Taishokan - Crimson Rictus

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Description: It started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this? It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss.

From the chilly apartment he shares with the Legendary Wolf to the hospital, Rock Howard cuts through the park with haste. His heavy bomber jacket left undone, the sides whip in the wind as his long strides carry him down the main path. Normally a pleasant trip, now the public space is a barren entity, thanks to Heihachi's lockdown. Devoid of light and life, the brighter stars in the heavens are a guide, along with the familiarity of a route frequently travelled.

Rock adjusts the rucksack he carries, its contents mostly canned goods that can be prepared as long as he has access to a fire. Running should cause them to clink together the entire way, but such is the efficiency of his packing -- they make nary a sound.

A fork lies ahead. Down the paved road is Southtown's empty business district, while the flattened grass leads one astray to the river. The Howard scion stays the course, the soles of well-worn shoes beating against asphalt. No time to delay, blackened monoliths of skyscrapers looming into view. Rock keeps his focus forward, but is alert and vigilant. It's like he thinks the night is dark and full of terrors.

Really, in many ways, the teen heartthrob of Taiyo High isn't wrong.

Each breath escapes in a tired puff. Accumulated hours of sitting idle has done the prodigy no favours, even costing him some of his weight and stamina. Rock's shoulders protrude beneath his skin and his cheeks appear hollow, but he wasn't taking care of himself. Tonight, the goals have changed. He feels renewed with new vigor and clear direction. Exhaustion won't stop him until he gets to his destination. Rest is for the unmotivated! Other empowering statements go here!

Blonde head lifting, briefly, Rock's crimson eyes widen as if it were the cursed child's first time seeing the sky and all its splendour.

There's suddenly a call from the darkness of a nearby series of bushes, nestled amongst looming trunks of trees mostly bereft of colored leaves. The voice of a young girl, still only a child. "H-help! Help!!" It's shrill, anxious, but not in the throes of outright horror. Heavily rustling takes place, as if somehow caught within the cage of darkened leaves that doesn't quite allow sight. The nearest lamp dulls and flickers often, giving little aide in the fallen evening to pick out who might be in peril.

His reverie is nice, but short-lived. Bursting through thoughts of the last time he saw an evening so bright, a cry for help sounds like it's coming from the direction of nearby bushes. Normally the type to approach with a hint of apprehension, Rock's seen enough of people in need these days to lower his guard, entirely unexpecting a trap might lay in wait.

A girl's voice, possibly a child. It's impossible to see through the foliage; even when bereft of autumn's plumage, the massive tangle of branches provides an ample shroud. Pupils narrow to no avail, unable to discern anything beyond the wall of thorns. "..." Rock... really hopes this isn't anything that his imagination can whip up in a moment, because he can only think of a few reasons why there'd be a call from someone unable to defend themselves in a place like this.

The handsome teen draws ever closer, leaving the known path behind, his footsteps muffled by the dying blades of grass. As much as he wants to use seraphic cerulean chi to light the way, a murderer will slit their prey's throat at the first sign of a threat. Rock has seen his fair share of death, being the only son of Geese Howard; in no way does he want to be the CAUSE of it.

That's... a lot of rustling. Unsettling rustling. His stomach starts to twist itself into knots, Rock swallowing down a rise of bile as his Adam's apple bobs in the slender column of his throat. The scion grips his rucksack so tightly that the cord bites gently into his palm.

Please let it be, I don't know, say her dog got caught. Something. Rock just wants the kid to not be in life-threatening peril or worse.

Even with stripped tree branches, the mass of bushy foliage remains unaffected by the coming winter. There's soft breathing within the hiding spot after being approached, no instincts tickling of something untoward; that of predatory eyes or planned ambush. This close, the rustling sounds completely mundane. That of someone, of suspected child-size, struggling out of sight. When Rock carefully maneuvers closer, it pauses with a few deep breaths. "H-hello? Are you there?" the voice asks again, plaintive, trying to be strong. "I was... r-running from someone... and, and went underneath this bush to hide. My ankle's stuck..." Vaguely amongst the shadow and dark green leaves, a slight shape within, as if turning to look. "Who're you...?"

Oh. Oh, thank god. He hadn't even realized that breath was trapped in his lungs, withheld in horrible anticipation, until it escapes with an audible whoosh. The slender young wolf relaxes, but reaching the perimeter of the bushes, tries to see a shape that's small and just beyond limited light. It's a black shadow. "I'm here," Rock says, his soft tenor comforting and supportive in equal measure, "Just stay still, and I'll rescue you."

Like a handsome prince, only lacking his white palomino and ruffled cravat.

While chi ignites in his left hand, illuminating his face and dishevelled blonde hair for a better view, the American boy offers the right, palm up. "Are you able to reach me? My name is Rock Howard. What's yours?" Keeping the child talking is about the only way to be certain where in the branch patch she's stuck. He's blinded by light. His plan, derailed for now, evolves to include escorting a little girl home and seeing if her stalker tries anything.


Relying on his sense of threat detection, nothing strikes the ward of the Legendary Wolf as being strange. Is that, in and of itself, odd? "Why are you out so late, miss?" Even kids deserve respect! "Were you looking for something?" Long, thin fingers, calloused from years playing the bass are at the limit, as far as he can go without diving into the bushes himself. Rock would rather avoid that, but if that's what it takes...

Really, everything is determined on how exactly her ankle is caught. Mud, a hole, pulling her free is quite simple. Anything more complicated, Rock is already prepared to cleave his way through dense foliage, his energy bright and wreathing his arm, pale and pure. Good, honest intent keeps the howling, cursed blood at bay... Almost.

The light wafts warmly over the bush. For just a split second, what seems to be crimson eyes. But a slender pale forearm blocks the unexpected glow, and when they drop a young freckled face is peering back, cerulean eyes watering with restrained tears of someone trying to be brave. She's likely only ten, wearing a denim dress and puffy yellow coat. She's covered in brambles and twigs, hair long and flowing blonde. Something in her features is strangely nostalgic.

"M,my name's Marie." she murmurs out, glancing back to yank at her foot. "I got hungry. My brother's sick... I was hoping to get to the... Red Cross place and find some food and a doctor. Then a drunk, scary man came after me, so..."

There's an odd fascination with the glow on Rock's arm, before finally Marie thrusts out her own, dirty fingers splaying. "Take my hand. Can you pull me out...?"

Did he see it? The illusion, a hint of scarlet? Rock's got an enviable, unreadable poker face, and it's hard to tell. Lines from brooding, or generally frowning, will plague him in his old age.

IF he even gets up there in years, that is.

Past the light, when shifted just right, a child. Her hair is blonde, perhaps kissed by the sun, just like his. There's something familiar in the little girl's stature, but Rock doesn't have a clue where to place it until she shares her name. His back goes rigid.

All at once, the teen prodigy understands the nostalgia. Marie reminded him of his mother. The world is full of strange coincidences, but let that be the last thought dedicated to the matter, ignoring the rising hairs on his neck. Rock stretches to push the boundary upon seeing her small hand...

But his fingertips brush hers in vain.

It's not far in, so Rock crunches through the bushes with a swirl of cerulean wind energy, bits and pieces whipped into the tiniest whirlwind that quiets at a touch. This time, unhindered, the wolf pup's arm is offered again, sans chi. "I got you, you can come with me to the hospital. Is your brother safe right now? Do you know what the man looked like?" Doubtful, as the streets are dark, but he has to try. A drunkard stalking kids in the night isn't anyone that should be prowling around.

His breath disturbs his flaxen fringe, revealing eyes that look almost amethyst. "I'm strong enough to lift you out, Marie, as long as you can get your ankle loose. Can you do that?" The cords of the rucksack shift down the sleeve of his bomber jacket, the noise loud in Rock's ear. Tin cans rattle for a moment. Unpracticed, but kindly, the disowned heir that struggles to be a good person wears a faint smile of reassurance.

The fingers grip air when Rock can't quite reach far enough to fully grasp the young child's hand. "He was tall, and strong... he had blonde hair, and scary eyes..." whimpers the small voice within. "Thanks..." She finally shuffles forward, and her hand grips the young idol's, remarkably strong. "I never told you my last name... it's Heinlein..." Suddenly the face staring back at Rock is not that of a little girl, but that of his mother. Before it shrivels, blood pouring from eyes, nose, and mouth. That impossible grasp tightens further, before the bushes seem to shimmer. Blackness roars out to encompass Rock, and for a few disorienting moments the feel of the earth below, and gravity itself, departs.

Despite never having left the ground, Rock would then tumble upon a broken stone courtyard. Tall, twisted trees stretch up at the perimeter, seeming odd and alien. High above is a pair of moons, one large and green with the other smaller and blue. The air stinks of blood and alcohol; all around, countless casks of liquor and discarded bottles are piled up high, amidst a shocking number of bodies.

Yet all of this drink is from Southtown, clearly. A number of crates come from a local brewery; and the clothes on those shrunken, mummified features, wrought and curled in fetal terror, match what might be seen on any winter evening in the town. A massive tomb-like structure sits at the end, as a whirling motion of what seems to be darkness retracts within, where a large form seems to be settled.

"Sake... I want more sake..." thrums a deep, rich voice. Enthralling and beautiful, assuredly masculine. It's somehow forceful, despite appearing to have a low tone. The air is thin, and the feel of the energy here wrong. Is he... still in Southtown? Is this some grandiose illusion, or something else? "Hello, Rock Howard. Son of Geese Howard. You are the most interesting person to visit me since I set up shop... what curious blood flows in your veins. I wonder what it tastes like...?"

A few bottles then fly out of the darkness of the masoleum's threshold, shattering on the ground near rock as a deep chuckle rings out. The form within seems to... undulate. In a way no humanoid form possibly could. "Mmm. So how has your practice been with your bass...? Still practicing cooking Jambalaya, and sneaking out the sausages when Terry isn't looking...?" There's a deep familiarity within the almost purring tone, and Rock might struggle to not feel it familiar, friendly, /enthralling./ What sort of monster has he stumbled upon...?

Just like that, Rock is sent straight into a hell that even his nightmares couldn't fathom. Marie grips his hand, her touch something that he wants to reject bodily, with every fibre of his being. She needs to LET GO. This is no child, the youth knows, deep in the sinking pit of his stomach; her last name barely registers, because the boy is staring transfixed at his dead mother who bleeds out from every facial orifice in front of him.


Cerulean chi surges to sever the bond.

Rock nearly vomits, gagging and choking. The image has been burned into him like a brand.

It feels as though the earth was stolen from beneath his feet, and he's as weightless as his writhing insides. Then, the ground returns in the dark, but different. His energy is a light snuffed. Knees jerk because the mind plays the trick of unexpected landing, and Rock pitches forwards, spilling onto the broken stone of the courtyard that is anything but real. Bodies piled like trash, sake crates discarded. The boy's blonde head swivels on the axis of his neck to stare up at the moon, or moons.


A heaving breath fills his lungs with the bog of eternal stench. Festering remains, blood, alcohol... The air gives him a contact high, enough that his head swims and aches in tandem. Rock... has to swallow first before he can do more.

Gradually pushing up, trying to stand, the charismatic, compelling voice commands his attention. Like it or not, Rock can't help but feel drawn towards it, but then he is repelled by the knowledge that such a thing shouldn't have. "Guess you're gonna have to kill me to find out," the broody teen mutters, and...

BOOM! The empty wooden container practically bursts in front of him, crimson eyes as wide as saucers. Bolting up, showered with shrapnel, he takes a moment to quell surprise and discovers it's been replaced with... unbidden excitement. Joy. Elation. As if the undulating creature were here to engage in fun and games, not drain life and blood from his body. It's the thrill of a fight about to happen. "You... How do you know that?" No, familiarity is clouding his head, but Rock scrambles to argue that stupid acceptance with fact.

He thought he stumbled across a murderer, but what the Howard scion found was a monster...

Here in Southtown...


Running fingers through his disheveled bangs, Rock starts cracking his knuckles one by one. Each pop echoes loudly, and his bomber jacket shifts when sleeves are rolled back. The only son of Geese Howard wonders... how many were dragged here and sacrificed? And if he can put a stop to it, God willing.

"Kill you...? I have no interest in something like that. No... not for a long time. I am a connoisseur. The mind and soul of each mortal, bred and steeped uniquely. I am a picky gourmand, and I find your taste... *ravishing.*" The voice is nearly breathless at that, laughing deeply. "I cannot be killed, all the same. You do not know who I am. And why would you? I'm afraid I do not know what that is like. I am one third of... well, no point in saying my name. But we are each blessed with a great gift. A fragment of the divine, from which we were separated and locked away..."

Suddenly a massive tongue lolls out of the darkness. It's larger than Rock is; and then the end of a large keg of wine upends. It splashes across the warty, slender muscle, which writhes and slaps around in the puddle. A slow slurp draws much of it inwards, before flinging the remainder at Rock. It's unclear how it manipulated it, yet the strange sinuous darkness was the same thing that grasped him, and that retracted earlier out of sight...

"I know all of who I encounter, mortal. What lies deep in the heart. What lies deep in the brain. Such is my gift; if one can believe what I say... hmmhmmhmm!! I was sealed beneath Mt. Fuji, so deeply and so powerfully, I expected to never again sense anything but the dark. To taste my bindings. Yet it seems my cage was destroyed... and I have mostly recovered my strength, since... Would you like to play a game?"

Slowly, tendrils slither out. The first thought might be darkness, but then they are seen to have a glossy shean. Hair? Yes, it seems masses of /hair/ are billowing out from the ancient concrete structure. "Play with me, before I break you. If you satisfy me, I will answer any question you have. It matters not to me, after all; perhaps it will make the taste of your despair all the more palatable..." And then, appearing in the center of that undulating mass, is a pair of massive crimson lips. They stretch broad, revealing perfect white teeth. It has no eyes, no ears, of any visible sort. And the size of it is massive; were it placed upon a head, said head must easily be at least thirty feet tall.

"The humans call me the Maw of Taishokan... pleased to meet you. Welcome to your final resting place...!"

COMBATSYS: Maw of Taishokan has started a fight here as a boss!

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COMBATSYS: Rock has joined the fight here.

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Rock             0/-------/-------|

For an eldritch horror, he's a little surprised that the thing would bore its next meal with saccharine sweet platitudes. Don't dress up the intention to Rock. Killing is killing. Nattering on about what makes for a tasty snack when he's certain that the bodies on the floor were nothing more than unfortunate souls who took the hand, much as he did, doesn't change his mind.

'Ravishing', though... That sure isn't a way he likes being described. The teen's arms erupt with goose pimples and a shudder shakes his svelte frame on the spot.

It would seem, comprehension dawning upon him as he peers into the dark, that the monster can read his thoughts with crystal-clear clarity. Is that part of the illusion? Something he simply imagined? When everything in his head should be silent, Rock can't help but think of so many thoughts at once. His thin shoulders round because whatever else, this is the stuff from books and scribbled text on parchment that he would never know.

"'Blessed with a great gift'? According to whom?" How can the cursed blood that Rock inherited from Geese Howard be considered anything but jinxed? The fates dealt him a cruel hand, but no matter. Without it, the disowned heir might already be dead.

Gross. So gross. The pinkish-gray muscle is his first hint at what lurks behind the tenebrous veil, and he recoils with disgust. Unable to tear crimson eyes from the lolling, slapping tongue lapping up spilt wine, Rock winds up covered from blonde hair to black boots in the dirty, rusty dregs. His attractive face speckled and splattered, thin lips wear a scowl that creases his forehead. Brows draw together.

That confirms it, in a way much to his chagrin. Not an illusion, or dastardly daydream. Announced loud and boasting, any secret shall be laid bare for scrutiny, even though it will never leave this hell. Rock... could really use an onmyouji's help here. Too bad none exist.

Jolting as if struck by something invisible, there's nothing that says the prodigy is in the mood for games. His rapid heartbeat, the rush of adrenaline, both act to conspire against him and see little results. Jaw clenching, fists raising, harmless though each lock might be for now, the threatening aura that permeates the broken courtyard ramps up like a crescendo in music. Rock's gaze frequently flits away, but always returns to the voice's origin.

A mouth wide enough to swallow him whole, higher than he is tall, looms ahead. Stretching lips peel away in a grotesque grin that shocks and awes. Lost for words, the ward and pupil of the Legendary Wolf stands petrified. "What the fuck...?" slips out, Rock's tenor uneven and cracking.

One thing's for certain, should the Maw of Taishokan be privy to his past and present... This kid's will is something else. His resolve tested and strong. Rock is gonna be a shit morsel, because despair just isn't his way. He'll fight, and fight, and continue fighting. If he can't run away, he'll never give up. Arm winding back, amethyst chi coalesces in his open hand.

There has to be a way out. He's already discerned that this isn't real, no matter how it feels, smells or tastes. Rock's eyes continue to deceive him, so would closing them help? "Sorry, I'll have to take you up on that offer some other time..." Crackling, arcing streaks of light ripple around him. "REPPUKEN!" The wind sheer, a rip-roaring crescent, is unleashed with a cry. Tearing up the cobblestones already in disrepair, it's not for the smiling gates of oblivion, but to sever at least part of the hair so he's not surrounded on all sides!

COMBATSYS: Maw of Taishokan negates Reppuken from Rock with Insidious Babble.

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Rock             0/-------/----===|

"Don't look so wild-eyed, my child. You are no longer in Earthrealm. I have transported you between there and the Spirit Realm, a temporary void of my own creation. I know the Eye will find me, but such matters not if I cannot be reached." the Mouth gently reassures, drawing up to it's full height. It seems one could slap these pair of lips on a skull a good thirty-five feet high easily; any fears of being swallowed hole are likely justified, with the strange mane of lone black hair wildly flicking and whirling behind as if caught in a constant breeze.

"Life is cruel, when you can see the span of the multiverse. One's ambition and drive are nothing but an ant dragging a pebble. Sometimes the child above watches, trying to comprehend. Other times it strikes down, with the pure and innocent extinguishing of one oblivious to an existance so far beneath it that it cannot empathise. Such is how I view you. I have devoured so many lives, and each one races in their mind... how to escape. How to fight. How to flee. How not to die... as one who knows all that a mortal may ask, I tell you this."

"You are strong, child. But I am beyond strength. I am part of a being whose majesty your mind would shatter to fathom. There is only darkness for you... and only death for your people...!!"

When the whirl of chi bursts into being, the mouth exhales. A whirl of miasma flows upwards, taking the appearance of a familiar old coffee shop owner. He looks around in confusement, as if shocked to find himself standing in this alien realm. Then turns in time to see the surging ball of energy. For a split second, shock and betrayal, before the explosion takes him over. The scorched, bloody remnants of his form thump to the side, amidst a rain of blood spattering those ruby lips. The oversized tongue draws across, tasting it.

"Yes. Fight. Once you are brought to heel, then I shall feast. Nibble on your every last thought, memory, essence of your being, until your soul is nothing but the hollow shell you see around you...!!"

A temporary void? While he's able to follow to some degree, his grasp of the concept is tentative. Uncertain. What is The Eye? Rock isn't stupid, but he struggles to keep pace with a world that is opening wider than it ever needed to. All the knowledge that he could ask for... In the end, esoteric philosophy and universal dogma are just the wind. Omnipresent, occasionally pleasant, but mostly ignored.

There's too many words when the point is that the Maw of Taishokan thinks he's a eusocial insect, and Rock does at least have a lot of experience being looked down upon.

"Quit wasting my time!" he barks, swiping his hand through the stale, thin, horribly scented air.

Human beings are often cast from the same mould. When in danger, they struggle to survive. Everything the lip-smacking eldritch terror has to say rings true, but Rock lacks but one part that makes him different. No action speaks of his desire to live. It's absence is conspicuous...

Of course, he's not deliberately fatalistic. But where there should be selfish desire for preservation, all the boy's heart reveals is obligation, revenge, and aspiration.

Shaking out the remnants of violet chi from his fist, that same hand is used to sort his hair, a force of habit rather than any expression of arrogance. As the threads slip back into Rock's eyes, he's... stricken.

Mister Sugiwara, his employer, pops like a balloon on impact.

It's a disgusting, disturbing sight, regurgitated as a spitball only to die betrayed. Rock finds he has to force himself to turn the other cheek. Blood joins the splatters of wine that weep down the front of his jacket. This thing can use his memories, enough to make the little girl the spitting image of the American teen's deceased mother at ten years old. Why would this be anything other than an attempt to hurt him?

The fact that it gloats about eating Rock after means he's gonna have to give the oversized mouth the biggest fat lip it's ever had, unafraid to ruin the voracious appetite through petulance and determination. "Anyone ever said you talk too much?" Leaving the rucksack abandoned, a sprint not too far, when the yawning chasm is taller than an average-sized house with three floors and nearly as long, the cursed scion closes the gap in heartbeats. He'd... rather not touch them, the lips, but tries to bury his elbow deep into the crimson mass as is his wont.

Rock can understand why others would have given up... Faced with odds that seem insurmountable, it's easier to accept defeat...

Not him. Not when people need him. Not after Terry asked him for help...! He's accomplished the impossible before!


COMBATSYS: Rock successfully hits Maw of Taishokan with Elbow Spike.
- Power hit! -

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Rock             0/-------/--=====|

The probing questions, the insinuations and mutters, all seem intent on causing Rock to react in a number of ways. Yet the omnipresent grin of the strange creature never once falters, although it lets out a great burp that sends a foul wash strongly stinking of alcohol wafting forward in the wake of the hopefully false man's destruction. "Do not be so unkind... I have had nobody to speak to in centuries..."

Although the maw seems to possess some strange ability to see within the heart of its opponent, it cannot see into the future. Hair whirls forward and tries to intercept, but the condensed strength of Rock's elbow bursts through, and slams heavily into the upper lip. It's firm and malleable, as would be expected, yet slightly folds inwards. There's a hiss of pain before it skids backwards a meter, recoiling in apparent agony. So it's not truly untouchable; a great purple welt has spread where Rock just impacted, and is not fading. "Why is it you do not value your own life?" is suddenly asked. "Is it because you failed to help your mother, who gave away everything, her livelihood and her lover, to take care of you?"

Suddenly the teeth shift; the perfect squareness changes to a number of vicious mandibles. The two lower canines jutt upwards almost eight feet, making the mouth seem even more monstrous. Then it lunges forward, saliva stretching thin between as it attempts to snap down and bite Rock bodily.

COMBATSYS: Rock counters Seething Mandibles from Maw of Taishokan with Joudan Crack Counter EX.

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Rock             0/-------/---====|

The irony that a Titan burping up a foul stench would lecture Rock about his manners is, for lack of better terms, /delicious/. He can't stop the audible scoff amidst a coughing jag from escaping, even as the hard point of his elbow sinks deep into the nightmare's upper lip. An instantaneous bruise rewards the strike, but huh. Strange. Crimson eyes glancing towards the limitless ceiling, presumably where the fluttering tresses connect to a head of sorts, the Howard scion hadn't expected the omnipotent Maw to be hurt with surprising ease.

It's too early to feel emboldened, too soon to celebrate. While his heart skips a beat and Rock bounces on his feet, the severe lines of his jaw remain set.

He could pursue the retreat, press his advantage, but his opponent is unpredictable and, if all it has to say is true indeed, immortal. There is no judging the Maw of Taishokan on any equal playing field, because he can't. Rock tenses, coiling like a spring, every finely honed muscle stretching beneath his skin. One molar is ground against the others. "I don't know, is it?" Sass and snark aren't a strong suit, but the kid commits, "Thought you--"

Razor sharp teeth snap together with a wet click, ropes of terrible smelling saliva lashing out. "Ugh?!" Ew! Rock dodges and spins through, before stepping onto the clear fluid and finding it solid enough. He doesn't need to leap to any great height to flip over and bring his heel crashing down. It connects with an exaggerated white incisor. A crack like a gunshot rends the sickly air.

Spreading from the impact to either side, a hairline fracture. His dentistry requires a little more work before Rock can open up a practice dedicated to booting eldritch youkai in the mouth. Landing and nearly slipping, the young wolf digs in. Cobblestones crumble beneath his feet. "Thought you could read my thoughts. Should've really put some effort into reading body language, instead!" he finishes, but segues into another topic.

Rock failed his mother, and that hurts. The guilt hovers around the prodigy like a perpetual cloud...

But why doesn't he value his own life, the question remains unanswered.

Saliva... harmless? Rock might have made a dangerous mistake. Where it seeps through cloth and touches skin, the area goes numb and cold. The scent of it makes breathing harder and the head dizzy. It seems whatever saliva is lodged within this fowl mouth, it does terrible things to a mortal body. The foot impacts true, forcing the teeth to snap together on air in a spray of spittle, and it once more draws backwards. It's hard to tell what might be beneath the hair; the only prominent thing is the mouth, although there's an impression of bulk amongst it. A lazy spit follows, leaving a forearm-sized sharp tooth amidst a pool of black blood.

"Read minds? It's not so simple as that. Or so mundane." No further explanation comes, but both impacts to the monster appear to remain, and it's slowed somewhat. "Have you ever wondered... if you truly made your mother happy? Or if poor Marie kept you out of obligation. Seeing you as a worthy successor to your father. And did you even live up to that? Did you grow into the man she loved and admired so?" Suddenly the tongue lolls out, and the great lips surges upwards through a thrust of hair, twin moons in the darkness above cast behind. It then strikes out, trying to smack Rock into the ground with a thrust of that unusual tongue, the strange saliva still coating it and heavily scenting the air, leaving it lolled out...!!

COMBATSYS: Rock blocks Maw of Taishokan's Deceptive Mastication.

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Rock             0/-------/--=====|

Until the saliva penetrates steel reinforcing the sole of his shoe, he'll never know the numbing consequences of his actions. Sticky, smoking residue rests beneath him as it eats into the rubber, and his precious bomber jacket another casualty of the fight for survival. Loathe to cast the article aside, Rock continues to wear it at his own peril, unaware. He clutches the front of his black t-shirt. The putrid rankness of the air, coupled with burning leather, is unpleasant enough to strangle his breath away.

Skipping through the courtyard like a flat stone skims water, the broken incisor lands in a puddle that probably has the same consistency of tar. Congealed and foul, the American wolf isn't about to take his eyes off the savage lips in order to analyze it further. Rock just nods with grim satisfaction.

Yeah, yeah, back to the pontificating-- No, hold on. The Maw of Taishokan spares him a lengthy explanation of its unique telepathy, which Rock would rather it didn't, for once. Try as he might, there's no blocking out the questions that run him through the heart. All he has to defend himself against the onslaught is the memory that if Marie Heinlein wished for her son to become the next Geese Howard, she wouldn't have been a moderating influence on his sense of morality. Why teach the boy such trivial matters of respect, love, and sacrifice? None of those things his father could even begin to comprehend. "Shut up!"

The teen's blood boils, searing his veins and arteries. It clears his addled mind, his senses. Amethyst chi flickers at Rock's back, extending an ethereal limb over his shoulder to wrap him in an embrace. Pouring out from the conduit as his rage increases, the fierce maelstrom of energy mimics a living thing. It tousles flaxen strands playfully at the same time it nicks and rips at his fingertips. When the monster's massive tongue lolls and thrusts out, covered in acidic fluid, he is shielded beyond the crossing of his arms to protect himself.

Pushed back at least ten feet, the brunt of the hit is absorbed by a translucent barrier, its surface akin to feathers layered upon feathers. A half-complete projection, a wing ephemeral. Taken by the wind, the short burst reverts to an indecipherable shape once more, twisting around Rock.

Brighter and brighter, he shines as a lone light in the darkness. A brilliant beacon of violet and cerulean chi. Gathering more power unto himself, crimson orbs almost seem to glow like priceless rubies in their sockets. Rock attempts to banish the last of the dizziness making him sick, bellowing at the bruised-lip being, "Quit messing with me!"

COMBATSYS: Rock gathers his will.

                          MAW OF TAISHOKAN                          
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Rock             1/------=/=======|

"Geese Howard's only flaw in your mother's eyes was his lack of compassion. She wished that you, with his powerful blood, could become something even greater... what a foolish notion. The only thing she was correct about... was the 'powerful blood'... your father dabbled in forbidden scriptures and foul techniques, to grant himself immortality of a sort. To strengthen his power. And that corruption spread... unto you. The sins of your father are etched into your very soul..." the great maw speaks, rearing back up as Rock makes the dubious choice of allowing it time to speak, instead of pressing forward the attack. His teeth slowly retract, looking perfect and square like a human's, although still missing the one struck out.

"And you, Rock Howard, are the poison that made her fall ill. She never recovered from carrying you in her womb. And she never once blamed you. That should make it palatable, hmm? That she holds no resentment in her heart... for your unwanted life poisoning her body and soul..."

And then the great maw slowly breathes in, before exhaling a great cloud of mist along with a terrible shriek. Outside the utterly deafening manner, countless voices ring beneath. The sound of her mother, of Terry, the girls at school. Rock's own inner thoughts, all rushing forward in a menangerie of his complicated, carefully suppressed emotions. The air seems to shimmer and dance, flickering with unwholesome shadows, the ground vanishing within. There are nightmares inside, things the mind dares not gaze, as it approaches almost gently, like wind to a candle, trying to almost soothingly coocoon around him, smother his own chi, and press against his body as the sounds shift to invasive whispers, resonating in his very head, undeniable.

Until he breathed deep.

"Come at me, child. Light the fire of your blood. Without it, you will die here. Alone. Letting down your friends. Letting down your world... show me!! Show me your true strength, mortal!!"

COMBATSYS: Maw of Taishokan issues a challenge!!

                          MAW OF TAISHOKAN                          
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[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Rock             1/-======/=======|

COMBATSYS: Rock endures Maw of Taishokan's Soul Shriek.

                          MAW OF TAISHOKAN                          
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[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Rock             1/-======/=======|

Rather than fight it, Rock decides to brave the mists. And immediately, he is no longer standing within this strange realm. Although the scent of alcohol is gone, that of blood is fresher, a tinge of copper. The floor is wooden panels, and it would become apparent that they are upon the top of Geese Tower. Rock witnesses multiple bodies nearby; that of Mai Shirunai and Andy Bogard, the latter trying to shield here, both broken. Joe Higashi, slumped against a wall, chest baring a gaping hole with his head slumped forward.

Only then would a glance down show his hands are wrapped around Terry's neck, the man already defeated, hat askew. Powerfully muscled forearms are flexing, mouthless words forming on the Legendary Wolf, feeble hands reaching up and pushing at Rock's unseen face. Beyond control, there's a sudden twist and crack, before the dead form slumps to the side. Crimson pants, and a white gi; Rock is wearing the outfit of Geese Howard, his father...

And a glance sideways reveals a full-length mirror upon the ornate walls, spattered crimson with a crack from some impact. Rock will indeed see his father... only after a moment, the reflection seems to come to life, turning and walking up to where it meets the real world.

"You've finally done it. Cast aside your friends. Your emotions. Now... I can teach you what you refused before. How to use the power of our blood. Compassion and love... that is the price to pay for this power. But respect... now, I believe at least this I can give you."

An arm reaches out, mirror shimmering as it offers a hand. "Come, Rock. Together, we can rule more than Southtown. Together, we can rule the world...!"

And then the mist recedes, Rock's mind likely reeling and burning with the aftermath of the agonizing vision. A long tendril of hair is settled where the false Geese's arm had been, and the great mass of it is settled nearby, having appeared to take no advantage of whatever time Rock had spent lost in the illusion.

It's rictus grin broader than ever. "Now you know. The way to get your father to accept you. Am I not benevolent...?"

Has his memories been wrested from him and defiled? Because not once in any recollection does Rock remember his mother raising him with ulterior motives. She always expressed the desire to rear a gentle boy, a sensitive son, a compassionate human being in a world where kindness is synonymous with weakness. Unbeknownst to him, was Marie Heinlein so ambitious? As the reflection appears unclear, refuting the claim is next to impossible. The teen trembles like a reed. "Stop it..."

But it does not stop. From waxing on about Geese's hunger for power and where he found it, the Maw of Taishokan glides through its speech while laying waste to Rock psychologically.

Whether he feels outrage, sorrow, or a heavy amalgamation of the two, his emotions grow difficult to discern. They separate and merge anew seamlessly, each combination different. Rock's thin shoulders curl in a hunch; the vortex of violet-ultramarine may safeguard him against a physical onslaught, but otherwise is rendered moot. In no way can his chi stop sound, and so every truth carries. Gathering his energy was no invitation for the monster to continue chipping away at the young man with relentless fervour.

Unwanted... At least the elder Howard never wanted him. Rock assumed it was Marie's decision, in the end. When older, far older than the child begging for his father's help, only then did he realize the real cause for her ailing health. His birth. There is nothing to forgive in that matter; it wasn't his choice to make... But the pain of loss still exists, a wound scabbed over but never fully healed.

It flows with fresh blood, torn asunder. He's exposed, violated, and the mists are voices singing songs in his head.

As the illusion gains a foothold, Rock thrusts out an arm for a hope that isn't there...

And finds his hands locked around the neck of Terry Bogard.

One fearful glance and they're not alone, but currently the only ones still alive. He swallows thickly, the tangy taste of copper lingering on the tip of his tongue. Everything is real enough that his mind BELIEVES it. The rapid pulse pressed beneath his fingertips; the stirring of his hair as final breaths reach his impassive face. Terry pushes at Rock, feeble attempts which achieve nothing, because with a savage snap, the Legendary Wolf is nothing but a corpse. His death will vault him higher than he ever could in life.

The Howard scion can still feel the warmth of skin.

He recognizes this place, having 'visited' in recent weeks. Rock is as familiar with the location as he is the scarlet hakama. Oh God... Blonde head turning not in panic rising in his breast, it's a smooth, sinisterly sinuous movement. No, no, no! Approaching him through the looking glass, the form of the person he abhors congratulates him on the destruction of all that has ever mattered. The blackening of his soul. Unable to resist, the prodigy almost accepts an offering to seal the most horrible of deals...

Like that, it is gone.

Ebony tresses unravel, releasing their prey. The impressive flares of chi seem to be a thing of the past, but won't remain smothered for long. Tears track lines through the dirt caked on his face, and Rock, surprised to find his eyes wet, doesn't know what to do with himself.

Eventually, the last vestiges of body heat fade. Forming fists, Rock buries his attractive features behind them, biting back a harsh sob that almost broke free from its gilded cage. He cannot crumble further.

Benevolent? Fuck off. How is this knowledge in any way benevolent, when he has known in his heart the path to acceptance? The very nature Rock Howard fights off everyday. All he wants is not to be looked upon as though his existence was meaningless... He seeks it through vengeance.

Venting a last scream of pain and anguish, despair will not hold the Howard boy. The yell gains sentience in the form of energy, a might that Rock cannot control. His cursed lineage demands retribution, indiscriminate and bent on annihilation.

Why should it choose a target when the end is nigh?

Erupting from the courtyard cobblestones, hurling them aside, wind blades sprout like massive tree trunks. Not only is their bottomless hatred directed at the maker, but also the Maw of Taishokan, resulting in a whirlwind of violence Rock has seen just once. He understands what's to come, as he slams his knuckles against brittle stone, shattering the slabs. Streaking schisms create an irreparable web of cracks.

Rock is frightened, and the ground craters inwards. "Raging..."


There's no mercy. Every emotion is made manifest in light of deep amethyst, and the detonation is as bright as an imploding star. The epicentre is where the energy is densest, and Rock is cast outside. His flight short, he crashes into a pile of the withered dead, knocking them apart like pins. Where he falls to rest, the American lays still, but crimson orbs remain open and aware. This isn't over.

COMBATSYS: Rock successfully hits himself with Raging Storm EX+.

                          MAW OF TAISHOKAN                          
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[                    \\\\\\\\\\  <
Rock             1/-----==/=======|

COMBATSYS: Rock successfully hits Maw of Taishokan with Raging Storm EX+.

                          MAW OF TAISHOKAN                          
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[                    \\\\\\\\\\  <
Rock             1/---====/=======|

The foul pair of black lips merely looms there, retracting it's black hair and settling amidst the puddle of blood and booze, grin still spread wide. From the very onset, it had stated this was it's goal. To systematically assault the mind of Rock, to break him, and then... well. Has he already revealed the hell in store for Rock? Was that illusion the sort of thing he shall suffer, until his grasp on reality fades, and over time, his consciousness? Like a man taken apart an atom at a time until they are nothing but dust, something that not only is not alive but had NEVER been alive, /when/ in that horrific process will Rock Howard be considered truly dead?

"Ah... so you listened to my advice. You awakened your blood. How--"

The massive eruption of power then flashes over the creature. It recoils, attempting to heft up a sea of hair, but multiple lances pierce through, blowing holes easily a foot around clean through it. Black blood gushes out, and the huge creature is sent flying backwards, hitting the corner of the stone-like tomb and shattering much of it, cascades of concrete crumbling down. It vomits, expelling blood, prior horrific meals, and worse, creating a massive pool that begins to hiss and sizzle like acid.

"G-gah... what is this...!" The world seems to shimmer, trees surrounding Rock warping like a mirage, and the moons grow hazy. "Haa... haa... I did not expect... your watered-down strength from your father to be able to disrupt /me...!/" This is an interesting revelation. Does these hairy lips have all the answers to a person, but not true omniscience? It seems genuinely surprised by the assault having such an effect. Did it's cruel attempt to force Rock to use his cursed blood end up giving Rock the opportunity to free himself, or even kill it...?

"Playtime... is over...!!"

Suddenly the lips open wide. The flex of muscles, the flare of tongue, all seem to indicate that it's shrieking. Yet no noise is audible. Instead, people begin to pull themselves free of the countless dead. Terry, his neck shattered. Joe Higashi, chest housing a great hole. One by one, faces recognized by Rock, those he loved, those he failed, those he feared. Forearms thrust and shatter from the ground, before Geese Howard's shredded face, cheek scoured off and explosing bloody bone, thrums up and begins to rise.

"It's time." "You're dead." "The blood has consumed you." "You failed us all." "You failed yourself." "You failed your father."

But then he would feel gentle hands grasping his ankles, as slender forearms break through the soil directly beneath him. As the countless forms advance to fall upon Rock, to drag him into some unfathomable nightmare, to flay his body and mind, he would see the sickly features of his mother as she looked upon her deathbed.

"...you promised me you'd live, Rock... There is no cursed power. Only how you choose to wield it..." she whispers.


COMBATSYS: Rock just-defends Maw of Taishokan's Howl of the Abyss!

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

Try as it might to emotionally tenderize the boy, Rock is a stubborn meal. One who bends beyond any limit imaginable, but does not break. There is still time before the manic Cheshire grin can savour him...

However, should Rock escape...

More clear tears wash away mud and wine in lines, Rock lurching upright once his feet are beneath him. Every breath shakes him to the core. Using ungraceful steps to find even ground, that's just as the creature spirals through the mausoleum of its own design. Pillars cascade in collapse, dust rises, and a spew of blood pours from the gargantuan maw. The wave of red boils.

Playtime, according to whom? To spite the eldritch beast further, were he the type, Rock would have caustic remarks to share.

Alas, the moment passes.

It learned to its error not to think of the teen as a watered-down copy, no use expounding.

After silent screaming, the Maw of Taishokan has a voice only the dead can hear. They walk again, much to his absolute horror. It's so easy to forget that everything is an illusion, just bearing different forms; now all of the faces are familiar, but each body or features are mangled in some irreparable way. A few, Rock hasn't met for years. Retreating back, there's nowhere to run. Presumably, the void either extends on for eternity, or the edge invites plunging into the black abyss. Neither are favourable.

Unable to decide what comes next, he stalls. Wade through the deceased, or the unfathomable darkness behind. The imprints of two hands are blackened-blue against the pale skin of Terry's crushed windpipe. As the corpse shuffles close enough to grip the smoking bomber jacket, the unexpected grasp around Rock's ankles results in a startled cry. He almost leaps into the air, his heart choking him.

The validity of the promise is questionable, but with stunning clarity, the Howard scion's sense of realism returns.

That never bodes well.


Marie doesn't have to tell him twice.

In a wild bid to restrain him, the Legendary Wolf lays claim to the leather coat. Rock slides out from it, and bursts forward, gathering momentum with long-legged strides. He knocks Joe Higashi around, Kim Kaphwan, and sends a classmate from Taiyo flying. Geese Howard receives a particularly nasty punch in the face that shatters his cheekbone. The rolling eye explodes in its socket. While not as cathartic as decking the real deal, it still has an ounce of satisfaction, the disowned son notes.

He's a human locomotive, a wrecking ball that's a streaking blonde blur. Maybe the hairy lips will sweep Rock away with an errant lock, or maybe it'll feel the first crack of his fist and others that follow. The pupil of a Wild Wolf skims the ruby surface of the pool as though he had wings.

If his aim is true, there's a left hook, haymaker, and combo uppercuts. When Rock eases back as if allowing the monster a small modicum of space, he surges in again with double the punishment. Two kicks, a snap, roundhouse. The barrage increases in tempo and sorrowful ferocity, until finally all the energy the pup can muster becomes a coalesced sphere of violet and cerulean. He releases it with a yell, hoping it rips the mouth to shreds!

COMBATSYS: Maw of Taishokan attempts to counter Deadly Rave Neo from Rock with Unholy Swallow.

                          MAW OF TAISHOKAN                          
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[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  <
Rock             0/-------/-------|

"Impossible..." the Maw of Madness hisses out, when Rock begins to head forward. The dead begin to vanish, disappearing into black miasma, fading amongst the gradually warping and bending landscape he had been stolen to. "Your soul is drowned in darkness. The sins of your blood. Your fears. Your apprehensions..."

"There should have been no light left in you!!"

This is genuinely aggravating. The supple lips are not interested in fighting. A sadistic bully, desiring only to drag down and consume others. The limitations of his divine spark... using his power to manifest Rock's soul, he underestimated the depth of Rock's love for his mother, and how even in the darkest night, even manifested as the weak, sad woman before she lost, her words still spoke what he needed to hear.

But as the brutal chi-imbued onslaught is prepared and launched out, the Maw roars. A burst of force staggers Rock, breaking his combination before it even begins. And then it is surging forward, spittle flaring, tongue lolling out to wrap around him. Intent on drawing him in, teeth beginning to snap down, as if to swallow him whole...!!

COMBATSYS: Rock reverses Unholy Swallow from Maw of Taishokan with Gedan Crack Counter.

                          MAW OF TAISHOKAN                          
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[                    \\\\\\\\\\  <
Rock             0/-------/-----==|

Before he can even begin to quench the thirst of his howling blood, it ends. As Rock attempts to strike with his full weight backing the first punch, the Maw of Taishokan emits a bestial roar. The blast of stale breath carries wine's sour fetor, death and decay. Forced into a retreat of steps, the Howard scion covers his nose and mouth lest he inhale the putrescent air. Talk about nasty. Retch.

... He can't be caught up in that, emptying the contents of his stomach will have to wait. They churn unpleasantly in his gut.

Falsely reading him, hoping to catch the cursed heir off balance, the eldritch horror shares numbing spittle, then the discoloured muscle unfurls from the cavern, seeking to drag its prey into the darkest pits with no bottom. "Feh, you're nothing but a slow, sore loser." Rock taunts, sweeping away blonde locks soaked with sweat to his skin. He vaults up over the tongue and mostly avoids the worst of errant ropes of flying saliva. His lean form twists into a front flip.

Moments later, plummeting with the speed of a small ballistic missile, the young wolf heel-drops the creature again in the teeth, or those crimson-painted lips. Hard. If Rock could make it bite off that lolling serpentine organ flopping around like a fish out of water? He'll celebrate by smirking broadly.

Doubtful the fates would be so kind.

The American teen rebounds sloppily, assuming a loose fighting stance that is lacklustre, but only because he's fast approaching his limit. Rock cannot push himself much further...

But his renewed defiance shall persist beyond consciousness. It shows that the bully of a monster can hurt the Howard boy, can distort his sense of reality, strip his soul bare, but extinguishing his light is an endeavour forever lost. Love is often underestimated by those who do not understand; even just an illusion of Marie Heinlein would never betray her son.

Any feeling in his feet and left arm finally fade, the limb hanging at his side, spots of spit sizzling his pale flesh. Rock remains upright through sheer force of will, surprising even himself. It's actually rather impressive, especially as he /moves/. Let's finish this, one way or the other, he thinks.

The brutal impact impacts the upper lip this time. It's drive forward abated, teeth snap shut on empty air, a small spray of spittle liable to make anywhere it touches Rock numb and unpleasant. The hair then thrashes, pressing the entity backwards, as it lets out a horrible rattling hiss like some kind of serpent. The world continues to corrode around them, cracks like that of a mirror shimmering into being in the shadowy distance, revealing that the surroundings appear to be a perfect globe... only morphed by this demon's illusion to appear like a twisted forest with that partially broken shrine in the midst.

"Hahaha... what a shame. You were so closed to breaking... like a perfectly cooked egg, only I was too rough on the shell. And the sweet yolk spills all over, and you can only lap at your fingers, woeful at what could have been... you've severed my tenebrous connection with my little realm. No matter the outcome, you'll fall back to Earthrealm. What a pity... you were SO delicious..."

And then suddenly the great mass undulates forward, drawing up to Rock. With a little purr, like an overgrown feline, it rakes out it's tongue. Massive, knotty warts and growths cover the muscular organ, as it tries to lap across the teen from knee to face... the thick, heavy, stinking saliva liable to send his entire body convulsing and into shock, as it tries to paralyze his very soul with horrific corruption...!

COMBATSYS: Rock fails to interrupt Vile Lick from Maw of Taishokan with Rising Tackle.

                          MAW OF TAISHOKAN                          
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[                           \\\  <
Rock             0/-------/---====|

COMBATSYS: Rock keeps on fighting!

                          MAW OF TAISHOKAN                          
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[                           \\\  <
Rock             0/-------/---====|

It might have been too much to hope for, that a horrendous clack of teeth would rend the air and the tongue be clipped at the root, but Rock isn't entirely unhappy with the results. He uses long strides to propel his numb, sluggish frame forward, almost enough to break into a run.

The Maw of Taishokan scuttles away using its hair, and overhead, a strange phenomenon. What is that in the distance, the convex side of a sphere? Does the light represent escape, another world, or the afterlife? Rock glances in longing, but can pay no more thought when he's struck by realization, stunned at the monster's divulgence...

If he can just hold on, he's almost there.

Is that asking for the impossible?

Whether he fights to live to fulfill an obligation, keep promises, flee, or because he has been heartened by the illusion of his mother, Rock Howard brings a savage war to the youkai's doorstep. Marie's breathless rattle is worn as a salve and shield.

Undulating like an amorphous blob, the giant bruised lips part. Not that. Anything but the gross, ugly muscle, seeking to drag its warty surface across his body without first obtaining consent. Flinching, Rock's disgust reaches critical levels. In error, he decides... he will not abide this mortifying, repulsive insult. "Don't touch me!" The Howard boy bellows. He does...


Intending to corkscrew kick it wherever the frenulum was, but unable to confirm the existence of such, Rock falls short of his own expectations. Overthinking the matter costs him. His fair flaxen-crowned head turns to prevent the worst of it from smearing rotting saliva all over any orifice used to breathe, but the tongue otherwise laps at the attractive teen like an enthusiastic pup roughly thirty times his size.

This is bad. Shouts of revulsion cannot eke past the pursed barrier of his mouth, drawn into a line. The young prodigy's left arm pops at the shoulder, jolting of its own accord. Next, his knees spasm. Crashing onto the shattered cobblestones heavily, Rock jerks wildly as the convulsions begin and dictate his actions. His crimson eyes roll back, jaw dropping to scream silently, barely able to gargle incoherently while every muscle twitches...

But the corruption, leaving a diminutive stain on his soul, ultimately finds it as resilient as Rock himself. He fades to blackness when the pain of the seizure demands his submission, yet in the same moment, remains aware. Is the kid so delicious because of his history, his strength, or his inner conflict? With a rush of cursed blood, adrenaline for one final stand, his scarlet irises slide back into view. This fucking thing bit off more than it can handle.

He just has to get up...

"Look at you. You lay helpless before me." The cracks become more violent in the surrounding area, and a strange hissing noise begins to be heard as it appears fragments of the surrounding sphere break away and are absorbed into what seems to be a void. Air can be felt violently drawing upwards, pieces of stone and dirt whirling up before dissipating to nothing as the false illusionary matter is dispelled. Hair wetly drags the maw closer, looming over high, dark shadow cast across the boy now defiled in both body and mind. "If your unexpected assault hadn't wounded my link to this realm, ah... what a death you'd have. What does it matter...? You know nothing, boy. I could crush your skull between my grand molars. Grind it until what makes your vessel 'you' is gone. But I am not such a base creature. Knowing you might bear the scares of our battle... is sufficient for me to be satisfied... I had fun, after all. And we might yet meet again..."

The hairs shift until now the great maw is settled directly above Rock, lips parting broad to show broken teeth. Acrid, acidic blood drips from it as an ungodly breath exhales across him. "Now... before we part... let me TASTE your soul in earnest..." And then it descends, slowly, smoothly, lips puckering together. To warmly press upon Rock's entire body, and then draw him with strange gentleness and warm smooching noises within the ghastly creature's mouth. A dark void of nothing but horrors, best left unpondered by even the most resilient mind.

COMBATSYS: Maw of Taishokan successfully hits Rock with Foul Tomb.

                          MAW OF TAISHOKAN                          
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[                                <
Rock             0/-------/=======|

Even if he weren't in the throes of a paroxysm of spasms, Rock would have little to say. He's never been the type to banter, or defend himself verbally. Both have always struck the broody teen as tools of the arrogant, or the weak...

Right now, despite having never felt weaker, he'll not stoop so low as to whine about his helplessness. Rock would refuse until his very last breath to grant the taunting lips a modicum of satisfaction it desires.

He lays on his back, gaze heavenward, watching the 'sky' break to pieces. The upwards draft stretches out invisible fingers that claw at his soaked t-shirt, his matted fringe, wishing to draw him into the void where all things beyond disperse. Beneath Rock's prone form, the cobblestones tremble, unable to free themselves to join their stone brethren and other debris in flight.

His chest heaves. Dying tremors shake his limbs, soon replaced with a numbness that spreads from head to toe. The Maw of Taishokan obscures his view, looming with its serpentine tresses of midnight and oversized mouth far too big for anything but a true monster born from the abyss. Rock glares, pupils reduced to the size of a pinhead. It opens the yawning gap to jabber, because parting is always such sweet sorrow. "Tch."

If it thinks he's so delectable and has some glorious death in store for him, the next meeting is inevitable. Quit wasting words.

And don't breathe on him, because that noxious expulsion of air that bathes him is no less rotten than before. Rock can't lift his arms to fend it off. As the damnable creature declares the intention to taste his soul, he lacks the strength to protect himself...

The drops of congealed blood burn through clothing, scorch alabaster skin. When it inches forward, he would give anything to prevent the abomination from defiling him further. Unfortunately, he has nothing. Foisting upon the boy a gentle kiss, it crushes Rock against the ground, attempting to suck him into the foul wastes that he has managed to avoid thus far, but could not forever. It is a place of darkness and every fear imaginable. Everything that wishes to extinguish his light, rip apart his mind, and obliterate the Howard scion's entire sense of self.

Prison bars made of teeth...


Violet-cerulean chi wraps him up in an ethereal glow, illuminating the cavern and all the horrors whose multiple sets of eyes blink in the shadows. Pushed about by the twisting tongue, Rock finds his knees and steels his resolve. The undulating uvula swings like a pendulum at the back of the throat. "DOUBLE..." Swinging the dead weight attached at his shoulder, the ward of the Legendary Wolf screams at oblivion his will to survive. "REPPUKEN!"

A single hope, a bright crescent, and the world goes black.

COMBATSYS: Rock can no longer fight.

                          MAW OF TAISHOKAN                          
  [                                         ||||||||||||||||||| ]

COMBATSYS: Maw of Taishokan interrupts Double Reppuken from Rock with Gentle Suppression.

                          MAW OF TAISHOKAN                          
  [                                                    |||||||| ]

"Mmm. Superb flavor. Rage... tinged with nothingness..." rumbles from the mouth as that massive flaccid tongue rolls and shifts Rock within, as if literally doing as promised. Somehow it manages perfect dictation with closed jaws, as if the words resonate within Rock. Has it ever truly spoken, then? Has all this communication been something beyond words? "One would not normally think absence can be a defining flavor, but..." As the last dredges of Rock's energy wells up in defiance, the mouth slickly opens, tendrils of saliva tethering plush lips. Black hair slithers within, gently wrapping around him, and drawing him backwards. This interrupts the formation of the reppuken, and the explosion within sends smoke billowing out between teeth. A loud burp follows, before Rock is dangled in front of it. Like a puppeteer, hairs slither around joints, drawing him up to stand like some kind of limp mannequin. "Such a shame that we must part. But if I keep you here, you will die. And my goal is not that... or I would crunch your skull between my molars. Go, then. We'll meet again... I'll make sure of it..." Rock is then flung backwards, hitting the cobblestones just as they crack and melt away. Rock would feel an alarming rush of the void, stretched between worlds, before collapsing upon the cool grass near the bush where he was grasped. Wounded, covered in saliva, but alive... if barely. A deep, rich chuckle thrums as if from a great distance, before a mild distortion in the air finally fades to naught...

COMBATSYS: Maw of Taishokan has ended the fight here.

Log created on 01:11:07 11/08/2017 by Rock, and last modified on 21:38:49 12/05/2017.