World Warrior 2018 - World Warrior Qualifier - Azrael vs Blood

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Description: Azrael intercepts Blood's attempt to interview another potential for World Warrior; he opts to play with his food, and comes to realize why those of Strolheim are heralds for the strongest man in the world.

A surprisingly formal invite was passed to Blood; a man of high etiquette who considered martial arts a nobleman's sport. It requested his presence at a certain time and date, within a herculean building fortified by great advances in electronic and mundane security. The fighter in question is below the caliber that Blood might bother with... although to dishonor a challenger from seeing where they stand in the world is another matter entirely. The multi-storied building looms high in the business district, a conglomerate of industrial and shipping that within the shadows works strongly in illegal shipping and transportation, including for the likes of Bernstein and Krauser himself.

But there is nobody in the lobby to greet Blood. He would expect a number of quiet and competent guards. The secretary's desk sits empty. There is no sign of a fight, although instincts say otherwise. Something is wrong, and it seems no trap intended for Blood. They were to meet on the 10th floor, although his host said he would be escorted with all formality and respect. The way to the elevator lay open, and currently there are no locks to ascend.

Presently, he'd feel no powerful presence in the building. Perhaps this man let down his guard for World Warrior, and his competition sent a squad to assassinate him. Such is the most likely scenario. But confirmation would be important, if merely to begin arranging for new methods of international shipping beneath the eyes of the authorities...

The work of a Lieutenant and servant in House Strolheim is rarely done.

With the countless preparations to be made for his master, Wolfgang Krauser, Laurence Blood has been busier than usual. No longer is his primary concern administering the daily minutiae the noble German's affairs. There are countless warriors to test, to determine whether they are /worthy/ of the esteemed honour of an invitation to do battle under Krauser's watchful gaze. Given an /opportunity/ to prove themselves in the magificent halls of Castle Strolheim.

Many have been lacking the true spirit of a warrior... even the one man who had received an invitiation at this point had refused to fight to the bitter end. He had laid down like a dog, and it was only on Mr. Glenn's performance throughout the fight prior that moment - and his record as a fighter and man of duty - that earned him an invitation...

...along with a warning. 'Do not disappoint me'.

And today, something rather interesting; an invitation sent to /him/. The majority of the previous fighters have been approached by the Strolheim Lieutenant based upon their performance on the world stage, past acts of glory, their known martial skill.

While it is certainly unorthodox for Blood himself to be paying a visit to someone on /their/ insistence, etiquette demands it. How could he do any less, after all? And if the man proves to be wasting his time, well... that would be on /their/ head.

After all; if the man proves a worthy addition to the tournament, it is his responsibility to discover this fact for himself. Krauser wants the best in the world, and it is Laurence's sworn oath to find these individuals - wherever they might be.

As he walks into the empty lobby, the Spanish man raises a single eyebrow in surprise... how odd, particularly considering the hour of the day, to find such a massive building - in the heart of the business district - so empty...

To say it intrigues him all the more is to put it lightly; something about the Matador always loved a mystery... and so he doesn't turn and go, despite the possible dangers that lay in a potential ambush.

If someone is /foolish/ enough to try and lay a trap for one of Krauser's loyal servants... it will merely bring the wrath of House Strolheim down upon their head. Truly, nobody can be /that/ foolish.

So, without a single word, Blood begins to walk towards the elevator... his dark, deep brown eyes continue to scan the empty lobby as he walks, the quiet footfalls of his foot on tiled floor echoing throughout the eerily silent confines of the building.

The 10th floor, the invitation said... we shall see what awaits there.

The elevator thrums into motion, dinging up higher and higher. It reaches seven, eight, nine... then dings at then. The metal doors slide open.

And Laurence's senses are overwhelmed by blood.

A great open area stands here, with tall pillars; it is a good two stories high, taking up all of the upper level. In the center of it is a large square arena, filled with sand marred crimson. Perhaps two dozen, maybe three, bodyguards and security defense forces lay broken all around. One lay broken at the base of a pillar, with the damage upon the great marble seeming like he was struck by a car. Countless bullet shells lay all around, meaning whoever did this was under constant fire.

Things don't add up. Blood's eyes would easily trace that people came rushing out of the elevators, attacking someone. How could an assassination team get this high before being found out? And every single body clearly belongs to the man Blood has come here to find. The last item of note... all of those dead were struck by a single apocalyptic blow, no finesse, no refinement. Only overwhelming force.

The great double doors at the end leading to the rooftop office burst open. An incredibly tall man strides forth, broad shouldered and with heavily sculpted muscles. White pants are stained with blood, one shrouded in a black leather cover. Twin belts lace his hips, and a large white coat with dangling sleeves hangs from his shoulders. Strange tattoos are etched across his bare arms and chest.

One hand is grasping the head of the man Blood came to meet. Little point, now. He's dead. Azrael's bored eyes shift to Blood, one hand in his pocket. His outfit has many bulletholes in it, but only unmarred flesh lay beneath. Both his hands stink of blood.

"Looks like I finally sniffed out a lead... this man said someone was coming. Who'd tell me how to play with the pig dogs." He opens his fingers, allowing the corpse to thump on the ground. "But he couldn't satiate me until you arrived..." This man's aura is strange. Blood would assess him as being roughly as strong as him. Yet it doesn't feel right. It feels restrained; shackled. Some power is keeping this man's true strength at bay, and there's no clue the maximum extent of it.

"So... how's this work? I kill you, and you give me an invitation...?" Azrael glances at his bloody fingers, before bringing it up for long swishes of his tongue to clean them off.

COMBATSYS: Blood has started a fight here.

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Blood            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Azrael has joined the fight here.

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Blood            0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0           Azrael

Stepping into the elevator, Blood presses his back against the cold metal wall - and keeps an eye on the panels above. Part of him, with the sharpened danger-sense of a fighter /and/ former Matador, still expects trouble. An ambush, an assassination attempt by one of House Strolheim's many rivals, perhaps.

But the metal box just keeps rising, and he remains unmolested the entire ride up.

Those shining, steel doors open at floor 10 - and immediately, Laurence's nostrils are assaulted by a smell that is all-too familiar for a man under the employ of Wolfgang Krauser. Blood, and in no small amount; it's only through his own iron-like willpower and experience in matters of violence that prevent him from gagging... particularly once he takes in the sights around him.

So many dead... perhaps this /is/ a trap...

Once his keen eyes notice the method of their deaths, he pauses mid-step; mouth coming close to opening in shock before he doubles down on his resolve and clenches his teeth against each other. Someone did this with their /hands/, this entire team of men slaughtered like cattle... such /power/.

His mind is running through the list of people who are even /capable/ of such a feat... naturally, his Master is one of the few; and the others that are known to the Head of House Strolheim have already been invited by virtue of their overwhelming skill and strength.

These thoughts are cut short when the doors at the end of the corridor burst open, outwards, with what seems like a shockwave of force - one that forces Blood to widen his stance and grit his teeth all the harder. The strength emanating off that massive and broad man who strolls forth through the doorway... he can /feel/ it from here.

It is his duty, however, to represent Strolheim in all things - even in his death, should it come to that. And so there is no fear evident on his face, just curiosity and an expression of being /impressed/ by what he sees (despite the sheer horror of it).

Eyes shoot to the face of the man held in Azrael's gigantic palm... dead, of course. So this /was/ a trap...

...though, it seems, not to assassinate the Strolheim Lieutenant out of hand. This man - whoever he is - wants to be tested... to Blood it seems almost pointless; given the scene he'd just strolled through, if the coat-clad man had simply made an appearance on the public circuit he would have /no doubt/ merited an invitation.

And yet, he's never /seen/ this individual before. How could a man of such /power/ escape the view of Wolfgang Krauser - that esteemed Nobleman who made it his /business/ to track down individuals of such immense worth?

Laurence's lips curl down in disgust as he watches Azrael lick the blood of his fingers. So /unrefined/, it practically sickens him... he never had much favour for warriors who - rather than killing out of duty or honour or to prove their worth, simply do so for sport, or some sick enjoyment.

But... he's here. And there is no way he could escape, even if it were within his purview to do so. No, this man must be brought to Krauser's attention... and he can hardly do so without meeting him in battle first. It is /not/ his place to hand out invitations without a proper test first.

So, the sword resting on a loop of Laurence's belt is pulled free, the cape draped over his left forearm swished to the side with a flourish. The point of that sword is jabbed in the air at Azrael's direction; already, a great surge of power seems to run down the length of the blade, back into Blood's arm, up and down his entire form... his hair ripples with the wind caused by the sudden charge of energy.

He will /need/ it, for the fight to come.

"You may try..." comes the words from the Strolheim Lieutenant - and surprisingly, there is no hesitancy or worry in them... he may very well be facing his death, but he will do so with grace, with honour, with the courage to be expected of a servant in the employ of Wolfgang Krauser.

COMBATSYS: Blood gathers his will.

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Blood            0/-------/---====|=------\-------\0           Azrael

"Fine. Sure. I'll try."

As Blood assumes a proper battle stance, Azrael slowly begins to stride over. He's a fair distance away; it would require someone to charge forward a couple seconds, even a fighter of great class and speed. Blood's instincts and his senses are telling him two very different things. Azrael is throttling himself majorly; but also that, if he had a care, he could remove such inhibitions. What sort of man would purposefully weaken himself...? That spits in the very creed of Krauser's ideals!

Of course, a moment later Azrael moves. His body shimmers, and the three meters between him and Blood are gone in a heartbeat. He stands there, looming over with his blue hair shimmering in the wake. Hard eyes stare down. Utterly fearless, that of an apex predator. His aura in such proximity has routed men who thought themselves strong, thought themselves disciplined, even fully reigned in.

And no attack comes. He's not even in anything Blood would recognize as a combative stance.

"Hit me." he says, simple and to the point. "Go on. Hard as you can. Let me see if you're even worth my time." Both arms then flow upwards, billowing away his sleeves and showing the dark, engrained tattoos. They seethe with a strange power, and now would be clear. Limiters. These are why he feels so weak. Did someone shackle this monster's power, and that's why he escaped notice...?

"Whether you're a proper meal or not will influence if you're worth playing with...!"

COMBATSYS: Azrael takes no action.

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Blood            0/-------/---====|=------\-------\0           Azrael

As Azrael strides closer and closer, seemingly without a care for the Blood's well-known reputation as a skilled and deadly warrior, the honed senses of the Matador pick up something strange...

...why would /any/ man of honour limit their power, in such a way? It's obvious now - and surprising, considering the carnage that he unleashed upon the dead men littering the 10th floor - this man is not even operating at his full power.

The three meters left between the two are closed in the blink of an eye, leaving Laurence staring up at a man who dwarfs even him - the Spanish man who stands near 6-and-a-half feet tall himself. Azrael is now so close that the tip of his sword is almost pressed against that thickly muscled, broad chest of the mysterious brute.

He's... not afraid. This alone is shocking to Laurence; but, again, it is his duty to show no fear /himself/.. and so those deep brown eyes look back up into Azrael's steely gaze without a trace of the terror that any lesser fighter would be feeling. So close to a man who seems not only capable, but /ready/, to utterly break anyone in his path.

No doubt his numerous spars with Master Krauser have strengthened his own resolve in such matters. For to show hesitation, or fear, or even /concern/ in the House of Strolheim meant death - even for a loyal administrator and Lieutenant such as himself.

Those tattoos are revealed, and Blood picks up on the strange power that seems to ooze off of them.

Azrael has murdered these men in cold blood... he is standing without fear, not even in a combat stance, a grievous insult to Blood's own prowess in battle... and what's more, he (or someone else... though who could do such to a man this powerful, if he did not wish it himself?) is /limiting/ himself.

It is simply too much for his sense of honour and decorum to bear. This man, despite that overwhelming power surging from him, is /everything/ that Laurence detests.

Even if he were not duty-bound to test him, to bring him to Krauser's attention - if he merits it - he would still be forced to do battle with this man... if only to try and knock this individual - who seems more monster than men - down a peg.

"You dare..." hisses Blood, his voice low and hateful - a rare occurence for a man who prides himself on being proper, even in the heat of battle - as he stares up at Azrael with disgust in his eyes.%r
"To /test/, a servant of House /Strolheim/?"

At that, a laugh - and then a sudden burst of movement... spinning on his heels gracefully, Blood doesn't lash out with that sword - rather, in a blur of movement, he aims to land an elbow strike at the center of the man's heaving chest... another twist of his lithe, graceful, practiced form and then a savage, open-hand palm-strike is aimed at the exact same spot.

"We shall see, if /you/ are worthy!"

COMBATSYS: Azrael endures Blood's Bloody Palm.

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Blood            0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0           Azrael

There's absolutely no reaction to Blood's assault. His eyes simply watch the man spiral. The show, the flair; Blood has mastered a deceptive style, to conceal his intent, to disrupt and surprise opponents, but it becomes clear that such is wasted on this opponent. What might be apparent is his eyes never once looked towards the sword, only the elbow, as it drives forward and impacts him dead in the sternum. Azrael's stance is loose. His muscles relaxed. He makes no attempt to absorb or deflect the blow, beyond a momentary surge of his tattoos.

He skids back an inch, and Blood's elbow might be throbbing heavily. There was no give to this monster. It was like attacking a statue; or perhaps Krauser himself. There is no way a man of this individual's sensed power could be possibly this durable.

"What...? That was just an elbow... That's your hardest hit? Try again."

He rubs the back of his hand upon his chest, unmarred. Still, that soul.. that rage... a slow grin spreads across his lips, baring fangs akin to a beast. "I just have one question..."

"Who the hell is House Strolheim...? If you're the best they have... maybe I should go back to sleep."

COMBATSYS: Azrael takes no action.

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Blood            0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0           Azrael

It's like hitting a brick wall... or something even harder. The moment his keen eyes notice that Azrael is making /no/ attempt to defend himself, or to twist out of the path of the elbow, or to deflect the blow in any way... Blood knows he is dealing with something far, far greater than many of those who deem themselves 'the Strongest in the World'.

The impact of that elbow on the towering man's chest runs back through Laurence's arm and throughout his entire body. He realizes, from the reaction of this mysterious warrior, that he likely hurt /himself/ more than he did this other man. That elbow throbs in pain, and the jolting sensation takes a few moments to die down in Laurence's own body.

To his credit, he makes no show of surprise on that stern, goateed face - no widening of his eyes in shock, no dropping open of his mouth... just silence, as he watches the man skid back a mere inch from the powerful strike. Well, powerful when applied to /most/ fighters; it is obvious that this man is something else. Even with those tattoos seemingly limiting his full power, he barely /budged/ under the assault.

What does draw a reaction, however, is the insult paid to that esteemed House which he has pledged his service and his life to - even unto death.

He... dares?!?!

And what's more, who /is/ this man, that he has not heard the widely-respected - and feared - name of House Strolheim? It has been a fixture in the world of warriors for longer than Wolfgang Krauser - that lineage has been known to fighters around the world for generations, if not more. Where did this powerful individual come from? /Why/ has he escaped all notice, even with those Limiters placed upon him?

Something... is wrong.

All this runs through Blood's head in mere seconds - and none of the thoughts show upon his face. He won't grant the man the pleasure or satisfaction of seeing him sweat, seeing a Strolheim Lieutenant wither under that terrifying gaze, the depth of Azrael's immense power.

"You may insult me as you wish, you /savage/..." says Blood, almost spitting the words, his voice barely above a whisper... He seems offended, that much is obvious.

"But do /not/ presume to speak ill of my Master, or his House!!!"

It's a shout, a thing hardly /ever/ heard from Laurence Blood, that man who prides himself on maintaining proper etiquette in all things. Azrael's cocky confidence and disregard for the sanctity of both House Strolheim /and/ this battle have gotten to the Spanish man.

This time, when the sword /does/ come up in another sudden burst of movement - a twist and twirl to the right takes him out of the direct path of Azrael, off to one side... and the tip of that blade slashes up, suddenly imbued with potent blue chi, as he cuts and dices in eight consecutive slashes up and down Azrael's right side.

There's no holding back now, no sense of this merely being a /test/. This man insulted Strolheim; for that, he must surely die - be it at Laurence's hands, or Krauser's himself when his Master discovers what happened here today...

COMBATSYS: Azrael barely endures Blood's Bloody Slash.

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Blood            0/-------/------=|===----\-------\0           Azrael

Azrael is patient, to a degree. He's watching the man, waiting, and there's a sign of wicked expectation from him. A crimson aura begins to boil up, drawing off his skin like liquid that sends his blue hair fluttering. Eyes snap down to the blade as it rakes up, and he remains in his open stance. Again, the only defense is the pressure of his aura brought to bare. Each slash rips into him, driving him back further and further, and the last one cleaves through his white sleeve, raking across with a lash of steel and chi... but there's no actual marks upon him. Even Krauser bleeds. His aura has shrank, however -- if not for that, he might have just given the impression he was invincible.

"Hahaha!! Yes!! THAT! That is EXACTLY what I'm looking for!!" Of course, this time Azrael is not merely waiting afterwards. A splayed hand is above Blood as he moves to renew his stance, and then descends. It is utterly simple, nothing but an attempt to impact and slam the man into the ground, quaking the entire tenth floor. But it's slow. Lazy. He's still not using his true strength... not even now.

"You'll make a good meal after all...!" There's a wildness in his eyes. This is no martial artist. This is not someone who can even be called a brawler. Those are the base, mindless eyes of a simple beast given the form of man. Someone who thrives on the thrill, adrenaline and carnage of the battlefield. The antithesis of Krauser, a noble man who trains relentlessly with honor and dignity, honing his body into a blade.

This man... is a dull, heavy club. But at what point is a club big enough to offset such things?

COMBATSYS: Blood blocks Azrael's Weakened Palm Smash.

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Blood            0/-------/----===|===----\-------\0           Azrael

As his sword, razor sharp and deadly, bounces almost harmlessly off of the man - and that immeasurable aura surrounding him - Blood's mind runs back to an encounter days ago... Krauser, testing Eiji and himself, in the halls of Castle Strolheim. His blade was useless against the iron-like, nigh-impenatrable skin of Wolfgang... in a way frighteningly close to how Azrael seems able to shrug off the chi-enfused slashes.

It shouldn't be possible, for some unknown warrior to appear - seemingly out of nothingness - and remind him so much of Wolfgang Krauser, a man whose name rings out as legend around the world. Why has he not heard /tales/ of this towering savage? Is it because he has murdered all those who bore witness to his true strength, or for some other reason entirely?

Still, nothing about Blood's demeanor shows a hint of the fear that any rational man would be feeling; a testament, if nothing else, to his own steely resolve in the face of such dangers.

That massive palm comes down from on-high; slow, relaxed, almost casually... it's enough to bring a fresh scowl of disgust and resentment to Lauren's usually polite, impassive face. This man dares to treat him as some plaything? Some pawn in a game? To disrespect the rules of battle in such a way, it wounds Blood's honour in a way that physical harm could never manage.

He truly /does/ dare to keep his full strength hidden... a man of that size... a man who tore through this entire team... he should be capable of far greater strikes.

Laurence Blood understands he's being /toyed/ with - and that realization is perhaps the one thing that is capable of chipping away at his usually proper and professional mannerisms. As he raises his left forearm - blood-red cape draped over it, as always - into the path of the blow, he's staggered by the impact... but he knows, he should be sent sprawling; that he would be, if this man wasn't so obviously holding back.

"I am no meal, for a beast such as yourself," seethes Laurence, as he turns the stagger into a twirl - gaining a few feet of distance between himself and the monstrous individual he's found himself in battle again. His eyes once again fall upon the towering frame of Azrael; and if he were less refined, no doubt he'd spit in disgust.

This man is no warrior. He is a savage. A brute. And he deserves to be put down as such... if it's within Blood's capability to even /do/ so.

He has his doubts. But again, he is showing /none/ of them to Azrael - he will not allow him the enjoyment of seeing a Lieutenant of House Strolheim sweat in such a manner.

Spinning the hilt of his sword around in one deft, practiced hand, Blood narrows his eyes - looking up and down the massive body of his foe for some sign of weakness and... finding none. The man stands as a statue; tall, dense, almost incapable of being harmed.

But, it's Laurence's duty - both to Krauser and to his own sense of honour, which has been impugned upon by this mysterious warrior - to try to harm him... to show him the foolishness of disregarding one of Krauser's loyal servants in such a manner.

That sword-hilt ceases spinning in his hand, and he lunges forward suddenly - spinning the flashy red cape in between him and Azrael, an attempt to blind the man to Blood's advance... and then striking out, underneath the material, with his razor-sharp sword...

...aimed to drive the tip of it directly into Azrael's midsection with all of Laurence's not-insignificant weight behind it.

COMBATSYS: Azrael blocks Blood's Fierce Strike.

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Blood            0/-------/----===|===----\-------\0           Azrael

"Don't be ridiculous..." Azrael comments after driving Laurence backwards slightly by the slam of his hand. "Since when does the rabbit have a say in what the wolf wants?" Rising up slowly, his entire body is open. He is not in a particularly defensible position. His stance is lazy and poor. His center of balance is purely off. By every technical measure, Blood is looking at a complete amateur. This man has obviously never trained, never honed his technique, to any noticeable degree he has yet to display.

The cape whirls and the blade sings out. A massive hand flits out and catches it in the middle. The tip is stopped just shy of reaching those tattooed pectorals. And his grin spreads all the wider. "Good!! This is as weak as I can make myself... and you're KEEPING UP!!" He then lunges upwards, whirling out a massive kick. It sweeps across the air like a greataxe towards Blood, before Azrael twists and hefts his heel high. It then descends with a snarl, aiming to slam the heel into the smaller man's frame, the only cause of speed the sheer force behind it. Again the ground would quake, concrete splintering and the steel foundation underneath creaking ominously.

But what did he just say, about making /himself/ weak...?

COMBATSYS: Blood dodges Azrael's Weakened Lion Roar.

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Blood            0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0           Azrael

Those words... is it /possible/ that those tattoos, limiting Azrael's power to such a degree, were of his own conception? Could this man be purposefully weakening his power to such a degree? The very concept is alien to the mind of Laurence Blood - raised in an honourable fashion, to respect the rules of combat, both in his youth /and/ under the employ of Wolfgang Krauser.

Powerful this man might be, but he hardly deserves an invitation to House Strolheim if /this/ is how he conducts himself. To act in such a manner, to limit one's own potential, it's a grievious insult to the very foundations upon which that esteemed House is built. What would Wolfgang think, that man who murdered his own Father in battle because he refused to hold back an ounce of his own strength?

No doubt he would be just as sickened as Laurence himself is... perhaps even /more/ disgusted.

Though - if he survives the day - Blood will no doubt be making an immediate report to Krauser... this individual will have to /pry/ the invitation from within his inside vest pocket. He will not give it willingly to a man who is more beast than warrior; to do so would not only demean /himself/ but also the honour of Strolheim, as well.

He can only imagine the depths of this man's power, if he were to take this matter seriously - if he were to train himself, to have any grace or skill in his stance or assaults... it's nothing but languid strength, the power of a lion or jungle beast who knows he does not need to operate at his peak. Who is willing to spit in the fact of the very concept of such a battle, just to save himself the effort... or perhaps, just to give his prey a sporting chance?

"I will do /more/ than that," promises Laurence, as his practiced and agile form twirls once again on his heels; carrying him out of the path of that brutal kick, and coming to a stop several feet to the man's side. Strong he might be, impressively physical, and as solid as a reinforced steel door...

...but he's graceless. Slow. Hardly even putting for an /effort/... and though this disgusts the Matador to no small degree, it might just give him the chance he /needs/.

"I will put you down like the /dog/ you are!"

At that threat, the Spanish man leaps up and towards the towering form of Azrael; his red cape whips out at the man's face in an attempt to disorient him. As he travels over the man's hulking frame, Laurence aims a slash along this creature's back with the tip of that deadly sword - before landing in a crouch behind him.

COMBATSYS: Azrael interrupts Bloody Cutter from Blood with Weakened Panzer Strike.

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Blood            1/-------/=======|======-\-------\0           Azrael

His heel is still buried deep in the rubble from his failed assault when Blood rushes towards him. His eyes slit and shift sidelong, taking in his current location. For a moment, it seems the gambit worked. Crimson fabric whirls before the man, who makes an annoyed sound. "What man fights with a BLANKET?!"

The moment the sword strikes his back, Azrael knows where Blood is. And he responds. Whirling around, his knee shoots upwards, slamming into the powerful matador's chest. The pair go flying upwards, force displaying through the other man's form. His body is highly trained, his technique proper, and it's not too difficult to endure the assault with the power he uses now.

And then Azrael rears back his right hand, igniting it with crimson energy. A second swing follows, slamming into Laurence's side. The pair descend like a meteor, crashing near the sand-filled arena and sending cracks up the adjacent columns as dust rains from the glass ceilings high above. Azrael looms over the other fighter, and for this split second, revels in their position.

As the brute looms over, and it is Blood who lays on the ground beneath him.

"I want to fight MORE like you...! Hahaha! Tell me how, my worthy meal. And I'll not strip the flesh from your bones!!"

Even fighting at a fraction of his potential, Azrael seems a match for the expert hand of Laurence Blood.

Leaving the blanket comment untouched - hardly wanting to lower himself to respond to such a ridiculous statement - the Strolheim Lieutenant is in the midst of slashing down the man's backside, when he catches a brutal knee to the chest. The impact is enough to send him flying upwards, a rush of air leaving the Spanish man's lungs from the force of the blow alone...

Azrael charges up to follow him; and that powerful right hand - illuminated with that mysterious crimson light - smashes down into the Matador's side. Again, it is only his experience in fighting those far greater than himself that allows Blood to absorb such force without so much as a groan of pain.

Instead, he is carried downwards - silently - by that massive palm, smashed into the sand with a shockwave of impact that seems nearly enough to collapse the ceiling on top of the pair of fighters.

His eyes shut from the pain, Laurence opens them to find that savage looming high above him... there's no doubt in his mind; if he were to try and roll away, he would be leaving himself open to a vicious follow-up blow...

Rather than attempt to create any distance between himself and Azrael, Blood's right hand - still clutching the hilt of that sword - slashes out in an attempt to drive the tip into the side of the man's knee... some vain effort to unbalance him, followed up with a sudden, sharp kick from the prone Laurence's left leg, at the exact same spot.

He doubts he will be able to fell the man; but perhaps it /is/ possible to begin chopping down the towering, imposing figure... bit by bit.

"I would die, before watching a /monster/ such as yourself disgrace the halls of House Strolheim with your presence!"

COMBATSYS: Blood successfully hits Azrael with Crushing Strike.

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Blood            1/-------/=======|=======\-------\0           Azrael

Oh? That's a good spark that Blood has. His blade slithers out, ripping through fabric and slashing across the back of his knee. This makes him begin to shift to catch himself, but the abrupt kick slams into his knee with furious strength and raw precision. Yet as the huge man falls, Azrael snaps out the back of his hand with a laugh, tanned flesh blurring into a line as he tries to belt Blood across the face with sheer force. Blowing into the man's torso is one thing, but there's far less measures to defend a rattled brain.

"Don't give me your crap... Fighting is nothing noble!! It's beast versus beast, predator eating predator!!" Azrael collapses to one knee afterwards, grimacing before moving to slowly rise up to his full height once more as hands shift to slither back within his pockets. "I was told Strolheim was a place for the strong... was I wrong?"

Crimson aura begins to flow off his body once more, the tattoos upon his frame flashing. This time, it sustains. His aura feels like a cage; the great, massive flow of his chi pressing hard against the bars, allowing Blood the chance to see what this beast might manage if unshackled. A mild earthquake rumbling through the floor, ambient light darkening in the wake of Azrael's bared resevoirs. His red eyes gleaming brighter, mouth spreading into a fangish grin.

"Are you saying I'm not STRONG ENOUGH?!"

COMBATSYS: Blood blocks Azrael's Weakened Swift Backhand.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Blood            1/------=/=======|=======\-------\0           Azrael

The words growled out by Azrael stand in stark contrast to /everything/ that Laurence believes about the nature of combat - for in his mind, there is nothing /more/ noble than two warriors meeting in battle, to the bitter end... even to death.

What meaning does combat hold, without any honour or grace or skill? It would be nothing; as pointless as two animals ripping and tearing at eachother... an insult, to both the victor /and/ the loser of such an encounter.

And Blood is determined, not to spend his life in such a way - when he does eventually fall, it will be a noble warrior, a Lieutenant to an esteemed House. /His/ death will have meaning... which means he /will/ survive this fight. He /must/.

Left forearm rises up into the path of that savage backhand, the impact rattling his body but managing to avoid the damage that an undeflected blow surely would have caused.

Rolling to his feet, he sweeps the tip of that sword through the air with a graceful flourish... pausing just a fraction of a second to consider Azrael's questions, his expression turns into a sneer of contempt as he replies.

"You are not /worthy/, strength or no."

Then, he's lunging back into action rushing forward at great speed and slashing out with a blur of sword strikes - aiming up and down Azrael's tall, imposing frame... he's no longer picking and choosing his strikes, just slashing /everything/ he can, hoping that something makes a difference in this encounter.

COMBATSYS: Azrael blocks Blood's Bloody Flash.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Blood            0/-------/-------|=======\-------\0           Azrael

"Is that so? Then I suppose the appetizer portion is over..."

Azrael finally shifts to guard, igniting his forarms. The ruthless storm of blows are all intercepted, not a single one slipping past to reach his body. Did he...? No. This is still not technique. Raw reactions, the monstrous figure able to see and respond to them intuitively, despite the raw nature of his physique. Both forearms snap out when the last blow strikes out, a hearty laughs leaving the massive figure. "You've piqued my tastes, blanket man, but you're not the main course I'm after... A piece of paper!! The man I ate earlier said you need one for me to attend these feeding grounds!!"

Suddenly the tattoos all across Azrael's body shine blindingly bright. And then about half of them fade away completely. Those that remain shine bright red, no longer able to so easily handle the storm of his battle power. The storm of his power throttles out, muscles bulging out noticeably, the air darkening all around. Crimson energy seethes actively from him, as if blood flowed towards the heaven in the wake of this warrior's bared fangs.

"Enchant Dragunov... Level Two!!"

A moment later, and he's upon Blood. As he did at the onset, it's almost like the titanous man teleports. Shifting to appear behind with trailing sleeves, bringing up both thick arms to slam them down with a mad, sadistic cackle, trying to drive him towards the floor. He's measurably stronger now... but still, this is not his maximum? A powerful intimidation boils out, churning the instincts of any living creature. Flight; hopeless; death. People who have survived the Mad Dog call it only 'The Terror', the most base and pure response of living beings in the wake of an apex predator intent to feed!

COMBATSYS: Azrael successfully hits Blood with Weakened Hammerblow.

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Blood            0/-------/---====|=======\-------\1           Azrael

The blindingly fast slashes of Blood's sword - /every/ single stab and thrust - are all deflected by the thickly muscled forearms of his brutish opponent. Truly, a lesser man would feel despair at this point... but Laurence Blood has been taught the ways of House Strolheim, to say nothing of his upbringing in the house of a noble Spanish family.

He will not allow himself to falter, or to show weakness, or fear... especially since he knows the joy it would bring to this savage animal he finds himself facing down today.

Of course, he knows about the invitation - and he must know, given Blood's own words, that he will have to /take/ it by force. Powerful he might be, but utterly without any of the honour or bearing that would earn him the right to step foot in House Strolheim.

This is, no doubt, in part of what is driving Laurence onwards in such a fashion; whereas many others would have collapsed under the weight of Azrael's blows - weakened though they might be... /he/ keeps on fighting, because he knows... once the man has that invitation out of his vest pocket, there will be nothing stopping him from attending the tournament. From /disgracing/ the halls of his Master with his animalistic, honourless urges.

How can he do any less, than fight to the last in order to prevent that?

"You will have to /take/ it from me," hisses Blood, words seething out from between clenched teeth...

Azrael suddenly appears /behind/ Blood - almost instantaneously... he didn't even feel a rush of wind pass by, as though he... he were /teleporting/. Who /is/ this monster?!?

Slammed down to the floor by those two massive limbs, Laurence finally emits the first pain-related noise he has this entire encounter... a grunt, short and sharp, but noticeable all the same.

Rolling to his feet, still clutching cape and sword, he spins both through the air in a graceful manner... even though the pain wracks his entire body.

Thrusting his sword tip once more towards Azrael, even as the /waves/ of threatening power rush off the man, Blood finally replaces his sneer with something else... a smirk. Energy begins to rush up from the tip of his sword, back throughout his weakened body - seemingly filling him with an unnatural resolve and power...

"And if you do... my Master will see to it that you are /destroyed/, like the savage beast you /are/."

COMBATSYS: Blood gathers his will.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Blood            1/-------/=======|=======\-------\1           Azrael

"Oh...?" Azrael sounds rather curious now, after he has slammed the other man down upon the ground. Again he pursues, shifting forward like a ghost. Teleportation...? No. This is mere speed. For those moments, Azrael is not limiting himself, breeching the distance in a heartbeat. There's no pause now when the man begins to build up his own power, Azrael rearing back his right arm as his blazing tattoos continue to draw crimson entrails behind in his wake.

"Does that mean if I kill you... your master is sure to fight me?!" There's a wildness in his eyes that makes it clear. He would tear off Blood's head and hurl it into the middle of Strolheim's exhibition halls if it might goad Krauser into combat. Such would be the ultimate disgrace, perhaps.

His right arm flexes, building up a swirl of crimson chi. And then Azrael unleashes a powerful punch, aiming to plow through any build resistance and strike the other man dead in his chest, unleashing a burst of powerful sealing magic in the motion. Such would change little the kinetic force it inflicted, however...!

COMBATSYS: Blood just-defends Azrael's Weakened The Terror!

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Blood            1/-------/=======|=======\-------\1           Azrael

As a renewed vitality and energy rushes through Blood's body - seemingly emanating from the tip of that sword - his back straightens, and his head rises higher... as though he were being filled with the pride and power of House Strolheim itself. Compared to Azrael, he seems noble - in every single way that monstrous brute is /not/.

Whether that bearing and demeanor alone will be enough when faced with this mysterious man - even as he limits himself - remains to be seen. As the rush of energy dies down, Laurence pulls the tip of his sword back and swirls his cape dramatically in front of his own body; a flourish that may cause a gale of laughter from Azrael, certainly, but that does not prevent him from executing it with grace and aplomb.

"I will not die at the hands of some mindless brute," states Laurence firmly, definitively, as though he had any choice in the matter... and perhaps, he still does.

As Azrael rushes forward with that punch, swirling with crimson chi, that blood-red cape of the Matador is lifted in the path of the blow. Reinforced between layers of material, it alone would not be enough to stop such a forceful blow... but combined with the surge of energy he just sent through his body, it's enough to slow the punch significantly... so that when it plows through the cape, Blood meets it with his shoulder - and, shockingly perhaps, when the fist strikes his collarbone... it /absorbs/ the impact, without damage.

"Not here. Not today. My death, will have /meaning/. Something you are incapable of providing!"

Those words are spat out quickly, as another burst of energy seems to power through the Spanish man's body. The insults, the disrespect, it finally seems to have driven him to a level of fury and finesse that rarely meet.

Dashing back towards the towering figure in front of him, Laurence aims to slam that shoulder - the one which so readily absorbed Azrael's monstrous punch - into his midsection... the forearm dangling the cape comes up, trying to wrap it around the Beast, tangling him up in the material...

Should he manage this, he keeps a firm grasp on his end of the cape, and lashes out with his other hand - a storm of slashes with the tip of that bladed weapon, up and town the imposing figure... and finished with a single, thrusting stab that runs through Azrael's body - placing him, at the finish, /behind/ the brute.

COMBATSYS: Azrael fails to reflect Final Death Bloody from Blood with Weakened Growler Field.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Blood            0/-------/------=|=======\-------\1           Azrael

"Food doesn't get to choose where or how they die...!!" Azrael growls out. Of course, in this moment the difference in technique is obvious. All he threw upon Blood was raw, relentless power. If one can manage the raw amount, not impossible to control or dissipate. The cannibal is aware the assault didn't break through as he liked, but rather than irritation, the bloodlust ratchets up higher. "Yes... YES!!" he roars out.

Both arms snap up, and a great boil of his energy surges out. But each lash of the blade tears through; pure strength and technique is not enough. That strange energy field is like an iron wall, and only absolute drive and spirit makes the difference for it to rip past and slam into the monster opposite. Blood flits through, now standing opposite Azrael...

Who collapses to a knee, fist hitting the ground as the energy aura flits off. Still, long trails of crimson flow upwards, as he begins to laugh louder. "Excellent... You're the best meal I've had in years!! That bitch was right to wake me up for this!! So this is willpower, eh?! It's indeed the greatest seasoning!!"

Slowly he begins to rise, long cape of his bullet-ridden and slashed white coat flowing behind. "Enchant Dragunov... LEVEL FOUR!!" There's a great billow of power, as suddenly Azrael's muscles flex outwards further. The last of his shining crimson tattoos vanish, leaving his entire frame nothing but unscratched tanned muscle.

An incredible amount of strength. Measured purely in terms of physical power, he would be above Krauser. But still, even now... the beast lacks any technique. Yet there is no questioning his combative prowess at this point. After all, he allowed Blood to strike him twice before even fighting back, and still now is not completely defeated...!

The man is being matched, if not beaten back... which makes it all the more surprising to Blood that he doesn't unleash his true power, or show the slightest hesitation himself. Instead, this mysterious fighter seems /overjoyed/ by the fact that he has found someone to match his raw, physical power with finesse and skill.

In many ways, Azrael is precisely like a charging bull - all thick muscle, reckless abandon, looking to gore him upon those vicious limbs... and if there's one thing that the Spanish man /has/ experience in, it's in fighting such a beast. Controlling it's movements against all odds, twirling free of mortal danger at the last possible moment.

Could he really defeat this savage brute? Or is he simply making the battle competitive, doing his honour-bound duty to represent the might of House Strolheim, in what might very well be his final hour?

Those words... that he was awoken... could this be why such a potent force had escaped the watchful eye of Wolfgang Krauser? That he was in some state of slumber, and just recently brought back to this world? It's true, the events in Southtown and Japan at-large seem to have brought forth /many/ mysteries onto this plane.

Is this monster just the latest?

Under any other circumstance, perhaps Laurence would pause, begin to question the man in some way... but not now, not after seeing what a relentless beast - utterly devoid of honour or respect - this imposing figure truly is. The insults to House Strolheim alone merit no words, simply actions, on the part of Krauser's loyal Lieutenant.

That new rush of power seething off of Azrael's frame causes Blood to raise one forearm to shield his eyes... he's growing more powerful by the second, whatever force it was that held his true potential back seems to be pulled back, layer by layer... he shudders to think what this man is /truly/ capable of...

As the tattoos vanish, Laurence simply begins to pace back and forth in front of Azrael; polite enough to give him this chance... to unleash himself. It would be dishonourable to press his advantage at this point - even if it means the difference between life and death.

If he is to die here today, it will be as a man worthy of the employ of House Strolheim. No doubt Eiji would take this opportunity to attack, but the Matador has more faith in the words and teachings of Herr Krauser's noble House.

Let the end of this battle be decided face-to-face, a man against a nigh-unstoppable beast... and whatever end awaits Laurence, he will /know/ he faced it like a true warrior. Not some coward skulking about in the shadows...

"Shall we continue?"

His words are calm, collected, controlled - the disgust is gone from his tone. Returned is the professional and loyal administrator and Lieutenant. Blood won't be dragged down to this man's level. He will not allow it.

A short crouch and a sudden leap takes him up high into the air, the arm upon which his cape is draped reaches for an object in his belt... a hidden blade, which is then hurled at the powerful Azrael - aiming for a spot on his thicky muscled neck.

COMBATSYS: Azrael blocks Blood's Bloody Shooter.

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Blood            0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\1           Azrael

"Hahaha!! Glorious!! Come now... come!! I'm almost FULL!!"

Azrael does not move to charge forward, however. Instead he leans back, closing his fist as crimson energy begins to build within it. The entire floor shakes, tall marble pillars quaking, condensing the power within him again and again. It is like his fist has become a bucket, and he's merely throwing massive amounts upon it wildly. Muscles begin to bulge outwards, wild crimson eyes staring at the other man as his toothy grin remains spread. "Don't you dare break on me NOW!!" And then the man explodes forward, kicking off the ground. A spray of stone and rubble flows out behind, twisting his entire body into a savage punch, imbued with the depths of his newly unleashed strength... aiming to drive it into Blood's midsection and send him flying through the opposite wall, if he does not manage to deal with it!

COMBATSYS: Blood manages to escape Azrael's Black Hawk Stinger!

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Blood            0/-------/-----==|-------\-------\0           Azrael

The pure, animal power of Azrael threatens to overpower the confines of this entire area, as Blood finds himself almost blinded by the crimson energy that builds up within the man's frame.

How he wishes that the mysterious figure showed an ounce of honour or tact, he would hand him an invitation to House Strolheim in an instant. But he cannot allow this /beast/ to show his face before Krauser; not the way he has behaved thus far.

Perhaps it's this alone that continues to push Laurence on, for when that twisting, bone-shattering punch makes it's way towards him at great speed... the Matador is simply not there. Crouching and leaping high overhead, he spins in the air and lands firmly on his feet /behind/ the path of the explosive blow.

There is no time, now, for talking... not with his enemy absolutely /seething/ with vicious, room-shaking power. As soon as his feet touch the ground, he's spinning back to face Azrael and rushing at the man's back.

A quick roll across the last few feet that seperate the two, and he comes up on his knees, rising into a savage thrust as he attempts to bury the tip of his sword into the man's iron-like flesh.

No flourish, no words, and little grace... he's fighting on instinct now, allowing his years of skill and experience to override his mind... it's, perhaps, the only way he can remain resolved in the fact of this immense threat.

Who would unleash such a beast upon the world?!

COMBATSYS: Blood successfully hits Azrael with Random Strike.

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Blood            0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0           Azrael

Oh, Azrael is completely open after throwing out that punch. But he still glances upwards with the same wild intensity as the man drives the sword down, slamming into his iron frame. The weapon bends but does not penetrate, causing the huge figure to stagger backwards in a sweep of force. But still the massive brawler stands, his expression not hinting at the damage his aura has sustained. His breath is coming faster now, but rather than defeated, he seems more satisfied. "Nnngh... so f-full.... gahh!! I underestimated you!!"

Hands heft up, exposing his weak points once more. "But the meal isn't over yet!!" Again, that strange teleportation of speed. Bursting to a stop in front of Blood, he rears back his leg as that crimson energy whirls wildly about him, causing his heel to glow bright red. And then with a roar he stomps out, aiming to slam it into Blood's sternum, simply kicking with all the force he can muster against the man and little more; trying to strike like a sledgehammer and send the other man flying away across the massive open space of the third floor fighting room!!

COMBATSYS: Azrael knocks away Blood with Valiant Crush.

[                         \\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Blood            1/-------/=======|====---\-------\0           Azrael

As the tip drives home, the blade of Blood's sword bends... not unlike his 'test' with Master Krauser mere days ago. These two are so similar in so many ways, yet entirely opposite in bearing and manner - whereas this man fights with wild and reckless abandon, the Head of House Strolheim comports himself as a noble warrior, offering his opponents the honour that their own skill affords them.

There isn't a single hint of that in Azrael... Certainly, the two share a lack of mercy, a desire to fight the strongest opponents possible - it merely seems that their motivations for doing so are different. Who would win an encounter between those two behemoths?

Laurence wants to believe it would be the man he has pledged his life to, but he truly does not know. Now that this mysterious figure has seemingly unleashed his true power, he finds himself wondering... is he more powerful than Wolfgang himself? Is such a thing even /possible/?

He would be a worthy opponent; Laurence would likely be /smiling/ to be matched against such a potent warrior, were it not for his complete lack of honour or respect. As it is, his teeth are clenched, prepared to fight to the very last.

Which, unfortunately for him, seems to be far sooner than he would like; the heel of that foot smashes out towards him, glowing bright red, slamming into his sternum with a sickening, dull THUD.

It's enough to elicit a spray of blood from the mouth of the Spanish man, living up to his namesake... however, he is not /used/ to being knocked about like a child, like a ragdoll... the impact of the force takes his feet off the ground, and as he hurtles backwards there's only one thing he can do...

...he throws his sword, tip-first, towards Azrael. Parting with that weapon, tossing it at a man who will likely break it with no regard for it's worth, pains him... but not more than the agony of knowing he's failed his employer.

Blood has /no/ doubt, that single invitation will be stolen from the inside of his vest... his back strikes savagely against a nearby pillar, smashing and crumbling a good portion of it with the force of the impact... which point, he simply collapses forward - landing first on his knees, his limp body then falling face-first onto the floor, crimson fluid leaking from his mouth, red cape piled on the ground beside him.

That invititation, knocked out of it's hiding place by the shockwave of the blow, begins to float down through the air, coming to rest on the ground some distance away from him... directly between Azrael and his fallen, unconscious body...

The monster, the savage, the /beast/... now has his way into the hallowed halls of Castle Strolheim. If he wishes it...

COMBATSYS: Blood can no longer fight.

[                        \\\\\\  <
Azrael           0/-------/---====|

COMBATSYS: Blood successfully hits Azrael with Thrown Weapon.
- Power hit! -

[                           \\\  <
Azrael           0/-------/--=====|

Such might be difficult to say. Krauser, as he normally sparred, would have felt similar to this man in that last, brutal kick. But the way the strange Strolheim head has been in recent months, that might no longer be the case. Indeed, something has improved Wolfgang's power even higher, but how, and from what...?

The blade flies out, and Azrael is surprised. He felt ribs break. That should have been the end of it. Instead the weapon hurtles directly towards his face, crimson eyes widening before it impacts. Hard.

The beast recoils backwards, foot skidding along the ground. Blue hair billows upwards, as the long blade and hilt protrude from his head. But a moment later, Azrael slowly lowers his chin, revealing it's gotten deep into his mouth. Teeth clench shut, and steel shatters, the end of the blade falling to the ground.

"Hahaha... you gave me a good meal." Azrael mutters as he strides forward, spitting hunks of blade from his mouth en-route. Shoulders roll as he crouches down, snatching up the piece of paper without the reverence it is due. He doesn't recognize the seal of Strolheim about it.

"...I'm full." he then murmurs towards the fallen man, no longer caring about his face, his vengeance, his pride. With a loud and content burp, Azrael twists around to begin striding back in the direction of the elevator, torn and slashed clothing billowing briefly behind...

COMBATSYS: Azrael takes no action.

[                         \\\\\  <
Azrael           0/-------/--=====|

COMBATSYS: Azrael keeps on fighting!

[                         \\\\\  <
Azrael           0/-------/--=====|

COMBATSYS: Azrael has ended the fight here.

Log created on 14:26:52 01/09/2018 by Azrael, and last modified on 23:07:35 02/03/2018.