Ryu - The Gathering Darkness

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Description: Darkness is merely an absence of illumination. Maybe it is the illumination instead that is the out-of-place element. Whatever side of interpretation one may take, 'darkness' remains a popular catch-all term for the worst that can be seen among those who hone themselves as martial artists. Some struggle against it. Some yet embrace it. Others yet disregard all constraints of good or evil for the sake of simply seeing where the path goes... or where others may yet rest along the champion's road. A man, facing down the stare of approaching oblivion, finds themselves drawn to a growing, swirling nexus of nature's fury where one stands at the center... not as the cause, nor as shelter. One seeks, one abstains... but both, in one form or another, act under the encroaching blackness of the skies above.

A storm gathers in some of the surrounding wilderness just outside of Southtown. 'A storm gathers' is... somewhat trite, as a descriptor, but the brevity of what it communicates maybe all that's needed. Heavy winds. Dark clouds. The promise of rain drops, lightning, the roar of wind. All ingredients of the heavens' very fury. It is frequent, in milder doses. It shouldn't be noteworthy just to simply exist.
There's still something in the air. It's utterly intoxicating to many of those deeply in tune with the ebbs and flows of the world's latent energies... or at least a good excuse to take a nice evening stroll. Morning?
The lighting cast by the brewing storm makes the time of day an exercise in confusion. One would lose a sense of time and space just standing under here. Something about it causes one to lose respect of self and sense in its wake.
...Maybe it should be... someone, instead of a something?
The colors are almost but a faded outline, even against a far darker backdrop of withered trees and decayed wooden structures. A decrepit farmland, left to be reclaimed by the forces of nature. The grass has all gone brown in patches where it isn't simply left bare.
Clad in white, a figure stands, back turned to all, facing just as much nothing as the back they have turned to. Fists in worn red-colored handguards clench and tighten to the lack of any other impetus that would earn discussion by this body language. A headband fails to sway in the wind that careses the form.
It - no, he - is unmoving. The darkness without, for its deeper colors, may yet be treated as foreboding. It could be an unspoken invitation by forces beyond mortal ken, but one thing is for certain.
A face that has gone missing, a form that has left a void for months, stands out in the open for eyes to see. If feet dare to follow out to what storms are promised by the heavens, by eyes so curious enough to look... or for mere ambitions, free of all other limitations of sense, that deeply want enough to simply obtain.
Is he waiting?

As if summoned from the heavens by the brewing storm, a completely black helicopter descends quickly from the sky, its path clearly set on the relatively clear space of the withering field. The heavy chopping of its rotor is at first hard to make out over the sound of the storm, but as it grows closer, the noise first adds the howling, whipping wind, before eventually overwhelming it.

When the landing skids touchdown, the rotor quickly begins to slow, but before they can stop a man steps free of the sliding door on the side. His bulk is largely hidden by a dark black cloak slung over his shoulders, the impressively high collar easily rising above his ears, but not quite as high as the long, slightly curved, blood-red horns that rise from the smooth mask that covers his face.

Hunched over slightly, he steps quickly away from the chopper even as the rotors continue to slowly spin down to a stop, and when he's clear, he straightens. His gaze sweeps over the farmland until it falls on the back of the figure clad in white.

One could be forgiven for assuming the figure might just be an out-of-place statue with the black chopper's approach. The deafening rotors, the outward halo of displaced air. Disturbances. Some kind of stimulus, that should earn reaction. Acknowledgement. There... does not appear to be any.
Some foolish people who overestimate their place in Kain's grand plans might say under their breath on that helicopter that they're going out of their way for someone's effigy. Something worthless, out in the middle of a brewing storm.
To Grant's honed understanding, there is something. Breath. Heartbeat. A living, human being. The man he observes, the man that many have sought... that is, at least, a man.
There's something about the breath that's off. Uneven.
There is a twitch of clenched fingers anew. Imperceptible to most at this distance. To Grant... it's a tell.
"HADOUKEN!" A deeper, more hoarse voice leaves the throat of this young man as he makes a full 180 turn in a flash, gathering the nothingness between his hands to thrust them forth in the form of a blue--
Purple. It's purple. It's not a smooth ball shape. Distorted. It almost seems less like a spherical bullet, and more akin to a bomb. Something ready to explode, as it screams across the air, scorches the tips of elongated blades of grass across the distance it goes, on a fast and relentless path to the Martyr of Might.
There seems no need for words between warriors of this caliber, but there is a certain absence that unsettles... though, the more immediate concern might be the purple, unstable mass of chi coming in at about chest level.

COMBATSYS: Ryu has wandered into a fight here.

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Ryu              0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Grant has joined the fight here.

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Grant            0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0              Ryu

COMBATSYS: Grant blocks Ryu's Hadouken.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Grant            0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0              Ryu

Grant was ready.

Still, the sudden speed and ferocity of Ryu's opening salvo very nearly caught the Martyr of Might off-guard. With barely a fraction of a second to spare, the massive man brought both of his thick arms up to shield his masked head and caught the purple bullet of energy on his forearms. With a sharp twist, he turned the orb aside and watched as it cratered the ground just to side of his feet, showering him in a spray of blackened turf and shredded grass.

With a soft grunt muffled by his mask, he flicks his cloak to the side, shifting it so it rests upon his back and reveals his bared chest and the bottom half of a blood-red gi. In one fluid motion, he shifts down into a ready stance and rushes forward, rapidly closing the distance between the two fighters. As he approaches, he starts to drift off to the side, coming at Ryu from an angle until, with only a few more feet to spare, he skids to a halt, drops down into a sudden crouch, then launches himself forward, hurtling towards his opponent with the horns of his mask extended like a charging bull.

COMBATSYS: Ryu blocks Grant's Gou Dangai.

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Grant            0/-------/-----==|>------\-------\0              Ryu

The choice of defense employed by the smaller man clad in white would be unfamiliar to those with tempered expectations of this young man's approach and pacing to fights.
Grant is enormous, powerful, and almost nigh unstoppable. Ankoku Karate can only count few masters of other disciplines being able to stand toe to toe against it. Grant's might cannot be understated. It can be observed from afar, but only by being subject to it can one appreciate it.
No, for mortal men... fear it.
Many have seen how this young man dealt with previous powerful blows, with masterful technique and breathtaking grace. The ability to redirect some of the force of a movement to greatly soften blows, to overturn them in such ways to turn a defense into a rapid offense...
What happens is far more vulgar.
The arms do not cross. They grab at the mask as if to catch the entire bulk, heels digging into the ground as the smaller man is pushed a good meter and a half for having the gumption to even try. This maneuver would cost lesser men the use of their arms for their arrogance.
It is there, that the two can look face to face, and the Martyr of Might can look into the eyes of the young man that would match his might.
Those eyes... they're not right.
There's not much time to give further descriptor nor hold casual observation of said eyes. With a fraction of a second of pause from recoil - enough to nullify any potential advantage of a counter-attack from such a choice of guard - the younger man's right leg shoots up against Grant's abdomen in a kneeing motion four or five times, before reaching those arms around one of Grant's far larger own to try and heft him up and over his shoulder.
To throw him into a rotted, splintering wooden fence post.

COMBATSYS: Grant interrupts Combo Grapple from Ryu with Gou Retsu-Shou.
- Power hit! -

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Grant            0/-------/----===|=====--\-------\0              Ryu

As soon as the Martyr of Might locks eyes with Ryu, he knows something is wrong. Kain is studious one, the one who would learn his opponents moves before taking them on, planning every kick and punch with a strategical flair to put history's best generals to shame. Grant tended far more to simply fight his opponents, and more often than not, crush them through sheer determination and force. However, even he has heard tell of Ryu and how the infamous fighter moves with a powerful grace. To be stopped by such a brazen hold, a pair of trenches digging up the grass as Grant shoves the man backwards until finally they both come to a stop... It's not what he would have expected.

Nor is the following savage combination promptly delivered to his bowed sternum -- the first knee catching on a strained abdomen that absorbs the shock well. Before the next in the series could be brought to bare against his open position, Grant pinwheels his arm through the air, using his impressive height to find an opening and slam one heavy, meaty palm downwards towards Ryu's head to try and force him into the dirt.

Something isn't just wrong - something is missing. Grant has done this maneuver to numerous individuals who barely qualify as 'opponents.' The crushing of bone, splashes of blood, complete shattering of spirit... the young man is violently jerked into the parched earth that awaits the gentle mercy of rain. The parched earth, that is. What of it still remains when the top layer of soil explodes outward in a splash that could be seen from roughly a mile away.
What's missing is that there's no gasp of pain. But, he was not killed. Some things should be - and are - universal about human beings. There has to be some true acknowledgement of pain, met with such earth-rending (literally, look at how much dirt just got parted in this plot just from that impact) force. Their body, their entire persons, are being destroyed bit by bit, piece by piece, with each mighty blow. Such a thing just can't be limited to even those of Grant's caliber - pain is pain. A natural instinct necessary for survival, some way to truly acknowledge... being hurt.
If it's sheer willpower that sees this young man, this white-clad fighter raise up to a crouch, that's simply... not right. Grant could have felt the way certain injuries have mounted just from the impact. The balled-up right fist is not shaky for lack of clarity or focus, nor from the intoxicating effect of adrenaline. It's not hard to get a sense of something being... yanked. From outside. Someone, or something, pulling at this body. At this psyche.
Which makes the next attack far, far more puzzling in the greater picture.
The first rises upwards. Grant should know the telltale signs. The way this young man crouches, the way he has that forward lean. Microscopic tells in immeasurably small windows of opportunity to notice. He was met with wordless violence, uncharacteristic choice to try and overwhelm with a certain amount of strength (truly foolish, one may say in retrospect, before the likes of Grant), and now...
It's on the tip of his tongue, and the fist goes straight up... but he doesn't leap up with it. The series of syllables that indicates one of the most famed techniques of Ansatsuken, and it is stopped before even the first syllable can be said.
What's left of it is an uppercut punch that might stand to give Grant whiplash just from impact to their chin, if it does, but the strange shift in tone is just as disarming as every movement and action before it.
But not from fear...?

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

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Grant            0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0              Ryu

The legion of faces that Grant has turned into a smear of dark arterial blood on a pavement with that simple move alone is too numerous to count. Though he doubted that that alone would be enough to destroy the infamous Ryu, he never suspected it would have little to no outward effect on his opponent. His sudden rise and counter attack takes the Martyr of Might completely by surprise, and before he can settle into a more solid stance with which to take the incoming blow, it lands upon his chin and snaps his head back with such force that he's driven backwards several steps, the sound of the impact cutting sharply over the howling wind that whips around ceaselessly around them.

The titanic blows exchanged by these two men leave the abandoned pilot of the chopper in awe as he peers out through the moisture streaked tinted windshield, almost missing the squawking of his headset. When finally the voice coming through his radio pulls him away from the fight taking place before him, he grunts and looks up towards the rapidly darkening clouds with a hint of worry.

Grant, for his part, seems oblivious to the elemental dangers, his head slowly shifting back down to rest gleaming eyes on Ryu. "You are distracted," he intones, speaking the first words he's uttered since arriving. Perhaps most oddly, it seems to be an admonishment tinged with a hint of disappointment. "Perhaps I have wasted my time," comes his rumbling voice, before he suddenly strikes out at the earth, reaching down then swinging his hand forward as if he were picking up a handful of sand to toss in Ryu's face. However, his fingers don't come anywhere close to the ground, but instead a dark wave of violet energy forms in his open palm and pours outward, only to be lashed forward into a wave of darkness sent surging suddenly towards his opponent.

COMBATSYS: Ryu blocks Grant's Kokuen-Ryuu.

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Grant            0/-------/=======|======-\-------\0              Ryu

He is distracted.
That is a succinct, altogether accurate way to describe it from all available evidence.
All fighters rarely fight within the confines of a single battlefield. Time. Ideology. Emotion. It is rare to truly find and encounter one individual that seemed so completely free of these concerns, someone who could truly exist, compete, and strike back within a single battlefield, with full focus and sincerity.
From almost all available footage for review, this young man, this fighter, could have been said to be one of them. The single purpose, all he appeared to live for, all he appeared to champion. This... this was only a half-truth.
The fraction of truth versus fiction has continued to fall into an unfavorable ratio. Grant's musing about a waste of his time seems to have more credence as he further verbally traverses the statement, as the younger man of supposed great promise starts to show patterns more convincing of someone alive. Someone in comprehension.
The bruising about his arms is extensive from that initial catch against the headbutt. Blood already starts to trickle from the side of his mouth and forehead, the inside of his left nostril visibly reddened under what dirt simply didn't get vented from that explosive drive into the ground.
With the wave of violet energy, expressed as darkness, his forearms cross before him within that more familiar defensive gesture. It does marginal good before the might of the Kokuen-Ryuu. A slide back another yard turns into a stagger for two further, as they lean forward with a gasp and a grimace...
The next time he blinks, there's those eyes again, and... a forced sneer. A sneer that seems more comfortable on someone else's face entirely. He has no grounds to sneer at one like Grant, whom holds a clear advantage in the momentum of their battle.
That face looks like it should be worn by someone else, as fists raise anew, but devoid of the life of movement one would expect.
The fight stands to resume.
The fight stands to resume.

COMBATSYS: Ryu focuses on his next action.

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Grant            0/-------/=======|======-\-------\0              Ryu

When Ryu displays that sneer, Grant simply tilts his head back and to the side, a gesture hard to read what with the mask covering the entirety of his expression, but one that seems vaguely curious. Still, with Ryu still clearly capable of continuing their brawl, Grant lets out a grunt and settles into a wide stance, arms pulled into his sides, fists raised slightly above his waist.

"Very well," he breathes in his rumbling, deep voice, "Let us continue..."

Rocks begin to shake and vibrate at his feet, bouncing along the dirt and playing across the charred and cratered turf. Suddenly, twin streams of dark, violet energy begin to form around his fists and pour off behind him, his cloak pulled away from his back to snap wildly in the wind.

COMBATSYS: Grant gathers his will.

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Grant            1/----===/=======|======-\-------\0              Ryu

The will to persevere through hardship, to be forged by the flames of battle and come out the other side ever stronger. To climb ever greater heights. The brewing storm would be witness to the growing heights of giants that rise ever higher, in a purely romanticized view of such a battle between almost nigh-immeasurable talents.
The raw strength of the Martyr of Might. The stoic ongoing journey of the one called Ryu.
There is something going on that utterly perverts and corrupts what should be the purity of battle, and the conflicted grimacing of the young man stands ever at odds with the curiosity of the masked man who seems to have mastered his own darkness.
"You," a word is gasped, nearly lost to the surrounding elements as the hands draw back anew. The familiar gesture... but the colors that form in between to represent the nothingness housed and framed between these hands...
It grows red, like fire, and yet... wrong. Not wrong in the sense of a student failing to grasp a lesson. Something about the way the energies of the earth itself come together between these hands. It's wrong. The form it takes feels utterly unnatural. Another word is mouthed, a single syllable, but is inaudible. Flecks of red rise about his form, wispy and ethereal.
There is something, at base level, utterly unnerving in the atmosphere surrounding this man.
"Get back!" Comes the yell, guttural and prolonged as opposed to the classic, expected cries of his discipline as his hands shoot forward. A fiery morass of chi that twists upon itself dangerously, unstable and yet maintaining its warpath towards Grant. Those blades of dried grass that come in contact quickly disintegrate into oblivion en route to its final destination.
If those words are intended to be mercy, what use does one like Grant have for that, when he's of the kind who asks for none and returns far less than that?
One may yet be reminded of the pulled-back uppercut that had significant effect in spite of the will of its very master.
There is fear. This man called Ryu has never openly expressed such fear for anyone. For whose sake is this fear directed...?

COMBATSYS: Grant barely endures Ryu's Shakunetsu Hadouken.

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Grant            1/-======/=======|=======\-------\1              Ryu

Get back?

With an amused snort, Grant rises from his wide stance, arms falling to his side again, though that dark energy continues to pour off of his fists in twin streams. Slowly, he begins walking forward, moving directly towards Ryu and the incoming wave of destructive force. Just before he reaches the wave, he begins to run, leaning forward and barreling into the oncoming power with a proud and stubborn resilience until, with a blinding flash of light, he's completely engulfed.

From the pilot's perspective, it looks nearly as if his immediate superior had just been swallowed up by the wave of energy released by his legendary opponent. Panic starts to set in, then disbelief as he realizes he's going to have to be the one to report Grant's failure to Kain.

Then with a muffled roar, the massive form of the Martyr of Might comes barrelling out of the clearing smoke and debris. His chest bares a blackened scorch mark, charred and smoking where the hadouken met his flesh. Now, suddenly nearly right on top of Ryu, Grant brings up his right foot in a kick aimed squarely for Ryu's chin, the powerful blow trailing dark energy. He follows the first kick up with three more just like it, slowly pressing forward until finally, he slams his foot down behind him, crouches into a ready position, then launches forward to try and gore the smaller man upon the horns of his mask.

COMBATSYS: Ryu parries Grant's Majin Engetsu-Rin EX!

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Grant            0/-------/-----==|=======\=------\1              Ryu

It should be a sure combination. Grant, with purpose and intent untainted by whatever challenges plague his opponent, powers through unchecked power loud and unfettered. The master of Dark Karate's offense comes roaring in like his voice, without compromise or mercy.
The student of Ansatsuken thrusts his right hand upwards and open, catching and deflecting the blow to the chin. The clash is noisy, signified by a blue light that washes over the man in white. This single overturning gesture cannot halt Grant's momentum - but Grant, too, fails to make much headway with the following kicks. Each is met with a catch of equal skill.
Neither man truly gives up ground between them. Almost unfathomable forces left to bleed through the defensive gestures are soaked by the ground beneath them, which shifts and sheds its contents underneath.
The deflected blows scatters the darkness made manifest in Grant's attacks in such a way the earth itself beneath them is salted. It is one of many scars this planet will bear, small in scale. The story of how such a small tear in the earth itself - roughly a meter or two - became unsuitable for agriculture will be lost to time as a witness to the unbelievable strength and technique expressed between the two men in that instant.
It's not even over. Almost no amount of skillful maneuvering can deal with that final touch of Grant's deadly combination and leave the defender on their feet unharmed.
The physical form of this man, who seems at least some part if not wholly Ryu, has its limitations against one larger and physically stronger than he.
Grabbing hands about Grant's body, he moves with the last charge by falling onto his own back, lifting up his legs to take the Martyr of Might off the ground and turn the deadly charge against him into a means to hurl them a far greater distance than could be managed from a standstill.
If allowed to have touched Grant at all, he might feel that his right hand clutched far tighter than his left - as though something that his body had intended to do on instinct were being suppressed for a far gentler return.
It would be difficult to call the way he stands to be hurled 'gentle,' even then.

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Grant with Tomoe Nage EX.

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Grant            0/-------/---====|=======\===----\1              Ryu

The suddenly obvious downside to Grant's all out attack is exploited perfectly by the master combatant he faces. In an instant, what should have been the Martyr of Might's triumphant moment is turned into a devastating reversal of fortune. As soon as Ryu turned aside that final kick of his, Grant knew exactly what was coming next, but he was already committed to the attack. With sudden ferocity, he tried to pull his arms in to break Ryu's hold before he could even catch him, but the searing pain and utter destruction that left his chest a charred mess caught up to him and he hesitated long enough to let the other man take his shot.

With a solid thud that shook even the chopper upon its landing skids, the titanic man crashed through rotted wood and the compacted turf of the abandoned farmland. A fall that would have broken a lesser man's back in half leaves Grant winded and dazed, his impressive weight and strength turned against him in a dizzying maneuver. With a thankfully muffled groan, he pulled himself slowly up from the newly formed crater and turned to face Ryu once again, this time leaning heavily on his right foot. The red of his mask largely disguises the slow trickle of crimson that now drips from his forehead to water the parched soil, but it can not disguise the determination in his gaze. Slowly, his stance widens again, and he settles into a ready position, his hands beside him, curled into fists.

"Come at me with everything you have..."

COMBATSYS: Grant focuses on his next action.

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Grant            0/-------/---====|=======\===----\1              Ryu

The younger of the two warriors that clash rises up anew, with that unnatural movement to his limbs. A force yanks at him. Fingers twitch, as if to free themselves of balled-up fists. Those eyes - eyes not of a warrior, but of something far more /impure/ - regard Grant's labored recovery. The precious rare show of weakness.
To some, it might have been seen as a gesture of trust by a man who historically did not come from an environment that allowed nor invited such a gesture. To be allowed to witness, let alone be able to inflict, any measure of visible injury upon one such as Grant...! The fire in his eyes are nothing a mask could ever hide.
To live for the fight, the very moment of existence between them. Not before, not after. Now. To the warrior who has risen so high at such a young age, to be met by one with as pure an intent as his own... an invitation to unleash everything he has.
Something deep inside is tickled. His arms draw up into that famed fighting stance. One foot moves--
Doesn't move forward. Grant can see the lean of the foot. It's not anxiety - something is fighting the very idea of approaching the Martyr of Might once again, even after overturning one of the peak techniques of the violent discipline. The momentum is in the headband-clad fighter's favor. One more solid blow could end it.
One more solid blow... could kill, if said blow held that same /force/ like the one Grant had hurled himself through in order to attack not long before now. Somewhere within the recesses of this man's mind, the motions are deeply-ingrained enough he wouldn't even have to think it.
The gathering storm finally cracks a bolt of lighting that strikes not far from where the two stand, as if to egg the both of them on.
That unfitting grimace goes upon the young man's face, a darkness cast over his form in the glow of the nearby lightning strike. Whatever force attempts to compel, there seem to be few arguments. It is what Grant wants. Desires! Show him your all, all the might of--
As the light fades, the arms are thrown down, and a back is turned. A challenge...
...Turned down, as feet start to follow a more human motion. Strained... fearful, but as Grant may have intuited, not of the man whom has destroyed many in pursuit of the ideals of one he idolizes above all else.
As they soon seem to start disappearing into the hazy mists of rainfall that pours harder after the strike of lightning, it appears most of all...
A fear /for/ Grant's well-being.
A concern he never asked for.
The battle ends.
The battle begins anew.

COMBATSYS: Ryu resumes wandering.

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

COMBATSYS: Grant has ended the fight here.

Grant watches Ryu turn and slowly, he rises back up to his full height. For a moment he considers egging the younger man to turn back and fight, but then he remembers the clear indecision in every one of his moves. He raises a hand to touch probingly to the open wound upon his brow that would paint his mask crimson if it weren't already that exact shade of red. With a hidden grimace he turns, and without a word cast towards his one-time opponent, he begins to head toward the waiting chopper.

When he reaches the relative shelter of cabin, he retrieves a cell phone from a small pocket beneath his seat and inputs a well-memorized number.

"It's me... I found him. -- Yes."

"Strong?" He touches a hand to the blackened starburst that sears his chest, "Yes, but something distracts him. He does not wish to fight. Not me, at least... He's unsuitable."

Log created on 18:13:45 08/27/2016 by Ryu, and last modified on 12:15:01 08/29/2016.