World Warrior 2018 - World Warrior Qualifier - Baiken vs Blood

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Description: After personally vouching for her skill and finesse with a blade to Herr Krauser himself, I have been given leave to approach the swordswoman known as Baiken regarding her candidacy for the World Warrior tournament. A vulgar woman, to be sure, but that hardly detracts from her ability; now, if only I could find her... she seems to be rather elusive these days, but I have heard whispers of her being spotted near a small village as of late. Perhaps fate will smile upon me, and deliver another worthy warrior directly onto my path.

Baiken is notoriously hard to pin down.

She has no fixed address. She has no living family, as far as anyone knows, and few friends. She doesn't even have a surname. She is in occasional contact with some fighting groups, and the few people she chooses to communicate with.

But 'hard' doesn't mean 'impossible'. Right now, Baiken is making it a little easier than usual because she hasn't left Japan since the attacks. There are monsters here, and that means her services are needed. She's been seen, several times, near or in Southtown.

Right now it's the first. She isn't in Southtown proper but in the forests that screen Japan from Southtown's peninsula. She is sitting in a tree and pretending that the highway (which she is facing away from) does not exist. One leg is stretched out along the branch; the other hangs downward, occasionally touching the trunk.

She is also smoking. Baiken has one of the long-handled kiseru that have mostly gone out of style, but she still prefers. It doesn't put out a lot of smoke, but it's not zero, and to those people who don't look up (as Baiken is about ten feet up in that tree) the faint smell may be the first sign they get of her.

As Krauser's most trusted and earnest Lieutenant, Laurence Blood has been busier than his 'comrades' this past week... maybe it has to do with the faith that Wolfgang places in his administrator, perhaps it is because the Spaniard keenly follows the world of professional fighters - and as such, has made several /personal/ recommendations for candidates who might merit an invitation to the prestigious Castle Strolheim.

Whatever the case, he has been traveling nearly non-stop for days; only recently returned from a journey stateside, to Metro City, where he encountered a monstrous brute seemingly by chance. Fate had delivered him a worthy competitor, a man who's sheer physical might earned him a place in the World Warrior tournament.

Now back in Japan, however, Laurence seeks out one who is well known for her skill and finesse with a blade... a woman who he brought to Krauser's attention in the early days of the German's plans for this event.


She had proven her worth on the world stage numerous times; her style with that blade of hers impressed even the practiced Matador-turned-warrior - a rare feat indeed, for a man who judges those who utilize weapons in combat to a higher standard than those who fight with merely their fists.

But... she was hardly easy to track down; he'd spent the past 36 hours in Japan - in and around Southtown - searching for the elusive swordswoman. She'd been spotten here and there, but always long gone by the time Blood had picked up her trail.

He will not return to Strolheim empty-handed, however; nor will he simply move to the next name on his lengthy list. He had vouched for her skill to his Master, and he will not abandon the search without confirming whether or not she is worthy of such an honour.

As he walks down a forest path, red cape draped on his left forearm and that short-sword of his resting in a loop on his belt, the Strolheim Lieutenant keeps his eyes darting to the woods on either side of the trail...

...he does not think, though, to glance upwards. However, as he begins to approach the tree upon which Baiken is resting - several feet off the ground, one of her legs dangling above line-of-sight - his keen nostrils do pick up on that smokey scent. Stopping in place, he sniffs the air again... he knew, of course, about Baiken's habits. Could it be possible that she is nearby?

Baiken can be confirmed as having been in Southtown over the weekend, when there was an attack by a monstrous being that killed quite a few, and that she was involved in attempting to stop. After that... she vanished.


It's probably kind of frustrating.

Baiken spots Blood before Blood spots her. Her single eye narrows slightly as she looks down on the man (literally, not figuratively). She knows of the House of Strolheim, though she's never been involved with them one way or the other; she recognizes him after a few moment's thoughts.

Part of her wants to just ignore him and let him go past without disturbing her. But no; he'll look up eventually and then she'll be disturbed anyway, possibly with the added annoyance that people have when they feel they're tricked. Even though Baiken did not climb the tree to trick anyone and just found it a convenient place to sit. She's not even really hiding; she just sort of is out of the way.

And he's Strolheim. She saw the television broadcast (eventually). She can guess what he's looking for.

Baiken taps the kiseru against the side of the guard on her sandal, then grinds it out. "If you're looking for Southtown," she says, "turn around, because you're going the wrong way." Southtown is the easiest thing to find around here by an order of magnitude, so this is not very useful advice, and her tone is just this side of challenging.

And once more, the hand of fate delivers Blood to the correct place at the correct time. Ever since his bizarre encounter with the mysterious brute 'Azrael' (though his name remains unknown to the Strolheim Lieutenant), it seems as though events have been orchestrated by some higher power. Something, driving him to take the proper forks in the road to discover those worthy of being witnessed by the Might of Krauser.

The Spaniard is surely about to raise his eyes upwards, when the woman he has been searching for pre-empts him with her comments from on-high. His deep brown eyes follow the voice upwards, and as his gaze falls upon the very woman he had spent the past two days searching for...

...well, he is not the sort to smile... but there is a noticeable, faint, twitch on the corners of his lips. Laurence had begun to worry that he had wasted so much time in trying to track her movements, and that it would be all for nothing.

It seems that destiny has looked favourably upon his quest once again; beyond the desire to test her for the World Warrior tournament, a part of him had always wished to cross blades with this expert swordswoman. And finally, that personal desire had finally intersected with his duty to House Strolheim... and now, here they both were.

A few steps backwards take Laurence away from his spot, nearly directly underneath that branch of the tree upon which Baiken rests, and he offers his reply in the smooth, professional tones of Krauser's head administrator and most loyal Lieutenant:

"Oh, Southtown is easy to find. You, however, have proven more difficult," he states calmly, right hand traveling down to rest on the hilt of the sword resting on his belt. He doesn't pull it, not yet; this isn't a battle to the death, but a duel between honourable warriors... if she even wishes it, that is.

"Laurence Blood, servant to House Strolheim," - as though a professional fighter such as her wouldn't be aware of this fact... but manners dictate a proper introduction must be made, on his part!

"An honour to finally meet you, Baiken. I have an offer to make, for a swordswoman of your skill and... impressive record."

Baiken spins the kiseru in her fingertips while Blood speaks, the last bit of smoke from the mostly-extinguished tobacco trickling free. She inverts it and taps it against the side of the tree afterwards, causing the ash to fall and be lost in the forest floor. She slips it somewhere inside her robes afterwards.

If it was someone she didn't like, she might have arranged to shower them in the ash. Because she's actually listening to Blood, Baiken taps it on the side of the tree away from him, and he remains unsullied by the debris.

Swinging her foot off the branch she sits on, Baiken gets both feet on the trunk for an instant before she springs away in a swirl of her robe's fabric. She lands behind Blood by a few feet, her hand resting against the hilt of her own sword in a less European mirror of Blood's. Her other sleeve is slack, though anyone who has watched her fight knows that it's less empty than it seems, and less of a hindrance.

On her feet, Baiken isn't the one to look down on the other. Rather the reverse; she's a good foot shorter than Blood, maybe more. Stories of people watching her fight tend to leave that part out. She looks up at the man for a few moments, unblinking, before she apparently likes what she sees enough to give a short nod.

"If I wanted to be easier to find, I would be," Baiken says, "but you've found me, and I can guess what your offer is." She lets it sit for about five seconds before she takes a step back. Doesn't want to stand too close, after all. "I'll accept." Why not? She could always use the experience...

The Spaniard watches the woman's deft fingers spin her long-stemmed pipe, as that vague smirk remains at the corners of his lips - waiting to see if she is even /interested/ in demonstrating her true skill with that blade. He might be mildly put off if she were to turn down the offer, but Blood is hardly one to press such an issue; it is, after all, a great honour to even be /considered/ for such an event.

As Baiken leaps off the branch and sticks an impressive landing a short distance away, the former Matador remains standing in place; not drawing his own blade, simply watching her movements with great focus and intensity.

If he were the sort to make more overt displays of emotion, he'd likely be smiling widely - a woman of this finesse and dexterity will surely make for an interesting duel... and he'd been watching her fights in the professional circuit for some time, after all. Not quite a /fan/, simply a fellow blademaster who had great respect for her impressive abilities.

Truly, a worthwhile opponent; despite the fact that she lacks the etiquette and polish out of battle that Laurence might wish... it is what she is capable of in a fight that interests him.

He takes a single step back as well, to mirror her own - a bit of extra distance between the pair... a show of respect, perhaps. He has no desire to draw his blade immediately, in such close-quarters, like he might with one he has less respect or consideration for.

No, he'd been looking /forward/ to this battle. And so, he states in an even tone as his fingers drum over the hilt of his sword, which remains on that belt of his - only to be drawn once the battle has truly begun.

"Wonderful. My Master will be pleased; he has been curious, to say the least, whether your blade can match my own... as have I."

A small, quarter-bow seems to indicate his readiness; when he rises out of it, his stance widens slightly and that blood-red cape is held in front of his body... a small remnant of his days as a Matador - a relic of that Spanish sport, woven into his own unorthodox fighting style.

"Please, show me what you're capable of."

COMBATSYS: Blood has started a fight here.

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Blood            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Baiken has joined the fight here.

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Blood            0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0           Baiken

Baiken has never been known for her social graces. Ironically, it increased her popularity the few times she's entered tournaments. Who is that mysterious samurai lady? She's certainly not going to give interviews to explain herself.

Both of the combatants find their spacing. Baiken doesn't respond to Blood's comment on whether her sword matches up. She thinks it does, but then again, they're about to find out, aren't they? She just keeps her hand resting on the hilt of her sword, fingertips sliding into position even though she doesn't quite grip it tightly enough to draw.

Until Blood rises from his bow, anyway. She waited that long - she's not /that/ rude. She gives him a very short nod, and that's all.

Baiken goes on the offensive almost immediately. She runs, forward, at Blood, looking like she was doing nothing but a brute-force charge against the man. At the last moment, though, she breaks the illusion; slipping very close to his side, she swerves behind him, passing close enough to touch.

Obviously so, in fact, because as she passes, she delivers a hard strike to Blood's back, ideally sending him stumbling forward and thus away from her. Baiken did not draw her sword to do it; she's still bare-handed, and perhaps that's why she kept her fingers on her sword before they started - as a distraction, a ploy for her actual strategy.

COMBATSYS: Blood blocks Baiken's Mawarikomi.

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Blood            0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0           Baiken

Blood has learned, from what he has seen of this noteworthy warrior, to not /expect/ anything in a duel with her. She was hardly the average swordswoman; her style almost entirely unique, unorthodox, difficult to read and filled with plentiful traps for anyone facing her.

So when his opponent rushes him, the Strolheim Lieutenant simply stands firm... he makes no initial motion to begin a defense; he's simply waiting and watching with keen eyes. The practiced gaze of a trained warrior at work, as he keeps that blood-red cape draped over his left forearm - hiding the majority of his torso behind that thick fabric.

She's fast, her movements almost imperceptibly quick... but Laurence's senses are sharpened beyond their usual - having fought numerous worthy adversaries in the past week, he's been honed to a level he has not reached in /years/.

As Baiken moves to his side, the Spaniard twists his body so he continues to face her - and when that strike comes lashing out, the forearm holding his cape moves down into the path of the blow. Absorbing much of the impact, he simply watches as the swordswoman continues to dash past him for several steps.

And then, it's /his/ turn. Rather than draw his sword - he will not do so until /she/ unleashes her own blade - his long stride (standing at nearly 6-and-a-half feet, his legs carry him a great distance at speed) brings him rushing up behind her... as he closes the distance, the last few feet before reaching her position, he stops running and begins to sliiiiide across the ground beneath his feet.

One arm bends up as he approaches her, aiming one of his elbows in a quick blow that's aimed for her mid-section.

COMBATSYS: Baiken dodges Blood's Bloody Elbow.

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Blood            0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0           Baiken

Like Blood, Baiken is an experienced combatant, and she doesn't have enough personal knowledge of Blood (that is, none; she's never fought him) to predict what he's going to do. The sword and the cape suggest some things, but that's not enough to trust a battle strategy to; about the only thing she's sure of so far is that that cloak is going to be a problem, both with baffling her vision and possibly other tricks. She knows how /she/ would use it.

Fortunately, she's pretty good at taking things as they come. Reacting - and forcing them to react to her; aggression has always served Baiken fairly well.

Blood slides in with an elbow strike, and Baiken is prepared for it. She sidesteps, and getting awfully close to a tree on that side so she can't keep doing that - so she presses him instead, taking a deliberate step with a stomp of her foot.

A geyser of pink chi erupts from the ground, forming a short-lived barricade that might pick up Blood and toss him away from her - but even if it doesn't throw him, the sudden jet is an effective attack against anyone who likes to fight in close, like Blood seems to be.

She still has not drawn her sword. This isn't because she doesn't think Blood is worth it, but just because her combat style is a little unorthodox; Baiken cannot switch between one- and two-handed grips like many who use the katana (for, well, obvious reasons) so she switches between sword and no sword instead.

COMBATSYS: Blood blocks Baiken's Tetsuzansen.

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Blood            0/-------/-------|====---\-------\0           Baiken

That vicious, speedy elbow strike moves through empty air where Baiken once stood - Blood mentally taking note of the speed with which she managed to sidestep the attack. Having never fought her in-person, he could only prepare himself with tales of her skill and the few televised fights she had been involved in.

To face such an opponent in a true battle is another matter entirely; were he not so graceful himself, it's likely the sudden eruption of chi that followed would catch him unawares... but that cape isn't /simply/ for show. It is lined - between that fine, smooth crimson fabric - with a reinforced layer... one which he whips in front of him as he takes a quick step backwards.

Both the quick manuevering of his cape and the distance he'd put between himself and his opponent mean that he only catches a small amount of the force he would have otherwise been struck with. The red material billows from the shockwave unleashed by that pink geyser of energy, but when it dies down he simply moves his left forearm to the side.

That cape twirls away from his torso, and he takes a sudden step back towards Baiken; not letting up on his assault, trying to keep pressing the offensive so she doesn't have a chance to breath or plan her next move...

He also keeps his own sword in it's place, the blade dangling off his belt and glinting in the light that pierces the canopy of the forest. He had hoped to cross blades with this expert swordswoman, but he will not be the first to draw... having waited days for this encounter, he will endeavor to make it an honourable duel between equals - rather than seeking for some unfair advantage.

Instead, he pivots on one heel and twirls his body gracefully in a 360-degree spin... when he comes back around to face Baiken, the elbow of his right arm is aimed at her once more... this time, it lunges out to strike her dead in the chest... and should she be unable to avoid that, the man follows up with another half-turn and a savage open-palm blow to strike her in the same spot.

Though his face remains calm and neutral, the lack of speech from the usually polite Strolheim Lieutenant points to a great focus in every movement played out between the two...

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Blood's Bloody Palm.

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Blood            0/-------/------=|====---\-------\0           Baiken

The geyser of chi is short-lived, more of a sudden blast than a lingering wall, but it's enough that Baiken normally forces some distance out of it - even if it's just a step or two.

Blood manages to stay in close, and that's worth some respect. Baiken's lips purse, not in irritation but concentration, as her one-eyed gaze flits between Blood's cloak, his body, and - only once - his sword. He's faster than she expected - well, she knew anyone who got away with calling themselves a representative of Strolheim is going to be good.

This time, pinned between Blood and the tree, Baiken has nowhere easy to evade. So this time she doesn't; she deflects it instead. Drawing her sword, she interposes it between Blood's hand and her chest, using the flat of it rather than the blade; she can feel the impact run all the way up her arm, but it does mean that he doesn't get a hand quite on her.

"Hnn." It's the first time she's spoken since the battle began, if you call it 'speaking'. She actually uses a full sentence afterwards, though: "How about we stop playing around quite so much?"

Baiken goes on the attack - now with her sword, at that. She feints toward Blood's face, but it /is/ just a feint. She actually circles her blade in an arc afterwards, whirling it low before taking off in an upwards slash, blade at the forefront - and the blade is trailing pink chi along the edge, leaving a stream of it behind as Baiken puts her whole strength behind the leap...

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Blood with Kuchinashi.
Grazing Hit

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Blood            0/-------/-----==|======-\-------\0           Baiken

So, too, can Blood feel the shock of his elbow impacting the flat of Baiken's katana - rather than the flesh he had aimed to strike. One could hardly tell from his calm, collected expression, but the Spaniard is enjoying this battle already. The quickness of the swordswoman's defenses thus far have already proven to him that he did /not/ waste hours of his precious time in tracking her down.

As well, the Strolheim Lieutenant is pleased that he did not make a mistake in speaking highly of his opponent to Krauser. Those who vouch for individuals who do not prove worthy often bear the brunt of the Master's displeasure themselves - for to recommend someone in such a way, is to take on a personal responsibility for the outcome.

Had his faith in her proved to be in error, no doubt Wolfgang would be quick to show Laurence - upon his eventual return to the Castle to report - just how disappointed he was. After all, a man as practiced and experience as Blood /should/ know whom is worth the effort of testing, and who isn't.

It seems he has, once more, made the proper decision in putting her name forth as a 'potential candidate' for the World Warrior tournament.

Then, her words - 'stop playing around quite so much'. He has only one possible reply to such an offer; and it comes out in a pleasant, joyous tone of voice:

"Yes, let's!"

At Baiken's feint, Laurence begins to raise that reinforced cape in front of his face... only after a moment does he realize that such an obvious attack is /not/ the style of his opponent. It's almost too late to react, by the time he realizes where the /true/ threat is coming from.

It's only his sheer grace and agility that allows the Strolheim Lieutenant to properly evade the assault. As the blade moves low then arcs upwards, trailing that signature rose-pink energy, he begins to roll away...

...not quite quickly enough to evade the entirety of the assault, as his right forearm hangs in the air and catches a deep slash, drawing blood across his olive-coloured skin just before he can move clear of it.

Coming to a crouching stop some short distance away, Laurence smirks once more as he turns his forearm to look down upon the cut that Baiken's katana has left. It is just a split-second, before he's back on his feet in a mad dash towards her... finally, his own short-sword is loosed from it's spot on his belt, right hand gripping the hilt and pulling it out in a vicious, diagonal arc that aims to slash across his opponent's body from right to left.

COMBATSYS: Blood successfully hits Baiken with Power Strike.

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

Sometimes Baiken really does just go for the direct, obvious attack. It keeps people guessing.

That one wasn't it, though.

Baiken lands after her upward slash and is almost immediately expecting a response. She doesn't get one immediately as Laurence has backed off... but it's only a second or two before he does come after her again. Good. Despite herself, her expression shifts into something between a grin and a smirk - she's enjoying herself.

Even when Blood draws blood. And he does; the slash slips past Baiken's guard, her relatively short katana unable to hold off the slash. She does recoil, moving with the blow to keep it shallower than it would be if she let it hit her dead on, but it still stings.

It also draws an attack back in kind. Baiken lashes out with a solid strike from her sword arm, then whips her empty sleeve toward Blood like it contained something. It does, but she doesn't use it - she's testing how much be knows about her fighting style. He seems to be treating her sleeve like a threat, which means it's now a tool for feinting even if she uses no weapons from it at all.

She follows it up with a more complicated array of slashes, pushing Blood toward a tree behind him - it's still kind of close quarters around here, after all, and she wants to test how good he is with that sword of his!

COMBATSYS: Blood blocks Baiken's Random Strike.

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

Once the tip of his own razor-sharp blade slips past Baiken's defenses and slips across her body, Laurence draws it back in front of his own body with a sudden flick of his wrist and a quick movement of his right arm.

His eyes /do/ dart over to that sleeve; he knows her style well enough to be aware that it's as much of a threat as her katana... but something tells him this is another feint. If he were fighting blind here - without any knowledge of the swordswoman's style - likely it would have fooled him and opened him up to that vicious combination of slashes from her sword hand.

Instead, his attention quickly returns to her blade; his own comes up suddenly, held horizontally at first to absorb the impact of the first strike... he twists it in his right hand, the next slash also being deflected... but she doesn't let up, and he's forced back and back, step by step.

When his back finally hits that tree behind him, he raising his sword into the path of the next cut - this time, however, the blade catches him on the wrist. He grits his teeth, though there's no noise of pain or frustration that comes out from his lips - he's too well-composed for such shows of weakness.

As the blood begins to trail down his wrist to join that from the earlier slash along his forearm, he spins his body against that tree to evade the final slash - Baiken's katana hitting the bark rather than digging into his chest as she might have expected.

Twirling away a foot or two, Laurence doesn't seem keen to put /too/ much distance between himself and the expert swordswoman - not now that their blades are both drawn... with a chance to veer around and utilize her usual tricks, there's no doubt that Baiken would have an advantage even over the graceful Strolheim Lieutenant.

No, his best hope is to keep forcing the offensive, not giving her a chance to rest or plan some unorthodox strategy...


It's the only word he offers to show his pleasure with her showing thus far, before he takes two sudden steps towards her - holding the cape in front of him... once his feet land back on the ground, the blood-red material is pulled away to reveal the tip of his sword - stabbing straight for Baiken's midsection once again.

He has a few tricks of his own, after all.

COMBATSYS: Baiken interrupts Crushing Strike from Blood with Sakura.

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

In many situations, Baiken's sleeve attack wouldn't have /been/ a feint. She is, after all, well armed - but Blood almost certainly knows there's weapons there, and she doesn't need to prove it (and it's harder to surprise him with them).

Baiken actually pulls her blow slightly when she realizes it is not going to hit Blood, because she's more worried about chipping her blade on the hard wood than hurting Blood in a friendly (or 'friendly') fighting session. Fortunately, her sword is well-made and doesn't chip, though it does take a chunk out of the tree when she pulls it back out with a slight wrench of her arm.

Having her sword in there doesn't seem to have slowed her down by trapping it. She whirls as Laurence comes in against her, going for a stab - but she preempts him, going for a lunging stab that extends her reach for several significant inches. The blade shimmers with pink chi once again, pulsing along the length of the sword before exploding out the tip, sparks drifting down like cherry blossoms as she withdraws from the lunge. Sure, she's been stabbed - but the lunge kept it from being as deep as it could have been, /and/ she gets to strike back.

He's good, Baiken thinks. She hasn't had the pleasure of fighting a skilled swordsman in a while. There's not as many on the fighting circuits as there could be, and half of the ones there are use strange magical swords or brute-force chops. Baiken is honestly pleased to see someone else who uses their sword with finesse and speed.

The Spaniard lunges in with the tip of that sword shining in the shafts of light peeking through the trees... and, to his great surprise - though none is visible on that practiced, stern face - so does /Baiken/. Whirling to the side, the accomplished swordswoman's blade shines with chi and strikes him dead in the chest.

Were she any closer, the damage done might have ended the fight... but to his credit, Laurence manages to twist his torso juuuust enough to prevent the tip of the shining blade from skewering him /too/ deep.

The Strolheim Lieutenant stumbles back from the vicious counter-attack, almost in disbelief at the speed with which she lashed out. Pulling his own sword back as well, the arm upon which is cape is draped comes up to press the material against the fresh wound on his body.

"..." the silence from Laurence as he clutches the now-bloody spot near the center of his vest, the crimson fluid soaking through and making the material sticky and wet... finally, that slight smirk returns to his lips after he returns to his usual fighting stance.

"I'm glad to see I have not wasted my time in tracking you down," he states firmly, a slight tone of appreciation creeping into his otherwise impassive voice. Yes, once again he has not made a mistake in recommending a name to Krauser - already, she has proven her worth... all that remains, is for Laurence to see this fight through to the bitter, bloody end.

Spinning the handle of his sword around in his right hand, Blood moves back into his offensive stance and begins to clear the short distance between Baiken and himself. As he moves, he veers left and right - swishing his cape in front of him to try and distract or otherwise disorient his skilled opponent.

It may work... it may not... what it /does/ do, however, is disguise the sudden bluish-chi that wreathes his blade from tip to hilt... and when he finally lunges up and at the swordswoman, he pulls the cape back to reveal his /own/ shimmering weapon. In an instant, eight vicious slashes are shot out towards his pink-haired foe. There is no holding back - nor does he aim the strikes at anything vital...

...he simply wishes to remind Baiken of who he is, and the great man who he /represents/.

COMBATSYS: Blood successfully hits Baiken with Bloody Slash.

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Blood            0/-------/-----==|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2           Baiken

"I should hope not," is Baiken's response to Blood not wasting his time. She knows she's damn good. If she focused entirely on tournament fighting she'd be very highly ranked. It's just that she has better things to do, a lot of the time, than focus on her score.

Still, it's the best way she knows to draw out the strong and skilled so she can practice and learn. Why else would she have bothered to hold a master's belt for two years?

Baiken is watching Blood's movements carefully. She expects him to use the cloak to shield what he's doing from her vision - she's surprised he hasn't done it much so far, though she hasn't given him a lot of opportunities to back off and use it as anything but a parrying tool.

And so she's almost ready when he comes in with his slashes, but the speed takes her by surprise. Blood seizes the initiative from her, and Baiken can do nothing but defend herself. She almost manages it, deflecting the first three of the strikes, but the fourth nicks her, the fifth digs in, and she's more open for the remaining three because she's been knocked off balance.

None of the wounds are mortal, but they're bloody, and Baiken feels every inch of them. She snarls, more at herself for letting that through than at Blood, and her body tenses. It seems like she's back on the offense...

That's all the warning Blood gets before Baiken strikes. She steps forward and /stomps/, trying to pin Blood's foot in place for the follow-up blows, of which there are only three. The first is horizontal, left to right; the second, as she spins the grip in her hand, a much stronger right to left; and the third, after she holds her blade overhead for a moment so that it catches what's left of the sunlight, a massive diagonal slash that really looks like it should be performed with two hands. Each of the blows is accompanied with a wordless kiai as she releases her power, surges of pink-tinged chi following the blade like contrails.

COMBATSYS: Blood narrowly escapes Baiken's Tsurane Sanzu Watashi!

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


Laurence's shouts in Spanish as he cuts into Baiken with that chi-enfused sword; slashing left and right with great precision. He's impressed at the fact that her wits are sharp enough to block the first three swipes, but he quickly adjusts his grip on the sword and attacks from a different angle... and /then/ he gets results, the smirk on his face growing more noticable as the tip of his sword strikes it's target cleanly.

The stomp /does/ manage to land on his foot before he's able to pull back completely - but it catches only the very tips of his toes... and so, with a quick twist of his body to the right, Laurence is able to throw himself to the ground before the first vicious sword-slash cuts into his body.

With a sudden yank of his leg, he manages to pull his foot away from it's position - trapped against the ground by the hell of Baiken's foot - and complete a head-over-heels roll backwards into a crouching position.

Still clutching the hilt of his sword, the cape still draped over his left forearm, he is a bit slower than usual in returning to his fighting stance. His eyes are narrowed as he rises to his feet, and cape draped over his arm swishes to the left and right - almost as if it were an exclamation point added to the end of his miraculous dodge.

No further words are forthcoming from the Strolheim servant, spinning the handle of his blade around in his hand - the tip glinting in what little light is visible through the thick canopy... another lunge takes him into striking distance, and this time /he/ sends out a feint aimed down towards Baiken's thigh; at the last moment, he pulls back and spins the hilt in his grip once more...

...shifting the position of that hilt in his hand, he seeks to use it as a makeshift set of brass knuckles, aiming a sudden haymaker with the handle around his fist towards his opponent's jaw; should that land, he twists his grip again to aim another two sharp stabs at her sword-carrying arm.

It's clear the fight has progressed to a point where he's forced to utilize certain unorthodox tricks of his /own/.

COMBATSYS: Baiken dodges Blood's Armed Combo.

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

Damn, Baiken thinks. Yes, she has enough presence of mind to think. She looked infuriated, the way she swung and screamed out her kiai, but Blood is not someone she hates nor a monster she has chosen to kill; she's not berserk, merely focusing her aggression into her combat strikes.

Some fighters say it's best to think coldly and calmly. Baiken has always found the opposite: she does her best when she's running hot.

Baiken really committed to those swings. She's not badly off-balance, but she is out of position and running out of places to dodge. She's going to get penned in by Blood's advance, the slash and punch together threatening to get past her guard -

So she dodges in a direction she hasn't before: up.

Baiken finally releases her claw arm from her sleeve - but it's not aimed at Blood. Instead, it is aimed at the branches overhead. The four-fingered 'hand' grasps the branch, and Baiken twists her shoulder and back just so; she rockets up the tree as she uses the claw arm to pull herself upward, evading Blood's attacks by going straight up.

A couple moments later, she comes back down, trying to plant both feet on Blood's back and use him as a springboard to get some distance from him. Her chained claw trails behind her now, no longer attached to anything but retracting rapidly back up the 'empty' sleeve on her robe.

If he wants to be tricky, she can certainly play along.

COMBATSYS: Blood blocks Baiken's Strong Kick.

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

Laurence's eyebrow shoots up as his opponent's infamous claw finally shoots out from that hanging sleeve - propelling her up and out of the path of his unusual combination of blows. There's little time for him to prepare for the inevitable counter-attack, only one, swift utterance leaving his lips:


It's the only sound he has the chance to make, before the swordswoman is leaping back down at him with the heels of both feet. The Matador twists his body yet again, spinning in place to meet his opponent's downwards assault head-on.

Both forearms come up in a flash, crossing his arms in front of his face and taking the brunt of both heels directly onto his thick, lanky limbs. Blood's entire body reels with the impact; Baiken is hardly the heaviest opponent, but with so much downward momentum behind the diving stomp, it's enough to send him stumbling backwards.

He actually trips as the impact forces him back, landing on his spine but recovering in a near-instant by rolling back and into yet another crouch. The way the Spaniard fights, his body moving with grace and finesse, allows him to recover from even the most unexpected of attacks with quickness and speed.

Remaining one one knee, his left hand quickly flashes down to his belt... yes, the usually noble and honourable Strolheim Lieutenant has many tricks in his arsenal. Though he is loathe to use them under most circumstances, this fight has clearly progressed to the point where he feels he /needs/ to utilize some unusual tactics in order to properly represent the Might of Strolheim.

A hidden danger is yanked from a place on his belt, and a quick flick of his wrist sends it spinning through the air towards Baiken.

COMBATSYS: Baiken dodges Blood's Thrown Weapon.

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

After her spring away from Blood, Baiken turns in midair so she ends facing him. It looks like she's thrown herself into a tree, in fact, but she touches down several feet in front of it and narrowly avoids slamming into it back-first.

And there's already a dagger moving towards her. Baiken's reflexes are still just fine - the battle might not be over in the first rush, but she's not exhausted herself yet. Truth be told, the exhileration of battle means that Baiken can keep at it for quite a while.

So she's still fast on her feet enough to avoid the dagger with a relatively simple sidestep. She doesn't call Blood out for being at all dishonourable, because she'd do worse without thinking about it twice; you fight to win, you don't fight to be polite. It thumps into the tree she threatened to ram into; Baiken doesn't bother to check whether it sticks or bounces down.

This is because she's already starting to attack Blood. She stomps her foot again, despite the distance, with a single shouted word: "TATAMI!" From the ground at her feet a green object flips up, a manifestation of chi scattering fallen leaves and branches as the tatami mat's far end rises.

And another, past that.

And another, past /that/, threatening to be directly under Blood's feet and send him flying away from her! The tatami mats are expressions of chi, and fade away as they fall, but for the few seconds they exist they're as solid as anything else; they scatter dirt and leaves from where they are buried, they impact with real force, and if Blood was standing on one as it rises he's going to find himself flying quite a ways.

COMBATSYS: Blood dodges Baiken's Sanmai Tatami Gaeshi.

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

As his hidden dagger flies through the air, it is sidestepped by his opponent; fortunately, it still occupies Baiken's attention long enough for the Spaniard to regain his footing. Standing out of his kneeling crouch, he lets out a short chuckle as the blade is easily evaded. He certainly didn't expect that trick to work - at least, not against a woman who has no shortage of tricks herself...

...but it's done it's job, and given him a moment to regain some measure of composure after that brutal diving kick he just barely managed to block. As he stares across the short distance at the swordswoman, it should be obvious how much he's enjoying this duel.

After all, the past week has been filled with opponents both worthy and unworthy, but none who have wielded a blade with as much skill as the woman who he has met in battle this day. This battle truly has been a pleasure for the generally unimpressed Lieutenant; none of the mindless brawling of an Abigail, not the savage animalistic fury of Azrael, not the psycho power of Mr. Glenn.

Just another warrior; perhaps not as noble or refined as himself, but no less skilled with that katana than he is with his old, shorter sword. Perhaps even /more/ so, were he to be honest. It may, though, be too early to make such a judgment... the encounter has been back and forth thus far, and he has no notions of doing anything /but/ taking it to it's natural conclusion... anything short of death,

For to waste one's life in a mere 'test' such as this would be anything /but/ honourable; it would be a waste of a warrior's life, their true purpose.

No. They will both survive this day. And, if she continues to impress Laurence so, then Baiken will have the opportunity to prove her worth in Halls of Castle Strolheim, under the watchful gaze of Herr Krauser.

Could there be any greater honour? Not in the mind of Laurence.

Baiken stomps her foot, giving the Spaniard some warning of an incoming attack... though he cannot imagine from /where/ it would come, considering her distance from him. Part of his mind is expecting a thrown weapon, or a gun to be drawn... instead, the leaf-covered forest ground /explodes/ up from a flipping chi 'mat'... scattering dirt and foilage towards him, it's only a well-timed jump-spin to the side - body twisting madly in the air as he leaps - that carries him out of the path of the multiple chi objects.

"Interesting..." he states calmly as he lands, on both feet this time, completely a heel-twist with an added flourish from that blood-red cape.

And, to him, it /is/ interesting... Baiken's skill with a blade is such that she could rely on it entirely in battle.. but she is not satisfied with /simply/ that, she has improved her technique to include more unorthodox methods of attack. A truly cunning foe!

Dashing back towards the pink-haired woman, Laurence rolls into a crouch that stops only a foot or two from his opponent... and then leaps up, the tip of his sword rising at an angle as he jumps - an attempt to rake it, diagonally, across Baiken's front.

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Blood's Bloody Axle.

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

Baiken's point of view is that the weapon that catches someone by surprise might be the one that saves her life... or, more relevant, gets her the kill. She will not depend on one when she can have more.

But Baiken, like Blood, is not trying to kill her opponent today. That does nobody any good. It's actually more of a challenge, from Baiken's point of view; she trained to kill a man and his pet monsters, and yet she is using it to not kill at a time like this. But that's fine. She'll survive it, too, and come out the other side stronger and more skilled.

In this, she's in perfect agreement with Strolheim. How else would you get better than by fighting the strong?

"Is that all," Baiken replies, to the comment of 'interesting'. "You've said that before. I'd hope I'm a little more than /that/ - " She accompanies words with actions, sweeping her blade sidewise to deflect the sudden strike from Laurence's sword. It's not a clean parry; his blade scrapes along her side, painful but not disabling.

It changes nothing in her offense. Having pushes Blood's blade to the side (she hopes), Baiken strikes with her empty sleeve again; this time a segmented band whips out, flexing like - well, a whip - along its many segments; she tries to wrap it around Blood's leg and wrench it sharply to the side, bringing him to the ground for the inevitable follow-through.

COMBATSYS: Blood blocks Baiken's Medium Throw.

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

COMBATSYS: Blood has left the fight here.

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

COMBATSYS: Baiken has ended the fight here.

At such close range, there's no way for even Laurence - agile and speedy as he is - to entirely evade the unexpected appearance of that whip-like band that wraps around his leg in an instant.

What he can do, however, is ensure that he doesn't slam onto the ground in a way that leaves him open to any follow-up attacks by his opponent. As he feels his leg yanked out from under him, the band unfurling from his limb as it does so, he tosses the sword out of his right hand to clatter to the ground several feet away.

With both hands free, he's better able to control his fall. Twisting his body so that both palms strike the dirt first, followed shortly by his upper body with a small impact, he uses that momentum to push himself into a cartwheel. The spinning manuever takes him right past his sword - which he grabs off of the ground as he completes the cartwheel with a leaping spin.

That acrobatic manuever ends with him standing on both feet, his back towards Baiken. A graceful spin on one heel brings him back around to face his skilled and deadly opponent, staring at her as he regards her last comment with a visible smirk.

"You don't stike me as the sort to fish for compliments," he says with the slightest trace of amusement playing over his smooth and courteous voice. The Spaniard has little doubts that Baiken knows precisely how skilled she is; no need, then, for Laurence to add any additional comments - beyond noting his interest in her unusual methods.

Taking a moment to brush away at the front of his pants to swat away some of the leaves and dirt that little tumble has left on the front of his clothes, he snaps the fingers of his left hand while curling his fingers around the hilt of his sword in the other hand.

"Interesting /ought/ to suffice."

And then, he's right back into the flow of the battle after that momentary break; long strides carry him back towards the swordswoman at a swift pace as he spins the hilt of his sword around... at the last moment, he wraps his left hand covers his right to wield the blade with a two-handed grip. In a technique that forsakes his usual deftness and speed for sheer fierceness and brutality, he points the tip of the sword downwards before raising the handle up in the air and attempting to plunge it down towards Baiken's shoulder with both hands, the full weight of his body behind the strike.

COMBATSYS: Baiken dodges Blood's Fierce Strike.

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


Baiken doesn't really dignify that with actual words as a response. It's true, she doesn't fish for compliments - but that was the first time in years that someone has called a fight with her 'interesting', and nothing else, without being sarcastic about it. It's noteworthy, at least.

She can handle that.

Baiken isn't the sort to really let Blood tidy himself up after his tumble, though. You can worry what you look like when you're not fighting; but he's at enough of a distance that she can't really charge in after him without an accident. She lets him come to her, keeping her sword raised when he switches to a two-handed grip and shrugging the strange weapon back up her sleeve. Her eye narrows slightly. It's an unusual stance he's taken; you can't get the sweeping slashes you might want with a long weapon with that grip -

But you can stab. Baiken weaves around the descending thrust, dangerously close; it actually brushes her hair as she twitches past it, putting herself to the side of Laurence, empty sleeve closer to him. It's a dangerous position, or it would be if the 'empty' sleeve didn't have a blade of its own; one more sharply curved than Baiken's actual katana, and broader.

She runs past Laurence, slashing with the new blade as she passes, whirling around to face him as he passes. She's not going far, but she's using her speed to advantage.

COMBATSYS: Blood dodges Baiken's Youzansen.

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

The tip of that sword is driven down with great force, into a place where Baiken is no longer standing. One might expect Laurence to be imbalanced after commiting so much strength and momentum into a single stab - an easy target, perhaps, for the inevitable counter from his skilled, katana-wielding opponent.

They would be wrong, in that regard.

Baiken slips past his side, a hidden blade procured from that empty, hanging sleeve that seems to be /full/ of tricks to catch an opponent off-guard. This time, however, the Strolheim Lieutenant is ready - if not for that exact weapon, then something similar.

A quick spin of his body takes him traveling across the forest ground to the left; the curved edge of Baiken's blade just narrowly missing his ribcage as the weapon cuts through the air. Coming to a halt just a few steps away, Blood lets out a sudden, uncharacteristic bark of laughter - it's clear he truly /is/ enjoying matching wits against such a resourceful and clever foe - before rushing back towards the swordswoman.

Notably, the Spaniard keeps /both/ hands on the hilt of his own weapon as he proceeds, with the usually-dangling cape instead wrapped tightly around his left forearm to keep it out of the way for the present time. Rather than handle the blade with his usual one-handed, dexterous grip, he seems to be changing his approach. The swordswoman he's facing off against seems to be both quick /and/ resilient - perhaps he has come to the conclusion that the best strategy against such an opponent would be heavy, guard-crushing strikes...

...if he's able to land one, of course.

With this sudden change in technique and tactics, he keeps his two-handed grip and pulls the handle of his sword down towards his own midsection as he keeps the blade angled up and towards Baiken.

The muscles along both arms suddenly coil and spring into action, as he brings the tip of the blade out and up in a diagonal path - aimed to drive it up into her torso from below. A savage manuever with little finesse behind it, just a desire to pierce her guard and cause whatever damage he can.

COMBATSYS: Baiken parries Blood's Deep Strike!

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

The blade slides back up Baiken's sleeve once she's passed, leaving her holding only the katana, horizontal to protect herself from a vertical blow. She expects one out of Blood because it /isn't/ what he's known for; he's skilled enough that he's going to mix it up, and his grace hasn't taken Baiken out yet.

So when he keeps his second hand on his sword, she nods, more to herself than him. It's actually something she can't counter with raw power. Blood outweighs Baiken probably twice over, and he's got two hands, while her lighter sword is only usable with one; she doesn't trust herself to be able to absorb the powerful blows without being knocked off-balance.

So she doesn't.

Baiken's sword snaps out at the side of Blood's sword rather than trying to block it head-on. She can't stop it but she can push it; the skewer gets dangerously close to her waist as she guides it past her rather than into her guts, which would - in her estimation - be a bad place for it to go. There's a faint curl of her lips, as much dismissive as amused.

With her free... sleeve, Baiken reaches out. Her claw snaps out, a four-'fingered' grasping tool on a chain; it whips out toward Blood's upper arm, the prongs clasping around it as she drags him in an arc with a turn of her body, keeping him off-balance while she steers him around.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Blood with Kabari EX.
- Power hit! -

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

Once again, his opponent proves to be too swift to pin down with such an attack; and yet, Laurence also finds his stamina slowly, inch by inch, slipping away... where he might normally resort to lighter, quicker strikes in an effort to make /something/ hit Baiken, he is instead forced into heavier, singular thrusts.

It proves to be an untenable style of attack against someone of Baiken's skill and speed, but he has few other options. This time, the Spaniard does find himself being carried forward a step as the tip of his sword is knocked to the side by his opponent's katana. It takes him off-balance for a single moment, but it's clear that one instant is all the swordswoman /needs/ to properly capitalize upon.

Blood's own weapon comes close to catching his opponent's flesh, deflected just enough to miss her entirely.

Already beginning to twist his torso around and try to catch his footing once again, the Strolheim Lieutenant is nevertheless an easy target for Baiken's follow-up. The trademark chain-and-claw comes whipping out of her hanging sleeve, grabbing hold of his upper arm - the right one, holding onto that short sword...

...the prongs of that claw dig into the flesh of his tricep, eliciting a scowl from the usually calm expressioned Spaniard. He finds himself manhandled with surprising ease, twisted around in an arc by Baiken as his feet stumble in a desperate attempt to remain standing. He has little doubt that if he were to fall to the dirt, she would have no difficulty in ending the fight in the blink of an eye.

As he's tugged to the side, Laurence realizes one thing; attached to the swordswoman at the other end of that length of chain, he might have a better opportunity to strike her /now/ than he did previously in this match.

Looking to take full advantage of the close distance separating him from his opponent, the Matador tries to veer his body /towards/ her. If he's able to make the shift in the woman's direction, rather than simply being whirled around on that chain, his right hand - upper arm bleeding from the claw's grip - flashes out to level a flurry of sword-slashes up and down Baiken's frame.

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Blood's Bloody Slash.

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

The chained claw stops Blood from getting away, but - as he's correctly determined - it doesn't really stop him from getting closer at all. He's not the only person to try such a tactic, which is why it's risky for her to hold someone with the claw like she is; normally she'd throw it from further away and yank to keep them off balance, or pull their legs out from under them, but she took what she can get.

But it's risky for Blood, too, because it's a little more predictable. If he can't get away, of course he'll attack. At close proximity, Baiken cannot completely avoid the blow, and she doesn't - but she moves into it too, so close that swords are difficult to use at all.

As a result, she doesn't get slashed, much. She gets a little cut, and gets some bruises from where his arm smacked into her side, so close as to be inside the swing range of the blade. Baiken lets out a little grunt as she braces against the impact, but she's still got him by the claw, and with a great and mighty swing...

Baiken attempts to swing Blood through a complete arc and slam him, face-first, into the ground. If she manages it, she does a little hop off him, kicking him further down to ensure he stays there (or that's the idea, anyway) as she bounds past. At least he's now released from the claw; it came loose after she did the slam, probably because she wanted to put some distance between the two.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Blood with Himawari.

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

Now, Baiken shows the same cleverness and ability that caused Laurence Blood to personally vouch for her worth to Krauser in the first place. Rather than attempt to put distance between her and that sword, or deflect it one-handed with her own blade, she steps towards him to make it more difficult for him to swing that tip at her. The unorthodox strategy - which few would even have the courage to attempt - does it's job, and he's unable to land a properly clean hit on her.

Before he's able to try and break free of that claw, it's used to swing him in a complete circle and then down into the ground with savage impact that rings through the forest. Landing on his face in the dirt and leaves, he's already pushing himself up with both palms by the time Baiken leaps up and comes landing down on his spine, eliciting a CRACK from his battered bones - hopping off and away from his fallen body.

Barely able to push himself back to his feet, Laurence stumbles back several steps; it seems likely he's about to collapse back to the ground. Instead - with one final burst of strength - he stabs his sword straight down into the forest ground. The tip imbeds itself into the dirt; the only thing that keeps him from falling face-first back to the ground, as he collapses to one knee - gripping onto the handle of the blade to keep himself propped up.

His right hand, no longer clutching that weapon, moves inside his vest in a flash. Baiken might think, for a moment, that he's pulling out a hidden dagger to toss her way... but when the hand is pulled free, it's clutching a plain-white envelope in it's grip. Sealed with red wax on one side, it bears the imprint of House Strolheim. The swordswoman must surely know what it contains: a priceless slip of paper, worth untold riches on the black market.

An invitation, to the World Warrior.

He reaches out with one slightly-trembling limb, holding the envelope towards Baiken as he keeps his brown eyes narrowed on that katana of hers. Though he doesn't believe her to be so dishonourable as to attack him now that he is clearly finished fighting, he nevertheless refuses to take his attention off that deadly blade.

"Here..." he says, his voice low from exhaustion and blood loss - only barely maintaining his calm and professional facade through the pain that wracks his body, "I believe you've /more/ than earned the right. Your skill with a blade is incomparable; perhaps you can find a worthy match in Castle Strolheim..."

Laurence leaves the last bit of that unsaid; that he, clearly, is /not/ her match with a blade. It stings his ego slightly to be bested so handily, but... he knows Krauser will be pleased at such a worthy competitor being brought into his halls to do battle.

And in the end, that is Blood's only concern in this world.

COMBATSYS: Blood takes no action.

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

COMBATSYS: Blood can no longer fight.

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

Baiken is absolutely a dirty, dishonourable fighter... against certain targets. Presented with a Gear, a horrible magical monstrosity, or That Man who she would give her life to fight and kill, she would do anything necessary to kill them, regardless of how 'fair' or polite it was.

Against Blood, in a situation like this, though, his instincts are correct. If he kept fighting, she would keep on going too; if he was struggling and clearly unable to fight but also unwilling to admit a loss, she would slap him with the flat of the sword in ways that would be lethal blows if she was using the edge until he admitted it. But he isn't, so she doesn't; she remains threatening for a moment, the tip of her sword pointed at him, but it doesn't move.

She's more bruised and battered than she wants to show, even if she's not in a condition /she/ can't fight.

Once Blood's sword is out of play and she is sure that he is not holding anything more dangerous than paper, Baiken sheathes her katana, though not without a mental note to clean it before she stops for the day. She accepts the paper, looking at it for only a moment - and not even opening it - before tucking it inside her robe; it's hard to see exactly where she puts it, but when she looks back at him, it's not in her hand.

"Accepted," she says, and though she can't bring herself to smile she gives Blood a polite nod of acknowledgement. Uncharacteristically, she eyes him for several seconds, trying to decide if he's going to be good to move on his own; eventually she apparently decides he will, and with another satisfied nod, takes a step back.

Once the envelope is pulled from his grasp, Laurence wraps his right hand back around the hilt of his sword and uses the sturdy blade to push himself to his feet... it takes a few moments, but he eventually manages to stand back up.

Still bleeding from that spot on his arm where the claw imbedded itself - as well as various other parts of his body which Baiken struck with that katana - the Strolheim Lieutenant nevertheless manages to keep his footing on the forest ground. Yanking the tip of his sword out of the dirt, he places the weapon back in the loop hanging from his belt and wraps the cape - which came unfurled during the melee - back around his left forearm.

"Excellent," he states, eyes moving back up to the swordswoman's face once her katana is sheathed and no longer appears to be a threat.

"I spoke highly of you to Herr Krauser. I am glad to see my endorsement was not in error."

A half-bow is offered to Baiken, then, before he too takes a step back. Wary eyes travel up and down her body once more, contemplating if she will attempt anything once he turns his back and then deciding... no. She might be willing to use dirty tricks in battle, but she could have pressed the attack while he was still on one knee... and didn't.

Turning his back to the woman, he begins to stumble back down the forest trail - his gait limping slightly and much slower than it was during his approach to this spot. He pauses, after several strides, and turns his neck to speak over his shoulder at the woman:

"We shall meet again in Castle Strolheim, Baiken."

COMBATSYS: Baiken has ended the fight here.

Log created on 15:08:25 01/12/2018 by Blood, and last modified on 22:11:38 01/19/2018.