Circuit of Champions - PCS: Blue Master - Ryu vs Baiken

Description: The Phoenix Championship belt series continues with a match between Baiken and Ryu. The loser becomes the Red belt's holder; the winner goes on to fight Lee Chaolan.

Fighters... those who find reason to partake in a physical struggle are not few in number. The reasons, countless. What determines their worth? What leverage does the fight give a reason, or is it the reason that gives strength to the fight itself? There are many philosophical questions to be asked - this strange, small Shinto shrine nestled within a small forest clearing tends to invite many of these thoughts to the introspective.
The Circuit of Champions is a bit more invested in simply getting the greatest names in organized fighting together, even if the tranquil locale seems almost devoid of human presence beyond the proof of such activity having happened here at some time in the past.
Ryu, the World Warrior, hardly weary from his latest out of wanderlust, is generally left to pick at whatever thoughts this sort of place would see him take in. For there being little in the way of authority (beyond watching cameras, as is the norm), there is a certain reverence in his bare-foot steps along the stone walkway without regard to the slight chill in the misty, gray air or however many breaks and edges in the walkway there might even be. A breeze drifts through the clearing, the ends of his headband fluttering in its way. It's not exactly gentle - it is a reminder to the common man that now would be a great time to bundle up (and, say, put on shoes).
There is no sense of impatience in his stride while awaiting the other. He may even be here far earlier than scheduled out of sheer curiosity. For however many times he would comb the fighters' mecca that is Southtown, his journeys always see him discovering a new locale. A new unspoken story about what it means to choose the path of fighting. Oftentimes...
A new challenge, on a day in a place where the time seems as ambiguous as the sky is gray.

Baiken has been absent from the public side of fighting for some time. She entered a tournament and then -


Vanishing for months at a time isn't too unusual for her, but every time she'd done it before, she didn't have fans. Baiken is not used to having them, but since she took to entering in a more public arena so that she had access to challenges to practice and test herself against, and tournaments that brought her closer to her goals, she's gotten them.

So this time when she disappeared, it was noticed. And when she suddenly came back, to challenge one of the world's greats, that was noticed too. While there is not exactly a swarm of people here, the Circuit of Champions matches are recorded, publicized - this match will be viewed and remembered later.

Baiken arrives. She may have been here before, off the beaten path and in the forest; she certainly doesn't look like she's come very far. Despite her outfit, she seems insensible to the chill in the air. She doesn't have shoes, either (sandals do not count as shoes). Her empty sleeve hangs slack at her side, her remaining hand resting on the hilt of her sword.

She steps onto the path, having to look up at the noticably taller Ryu. She gives him a very slight nod, as one of the very few fighters she actually respects; she apparently considers words unnecessary because she doesn't bother to offer any.

Between warriors, there are so many things that can be said without words. It is sometimes said that only a warrior can truly understand another. For what passes between the two of them, entire paragraphs could be dedicated.
Nobody has the gall to say 'hey, take your positions' or 'ready, go.' The managers of the Circuit of Champions are - with exceptions and mistakes being able to be counted on one hand - at least cognizant with one of these realities that are difficult to communicate to those who aren't like these two.
Ryu turns around slowly to face Baiken, lowering the travel bag that has been the summation of his worldly possessions (to the extent he appears to care to keep track of such a concept as it applies to him). It is left to drop to the wayside of the stone path, silently raising his arms into that ready position.
There is no concern given for any apparent physical weakness Baiken's scars may communicate - his own sign of respect for any and all challengers he crosses paths with. The ensuing battle... that is what they are both here for.
There is a beauty to the minimalism that may be lost upon the majority audiences who would bear witness.

COMBATSYS: Ryu has wandered into a fight here on the right meter side.

                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0              Ryu

Baiken would have thought less of Ryu had he been obviously concerned for her missing left eye or right arm. She doesn't need sympathy or accomodation; she's better with one of each than most people are with both, and she knows it. People who underestimate her because of her maimed body are frequently easy prey.

Baiken brushes her sandals against the path, putting her weight on the forward part of her foot and scuffing to test the footing. It apparently meets her approval; she settles back down in a moment, adopting a watchful pose, her single eye focusing on Ryu. Like him, the Circuit of Champions staff are largely irrelevant. She's not here for them.

She's here for herself - to test herself against the best she can find.

And it's for herself she waits a few seconds longer, judging the terrain, watching Ryu almost unblinkingly. The only warning he gets is when she does finally blink, an instant's tension in her body before she abruptly accelerates, closing the distance between the two of them.

Baiken draws her sword but keeps her arm across her body in a guarding position as she sprints, holding the blade point-down like it was a very large knife instead of a short katana - short, because of course Baiken will never be using it with both hands. Only at the last second does she actually lash out with it, a fast cut, more probing than anything else as she passes past Ryu, returning to her defensive guard after her quick slash.

She still has said nothing, made no noise but the sound of her feet on the stone and the quick hiss of a drawn blade. Apparently she believes in the minimalism, too.

COMBATSYS: Baiken has joined the fight here.

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Baiken           0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0              Ryu

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Ryu with Suzuran.
- Power hit! -

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Baiken           0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0              Ryu

The world continues in a constant state of movement. A standstill is only a momentary construct, a generalization of a mind that perceives nothing within their range of knowledge. To the smallest details, like the circulation of blood... to the greatest, like the rotation of the Earth itself...
The idea of standing still is one of the widest accepted lies. There is only movement, and some move so fast as to make it difficult to perceive there is movement at all.
Even to the trained eyes of Ryu, the transition Baiken takes from forward movement to a slashing strike seems to go missed, his head bowed in shock and arms jumped as her blade finds purchase in his side. The pained grunt is lost to her footsteps. The fresh blood from such a scrape will take its time to let itself be known within his karate gi.
Such a fine cut, it seems like it passed right through without ever touching them...!
It slows him - Ryu has no doubt suffered significant injury from countless techniques of varying lethality - but it does not stop him.
The world - and a fighter, unto themselves - is always in a constant state of movement.
A clenched fist later, he leans forward as Baiken passes by him, raising up his left leg as he flexes muscle, bends joints, and renews his will with the promise the cocked leg would soon deliver in the form of a backwards raised kick that compresses the air around his heel.
The kick is thrust with such strength that his planted foot glides across the bumpy road, a promise that this will be - in no uncertain terms - a battle. A battle of fighters giving their all in the face of harship.
Or the back of one's head full of foot, for... that matter.

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Ryu's Joudan Sokutou Geri.

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Baiken           0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0              Ryu

It is one of the paradoxes of Baiken's fighting style that she depends so much on speed despite being a crippled woman. Her scars can make her stiff, but she forces herself to move despite them, her arm blurring with speed for the instant that she swings before coming back to her guard position. Even while still running.

Baiken pivots after her strike so that she never presents her back to Ryu for more than a split second. Her heel digs a little divot in the loose rocks of the path as she turns, already in position to absorb a blow. It's a little higher than she expects, but she adapts, raising her arm.

Ryu's heel impacts Baiken's lower arm rather than either her head or the blade. It's enough to rock her back - she's light, much lighter than Ryu, which may be a weakness. She simply does not have the body mass to match his blows without giving ground, and she slides back a step, feet scuffing as she tries to brace, continuing her turn on sheer impact.

Baiken takes advantage of her pivot to finish the motion, dropping low and catching herself on her hand. She whirls, a sweeping kick to take Ryu off his feet, where she has the advantage once again - she can push herself up and vault back up almost immediately after her low sweep, while he might not be able to if he's fallen.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Ryu with Strong Kick.

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

Baiken's purposeful movement to a lower sweep makes good on the moment of vulnerability there is in the aftermath of the tremendous backwards kick - only a single support... Ryu's leg.
She may be far smaller, far lighter than he, but there is a fearlessness he can feel above and beyond - to the average person being swept off their legs - the contact of sweeping foot to rigid heel that appears to give a moment too soon. He may have intended to leap up over it.
As he hits the cobblestone for his compromised balance face-down, an insight dares to penetrate what focus he has to give to the battle between them.
Choosing instead to push back up with intent to put distance between them, deep within there is consideration - Baiken is not one to hesitate. Decisive, swift, fearless in their advantageous press towards the offensive.
It is inspiring, that she can go to such heights as demonstrated by just two well-placed strikes! This... this is what he lives for.
Pushing against the cold ground to flip himself upward, he tumbles a short distance away from Baiken to put the distance between them. He, too, must cast away hesitation - he believed himself without going in, and would so now. Is it possible to transcend a simple boundary of 'no hesitation?'
No is an absolute. It signifies nothingness, much like the space that goes between dirtied, scraped arms as he draws his hands back, leaning forward as he gathers the energies of the planet above, below, in front, behind, and all around himself into this hand-shaped globe of nothingness.
Teeth grit, eyes alight with determination, he sucks in air through his lungs too - only a minor failing of the flesh as it works against a powerful foe and the blows he's taken thus far - a red light violates the gray haze of the skies and mists of this locale.
With a forward thrust of his arms, fingers curled inwards while oriented opposite one another vertically, he produces a spiraling ball of flame that flies through the open path towards Baiken herself.
"SHAKUNETSU!" He calls, the first true spoken word between them.

COMBATSYS: Baiken fails to interrupt Shakunetsu Hadouken from Ryu with Sakura.

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

Baiken makes the most out of the limited number of strikes she manages to connect with. It's not that she's adverse to combinations; it's just that she can't depend on getting them, especially against the inhuman monsters she hunts. Some of them are slippery - far slipperier than almost any 'normal' fighter she's gone up against.

She rises. Baiken had been intending to follow it up with a stomp of her own, but Ryu is fast enough to back off; he's good, as good as she is. This is going to come down to a real challenge of skill, and though she's started strong, there's no guarantee she's going to be able to maintain her performance.

Baiken continues to try to press the attack. She comes in fast, preparing to stab at Ryu; there's even the faint hint of chi building up on her katana as she thrusts it, pink glimmering down the blade as she tries to beat him to the punch, outspeeding his built-up ball of chi.

She doesn't make it depsite her best efforts. The spiraling ball of flame impacts Baiken, and she recoils, her single eye widening. Fire - despite everything she's seen and done since her maiming - is one of the few things she fears, deep down. She'd never admit it. But it's true; it reminds her of being a child, a weak child who could do /nothing/, who was hurt despite herself -

Baiken beats at the flame with her sleeves, putting out the ignition with a yell, more angry than pained. She does not immediately attack - she failed her rush and this is keeping her distracted. For split seconds only, but in a battle like this split seconds is all Ryu needs to capitalize on.

Ryu doesn't stand to watch the impact. Letting the Shakunetsu Hadouken take its lead, he follows suit from close behind. He seems - is! - determined to take an offense even when he catches the faint hints of Baiken mounting a counter-offense where he stands.
If it were a game of chicken, Baiken could consider that he takes to the air after his Hadouken a certain victory. They are, alas, not squabbling schoolchildren throwing one another into trials of character made up on the spot.
Surrendering his hold upon the Earth to take into the air is not just a measure to move against what he may have honestly believed would have been a straight stab through the Hadouken - it's to convert this into an offensive.
With a mighty shout, he thrusts a leg forward, one leg bent back to keep his aerial profile mostly horizontal, one arm outstretched after the leaping kick that - if he is allowed to make the landing at all - he moves into a straight punch with the arm opposite of what pointed forward with the kick with a matching kiai.
If still not otherwise overturned or evaded, he moves in at last with a short forward hop to grab upon Baiken's personage and hurl them into the air before him, over his shoulder in a deadly ticking into a throw.
An all-out attack in its own right, but is there prudence in recklessness? To what does he invite...?

COMBATSYS: Baiken dodges Ryu's Fierce Combo.

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

Taking to the air doesn't mean Baiken is victorious, not in a battle like this. All it does is give her opportunity - perhaps more than before, though perhaps not. She's skilled enough in the air, but her home is on the ground.

And it's on the ground she stays, at least for the moment. Baiken does not interrupt Ryu's descent, but she declines to be where his arc takes him, either; she moves off the path, circling as she steps on somewhat short grass because of the time of year. It's close, but she manages to keep Ryu away from her by moving, even when he tries to throw her - she sidesteps again, then backwards, narrowly staying out of reach.

Rather than immediately close the gap, Baiken stomps the ground. This would be harmless because her foot doesn't reach Ryu, except for the shimmering of chi that appears as her foot descends; she plants her foot on one corner of a greenish square, flipping the other end up - possibly with Ryu on top, but even if he manages to avoid being launched into the air, there's a burst of pinkish chi that erupts from the 'revealed' ground under the chi, blasting up and out for an instant until it fades away in a haze of peach glitter.

"TATAMI GAESHI!" Baiken has yelled before, but not words; these are the first words she has used this match, and like Ryu it's little more than a declaration of her attack, too late to do much about it.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Ryu with Tatami Gaeshi.

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

No swerve of Baiken's can serve to dishearten Ryu. Each motion is met with the same confidence in intent and strength as she weaves around him to take towards the softer grass. Those watching from afar might wonder why either of them wanted to even risk injury to their feet by dancing around on cobblestone, but the people who are caught wondering about this are people not paying attention to the fight itself.
Ryu overcommits in the combination, drawing up a cursory guarding forearm moments too late, when a backwards lean might have sufficed against the tatami mat-like manifestation that clocks Ryu in the chin with a spray of spit lost to the misty air - as well as his footing. It clears him of the peach-colored energies that follow, but it is hardly an advantage - merely a bit less of a punishment.
Catching his momentum with a mid-air flip, he lands in a crouch back upon the stones. There is a significant distance between the two he must now surmount if he's to press an offense - a distance that Baiken has shown herself capable of closing in the thought to blink one's eye.
He seems intent to invite this as he draws back his hands again. The clammy air that clings to his skin is disregarded. The bit of blood that has visibly gathered where he was first cut does not numb him. To embrace once more the nothingness, to shut out all but the fight - a mantra oft repeated wordlessly with every routine exercise of the mastery of his technique.
A blue light, this time, one that seems more fitting of the atmosphere of this abandoned shrine but commands no less attention... with another thrust of his arms, comes the familiar cry that has personified him the world over (among several others).
"HADOUKEN!" He shouts, hands mirroring one another into opposites vertically in the forward launch of the gathered energy into the void between them, to journey forward once more in Baiken's direction while the two are - momentarily - still at length between one another.

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Baiken with Hadouken.
- Power hit! -

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

Both the green 'tile' and the peach energy fade away to nothingness after Baiken flips it. Like most people's chi, the effects are not terribly long-lasting - though the impact, for the moments they exist, is significant.

Baiken cannot shut out everything but the fight. It's close, but her paranoia prevents her from completely ignoring the world around her - this would be a prime opportunity for someone, maybe even That Man, to jump her. Her eye flits to the side, then focuses on Ryu again as he begins to build chi.

She can feel it. It's in her bones as much as the air, the resonance - he's strong, and he knows this maneuver to perfection. She's never been the subject of it before, but that doesn't mean she doesn't know of it - and now that she's seen it herself, she realizes the information she had was not understating Ryu's skill.

Baiken's attempt to parry the chi energy with her blade fails. The hadouken simply passes around the sword, flowing around it before smashing into Baiken with enough force to pick her up, launch her backwards; it is only by sheer chance that she lands on her feet at all, and it's decidedly maladroit. It looks like a beginner's touchdown.

She ends perhaps fifteen feet from Ryu, and she clears five of that forward with a quick step in the same motion that she resheathes her sword. Then she reaches out - and not with the arm Ryu is used to seeing. From the slack sleeve on her right comes a metal object, something that looks like nothing so much like a box with several blunted hooks attached to it in parody of 'fingers'. It is connected to... something... up her sleeve by a clinking chain.

Baiken throws it past Ryu and then yanks the chain with her remaining hand, pulling as hard as she can. If it works properly, the hook-fingered 'hand', not sharp but made of unyielding metal, digs into the back of Ryu's shoulder and starts to drag him closer; she's bracing, putting her entire weight into pulling him off balance and closer to her, where she waits for him.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Ryu with Kabari.

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

where the claw escapes the confines of Baiken's sleeve and spears the air in search of Ryu, it is met with a raised fist in what he interprets as a strike to bat aside.
His eyes widen slightly when they hook around the blocking hand, another surprise from up Baiken's sleeve (literally). From there, it is a battle of wills when she starts to pull.
It is a matter of leverage as much as her physical strength, and it is here that his choice of footing may not be to his advantage. The uneven stone road - damaged from years of neglect - plays its part to handicap his balance with that tug Baiken puts her all in to take him off his balance.
It is humbling to watch, Ryu staggering almost helplessy to hold himself upright, to account for the variation in elevation, for what lies hidden by the grass. Ever closer he moves, the World Warrior at a clear disadvantage as he would not catch himself before being within Baiken's striking range.
Such is her determination that allows her to overcome the differences in mass, physique, and overall health. In a physical tug of war, she overpowers her seeming superior.
Ryu could be on the ropes - both have traded brutal hits, and could be at Baiken's mercy within mere moments. His gaze pointed downward as compromise to his guided posture against Baiken's pull, it's hard to get a read on what runs through his face.
One camera angled low might be able to catch it.
It's not frustration, it's not resignation.
His flesh grows wearier by the moment. His outstretched hand, at last, pulls back - too late to pull himself out of harm's way, but there is a final, defiant pull-back.
A leg rises, and stomps down into the appearance of the famous horse stance at point blank of Baiken. It may be little more than a show of force. The close proximity aside, it will do nothing to hinder whatever Baiken has stored for him next.
His mind clears anew of the environment around him, of the nipping ground against his bare feet, of the cool breeze that turns a touch more violent whipping about his head... within the mind's eye of a masterful martial artist, all else is cast aside except for him and Baiken.
A moment that some would say celebrates Baiken's resilience and Ryu's resolve alike, as both are soon to be put to that very test.

COMBATSYS: Ryu focuses on his next action.

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

Baiken's attempt to drag Ryu toward her was not desperation but a planned tactic. She knows how to best utilize her weight and strength in a tug-of-war with her false arm; it wasn't something she threw together just now but a practiced maneuver she's done many times before.

Why allow a missing arm to hamper her? She can fight without it - in fact Baiken would not know how to fight with it, as she only learned after it was lost. It doesn't hamper her fighting style because she's never had another - and that sleeve is useful for any number of purposes.

Her lips shift into a rare, tight smile. She doesn't see victory so much as an opportunity, even if Ryu is doing his best to minimize the advantage she can get. And why wouldn't he? He needs to hunt for opportunities, too.

Baiken retracts her arm as it slips off Ryu's shoulder, clattering back to her as she finishes pulling it and returns it to her sleeve. Now that Ryu knows it's there, it's just barely visible when she moves at her side, with more than the stiffness from scarring keeping her right side steady. When he braces in the horse stance...

...she matches it. That faint smile remains on her face, but her eye shows nothing but determination. She brings one foot forward, her hand near her forehead, two fingers raised as she concentrates, matching his building energy with her own.

COMBATSYS: Baiken focuses on her next action.

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

The gestures are mirrored, and the very earth thrums underneath their collective will as they each draw upon the foundations of their strength. The movement of the wind throughout the abandoned shrine feels less more happenstance of physics and far more the result of nature itself giving way to what two warriors desire.
Ryu is not smiling. He need not to communicate his own joy in a desire that paradoxically invites destruction and harm, but yet harmony and self-improvement up against a fighter of equal ability.
There is no longer grounds to wait, to anticipate, to build up. Ryu's stance drops as a necessity to allow himself to crouch low as the unspoken challenge transitions and segues gracefully into action. Into that very moment in which both fighters can throw their all and yet achieve greater heights...!
Would this be merely metaphorical in Ryu's case? Even with the speed in which he may yet go from crouch to the inevitable, there is zero chance that what is to come can be taken as anything else.
"SHORYUKEN!" Ryu calls in that fractional moment of ever-moving time as the fist slices up into the space between itself and Baiken's upper body. The sheer displaced air alone might be enough to bludgeon and batter the unprepared, as his upper body starts to move along with it...
All would soon be decided, one way or the other...!
There is a release. A sudden, heavy, release that seems to go in parallel with just the physical action alone...

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Baiken with Shoryuken.
- Power hit! -

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Baiken           2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\=======\1              Ryu

Baiken enjoys battle.

It is the only place she feels alive anymore. Most of her life is dead; she has very few hobbies that don't involve violence, almost no friends, and takes no real joy in simply living. She is a survivor emotionally crippled by her past; she has nothing to live for but revenge on That Man, and the monsters that destroyed her life. She drinks in an attempt to bury her past; it works, but only temporarily, and less all the time.

But when she's fighting, especially when she's fighting her equal or superior - then she feels alive. She's feeling it now, with Ryu. He is pushing her to a level that most people cannot, and she is responding to the tension.

The slight smile turns into an almost feral grin as Ryu moves, but only for a split second. Then it's gone again, buried in concentration as Ryu acts. And he acts before she's ready to respond, the air battering against her, followed by the blow itself, upward...

Baiken rises. She did not manage to defend herself almost at all; the first buried itself home in her stomach, hitting with a solid impact that Ryu can really feel. Many fighters would have given up by now, or simply been knocked unconcious by the force of it.

All Baiken feels is the thrill.

She lands. She should be battered but she doesn't show it, not for this instant, at least; her injuries are catching up with her, but she's doing her best to delay them, simply overriding the demands of her body by sheer adrenaline and willpower combined. She literally blurs, speeding past Ryu so fast that the eye fails to register her, her hand on her sword's hilt.

Baiken reappears two paces behind Ryu. The sword is in her hand, now; she drew and slashed, just once, in the moment of incredible speed she had. She sheathes it with a click, breathing heavily and raggedly but still overriding her body's urge to collapse. Just for a while longer...

COMBATSYS: Ryu blocks Baiken's Tate Shunmaku.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Baiken           0/-------/----<<<|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2              Ryu

Ryu enjoys battle.
All Ryu feels is an overwhelming desire to give himself into it. The 'all' is such a vast, unquantifiable term. His potential could well be limitless. He stands to potentially transcend not only his art, but perhaps all who have come before - to set a bar that others may yet only ever reach.
He listens not to the praise, but the fight, and speaks back with fist, foot, and fireball alike. A universal language that has laid countless decrees that would define lifetimes. Generations. Nations.
For a split-second when that Shoryuken was thrown, Baiken might be let on to believe that she is in the presence of something similar to what she dedicates her life to hunting within her thrills... but first, a more pressing subject.
The Shoryuken.
It was the Shoryuken. He called it such. Ryu is not a man who deceives. If anything, what puts many of his opponents off guard is just how honest he is with his every strike.
Yet, somehow, at the moment he should carry himself up off the ground... he does not. He shifts imperceptibly from the beginnings of casting oneself into the sky into a lowered stance, into a hop that covers a good yard and a half's worth of ground.
In a moment of focus, that he could turn an attack - cancel it! - and dash so quickly just out of the point of no return...

Few could lay claim to such mastery of his technique, near-perfection of form.
Under the surface, there is much less to look upon with awe.
Ansatsuken was made as an art to kill - a way that his master Gouken would fight to redefine as something more than an end. The way it can shape a man when they take in its teachings...
Baiken's rapid movement is caught only in what can be called a moment of personal weakness, for what be said as technical strength. He holds up his right forearm moments after he realizes it has already caught the blow, thin lines of red forming around the slice wound.
He executed a Shoryuken with all his might, and then some. The weight of the air around him grows lighter, but he himself seems... drained.
His breathing grows labored, taking a step or two back. His stride appears broken by something other than Baiken's coup de grace. He can't hide it.
He draws his hands back into that spherical empty shape they surround, but the twitch of his fingers are a tell.
"Shinkuu," he says, clenching teeth as though the act of doing this has, suddenly, grown difficult. The energy between his hands grows appreciably in size. Fight commentators would cast off these little inconsistencies as little more than just that.
"Hadouken...!" He releases the pent-up energy in that same spiral, the manifested chi sucking in air to empower its flight, to drill into the space Baiken occupies. There is little wrong with the execution of this technique - it is like the countless numbers of these he's thrown.
But yet, it is clear, in the exchange before...
Ryu's skill of form is without question, but he, himself... seems to yet be grasping a hold of something far more important yet.

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Ryu's Shinkuu Hadouken.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Baiken           0/-------/---<<<<|>>>>>>>\-------\1              Ryu

Baiken is on the ragged edge. Breathing hard, struggling to keep fighting - but that is, without question, where she does her best. She wouldn't have it any other way.

She turns after her blazingly fast movement. She's tired but not so tired that she's going to leave her back exposed, and perhaps that's for the best; instinct has warned her that Ryu is not defeated, that her decisive blow hadn't dropped him, and instinct is correct. He's still up. He's still fighting, just as she is.

Good. That means the battle continues.

As energy builds, Baiken wards herself. Her hand flits in front of her as she makes a short gesture, holding it palm-out as it shimmers with pinkish chi. There's no way she can absorb or deflect an entire blast that size, but she doesn't have to; she only has to attenuate it, help herself push through it -

The Shinkuu Hadouken strikes home. Baiken's interposed hand splots it, sending it partially around her, but not completely; she's still blasted by it, her blocking ward only enough to partially protect her. She snarls, pushing back into it, trying to use her own chi as a shield with mixed success; she begins to slide backwards despite it, the stream of force overpowering her.

And then, suddenly, she's visible again; Baiken literally leaped out of the blast, arcing through the air. She's smoking from the overload of chi, or possibly steaming; either way there's a faint haze around her as she descends toward Ryu, gripping her blade tightly as she tries to come down on him, a vertical slash made with all the power of her descent!

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Ryu with Power Strike.

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

It is a cliche statement that is still factually accurate: the two of them are running on fumes. The clearing's cold starts to nip with a bit more bite to the two of generally inadequate dress for colder weather, as adrenaline's rush starts to come towards its exit. The two still stood tall enough after each expression of their various disciplines and masteries at their apparent peaks.
Ryu's respect for Baiken's relentlessness has not faded - he expects her to come at him anew with hardly a moment's rest. No hesitation - no restraint, but the love of battle and the warmth it brings them.
The fight is all. That is what he says, and lives by. The love of fighting, to climb ever higher... but, in that moment before. Before the Shinkuu Hadouken that only just was, something else ran through him when he loosed that Shoryuken.
Lost in the heat of the moment, a devastating punch stood to become so much more. It was almost too much... the doubts that start to creep through the stoicism grow far too heavy for the rest of him to hold against a woman who only has this left.
The defensive posture has no faults. He leans forward into it, even, as though to make a show to push her away with a timely defense. For his efforts, she gets a clean shot at his upper back blunted only by a body hardened from physical duress which would stop the blade from cutting through clean.
It cuts just deep enough, on top of whatever battering force might come with any part of Baiken colliding into him from the crossed-up aerial assault. A yell echoes through the curiously cold shrine grounds, twisting about in the air as - somehow - he flies back rather than forward, bouncing against the chilly dirt once and then resting upon the busted cobblestone as his left arm rests upon his chest, one knee bent upwards but otherwise leaving him prone.
At the very end, his only opponent wasn't just Baiken... but himself.
Perhaps he is not yet ready to reach the heights she has in her resolve and fearlessness...!

COMBATSYS: Ryu takes no action.

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

COMBATSYS: Ryu can no longer fight.

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

When you have nothing but fighting, it's easy to live for it.

Baiken's monomaniacal focus has left her less of a person, but an excellent fighter. In this case it's that insane focus that pans out, because when Ryu falls, Baiken is still standing. She's shuddering, barely on her feet, breathing hard - but on her feet she is, and in the judgement of the crew, that's enough.

She holds her position for several long seconds before she finally exhales, recovering at least a modicum of control. She sheathes her blade, stepping over toward Ryu, looking down at him.

And then, uncharacteristically, she offers him a hand up. After a match like that, he deserves it. He's one of the only people she feels she might understnad... inaccurate as it is.

Ryu's strength ebbs away as he finds himself having to give in to the limitations of the human flesh versus injury. It's not often he gets to appreciate looking up at the sky from the ground - in defeat, he does not feel vulnerable. Fighters stand and fall. He is a fighter. That his falls are not many in the public eye does not bring any particular shame for it. He would soon see some way to lay down somewhere warmer if the Circuit of Champions hadn't already arranged for som--
Pink hair casts a peculiar shade over his view of the sky. He can make out her eye - what it says - a good second before her hand comes up.
He raises the hand further from hers by accident, a moment worthy of good humor as he raises the correct, closer one to take her hand. The soft clench of his hand reminds him of his injuries, but he pays such a thing little mind. He's not in life-threatening danger.
He is in the company of a fellow fighter, even if the depths of their ultimate motivations and end goals may yet be alien beyond what can be spoken with between fists, accepting her help to get up to a seated position with a smile.
"Thank you," he says. For what? He doesn't need to say, as his other hand rubs at his back. Stone is not a great place to land prone on one's backside.
The terrible fury - an intent that goes out of bounds of his teachings and yet dangles teasingly from the bottom of his psyche - that had threatened to surface near the climax of their battle has, for now, subsided.
All that is left are two warriors poised to part ways on amicable terms, with an unspoken promise likely to be made that they will match again.

COMBATSYS: Baiken has ended the fight here.

Log created on 13:22:41 01/10/2016 by Baiken, and last modified on 18:55:12 01/11/2016.