KOF 2016 - KOF Stage 1: USA vs. Twilight Star

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Description: King of Fighters, Round 1: Twilight Circus versus Team USA! Will the mysterious and acrobatically violent members of Twilight Circus triumph over the bold, daring strategies of Team USA? Find out inside! <Winner: Team USA>

The King of Fighters. One of the biggest events to hit the fighting scene in a good while. It's a worldwise event clearly, and a worldwide event clearly means an international stage. That's make some clear sense after all.

It possibly didn't quite sink in for one of the younger participants in the entire tournament though. Mexico is quite a place after all, despite the proximity to the US. The ancestral lands here, even more so exotic in a way. And here one Candace Carter, a.k.a. "Scratch", is, wearing sunglasses far more expensive than she could ever by herself, and a shirt she would never normally buy herself ever...over her usual punkish look of fishnet arm stockings, loud colors, and her shocking cyan and red hair. "I feel like an idiot wearing these," she manages to get out, sliding the sunglasses up her forehead and sighing...then thinking better of it as the sun hits her eyes. She has to admit, these are useful still.

LLooking down at the ground, she's very glad she opted for more...all-terrain wheels on her skates over her normal street wheels. She's gonna need them. There's a certain nervousness about her movements as she wheels around too, getting a better sense of her movements here. This is BIG, bigger than the SNFs she's been in, so...it's no surprise the teen is a little anxious.

"So where the hell's the other team?"

...or she could be just bored like your usual snippy teen girl. That could be something too.

<<Honoka. Dull or sharp?>> The question is posed--not audibly, of course, and so tinged with even more amusement than the man might have expressed vocally, as he steps up into the ring. He can... feel... certain presences here, but is able to, for the most part, shut them out; else he'd be very, _very_ distracted.

The circus team's fighter looks relatively ordinary, with a mop of black hair and a pleasant, if uninterested, look on his face. His outfit screams fighter, though; sleeveless, tight black tunic, black pants that look almost like slacks but with more room for movement--and braces of knives sheathed on forearms, at hips, at his back... black leather scabbards strapped on, looking very utilitarian. And comfortable but tough boots on his feet.

This is certainly his first time on The Big Stage(tm), but he takes pains to hide his nervousness. Really, being here isn't any scarier than 'auditioning' for the Yak or the Triads--in fact, since those groups tended to show their displeasure in more.. immediate fashion... this should be a breeze.

Eyeing the skater-fighter, he rolls his head around on his neck, loosening the muscles, then deliberately drawing a very sharp looking knife and holding it in a loose reverse grip in his right hand.

COMBATSYS: Oboro has started a fight here.

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Oboro            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Scratch has joined the fight here.

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Scratch          0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Oboro

Tugging the Masters Gym t-shirt over her head, Scratch tosses the thing aside, having been wearing it as a...condition of her training. She...does not appreciate being used as a walking billboard after all. Sure, the training helped but...ugh. "About time I can get this off," she grumbles, a lot more mindful of the sunglasses, folding them up before placing them a little more gingerly on top of said shirt.

Rolling her neck and getting herself into a little more of a...rhythm, she eyes the knife-fighter across from her. Shes not a stranger to knives, though usually it's in the hands of a common Mad Gear thug than anything. "Hope you can keep up," she says, taking the earlier advice from her...partner/"mentor" to project more confidence. And of course, that ends up coming out via taunting. Her eyes flit between Oboro, and the KoF officials, eyes narrowing even as she keeps moving. ALmost like a track star waiting for the starting pistol.

Oboro inclines his head as if acknowledging someone--like he had someone talking in his ear. Casually he flips the knife around in his hand, making it dance through his fingers and along his palm, the razored edge of the blade flashing and gleaming as it picks up the light. The taunting is acknowledged with a bare smile, one with absolutely no humor behind it--and just then the starting pistol goes off.

Most fighters might leap off the mark at the sound--either unused to it or simply ready to go--but Oboro moves forward a few steps, drawing his center of gravity a bit lower, his stance widening slightly... but he doesn't act, not yet. He just watches Scratch, first.

For the past few minutes, Honoka Kawamoto had been putting on a small demonstration for the crowd, juggling an unusual combination of a bowling pin, a sword, a lit torch, and a small juggling ball -- while balancing in positions so precarious that few would accomplish them while -not- juggling.

But her smile isn't as bright today as it was before -- a look of detached neutrality remained upon her features. It could pass for intense concentration, maybe.

Except the look doesn't go away when she stops. For Honoka, the last KOF qualifer fight felt like an anxious preamble to a darker saga. Something was off, but the talented performer was able to play it off with an aura of healthy enthusiasm for her teammates' vigorous performances. But now, in the heart of Mexico's Pueblo Thunderfoot, the young circus star is not quite able to shake the intense sensations she is feeling now.

It has a lot to do with the memories. And not even -her- memories.

At the moment Oboro advances into the ring, the lithe acrobat is positioned just outside the wide, spacious tent marked with the bright purple-and-blue Twilight Star Circus regalia. Inside the tent are a number of other figures, most of which had been in attendance in the prior outing. She cheers for her teammate, trying to keep the potent energy of the crowd until Oboro is able to step inside. Once her answer relayed to the Korean youth, the juggler steps into the shadow of the tent, hydrating with a bottle of water as she takes a break from the blistering summer heat of the Pueblo.

Soon as the starting pistol fires, Scratch explodes out. While Oboro settles into a lower stance and approaches warily, the skater punk surges around, a wide arc with her legs driving her skates into the hard earth, eyes locked on the knife fighter as she pivots around. It's like an out-fighter vs. an in-fighter in boxing. It's not just wasting energy though.

Soon as Scratch sees a chance, her skates dig in hard, cutting a hard turn toward her opponent. Arms pumping to put her body into the sprint, she gets close to Oboro before dropping down. One skate slipping down parallel against the ground and sliding atop it, the other foot extends outward, aimed directly toward the Circus member's ankle and shin. If he's trying to drop his center of balance, then the skater has to take out the root instead.

Rhydderch is in the shadow of the tent, watching the fight unfold. His arms folded across his chest, covering an expression of steel tension. There are... memories of this place. None of them particularly good. There's a shadow cast over this venue, and it has nothing at all to do with the weather.

He puts on no performance for the crowd; by all indications this masked fighter was brought in to add some muscle to the Twilight Star team. <<It's still here,>> he thinks just loud enough for Honoka to hear. <<He's still running this place.>>

COMBATSYS: Oboro blocks Scratch's Acid Soul Slide.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Scratch          0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Oboro

The good thing about lowering his center of balance the way he does is that it makes defending against a low, sliding attack like this easier; he simply accelerates his drop, landing on his knee, and using his right forearm to deflect the sliding kick, shifting his weight as he does to make the impact just a glancing one.

With his center lowered, he doesn't even seem particularly off-balance, spinning around and squatting on a heel as Scratch slides past. The knife is in his right hand, but it's his left that flashes out, sweeping out in a wide, quick arc--and as that hand passes through the point in the arc where it would be aimed at the back of Scratch's head...

A knife is released. But not a physical knife, all black-anodized and sharp-edged--a blue-purple image of a knife, a psychic projection given tangible form. It'll hurt, if it hits, but far less than taking an actual knife to the back of the head would.

COMBATSYS: Scratch blocks Oboro's Phantom Blade.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Scratch          0/-------/-----<<|-------\-------\0            Oboro

With the extended leg out being caught by the knife and the knee bracing behind it, Scratch frowns and pulls herself back up after her momentum finishes carrying her around. Trying to keep her speed on after getting her wheels back under her, she pivots around, just in time to spot the knife flying toward her.

Eyes widening, she brings her arms up, catching it and taking it on there rather thank, thankfully, her head. THe energy knife certainly doesn't hurt as much as a real one, but it still numbs her arm a good bit. Gritting her teeth, she pumps her legs to redirect her momentum and get herself rolling back toward Oboro. Still wanting to lay on the pressure, she speeds on...and then jolts to the side. Not TOO far, just enough so she's not trying to run straight into the knife nut. Nope, instead, she tries to hook her arm around Oboro's. If she can, she'd let a surge of energy flow to both her feet and her hands, trying to reverse her momentum rapidly and yank Oboro backward with something that...VAGUELY resembles a pro wrestling arm drag of some sort. "NNNGHH..."

COMBATSYS: Oboro fails to counter Rewind Whip from Scratch with Haze Reversal.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Scratch          0/-------/----<<<|==-----\-------\0            Oboro

Oboro nods to himself when Scratch, undeterred, comes at him again; as she reaches for him, he prepares his response. But he wasn't expecting that jolt of energy, and it's enough to disrupt his concentration for the moment needed for Scratch to twist him into the arm-drag. There's a moment of struggle before he's tipped over, slamming into the ring and throwing up a cloud of dust.

Rolling away, he shakes his head, his eyes sharpening a little--and he takes up his stance again. The blade is just... there, waiting. He doesn't flourish it, doesn't play around with it; it's a tool, one that hasn't been properly brought into play yet. But the promise of it is right there.

The trick with the arm drag she did was something she kind of only developed lately, at least with the sudden reversal. But hey, it worked, and it saved her ass clearly, but it's something that Scratch will only get to appreciate in retrospect. In the heat of the moment? She's more worried about keeping herself rolling, spinning around 180 and skating out just like she had been before.

Winding around again, she eyes not Oboro, but his knife in particular. She knows that's the thing that's going to be getting involved sooner rather than later, and she really doesn't want to be on the business end of it. Ideas roll through her head...before she surges in again. This seems to be a pattern, but she's trying to do it at a clip that the predictability of the approach doesn't matter. Especially as she goes high this time, leaping up high and trying to flip straight above Oboro's head.

Well, 'flip' isn't necessarily the right word for it. Not when her arm stretches out to try and plant and grab onto the top of his head. If she can manage, she'd twist, and then re-right herself to land her skates straight on his shoulders and essentially stomp him downward. It's unorthodox as hell, but that seems to be her groove to begin with.

COMBATSYS: Oboro blocks Scratch's Aggressive Air.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Scratch          0/-------/----<<<|===----\-------\0            Oboro

Rather than take an aggressive, proactive action, Oboro waits, presuming that Scratch, with her aggressive nature, will come at him again. He's rewarded largely by being right; she lands the handplant, but when she stomps down, her skates meet forearms, not shoulders. It does still hurt, but hardly as much when he's ready for it. But he does crouch down as she lands--the better to push up with a burst of strength to fling her off.

That, he doesn't expect, will faze her too much--clearly she's used to an acrobatic style of fighting--but the flash of his knife, seeking to caress a calf, to cut a bright line of red pain across it, that might--if he makes his mark. Disable, don't maim... not as fun, but public appearances are important.

COMBATSYS: Oboro successfully hits Scratch with Medium Strike.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Scratch          0/-------/<<<<<<<|====---\-------\0            Oboro

Landing on forearms rather than shoulders, Scratch grits her teeth, especially as she's forced back into the air by the brute force shove upward. Turning as she flips back to try and run with the momentum rather than fight against it, she lands...

And nearly buckles when the strike across her calf makes itself known. Adrenaline can do a lot, but legs are legs, and anything that compromises them will make itself known when you try and move at the speeds she does. "Dammit..." she hisses out before scrambling back up, pushing herself off the ground with her hands to get back upright.

It's not a crippling blow, but it's one that's going to do well to slow her down if she doesn't push forward. That might be why she doubles up the aggression, coming in lower this time as she approaches Oboro head on. once again, she leaps, but rather than grab for him, she backflips for real this time, one leg flashing outward in an arc, the other held back by a hand. A thin cyan streak cuts outward from her skate wheel, another arc slashing through the air as her other leg is released, like a bent branch suddenly swinging back to rest.

COMBATSYS: Scratch successfully hits Oboro with Method Slicer EX.
Grazing Hit

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Scratch          1/-------/<<<<<<<|=====--\-------\0            Oboro

Oboro's reaction is instictive--but not -quite- enough. The slash of that first kick is avoided--but the second catches him, forcing him to stumble back, hissing under his breath. Still better than a full-on impact, though. He stumbles back a couple of steps then drops to one knee--it might look momentarily as though he's truly injured, but... no.

In fact that brief knee-drop sees him push back up to his feet in a smooth motion, his left hand flashing out again--this time throwing a real knife, one balanced for throwing. It's aimed to strike a relatively large target--one of Scratch's thighs. Perhaps he's trying to slow her down some--or maybe he just wants to see how she reacts? The knife seems to draw a brief, bright line of light as it catches while it flies.

COMBATSYS: Oboro successfully hits Scratch with Thrown Weapon.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Scratch          1/----===/=======|=====--\-------\0            Oboro

In response to Rhydderch's statement, Honoka glances pointedly over at Mayor Fausto Mendoza and the three lovely ladies accompanying him.
<< What did you expect, really? >>

The village of Pueblo Thunderfoot looks much as it had during the Flight of the Soaring Spirit tournament, though of course it's... dialed up quite a few notches in terms of grandeur. The King of Fighters spares no expenses after all -- numerous aerials are positioned to get high angle shots from pretty much every angle, and banners for the King of Fighters, HitBit Inc, the Twilight Star Circus, and numerous energy drinks are positioned all about for maximum media coverage.

Honoka squints back at the three ladies near Mendoza. << I recognize the one, but... the other two...? >> Aside from a curious look, it might not seem like Honoka is even communicating with Rhydderch, considering that she winces sympathetically when Oboro is clipped, and smiles and claps whenever he scores a hit against the nimble blader.
The juggler takes a step backwards in the tent, glancing over to Elise. "Hey, how're you feeling?"

Landing after he backflipping kick, Scratch skates by, leaving her back to Oboro and not taking into account his state yet past the fact that she felt her clip him at the very least. She knows she staggered him in some way, and that seems to be good enough for her to try and get some pace to work up some extra speed.

She clearly didn't expect him to recover fast as he did, and by the time that she pivots, she has a knife flying toward her leg. Eyes widen as she tries to get out of the way, but her momentum works against her this time, unable to pull herself aside before the knife embeds itself in her. Collapsing and extending out her good leg, she slides to a stop. "NGhh..." Pulling the knife out of her leg, she claps her hand atop the wound. She's not about to be speeding about like she was at the beginnng of the fight, that's for sure.

Not in a position to go straight at Oboro again, she grabs old of the knife, and flings it from her crouched position back toward Oboro. She clearly doesn't have any of the finesse or expertise with it that the circus man does, but it should still sting regardless of which end hits. That is, IF it hits.

COMBATSYS: Scratch successfully hits Oboro with Thrown Object.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Scratch          1/----===/=======|=======\-------\0            Oboro

Rhydderch narrows his eyes as he follows Honoka's gaze. He recognizes the Mayor, and one of the three women. <<The one who looks like she could be local,>> the masked fighter supplies. <<She's the one who... booked me some time with their boss.>> Honoka might pick up on it, given how well she knows the man in the mask, might pick up on the bit of tension sliding along the man's spine despite his efforts to look relaxed.

<<One of them... I recognize her from a memory. The third woman's most likely a third Doll.>>

Confidence is a great thing--it enables bold moves, daring attempts, it bolsters strength. Overconfidence is more insidious. Oboro goes from confidence to overconfidence--and it costs him. Expecting to catch his own blade out of the air, he doesn't even *look* at it--and so when he closes his hand around it, he gets exactly the wrong end. With a sharp, not-quite-bleepable curse, he tosses the betraying blade off to the side and stands there, clenching his left hand as blood seeps around the fingers and drips onto the ground.

The pain is enough to shock him out of that overconfidence, and to jolt him into thinking more about the fight, and not assuming he's better than his opponent--a thought that, in truth, had been creeping into his head, undeserved or not.

He continues to clench his hand until the bleeding slows (it won't stop until bandaged) and then he brings his right hand up, and crosses his arms, assuming a different stance.

COMBATSYS: Oboro focuses on his next action.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Scratch          1/----===/=======|=======\-------\0            Oboro

That was not what Scratch expected to happen when she tossed the knife. Truth be told, she would have been happy if the handle butt smacked off his head or something. So seeing the cocky grab out of the air backfire spectacularly brings a small smirk to her lips. "I thought you would've known the sharp end goes the other way," she snipes before finally getting herself back up to her feet. Tearing off one of her arm stockings, she fashions a makeshift bandage while Oboro hangs back and takes another stance. It's not a spectacular bandage, but for something she can tie up in less than a few seconds, it'll do.

As she looks back toward the more appropriately dressed fighter, she hangs back. She can't overwhelm with speed right now, so she's got to think of another approach. And at first...it seems like she failed to think of one, skating directly toward Oboro again. But once she 's about 5 feet away, she slows up. Slow...until she pushes forward again with a sharper jolt and swings a skated leg forward to strike for his shin again a much more orthodox low kick.

COMBATSYS: Oboro fails to counter Light Kick from Scratch with Haze Counter.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////                 ]
Scratch          1/---====/=======|=======\-------\1            Oboro

The slow approach fakes him out just enough--his hand sweeps out to catch that kick but is mistimed and so he takes the kick right against his shin. It doesn't break, but underneath those black slacks, a deep purple bruise is already forming. Oboro narrows his eyes even more, a look of... frustration? No, not quite frustration, there's something else in there as well, flashing across his face for a moment.

Something's wrong--he should have seen through that tactic easily... is something interfering with him? He doesn't know--but he's got to pull himself together. Losing to this girl--that just isn't an option for him. It would hurt his professional pride.

Ever since her appearance as the first fighter in the Twilight Star lineup, Elise Harkness has been taking it easy. Which is to say, she has been out of the public eye entirely. Beyond just having a considerable physical toll, something has been bothering her ever since. Something that was in the back of her awareness the entire span of her two bouts, which -- combined with the premonition she had beforehand, which Honoka was present for -- has been weighing on her thoughts. Even her teammates would have found her somewhat withdrawn, though the time needed to heal physically was an excellent excuse for that, all things considered.

But when the next round started, she dutifully came along with everyone else to cheer Oboro on... well, to provide emotional support, anyway. She's definitely not 'cheering' anything. She's wearing a surprisingly 'perky' outfit, given her usual style: a caftan-like dress of dark black, with small violet roses lining the deep V of the neckline, with white lace-top thigh high leggings and purple and black wedge heels. Without her usual witch hat, her hair tumbles behind her; rather than "costume witch" she has a more "wealthy debutante" look, as she sits in the Twilight Star tent, watching. Reclining. Drinking occasionally from a tall glass of something fizzy with a slice of lime on the rim of the tall glass. A mojito, perhaps.

She still looks perturbed.

"Someone's watching. Again. I don't like it."

Professional pride is not something that Scratch is too familiar with, being too young for one and sans 'profession' for the other. What she does pride herself on is knowing how to use her skates, even if the kick was more awkward attempt at karate than her usual style. That kick finding home makes her more comfortable, especially without any extra leg wounds aside from the ones hastily bandaged.

Not wanting to let up, she glides forward for another approach. When it looks like she's chambering her leg back for another kick, she suddenly flips forward onto a hand, planting herself on the ground and swinging her legs high up. Arching with practiced balance, the heels of her skate swing high, then drop down, trying to crown Oboro right on the mop of black hair.

And as far as any 'interference' goes?...well, the skate punk doesn't have those kind of senses. Maybe it's for the best.

COMBATSYS: Scratch successfully hits Oboro with Handplant Hammer.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Scratch          1/---====/=======|=======\==-----\1            Oboro

*THWACK* and Oboro is stumbling back again, face caught in a rictus of pain for one beautiful shot by one of the cameramen lining the sides. This girl seems to have his number, at almost every turn, and... well, something snaps inside him. It's not physical... it's not even quite emotional. He doesn't suddenly look crazy, or howl at the sky. He doesn't hulk out. But there's a definite sense of something being let go within him, of restraints being snapped off.

He recovers his stance... and stares at Scratch for a half-second. Then he lunges, moving with a fluid speed that he hadn't displayed before, seeming, even to the cameras, to blur out--until he reappears in front of Scratch. Close enough to touch, his hands a blur--the right still holding the knife, the left wielding a psionic projection of one as if it were a real thing, his moves are a dance of almost-death, slashes and stabs and thrusts that would flay Scratch's limbs and body red, an assault of several seconds' worth that would end with Oboro 'planting' the psychic knife right between Scratch's eyes.

COMBATSYS: Oboro successfully hits Scratch with Mirage Dance.

[                         \\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Scratch          2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=------\-------\0            Oboro

Seems like Scratch might actually be hanging tough. The Handplant Hammer clangs off of Oboro's head in an almost perfect way, the skater pulling her legs back and rolling away for space. She knows she seems to be holding the advantage, but the ache in her legs tell her that she shouldn't pull something like that out again so soon.

She doesn't expect Oboro to suddenly surge at her as fast as he does though, faster than even she could pick up. Eyes widen and she tries to pull her arms up...too slow. The dance of steel blade and energy blade slice and flay and cut into her, enough that she can't help but scream out in pain. By the time the crowning achievement plants into her head, her clothes are near shredded, and blood trailing off all her limbs.

Gasping, she falls down to a knee, shuddering a little. THe vicious assault seems to have left her shaken and struggling to regain breath and vision.

Looking up through blurry eyes, she stares up at the knife fighter....and growls. She's been forced into a corner. But she's a Metro Citizen. She knwos about being forced into a corner, and more importantly, how to fight your way out of one. Her reaction isn't one quite as...spectacular or brutala as Oboros, but as she flings herself upward, she does become quite a spectacle.

Legs splay out in a near perfect split, while her body spins and whirls about like a gyroscope upon its side. Skates charged with the same faint cyan energy from before, it traces a sheer storm of flying limbs that tries to overwhelm Oboro before she would land in a rather...ignominious heap. She's not fooling herself, this is a last ditch. But if she's going out, she's going big.

COMBATSYS: Scratch successfully hits Oboro with McTwister.

[                        \\\\\\  < >  ///                           ]
Scratch          0/-------/---<<<<|====---\-------\0            Oboro

"Well, yeah. The whole audience is watching."

Honoka offers a faint smirk; she knew exactly what Elise meant. And she nods with resignation, her followup not allowing time for a more critical response: "And... it's him. So it's not really any different than if we were back home at the circus -- just different sets of eyes."
The juggler is just glad that these four people -have- actual eyeballs. Damned Vega.

The juggler wears a passive smile as she reaches for an object on a small table near the front of the tent. Moments later, a yo-yo starts flicking about in rapid circles, as the juggler watches the nailbiting finish with mild trepidation.

His injuries may not be as visible as the wounds he's inflicted on Scratch, but they're there. Oh, are they there. It is in that moment that his body fails him; he throws his arms up but his blocking arms are blown away in seconds and he's utterly battered by the twisting tornado of Scratch. He's thrown into the air, spinning in an utterly uncontrolled manner to slam back into the ground--if the cloud of dust he threw up at the beginning of the fight was big, well, this one is -epic-. It obscures his position for a good five seconds before a breeze blows in to clear it...

To show Oboro standing on his feet. To be sure... he doesn't look good. Bloodied, bruised, not standing upright--bent at the waist, at the back, barely holding himself up.. but he's up. Up for one last moment, at last something burning in his eyes, something akin to rage, though it's cold; those who are touched by his gaze may feel a cold electricity jolt them. Breathing heavily, he takes one step forward... then another... and then he falls to his knees. But as he falls, he produces another knife... and he whips both arms outward. They cross over his chest just as he hits the ground, and the thrown knife spirals in towards Scratch, joined, in perfect mirror, with a psionic knife.

They aren't aimed at anything major, but a knife is still a knife, and a throwing knife is heavy and impactful...

COMBATSYS: Oboro can no longer fight.

[                        \\\\\\  <
Scratch          0/-------/---<<<<|

COMBATSYS: Oboro successfully hits Scratch with Double Phantom.
- Power hit! -

[                                <
Scratch          1/---<<<</<<<<<<<|

Landing after her reckless storm of skates, Scratch is...well, she's very hesitant to move at all, really. She's covered it cuts and wounds, and the attack itself precluded anything even resembling to a three-point landing.

But she's aware enough to try and pull herself up at least to a crouching position. She knows she hit the knife nut, and she has to get up to her feet in case....

Well, shit. Sure, he looks worse for the wear too, but the cold gaze is enough to chill the Metro Citizen into place, and by the time the tandem knife flies toward her, she's unable to get her body to listen to her. The strike slams into her shoulder rather than anything vital, but it's still enough to send her flying with a shriek of pain...and then...well, sweet blissful unconsciousness.

Her last thought before the blackness takes over is aimless grousing about having to look like a mummy later...

COMBATSYS: Scratch takes no action.

COMBATSYS: Scratch can no longer fight.

The yo-yo swings around in rapid motions, zigging and zagging through intricate patterns that would be difficult for even a computer to keep pace with. And yet, Honoka makes it look easy, her eyes never leaving the marked-off wrestling ring that serves as the battlefield, even as her fingers interpose themselves into the path of the swirling string to change its direction.

When the knife strikes Scratch, the yo-yo sails in a lazy upward arc. The line goes slack.

<< Good work out there, Oboro. >> The thought is offered without any judgment, or any tone at all.

Honoka calmly snatches the yo-yo out of the air, and slowly begins to unwind the string from her finger. She understands that all eyes are on her, the Twilight Star team captain. And yet, she's on her own schedule, taking her sweet time.
The two rods are collected from the table, loosely clasped by a pinky and a ring finger, the cord hanging slack.

"Rhydderch..." begins Honoka, seemingly as an afterthought. Two diabolos are picked up, one for each hand. "... Could you be a dear and help Oboro get cleaned up?"

Suitably equipped for her fight, Honoka Kawamoto then begins the long and arduous journey to center stage. The crowds are -roaring- with approval for the tense, and close fight -- the first round of King of Fighters opens up with a dramatic double knock out. Of COURSE they're fired up! The young juggler is wearing clothes that could be considered to be too warm for the scorching desert heat of Pueblo Thunderfoot -- a thin, short-sleeved jacket worn over a low-cut shirt, and shorts over top of form-fitting leggings. And yet, she doesn't seem concerned about the heat, or the loud and boisterous crowd, in the slightest.

The first diabolo drops, in what might be a sign for drama. But before it can reach the ground, it suddenly bobs upwards. The second diabolo falls in similar climactic fashion, though anyone who had watched the juggler perform prior to the fight knows exactly what's coming next.

<< Wish me luck, mm? >> is the thought she psionically projects to her three closest teammates, as a confident smile slides onto her face. The diabolo wands bob lightly as the diabolos swirl into motion.

Ken Masters, she thinks to herself. Disciple of Ansatsuken, and winner of the US Martial Arts Championship. She has her work cut out for her, she knows. But... at least she knows she did alright against his training partner, some months back.

COMBATSYS: Honoka has started a fight here.

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

"Look, I don't care if it is priceless marketing-- I'll tell you what's even more priceless on this stage, man: a fighter's spirit, their -style-; morale! Ever heard of it?" The fight's initial moments are spent with Ken quietly but obviously admonishing an assistant in the wings of the ring as he walks out towards the arena. Since Ken would /never/ be fashionably late, the fight must have started moments early: Scratch and Oboro are already squaring off as Masters makes it onto the scene, clad in his (trademarked) iconic red gi, a black belt wrapping his waist and another confining his long, luxurious blonde mane to a loose but secure ponytail, and bitching out his corporate handler for making his partner wear a freaking branded t-shirt, of all things!

Ken pauses ringside and offers a nod and reassuring smile to Scratch, even as he takes a moment to size up Oboro-- and aside to the chagrined aide, "Good call on the shades, though. Those are slick." One man in the operation could care less how much Scratch's training is costing, or how utterly incapable the Metro vagabond might be of paying any of it back; or cooperating in the first place. Kid's got spirit, and as it turns out, Ken didn't need to worry about it being dulled by shameless marketing.

As the fight progresses the look on the Blonde Battler's face shifts from intent anticipation to a half-grin of satisfaction and excitement as the fight builds to its brutal climax. It's that end exchange that forces Masters to wince, Oboro's blade and psychic projection working in tandem to cleave Ken's comrade from the bout. Still, Scratch did well; amazingly well. When he'd promised her a chance to start her legacy off right, Ken had also told her that it all relied on her, in the end. All he could offer was a stage, and a place to work out harder than she ever had; turns out, Scratch had brought the rest.

The satisfaction, the grim concern that follows his teammate as their on-site medical team works with the staff provided by the tournament and venue to make sure she's, well, all in one piece... it shifts as Masters vaults gracefully into the arena, landing in a deep, elegant bow towards the opposing camp before waving to the crowd and giving everyone in the stands a fine view of his toothy white grin as he strides towards the center to meet his opponent. Ken's smile extends to Honoka easily, warmly, respectfully, and true to the spirit of the sport he offers up a firm, "One hell of a fight so far!" The congratulations are perhaps actually for her teammate and his own, intentionally offered loudly enough to consciously concur with the crowd and stoke those nearest to even greater cheers in confirmation; a fervor that easily spreads.

"I've seen your show-- and from everything I hear your fighting's likely to match it." The tone is offered with the same cordial respect, inflected with easy amusement that gives easy access to just a drizzle of sarcasm, "I'd congratulate you on making it through the qualifiers so soundly; but it's Canada." The dry finish is punctuated with a sad, sad shake of Ken's stylishly coifed head. He falls into a fighting stance with a flourish, cracks his neck, and urges Honoka forward with one gloved hand and a wolfish smile.

"Let's see what you've got!" It's not derogatory or doubting, his challenge, though there may be several traces of cockiness in the Ansatsuken disciple's demeanor. Still, it's the voice of a man who's stoked to find out, who's hoping it's something good, something fierce. This spirit, one would suspect, would be quite familiar to Ms. Kawamoto if she's crossed paths with Ken's nomadic brother-by-another-mother.

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Honoka           0/-------/-======|-------\-------\0      Ken Masters

Honoka beams as Mr. Masters vaults into the ring. While she is but a performer from a traveling circus in Japan, she now stands against a mighty champion known the world over for his martial prowess. It would be more of an oddity for Honoka to -not- be awed by the easygoing grace of someone with such a pedigree.

"I'm flattered to be honored by the US Martial Arts Champion himself -- I only pray that I can prove myself worthy of your high praise." A sincere smile accompanies the woman as she bows, maintaining her stewardship of the diabolos upon their fixed orbit.

She -is- concerned for her chances against the champion -- who wouldn't be intimidated? Especially after such a heart-pounding performance by the two initial fighters. But rather than let herself be weighed down by the shock of encountering one of the veritable legends of high-profile martial arts get her down, she doubles down on her performance, lowering the wands and expanding the orbital radius of her two diabolos. So intent is her focus that she doesn't even flinch when the starting pistol fires to begin the second round of combat. So absolute is her control that when her arms lower the wands, expanding the orbital radius of her two diabolos, that she doesn't waver in the slightest.

The woman raises her left knee, inclining her head towards Ken with a heartfelt nod of appreciation. For a moment, it seems as if she hadn't even heard the pistol -- like she was /that/ focused on showing off. She ups the ante even further, jutting her left leg outwards; the diabolos continue orbiting in complete obliviousness to the extended limb.

And then Honoka steps forward, as if to transfer her weight onto the limb. If it weren't a move she'd practiced often, it wouldn't have worked so well.
But right before her foot steps down, she snaps into a quick 180-degree pirouette.
Diabolos whirl into confusing blur of motion. One shape can be seen flying high into the air. Another can be seen rocketing out towards Ken's solar plexus.

The real issue, though, is not the diabolos.
It is that Honoka has utilized the diabolos as a distraction to launch herself into another pirouette -- this one intended to whirl her heel into a spin kick at the American's collarbone. She fully intends to catch -one- of her airborne diabolos with the slackened rope from her diabolo wands, but can the champion correctly determine which one?

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters parries Honoka's Power Strike!

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Honoka           0/-------/-======|=------\-------\0      Ken Masters

"Do your best!" Ken offers heartfelt encouragement as the signal is given to begin. Lest you think he's just being a nice guy, or some kind of Athena fanboy however, the thought is punctuated with an equally honest: "You'll have to if you're gonna stand a chance!" It's the kind of confidence that all too often reaks of long overheated air, the kind of too cool for school fool who, unlike Honoka, /doesn't/ take the threat an opponent like these represent seriously. In the first seconds of combat, however? Ken Masters puts his money squarely where his (still somewhat oversized) mouth rests. During her initial build of momentum, that show of dexterity and agility and no small amount of honed prestidigital artistry, Ken displays his own.

It's a bit more understated (but hey, he doesn't have whirlymagigs to show off with, okay?), but obvious to Honoka, and any true warrior watching-- the similar grace and precision Ken demonstrates as he bobs and weaves on feet light as feathers, taking an immediate accounting of the motion and momentum of the diabolos, yes, but weighing them in an equation that includes their wielder: the wily mistress of the Twilight Star. So it is that even before she's attacked, Masters seems to fall into the rhythm of the show as if they'd practiced it, responding to the shifts of her tools and being as the singular threat they are, always weighing and nigh-instantly repositioning to prepare for danger from all the threatened angles.

They're weapons, tools, implements of the warrioress who guides them-- to be considered like a skilled hand, or foot, only for what they add to the capabilities of the one who fights. Gouken's lessons in muscle memory help prevent Ken from allowing the unique aspect of Honoka's weapons of choice, of her theatricality, to distract him from the heart of this battle. The thrum of spirit and energy comes inevitably as two warriors such as these join: the surge of kinetic force released by Honoka's assault giving way to the rush of air and the subtler surge of power within Ken as he darts around the threatening diabolos that surges in on him, twisting to face it sidelong-- at first seeming to fall /right/ into Honoka's trap.

Then, the young champion is just -gone-, as far as the gasping audience is concerned. He launches himself skyward like a rocket, barely bending his legs before leaping high enough to easily clear Honoka's kicking height, passing inverted over her head as the strike cleaves through the space he had just occupied, his ponytail brushing lazily across her features in the instants before he kicks into a second display of force, finishing the somersault with more force than he began it, landing hard and suddenly just opposite where he had been, relative to Honoka... in the flash of an eye.

This may be unfortunate for the dangerous juggler as black-gloved fists dart outwards, seeking a substantive hold on Honoka's inappropriately warm attire and her shoulder. Should he find it, the trip would be abrupt and potentially disorienting and painful: Ken throws them both backwards into a full three-hundred sixty degrees of high-velocity roll, intent on weathering the rotation across the ring's surface a bit more gracefully than his passenger, who would be launched forward by a kicking foot aligned squarely with her midsection at the end of that destructively whirling wheel, ideally sending Honoka end over end, squarely at one of the reinforced supports around the ring and stands.

COMBATSYS: Honoka blocks Ken Masters' Jigoku Guruma EX.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Honoka           0/-------/-======|==-----\-------\0      Ken Masters

Honoka tends to be rather quiet in her public fights -- not because she can't think of anything particularly sassy to say, but because -saying- something sassy would often detract from the image she prefers to convey. Which is why she lets his comment about the USA's northern neighbor pass without reference to their current location in the southern neighbor -- that'd just be bad form. Moreover, Twilight Star's star juggler doesn't want to give Ken a poor impression of her.
He's got money, after all.
Suffice to say, her only response to Ken's challenge was an enthusiastic nod.

The circus performer has a lot of ground to make up against the Ansatsuken fighter, hence her beginning the fight with a committed attack. For a moment in mid-pirouette, she may not have eyes on the champion, but that's not to say that the talented psion isn't aware of him: far from it. She can sense his presence moving up and away from her strike even before it lands, her brow furrowing as she alters her attack plan. Instead of following up, she throws out her wands to either side, the lashing cord snaring one of her diabolos out of mid-air as she continues her momentum into a spin kick close to the ground, balanced precariously on the pads of her slender fingers.
The ponytail getting in her face in the midst of said process is a tad disconcerting, but doesn't seem to deter her. She lashes one arm around, slinging the captured diabolo in a path towards another pillar, a tight-lipped expression of determination crossing her features. The second airborne diabolo is caught by an upraised hand, and then brought low to her as she doubles up her guard against the grab for her shoulder.

Finding her speed lacking against that of the champion, she's snared against her best intentions, but does her best to hold on tight for the ride anyway. Dextrous and flexible, she bears the brunt of being part of a human wheel with about as much aplomb as one can hope for, but her quick thinking allows the kicking foot that follows to crack against the sturdy diabolo wands instead of her significantly less sturdy abdomen. Her balance is such that she can right herself before hitting the reinforced supports, knees bowing slightly as her soft-soled sneakers squeak along the surface of the wrestling ring, kicking up billowing clouds of desert dust in the process.

And only then does the woman grin back at Ken Masters, her pink hair extensions still fluttering as the kick-imparted momentum ebbs away. Her diabolo is released from her left forefinger and thumb, falling into a standard orbit. Her breathing is pronounced -- the rapid transit around in a circle was a bit much, even for her.

But for now... she refrains from attacking, instead pacing quietly off to her right in a lazy circle around Ken. It seems like an aimless, almost careless gesture at first -- the mark of someone who isn't quite sure what to do.
There's truth in that. She is testing the waters, seeing how well Ken responds to a more passive approach.
But she's also moving towards her second diabolo, which was lying inert on the ground until she prods it with her toe. Kicked upwards, the second diabolo joins its brother. And, in mute demonstration of her awareness of her diabolo props, she does not take her gaze away from Ken's eyes.

There are some things one can glean from hours of tournament footage. To a psion, the true measure of a man is not one of them.

COMBATSYS: Honoka focuses on her next action.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Honoka           0/-------/-======|==-----\-------\0      Ken Masters

It's definitely true-- there's a sensation as unique as a fingerprint, that understanding that comes with fighting a warrior like the ones facing off here, today. Even if Ken -had- done his homework on the opposing teams, he knows that much. There's no substitute for experience, particularly when a style as confoundingly unusual as those diabolos is concerned-- you know, actually, maybe doing his homework /would/ have paid off, too. There's a great opportunity for a lesson here that Ken can totally fail to learn! The light reflects as golden fire in his dark eyes as he narrows darker brows with intent focus on Honoka in return, his grin returning with hers as she regains her footing with impressive alacrity, drawing a nod of respect from Ken.

Masters makes no move to intercede immediately, allowing his opponent the chance to reseat her diabolos in their orbit unmolested-- even allowing her time for her analysis, and apparent trap. This only seems to widen the grin, and does nothing to diminish the fiery gleam in the Blonde Battler's eyes. "Glad we understand each other!" Ken offers simply, as the audience holds its collective breath and the man's ponytail rushes out behind him with his sheer eagerness for getting back to practicing his kinder, gentler Ansatsuken all up in Honoka's grill.

Merrily unconcerned with the peril which he rushes headlong into, Ken darts right (the ponytail goes left), left (ponytail right), barely pausing at any point as he feints in on Honoka and then lashes out at point blank range-- abruptly, singularly lifting a knee that carries him forcefully to tiptoes as it rises like a warhead for the Twilight Princess's ribcage, intent on abating their sharing of personal space just as abruptly as it began.

He could play it safe, bide his time, draw her out, have a little care about the danger-- but let's face it. Seeing what explodes is half the fun, and no one's ever accused Ken of an excess of caution.

COMBATSYS: Honoka dodges Ken Masters' Hiza Geri.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Honoka           0/-------/-======|==-----\-------\0      Ken Masters

The Twilight Star juggler knows that it's only a matter of time before the headstrong Masters -- known for his predilection for flashy, explosive attacks -- charges in against her. It's a calculated maneuver, then, for her to explicitly attempt to draw one such attack out of the proven champion -- the lithe circus performer surely isn't strong enough to weather one of his fiery Shoryukens head-on...
Is she?

For now, the question is moot, as Ken Masters has not fallen back onto his tried and true attack. To Honoka's estimation, the canny champion is gauging her reactions as well -- testing her to see whether she's going to take his bait.

He zigs, and Honoka is unfazed.
He zags, and the diabolos continue their circuit unperturbed.
When he twists in to deliver a knee to the acrobat's ribcage, though, the circus star raises her left arm and wand, twisting to her side in a pirouette. The diabolos both sail upwards, following a rapid arc from the graceful motion, carving through the air with an invigorating 'whoosh' even as the warhead rustles the fabric of Honoka's jacket.

That was cutting it awfully close, she cautions herself while twisting about to regain her sense of balance. The diabolos come whirling about like a mace. If Ken had followed her performance, he might suspect that she would continue to rein in the momentum, to illustrate her mastery over the juggling props.

This is not a juggling performance. It is the King of Fighters.

Honoka sets her heel, and abruptly shifts her momentum back towards Ken. The mace-like diabolos obey their master, whirling around towards Ken's flank, as Honoka doubles both wands up into her right hand. The wand is delivered a precision blow to crack against bone -- either Ken's knee, or his forearms, whichever target presents itself.

Should she connect, one of the wands would be released, the cord lashing around the extremity, complicating his escape as surely as the diabolos would be crashing into him. Honoka would then continue striding forward, driving her knee into his midsection, and then would slam her palm into Ken's sternum.
Then, it would become blindingly apparent that Honoka is not merely a juggler, as a veritable shockwave of psychic pressure -- taking the form of blindingly intense pain -- plunges forward into the champion's chest, blasting him backwards. Only then would she command the diabolo cord to disengage itself while she retrieves her props from their aerial rebound.

COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Ken Masters with Seta-pagoat.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Honoka           1/------=/=======|=======\-------\1      Ken Masters

From his position on the balcony overseeing the city square, Mayor Fausto Mendoza sits with the sort of friendly and excited expression on his face that one would expect from someone's kindly grandfather. The charismatic, and publicly popular, leader has dressed in a fine suit that holds all the look of one that has been owned and cared for over decades.

He is almost too exactly the perfect image of an old, small-town mayor that does all that he can to look after those in his care.

As the fight between America's greaters fighter and the circus juggler sees its first clean blow, he lets out a cheer in chorus with the audience, thrilled at the thus far even combat between the two teams. It's in the ensuing static of continued excitement that he motions to the local girl, Little Eagle she was called during their previous festival, and begins to gesture enthusiasticly as he offers her some apparent confidence, part way through giving an indication to Ken Masters himself, down in the ring.

She was definitely building to something-- unfortunately for Ken, it wasn't exactly the sort of exchange he was anticipating. What were we just saying about homework? The quick evasion of the nearly-as-quick knee is the start of his tragic tale, but it scarcely ends there. Anticipating the assault and reacting properly to halt Honoka are entirely different things, and Ken's twist to deal with the whirling diabolos slams an arm painfully into the weighted orbital, rattling bone and leaving the limb vulnerable to the follow up.

Wired up, yanked in, Ken has little time to ponder his predicament before that psychic energy kicks to the fore, and leaves absolutely no doubt what brought Kawamoto to King of Fighters. Fierce psychic energy is something of a theme in her circles, if gossip is to be believed-- and Ken's ravaged frame definitely screams at him that yes, these circus psychics are real; and it HURTS. Launched hurtling backwards in a world of sting, Ken flips several times end over end as he's whipped free of the cord by psionics and leverage before he gains control of the motion, skidding to a bruising stop largely thanks to one knee and stabilizing hand.

"Hah. That's more like it." He observes as he shakes off that ringing in his ears, and pushes back to his feet. "For a second there I thought we came here to dance!" Which might have also been a hell of a show with these two, but a very different one continues to unfold as Masters once more swifly closes the distance between himself and Honoka, this time launching himself into the air across the last feet seperating them and twisting about, his heel leading a sharp, singular spinkick that arcs in furiously for her forehead-- with a flaring tendril of crimson flame tracing its course, the torch's blaze centered on that cleaving foot, forging a spiralling orbit of fire about Ken as he whirls into the strike.

There's less test to this strike, less feeling out what Honoka is capable of ... and more trying to deal with it. To stretch his own legs; pun totally unintended.

COMBATSYS: Honoka fails to reflect Senpuu Nata Otoshi from Ken Masters with Niwen Horobi.

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

Buried in the back of her mind is the thought of the weird... -feelings- she got near the end of the match against Team Canada. She can't place that feeling out of her mind now -- especially not with Elise's recent reminder that the team is being watched.
Of course we're being watched, Honoka said with mild dismissiveness. But the soulless eyes are on her all the same, and no amount of levity can change that. Her impressive gambit paid off against the champion, but it's important for the young juggler to keep from becoming cocky about that small victory -- to keep her focus. That trick, after all, will only work once, with Ken now alerted to Honoka's true wellspring of power.

She keeps a cautious distance from the Blonde Brawler, swinging her diabolos into a lazy orbit. It's not a circular one as before, but rather an dogleg-shaped accelerating orbit used to whirl the props to an even faster spin. Her calculations should be readily apparent to the US Martial Arts Champion as she bobs her chin lightly, timing each step, each single movement out so that she maintains awareness. Her lips even part into a toothy smile as Ken makes his snarky remark -- she can appreciate -his- levity, at least.

When the man closes the distance, Honoka abruptly steps forward, placing weight onto her left foot. The cord between her diabolo wands flares with a bright purple glow, even as she tosses the right stick to her left hand. She begins to launch herself forward, to meet Masters in mid air.
She's fought his contemporary, his training partner. She's done her studies of the two men's relative arts. She knows -exactly- how this is going to play out.

The diabolos are whirled about the two wands as a bludgeoning mace as she leaps forward, aiming to harness the energies of the Tatsumaki and redirect them with a shearing blast, courtesy of her diabolo cords.
Honoka realizes something is wrong. The fire... okay, that's different, but that's the manifestation of Masters' signature aura -- wholly irrelevant to her counterattack.
The problem is that it's not supposed to hit high -- the foot is supposed to be sweeping -low-.

Honoka's purple energy withers on the line as the diabolos are struck away, clacking harmlessly on the ring's floor. Honoka does not join them on the floor -- she's currently caught in the midst of a whirling maelstrom of fire, that same element that she has heretofore demonstrated mastery of on the circus stage.

The juggler is, herself, juggled, as her arms whirl about helplessly from the attack, her hips twirling along afterwards. When cut loose from the dervish, Honoka is dropped in a lopsided kneeling position, one hand pressed against the floor.

"If that's how you Americans dance, I'm terrified for your country," she calls back, rubbing her temple with her hand. A quick tumble backwards returns Kawamoto to her feet, but for the moment, she seems to be sans diabolo. But, with wands in hand, the lithe acrobat is far from defenseless.

It's /nothing/ like Ryu's attack! Ryu's attack is stiff, all right angles and efficient execution and bullshit-- Ken's orbital is wild, a gyroscopic ballet of kicking goodness. Also: FIRE. Fire makes anything totally different. Ken lands nimbly out of the strike as tendrils of fire trace through his aura, the gathered energy repurposed and then resorbed as the exchange, once more, turns sharply from where Masters expected-- his next outwards breath includes a soft, low whistle, keenly aware of the dangerous technique he just narrowly avoided.

As if psychic agony-murder wasn't bad enough, this is another one of those pain in the asses who can turn one's Hadoukens against their hurlers!!! The campfire tale from his childhood, come true again; reality is a harsh, harsh mistress.

Bare feet quickly find renewed footing, but the Blonde Battler does not immediately pursue his opponent. Instead, his breathing evens out, his spirit surges, and he takes a moment to pay heed to the resonance of that psychic damage. Intuitively, or perhaps reflexively, from years of practice, Ken's aura neatly knits around the trauma lent it, that lingering soreness distributed throughout his body, aching even as power suffuses him-- even as his own reserves spike, as his fighting spirit simmers ever higher, rattling the proverbial lid as the proverbial pot begins its proverbial boil.

"Yea, you already screwed us on that count." Ken notes, rather honestly, touching a hand to his chest; no longer reaved by Psycho Power but instead suffused, like his entire form, with chi. "That's why I figured we /weren't/ dancing. Try to keep up." The gibe is good natured, but the challenge is clear, made all the clearer by a hand gesturing her forward like at the start of the match; this time, with redoubled urgency. "If you think you can."

It's questionable, this time, how much of the fire in Ken's eyes comes from his wide and wolfish grin... and how much comes from that wellspring of fire gathering within him. The true strength of his style, the elemental spirits that imbue Ken and Ryu's art-- always a breath away, surging forth within him at the slightest beckoning. Eager, zealous at the promise of ferocious battle.

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters issues a challenge!!

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

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters gets fired up!

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

Honoka will be happy to go back to the tapes and see where she went wrong, but for right now her vision is still clouded with afterimages of flames dancing around her head. Rough horizontal scorches mar her rose colored jacket; she wants badly to try and brush them off her sleeves but knows it will amount to nothing in the end save for lowering her defenses against the champion. And that would be bad!

The Ainu-Japanese woman scans the battlefield, keeping the dynamic Ansatsuken fighter in her field of vision for the brief moment it takes to identify her diabolos scattered across the field. Both have rolled to quite some distance away from their respective points of impact; she commits their location to memory as she returns closer to the center of the set-aside ring. Getting caught too close to the boundaries could prove difficult from a logistics standpoint, after all.

Her brow furrows as Ken's language gets a little coarse. With a look of confusion, it seems that she's puzzled by the turn of phrase -- perhaps it's a cultural difference? But then as the Blonde Battler gibes with her, the context of his phrasing becomes a bit more obvious, and her smile returns.

"Perhaps I will," entertains Honoka, ever mindful of the roar of the crowd. The wands are reversed, with their strings falling to the base of her palm rather than hanging at the outlying tips. To simply stand by now while Ken is calling to her might be a tactically sound choice, but the audience is completely enthralled by the two captivating fighters. Her own entanglements have met their match in Ken's fiery attacks, and it would be criminal for her to simply -not- attack him, after all...

What Honoka needs is a change of tempo. All throughout the fight, the distant tempo of the vendors has been heard in the distance -- a distinctively Mexican theme, intended to evoke the feel of a charming (if somewhat manufactured) ambiance. But with a faint glance in the direction of the vendors, the sound fades out.

And instead, plays the music of the Twilight Star Circus opening. The soundtrack that has started every show in the past season, the one that has the kids jumping in the bleachers, just -waiting- for the performers to make their first appearances.
It's an inspirational anthem.

Suitably heralded, Honoka meets Ken's challenge by rushing forward. She swings the wands in sequence -- left, right, left, then crossing over to deliver a left, right, left sequence. Predictable, with lightning fast motions that would nonetheless be relatively easy for a trained martial artist to pick out. She commits her body into a powerful attack from her right.

But then as the music is half a beat short of the measure, Honoka changes her tempo. She strikes out not with a wand, but by charging forward with her left elbow at Ken's midsection. And -that- is when the powerful strike is allowed to follow through, crashing against Ken's (no doubt impressive) defenses; with any luck it would open him up for a rapid-fire combination strike.

It's probably a good thing she made note of where her diabolos had fallen. Has he?

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters interrupts Intercepting Strike from Honoka with Shoryuken EX.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Honoka           1/---====/=======|=======\======-\1      Ken Masters

From a distance, behind the crowd watching, there stood another figure also studying the battle. His arms crossed, face hidden beneath a mask of black and yellow, save for his milk-white eyes which never once blinked. The ninja known only as Scorpion was observing the battle, unseen by the masses, and paying careful attention to what was being done. And when the fighter in red displayed that incredible technique, that uppercut of tremendous power, the eyes of the unseen figure widened.


Ken offers up a Japanese explanation in blunter fashion about the time Honoka smiles of her own accord-- it wasn't dancing the moment she floored him thrice over, basically. At least, that's not usually the type of woman Ken keeps company with on the dance floor, but to each their own. You dance you, guy.

Despite the obvious summoning of SPIRIT through the Twilight Star's ritual dance beats, Ken's jaunty yet dangerously battle-edged demeanor remains unfazed with the turn of theme music-- it's inarguable that theme music gives one great power, but hell, Masters kind of likes it. That, and fate favors the bold; it's one strength Ken's long had. Boldness, and also adoring a strong groove. He flutters with her feints, ever a half-step beyond the implied strikes, dancing backwards with such precise grace that it's easy to miss the freight trains presently rushing headlong at each other, even with the whistles sounding long, urgent pulses.

That impending hazard renders whether Ken has been keeping up with the diabolos that he so politely waited for her to (not) retrieve again are rather moot, for a moment or three longer. That boiling fervour within Ken ignites, explodes outwards without being consumed-- in fact, to the properly attuned, the Ansatsuken disciple's energies seem to spike again from the exercise. What an exercise it is: the attack is legendary for a reason, and as Honoka crosses that last span, commits fully to crashing harshly into Ken, that Ken crashes /back/.

The Blonde Battler's down in a crouch in that last instant, and it's his muscular side, rattling her ribcage, that elbow connects with, even as Ken throws himself in at the point of impact... even as he's launched skywards as if by the power of one fist, the fire-shrouded uppercut reaving from chest to skull, crashing squarely into Honoka's chin and launching her back from whence she came as a scorching wave of energy washes through her.

Air travel is all expenses paid, but coach is super, duper uncomfortable as Honoka is launched free of Ken's fiery ascent, his fist aloft and flaring with a profusion of dragon's breath that twists into tendrils of flame about his form as he twists several tight spirals in those final moments of graceful flight.

"SHOOORYUKEN!!" 'nuff fucking said.

Honoka has fought the calm and steadfast Ryu, and she understands that Ken is his perfect complement, the yang to his yin. Where she received icy chill from the dragon in white, she expects fire and brimstone from the dragon in red. And it's with that in mind that she began the overly aggressive ballet of strikes, all according to the red dragon's challenge -- to tease out the mighty Shoryuken, and punish it accordingly.

This gambit did not go according to plan. Had Ken Masters been, instead, one of the yakuza executives defeated with such tactics, then yes, it would likely have worked due to Honoka's superior strength and savvy. But instead, her elbow hits high, the direct counterpart to Ken's foot hitting -her- high.
With opposite and yet equal results. Her elbow strikes him, and unlike receiving a very different attack to her expectation, she instead receives the exact one she bargained for. Just... in the precisely wrong position.
Ribs crack -- several of them -- as knuckles rake across them. Flames light across Honoka's rose-colored jacket, carving a dense black canyon of soot across its length on the way up. Honoka's mouth hangs agape as her eyes pull shut, her mouth loosing a bloodcurdling scream that would be -very- invigorating to at least some of the people in attendance -- those who might want Ken to win, and those who might be accompanying a certain local town mayor, to say the least. But the scream is cut short, muffled by the sudden interruption of Ken's fist cracking into her jaw, sending her inflamed form flying upwards, twisting about like a top as a helix of flame surrounds her. She's barely able to keep hold of her wands, mostly because of the rope tangling about her wrists as she sails upwards.

After what seems like an eternity, she lands. And bounces, leaving a small crater in the surface of the ring as she bounces backwards. It's... not pretty.

And yet, after a moment of thought, she pushes herself back up.

If he had been positioned but two feet to his right when starting his maneuver, it may have all gone differently as his foot slid upon the diabolo, but perhaps he saw through that strategem. Honoka rubs her jaw sorely with one hand, putting out the flames on her jacket -- now thoroughly burnt and covered with soot. (The jacket is beyond repair, at this point, but that's why she buys more than one of the things she likes.) She tilts her head from one side to the other, making sure her neck is still working properly. (It may have been a concern.) She steps forward unsteadily, her breath catching in her throat. That... hurt.

Her ears pick up the treble sounds of the music over the din of the crowd. More speakers are tuned to the same song -- she starts nodding her head to the beat, while her hands untangle the cord from her arms.

"You, uh." Her breath is -clearly- ragged now, as she begins walking towards Ken. "... You hit harder than your friend."

Without any real warning, she lashes her left wrist forward, snapping the diabolo cord as if it were a whip. It's a tease -- stopping well short of Ken. But she lashes forward again, cracking at his knees. She moves as if to crack against him a third time...

That's when she surges forward with her left hand leading, using her psychic power to both propel herself forward, and bolster her grip onto Ken's gi. With both wands collected in her right hand, she would follow up by bashing her wands into his face, his neck, and his sternum in a brutal series of attacks.

COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Ken Masters with Iomante.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Honoka           0/-------/-----==|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2      Ken Masters

The aim is not to break bones. The aim is to badger Ken backwards into making a crucial tactical error, yet again.
Just when it looks like there would be a critical opening in the savage sequence of blows, Honoka would instead change tactics, using the psychic power at her hand to lift Ken up off the ground -- a feat that any other acrobat of her build would find great difficulty in accomplishing. The energy would blossom into an orb of purple energy, pulling Ken up and away from the juggler as if it were a gravity well.

And then with a solemn breath, Honoka backflips sharply, contacting Ken with her foot at roughly the same time that the orb of energy detonates in a violent explosion, knocking the Ansatsuken master backwards.

The crowd... goes wild.

As Ken Masters unleashes his iconic uppercut, Mayor Mendoza seems to wince particularly hard. Certainly the hit was a solid one, and must be quite unpleasant on the receiving end. No, Mendoza has seen just what the more intense versions of that move are capable of. In fact, he's had to watch the recording of the infamous World Warrior tournament more than once. He's is also one of the few who was unfortunate enough to at least see the end results of what had happened in an off-the-grid battle where that same move had been used.

Quite honestly, the results had given Fausto Mendoza an even greater amount of healthy respect (and fear) for the patron responsible for the success of his town.

This one, at least, was much less messy.

By the time he recovers from the earlier remembrance, the mayor is able to join in with the crowd as the juggler lands her retaliation.

It's not especially surprising that Honoka weathers the Shoryuken with some fight still in her-- Ken fully anticipated that. What he /wasn't/ really prepared for was the ferocity of her reprisal. His landing out of the famed uppercut is graceful, poised, as flamboyantly honed as the rest of the technique; but that's about as long as Masters' famed poise lasts, right now. He's fast, confident in his speed, certain of his positioning-- and Honoka clearly foresaw that, or is absolutely /adored/ by chaos, because Ken's bare foot collides squarely with one discarded, weighted diabolos painfully... but more hazardously, distractingly.

She comes in like a storm, and any witty rejoinder that might have otherwise come as Ken evaded that storm is swallowed up by its wrathful intensity-- along with the champion martial artist himself. He makes the critical tactical error she needs, he plays right into Honoka's hands, and the Blonde Battler, well-- he suffers for it. Rather than being out of the way of the swinging mace-like wands, he's already helpfully unbalanced when they hurtle in-- the series of collisions is painful, to put it mildly, but nothing compared to what follows.

Ripped skyward by sheer psychic might, Ken's newly recentered, recharged, altogether dangerous aura and the power it represents is shorn once more on the spiritual level, even as the agonizing energies tear through muscle and vein with relentless fury. Masters knew going into this there was more to Honoka than her reputation, her nature might suggest-- but he had no idea just how much of an understatement that /was/. Lesson learned? It may be too late, either way-- Ken is launched clear of the detonation with only a vague awareness of the final cartwheeling kick, his opponent having done a remarkable, the announcers will call it perfectly executed, job of turning his dangerous momentum against him.

Right now, Ken just knows it /hurts/, and that it makes it clear just what kind of challenge he's facing, here. For the first time, a moment's question enters his mind-- was he /over/confident? In the second instant, a grin reaches his face again. That same flicker of a moment, the golden-haired champion is back on his feet, drawing a single deep, steadying breath as if his lungs hadn't just been shorn ragged by the ordeal. Almost any other fighter would be all but incapacitated by the timing of that strike, the exhaustion forced on one's very soul. A select few warriors would only be slowed down, dulled, forced to take a moment to breathe and reassess by that same ordeal.

Ken's not any other fighter, though; he's Ken Fucking Masters. Ken? He doesn't miss a beat, he doesn't hesitate to re-enage, indeed: aside from the pain, the scrapes and bruising marring his physique, there's little sign the meaty chunk she took out of his inner stores of energy has inconvenienced the Blonde Battler's seemingly endless will to fight at /all/. He doesn't sprint back at her: he soars like a rocket after two accelerating steps, leaping into the air: Ken's a whirling dervish surrounded by a roaring wildfire, a spinning and superheated top-of-doom, the plume of flame centered on his rotorblade of a right foot, leading that hurricane of flame and punishing, repeated kickings as he hurtles through the space between himself and Honoka in the blink of an eye, threatening to hammer her soundly before kicking her clear of the conflagration.

Once more, Ken has only brief words for Honoka, just now, a necessity of the intensity of battle: "TATSUMAKI SENPUUUU KYAKU!!" -- It has something of a legend of its own.

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters successfully hits Honoka with Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku EX.

[                      \\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Honoka           0/-------/-----==|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2      Ken Masters

Honoka closes her eyes for a moment, drawing fresh air into her lungs and drinking in the approval of the audience. It wouldn't do to smirk, or gloat, or even mug for the crowd in such a circumstance -- seriously, why would she even -need- to? The young woman from a podunk traveling circus just stood up to the sound and fury of a martial arts champion and shoved it right back in his face -- you really can't -ask- for a bigger crowd reaction than that.
No, her lips stay pressed into a tight line as she takes a step forward, nudging the helpful diabolo with her toe and kicking it into the air. And then as if nothing else had happened, Honoka begins advancing towards Ken.

Her eyes open after a moment, as her diabolo spins into motion once more; she might be able to sense Ken's presence, but if he were to throw a Hadouken, her calm control would probably be considerably upended.
That is to say, she expects a Hadouken. It would be the sound choice of a man who has just experienced a savage series of attacks followed by a confidence-shattering explosion.
She does not expect him to vault back at her -- with the same attack she predicted earlier, no less.

The diabolo is in the wrong position for such a wickedly fast attack. The balance is all wrong. Facing a rushing hurricane of epic proportions, the juggler tosses her deceptively heavy diabolo into the air, allowing her to cross the diabolo wands into a cross pattern.
Her defense doesn't come fast enough though -- and the cross pattern is insufficient at stopping a force of that magnitude. The first whirling foot separates the two wands, jerking Honoka sharply to her left. By the time it makes a return journey, Honoka is already stumbling to recover the lost ground -- only to get slammed in the shoulder by the blow, spinning the unbalanced acrobat into the air like a top. She finds herself battered about, bobbing like a buoy in a stormy bay as she's carried aloft by the whirling series of kicks. If, you know, the buoy was also -on fire-. Honoka's silent solemnitude doesn't hold up throughout such a staggering sequence of kicks -- her embattled cries are loud enough to drown out the Twilight Star music thumping out from the vendors' trailers as she flies back and about.

Finally kicked free of the firestorm, the juggler flies free, the chi-borne flames clinging to her form as she continues twisting about madly in the air. She lands in an ungraceful heap -- though a conscious one, at that.

The pink highlights in her hair shudder as she pushes away from the wrestling ring's floor, eyes struggling to focus as she looks down at the ground. Blood drips from her mouth, hot and sticky from the unrelenting heat of the Mexican town. Determined all the same, she draws in a breath and pushes back to her feet. Nothing fancy... just pragmatic efficiency.

She glances about the battlefield. The airborne diabolo lands with a thud, and rolls over to her. As moments earlier, she kicks the diabolo into the air, reining it into its parking orbit. She chuckles, good humor painting a smile on her face amidst a rather nasty bruise on her left cheek, and blackness swelling around her eye. "I really gotta try that..." she comments amidst the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of her spinning diabolo. "... naming my attacks."

But as she approaches, she is also clearly up to something. Once she's within ten feet, she lunges forward. With the music reaching a crescendo, she swings both diabolo wands hard to her left, pirouetting about.

The rapidly-spinning diabolo hangs in midair, hovering in place while the two diabolo wands orbit around -it-. It isn't, by itself, a threat to the US Martial Arts Champion.

And then, with the suitable distraction. . .

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters interrupts Armed Combo from Honoka with Shinryuu Ken+.

[                                < >  //////                        ]
Honoka           0/-------/--=====|>>>>>>-\-------\0      Ken Masters

Then Honoka uses the rotational velocity of her spin to drop into a low sweep kick, timed perfectly to avoid the sticks whirling just overhead. While Honoka is moving as quickly as possible, the gyroscopic diabolo is slow to fall to the earth, held aloft by the dramatic updraft cause by her whirling wands.
That does not last long, for as soon as her kick lands, a battered Honoka would reach up to snatch the wands out of midair. She would then try to lash both the stick and the diabolo towards Ken as a flail, using the weighted diabolo as a distraction for her to snare him by the arm and fling him off into the distance.

On the list of things one can generally expect Ken Masters -not- to be, making an appearance are definitely cautious, predictable, perhaps even sensible. He definitely didn't miss the deadline for King of Fighters tripping off the southern coast of St. Bart's with spider monkeys, or anything. Ryu would have thrown a Hadouken-- possibly even the amazing crimson Hadouken or the astonishing vacuum Hadouken. Ken just throws himself right back into the fray, whizzing around three-hundred and sixty degrees over, and over, and over along an uncanny, stable and forceful trajectory; gyroscopically stabilized, baby. Or something like that-- the chi equivalency.

Ken doesn't land far from Honoka, pausing the beat it takes her to right herself without really relenting in his aggressive shift. Really, she should be honored already, even through her own pain-- Ken's sweating, battered, giving his all to stay on his feet, just like Honoka is. It's clear from the intensity in the blonde champion's gaze that he gives that reality all the respect it deserves; at least now. Shut up, he gave it at least /some/ of the respect it deserved from the start. Most, even!

"It's all about..." He offers freely, even as he draws an even breath and further regains his bearings, unwilling to succumb to pain, injury, or exhaustion-- any one of which might have dropped other men some time ago, much less the cumulative effects of all three. "... estabilishing the provenance. Branding." Turns out the secret truth is a wee bit sarcastic-- but what did anyone really expect?

Once more, Ken moves to fully confront Honoka's advance rather than evade it... and once more, it seems more like the Blonde Battler means to evade it, in those first moments. He weaves back beyond those whirling wands and whizzing diabolos, slipping under and around them carefully and then dropping sharply low at the same moment Honoka does.

His jaw set, grin subtle and more intent than humored, he braves the glancing stroke of a whirling wand to get in close, ignoring the blood that's suddenly loosed from the wound across his temple. He ignores the sting on his shin as Honoka's sweep-kick crashes harshly into it, the appendage braced against her onslaught-- at which point, eye to eye with Ken, the golden-haired champion's fist cocked and ready, Honoka is likely to fully realize her peril in the same instant it's upon her.

As we mentioned, the fundamentals of Ken's style are similar indeed to Ryu's, but the devil's in the details. Some of the techniques, the elements of their elemental style that Masters has chosen to master are quite different from his battle brother's repository: aside from the aforementioned swarm of hadoukens, in this case in point, where Ryu has a legendary Shoryuken that has /no/ fire, Ken has a legendary Shoryuken that has /all/ the fire.

Flame pours from his fist like an angry dragon's maw, rushing downwards around him and scorching the surface of the ring in a rough circle as Ken, his entire being wreathed in flame, spirals upwards in a tight pirouette of unspeakable violence, silhouetted in all the fiery hues of a vivid autumn sunset. The Rising Dragon projects Honoka higher still on that wave of burning spirit and the fist that brings it to bear, both fighters ascending to remarkable heights over the battlefield; though once more, Ken's descent is substantially gentler... and more consensual.

Another massive difference between this technique and Ryu's: their provenance. "SHINRYUUUUUUKEN!!!!"

The distraction was not completely effective. Perhaps it could have been against someone with a less combustible battlefield presence, but against the Blonde Battler, all bets are off.

Honoka's foot cracks against the Ansatsuken disciple's shin, forcing a grimace from the Ainu-Japanese juggler. Her hair rustles from the abrupt shift in her momentum as she stares back at him, his fiery look mirrored in her eyes. She may be in a great deal of adrenaline-soaked pain, but she can definitely appreciate the degree to which the two fighters are matched. Kawamoto still insists on following through with her motion to snatch the diabolo and one wand out of midair; if she hadn't, the pinpoint timing of the exchange would have spared him from the wound to the temple.

It does not, however, spare her from Masters' rebuttal. Knuckles connect with her jaw, pulling the circus star out of her followup motion and propelling her upward in a dizzying spin. A hand reaches out for purchase -- on what, she's not even sure. Her jacket ignites once more with the chi-borne flames, her world transforming into an ocean of fire as the intense energy of her opponent sears her to the bone. An anguished cry escapes her --

/ Tch. You've really got to stop letting them do this to you. /

It was like this on the pirate boat so many months back. Not an identical opening, but a similar one -- the last rest stop before the border crossing into unconsciousness. She could not look down at the Shoryuken at that time either, but her body and mind filled in the gaps. One fist, and an enormous outpouring of chi energy saturating her bones.

/ The world is watching. Are you going to keep them waiting?! /

The voice has rarely led her astray. Regrets are for the weak and indecisive.

Blackness crowds in at the edges of her vision. Far, far away from the open water, a spinning Honoka casts her eyes around to the crisp blue sky -- and the sandy desert, with the Twilight Star tent, the Pueblo Thunderfoot mayoral entourage, and thousands of people waiting below. Many have already started to vacate the stands, in hopes of hitting the restrooms before any more catastrophes can strike. And no, Honoka reminds herself, the desert is far, far from the water.

The blackness is ignored: tunnel vision has its upsides. As Ken reaches the apex of his leap, Honoka continues twisting around slowly -- a motion begun by Ken's own decisive attack. Her left hand still has a grip on the diabolo and its wand --snatched out of the sky at the last instant before her uplifting departure.

The diabolo is flung towards Ken as one might pitch a baseball. Her aim is true, despite the odd circumstances: she aims directly for her opponent's sternum.
The goal is not the sternum however. The flinging motion is accompanied by Honoka tucking her arms and legs tightly to her, streamlining her form. She aims to accelerate, to catch the falling Ken, one palm outstretched to reach for Ken's smiling face.

Masters' descent might not be so consensual after all.

COMBATSYS: Honoka can no longer fight.

[                        \\\\\\  <
Ken Masters      0/-------/<<<<<<<|

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters dodges Honoka's Niwen Horobi.

[                        \\\\\\  <
Ken Masters      0/-------/<<<<<<<|

No regrets. On this, they can definitely agree. Pushing themselves to the utter limits; perhaps well beyond. By all rights Honoka should be finished now, and Ken? Ken probably should have been done at the last exchange-- if not one before. Still he battles on, for there is no room for the weak or the indecisive in this arena. Such is his extant skating on that ragged edge, however, that very little margin of error exists for Ken in the final moments of the bout; while his opponent rather excels at creating margin for error. When that diabolos whirls in, when Honoka launches herself upwards? Well-- Ken has decidedly little eagerness left for finding out what kind of fight is left in his opponent. Consciousness > Traction-- Masters saw what the Twilight Star did to poor Scratch!

The world is watching, the crowd is waiting. It's as if the entire arena holds their breath at once, as the fate of the King of Fighters round comes down to this last span of a hair. With surprising control of his momentum, considering he's in midair dropping to Earth courtesy of gravity (only a theory!! one conspiracy theorist will later note in a forum discussion of the feat), Ken kicks into a backflip and launches himself clear of Honoka's ascent, skidding to the ground below ahead of Honoka's last offering... and judging from the unsteady way he finds his footing? It's a gift he can't stay awake to open, just now.

"Sorry-- more dancing'll have to wait." The Blonde Battler shifts a nasty crick out of his back, then massages his jaw, finding his hand stained with blood and shrugging it off with half a literal shrug. It's a bit more subdued than he began, perhaps, but scarcely less pleased; after all, his request was honored, and rather thoroughly. "Damn, lady." Ken notes to Honoka, not lowering his guard, but not pressing the attack on his haggard opponent as she gives her all, "I didn't think you actually -could- straight up kick my ass!" Points for honesty?!?

Ken's cocky, all too confident, perhaps-- but scarcely arrogant enough to attribute this outcome to any failing on Kawamoto's behalf. He's barely upright, and it took most of what he has to say -that- much. The Twilight Star put up a hell of a fight, surprising and surpassing the expectations of even world-class martial artists who already expected them to put up a good fight!

When it becomes clear Honoka's not immediately coming at him again? Ken drops his fighting stance, bowing towards the opposing camp even as the crowd /roars/ their approval, chants his name. He takes a lowered microphone without looking at it and offers, still lowered respectfully, "Honor to the Twilight Star!!" Ken offers up as he rises, drawing a cheering chorus of agreement, "Glory to Team USA!!!" This redoubles the volume, and Ken pumps his fist in the air and holds the pose for a few passes of flash photography before he uses the attention to change the chant: "Scratch! Scratch! Scratch!" It's a resounding moment that should do something to make that aforementioned traction a bit more worth it; the crowd is more than happy to enthusiastically agree.

The aforementioned skater is...well, she's not too close to the battlefield, but her voice can be heard somewhere, wherever the event staff took her to get worked on. "I can hear you," she shouts out. "I'm busy trying not to bleed from everything." Though one can swear they heard a self satisfied little chuckle from the girl. "I'll be happy about it when I don't look like Tutenkahmen."

Honoka realizes, after she's already committed for the aerial dive, that she's no longer on a collision course with the Blonde Battler. Her mouth presses into a firm line as she turns her shoulder and forearm forward.

When she hits the floor, she twists about to roll like a log. It's far from the ideal landing, but considering all the punishment her body has taken over the last few minutes -- it's all she can really muster. For a good long while, she lies there on her back; half-lidded eyes and steady, measured panting from her open mouth show that she's not quite unconscious, but she's not far away from that point either. She's not standing up again -- that much is patently obvious.

Mind you, she forges a bright smile as Ken Masters calls out Twilight Star first. He didn't have to do that. But the man clearly knows and appreciates the value of branding.

From afar, the spectre nods his head at the victory of the red garbed champion. It played out like he had expected, and the ninja in black and yellow was satisfied at what he had witnessed. In the midst of Ken's celebration, would he notice being watched, when the eyes of the world were already upon him? Would the extra presence go noticed in any way? In any case, he needn't worry because after a moment, the presence was gone as if he'd never even been there.

Log created on 21:21:51 06/18/2016 by Oboro, and last modified on 18:59:15 06/22/2016.