Description: Two up and coming hopefuls treat the Golden Angel audiences to a fight surprisingly shy on hijinks, but incredibly full of heart. Giving it their all, the two martial artists who shared their first public match together come together once more and, through a protracted battle, take the chance to reflect on just how far they've come.
Round Two of the Golden Angel event is underway and excitement buzzes throughout the park as the coalition of hopeful up and coming fighters take to their matches with all the zeal they can muster. For some, it's their first chance at getting noticed by the larger world-wide audience. Others attending the venue have already made appearances in other events and while they may hardly be considered veterans of the competitive scene, they aren't all together unheard of either.
Hotaru Futaba, always eager to jump at any event that will let her test her progress against others, has already demonstrated that in spite her diminutive stature, she's not easily dismissed if her close win against the tougher looking Hayley Bretherton is any indicator. With both fighters descended from more well-known father figures, the pressure was on every moment of the precariously perched performance, and no one could say both girls didn't give it their all.
Now in round two, Hotaru is eager to prove that the win wasn't just a random fluke. Her track record as a fighter is hardly the stuff legends are made of, and she's never made the cut into some of the more prestigious events like her opponent for this round has, but her unbreakable spirit has survived the test of time thus far.
The previous round's match felt a bit more low key - a battle on the top of an ever tilting buoy with the local audience consisting of those who gathered around the edges of the large pool. This round is full of additional pressure - the filled stadium seating, the stage situated in the center of the crescent arena, and the anticipation of seeing the young man she fought in her very first broadcast battle.
The Golden Angel lotion, the unsettling blend of what can only be explained as science and wizardry, as far as the high-schooler can tell, has provided her with a different swimsuit this round. A white halter styled bikini top sports a blue sailor-style collar and a crimson sash that matches the two red ribbons tying off the girl's medium length pigtails. At her waist, azure bikini bottoms are mostly covered by a matching red sarong wrap that falls to a few inches over her knees.
Already on the central platform, she pauses to tighten her right hair ribbon, eyes closed for moment of inner contemplation. The packed in crowd needs to be tuned out. She remembers Haru well for being a capable, if unorthodox martial artist. She may have gotten better since then, but there's no doubt in her mind he has as well. There is no room for distraction here in this not-terribly-high-stakes battle for victory!
Dress up swimwear battles may not have been the path her brother took to achieve his own destiny as a world class power house, but... the Champion's Road is full of all manner of twists and turns, and each individual's route will vary.
Hers just happens to be a lot more cute than his.
Well, on the one hand, Haru Sakuraba walked out of his first round match with a win. In terms of displays of martial skill, that is the unquestioned good part. Just as Hotaru thought, both competitors here have grown since their initial meeting so many eyars ago.
On the other hand: to call the REST of that fight an unmitigated disaster is putting it mildly at best.
Perhaps it was his tender high school age (and thus the potential for legal action) that kept photos, video, and in one case a VR mockup of Haru's embarassing final moments in that fight out of the public eye, or at least off the public eye's instagram feeds. But it was a public event, with public witnesses, and thus it couldn't be erased completely. The Justice student spent a lot -- A LOT -- of the intervening week in his dorm room refusing to talk to anyone outside of classes and meals, in a state of permanent blushing.
Of course nothing happened, but what does anxiety know about logic?
Case in point: when round two came, Haru wasn't taking any chances. In the locker room, he asked for four! entire bottles of Golden Angel, which a bewildered staff provided.
Twenty minutes later, the result walks onto the main stage.
Haru took not a single possible risk. Which is to say: he applied Golden Angel EVERYWHERE below the neck. Arms, torso, legs, hips... all of it. The result is basically a surfer's wetsuit: sleek and form-fitting. But while a typical such suit would usually be dark black with only a hint of color, THIS one is set with three zones/diagonal stripes: navy blue, scarlet, and an orange-like gold. It is unbelievably hideous and gaudy, but on the other hand, unlike last time, Haru can actually look Hotaru in the eye when he steps up, giving her a sheepish wave.
"It's nice to see you again, Futaba-san," he says, clearly still nervous but at least not in any hurry to dive off the stage like a lunatic. "Though I wish it were under, uh, less... uh..." A brief pause. "In different circumstances, maybe."
Smooth, Haru. Very smooth.
Fortunately for Haru, Hotaru is oblivious to the adventures of his previous round. Though she put her all into her match against Hayley, she has not been eagerly following the circumstances of the rest of the event. While she's glad to be a part of it, even she knows that this strangely summer-themed winter tournament is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. It's not like it's a King of Fighters, which she sat glued to the streams for. Or World Warrior, which while not broadcast for viewing, is still the leading source of fight fan community gossip as of late, and she just can't get enough of it!
Speaking of King of Fighters...
As Haru steps out onto the stage sporting the most skin coverage out of Golden Angel participant to date, his opponent's blue eyes widen, hands clasping together in front of her, her face aglow with excitement.
Her voice is a high pitched chirp as she openly gushes, "Congratulations! I can't believe it - a King of Fighters champion!" She breathes in deeply, shaking her head, then exhales, looking a bit sheepish but still grinning broadly, "Sorry, I imagine you must get that all the time, being so famous and all." Does he feel famous?
The Kung Fu artista continues, perhaps finally acknowledging his own external signs of nervousness, "Eh heh. I wish I could say this is the most eccentric event I've ever been a part of..." There was the hot dog eating contest, for one. And she can't forget the time she was thrown into a boxing ring against an actual, no kidding, /BEAR/.
The life of a young fighter just trying to get noticed is NOT easy...She takes a moment to glance around toward the audience, the voice of the announcers overhead mostly ignored as the two fighters are introduced, along with commentary about their combat records, flavors of martial arts, and so on.
Her attention shifts back to Haru, grin persisting. "Though it would be fair for you to file a complaint about what that Golden Angel stuff made for you this time... That color scheme is something else."
COMBATSYS: Hotaru has started a fight here.
Despite the fact that he lost at the time, Haru's memory of his first bout with Hotaru is a good one, and so the knowledge that she remembers him fondly does make Haru feel better. At the time it had been reassuring to know that he wasn't the only fighter new to the life that felt the way he had: nervous, intimidated. But she hadn't let it stop her.
At the mention of King of Fighters, the Justice student can't keep a flush of embarassment off his face... though how anyone would notice given how he ALREADY looked in this clown suit is up for debate. "One of a team," he demurs, practically an autopilot reaction for reference to the Psycho Soldiers' KoF win of a few years back. Getting an accurate read on how often people mention KoF to him, given the boy's intense modesty, would be impossible. The glories of self-selective perception indeed. "I was really lucky to have Kensou-san and Athena-san. They taught me a lot." That part is definitely true, and his sincerity in saying so shines through the fog of self-conscisouness at 1.) public compliments and 2.) the clown suit-colored monstrosity he's wearing.
When Hotaru calls attention to that, Haru blanches slightly, for a second his brain entertaining the results of a possible complaint, one of them being 'take it off and we'll do it like last time.' As one might expect, he's quick to wave that suggestion off with BOTH hands. "It's okay. Like you said, far from the weirdest thing I've done." And if what he wore last time was weird in front of a mature woman like Haruna Abe, it would be UNBEARABLE now.
By the time this banter has gone back and forth, however, the proverbial buzzer has sounded, and the dark-haired young man looks at his opponent with a nod. "Okay. I guess this is our chance to show each other what we've learned since then. Good luck!"
Haru makes the first move, and keeps things simple: he brings his hand up and then flicks it down, his chosen weapon -- the yoyo that Hotaru probably remembers -- swinging down in a similar arc to impact the kung fu fighter's shoulder. Testing the water!
COMBATSYS: Haru has joined the fight here.
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Hotaru 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Haru
COMBATSYS: Hotaru auto-guards Haru's Medium Strike.
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Hotaru 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Haru
"Some team," Hotaru replies with a grin as Haru emphasizes that he didn't reach the championship of King of Fighters all on his own, clearly impressed with the performance of the Psycho Soldiers on their famous outing into the team tournament. He mentions his teammates by name and the pig-tailed fighter nods her head quickly, "I can only imagine. They both climbed the leagues so fast. I can't even understand how they could get so far so fast." Already, rumors abound that Athena Asamiya's recent concert tour was put on hold so that the idol fighter could participate in the World Warrior tournament that has captured fighters' imaginations around the globe.
Hotaru clenches her fist, pumping it once, "But I've had a chance to learn a lot too since then. I hope to be able to demonstrate as much!" When last they fought, she was a fast moving, acrobatic, flighty fighter, equally at ease in the air as much as she was on the ground.
Haru's response to her pointing out the garish colored wet suit earns him a wide grin, the eager martial artist lifting her arms, palms open, right foot sliding forward a little as she prepares herself for the match to begin in any moment. "We'll have to swap war stories sometime," she replies with a laugh to her voice.
"You too," she replies to his shout of encouragement as the bout begins in earnest, and there's no question that she speaks with complete sincerity. There are all manner of fighters out there - some have gone mean, cruel, swept up in the power that their might affords them, and proud to lord it over others. But the Futaba heiress, for all the faults that might rest in the male side of her family, suffers from no such issues.
When Haru engages, she takes a single step forward, closing distance rather than retreating, her whole body spinning as her right arm swings out in a circular block, deflecting the incoming unorthodox weapon before it can impact her shoulder. She completes the turn by dropping into a sweeping kick toward her opponent's wet suit-covered shins, her pig-tails and sarong swirling about her as she moves.
Pushing out of the crouch with her hands, her sweeping leg now firmly planted, she snaps other leg out into a side kick, targeting Haru's sternum. All the while, her two strike combination shows no signs of obvious openings, nor does she seem to be at risk of over committing. It's a clean, perfectly executed sequence of defend, strike, and strike, before her leg would snap down to remain firmly planted on the stage!
COMBATSYS: Haru dodges Hotaru's Medium Kick.
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Hotaru 0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0 Haru
The audience very clearly oohs and ahhs at these opening salvos, because the visuals are impressively dramatic, that's for sure! Hotaru shows all the swift, flowing expertise one might expect to find in a high level martial arts film, gently-but-firmly redirecting harm away from her and capitalizing on the moment to strike back without any interruption to the action.
But Hotaru's not the only person whose defensive game is on point in these early match moments, apparently. As the yoyo's arc gets bounced away from its intended target, Haru's mind is racing, trying to think of what's going to happen next, to read his opponent... perhaps the thing he's best at, as a fighter. Deciding that Hotaru likely won't miss the chance to immediately press the advantage, and knowing that the rebound of his own motions is going to make him top-heavy, he does the only thing he can think of: he hops backwards at a low angle, twisting his body so that he's moving in the same general rotational direction as the deflected yoyo. And it's a good thing, too, because Hotaru's kick scythes through the space where his shins were a fraction of a second later.
As the younger Futaba scion recovers from her own followthrough, however, she might notice that once Haru's foot touches the stage once more, his foot and ankle turn, following the rotation he was making earlier, which puts him in a decent enough position to make an immediate followup of his own. His left hand glows opalescent white as he surges forward to thrust his palm toward Hotaru's guard, the glow around his hand becoming a lotus bloom of light that bursts into a scatter of spectral petals. If he wants to show what he learned from his fellow Psycho Soldiers, then maybe being more comfortable using his powers is a good way to go!
COMBATSYS: Haru successfully hits Hotaru with Amethyst Clarity.
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Hotaru 0/-------/----===|=------\-------\0 Haru
Her bare foot coming back down after the evaded side kick, Hotaru is immediately on guard, standing with her left shoulder toward Haru, leaning back a little on her right foot. Her left arm is held forward, at a lower angle, while her right arm is raised up near the level of her head, bent at the elbow, both limbs in prime position to swing into an incoming attack to deflect it out of the way.
The efficacy of that readiness wanes the the moment Haru brings his own energy into play, however. With nothing to strike out at in order to deflect away, Hotaru immediately shifts, arms coming closer together but not quite bracing for impact. Her feet shift over the stage floor as she tries to slip to the side in what could have put her into an opportune position if she had managed to side-step Haru's momentum.
Instead, the pearl white blossom of power bursting from his outstretched palm catches her in the side, provoking a hiss of pain as she folds into the admittedly beautiful looking if quite painful technique. Left eye squinting shut, the Futaba orphan grits her teeth, ceding more ground now as she skips back a couple of steps, forcing herself to disengage rather than to recklessly bolt right back in like she might be wanting.
"Nice one," she gets out between lips drawn back, the initial shock of the touch fading. It really was unlike the energy of most of her opponents, cutting clean through the defenses she's tried to build over time as if they weren't there at all. She'll have to be quicker on her feet... Haru Sakuraba isn't just a physical striker, after all.
There isn't a ton of space to go around on this circular aquarium-locked stage, however, and after three steps back she's exhausted the distance she can hope to create anyway. Another attack vector must be tried, and with one step forward, Hotaru bounds into the air, flipping forward into a knee dive aiming for Haru's shoulder, hoping to jar him hard enough that her follow through side kick with her other leg can give her the chance she needs to backflip right back out of range.
The landing might be a bit precarious, though, as she hazards dropping down near the edge of the stage's circumference. But she seems rather sure in her balance at least?
COMBATSYS: Hotaru successfully hits Haru with Rengeki Shuu.
- Power hit! -
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Hotaru 0/-------/---====|====---\-------\0 Haru
While it might be unfair to call Hotaru's situation 'desperation,' having your back to the proverbial wall can definitely give a fighter's techniques that little extra oomph that makes all the difference, and in this case it shows. Haru realizes if he stands his ground and can keep Hotaru -- whose mobility is legend, or is at least legendary-class -- up against the edge of the arena he'll have an advantage. So it behooves him to deflect, rather than evade, this attack.
That turns out to be a mistake. He misjudges her angle of attack, suspecting she was going to hit him in the chest rather than the shoulder, meaning instead she lands a powerful pair of blows that send him skidding back across the stage, perhaps farther than she'd initially hoped. At least she got the room to maneuver she wanted!
When he regains his stance, however, Haru smiles. Just another reminder that there's a difference between trying to predict what will happen and what actually DOES happen. Knowledge you can't put into use as effectively as you'd like is only worth so much, after all. "Well that... stung, heh," he says, a little sheepish. "At least this floor doesn't appear to open up and make us fight on a tightrope over the aquarium or anything," he adds.
A brief pause. "I hope, anyway." Good job unsealing that mummy's tomb, doofus.
Perhaps he attacks again a little too hastily to distract him from the horrible image that comment put in his mind, or maybe he just doesn't want to give Hotaru time to rest. Either way, he pushes back toward her, yoyos in both hands this time, and makes an X with his arms, sending one yoyo to the right and the other to the left. The right seems like it's going for her head, the left her torso... but the one on the right is a feint, Haru yanking it back at the very last second to, hopefully, distract Hotaru from the one on the left, which he tries to wrap around her arm and then use to tug her heavily off balance and onto the stage floor!
COMBATSYS: Hotaru interrupts Medium Throw from Haru with Tanshou Shin.
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Hotaru 0/-------/-======|=======\=------\1 Haru
As always, Hotaru's techniques only work because the pint sized fighter puts everything into every strike. This last one was only a threat because she used her own falling weight to augment the full bodied twist into the second kick that serves both as ending punctuation for the combination but also the transition to her intended escape.
The backflip takes her back down near the edge of the stage, the Kung Fu artist having done a pretty accurate job of using the space she had to work with without going so far as to end up landing right in the water instead. She may be dressed for swimming, but aquatic exercise is the furthest thing from her mind for now!
On her feet again, the Futaba girl raises her hands in front of her, palms open, a more traditional ready stance as she bounces lightly on her feet. Though she can shift into relentless aggression at times, Haru's versatile fighting leaves the fellow high school student somewhat unpredictable, forcing her to pace herself a bit differently than she had in the last round.
He mentions her knee into kick combo stinging and there is a quick smile at the edge of her lips in acknowledgment though her eyes remain intensely focused. Friendly match that is, she also feels the pressure to treat it with the same dedicated zeal she brings to all her matches. This could be the one that her brother notices, wherever he might be. This could be the one he weighs her worthiness to follow his path...
But when Haru talks about the stage opening up to dump them both in the drink as some kind of slapstick gag, Hotaru can't help herself, her focused expression breaking as she releases a soft, short laugh.
"I think we'll survive the aquatic doom either way." she answers back.
But when Haru re-engages, she responds in turn. This time, rather than try to retreat, or deflect with a precision timed sweep of her arms into the incoming path of yo-yos, the orphaned Futaba steps toward Haru, twisting with the forward motion, such that she ends up partially turned away, watching him along the length of her shoulder rather than facing him directly.
With his yo-yos already swinging, it's a bit too late to reconsider, but he might recognize that sudden fire in her eyes, that resolve to take the fight immediately to him, consequences notwithstanding. She had done something quite similar in their last bout.
Even though one of the swinging weapons was a feint, Hotaru launches right into both of them, taking a glancing blow to the side of her head, and the other to her ribs as she springs backward into Haru, shoulder first, delivering a full-bodied shoulder slam utilizing every muscle she has.
She would keep pressing even after trying to stagger him, however, leaning hard into a follow up one handed palm press, her left hand slamming out the other way to provide necessary counter balance. The point of impact would be squarely against his sternum, the smaller fighter once more using a coordinated execution of momentum, technique, and striking power.
You have to give Hotaru credit: two flail-like weapons being used simultaneously in a whirling morass of not just the actual striking portion, but also the high-strength cable-string that connects them to their wielder, do not present the sort of jump-into-an-ongoing-double-dutch-game challenge that even seasoned fighters relish engaging. And she just sorta does it anyway, plowing right through the cyclonic sargasso of weaponry to smack Haru in the chest so hard he actually flies a few feet through the air before he lands. Considering the relative height and weight of both fighters, that's no small feat!
As he gets up, Hotaru has already made her comment about surviving aquatic doom, and Haru's own anxieties become amazingly apparent, given the immediacy of his reply once he's got his senses back. "Survival's not the concern," he says, a little too forcefully. "It's whether those are freshwater or saltwater fish down there..." Apparently after last time someone made VERY SURE to read even the fine print on the Golden Angel bottle.
For a second, Haru just watches his opponent, circling a little warily. His ability to sense what others are feeling or thinking isn't as strong as other psychics -- his power works more by touch -- but even without the benefit of mental abilities, he could tell there was a subtle, momentary shift in Hotaru's bearing just before she made that reckless strike, payoff or no. For a moment, the Justice student thinks of this young woman more as another person, than a competitor, blinking once or twice.
But it might be none of his business, and more importantly, too much contemplation might come off as disrespectful of her as an opponent, so he decides to dip back into the fray after all. Advancing very cautiously, with both yoyos clearly visible as opposed to held in his palms per normal, he tries to close the gap to Hotaru before suddenly flicking out one weapon, trying to snag it around her arm. If Haru gets his grip, Futaba the Younger gets slung into the air, before he snaps out the other yoyo to catch a limb in midair and redirect her into the stage floor forcefully.
COMBATSYS: Hotaru instinctively dodges Haru's Jade Turbulence.
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Hotaru 0/-------/-======|=======\=------\1 Haru
Hotaru balks as the precise nature of the water beneath them is raised. Back at the pool, before her first fight, she had been careful to check, testing a splash of it on the side of her swimsuit just to make sure. No such caution was utilized here, though. Was she just naive to assume there would be nothing untoward about the central stage of the Golden Angel event?
The hint of wide-eyed concern in her expression suggests she had not undergone the same paranoia thought exercise Haru had, though she's quick to try and recover from it even as she finds herself being circled by her tactical opponent. The short laugh is clearly nervous, the smile only working its way up one side of her face, the other half revealing the concern she's trying to conceal.
"Well, I'm sure t-they wouldn't do that." Another light laugh.
She's light on her toes now, spinning with him while remaining central to his circling, adjusting her facing angle with only slight shifts of her feet. Her hands are raised again, and after a moment, Haru will notice she seems to be holding her breath, her expression taking on one of intense focus again, the momentary concern from a half minute ago forced out of her thoughts. She's aware of the reach his yo-yos give him, and the versatility they afford in terms of controlling the space in which they fight.
With each step, she has to find a way to not only avoid them, but to get around them, to attack back. Though charging right through them IS a viable tactic, the ringing in her head suggests it isn't one she should be eager to lean on too heavily.
With her arms raised to the defensive, they do make ideal targets to secure the yo-yo thread around and from there, she would definitely at the mercy of the intended whiplash experience in store.
And at this range, a reactive defense would be almost impossible, so swift is Haru's control over his unusual choice in weapons. A thought seems to cross Hotaru's mind suddenly, a quirk in her eyebrows.
The question is entirely innocent, a sudden spark of curiosity given voice without thinking. If she pulled up the Fight-a-base directory, she feels like she would be hard pressed to find anyone else who claimed to use yo-yos as a combat implement in this modern era.
It's in that instant that she remembers she's supposed to be paying closer attention to the threat said yo-yos represent and she moves... a split second before Haru even attacks, either out of anticipation or just by luck as she ducks forward and lunges to the right, her left pig-tail swished by the passing projectile.
Even as she moves, her right hand is burning with cerulean energy, a vibrant glow even against the bright stadium lighting. She comes out of her evasion, twisting back to the left, bringing her right hand forward, thrusting her palm out. "Ya!"
The azure chi coursing over her limb is projected outward, driven by force of will and an attunement with the breath of life that surrounds them all. A basketball sized projectile of pure, concussive force threatens to splash hard into Haru's side while Hotaru continues to steady her footing.
COMBATSYS: Haru dodges Hotaru's Hakki Shou.
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Hotaru 0/-------/--=====|=======\=------\1 Haru
Would that Hotaru could have stayed in her state of blissful confidence in the scruplousness of the Golden Angel organizers a little longer before poor stupid Haru decided to add any doubt whatsoever about it to her thought process. Hopefully it won't trip her up with doubt between now and the end of the fight, but if her entirely adroit avoidance of Haru's careful attempt to land a hit on her is indicative, she has nothing to worry about!
But on Haru's side, some sixth sense starts to tingle in the back of his mind about what's to come. It's said that intuition, rather than being any sort of mystical foresight, is the subconscious part of one's brain doing the proverbial math behind the scenes and presenting conclusions in advance with data that the conscious mind isn't able to process directly. In Haru's case, it could be one or the other or potentially both, but he's learned in fights to trust that instinct. And indeed, after her fairly inocuous question, Hotaru's burst of spiritual power makes it very clear that said intuition was right on the money.
Yoyos snapping quickly back into his hands, Haru stares down the swiftly-approaching bullet of cerulean blue and takes as slow a breath as he dares. Okay. This is his chance. He's going to do this. And more importantly, he's going to do it ON PURPOSE. Even without Athena's guidance, he's got to try.
The weird part of the experience for Hotaru, potentially, is that he's actually muttering to himself as he prepares. "Stop. Breathe. Envisi--"
Right before the attack would land, Haru disappears in a burst of white lotus petals.
When he reappears a fraction of a second later, he blinks in surprise, and looks exultantly triumphant. He even gets out an "...I did i--" before one thing becomes really clear: he appeared IN MIDAIR a few feet above the stage. Gravity reasserts itself with its typical finality and, scrambling not to land on his face, Haru drops to the arena floor in a hasty 3-point crouch that makes one ankle twist a little bit uncomfortable. "Ow, ow, ow..." he mutters, before getting up.
Okay, diving in to attack her has clearly not worked, so for now Haru stops and simply takes stock, watching his opponent carefully. It also gives him time to answer her question. "My family has a fighting style, actually," he observes. "Using the meteor hammer. It's not a 1-to-1 thing, but I found a lot of it transferred and..." He pauses, then blushes a little. "When I was a kid, doing yoyo tricks was soothing for me when I was upset. So."
COMBATSYS: Haru formulates a plan of attack.
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Hotaru 0/-------/--=====|=======\=------\1 Haru
Her hand extended, leaning into the launched attack, Hotaru is looking right at her target - dead center on Haru's chest - as her illuminating blue chi pulse goes flying. Some fighters may be able to lob the stuff at ease with what comes across as no effort, but for the young Kung Fu artist, such energy projections are quite a feat, an occasional spark of potential to spice up her otherwise more physical striking approach to combat.
That said, when her chi attack hit, they tend to really leave a mark. All that, and more, must be going through her mind as Justice High student takes an entirely unexpected, unorthodox approach to dealing with it. The tried and true Stare At It approach, not exactly a defensive technique with a long, proven track record.
She's in the process of drawing her hand back when it happens. Just before her projectile would have connected, he simply isn't there anymore, replaced by a swirling swarm of lotus petals. Hotaru's dark blue eyes go wide at the sight.
If pressed, she would have said she knew he was somehow capable of the feat. She saw it happen in the King of Fighters 2016 match. But knowing it on an academic level, and actually watching him pull it off right in front of her intended attack, are two entirely different things.
His opponent is clearly impressed, so much that when she draws her hand back and stands up straight, she's not even shifting to an immediate ready stance. The projectile itself sails across the water, colliding with a resounding thud against the hardened plexiglass sheets that keep the front row seats from getting obliterated.
"That's... that's incredible, Sakuraba-san!"
The open admiration gives him plenty of time to land, jarred ankle notwithstanding, and answer her question asked on a whim earlier. A family tradition then? Hotaru grins, still impressed by the instantaneous translocation, but also appreciating the moment taken to give her an answer - something he hardly owes an opponent in the middle of a competition, but it's appreciated all the same.
As for the audience that might be hungry for a lot more blood shed in this comparatively tame fight compared to some things that have gone on around the park... well, they're just going to have to deal with it. There's probably some knife-bodied construct battling a man in a crazy coat somewhere else in the Hippodrome right now.
But now Haru's giving her the chance to advance rather than engaging in the high speed exchanges the two have demonstrated thus far. The realization is clear in Hotaru's eyes as she studies his stance. She has to find a way to get in when he's actually just waiting prepared for once.
Sucking in her breath, she springs forward into a low hop, intentionally landing about a meter and a half way from Haru where she drops lower than his crouch, her left leg out in front of her, her right leg, bent at the knee, braced directly beneath her, her arms out at her sides for balance in the remarkably low stance.
And then she lunges up, pressing off from her right leg to add force to a single, strong, right handed palm strike. If he stays low, she may have no choice but to aim for his face - not something she makes a habit out of as a rule, but she has to take her shot somewhere!
COMBATSYS: Haru counters Aggressive Strike from Hotaru with Diamond Resolve.
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Hotaru 1/----===/=======|=------\-------\0 Haru
None of what Haru said to Hotaru in answer is wrong or incorrect. The Sakuraba family really does have a meteor hammer-based family style, picked up from trade across the sea with China many years ago. But there's a whole secondary layer of things he doesn't say because how could he? It feels like explaining to Hotaru that his powers work largely by touch and tend to overwhelm him, so he wears gloves and uses weapons, would be complicated even if they WEREN'T in front of a crowd of bloodthirsty vacationers who, let's be real, probably tuned in to this tournament in the hopes of something amusingly bad happening.
This is made all the more relevant by a fact that Haru has been reclutant to face, but which the fight has made clear: he's scared of his abilities, but he also fights his strongest when he uses them without reservation. Yet another reason for his fighting style's hands-off (literally) approach. But as she approaches, moving with her typical dexterousness, another flash of insight or intuition comes to him, and it is this: she hasn't been afraid to use any of what's available to her, so you can't be either.
Much like the teleporting, up to now the defensive technique that Haru readies has been used largely instinctively, rather than consciously. Instincts reaching in and flipping switches, throwing levers he can't access. But if he actually wants to be the kind of opponent he thinks Hotaru deserves, then he's got to try. And so he faces her down, again... putting both of his hands out, palms outward, legs slightly apart. It's almost comical, like he's going to shout 'STOP' and expect her to do it.
But Hotaru may notice it, and perhaps too late to course correct for it: the closer she gets, the more Haru's hands and body glow with that opalescent white light, a gathering of that soul-gifted power, and when she at last is about to strike, he gives a yell, and Hotaru's palms slam into a spherical shield of light, a white orb surrounding Haru's body that, on that impact, shifts and changes, becoming a lotus blossom that spreads its petals outwards in bloom before disappearing in a burst of white light. Haru himself is unharmed, but Hotaru is instead at the epicenter of this elaborate display of psychic power.
When the two are separated, however, Haru is still in the same stance, but looking... 'winded' is about right, but perhaps only scratches the surface. His breathing is big and deep, his stance a little wobbly... but past experience in this fight says that it's better than taking another of Hotaru's blows full-on!
The idea that Haru picked up the yo-yo due to a family style is appealing to the Futaba girl. Another fellow fighting hopeful, carrying on the style inherited by his family. She hopes that at least they express pride at what he has accomplished with his efforts. A legitimate King of Fighters Champion ensures his name will never be forgotten in the fighting community.
Maybe if she had accomplished something like that, her father or brother would have finally acknowledged her. Someday, she reminds herself. Each day is a step forward, a step closer. One day, she'll accomplish something that gets her noticed. She can't give up.
This resolve, this determination empowers the speed with which she engages, snapping her arm out, noticing Haru's reaction, having expected that he would attempt /something/. But what he actually pulls off is nothing like what she anticipated. The heel of her hand smashes into an unyielding barrier created by thought and shaped by will.
Well... /this/ is new.
The thought rushes through her mind, the girl already trying to retract. She has no idea what is going on right now and the only recourse is to back off long enough to re-evaluate the situation. Whatever he's doing, he can't possibly maintain it indefinitely, right?
She doesn't get the chance. Just in the process of pulling her extended arm back, she's got an uncomfortably close seat to the blossoming lotus as it explodes back out toward her. It would be a beautiful sight, perhaps, if it wasn't actually a decisive attack.
The energy blasts cleanly through her, striking not with concussive force like her own flavor of chi does, but rather a piercing, unavoidable intense pain. Mouth agape, the Futaba girl staggers back two steps, jarred right out of her fighting momentum. Legs turn to jelly beneath her as she starts to crumple, catching herself halfway down, one knee against the stage.
Hands clench, teeth grit, her eyes flashing with a moment of hesitant uncertainty. Cheeks flush red as she bites back the almost crippling sensation that courses through her. There is no sign of anger, of wanting to lash out in retribution for the painful technique, but as she bites back the brief sensation of vacillation, there is an overwhelming sense that she wants to answer such an impressive attack with the best she can bring to bear in turn.
This time, she charges in faster though with far less in the way of deceptive weaving or wind up. Instead, she blitzes into close range, sliding from two meters out into a low crouch, arms out, left leg out in front of her in a low stance that tests her limber flexibility.
This too may feel like an echo from their last fight, that surge of vibrant, azure chi from around the acrobatic fighter, the intent to launch into a crushingly strong backflipping kick, possibly catching Haru in the chest or chin in the process. This was how their fight ended last time, and with everything the girl seems to be pouring into her momentum, from the volcanic eruption of chi empowering her ascent, she seems to be trying to finish the fight the same way again.
COMBATSYS: Haru blocks Hotaru's Tenshou Ranki EX.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\ < > ///////////// ]
Hotaru 0/-------/-------|====---\-------\0 Haru
The impact is no less impressive than every other time the Futaba girl has demonstrated her strongest technique - an all out assault that leaves almost nothing in the tank, as it were. Few of her opponents have ever successfully defended against it, no doubt caught entirely off guard at the tremendous amount of force the tiny fighter can bring to bear with that launching backflip.
But Haru knows better, and that insight into their previous fight history might just be enough to make a difference. Rising with her opponent, both sharing that upward surge of momentum, the nimble fighter twists, rolling sidelong into the yo-yo wielder, arms wrapping around him as she leans forward into a dive right back down toward the stage, bringing him with her into a jarring landing that leaves the two sliding along, precariously close to the water's edge.
Already, her palms are pressed against his chest, the smaller fighter perched on Sakuraba's lean form on her knees. It's this point that her opponents realize that the flip kick was just the first part, an opening blow to pave the way to a much more devastating attack as a growing sphere of cerulean chi bubbles up around the two, answering Hotaru Futaba's call.
As always, her energy projections are only occasionally interspersed into her fighting style, but when unleashed, the impact they threaten puts even her physical striking power to shame!
There is no fancy internal math on this one, as Hotaru approaches. No strategem, no plan. Simply this: don't die.
Not that an ACTUAL risk of death is likely, here; Hotaru is just not the lethal force type, after all. 'Die' is meant in a colorful language kind of way, but once this attack plays out, it definitely FEELS like literally dying might have been an option. Haru knows he is running out of trick cards to play, and is not going to try anything so fanciful as teleporting out of the way or trying to evade someone with considerably superior speed. No, he... hunkers down and does his best to weather the storm, hoping to be standing when all is said and done.
And at first, it looks like it might work out! Rather than laying him flat instantly, Haru grits his teeth and does his best to keep his body loose and in control as the kick carries him upwards. This is what makes all the difference, in the end, but the result is still significant. As he lands heavily on his back and Hotaru begins the final phase of this strike, however, Haru clenches his fists and does his level best to protect himself. As the expanding sphere of bright blue power erupts, in small spots -- a handful, and each no bigger than someone's palm -- little bursts of pearl-white are visible. Perhaps some instinctive defense, an attempt to push back against the overwhelming wave of Hotaru's power?
When all is said and done and the two have separated, though, Haru is... 'alive.' Which is to say, he's got his wits about him and isn't unconscious, though he looks about one poor tactical decision away from a very long nap indeed, his body trembling in an irregular, ataxic sway. That was a 'defense' he is not in a hurry to re-attempt.
Eyes wide, he looks at the floor, pressing a hand to his chest. "That... that was scary." Probably not what Hotaru might expect to hear, but it's the truth.
When he finally seems to get a grip on his body, however, Haru nods at his opponent and manages a weak smile. "Well... I guess we're giving them a good show, right?" he asks gamely. But also, this IS a fight and he can't let it drag out much longer, especially without knowing how much Hotaru has left in her either.
Deciding to do something very simple to get his bearings, Haru snaps one yoyo around in a tightly orbiting circle, a two-stage arcing swing at Hotaru's shoulder. She might evade the first, but she has to handle the backswing, too. A little meteor hammer technology, as it were, to back up his earlier claim.
COMBATSYS: Hotaru blocks Haru's Random Strike.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\ < > ///////////// ]
Hotaru 0/-------/------=|====---\-------\0 Haru
Haru has joined the ranks of the very few opponents the Futaba girl has ever found able to get back to their feet and keep on fighting following her all out chi barrage. Having rolled backward up to her own feet, gasping for breath, arms slow to come up to a guarding position, she's looking back at Haru with a winded grin when he comments on the precarious combination he's managed to navigate his way through.
"Yeah," she replies regarding giving the audience quite the fight. She hasn't paid the closest attention to what else is going on at the Golden Angel events... There are undoubtedly other impressive battles the audiences have been treated to, making the tournament a success by any measure. But following the last two exchange of attacks, there's no denying that the two young fighters bring their own impressive techniques to the show.
"And it's not over yet."
Though she's rarely had to keep fighting after unleashing her signature technique, she doesn't look terribly winded, as if having managed to pace herself responsibly all the same, ready and willing continue giving this bout everything she's got.
"Though it's been reward enough to see how far you've come." she remarks, her bare feet pivoting on the floor, the Kung Fu artist turning her shoulder toward Haru. Though she doesn't fully read the intent of his attack, she has adopted a stance that doesn't leave much in the way of openings, able to deflect and block by moving her left arm to intercept, and her posture is relaxed enough that she can possibly weave around some attacks as well if she needs to.
When the yoyo snaps out, she stands her ground, turning toward the right to swing out her hand and knock the small, rapidly spinning projectile askew. The impact isn't so clean as when she did the same earlier in the fight, leaving a red mark on her forearm where she brute forced it out of the way, but it spares her having to deal with the backswing and also paves the way for her to launch back toward Haru.
Like with so many of her other attacks, this one starts with a springing leap from a couple meters away, her arms windmilling as she aims to batter Haru's guard or catch him trying to escape with enough of an impact to stagger him.
She'd step into one of her nearly perfected right hand palm strikes to follow up, attempting to drive back Haru with a staggeringly strong blow. Unlike her previous palm strikes, however, she leans hard into this one, willing to commit fully to landing it, rather than preparing for the worst by preemptively counter-balancing the aggressive momentum!
COMBATSYS: Haru counters Soushou Shin EX from Hotaru with Topaz Vigilance.
[ \\\\\\\ < > //////////// ]
Hotaru 0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0 Haru
The polite thing to do here would be to acknowledge the compliment that Hotaru just gave him, but rather unlike the kung fu fighter's strong pacing of her energy, Haru is exhausted, or at least getting near to exhaustion fairly quickly. "Keeping up with you... is really hard!" is all he can think of to say. This IS a compliment to Hotaru, though perhaps she might not know how much; the Justice student has had to push himself harder than he's used to just to keep on an even footing with her this long. If the journey to mastery is a road, as Hotaru seems to believe, then she is probably a few steps ahead of Haru on it.
But he is not out yet, and he is going to give whatever he can right up until the point that he can't. In fact, to some extent the Futaba scion's previous defenses mean that Haru is prepared for what happens to his attempted strike. He hoped she wouldn't attempt to deflect it away, but expected that she would. This means when she decides to press her advantage, Haru has a second to prepare himself, and what he mostly does is: not stop spinning from the second swing of the yoyo, letting its centripetal force keep it going and following its arc.
This means that just as the palm strike is about to land, that yoyo of Haru's is coming back for a *third* time... and rather than striking with it, he lets his arm drop and tugs the weapon into place around Hotaru's calf before giving as strong a yank as he can. It doesn't stop the palm strike, but it DOES pull her off course enough that her fists only hit the air instead of Haru himself... which, given the unexpected but undeniable might Hotaru possesses, is a good thing.
As he disengages, quick wristwork unlooping the first yoyo, the second comes around in a followup arc, scything Hotaru off her feet and giving Haru time to back up and prepare himself for what's to come. It's as Hotaru said: this is NOT over.
Committed as Hotaru was to the attack, the fact that Haru finds a way to leverage his reach advantage into a snare on her leg proves disastrous for the Futaba girl. Her leg catching, her palm strike is less of a hammering piston-like blow and more of a flailing swing. There's really no hope of recovery before the follow through, her legs swept right out from under her, leaving her to fall hard into a seated position on the stage. Her expression betrays a somewhat dazed look as the breath got knocked clean out of her.
There is a blink as her azure eyes find their focus again, hands pressing down against the flooring as she scrambles backward quickly out of reflex. Not that the yo-yo expert has ever struck her as the sort to smack her around while she's down, she won't fight as if that is the case - she has to treat every moment of this bout as seriously as any other, after all. To give it any less is to treat it with less respect than it demands, less than Haru deserves from her.
Back up again, she's slower now, finally sucking in a much needed breath as the jarring ache in her spine from her awkward landing a moment ago continues to distract the girl slightly.
There is a bit of recovery, a sheepish grin working its way into her expression as she realizes that she might have looked a bit silly getting dropped onto her backside without catching herself in the slightest, but she shakes it off a moment later, sucking in a deep breath, preparing to try and find another way to get through the young man's formidable defenses.
His compliment didn't go unheard, however, its acknowledgment merely delayed. "I think you're doing really good at it," she laughs back. Yet still, she insists on attacking, even after the recent round of mishaps that have to be wearing her down. A leap, another hop, but unlike before, no attack comes while she's airborne, she's simply trying to get just within range of her own maximum reach, landing in that low stance, arms out at her sides, left foot far forward, once again demonstrating remarkable flexibility.
The forward momentum doesn't go to waste, however, as she lunges out of the low stance, pivoting into a leading, left handed palm strike, attempting to smash clean through any effort of guarding before, unless otherwise prevented, she'd step forward with her other foot, pivoting to the left, her right hand slamming in with a harder, secondary attack, trying to force Haru back on the defensive with another one of her surprisingly strong kinetic combinations!
COMBATSYS: Haru endures Hotaru's Fierce Punch.
[ \\\\\\\\ < > ////// ]
Hotaru 0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0 Haru
They're actually going to do it. A fateful confrontation. Each fighter at the limits of their stamina, though not nearly at the limits of their will. Later on the Golden Angel people will be upset that this fight wasn't as light-hearted and silly as their marketing people hoped it would be, but for TRUE connoisseurs of the fight, this will be a very popular FightTube video indeed.
They're absolutely going to clash at close range.
Part of Haru knows that what he's about to do is silly. Part of him knows that logic says: don't get hit, especially by someone physically stronger than you. Be nimble, be flexible. Evade! Encircle! Strike when unexpected. But there is another part of him that has been subject to Hotaru's fists -- and thus, her touch -- again and again in this fight. And maybe in connecting to her that way, in feeling these brief flashes of what she must be feeling at that moment... part of him doesn't WANT to fight that way.
Part of him wants to feel about this fight the way that Hotaru must feel about this fight.
Thus when the kung fu-fighting girl comes in for a fierce pair of palm strikes indeed, Haru grits his teeth, watches the angle of her strikes, and sets his feet. The first blow hits home, eliciting a sharp exhalation of breath, and then the second, causing the Justice student's face to twist into a grimace. But he doesn't go down... not yet.
For just a moment, Hotaru's commitment to her strikes means she's in close without anywhere to go. It's a split second, given her reaction time. But in that split second, the air between the two fighters flickers white, before an opalescent orb erupts around Haru. It doesn't blossom into a lotus, like before, but it's still there, ready to repel Hotaru unless she escapes in time. It's his last gesture of thanks, one she may never really know or understand.
It is Haru not being afraid to use what is uniquely his.
COMBATSYS: Hotaru blocks Haru's Moonstone Tenacity.
[ \\\\\ < > ////// ]
Hotaru 0/-------/--=====|=======\-------\0 Haru
If she thought for a moment Haru wasn't giving this fight everything he had, there's a good chance the Futaba heiress would be offended. Light hearted, gimmicky as the match premise might be, she's given a hundred and ten percent every step of the way. And, judging by Haru's stance, that fierce determination in his eyes, and those unmistakable signs of exhaustion setting in, she has no reason to think he's brought any less to the exchange of banter, strikes, and energetic blasts of energy.
Even as she delivers her palm strikes, she can feel the difference between a lucky hit and a deliberate desire to pour everything he has into offense rather than defense. It doesn't slow her own strike down in the slightest - it doesn't change her mind to commit everything into that forward momentum, one shuddering palm blow into a second - but it does necessitate an almost mad scramble attempt to defend herself afterward. She has no idea what the nature of Haru's attack will be, only that it's coming, and it will be coming on fast.
Which is why she kind of preemptively staggers backward, losing some of her grace before in favor of timeliness, arms raised, palms open, feet slipping a little as the nature of Haru's counter attack becomes evident. Given the piercing nature of his energy, her defense ends up being less about somehow fighting it off - the secret to that continues to elude her - and more that she simply managed to put just enough distance between him and her before the brilliant sphere of Haru's will made manifest bursts out from around him.
As before, the energy passes over and through her in an instant, forcing a gasp as she takes another, belated step backward simply because that's where her momentum was taking her. She starts to slip again even though the stage floor has remained surprisingly dry all this time.
But she catches herself mid-stumble, leaning forward into a crouch, hands pressed against the flooring as she sucks in a deep breath.
Cheeks flushed, the corners of her eyes are watering as the disabling effect of Haru's blossoming energy takes its toll.
If she just relaxes, settles back, and sits down, refusing to get back up, the match can be called, resolved at last. But if she did that, she wouldn't have given it her all.
No. Not yet.
Hotaru surges to her feet, lunging back into a sprint toward Haru. Closing in with no regard for trying to avoid counter strikes this time, she sweeps her right leg out into a reverse roundhouse, starting from low to high, her foot trailing just shy of being able to connect with Haru in the slightest.
But that swell of azure chi that moves in the wake of her near-hit kick? That has just enough reach to make up the difference, sweeping and dissipating as the unyielding Kung Fu artist spins with her momentum, attempting to come back around to facing Haru again, once more at the ready.
COMBATSYS: Hotaru keeps on fighting!
[ \\\\\\ < > ////// ]
Hotaru 0/-------/--=====|=======\-------\0 Haru
COMBATSYS: Hotaru successfully hits Haru with Kobi Kyaku.
[ \\\\\\ < > // ]
Hotaru 0/-------/-======|=======\==-----\1 Haru
He just has nothing left. Hotaru's tenacity in the face of every attack Haru has thrown at her is astounding, but it's also drained Haru of resources all the way down to the marrow, meaning that when she has it in her for one last strike, he does NOT have it in him for one last defense. He tries to hop backwards, but the edge of that blue energy is deceptive and clips him in the chest. It's not a forceful knockdown, but it is enough to make him stagger, dropping to one knee and placing one hand palm-down on the ground.
For a moment, he simply breathes, trying to take stock, to figure out what to do, but a protesting body stymies him at every turn. Haru is done, that much is clear. And yet... and yet.
Hotaru didn't stop even when it seemed like she'd be physically incapable of going on, and there she stands, bowed but unbroken. It would be so easy to just stop, now, Haru's body tells him. The fight is done and you fought well. He pushed himself farther than he thought he could go.
A decision is made.
Slowed by fatigue but nonetheless moving with all the agility he can muster, Haru surges forward and swings a single yoyo one final time. This isn't about winning or losing, or about not wanting to give up. This is about finding out what his limits are, what he's capable of. Maybe it'll amount to nothing. But at the very least, he tried...
COMBATSYS: Haru can no longer fight.
[ \\\\\\ <
COMBATSYS: Hotaru dodges Haru's Emerald Vivacity.
[ \\\\\\ <
The audience in the Golden Angel Hippodrome may have come expecting a silly match between to up and coming hopefuls - a bout full of pratfalls, slapstick, amusing antics, maybe with some fighting mingled into the mix.
Instead what they got was a demonstration of acrobatic physicality, precision control with a complex weapon, bursts of beautiful white and vibrant azure, and a whole lot of heart. Haru and Hotaru may be on the center stage, surrounded by the crescent of packed seating, but those two young fighters weren't here to entertain the audience. They were letting the audience share in this, the next step along their personal journeys.
Maybe the next World Warrior wasn't being chosen here this day. Perhaps the next King of Fighters champions weren't being crowned. But in spite the promise of hijinks, these two young athletes gave it their all.
Hotaru follows the momentum of her kick to finish turning back to face Haru, exhausted arms lifting, body heaving with each deep breath. She shouldn't even be standing. Still, the pain of Haru's opalescent energy resonates through her body - acute in nature yet also dispersed.
She clipped him, that much she's certain, as her eyes settle back on him, finding the young man on one knee. The look on her face shows that she doesn't consider this match complete, however; a focused intensity that would perhaps be more fitting if she was situated in the Howard Arena at the end of a long, grueling tournament, rather than standing barefoot in a school themed swimsuit and skirt.
Haru rises and the grin that breaks out across the pig-tailed fighter's features show that there's nothing that could make her happier in that moment. Let's keep going. Let's keep going, the unspoken language of her movement seems to suggest. We have to find our limits... so that we can break them.
Risen, Haru surges, his hands moving with that subtle motion required to create such varied, dramatic ranged attacks with his weapon of choice
As before, the motion of the yoyo itself is simply too fast to move reactively to. And the movement of Haru's hand gives so little away. To a degree, avoidance requires anticipation and a touch of guesswork.
In this case, Hotaru ends up successful with both aspects. She drops low, into that same incredibly low profile stance she had demonstrated a few times, left foot way out in front of her, right leg beneath her, arms out at her sides for balance. Leaning forward so far, she's able to lower herself even below a standard crouch, and in this case, the evasion proves to be just enough, the yoyo clipping the raised tails of her red hair ribbons but otherwise failing to secure her this time.
Now that she's committed to this stance, however, she realizes she doesn't have anything left in her to get back up or lunge out of it. In fact, she can't even sustain it, her legs trembling, her arms wobbling at her sides. Fortunately, she realizes then that she doesn't need to. Haru came with her to find his current limit and now he knows the next threshold to break through. There will be no more attacks from him this fight.
Rather than stand, the Kung Fu artist lowers her arms to plant her hands against the ground, shifting her legs beneath her into a kneel as she leans forward and props herself up.
Her breathes come in gasp, making it hard to speak, but she musters the effort to do so. It has to be said.
"Thank you, Sa- Sakuraba-san."
She lifts her face. Right now, soaking in a spa sounds like the best idea ever. As long as it's sea water.
"For giving it your all."
She could think of no greater token of friendship than that.
COMBATSYS: Hotaru has ended the fight here.
Log created on 15:23:28 02/03/2018 by Hotaru, and last modified on 00:26:01 02/06/2018.