KOF 2017 - Act 2: Mission 17) Rites of Passage

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Description: With the seals across Mt. Fuji broken, Momiji has been entrusted in restoring the balance. Returned to the abandoned temple, she begins the rituals to purify the corrupted leylines, and cleanse it of the foul energy Justice poured in. If her efforts are successful, then the magics can restore, and the magical wards can regenerate. Not everybody wishes the seals to return, however: Makai, the cursed channeler, has waited for the arrival of Momiji, to ensure that the seals remain broken long enough for him to harvest what lies beneath. Mystic battles mystic as the future of Mt. Fuji hangs in the balance.

Until more recent, chaotic times, the modern man has been allowed to live blissfully unaware of the fact that legends were not merely stories, that myths were built on fact, and that the tales told of horrific monsters were not the mad ravings of society's dregs or overly creative grandmothers. Nearly every last one of them was true. Yet in recent centuries, people have been able to live their lives largely unaware that such monstrosities ever existed, thanks largely in part to the network of powerful seals woven throughout the world in the last few hundred years. Toward the end of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth, as spiritualists were able to mobilize around the globe more quickly and the convenience of nearly instant communication from one side of the other to the other started to evolve, the noose was finally reigned in on the true alpha predators of the world.

One by one, powerful youkai, demon, ghosts, specters, spirits were sealed away. Just as energy cannot be destroyed, the power of a fallen soul cannot be truly eradicated, only locked away in the hidden places of the earth. Sacred sites, holy mountains, shrines, temples, and even mighty cathedrals all hide a warehouse of sealed horrors within. Day and night, the select few aware of the great ongoing work to keep humanity safe from its truest threats would labor to keep the status quo while modern humanity merrily lived out their lives never the wiser.

But that had changed the day Lord Dohma had pulled an entire chunk of Metro city into a demonic realm of his making. When a Darkstalker appeared outside the combined UN, captured on television for all to see. When cell phone camera footage began to pop up on youtube, showing people being attacked by freaks of nature that could not be explained away as simply camera tricks or makeup. The tide of change that the world's guardians had slaved to prevent had surged over the globe like a tsunami and now everyone undeniably know - Darklstakers were real, and all those legends of old just might be true after all.

Whether shattering the leyline links that had held horrors at bay all these years was the intent of the attack on the sacred Mount Fuji, that was undeniably the outcome. Around the globe, seals weakened, wards burned to ash, and holy artifacts cracked. If the tsumami of awareness concerning the world of shadows had been disruptive, what threatens to follow in its awake will the complete annihilation of the way of life as people know it. Once more, the spiritualists, hunters, and sealers of the world must mobilize to try and prevent the calamity that beckons.

Walking through the mists lingering over the ground following a passing storm is one of them - a maiden of the Dragon Shrine. The night is dark, the sky overcast, the ground damp from the rain that ended not long ago. The young woman steps lightly but with confidence. Her calling is easily visible with her white, long sleeved white kimono top and rust red pleated knee length skirt. White high-high stockings are worn beneath curved shin guards of sacred wood and boots of supple leather. A thick obi belt around her waist is tied into a large bow over her navel with two golden bands looped around the ends of the bow. Her ebony dark hair is long and even worn in a top-knot styled lengthy ponytail, it reaches down past her waist. A gemmed ornament rests at the neck of the ponytail, crimson jewels embedded into a small golden dragon.

She is easy to spot for while the land is dark, the young sealer bears a weapon that is anything but. The Heavenly Dragon, a lengthy naginata. On one end, the polearm's glimmering blade represents the lethal threat the young warrior maiden represents. On the other end of the shaft, however, is a carved wooden box, its sides open, its corners decorated with large golden beads, and a long tassel dangles from its top. But it is what is within the lantern-like box that might catch the eye, however, a small ever-burning spark of flame. Like the heart of the undying phoenix, it casts a comforting glow about the young woman as she steps into the side of sacrilegious ruin.

The destruction here is not a byproduct of reach disaster. No, a far more insidious enemy claimed this holy site long before Momiji was ever born - the rueful devourer known as neglect. But her senses have lead her here in her tour of the assaulted mountain's slopes. Beneath the structure left to rot is an intersection of leylines that have been tapped into to form magnificent seals. She cannot even begin to imagine what nightmares are held at bay by the straining wards as their energy slowly seeps away. But she knows she can fix them. A prodigy in sealing arts, the shinobi miko steps toward the old building, nimble feet avoiding thick pools of rust colored water or of splintered boards hidden just out of sight by the mists.

At the threshold of the temple, she pauses, glancing skyward with beautiful amber eyes, a look of quiet concern reflected in the soft glow of her weapon's light. Her left hand rests over her chest, her right hand gripping her weapon as she lowers her head and whispers a quiet prayer at the threshold, seeming hesitant to enter the dilapidated structure. She looks up again after her whisper completes, eyes coming to rest on a wooden sign barely mounted. Lifting her weapon so that the lantern-like ember can illuminate the words, she finds the etchings difficult buy not impossible to make out.

'Enter, all ye in need of rest, and within, you will find peace.'

A slight smile appears at her lips as she takes a step forward, holding the butt end of her weapon upright to light the way inside. This site is not her only work this night, but rather the first of many. She hasn't time to delay.

Many places worked to conquer the old world. When there was no permanent solution, when the intangible nature of demonic and evil souls made permanent purging difficult or even impossible, one clan still grasped forbidden techniques in an attempt to deal with such matters for the long term. Whether the Ametsuchi made a mistake or not back then is questionable; many legendary creatures were removed that would have simply returned again and again, risking lives. And that careful gamble did not fail... until modern day, when these ancient entities are a far more greater threat to the complacent and unprepared.

Modern demon hunters are reactive, with most threats mere nuisances. Truly malignant creatures are exceptionally rare, the weakened levels of energy making breaches more difficult and less viable. Although darkstalkers have changed the scope of the world, they have been adapted to by many modern clans. Creatures that manifest physical forms purely from souls, ones that can tear portals in the world, that can infest the mind and act on curses and abilities that seem magic, have mostly been long gone...

And the Butcher is one of those. An enduring existance, that survived through long periods of dormancy, lurking and feeding on the scraps in the background, doing whatever it took to merely continue basic existance. Yet that simple instinct is long since unsatisfactory. The Butcher possesses a unique form now, a once in a lifetime vessel, that might be able to do much more to change this weakened and vulnerable world.

It was no coincidence the Butcher awakened when he did, returning before the eclipse of events that troubled the world. Were Ayame of the true old techniques, things might have been different... his unique soul resisted her purge, and had the Ametsuchi not captured him, he would likely have returned to the darkness to try again. And now he stands at the remnants of Mt. Fuji, basking in the raw power that ripples unsealed through the island.

Yet amidst the settled mists, Makai senses another figure. He has learned how to conceal his presence; sealing the tomb of each and every individual creature within him, seeming to disappear from the eye of even adept sensors. He knows what this girl is doing. She's working to repair the seals that flood the area. Stabilize the energy.

He will have nothing of it.

Within the fallen shrine, the rich voice of a man rings out. "It was on misty nights such as this I first got my name..." rings out. The cracked windows suddenly seem to seep out mist, billowing beneath the door, starting to fill up the room. "They called me the Mist Reaper. The Shinigami. ...The Butcher." Those names are not liable to be lost to Momiji. The Butcher is a supposed immortal spirit, able to manifest a body. He is called a cannibal, known to devour his own kind and that of humans in ravenous periods between dormancy. Is he one of the countless ones to be here? It is said he can teleport and merge with mist, and attack so quick a monster hunter will die if they risk blinking...!

"I have need of your abilities... and more importantly, Hayabusa... you are one of few who might be taught the old ways to seal terrors like me...!" Suddenly his presence is revealed. He crouches atop a statue, but seems by all accounts to be human. Gaunt and tall, dark cloak ripping about his form, he wears a red oni mask. She would likely recognize him from the incident with the Drowned Maiden of Hokkaiko; someone who struck down a Darkstalker and hunter alike. But he feels just like a normal human...?

For her, the ruined structure is no dark tomb, the lantern at the end of her weapon casting a soft, orange glow against the floor and walls as she steps lightly through. There will be an inner sanctum centered over the intersection of incomprehensible power. Looters and vandals have likely come through this desolate place many times over the years without knowing that their sacrilegious footsteps padded over a large node in the worldwide network of leyline power. Even wanderers sensitive to such things would make little of the strange sensations experienced in or around the ruins.

But the young maiden of the Dragon Shrine is no stranger to such powers as those that have rested beneath the ruins all these years. With her training as priestess of the elusive clan's relics, she is capable of not only understanding the ebb and flow of the wards and seals but in shaping, repairing, and strengthening them as well. Old wood creaks beneath her light steps as she carefully swings the lantern of the Heavenly Dragon around, finding her way to the center of the temple.

The large hall is found as the young woman with long, ebony hair steps into it, gentle eyes sweeping over it. Once there would have been idols of gold, priceless tapestries, and scrolls of unfathomable wisdom stored in this large chamber. But of course, they have all been moved or looted ages ago. Now, only the hollow echo of Momiji's steps are heard. The chamber is larger than any other room in the temple with a wide opening back into the corridor that feeds into it. The other three walls have empty openings where windows once sat, rotted, collapsed sections of wall, and no shortage of cobwebs. The ceiling has significant gaps in places, making it easy to see the overcast sky above. There is little in the way of interest left in the vacant chamber beyond toppled old candle stands and rice paper dividers largely incapable of concealing anything at all given their ruined state. A few statues, too heavy to be easily looted, remain, though their mass didn't stop vandals from damaging them and breaking off what they could. But this temple was never revered for its man-made accoutrements.

Moving with a careful step to avoid twisting her ankle in one of the rotting floor's many gaps, Momiji moves toward the center of the room. She can feel it there, the keypoint in dire need of reinforcement that her skilled soul can provide. it is then that the voice speaks, a whisper from shadows that she would have sworn were empty. A soft intake of breath as the girl turns around, left hand lifting to rest palm open against her chest, mouth slightly agape as wide eyes search around her for the source. Her breath is held as the words issue forth from an unseen speaker, her heart beginning to race.

Her right arm reaches out, extending the glowing end of her naginata, thrusting the soft lantern out to draw some of the shadows away until finally she sees the hunter perched atop the statue. Eyes study the figure as her hand tightens on the shaft of her holy polearm. "I am Momiji, a Dragon Shrine Maiden of the First Order." She shakes her head slightly, "You will not stop me from performing my duty. These seals must be restored."

She pauses for a moment before continuing, the glow of her weapon's lantern intensifying significantly, driving back even more shadows in the desecrated chamber, "Since you know of the Hayabusa clan, you must know of the skills I possess as a student of their combat arts. I did not come here to fight you, though I will if I must."

As she finishes speaking, a familiar sound becomes faintly audible - the periodic staccato patter of rain against the crumbling roof above. The storm has returned.

The ancients knew much of the world's true power. Even all this time later, the area of the temple seems precisely located over a deep well of the planet's natural power. Even during normal times, the air would feel crisp and a sense of invigoration would suffuse the body of an average person. With the destruction of Mt. Fuji, that sense is far more distinct... and corrupted. It might be a century and a half since the wards were made and reinforced to fully conceal and lock away this darkness. Something else bleeding into the flow of chi, twisting and corrupting it into something else.

This can be fixed, however. The original seals are still there, they have merely burst like a flooded damn and have yet to reactivate due to the sustained torrent. Stabilizing and carefully regulating the power would fix it, and might go a long way towards helping to fix the fulcrum shift in power across al of Japan...

"I know full well who you are... your name, of course, being irrelevant. It was a foolish mistake to send you alone, girl. But fate might be smiling upon me at long last, after all these years...!" She might notice that, although his energy feels unique and corrupt, quite close to that which has contaminated the leylines, it's also... weak. Like a grand balloon full of tiny holes, Makai's strength has been dropping steadily since his appearance to remove Ayame. Failing to devour Lilith, and the interruptions of that damnable robot, have rendered him on his last legs. Even if no action is taken against him, he will degenerate in power until his ability to manifest fails, and the suppressed sealer within awakens once more...!

He cannot fail here. Although Momiji might have the unyielding pride and duty of her clan, the Butcher has the desperate savageness of a cornered beast, about to be potentially lost in an endless prison...

There's a crack of lightning. In that moment, Makai is seen to move. He lands heavily on one foot between himself and Momiji. Darting twice, he then slips low to come beneath her weapon, slithering unusually low. Pressing up, he lashes out his palm, although the motion is nearly entirely speed and zero force. His palm aims to gently press against her chest...

And a moment later, every joint, tendon and muscle in his body twists at once. Pressing from his big toe, like the undulation of a whip he gathers up force, flowing up his knee, across his hips, the twist of his torso, shoulders, elbow, wrist... each launching the power flow forward more and more. And ending in a great eruption of internal kinetic force, intended to blow Momiji backwards with a massive CRACK, requiring keen eyes to seem like it's not merely a palm explosion of energy, but instead a masterful display of inertial control...!!

COMBATSYS: Makai has started a fight here.

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Makai            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Momiji has joined the fight here.

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Momiji           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Makai

COMBATSYS: Momiji parries Makai's Terminal Velocity!

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Momiji           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Makai

Fingers tighten over the shaft of the large spear in the girl's hands, her lips pressed tightly together as she stares up at the perched figure above. The air is crisp with old energy and cool from the building storm. Droplets begin to seep through the slats that have failed to keep the weather out of this room for decades already. That the ruined temple still stands at all is something of an enduring mystery.

The voice of the animated husk issues forth into the room, a whisper from a timeless creature. The Butcher. Amber eyes study him, gears turning in the Dragon priestess's head. All she knows of his power are the stories. He is the sort of creature of keen interest to those who shelter with the Hayabusa Clan. How often has the Dragon Ninja ventured out to save lives from horrors like what speaks to her now?

He won't be talked down and he certainly won't fall for a bluff. Only her own strength, her own training can serve her now. But is she ready to fight a legend? Eyes flick to the lantern on the end of her weapon, the flicker of flame growing brighter as she feels her heart rate pick up. The weapon is attuned to her, a remarkable accomplishment for one so young to be accepted by such an artifact.

"My sisters canvas the mountainside and our clansmen are not far off." She narrows her eyes as she takes in additional breaths, allowing her training to take hold, to keep her mind calm, to be composed. She was prepared for this, it was what she had devoted her life, without hesitation.

Slowly, her left hand lowers from resting at her chest to grip the Heavenly Dragon nagata, feet slipping over the crumbling wood until finding the more sure places to position herself. She can feel the bleed of energy from the corrupted one. It almost makes him seem... weak compared to the legends the Butcher's name carries with it. "Your time is running low, isn't it..." she murmurs, her voice easily heard between the drops of rain. She then shakes her head, never taking her eyes off him, "No." Her voice shifts tone, resolve solidifying. "Your time is up."

Lightning flashes and he moves with devil's speed. Momiji braces behind her polearm, eyes attempting to track his fleeting movements as he covers the distance between them. He is smart to come in low - her weapon is long and presumably heavy, given its size, how can she possibly hope to ward him off in time?

Her mind cleared, she acts on instinct rather than conscious thought. And the speed that she twists that naginata into the path of the killer's stretching arm suggests she must possess greater stature than her frame would imply.

The truth of it may become apparent as she tries to force man's arm up - the shaft isn't made of wood at all, but rather perfectly rounded, light weight yet remarkably sturdy porous material. Dragon bone, or so the legends concerning the weapon say. Already, Momiji is whirling it up, trails of crimson fire building in the wake of the lantern end's movement.

She twists the naginata with ease, attacking not with the blade but with the shaft itself, attempting to bash it against the Masked Devil's chest. "Tell me," she insists, her tone demanding, not pleading. "The man inside." Her eyes search the inhuman eyes of the mask as she tries to force him back. "Does he yet live."

The question asked, she pushes off with her feet, attempting to slam her staff upward into the neck and chin of the demon before ascending higher into the air and flipping around to face his back.

Unless prevented, as she falls, the graceful fighter reaches out with her left hand to weave a swath of the trailing fire around her fingers. The heat it radiates is palpable now. It may have burned cool when she entered, but now it seethes with the righteous fury of an ancient beast ready to attack, a stark contrast to the calm maiden who wields it.

Dropping behind Makai, Momiji's left hand would slam out, aiming to land a hard, blazing palm against his back. "Or have you consumed him whole?!"

COMBATSYS: Makai counters Azure Storm EX from Momiji with Shallow Grave.

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Momiji           0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0            Makai

Everything about the Butcher, though, does not fit the present. He's supposed to be a tall, strong individual with vicious teeth and claws. Able to pass as the normal in proper dress, but this slender figure with a mask... not at all the sort that would precisely match the ancient tales he is drawn from. "There are only a few in your clan that I concern me... the rest are mere fodder." True in normal circumstances, but Makai is growing weaker. Attrition is his greatest threat right now... if expelled from this body as he is, it might be years before he can return. And there is something he needs *now*...

"...ah? It's those keen senses that make me come to you, Maiden of the Hayabusa. You can even sense the flow of the earth beneath your feet? Is that why you ended up here, and the others did not?" Such is the last bit of conversation he offers, before plunging himself into conflict.

His arm is caught by the naginata and flung aside. Yet he is close, now. She might know of the Butcher's methods. A savage, tactless brute with no refinement, who uses only brute strength and an inhuman resilience to dominate his opponents. This is something else entirely.

The bash strikes true, but Makai grips the pole, shifting only a few inches. His grip is not particularly strong, and it is easily to wrest free. When her assault lashes out, he leans back, scarcely avoiding it. The weapon instead clacks into the ground, as Momiji vaults overhead. Flames whirl in her palm, but Makai ducks low. His head never once turns to face her; purple energy dancing like a nest of serpents on her finger.

In a split second they clash. Her thrust passed his shoulder, searing away cloth and cloak, baring reddened flesh. His own hit her dead in the chest, and she would feel terrible energies boil through. Veins go black, her central chi momentarily violated, body stopped cold for a split second as even her heart refuses to beat. Coiling upwards, his leg hooks behind hers. Twisting to wrench her knee sideways, other hand grasping her free arm and lancing it up while violently twisting it, before his palm finds her face. Another flare of destructive energy, before he slams her down on her back before him amidst a flash of demonic power, crumpling into a heap like a doll with the strings cut.

"He lives." is whispered out. "But I would worry about yourself... can you defeat me before I burn out...? Do not think beings such as I lack you humans' tenacity to survive...!!"

Her arm slams out but rather than colliding with the fiend's back with a palm full of sacred, cleansing fire, her hand shoots over his shoulder, burning cloth to ash but failing to connect a decisive blow. She didn't even see his arm move, his hand slipping clean past her own extended left arm, her right hand gripping her naginata at an angle entirely useless to saving herself the press against her chest. The young priestess's mouth opens first in alarm as she tries to retract and recover. Already, she is twisting the naginata with ease in her right hand, intending to knock away his clearly inappropriate touch. But an instant later, a strangled gasp escapes the Dragon Priestess's lips as fierce, corrupting power surges into her body from but a simple moment of contact. The flame flickering over her left hand falls apart and dies and her bid to ward the monster off with her weapon comes to an abrupt end as Momiji freezes.

She is defenseless as the man coils up around her, a hiss of breath as her knee is wrenched sideways and her stance buckles, the girl starting to drop down on her other knee as pain courses through her limb. Another cry is forced when her left arm is wrenched violently, the sound of ligaments popping as their very limits are tested, her face lifting toward the ceiling as her eyes begin to water.

Face palmed by the devil's hand, a moment later the priestess is smashed against and through the rotting wooden floor, splinters and dust filling the air around the point of impact as she lays sprawled and in pain. That her right hand retains any hold on her weapon at all must be more instinct than conscious thought, fingers white-knuckle tight around its shaft.

Blinking tears from her eyes, she gasps a breath, eyes looking around wildly before realizing she is lying helplessly at the feet of the killer. In one motion, she sweeps the bladed end of her weapon up and over head with her right hand, threatening to slash into the chest of Makai should the fallen one not manage to evade it. As the Heavenly Dragon continues its arc, the swath of flame that trails behind the lantern would threaten to sear shut the slash with purifying fire should he not escape its path. Using the momentum generated by the quick swipe, Momiji twists into a roll out of the depression of shattered wood into a low crouch a couple meters away from him.

The young woman is covered in dust from the floor, the white of her kimono and thigh long stockings smudged with brown, her cheeks flush with pain. Sucking in her breath, she starts to rise only to wince when pressure goes to the knee that was wrenched and she has to catch herself with her naginata or risk falling face first to the floor. Panting, she locks her damp eyes on the demon, "The hell he must be going through..." she forces the words from tortured lungs, a look of resolve overcoming her moment of uncertainty. "To end his suffering..." She braces behind her weapon, spear end forward, injured knee resting against the floor. "May be the only mercy I can offer him now."

COMBATSYS: Momiji successfully hits Makai with Scarlet Hawk EX.

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Momiji           0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0            Makai

Not expecting such a rapid assault, Makai is slashed across the chest; it peels past his cloak, revealing countless broad bands of black gauze inlaid with golden sigils before the sealing fire singes the fabric and flesh beneath. She would recognize these as old seals to contain demons and fel power; it seems he has covered his entire body in them almost like a mummy. A line of blood wells up from his exposed skin when the woman darts backwards, although he makes no immediate rush to follow. No, instead he doubles over, grasping the wound with more pain than should be evident. Yet between his fingers, purple energy seethes out. A spasm of pain, before a serpentine monster bursts from his back with a roar, spiraling up to burst through the ceiling into the evening sky, sending splinters of wood cascading down.

"Not... yet..." he hisses out in slow, steadying breaths. "Stay with me... I'll give you what... I promised...!" Are those seals somehow containing the power within him, a power already stressed to it's limit?

Suddenly his mask cracks in two places, as purple energy pours out like wafting fire, almost encompassing his entire head. The bare skin of his chest also ripples and hisses, body trembling as he growls. He then rushes forward low, feinting to the left as his foot slithers closer. Intent on twisting past her, one hand sweeping the air. A finger hooks out; to slip the pinky into her clothing at the side.

From this, he would then try to heft her entire body into a centrifugal whirl, flexing to maneuver the force and tug her entire frame by the maiden's outfit, intent on a single whirling spin before twisting to hurtle her head over heels towards one of the remaining sagging pews where ancient followers would settle themselves in prayer. "Come... If you want to stop me... you will find no greater chance than now!!"

COMBATSYS: Makai successfully hits Momiji with Medium Throw.
Grazing Hit

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Momiji           1/------</<<<<<<<|======-\-------\0            Makai


Maybe if her leg was uninjured, she would have surged, blade forward, the instant he hesitated, that brief moment when his guard seemed weak and his body frailer than she had expected. But the miko knows full well that if she moves too fast her knee might betray her, sending her stumbling helplessly to the floor at the Living Reliquary's feet. Teeth grit, she has to wait for him to come to her, at least until she's certain of the limits inflicted by her injury.

As such, all she can do is watch, teeth gritted, the last of her tears rolling down her cheeks as she bites back the ache in her leg and wrist, and lingering sense of wrongness still corrupting her soul's very essence. He might notice, the mental techniques employed to force out the dark influence, a priestess's purity put to the test for her very survival.

Eyes follow the rapid, escaping ascent of the fleeing serpent abandoning its prison of blood and soul then looks back at the man, at the sacred wrappings exposed, her mind racing at the implications. Seals around a body? The idea is not unheard of, to trap a malignant possessing spirit temporarily, before it escapes its hunters and must be tracked down again. But the what does that have to do with The Butcher? Why was there another creature within? And to whom does he issue his demands to stay, if but a little longer?

Slowly, cautiously, wary of straining her knee, Momiji rises to her feet, Heavenly Dragon held in both hands now, pointed forward. Hopes of disabling the man so that his soul can be freed of the dark passenger that drives him now have been dismissed. She simply isn't strong enough to hope for the best. Not against such overwhelming danger. She has to slay him now, the man's suffering ended, and The Butcher's reign of terror ended.

She's starting to take a step forward when the mask cracks and a surge of fel energy surges out around it. Sucking in her breath, she doesn't hesitate, taking another step forward and finding her leg can support her through the pain coursing through it.

The flame rippling around the lantern end of her weapon begins to burn brighter, the Dragon Shrine maiden a beacon of light in the darkened chamber. Drops of water seeping through gaps and cracks in the ceiling sizzle and evaporate if they fall near the vibrant heat but Momiji does not seem bothered by the flame at all.

Another step, hands shifting on her weapon, reading to spear the monster through. And that is when he moves. She stabs out at a low angle, trying to catch him on his approach, sharp blade slicing into easily severed wood as she pulls her weapon back. He's at her left side - opposite where she holds her naginata, and all she can do to avoid him is try to lean to the side and escape the reach of his hand.

Had the devil only meant to strike her, it might have been enough, but his hooking finger spears through dusty white outer kimono cloth with ease, violently wrenching Momiji back from her lean. Then, with but a single finger, he hauls her slight frame into a whirl, the girl's right and occupied with holding to her weapon for dear life, her left hand desperately trying to seize his wrist to claim some small degree of control over her pending fate.

In the end, it is the make of her outfit that saves her from the worst of the intended harm. A robe-like wrap held closed by the belted cord at her waist, it was certainly not the type of attire that holds up well under violent yanking. The left side of her uniform slides out of her belt before he completes the first half of the swing. And by the time he completes the swing, the poor girl is torn free, having released her naginata with her right hand to allow her arm to pass through the lengthy sleeve, only to seize it out of the air with her left hand with lightning reflexes in a moment of abject confusion.

Rather than crashing into the pews, Momiji's back slams against one of the uncertain vertical support beams causing a small shower of wood chips and dust to rain down around her as she catches her balance. Her outer kimono, with all of its trappings, long sleeves, crimson tassels, and other decorations would still be hooked by the fiend's pinky. Left behind over her torso is a plain, white, sleeveless inner kimono, already dusty from the debris-thick air.

Eyes fix on Maki, bewildered at the large cloth in his hand, until she shakes her head and regains her focus. The lean muscles of her arms tense as she whips her naginata up, teeth grit once more, the fire of her lantern burning hot enough to be easily felt from even a few meters away. "Who is responsible this miserable tragedy. Who sealed you in that man's body?!" she demands back, breathes coming faster now as she secures her weapon in both hands.

Has the innocent girl drawn human blood with the artifact she holds? Or has its blade only been stained with the blood of youkai? It is hard to imagine her using such a thing against a living soul. But as she shoves off from the crumbling wood pillar, there would appear no hesitation in her eyes.

Now she is on the offense, sweeping the Heavenly Dragon out, blade first, then stepping into a spin to create a circle of fire around herself. Much of the flame adheres to the deadly end of the polearm on the second swing, this time hunting for Makai's head or his devilish mask. These are lethal strikes she makes, a whirling maelstrom of fire and heavy blade. A second at torso level, and a third overhead slash as she brings the weapon down in an explosive, violent chopping motion that could cleave a man's skull in two... and then burn the flesh to charcoal immediately after!

COMBATSYS: Makai counters Inferno Slash from Momiji with Buried Alive EX.
- Power hit! -

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Momiji           1/--=====/=======|=======\-------\0            Makai

A mild blessing that Momiji had been wounded; he was open enough to have been felled by a brutal slash, perhaps, if she had been capable of capitalizing on it. His breath can be heard panting, arms hanging somewhat limp at his side. The right twitches and trembles, fingers arching slowly before he forces it into a fist. Still, he shows a level of raw technique and mastery that has nothing to do with the Butcher of lore. They seem to be advanced grappling techniques, ones used to capture and immobilize people... only mixed with some strange arts, that seems the manipulation of the very soul. The Aetsuchi are not an unknown clan; the jailors of their clan are the most guarded secret, but the Hayabusa know more secrets than most any other group...

Momiji is not thrown as cleanly as intended, and immediately there's a strange ripple over Makai. Something seems to almost seep from his chest before he reaches up and grasps it with his hand, forcing it back into his body with a snarl. His other holds the wound she inflicted earlier, hunched inwards as if in agony. "Hfff...! W-who sealed me...? They did...! They thought they could control ME!!"

Of course, she's not going to be so kind as to go easy at this seeming weakness. His head is aimed downwards; he has no way to see her attack. Perhaps due to this, she spent longer preparing. More intentful force. Was it hesitation? A desire for mercy, and to end it in one blow? Who knows.

Two fingers draw upwards, catching the base of the naginata and angling it upwards. Leaning backwards, it flickers past him by a hair's breadth, line cutting through his clothing once more before a great roar of fire follows. The second he ducks, falling to a kneel and bracing himself on his fist, trembling in discomfort. She then whirls the weapon around, intend on dropping it for a finishing blow on the vulnerable sealer...!!

Makai's head snaps up as the brutal weapon descends. His left hand reaches up, lightly pressing the palm to the shaft past the blade. A pointless gesture. Only... it would be like the naginata was suddenly being swung through molasses. Her force leeching away, as his body seems to sink subtly, joints shifting, muscles dispersing, the ground beneath him shattering with a wet crunch of old boards and weak stone, as all of that incredible force is stolen away in a masterful conduit beneath.

The blade, at the apex of the diluted swing, impacts his mask. It splits in half, falling away in a hiss of energy, revealing a normal human face. Gaunt and not classically Japanese, dark brown beard openly visible. Eyes are blank; he is blind, it would seem. A rivelet of blood slithers down where the naginata made contact with his forehead, as the flare of energy roars and burns away his hood, skin reddening heavily. Yet the wound is effectively mundane, pain at best, with no visible reaction from the monster made man.

It might be then she realizes what his other hand did. Three fingers pressed together impact her torso in five places, deep and hard. Slipping between ribs, nailing central clusters of her nerves. Before his palm then thrusts out to catch her chin, to thrust her backwards and /through/ the damaged support, twisting to hurl her across the floor at the center of the decrepit temple before staggering aside to catch himself on a pew, panting heavily.

"What was that...? If you truly meant it there... you could have slew me...!!"

Suddenly, the momentum of her naginata's strike bleeds away even as Momiji flexes into the blow, trying to force her way down through the impossible resistance provided by the twisted man's single arm. Water begins to spill in more heavily from the raging storm outside, coming down in sheets where the ceiling's gaps have become wide and merely steady drops where the slats are still somewhat tightly pressed together. The look of confusion as her powerful strike melts away to nothing is impossible to miss, the last waning flames of the firestorm flickering then fading, leaving only the steady glow of her lantern.

Momiji gasps softly as the halves of the mask fall away, revealing the eyes of the blinded warrior beneath. Where she had expected a skull split in twain, instead she finds she has barely nicked him, the thin line of crimson and of scorched flesh exposed to heavenly flame the only indicators that she had even tried to do anything at all.

The counter assault happens in an instant, her torso struck with precision, cloth, flesh, and bone no protection against the penetrating strikes as nerve clusters normally safe from direct arm are dealt debilitating blows. Crimson hot agony rips through her body as Momiji starts to crumple, legs limp, arms hanging weakly at her sides when his palm thrusts out to secure a vise-like, crushing grip. Hurled backward with tremendous force, her shoulders smash into and then through the old wood and a large chunk of the water soaked, rotting ceiling collapses down all around the location as the beam falls at last. For her own part, Momiji lands hard, sliding along the splintered floor on her side, her left arm and shoulder torn open and pierced by countless slivers of wood.

Collapsed where she finally comes to rest, the wounded priestess slams her right hand down, palm still over her naginata a she tries to push herself up. Her breathes come quickly, her cheeks stained with water that may be rain or tears forming trails of dampness in her dust smudged face. Somewhere, the hairpiece that kept her ponytail in place was lost, and long, flowing, ebony locks of dirtied hair spill down over her shoulders, smooth tresses that would be the envy of any woman. Eyes seek out the man as she finally discovers him propped against the pew that barely supports his lean, threatening to betray him at any moment.

Was it true? The question is piercing, a seizing, sick feeling of uncertainty in her heart entirely different from the corrupted touch she had to fight off before. Did she hesitate? Did she lack the killer's instinct needed to doom the man - a prisoner in his own body, driven about by a living nightmare? Sucking in her breath, she pushes herself up, blood seeping along her left arm and staining her once pristine inner kimono with crimson.

Her body is weak, a nauseating confluence of numbness and agony beyond anything she had ever experienced vying to overcome her mind with the fatal release of unconsciousness. Even as she presses, she barely feels the wood groan beneath her. Barely able to move, she pivots her naginata against the floor, hand gripping the shaft tightly, the glow of the lantern barely a glimmer now. "No," she whispers, shaking her head as she rises back to her feet. "No," she repeats, "Not here. Not to that."

Too many count on her success in this endeavor. The people of wounded Japan are counting on sealers such as herself to put an end to the horrors that growl and snarl just beyond the threshold, ravenously hungry, eager to tear into this world and devour with appetites incapable of being sated.

She stands upright, her white sleeveless top disheveled, her rust red skirt turn open on her left side from where she had slid. The splinters of old wood can be seen marking her left arm and leg but compared to the agony within, the tiny injuries probably don't even register. "I can't let them down." She steps forward, lifting her naginata. "I can't let the man in you down." There will be no escape into the night. Not with her knee on the verge of giving out. Not with this murderer on the loose.

"This is where your path of depravity finally ends!"

%shunting the pain out of mind, she rushes forward, twisting her weapon so that the ever burning lantern is pointed forward. "Even if if this is my ending too, I will not stop!"

She whips the Heavenly Dragon up over her head then, gripping it with both hands even if her left hand is a little slower to move. Twisting it, she slows her advance to a standstill a few meters away, pouring all her resolve, her will into the relic she holds. And from the breath of life she feeds it, fire is born, an inferno spilling out, becoming almost liquid flame in the air around the girl. Her tears burn away, the water dampening her clothing evaporates in an instant. Wood is immediately dried then ignited as a cyclone of fury erupts up around Momiji, the young priestess demonstrating exactly why the weapon she wields is called the Heavenly Dragon.

Sanctifying, scourging heat fills the temple room as the conflagration completely conceals the girl from sight and the air fills with the smoke of burning wood.

The end comes, the fire surging outward, matching hunger with hunger, fury with endless, burning fury, threatening to sweep the man up and consume his flesh and bones, leaving only a legacy of ash and the nightmares of his prey.

And through that fire, the Dragon Maiden flies, a spear-tip first charge as beneath the cover of the funeral pyre for the ages, she attempts to drive the artifact's blade into his chest and drive him back with all her momentum. And should such a deadly stab be secured, her final offense would be to heft the pierced body into the air and hurl it back into the furnace of purgatory that awaits the Butcher and his miserable host.

COMBATSYS: Makai endures Momiji's Burning Heaven.

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Momiji           0/-------/------=|=======\=======\1            Makai

One would not think, walking in on this fight now, that Makai was well in the lead. He is struggling to remain upright while holding an adjacent pew, rain rushing down to spatter atop him, drenching his charred and slashed clothing. Another snarl as something rips out of his chest, a six-limbed humanoid with no mouth and single bloodshot eye. It quickly scurries up the broken wall, pausing to look back at the pair before shrugging through a small gap, breaking wooden supports yet again. The demons with the greatest amount of remaining power are beginning to escape... only a couple so far, but he's close to losing dozens, hundreds... so very close...!

In this case, the tides turned. Were he in better condition, perhaps he might have leapt atop the weakened Momiji and ended things. "You fool... if you kill me... all that happens is this innocent dies. And countless monsters will burst into this world at once...! I will survive!!"

Big words, but he has no time. She's roaring towards him now. Pushing off the pew, he stands upright then also. His head lifts up to the rain, eyes not visible, both hands slowly lifting to spread fingers. Those hands have proven to be an incredible wall to get through, able to hurl an opponent with only a finger, sap the power of strong attacks, redirect lethal blows... but once that roar of fire kicks up, he can tell immediately.

There is no stopping this. Her resolve might not have been flawless before, but here... she's willing to die.

All liquid and moisture vanishes in a heartbeat, skin growing dry and uncomfortable. His stance does not shift despite it. He does not have the fear of death, after all. Only the desperation of a man who wants to keep his current strength. He can take risks. Risks no sane individual would ever consider. Especially when his time is at an end.

So much chi. He's blinded. He can only feel the powerful conduit of the leylines below, and the great whirlwind she's kicked up, everything else wildly fluctuating. Instead he casts inwards, tilting his ear. Only to find that the onslaught of flame ripples out and encompasses him. His outfit immediately begins to to smolder and hiss, sealing gauze beginning to fall away. Yet his reaction was almost nothing, shifting his stance to dig in, toe bursting through the weakened ground to remain upright instead of losing himself to the tide.

And that's when he 'hears'. The push of Momiji's feet from the ground, a couple meters away. Both of his hands begin to move, as the spear thrusts out. Fingers graze the spear, but his stance on the burned, shattered floor is too weak. Even if he had the strength, even if he had been fast enough to catch it earlier, there's no way to leech away this much power in his current state.

Instead he diverts it slightly to the side. She misses his heart, and instead sinks deep into his shoulder, penetrating clear through and jutting out his back. He is driven backwards then, relaxing his stance to slide until he impacts the main wall, great burst of condensation spraying from it as blood spatters out. He keeps hold of the naginata, wordlessly, body remaining limp. She hefts him upwards, holding him towards the raging sky, and then flicks him backwards.

He does not fly off.

It's then he moves. Twisting back, the speartip is ripped from his shoulder. He then lifts up before sharply jerking sideways. A disarming technique, masterfully executed. Retaining hold would be painful, and completely destroy one's center of balance. Is she willing to do such? Well. Either the weapon is lost, or she becomes abruptly vulnerable...

Makai then dashes inwards, much of his body now exposed. Burnt flesh seen through ruined gauze. His entire body is covered in a sheen of purple aura, as it hemmorages out of him in waves. The delicate balance he had kept tenuously for days is ruined, and he might only have minutes now. He had best use them well. He incants a seal that shimmers, seal manifesting visibly just before his palm. Another incantation, reinforcing it with another. A third, and a great sigil seems to manifest. Yet Momiji knows such incantations, of purifying powers.

These are not any seals she would recognize...

His palm thrusts out, to impact Momiji in her heart. Again a surge of that paralyzing energy, although much stronger than before. Where before it would have passed quickly, now it tries to settle in her very core. From the ether, bladed chains erupt out, aiming to wrap around her and draw her limbs together, others trying to tether and draw taut against the ground. His free hand intoning another strange seal, before round runic discs appear all around Momiji. From them, thin lances of demonic power strike out, to impale her body in multiple places. These do no physical damage; instead, they are aimed at her internal chi, her very soul, to weaken and began detaching it from the physical body.

Drawing back his hands, still seething with demonic power, he then unleashes a storm of strikes with two fingers. Aiming at the key points where the chi of the body is manipulated. Like pressing multiple keys, to weaken her even more. And only then does his hand splay out, to impact her once more. A great roar of power suddenly erupts, aiming to fill her violated form and flood it before the remainder explodes out her back.

And then he wrenches backwards, trying to tear her maiden soul cleanly from her body...!!

COMBATSYS: Makai knocks away Momiji with Iron Maiden.

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Momiji           1/----===/=======|=======\-------\1            Makai

For the first time since the death battle began, her weapon is wrested from her, the Heavenly Dragon flipping once and landing blade down in the wood, the golden fire of the ever burning lantern thrust up into the air amid scorching fire, suffocating smoke, and blinding steam. The rainfall pouring into the room is not enough to squelch these fires, evaporating into a building fog and thicker, black smoke in the attempt, but at last, Momiji finds herself without her weapon, staggering under the weight of mounting pain and injury.

Her arms come up in a futile gesture to ward off the impending blow as the unmasked devil's palm slams out toward her, but his hand parts through her weakened guard as easy as water. A wordless gasp is her answer as with a touch, all of that malignant energy once more rips into her body. Yet still she tries, hands twisting, fingers grasping out in a bid to get a hold of his arm and shoulder. She may still have the strength to pull him off balance, to twist him to the ground and dislocate the arm with her capable close quarter techniques, of stopping his assault short.

But hope of retaliation or prevention melts away the instant she finds herself wrapped in bladed chains. Another cry of pain is heard over the roaring fires around them as her arms are crushed against her sides, her legs pressed tightly together with bindings that hook and tear, and secure the miko helplessly in place. Even as her soul wrestles with the infection coursing through her body, she remains defiant, golden eyes burning with an intensity no less ardent than the fire that will consume the old structure. Twisting, she tries to break free from the spectral bindings, plying strength of will and a deep, innate understanding of the energies at play, but Makai is hardly idle and with another seal, several discs of focused energy surge into being around her. Once more, her stalwart soul is subject to intense invasion as the narrow spikes of fel energy pierce her to the core.

Even still, that might not have been enough to stop a spirit so strong, reinforced by a life of purity and selfless zeal. Her eyes have not lost their defiant focus yet, bound as she is by chains she can't seem to break. A sharp intake of breath and her struggle against the bindings seems to come to an end just before his fingers stab out, sealing off conduits of energy, severing the ties between the breath of life and her own existence. But if she has stopped fighting against the bindings, it is because she has taken her fight to another level - one last ditch, desperate attack.

Her eyes close as she claws desperately at her waning ties to the natural world, seeming to surrender even in this final moment of defiance. He would feel it as his palm slams out against her battered chest and invades her once more with more soul rending power than anyone could possibly endure - the fire around him shifts, the flames ceasing to be a neutral force of natural destruction as they answer the Dragon Shrine Maiden's last call. Rather, all the golden, crackling energy in the room becomes the enemy of Makai.

A soft cry escapes the girl's lips as he rips his hand backward, tearing away life itself in the process, her head bowing, her body going limp, only held upright by the barbed chains that hold her.

And with her escaping breath, all the fire in the room surges toward her, circling in and around the dying miko, a maelstrom of scourging, purifying flames, forming a concentrated aura rampaging over collapsing wood to close in around her and her killer, enclosing them both in a blossom of fury, burning, and righteous indignation. As before, the inferno will do no harm to the priestess it answers, but to the vile, the corrupt, the fallen, it could prove to be the final threat of her last defiant cry.

COMBATSYS: Momiji can no longer fight.

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Makai            1/-------/=======|

COMBATSYS: Makai blocks Momiji's Art of the Crimson Lotus.

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Makai            1/-----==/=======|

Those divine sealing flames... Makai had ignored them, simmering as they were amidst the falling rain. Within his hand he clutches a waft of energy, incredibly pure. He can feel the quake and fear of the monsters inside him, as this energy is the very antithesis to everything they are. Indeed, the Butcher is no different; if not for his... well. No need to concern himself with that. As streams of destructive fire begin to roar inwards, he brings up his other hand and closes it around Momiji's soul. A pulse, before an abrupt barrier of golden fire flows around him.

The cleansing roar is sustained for a few seconds before abruptly dispersing. Makai is panting heavily, scarcely upright, but his desperate effort to draw Momiji's own soul as a shield barely worked. Yet his hand is trembling. The bond with her body is strong. Far too strong. Ah... no matter. Such a thing is useless to him, regardless. His hand reaches out and grasps Momiji's limp form by the air, turning away and dragging her. Shrieking, monstrous forms begin to burst from him now and then, hissing in pain at the light of her held lifeforce, fleeing into the rain and darkness. But he merely walks towards the center of the temple, limping with the slow gait of an older man. An old stone rock, covered in worn text, where those who venerated focused their prayers. It was no coincidence. Beneath this marker is the strongest leyline in Mt. Fuji. This information might have been lost to decades, to centuries...

Yet to an immortal monster like the Butcher, he remembers.

Momiji is hefted upwards, and then slammed down on the marker. Makai then lunges upwards, deftly resting his foot on either side, as her broken body lay bowed across it. His right hand trembles as her hissing soul remains barely trapped within. Fingers then lash out, to strike her in the stomach and sink within.

Crimson spills out, running down the altar on all sides.

"The blood of a maiden... reveals the lock..." he murmurs out. Suddenly the ground glows, five irregular lines thrumming in all directions beneath the broken temple.

"And the soul... is the key..." He holds up Momiji's lifeforce, focusing his efforts upon it. The demons within him have abandoned him. In moments, his strength will be too low to keep even the powerless ones inside. He will be ejected, and the sleeping sealer will awaken... now.

It must be now.

Seals ripple around his hand, and Momiji's lifeforce is abruptly attuned to the leyline. The strength of the earth's chi then floods out. A great pillar of power encompasses the pair, bursting towards the heavens. The roof explodes, shattering debris in all directions. Leylines, freshly activated, surge and scatter like tendrils of lightning over the base of the broken mountain, stretching out a few miles from the temple. The last of the seals are broken in this area, and the breathe of gaea herself inhales deep.

And then, purple energy begins to waft off. Seeping like ink in water, whirling down. The corruption from Justice's attack. And something more... the wound of ancient, malignant chi, the twisted and parasitic essence of an entity sealed long ago, so powerful and so destructive that the very heart of the world needed shackled to prevent it. It is that which Makai coaxes forward...

And it is on that which he feasts.

In a great ripple, the pure light blooms dark black and purple. Like a tide, the leyline corrupts in all directions, plants beginning to wither, soil going dry and barren. That fel power surges into him, and he lets out a great roar as the last of his torn gauze peels away. His gaunt frame is bare beyond scorched pants and golden gauntlets, as Momiji's soul is held high, a single bastion of purity in this hell on earth.

"Drink...!" he growls out. Gaunt, malnourished muscles suddenly bulge.


His veins ripple black, eyes suddenly changing from a glazed hazel to a bright, intense purple.

"Oh, countless demons... starved for generations of your captors... here is the strength I promised you!!"

The Butcher, a shadow of his original presence, finds his spiritual form flooded. Dozens, hundreds of youkai, squeezed dry before being drawn into the tomb of the Ametsuchi's form, drink in energy with the parched thirst of those who have wandered a desert for a hundred years. Before, he had been the desperate remnants of a fading candle, having exhausted most of his battle strength and viable youkai trying to eliminate Ayame. Now... each and every one of the dark, twisted, legendary creatures within him bloom with new fel strength.

And the Butcher is on the forefront, taking the vast majority for himself. Foolish, greedy demons. Now, all of them are linked by the same source of energy... and he then lets go of Momiji's soul. It immediately shoots down, impacting the limp girl. She'd likely feel a great shock, and immediately the activated leyline stops dead. The great glow eases away to embers, but for a few miles around, the world has been forever scarred by corrupted energy.

And within, the Butcher executes his will. Arms spread as the Shinigami of the Mist spreads his influences amongst the countless youkai. Before he had no command; he could speak, but nothing more. Yet now, his parasitic powers infuse each of his prisoners... and they realize the rammifications immediately.

"You will obey me, now... or you will be consumed...!!"

A few rebel. And in a moment, those existances are ripped asunder, vanishing forever. Power rippling out and fading into the cool night air. It does not take many for the rest to fall into line. Grudgingly, one by one, like stars winking into existance, they donate their power to the Butcher. His mass seems to slightly expand, the weight of his aura grows denser, a slow roll of his bare shoulders before he rears back his head and laughs.

"Yes... yes!! I have made this body my own...!" He then leaps off, landing adjacent to Momiji before slowly rising up. A long stare is given to her, breathing once more, injuries surprisingly minimal beyond the wound to her soul. "No... even as I am now, I should not make an enemy of the entire Hayabusa clan..." he murmurs. Leaning down to press a kiss to Momiji's forehead. "You have granted me a great gift... without you, I could not once more show these humans despair..."

He begins to walk away then, before wincing and grasping his heart. He can still feel it. Deep inside. The soul of Masaru, the true owner of this body. He cannot eliminate it. If he does, all these trapped demons will go free. No matter. Now he can suppress it without difficulty...

"Sleep, human. Enjoy.. your eternal nightmare..."

COMBATSYS: Makai has ended the fight here.

Log created on 01:28:15 10/09/2017 by Makai, and last modified on 17:39:28 10/13/2017.