Description: Is undying enmity alone enough to bring one back from the grave or are there other sinister forces in play to explain the Revenant Ayame stumbles across? Sacred obligation behooves her to eliminate the Avatar of Vengeance when their paths cross on the eve of his arrival.
How long had it been? What did it all mean?
The man, Hanzo Hasashi, was dead, of that he was certain. He remembered everything in detail to a point, he remembered the colors of the Lin Kuei and felt the sword coming down on his neck. After that...fire, and pain, and images that the ninja still couldn't even begin to interpret.
The figure clad in yellow and black had stood here watching the shrine, absolutely still even as his milk-white eyes took in the world he was a part of again. He wasn't hungry, he wasn't tired, and that was confusing in and of itself, and it was like no matter what he did, he couldn't clear his head. Unconsciously, his hands were clenching into fists before unclenching even as his mind searched itself for answers it didn't have. At least, not yet.
Were this an actively maintained Shinto shrine, one might imagine it would be the last place to find vengeful specters or dangerous spirits - maintaining powerful wards and sacred seals to guard against such things is the duty of the staff at such structures, after all. But this particular building has sat abandoned for some time. Whatever holy rituals were conducted here in bygone times have long since faded, their effects lost to the passage of years...
If anything, Ayame Ichijo has discovered, it has become more of a magnet for such forces rather than a deterrent. Perhaps the last priest to stride from these grounds uttered a curse beneath his breath. Or maybe the high priestess who reigned over it until the end died in sin and tainted the grounds forevermore. The young shrine maiden has never been able to discover the true reason why this derelict shrine was abandoned while others in and around Southtown flourish quite well. Was it just some government red tape that led to it being neglected?
Whatever its history, the youngest of the Ichijo clan of holy warriors makes it a point to visit from time to time - like moths to flame, unsavory sorts can't seem to leave this place well enough alone which means she can find them without having to track them throughout the city across uncertain, often misleading trails.
This evening is one such visit as the miko strides toward the small building that sits alone in a high clearing at the top of a hill right past one of the outermost streets of Southtown. Ayame is clothed in attire that makes her occupation immediately obvious to anyone of Japanese descent - a priestess's garb of a white haori coat with large, voluminous sleeves and pleated, crimson dress-like hakama over her legs. Long, straight, strawberry blonde hair is kept in check only by a crimson ribbon tied into a large bow at the back of her head. Her feet are covered in white sandals with white socks. Throughout her outfit are extra ribbons and tassels that might indicate some kind of prestigious accolades among her order.
In the priestess's left hand is a six foot long wooden staff covered with intricate carvings. Her right hand rests freely against her side. Quietly, she takes in the area, eyes sweeping over the small shrine - a building with a single room, rotting walls and roof, and a few stone steps leading into the one and only entrance. It takes a moment for her to identify the source of unease she is feeling, attention coming to rest on the lone figure in the open.
The individual's figure is human looking enough, but senses other than vision are sounding alarms in her head. The sun has yet to set, but its departure is not far off. With wary caution, she strides closer, her left hand tightening on her staff. For her own part, she radiates danger to one sensitive to it - this is not an ordinary citizen, it is a hunter that approaches the reincarnated now.
"It grows late for lingering around places like this, perhaps you should be on your way." the implied command is given once she is within several meters of distance and easily heard. Her voice is neutral, her tone calm and direct.
When Ayame spoke, for a moment the figure clad in ominous garb didn't move, or react. It was like, whoever he was, he was transfixed by the shrine itself, unable to focus on anything else there. Ayame was dressed like the holy warrior she was, everything about her clothing identifying her as a protector of something pure, as a defender of something innately human.
The figure she was adressing, was dressed in a way only assassins and fighters dressed, his face hidden behind a yellow and black mask, his great muscular frame partially covered by the heavy cloth and almost ceremonial armor that adorned him every so often. On his back were various weapons, tools known and respected by any true ninja. Ayame might have noticed that, before he turns, he gives the shrine itself a small bow of respect, honoring custom and tradition before going about his business.
And then he was turned toward her, those unblinking white eyes glaring right at her. Yes, somehow despite pupils, irises, or any other indicators that he even possessed eyesight, it was impossible for the 'soul' not to feel that hate-filled glare of his. When he spoke, it sounded slightly far away. And to the careful trained ear, it might sound like there was another voice right behind it. A man, and something sinister just behind that man.
"I will walk where I please, priestess. If you're perhaps fearing for my safety in these woods at night, you needn't worry."
What was that? Was that sarcasm and attitude? Did oni and spirits typically engage in passive aggressive banter? This one certainly seemed to!
The accoutrements at his back are noted, as well as his proud, unmoving posture. The figure she studies now may share more in common with her than she would like to think - like herself, this is no common citizen of Southtown out for a late night walk through the outskirts. This is someone born to blood and battle, who knows the purpose of each of those tools and how they can be best put to use to accomplish one's objectives. A warrior, an assassin... and if that were all he was, she would leave him be. Soldiers of the shadows are not her concern, nor typically her enemies except when objectives occasionally collide.
But that is not all this is. Closer now, she can feel it, uneasiness gaining a tightening hold on her heart with each step closer she draws. When he faces her directly, the priestess reacts most visibly, sliding her left foot back, her staff gripped at an angle across and in front of her, now held by both hands instead of just one. Her right foot slides forward as she presents more if her right side toward the figure in yellow and black.
"Who are you?" she demands. That she is not addressing a normal person is beyond doubt, but what, exactly, she is facing is still unclear. A revenant? A spirit? Someone with cursed blood coursing through his veins like that beast that escaped her capture the previous week?
"Identify yourself and your purpose on these grounds."
The bow was noticed - someone who at least understands and respects the old ways. It seemed too sincere to be done in mockery but what could it mean?
COMBATSYS: Scorpion has started a fight here.
COMBATSYS: Ayame has joined the fight here.
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Ayame 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Scorpion
There were many things he was unsure of, a lot about himself that he needed to piece together. But there was one certainty, there was a power running through him that had not been there previously. There was something within him more than just physical strength and mental training, and utilizing it felt natural. There was also anger bubbling up to the surface whenever he thought of his memories before. When he remembered what he'd lost. At moments like those, the priestess before him, with all her training and her sensitivity to the spirit world, she might feel that awful energy spiking for a few scarily brief moments.
"Who I am is none of your concern. My purpose here, is my own and only my own."
As he spoke, he started pacing around her, circling in the way some fighters did when appraising their opponents. Or their prey. As he walked casually, his booted feet made absolutely zero sound even upon those twigs and leaves. And as he passed a thin, baby tree that was between them, he didn't appear on the other side, the way a human should. His location might have been a mystery, had his voice not suddenly called out behind her.
"But whatever my affairs may be, they leave me far too busy to waste time with a little girl. Go home, and achieve your enlightenment. You'll only find pain here with me."
That was absolutely a threat, and not too much of a veiled one. But despite his words and his obvious hostility, he...was turning his back? Was he going to walk away from her, after throwing insults in her face?
While not an empath, herself, the enmity radiating off of the one in front of her was impossible to miss - it swirled out from around the assassin like a tangible force that anyone with any sensitivities would feel washing over them. Ayame's fingers tighten around her staff as she roots herself in a combat ready stance, her hair draping down her left shoulder. The breeze of the promised night brushes past her, causing her beribboned sleeves to sway and stray strands of her hair to sweep against her cheeks.
Even with her dedication to training, it would be a lie to suggest that moments like these don't make her pause - these battles she picks, these fights she braves... each one of them could be her last. This one before her is no stranger to death. She should make no assumptions about what he might or might not do.
He moves like a ghost - watching him, she can tell that the silence is more than a byproduct of a ninja's training. Is he even tangible? As of yet, she has seen no proof that he has even interacted with the environment.
As he circles her, the staff wielder turns, little by little, making minimal adjustments with her feet to keep her staff between this creature and herself. As he moves out of sight, she pauses for a moment, eyes searching the tree, its canopy, and the brush around it. Sucking in her breath, she starts to turn even before the voice is heard, anxious to make sure that she is not being struck from behind.
Verbally dismissed and warned off, Ayame's mouth forms a thin line, her eyes focused intensely on the supernatural presence. "Were you human once," she demands of him, still questioning, still insisting on answers. But his back is turned now, his intent to leave clear - while she had warned him off with her initial greeting, there was no way her pride, her duty, her obligation to destiny could allow him to simply go on his way now.
"You leave me no choice." He might argue he's done nothing BUT give her a choice. "This night will be the end of your journey, monster." the priestess growls, sprinting toward his back without reservation. From three meters out, she sparks her own chi, a crimson energy that flows over the runes carved into her staff, giving the long weapon a blood red, flaming aura around its surface. She has to attack him first, she tells herself, even though he hasn't actually harmed her... the power she felt brokers no room for second guessing or simply waiting to see what he might do.
From two meters out, Ayame leaps, whipping her weapon up over head, a woosh of air accompanying the incoming strike, before she brings it crashing down toward the back of the Reborn with crushing force. Against a normal person, it would be a solid, incapacitating blow in a single hit. Lithe as the priestess might be, her skill with the staff and that coursing energy she manipulates make her a far greater threat than her stature would suggest!
COMBATSYS: Scorpion blocks Ayame's Power Strike.
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Ayame 0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0 Scorpion
He walked with purpose, striding down the path with those powerful legs of his, and he'd continue that inoffensive movement even as the war priestess took to the air with the greatest of ease. However, the larger fighter was no fool. He felt the air around him, he understood the silence of birds and crickets and moments before that staff of Ayame's made contact, the shinobi whirled around and raised up his left arm, taking a karate stance and blocking that lethal weapon strike as if he were blocking an errant punch or kick. Those uncanny eyes of his narrowed in rage, and when next he spoke, it boomed and echoed off of the trees and leaves.
For a brief moment his fists became balls of fire, and all around them, owls and monkeys took that as their cue to leave the area as fast as they could.
The good news was that the fire went out immediately. The bad news was that the yellow-clad ninja was moving to react before Ayame's feet even hit the ground. His right foot came up for her stomach or diaphram in a quick kick that would make any ancient Okinawan proud, and he followed up with a flurry of punches and elbows aimed for her collar bones, the sides of her head and her throat. Assuming any of this hit, he'd end the brief exchange by reaching out to grab her by one of those large, regal sleeves and doing a quick judo throw to hurl her as far away from him as he could.
COMBATSYS: Ayame dodges Scorpion's Kombo.
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Ayame 0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0 Scorpion
One thing became clear the instant she leapt into the air, attempting to smash the back of his skull with her glimmering crimson staff - she most definitely does dare. The priestess strikes without reservation. While there might be, somewhere beneath her severe, impassive exterior, legitimate fear threatening to take hold... the warrior miko fights anyway.
Her staff gives slightly as it impacts his forearm, the wood displaying that it retains a hint of its once-living pliability. But the staff shows no sign of breaking as Ayame moves with the rebounding force, twisting her body around in mid-air to land slightly to the left of that knee meant for her abdomen. The white and crimson clad hunter doesn't stop moving for an instant, reacting to the incoming strikes with what can only be instinct for he attacks far too fast to allow for conscious reflexes.
Weaving around then ducking, she escapes the harm meant for her body, and when his powerful fingers attempt to grip her trailing sleeve, the girl releases her staff with that hand in order to snap it just out of reach even if it means wielding her weapon with only one hand for the moment.
Her eyes are wide, adrenaline pumping into her blood as she begins to appreciate the ferocity that she is up against. Gritting her teeth, the Ichijo scion leans back, her right hand sweeping into her left sleeve while her left hand maintains its hold on that precious staff of hers. One thing is perfectly clear now - whatever it is she has stumbled across in the encroaching darkness... she has its attention now!!
"Who are you!?"
Her yell echoes across the shrine's open courtyard as her right hand slips back out of her left sleeve, fingers closed over a small, pale blue paper talisman. "YIELD!"
Completing the complex, almost dance like movements of her combat style, Ayame snaps her right arm out, flinging the talisman into the air at near point blank range with the intent to fly into his chest. The instant it leaves her fingers, it ignites into pale, ghostly white flame as her chi sets off the chain reaction stored in the intricate, paper weapon.
Should it connect cleanly, it would erupt into several white chains of ethereal energy that would start to restrict, constrain, and bind her target with the goal of securing him in a single, decisive attack!
COMBATSYS: Ayame successfully hits Scorpion with Binding of the Condemned Soul.
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Ayame 0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0 Scorpion
His attacks missed, and he watched the smaller fighter evade his onslaught with training and not just a little bit of agility. When she shouted at him, he ignored it, just stalking towards her with evil intent in his eyes. When she threw out the talisman, the little paper slip, he realized at the last minute what it was, his body pivoting and getting ready to use that incredible training of his to good use when it hit its mark against his chest, and the form was engulfed in purifying white flame. Binding constructs wrapped around the spirit and the foul thing within him responded involuntarily, a horrible shriek echoing off the courtyard and continuing off into the dark woods proper. He was even brought down to his knees, his body curling up from the pain and the awesome forces at work here.
Until something darted from the trap that Ayame had set so well. The kunai traveled through the night, hurtling toward the body of the priestess faster than a speedball, coils of dark brown rope trailing behind it. If the thing hit its mark around her ribcage, the voice would bellow from the flames and the chains. A command of his own, to rival the warrior's!
"GET OVER HERE!"
COMBATSYS: Ayame blocks Scorpion's Spear.
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Ayame 0/-------/-----==|===----\-------\0 Scorpion
Her right hand was only just starting to draw back from flinging the ofuda into her target when it connects as intended. The dimming courtyard is aglow in brilliant, white light as the priestess's prepared attack begins to work its designed magic in taking down the Avatar of Vengeance. Right hand returning to grip her glowing staff, Ayame's demand that presence yield to her commands is met by a shriek unlike any nightmare she had ever heard before. Cringing, she recoils behind her trusted weapon, gripping it tightly as if that act alone would steel her resolve well enough for her to withstand the will-challenging eruption of sound.
It was almost impossible to see in the dark - but for an instant where its metallic surface glints in the white glow of the ethereal chains she would not have seen it in time. The reaction is more of an instant spasm of her hands to pivot her staff than a calculated response. But it's just enough - rather than sinking painfully into her ribs, it glances to the side, grazing her right forearm, slashing a cut through her sleeve as it passes by.
Whirling, she becomes aware of the rope trailing behind it only in the aftermath, kicking her feet back to retreat from it, losing even more ground as she tries to take in the risks associated with the entrapped Hellspawn and whatever it might do with the cord.
One thing is strikingly clear, however - while the sounds and presence of this hate-filled haunt are inhuman, its combat tactics thus far have mirrored what a trained, human assassin could do. "Where did you learn to fight?" she yells back, both hands once again on her staff as she circles around opposite the path the flying kunai went. "Were you cursed? Could you not achieve your due rest in the grave?"
She continues speaking, circling closer... she might still have time before he shakes off the restraints. "I am not your enemy. Let me put your spirit to rest, let me lift the curse that binds you!"
Again she rushes forward, a burst of speed, sweeping her staff up over head, her whole body spinning with the momentum of the attack, before she brings it down with concrete-crushing force toward his back. She would rebound into a second strike, whirling about on her right foot to bring her staff back in from the other side. Her stances leave almost no openings, the weapon serving as her defense and her offense in one.
She has a curious way of trying to show that she is not his enemy, to say the least, as she attempts to break whatever structure exists beneath that concealing black and yellow cloth!
COMBATSYS: Ayame successfully hits Scorpion with Heavy Strike.
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Ayame 0/-------/-----==|======-\-------\0 Scorpion
It was child's play for her to strike the form as it was now, that staff twirling and smashing down upon the kneeling chained figure and gaining solid impact each and every time, but compared to the pain it had just endured, the creature beneath had made not a sound. At her words, the shape begins to defy those spectral holy lashes, working to his feet, this eyes glaring right at the smaller girl.
"You are not my enemy?! Little girl, you wanted my name, it is Scorpion! And for your insolence and disrespect, tonight will cost you your LIFE!"
Harsh words from a fighter that thus far, had grown far, far too tired of the beating he was receiving. In an instant he flexed his muscles and the chains burst, and out came a front punch, nothing fancy about this, but the power behind it would not be good for her face. If it connected.
COMBATSYS: Scorpion successfully hits Ayame with Front Punch.
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Ayame 0/-------/--=====|>>>>>>-\-------\0 Scorpion
As the second strike is delivered, Ayame whirls back, standing with her staff in front of her, taking a brief instant to evaluate her progress in battering the strength out of this supernatural entity. Can it even really be beaten unconscious? Can she dispel whatever force is animating it? Is it really undead or someone or something that simply wishes they were dead? So many questions, so little known.
She sucks in her breath as he finally breaks free of the restraints that slowed him, making him an easier target than he would have been on his feet. She glares at him defiantly as his voice rages throughout the once tranquil courtyard, panting for breath as the efforts required to stay so swift, so alert start to catch up with her.
Scorpion is the moniker he offers - obviously not a given name, but potentially his clan name, if truly he hailed from a clan? She had poured so much effort into getting a single answer out of him, but with that answer, she has redirected some significant portion of his wrath her way. Will she even have time to regret not letting him leave the courtyard undisturbed? She /had/ been given that choice, afterall...
She needed to strike him again, she needed to dish out more before he finally shook the last remnants of her spectral chains. Bolting forward instead of hanging back, she closes within striking distance, her staff sweeping out to the side as she prepares to windmill it into him with a full three-sixty blow.
But plans matter little when subjected to the crushing force that collides with her that instant, muscles tensing, a fist slamming out into the priestess's face with piston-like force. The impact is decisive, her small frame lacking the momentum or staying power to withstand the blow as Ayame is sent reeling, right arm flinging out to her side as she stumbles to the right.
With her left hand still occupied with her staff, her right hand lifts to rest atop her nose, blood trickling between her delicate looking fingers. Even as she evaluates the harm done to her, the relentless miko is glaring back at the one identified as Scorpion over the white sleeve covering the lower half of her face.
"Do not think that you have me beaten with just one strike," she growls, her voice muffled somewhat beneath her sleeve. When she pulls her hand away, it becomes clear that he has bloodied her lip with his punch, crimson smeared over her upper lip and just below her nose.
"You are not the first monster I have brought down, nor will you be the last!"
Rather than hanging back, she bolts forward to engage in melee once more. It is clear by now that her staff work is world class and the chi with which she augments her strikes dangerous as well. Blood falls into small drops on her white top but such surface level concerns are not her worry right now.
Fighting through the menacing presence surrounding Scorpion, the priestess stabs her staff straight out with a lunging strike for his gut before stepping forward to spin the weapon around so that its other end threatens with a crushing blow to the side of his head. Each step carefully calculated to be both offensive and defensive at once.
Of course, with her head ringing and vision still obscured by some stars, she now has a better understanding of the kind of striking force she's going up against here... she can't afford to get hit again!
COMBATSYS: Scorpion dodges Ayame's Medium Strike.
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Ayame 0/-------/--=====|>>>>>>-\-------\0 Scorpion
The ninja now identified as 'Scorpion' wasn't looking too fantastic, either. His uniform was singed and burnt from where the fire had burned into his chest, and the shoulders were further torn by the chains that had been binding him thus far. Blood was trickling down his left shoulder, and it seemed that at some point one of her attacks had clipped him around the left eye socket, a faint bit of bruising starting to be seen that would no doubt grow worse as the night went on. But he didn't seem to be slowing down, he didn't seem to even be breathing much harder. In fact, had he breathed in once during this encounter?
Beat up though he looked, he still had the presence of mind to pivot to the side as that staff stabbed where his midsection used to be, and as it came back around in a wild swing around his head, the spirit did something interesting. He leapt up, and as the very end of that staff swung near him, he lunged up and placed his right tabi boot right on the top. He flipped above and behind her, landing without a sound and already lunging towards her with the previously unused sword in hand. It was curved like any other Japanese sword, and as he slashed diagonally at her back, it would slice through clothing easily, and perhaps even her flesh if she was unwary. Strangely, she might feel a glimmer of heat radiate from the swing. Maybe, just maybe, her staff wasn't the only weapon here with an interesting history.
COMBATSYS: Ayame blocks Scorpion's Doom Slice.
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Ayame 0/-------/--=====|>>>>>>-\-------\0 Scorpion
Perspiration glistens along Ayame's hairline, brought on by the heat of battle rather than the cooling dusk air. Her glimmering staff lunges out then sweeps to the side, but both strikes are avoided - the second more spectacularly than she had seen any opponent do in all her young years of fighting. His foot presses off the top of her upswing, enabling the silent specter to get effectively behind the priestess before another attack comes his way.
If she were any slower, any heavier in her step, or any less capable of manipulating her staff with the fluidity one would normally associate with a native limb, she would not have been able to defend herself in time. Instead, there is a crash of sharp steel and wood, small splinters scattering to the wind as the truth of her defense becomes clear.
Rather than cleaving through her white overcoat and into her unprotected back, the deadly weapon has impacted the girl's staff as Ayame holds it behind her, her left hand gripping the weapon up near her head, her right hand supporting it, albeit with less strength, down her her right hip. The glowing weapon casts a crimson light on the miko's white clothing and illuminates the space around her and the deadly assassin.
It would be hard to attack with her staff from that angle - and so she doesn't. Her right hand releases its hold, darting out of sight from behind the girl as she starts to spin to the right as well. The reason behind this is instantly clear as when her right hand next comes into view, it is with another one of those little talismans - this one a dark grey, the ink on its surface pitch black as the huntress slams her hand out, palm first.
Rather than flinging her ward, she attempts to slap it right onto Scorpion's chest, risking slipping her arm past that blade of his in order to deliver another one of her prepared techniques. Failure to avoid this point blank attack would have the card evaporating into black mist against his body before three ebony tendrils of shaped energy would suddenly spear down through his body, skewering whatever form exists beneath his clothing.
But no flesh would be torn, no bone broken, not even cloth damaged - rather, the target of this attack would be his very essence, the tendrils attempting to anchor the Hellfire fueled killer in place by his very soul.
"Hold still and this will all be over soon. It is my duty to send you out of this world to whatever fate awaits you on the other side. Stop resisting!"
COMBATSYS: Scorpion blocks Ayame's Anchor Through the Endless Dark.
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Ayame 0/-------/-======|>>>>>>>\-------\0 Scorpion
Scorpion was surprised that such a simple weapon could deflect his blade, and if he weren't in the middle of a struggle for his possible existence, he might start to wonder how strange it was, that he instantly knew the origins of the weapon he wielded. Instead his eyes narrowed and his head nodded in silent respect at the expert maneuver his opponent accomplished. She spun around and he danced backward half a step, silently sheathing his sword and preparing himself for a possible strike. But when the priestess showed off another one of those talismans, the ninja took immediate action.
When Ayame shot her hand out, Scorpion closed the distance and closed his hand over hers instantly, and for a brief half of a fraction of a second she'd feel the fires of Hell around her very flesh. Not long enough for the ninja to take advantage, but it would take quick work of that ward before it could destroy him. That didn't mean the counter was without risk, the both of them would see black shadows moving up his arm, and congregating around his center chakra, and even those freakish eyes of his would wince at what he felt. But that was before he sprung into action.
Still holding her by the hand, he would maneuver himself into position, and being so naturally taller than her, it was easy for him to unleash his left arm in a series of downward, stabbing elbow strikes, each one aimed at her (hopefully) extended arm, should joint, neck and even face. When the fires of hell didn't succeed, maybe a series of tournament-illegal karate maneuvers would suffice!
COMBATSYS: Scorpion successfully hits Ayame with Rapid Jabs.
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Ayame 0/-------/=======|=======\-------\1 Scorpion
Even as his hand closes over hers, he would feel the smaller warrior pressing against him, teeth grit, sandal-clad feet digging into the dirt as she tries to will the attack through against his superior strength. But his defense is flawless and the grey talisman turns to ash in her grip before falling out from beneath his hand, its power expended.
Her technique thwarted, the Ichijo miko starts to pull back, realizing that he now has her in a vulnerable position, her limb extended and held fast. This close, the staff being held out at her left side is going to be of limited use in defending herself, which means all she can do is try to escape the impending counter attack.
His elbow comes down against her arm with enough force to elicit a pained cry but not quite enough to shatter bone. As his elbow comes in for the second strike to potentially dislocate her shoulder, Ayame leans forward hard then leans back, twisting to the right, using every muscle in her body to wrest her right fist free in time to suffer only a grazing blow against her bicep which is certain to leave a bruise concealed beneath her long sleeve.
But just because she got her hand free and escaped the potentially disabling punishment meant for her does not mean she intends to run. Deftly, her right hand slips back into her left sleeve only to come out with two talismans held between her fingers.
One is a pale, gravely green with crimson ink. The other a rich red paper ofuda with black ink. The point blank attack that comes next is delivered in an instant, her right hand sweeping from right to left in a bid to slap the green talisman against Scorpion's chest. "And now, your eternal repose may begin," she murmurs - no anger, no vehemence in her voice. This is simply her duty, her obligation to fate. She bears this Scorpion no ill will, but she will finish him all the same-
Her right sweeps from left to right in a back handed motion, her goal would be to slap the red talisman right atop the green talisman she had already tried to place...
With twice the wards dedicated to the technique, success on the part of the priestess could provide disastrous for the Revenant!
COMBATSYS: Ayame successfully hits Scorpion with Slumber for the Weary Dead.
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Ayame 0/-------/-------|=======\==-----\1 Scorpion
When the second talisman is slapped over the first, the nature of the attack becomes apparent. The green talisman is the attack itself, the paper affixed right to his chest where she had affixed it. Immediately it begins to glow with a brilliant, dark green energy visible from all around the fighting duo, though the nature of its threat is not immediately clear. The second talisman is simply a seal - the red talisman is impossible to remove by physical force and seems slow to yield even to supernatural attempts to dislodge it, making it extremely difficult to remove the anchoring green ward beneath it.
That's when the true threat manifests - drawn as if by unholy hunger, ghostly, ethereal hands begin to claw up out of the ground at Scorpion's feet. One by one, they reach out and grasp hold of him, securing tight, crushing grips against his legs, ankles, feet, some even extending upward for his arms and eventually his throat.
Lunging back, Ayame spins her staff back up to a defensive angle in front of her. No one she has ever fought managed to break free from this unearthly attack. "It comes for you now, Scorpion. The end." Exhaling softly, her exhausted breath escaping her lips, she pants for another intake of air. "May the life after this..." Another breath. "Bring you greater peace than the one you are about to leave."
One more pant for breath, "If you wish to be remembered, you may tell me your true name now so that prayers can be offered for your sake." Her right hand joins her left in gripping her staff tightly. It's over now, is it not? The gripping, crushing, strangling hands will surely be his end.
"Or say nothing, and expire in anonymity." She bows her head slightly in a gesture of respect.
"Such is your right."
The elbow onslaught was barely escaped, but that was alright with the warrior, he was already sizing her up and walking towards the smaller figure when...two slips of paper were slapped to his chest. Before he could react, he was alight in a green glow, and he looked down in surprise when the arms ripped through the soft soil to claw at his own spectral form. He felt bony, clammy grips clutching his ankles, reaching up to grab at his leggings and his yellow tabbard, still more hands clutching his wrists, and starting to pull. He screamed agony as energy surged toward him and a rift opened up beneath, the green turning into flame, and engulfing the ninja figure. But when Ayame spoke...he grew silent. For a moment, anyway.
"The end? The end?! IT NEVER ENDS!"
That green flame grew ever hotter, and from beneath him, other voices shrieked in an unholy way, a deafening symphony of ghostly agony. Had that ever happened before, when Ayame sealed away these evil things? Did the kneeling figure stand back up, the way Scorpion currently was? He reached up, clutching at the side of his yellow face mask, screaming as he did so.
"You wish to remember me, priestess?! REMEMBER THIS!"
Suddenly that mask was gone, and the flames grew at their hottest, orange and yellow mixing with the green in a volatile explosion of energies clashing. In in the middle, with the green light slowly dimming, Scorpion now glared at her unmasked. And the skeletal, eyeless "face" staring back at her was not friendly. And as the foreign elements on his body slowly started melting away into goop(far slower than they should have) and the green hoard evaporated, the ghostly ninja opened its mouth, and a breath of flame would wash upon her if she didn't get out of the way. Even if she did, trees, leaves, even the shrine house itself were caught ablaze in indiscriminate fury. This was not good.
COMBATSYS: Scorpion successfully hits Ayame with Toasty! EX.
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Ayame 0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0 Scorpion
She stares back him as the flames build, his voice proclaiming that it never ends ringing in her ears. She would see this through, watch his second demise as he is finally sent to whatever world will take a spirit such as his. The arms grasping at him are only building in number, threatening to tear him apart against the ground if he cannot escape them. The priestess catches her breath in the seconds that tick by, her body illuminated by the miasmic green that floods the courtyard in the pitch dark of the night.
"So be it," she replies. Maybe his torment will never end, but his journey here is finished - of that she is certain.
But then a chorus of pain erupts beneath his feet as the hungry souls clamoring for his return begin to experience terror anew. The look on the miko's face makes it clear that she has neither seen this nor anticipated its possibility. Eyes widen, right foot slipping forward as she braces herself again, as the Cursed Soul stands up amid inhuman levels of crushing pressure.
When the mask comes off, Ayame is taught that her actions most definitely have consequences. It had seemed from the beginning that only one of them could leave this encounter alive but until this instant, she had not left room enough in her thoughts to consider that it could be /her/.
Wide eyed, she recoils a step back at the nightmarish visage bearing down on her with pure, directed antipathy and rage. All around him, the spectral hands that sought his doom begin to vaporize, one by one, as they come in contact with the living pyre of burning miasma that Scorpion has become.
Bracing behind her staff, there is no defense against the Hellstorm with her name on it. A bonfire of agony is breathed to life around the young priestess. With no physical means to stop it, and lacking the energy to create a barrier to ward off the inferno, Ayame finds herself in the the very maelstrom of hatred given form. Only her aura can save her now - her powerful control and focus in combating the living energies of the world. Fighting back actively, projecting her presence as a living thing back into the flame is all that keeps her from being incinerated instantly.
Other things are not so fortunate. The sleeves of her white haori coat burn away and much of her once-crimson hakama dress is reduced to ash before the bonfire. Her staff begins to burn, the crimson chi along its surface replaced with true, living, breathing flame. Even her hair ignites, signaling an impending demise.
It's all she can do to keep from succumbing to the effects, to fall forward and be lost to the devil's fire. Clenching her right fist, Ayame stomps her right foot forward, closing her eyes tightly, gritting her teeth as visions of her demise threaten to shatter the last shreds of resolve.
She cries out, gathering more energy to her, pushing back that which would consume her. "aaaaaaaaaAAAA-"
A counter blast of force blasts out from around the scorched and burning fighter, pushing back the flames and extinguishing the ones actively burning her. Crimson energy swells around her feet, forming a whirlwind of chi that barely holds back the fire as Ayame pulls everything she can back to herself to remain standing if but a little longer.
The grounds are not so fortunate. All around her, the inferno rages, the old shrine, dried and splintered as it is, becoming a living tomb of pure destruction. Smoke rises up all around, threatening to suffocate the girl if the flames do not.
All at once, thoughts of banishing Scorpion have left her mind. Survival is all that matters. She is no longer the hunter here.
COMBATSYS: Ayame gathers her will.
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Ayame 1/------=/=======|==-----\-------\0 Scorpion
For his part, the ninja staggered out of the impromptu fissure, trees and foliage crackling and being consumed all around them by the inferno Scorpion had just caused. He didn't remember placing his mask back upon his face, but now it looked like he was an almost-normal assassin again.
Almost. True, the left side of his face was now bleeding from spectral hands and nails raking across his 'flesh'. It almost didn't seem like it should make sense, this creature of bone and fire bleeding warm, human blood, but it was trickling down to the ground. His tabbard and black under clothing were shredded and torn in places as well, his leggings ripped to show flesh and blood underneath, his right gauntlet and glove pulled off of his frame to reveal the bare hand underneath, and his left was clutching his midsection as he glared still at his enemy. What he did next...might have been surprising. He dropped to his knees.
He was hunched over in pain and discomfort, but he forced himself into rigidity. His eyes were still locked on the girl, and even as the world around them was chaos, even as fire was spreading to more and more trees very rapidly, even as the old structure in the distance was slowly starting to collapse in on itself, the figure of Scorpion himself was almost serene. Could ghosts meditate? Could the spiritual world obtain spirituality? Could a being that had survived Hell truly reach 'enlightenment'?
Those were lofty questions, but it appeared that ghosts could, in fact, catch their breath and steel themselves for the fight to come. At least for the moment.
"You fight well, for a priestess. If only your mind was as strong as your mortal coil."
Was he giving her grief? Again? Was he...joking, at a time like this?
COMBATSYS: Scorpion gains composure.
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Ayame 1/------=/=======|=------\-------\0 Scorpion
Nothing about this creature makes sense to the scorched and scorned priestess. It is not unheard of for the Cursed Returned to bleed... but what existed beyond the mask was not flesh and blood but bone and hatred. Encircled by the demonic blaze kept in check only by her own ring of coursing chi, the self-proclaimed holy warrior continues to weather the firestorm, staring back at Scorpion with a visible blend of fear and disgust.
"Why are you here?!" she exclaims over the roar of the flames. "Did you break free? Or were you summoned?!" Is he a freak occurrence or is there another of sinister intent behind this manifestation?
In the distance, almost impossible to hear over the cacophony of destruction transpiring around the two, sirens can be heard, fire authorities already alerted. It will take minutes to get out to this location though. She watches him pause - perhaps the accumulated damage she had been inflicted is taking its toll - it has bought her precious seconds, in the very least.
Seconds she needs to discover her options. With the destruction of her sleeves, it seems her repository of pernicious talismans and wards have been destroyed. She will have no more of them to draw upon for this battle. Her own aura did put out the fire on her staff, at least, leaving some of the surface scorched but the trusted weapon still in tact. Shrugging her shoulders, she sheds the charred remnants of her haori coat, allowing the tattered shreds to fall to the ground. Beneath it she wears a white, short sleeved, simple kimono that covers her down to her thighs, tied closed at the waist with a thin white belt.
With her talismans lost, she will only have one chance to save herself now, one opportunity to crush the Spectral Assassin and leave him vulnerable for a final sealing. She can't hold anything back, this... of all times, is not a moment for half-measures.
Sucking in her breath, the partially disarmed miko leans forward, gripping her staff at her side. The energy swirling about her continues to build, reaching a crescendo of potential ready to be converted to an offensive weapon. He is recovering right now. That makes it the perfect opportunity - likely the LAST opportunity to go all out.
Holding her staff out to her left side, her right arm reaches over to grip it as well. Visibly, some of the churning crimson energy swirling about her begins to be drawn into the weapon, augmenting its already glimmering glow with a more vibrant, crackling surge of chi.
Concentrating, Ayame pulls her right hand away from the staff and with it comes a flaming, energy replica of the original, giving her for the moment two weapons - her wood carved staff, Absolution, and a staff of pure, shaped chi - Benediction.
There would only be a moment to notice that she had created a second staff to wield. Because when she moves, it is with blinding speed. The rest of the chi that she had been channeling surges outward, forcing for only an instant a clear path through the flames directly toward Scorpion. Within striking range, the burnt miko would unleash a whirlwind of strikes, spinning, stepping, and springing into blow after blow, alternating strikes with her sturdy wooden staff, targeting joints, ribs, and neck, while her mass-less energy staff would used for swifter, albeit less crushing strikes toward his face and abdomen. The goal is two fold - a complete dismantling of any defenses, and a thorough devastation of any capacity to fight back. It is the Ichijo scion's Signature Technique, the one that had seen her through countless close scrapes.
The Final Solstice.
But she is mortal, and mortals will exhaust themselves eventually. Eventually, unless prevented, Ayame would slide to a stop meters past Scorpion, coming to rest in a low crouch, her arms out at her sides, both staves held parallel to each other, her breaths coming quickly but not fast enough to stave off the pending exhaustion that only the living need endure.
COMBATSYS: Ayame successfully hits Scorpion with Final Solstice.
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Ayame 0/-------/---====|=====--\-------\0 Scorpion
From his peaceful pose and his skill and experience as a ninja, of course Scorpion had been expecting a counterattack, of course. But he hadn't been expecting the flurry of magnificence that came toward him. When she dashes towards him, he barely has enough time to spring to his feet and bring up his guard before the staves smashed into him with force. That enchanted wooden weapon battered his ribs and his sides, his knees and elbows being nearly obliterated, and only his reflexes saved them from being shattered into uselessness. His head wasn't so lucky, being battered time and time again by Benediction. When Absolution smashed into his stomach, through the slits of that yellow face mask blood flew forward mixed with spittle, giving the priestess a nice little gift as she destroyed him. When she backed away, her attack finished, he nearly collapsed on the ground, opening and clenching his fists and trying to work through the pain, to think.
"I wasn't...I wasn't...*hkk*...I wasn't put...on this world...to be sealed away by a miserable, impudent, delusional little puppydog! You are NOT getting the best of me!"
Both of Scorpion's fists hit the ground with force, and immediately the creature leapt to his feet even as his fists burned with more of that awful flame. He was never seen reaching behind him, never seen trying to obtain weapons. All he did was talk half a step forward, and extend his right hand forward. From that hand, he threw two chains. And on the end of those chains, were two kunai, each one bathed in brilliant yellow and red fire, each one aimed for the poor girl's shoulders. And if they hit, it would lead to disaster.
"GET THE FUCK OVER HERE!"
COMBATSYS: Scorpion successfully hits Ayame with Flame Spear EX.
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Ayame 0/-------/--=====|=======\-------\0 Scorpion
With the kunai sinking into the flesh of the miko's shoulders, with the fires of Hell burning outside and within, Scorpion quickly wrapped those chains around his fist one time, giving it better leverage when he began to pull. Whether she flew, ran or was dragged he didn't care, because his real aim was to use that great strength of his, to try and fling her behind him, into the blazing, burning forest behind him. Incredibly, the chains would disconnect at a certain point, as if they knew what his intent was. The kunai, well, those would be her problem to deal with.
That she hears his voice behind her is prove enough that while she did execute her onslaught of swift strikes correctly, it still wasn't enough to quell the fury-driven Wraith she battles. Struggling for breath as smoke begins to cloud in around her, she pauses, exerting intense concentration to maintain the energy staff held in her right hand - to keep such a well shaped chi manifestation alive this long requires every ounce of inner strength she has left.
Glancing down, she notices the blood and spittle staining the front of her kimono, briefly wondering if it belongs to her or the Spectral Assassin behind her back. The fight itself has become a blur, individual events hard to pick out from the collage of nightmarish experiences it has become. But his voice alone tells her she has to look up, get up, and never give up as she whirls to face him, twin staves at the ready.
Between them, grass burns, sending a curtain of smoke up that leaves him nearly completely obscured from her vision. But she can make out his form in the black veil just well enough to see the movement of his arm. Her stamina on fumes, the best she can do is muster a lift of her wooden staff, twisting it horizontally in front of her, held up by her left hand. An upward lift is timed to impact the incoming kunai, but her speed is not what it was moments prior and both sharp kunai sink into her shoulders just as intended.
Immediately, she reacts, trying to pull back, but with her hands occupied, there's nothing she can do to keep from being yanked clean off her feet into the air, her featherweight frame proving no challenge for the powerfully built Revenant. With the momentum behind her, there is no doubt in her mind that he intends to send her flying far. The moment she passes by him will be the singular, final chance she has to strike him down.
And thus it is that she swings out with her crimson energy staff, the weapon losing its shape as it breaks down into more of a blast of blood red chi from the right hand of the wounded miko that threatens to detonate directly over Scorpion's masked head. The rough attack would hardly be the best in her arsenal, but in a moment like this, it's all she can do!
The arc of her trajectory has her sailing toward the immolated woods. Her attack executed, all of her weapons lost but for the wooden staff she clings to tenaciously in her left hand, Ayame can do little more than try to control her landing, rolling in mid-air so that she ends up landing in a painful slide against her back rather than face planting into the dirt. Meters later, she slides to a stop, hugging her staff against her, blood soaking her white kimono on each shoulder, the painful blades still sticking out of their points of impact.
Around her, the fire rages on as she struggles to maintain consciousness. Thoughts of sealing the Hellspawn are no where in her mind - concerns with not being immolated or dying to smoke inhalation have certainly taken priority.
COMBATSYS: Ayame can no longer fight.
[ \\\\\\\ <
COMBATSYS: Scorpion interrupts Midsummer Fantasy from Ayame with Torment.
[ \\\\\ <
The staff explodes into shards exactly as Ayame planned, but the target, it seemed, wasn't there. Instead that last desperation attack smashed into the ground even as the priestess went hurtling into the flaming woods. Luckily for her she didn't go tumbling into any trees, but unluckily for her, that was because Scorpion was waiting for her, flying through billowing smoke with a flying punch, aimed directly for the side of her face. His bare right hand made contact with her cheek, both figures dropping to the ground from the sheer impact of that collision.
Scorpion was back on his feet, though, walking around to her front even as he slowly unsheathed that horrible ninja blade of his, glinting and nearly glowing in the illuminating flame all around them. He watched her, whether she was crawling or whether she was just trying not to black out, he'd raise the blade even as it started glowing in awful Hellfire. His stance was poised, looking at her neck and judging how best to remove her pretty head from her dainty, freshly pierced shoulders.
But looking down at her, down at her face, at the blood seeping from her wounds, the sheer helplesslness of her form. This was not his target. This was not his family's killer. If he'd killed her during the fight he would feel no remorse, but he was not going to play executioner to a priestess, simply for being a little too zealous.
Instead, he'd sheath that weapon and immediately grab one of her wrists, dragging her out of the flaming wreckage, and into a section where the flames hadn't touched. There in the smoke, he'd see firemen starting to approach and that would be his cue to disappear, vanishing to go lick his wounds elsewhere even as they got the girl the medical attention she would no doubt need.
For his part, this fight was just what the ninja had needed. Hanzo Hasashi was dead. Scorpion was born in his stead. And Scorpion knew exactly what his plan would be, going forward.
He knew exactly what he'd need to do, if he wanted to lure out Sub-Zero, and slaughter him like a dog.
COMBATSYS: Scorpion has ended the fight here.
Log created on 22:20:05 06/18/2016 by Ayame, and last modified on 18:09:00 06/19/2016.