Mortal Kombat - MK Round 2: Ryu vs Ken

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Description: Two legendary disciples devoted to a paradoxically non-lethal evolution of killing arts meet in the ultimate bloodsport, pitted in mortal kombat over a chasm that's claimed many lives. One of them is even compelled to violence and murder by an ominous psychic presence. It's a clash of wills within and without, and a lesson in the power of friendship and purity of intent!

To the west, the mountains. To the east, forests and plains. Everywhere... death. Few places embody the konstant more than the bridge that spans between the two halves of the island.
The moon shines what light it does upon the cloudy skies of the evening. It makes the great, continuous slab of stone appear to stretch endlessly between the two halves. A sense that once one steps foot here, the only way can feel like it would be down. Down off the sides - with no guardrails or even any safety to speak of - into oblivion.
Toweards the east end of the bridge, one young man stands with his back turned towards the west. Fists clenched enough to be battle-ready, a chilling breeze runs through the valley...
But the ends of the headband do not move with it. Were it not for the unmistakable hues of human flesh, this young man might seem an obstructive statue. For his motionlessness without, so much stirs and moves within.
The cravings for violence, the urge to kill, the influence of a vainglorious madman wanting to pull every string... all before an inescapable battle that features within a long-awaited reunion.
A dim magenta light escapes from the cracks of one of his fists.

What day is it? How long has he been here? Ken can't even fully disregard the idea that this whole thing is some kind of bizarre fever or chemically-induced dream. That possibility is, however, farther and farther from his mind with each guard he trounces and each stretch of ground he covers. Obstinant or no, no one's managed to kill the Blonde Battler yet-- though when the machinations of Shang Tsung and his subordinates lead Ken directly to Ryu? Masters becomes rather cooperative, acquiescing to kompete and even getting to replace his tattered robes with the lower half of an Outworlder's fighting gi, and tie his hair back with a fine red ribbon.

Some attention was given to the sparse lore behind the sharpened shard of golden crystal that had embedded itself in his fist during a particularly punishing Shoryuken leveled on one of the unfortunates who's gotten in Ken's path to this point-- a unique splinter that's utterly denied attempts to remove it, though at least quickly healed into place.

Coming down from that opposite westward path, leaving the palace and its craggy paths on the horizon as he reaches that ominous, narrow walkway. Ken can tell at a glance that something's wrong with his battle brother; something beyond a glance. Instinct tells him this is very wrong, beyond the death and violence echoing in this place. Nonetheless, his path forward is singular and static, unchanged by the malice tugging his best friend's heart. "Ryu!!"

The call is something between greeting and challenge, warm and familiar, as Ken steps steadily out onto the bridge over that deadly chasm... A terrifying battlefield for some, unfamiliar terrain, a new threat. In this case, it mirrors something that happened years ago-- deep in the craggy, ancient mountains nestled in the heart of Japan where Gouken trained Ryu and Ken, there's a natural chasm much more beautiful than this one, crossed by a roughly hewn bridge of natural rock hollowed over eons by the roaring river below it.

Ken's attitude has changed little from that day, truth be told. Given more gravity by the weight of this predicament. Even so, then as now the Blonde Battler stepped out onto the chasm crossing with the same lack of fear, and sure-footed grace-- alongside something deeper. Trust.

"Try not to fall over your own fat feet." It's spoken with a wry grin, echoing that moment in time once more-- Ken remembers. Apparently, 'what the hell is wrong with you/where have you been you maniac?!?' can wait for more opportune snark. Some things never change.

The voice of a dear friend cuts through the darkness and the dread. It is unmistakably Ryu, who stands there with his back turned to the Blonde Battler.
In better times - any time other than this one - Ken would see the slow turn of his best friend's head. To watch that hardened stoicism melt into those awkward, but warm smiles. The friendly wave of a hand. More often than not, the friendly extension of a fist to tap against the other's, signaling the start of their many amicable matches that - even as the best of friends - can match the intensity of some heated battles between the worst of foes of far greater stakes than just 'two friends catching up.' To pass a few friendly queries about what the other is up to, and usually for Ryu to give the same answers with the same enthusiasm and appreciation for being able to share what it he gets up to (training, all the time, everywhere, tales of interesting opponents he's learned from).
Another chilly wind passes through, a voiceless messenger of a headline that would grab a gaze unwilling to acknowledge what would be laid out in eye-catching lettering.
"Ken," the soft-spoken word from Ryu should be a precursor to relief, to the end of a long-running effort to find and reunite with a friend who had disappeared as far back as during the height of the HitBit measuring devices, but as he turns around to face Ken...
The glare in his eye. The way his facial muscles are tensed, as though used to a face completely different than the one before Ken. His dear friend - that's him in body. It becomes questionable how much it is him in mind and soul, the way those fists stay clenched.
Conflict. There's a shaking in the fist that bears the magenta shard that has taken residence. Those infamously fat feet are rooted firmly to the stone that must be unbearably cold to the naked flesh, as though unwilling to take a step further towards one he should be approaching with open hands. Open arms. An open heart.
Something... is wrong.
"FIGHT!" A booming voice calls out - there will be no time to make head or tails of any of this. No explanations, no apologies, no chance to calmly sort things through. The cruelty of Shang Tsung's machinations - to slowly break the bodies and resolve of the Earthrealm's warriors - remained underway.
Even so, Ken's very best friend seems resolute not to draw closer, as everything about those eyes and the subtle body language suggest something is compelling him to indulge.

COMBATSYS: Ryu has wandered into a fight here on the right meter side.

                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0              Ryu

COMBATSYS: Ryu equips a dim Magenta Soul Shard.

                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0          [E] Ryu

As the booming voice demands violence, Ken demonstrates the best way to give copious side-eye to an echoing presence, actively rolling said peepers. He's clearly impressed. "Man, I thought it would have been obvious even to you not to chug the kool-aid these crazy cultists offered post-abduction." Flippancy covers the concern well enough; and perhaps serves some chance of shaking Ryu out of his battle-trance.

"What happened? Is it this place?" Coming upon Ryu out here, scowling like the nomad is, it's like... the Demon. The stance, the menace, the only difference, perhaps, is Ken's brother's efforts to control it. Of course, in that inch is all the difference.

"We should be fighting this together, not jumping through hoops for some insane wizard. This is what happens when you live under a rock and miss your Harry Potter-- Voldemort puts you on an island and you're like sure, great, this tournament is a good idea!"

Ken's willing to approach his battle brother, but doesn't yet strike out. Instead, passing forward smoothly, with contradictory patience and grace as he argues with the Ansatsuken wanderer. It doesn't take him too long to reach the middle point of that expanse, muscles subtly tensed as dark eyes carefully study his old friend's dangerous stance for every detail, every clue.

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters has joined the fight here.

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Ken Masters      0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0          [E] Ryu

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters cracks his knuckles!

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Ken Masters      0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0          [E] Ryu

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters equips a warm Saffron Soul Shard.

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Ken Masters [E]  0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0          [E] Ryu

It is an inch that grows ever thinner. It's in the air, it's in the earth, it's before them, it's all around them. Death. Mayhem. For one who deeply struggles with an almost supernatural desire to kill, that alone must already be an overwhelming influence that takes his all to keep in check.
There's no upward crack of his mouth to any of Ken's quips. There have been jokes that have gone way over Ryu's head in happier times, but that's arguably one of his more endearing traits to those he'd call a friend - this doesn't seem to be one of those times, as flecks of red dance out from the otherwise imperceptible aura that seems to surround him.
Ken's words, Ken's reasons, they are of reason and humanity. Two resources that seem to have long since dried up, going by those who live here. Even the (vast majority of) servants, oft seem without personality or distinguishing feature other than to simply /be/.
There are hardly two men closer out on Earth - or anywhere - than Gouken's two greatest students. It is times like these, that they would put their teachings to use not just for the betterment of one another, but maybe even the world at large. Great hopes rest upon both their shoulders, on a scale almost unfathomable. Ken Masters has the right of it, a pin-point piercing accuracy to his words that pokes through the fiery personality he is known for.
Something is going on that is beyond mere reason and encouragement, as the fist bearing the magenta light - subtle as it is - clenches and unclenches again. He's fighting something.
"Ken," the name is repeated again. A bit more stressed. Distressed. The name is spoken with all the expected reverence - Ryu acknowledges that is his friend. Of this, Ken can be certain.
What is now equally certain to Ken is that something going on isn't completely his choice.
The way he snaps forward with a step, the entire length of his wingspan being challenged to hurl a single straight, fierce punch that tries to reach out and strike Ken square-on in the face. The fist lingers there after the fact if not overturned or overcome, a pained look upon the wanderer's face.
The fight has begun, as the voice commanded - but is this fight they are overseeing truly that of Ryu vs. Ken Masters?

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters dodges Ryu's Strong Punch.

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Ken Masters [E]  0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0          [E] Ryu

Ryu may be good at not getting the joke, but this... this is a different level, entirely. A frown finds its way to Ken's features as Ryu finally stalks forward, the violence in his old friend's intent apparent from the first twitch of that first step. "That's not a very good argument, pal." Ken drops back into a ready stance, defensive but hardly submissive, as battle is joined.

"Remember Sensei's first lessons..." It's in phantom stereo, as Ken inverts in a graceful, Ryu-high cartwheel right over his battle brother's charge, that forceful fist sending reverberating shockwaves through the air where the Blonde Battler had been instants before. "Be sure what you're fighting -for-!" Ken comes down anchoring on one foot, the other swept out behind him-- providing range of motion even as it stabilizes him for what follows.

For his part, Ken remembers those lessons, much as some would insist he did not listen to them in the first place; without hesitation, Masters knows his motivation for this battle. Knows why it -must- be fought. The well of elemental spirit that forms one of the core tenets of the art he and Ryu share is tapped in a luminescent burst, filling Ken's clutching hands with familiar pure, blue-white energy.

That energy nigh-instantaneously forms into a ragged, vague sphere as it's shoved forward like a surging wave, threatening to crash across Ryu before he can recover from the assault and reorient to Ken's new position behind. "HADOUKEN!!"

COMBATSYS: Ryu fails to slow Hadouken from Ken Masters with Hadouken.

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Ken Masters [E]  0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0          [E] Ryu

For those that were there alongside Ken Masters in his formative years, who among them would claim that Ken wasn't paying attention? That rumor would never start with Ryu.
Even in weakness, one cannot easily overcome the trained eye of Ryu while Ken expertly moves over the thrusting arm. How many times has one responded to the other's strikes by doing the same? Ingrained routine from countless rounds of sparring between them renders almost any attempt one might make to feint the other moot - but it's always been an enjoyable exercise to keep the other on their toes.
Perhaps now, more than ever, it is not guile that will dictate the path forward, but honesty and strength of character in the face of some of the greatest trials they'll ever know, with nothing but each other and a long, long, long fall to either side of them.
To be sure what one's fighting for - to Ken, it is clear as day.
To Ryu, looking from the outside in, this is as great a punch as any. Both fighters, at the same time - Ken not quite succeeding 100% at getting the full jump on the iconic motion - draw their hands back together power as they have been trained, filtered further through their individual characters and techniques.
The famed Ansatsuken technique, the Hadouken - both young men bather power as they will, but Ken will find something wrong even looking through the bright blue he himself launches.
The Hadouken Ryu himself seems to try to put together is... malformed. Vulgar. Tinged with a purple that doesn't seem to belong in its character, forming an uneven shape that far exceeds the physical barrier of his hands.
Ryu's teeth clench, head turning violently off to the left as his higher-set hand suddenly flinches up high, breaking that gathering sphere of energy just as Ken's comes in.
It does not dissipate peacefully.
The collision of Ken's power to the one he himself gathers is noticeably more explosive than any previous clash of powers between the two of them. There is an anguished cry, but it is not of surprise as his heels scrape back against the smoothed stone, forced a further distance away from Ken and coming short of being thrown off his feet entirely.
Both may yet still be on their feet, but Ken maintains control of the floor.

It's likely mostly a sentiment from Ken's father-- and detractors he's gained in later years. Then again, Ken's dad mostly -thinks- he was present for those formative years. There's little shock in the Blonde Battler's dark eyes as they reflect a malformed surge of violent energy that clashes briefly with his own-- scant moments too late, and perhaps indicative of the point Ken tries to make.

"This isn't the kind of power you want, Ryu. This isn't the way to beat -him-." He Who Shall Not Be Named. There's a fierce adamance to Ken's tone, a fervent and steadfast belief that comes from more than even the lessons imparted by the regretful disciple of a murderous art; one who saw it consume his family. A true father-figure that Ken saw murdered by the demon born of their art perverted by death and chaos.

"You'll only destroy yourself!" Ken strides in once, twice, and thrice launches into a brief, blurring ascent. His right leg whips around, parallel to the ground, a gyroscopic force generated about the balancing limb as he hurtles forward like a rotorblade of doom, a plume of brilliant, orange-cored crimson flame erupting from that sweeping limb as he seeks to blast Ryu back westward along the bridge with a series of fierce kicks.

Yet another of the elemental, pure forms taught by Gouken, a reservoir of incredible power. A hurricane, touched at its heart by a maelstrom of flaming chi. "TATSUMAKI SENPUU KYAKU!!!" Ken is relentless, but controlled where Ryu is conflicted, fierce and full of spirit-- just as one might remember such battles, a note unsullied by the weight of circumstance. Indeed, Ken rings it out all the clearer because of that sense of necessity.

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters successfully hits Ryu with Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku EX.
- Power hit! -

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Ken Masters [E]  0/-------/---====|======-\-------\0          [E] Ryu

Is this the kind of power Ryu wants? What is the reason that he chooses to fight now? How much of it is truly in his power? There's a lot of little details. Straining, even in spurts of gathering violence. That punch, the aborted Hadouken in the face of Ken's own...
Even his attempt at an effective defense - which it is, in theory, putting his arms up - an act of self-preservation seems to be thrown to the wayside after the first whirling kick strikes. Ryu would know better than to lower his guard early from that first blow. Ken might even manage to spot that mid-twirl, the way one of his feet step forward, as though to willingly try (and fail) to step into it. The Tatsumaki is not so easily powered through.
Some choices of action... seem to be made as though from one unfamiliar with the very routines and motions these two young men have mastered, making spot judgments and demands by the heat of the moment rather than through experience.
Thrown westward, keeping completely parallel within the span of the bridge without threat of falling off either side, Ken Masters has made the restraint and power kept within those lines coherent - and would truly do their master proud, wherever he may be now.
Ryu stands up not out of desire. He seems intent on staying knelt, as a compromise to whatever uncompromising force yanks him back up onto his feet. It's like one leg is arguing with the other.
"Ken," the name is spoken a third time as he draws closer. The fist where the magenta light originates is clenched tightest. The other is given a bit more free reign, but not in the positioning of the arm it's attached to, "it's not..."
It's not what? Both hands reach out to try and grab Ken by his top, and there is a pivot in Ryu's stance that is worrying. Both have thrown about one another this exact same way countless times, but now, the direction one might fling the other has disastrous consequences...
Taking a number of steps back eastward if Ken doesn't push Ryu off or otherwise avoid it, he seems to take the effort to /stay completely straight/ before hefting Ken and tossing him forward from his shoulder, eyes widened about as far as Ken's ever seen him do that (otuside of the not-at-all rare circumstance of taking a Shoryuken or better - worse? - which gets that same reaction out of almost anyone hit by that).
Fear. A fear of something great and terrible, as he tries to launch Ken unerringly straight across the stone, a concentrated effort not to let the flight path deviate to either side.

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Ken Masters with Seoi Nage.

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Ken Masters [E]  0/-------/=======|=======\-------\0          [E] Ryu

There's a silver lining to Ken's abrupt flight, as Ryu hurls his battle brother over one shoulder and down the bridge-- at least as addled as the Ansatsuken nomad may be, he's not trying to -kill- the Blonde Battler. It feels like less of a blessing when said battler skids to a painful landing on the harsh stones, kicking his feet back beneath him with practiced tenacity and all but immediately reacquiring a defensive crouch.

"It's not -what-?" Ken may not have the acuity to the exact nature of the energy afflicting Ryu others might-- but it's all much the same conundrum to him. "Fight it. You're the second most stubborn bastard I know."

Masters doesn't let off, swinging about as he rises and diving back into the fray with a stalwart straight of his own, a singular piston of motion that brings his shard-infused fist forward, even with his friend and rival's ribcage. "Haaah!" It's a simple technique, but perhaps deceptively so-- perfectly executed, with that flourish of rising motion, there's a surprising amount of force behind that simplistic strike.

Plus, it buys Ken the time to enact his gambit to secure footing as he rises on the bridge, without being as pressed by his skilled adversary. "You know this shit is -crazy-. Snap out of it, we've got to figure this out if we're going to have any chance of actually winning this thing!" And from what's been implied, the stakes are high indeed. Never has Ken ever been so flabbergasted by a fighting tournament! There's not even a reasonable VIP room.

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters successfully hits Ryu with Medium Punch.
- Power hit! -

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Ken Masters [E]  0/-------/=======|=======\==-----\1          [E] Ryu

No more speaking. Defeat him. Destroy him. End him!
No. I won't end him.
The competing forces that gnaw at Ryu's mind already had enough of a time trying to convince him to utterly obliterate a hostile woman whom had mocked and belittled him. They may be far too optimistic that they could wear him down enough to take on his very best friend...
Or desperate.
Whatever the dominant guiding emotion keeps Ryu upright and in danger of having just one errant blow see his best friend to his doom, his eyes narrow as he jerks his body into a short hop back moments before Ken's punch connects.
Whatever concern he has to pull back, mind, soul, and body do not communicate together as quickly as Ken comes to his decision with that blow to the ribs.
By over-correcting the attempt to pull back, Ryu gives up traction. By giving up traction when the fist inevitably collides with his midsection, he is surrendered to what force Ken Masters can put to that fist.
Aided by his present backwards momentum, Ryu is flung back further westward into a chaotic, dust-disrupting tumble that sees him ending face-down. Supported by his arms to not lie prone, his back remains turned to Ken.
"You're not... wrong," comes strained words. Concession? This should be it. This should be the end of this madness, that the two yet find it in them to band together and strike back at the sorcerer - the rules of the kontest as laid out by the Elder Gods be damned! Surely, pluck and drive could overcome even the vastly superior enemies of the whole of Outworld gnawing at the roots of Earthrealm in hopes to swallow it within...
But... no, he doesn't say 'but.' It sounds like he ought to, some sort of protest given his actions. What's going on with him, whatever it is... it tires of words as Ryu is thrust back up to fighting position anew.
"Silence." That word, coming from Ryu's throat. That's not a word he'd say, in that inflection. The voice may be Ryu's, but he isn't the one playing the voicebox in this band in disarray that is his psyche, as hands are forcefully drawn back.
That same imperfection - no, corruption! - as before, a fiery red energy boiling between the nothingness of his hands, competing and even fighting against a purple that does not belong there. It's... not like the purple expected of... the One Who Must Not Be Named.
There's an angry yell that follows its release, compared to the mouthy set of syllables that usually follows the Ansatsuken techniques on display. A bulbous, uneven, throbbing, and unstable mess of red, earthly fire, and purple... something else. It seems liable to explode at any given point well before it gets anywhere near Ken.

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters dodges Ryu's Shakunetsu Hadouken.

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Ken Masters [E]  1/-------/=======|=======\==-----\1          [E] Ryu

If it were a matter of Ryu agreeing with him, Ken begins to realize, the fight would indeed already be over. There's something else, something pulling the strings behind his old friend's violent motions. Masters is fighting Ryu-- and yet he's not, is he? Perhaps it's that conflict that allows the Blonde Battler to maintain his advantage, to redouble the resolute intensity with which Ken opposes this apparently imbued will to destroy him. It seems perhaps like logical self-preservation, but as certainly as Ken fights for himself, he fights also for his brother by another mother.

Perhaps it's that double whammy of consequence that lends the ferocity to Ken's form-- but then, the will to fight Ryu with his everything is present even under better circumstances, isn't it? There's just generally not much riding on it; and the conversation is (slightly) better on the Ansatsuken wanderer's end. "Good luck with that." The demand for silence.

Ken smirks, upnods a bit facetiously to his momentarily erstwhile ally, and disappears upwards in a flash, a blur of flesh and crimson ribbon, golden hair and the light from his shard glimmering as afterimages as he treats getting out of the way of that violent sphere of burning energy with all the urgency it warrants. It seems to take moments hanging in time, difficult to count in the hectic interplay of mortal kombat, for Ken to descend. When he does, it's nearly as quickly, dropping right back in on his battle brother and seeking purchase on Ryu's gi.

Eye to eye for just a moment, smirk still on his face, Ken calmly assures his dearest friend, "Don't worry, I'll keep up the smacking until it shakes loose." Because he's a true friend. Who seeks to use the purchase he's sought to secure to wheel backwards, intent on ripping Ryu off his feet and tumbling a full three hundred and sixty painful degrees across the stone, pummeling his cargo into it before kicking Ryu clear on a high, straight arc for the far end of the walkway.

COMBATSYS: Ryu fails to interrupt Jigoku Guruma from Ken Masters with Tomoe Nage EX.
~~ Alluring Hit! ~~

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

When Ken goes eye-to-eye with his closest friend, he might not see Ryu stare back at him. Sure, he's intense in battle, but looking past the piercing gaze, he could usually find that little pop of, 'you got me, haha' somewhere within the little dance of language conveyed by eye movement. The sense of, even in the heat of a pitched battle, an enjoyment and fulfillment.
That's missing. That's all the more reason to try and beat it straight out of him, and with that first tumble...
Ken may feel a halt to the rolling momentum. He'd be familiar with this - one way Ryu has previously dealt with the rolling throw, by finding that perfect moment mid-spin to guide Ken with help of one of his legs up and off of him.
Ryu flattens that leg back down as if to interrupt his own plan of counterattack, and there's an uneven but added spurt of movement Ken needs to finish the rotation and hurl Ryu across the stone bridge, a ways down to the east as his body tumbles about the center... with a slight lean to the left.
If he had let himself complete that counter-toss, there is no telling if Ken would have stayed on the bridge. It would seem that both of them are, fundamentally, approaching the same page as to how to best proceed and win this next battle...
But would a sound drubbing be enough, even as an angry hiss escapes between Ryu's teeth while he stumbles up towards a standing position? Whatever focus he gets back, it competes with one - or more! - that have a further vested interest in ensuring every flex of muscle, every expression of power, is used towards a deadly and terrible end that he has thus far resisted.

If simple head trauma were enough to snap Ryu out of this violent geas, it probably would have happened by now. After all, with the wanderer's current attitude, he's surely been picking every fight from here to wherever he came from, and then several stops before. It's clear the struggle is eroding Ryu's will, or perhaps usurping it more fully-- but there's time to struggle back up that pit, isn't there? As long as neither of them falls into -this- one...

"I know this isn't the party you're used to..." There is warmth to the reunion, but it's certainly tempered. "But we've gotta derail this crazy train." Ken stands between Ryu and more compelled marauding with the power of FRIENDSHIP.

Also, a pair of formidable fists. Then there's the feet. Barefoot strides carry Ken quickly towards Ryu, accelerating as the Blonde Battler closes and launches himself skyward once more. This time, his rotation is a singular, fierce whirl, driving a flame-sheathed heel straight in for his oldest friend's anger-twisted face, seeking to drive him back further, to overwhelm the nomad's skillful defenses and dangerous techniques just a few moments longer... to put a stop to his battle brother's apparently less than autonomous rampage.

Before something happens on this deadly, malevolent isle neither can undo...

COMBATSYS: Ryu blocks Ken Masters' Senpuu Nata Otoshi.

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Ken Masters [E]  1/-----==/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>--\1          [E] Ryu

FRIENDSHIP flies on heels of flame, as Ken's battle may yet decide a fate on a far smaller scope than the one the whole of them are working towards. The sorcerer, from his lofty position, may be waiting for the inevitable. He might believe that one of them will yet prove overly passionate on the site of a battle that could barely contain a fight between a goddess and a demon. One mistake... and another mighty warrior of Earthrealm will fall.
Where Ryu cooperated with being hurled, it seems that this comes to an end when arms cross at the point of impact, deflecting Ken's heel with a wisp of smoke rising from the point of impact as arms uncross and re-enter battle readiness.
The sneer that's on Ryu's face... Ken might have seen him make one of those before, but never like this. Facial muscles stretch in directions that must be well out of Ryu's comfort to try and match the look of whoever or whatever dictates this. There is no mouthy retort to follow - perhaps the other's strategy to try and sever this unbreakable bond is to give the illusion that there no longer is one to be had.
Good luck with that, whoever you are... whatever you are.
In an attempt to catch Ken as he comes down from the heel strike, the glow-bearing fist, a weaker glow as it might be to what Ken now bears, thrusts upwards in a close-range uppercut punch, leaning the upper body with it as if trying to forcefully yank the rest of Ryu into it.

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters channels the fortress of the steel will.

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Ken Masters [E]  1/-----==/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>---\1          [E] Ryu

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters channels the glare of the vicious eye.

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Ken Masters [E]  1/-----==/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>---\1          [E] Ryu

COMBATSYS: Ken Masters interrupts Fierce Punch from Ryu with Shoryuken EX.

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Ken Masters [E]  1/--=====/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2          [E] Ryu

There's only one way for battles on this bridge to truly end, or so some might like to think. It seems like an inevitability as one uppercut triggers another, and a rather legendary one at that. As Ken descends, the shard of crystal embedded in his fist flares wildly, glowing like a miniature sun as a wave of golden energy suffuses the Blonde Battler, touching the wildly flaring fires that never quite go out, roaring from his leg to his fist as he readily welcomes an immediate return to the fray.

In fact, he's there sooner than one might expect, kicking through his strike and into the next assault, rushing full-on towards the collision in a blur of flame and light. Ryu's fist glances painfully off flexed chest in a brilliant flare of sunlight, but Ken is inside the strike's full extension-- tanking it with a steely stance and an answering strike of his own, that flaming right fist crashing upwards across Ryu's torso in turn, to collide squarely with the wanderer's skull and send him hurtling skyward, reeling dangerously high above the narrow walkway. "SHOOORYUKEN!"

.... except the practiced technique hits with ample forward momentum, launching its target back clear of the narrow walkway rather than up, over, and so so very far down. One can imagine the EXCELLENT! cuts off midstream as Ryu is launched towards the cliffs, Ken's fist drawing a spiraling firework of dragonsbreath and the golden will of the Elder Gods in the air.

Through the air, Ryu flies as his uppercut is given an upper a cut above his, saliva and blood flying from his mouth. He whirls in slow motion across what remains of the bridge, back towards land. His vision swims, the blurring of black, gray, and midnight blue to the small wisps of flame that still dance in his vision from the flaming uppercut that speaks of Ken's own masteries...
But his faith was never shaken as to where his back would land. For not seeing or knowing the terrain underneath, he lands remarkably well across less smooth, angled terrain as one hand thrusts against the other edge of the bridge for balance.
It cracks.
Rise. Destroy him! You worthless, pathetic whelp.
Both voices, the most vocal (really, the two that communicate with anything approaching words), urge for him to rise. Ryu's head rises towards Ken - a glint in his eye. One of his eyes widen as if in a fight with the skull itself, as if to shake him by it and say, 'no, stand up, fight. Fight! Fight.'
The magenta light that comes from his hand flickers a brighter color briefly, as though it itself were trying to egg him on. You can still draw breath. You can still stand.
Put your foot back on that bridge... you will not have a greater opportunity to destroy this obstacl--
"No." This is not a 'no' of denial of reality, of frustration, or anger.
A simple, flat disagreement, as he falls to a kneel at the other end of the bridge. The fist bearing the shard slams into it ineffectually. No cracks form, a shoulder shrugging as if suggesting a held-back attempt to stop from trying to demolish that end of the bridge... as if Ryu could. (Something, within, believes not only that he could, but /should/.)
His breathing is irregular... heavy. Knelt over, he remains conscious... but now, the narrative cast by certain powers care little for how he will close out the battle.
"FINISH HIM," commands that voice. The fate of this young man is in Ken's hands. It has expectations. Desires.
Ryu does not tense up, nor show signs of fear or anger. As deeply rooted as his issues have become with certain influences... he knows he has little to fear, no matter how much kombatants have been egged on to put forth a certain finishing touch to all their battles.

COMBATSYS: Ryu channels the fortress of the steel will.

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Ken Masters [E]  1/=======/=======|>>>>>>>\>>-----\1          [E] Ryu

COMBATSYS: Ryu takes no action.

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Ken Masters [E]  1/=======/=======|

COMBATSYS: Ryu can no longer fight.

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Ken Masters [E]  1/=======/=======|

It's a solid hit; most palpable. It's also entirely not what the benefactors of this bout might have desired to finalize this fight. Gouken's style of Ansatsuken is paradoxically non-lethal, a practice of the ascension of soul and purpose, of compassion and steadfast defense-- something of an anomaly among martial arts of such a legendary level. Ken's stubborn devotion to his art, to his code of honor is certainly strong enough to resist some command to pummel his best friend to death, and for the second time this fight, Masters outright rolls his eyes thoroughly.

The key to power is not just knowing how to use it, but when. And when to resist exercising one's might. It's a case in point throughout this conflict, the real battle perhaps waged within the Ansatsuken nomad rather than his adversary. That struggle that kept Ryu's great power conflicted, even amidst the violent impulses and their demands otherwise. Ken -does- dutifully approach his battered rival, and for a moment malevolent overseers might think he could take the bait, seek more strength.

That kind of ambition would need quite a vise to clench the heart of Ken Masters, however. The young champion strides right over to Ryu as he unties the fine silken ribbon holding back his ponytail, wild golden mane falling free. The sturdy hand offering the item would remain steady even once the item is taken. Ryu has wounds to dress; focus to find. Family to recall.

"There's got to be someone here who can help." Ken posits confidently. "If you can learn to rely on your /friends/ for once." When and if Ryu accepts the offer to help him rise, or tries to find his footing on his own once more, Ken would squarely sock him in the side of the head.

~~F*R+I*E+N*D+S*H+I*P~~ ^_^

Vulnerable. Without the ability to stand and fight once more, it would be nothing to simply shove the more stoic of the two to his most untimely demis--
No, it is fruitless to build suspense to the fringe theories and wild fantasies one may have about the extremes. Nothing could ever drive such a wedge between Gouken's finest students. To dedicate further words otherwise would be a waste on a ruse that none would fall for.
As Ken extends his hand... and an item that would seem a token trifle is offered. A token attempt at providing a bandage to the battered and bloodied kombatant? No... so much more.
A poignant moment passes before Ryu can raise his hand - the hand that bears the magenta light, most visible from the handguard - and takes this hand in Ken's, clutching it gently as another breeze runs through the great valley between the halves of Shang Tsung's island.
Ryu has to bring his other hand up around Ken's arm to help stabilize himself to any sort of ability to walk alongside his friend in arms, a loud exhaling noise escaping through his lungs. What is there to say to him, about all that has happened...?
"Ah," the wandering warrior of the world grunts, flinching downwards with the tap against the head. Unable to face Ken directly for the moment, one can't tell if there's a tired, relieved smile or anything of the sort. Ken wouldn't need to see to know whether there is or not - the averted eyes are not about shame, but about fatigue beyond just the physical. The emotional, from being pushed so hard towards ends he would dare not reach, the spiritual, from one who only seems to regard their well-being as much as allows them to still function.
...With Ken's words about relying on his friends more, rather than fearing for them as he grapples with whatever's going on with him, maybe there ought to be some shame in there! There might be time to add that to the slackened posture stew, as it feels there is some sort of sense of release in the air. Some kind of weight being lifted up...
It could just be for the time being, another has their attention more immediately commanded. An issue in the form of some incredible pressure by an opposing power almost equally as unfathomable and terrifying as their own... but that is another's story, to be told and witnessed elsewhere. From this vantage point, it is only speculation that serves little to help celebrate what could be a turning point after months of so much worry, anguish, and effort.
That window of opportunity may yet prove fleeting. As Ryu keeps hold of the red headband, clutching it tighter as the wind teases the idea of letting it escape his fingers, that is his silent promise that no, this won't. He'll fight yet harder through what possesses him - no longer alone.

Log created on 13:36:59 10/13/2016 by Ken Masters, and last modified on 22:37:13 10/14/2016.