Noboru - A Shinobi's Tale: The Ghost And The Mountain

[Toggle Names]

Description: Over the remains of a burnt out shrine, two shinobi engage in a brutal battle for truth and survival. The iron will of the Mountain is pitted against the wrath of the Ghost, and all ends in flame and ruin.

The deep red light of dusk casts its varied shades across the forest surrounding South Town, elongating the shadows of trees into skinny, ghoulish shapes with grasping fingers crooked at odd angles. The soft sounds of night life have already began, a steady rise and fall of insectal chants interspersed with the faint calls of birds. It is peaceful, but tragic.

The reason for the tragedy lies in the smoldering hunks of ash that were once an aging shrine. Rumors in the dark claim that a spirit started the fight, caught up in battle with a warrior maiden, but that matters very little now. One fire is very much like another, and the blaze that caught here was only just brought under control the previous night.

Still faint curls of smoke waft through the air, and the smell of burning things is all pervasive. In the red light of dusk the lingering haze is clearly visible, a slowly shifting cloud that clings to the remains like lingering evil.

A heavy, leather-clad foot descends into the ash, sending up a small puff of grainy material. There is little sound despite the owner of that foot being a rather large man, and when the foot rises the impression that is left begins to fill almost immediately with char.

Noboru Miyama steps onto the cracked stone foundation and lowers himself slowly into a crouch. The motion causes a soft series of pops and cracks to emanate from his joints. Nearly 28 years of persistent strain and accumulated injuries have left their mark on the aging shinobi. Already his body shows the first prickling signs of coming failure, and there are still years left before the next generation is ready.

There is no external sign of these worries on the big man's masked face. His right eye remains icy and cold, focused, while his left is a milky white. Little flakes of ash fall from his shaggy hair as he stoops forward to scrape his fingers through the soft grey matter, lifting a peculiarly simple rock from amidst the debris.

Rounded on one side and flat on the other, there is nothing particularly eye catching about the stone. Like those around it, it is badly burned and black, but still it seems to hold some significance.

Noboru allows the crude stone message to rest in one large palm, gazing down at it in quiet thought.

Kuaya has delivered his package.He will be on his way home by now. That is good to know.

Letting the stone fall where it may, the big shinobi begins to push himself up from his crouch. As his body protests with another series of soft pops, a light breeze drifts through the clearing, picking up the fine ash and tossing it playfully about.

It was not so long ago that a shinobi stood in front of the memorial that had appeared in the ruins of the village, white haori drifting in the warm, idyllic summer breeze. The spent incense reflects in an otherwise featureless visor, the ambient click and hiss of a manual respirator filling the air around him. The ambience forms grim emphasis to the silence from the sole remaining survivor, the only person who could even lay claim to what was left, and the so-called gift that has made an appearance in the town center.

He stands there for some time, long enough for the warmth from the sun overhead to shift across his shoulders, and for the awkward caw of a distant crow in flight to pass from one end of the sky to the next. Through it all, the white kabuto does not move, the glass visor dominating the front of the helm not shifting in the slightest, a complete focus cutting into the symbology behind the token.

It is a long time thereafter until any motion is registered at all, an injection of moisture ejecting from the venting lining the front of the helmet, turning incrementally, before a hand raises. Luminescence blooms on the ground, in long meandering lines of energy forming stepped kanji across the ground. A large array shines in the center of the town, with kanji and invisible ink indicators glowing pale green. All but part of the array glows, a sector gone dark, indicating what part of the chakra seals were depleted by the passing of whoever it was that had placed the memorial. It also indicates direction. It seems to confirm something for him.

The ghost looks back at the memorial, quickly, violently.

One voluminous sleeve is pulled up, revealing a second sleeve, bound with rings. This arm he points at the memorial, aiming a veritable arsenal of weapons at the memorial wordlessly.

Now, the scent of ash on the air turns hot, turns to ember, charred fragments of timber in the wind-stirred cloud suddenly turning glowing hot again as they pass. The heat slowly begins to churn in the air, warm even by the standards of summer. The sound of a distant kite catches the ear. A white flare of silk in the sky above, no bigger to the eye at that distance than a petal. The vague twist of wind catching the silk reaches the ground. It is the only aural warning Miyama will get.

A glint in the sky, and then it rains kunai, sprays of weighted knives slamming into the earth with rich, weighty thumps, though ech must have been quite sharp when thrown from height. The spray is angled, and by no means particularly spread over a wide area, but the saturation of the wave is such that a nearby sign might be cut and carved into fragments underneath the steel hail.

The art of Ninjitsu is ethereal, encompassing a wide range of skills that vary greatly between practitioners. Many traditionalists have attempted to define it, and apply labels to its sub styles. But to do that, one must first know what it is to be a ninja.

Noboru has less than a moment to save himself, to fall back on the instincts that have seen him through so much of his life. And though he is a ninja, he is by no means a traditionalist.

"Huh," Breath begins to escape the hulking shinobi in a soft puff. But as he continues to straighten from his crouch, gloved hands lifting from beside his knees, the noise rises from deep within his gut, "HRRRUGH!"

Noboru reaches his full height with explosive power, his fists describing shallow horizontal arcs that collide with a bone-deep 'THMP' before his mismatched eyes. In that instance, with every muscle rigid and the force of his smashing hands still reverberating through his body, the large man becomes as solid and immovable as stone.

The storm of kunai rains down upon him, their razor tips slashing through layers of clothing before striking flesh and deflecting away in chaotic spirals. Though they strike with jarring impacts, they seem to do no lasting damage. There is no blood on their tips, and no grunt of pain from the statuesque shinobi. The blades clatter to the ground around him, bouncing from the foundation stones and shredding earth and wood with great alacrity. But when the storm of metal has blown itself out, he stands tall.

No two Miyama are alike. Each has learned to build upon their strengths, focusing on the gifts granted them. And so it is that Noboru Miyama, The quiet brother, speaker of poems, learned to perfect the iron body technique. Only in short bursts can he harden himself so fully, but those who cross him learn well the weight of his fists.

"hrm." The big man grunts, fists snapping out and down with a 'FWOOF' of displaced air. The motion causes his tattered blue coat to flair out behind him, both it and the shirt shredded to uselessness. Through gaps in the cloth can be seen the big man's chest and arms, covered in a coarse layer of golden brown hair and shot through with jagged scars.

"Few are the enemies of my clan." Noboru states, his voice the deep, grinding rumble of rolling boulders. There is hardness there, harsh and unforgiving, but very little anger. "Tread with caution, lest we have one less this day."

Stepping forward onto the center of the stone foundation, the hulking ninja tilts his head. Both eyes flick to scan his surroundings, one sharp and alert for the flicker of motion, while the other sees deeper still. Through his damaged left eye, the shinobi sees the world as it is. The swirling currents of the world's natural energies, tainted by the hellish presence of the lingering fire, are bright and alive. it is a marked difference to the jarring anti color of psycho power, which stands out to him like an open wound.

He lands with force and weight, heavily enough that the impact could register even to the titanic shinobi. The ground littered with daggers, the shape in the sky tucked and dove, dart-fast and coalescing into a human shape in all alacrity and haste.

The speed with which the shinobi dives was almost terminal--it's not hard to imagine the impact is more velocity than weight. Even so, he lands in a predatory crouch, his sleeves splayed across the ground. Despite the vector of entry, there is no visible glider or kite, either on him or in the sky. Only him, and the sheathed, crossed blades at his back. The young man stands as if heavensent, and it is immediately, powerfully clear that he is the source of the sudden temperature change. It is not a side effect of excess chakra, a trained mind could tell. It is a careful positioning, a twist in the space between them that makes the air hard to breathe and his silhouette easy to misread, for the heat haze that distorts it. A change, even of ten or twenty degrees, can weigh the body down like a hammer.

His own height barely reaching the point of challenge to the hulking ninja, the young man's priest-like sleeves engulf his hands, hiding them. And in that moment, a mechanical distension fills the air, the distortion from that respirator twisting his words to an artificial, hellish bent. He cuts into the subtle warning with the caution of a crashing wave.

"No two are the same," the shinobi remarks coldly, in alien tones. "As expected of such a clan. But you are subject to the same 'law' as all shinobi living. There are no threats that can be uttered that will warn off hate, history, and the will and weight of the roudoushakaikyuu, the embittered and the scorned. Against every shinobi, the perpetrators and all who failed to rise.... there will be nothing but consecration and judgment."

He raises his arm, slipping off one of his sleeves, the rings around his forearm splitting and beginning to burn, rotating as he trains his aim squarely on Noboru.

"Ghosts tread the softest of all," the shinobi reflects, discordant. "It was an impressive technique. You used a ninjutsu to deflect the edge of my sharpened blades. But the ninkougakujutsu of the Ryouhara will find a method of piercing your iron body.. or melt it into slag...!"

COMBATSYS: Seishirou has started a fight here.

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

COMBATSYS: Noboru has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Noboru           0/-------/-======|======-\-------\0        Seishirou

Rising heat prickles across Noboru's exposed flesh as he turns to face the descending ghost, his milky white eye seeming to glow with its own peculiar radiance. In silence he observes the wraith-like figure as it straightens, addressing him with cold, alien indifference. it is as it speaks, spewing words of hate, praise, and threat, that the brutal mystic bows his shaggy head.

The gesture is not one of fear or despair. he does not cower before the ghost. But there is respect in it. A hard, solemn respect that the Miyama often show outsiders they have chosen to address.

"You see enemies where there are none, Ryouhara. Well you know it is not our task to avenge you. Never have the Miyama pretended sovereignty over the shadow clans. We are as we always have been. Watchers of great power, and guardians of this land." As the muscular shinobi speaks he straightens to his full, impressive height. Two sharp cracks ring out across the clearing as the stone foundation buckles beneath the grip of his toes, the iron mystic setting himself like a great tree in the earth. There he stands, gloved fists held out to either side and blue eye full of glacial resolve. IN the face of the technological marvel that is brandished in his direction, he can offer only his body, and his fists.

"Your hate is misplaced." Noboru rumbles gravely, "But if you must enact vengeance upon me, hear first these words. There is one among you who a shrine maiden seeks. If Seishirou yet lives, tell him of the Miko Ayame, of the Meian Jinja. I believe he will find an ally in her."

His message delivered, the hulking man flexes his thick shoulders and allows the scents, smells, and sounds of the rapidly heating clearing to wash over him. Chi blazes into his mind through his damaged eye, and as he draws in a breath he is centered, grounded in earth's heartbeat as few other men can be. He is Noboru Miyama, iron mystic of the Miyama shinobi. Slow to anger, and dependable as the mountain.

If he must fight, he will.

COMBATSYS: Noboru focuses on his next action.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Noboru           0/-------/-======|======-\-------\0        Seishirou

The self-described Ryouhara 'ghost' is not a creature of idle movement, motionless while marshalling whatever bizarre weaponry he has at his disposal. The stretch of time is enough for words to cross the space between, though no expression crosses the shinobi's face as the Miyama clansman responds in the earthen, simplistic way that Ryouhara has come to associate with the clans on the fringe of the political landscape of the day.

And it sounds like so many others.

"--That's right," Ryouhara responds quickly, drily. The words are almost spat. "You are watchers. You watched. The Ryouhara dedicated their lives to craft that armed and protected a thousand and one men. And while they died in scores, a thousand and one men /watched/."

It seems as if Ryouhara is ready to end it right there and engage Noboru, but he stays his hand for only a moment. And only a moment is enough to say the words that change everything.

"...." The weapon on his arm begins to slow down, revolutions slowing as the shinobi's attention flags, his weakness revealed for only a moment beyond a motionless facade. The hesitation, at first, at least, lasts only for a heartbeat, crossing the time between Noboru saying a name he recognizes and everything else.

For an instant, the shinobi displaces, an afterimage of himself flickering into existence only an inch offset from his body. A ninjutsu? Words flood the young man's mind. ~ I will find you in the next life. ~ A plan is forming. A wish is going unfulfilled. ~ Haaa. Hey. Who is that you're drawing? Is it someone important to you? You can't just ignore me all day, you know! ~

"I ...don't remember that name," he begins, uncertain.

I am Seishirou Ryouhara. I am the last light of the Ryouhara shinobi clan, and the strongest practitioner of the familial style, 'ninkougakujutsu.' -- The thought becomes audible, distension not dong much to reflect the bands of steel tightening in his voice. Realistically, he doesn't even seem like he's talking to Noboru directly anymore, his words carrying the weight of something rehearsed, something spoken frequently, and more to himself than anything else. "...I represent the cold and the destitute, those left behind by this world of tyranny, those known as 'roudoushakaikyuu.' I and mine are the unseen hands of history. There is no limit to this..."

He watches the shinobi root himself in the earth, his erratic behavior forcing his head to cock at an odd angle. It is the only betrayal beyond those bent words, that a massive willpower is flagging underneath something very, very deep.
"You all just watched. We died. And you watched. You /know/. There can be no innocents in the slaughterhouse. I will capture you and force the information from you. If you lie to me, I will just take out your eye and use it to find out who. The will of history cannot be turned aside by spewing lies. You're trying to mislead me. --I don't even remember that name!!!!"

Without warning, Ryouhara draws the sword at his back and surges towards Noboru in an all-out frontal attack, the great wings of his sleeeves spreading wide as he moves to cut into Noboru in a single stroke. Except, if the Miyama stonewall is paying attention, there's a problem.

Ryouhara moves much, much faster than that.

A body that moves inbetween eyeblinks, Ryouhara reaches a speed slow enough to see as he slows to turn, orienting himself behind Noboru, his sleeve pulled up, hooked on the hilt of his sword, which is cocked back and drawn by his opposite hand across the length of his arm, the blade exposed like a makeshift bayonet. Still in midair, the shinobi takes aim, the ring around his forearm whirling quickly, a haze building up around it and trailing with Ryouhara's movement. The ghost takes aim, and the ring fires right down the length of his arm, leaving it entirely as it bursts into flame and careens towards Noboru's flank. This is the art of 'ninkou.'

The Kasourin is a heat drilling ninkou that uses rotation and heat to cut through an enemy's defenses from a distance. It attacks much like a hole saw, and seeks out Noboru. If he tries to absorb it, as Ryouhara expects, it will slam into him, and try to cut through him, leaving a telltale circle where it strikes. It is powerful enough to cut through a car trivially, and will only stop when deflected away, recalled, or .... it reaches the other side of its target.

"...The shadow war will go on forever."

COMBATSYS: Noboru fails to interrupt Shunshin Mirage from Seishirou with Blunt Force Trauma.

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Noboru           0/-------/-======|=======\=======\1        Seishirou

There is no sign of anger. No flicker of outrage as Noboru's words are thrown back in his face. it is true that so many of the ancient clans do little more than watch the world pass beneath them, reluctant to join the flow of time. But that is what was asked of the Miyama, so many centuries ago, and it is only recently that they have been forced out into the world. Forced to spread themselves ever thinner in an attempt to keep man kind from destroying itself completely.

"I answer not to your accusations, but only to your steel. If you wish to force your false judgement upon me, let it be done." The big shinobi rumbles, the words holding a certain placid finality. Little more need be said. He is not a liar. Not when he has a choice. But with each passing moment it grows ever clearer to him that something truly tragic has befallen the young ghost. He is beyond reason.

He is FAST.

Noboru has fought many skilled warriors who are faster than he. The vast majority are. And so he has learned to adapt his slow style to take this into consideration. One punch is all that is needed. One blow, when placed correctly, to disrupt the rhythm of his attacker.

As Seishirou's form blurs, stretching in that singular fuzzy way that hints at motion too fast for the eye to track, Noboru strikes. His right shoulder twists forward as he aims a single bone-rattling blow into the empty air before him. Wind is displaced around his fist, air blown outward as he attempts to strike the spot that Seishirou is most likely to pass through.

There is a whisper of sensation across his knuckles. A parting of silks that flutter past his fist as Seishirou's speed exceeds anything he has yet faced, and the young shinobi darts forward past the blow, his sword carving a shallow, bloody line across the large ninja's exposed ribs. His heavy silk coat sags open behind his right elbow, and thick drops of crimson fall past the flaps of cloth to patter against the rocky ground.

"Hrrr." Noboru grunts, having just enough time to realize his mistake and begin to tense up before the ring of fire strikes him full in the back. The whirling drill of flame tears through his coat and the skin beneath, searing the blood vessels and cauterizing the wound as it burrows deeper, ever deeper. Muscles tense and sizzle beneath the onslaught, and the towering man clenches his teeth, rigid with pain as he narrows his eyes and forces his inner chi to erupt outward in a defensive barrier.

The thin but solid wall of chi blasts into the ring of fire and smashes it to whirling pieces, jets of flame erupting from Noboru's broad back as the energy is shunted outward. In its place there remains a scorched black hole through cloth and skin, with thick slabs of raw muscle now exposed to the open air. The muscles writhe and flex as the big man turns, taking two solid steps to re-orient himself facing the boy who attacked him.

There are no words. There is no gasp of pain. There is only iron control and fierce resolve burning in the big man's eye as he directs a hard look down into the face of the Ghost. There is defiance in that gaze, but it is quiet, even dignified.

Pieces of the shattered weapon rattle on the ground between the titan and the ninkousha, gone unnoticed between the two of them. It takes some time indeed for the shinobi to bleed off the speed from his technique. If Noboru's mind is fast, he will, after thinking on it, notice there isn't just a minimal intermediary space between the frontal and rear attack--there was none. The frontal attack was just an afterimage...

Noboru hit Ryouhara dead on. It just wasn't the right one.

For his own part, the Ryouhara ghost's arms go slack after the weapon clatters to the ground. He lists visibly, trying to make sense of the titan's silhouette. Though Noboru stands motionless, the iron ninja's shape is broken up by lotus petals, petals which drag the unnatural focus of the ghost kicking and screaming away from the present. It reminds him of a field, a field not far from his home, where two children used to play.

"Proud... a proud shinobi, proud of his clan, proud of his name... everyone is like that. They're all like that. But you're mistaken. You miscalculated, thinking that I wouldn't notice. But the Miyama would know that the Ryouhara wouldn't be defeated easily. They would know that many groups would have had to had been involved. In short, an accomplice. Additionally, our spying ninkou would make it hard for an enemy to get past our defenses. So it would have had to have been someone who was naturally friendly to us..."

His head tilts downward, at a dangerous angle. Slowly, randomness hardens into deadly focus. He doesn't seem moved by the depth of Miyama's injury, but the titan reflects in his visor. "Your defenses are commendable, but I will take you into my charge. You'll tell me everything about your co-conspirator. I will find her... and then I will eliminate her with four thousand degrees of consecrate Ryouhara justice."

"And...don't doubt... you will answer to me," he asserts.
"Because there is no steel stronger than mine."

He spreads open his arms wide, casting a line of shuriken into the air above his head, each separated by a thin line. This he slips free of the shurikens as they hold position, spinning in mid-air. And then, in a single flip, he deflects each and every one with his drawn blade, sending them flying in bizarre arcing patterns toward Noboru, each flying for a vital point on the iron shinobi.

COMBATSYS: Seishirou successfully hits Noboru with Shuriken Emperor.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Noboru           0/-------/=======|=======\======-\1        Seishirou

The brutally built shinobi remains silent, each slow breath serving only to remind him of the cold numbness that radiates from the center of his back. The wound is too severe for pain, nerve endings burnt away by the awesome heat. But he remains calm in the face of this knowledge. He is intimately aware of the amount of punishment his body can withstand before it will cease to function, and he has not reached that point yet.

Noboru's hands meet before his chest with a solid 'THUD', knuckles protesting with rapid fire cracks. Above them his damaged eye seems to glow, reflecting back an image of the chi that burns across his vision.

As the shuriken emerge spinning into the air, the titanic ninja steps forward. The great heat halo that surrounds Seishirou grows yet more intense as he closes the distance, steps an odd mixture of lumbering and tactically deliberate.

And then the second steel rain falls.

Noboru's shaggy head bows forward, great slabs of muscle bracing for impact beneath the torn scraps of his uniform. However, the iron of his defense is far from perfect. Already he has suffered a great wound that has softened his form, providing cracks for further attacks to slip through. So it is that the knives that descend upon him sink deep into toughened flesh. viciously sharp points bury themselves deep in the meat of his shoulders, sink into the muscle of his chest, hammer home into his thighs, and imbed themselves half-way into his abdomen. At least two strike the top of his head, tearing jagged wounds through his scalp as they are deflected away by the bone.

This is the point where a normal man's body would fail him, but it is not time for Noboru to fall. he continues to lumber forward. The metallic handles of shuriken bristle from his front, and blood mats his tangled hair to his skull. The wounds must hurt. They are likely excruciating, but their infliction has not even staggered his steady advance.

"Your fevered ramblings mean nothing, Ryouhara. Your justice is false. Make what claims you will. My message is delivered. I will tell Ayame that the boy she seeks is now a rambling shell full only of madness, and be done with your misguided crusade." The towering man's words are hard as the stone of his home and just as cold. There is still no rage to be found within him. Instead he resonates with a grinding determination, born of nearly two decades of uphill struggles. The entirety of his life up to this point has been nothing more than an extended hell of Sisyphussian struggles. Pain is nothing. Death, is nothing.

A final step brings him into striking distance of the slender ghost, and he seems to uncoil, gloved left hand whipping up from his chest in a deceptively slow strike. The blow is simple. A half-fisted punch with only the slightest twist of his shoulder behind it, left foot shifting a half step forward in its wake. What is not obvious is the sheer amount of brutish power behind the singular blow, the shinobi needing neither momentum nor an abundance of motion to bring the entire strength of his body into alignment.

A rush of heated air is displaced around Noboru's fist as it whips in, extended knuckles aimed for the center of Seishirou's masked forehead. The big man's aim is uncannily precise, just one of the benefits of a style that focuses almost exclusively on singular powerful strikes.

COMBATSYS: Seishirou endures Noboru's Temporary Diplopia!

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Noboru           0/-------/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2        Seishirou

".. everyone has a moment in which they can decide to be a savior, or a tyrant."

Expressionless, the ghost matches the approach of the great mountain. Step for step, he closes the distance. As he moves, the silk of his haori twists in the hot wind, fresh embers crawling through the air around him as he moves. There is no trepidation in his movement, nothing but steel resolve cutting a trail through the ash. For a moment, he speaks without the patina of endless aggression, some fleeting vagary pulling his view into the sky. Something only he can see..

"You can stand idly by and make hundreds of excuses for yourself, thinking only, 'this is the only thing that I can be,' as the asseisha turn the world around you to sewage. You can conspire with others to keep things just the way they are, and like hundreds of other clans, you can find yourself a footnote to history. With no will, the sky is cramped, senseless, insane..." the ghost breathes, a curl of steam ejecting from the vents. His thoughts are disconnected, meandering, a slew of ideals orbitting one single point.

He is within striking distance.

In the next instant, he is struck. The cataclysmic blow shakes the ghost to the very core, the type of pain that stops the heart fracturing his mental picture of his own body like glass. He takes the blow head-on, literally--the dome of his helmet absorbing most of the blow. But he doesn't fall. Truthfully, it takes at least nine to ten feet before the iron returns to the young man's knees and he skids to a stop, the blow sliding him straight back from the Miyama tai-nin. Dust crawls away from his legs, Ryouhara's shoulders hunched, his helmet bowed. The white ninkou slowly raises.. as a hairline crack forms in it, protective seals flickering around the breach. The helmet is much, much tougher than one would imagine.

When he speaks, the synthetic cant to his voice is garbled, broken. When he speaks, the venting drips blood openly.

" can do all of those things, and be worth nothing."

The shinobi slaps his hands together, rattling off a series of hand-sutra in blurred sequences too fast to track. The effect causes energy to crawl into his hands. Then one last seal. Noboru will recognize in an instant that Ryouhara made space between them because the blades he dropped to the earth earlier are, by nature, also ninkou. The first detonates, and the chain of explosions begin. "But your world will be dead--!" Amongst the din, Ryouhara closes on Noboru, cutting after him with a brutal arc of fire, building upon it with multiple cutting strikes with his bare hands. "Your potential never realized--" the shinobi continues. His blows are fast, but not sure. Noboru, as a man accustomed to people moving faster than him, will realize that not many of these blows are committed, few meant to actually land. Ryouhara is trying to control his movement, cut off his avenues of defense, testing the cracks in it. He is timing each blow to the explosions, trying to force the shinobi to spread out his chakra, defending on multiple levels. "Until you turn your back on everything, to realize an 'idealism...'!!"

An instant later, Ryouhara blurs, fire cutting through the intermediary space between them both. If Noboru allows his space to be controlled, even for an instant, he will find himself driven back, with Ryouhara above him. And then, with full force and authority, Ryouhara will leverage him with his legs alone to drop him bodily to the ground, one shinobi boot pressing hard into the giant ninja's larynx. Except even that will be an afterimage, trapping and pinning Noboru underneath it as real as anything else. If he is allowed, Ryouhara will have gotten clear, standing aways away some time ago.

"...This crusade will never end."
Then even the afterimage detonates.

COMBATSYS: Seishirou successfully hits Noboru with Hands of the Roudoushakaikyuu.

[                            \\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Noboru           0/-------/=======|>>>>>>-\-------\0        Seishirou

Noboru stands with his left fist extended, the air shimmering around his gloved knuckles in memory of their recent contact with the Ryouhara wraith's helmet. His body is still, single eye focused forward as blood patters steadily from the knives imbedded in his flesh. His once pristine silk coat is nothing more than blood sodden tatters, the garment sticking to his torn flesh as his life slowly drains away. But it is not time to fall. Not just yet.

"Worth." Rumbles the titan, his tone tired, forced up from his chest with great effort. The thin black silk of his mask grows darker still as a damp spot spreads across it, bloody bubbles popping on his concealed lips. "History is a lie told by the proud. It is ever changing and mercurial, doomed to die with those who keep it." The large man's breath seems to fail him then, a soft bubbling sound rattling in his lungs as he slowly draws in air.

Shifting his right foot forward, Noboru plants himself firmly in the earth. His arms cross before him with an abrupt 'WOOSH' of displaced air, light glittering from the many knives bristling from his front as he crosses his arms at the wrists, gloved hands vanishing beneath the rags that were once a coat.

No further words are uttered as he closes his eyes, ignoring completely the image before him of the masked idealist flashing rapid signs to awaken the explosive potential of the knives around him. The Ninjutsu this ghost has been using is far beyond him. He has nothing to match it in complexity or raw power, and his body is already beginning to fail. He will not make it through this next, greater blow. But he has seen just enough. Perhaps there is a way to counter these techniques.

As the first explosion erupts beneath his feet, shrapnel tearing deep gouges in his flesh and fire licking up his body, the iron ninja throws himself forward toward his onrushing tormentor. But rather than strike him head on, the titanic man twists, his injured back rotating into sight as he digs his heels into the earth and accepts the blazing pain of lashing flames across his unprotected flank. All across his body his clothing begins to ignite, the ground heaving as bits of razor-sharp metal flash through the air to vanish into his body.

However, even as his body is torn apart, his will remains strong. Using his own body as a shield, he flicks his hands out from beneath his coat. From either palm flies a soft cloth sack roughly the size of his fist, their forms vague and difficult to see amidst the smoke and chaotic thunder of the explosions. Each spherical object vanishes into the haze in a different direction, rolling across the grass even as Noboru twists about to face the lithe form of the Ryouhara.

The tossing motions are disguised as powerful but ineffectual punches, the mighty shinobi's gloved fists catching only air as his much faster opponent leaps above his blows, poised to strike.

The legs descend, catching the Miyama square in the throat and causing his smoldering body to crash backward into the flames. There he lies, good eye dazed and flames licking across his form, as the smaller figure perches atop his throat.

And everything explodes.

Noboru and the image atop him are lost in a sea of flame, the raging conflagration consuming them with a rushing hiss of primal fury. But even as this happens, the two cloth sacks so carefully planted at the expense of the hulking shinobi's body also detonate.

If Noboru's guess is right, and Seishirou's final destination is in one of the two locations he predicted, the ground beneath the ghost's feet will be suddenly consumed in smoke and fire, the concussive force blasting up from beneath him with a sound like unleashed thunder.

If Noboru guessed incorrectly, however, there will be two more useless craters dug into the once holy ground.

Regardless, as the flames begin to die and the smoke rises, the charred form of Noboru lies limp and bleeding in the center of the damage. The knifes that still protrude from his form tic and glow with heat, and a bit of flame crawls its way erratically across his mess of matted hair. But somehow, against all the odds, he is breathing. Beneath the charred scraps of his clothing he is badly cut and punctured. His skin is scorched a nasty blistering red, but he is alive.

COMBATSYS: Noboru can no longer fight.

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Seishirou        0/-------/-<<<<<<|

COMBATSYS: Seishirou blocks Noboru's BOMB!.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Seishirou        0/-------/-<<<<<<|

The explosion catches the tails of Ryouhara's haori, blowing it back as he stands at the safe distance, the light from his exploding afterimage reflecting in his black visor. Though it is impossible to tell what goes on inside of the helm he wears, blood still forms a long unbroken line from the front of his respirator, adding an alien distension to the obscene sound of warbling breath from behind the ninkou respirator.

His breathing wouldn't be interrupted, not with a respirator, and no damage to his chest. But the line of blood drains across his obi, steadily draining out of the helmet through the respirator. He is motionless, watching the flames, but how much damage did the titan really do with one blow alone?

"Those who keep history, and those who serve it are two groups entirely different," he breathes. "You will burn. And then you will tell me everything you know about her--!!"

In a flash of recognition, the shinobi ghost looks down in alarm, noticing a roughspun cloth sack laying amidst the ash and rubble. Realization comes instantly. As does the explosion. The counterpoint to his own ninkoujutsu rebukes strictly, the bakudan cracking like thunder and engulfing him in an instant in a column of fire. In that slowed time, the young man seems to be bodily lifted off of his feet for one sickening, vertiginous moment, before he disappears entirely in the fireblast.

For a moment, that seems to be the end of it.

It took a lot of damage to take down the Miyama, as expected. But ironically, Ryouhara was carefully managing him, using exact understandings of the blast radii and chakra outputs of each of his preparations, so as to make sure he had something to capture. The side effect of this--and the titanic will displayed by the giant, is that Noboru may not in fact be fully unconscious, even after the titanic explosion.

Of course, neither is Ryouhara, but for different reasons altogether.

"You took advantage of the effort I had to invest to trigger so many jutsu in sequence to disguise planting your explosives where you imagined I would end up," Ryouhara comments, cutting through the flame with a sweep of his sleeve. He is displaced roughly two feet to the left from where he was standing, and a square of paper roughly a meter across on both sides sits over the area where the sack was, anchored to the ground at a steep angle. The paper is marked on the charred side with the 'SEALED' kanji. Even so, Ryouhara strides through the fire, his form pained and smouldering from the effort, leaving a visible trail of blood that might not all be draining from his respirator. "As expected of the Miyama. However, to so accurately guess at my preparations, even to the extent to determine that I would use a bunshin on you, and to even approximate the depth of the explosion, hints at a remarkable predictive ability potentially beyond even the self-described watchers," he comments, in low appreciation. "I wonder exactly what that 'eye' of yours can really see...."

"Irrespective of that," the ghost points out, "your preparations are not the equal to my own."

Reasonably sure the Miyama is mobilized, he approaches slowly. There is a slight limp in his walk now, on the side that the cloth sack exploded on. Even so, a scroll slips out of his sleeve, held in one hand. "But, you knew that before you decided to stand against me, didn't you?" Ryouhara asks. The question seems more rhetorical than anything. "You must have known this was the only result of this.... did your conspirators place you before me? Maybe this 'Ayame' you speak of.."

Suddenly, the white ghost shifts dangerously, listing to one side. A ragged cough can be heard inside of his helmet. Reflexively, a hand raises to his respirator. "I---" he labors. "I don't know that---"

Suddenly, anger. "I'll seal you, then you'll tell me everything you know, or you'll burn...!!" he rages absently, the hand raising to slick a long line of blood across the left hemisphere of his helmet. "You won't understand--the history you watch is being written by the asseisha--holding our destinies hostage and enslaving our fate....we are sworn to never be recognized by history, only serve it from its shadow! To uphold an ideal from the darkness--/that/ is a shinobi's place!!"

A step...back.

" acuity is receding," Ryouhara realizes, staggering. In his mind, the lotus petals are a crush across his vision, obscuring everything. He looks left, quickly, in the warm breeze. A person beckons him amidst the ash and flowers, wearing the leaves in wind of the Ryouhara. When he blinks, the person is gone. "....what is ... this dream?" he snaps quickly, dropping the scroll at his side. Suddenly, his hands smack together quickly, his vision slowly refocusing.

"I can fix it... I can fix everything." The wind surges around the ghost, growing hot and baling. Abandoning the shards of his ninkou, and the scroll he was going to apparently use to seal Noboru, he jumps into the air, and his haori catches the updraft violently, dragging him ever higher.

It takes forever for him to come down.

Within his lacerated chest, protected behind a cage of bones so dense as to deflect bullets, Noboru's heart beats on with dogged determination. Each soft 'thmp' of contracting muscle crashes in his ears, echoing through his mind and forcing his consciousness upward toward the light. Toward the wavering voice that rants so faintly through the deafening silence of a world gone suddenly quiet.

'--at eye of yours can really see....'

Slowly the smoldering shinobi's senses return. Above there is smoke. The smell of blood and burning things is heavy in his nostrils. There is pain, but pain is not important. What must be addressed is the light. The head-splitting radiance of released chi that spikes into his brain through his left eye, revealing to him just how much energy this relatively short battle has released.

Noboru's eyes blink. It does not help. His eye need not be open to reveal the truth to him. But such habits are hard to break.

Through the ongoing chatter of words, a name cuts through the prattle. The simple mention of it is enough to remind him that his work is not done. he has made a horrible mistake, and unless he survives to worn her, Ayame will be caught wholly unprepared for this demented memory of a ninja.

Ayame Ichijo, of the Meian Jinja. He has her name. Noboru gave it to him, thinking only of alliances. It was foolish. But how could he have known that the sole remaining Ryouhara would be so deranged?

'darkness--/that/ is a shinobi's place!!'

The impassioned words register only faintly in the Miyama's punch-drunk mind as he slams one meaty fist into the ground. His body protests. It screams with agony, warning him that what he is about to do may have serious repercussions. The wounds he has received today may never fully heal. But the Miyama have a strict policy when it comes to allies.

As Seishirou staggers back through the dying flames, his hulking, bloody prey manages to lever himself up to an elbow and knee, the ash beneath him steaming as it is fed his crimson vitality. Beneath the charred wisps of his face mask, the brute's red-stained teeth are bared in savage defiance, his icy eye unwavering as he slams his other fist against the ground. Then, with one muscular surge, the tips of daggers grinding painfully against bone, the iron mystic rises to his feet.

There they both stand. Two damaged shinobi. One near manic, thoughts flung into the air with confused abandon. He burns bright as the sun, but chaotically, even falsely.

The other is silent. A monolith to pain and endurance, kept upright by will and duty alone. Blood and water pour from his steaming body, but he does not stagger. He has a final mission. One last task, before he can allow himself to slip into the void.

the white ghost takes to the sky.

his silent prey begins to walk. The pace is not fast, but neither is it slow. Each firm step causes a galaxy of pain to blossom in his mind. Every jarring footfall feels like it should be his last. But it won't be. he wont' allow it to be.

The darkness beckons, dark and deep,
but he has promises to keep,
And miles to go before he sleeps,
And miles to go before he sleeps.

Log created on 02:46:02 06/30/2016 by Noboru, and last modified on 04:34:53 07/02/2016.