Circuit of Champions - GAUNTLET: Blue Pro Belt #1

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Description: The Griffon Mask, aka Tizoc, is returning to the public stage after taking a terrible defeat. In contrast, his opponent, challenging for the Blue Pro Belt, is Sumire Wakatsuki, a newcomer that no one's heard of. Who will win, in this clash of old vs. new?

It has been some time since an incident in a bar that saw Tizoc - the man behind the Griffon Mask - laid up in a hospital for a while to reflect on all he went through. How far could he fall? Just how far was he willing to take the identity that has given him happiness and meaning? Those friends of his had more than a few pointed words throughout.
It says enough that the mask never came off his head the entire time. Ludicrous, and yet, barely a blip on the radar in the greater world of fighting. It is only that burning desire to live up to being the so-called Invincible Mask that yet pushes him through to get up, to fight, to train, to otherwise be the hero to all children worldwide...!
The Circuit of Champions found themselves in need of some middling talent in their Professional-tier belt matches. (They did not say this out loud.) Who better, than the mostly untested in 'real' combat, the Griffon Mask? They didn't think he'd be in a place to say no.
"ARE WE READY FOR A GAUNTLET???" Asks an excitable announcer. Of course they're ready, do you know how much they paid for seats, or pay-per-view streaming?! "COMING TO YOU LIVE, FROM HOWARD ARENA IN SOUTHTOOOOOOWNNN, THIS, IS... THE CIRCUIT OF CHAMPIONS... BELT MASSAAAAACRRREEE!!"
The actual turn-out is... well, it's okay. It's not blockbuster seating. Rainbow Mika, a real crowd-pleaser, hasn't been present for a while. It's put a real damper on ticket sales.
This is it, the man underneath the red griffon mask nods to himself from just beyond the view of the audience.
This is his cue. He runs down the runway towards the ring, past the streamers, and leaping up to one of the corner posts with arms spread out before flipping forward into the center of the ring.
The applause is disappointingly mild. A few kids closer to the front seem sort of nonplussed.
Even Tizoc, deep down, recognizes it's been a while. If they've forgotten, he will soon remind them. If they don't know of him at all...
He'll show them, today! Here in the ring!
He's been so psyched up to perform before a crowd again that he hasn't put much thought nor research into the impending match-up. Too overcome by the comforts afforded to a familiar element that he seems to run on auto-pilot, they may yet stand to deliver unto him another shock anew about the realities of real tournament fighting...!

Training, training, training. It's a vital part of Sumire's life; a daily routine that shows as much discipline as any dedicated martial artist. Always in mind, for her, is how far she has yet to go, the long path that stretches out in her mind's eye... and how much further her siblings are on that path. There is an external pressure, of course--Mimi has never forgotten that she took on the burden of maintaining the family name when she decided to venture out--but there is internal pressure as well.

But training can only go so far and do so much--the world of martial arts is littered with the bodies and souls of people who thought that training was all they needed. Mimi knows better--she knows that training is essential, but experience is as well. The best martial artists, those who attain true mastery, do not limit themselves to the dojo. They seek out experiences, collect them like beads, strung along the line of their life, to be held up and examined occasionally, a light shone through them to glean new insight.

She isn't interested in the belt itself, per se; she has yet to fully touch the world of competition, to experience that thrill of the win, of having a crowd cheering you on and recognizing you and your skill. She does not yet know that might be something she will end up craving. But a chance to pit herself against others--without provoking unnecessary, undue fights--that is priceless to her. So, she signed up--and here she is. The wrestler makes his debut first, and, as is befitting a man for whom the fight is as much dazzle as it is contest, it is a showy one. Mimi's entrance? It is staid, calm, much like her. The producers behind the fight asked her if she wanted to do anything for her 'entrance' and she simply gave them a puzzled look as she adjusted her hakama and dogi and made sure her sword-sash was just so.

"That will not be necessary," she assured them. That was fifteen minutes ago--so they only had a few minutes to come up with something. To Mimi's slight annoyance, when she walks out of the tunnel on her side, she's accompanied by rolling mist--courtesy of some dry ice and some fans--but she betrays that only with a twitch of the eye. Her stride is measured as she walks out into the arena--even if it's quieter than it might otherwise be, it's more than she's ever experienced--looking every bit the calm fighter--except she stops just at the entrance to the ring, closing her eyes.

Outwardly it might look as if she were saying a prayer, or focusing her mind--really, she's trying to calm nerves. This is her first public fight. And then...

... then she steps into the ring, faces her opponent--a gigantic man with an incredible face mask--and, falling upon habit, bows at the waist, before sliding her right foot forward, her left back, and curling her left hand loosely about her bokken, strapped to her left hip, her right settling upon the grip. She is settled but looks as if she is ready to move at an instant's notice--something about the pose, the way she leans forward slightly, the tension in her muscles...

Before the opponent that appears with more calmer - arguably ominous! - overtures, the Griffon Mask crosses his massive arms. To his recollection, the sorts of characters that receive such subdued entrances... shady, sneaky, sinister sorts.
These are tropes of a world he was forcibly ejected from by that mysterious Chinese Kenpo master. They no longer apply.
His arms uncross slightly when the silhouette is revealed to be that of a young, svelte woman who moves not with bombastic energy nor passionate warmth, but one of restraint and grace.
He almost thinks to ask-- no, this is your opponent! These are the real battles, where those of many walks of life come together to throw their all into combat. His eyes move down towards the weapon she appears to carry. The way she carries herself, how confident she comes off as with every motion appearing to be with purpose, and no waste. Not even before a far larger opponent, from a style and tradition where physical strength and size often ruled the day.
He might say, years down the line, he was the one who was intimidated. Not that he would betray such outwardly, as he raises his arms, lowering himself into his proper fighting stance.
"I am the Griffon Mask!" He introduces himself, thusly. "Ally of justice!! I--"
FIGHT! The call comes in. He finds himself cut off from what he was to say next, throwing off his groove - and allowing, if inadvertedly, the heiress to the Wakatsuki school the opportunity to show everything she's about right then and there.

COMBATSYS: Tizoc has started a fight here.

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Tizoc            0/-------/------=|

COMBATSYS: Mimi has joined the fight here.

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Tizoc            0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0             Mimi

Because this is a show, a beat begins, bass pulsing deeply, felt through the soles of the fighters as well as in the chests of the crowd. Fortunately, the only lights are there to illuminate, not to turn the fighting arena into a dance floor. That would probably leave Mimi with absolutely no idea what to do. The call to fight is different from the sharp "HAJIME!" of her grandfather's voice echoing in the dojo, but it's close enough that she reacts instantly.

She is small, for sure, at least compared to The Griffon Mask, but sheer size doesn't seem to daunt her. Her steps are light, quick, decisive as she closes the range. It might not seem wise to get within melee range of a man of that size, but swords aren't ranged weapons. There's only so much she can do from range--and anyway, bokken plus arm length should just about be even with Tizoc's beefy limbs.

As she approaches, she is evaluating him, physically. It will certainly take a lot for her to take him down. She is expecting him to be as tough as he looks. Perhaps to test that, she strikes with a quick slash, the black wooden blade cutting through the air in an upwards, diagonal slash, moving from her left to her right. At this point, at least, her form is still perfect; she stops the blade efficiently, not letting her strikes go wild. She seems to be starting out conservatively.

COMBATSYS: Mimi successfully hits Tizoc with Medium Strike.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Tizoc            0/-------/----===|-------\-------\0             Mimi

Little fault could be given to Tizoc's reflex to cross those massive arms inwards when he catches Sumire's approach. Intoxicating as the familiarity of musical cues, distracting lights, and the like are, he is not so completely daft in terms of basic instinct as to let that remove him from the moment.
Her choice of upward movement is what does the posture in, throwing those arms aside and smacking him in his (masked) chin. His upper body jolts backwards, one leg sliding back to catch himself from falling over.
The wooden blade strikes about as hard as any punch he's taken... there is no lack of sincerity to her approach. This young woman fully means to step forward and take him on! This is a real fight! The Invincible Mask, the Griffon Mask... is to fight a far younger girl hitting him with a stick.
Exhilirating, humbling, and kind of frightening, all at once, to the man inside the mask.
The masked wrestler wrestles with his balance enough that the swordswoman pushes him back to about three-and-a-half paces away. Rearing back an arm, he decides the better course of action is to simply come in swinging with the forward swipe of his forearm, aimed around head-level as he glides across the canvas.
"POSEIDON WAAAAVE!" He calls out of habit, all but telegraphing his next move to the studious bokken wielder. There's enough momentum behind him that all the preparation in the world might only be able to do so much, though.

COMBATSYS: Mimi blocks Tizoc's Poseidon Wave.

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Tizoc            0/-------/---====|=------\-------\0             Mimi

Mimi withdraws the blade, returning herself to a guard position--and just in time, too, as Tizoc recovers from the strike and, despite being pushed back, decides to retake that space--and in an instant. For a man like that to move so fast--it's surprising to say the least. Clearly he is far more than he appears--all that muscle and he is still agile.

Mimi concentrates her guard, sliding her left hand down the back of the blade to support--and she manages to at least partially deflect the impact. At the very least, she doesn't get clotheslined in the face, which would, judging from the physical power she just experienced, would have sent her flying.

As it is, a combination of that impact and an instinctive loosening of her knee joints lets her slip underneath the onrushing Tizoc, and she springs forward a few paces before whirling around, spinning on her right foot.

Her expression probably says it all--that was an impressive technique for many reasons. A split-second of thought and she decides to lunge forward, staying low, both hands on the grip of her bokken as she plants her feet, transferring her momentum from moving forward into her arms, speeding the bokken around in a low cut, turning almost all the way around before she pushes up into an almost-standing stance, bringing the bokken around and down in a high-to-low cut, again left-to-right.

COMBATSYS: Tizoc barely endures Mimi's Power Strike.

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Tizoc            0/-------/=======|==-----\-------\0             Mimi

The Griffon Mask's head turns the very moment she moves against the impact to make sure he passes by her with his back turned. That mask is one that hides the surprise in his eyes well. Her calm cannot be overstated, the way she deals with a physically superior opponent capable of such overpowering force against a far tinier body...!
She's on him before he can properly face her, split-second of thought of delay on her part accounted for, and the bokken bashes at his back, hardly cushioned by the long feathery mane of his griffon mask.
One knee starts to give in, as he looks out to the crowd in front of him. A very young child watches in the company of a half-alert father, whom looks none too peppy about the development. The very young child didn't want to be here, their father just brought them here for lack of any idea what to do with their day other than get an expensive ticket at Howard Arena...
They seek excitement, he decides, and with a breath he shoves the shock of pain out of mind. He loses his posture down to a kneel anyway, but now one of his large gloved hands goes for Mimi's belt, the other to a shoulder, to try and lift her up... and just throw her down at the mat, if she doesn't fight out of his grip by some means along the way. It's not one of the fancier throws he has.
He's mentally off-balance. He's never dealt with a lighter body like this, having little effective practice about how one best deals with throwing a young girl down into the mat. He's not used to the distribution of weight he has to work with against her.

COMBATSYS: Tizoc successfully hits Mimi with Medium Throw.

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Tizoc            1/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0             Mimi

Mimi just sort of made up that combination on the fly--and while it worked, there's a few things working against her. For one, she isn't practiced with it--she's certainly done both the low slash and the overhead slash as well, but transitioning from one, to the other, and then back to ready is slightly different from either. So she overbalances a tad.

The other thing that works against her in this situation is something she knew about--Tizoc's incredible beefiness. While the combination of strikes wouldn't put down anyone but the greenest of fighters, against a man like him--well, she overestimated how long it would take for him to recover. So she's just pulled back into stance when Tizoc is in her face.

It isn't hard to pick her up--she's solidly built for a girl, but in pure size there's too much of a difference. It's all she can do to keep a hold of her weapon as she slams into the mat on her back. She has just enough presence of mind--and training--to let the air rush from her lungs and use the bounce to begin a roll away from Tizoc.

But as she rises, she's gasping for air. She needs a moment... but she can't relax herself.

So she centers herself, settling down into her stance visibly, weapon held at a mid-level guard across her body, as her body suffuses with a white glow that begins building over a short period.

COMBATSYS: Mimi draws power into herself!

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Tizoc            1/-------/=======|=======\=------\1             Mimi

The slamming goes swimmingly enough, but the giant Mexican man's arms both twitch outward and back in sequence that suggests a new issue on his part - hesitation. Yes, she has shown great strength and technical ability against him so far, landing a pair of solid hits and working his offensive momentum to her advantage.
She is a young woman of school age. What if I accidentally broke her spine, he inwardly wonders, knowing full well how often and how swiftly a career-ending injury could come even in the older, safer world of carefully planned movements and stories-- is that just? Is that a hero?
He's snapped back to reality with the white glow that surrounds her. Its glow illuminates the front of his body as he clenches his fists tighter to remind himself.
This is a real battle! She has no fear nor hesitation in her eyes - what good would it be if the great Griffon Mask were to show (greater) weakness yet?!
He springs again into action suddenly, leaping off the canvas with both feet pointing forward that dauntlessly thrust towards the gathering lights, hurling his entire body mass with such strength and speed that one might hallucinate after-images in his wake.
"KIIIIIIIIIIIICK!" The Griffon Mask shouts above the spectacle, looking to drop-kick the one who might be looking for the center, but might instead find the ropes before long.

COMBATSYS: Tizoc successfully hits Mimi with Gri Dro Super Kick EX.

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Tizoc            1/------=/=======|=======\====---\1             Mimi

Tizoc's power is overwhelming. Even with her defenses hardened by her chi, Mimi can't hold him back--it's like holding back the tide. Her guard is broken almost instantly, and the kick lands squarely upon her chin and torso. She goes flying as the impact tears a gasp of pain from her lips; arching back, she drops and lands on her left shoulder, rolling twice before stopping. As she pushes up to her hands and knees, her arms twitch, betraying the damage done. Bruises are forming, her clothing is in disarray... and yet she looks strangely happy. Not joyful, but as if this is an experience that will impact positively upon her, despite the techniques Tizoc has landed.

Now separated from the wrestler by at least a dozen yards, she climbs to her feet and takes just a moment to re-settle herself as much as she can. When both hands take grip on her weapon again, it begins to glow with the same white light that she herself displayed earlier... and that white light forms a crescent as she slashes her bokken upwards. That arc remains for just a moment as she sweeps her weapon back down, ending with her weapon at her left hip and her hands back into drawing position.

And then it rushes forward, as tall as she is, cutting a sparkling path through the air as she sends it towards Tizoc, looking very much like a nearly full moon.

COMBATSYS: Tizoc endures Mimi's Mangetsuzan.

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Tizoc            1/--=====/=======|=======\=====--\1             Mimi

To throw oneself wholesale into a dropkick is risky and dangerous for all involved. Even with the distance created between them from the clean blow, the Griffon Mask does not get back up that much faster than her. His techniques are, usually, those of power and showiness. Something that's a common thread through most of his disciplines - it is a weakness to be capitalized upon, if his momentum can be halted.
The subtleties of the young woman's mood is lost upon him as he sees her recover about as well as anyone can after taking the brunt of something like that. Inwardly, he's impressed - he knows he did not pull back the blow.
The father-son combination a ways back behind her do not stir much. Were they... not convinced?
The seeming apathy stabs the wrestler like a pair of daggers, even as a bright light should command his more immediate attention. No, this is a real battle, we have been exchanging real blows - he will not relent, as he runs wholesale into the approaching crescent.
The disc-like rendition of the full moon doesn't seem to go into the larger of the two combatants. It looks like it slices right on through him - a clear-cut sign of a weakness within this man's training regimen.
He must not be that familiar with manipulating the latent energies of the world around him, cooped up deep within these concrete man-made structures, cut out from nature.
It's the kind of blow that looks like it should have taken him down, the way his upper body jerks up, the way his head is thrown back... but it doesn't halt his momentum.
Skidding forward on his knees and stopping himself from falling onto his face by slamming a hand into the canvas to balance himself back up, the man underneath grits his teeth as a numb warmth grows across the path in which the young woman constructed the manifestation that went through him.
"Hercule's---!" He slurs out the first word, gasps out incoherence on the second, trying to take Mimi off her feet by grabbing at one of her arms and tossing her against the ropes a good ways off to his right.
He's setting up if she doesn't resist him, but for what...?

COMBATSYS: Tizoc successfully hits Mimi with Hercules Throw.

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Tizoc            1/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2             Mimi

So -fast-! She thought he was moving fast before, but this rush is absolutely indomitable. He's in her face almost before she can react, and certainly not before she can -complete- her reaction. Her move to the left is caught easily and she's flung. The pure force behind the manuever forces her headlong into the ropes, stretching them even with her relatively slight weight, until they reach the maximum extension and then fling her forward.

It's the first time she's ever been attacked like this--it's pure luck she gets her feet underneath her at all. And, maybe, a sign of a touch of greatness in her that she's able, throughout that chaotic couple of seconds, to formulate a plan of action. It's hurried and not well-thought-out, but it is there.

Of course, in this case, it's simply unleashing her strongest attack; by the time she's rebounding back towards Tizoc, she's able to marshal some of that errant kinetic force and arrange it so that she's in control--in fact, she even puts on a burst of speed, lunging forward after a couple of steps, unleashing a short, high-pitched, wordless sound of effort as she goes into that lunge.

Like before, she goes low, as if she intends to cut his legs out from underneath him--but at the last moment that changes, and just as she reaches Tizoc's position--perhaps just before--she pushes off with both feet, throwing herself into a sword-led uppercut, her chi exploding through the blade, wreathing it in a bright white glow that leaves an after-trail, and, without much in the way of waiting, flips herself around and comes back down at Tizoc, the blade still glowing brightly as she descends with an executioner's slash, landing with a percussive slam to the mat that blows out a cloud of dust around her, her weapon slapping into the surface.

COMBATSYS: Tizoc interrupts Tenchuuwari Zan from Mimi with Icarus Crush EX.

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Tizoc            1/-<<<<<</<<<<<<<|>>>>>>>\>>>----\1             Mimi

Both of them concoct plans within the moment of the smaller of the two being bounced off the ropes. To her, her plan is improvised. To him, his plan is routine. Both have their place, but there appears one clear winner with the unfamiliarity both have towards each others' styles. Her plan is initially met with success. He seems to have had the idea to snatch her while she was stumbling back towards him, as evidenced by the hand that goes wide over her head when she comes in low for positioning purposes.
The audience takes notice when the light-bathed bokken goes through his compromised defense. His ability to mount an overwhelming offense when one attempts to stand there and withstand it is laudable and his greatest asset.
This can also prove his weakness, as the outstretched arm means there's nothing to stop the uppercut that sees the masked wrestler throw his head up anew.
The other hand slams down upon his scalp, for the cause of keeping it there, as his feet give out under him to fall into a kneel. To watch the young woman move is not unlike watching the moon itself rise over a clear night to give light and guidance to those who would walk under its domain.
All eyes are upon her as she begins to flip about for the decisive follow-up, his head tilting downward, unwisely focused on the crowd rather than his opponent.
The anticipation on their faces. Is it interest? Is it pleading? Are they condemning him? For the energy he brought to the forefront years ago, for the efforts of both himself and the announcer, he feels... cold, somehow. Empty. Do they not believe in him, anymore?
But I... I still believe in myself, Tizoc thinks within those precious split seconds...
"DAH!" He throws his head and arms back, as though this gesture were performed in frozen time as he leaps up into the slash that would put an end to his time in this battle.
Getting his arms around Mimi within moments of her bringing that blade down, he spins with her in mid-air for a rotation or two before the both of them go inverted, driving her down with him head-first onto the canvas below with a single, triumphant cry.
"ICARUS CRUSH!!!" It's shouted so defiantly that the ringside microphone that picks it up gives terrible whining feedback, ensuring someone today loses their job.

The slam is thunderous, as it would have been if Mimi were successful. Visually it has much of the same effect. However, after the dust clears--a matter of just a few seconds, really--the outcome is different as can be. Mimi's best shot was not enough--she lays on the mat, out. Really, it's only for a moment; before anything can even be said, she's stirring. But it isn't to get up and continue the fight. The swordswoman pushes up on her left elbow, her right hand flat on the grip of her bokken, and shakes her head, to clear it.

"Mmmh," she groans, then, slowly, gets to her knees. It's obvious that she's not fighting anymore today, and so the bell rings. The crowd, at first quiet, cheers when they see Mimi getting up, even though she's obviously in no shape to continue the fight; she sits with her knees up for a moment, then blows out a breath and rises to her feet, unsteadily.

Tizoc is right there--she doesn't even need to turn towards him--so it's easy for her to bow, as she would at the end of a training session, and, though her voice is a bit thick with pain, say, "Thank you for an illuminating match." Straightening, she turns towards her 'corner', and takes a step--swoons, then stops, and with a determined look on her face, straightens herself and walks off the mat. Within the first two steps she's placing her bokken in her sash as if she were sheathing a sword--but when she reaches her corner, she slumps rather unceremoniously onto the small bench there, even as the announcers are getting underway.

COMBATSYS: Mimi can no longer fight.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  <
Tizoc            1/-<<<<<</<<<<<<<|

The initial crowd sizes may not have looked too appealing to the financers, but the cameramen on duty have earned their keep by far in capturing this last explosive exchange between the two, a beautiful combination overcome and interrupted with a stunning reversal!
The executives watching from afar clap their hands. Matches of this caliber are just what the Circuit of Champions needs after so many of their own have mysteriously dropped off the face of the Earth...!
The Griffon Mask stands anew after pushing himself up off the ground with a grace not usually seen among men his size, and once again does the strange forward lurch that snaps back when the bell rings - he was within moments of trying to leap on the school-aged warrior for a traditional pin.
The adrenaline starts to subside as the bell rings to call the match to a stop. Even seeing her move right under his eyes, a part of him feels a brief tinge of fear - the maneuver he pulled is something he's mastered only after so much great care and practice between himself and his past partners. He might even have believed, for a moment, he could have come close to snapping the poor girl's neck.
And yet, she has it in her to gracefully bow out in defeat, to thank him in eloquent words. She is well, she can stand on her own power... it is a relief.
But he cannot rest, even as his chest rises and falls with heavy breaths, the exertion in tandem with the shots to his upper torso making it a little tough for him to draw in much air.
"You... are welcome!" The Griffon Mask belts out, sweeping an arm outward as if in a challenging gesture. "Remember that justice... does not... lose!"
He flubs the words a little in the heat of the moment - this was a reasonably amicable battle between strangers, without clear 'good' or 'evil' in play. The narratives aren't set in these kinds of encounters. Hardly anyone would consider her a 'bad guy' in this circumstance - she's so polite and sporting.
He is left pondering this conundrum as a referee comes up to hold his arm up to the crowds, who seem a little more into it /now/. To the Griffon Mask, the approval of the children is all he needs to spur him onward to the next round of the gauntlet!
To Tizoc, his heart remains confused.

COMBATSYS: Tizoc has ended the fight here.

Log created on 19:13:53 04/03/2017 by Mimi, and last modified on 14:49:32 04/04/2017.