KOF 2017 - B4 Qualifier: Rising Dragons vs Beautiful Girls

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Description: Leads: Ryu vs Mai. Location: Japan - Southtown Overpass. Underneath the Southtown Overpass, looks faces against talent, as the Rising Dragons 2017 butts heads with the Beautiful Girls Team in a fight for the 4th Bracket. The Rising Dragons 2017 bring recurring world warrior Ryu with a young prodigy Sakura, a fresh face to King of Fighters, if not the organized fighting circuit. Facing against them is three beautiful and dangerous ladies. Claire, Mai, and Fumiyo mix raw sex appeal with deadly skill, proving that good looks does not belay pure talent. Both teams will have to bring it all if they want to qualify into the tournament of kings.

King of Fighters is happening! It's only the biggest name in team combat competitions! The city of Southtown is abuzz with having an unconventional venue for one of its qualifying rounds... abuzz with complaints, because there's so many eyes that want to bear witness to it directly, and so little space!
It's a nice day today for a crowd to try and gather underneath one of the city's sprawling overpasses... with emphasis on the word 'try.' It doesn't matter if the only 'seating' is thirty feet up from where the battle is going to take place. People are finding ways to spectate this bout, come hell or high water.
It's no longer clear as to how anyone is supposed to come or go from here, when virtually every available path leading down here is packed to the brim with fans and journalists alike, wanting to get the drop on one of the hottest fights at the very beginning of the tournament. The only cleared space is a large, rectangular expanse of grass with vaguely clear boundaries of what will be the fighting stage.
Ryu stands at the ready, his bare feet standing upon the soft grass that struggles to grow underneath the shadow of the road above them. He is surrounded by cheering, the concrete pillars having commemorative graffiti art done up of the two opposing teams in a heavily stylized fashion. The noon time sun shines brightly through the man-made obstructions that would deprive everything below the overpass its light. The scent of exhaust still lingers, even as it would appear impossible for any vehicular traffic to go anywhere through here this day.
Ryu stands with crossed arms and closed eyes in simple meditation, as if a part of him were standing apart from the whole worund around, above, below himself. He knows what he's here for.

In stark contrast to Ryu's meditative stoicism is one Mai Shiranui. The kunoichi's ninja tabi step lightly across the rare patches of grass and worn concrete beneath the underpass as she makes her way into starting position. Today, as in many of her bouts, Mai is dressed in what she calls the a traditional Shiranui Clan kunoichi uniform. It's a bare, minimally concealing number that spirals closer and closer to passing over the edge of good taste year after year. Some would say it passed it long ago.
Mai is also presently holding a Japanese fan. She alternates between fanning herself with it and using it to conceal the bottom half of her face.
"Just Ryu, huh? You know, you've got quite a reputation ahead of you," Mai snaps the fan closed suddenly, bending her knees as she shifts in a combat stance with one arm raised up and back and the other holding her fan in front of her. "But don't let that go to your head too much, huh? The Shiranui Clan is nothing to sneeze at either!"

Claire is of course here. Why wouldn't she be?

The platinum blonde is off to the side, having picked Mai to go first for... reasons. (Mostly because she is pretty sure she is not up to fighting Ryu; Claire had been going to put herself in first, but when she realized what team she was up against, maybe not.) She's wearing her own combat outfit, if you can call it that - breastplate, gloves, boots, and all.

"Kick his rear!" she calls, heedless of the fact that this is possibly not entirely sporting behaviour. At least she's not doing anything but cheering.

Ryu's eyes open at Mai's arrival. This shouldn't be to anyone's surprise. Mai catches eyes. The kunoichi's playfully showy nature plays to one of her greatest strengths, endangering one's focus and making it that much harder to track her every movement.
She's not wrong. There's plenty to say about and around the man before her! There's probably an announcer rattling off an entire large set of designed-by-committee titles as to how to introduce Ryu, because he's so infamously no frills that he kind of ruins any attempt at a grandiose entrance just by simply being. He's Ryu, he's here to fight, that's... always how it's been.
Ryu internally zones out the surrounding chatter. The breeze that carries through the underpass fades into nothingness, as he adopts his own ready stance. Fists raised, feet bobbing up and down in movement.
"Whatever is said, whatever comes... all I know is," they know what words are coming, "the answer lies at the heart of battle."
Will it be that simple with Mai Shiranui, though? Could Ryu be able to fight past her flirtatious front?

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

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Ryu              0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Mai has joined the fight here on the right meter side.

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Ryu              0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0              Mai

The one who looks like she actually fits in here is Fumiyo Lastnameunclear-ButapparentlyJatani, who is slouching against one of the mighty concrete pillars that is bearing up the road above from the traffic that crosses it, the low roar of the modern tide filling the space with sound.

She is wearing her usual clothing which looks punky, and a cigarette, which looks extremely cool and mature. She raises her voice to call forwards, "Look out for his --"

But then she stops, perhaps because she isn't sure that's rule breaking. "I really hope she wins," Fumiyo asides to Claire, "'cause if she doesn't I'm not going to hear the end of it."

You can yell whatever you want if you don't mind a) being rude or b) being drowned out by the crowd.

"Well, if she doesn't it's you or me," Claire says more quietly to Fumiyo, adjusting her glove. "So you might not be the one hearing about it. But yeah, here's hoping."

In Ryu's corner is... well, Allen is kinda there, but he's mostly like flexing to himself and to the crowd, most of which are ignoring him kinda. Sakura is hunched forward on her chair, fists balled up, chin resting on her hands, staring intently at the match.

Mai bounces on her feet, keeping herself springy and ready to move. Her eyes scan over Ryu as she seems to be assessing the karateka. In a way, he reminds her a little of Terry. Perhaps a bit more serious, but there's certainly something to be said of reputations. But when Ryu makes his statement about the heart of battle, Mai takes that as her cue.
Rushing forward, the kunoichi runs low and fast, accelerating up to speed quickly. She snaps a fan out in a flash, spinning forward into a downward slash with it.
But even as she does, she's drawn a second fan from her top. As she completes the downward slash of the fan, she pivots on around, bringing the second fan to bear right afterward.
"Sort of a heat of the moment kind of guy, huh? That seems a little dire to me!"

COMBATSYS: Ryu blocks Mai's Hakuro No Mai.

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Ryu              0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0              Mai

Among the crowd there are a few men. Those men are overweight and should not be dressed the way they should be. Men that are wearing the typical fighting garb of Andy despite the fact it barely fits any of them. There is a lot of belly being exposed and even three of those big bellies have M A I painted on them as the group of Andy wannabes cheer on the kunoichi that is ready to fight. "Yeaaah! GO MAI!"

Mai's swiftness ensures she takes the first strike. Ryu's defense seems, in some ways, swifter. A forearm moves to deflect her offensive, but his facial expression remains unchanging through Mai's teasing as his heels dig into the turf underneath.

A younger boy by the name of Ken Masters had a lot of interesting things to say to fellow younger boy, Ryu, about women. (We'll... go over the rest of that tale later.)


'Heat of the moment' might be as accurate a descriptor as any - Ryu doesn't hesitate to move in after the fact with a strike of his own, stepping in once with his back foot. He thrusts his right hand forward in a punch that seems to shoot for around Mai's collar level, before snapping downward in a second coherent motion that would turn the appearance of a single overhead punch motion into two distinct strikes.

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Mai with Sakotsu Wari.

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Ryu              0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0              Mai

Mai fan impacts a solid, remarkably swift block from Ryu that quickly silences the kunoichi (for the moment). She backsteps with a similar dance-like motion to her offensive, but then turns to notice the crowd of Andy imitators. Mai coyly snaps her fan open in front of her face to hide the grimace, offering them a weak little wave. For better or worse, Mai's attention is then swiftly taken by the incoming one-two punch.
The fan is brought around quickly, but not quickly enough for a proper block. Ryu's fist smashes through it with a grumble and impacts Mai in the collarbone, staggering him backwards with a heavy thump from the impact. She seems to spin once again, as if staggered by the blow, which in turn causes the ball-adorned tails of her uniform to whip around.
They promptly catch fire from Mai's heated chi, snapping around to try and slap Ryu in a sudden surprise attack!

COMBATSYS: Ryu instinctively dodges Mai's Ryuuenbu.

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Ryu              0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0              Mai

Fumiyo side-eyes the people cheering for Mai. To Claire, she says as she points towards them, "Did you invite them, or did they just show up?"

"It's King of Fighters, lots of people just show up," Claire says, with a shrug. "I certainly did not. I have standards."


Ryu went to his kindly old master about what Ken had discussed with him. Gouken had a nice, long talk with Ryu about how women can hit just as hard as men with the appropriate amount of training and skill.


It proves difficult to take Ryu by surprise. He doesn't rest on his laurels about winning the first exchange of blows, stepping back and swaying his body as the flaming weight at the tail of Mai's almost-not-clothing, his balance and form only just clearing the tongue of fire that wants to take a lick out of the whites of his worn-out gi, maybe give him a tan in some select spots of his flesh.
He moves with this narrow avoidance to raise up his leg and take a small leap into the air, swinging his leg outward horizontally as he leaves the other vertical with the rest of him.
"TATSUMAKI SENPUU KYAKU!!" He calls out, moving to strike Mai with a whirling series of those famous spinkicks, hovering just above the grass and the concrete underneath as he turns up the heat in a way that is far more metaphorical than it is physical.

COMBATSYS: Mai blocks Ryu's Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku.

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Ryu              0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0              Mai

The tail extinguishes as swiftly as it caught, the chi flames subsiding with a poof. Mai slides on her tabi as she lands, turning back to face Ryu fully. What follows is the spinning flurry of kicks, to which Mai responds with double-forearm block. She slides across the pavement again, landing bend forward and resting on one palm to better balance herself.
"Oof," Mai says, breathing heavily. "This isn't run-of-the-mill karate, huh? Does everyone who practices your style hit so hard?" But in a moment, Mai is on the move again. She springs forward, kicking into the air and spinning forward with a fan. As she spins, however, the fan intentionally goes wide and gives Mai an opportunity to swing her heels around and try to kick into Ryu--from where she tries to kick off an maintain her distance.

COMBATSYS: Ryu just-defends Mai's Random Strike!

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Ryu              0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0              Mai

Ryu lands against the soft dirt underneath without losing his understanding of where he is supposed to be oriented, touching back down upon the ground still keeping those eyes of his locked upon her with the stare of a focused warrior that is really looking at her - not those, but her!


Gouken ensured the daily chores were four times harder that day when young Ryu raised the question of the birds and the bees. Gouken would later underestimate the creativity of his other pupil in helping his friend fill the blanks.

Mai's curiosity meets with the same unrelenting silence as she punctuates her query with a fast feint into an evasive kick, intending to use him to springboard back.
Ryu does not flinch to the feint, expertly calling the incoming kick with an open palm ready to catch it as he finds himself springing back with the motion of her flexing leg. While he escapes harm, Mai gets what she wants - the two are now at a safe distance from one another. Indeed, Ryu's competent defense is used against him here!
He's internally impressed at this quick thinking of hers... the Shiranui style is difficult to follow, indeed. Both now have the benefit of time to react, no matter who intends to take the first action from there.
Ryu chances it anyway, drawing back his hands to channel the vacuum into the space between his hands, to fill it with the energy of the world surrounding him before he throws his palms forward - aligned vertically, one over the other - to release the white-ish blue ball of energy forth.
"HADOUKEN!" He calls, as the crowd goes wild at getting to see one SO CLOSE UP! (Almost too close! They should've done a better job zoning this area!)

COMBATSYS: Mai negates Hadouken from Ryu with Kachosen.

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Ryu              0/-------/-----==|===----\-------\0              Mai

Fumiyo abruptly twists round to the other side of the concrete pillar she's leaning against when that Hadouken comes close. "Shit!" she says, from safety. She also didn't bring Claire along - how rude!

Claire stays where she is, because she's pretty sure if Ryu shoots her (without her jumping in the way like a moron or anything) it's a disqualification and she's reasonably sure she can survive one. It's impressive, but it's not like she's not a half-decent fighter herself; she can roll with it.

She can't help the automatic flinch and half-raise of her arms, defensively, but it doesn't come anywhere near her and she's fine. Claire lowers her arms a moment later. "You can come out now," she says to Claire.

At some point Mai discarded her crumpled fan with simple sleight-of-hand and replaced it with another from her bosom, the action lost in the frenetic action of the kunoichi and her furious clashes with the karateka. Once they are farther apart again, Ryu unleashes the signature Hadouken (which the crowd seems quite pleased by). Mai too seems impressed, judging by her widened eyes.
But her surprise doesn't stop her from reacting swiftly. With a flick of the wrist she snaps her fan into a spiral, swinging the weapon whirling through the air until it impacts with Hadouken, Mai's precision through intercepting the fireball long before it reaches her. She pulls yet another fan from her cleavage.
"Well then," Mai says, "it looks like hard hits aren't the only thing you're bringing to the table. Do you have any other tricks you'd like to share? I know I've got a few of my own left!"

"That's my decision, not yours," Fumiyo counters, but she emerges anyway, hand on her hip as she squints towards the ring of battle again, especially since Mai has managed to NOT be flash fried like a #3 combo thrown into the frier at Popeye's.

"Impressive," look! Ryu talks! He can talk!! In a fight!! This excitement out of the way, his words do match up with his feelings on the matter. The way the fan deftly intercepts the Hadouken, robbing it of all momentum as it hovers in place before dispersing into etherial particles... there might be the beginnings of a smile coming onto that face.
Ryu takes several steps forward before he takes into the air in a leap, just in time for Mai to ask the question about what's next in this young man's bag of crazy stoic karate hobo tricks, as he descends upon Mai in this makeshift park underneath the overpass above.
Behold, then, the other trick Ryu apperas to want to share - a jump-in knee attack, with a fist thrust out parallel with it.

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Mai with Light Kick.

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Ryu              0/-------/----===|=====--\-------\0              Mai

Mai remains mostly ignorant of the skepticism from her teammates. This is probably for the best, as she would complain about it incessantly. Whatever the case, the value of Ryu's rare word is not lost on Mai. She brightens considerably.
"Oh, there we go! You liked that trick, huh? I was afraid you were going to be dour the whole time, and that's no fun! Why--"
But then, Ryu is descending with a airborne knee-and-fist strike. Mai backsteps, but too little and too late. Ryu collides with the ninja, knocking her backwards into a roll. It's a brief backstep, however, before Mai is powering forward and stepping into a heel kick of her own. Her wardrobe billows up and shows what's underneath, probably to the delight of some of the spectators. Mai seems to remain (thankfully) oblivious.

COMBATSYS: Ryu blocks Mai's Power Strike.

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Ryu              0/-------/---====|=====--\-------\0              Mai

Ryu has to lean his head back in order to catch the heel kick. The speed in which she rebounds and strikes back is, in itself, disarming. Mai could feel the foot come just shy of slipping past his right hand, a twitch in his wrist as it soaks the impact at an angle uncomfortable - a narrow success.
Rather than relent, Ryu lowers his right hand and balls it into a fist as his stance lowers slightly.
Ryu looks to strike against Mai from a perceived overextension on her heel kick, rearing back his left fist before swinging it forward at abdomen level - and extending it again further as he slides forward against the turf and onto the concrete without seeming discomfort or disorientation. In doing so, once again, he combines two solid strikes within a singular swinging motion of his arm.
At least he's now going to be dour only /some/ of the time?

COMBATSYS: Mai dodges Ryu's Kyuubi Kudaki.

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Ryu              0/-------/---====|=====--\-------\0              Mai

Mai wiggles her toes as she almost finds purchase with the kick. Ryu's witch of the wrist and shift of weight puts her backward with a sudden shove of force, after which Ryu is closing in once more with a swift two-part strike. Mai's eyes widen, and she seems to be left overextended and unable to avoid the power punch.
But then the kunoichi goes for a surprising show of agility. With a twist she pushes off of the block, flipping herself up into the air and leaving Ryu to punch into the billowing cloth of her tabbard. She swings around with a swift kick aimed for Ryu's head, after which she tries to spin herself over and into a flip back onto her feet.
"Back to the strong, silent type, huh?" Mai pouts, "And here I thought Andy and Terry got serious about their fights..."

COMBATSYS: Mai successfully hits Ryu with Light Kick.

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Ryu              0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0              Mai

The look on Ryu's face as his cheek compresses from the kick to it - and one eye bugging out - should elicit the exact opposite of a pout!
His upper body moves with the kick a bit more than the actual force that strikes it, an indicator that he has the idea to try and duck or otherwise sidestep moments too late. Saliva sprays freely from his mouth, watering the grass below.
There's not much to say about the way he throws a right hook around head level to Mai as she returns to her feet with an acrobatic gracefulness, the swing met with a kiai. There is something of a single-mindedness to Ryu's approach - just going in there, fighting his best, no matter the opponent - that may or may not beg the question as to whether or not being such a boring ol' stick in the mud might be a Guy Thing(tm).
The surrounding crowd, all huddled together down on the field of the underpass, though, they're not bored! (They also seem the type to be easily amused. One might wonder if they'd cheer fervently if Ryu stopped and picked his nose, or something. Maybe he'll do it if Ken dares him to?!)

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Mai with Aggressive Strike.

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

As Mai continues to run her mouth, she gets it unfortunately (and violently) closed for her when Ryu's swift counter-attack cuts through her counterattack and catches her before she can manage the landing of her clip. The sudden right hook collides with Mai's cheek in a brain-rattling impact that sends her out of her flip and crashing to the ground. She lands heavily on her back with a thump, but her motion does not immediately stop there.
Her head ringing from the blow, Mai rolls onto her palms a moment later and springs back to her feet, her hand rubbing her jaw with consternation. She wipes a bit of blood from her mouth.
"Oww," Mai says, her speech slightly slurred. It's then that she staggers forward, suddenly falling toward the ground. Did the punch ave a more lasting impact than originally thought?
It seems so, briefly, before Mai shifts her momentum and transitions into a front-flipping downward kick. Chi surges, the air heating up as the kunoichi's skill at chi manifestation surges to the surface again. She transitions from the front-flipping kick into a handspring, trying to use the kick to drive Ryu back enough to launch herself back around into a forward elbow strike, braced with her other palm. The fan is tossed between her teeth to keep her hands free. It's also then that the gathering chi hits its apex point, Mai's aura igniting into a blazing inferno that shrouds her entire strike with fire.

COMBATSYS: Mai successfully hits Ryu with Chou Hissatsu Shinobibachi.

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

There's no hint of mockery or humor in Ryu's eyes as he tracks Mai's movements after being punched in the face. He keeps his fists at the level they tend to be when he's at rest in battle. For a lack of much outward extraneous emotion, there is plenty of anticipation and eagerness in absence of much else - he knows Mai is capable of more. He wants to see it. He wants to test himself against it.
He wants everything on offer! (Um. Almost everything.)
He sure gets it, when she flips forward leading with the kick. His right hand, open palm, faces towards the point of contact to halt it. A blue light flashes, a loud noise signifying a clash of strength against wills as his stance tightens. Mai doesn't get to kick him back.
This initial parry works completely in her favor, as it puts him at the epicenter of the inferno that surrounds the heir to the Shiranui arts. His entire vision is distorted by sweltering heat, and she slips that leading elbow into his chest.
He gasps for air as he carried off the ground for the entire path of her fiery leaping lunge, leaving little cinders to scorch small patches of the grass as Ryu's body collides and rolls against the turf. He comes up to a kneel with a gasp for air, leaning on his left hand.
Both hands go back up to tighten the red headband around his head. This... this is what he's looking for.
Finding another wind, Ryu doesn't stand all the way up. Instead, he braces one arm against the ground as he reaches out with his leg towards Mai, hoping to catch her before she can fully steady herself.

COMBATSYS: Mai full-parries Ryu's Medium Kick!!

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

Mai's expression tightens as heel collides with palm, stopping the blow. Mai keeps moving, rolling into the elbow strike and bowling Ryu other with a combination of physical strength and chi. She lands in a slide, her shoes skidding across the dirt and grass until she comes to a stop. Her eyes stay focused on Ryu, for despite appearances Mai has a certain determination and focus on the fight as well. Hers is simply kept well concealed in her flashy, chatty attitude.
But her seriousness manifests again when Ryu strikes out with a kick. The kunoichi snatches her fan out of her teeth and strikes upward with it, crashing the flat of the weapon against Ryu's calf to direct the kick away from her. Even as she does, she shifts her position and tries to leverage Ryu, using his momentum to pull him up slightly.
From where Shiranui rises in a second flame strike, this one a rising kick channeling that scorching aura of her fiery chi. If she catches Ryu properly with the leg pull, she strikes to strike him under the chin, springing up with enough force to carry them both across the stage before she springs back.

COMBATSYS: Ryu blocks Mai's Hishou Ryuuenjin EX.

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

Mai's determination blazes through the sweeping leg, giving a flash of an entirely different character as she expertly overcomes Ryu's return maneuver as he maintains his composure through what could be considered the highlight of the battle right then and there - Mai's fiery flying elbow that proves her a true contender for the man before her.
The deflecting maneuver of her fan borders on cramp-inducing, straining the muscles in his leg as Mai coaxes the Ansatsuken student up against his volition. He staggers in place, going a full three-sixty to get back upright and once again face her - just in time to take it in the ch--
Ryu clenches his left fist as he flexes his arm against it, as the Shiranui flames crash against his vision. The sparks of flame dance against his face, as he grits his teeth. He might be staying firmly on the ground, but it provides enough of a cover that Ryu may lose sight of where Mai has gone in their wake.
He crouches down, back turned to Mai momentarily.
"Shinkuu..." He calls, as he empties his mind of the unnecessary details. He pushes out the feel of the grass, the sweat running down his face, the breeze that goes through the underpass, the passing heat of Mai's resolve given physical form, the shapely eye-catching figure that claws its way into a lingering imaginationation...
"TATSUMAKI SENPUU KYAKU!!" Ryu calls as he takes a short hop into the air. He doesn't fly forward. No, he spins in place, as a light blue-white energy vortex swirls and splashes underneath him, threatening to suck in Mai and bludgeon her with the extended kicking leg.
The fans have to hold their hats as the vacuum pulls in some flying blades of grass and dirt through the maneuver's duration.

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Mai with Shinkuu Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku EX.

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Ryu              0/-------/--=====|=======\-------\0              Mai

Mai and Ryu clash as Mai's flaming kick impacts heavily with Ryu's block. The kunoichi purses her lips, sweat steaming off her brow from the tension and the heat of her flames. Her muscles tense as she pushes harder against Ryu's block, but she fails to overcome. The two separate again, Mai bouncing to regain her balance as Ryu staggers away.
When Ryu focuses, Mai is placed on the defensive once again. Her sass is silenced for the moment as she focuses, drawing out a second fan in defense. What she does not expect is the vacuum of force from Ryu's fierce hurricane kick, which draws her toward him swiftly. Mai braces herself, bringing the fans up, but the shift in momentum and the forward pull throws her balance. What was intended as a double-fan block turns into an awkward smash through a fan while the other is launched away. Mai takes the kick itself to the side, impacting her ribs. She staggers back, only to be drawn in again and smashed in the hip. The process repeats itself a third time, the final kick smashing her across the jaw and sending her sailing away as the vacuum subsides.
Mai impacts heavily, sliding through the dust and grass before coming to a stop. Once she does, she staggers to her feet in a daze, rubbing her sore side and bruised cheek. "Ugh..." Mai groans, climbing back up and resuming her stance--albeit with much less pep than before. "Okay!" Mai wipes her mouth. Her hair starts to stand on end slightly as she gathers chi once more. She glances briefly toward Claire and Fumiyo. "I'm going to make sure people remember this round!"
And so, Mai tosses aside her broken fan, thereby freeing up her hands for a series of ninja handsigns. Her tabbard billows up as chi and heat surge around her, renewing her vigor. With her chi gathered she then powers forward, charging straight at Ryu!
--only to launch high up into the air, sailing up toward the overpass with a powerful display of leg strength. She flips forward from there, chi aura igniting once more as she falls forward, then drops full-speed back down toward Ryu as a flaming meteor of chi!

COMBATSYS: Mai successfully hits Ryu with Houou no Mai.

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Ryu              1/----<<</<<<<<<<|-------\-------\0              Mai

Mai won't have to make sure Ryu will remember this round. He treasures each and every bout he gets, as each fight is a step towards greater progress down the champion's road. He lands in a crouch after the end of the vacuum spinkick, the added strength necessitating a moment of weakness and disorientation after the fact.
Mai's response is to turn up the heat even more, as the both of them seem intent to escalate higher and higher, further and further, stronger and stronger. Ryu holds a forearm up in a speculative defense, as the veil of flame surrounds her. She comes running in... and feints, coming up high.
For a moment in time, Mai /is/ the sun, and all eyes are upon her as she dives down upon the eternal challenger.
Ryu shifts defensive gears from 'stand and block' to 'attempt to hop back to just miss point of landing.' Mai's high-velocity descent catches him when both his feet leave the ground, headbutting him in the abdomen and launching him clear across the expanse of the overpass park that remains appearing far too narrow and shallow in size for a fight between two rising stars.
Ryu tumbles back into a crouch, his back turned to Sakura and Allen. Bruises has formed across his face and forearms, blood trickling down the side of his mouth. He doesn't look back to reassure the both of them that he's still okay - Sakura would know.
This point in time, this very moment, is the one where Ryu thrives. Pushing to - and beyond! - his limits, he rises anew as he comes running back in to make up for the space the impact puts between the two.
She could see it in his eyes. There is no frustration, no fear. The same pair of eyes from the very beginning, focused and interested in only one thing before him - the fight. The two of them continue to pull bigger and bigger, greater and greater techniques out of the other.
Everyone will remember this round.
Ryu's choice of capstone to the battle might seem a step down, as he reaches to grab hold of Mai's form with both hands. It's not very flashy, in comparison to Mai's teasing dances accompanied by flames. It lacks the 'wow' factor of how Ryu envisions a nothingness to fill with power.
The 'wow' factor is all in Ryu's sheer determination to get the most out of every fight, and it is his attempt to challenge Mai where she might be at her strongest that this shines through. Eschewing the flash in favor of a practiced routine - a simple toss - Ryu looks to hurl her forward and away with a vigorous kiai, to toss her towards her team's side of the grassy park underneath the spectator-congested overpass.

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Mai with Seoi Nage EX.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  //                            ]
Ryu              1/---<<<</<<<<<<<|===----\-------\0              Mai

Mai trembles on her feet at the end of her meteoric strike, but stands upright anyway. Ryu closes the gap once more, and Mai winces, unable to move with enough speed to get free of the throw. Ryu hurls her through the air, causing the kunoichi to land heavily against the grass with a heavy thump. Her head spins, and it takes her a moment to get on her feet again. In fact, for that moment, it seems as if Mai is out of the fight entirely.
But with a shifting of weight, Mai sits up, bracing herself with her hand. She climbs back to her feet unsteadily, taking moments to clear her vision enough to even see Ryu, much less assail him again.
But when her action comes, it is swift. Blindingly so, almost. She kicks forward at full speed, practically blurring as she ekes out the last bit of her reserves. She zeroes in on Ryu, rolling forward to position herself for a double-heeled kick from the ground that brings enough force to launch Ryu into the air. From there, she kicks off the ground in a flash, streaking by with a strike before bouncing off a pillar and following with another. Once she even bounces off the bottom of the underpass, using each jump to give her momentum and power to strike again. Each jump, however, is a strain that feels like it's going to cause Mai's legs to give out from under her. She is drastically spend and running on fumes, pouring the last of her reserves into the final, desperate manuever. The final strike, however, is not a strike at all, but rather a leglock aimed for Ryu's head, spiraling the two of them backward for a twisting, heavy legthrow.
But Mai is spent. Regardless of whether she can muster the entirety of the technique or not, the end is the same: Mai collapses onto her face, breathing heavily and exhausted--and most certainly not conscious.

COMBATSYS: Mai can no longer fight.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  <
Ryu              1/---<<<</<<<<<<<|

COMBATSYS: Ryu dodges Mai's Midare Kachou Ougi EX.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  <
Ryu              1/---<<<</<<<<<<<|

Ryu keeps his fists primed even when Mai looks to be wavering. He's not about to count her out so soon. This readiness might be what saves him when she rushes in like an angry deadly ninja bee.
What nearly dooms him, instead, is that he chooses to jump up and back away from her launching kick. She doesn't make contact, but she gets him right where she wants him anyway.
A final dance commences, each lunging kick met with Ryu being on what seems a losing defensive.
Between the first and second lunging kicks, his eyes close as he purges the sensory pressures. More kicks come by before he can even open his eyes again, and yet, the strikes fail to find direct purchase. Sometimes she brushes up against Ryu directly. He twists and turns within what range of motion he has, being vulnerable in the air.
Her legs go for his head, and he makes one last defensive motion to just avoid getting his head caught in a place many might envy in other circumstances, bending his neck down and pushing his right forearm up to slip out of it as he lands against the grass with a prolonged crouch.
He stands back up, a good breeze whipping the ends of his bandanna towards Sakura and Allen alike (Allen is probably still trying to mug up to the crowd too much to notice the symbolism, but maybe he'll get the hint when they cheer).
"DOWN!" Calls the announcer. "Winner is... Ryu!"
Ryu pumps a fist in the air in triumph, releasing at least a little pent up energy as to calm himself for the next challenger. He takes in steady breaths, attempting to mentally numb off the pain of two solid direct hits from some of the finest techniques of the Shiranui school of ninjitsu.
"A dance with that much grace and power... it was an honor to be a partner to it," he says with a humility that maintains itself through the narrow victory.
He's only got a moment or two to himself before the next challenger arrives. He strives to give as much - or better - no matter who it may be.

COMBATSYS: Ryu awaits the next challenger.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Ryu              1/---====/=======|

The job of the ninja is to appear suddenly, strike swiftly, and vanish without a trace. A successful assassin must master all of these arts if they hope to survive to the next job.
For the majority of the bout between Ryu and Mai, Nagase had been sufficiently concealed from the crowd. Though, really, that's not difficult for the 5'3" woman of diminutive frame, and it's -really- not difficult when her bulky armor is hidden away beneath a baggy hoodie and similarly frumpy jeans.

Getting elbowed by the rest of the crowd was much less fun than she'd hoped it be, though. All through the fight, she'd been trying to prop herself up on tiptoes to catch some glimpse of her red-garbed rival's battle against Ryu -- only to be disappointed by someone else's shoulder getting in the way. A little wiggle of her fingers may have been enough to display an alternate view of the brawl, but... dammit, she came all the way out here to watch a fight, not watch it on her glasses!

When she catches sight of Mai trembling though, Nagase's heart starts to pound with excitement. This is it, she affirms to herself. The moment of truth.
Nagase wedges herself to the forefront with a subtly-placed elbow, finally stepping apart from the crowd. The roll, the bounce... all flawless ninjutsu form, matched and countered perfectly by the skillful, minimalistic evasions from the World Warrior.

Nagase purses her lips.
- Don't make me feel sympathy for you now, Shiranui. I'm just watching your technique. -
Her arms fold, as Mai collapses in exhaustion. And Ryu stands triumphant, making the obligatory signal to the crowd as that ever-present wind kicks up.
An irritable sigh escapes her lips.
- Tch. -

Before her reverie can culminate in any grand conclusions, she's shoved backwards, occluded by the cheering fans.
And then, the form of the Iga-ryuu ninjette melts into the crowd without a trace.

Not great. Claire is sympathetic to Mai's defeat - and actually enters the battlefield, momentarily, to retrieve her partner in crime; she gets Mai /off/ the field so that she doesn't get trod on (or worse) during the inevitable continuation. She's thinking as she does. It's a question of tactics. Put herself in, hope for the prestige of taking out Ryu, or put Fumiyo in?

"All right," she decides, a moment later. "I hope you're ready for another dance, then, Mr. World Warrior." She makes a sweeping gesture and indicates Fumiyo, as if presenting her for an audience. "Because I think I've found your dance partner." Ryu is /not/ Claire's favoured type of opponent, which means she has to do what she finds hard - put her trust in someone else.

COMBATSYS: Fumiyo has joined the fight here.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Ryu              1/---====/=======|-------\-------\0           Fumiyo

Well, shit, Fumiyo says as she frowns and steps forwards. Sweeping a hand through her hair as she sways and struts forwards despite sensible shoes, Fumiyo puts her other hand on her hip. "Well, I suppose if he wants a dance..."

Her head tilts forwards. "I can give it to him."

Stalking forwards, with a sway of her hips, Fumiyo gives Mai only a brief passing glance. Her expression is hard to read as she enters the ring. As the announcer declares who she is - Fumiyo - and that ROUND 2 is about to begin, she blows a little air kiss towards Ryu, eyes narrowing to thin, snakelike slits as they do. Her posture is insolent but Ryu can see that she isn't leaving any obvious gaps except - her hips, perhaps?

A wise man who exists in the dark future of Australia once said, wisely: that's bait.

FIGHT! comes the statement, and Fumiyo comes rushing forwards, leaning in as she raises her arms up to guard her upper body, her legs pumping into a sudden all-out run towards Ryu. As she runs the snakes on her body seem to come to light, and one yard away from him she throws herself forwards in a sudden tight arc, as if to strike the ground -

Hand-planting, she twists round in a double roundhouse kick, another undulation of her hips, and a final two-footed donkey kick aimed at Ryu's abdomen - and all the snakes on her body seem to rush down to her ankles, into her shoes, and then OUT into a dizzy and sickening sake-hangover of corrupt-feeling, dingy, tar-like chi, a blur of red which will stick to the world warrior if he isn't careful.

Also the kicks. Those were pretty serious kicks.

COMBATSYS: Fumiyo blitzes into action and acts again!

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Ryu              1/---====/=======|-------\-------\0           Fumiyo

COMBATSYS: Ryu blocks Fumiyo's Can You Take It?.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Ryu              1/--<<<<</<<<<<<<|-------\-------\0           Fumiyo

COMBATSYS: Ryu blocks Fumiyo's Will You Endure It?.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Ryu              1/-<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=------\-------\0           Fumiyo

Ryu's head lifts up as Claire invites her teammate to be the next challenger. Without another word, those fists raise to fighting position anew. Mai Shiranui was but one solid shot off of being able to take the claim of being able to defeat the World Warrior in single combat. A redoubling focus defies present injuries and fatigue, allowing the excitement of a narrow triumph to take a backseat to the here and now as presented by Fumiyo.
Like a serpent moving to snatch their meal, he hasn't more than a moment to even get much read on her opening offensive, as she throws herself upon him as a confident predator.
Will he take it?
He raises his forearms to ward off the double roundhouse kicks, transitioning to a kneel in order to go low and catch the donkey kick he almost misreads to a result that could have taken his face off... but his present defensive posture otherwise prevails.
...Until the snakes on her body slither forth and seem to see fit to add another bite, giving teeth to the combination as they sink themselves into his forearms. His right arm numbs almost instantly, and a red blur fills his vision as the act of rising back up to his knees seems a more laborious process than ought to be for an experienced martial artist.
Will he endure it?
He loses some ground to take a few steps back, his posture loosening as he exhales loudly. There is a precision to Fumiyo's tangling ball of kicks and snakes that intrigues and impresses as much as it saps and stings.
Ryu's fist clenches as he feels his blood pumping through him, his face flush. He turns his back and raises up his right leg, bending it inward before he thrusts it backwards kick with such strength that the air compresses around his heel as it moves in at about jaw level for Fumiyo, punctuating this single powerful kick with a single resolved kiai.
Will he give back as good as he takes, after taking a beating prior?
That question may have its answer shortly.

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Fumiyo with Joudan Sokutou Geri.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Ryu              1/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|======-\-------\0           Fumiyo

It was at about this moment that Fumiyo Jatani realized one of the flaws in her style of martial arts, which was, in many ways, designed to catch people with their pants down.

That being about 0.2 seconds before she got kicked in the head.

Fumiyo is struck in the face with sufficient force that, had she not simply gone limp and let Ryu's majestic pneumatic heel-kick throw her, she probably would've lost about six teeth. As it is, her jawline remains intact but she tumbles over in the air, tucking up her legs and landing on the far side of the designated arena space, squatting and wobbling for a moment, head weaving as stars dance in front of her eyes.

She breathes with swift force through lips and nose to push it away. It works, with some difficulty, and she raises her head to look at Ryu with blood-stained teeth bared by a half-sneer. Part of her thinks: Play the long game. Drive him down after he over-commits. Another part of her thinks: I think my lips are swelling up like I got a silicone injection. Maybe I don't have time to screw around.

She advances a step, moves a pace to the left, two to the right. Nearer to Ryu. Not yet in the kill zone.

"You're pretty good," she breathes to Ryu. Then, just on the fringes of where she might be expected to be, she kicks - coming in from the side with a sharp swift blow, aiming (in theory) to put herself at an angle where counterblows will be harder. She aims mid-height - this seems to be her familiar range.

COMBATSYS: Ryu dodges Fumiyo's Light Kick.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Ryu              1/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|======-\-------\0           Fumiyo

Ryu's eyes track her movements befitting of a man who seems to allow precious few distractions to gnaw within a mind that seems to eat, drink, breathe, sleep, and otherwise live within the world of martial arts competition entirely. His return compliment does not come in words, but in that he maintains his stance without rest - the understanding and expectation that the Jatani kunoichi has yet more to show. His eagerness to see it, to test himself against it.
He would also be eager to try and flex out the fatigue that runs through his arm. That proves a probable opening for Fumiyo's oncoming side kick.
He takes a short hop back to put the distance between them, and the foot comes up exactly an imperial foot short in distance. It's not all bad - if he's choosing to back off, Fumiyo's defensive positioning remains more favorable for anything he might try against her next. Her decision to not move in straight lines on the approach is another wrinkle, another challenge to yet overcome.
He already has his answer, as he takes a short hop back into the air, raising a leg horizontally as he whirls forward.
"TATSUMAKI SENPUU KYAKU!" Ryu calls again, this well-honed technique having seen use in varying forms twice already against Mai. Evidently, the counter-pick option for a zig-zagging assassin is 'do a big wide spinkick and it doesn't matter which way anyone goes.'

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Fumiyo with Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku.
- Power hit! -

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////                 ]
Ryu              2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\==-----\1           Fumiyo

Ryu's large, not-extremely-erotic foot smashes into Fumiyo at about rib cage height as Ryu begins his rotational advance. yeah, that's the problem right there, but Fumiyo is at least not helpless in this moment. Her eyes shine as she steps /forwards/ into the second blow, despite a loud CRACK that is hopefully just degassing cartilage in her ribcage.

She doesn't give herself time to take a third one. As Ryu moves PAST her, Fumiyo turns to the side, those shimmering red streaks on her body seeming to flow into her arm as she thrusts a hand up in between his legs (racy!) to try and grasp hold of his inner thigh (less racy) and then TWIST -

With a shout, and an upraised knee to strike at Ryu's face, hopefully following up with a short, sharp, lesson in 'repeated in-close-kicks!' That shimmering force, corrupt or at least nasty, is present here, but Fumiyo is not trying to impart it any further or deeper into Ryu's body. No: she's letting her blows do the talking, at least for now.

Will it be enough!?

COMBATSYS: Fumiyo successfully hits Ryu with Extermination Maiden.

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
Ryu              2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=------\-------\0           Fumiyo

Normally, the hallmark of a well-executed Tatsumaki Senpuu Kyaku at the proper height from the ground is in an Ansatsuken wielder being able to approach with a relentless attack that proves difficult to evade in close quarters... and then land on the ground in as rapid succession as the kicks themselves without loss of sense of direction, making it a challenge to punish.
If there's anyone who can find a moment of complacency or weakness in any man, in any position... it is one of the finest members of the Jatani clan, whom capitalizes on a perceived opening and snatches the theory within the envenomed fangs of a metaphorical snake to send it dragging into reality.
In less metaphorical terms, Ryu finds himself in an awkward unguarded position as she grasps his inner thigh to twist the muscle in ways it shouldn't flex, evaporating his ability to stay upright.
The shot to the face that follows sees a spray of blood from the nose and mouth, as the kicks gnaw and puncture at the (comparatively) soft(er) upper torso and face of Fumiyo's latest catch, juggling Ryu like a helpless creature trapped between a serpent's jaws before the flurry of kicks inevitably sets him free of his suspension.
Ryu tumbles across the grass and the concrete of the shadowed park of the overpass, on all fours as the arm that suffers from that first taste of that nasty-feeling force that struggles to flex and support his weight.
A breeze runs through, flipping up the ends of his bandanna. His better arm pushes him up. The weaker one clenches a fist.
He returns to his ready stance, one more time, even as one eye shuts from swelling and blood runs freely down both nostrils. The one non-shut eye still follows Fumiyo's movements, even now, unwavering no matter the pain and shock that his body is still soaking.
A truth is made evident in which to answer that lingering question.
Ryu never settles for 'enough.'
For the spectators that have gathered on a venue that's far too humble to host something on the level of King of Fighters, of a space that could be even potentially dangerous, they find a joy in watching the truly strong and capable show their stuff, the fruits of their labors.
Drawing back his hands, Ryu finds something more in all of this. Every slippery movement, every ruthless strike, every unpleasant situation... in their short encounter together thus far, the Ansatsuken student finds plenty of the kunoichi to reflect upon after the fact.
He calls, as energy and potential brim within the invisible space that exists between those hands, forming the cage in which to channel power. Teeth clench as he wheezes once, his ribs aching as he speaks. Once the gathering power reaches a climax, he thrusts those palms forward towards Fumiyo with a loud cry...
With this, a large blue-ish white sphere of chi whirls through the space between them, looking to corkscrew through the Jatani operative in one last burst of power.

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Fumiyo with Shinkuu Hadouken.

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  //                            ]
Ryu              1/-------/<<<<<<<|=======\-------\1           Fumiyo

Fumiyo's sharp flurry sends Ryu flying back and she calculates that she has a moment to breathe, her hands going on her knees for a moment as Ryu skids out. She straightens up --

And as it turns out she had significantly less time than she had thought. Perhaps this will be informative to her, to know the speed and relentless power that rests on the higher echelons, further up the mountain, because about when Fumiyo expected Ryu - allowing, in her head, for his fitness, for his power, for his mastery of his chi, and for a generously low estimate of the fatigue and effort Mai put him through - to get to his feet...

That's about when he lets the Hadouken loose.

It flies with impossible speed; Fumiyo is in the process of leaping back but that just means in this case that when it strikes her, she's already moving with it. Rebounding out of bounds with a "Kyahh!" and striking that same embankment she'd been leaning against with enough force to ring the metaphorical bell, she slides down, head slouching forwards, groaning again as she does not rise, not quickly enough.

COMBATSYS: Fumiyo takes no action.

[                       \\\\\\\  <
Ryu              1/-------/<<<<<<<|

COMBATSYS: Fumiyo can no longer fight.

[                       \\\\\\\  <
Ryu              1/-------/<<<<<<<|

When Fumiyo hits the ground for the last time, the officials - somehow able to wrangle some manner of noise and signal among the crowds and car horns and other distracting environmental noises - make the final call that signals the tail end of the match.
"RYU WON!" An announcer says, pronouncing the words in a disconnected and stilted fashion. "RISING DRAGONS 2017 MOVE ON!" Camera-bearing staff filter out of the crowd to try and snap pictures of the triumphant - though weakened - Ansatsuken martial artist as he stands with arms crossed, quietly contemplating the fights with ambivalence to the mcirophones and cameras being shoved in his face. The wind whips the tail ends of his bandanna about under the overpass.
"Such movement... it feels my eyes weren't meant to follow them," Ryu comments to Fumiyo's efforts, having left that impression even if it seems as though he found a way around them with more ease than it really appears.
Traffic is not going to move again for at least four hours.
As he steps away to pick up his travel bag and walk away, he utters a train of thought out loud as to one of the many lessons he continues to learn upon walking the champion's road on his own two feet.
"An opponent cannot be measured by their vulnerabilities. To do so can only speak of one's own."

COMBATSYS: Ryu wanders on to find the next challenge.

Sakura runs out to meet Ryu as he picks up his bag. "That was -great-, Ryu-san! Man, you don't even need me here..." She says it, but it doesn't seem to dampen her spirits at all. Turning to fall into step with him, she says, "Oh, uh. Allen already went back to the hotel. Said something about his beauty sleep..." That got him a side-eyed glance from Sakura, but she just smiled and waved at him anyways.

"Man, that was really great. I love watching you in action!" She continues to follow him, walking sideways, pantomiming parts of the fight, as they walk off towards... uh. Well, towards the next fight? Or...

"Hey Ryu-san, let's go to this buffet I heard about. It's like 2000 yen for all you can eat for two hours! I'll challenge you to an eating contest!!"

One may confuse Ryu's stoicism towards Sakura's praise as an active attempt to ignore the young girl - it's anything but. Even when putting on a phenomenal display against two capable warriors back to back, he takes the wisdom and tends to leave the praise right where he finds it out of habit.
"Ah... I see." That answers the question that does come to mind after the fact. A hotel stay doesn't sound too bad right now, come to think of it, as Ryu stoically rubs at the bruised and bloodied side of his face. Since approximately half of his face is a bruise and/or bleeding, it's kind of something that he's able to work up anything resembling a smile... but he does. He got a lot out of his battles with Mai and Fumiyo - he's eager to think about what might happen the next time they lock fists!
"I look forward to seeing what you're learned in the next fight," he says, with no shortage of sincerity as he makes his way through the... uh... how did everyone even get here? Maybe it's not worth overthinking.
"Huh, a challenge to eat as much as one can," he muses as Sakura drops the buffet gauntlet - a good round of celebratory dinner sounds to be right in order. "A daunting prospect, indeed..."
Is that a yes? As Ryu and Sakura wander off to their next challenge and Allen does whatever Allen does when he's going on ahead to the hotel room, the Rising Dragons take their next steps to climbing ever higher.

Log created on 19:48:32 08/09/2017 by Ryu, and last modified on 17:37:56 08/15/2017.