SNF 2017.01 - SNF: Tomb with a View

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Description: For this weekend's very special 'phobias' episode of Saturday Night Fights, crazed murderer Freeman and decidedly not crazed high school student Haru Sakuraba are locked in a Venetian crypt to duke it out. This already sounds like the setup to a horror film, BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE: what was in that syringe? Who is Freeman, really? And just what is the nature of Haru's power? Find the answers to none of these questions, and more, inside! (Winner: Freeman)

The serial killer demi-entity known only as Freeman had entered the tournament under the alias of 'George Fian', identifying himself as an Italian trained knife fighter, with a number of forged credentials he had acquired from a now deceased professional fighting licensing counterfeiter from Greece, a Rroma of some skill with the subject. The Rroma had not sensed Freeman's evil until the end, even with the potent skill at con artistry that the so-called ciora possess. It was merely a matter of remaining demure and quiet while the business transaction took place, to hide himself with flat interest. The British had experience dealing with the Rominchal, and Freeman was no exception, having tracking a traveler criminal through Britain before his fall from the heavens, dragged by the hand of Lucifer.

But perhaps the illusionist had suspected him, for there was a minor tell in the papers that Freeman was a claustrophobe, particularly with the dead, from the incident in which he went from a Scotland Yard investigator to the ghoulish apparition he is now, deep beneath London's tram lines and sewers, possessed by a dreadful ghost of one of Britain's most legendary serial killers. He finds himself in the tomb beneath San Giorgio Cathedral, huddled in the corner, beside a sacrophagus. All his senses are alert, and he simply put, craves blood, from being trapped in such a situation. His heart is pounding in his ears, and his stomach feels queasy, as if he's about to enter into a prison, a box, just like the criminals he once locked away. Before, he would've felt a tightness in his chest, but now, the world slides sideways for him.

King of Fighters -- a tournament that now seems an increasingly-distant memory to most -- really took its toll on a lot of people. Among them was Haru Sakuraba, of the Psycho Soldiers, the winning team. Whatever it was that was going down at Stonehenge unsettled him, more than the beating he took fighting Lita Luwanda. The feeling of his abilities going out of control, the 'presence' that he couldn't quite place, whispering in his ear... all of it took a lot out of the young Justice High student. He gave the cameras in the winner's circle the slightly strained smile of someone trying to keep on their feet in a stressful situation and, upon returning to Justice High, slept for a week.

Since then he's stayed out of the public fighting scene, though his movements are hardly difficult to track; his fellow students will see him train, attend class, even do social things now and then. Of late he's been worried sick about Athena Asamiya, his teammate and classmate, who appears to have gone missing without a word and has not answered texts, calls, or emails. She's a strong fighter who can take care of herself, but still... no word sets him on edge. And the more tense he got, the more Haru felt like he could use an outlet to release it that wasn't a punching bag or other immobile fighting partner. Thus, the SNF signup, and here we are.

Let's just say those hopes for a nice friendly bit of fighting exercise vanished entirely once the fighters were ushered into the catacombs, bringing Haru's stress level back up higher than it was before.

He's escorted in by a member of, surprisingly, the SNF first aid crew, after Freeman has already arrived. As the black and gold-clad high school student enters, chatting distractedly with the med tech, he suddenly turns and looks at Freeman and... well. It's difficult to describe his reaction. It's not exactly terror, though there IS some fear there, but it's more like a horrified fascination, grey eyes wide. Every part of his senses is telling him that something is wrong here, that this is bad news, that he should turn and leave, and yet he doesn't actually move or flee. A very candidate for the word "transfixed."

This is probably why he's not paying attention when the med tech jabs a syringe into his arm.

The pain snaps him out of whatever semi-catatonia Freeman's aura and presence had induced, the Okinawan yelping with the sudden, if brief, pain. He turns to look at the med tech, who mentions something about this being in the contract, and no EXPECTED long-term side effects, and to consult a doctor immediately yadda yadda.

Haru is still standing there, looking at where the tech just was, when the two fighters are sealed into the catacomb. And that's where he stays for some time, until he suddenly squints his eyes closed, bringing his hands up as if to cover his ears...


And then his eyes snap open, the Justice student taking a number of deep, slow breaths.

"What was...?" he murmurs, barely audible, before collecting himself and turning to Freeman, trying to maintain composure, looking at him carefully.

Their eyes meet.


"HELLO," Haru says, a little too forcefully. "I guess I'm your opponent." Are his teeth gritted? "Nice to meet you. Shall we..." A pause. A breath. "...get started?"

Freeman watches Haru quietly, the senses Freeman possess, beyond the mortal ken, desiring something out of the young man. It is not anything one could easily guess unless they were the truly damned, as Freeman is. It is Haru's soul that Freeman craves, and not in any sense of control or fear or even hatred for the innocent, as one might guess. No, it is merely out of a desire for empathy, some deep subconscious loathing of his own twisted being that drives him forward, like the marionette he is. And voices whisper to Freeman at times too, telling him to kill, telling him to stalk, telling him to hunt. A doctor in a hospital might diagnose him with something and permanently commit him to an institution rather than a lethal injection, were it not for the eerie and uncanny ability of Freeman to read people's tells. And read things he shouldn't be able to read, things that trouble the sane and rational deep to their very core. To those people, it was as if Freeman knew them better than themselves, as if Freeman was a mirror showing them the backs of their eyes instead of their faces. To a priest, it was simple. Freeman was possessed.

Freeman pushes himself from his cowering possession, sucking in air as black rivulets of chi creep over his long, slender fingers and carefully manicured nails, his frame's gaunt lack of regular nutrition showing a strange pivot to his shoulders that makes them uneven, as if Freeman is a demonic caracticature of James Dean. The injection is noted by Freeman, with a slim smile, as he finds that his foe has also been placed in this situation. For a moment, Freeman feared this was the end, that there were no more individuals to twist towards evil, no more heroes to destroy, no more innocence to claim with the shock and terror of bloodlust. Freeman had known it well, once, as a syndrome caused by a human defense against madness. But now Freeman knows it as madness, sheer madness, to resist one's urges in the face of self-destructive social behavior. But he is Free. And that is the 'gift' that those sorcerors of European noble atavism had given him.

"You hear it too, don't you?" Freeman whispers, his voice taking on a deep rumble as he moves forward at Haru with scarecrow steps, his feet prance-shuffling as he stares at Haru from behind his long, orange hair that falls about his head. "What medicine have they given us here, that we may decide who is more damned?" The cameras malfunction for a moment as Freeman's powers flair into existence, the chi around his hands now slithering up and down his pale skin and causing his torn blue rags to flutter in an unknown breeze that comes from inside his form. "I fear the grave...Yet I am the grave. You fear loss of control..." His mouth slowly warps into a rictus grin.

"Yet you have none."

Freeman morphs into a flickering shadow of pure chi, covered in red eyes with black pupils, and charges forward after a brief moment in such a shape. He flashes back into his normal form as he unleashes a diagonal slash at Haru's face with his right hand, a drop down to a knee with a slash from his left, and a lunge forward with a horizontal slash from his right, aimed at Haru's chest. His fingers cut through flesh thanks to the strange properties of his chi, using blades yet having none as one might assume they appear.

COMBATSYS: Freeman has started a fight here.

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Freeman          0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Haru has joined the fight here.

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Freeman          0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Haru

COMBATSYS: Haru blocks Freeman's Vision of Death.

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Freeman          0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Haru

Certainly anyone who's seen him fight knows: there is no bloodlust in Haru's heart. The boy is the picture of cherubic innocence by any conceivable standard. After all, think of the company he keeps: Athena, kensou, Momoko. Hardly three personalities that seem like they'd tolerate someone who really harbors a true darkness inside, one they are in all too good a position to see. But Haru's power comes from a source that even he does not understand, and one which gives him a unique gift for connection: with places, with people. An unintended connection, an uncontrolled power, set him on the path he's on now, until he learned to control it better, learned ways around it.

Then the SNF people gave him a drug that reduces that control and inhibition, you know. As a gimmick.

The voices he hears are coming from the walls, the floor, but most importantly *from Freeman*. The murderous aura pours off him like a waterfall, transporting Haru uncomfortably back to King of Fighters, to that horrifying feeling of something crawling under his psychic skin, looking for a way in, a home, a crack in the armor.

Haru's power to connect is typically gentle, soothing, even healing if he needs it to be. But powered by fear and with fine control over it pushed away by some pharmaceutical trick, it is a more primal force, with one goal: survival.

As Freeman slides across the ground and that first bloody slash comes for Haru's face, the boy's arms leap up into a crude defensive position, and his body suddenly bursts with opalescent white light, flowing around him like faerie fire as Freeman's attack slashes across his guard, one-two-three times, slicing holes in Haru's sleeves and drawing a faint trickle of blood.

For a moment, there's silence. And then Haru, without any trace of his typical grace or tactical knowhow, stares into Freeman's eyes once again and reacts the only way he knows how.

He extends a palm and detonates a burst of that angelic white Psycho Power at close range, preferably right in Freeman's face.

"_Get away from me!_" he shouts, desperate, his voice echoing.

COMBATSYS: Haru successfully hits Freeman with Amethyst Clarity.

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Freeman          0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0             Haru

The blast of white, angelic chi bursts into Freeman's exposed face, snapping his head backwards and causing him to reel in a circular motion, his arms drooping along with his shoulders before he spins about, his feet moving in strange, acrobatic but disjointed balance. Facing Haru again, his face flickers like a VHS error, black chi wavering as blood leaks out of his cheek from pinpricks as if caused by an unknown infection. "White light meets black, two souls turn back," Freeman whispers strangely, his eyes briefly shocked out of his hatred. He looks at Haru for a fast moment, the entombment in this dark place giving him flashes from his past, standing over graves with the bereaved, dressed in the clothing of a police officer. He sees the eyes of angels upon him, carved into the mortuary, his jaw chattering as he suddenly feels very, very cold.

"No," is all he whispers, taking a step back.

And then comes a flash of a gargoyle through his mind, atop a church, staring at him with black, ebony eyes, and Freeman screams, his chest arching forward as his shoulders move back and his hands grasp the air at his sides.

Freeman charges forward with a pained howl, his hand swinging about to grab at Haru's face and clutch it with his sharp nails, staring at him with psychotic, slavish intensity, as voices from the other side, some spectral entity allowing distant eyes to watch in some red temple in the Italian countryside, whisper out of his mouth. "You will not take this one," comes a voice with a German accent, not Freeman's own.

Freeman, if his hand as grasped flesh, rips sidelong with a push, Freeman frothing as his paranoia from the dark place takes over, causing his body to shake.

COMBATSYS: Freeman successfully hits Haru with Fast Throw.

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Freeman          0/-------/-----==|===----\-------\0             Haru

Acting on instinct usually isn't good. Acting on instinct when your typical fighting style is usually based on taking precise, measured action where you observe your opponent and respond with tactical choices based on the situation is a recipe for disaster, as Haru has just discovered. Some part of him does not, REALLY does not, want to be anywhere near Freeman. Not now, not ever. If he were more in his right mind, he would recall Athena's -- and his own -- reaction to Zappa in the King of Fighters tournament, the seething cauldron of something UNCLEAN riding in that man's body, stringing him along like a puppet.

That does not appear to be the case for Freeman.

The Justice student doesn't even get out all of another demand that Freeman get away before the madman has him by the face and sends him sprawling to the floor, the white light around his body mixing with lines of red as the slicing nails bring lines of drawn blood across Haru's face.

When he slowly gets to his feet, it's messy, ungainly. The expression on his face seems like it's flickering from anger, to fear, and back again with mercurial swiftness. His weapons -- a pair of specially-made yoyos, an unthinkably comic addition to this otherwise charged scene -- leap into his hands and he simply LEAPS at Freeman with them, both weapons looping in and out in a series of frontal strikes, the angles changing, unrelenting, all while Haru's voice bellows "STAY AWAY FROM ME!"

COMBATSYS: Freeman fails to interrupt Garnet Intensity from Haru with Nightmare.

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Freeman          0/-------/-----==|=====--\-------\0             Haru

Freeman practically snarls as the magicks controlling the husk that once contained a righteous man send pulses of hatred through his body, the abbatoir that is his mind sensing the intrusion of an empathic individual and the wizardry controlling his forcefully blackened soul pushing it into him. His hands curl into fists, fingernails digging into his palms and eliciting drip-drops of his own life juice that trickle to the floor beside his feet in little splatters. His soul fights for redemption, offered white light and desiring a purge so he may die and go to limbo instead of the dark fate he is terrified of, but they do not release him. It is the inversion of his mind's processes that refuse to release him from his demonic, spiritual succor. "Please..." is all he can convulse, refusing to move and resisting his fate.

Lost destiny is always the worst pain, especially when your fate is the opposite of such a pinnacle in heaven.

As Haru leaps forward, so does Freeman, screaming in gutteral rage as he briefly sees himself around Haru, a trick of the vision that only Freeman senses. His arm whips backwards, the yo-yos slamming into Freeman, before he whips his arm forward and arm, attempting to catch Haru by the neck as ebon chi ripples behind his arm. But the drive to free himself, and the confusing thoughts of the dark magic facing the light in such a terrifying place, cause him to miscalculated, and he merely smashes into Haru with his chest at the sub-climax of Haru's jump. He stumbles beneath Haru and his weapons, falling under him and onto his back. Shaking on the ground as if epileptic, he hisses, his hands clawing at Haru's knees and thighs.

"Snakes...Everywhere..." comes a terrified murmur.

Light is an interesting thing. Sighted people need it to function, basically; without it, one of your five senses is more or less useless. Light and heat often go together, in the case of sunlight, and heat is also required for most animal life (including people) to live. We associate light with goodness, and virtue, because it is so necessary for us to function as people. And yet, too much light can be bad. Brightness overwhelms the senses, powerful sunlight burns the skin, parches the earth. A surfeit of light robs us of the very sense it enables, a cruel irony indeed.

And right now, Haru is blinded by an inner light unbound.

Inside it's like a fire and if he doesn't get it out, then it's HIM that's going to be consumed. The hotter it burns, the more Freeman seems to be an excuse rather than an object of fear, somewhere to *put* that burning light so that it's not consuming *him* anymore.

The Okinawan looks down, and he is definitely no angel to Freeman from that angle. Backlit by the flowing aura of white light, face contorted into a bizarre mix of emotions, he's the harmful kind of light, the kind that burns out the senses. With a sweep of one arm he slings a yoyo around in a wide arc, looking to sweep Freeman up off the floor by wrapping it around an arm or leg, and then just... attempts to whip the man across the room, his potential flight vector peppered with exploding bursts of light.

COMBATSYS: Freeman dodges Haru's Amber Grace.

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Freeman          0/-------/-----==|=====--\-------\0             Haru

Freeman feels the power of the Malakim in corporeal form above him, the blazing light pressing his soul through the stone and nearly into the darker reaches of the earth beneath the stone of this hallowed place so crudely used by corporate promoters. One could tell, on some level, that there is a near schism between man and essence, his body stiffening and turning mechanical. He goes into a thrashing rigor mortis beneath the power and the glory of Haru's wrath, his chest pumping upwards off the tired old dust.

Then, there comes a scream.


Freeman's body snaps loose again as his soul regains his flesh, and he drops his arms from Haru's legs. The yo-yo wraps around his leg and whips him up and around, and sends him flying through the confines of the catacomb. He flips about and lands on the wall with both feet and one arm, bouncing off like a ventriloquist's dummy given life and landing on the ground on his feet. He springs off his feet with a motion from the ground, as if he's a feline given human form, and he jaunts at Haru from foot to foot, skidding along with his arms swinging around him in wide arcs. His mouth is wide open and grinning, as he lands before Haru.

He pulls his left arm back, beneath the shoulder, before he turns into black mist and swooshes forward, attempting to move behind Haru and reform facing him, shoving his extending blade fingers between Haru's shoulderblades.

"Perhaps my soul does not wish redemption, merely revelation."

COMBATSYS: Freeman successfully hits Haru with Morbid Angel.

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Freeman          0/-------/---====|=======\-------\0             Haru

Pretty difficult to evade an attack that literally comes from behind you; even harder when your senses -- physical or otherwise -- are effectively blinded. Haru is just turning toward Freeman when the man appears behind him, eyes wide and wild, but it's too late; the claw-like fingers sink into his back, cutting through his shirt, and for the second time this fight, Haru -- turtleneck and glove-wearing, cautious, careful Haru -- feels someone's skin touch his. The contact is momentary, fleeting, and particularly painful, but with his powers entirely out of control, it's enough.

Images flash through his mind at the speed of thought, barely connected but still comprehensible, if not sensible. A man deep below a city, with a purpose, a plan. Someone seeking justice. An old and hungry soul seeing an opportunity. A howling thirst. And all around, a cage... which could take many forms.

Haru stumbles forward, body aching, and stares at the ground for a long moment, breathing heavy and erratic.

Maybe if you want to stem the tide of unbound light, you need to introduce a little darkness.

Turning, Haru closes his eyes and raises his head toward the ceiling. That torrent of images is shocking, confusing... but maybe it was what he needed to snap him out of whatever fugue he'd been lost in. As his head comes down, the white light surging around him also becomes as erratic as his breathing had just been, varying in intensity. He doesn't attack, doesn't move, except to put a hand palm-down on his chest with a look of intense concentration. "This isn't... me..." he grinds out, teeth gritted, before he looks at Freeman. "And it isnt'... you... either...!"

Freeman pulls his hand back, a spider-like quiver from Baba Yaga's belly herself as the chi retreats up his arm, leaving him with bloody fingers. He smears the blood across his lips, not tasting it but merely giving himself a clownish demeanor, a perversion of a sad man that wants nothing more than to entertain the downtrodden. It is blasphemy, this instruction he gives Haru, merely with a look. His mouth twists into a smile, congenial even, as if Freeman had just met Haru for a cup of tea in a London shoppe. The light and warmth is about to encourage him, to strike forward and take advantage of Haru's call for the divine, before Haru speaks.


Freeman freezes in place, taking a step backwards and standing to his full height without his lazy slouch or his marionette stance. He blinks for a moment, taken back by what looks like a seeming affront. "If I'm not me...Who are you?" is all he can ask with childlike mystique, the black majestra of ghoulish sorcery struggling for control of his mind to once again take his heart, and by this, keep his soul trapped. "I'm not real," he whispers, stuck where he is as he droops, leaving himself exposed for an assault.

COMBATSYS: Freeman drops his guard to recover.

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Freeman          0/-------/---====|>>>>>>>\-------\1             Haru

COMBATSYS: Haru successfully aids himself with Ruby Warmth.

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Freeman          0/-------/---====|>>>>>>>\-------\1             Haru

What is the human soul, really? What constitutes a person's living spirit? It's easy to think of it as independent of the body, but is that so easy to really do? If the two things are so separate, then life must be unimaginably more fragile than one might expect. Certainly, the goings on far from here during Mortal Kombat on Shang Tsung's island, where the rules of life and death mankind has come to know are bent, are the exception that proves the rule. But right here and now are two individuals with multiple souls in the same body, both having to face situations where that peculiar situation is more a challenge than a source of strength.

But perhaps seeing the other side of the situation, through Freeman's memories, was necessary for Haru.

Inside that young boy is a literally divine soul, one he inherited and one he knows very little about. It is the source of his powers, ones he is only now learning to control, but that soul has no domain over his actions. Indeed, by its very nature, his actions must eventually bring him close to that soul's essence, or he will likely be destroyed in the process. He was given the power to connect with others because the journey toward that soul is the path of mercy and compassion.

Connection means pain. And mercy and compassion mean suffering -- in small or in large part -- for the sake of others.

The light around him continues to flicker erratically in intensity, but as Freeman doesn't attack him, and Haru focuses more on it, it starts to come under control. Still burning, but not so powerfully that it will consume him. "I don't... know the answer to that..." he says, to Freeman's bizarrely-worded question. It's the truth. What IS the source of his power? Haru really doesn't know, and perhaps it's long overdue for him to actually search that answer out. And as for Freeman... "I don't understand what happened to you. I could... find out, but..."

Would he survive that? Would Freeman?

He glances toward the sealed door, behind Freeman, who is technically in the path of Haru's escape, teeth still gritted with effort. SNF... fighting for the entertainment of others. Haru doesn't mind it. He's done it before, and sometimes it's been scary, but scary in an unfamiliar way, a harmless way. This? Here? Amping his power out of control with secret drugs? Locking a madman in an enclosed space so that fear and anxiety flow from him like water from a broken dam?

"This... this is wrong," Haru says, his voice finally rising above an uncertain tremulousness for the first time since the fight started.

He looks up at the sealed door, past Freeman, and speaks again, louder, with more conviction. As his emotions flare, so too does the light, but now... now he's maintaining equilibrium. A controlled burn. "I concede! I lose. The fight is over. Open the door!"

COMBATSYS: Haru takes no action.

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Freeman          0/-------/---====|>>>>>>>\>>-----\1             Haru

The SNF medical technician moves to unseal the door behind Freeman, calling the match a draw. Freeman continues to stare at Haru, empty-eyed and sullen in a childlike way, his confusion in the path of such angelic power cowing back the sorcerers controlling him. But then, a single kernel of knowledge curls through his mind. A young man, just like Haru, in police training in England, learning to clean and assemble a revolver. And Freeman surges to life with the immortal power that is trapped inside him by those daemon gentlemen of Britain, Freeman turning to look at the SNF official as he opens the sealed door. Freeman swings his arm out at the side of the man's neck, and yanks him from the door. The SNF medical technician screams as Freeman pulls him down, onto his knees, a crying sound snuffed by Freeman's hand slamming down into the man's face with a thrusting chi stab. He falls over onto the ground, dead, as Freeman looks towards Haru.

"You have nothing in life if you do not fight. You can't save me. But maybe I can save you." The voice is cool, controlled, calm, British. "Learn."

Freeman's hands surge to life with black energy and he thrusts both arms forward, a massive wave of black, devilish sorcery flying from his hands and blasting at Haru, challenging his divine power. "INNOCENCE IS NOTHING IF YOU DO NOT SACRIFICE YOUR OWN!" He takes a step forward as a red spindle grows from within the combined stream, before it explodes throughout the tomb and bathes the dimly lit sacrophagi and graves in a baleful red light. "Become a man, or stay a child! Your gift is for fighters, not pacifists!"

COMBATSYS: Freeman successfully hits Haru with Phobia.

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Freeman          0/-------/-======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2             Haru

'Your gift is for fighters, not pacifists!' What a sentiment indeed. And not the first time Haru's heard it in his lifetime, in various forms, and for varying definitions of "gift" too. A man just died in front of him, and somewhere inside Haru recognizes this, but it was also something he could do nothing about. Freeman, though, that's a different story. As he drives forward to do violence to Haru, the British voice demands the Justice student fight, to do equal violence. Just like the impact of that drug they gave him, which makes the same argument. The light and the dark, both shrieking: fight. Fight. Fight.

The light doesn't waver, as he makes no move whatsoever to get out of the way. The wave of darkness carries the youth's relatively light body a long ways through the catacomb, before slamming him into the opposite wall, which he slides down briefly before catching himself, putting a hand to his stomach.

But when he looks up, it's to shake his head at Freeman. "My gift is for me to decide what to do with, not anybody else." He coughs, wetly; blood trickles down the side of his mouth. It always seems to end this way, thinking back to King of Fighters. But it's taking all his energy just to hold the light in. Because the man opposite him right now, with his crimson hair and murderous urges... no. He's a victim too, in Haru's eyes. So he will wait it out. And then maybe someday, if and when he understands his power better... maybe then he can do something for Freeman. But right now? He will wait.

The sound of an approaching crew of SNF folks -- a rather large crew, by the thudding of the boots -- echoes from the hallway.

COMBATSYS: Haru takes no action.

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Freeman          0/-------/-======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2             Haru

Freeman moves across the stone floor as SNF crews come to stop the fight, his glide graceful and feminine. He is no longer a murderer or a cop, merely a man turned into a sly creature of the night. A serious smile is on his face, as phantom images of black crows flutter about him, cast off from behind his shoulders and arms. He stops before Haru, looking down at him. "Do you want to know why your gift is not for you to decide?" He slowly moves to a squat, his hand reaching out to place his right hand on the side of Haru's neck, thumb pressing up into Haru's jaw to force his head up to meet Freeman's soft, apologetic gaze. "Because there are other people, silly."

Freeman gently reaches up to wipe the blood away from Haru. "I can only teach a lesson with pain, if you will not choose reason. Being a child is being innocent to life. Do you know what being an adult is?" He reaches down from Haru's jaw to draw his finger across Haru's throat with a flick, a knife blade of chi flashing out from his finger. "Losing your innocence to protect another's innocence."

His eyes burn red into Haru's, his face growing very serious, with the intensity of a police officer staring at a murderer. "To waste a gift without using it for another's protection, especially one such as yours, is tantamount to the opposite of protecting another."

COMBATSYS: Freeman successfully hits Haru with Creeping Death+.

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Freeman          0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2             Haru

Given the tenor of this fight so far, when Freeman tilts Haru's face up to his, he should see terror, fear, anxiety, SOMETHING. He does not. That doesn't mean that Haru doesn't feel those things; rather, it's that despite feeling those things, he tries to hold on to what he thinks is the right thing to do regardless. What exactly is he supposed to say in that situation? Losing your innocence to protect another's innocence. What does that mean, exactly?

It should be clear to Freeman that the person who he holds in his grip did not bother to resist. There was no attempt to evade or deflect this attack. Haru let it happen of his own free will, much like the last one.

"I'm not innocent," is all Haru can say.

As blood splatters across the wall, the aura of white light finally blinks out, the Justice student collapsing to the ground from that final, vicious strike.

But to Freeman, and Freeman's eyes only, there is still a figure standing there. An ethereally beautiful woman with long black hair, dressed in a simple white robe. A hagoromo -- a diaphanous cloth scarf -- floats in an arc around her; behind her, formed of light, is the perfect bloom of the lotus flower.

She stares, briefly, into Freeman's eyes, and then is gone.

COMBATSYS: Haru takes no action.

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Freeman          0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Haru can no longer fight.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Freeman          0/-------/-------|

Freeman slowly rises up from Haru as the boy falls onto his side, blood dripping from his fingertip. Freeman looks, languidly, at the figure, his sad eyes regarding her with no hint of disrespect or penance, merely the conviction of a doomed man doing what he knows. It's as if he's a doughboy in a foreign bush war, fighting over dollar signs and knowing it. "Flesh of fallen angels," is all he whispers, reaching up to his body and scaling his fingernails across his ribcage, carving stripes of torn flesh into himself. As the door unseals and the SNF officials rush in, Freeman bursts into a swarm of black crows, flapping in all directions with caws that echo far too much in the chamber, flying in all directions and disappearing through the walls.

Somewhere, in a distant town in London, a stray dog howls.

COMBATSYS: Freeman has ended the fight here.

Log created on 16:12:06 01/15/2017 by Haru, and last modified on 01:07:49 01/17/2017.