World Warrior 2018 - World Warrior Round 3 - Jubei vs Azrael

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Description: If a legend has not been shared, can it truly be a legend at all? Only a scarce few know of the mythical tales of either the One-Eyed Twin Lotus, or the Mad Dog Azrael -- but now, everyone with access to a television is able to see just what makes these living legends so damn epic.

One of the more enigmatic individuals is waiting for the legendary cat; although Jubei has centuries of stories about his exploits and martial prowess, Azrael barely exists. The feline would know from mercenary circles about the 'Mad Dog', a man of his appearance who is like a force of nature. Who's very aura could crush the minds of hardened soldiers. Yet merely approaching the courtyard makes it apparent just how high of a peak he has reached; it is like walking through dense molasses, a storm of sheer predatory instinct that prevents any mundane people from actively recording the area. As a beastman, he likely knows precisely what it is... the feel of an apex predator, a lion in a world of gazelles, where a scent or glance from prey can send one deep into terror. It's insufficient to affect the likes of the One-Eyed Lotus, but in terms of sheer physical force, he's likely met a superior. And, to all finely honed senses, beyond sight he seems... inhuman.

Of course, for all the grandiose feel of his twisted aura, he's merely resting against one of the sand-flanked columns; arms crossed before his chest, posture slouched, crimson eyes closed. He's... dozing for the moment, wearing a white jacket like a cape over his bare chest. Blue hair covering much of his face. This is no showmanship... his guard and perception is utterly gone, low noises of his snoring thrumming through the vacant yard.

There are rumors, and then there are legends. To someone who has walked the earth as much as Jubei has, a legend is simply a rumor that has been personally confirmed. And as the one-eyed cat strides onto the battlefield, wading through the thick, oppressive aura surrounding Azrael, he can attest that the Mad Dog is everything the rumors said he would be. For someone to possess such an overwhelming presence, yet sleep so soundly must be an intimidating person indeed.

The One-Eyed Twin Lotus steps forward all the same. The fearsome presence is a poignant reminder of the tenuous grasp on life held by a mortal soul -- coupled with true malice, this Azrael could be another Destroyer, or Harbinger of death.

No -- there will be no friendly conversation, no attempt at levity.
The cat draws in his breath, his mended jacket swishing about as he steps closer.
His left paw rests upon the hilt of his sword.
And he stops, five meters away from Azrael.

"The time has come," he intones -- his voice thundering across the opening, with only two legends' ears to hear it. "We will test our skills against one another -- and the victor will proceed."

A matter-of-fact statement, delivered loudly enough to resound through whatever dreams Azrael may find himself within, as Jubei awaits at the ready -- hoping for a slow awakening, but just as prepared to deal with the rapid and aggressive sort.

COMBATSYS: Jubei has wandered into a fight here.

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Jubei            0/-------/-------|

The approach does not rouse Azrael in the slightest. Only that sudden statement causes him to startle awake. A sort of naked vulnerability of one who perhaps has never felt danger; yawning deep and toothy, eyes welling up before he rubs at them with the back of his hand and shifts forward. Footsteps taking him a meter closer, as his crimson eyes sweep to the left, to the right... and then descend to the feline. There's no surprise at being a beastman -- many of the legends leave that part out. A slow and genuine assessment follows, before...

Azrael frowns. Disappointment. This isn't ego and arrogance; he was looking for something in the cat, and he genuinely did not find it.

"What the hell...? You're not nearly as strong as the others." Of course, his assessment of strength is unique. Technique? Speed? Mastery? These are useless to Azrael, as he stands the anethema to such things. A long exhale follows, neck cracking to the left as he rubs the back of his head. "I don't like your smell, either. ...Tch. I've not encountered a meal this unappetizing in ages... hrrrgh...!!"

COMBATSYS: Azrael has joined the fight here.

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Azrael           0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0            Jubei

The bicolored cat's sole eye blinks back at Azrael, his face showing no recognizable emotion.

"If that's so, then this'll be easy for ya."

The cat's sleeved paws rise slightly, to either side as he assesses his opponent.

"I ain't much a fan of your scent either. But it looks like we're both gonna have to deal with each other for a few minutes."

The sleeves of Jubei's billowy orange jacket each end in rounded mechanical paws, marked with three grooves. With a small shudder, each paw unfurls three deadly scythe-like blades, nearly 30cm in length. Even in the oppressive mist, the polished blades gleam in the light.

"So let's get this fight over with."
The trance of the Empty Mind permits the cat to bare his fangs in a slight smile -- a strategic maneuver, to instigate his opponent.

And in the very next instant, the nimble One-Eyed Twin Lotus surges forward. The left claw rakes in an overhand diagonal slash across Azrael, carving from his right shoulder down. The right claw adopts the mirror image of that path, slicing across the left shoulder. The cat propels each slash forward with the entirety of his spine, and if unopposed, he will land -four- car-cleaving slices across his opponent before relenting to assess his position.

COMBATSYS: Azrael endures Jubei's Fissuring Slash.

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Azrael           0/-------/----===|=------\-------\0            Jubei

There's an annoyed snort coming from Azrael at that, eyes narrowing into crimson slits towards Jubei. "I'm not interested in it being easy...! I'll gladly lose each and every fight, as long as they make my soul shake and fill my belly!!" His arms fly open, before it seems he had still kept some degree of his presence locked away. The air darkens like a sudden eclipse, dense and heavy. It would feel like an ancient battlefield, perhaps. As if the air was scented with desperate violence, a primal battle of life and death.

"But you... I'm immune to what you consider 'strength'!!"

In an eyeblink, Jubei is upon him. The response is strange -- Azrael merely crouches down, leaving a massive opening. One that is taken heartily; yet those blades, ripping through fabric and making the very air sound as if molecules are being sheared, only seem to slide across his torso. It does not feel anything like flesh, yet neither does it feel like cutting something invincible. The power is absorbed, going somewhere, and in the wake of Jubei's momentary assessment, his fighting power has decreased but his body is unscarred. Unscarred, despite the Black Beast slaying weapons of Nine, which can give a fatal wound with a nick to unprepared spirits.

And Azrael's leap upwards is undeterred. He aims to simply stomp downwards directly over Jubei's head and drive him down into the ground. It's as if Mario decided he wanted to end a goomba, an almost childish technique if the speed and ferocity was not so genuine. It's not as if he has any technique... no, instead the maneuver is so brutally quick that many fighters would be helpless to defend.

"That's some nice swords you have there... they make my soul quiver...!!" Yet the hit... it felt empty. Unsatisfying. Like when he confronted Relius; a battle devoid of the spark of mind and soul that he needs for a proper meal...

COMBATSYS: Jubei counters Sentinel Dump from Azrael with Immovable Object.

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Azrael           0/-------/--=====|===----\-------\0            Jubei

Jubei's only response to Azrael's snort was an unblinking stare. Making his soul shake, and filling his belly... ? The first he can understand -- fighting another master of the sword, Baiken, was an exhilarating rush the likes of which he hadn't felt in decades. But the second... How do you get full fighting? Doesn't it just make you hungry?

The trance of the Empty Mind prevents the samurai from devoting much thought to the abstract notion. The Empty Mind places emphasis only on landing those strikes -- and on processing the unusual concept of striking something, and yet -nothing-. As if he was cutting through quicksand, with the sand spilt harmlessly off the edges of his razor-sharp claws.

Something is wrong -- and despite his seemingly all-out charge, Jubei was only pressuring his opponent into action. As soon as his fourth slash reaved outwards, the nimble feline fighter had leapt backward in preparation, left hand snapping over his right shoulder to grab at the hilt of his sword -- not in preparation to attack, but defend.

What madness -is- this? Jubei feels as if he is fighting an intangible foe -- not unlike the arch-nemesis who slayed his bride. And it was only through his preparation that he was able to bring the sword, along with its scabbard and twin, up to oppose Azrael's aerial attack. The soles of Azrael's boots will crash down onto the lacquered scabbard housing the feline samurai's twin Dream Blades, with a clatter of straining wood -- Jubei supporting the scabbard from both ends. But that landing will be unstable, shaky, forcing Jubei to curl up into a crouch from the sheer might of the blow. A shockwave of force erupts around the pair, slamming a circular indentation into the ground below.

But then Jubei uncoils -- letting go of the scabbard with his left paw -- and ramming same shoulder up into the descending Azrael's chest with all of the unleashed potential of the attack!

The cat rebounds backward from the strike, clutching the scabbard tightly in his right paw, his jacket fluttering about from the speed of the motion.

That is all the conversation Azrael get from the battle-entranced samurai.

That blade runs across Azrael very firmly, and a layman might mistake the nature of his indestructibility. Instead of being immune to damage, his flesh draws it in, eating it all. And the Empty Mind is also a great protection from one of Azrael's more dangerous attributes... his interest. For the damage being carved into him is laced with the intent of body and soul. It has a flavor, an essence... and Jubei's is about as disgusting to him as he can have. The utter control of his entire being makes it crude and distasteful, and as those feet crush into the sand to send up a great obscuring plume, the shoulder strikes into him intently, causing the monolith to skid backwards. The expression is like someone who has bitten into a lemon. "Disgusting...!!" he growls. And that maneuver... how did such a tiny body deflect his power? He doesn't understand, adding muted frustration. "Get out of my way, cat!! You're the last kind of prey I want!!" Sliding forward, a huge hand settles overhead, fingers splaying... then drops like a comet, trying to crush Jubei down within the sandy ground. Beyond the speed, he's almost juvenile. He's like a bully who's always had strength and size to compensate for his fights. Easy to read, if his keen instincts are up for the task of REACTING in time...

COMBATSYS: Jubei blocks Azrael's Palm Smash.

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Azrael           0/-------/--=====|====---\-------\0            Jubei

Jubei does not know what fuels Azrael, and the trance of the Empty Mind prevents him from giving much thought at all to such matters. Surely, the samurai will have time to meditate on this peculiar opponent's words at some later time, but for right now, it would seem he has the advantage.

As Azrael is finding out, the diminutive feline's battle potential lies not in his size, or strength, or speed, but in his adamant determination. Once his goal has been cemented into place, the cat will not be deterred into thinking about anything else. The insulting -thought- of him being mere prey is simply brushed off -- many have underestimated the samurai's talents, some fatally.

Such it is, when Azrael's overwhelming strength is brought to bear, that the cat is able to read the motion, hurling both of his oversized paws up to intercept the blow. Jubei's eye and mouth contort in exertion as he's forced backwards -- but even with the unconscionably quick strike, the cat is able to leap back and away at the very last second, directing Azrael's fist into the sandy ground.

A mushroom cloud of sand erupts from the point of impact, exploding upwards even as Jubei vaults backwards. The cat hisses -- that was -not- a light attack, after all -- and his hind paws can be heard digging into the sand a ways back.

The samurai looked like he was about to say something then...
But no. Just as quickly as he landed, the aged cat vaults forward once more, spinning into a rapid somersault. And finally, in mid-flight, the seithr-forged steel of the twin Dream Blades is unleashed -- a maddening flurry of live steel and claws protruding from the whirlwind of feline fury. The honorable samurai aims not to kill, but instead to reave at the destroyer's bone and muscle -- slowing his unrelenting assaults to a more manageable level.

COMBATSYS: Azrael blocks Jubei's Form Three - Ranjishi EX.

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Azrael           0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0            Jubei

This might be an unusual opponent, indeed. If he had been something of flesh and blood, his manner of fighting would be suicidal. He's eaten two attacks that could cut some who stand at the apex of the world to the bone; and seemed to be physically uninjured, beyond the strange weight of his shifting fighting power decreasing. It gives him the ability to ignore assaults and defend himself uniquely, even in the face of the legendary blades. And, perhaps surprisingly, the raw speed that Jubei erupts forward with is clearly seen. Even if he's showing no particular effort in evading attacks, he can see within the realm of movement that Jubei exists in. Forearms shift upwards, purple shimmer whirling up around him. The rain of blows bears down, but whatever dark armor he's wrapped as an aegis about his frame dulls the blows massively. And once more, despite the sound of the blade meeting him, leaves no marks beyond the shredded cloth of his jacket and pants.

"WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!" Azrael roars out, before suddenly shooting forward. His heel twists upwards and he then unleashes a darkly shrouded kick, trying to abruptly slam his booted foot into Jubei's chest with bone shattering force. There's complete killing intent here; not of someone who wishes death on the opponent, but that of a child playing too roughly with a bug and not much caring whether those efforts cause it any undue pain. "You're holding back?! On me?! Hrrgh...!! What's wrong with you?! You taste like worse than nothing, you shitty cat!!"

COMBATSYS: Jubei dodges Azrael's Valiant Crush.

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Azrael           0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0            Jubei

It is quite likely that Jubei is half the weight of the lightest opponent Azrael had ever faced -- and yet, the feline seems to be comprised of pure muscle, wound like steel twine. His sword slashes, while seeming wild and reckless, are anything but: exactingly precise, like the knives of an assassin.

The infinitely sharp blades are returned to their double scabbard before the feline crouches upon the ground. His crimson eye shoots up to meet Azrael's in the midst of his bellowing roar -- and by the time the titan surges forward, the cat has already leapt into the air, his sleeved paws trailing along behind him as he cartwheels off to the one side.

The cat is not holding back per se -- he has been dealing one punishing attack after another. And so it is again, when Jubei lands -- for he suddenly snaps back in a rapid reversal.

The lower of the two Dream Blades sings as it whistles out of its scabbard. While he brings it first with his paws, the blade's hilt is passed to the feline's teeth, allowing it the full uncoiling of the samurai's body, sweeping up diagonally from Azrael's right hip! And when the -second- Dream Blade whistles out, the strike will whip down from overhead -- a converse slash aimed to carve downward from Azrael's right shoulder down!

COMBATSYS: Azrael interrupts Crushing Strike from Jubei with Panzer Strike.

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Azrael           1/-----==/=======|=======\=------\1            Jubei

Precision matters against an opponent with weak points; Azrael is a mere mass of fighting prowess. Striking him anywhere is the same, something that Jubei has likely discerned -- the feedback from all his blows, beyond the time he seemed to shield himself, has been identical despite some locations being critical weak points and others more densely muscled. It has something to do with his proclaimation that Jubei is ill-suited; there's little to do but power through against Azrael, and if one's techniques do not include raw destructive force, they can be difficult to reach him.

A foot slides forward, right arm bulging with a sudden roar of power. His speed and strength magnify for a few moments. The gambit would have been safe, if Azrael continued to follow expectations. Instead, the first of the blades crashes against his hip, ricocheting off and leaving a perfectly sliced piece of trailing jacket. A moment later, his darkly empowered fist strikes Jubei's miniscule body in the ribs.

It is a blow that ravages more than the physical body. It penetrates to the soul, sending a surge of the most primal of instincts. Fear; the fear of someone being hunted. A whirling sigil would seethe on Jubei's body as the pair are launched upwards in the rising attack, before at the top Azrael roars and unleashes an overhead downtwards blow, slamming into the slender cat's spine and causing the pair to shriek down and slam upon the ground. A great blast of purple fire sends more hissing sand in all directions, leaving Jubei in a catlump at his feet, Azrael's expression still twisted with teeth bared.

"Again...!! Even hitting you, I feel nothing...!! Gaaaah!!" His frustration would make little logical sense, most likely. He would merrily cede he underestimated Jubei's power and durability, but that means nothing if his mind, body and soul are so empty he cannot extract even the slightest drop of what he desires over the course of the fight...!

Jubei's slashes provided the vulnerability that Azrael was able to capitalize upon -- his elongated, undefended body. With a less committed strike he would be able to leverage his blades, or the scabbard, to aid in his defense -- as it is, the fifty-five pound Legendary Hero is hit with an bonecrushing impact, hard enough to fracture several of his ribs -- and send him hurtling upwards and -well- within the airspace of the rising Azrael.

Jubei cannot remain silent for this, his voice keening with a howl that transcends the range of human vocal chords. The burning sigil sears into him, threatening to breach the trance of the Empty Mind...!

And yet -- that is precisely the -purpose- for the defense. For when the body and not the mind is trained to react, then the -natural- response is to counterattack in the fiercest manner possible. Not only does purple fire gush out of the wound, but so does a gushing stream of black and white chi.

Still conscious, Jubei starts to move -- only to get snatched out of the air, and slammed along with Azrael into the ground. The plumes of black and white chi stream behind the pair in a column -- but as Jubei rebounds off the sand, the ribbons of chi stream along behind him.

The One-Eyed Twin Lotus leaps back to his feet, unwilling to accept his pain. The Empty Mind sees such acceptance as weakness -- and it supplies the adrenaline to ignore the physical infirmities. Jubei raises the swords, turning his back -- his BACK! -- to the aggressor!

And in the same fluid motion, the Legendary Hero pitches forward, carving the blades in two deadly upward arcs across his opponent -- each deadly in their own right, but paired together threatening to overwhelm even the titan's mighty defenses...!

COMBATSYS: Azrael barely endures Jubei's Form Four - Black Panther EX.

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Azrael           1/--=====/=======|>>>>>>>\>>-----\1            Jubei

Whirling upwards, Azrael's expression is the opposite of one who desires battle. It is sheer impatience and disgust. He is a monster born to revel in the most base and primal of instincts that come to the battlefield. Every single primal flux that one would feel in the midst of bloody war, the highs and lows, the great rushes and the terrible fear... Jubei has none of that. None!! Even Rugal he could taste the pride and fury...

Twisting around, Azrael once more begins to infuse strength within his fist. Back is now presented to back, in an ironic contrast. "Haaa...!!" And then he swings as well. Jubei's blow hits first, clean and true. Smashing into his face, but doing nothing to stop the tide of raw power furiously rushing with dark energy intent on slamming into Jubei's sternum and send him flying... Whether he can use the split second opening to defend himself or not may be the deciding moment in this brawl. Azrael is not immune to force, however -- after his swing finishes he recoils backwards, staggering off-balance with a grunt, although regaining his footing unnaturally fast. It seems that he's immune to pain and disorientation, as well...

But if he strikes a second time... two applications of the Terror driven at full rage into the Empty Mind... would it hold up, or evoke ancient instincts long thought mastered?

COMBATSYS: Jubei blocks Azrael's Black Hawk Stinger.

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Azrael           0/-------/---====|>>>>>>>\>>>>---\1            Jubei

Jubei is not immune to the drums of war -- indeed, on one sense, he hears them too, feels the steady pump of adrenaline and fire coursing through his veins. The way of the samurai, though, has taught him to ignore such blind passions, to seek harmony in the true rhythm and pace of battle instead.

With every attack there will be a reckoning -- and his infinitely sharp blades biting down deep into Azrael are no different. The wounds may not be as obvious, but Jubei can sense the progress he is making, step by furrowing step. And the natural rebound sends him flying away, such that when the wave of raw force slams forward, the cat has just a scant instant to interpose his paw into the path -- allowing his twin tails to carry the sword away. The cat flashes his teeth at the titan, feral and tenacious, as he lands a meter back, returning the swords to their scabbard.

But in that split second -- mustering an adequate defense should be impossible, right? Surely, when Jubei raises his sleeved paw to defend, it cannot be enough...

But that's when the tides of black and white energy surge to his beck and call, sweeping into a yin-yang disc in front of him. And when the follow up strike lands -- it will impact upon the disc, dissipating the kinetic force into a shockwave that slams into the ground, slicing the ground beneath him as surely as if it were an excavator's bucket. Jubei skids backwards, throwing up his own clouds of sand and dirt...

But when the cloud begins to settle, all that remains is Jubei, in the center of a steadily whirling mass of ebony and ivory chi.

This time, he will not add another attack to the unrelenting pace of battle.
This time, he will recuperate -- allowing his influence on the battleground to take root.

COMBATSYS: Jubei gathers his will.

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Azrael           0/-------/---====|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\1            Jubei

Indeed, it would be far different for Azrael if Jubei was innately immune to such things. Azrael has fought Gods who could literally not feel fear, or passion; such was merely boring. But somewhere deep in Jubei, masterfully suppressed, he can feel the powerful beast of passion that he COULD be. That restraint, that shackling... how much more thrilling this battle would be, if he allowed it to bear free!!

"Hrrrrrrraugh!!" Azrael doesn't offer much conversation of his own. He acts likely just as Jubei wishes; when the cat goes still and hardens his stance, the massive warrior takes the bait and rushes forward. Again he levels his great power into a prepared punch, rearing back his fist and condensing dark energy into the knuckles. All power, zero finesse, entire body rippling with purple aura that blackens the very light for meters all around as the shadow of war falls down. "Just BREAK, you goddamn boring CAT!!"

And then, he punches. A simple term, for the bellow of wind as the sound barrier breaks, the way the kinetic force explodes out like a large bomb just went off whether it hits Jubei, is intercepted, or lands upon the ground. But like a rampaging bull with a matador, such things only matter if they *hit*...

COMBATSYS: Jubei instinctively blocks Azrael's Leopard Launcher.

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Azrael           0/-------/---====|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Jubei

The cat will not break.
The cat has -nothing- if not his flawless execution, his graceful form.
For anything less will threaten to weaken the blow, or err its aim.

The waves of black and white chi surge back in inverse proportion to the shockwave of wind. Rather than flying back against the sheer force, the waves accumulate most heavily in front of Jubei, massing into a sheer tidal wall of force. And as Azrael's bellowing fist plows forward, layer after layer of the chi barrier slough away like the skin of an onion, pealing backwards and evaporating as they are eroded aside.

Until, at the very end -- is the upraised paw of Jubei, the One-Eyed Twin Lotus -- the sleeve buckling with the pressure, and an instant later, the cat springing backwards to deaden what's left of the impact.

But something... more subtle has happened in the wake of the dispelled barrier of chi.

Up until this point, Azrael may have enjoyed something of a home field advantage -- the oppressive aura that infiltrates every pore, nook, and cranny of every surface available, a presence that causes beasts to flee and babies to burst into tears. But, for a moment, it is quite possible that Azrael will feel a shift in that perspective.

He may see, feel, or otherwise -sense- in that moment in which Jubei's hood whips backwards, that lurking within Jubei's patched eye socket thrives the soul of a demon.

The air now beats to the pulse of Jubei's rapid heartbeat -- a constant thrum, much more rapid owing to his smaller size. And with each rapid, susurrating thrum, the black and white currents slowly return in intensity -- a dizzying spiral, permeating the air around both Jubei and Azrael.

Jubei's bicolored mane flies about in the hyperreal wind. And he surges forward sharply -- marking four points in space.

One black inkwell of chi pools forward of Azrael's right foot.
The second, beside his left hand.
The third, in the space above his head and to the right.
And the fourth -- back on the ground beneath his feet.

In an instant, all of the blights of black chi snap into full resolution -- hexagons, with a paw inlaid inside.

And in the very next instant, the Twin Lotus explodes forward. One Dream Blade is unsheathed, carving into Azrael's right flank -- and he would slice from one sigil to the next. The instant after he makes contact, each sigil would explode in a powerful detonation, culminating in a blisteringly fast sequence that would carry him into an upward spiral, before Jubei slices overhand, slashing him right back down to the ground with a powerful overhand swing...!

COMBATSYS: Azrael auto-guards Jubei's Shiranui Steel.

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Azrael           0/-------/---====|>>>>>--\-------\0            Jubei

Azrael said at the start that technique and execution were meaningless against him; that is at least half-true, thus far. Any other foe would have succumbed to these onslaughts long ago, the full fury of a Nox Nyctores one of the more dangerous things to face, especially unarmed. When the brutal backfist only creates some space between him and Jubei, the near mindless expression continues.

But a mistake was made, then. A normal opponent would be struck back by the sudden weight and force of Jubei's presence. Instead, Azrael's expression immediately snaps back to the here and now. His crimson eyes widen, and a grin spreads on his face as the dark wells of energy flow around him.

"Yes...! That's more like it!!" It's a mere scent, a subtle taste of Jubei, but it's far more thrilling than he expected. In anticipation, he rears back the shackles of his retraints further. Jubei rushes forward, faster than most opponents could blink.

And immediately Azrael's large hand snaps out, catching the Dream Blade by the middle. All of that great force and violent intent is stopped dead, and a moment later Azrael shoves backwards. A great wall of sheer force blows Jubei a couple meters backwards, leaving the inkwells untouched by his blade.

"Do it... show me your true fangs, feline...!!" One moment he's a comfortable distance away. The next, Azrael stands immediately before Jubei. It's no teleportation, merely explosive strength used to move forward with uncanny speed. He whips out his hand, knuckles aiming for that weathered muzzle, an almost dismissive backhand seeming almost playful. "You have ferocity and power... BRING IT TO ME!!"

COMBATSYS: Jubei full-parries Azrael's Swift Backhand!!

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Azrael           0/-------/-======|>>>>>>>\-------\0            Jubei

Jubei didn't exactly take Azrael's caution at face value. Every opponent boasts. Few can actually live up to those boasts -- and Azrael definitely numbers among them.

It'd be impossible for him to ignore the palpable, wide-eyed grin from Azrael. But Jubei is restricted from commenting on that, from acknowledging the Battle Titan's growing hunger in any way aside from passing notice. It would not change the outcome of the Empty Mind. And it would only serve as distraction.

His Dream Blade is caught -- a seeming impossibility. And yet -- if one has the strength to crush the Legendary Hero's ribs, then one certainly has the strength to grasp his sword, sparing oneself from the blade. Jubei is propelled backward -- landing in a three-point crouch a good distance away.

Almost instantaneously Azrael blitzes forward, crossing meters in the blink of an eye.
And the One-Eyed Twin Lotus responds with the celerity as if he had merely walked, snapping his guard up with lightning-quick reflexes. As he leans his muzzle away from the blow, the 'playful' strike crashes into a forceful backhand of Jubei's own making.

Jubei isn't strong enough to brush off the titan's empassioned offense, though -- for the instant that contact is made, black and white chi explodes outward in a starburst pattern, propelling Jubei a good four meters to his side. A ragged snarl escapes his mouth, broken ribs straining his lungs. And yet, the little beastman leaps forward again, somersaulting into a high arc, propelled with a riotous rocket plume of black and white chi!

What goes up, must come down -- though in this case, gravity takes a back seat to a jagged, stacatto eruption of chi. The remaining white chi surrounding Jubei bleeds away, as the black is funneled into the point of his Dream Blade as he zigs a sharp diagonal across the sky -- only to zag the opposite direction in a furrowing strike. Four rapid directional shifts -- four compounding shockwaves slamming into the titan in rapid succession!

COMBATSYS: Jubei successfully hits Azrael with Twin Guardians - Mourning Shore EX.
- Power hit! -

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

COMBATSYS: Jubei full-parries Azrael's Full Spartan!!

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

COMBATSYS: Jubei successfully hits Azrael with Miroku - Spherical Illusion EX.

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

A normal person grasping that sword, strong or not, would lose his hand and possibly his head. But Nox Nyctores have proven not to cut Azrael any more than another weapon; the rumors of his immortality might not be wholely incorrect, at least in terms of physical measures to destroy him being true. Shifting away that backhand reveals the true contrast between him and Jubei; all that effort, decades of mastery from body to mind to chi, spent to overwhelm what is a mere casual motion with no talent, no technique, nothing but brawn.

But a success is a success. Eyes shift to follow Jubei, but he grew too complacent. This time the onslaught of blows slithers past him, cutting into him deep. ...Or that's what should have happened. The flare of furious assaults should have been fatal, could not have landed more perfectly, but Jubei would see Azrael's shadow fall over him. Nothing? He was not staggered even a moment...! And then his vision would fill with a great fist, trying to slam into that muzzle once more.

A whiff. By now, Jubei knows how this man works. Has dissected his style. The tantrums of a child might work if Azrael's inhuman speed were far enough above Jubei, but the cat is able to react, and turn those manuevers against him. In a split second another crash of blades ripples across him... and anyone who walked in blind might believe Jubei was getting slaughtered. As he is the one with bloodied lips and clear injuries, while Azrael looms for a moment in tattered clothing, powerful body unscarred.

Until he drops to his knees, grunting in surprise. "Ah... damn...! You filled my body... with your SHITTY MEAL!!" He lurches forward, trying to slam his forehead into Jubei's own face, sheer willpower drawing him up once more. He's reached his limit; his ability to absorb damage and continue fighting has finally been almost exhausted. "Grraugh... hold STILL...!!"

COMBATSYS: Azrael keeps on fighting!

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

COMBATSYS: Azrael successfully hits Jubei with Quick Smash.
- Power hit! -

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

As his zig-zagging stroke carves into the aura that defines Azrael's battle presence, Jubei remains undeterred. For while Nine may be needed to defeat beasts lacking a corporeal existence, he has felt his blows landing true. The Empty Mind will not be released until the goal has been met.

The shockwaves of chi score wounds into the sand -- and Jubei is already on the way to retreating when Azrael makes a miraculous recovery -- surging forward from the depths of what should have been a certain defeat. Weakened, he narrows his eyes, falling onto the practiced defenses of the Empty Mind -- and the fist is avoided by simply leaning backward, allowing his twin tails alone to support his weight, the fist careening so close to his face it shoves Jubei's whiskers back.

And yet, he catapults himself forward -- practically glowing blue as he launches into a blistering whirlwind of strikes. His claws reave in a downward pattern, followed by his prehensile tails dragging the Nox Nyctores' blades upwards -- a relentless pattern that would leave any mortal opponent in bloody ruin!

The Empty Mind hesitates -- only to be emboldened by the nearly pristine body.

But that hesitation is costly -- allowing a forehead to break through when nothing else -should- have.

Jubei staggers backwards, blood gushing from his broken nose. And for one dreadfully painful moment -- he remembers the time where his eye was taken out.

And the cat surges forward again, unhinged. The sword flips -- and Jubei surges forward with the reverse gripped sword, delivering a surgical strike to Azrael's neck. He would follow that up with a forward-grip slash to carry him away -- and he would take one -more- swing, delivering a hard forward -thrust- to pierce what he believes to remain of his opponent's fearsome battle aura!

COMBATSYS: Azrael breaks through Form Two - Demon Fox from Jubei with Seismic Impact!

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

COMBATSYS: Jubei can no longer fight.

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

COMBATSYS: Azrael blocks Jubei's Thousand Hands - Roaring Pillar.

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

COMBATSYS: Azrael takes no action.

COMBATSYS: Azrael can no longer fight.

Manic laughter rushes forward from Azrael. He can taste it; the waver of the Empty Mind. Like a shark in the water, it only takes a drop to get this monster frothing. He maneuvers down, slamming his fingers into the sand, digging into the foundation stones beneath. The blade roars up as Azrael's entire body twists, hurling a sea of stone and sand to intercept the cat and blow him backwards; a great eruption of force sending the legendary feline hurtling away. His body might be almost exhausted, but his presence looms high, spreading his arms open and shimmering purple as Jubei unleashes his final attack. "Come... COME!!"

And the last flash of blade and chi roar across him. His shield mitigates it a fair amount, before Azrael collapses on his back. Both fighters are now downed; now, the winner is determined only by whol gets up first.

It's no incredible surprise that Azrael's recovery is quick. His body was never injured, and the only 'damage' was that his physical frame was so overwhelmed by damage he couldn't move. That seethes away in short order, and about thirty seconds amongst the settled sand and debris, he lurches up to a sit like a zombie. "Ehhhh..." Slowly he thrums to stand upright, cracking his neck to the side with a grimace. "What a waste... I had glimpses of flavor at the apex of the world..."

Twisting around, the tatter-clothed demon strides towards the exit, disinterested now in Jubei. "Someday... I'll make that warrior show me his true ferocity... hahahah...!!" There's a sleeping dragon beneath that Empty Mind, and now Azrael has every intention of someday witnessing it firsthand...!!

Jubei had far more in store just three strokes of his Nox Nyctores blades -- but with the titan knocking the wind out of him, Jubei found himself bombarded with a torrent of stone and sand, blasted backwards and sent hurtling to the ground. He'd hit the ground hard -- tumbling a half-dozen rotations before winding to a halt.

And -- just as Azrael got a sense of his true fighting spirit, the cat rose to his feet. He had spit blood onto the ground, mindful to keep from making too much of a mess on his clothes -- and had nodded back in silent response.

And the very next moment was lost to a blur of motion. Dense, ebony black chi splashed out, like the ink from a gigantic brush -- a giant cross shape blotting Azrael from view.

But as the chi faded away -- and as Jubei's Dream Blades made the clinking sound returning to their scabbard -- Jubei had fully expended himself.

Unlike the impossibly pristine Titan, Jubei's body had kept a running ledger of each and every injury -- and the due date was nigh.

The cat falls over -- the discipline of his Empty Mind no longer able to transcend the limitations of the flesh.

Azrael passed the test -- it is he and not Jubei who will walk away as the true victor of this battle.

Log created on 15:50:48 03/18/2018 by Jubei, and last modified on 17:28:37 03/19/2018.