Mortal Kombat - MK Round 1: Momoko vs. Jao(?)

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Description: "I will admit, in all of the years of Mortal Kombat, I've not seen fighters quite so young. JAO PUNTASRIMA. You'll be fighting MOMOKO in the courtyard. Either the elder gods have seen fit to hold wisdom from me... or humor. Please feel free to make all the mess you please."

Shang Tsung has accumulated many towards the great kontest that is Mortal Kombat. The gravity of the situation has hardly ever been heavier. The 'Earthrealm,' as it is called, is under threat of invasion by the forces of the otherworldly 'Outworld.' Ripped from all anyone has ever known, there seems to have been a commonality among those brought here by whatever ways they've been summoned, kidnapped, cordially invited... or otherwise.
Then, there is this boy - the Thai child, Jao Puntasrima. Rumors have slipped around that this was the result of a summoning attempt gone wrong. Who, though? Who would they have been intending to summon?
He can't be older than thirteen or fourteen. He stands among warriors, powerful people. Well, no. It's more accurate to say he was fleeing and cowering among warriors, powerful people. There was a lot of chasing and chiding involved from cold, unfeeling figures who feel only so compelled to keep him alive to fulfill whatever purpose the Elder Gods had in mind.
Clad only in left-over brown rags they had on hand after his summoning, he clutches two things of interest as he's shoved into the open air of the castle's courtyard.
The first, a hammer whose metal head is of an unusual color - a weapon? If it is, he's not holding it in any way, shape, or form that suggests proficiency nor comfort.
The second, a citrus-colored beaded band around his right wrist. Each bead is rough and misshapen in appearance, as though roughly cut gemstones that had yet to be polished. They gleam in an odd light...
All but hurled onto the konkrete of the courtyard arena before an audience of unmoving shaolin monks, masked guards in drab dress encircle the square (...ensquare the square?).
The young boy, Jao Puntasrima of Thailand, doesn't have it in him to stand up or face anyone head-on, eyes misty and wet, bruises and cuts inflicted already from earlier roughhousing in just wrangling him /here/. His captors (some of whom may now put 'babysitting' on their resumes if their gig ever goes belly-up) show no care nor concern for the anguished breathing and trembling nerves.
No matter the circumstance... this boy was chosen to fight... or be fought. The open sky above seems almost too cheery in its brightness for what seems to be about to unfold.
No matter how young, or unwilling, or even able... here, one's might is to be tested, and by golly he's not going to be absent for this bloody pop quiz, as far as the audience and guards are concerned.

Many fighters have been brought to this island, some by boat, some by magic. Skilled martial artists, military soldiers of all creeds, hardened criminals, and outright monsters; a varied lot to be sure. One thing that they all have in common, however, is a shared talent in the art of violence. That is why they were chosen to participate in this kontest, hand picked by the Elder Gods as representatives of Earthrealm in a battle so ancient that only those old enough to have been there themselves when it all began know of its existence.

The sole exception seems to be the sniffling wreck of a boy. Sitting there on the arena floor with the appearance of a kicked puppy, he hardly cuts the striking image of a seasoned warrior. If anything, with his ragged clothes and battered appearance, he looks like some homeless urchin that was dragged in off the streets. Not exactly what anyone has in mind when they picture what their opponent might look like as they step into the first bout of this tournament.

The first signs of movement from the silent guards comes at the arrival of the second kontestant. The dark clad figures at the far end of the square split apart in perfect unision creating a small passageway through which the figure can proceed into the boundary of the ominous arena. A shape can be seen somewhat off in the distance though the thick wall of bodies makes it impossible to make out more than brief glimpses of color. Which of the many great warriors would be the one to step forward into that battlefield and face him? One of the legendary fighters who had earned their reputations in the great battles of other tournaments? Perhaps a soldier, dour and stern. Or even one of the less reputable sorts, a twisted killer with no mind for mercy.

Whatever dark thoughts may besiege the poor boy's expectations as he sits helpless and alone at the center of the square, they are dispelled in a flash of bright colors as the truth is revealed. A young girl steps into the gap between the faceless guardians, her expression one of slight trepidation. Wide doe-like eyes scan the interior of the human-lined box seeking out her own answers to the question of the identity of her opponent. Strangely, she sees nothing that might resemble a skilled fighter awaiting her within which seems to confuse her a bit. Cautiously, she steps past the edge of the boundary and the monks shift back into place without a word, trapping her inside.

Momoko swallows as she watches her escape route slam closed behind her with as much finality as if it had been a solid steel bulkhead rather than a pair of robed men. This sucks. Everything about this place sucks!

That had, ofcourse, not been her sentiment when she had first received the invitiation along with Athena to travel to this mysterious island. It sounded a lot like the contest that they had taken part in on Zack's Island and she had been equally excited to travel abroad once again at the side of her friend and idol. The trip had been uneventual, boring even, but that didn't bother her too much as it had given her some time to catch up on her school work which the King of Fighters tournament had caused her to fall woefully behind on.

Arriving on the island itself had proven quite the opposite. Massive beautiful beaches, thick lush jungles, and a huge castle just like out of an old story book! She was almost giddy with anticipation of the fun they'd have here. That sentiment had not lasted for long once she realized the full depth of the pile of trouble she'd put her foot into. Sure, the castle was beautiful and the food was extravagant, but there was a lingering sensation of something... well, wrong, about the place. It wasn't as obvious as if she had picked upon a negative outpouring of emotion, though there was plenty of that to spare from the various riffraff all crammed into the massive complex, but there was a general sense of unease that plagued her, like she was being watched by something foul and hungry at all times.

The creepy monks that served as the staff of this place don't help to lessen the ominous pall cast over the place either. She eyes them on either side of her warily as she strides towards the center of the area, still and silent as the gargoyles and statues that fill the castle. She half expects them to come to life at any moment and descend upon her, a murderous mob of faceless demons driven by whatever evil forces permeates this place, but they only continue to stare straight ahead as if completely oblivious to her presence.

A new sensation washes over the empath as she draws upon the huddled bunch of cloth and it makes her forgot almost completely about the creepy voyeurs encircling the courtyard. Fear and panic dances across the surface of her mind, radiating like an aura from the figure on the ground. Upon closer inspection she finds that the pititful creature is a young boy, perhaps the same age as herself, though his haggard features make it difficult to tell. The bruises and tears cause her to pull up short, eyes going a little wider than before, a hand rising up to cover her mouth in shock.

"Oh my gosh! Are you okay?"

Very little about this boy suggests he's 'okay.' Momoko, a cheerful girl whom exudes positivity and warmth through just about any darkness, seems that much more sore and unfitting an element in a place rife with unfamiliarity, uncertainty, and unhopefuless. (This is now a word.)
"Stand." Commands one of the masked guards. "Stand and face your destiny, warrior of Earthrealm." It's said so plainly that no possible humor could be derived by the speaker. To them, it is simply a matter of fact.
It takes the point of a naginata to coax him up to his feet - and even really take any look at Momoko and acknowledge her existence, as both hands clutch around the shaft of the hammer with the head of an oddly-colored metal. When he rises, his posture seems so bent over and pathetic that it's a wonder anyone can tell the difference between him 'lying on the ground being a pathetic, sobbing mess' and 'not lying on the ground being a pathetic, sobbing mess.'
The young boy blinks a few times, face daring to try and look the young girl eye-to-eye. He's taller than her if he could just stand straight up, but the way he's hunched, he seems even smaller.
"Wh-who are you?" His voice cracks, almost unintelligible from fear. Fear! The young empath may have seen and experienced much through her time, but this might be one of the strongest expressions of terror she's come across. He looks ready to bolt at any moment, backing away slowly only to be shoved back further into the square by one of the armed guards.
Somewhere, a ways away, there is a blue lump crawling along the ground, someone dwadling about under the cover of a noisy tarp. It is 100% conspicuous. There's even some humming coming from it! It's cheerful, but there's something unsettling about the whole thing. Like someone remembered hearing an awful cultist hymn and, in a fit of whimsy, is stringing the basic melody to a simple hum for their amusement.
Three masked guards in drab beige clothing are not amused. It's not seen who or what it is. From where Momoko stands, should she look over her shoulder, there's one stabbing a naginata into the blue lump, and two others forcefully removing whatever occupant was inside. Someone signals something or another (based on hand movements... away, then down somewhere), and the three guards leave in tow with whoever it is. (Is it more of a whatever...?)

Momoko glares at the callous guards as they prod the poor boy, half tempted to lay into the one with the weapon. However, it's clear that should she rouse the ire of these watchful monks the odds would be drastically in their favor by merit of sheer numbers. She has no desire to find out exactly what sort of training their ascetic lifestyles have provided, particularly while they are armed with such dangerous tools.

Instead, the empath focuses her attentions where they might do some good. Her face softens into the most non-threatening and friendly expression she can make. She pours a measure of her psychic power into the air to blanket the poor boy with a layer of mental comfort. It's unlikely to completely dispel his fears but it should relax him a bit, atleast enough to talk to her.

"Hey, it's okay. Don't worry, I'm not here to hurt you," she says consolingly, as if talking to a child.

Instinct fills her with a desire to walk up and wrap her arms around the boy and give him a great big hug, however, with that hammer in his hands she has to be careful. People can sometimes react very poorly when frightened and getting brained would help neither of them. Instead, she clasps her hands behind her back and smiles at him.

"My name is Momoko." She tilts her head to the side slightly. "How about you? What's your name?"

The tarp and it's mysterious occupants get a quick glance but her attentions are focused on the boy. Whatever else is going on right now can wait.

To be one gifted with the power to use one's emotions, one's own state of very being, as a source of strength... it confers as much responsibility as it does benefit. Intristically, humans share a lot of facial expressions whose meanings are unchanging across cultures. With her empathy, kindness, and warmth, there should be no problems making friends. To reach out, and let others know that they are in the company of a friend.
"St-stay back," a desperate plea, "I-I-I don't want to be here, I didn't do anything wrong, I've never-- help. Help." The cries for help grow in intensity, but lower in clarity with every repetition. He has nowhere to go. That guard behind him might stab him if he tries to back away again, and yet he is afraid to move towards her. He has no safe space.
Momoko did nothing wrong, and yet, the fear screams from his soul even where his mouth does not. This is a frightened young boy. The word 'frightened' might have to be retired following this description. Her efforts to express and impart comfort might be all that stops him from breaking off into a run. His hands are shaky - she might have made the right call about the hammer risk, but he hardly looks strong enough to really swing it with any degree of strength. (Maybe the hammer is heavier than it looks...)
She asks him a question. Can he form anything coherent? His eyes grow wet again, the gleam of a sick mockery of sunlight that has no business seeming this bright and cheery today reflecting against his eyes.
"J... Jao." He breaks any sort of eye contact. Maybe he has found inspiration to pretend that he might have a way out of he runs. Actually, uh, come to think of it... there should be more guards coming to cover any potential gaps in security.
This is an important event. This is where the very first matches of Mortal Kombat to be held in this Courtyard (...or Kourtyard) in some time. A time for the monks and trainees to reflect upon battles to the very death before them, a time for Shang Tsung's elite guard to show the commitment in ensuring that there are no shenanigans in a bloody fight to the death. Duties elsewhere or not, this is a great honor to be bestowed for performers and spectators.
"Y-You're a fighter... aren't you," Jao finds it in him to ask back, but Momoko could pick up the stress in his voice. That one detail that seems to go above and beyond her aura of positive emotions. Something... something about a fighter.
Some time passes - albeit less time than it ought to, in some way.
Three more guards arrive. They're not only late - they're blatantly out of formation. All three move in slowly side-by-side, all three looking to be in varying states of... awareness? Their steps seem unsteady. The two outer-most guards seem to have it far worse, but they're still clutching their naginatas. None of them seem to be in much of a hurry, though the unmoving and unwavering glares of the spectating monks may yet be silently judging and praying for their souls.

It's been quite a while since Momoko has experienced fear of this magnitude from another person. Such absolute terror is a rarity in modern society, a place free of the horrors of old world where death loomed much closer to the horizon. Anxiety and stress are the burdens of the modern soul, she finds. Fear of a sorts, perhaps, but rarely so crippling as to render one to the point that this young boy has reached. It's clear that he does not belong here, if it's possible that anything truly belongs in this evil place.

"Jao." She repeats the name with an upbeat chirp in her voice, smiling all the more. The girl rocks back and forth on her feet, her body language projecting relaxation and comfort just as strongly as the mental influences she sends. If she looks casual then it should make it easier for him to relax as well. The human mind is not so far distant from the animalistic instincts it once possessed as many would like to believe. Monkey see, monkey do. Body language can speaks volumes and in this case she uses it to utter yet more soothing words of calm with such a practiced ease that it would be unthinkable to even consider that it could be an act.

"Well, Jao, you're right. I am a fighter, of sorts. But not the kind that hurts people. I'm a performer! I put on shows for people with martial arts. It's kind of like dancing. Do you know how to dance, Jao?"

Yet more commotion takes place to the side but once again Momoko pays it no mind save for a quick glance. The sight of the unsteady guards amidst the walls of human stoicism is certainly bizarre but that's not her problem. Right now, she needs to figure out what's going on here with this kid. Surely they can't expect her to fight him?

Whatever has happened to this child, it must be something terrible beyond the scrapes and bruises already on his destitute person. There can only be bewilderment in the wake of this boy even being here, and yet, he was summoned.
The circumstances yet continue to elude those who would care to try and decipher them most, but the odd bracelet on one wrist speaks a terrible truth - he has been given a blessing. A blessing of a golden warmth that ensures there will be no peace in his future, however brief.
Hearing his name in that cheery tone makes him flinch, and an emotional reaction proves more obscure - maybe even frustrating - to pinpoint. He turns away from Momoko entirely, as if seeing... something.
He's met with another sharp spear point goading him back inward, inserted so smoothly into Momoko's further introduction of herself as to not interrupt. He ends up a few steps closer to her than he began.
"...N-No. I... I don't," he's not screaming and crying and carrying on now, but it's a stretch to say that's much of an improvement. He seems to be looking for any and every excuse to just... get away. There is none available, as he starts to pace around the perimeter which earns a few more watchful masked guard eyes.
"I don't want to dance," his throat is so sore from the earlier carrying on he must have gone through, "I want... I want to go home..."
"Then fight for your right to yet draw breath," comes some encouragement from one of the masked guards, "lest you no home to return to." That might really be encouragement?
Meanwhile, the weird guards, way back.
The guard on the right-hand side of the trio is... released? They stand appreciably alert and able, aside from holding their spear single-handedly with a forawrd point towards nothing... and then slides to a seated position. Huh.
The guard on the left-hand side of the trio is released further down the primary path towards the arena. It takes all of three seconds for them to fall backwards across a low barrier, clearing it and leaving their lower body stretched upward towards the heavens.
Something is not right, as the third approaches without anything resembling the careful drilling and discipline expected of the way these guards should be moving. Even the naginata is held incorrectly, dragging along the ground by a single-handed grip with the left. They start to build some speed, their right hand raised upwards with two fingers extended, a thumb flexed over the other two.
The monks are too polite - or too well-disciplined - to point out this blatantly suspicious behavior. Some might simply interpret this as a deadly test of focus to shut out distractions, the failures to meet death. A little too convenient.
By some quirk of fate, or a terrible and unwelcome jest from the Elder Gods, almost all of the alert guards there are keeping careful watch on the two young children. Jao is a flight risk. Momoko is not showing exact readiness to fight a bloody battle worthy of being a Mortal Kombatant.
Patience begins to wear thin, and yet, annoyance is being directed to the least threatening channels.

Momoko lets out a soft sigh under her breath, out of concern rather than exasperation. Whatever happened to this boy the imprint it has left on him is making even her talents almost useless. Some wounds take a long time to heal and it seems pretty clear that the best she can hope for here is to calm him down perhaps long enough to find a way out of this mess.

The dancer scratches at her head as she ponders the conundrum. These darn monks aren't helping her out here. She needs to get him away from this place, somewhere safe and warm. As it stands, the imminent threat of potential violence is frustrating her efforts to soothe his soul. Truth be told, it's making her rather uneasy as well. This isn't the kind of tournament that she's used to, nor what she was expecting. If only Athena was here... But the idol is off handling her own match, which means she'll have to solve this problem on her own.

"Um... well... maybe you could... forfeit?"

Ofcourse, why didn't she think of it sooner?! Her expression brightens even as she says it, a fist slamming down into her open palm with gusto. It's the perfect solution! If he forfeits there's no reason for them to fight.

"Yeah! Just, uh..." She points dramatically at Jao, putting on a stern expression, her voice dropping to a deeper pitch as she intones gravely. "I, Momoko, command you to yield! What say you, Jao?"

It isn't a complete loss, if it should even be seen as one - Momoko's talents still yet develop. This boy, whoever or whatever he is, may yet prove a benchmark to her further development (as a Psycho Soldier). This is a trying situation for everyone, even the sunniest of souls and happiest of hearts. Outworld is not a place for either. Only ruin and death tend to be its residents...
A breakthrough seems to come as Momoko suggests the idea of yielding. There's a sudden burst of emotion - relief? Maybe? It's getting a reaction that might be positive to getting the both of them out alive...!
"Y-You'd... we can do that?" Jao leaps onto the idea metaphorically, nodding and throwing a hand up. "I yield! I give up! I, I, I, I lose, let me go, let me g--"
"FINISH HIM!" That voice calls.
"Wh-whaaaat?" Jao falls onto his seat. "N-No, I--"
All of a sudden, a guard leaps into the open square between them! This is such an amazing faux pas that the rest of the present guard detail recoils as though they were wounded by such a terribly impolite gesture that should see them struck down where they stand...!
"I am a guard! My name is, uh, Vogel or something. Yep. Vogel," comes a slightly muffled, attention-grabbing voice. Momoko might have heard it on TV in passing, somewhere.
Jao should be shaking and running, but... he doesn't. He looks up, dropping the hammer. He mouths a single syllable. Momoko would know what it is the very moment he says it.
The guard wraps his right arm around the young boy, who does not recoil. "This boy is, uh. In trouble. Lots of trouble. For not... er. Wearing shoes."
"Guard things! I'm a guard. I can do that," he postures proudly, "I can take him wherever I want. That's what guards do, eh?"
"So he's to be punished by being taken out for ice cream. Because. Um. Orders. Over and out," this guard - no, this utter idiot! - ascertains, Jao clinging onto this guy like he's his lifeline. Could it be--
"His nice new friend can come be punished, too." He tries to spin the naginata in one hand once, as if a terrible attempt to reaffirm that he is a guard. He successes on ripping the two-toned jackal-like mask off his face, revealing...
Oh, it's Howard Rust, Jr., man of hystery-a. He looks to either side a few times, before leaning in close to Momoko - maybe a bit too close for her comfort - as he brings his free hand across his face and whispers (completely out loud) to her.
"They don't suspect a thing. Want to go?" The look on his face. He... seems to really believe that, even with his true face exposed, to say nothing of the fantastic braided hair that no man should ever be allowed to have.
The sudden amount of spear blades being stuck towards them speaks decisively to the exact opposite of how convincing he believes himself to be.

Momoko nods enthusiastically as her plan works perfectly! The boy will surrender, she'll gain a victory point or something, and no one gets hurt! Truly, she's found the best possible solution to this-


Come again?

The girl blinks and stares at Jao, her brain attempting to process the words. Finish him? But, the fight's over. What else could they want her to do? Apparently, whatever it is, the boy seems to be quite terrified of it, though to be fair he could simply be recoiling on instinct at this point. The words certainly sound ominious enough.

Her train of thought is violently derailed as the off-putting guard leaps into the fray, metaphorically speaking, interposing himself between the two kombatants in a manner most sacriligious. The massive wave of motion as the onlooking wall of guards recoil in unison further adds to the insanity of the entire thing, their seemingly implacable resolve shattered by such a simple thing. Momoko's mouth opens as if to say something but she's cut off by the bizarre ramblings of the masked interloper.

A look of dawning realization and dread slowly falls over her countenance as the emotional charge in Jao manages to catch her attention. This is a rescue! Normally, she'd have jumped for joy at the thought of having someone, /anyone/, step into save her from this awful mess. However, their would-be savior proves to be either completely out of his mind or incompetant on a level that is painful. This just makes things worse!

Swallowing hard as she glances around at the pointy ends of more spears than she cares to count, Momoko 'whispers' back at the man with a weak smile. "I think they might have something a little different in mind for our punishment..."

Things just couldn't get any worse, could they?
"Father," Jao murmurs, "y-you came... how did--"
"Oh, I got a heck of a tale for that," he laughs nervously in the face of so many spear blades that would like to slice open his throat as to ensure this tale never gets told. "Ahh. Take it easy," he says, free-r hand raised to Momoko, "I'm sure it's a misunderstanding. I mean, I'm a gu--"
Yeah, that won't fly now, and blades are already pressing up against his neck. There's that stupid grin, even as blood starts to trickle down his throat.
Specific aspects of this turn of events starts to make sense for certain people, if only just so. To every ordinary emotionless, motionelss Shaolin monk and masked guard, this is insanity. When is the last time anyone dared to intervene in the grand kontest that is Mortal Kombat?! This man does not appaer to be an Elder God, or anything near that caliber.
A crazy, uninformed, ignorant, truly idiotic mortal! Death wouldn't be enough of a punishment. Would it?
"What?!" Shouts another guard, whose length of service may now be dramatically shortened himself for the exclamation. "Forgive my impudence, I-- yes. You two! Young girl. The fool."
"Aw, I'm sure she's a clever cooki--"
He's pushed back to quiet by another push of teh blade. He doesn't have much give left in his neck to keep it in the 'uncomfortably close to death' zone as opposed to the 'impaled through' zone.
"You have interrupted the sacred kontest that is Mortal Kombat - but you are to be granted a mercy."
The aging man probably says something stupid here. What he says isn't important to note. It can be realistically assumed by all parties and observers, present and future, that whatever he is saying is stupid.
"Should both the child named MOMOKO and the intruder, HOWARD RUST JR., fight here and now, your kardinal sin shall be pardoned! Your alternative..."
"Oh. That's simple enough," so says a man that seems so simple, as Jao quakes anew, "all right!"
He starts to do a dramatic turn, withdrawing another tarp from... where? One would assume that he's going to be changing out of the guard costume into his usual get-up, but... somehow, he tangles himself up within two full layers of clothing within the transformation, falling over and rocking back-and-forth upon the stone arena ground.
"I'm okay!" He says, giving a thumbs up as his head is squeezed against his bicep through the hole of a shirt meant for just the head. "I'll drop the gloves right here," he says, seeming all too ready to get in a fight with a sixteen year-old girl as Jao, mercifully, is allowed to cower near one of the corners.
This... is going to be one of those days. Momoko is given the freedom to kick off this interrupted kontest as she sees fit, while he sorts out a whole new class of wardrobe failure unforeseen in all previous Mortal Kombats.
Which of the Elder Gods is to blame for this...?

COMBATSYS: Rust has started a fight here on the right meter side.

                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0             Rust

Spears. Lots of spears. That's all that Momoko is focused on as the guards move in to pen the intruder, his son, apparently, and the small girl into a tight wad. She gulps again and remains as motionless as possible, staring down her nose at no less than three shimmering steel blades mere inches away from turning her into a shishkebab. Unlike Rust, she says nothing as the guards deliberate over their fate, not even daring to inhale the necessary breath that would be required to speak for fear of prompting their captors to misinterpret the motion as some sort of threat. She is as statuesque as the monks themselves were only a little while ago though her expression is a great deal less intimidating than their masks.

Fortune is on her side this day, it would seem. Despite being caught up in all of this nonsense, they are being given a second chance by way of doing what she had expected to come here and do in the first place - a fight. Only once the guards have withdrawn their many spears does she finally move, exhaling the breath she had been holding sharply and sucking fresh air into her lungs. That was too close. Sweat trickles down her back and she shudders with a sudden chill at the thought of what could have happened. Why do things keep turning out like this? Can't she just have a nice normal vacation?!

Realizing the futility of the question, Momoko instead turns her attention towards something she atleast has some control over, eyeing her opponent. Except he's not there. He's under another tarp. Her eye twitches a little at the sight of the large man struggling with something most people master by the age of three and she lets out a soft giggle tinted with the slightest hints of madness. Why her?!

Needless to say, she's not about to kick this weirdo while he's down and unable to defend himself. While there might be plenty of people who would suffer no hesitation at taking such an opportunity, particularly with what is at stake, she is not one of them. Instead, she uses the time to prepare herself for the coming contest of skill. It might be a pointless effort, judging by the disgraceful displays that have been presented by this man thus far, but on the other hand he was brought to the island same as her. There must be atleast some smidge of talent behind his antics.

Momoko takes a deep breath and centers herself, her eyes sliding shut as she attempts to dispel as many distractions from her mind as she can. It's a difficult task for one such as her. No one has yet taken the time to train her on the proper methods of blocking out the psychic influences of the world around her. She had developed a method of her own over the years but it had grown into something of a cancer at her core, a darkness with a will of its own which had been recently excised. Overall, it was better this way, but it still left her vulnerable to certain influences. Fortunately, the monks don't have a lot to offer in the way of mental noise, which just leaves the quivering fear of Jao and the mental chaos of his father.

The effort it requires to shut them out with her own fear still lingering from the close encounter is considerable. Emotions are at once both very difficult and very easy to ward against. Cutting herself off completely would be a sure enough solution but not one without consequences. Coming back from that particular ledge isn't easy either. She doesn't want to weld the door shut just muffle the noise created by her rowdy neighbors, so to speak; a far more difficult task.

Fresh sweat starts to bead on her skin as she works the mental blocks into place. Her feet move from side to side in the familiar idle stance of her martial fighting style, her slender body swaying back and forth to the rhythm of a beat that only she can hear. It really does look like dancing. With a final huff, she opens her eyes and gives a single nod, her expression blooming into a bright smile.

"Alright! Let's do this!"

COMBATSYS: Momoko has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Momoko           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Rust

COMBATSYS: Momoko enters a trance-like state.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Momoko           0/-------/----===|-------\-------\0             Rust

To this oaf's credit, it does take a certain amount of, um, ability, to tangle himself up in both whatever he usually dresses in underneath (looks like a lot of denim? Shorts. There's a sandal that's on his face, currently) and the beige guard uniform. At one point he grimaces (and yet laughs!) as he manages to pull a leg back up too far to be good for his aging joints. Maybe he's just having a nice laugh at himself...
For being a man who was within an uncomfortably short distance from being killed on the spot, he seems much too cheerful as he finds some time in his dramatic cloth-changing woes to idly rub at the cut on his throat while Momoko takes the moment to re-center herself for the upcoming battle.
This is willful ignorance. It has to be. No one who dares set foot upon this realm should be allowed to maintain this much cheer. Momoko is a sixteen year-old teenage girl. Howard is a forty-five year-old middle-aged man going on forty-six. How does anyone get to his age continuing to be like this...?
Given the stakes, it may be prudent not to dwell upon these questions. There is wisdom in quieting the conflicting, overpowering emotions. Distress and fear of Jao, joy and excitement of Howard Jr., both of which have their place - but in these doses, not here.
Compared to her skillful recentering, he mostly writhes and rolls back and forth until he gets the beige guard clothes off of himself. There we go, that's the usual wear. Top half of a mechanic's jumpsuit, white undershirt, old denim shorts, a ratty toolbelt full of tools that ought to be making clacking and clanging noises but isn't... and the sandals, at last, appear to be in the right place as he shoots upright to a stand.
The oddest thing about this is how he achieves a skillful, clean, faultless draw of a length of piping from that toolbelt, wielding it in his left hand. (Great, a southpaw.) It seems well-timed with Momoko's declaration of readiness.
"You bet!" He flashes a thumb up with his right hand, as he swings the length of pipe behind his back while he leans over. This could be a cool pose to base a piece of artwork of o--
And then he falls forward in a somersault, resting upon his shoulders and neck, curling toes inward in an outstretched, raised left leg while he flexes the right leg across the kold, unfeeling stone, risking to scratch flesh against the rough ground that has seen so much blood spill.
Is that a stretch? Some kind of stretch? It's... um. What is that pose supposed to be, anyway? This devolves down quickly from 'photo op' to 'ridiculously embarrassing' like a horrible mood swing.
Jao seems more confused than afraid. If Momoko asks, there doesn't appear to be any answers he could give.
It has to be some sort of obscure, unknowable, super-secret yoga stretch only attainable by people who have never, ever attended a proper yoga class... or something. It appears to serve no point, and yet... he seems to be in the zone, doing this.
...Let's... move on.

COMBATSYS: Rust gathers his will.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Momoko           0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0             Rust

The sudden forward motion causes Momoko to take a quick hop back, her steady swaying rhythm allowing her to flow easily into the movement and drop right back into it without pause. She had been expecting an attack of some sort. Instead, she's treated to yet another bit of visual dischord. The girl's eyebrows rise briefly in curiosity and she stares, once more flabbergasted by any attempt to sift reason out of the strange man's actions. Perhaps it is best to simply not bother.

"Um... I'm going to start now..."

The question is, how? She supposes that his odd stretching position has mostly left Rust prone which means he should be susceptible to a low strike of some sort but she's not quite sure what the best way to approach him would be. What sorts of tricks does he have up his sleeve? The pipe looks rather dangerous, as does the belt of tools. Is he really going to use those as weapons?This has to be the strangest fight she's been in yet.

Nothing for it but to dive into the thick of it. Leaning foward, Momoko flows from one of her graceful swaying steps into a full on run, both arms held out at her side to balance the precarious top-heavy stance. Even with this precaution in place, the girl seems to lose her footing after only a few steps, tumbling to the ground in a small ball of limbs.

However, instead of simply smashing onto her face, Momoko's fall turns out to be a controlled dive and she tucks herself up into a neat roll that carries her across the last few feet of distance between herself and the... plumber? The dancer unfurls her body at the last moment before impact and flops onto her side in a most adorable fashion. Less adorably, though not by much, one leg stretches out from her rolly-polly manuever to jab at Rust's side even as a brilliant burst of shimmering pink sparkles winks to life around the bare foot.

"Phoenix... Arroooow!"

COMBATSYS: Momoko successfully hits Rust with Phoenix Arrow.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Momoko           0/-------/--=====|===----\-------\0             Rust

As Momoko rolls across the stone to bring the battle into motion, things get that much more curious as she draws within striking distance with that kick which thrusts out of her forward tumble impersonating one of her role model's foremost techniques.
Visibly, he seems to try and move away! The leg rubbing against the ground in a manner that borders, crosses, and expatriates into the nonsensical lifts upwards to meet the already raised leg as though to prompt a short roll.
It would not have failed if the attack were just the roll, sans kick. Given the way he pulls back, what is intended for his side ends up nailing him in the rear end.
He's not facing Momoko, which deprives her of the strange face he makes on impact. His tongue, already sticking out of his mouth to rest upon his upper lip, nearly reaches into his nostril as his jaw clenches (what of his tongue? Ouch, poor tongue, that's a bitin') as the landed kick gives him the extra kick to flip painfully on his knees in a knelt-over pose. One of his knees wobble against the konkrete.
That's an example of a ruse. Right? That has to be. It's an improbably silly decision born from yet another. Assuming that the display was some manner of channeling power, the swift movement he appeared to attempt suggests it was one he was willing - even planning! - to ditch at a moment's notice. Most would rather stand their ground to maintain and keep their gathered power... it does not appear an approach that would bear much fruit.
The guards, at last, make space so that the two kombatants have the full space to fight in, now convinced with Momoko's assault that this is indeed a true battle.
"Father!" Jao shows concern with him getting his butt kicked (literally), as could be expected.
"Yep, that's a kick," the declaration comes with an exhale, but it doesn't seem like there's much less in the way of cheerfulness as he pulls himself up to a stand, and starts to move in as if to avoid being pushed out of the ring.
Moving in upon the capoeira practitioner, he brings up his free right hand to try and grab her arm, stand her up if she hasn't recovered already, and try to yank her across an outstretched foot in a tripping motion.

COMBATSYS: Momoko interrupts Medium Throw from Rust with Cabegada EX.

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Momoko           0/-------/=======|======-\-------\0             Rust

Momoko's kick has a good deal more omph to it than her slight frame would imply. Most people look at the small girl, barely more than twelve by the usual estimation, and do not see someone capable of holding their own in a sport as brutal as street fighting. However, even if she wasn't a trained combtant, the sort of dancing she does is a lot more physically demanding than one might expect! She's no slouch and the bruises that she leaves are evidence of that.

But she's also not here to hurt anyone, as she explained to her opponent's fearful son only a short while ago. There is no malice in her strike, no desire to break bones or crush flesh. It's just a big game to her, just one with a little more rough-housing than most. Ofcourse, she cheats a little - those pretty sparkles serve more purpose than merely adding some cute visual flair to her attacks - but no one needs to know that.

Fortunately for Rust, Momoko doesn't get to see most of his oddly pathetic flopping about and tongue biting. She rebounds from the kick after a couple of moments, pushing herself up to her feet with a spritely hop at around the same time as her opponent. Not quite sure what to expect next, the dancer hesitates and that gives Rust just enough time to round on her and make his grabbing attempt.


As is often the case, the sheer difference in size makes life rather difficult for Momoko when it comes to grappling. Technique she may have but that's often not enough to counter reach and brute strength, especially once they've got their mitts on her. Rust yanks her forward, his legs sweeping in the opposite direction in a classic takedown throw. With few options remaining to her, Momoko has to be quick on her feet and use her head - literally!

Pushing down with her feet just as the sweep comes, she hops over the trip and slams her head into the bottom of Rust's jaw. A brilliant burst of pink sparkles explodes upon impact, filling her vision with stars both real and metaphorical. It's not a pleasant impact for either one of them but, as with any headbutt, she's hoping that it worked out worse for him.

Even the very act of beginning and performing a competent maneuver seems to throw the flow of this guy's character for a loop. One moment he's ineptly staging a rescue, another moment he's... doing that weird flopping thing where the less said about it in retrospect the better, and then! A flash of actual fighting technique.
As befitting of one who can bear the title of being a King of Fighters, Momoko overcomes this next challenge, coming out ahead of the exchange by using her very head.
Vision overcome by pink lights, center of gravity overtaken by superior force, and more comically exaggerated faces made (either he just crushed an entire row of teeth, or his jaw has been jostled in such a way to give him a most painful underbite with it being forced higher up his skull), the much older man is launched up off his feet and a ways into the air.
"Father!" Cries Jao again. This word will doubtlessly be repeated many times over.
Hitting the stone arena on his back, he tumbles into a crouch, shaking his head as he sticks the pipe into the ground as support to pull himself back on up with a shake of his head.
"Ahh. Easy enough." He... doesn't seem too upset? He's been out-played twice already by a very young girl, getting humiliated both by himself and by her - any essential dignity this man must have had, he left at the front door!!
He takes a number of steps back towards Momoko, the first seeming shaky and suggesting that maybe he hasn't fully recovered from that last headbutt quiiiite yet, taking the length of pipe in both hands and then thrusting it forwards, right around hip level...
...Not to hit, but to hook...?
If she recognizes this man and his technique in retrospect - should she or anyone else live to have any sort of retrospection upon any particular meeting - there seems to be a showier element in play. Usually, it's just simple 'hook article of clothing with pipe, lift, then fling.'
This time, there's an added flourish if he gets a hold of her - as if to intend to hoist her up, wave her around like a flag! - before tossing her further towards the center of the arena.

COMBATSYS: Momoko dodges Rust's Wrecking Ball Swing.

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Momoko           0/-------/=======|=======\-------\0             Rust

Momoko's recovery from the headbutt is only slightly more graceful. It is a technique that she has only just recently added to her repetoire, an advanced manuever meant for more serious fights. The experiences of the last few months have encouraged her to focus a great deal more intently on her training with the intent to take her skills up to the next level. She isn't quite there yet, as evidenced by the way she winces and rubs her head in response to her own assault, but there's progress.

Fortunately, her last second skull-rattling manuever seems to have done much worse to her opponent. Rust flies back and flops to the ground, giving her a few seconds to shake the stars out of her vision and take up a proper combat stance again. Not a moment too soon, either.

The pipe-wielding dad lunges at her again but this time his odd weapon leads the way. She's never had the opportunity to witness whatever this bizarre fighting style is in action so she hasn't the foggiest idea what he intends to do with it. What she /does/ know is that she has no desire to be there when it happens.

The lithe dancer sways to the side with a fluid movement and the tip of the pipe skewers the air beside her with a soft whoosh. Not wasting the opportunity that this presents, Momoko pivots on one foot and brings her other leg up in an L-shape with her body as she spins. Her heel smashes out into his side, not once but twice as she twirls in place like a dervish.

COMBATSYS: Momoko successfully hits Rust with Spin Kick.

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Momoko           0/-------/=======|=======\-------\1             Rust

Drawing back the pipe up high, he separates his grip while keeping the left hand on the weapon in question. Come to think of it, his toolbelt has a lot of things there that look like they could be weapons. The screwdriver 'blades' look a little on the sharp side... with a free hand, is he going to reach for them?
He doesn't. Two fingers rise upwards from his right hand, crossing a thumb over the others that remain curled as he goes into a lower crouch while Momoko weaves past his superior reach to go inside with the skilled kickin'. (Is he some kind of ninja? That hand gesture is very ninja.)
In a flash, he proves swift on his feet even while wearing sandals, gliding skillfully across the stone floor with speed and panache.
He just happens to do so right into her waiting heel, nailing him under his right arm to get him to double over, one leg kicking out into space off to the side as though over-committing into the movement. It's the second kick into that same spot that stops him from toppling over as he's re-balanced back onto two feet after staggering off to the side by a good three steps and capping it off with a cough.
Jao tries to hide his face under one of his arms. Fear.
Rust Jr. wheezes out a laugh as he rights himself to a proper fighting stance. Joy.
Surface emotions, for those that can reach through Momoko's focus. Are they distractions, or could there be some deeper meaning beyond them...?
Not left reeling for too long (well, long enough that Momoko isn't at risk of being caught completely off guard), the aging man moves in with his right, aiming to bring a black-gloved palm to her face. Moving in after contact, should there be one, he moves to shove her downward on her back. Readjusting the grip of the pipe in his left hand towards the center, he brings said hand closer to his face as the pipe scrapes against his own right shoulder, one finger extended - the meaning of which is not clear. (Some sort of ninja thing again?)
Given their environs, perhaps every single gesture can and should be treated as a life-threatening act - especially with how he seems to be taking all this!

COMBATSYS: Momoko blocks Rust's Brick Stacker.

[       \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Momoko           1/-------/=======|=======\-------\1             Rust

Whatever joy that Rust seems to be experiencing in this fight is not shared by the empath. The entire thing is simply too bizarre for her to be having fun. First the creepy monks, then the crying boy, and now a life-or-death struggle with a plumber/ninja. Even the great success that she has enjoyed thus far is subsumed by her concentrated efforts to figure out exactly what is going on and what she might be expected to do once this bout is over.

'Finish him!'

The words still echo in her head, bouncing around like a bullet all over the inside of her skull. What could they possibly mean? Did they expect her to... kill? No, that would be completely absurd! No government would allow such barbaric practices to take place. What's more, there's simply too many well known and famous people on this island. Surely, questions would be asked if some were to fail to return?

Her musings are cut short as Rust renews his offensive. This time, she is a little too close to simply get out of the way. Instead, Momoko relies on a different aspect of her mighty powers to see her through the situation - that art of being incredibly small. The big palm shoots forward to smack her in the face and she simply lets it happen. The impact is not pleasant but hardly anything to cry over but rather than let him get a grip on her face and push her down to the pavement, the petite girl uses the momentum imparted by the blow to flop onto her back much faster than he probably anticipated.

Momoko hits the ground in a controlled fall, her little toosh taking the brunt of it, and she continues to roll backwards in a smooth motion. As her feet rise up over her head, she jams both of them straight up into the air like a piston, driving them once more towards Rust's chin or perhaps his chest; whatever happens to be looming over her at the moment.


Her girlish kiai pierces through the ominous silence of their battlefield as she attempts to leverage her position, using the forward lunging motion of her opponent as he leans down to push in order to heft him up and over and away. It may not prove the smartest of tactics with their difference in size and weight but her options at the moment are limited!

COMBATSYS: Rust interrupts Heel Kick from Momoko with Quick Throw.

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Momoko           1/----===/=======|=======\==-----\1             Rust

In a vacuum, the differences between attitudes are astounding. What do these two warriors, pitted in a battle intended to be to the very death, see around them? Could one of them be living a fantasy, fighting uphill against the beliefs of another?
It is a mystery that may only be able to be solved through the judicious use of wits and feet, as Momoko works the larger and older man's apparent overextension against himself. The fingers of his right hand curl, save for the index finger. It's lost in a flash, when she converts to defensively raise her feet up.
He's not as over-extended as he might appear, running his right hand back atop one of her striking legs. If it's an attempt at a catch, it's not a good one. It slides too far past. The jolt of the other kick striking right at his neck instead sees it violently jerk against the leg he nearly caught (was that his intention?), a strong shove that might flex the leg in question too far in a direction than Momoko might be comfortable with, even with her gifted flexibility granted through youth and studious training.
The worst she might suffer for the exchange is along the lines of an awful thigh or calf cramp - painful and flow-breaking, but not a show-stopper. For his effort, whatever the point might be, he is the clash's clear loser - Momoko doesn't get in the heft of both legs, but she gets in a solid shot to his throat punctuated with a vocal hiss that may have been the beginning of something, showering spittle and a bit of blood as he stumbles back ever closer towards the rim.
In the waves of emotion present, there does not appear to be aura of anger or disappointment that dominated this deadly battleground. Only the fear of the boy, and the joy of the man that... does not appear to have subsided, even as he's bringing his free hand against his neck as if to nurse it.
The momentum is still under the young Psycho Soldier's control.


Things have not gone according to plan. Well, they kind of did. Momoko's foot slams into a soft spot as she kicks upwards and the blow drives her aggressor back several feet giving her plenty of room to recover her footing. However, his oafish attempt to snatch at her leg ends up glancing off to the side but in so doing it bends the fragile joint of her slender limb several degrees further than it is supposed to go with little she can do to stop it.

Momoko yelps in surprise even as she falls onto her stomach, her skillful rising kick/backflip turning into an ungainly flop. Instinctively, she tucks the wounded knee up against her stomach, hugging it tightly as various degrees of pain dance across her features. Not cool, not cool. But she doesn't have time to curl up and nurse this particular wound. These monks don't seem like the type to allow time outs.

Exhaling sharply, Momoko pushes the kernel of agony in her leg into a dark corner of her mind, blanketing it in much the same way she had done for the external emotions. It's not a complete fix but it's enough for her to walk it off for the moment. The girl pushes back to her feet, her movements a little less quick than before but no less agile. She leans experimentally on the leg in question and nods; sturdy enough to see her through the rest of this.

Turning her gaze back to the battered older man, she offers him a grin. Both of them have landed a couple of good shots, whether by luck or talent. His reach and size is proving to be a powerful asset but one that she has mostly managed to overcome thus far. The sheer absurdity of his fighting style is proving to be a challenge in and of itself, offering her little in the way of insight as to what to expect. The normal cues to watch out for - flexing muscles, a shifting of the eyes, a change in stance - none of that is providing her reliable data here. This is actually sort of interesting.

"Alright, old guy!" She can't remember his name. What did the monk call him? Roost? Rast? She's not very familiar with foreign names. Her English is good enough to make conversation, atleast, though obviously tinted fairly heavily with the hallmarks of Japanglish accent. "Let's dance!"

The girl drops into her swaying stance once more, sliding her feet back and forth on the ground in small hop steps. She does this only for a few moments, however, before shifting to the offensive. He's had more than enough time to prepare! The waifish girl leans forward and dashes outright at Rust, her arms held out to her sides for balance, almost like a child might do when pretending to be an airplane. Her speed is not to be laughed at though and the distance between the vanishes in a flash.

Momoko shows no signs of slowing down as she barrels towards her target - if anything, she's speeding up, doing her best impression of an American linebacker preparing to simply bulldoze whatever gets in his way. Instead of throwing herself suicidally at the much larger mass of muscle, however, the dancer converst her forward motion into another acrobatic display at the last moment. She hops into the air, her body carthwheeling rapidly into a forward spin that brings both of her outstretched legs down upon Rust in rapid succession, heels smashing down like a pair of hammers upon an anvil.

Barring any sort of catastrophic failure on this attempt, she lands with just as much grace and poise, twirling backwards a couple of steps in a display that is equal parts defensive manuever and elegant flourish.

COMBATSYS: Rust blocks Momoko's Change-Up Kick.

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
Momoko           1/----===/=======|=======\===----\1             Rust

With his tongue lolling out as he gags out the rest of his discomfort, the old guy approaches something that could be seen - maybe nominally - as a combat stance, the pipe held outward as if to gauge and maintain the reach advantage he holds upon her.
For what issues she seems to have in reading the specifics, she appears to skim the summary with good accuracy. He appears to have been mostly outplayed thus far even with her educated guesses on his movements and ideas, with one curious detail.
Let's get back to that in a moment.
"Old? I'm only forty-five young here with!" Here with? That's the challenge he barks back, working up a pained grin. A smile. The worst - or best! - part is that it appears legitimate, by her advanced empathy. He's hurt, he's aching, and yet, he still smiles.
His child is the exact opposite, but he has not thought to move in to try and disrupt - too rooted by fear to do anything other than scream for someone he wants to help, but cannot.
Momoko comes in with her invitation to dance, and the pace she makes ensures that neither are going to be late to it as she takes to the very air, ready to bring down extensive force with heels fit to make one kneel before one of the King of Fighters!
Another (fleeting?) moment of competence comes through as he swings his entire right arm outward to catch it by the forearm - maybe it was a deflected attempt at grabbing her out of the air? This ties back into that curious detail, as he comes up against the very edge of the allowable fight area in an attempt to soak the inertia from taking the heat from the heel kick. One guard's already positioning to poke him with that spear to keep him in there.
His primary weapon, as he's drawn it, is a pipe. Yet, how often has he really swung it at her? As he boasts superior size and physical strength, a single good shot from that might lay her flat. That doesn't seem to be what he's been relying on...
The way he raises it up as he catches his footing while his right hand rears back from view - into his toolbelt, it seems, going by angles - it may be that he could finally be wising up to his own lack of wisdom.
"Not bad... for one of the King of Fighters!" He says through clenched, grinning, bloodied teeth, trailing off to another chortle. "Yep. Hate to say it, but now I gotta kill you where you stand."
Uh, that got morbid quick, but there's... no change in the emotional read?
He throws his right hand up into the air alongside some assorted objects of vague character or worth. Lots of small trinkets. A ticket stub? A bouncy ball? Some lint? If one listed everything he threw up into the air, one would be here for another hour, maybe. There's a sandy haze that suggests some manner of dust got thrown with it, but it's being hurled up high, not at Momoko's face. It seems pointless if it's part of a direct attack, especially if she's already moved in a pose more ready to anticipate what he could throw next.
"With one stroke, you'll be soaked in, uh, tomato juice." Is he attempting to console her about this upcoming assassination?! "Sorry." He laughs, but it's the same laugh as before - not any more maniacal or gleeful, it just... is, but...
If he's not joking, this could be the blow that kills. There's a flash in his eye - one of the tell-tale signs that seemed missing before. A cue, a give-away! Telegraphing!
It may not do much good unless Momoko is already moving, for the air seems to compress about just how fast his body moves, lining up his right arm underneath the pipe as he holds it in his left in what would be an underhand grip, thrusting it across the forearm with a downward angle that might hit at around Momoko's solar plexus as some detritus enters and exits her vision.
In a flash, the time and point of impact seems almost an utter certainty!
A fate appears sealed...

COMBATSYS: Momoko interrupts Weakened Exacting Measurement from Rust with Become A Star EX.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////                          ]
Momoko           0/-------/-----==|=======\=======\1             Rust

Fate is a fickle thing.

As the strange man prepares to perhaps act in a serious fashion for the first time throughout the whirlwind battle, his opponent at last catches a glimpse of that which she had been seeking since the start. Be it by design or incompetance, Rust's movements had thus far proven unreadable to her until the moment in which he acted, often far too late to do anything but snap reactions. The ability to obscure one's intentions is a potent tool for any fighter and she's simply not experienced enough to work around it very well.

However, as he draws back his ugly looking blunt weapon, steadying it over one arm as a pool player might their cue, she finally gets an obvious tell. The glint in his eyes, the verbal warning, and that whole part where he's lining up a shot on her ribs about as blatantly as anyone ever could. Despite all this, the strike is surprisingly quick leaving her with almost as little time to prepare as when he had given no warnings at all. Almost.

Those few extra moments of warning prove to be enough. As she falls back into her swaying stance, her body always in motion of some sort or another, she prepares her own little trick. Both hands lift up, her tiny fists clenching as shimmering pink power floods into her palms. The explosively fast pipe thrust smashes forward and for a moment is appears as if it will strike home with deadly precision, crashing into her exposed midriff like a knight's lance thrust.

Momoko's hand snap forward at the same exact moment as the pipe but rather than intercepting the metal bar she thrusts her palms flat out towards the middle-aged man's chest. They pass over the pipe harmlessly but as they do something strange happens. The air between the two combatants grows thick and distorted, shimmering waves of faint pink energy swirling to life around the tiny girl's outstretched arms. The pipe slows suddenly as if trapped in molasses and it's bone-shattering impact is reduced to a mere thud as it makes contact with her skin.

Rust, however, suffers a far less gentle fate. The small bubble of psychic power in his opponent's hands pops with a faint 'whoosh* and the very air around him suddenly heaves upwards violently as if gravity itself had reversed. Momoko lets out another girlish cry of effort as she hefts her arms up into the air and with that simple gesture the handyman goes sailing straight up into the sky as if he were little more than a feather. His time as a bird is short-lived, however, and gravity reasserts itself quite vehemently around twenty feet up.

"Bye bye, old guy! Hehe!"

Momoko waves cheerily at the airborne man as he sails through the air but her cheeky taunt is cut short as she suddenly takes notice of a strange feeling on her skin. Glancing down at her stomach, she is briefly stunned into horrified silence upon finding it a smeared red mess. Thick globs of red goo spread out in a circle from her bellybutton as if it had been the impact site of a tiny meteorite.

Is that... is that blood?! But, why doesn't she feel pain? It doesn't hurt at all. The color drains from her face. She remembers reading somewhere that loss of sensation in a wound generally meant that it was serious. The old man had been telling the truth when he said he was going to kill her!

Momoko drops to her knees, strength draining from her body as the realization that she is about to die settles in. She's been in terrible places before, situations just like this if not worse. But those threats had always been obvious, monsters and demons and madmen all. Had she survived them only to fall to... to a pipe?!

A strange new sensation suddenly overwhelms her quickly escalating despair. Warmth. Comfort. A sense of security and calm. She wasn't going to die. The very idea is absurd. For some reason, she understands with a clarity beyond normal ken that her life is one of the few things beyond the reach of anyone on this island.

Her eyes drop back down to her stomach and she marvels silently as a bright shimmering light begins to burn its way through the sticky mess of red. The small gemstone set into her bellybutton, one of the few piece of extravagant jewelry that she wears on a regular basis, glows with an inner green fire. The light is captivating and beautiful, twinkling with all the majesty of a new-born star. It lasts but a few moments before fading back to the sparkling shine of a simple gem, though it's lustre is far greater than what she remembers.

Curiously, she reaches down to prod the artifact. It doesn't feel any different on the surface. How odd. Some of the red goo smears on her finger as she does this. She recoils for a moment then remembers that this can't possibly be her blood. Can it? Her nose wrinkles daintly as she takes a sniff at the substance and immediately her eyebrows raise up in surprise.


A quick inspection of the rest of the red smear reveals a small packet of the stuff, the kind one might find at a cheap fastfood restraunt, caked underneath, it's edges burst outwards in several places where it was smashed flat by the pipe. Of all the cheap tricks...

The old man's fall is not gentle. He hits the raised edge of the fighting platform as though he might be broken into two just like that, with only a singular piece of commentary for the situation as his body bounces and flops unseen onto the ground beyond.
"Ow." A number of guards leave their station, some moving across the platform past Momoko, even, as he does not seem to see it fit to rise up after that last send-off.
"MOMOKO WINS." Says that booming voice, but...
There is no prompt for him to be 'finished.' Mysteriou--
The guards all swarm the interloper whom dared to defile the kontest by infiltrating and interposing themselves between the two youngest kombatants on record. The older man's involvement and ultimate nefarious purpose is made clear, without overt narration to state so. It seems there was an alternate plan in place for his defeat, all along. Momoko's farewell may truly be just that! She might be witness to an execution!
Howard only gets off a single word before all becomes too muddled in the chaos to hear much more.
"Shellfish!" Whatever that means, as he disappears into the crowd of rabid elite guards who seem, underneath their masks, delighted with the idea of teaching this fool their final, fatal lesson.
The meaning of this singular word is lost, but the intent of those present are not. This was to break the young child, to watch as their rescuer - their own father! - be brutally slaughtered before his very eyes.
"FATHER!" Jao screams, tearfully, full of despair. He is restrained by the one sole guard who does not join in the dogpile. Maybe now, this would be the push he needs to embrace his destiny, they might be hoping. The final, permanent removal of one thing he held dear as a crutch...
Suddenly, Jr.'s right arm thrusts outward in a gap among the dogpile. There is a gleaming, sapphire-like set of misshapen and irregular beads around his right wrist, shape-wise a match for the golden color of Jao's.
Wait, he has a boon from the Elder Gods? No one saw it spontaneously appear - if it did, it might've been while the guards were dogpiling him. If not... did he hide it from the very beginning down his sleeve? This very color, its given meaning, he's...
One can't confirm or deny who said that, but it was someone whose voice could be easily heard, understood with absolute klarity no matter where someone is, or what's going on around them.
Only that those words were, indeed, uttered by someone. (Let's not pry any further. Our souls might be on the line for even suggesting it...)
The guards disperse the very moment one spies the beaded wristband. The looks on their faces must be something amazing, but are lost to the two-toned jackal masks that hide them, all dispersing away as Rust Jr. sits up, bloodied and beaten but undoubtedly alive.
He's almost bowled back over by how fast Jao runs into his arms, releaased upon understanding the situation, the two embracing in a tender father-son hug.
"Ow," there it is again. "Sorry, Jao. It's all right. You're safe." Are they, really? The color of his boon... he will not enjoy the same protections that both Momoko and himself do, and yet, Momoko could feel the happiness and peace eminating from him.
Feelings that never appeared to escape him. He went in here cheerful and confident, never breaking stride.
With his right hand, he sticks his thumb up in approval towards Momoko, still finding room to find a smile from the corner of his mouth even after immense pain and even the possibility of utter heartbreak this very day.
This, however, is only the very beginning of everyone's trials...

COMBATSYS: Rust equips a dim Sapphire Soul Shard.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////                          ]
Momoko           0/-------/-----==|=======\=======\1         [E] Rust

COMBATSYS: Rust channels the fortress of the steel will.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////                          ]
Momoko           0/-------/-----==|=======\=======\1         [E] Rust

COMBATSYS: Rust takes no action.

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

COMBATSYS: Rust can no longer fight.

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

Log created on 19:18:35 09/14/2016 by Rust, and last modified on 05:03:38 09/18/2016.