Description: This next match goes over the story of Mizuho, who has to overcome the Fire Dancer. Keith volunteers into the event, but what was meant to be a simple participation ended up a deeper dive into an uncomfortable subject for the amnesiac boxer.
The 2015 storyline for the Twilight Star Circus, dubbed A Young Woman's Path, tells the story of, well, a young woman who finds herself in the midst of a set of increasingly incredible challenges. At its core, the story is based on the timeless and traditional epic formula, told in countless forms in equally countless media, but in a way to provide a context for the acrobatic and engaging spectacles of the number of performers in this circus. Acrobats, jugglers, strongmen, knife-flingers, and even the clowns; the cast of characters one would expect to see in a circus are all wrapped up in matching costumes and thrust into the overarching plot of a woman tossed about from one point to the other, finding herself mired in a situation that only her exuberant, and occasionally naive, outlook on the world can solve.
At this part in the show, though... poor Mizuho isn't there yet. She's stumbled into the lair of the Flame Dancer, a creature with the ears and feline grace of a cat, and a predilection for setting things on fire. The auburn-haired Mizuho has a pretty pink dress on, and it doesn't go well with fire -- though, luckily, the precarious set is -designed- to make the heat look intense to the audience. The kids in the audience are mortified at the thought that one lone bridge is all that separates the protagonist Mizuho from her final goal -- and every time Mizuho attempts to step across it, one of the Flame Dancer's fiery red diabolos zings past her nose. The feature's dialogue has been building towards this moment -- all of the young woman's companions have warned her about the lair of the Flame Dancer, and have stressed their own particular fears of fire...
Spotlights snap on, their halogen glow cast in a wide dispersal across the audience. "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN... MIZUHO NEEDS A CHAMPION! WILL ANYONE STAND UP FOR MISS MIZUHO, OR WILL HER MISSION FAIL IN UTTER DISGRACE?!" All spotlights but one extinguish, the sole shaft of light focusing on an aging salaryman, obviously here with his family: "WILL IT BE YOU, SIR?" In similar fashion, another spotlight appears to single out another family man... "OR YOU?"
The big top's house lights rise to some extent, allowing it to be a little more obvious if someone were to jump up and volunteer themself as Mizuho's savior, while the mysterious Flame Dancer, dressed in gaudy purple and pink, continues to balance in the center of her bridge, juggling her flaming diabolos in a most threatening fashion at the terrified young woman on the edge.
This has been quite a show. It is a tale of a woman trying to overcome her trials. It has been a nice amount of time since the events had begun. The lair of the Flame Dancer is the current challenge that Mizuho must overcome. The intensity of the flames may have frighten and mortified majority of the audience, but for one person...
One person is watching the events with rapt attention, taking in the events with interest. In a way, the larger man is rather immersed, at least once his head is past the railing that gets in his way.
It is unfortunate that Keith did not get any of the good seats. Truth be told, he did not mind his current seating arrangement. It was a bit entertaining to see the interrupt his attempt to see the events from time to time. What he did get to see has been rather wonderful.
Hm? Audience participation? This is something that Keith did not expect. The lights soon stats to single out various people, but...
It finally stops over towards the wall. Or rather, the person behind the wall.
"Huh. Looks like I won this one."
Emerging from the wall is a massive, burly black man. His presence towers over many of the other people surrounding him. Currently, the hoodie covers his face, faintly obscuring his face. While he starts moving down past the audience, he does continue to munch on the popcorn until he finally finishes the bag.
"This should be interesting."
It, of course, helps that the Twilight Star Circus tends to keep watch on their attendees each night. And there's little hope of Keith Walker staying off the radar, with the NESTS emigre having challenged the legendary World Warrior in a Neo League bout some short time ago. Suffice to say -- the spotlight operators had their orders, and the Twilight Star Challenge -wasn't- about to default to one of the circus' house performers. Not on this evening, anyway.
Amidst thunderous applause for the 'volunteer', the fearsome Flame Dancer feigns complete surprise as she turns towards the unlikely challenger singled out in the cheap seats. Honoka of the Dancing Flames makes a show of looking towards Keith -- then turning her head back to the announcer, miming out incredulity (for her lack of a microphone) as if to say: Really? -That- guy? Two flaming diabolos continue to orbit around her as she frees her thumb and first two fingers from the diabolo wands: enough to allow her to respond with a 'no money' gesture that the popcorn-muncher didn't even pay top dollar for his seats! But no, she acknowledges with a resigned shrug -- there was no mistake. She then gestures with a cocky smile and a 'snatch the pebble from my hands' gesture towards the Farseer, arousing another round of riotous applause from the crowd.
The flaming diabolos orbit around her -- they'd been in a lazy maintenance orbit, but as it will take Keith a few moments to be ushered up to the stage, Honoka milks the attention for all its worth, sending the diabolos on a wild roller-coaster ride around herself. Mizuho steps aside from her side of the platform, as a couple circus clowns guide Keith on his way up the stage ladder. With the bright lights focusing intently upon him, the Farseer's hoodie won't be obscuring his face for long...
And they, of course, do nothing to mute the intensity of the Flame Dancer's cruel smirk. It's all mugging for the audience, of course!
COMBATSYS: Honoka has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Keith has joined the fight here.
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Honoka 0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0 Keith
Let it be known that Keith is rather amused at his current predictament. There are a lot of emotions that the NESTS emigre is able to sense from the presence of the crowd. The spike of applause and mock-enthusiasm is felt. Some genuine, others half-hearted. However, what does catch his attention is the different emotion that seems to radiate from the Fire Dancer. Truth be told, the emotion, in comparison, is rather mild. However, what makes it stand out is that it is very distinctive. It's like a rock within a sea of emotions going down a river. It is staying in place.
The eyes fall over towards the diabolos as he is escorted over towards the stage ladder. This ladder is putting him up over to the bridge that is about 6-8 feet up. He observes the net underneath, idly wondering how long before that disappears.
Keith tilts his head with curiosity back towards the flaming diabolos as they orbit around her. Once they make their roller-coaster type of ride, the bright lights no longer obscure the presence of his face.
That is why Keith slips it off, letting the world see the dark-skinned frame and the hair braided in cornrolls. He looks rather laxed as he observes the surroundings, then he looks back towards Honoka and the orbiting diabolos that continue to dance like flitting butterflies.
While grinning, his hand slips into his pocket. Finally, he procures a large coin. A flick of the thumb sends it flying into the air.
"... Not taking you lightly. Though, let's make this fun, eh?"
The larger man is off, pushing his left leg back while shooting himself towards the Fire Dancer. As he brings himself to close the distance, he immediately catches during the course of his spin.
His arm spreads out, aiming for a spinning cross towards the dancer's head.
COMBATSYS: Honoka blocks Keith's Lucky Break.
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Honoka 0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0 Keith
The Ainu woman is the island in the center of the sea of shifting emotions, each white-capped wave, each crash upon the shore is a carefully orchestrated and easily predictable movement. And the only anomaly here in this perfect storm of circus fun... is Keith.
It's enough to bring a small uptick to the Flame Dancer's smirk as she focused intently upon the Farseer. She'd reviewed his fight with Ryu before her own fight, and knew he had some ability, but... well, it's obvious to the psion now that she's not dealing with a chi user. His soul is awakened, his spirit invigorated -- and he rightly sees that the inflamed props swinging around here are mere distractions from her power. Toys, as he states before downplaying his own words.
Make this fun? Honoka tips her chin to that. Fun is, of course, the name of the circus game. The bridge, barely wide enough to support Keith's approach, bows slightly from the intensity of his charge, but it's sturdy enough to stand up to the abuse all the same. Honoka, too, proves to be more resilient than the acrobat's slight frame would suggest; she tosses both diabolos into the air, angling them backwards a bit. Freed of their obligation to keep the spinning diabolos from falling to the paracord net below, the sticks are now allowed to cross into an 'X' pattern in front of Honoka, neatly absorbing the sheer force of the initial attack. The fight has begun: the audience raves wild!!
Honoka smiles, using the transferred momentum and springing backwards, landing about two meters apart from Keith. Her hands snap to either side -- though it's not for balance, it's to catch the diabolos she'd flung into the air moments earlier, sending them back into their rollercoaster-y orbits. With a wink of her eye at Keith, she's willing to concede that, yes, that was -fun-.
The flaming diabolos sail into the air again, though this time they're aimed at Keith. Should he fail to yield his ground, they'd likely crash into him -- but he's also got the acrobatic juggler herself to worry about, as she's cartwheeled forward -- and then flipped herself into crashing an axe kick aimed right into his shoulder!
COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Keith with Strong Kick.
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Honoka 0/-------/=======|====---\-------\0 Keith
The first aims to strike out towards the woman's face, but there is a glance to see those diabolos tossed into the air. Keith cannot help but be impressed with the sight of those flaming diabolos. Even better is that the woman manages to cross the sticks together to guard against the impact of the blow. He can feel the knuckles drive into the hardened sticks, but they otherwise do not make purchase onto the woman's face. The audience are raving. This does bring a grin to the man's face. After the distance is separated the two, Keith makes a quick quip.
"Nice. I have to admire the sleight of hand."
Once the diabolos sail into the air once more, Keith's gaze makes a lift to watch where they go. Unfortunately, that leaves him too distracted for the charge that Honoka manages to make.
The acrobatic juggler takes the advantage of flipping out to an axe kick towards the shoulders. Keith had started to step back to distance himself from the intending foot, but with the diabolos coming down as a distraction and the bad footing that he has on the bridge, Keith takes that blow right to the shoulder. This is followed by the diabolos dropping down. The sting of that foot sends him leaning forward, practically losing balance and just about falling over.
He is dropped to one knee, trying to maintain some sort of balance that he has. A loud thud stirs from the bridge, Keith smacking down pretty hard.
"Heh... quite a kick." A grin forms, then he pushes himself foward. He sucks in a breath and then he starts shifting his weight over to catch the woman with a fist driving underneath from the non-strucked side of the body. He is aiming to catch her with a body blow towards the solar plex.
COMBATSYS: Honoka instinctively dodges Keith's Body Blow.
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Honoka 0/-------/=======|====---\-------\0 Keith
The juggler had to take a few days off after her fight with the World Warrior -- he had -not- pulled his punches against her. (Not that she'd wanted him to, of course!) She's mostly recovered by now, at least to the point where she doesn't have a headache each time she wants to move a muscle, but she's still not keen on the idea of letting herself get hit. Not if she can avoid it anyway.
The audience lets out an "OOOOH" as the juggler withdraws from her axe kick, whipping one of her wands around to snatch the two diabolos out of the air. The rapidity of the motion is enough to snuff out the flames, but it'd be a mistake to believe that the weighted props were any less painful without being on fire. She cocks her head to the side, like a bird, at Keith's continued attempts to provoke a friendly banter with her: she's not said one word to him up till this point, and might have continued if he weren't insisting on complimenting her: the one true path into the selfish performer's heart.
Well, the path that involves -words- anyway. The path that involves a fist through the solar plexus is not one that Honoka wants to help Keith with -- the nimble performer is quick to throw herself into a double backflip, the motion carrying her about a quarter of the way back to her side of the platform as her diabolos mirror their earlier arcs through the air. Yes, she loses ground, but avoiding that rather -vicious- attack with only the narrowest of margins is a plus. The audience wows -- they can tell that it would have hurt quite a bit!
Now on stable footing again, with diabolos snapping back into their prescribed orbits, she cautions, "Flattery might take you far, but don't go hoping for a free ride..."
But then Honoka spins the diabolos into a tight circle, half a meter in diameter, interposing them between her solar plexus and Keith. The threat isn't from the juggling props, though -- but rather in the blossom of pink energy forming within the 'barrel' she's forming therein. "Unless it's a ride down. -That- one's a freebie." She's not on a microphone -- the words are meant only for Keith, and indeed, it'd be hard to hear much else over the roar of the audience, as the pink energy peaks in intensity, a column of light erupting outward towards Keith. The charged psychic energy would wash over and through him, threatening to invoke a burst of vertigo through him which might just make it a wee bit harder to stand on the elevated bridge...
COMBATSYS: Keith just-defends Honoka's Ishirishina!
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Honoka 1/-------/=======|====---\-------\0 Keith
That strike did not make purchase. The fist finds itself hitting nothing but air. Given Honoka's acrobatic capabilities, she manages to perform the double backflip to sault herself away from him.
It does look rather impressive to see the fist graze against the acrobat as she grazes past the flying fist aiming for her solar plex.
After a moment for the woman getting back to position, she finally speaks. A grin forms on his face, "There we go..." He lifts his shoulders with a shrug, "... Not expecting a free ride, but... a light chat makes the fight less monotonous.
The diabolos spinning around is quite eye-catching, but Keith is going to avoid becoming too distracted by them. Even worse is the fact that there is something told only to him.
... His telepathy is now picking up that message.
In the instant that the pink energy erupts towards his form, the burst attempting to strike true against him finally. The hand snaps forward, Keith's expression turning more serious as his body just...
A cyan hue manifests between himself and the pink bolt that threatens to wash over him. It manifests like a shield to take in the blow of the entire wave. A few seconds later, it starts to die down.
Keith is left with sweat running along his face. Not fatigue, but that did take a bit out of him.
"Well, guess things just got more interesting."
Keith immediately lunges forward, moving in with a bit of a footwork. He sweeps himself forward to shift away from the potential diabolos making his close range more frustrating. Instead, he lunges in with a sweeping punch towards the woman's face.
COMBATSYS: Honoka fails to interrupt Swift Stance from Keith with Sarak Kamui.
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Honoka 0/-------/=======|====---\-------\0 Keith
You're prettier when you smile. She's heard that kind of tripe before when she walks about town -- by people who don't know that it takes every bit of effort to smile for thousands of people onstage. It's tiresome, it's tedious to be so effervescently outgoing for people she doesn't know. She makes it look easy, she's convincing enough that people could believe that she smiles like this 24/7/365... but it's all a forced contrivance, something she does to fill seats in this very big top.
So he says: there we go. Her smile is faint -- acknowledging that Keith had responded, but little else. She does not want to encourage the Farseer into pressing his social graces into her routine -- too much personal talk tends to mar the actual -performance- in mind for the hundreds of people gathered about. Which is why she wears no mic to begin with, of course.
That smile is fleeting, however, as her attack meets up against the cyan hues of... whatever power lies within Keith. The psion responds -- she can feel the mild panic, and her brow knits at how exactly it manages to manifest.
So it's a more honest and appreciative smile that she flashes back at Keith, as he continues talking his way through the fight. She nods, quietly reasserting the diabolos into their well-worn circuit. And when the punch sweeps in...
The panic she'd sensed from Keith has shifted into a calm confidence. A flashback to her fight with the World Warrior, right down to a strike to the head. Honoka's response is tardy due to the realization, her hand raises -- but never quite manages to brush Keith aside. Her other hand flared with a purple energy, though it was quelled as soon as she gets slugged in the head. That dazing blow was powerful enough to bring her to her knees, and moreover, upset the delicate balance that keeps her diabolos anchored to their cord. One is loosed, falling to the net below, but a flick of Honoka's wrist is enough to bring the other one to heel. It was a choice between sacrificing one of her toys, or tumbling to the net herself, after all.
"Somewhat... but you're still holding back..." she mentions, one hand pressed to her rapidly-discoloring cheek while her other does the work of keeping the diabolo in motion. She rises to her feet, keeping one eye shut while she figures out a way to deal with the pain... "Where -does- your power come from, anyway...?"
There we go.
Keith's fist makes purchase towards the woman's head. There is a satisfying feeling of feeling the knuckle make contact with the cranium, especially when it looked like she was attempting to strike him before the fist made purchase.
It looks like she left one of her diabolos to the hands of the net.
"...So, you want to know where my powers come from?"
Mentally, Keith is sucking in a breath. Honestly, he had hoped to not to have to use the powers. That panic is slowly getting to him, painted on his face to a frown. The smile he had had started to twist. After a moment, he lifts his arms up and shrugs.
"...I guess I have no choice but to demonstrate."
He lifts the hand over towards his waist, then he procures a small device. It looks like some sort of handgun, but one can see the signs of a syringe inside of the tube of the 'barrel'.
"... Let's do this."
The jolt of energy sparks against Keith, shooting forth the serum to course through his veins. His head tilts back from the pressure, until serenity fills him.
Eyes flash open bright cyan glow.
As he extends his hand out, there is a jolt of energy manifesting between hinself and Honoka. It is a set of 'flames' that ignite to life around her, seeking to rend against her and set her 'on fire'. It is suffocating light that seeks to consume her.
COMBATSYS: Keith successfully hits Honoka with Ignition.
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Honoka 1/-------/=======|====---\-------\0 Keith
Honoka's eyes flick to her opponent's expression, silently judging him as he undergoes his momentary crisis of faith. Will he continue boxing in such a manner, or... something else? As good a mood as he's been in, he seems to have no particular qualms with reaching to his waist and drawing something out.
Honoka doesn't flinch -- if it were truly a pistol as it appears, she would be able to sense the nerves firing, the predatory edge that always precedes an attack from an otherwise rational individual. No, it's anticipation of a different sort -- the giddy euphoria that precedes a chemical change, rather than a physical one.
Honoka's expression darkens, at that. Her voice is scarcely above a whisper, though with the hush falling over the crowd, it's likely that the Farseer can still hear her. "That is not power. That is a -crutch-."
The psion whips the diabolo around faster and faster, her heartbeat pounding fast with the anticipation of her opponent's new groove. She can sense the flames -- and in a way, she's already felt something not unlike them, in vicarious fashion: the flames of a significantly grander opponent.
Honoka tenses her jaw, and snaps her diabolo into the air, hoping to brace herself against the flames much as she had with the fist.
It does not work as well. The psychic flames consume her, forcing her to stagger backwards from the agony. Rationally, she knows it's all in her head, just a psychic attack -- but that doesn't make it any easier for the primal instincts, the core of what defines her as a human, to absorb. She howls in pain, clutching one clawing hand to her chest while the other snaps into its practiced motion, snaring the diabolo out of mid-air.
In times like this, it's good to have muscle memory. Because if it weren't for that, (a) she'd fall to the depths below, and (b) she wouldn't be able to sidearm her wands thusly, allowing it to rocket out towards Keith. The butt of the wand would slam into his forehead, guided on its path by the stabilizing momentum of her diabolo...
But in that same moment, Keith would be educated. The bridge, and Honoka herself, are not the only hazards in play here. There is also the very lair of the Flame Dancer itself -- the fiery pit over which the bridge traverses. And even as Honoka staggers about from psychically-induced flames, Keith may find a very -real- danger in the flames which erupt from beneath him, at an angle to the bridge that would allow the flames to lick at his very heels. Not -every- challenger is able to hold their own against Honoka, after all -- Keith has earned the flamethrowers!
COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Keith with Large Thrown Object.
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Honoka 1/------=/=======|=======\-------\0 Keith
~ "...Never asked for this. But... I use what is given... Or forced upon me." ~
That is the direct message that Keith sends to Honoka. That direct message is then followed bythe use of the psychokinetic flames that manifest around Honoka, ensnaring her despite of her bracing. As she struggles against the flames, Keith closes his eyes.
~ "... For better or worse, this is I am now, it seems. I'll use--.." ~
That is when the headaches start. Keith is clutching against his head, starting to laugh. "This is why I hate going all out with this." There it is, Keith is edging to the point of going Live.
If Honoka can feel it, it is like a rumbling storm planning to stir to life. The tettering towards destruction. It is almost like a heart attack.
Keith can see the lair open up. The fiery pit manifests, the flames erupt around him. "Tsscchh!" Those flames consume around him, gritting his teeth while he tries to shield his frame. He is getting licked upon the heels by those flames. He staggers along the bridge, trying to keep his footing.
And yet, he drops back to a knee, panting.
~ "...And this is why I hate going all out. But, what can you do?" ~
He lifts a shrug once more, "...Ya asked for it."
Keith is moving straight towards Honoka once more, lunging forward with both hands seeking to reach for Honoka. Should he be successful in the grab, he will likely lift her up and give her a forceful drop on the bridge with a Power Bomb.
COMBATSYS: Honoka blocks Keith's Medium Throw.
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Honoka 1/------=/=======|=======\-------\0 Keith
Honoka had been speaking with her voice, though now that she realizes Keith is speaking directly into her mind, she... frowns. She isn't quite sure what to make of Keith -- she knows he has a shadowy origin, and she can tell he wasn't -always- as gifted -- if he was, he wouldn't have needed the injector device. But now that she is able to feel the power he's able to mete out, she's concerned.
Though, admittedly, part of the concern is how to sell this conversation to the audience, who has no -chance- of playing along. All they see is two people slinging energy at one another, and occasionally someone getting beaned and/or roasted.
The juggler withdraws her cord, spinning the diabolo about once more. A smile lights her face once again as she offers a shrug in reply: "Practice makes perfect." It would definitely be a non-sequitur to an observer, but only stagehands and directional mics could pick up the verbal retort anyway.
She sees Keith rushing towards her, arms wide as if to snake around her shoulders. The acrobat understands that she is much, -much- better at fighting on a bridge than he is. She leaps to Keith's right, meaning that if Keith really wants to grab hold of her, he could -- and fall to his certain doom in the process. But moreover -- with a flashy toss of her diabolo, both hands are partially free to grip onto the lip of the bridge, as she pivots into a cartwheel right alongside Keith, using her momentum to snap herself out of Keith's unevened grip. But when the cartwheel approaches one-and-a-half revolutions, Honoka changes her tack: she aims to grab hold of his shoulder, using her cartwheeled momentum to shove him back towards his and Mizuho's side of the bridge.
All the while, she communicates with him in the fashion he's shown preference for: ~" Is this all just some -experiment- to you? "~
COMBATSYS: Keith blocks Honoka's Medium Throw.
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Honoka 1/----===/=======|=======\=------\1 Keith
"Ahhh, if only. If only I can practice it." For a moment, Keith had almost forgot what he had been fighting for.
That is why Keith lifts both hands into the air, letting the audience know that he is still able to fight. He is calling himself that champion for the cause. "I, Miguel El Hortio, shall lead Mizuho to next path! I will not let her fail!"
~ "Sorry, almost forgot what I was here for!" ~
However, Keith had charged to grab the woman, but she manages to leap over to his right, leading him to what could be his doom if he really wanted to press. Keith merely stops himself, taking several steps back. "...Heh, not that easy."
That is where he is caught by the cartwheeled momentum. For a big guy like him to be tossed like that, Keith is rather impressed. However, he quickly shifts his weight while slapping his hand down to keep him from falling off, then he rolls back to his feet.
"It'll take more than that to stop me from championing Mizuho." He lifts a hand, tsking to himself.
Then, Honoka says something that strikes Keith, more than her worst attacks.
It is that very instant that Keith's expression loses that laidback nature. It is almost one that is filled with a surprise.
...Darkness. That was the only thing that Keith remembers. Sharp pain. Brief, blurry images of men in white coats all gazing upon him. Keith could feel several stings. The prodding, the administration of the chemicals. All of these experimentations done on him.
'Make sure this one survives! We are not losing another one! Too much time has been invested!'
It is now a whisper. It is a whisper that she would barely be able to hear.
"...Why... can't I remember..?"
His eyes narrow towards Honoka, the fist tightens completely as the cyan glow manifests before him. That cyan glow is now more prominent in his eyes. As the burst of cyan energy manifests before him, Keith had lunged in to charge towards Honoka. He aims to close the distance between himself and her again. Pushing forward, he starts pushing onward with a leading jab towards her head, then a low cross towards her stomach.
The ending strike is going to be a hand extending forth. This time, this will be a psychokinetic push aiming to send her flying.
COMBATSYS: Keith successfully hits Honoka with Nova Tempest.
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Honoka 1/---====/=======|-------\-------\0 Keith
Almost forgot what he was here for? At least he's trying to hew close to the role the circus had placed before him -- that's more than some of their lesser-capable volunteers can do. Honoka has a track record of taking advantage of her opponents' lack of situational awareness -- it makes her look good, it makes the circus look good, and it also ensures that her 'volunteers' can have a fun video to take home and share with their friends. But when someone like Keith comes along who can actually go toe-to-toe with her...
It's quite a rush, to say the least. The flames below lick at Keith's heels as he falls into a predictable rhythm, drawing a larger smile from the feline-eared Honoka as she draws back to a safer distance. But that smile begins to fade when her simple comment seems to... trigger something darker. So attuned to his thought processes, the violent upheaval of memories is enough to cause Honoka to stagger -- even before the Farseer attacks.
She curls her fists up, sending her diabolo into a rapid whirl. She knows what -could- happen... but the boxer stays true to form instead of switching to another style as she was preparing for.
The jab smacks her in the nose, pain being sufficient enough to drop her guard. The cross that follows forces the acrobat to double over. Teeth grit from the pain -- not only from that delivered to her, but the sudden shift of equilibrium of her opponent. And then the very manifestation of his power -- lacking the signature cyan hue, but instead just a raw displacement of the air surrounding her.
That, too, is a rush. For the push is enough to send Honoka flying back and -off- the bridge -- or at least, it would have been, if Honoka wasn't keenly aware of her situation. As she flies about, she raps her knuckles into the diabolo, sending it tumbling upwards in a mimicry of her own less-than-stable flight. As Keith's psychokinetic force ebbs away, she regains control by kicking herself to the side, snapping her diabolo cord out and lashing it about one of the poles supporting the trapeze hanging high overhead. A dolphin kick propels her towards the pole at high speed, and with her diabolo cord acting as a trapeze, she swings -around- the pole. With a small burst of pink flames, Honoka flies up and around the pole, flinging her diabolo cord aside in what would appear to be a careless gesture.
She somersaults back to the bridge, landing in a three-point crouch. The diabolo she'd punched earlier is snared by the unleashed cord -- and becomes the fulcrum for the entangled objects to spin about. Consequently, when Honoka's hand snakes out overhead, it's in the perfect position to catch the diabolo wand and tow it back into her preferred orbit.
As the audience breaks into cheers, and the music changes note... it would appear the Ainu woman is no longer smiling at her opponent.
She takes a calculated guess, as the diabolo whips around to her right. An eyebrow arches, and a particularly cruel frown crosses her lips -- not surprising, considering that the punch had drawn a dribble of blood from her nose. So he's an experiment, hmm...?
~" Perhaps you aren't meant to remember. You're a tool, of someone... Doesn't that... bother you? "~
Honoka points at Mizuho, who's currently huddling in fear, her hands placed over her eyes in a pantomimed expression of 'can't watch but can't turn away'. And then with a quick wink, she's moving into motion.
To Keith, it would seem as if -two Honokas- move into motion. One is swinging with the diabolo wands, aiming to crack across his forehead. The other is spinning the diabolo into a fireball...
If the true attack were to land, the very next thing Keith will experience is being shoved into the bridge. And with Honoka standing over top of him, he'll see her smile again -- as her palm rams the psychic equivalent of 300 volts into his chest. Was -that- in his experimental regimen?
COMBATSYS: Keith blocks Honoka's Niwen Horobi.
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Honoka 1/-----==/=======|===----\-------\0 Keith
Keith's darker set of emotions had started to take over. The fact that he had been experimented with, the fact that everything is loss. He doesn't even remember who he is. All of that had started plaguing his mind. Unfortunately, there is a cost of using his Psycho Power.
It all grows worse, this time to the point of a hot dripping feeling coming down his nose. ... Blood. Keith can feel that the feedback is getting worse. The more that Keith is actively using the Psycho Power, the more that the feedback will get worse.
"Heh.. heh heh..."
And higher the possibility of going Live.
There was no satisfaction from the use of the next attack. Even though Keith did land a pretty powerful blow, it came at a higher cost. Even worse yet, he had almost lost it. Despite it all, he manages to crack a smile, giving the feline-eared guard a wink.
"Mizuho will be free!"
He brings both of his hands into the air, signalling for the crowd to cheer. Keith continues to put on a show, even though deep down...
He is going to break. Keith is going to go Live. He may end up dying at any moment. That is the truth.
It is a good thing that Honoka managed to catch herself from falling off of the bridge. Keith had been ready for the next go, but at the same time, he did not want the fight to end that soon. Once she uses the diabolos to lift herself back onto the bridge...
Keith claps. It is a loud, thunderous clap to join the crowd.
He is trying to save face. He is trying not to break. He is trying to hold on to the new part of him that he knows of. Even if it's not the truth, he will hold on to that part of him. Despite the music change, and despite the message within his mind, Keith maintains his composure. He has to.
... This time, Keith has to worry about a double team. "Hm?" Two Honoka? His eyes close, focusing and relying on his patience to guide him. He monitors his breathing, keeping his rhythm. He won't loose sight of himself.
It holds true when the true attack of the wand pushes towards his forehead. Keith brings both hands up to guard against the blow, using the meaty arms to take the impact of the voltage. He gives off a grunt, gritting his teeth as his eyes widen before him. He can feel it.
...It's all too familiar.
"I disagree with that sentiment."
That is why Keith finally pushes forward, aiming to catch Honoka with a blow to the head with his own. He is leaning forward, extending his forehead to make an impact against her face to push her back.
...Next, the man is shooting out towards her, bringing his right hand down and raking it across the ground to deliver a powerful, devastating uppercut towards her chest.
"I fight for myself."
"And for Mizuho."
COMBATSYS: Keith blitzes into action and acts again!
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Honoka 1/-----==/=======|==-----\-------\0 Keith
COMBATSYS: Honoka blocks Keith's Headbutt.
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Honoka 1/-----==/=======|=------\-------\0 Keith
COMBATSYS: Honoka interrupts Drill Upper from Keith with Sarak Kamui.
-+- CALCULATED HIT -+-
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Honoka 1/-------/=======|======-\-------\0 Keith
This man is impressive -- Honoka can tell that he's got quite the willpower, to be able to put on the front of -acting- amidst both the visceral fighting itself, and the dark memories tugging at his psyche. The psion can read the conflict pulling Keith three ways at once -- and the stress inherent upon him.
He's over there tearing -himself- up, with only the slightest nudges from Honoka. She's not certain how she feels about this: that's a good thing for the terms of the fight, but she's kind of... envious? She'd wanted to have more of an active role in this self-destruction!
She does have the presence of mind to ham up the audience, since he's doing her that much of a favor. She bows her head in pantomined appreciation of the attention -- the audience is absolutely -loving- this.
Honoka can also appreciate that her opponent is fighting back against her suggestion. It's good -- she -wants- him to deny her words. She -wants- him to actualize himself, to fight whatever bonds keep him trapped in that narrow way of thinking, to resist against the commands that are insufficient at keeping the beast contained.
Charging forward? That's what she -goaded- him into. She knows he's a boxer, first and foremost, and she predicts the incoming attack vector, if not the headbutt itself -- with an upward toss of her diabolo, she strafes sideways, her shoulder and back glancing across his forehead instead of his intended target. But as she pirouettes with the gesture, knitting her forehead at the pain that nonetheless -was- visited upon her in the experience, she finds that she had a slight underappreciation for the boxer's speed. Because he's right there dragging his fist across her.
The simple solution is to keep pirouetting, allowing her momentum to carry her sideways even further. Well, it would be simple if it were on level and even ground, but on the bridge it becomes a bit more tenuous -- which is why she relies on the beat of the music to stabilize herself on the rippling surface of the bridge. A psychic 'ribbon' of energy begins to unfold as she spins, weaving its way around her hand, even as she pivots away from the raging uppercut. Pain lances through her shoulder -- it would -surely- have been debilitating pain if it had landed as intended -- but she channels that pain into the ribbon in the form of dense red veins of energy. The ribbon tenses as she whirls around, and when she faces Keith again, it's with an open palm to the abdomen.
One might think that wouldn't hurt so much -- but then, this hypothetical person probably hasn't had the experience of an entire band of agony-infused energy forcibly bored into himself -- the pain of the sort that triggers lost memories and might even cause one's life to flash before his eyes.
~" You sound conflicted. "~ coos Honoka, a tongue darting out across her lips as she steps back and away from Keith, one hand lazily reaching up to snare the diabolo out of the air and spin it upon a slender finger. "Are you certain you want to fight -me-... for the sake of this complete stranger?"
The announcer, down below, seems to have echoed Honoka's words to the audience, for the response to those words is... utter awe. The two fighters are not pulling any punches now -- and the onlookers can -feel- this energy, and thrive upon it.
Keith is managing it. Truth be told, Keith is not sure how he is managing it. However, the man had been keeping his cool to the public while keeping himself from detontating. While the chemicals are reacting to his DNA, he is still able to actively use his Psycho Power. In turn, this puts him one step closer into going Live.
Keith is not forgetting about the audience. He is not forgetting about why he is here. He is supposed to be having a good fight. Which, truth be told, this is a pretty entertaining fight. However, it is also going the path that he doesn't want it to go.
That is why Honoka is able to predict what he is doing. He charged in, not knowing that he came into the trap. The diabolos stafes sideways, allowing his head to glance against her shoulder and back. Grunt.
The trap comes.
That psychic ribbon unfolds during the woman's spin as she pirouettes away from the uppercut. This puts Keith in the position of getting caught by the ribbon that manifests around.
The confliction is running in his mind. Keith is gritting his teeth, glaring over towards Honoka once she is away from the taller man. It does not help that the agony-infused energy tearing into him. Everything is going black.
Everything is going dark.
His eyes light up, muscles tensing as he tries not to scream. He tightens his fist, raising his hand up into the air.
Keith is not done!
He gives off a grunt, laughing a little more. "...Heh... I will fight you." He staggers up to his feet, gritting his teeth.
Keith will fight for himself. He will never go back. Even if he ends up killing himself at the process. He still has that last drop of Psycho Power to manifest.
...And risk going Live.
This time, a hand sweeps out to send forth that colorless force of energy to lance out towards Honoka, seeking to send her right off the bridge.
"Because this stranger has great potential! I will help her see her path."
And he will find his own.
COMBATSYS: Honoka blocks Keith's Brute Force.
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Honoka 1/-------/=======|====---\-------\0 Keith
Keith's injections, and his responses to the probing taunts about his experimental nature... it adds up. The man is a formidable boxer with unquestionable power behind his blows, but the contents of that syringe seem to be a force multiplier. Honoka wonders a number of things, not the least of which being: what happens when his supply runs out?
Part of her wants to let Keith stay in the fantasy world, to continue as she is -- calling on Mizuho, and living up the drama for the audience. She plays to that now, nodding slowly. "You do her great honor, then...!" The diabolo twirls atop her finger, but then she shifts from one foot to the other, thrusting her other palm forward. Pink energy ripples off of her fingers, blossoming into a gout of flame, which flickers and bobs about as the colorless energy smashes into it. Shattering into needle-thin shards, some of the energy continues onward to Honoka, forcing her backwards three steps. The juggler stands defiant and proud, even as her skin dimples from each pin-prick blow that punches through.
The other part of her... is darkly curious about Keith. How far -can- she push him? What -will- come out? It's undeniable that her cast and crew will rush to her defense -- and with the audience practically eating out of her hand, there's no safer place for the psion to deal with a possibly-homicidal maniac than right here on her home turf...
Impulsively, the performer does not even wait for the last mote of energy to crash into her -- she sees her opportunity to strike! With not a moment longer, Honoka charges forward. The diabolo goes airborne once more, but it's a far cry from the savage intensity doled out by the cat-eared defender of the bridge, as she clutches her wands tightly in each hand, wielding them like tonfas as she swings four consecutive times, aiming to earn back each centimeter of space yielded to Keith in this conflict. And should she land all of her strikes, she'd cast her wrist downward, lashing her whiplike wand downward and entangling Keith's foot; with a sharp jerk upwards, she'd pull him off his feet and hold him prisoner, completely at her mercy.
"But as I told her... none shall pass through my lair!" The crowd gasps ... why is Honoka's character so serious about this silly little bridge?!
COMBATSYS: Keith fails to interrupt Shitumbe Marapto from Honoka with Ground n' Pound.
* Attack Of Opportunity! *
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COMBATSYS: Keith can no longer fight.
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Keith had managed to use the last bit of his Psycho Power. Unfortunately, at the same time, this has triggered the body to start undergoing a state to where he may end up self-destructing. The issue with that is that he would end up hurting everyone else as well.
That is why Keith has to keep himself from doing so.
When the woman finally acknowledges his efforts, Keith grins once Honoka.
Keith had been caught by the charge of Honoka as she finally charges forward.. When she finally brings the wands out, the strikes aim to take Keith out, but the man finally decides to go for the 'gold' and spring towards the woman. However, before he could get his fist out, he is taken out by the wands.
He is caught within the hold and he is held prisoner.
Keith tries to stuggle and break free.
Yet... he cannot.
"I fall! I am sorry.... Mizuho!" He falls flat on his face.
Keith is not going to live this down, likely.
Honoka advances on Keith, and plants a foot down on his chest. With a malevolent sneer, she glares down at him. "This... THIS! THIS is the fate of -ALL- who challenge the Whirling Flames! Remember this man's poor decision, and remember it well!"
All the while, Honoka is plumbing deep into the depths of Keith's awareness. Specific thoughts are beyond her grasp... but she can respect how tenuous his hold is. Part of her considers grinding her heel into his chest, wrenching the darkness back to the surface... and just -going- with it. Whatever it is, she and the combined efforts of everyone under the big top can handle it...
But no. Not now, and not here. The show must go on.
The show is, right now, deathly quiet, lit only by two spotlights. One is on Honoka and Keith, perched precariously upon the bridge, while the other seems to be approaching her. The back of her hand rises to her mouth, and peals of laughter begin to roll out.
The silence of the audience is deafening. Honoka whirls in a fit of anger, turning on the crowd. She pantomimes frustration, while, of course, keeping her mind focused upon his soul in case he decides to hit a second wind and deck her right off the bridge. Thrusts her palms upwards, her hostile gestures demand to know why they aren't offering her any further cheering...!
And then her eyes go wide with realization -- her expression mirrored on a large projected screen behind her. Alarmed, she looks back to where Mizuho was standing.
That's when it hits her.
The folding fan from Miss Mizuho, that is. *WHACK!* For the audience was not silenced by Honoka's victory, but rather by the sight of Mizuho making a gigantic (cable-assisted) leap from ground level, up and over Keith, to land right -past- where Honoka was standing. Her folding fan 'sheathed' at her side, she lands as a samurai would after an epic mid-air clash. A moment later, when the audience remembers to clap -- with deafening applause and cheers -- Mizuho stands triumphantly. Conversely, Honoka is sent flailing into the net, hands and feet windmilling helplessly at her sides.
With the tension dispelled, Honoka's wands unravel, now hanging limply from Keith's leg. Mizuho rises to her feet, flashing v-for-victory gestures to the assembled crowd until the applause begins to die down. She kneels beside Keith, extending her hand to him: "My champion! You inspired me...! When I saw you up there, braving certain death to fight for a complete stranger... I knew in my heart that I would have to stand up for myself! So... thank you, mysterious stranger!"
Honoka stares up at Keith from her spot on the net. She knows he can still 'hear' her.
~" You harbor a dark secret, my friend... But you don't need to face it alone. "~ Honoka's mind now speaks with warmth and compassion -- completely unlike the stage persona of the Whirling Flames. But when two people of such unique powers face one another... surely it must be better to cooperate than to clash as enemies, yes?
COMBATSYS: Honoka has ended the fight here.
Log created on 07:00:07 12/26/2015 by Keith, and last modified on 15:46:50 01/02/2016.