable for lying on the ground without threat of stabbing one's back into debris... splintered wood, shattered glass, whatever else could lie beneath them now, allowing the coiled wand to undo itself and clatter onto the ground.

In standing back up, the light of the night returns discernible features to his face, to the rest of him, crossing his arms as he looks off up to the hole the two of them fell through. His complexion is dirtied, bruised, and cut without pattern beyond a simple acknowledgement that this is where he or something else collided into one another while Honoka had him cushion her fall. The ends of his headband flutter, as though possessed of their own ideas of where they'd like to be.
"You fought well." He says, breaking the silence that followed the final symphony of shattering between the two of them taking that last fall down the hole. The peacefulness in his voice maintains an even keel, somehow, even after a traumatic series of jarring injuries that would disorient pretty much anyone... and yet, he seems ready and willing to just pick things up and continue his journey the way he is, hardly inconvenienced by the thought that maybe he should make sure he doesn't have splinters in his feet.
"I can feel it... the wealth of history behind your technique," he says aloud, "it was an honor to experience it within this moment of battle..."

It's selfish, really, to cling to someone else and doom the both of them, when Honoka had been flitting about just fine as a perfectly capable individual for the majority of the fight. Even with her body aching all over, from fist- and foot-inflicted trauma, it's quite possible that the circus performer could find some way to land safely from such a tremendous height, perhaps with the use of her tremendously useful diabolo cord. But no -- she'd committed to this course of action, knowing full well that she would have regretted passing up an opportunity to pressure the World Warrior even further. She'd gone all-in, and Ryu represents her best hope of surviving the fall alone; no amount of acrobatic skill will prove useful to her at this point.

Trust, in her opponent of all people. It's not something the Ainu woman is used to, and the fact that she trusts the World Warrior so implicitly -- the man who shocked the world with a single uppercut, not unlike the one she had literally just received -- well, it's bringing about second thoughts.

At this altitude, Honoka is terrified, her skin growing more pale with each meter fallen. Her bound opponent is unusually less so; despite the exhilarating back-and-forth tempo of the fight, she notes that Ryu has stayed along an even keel -- unflappable, mechanical, and precise.

Even with the swelling bruise threatening to shut her right eye, she insists on keeping it open, insists on staring at the Ansatsuken disciple. Every motion he makes, every possibility he considers -- she's watching. Learning. And hoping for the best, her grip on the cords unyielding. The World Warrior delivered this uppercut, and she's going to hold the honorable man accountable for it.

With the shock of slamming into the deck, the darkness takes over. Whimpers of pain escape her, but the accumulated injuries have taken their toll -- forcing her eyes closed for just a few moments. Her grip, gratefully, fell slack as soon as the first deckboard cracked under the pair's weight -- she'd allowed Ryu to do the work of shielding her, after all.

If she -were- awake, she'd be sure to comment on how much of a gentleman Ryu had been, setting her aside safely in the jet blackness of the ship's interior. She'd have likely remained unresponsive if it weren't for the clarion voice speaking to her. But once she realizes that he's speaking, she comes to a realization.

She couldn't 'read' the World Warrior; his thoughts and motions aren't like anyone else's, his will unshakable. When his words ring out, a beacon in the midst of the dense fog that's clouded her mind, she finds she cannot ignore them. Her eyes part open; her lips spread into a thin smile.

"You're... too kind," she replies, her voice lapsing into an eastern Hokkaido accent. "The honor was all mine, World Warrior."

Her words conveyed, she closes her eyes again, as if to say she'd like to just rest here for now. At least those damn cannons stopped firing long enough for them to have a few moments of peace.

As silence falls upon Honoka's lips, so too is Ryu's tongue - if there really is anything to hold back any further in the wake of their clash. It is, for the time, over.
Shadows are soon cast over the twosome by those who have found a break in the action, however brief, to see how the two fighters are holding up (more accurately, where they are).
Ryu looks up, face calm. He needn't say much, or even anything - there seems to be an unspoken understanding of what has just transpired past the top deck. There are some frantic dialogues from those above, at least some level of acknowledgement to the sight of an upright Ryu and a not-upright Honoka means for recordkeeping purposes... help would soon be on the way as manpower can be spared between cannon volleys.
Ryu still keeps his eyes set upon the gap to outside, assured of Honoka's well-being. It's not farfetched to think he might be up for picking a fight with the pirates, should they not already have relented from the return fire. To entertain such a thought with the level of injury he had suffered from such a fine battle...!
How much further is he willing to push himself? How far can he go?
The only way forward is just that, on the champion's road.

COMBATSYS: Ryu wanders on to find the next challenge.

Log created on 19:34:07 12/12/2015 by Honoka, and last modified on 06:37:04 12/17/2015.