The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 2 - Breaking the Cypher

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Description: With Maki fresh off the defeat of a Shadaloo agent, the young Kunoichi is feeling accomplished and taking a much needed break for the most delicious of treats: Tapioca! However, one man has set his sights on ruining Maki's confectionery retreat. Flying on the winds of change, the former Grandmaster of the Bushinryu clan has come to teach Maki a lesson in propriety. One that the hot-blooded Maki doesn't take easily! Will Maki take Zeku's words to heart? Will they trade fists to decide on the matter? Will Zeku write an impromptu haiku?

It's been only a short while since Shadaloo's failed attempt to pull of a major museum heist happened here in Southtown. The acrobatic ninja known as Maki Genryuusai took it upon herself to investigate the situation and discover that one of Shadaloo's best were trying to steal a priceless artifact from the museum. However, what Shadaloo didn't count on is that Psycho Power isn't always a match for true skill, especially that belonging to an elite ninja like Maki. The battle was tough and Maki almost went down for the count, but she somehow pulled through and managed to drive off Shadaloo.

After getting her injuries treated and relaying everything to the local police, Maki had a feeling that this wasn't the end of the troubles here in Southtown and decided to stick around for a while to keep an eye on things. She's been assisting the police and others in keeping an eye on things and ensuring that trouble doesn't flare up again. Fortunately, Maki's had to deal with occasional trouble from street gangs and things like that, but there's no real trouble to be had. However, that doesn't mean Maki's let her guard down at all, since she knows that trouble can appear at any time from any spot.

Today, it seems that Maki's relaxing in the Southtown Village, sitting at a small table outside of a restaurant that serves, among other things, tapioca. And those who know Maki know how much she loves her tapioca. She's enjoying it nice and slowly, savoring the taste and texture, almost like she's having an off day. But while she looks like she's in a good mood, her reflexes and senses are on full alert, meaning anyone who tries to cause trouble will get a surprise encounter with this ninja!

As Maki enjoys her tapioca, surely her ninja reflexes will feel the faint tingle of danger, prickling the fine blonde hairs at the back of her neck, like some sort of Spider-sense tingling! A soft whirring sound fills the air, muted by the sounds of the the bustle that surrounds them as shoppers walk the sidewalks, soles clacking, phones being talked at, cars slowly driving by. But to one trained in the arts of Bushinryu Ninjitsu, as Maki Genryuusai is, that sound is distinct and unmistakable. It is the sound that heralds the arrival of a thrown kunai, which crashes against the metal mesh of the outside patio table that Maki herself sits at!

As Maki enjoys her tapioca, surely her ninja reflexes will feel the faint tingle of danger, prickling the fine blonde hairs at the back of her neck, like some sort of Spider-sense tingling! A soft whirring sound fills the air, muted by the sounds of the the bustle that surrounds them as shoppers walk the sidewalks, soles clacking, phones being talked at, cars slowly driving by. But to one trained in the arts of Bushinryu Ninjitsu, as Maki Genryuusai is, that sound is distinct and unmistakable. It is the sound that heralds the arrival of a thrown kunai, which crashes against the metal mesh of the outside patio table that Maki herself sits at! And from the sounds of it, there are more incoming!

What does ninja sense feel like? Who knows? At least Maki isn't one to talk openly about it. But part of involves super hearing, sight, and most of all, reflexes. One kunai hits the table, but Maki's eyes narrow (and the screen goes dark above and below them like in the anime... OK we made that part up.) and she glances in the direction the kunai came from. With a swift spin, Maki's chair goes down as she draws her tonfa and proceeds to swat at the kunai quickly. At the same time, she's calling out, "Who's there? Identify yourself immediately!" She's not too happy about having her tapioca treat interrupted, but the fact that someone is trying to ambush her (and the fact it's a ninja as well) is what's really got her on edge.

Clack! Clack! Clack! Three kunai are deftly batted away with the sudden appearance of Maki's trademarked tonfa! The last even manages to embed its point into the length of the baton, sticking straight out.

"Yoo hoo!"

The voice is a male's voice, not quite deep, but pleasing to the ear, with just a hint of a roughness to give it texture and age. It is undoubtedly familiar.

"I'm up here!"

And sure enough, a dark shadow races across the ground, until it lingers over Maki. Overhead, the shadowy figure takes on shape and color against the bright blue of the summer sky. Flowing and wild, his silver hair is windswept. His weathered, but handsome face is lit up with a bright grin. He's adorned in a dark blue ninja shozoku, with a vibrant green tabbard over it, lined in gold. Attached to his hands and feet is what appears to be a scarlet colored Turkish rug, and now it is billowing out, capturing the air in such a way that the old man is soaring through the sky like some ninja version of a flying squirrel.

"Are you ready to party?!" He exclaims as he releases the fabric, letting it float off on the wind as he descends to the earth. The old ninja master flips and somersaults, tumbling over and over until he lands on the ground, legs spread wide, and one hand touching his fingertips to the pavement of the street. It's a super ninja landing. Not as hard on the knees as a superhero one. This causes a car that was rolling along the street minding its own business to have to slam on the brakes, screeching to a halt. The driver leans out of the window, cursing at him in machinegun rapid Japanese, to which Zeku abruptly snaps to attention and bows respectfully, repeatedly, at the waist, muttering "A thousand apologies! That was very careless of me! Forgive me!" as he takes a step between each bow to move off of the street and onto the sidewalk so that traffic may resume.

As soon as Zeku calls out to Maki, she looks up and does a double take. "Is that guy for real?" She wonders to herself out loud. "Ready to party?" She shakes her head in disbelief. Then the ninja (Maki's decided to refer to him as that for the time being) lands in a ninja-style position, and then proceeds to disrupt traffic. While the driver is cursing at Zeku, Maki can only roll her eyes in disbelief and sigh. It's not until he reaches the sidewalk that Maki sighs heavily and folds her arms before looking at the ninja, and then she realizes just who it is.

"M-Master Zeku?"

Maki can only do a double-take at this whole act before shaking her head. "I should've guessed that it was you. What with your attire and your entrance like that." Another roll of her eyes before she looks him in the eye and asks, "Just what, dare I ask, do you think you're doing interrupting my afternoon tapioca?!"

"MAKI, my dear girl!!!" Zeku calls out, smiling bright and wide, his eyes closed, while he scratches the back of his head with one hand, and raises the other to wave at her. This really only serves to make the old man seem shady. But then, he always looks shady.

"Oh come now. Tapioca is but a fleeting distraction! Only through the perfection of one's art can you find true fulfillment, Maki! Don't blame me! I'm only helping to enrich your life!"

The chuckle that follows seems a bit nervous, but the good natured ninja master just waves it off before his eyes finally open to turn their steely gaze upon the young kunoichi. His smile fades, and he folds his arms across his broad chest as he says, "I have heard that you've recently been involved in a small altercation involving an agent of Shadaloo. While I might be enjoying my retirement, I still thought I should come by and try to dissuade you from taking such rash actions for the sake of your family! Certainly, when evil raises its head, the Shadow of Bushin must rise to confront it, but... you should leave such things in the capable hands of Guy-san. You have the chance to live a carefree life and just be a young girl! Wouldn't you enjoy that more than getting tangled up with such things like Shadaloo?"

"You want to help ME enrich my life?!" Yet another eyeroll from Maki as she shakes her head in disbelief. "What are you, some kind of evangelist or something now? And let me tell you something, I'm constantly working on perfecting my art. In fact, I'm striving to become the first female grandmaster of Bushin-ryuu!" She takes out her tonfa and runs a hand across it. "I consider that enrichment of my life."

When Zeku's smile fades, Maki becomes a bit more uneasy. It's not until he tries to make this whole thing with Shadaloo sound like a men's thing while making Maki out to be nothing more than just a young girl who should have a carefree life. This really draws a scowl from Maki.

"MASTER ZEKU!" Maki screams, not caring about respect or anything right now, since as far as she's concerned, her grandmaster just insulted her in a way that really hit her deeper than most other insults she's received in the past. "I don't know what you're thinking about me, but I'll have you know that I am NOT just a young girl who should be leading a carefree life. I am a ninja just like Guy-san, and ever since the Mad Gears kidnapped my sister and my father, I have since been determined to prove that women are just as strong as men, if not stronger!"

Gripping her tonfa with a firmer grip than usual, she slides a foot towards Zeku and narrows her eyes again. "I always thought you were a bit on the eccentric side, I will admit that, but now you've gone too far!" Her lips open to show teeth gritted in anger. "I suggest you just leave me the hell alone so I can live my own life!"

"Heh heh now, now Maki..." Zeku says, putting up his hands in a gesture of surrender as he adopts that foxlike, close eyed grin. "I'm just saying that eating such foods can really put you in a tight spot in regards to your training! You don't want to gain weight, do you? It'll only slow you down!"

The scream of his name has the smile and submissive demeanor of the old man break instantly. He ticks one eyebrow upwards at the impetuous young girl in front of him. His head tilts ever so slightly to one side as he listens to her rant at him. "This isn't about women or men, Maki. I'm old enough to know full well that women can be as strong as men. I just know that no one of us wants to see you get hurt. With Guy taking over as the new Grandmaster of Bushinryu, it is his duty to take on the likes of Shadaloo. It's very very dangerous, and I know that it would truly hurt your father should anything happen to you."

And there it is. Maki is putting herself into an offensive position, as if she just might want to start a fight. There is a gleam in the old man's eyes as they drift down over her body, noting the shift in her stance. This, in truth, is just the reaction he was expecting. No. It was the reaction he was trying to create.

"You don't have to be a ninja anymore, Maki. Like Rena-chan, why don't you just be content to live a normal life? Enjoy all the tapioca you want! Don't get yourself killed in some fool's errand to try to match Guy. You just don't have the talent that boy does!"

"Gain weight? GAIN WEIGHT?!" Now Maki is boiling mad. "I'll have you know my training is done every single day, and an occasional tapioca snack isn't going to hurt me!" Her breathing starts to pick up in pace. "And getting hurt? I've been burned, stabbed, beaten, thrown into the ground, hit with energy made from who knows what..." She shakes her head. "I don't fear getting hurt at all! And my father doesn't worry about my wellbeing, because he knows that I'm a tough lady!"

After a moment, Maki catches herself and shakes her head. She starts to calm down a little but it's obvious the annoyance is still there. "All right, all right, just get to the point. Did you really come here to try to convince me to retire? Did you come here just to piss me off? Or is there some other reason for your visit?"

"Oh, you say that now, but I can already see that your hips are much wider than the last time we encountered one another!" Zeku responds to the comments about her training and weight. His lopsided grin returns, wolfish in appearance with his bushy sideburns. "I suppose some men like such wide, child-rearing hips, though. After all, that Shiranui girl does have quite the following these days. Something about the body positivity movement..."

The wolfish grin fades once again, and Zeku lowers his arms, folding his hands behind his back as he turns those pale brown eyes onto the young, fiery girl before him. She's trying to reel it in and excercise some self control. Good on her. But this old man isn't here for her to compose herself. "Your father does worry about your wellbeing, Maki. Every father does. But beating up on the street criminal and getting into sanctioned tournament combat is a whole other ballgame than facing down worldwide criminal organizations the likes of Shadaloo. People get hurt, Maki-chan. They get killed."

A pause, as Zeku looks her up and down once more.

"Tapioca fattened little girls won't have a chance of standing up to the real players of Shadaloo. Stick to fighting purse snatchers and tournament fighters. Leave the terrorists to those more suited for such endeavors. It really would break my sensei's heart should his darling youngest daughter be found murdered in some unseemly fashion."

He lifts his chin, closing his eyes and turning his face from her, as if to say that he will entertain no more arguments from her. Of course, this is a holdover from when he was the Bushin grandmaster and could actually declare such edicts and expect to be obeyed. But this old man is no longer the Bushin grandmaster, of course. He's retired. Having turned over the succession of Bushin to his pupil, Zeku is, for all intents and purposes, a civilian in the eyes of Bushin. He's free to do whatever he pleases, but in turn, he doesn't have any authority to declare anything, outside of the respect granted him as a former Grandmaster.

The self-control that Maki has been trying to show has failed. Maki shakes her head and scowls once again. "Enough of your words, Master Zeku! I don't know what you think you're doing or why you're insulting me, but I have had enough!" She points her tonfa at him. "You forget, or perhaps don't care, that you are no longer a grandmaster within my school. You are nothing more than a mere civilian." She tosses her tonfa into the air and catches it. "Perhaps being a civilian has taken a toll on your brain. That you've gone from a former grandmaster to a narcissist?!"

Now, it's really on.

"Can you still fight? Well, can you?" Maki now assumes a fighting stance, originally having wanted to avoid fighting with Zeku, but now she's remembered that Zeku has no authority anymore within the school of Bushin-Ryuu. In fact, his words might be enough to get him seriously clobbered unless he's still got what it takes to fight.

"Come on, I challenge you to a fight! This 'little girl' is gonna show you what she's capable of!"

COMBATSYS: Maki has started a fight here.

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Maki             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Zeku has joined the fight here.

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Maki             0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0             Zeku

There it is. Inwardly, Zeku smiles. Finally, he's provoked her to the point of issuing the challenge. He had hoped to have her seething enough to attack him outright, but this will do well enough. If Maki is going to try to take on Shadaloo agents on her own, Zeku, whether or not he's still officially part of Bushin, does feel obligated to ensure that she's, at the very least, prepared to do so. She is, after all, family to him. The old man cares more deeply for her, her sister, and Guy than he might ever let on.

"Ah... come on already. You're boring me here!" Zeku says with an air of disinterest. The old man swipes his gloved hands across the front of his pants as if dusting them off, and then folds his arms across his chest. He bends his knees to a 90 degree angle, and then lifts one leg to cross over the other, as if he were seated on an invisible chair.

"If you want to see what I've got left in me, I'll entertain you for a few minutes. Maybe you'll learn a thing or two. I'll warn you now, though..." He says, as he unfolds his arms just long enough to wag a finger at her. "I have evolved my style, and moved beyond Bushin. Never say you can't teach an old dog a few new tricks!"

With that, Zeku gives a backwards nod of his head, motioning for her to come at him.

Narrowing one eye, Maki says, "You think you're all that showing off like that, but don't get carried away." She wipes her tonfa with her hand, although it's more of a mocking gesture than anything. "I'm gonna teach you something, but it ain't a new trick! I'm gonna teach you a lesson that will maybe teach you to keep your big mouth shut!" From the way she's talking, it sounds like Maki's getting a bit aggressive again, but could it be that this is just for show and not a real testament to her attitude about things right now?

While Zeku is acting like he's waiting for her to attack, Maki knows that this is more than likely a ruse. She knows better than to just rush in and try to take advantage of someone who's obviously laying a trap for her. To an amateur it would be an invitation to launch an attack. But Maki's not about to fall for it.

Instead of going directly at Zeku, Maki circles around him, keeping an eye on him while she attempts to move in slowly. Her eyes are steady and unblinking and her breathing is somewhat steady as she attempts to get her mind into this fight. This looks like an old guy to those around her, but Maki knows this guy has quite a few tricks up his sleeve.

Which is why when Maki launches a swift kick at Zeku's ankles, she doesn't strike right away with her foot. Instead, she pulls back midway through then switches to the other foot in hopes of possibly tricking Zeku.

COMBATSYS: Zeku fails to interrupt Light Kick from Maki with Toushi.

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Maki             0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0             Zeku

"Let's see if the bite matches the bark, then! Come and shut my mouth!" Zeku says with a look of smug defiance. The old ninja master's brown eyes practically sparkle with a mischievous light

"Let's see if the bite matches the bark, then! Come and shut my mouth!" Zeku says with a look of smug defiance. The old ninja master's brown eyes practically sparkle with a mischievous light as Maki makes her advance. She's being especially cautious. Perhaps he hasn't riled her up as much as he had hoped, after all. Still, she is taking the initiative, and this is what he wants. After all, this is not about a fight. This is about seeing how the girl is holding up, and how far along her training has come.

As Maki circles, Zeku remains stationary in his air-seated position. His head turns, following her with his impeccable gaze, but nothing more. He's inviting her to attack, of course, and she knows that she's being baited. It doesn't change his tactic, however. Just because someone knows that you're prepared to do something doesn't mean that you should change your plan. Nor does it mean that they should withhold their own.

"My sword leans against the sky; with its polished blade I'll behead the Buddha and all of his saints." Zeku murmurs, half to himself. "Let the lightning strike where it will!"

Maki comes in for that low sweeping kick, Zeku suddenly springs up to both feet, pivoting on the toes of his feet to face her. The kick comes in low, and Zeku seems prepared, ready to parry it with a dynamic move of his own.

But it is a feint. Good on her. As the other foot comes in, it does catch the old ninja master, causing his knee to momentarily buckle to the side, though he is swift to recover. His grin couldn't be wider.

"Good! Good! Show me more!" he says, as he beckons her on with an inward wave of his fingers.

"Of course I'm gonna show you more!" Maki says with a hmmph. "I'm only getting started. In fact, this is just my way of warming up." She narrows her left eye. "Had I known you were coming I would've done some stretching beforehand so I'd be even more ready." She shakes her head, the sarcasm still noticeable. "But, you do what you have to I suppose."

With little effort, Maki returns to her fighting stance. "Seems my feint worked on you. Truth be told, I've actually had that fail on amateur fighters, so it's kinda surprising that someone like you would be caught by it." A quick shrug then Maki returns to her fighting mode. "But you've challenged me to this fight and you seem so confident in yourself, so I'm willing to cut you some slack."

If it weren't for the fact this were a real fight, Maki would be berating Zeku on his arrogant attitude about things. But this is about action, and actions speak louder than words. Actions which Maki intends to utilize to prove her point to Zeku about women being just as capable as men of fighting. Especially with that misogynist attitude he displayed towards her previously.

"Just don't expect a break like this much longer!" She jumps forwards a couple of steps then attempts to strike downwards with her tonfa at Zeku's shoulder.

COMBATSYS: Zeku blocks Maki's Quick Strike.

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Maki             0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0             Zeku

"You're not always going to know when the enemy is coming, so you must always be ready! That's the most basic teachings of Bushinryu!" Zeku retorts, still wearing a lopsided grin, and his deep, dark eyes twinkling as he watches the blonde kunoichi fall back into her fighting form. "As for the feint, I am an old man! My eyes aren't what they used to be. But don't you dare take it easy on me now."

For a moment, a brief flash, there is an air of soul-crushing coldness that radiates from the Bushin ninja master. It's the same kind of chill one gets when in the presence of a cold blooded killer who will snuff out a life without remorse. Such is the nature of one who has taken the philosophy of Bushin to extend beyond good and evil. It's a fleeting glimpse of the man who lives underneath the kindly, carefree mask that he wears so often.

Her attack comes in, swiping down from overhead at the older fighter's shoulder. He intercepts the blow by sweeping one arm up to catch it against the bone-hardened outside of his forearm, and sweep it to the side. His movement flows seamlessly from defense into attack, as that sideways sweep of Maki's tonfa also brings Zeku stepping inside and forward, dropping down to one knee. Simultaneously, his other hand, clad in a skin tight fingerless glove of orange leather, is thrust upwards with a powerful palm strike aimed at Maki's chin. Should she be caught by it, she'll be launched up into the sky; helpless and at the mercy of the old ninja master.

And even if she won't be taken in by such tactics, she will still have to contend with the follow up. No sooner than Zeku's upwards thrusting palm strike is delivered, the wizened warrior exploded in a cloud of billowing and roiling white smoke.

A flash, and another burst of smoke appears overhead, as a young man suddenly appears, flipping downward with a brutal heel kick that should catch Maki off guard and slam her to the ground, whether or not she is airborne. As the young man lands, one can take note of his appearance. Long, flowing hair of rich and silky chestnut brown. A scarlet muffler covering the lower portion of his face, the tail ends of it fading to a light, fiery orange through an ombre effect. Dark blue mail forming a skin tight halter top over his perfect, athletic and toned physique. His top has been pushed down, hanging around his waist like an orange and red skirting over his blue shozoku pants and darker tabi. Black leather straps cross around the full length of his right arm, from shoulder to wrist, and crossing over his broad, proud chest. Emblazoned on the left side of his breast, painted on the mail armor is the symbol of Bushin in bright red.

He lands on one knee, and immediately springs up onto one foot, the other raised with his knee to his chest as he twirls his arms with a flourish that ends with him adopting a forward facing stance, one fist at his side, just above his hip and the other lowered before him, ready to defend and block as needed.

COMBATSYS: Maki parries Zeku's Fukuro!

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Maki             0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0             Zeku

As soon as Maki's tonfa is caught, she quickly pulls back, making sure that she's got a good distance away from Zeku, knowing he's truly capable of just about anything. Especially when it comes to follow-up attacks. "Meh, just zigged when I should've zagged," She says with a slight frown. "I'm sure even my father made his share of mistakes as he rose to the title of Grandmaster, so it's nothing to be concerned about!" She twirls her tonfa a few times as she speaks. "Not to mention I've made quite a few in my lifetime myself." She narrows her eyes. "And if you make ANY comments regarding my being a girl or fighting or anything like that, I'm gonna clobber you so hard you'll be black and blue for a year!"

All the while she's talking, Maki is keeping a stern eye on Zeku, waiting to see what he's got up his sleeves. With someone like him, you never know what kind of techniques he'll demonstrate next or what he might say. For someone like him, many would be surprised to see he has such a way of talking. But that doesn't make Maki underestimate him, unlike how some might be.

The palm strike seems to come quickly and out of nowhere, and Zeku might think that he's got the upper-hand. But Zeku probably doesn't realize that Maki's reflexes are quite above average, which is something every good ninja should have. Just as the palm strike comes at Maki, she deflects it away quickly with a slight smirk. She jumps back a little as if expecting more from Zeku, and then it happens. He disappears in a burst of smoke, and then comes back at Maki, but the ninja's already on the defensive as she leaps from side to side, avoiding him entirely and then landing in a crouched position. "That was a nice attempt, but it seems that you've underestimated me. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, but I'm running out of patience." She leaps onto a nearby table and then launches directly at Zeku with her leg outstretched, attempting to plant her foot into his face.

COMBATSYS: Zeku instinctively dodges Maki's Hassou Kyaku EX.

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Maki             0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0             Zeku

"I have to admit that I have no clue what it is that you're talking about..." The young shinobi replies to Maki, after he lands from his kick and performs his rather stylish flourish. "You're acting like I've said something to belittle female fighters, when I've already stated that I am well aware that women are just as capable of men."

As Maki comes flying at him with that powerful kick, the youthful and spry ninja slips to the side, his body spinning out of the way to allow the crimson clad kunoichi to simply fly right past him. "I think you're projecting your own insecurities on to me at this point!"

The young, auburn haired man seems to flicker as he dashes in close at her, sliding to a halt just shy of tackling her. Instead, he leans in, extending his right hand in the Bushinryu ninja symbol, fist clenched with two fingers extended upwards. As he does so, his left hand draws back, palm open and twisted so that his fingers point down. His left knee rises, causing him to seem to "rear back" as he gathers up his body's force and snaps forward with a thrusting stomp. His body torques to the side, and he thrusts that left palm out with all the power of his strength and his forward momentum all channeled into that single palm strike to the center of her chest. It should be enough to send her flying away from him, should it land properly.

After executing his dynamic strike, he draws back, crossing his forearms in an X before his chest, before snapping one fist back and the other upwards, as if performing a block or a fist pump. Crossing his arms again, he thrusts them both down forcefully, putting him back into stance, prepared for whatever she might have in store for him.

"You used to be such a sweet, kind young girl, and you hated fighting so much that you refused to do so until you were given no other choice. Is it any wonder that I would tell you that you can rest easy, and go back to such a life, now that the legacy of Bushin is in Guy's capable hands?" the young ninja says, his voice smooth and almost lyrical as it spills out from lips concealed behind his ninja scarf. "Wanting to see you live a happy life, free of danger has nothing to do with how capable you are. Saying that Shadaloo is too much of a threat for you to face is not underestimating your ability. It is simply the truth."

COMBATSYS: Zeku successfully hits Maki with Bushin Sho ES.

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Maki             0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0             Zeku

"Not so much belittling female fighters," Maki comments, still looking a tad bit angry, although it's even more so notable when Zeku effortlessly dodges her incoming attack. That is, after Maki's landed and realized she's missed entirely. "It's more like your attitude about me wanting to settle down and live a 'happy life.' What the hell is wrong with you?" She turns to face Zeku once she realizes where he is and points her tonfa at him. "And Shadaloo being too much of a threat to me? I've squared off with their goons before, and sure they're tough, but Vega's Psycho Power isn't enough to topple pure skill!"

Another attack from Zeku, and it seems that Maki's getting a bit ahead of herself this time. Once again she tries to evade the incoming attack, but she doesn't quite make it. The strike lands quare in the chest, causing Maki to stumble backwards a little, hand on her chest as she attempts to regain her breath. Once her lungs are breathing regularly again, she looks up at Zeku and scowls again.

"Yes, I was once a sweet, kind young girl, and yes I started fighting when the lives of my father and my sister were in danger, but it's more than just being a street fighter!" Maki now grits her teeth and narrows her eyes. "I was taught how to fight by my father, who told me never to use it unless I had no choice. It was for the defense of myself or others. It was to improve myself physically and mentally!"

Taking another step towards Zeku, even though she's slightly hunched over, Maki seems to show little sign of being adversely affected by the attack. "I'm not going around fighting people for fun and profit. I am intent on becoming the first female Grandmaster of Bushin!" With a somersault into the air, Maki attempts to fake out Zeku in thinking she's going to leap over him and land behind him. But in reality, her intent is to land in front of him, then grab him and execute an over-the-shoulder throw. "I won't let your nonsense faze me!"

COMBATSYS: Zeku blocks Maki's Quick Throw.

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Maki             0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0             Zeku

"If you think that Vega's power is nothing compared to your own, then you really have so very much to learn, Maki. All the more reason for you to not get involved with them!" The youthful shinobi master Zeku says, for the first time showing a hint of consternation in his voice. It isn't that the assumption angers him. It's that her naivity in such matters will, beyond any shadow of a doubt, get her killed. Underestimating any of the Kings of Shadaloo is folly, at best. Underestimating Vega and his Psycho Power is foolish beyond the pale. "If you truly think that Vega poses no threat to your skill, then let it rest and allow Guy to handle it!"

As Maki takes to flight, somersaulting at him, Zeku doesn't seem to take the bait. After all, he knows the trick well enough. It was he who brought such tactics to Bushin to begin with. Perhaps something that Maki has forgotten. Her father's strength lay more in ninpo, but when it came to pure physical fighting, there was a reason that Zeku was able to overcome him and become the Grandmaster in his wake. Her attempt to throw him is met and matched as she lands in front of him and grabs hold. He is flung over her shoulder, certainly, but the agile young man flips and rolls over her back, hardly any worse for wear.

"This is Bushinryu!" He cries out, as he twists his upper body, his right arm forming a straight bar, his hand held in a rigid knife hand attack. The overall effect is that of using his hand at the blade of a sword, blunted, but "slicing" across Maki's chest with an outside to inside swing. He immediately reverses it, swinging back out with a backhand version of the same attack, before his arm pistons back and thrusts forward with a nearly inhuman level of swiftness. That straight punch should send her reeling back if it connects cleanly.

He starts to lunge forward after her, but his form blurs and vanishes in a puff of smoke. Behind her, another small explosion of smoke reveals the old man once more, as he completes the dash by delivering a straight forward, but forceful fingerjab to the center of her back. Turning his back to her, the wizened old man draws his hand to his chest and flicks it up overhead as if in a salute, before repeating the motion with a downward flick to the side, as if he were flicking blood from the blade of a katana.

"Why bother with becoming the Grandmaster of Bushin, when you need not worry about such things? It has already been decided, Maki! The future and legacy of Bushinryu is secured with Guy, and from the looks of things with Rena, that line of succession will still remain in your family line! Do you not dream of a life where you can simply be happy, safe and carefree? Do you not want to meet a handsome young man, get married and have a family of your own?"

COMBATSYS: Maki blocks Zeku's Kagerou.

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Maki             1/------=/=======|=====--\-------\0             Zeku

"This has NOTHING to do with Vega being a match for me!" Maki shouts, now starting to sweat a little as she starts to find herself getting a bit too angry with this guy and his attitude. Zeku might think that she's getting tired out from the whole fight, but he's barely even made her break a sweat. Despite how tough he is, Maki's refusing to give up. "In fact, even if you beat me this time, don't think you've won anything!" Running her free hand through her blonde hair, although it seems more like a mocking gesture than an actual sign that she's wiping her sweat from fatigue, she keeps a strong stance and faces Zeku. "Even my father suffered many defeats in his time, and I've suffered quite a few myself. But I won't let you and your views sway me!"

Indeed, Zeku's got some rather unique techniques to the average person, but Maki's familiar with them. The moment he tries to slash at her chest, Maki raises her tonfa to block it, and block it she does, although the impact causes the tonfa to slam into her chest, causing her to stumble back a little. The moment he disappears, though, Maki's ready as she senses his presence and spins around just in time to deflect his next attack away. This one causes less stress for Maki.

"Sorry, but I'm not interested in handsome men and 'happily ever after,' nonsense," Maki says as she shakes her head a little. "If I were interested in that, I would've tossed my tonfa and gone looking a long time ago. I would be at home watching the kids while my man worked his ass off to support us." She sighs. "Too bad YOU can't grasp that!"

With Zeku having shifted away, Maki takes a careful approach to him, not quite approaching him immediately. "I honestly don't know what happened to you, whether you took a few blows to the head, or you've just adopted a bizarre attitude towards things. But I can tell you now that you're not gonna sway me at all!" She steps towards Zeku again, although her steps are slow and deliberate, as if she's ready to shift at any moment. "I will do what I want to, I will achieve my goal, and YOU will do NOTHING to stop me!" She steps closer and closer, although her right foot is twisted sideways as if she's preparing to move in another direction at any moment. Then, without warning, her tonfa is swung upwards in a fierce manner, with Maki gripping the tonfa like life-or-death.

COMBATSYS: Maki successfully hits Zeku with Genkou.

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Maki             1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\0             Zeku

"You do realize that your level of insult and anger from my comments is completely inordinate to the nature of our conversation, don't you, dear girl?" Zeku asks, raising one silver eyebrow as he looks over the infuriated blonde girl. "I mean, really. You're just acting like I've insulted your great ancestors. You really need to learn to relax. You'll never get anywhere but to an early grave if you continue to be so high strung."

The old man doesn't seem intimidated by the girl's slow manuevering. As she makes for the attack, he does hop back, but he still takes the tonfa to the chin. For what it's worth, it's as if she has struck a brick wall, and he barely seems to flinch from it.

"Nothing I have said to you is worthy of such contemptuous retorts, or making personal insults upon my person. You're behaving in a rather disrespectful manner to your elders, and your former grandmaster right now. Maybe you should take a break from all of this, Maki. Recenter yourself. This attitude you have is not serving you well in any way. All you're doing right now is bringing shame to your father."

Here, the old man drops out of his fighting stance and stands straight and tall, with a bit of a casual slouch. He even folds his gloved hands behind his back, and lifts his chin. "At first, I'll admit. I was trying to get a rise out of you. But now, when speaking to you plainly, your tough girl act... and it is just that, Maki. Don't forget that I watched you grow up... but that act is doing nothing to help you here. That's a show you should put on with criminals and gangsters. Not your family and clan. It's unsightly. I will no longer tolerate it. Everyone has the limits of their patience, and I've reached mine."

COMBATSYS: Zeku gains composure.

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Maki             1/-----==/=======|======-\-------\0             Zeku

Once Maki's attack has landed, she pulls back and shakes her head a few times, before staring at Zeku again. She does nothing but listen to what he has to say. Despite this, she still retains a scowl on her face. She doesn't know whether to take Zeku seriously or not, but she does know that she's not liking anything he has to say. In fact, it's a bit confusing to her to be seeing someone like this acting two different ways literally. The way he's talking to her, the way he's acting, all of it, it makes little to no sense to Maki.

"You were TRYING to get a rise out of me?" Maki asks, placing her free hand against her hip, cocking her right eyebrow. "What kind of a grandmaster do you think you are? I mean, seriously, if you wanted to give me a lesson or something, then you should invite me to the dojo or something and I'll be glad to listen to you." She shakes her head while closing her eyes briefly. "But instead, you had to scare all these people," Maki indicates the various people who are watching in fear or confusion, at least those who haven't run in fear once the fighting started, "While interrupting my afternoon tapioca." Her eyes roll upwards a little.

"And you're right, everyone's patience has its limits, and YOU made me reach mine already!" Maki narrows her eyes again. "Normally I'd be very patient for someone like you, but the way you've barged in here and treated me, all so you could get a rise out of me? Consider my patience for you GONE!" She points her tonfa at Zeku to emphasize her point. "Anything else you want to share with me? Now's your chance."

COMBATSYS: Maki focuses on her next action.

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Maki             1/-----==/=======|======-\-------\0             Zeku

And yet, she persists.

As Maki continues acting like an impetuous brat in the throes of a full scale tantrum, Zeku just draws in a deep breath, quietly rolls his eyes and releases that breath as a deep, deep sigh. He is going to have to have a long, long talk with her father about this. The level of absolute disrespect is simply unfathomable.

"..." He remains silent, waiting, nodding his head as she speaks as if to urge her to wrap it up already. He hasn't got all day.

"Are... Are you done now?" He finally asks. "Good. Then. You were seen. You faced down a member of Shadaloo. A terrorist. And you were seen. That painted a target on your back, kiddo. And you're too foolish to realize just what kind of danger that puts you in. Too stubborn to listen to your betters about that danger. I came here, the way I did, to prove a point. That you can be found and attacked at any moment. From any angle. Right now, in fact, there may just be a sniper waiting for me to move out of the way to get a shot off on you. Shadaloo will not wait for you to have your afternoon tapioca like some soccer mom."

He throws up one hand, waving dismissively. "You let people get to you too easily. You can't control your temper. Moreover, you're damn near delusional, and feed your own anger by projecting your own thoughts and insecurities onto the other person. You're not fit to be a grandmaster to anything. This is why you will never be a match for Guy. This is why you need to stay as far away from Shadaloo business as you can. Stick to street thugs and common criminals, Maki. As you are now, it is the only thing you are good for. Or, retreat. Go back into training. Find something to center your spirit and your heart. But for now, I am done speaking with you."

The old man doesn't move from his spot. He simply turns, spinning gracefully around on one foot before settling back into the postion he had adopted earlier, seeming to sit in mid air with one leg folded over the other. He rolls his head from side to side, stretching out his neck, and folds his thick arms across his broad chest. Looking back to her, before she can even say another word, he simply remarks, "Don't waste your breath."

COMBATSYS: Zeku focuses on his next action.

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Maki             1/-----==/=======|======-\-------\0             Zeku

Wait? She's being like a toddler throwing a tantrum? Oh please.

Maki shakes her head. "Look, it's obvious we have differing views on this, but enough talking. It seems that this has gone on long enough. It's time to finish what we've started!" She rolls her arms back a couple of times as if stretching them out. "Your words were quite bizarre coming from your mouth, but I've decided enough is enough." She steps towards Zeku and says, "En garde!"

Another running step, then Maki shifts to the side before attempting to spin around and then come in from the side with a left kick. "Let's see what else you've got!"

COMBATSYS: Zeku blocks Maki's Strong Kick.

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Maki             1/----===/=======|=======\-------\0             Zeku

"Suggesting that you use the chance afforded to you to relax and enjoy your life, now that Bushin has been passed on to good, capable hands, and warning you of the danger posed by Shadaloo is "bizarre"? Funny. To me, that's pretty common for people who care for someone!" Zeku says with a rueful smirk. His broad shoulders roll with a shrug under his green surcoat, and the old ninja remains "seated" until Maki comes in for her attack. He's focused, and enough so that her attempt at deception is fruitless. As she ducks to the side, the old ninja stays stationary. Her spin and kick is anticipated, and Zeku raises his arms, folding them behind his head as if he were leisurely stretching out, to let her left kick collide into the protective layer of his meaty, strong forearms rather than the back of his head.

"I guess I'll just have to train you..." His grizzled old voice mutters, as he raises up from his position suddenly. Whipping around, Zeku reaches out with one of his large, gloved hands to try and wrap his fingers around Maki's throat. Should he succeed, he'll lift her up, off the ground with one hand in an impressive feat of strength for an older gent, and he'll draw her in as he thrusts his knee right up into her stomach.

Provided that he is able to do that much, Zeku will then turn, and hoist the form of the poor Bushin kunoichi up, draped across the back of his neck along his broad shoulders. With a bit of a hop, he'll fling her off like a ragdoll, using one of her arms as a lever to send her slamming down onto her back onto the pavement of the street below.

COMBATSYS: Zeku successfully hits Maki with Mikoshi.

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Maki             1/=======/=======|=======\==-----\1             Zeku

"I'm not going to have this conversation anymore," Maki comments, starting to grow even more impatient. "I've grown tired of your antics." She sneers a little as her kick is blocked, although she kind of figures she put a little too much power into her kick and not enough speed, leaving Zeku plenty of time to protect himself. "No one to blame but myself," Maki says to herself...

The next words out of her mouth aren't exactly intelligible. Rather, they're more along the lines of grunts and yells as Maki finds herself getting choked rather swiftly by Zeku and her airway getting cut off, before getting kneed in the stomach, which really is not pleasant, even if you tense up your stomach. Unfortunately, Maki couldn't tense her stomach up and she got the full brunt of the impact.

Then Maki finds herself getting thrown to the pavement below, which results in a loud cry as she hits the ground with a loud thud. Between the fact she just lost more wind from her lungs and the fact she's hurting like hell, it's not immediate that Maki gets back up. However, even though her face is contorted in pain, she's clearly still got that look of defiance on her face.

After a moment, Maki rolls onto her stomach then pushes herself back up. Her hand goes to the back of her head, relieved to find she's not bleeding surprisingly enough, but she still winces when she realizes she's got a bruise there. "Unngh... careless..."

Now bruised and looking a bit worn out, Maki stares at Zeku. "You got me good there," She says, grimacing through the pain. "But a wounded ninja can be a dangerous adversary!" She moves closer to him but stops suddenly. "In fact, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve..."

Just then, Maki drops onto the ground and begins spinning around like a whirlwind while balancing on her tonfa, her foot outstretched. "LIKE THIS!" She cries out.

COMBATSYS: Zeku dodges Maki's Bushin Senpuu Kyaku.

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Maki             1/=======/=======|=======\==-----\1             Zeku

Zeku doesn't speak, nor does he gloat, after he slams Maki to the ground. This is not a matter of pride for him. It is not a matter of proving he's better or testing his strength. For him, this is a lesson that needs to be taught. Despite his anger, he cares very, very deeply for Maki. His respect for her father is limitless, and he considers her and her sister like his own family. This attitude of hers is going to get her seriously hurt. She needs to learn a hint of humility.

He's going to do his best to serve her in that capacity, but that doesn't mean that he's going to enjoy it.

He steps back, giving her breathing room to collect herself after his brutal throw. Her true enemies wouldn't afford her such a luxury, but Zeku still does. Hopefully she'll be smart enough to realize that difference. Or, at least, smart enough to realize that when someone allows you to regain your footing in a fight, it means that they don't feel threatened. That they're toying with you.

And still, the old man doesn't say a word when Maki proclaims she has more tricks up her sleeve. He doesn't seem to be invested or engaged at all, even as she comes in with her spinning kick. A kick that he, himself, long ago mastered to the point of understanding intimately the weaknesses inherent in such a technique.

In this case, he simply seems to sidestep it, moving to just a hair's breadth from the full extent that her foot can reach as she twirls and spins. He, on the other hand, drops suddenly into his back stance, just before his rear foot rises, and he torques his entire body into a powerful pivot. His foot rushes out, flaring with inky black, and vibrant purple Chi energy, with a roundhouse kick. With a metallic sounding "CHING!!!" that wave of energy extends from his foot a good ten meters or more, creating a slicing plane that should crash into her and send her onto her back.


He says as he completes the full turn, his upper body twisting just a bit more as he gives the Bushinryu hand sign, then crosses his fists at the wrists down low. With a swirling flourish of his hands, as if he were spinning an invisible sphere, he reclaims his stance, ready for her.

COMBATSYS: Maki blocks Zeku's Bushin Gram - Koku EX.

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Maki             2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\=------\1             Zeku

It's bad enough when your signature attack misses. But even moreso in a situation like this.

Especially when Maki finds herself getting caught in yet another one of Zeku's attacks. At least, though, her defense holds up and she manages to protect herself against the actual attacks. But they still hurt and leave Maki stumbling a little, which when coupled with her wounds, is not pleasant.

"Ooh... I got ahead of myself... again..." Maki shakes her head. "But it's not over yet..." Maki turns to face Zeku once again, despite being bruised and slightly bloodied. "Not over at all." Maki rushes in, attempting to strike Zeku with her tonfa.

If the first strike lands, Maki will follow up with two more tonfa strikes, then finish off with an upwards kick.

COMBATSYS: Zeku fails to interrupt Bushin Gokusaken from Maki with Fast Throw.

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Maki             2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\=====--\1             Zeku

Zeku remains a silent figure, after displaying one of his new, evolved techniques. A move not borne of Bushin, but of something new, something different. Something that is uniquely Zeku's. She had managed to defend against it, but that is alright. He has more where that came from. For now, though, it will have to wait.

Maki comes in with her tonfa swinging aggressively. The older Bushin ninja remains calm in the face of her rushing assault, waiting for her to swing out with the stick so that he can step in close, reach out and...

His attempt to redirect her momentum to send her flat on her face is just shy of being swift enough. Zeku isn't as fast and spry as he is when he's used his secret ninja arts to reverse his age. In this form, he's sturdier, perhaps, but the flesh doesn't move as swiftly as it used to.

He's caught up in her attack. The first strike seems to hit hard, but not hard enough to phase him. It's the second hit that really sends his head flying in the opposite direction. And the next. The kick is just icing on the cake. It sends the old man flying back, where he falls to the ground. He rolls onto his shoulders, and his body stretches upwards, legs in the air, so that his center of gravity carries him back and over, so that he flip-rolls onto his feet.

"Everyone makes mistakes," Maki comments without the slightest hint of sarcasm in her voice as she finishes her attack. "Everyone makes them... even the best of the best." She rubs her head a little, sighing. "I admit I made quite a few today as well, but if we don't make mistakes, we won't get anywhere in life." The blonde-haired ninja looks up again and scowls. "This is a challenge that I will remember for a long time to go come."

Despite the injuries she's got, Maki still remains somewhat agile and able to move around as she watches Zeku, shifting occasionally from one foot to the other as she moves closer and closer. She doesn't say anything else, instead, just keeping her eye focused on Zeku a few times, then attempts to strike while moving past him in a way that intends to make it so she can get out of the way quickly if she misses.

COMBATSYS: Zeku just-defends Maki's Evasive Strike!

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Maki             2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\=====--\1             Zeku

The old man only ticks one eyebrow upwards as Maki admits to having made mistakes. Is she starting to come to her senses, at last? Maybe she can be taught, after all. Perhaps even...

As Maki tries to play defensive while coming in for the next strike, Zeku proves that he's just as defensive. Her strike is met with a near perfect match, and her tonfa is caught across the palm of his hand. The old man grasps it and turns, as Maki moves to shift away from him, putting distance between the pair. Still, he sweeps his leg upwards, and that telltale "CHING!!!" heralds the flare of slicing purple and black chi that surrounds his foot and extends off of it. The kick is a front kick, intended to send the girl flying up, into the sky as he flips upwards and back.

No sooner than he lands from his flip, another puff of smoke has the old man disappearing, with the young, chestnut haired ninja standing in his place. Young Zeku leaps up after Maki like a heatseeking missile in pursuit. As he nears her, he'll suddenly spin, his arms extended, and his hands held in rigid knife hand posture. Blades of swirling, sparkling chi, bright and vibrant, surround him, hoping to buffet her with slash after slash, as he twirls like a humanoid typhoon. The final two slices form an X, the blades of chi dimming from brilliant white light to inky black shadows as he lands to the ground.

COMBATSYS: Zeku successfully hits Maki with Karura Tenzan.

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Maki             2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\-------\0             Zeku

Unfortunately, it seems Maki has made a huge mistake here. Not only did she miscalculate her attack, but it's been caught by Zeku, causing the already weakened ninja to be in a bit of a disadvantage. Fortunately, it's only for a second that Zeku has her tonfa, but it gives him time to get away from her, albeit for a few seconds. Because he's coming in fast again...

And then he hits her with a kick that sends her into the air, causing her to grunt as she takes the initial blow. After that, the trouble continues, with numerous slashes hitting her faster than she can even react. And then comes the grand finale as the X strikes her and causes her to drop to the ground in a crumpled heap. Now it's obvious she's really in trouble.

Maki's body is bloodier than ever, and there are more bruises than before. She doesn't roll over like before originally, instead taking her time getting up and grimacing as she finds her body is resisting her efforts to get back onto her feet. Now hunched over and gasping for air, Maki glares at Zeku. Even though it's a weak glare, it's still noticeable.

After that, Maki grits her teeth through teh pain, letting out a soft cry as her body resists even more, then attempts to go at Zeku, even though her stride is noticeably weaker than usual. Her intent is to grab him and strike him with her tonfa in the body before knocking him to the ground with a blow to the head.

COMBATSYS: Maki successfully hits Zeku with Armed Combo.
- Power hit! -

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Maki             2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\==-----\1             Zeku

After landing, the young shinobi warrior Zeku crosses his orange gloved fists just under his chin, before drawing them back to his sides and then crossing them before his waist. He raises his hands slowly, his palms flat and fingertips pointed towards one another, as if he were drawing forth energy from his lower stomach and breathing it out. His hands rise overhead, and sweep outward to form a large circle that completes at his waist. Bringing his hands up once again, he slowly pushes his palms downward, as if he were pushing an invisible force down into the pit of his gut. "Shiki soku Zeku... Ku soku ze shiki!"

It's a mantra, from the Heart Sutra. It means that everything is emptiness, and from emptiness, everything is born. It is a reminder to clear one's mind and heart of all distractions, to remain empty, and let form and technique flow through you. It helps keep the former Bushin Grandmaster clear and steady. Right now, it's affording Maki the chance to regain her posture after his attack.

But perhaps he shouldn't have done such a thing!

As she comes in, the handsome young fighter prepares to block her attacks. Tonfa are tricky, however, able to be redirected at the last moment thanks to their unique handle, and while he attempts to block the strike he expects, Maki attacks from a different angle, with a different strike. It catches him in the stomach, making him double over before she cracks him in the back of the head.

Without even so much as offering up a warning, or taking a moment to reclaim his footing, Zeku is springing back upwards with a palm strike aimed for the underside of Maki's chin. It should, if it connects, send her back up into the air once again.

COMBATSYS: Maki dodges Zeku's Bushin Sandoku Otoshi.

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Maki             2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=------\-------\0             Zeku

Injured and weakened as she is, Maki nonetheless manages to prove that sometimes, a ninja's agility can come through when they need it most. Even though her body is hunched over still and she's bleeding, the woman seems to have put all of that out of her mind as she focuses more on the fight at hand. The palm strike comes through, but Maki drops down quickly, meaning that the strike hits nothing but air. Speaking of air, Maki's having a little trouble catching her breath as she comes back up, but then the breathing slows down.

Down to a more controlled, steady pattern of breathing, as if she's trying to focus herself mentally like she's got something else planned. Could this be a sign that Maki's preparing to unleash something big?

Indeed, it is!

Maki suddenly launches towards Zeku with a yell, attempting to deliver a series of tonfa strikes, followed by a couple of kicks, then launching herself directly into him with a flying kick to finish things off. It's a risky maneuver, but Maki's willing to give it her all in this situation!

COMBATSYS: Zeku guards against Maki's Bushin Gou Rai Ha.

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Maki             0/-------/---<<<<|===----\-------\0             Zeku

Maki has certainly got some speed on the old man's rickety bones, that much is certain, and it has saved her on more than one occasion at this point in the fight. Perhaps he should have stuck with letting his younger self fight this battle. The issue with that is familiarity. In his young form, Zeku might be more agile and nimble, but he also falls back on a style that is far more akin to the Bushinryu that Maki and Guy are already so intimately familiar with. At least in his older form, he has a few wily tricks up his sleeve.

And the old man hasn't cashed out of them, yet.

Maki is swift and skilled, for that he cannot deny. But she also has some pretty blatant tells that any seasoned fighter worth their salt can see coming a mile away. When she tries to control her breathing, Zeku knows full well that the girl intends to gather her strength and try to take the momentum in this very moment. He's not about to let it go unanswered.

The kunoichi comes rushing in, in a blaze of glory, sticks a'flyin', and the old wizened Bushin Grandmaster looks, for a moment, like the deer that's been caught in the headlights. Surely she has him! But, at the last moment, he shifts and moves. He ducks and weaves, blocking each strike as it rains down on him with a deftness and simplicity that almost seems rote by just how effortless it looks. But this... this is what he does. The art of the ninja has been forever entwined with theatricality. The truth of the matter is that Zeku is hard pressed, and he's taking steps back not to go with the flow of the fight, but because she is, legitimately, pushing him back.

"So fiesty! So much energy! You should save this for street thugs, instead of your elders!" He proclaims, as he sidesteps and spins, avoiding that last flying kick by naught but a hair's breath. He folds his arms across his chest, standing proudly with his back turned to her, peering over his shoulder. "You'll find that I'm not taken in so easily!"

Of course, Zeku should be taking advantage of her missed opportunity. He should be pressing the attack with a brutal and lethal intent, to really pound it into the headstrong young girl just how much danger she is truly in. Sadly, when it comes right down to it, Zeku cannot harden his heart to her, though. Upon releasing the burden of being the Shadow of Bushin, Zeku has allowed himself to have the feelings of a man once again. Affection stays his hand, despite his better judgement. Plus, it gives him just enough time to catch his breath.

COMBATSYS: Zeku gains composure.

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Maki             0/-------/---<<<<|==-----\-------\0             Zeku

With Zeku taking the time to catch his breath, Maki realizes that he's truly not finished yet. The blonde ninja herself does not wish to admit defeat herself either. Even though she is bruised and beaten, and there's a bit of blood visible on her body, she refuses to give up until the very end. Especially since her last-ditch attack failed quite a bit. Frustrated, Maki mutters a curse word under her breath, more intent on proving to Zeku that she's stronger than she looks. Is it anger? Is it defiance? Who knows?

"All this because you interrupted my tapioca break," Maki says with a narrow eyed scowl. "It just isn't right. I just wanted a day to myself but YOU had to come and ruin it!" She advances carefully on Zeku, knowing that a resting opponent could easily be planning a surprise for their enemy. "I'm not one for revenge usually, so this is why I'm trying to deal with you today!" Her scowl contorts into a slight sneer, although whether it's from pain or anger is anyone's guess.

"Let's finish this!" Maki drops to the ground and pushes herself upwards on her tonfa and then begins to spin around just like before. Zeku will probably remember it from earlier, but Maki intends to strike true this time around!

COMBATSYS: Zeku dodges Maki's Bushin Senpuu Kyaku.

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Maki             0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0             Zeku

"Maki, my dear," Zeku says with the voice of a chiding elder, though his honey brown eyes gleam with mirth. "Are you seriously missing the point? Your enemies aren't going to give you a day to yourself! They don't care about your tapioca! They're going to attack you when you're least expecting it. They'll come at you when you are weak! Vulnerable! Shadaloo is NOT a simple street gang! You have no idea of the evil you taunt by defying them openly!"

As Maki comes in and launches into that spinning kick, Zeku spins on one foot to turn and face her. She goes twirling about, but the old ninja simply isn't there. He seems to vanish for a moment, only reappearing with a sliding halt on his feet some distance behind her. Cheerfully, his gravelly voice calls out to her, "You're going to have to try much harder than that, my darling girl!"

This time, he's not going to hesitate. The impertinent young woman is too fiesty for her own good. It really does make him miss the sweet young girl she was before Mad Gear forced her to step up in Guy's place. She was kind, and young and lively, and beautiful. At least she's still lively and beautiful. He'd rather preserve that, if he could. And if Shadaloo gets their hands on her...

Zeku launches into a spin, sweeping up his leg into a heel kick that is nowhere even remotely close to Maki at this distance. However, a metallic "CHING!!!" resounds through the city street, and a wave of purple hued chi, lined with what looks like streaky black ink, slices through the air, forming a cutting sheet that nearly fills up the entire street. Surely that will serve as a sufficient threat to her well being, should her defenses prove to be lax. As he comes out of the spinning heel kick, the old silver fox turns his back to her, with the Bushin ninja hand gesture, before crossing his fists at the wrist in an x, then sweeping them around in a twirling flourish as he rocks back on his heels and turns his stance to face her once again.

COMBATSYS: Maki parries Zeku's Bushin Gram - Teki!

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Maki             0/-------/--=====|=------\-------\0             Zeku

Weakened as she is, Maki still manages to push onto her feet and get into a defensive stance. She takes a few deep breaths, trying to push the pain out of her mind. She focuses closely on Zeku and watches him intently, not wanting to let him get the best of her. She knows that strength doesn't come from the body, but from within the mind. "Keep focused, Maki. Keep your mind in this battle. You can do this!" She grips her tonfa, waiting to see what Zeku is going to do next.

When he comes at her, Maki narrows her eyes and takes a deep breath, then as she blows it out, she attempts to defend herself...

And effectively she manages to stop the attack completely. Meaning that she manages to deflect her opponent away without even breaking a sweat. "Ha, looks like I got the upper hand this time!" Without missing a beat, Maki twirls her tonfa a few more times. "Never underestimate Maki Genryuusai!"

The twirling continues rapidly, and she keeps going as if attempting to emphasize her next statement. "What will I do now? Better watch out! En garde!" She attempts to catch Zeku off guard with a surprise attack.

COMBATSYS: Zeku blocks Maki's Random Strike EX.

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Maki             0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0             Zeku

While most fighters might take umbrage at having their attacks deflected, Zeku seems only to react with a look of smug satisfaction. He seems pleased as punch. Tickled pink, even. Her proclaimation, on the other hand, is met with raised eyebrows, and a chuckling "Oh ho ho!" before shaking his head. "Never underestimate me, says the girl who is underestimating the most lethal terrorist cartel in the history of mankind!"

Her surprise, though, falls flat, as the old shinobi simply raises an arm, taking the brunt of her attack against the meaty backside of his leather bound forearm. He shakes his head, though his handsome, perfectly aged face is still lit up with a teasing, lopsided grin that gives the old man an air of mischief and playfullness, if not a bit of wolfishness.

"Your moves are predictable! Ninjitsu needs to evolve and grow. Perhaps you should come with me, Maki. Leave Bushinryu behind and become my disciple. I'm creating a new art. One that adapts ninjitsu to the modern age! New ideas for a new world! Forget about Guy and becoming Grandmaster! Let's forge a new path, you and me!"

With that, the former Grandmaster lashes out, sweeping his hand in a knife hand ridge attack aimed at Maki's temple. It's lightning fast, like the strike of a cobra, intended more to offset than truly rock her world. Keep her on her toes, and on the defensive.

COMBATSYS: Zeku successfully hits Maki with Medium Punch.
- Power hit! -

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Maki             1/------=/=======|====---\-------\0             Zeku

Lightning fast, like the strike of a cobra. And cobras can strike very fast. A lesson Maki forgets for the time being as she finds her attempt to dodge backfires big time. The punch strikes in Maki's temple, directly hitting her and leaving her stumbling and staggering. It's a good thing there was no venom in that punch, otherwise Maki would be passed out, if not deceased, by now. That was a really hard punch and it looks like the ninja's finally met her match.

With legs turning to jelly and vision slowly turning off, Maki barely glances up at Zeku as she raises a fist to him. "You... you... got the best of me... I admit it... but... win or lose... it's all the same..."

What does that comment mean? What is Maki implying?

Whatever she means, the fact still remains that she's on her way down and out for the count. A fact that she attempts to punctuate by attempting to strike Zeku as she falls flat on her face onto the ground.

COMBATSYS: Maki can no longer fight.

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

COMBATSYS: Maki successfully hits Zeku with Medium Strike.

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

The strike just happens to catch Maki hard, at the precise place on her temple that serves best to rock her brain against the side of her skull and force her to lose consciousness. He hadn't expected her to have been so defenseless against that attack, and almost immediately, he looks like he regrets it. His chiseled features soften, and his faded brown eyes become sorrowful and forlorn. "Maki!"

It doesn't matter to Zeku what the girl meant in her final waking moments. It could just be rambling as her brain short circuits from the trauma. It could be more. He'll find out for sure, either way, after she awakens, but in the meantime, the surprisingly nimble old ninja steps forward, directly into Maki's final strike. He takes it to the side of his face, letting her knuckles smash and distort his cheek, and force his head to whip to the side, as a bit of spittle sprays out from his mouth. Why would he do that? Why let himself take the hit?

Because Maki's going to fall to the ground. He doesn't allow it. He takes that hit and catches her in the crook of one arm before she can faceplant into the concrete. Delicately, he lifts her up, draped over his forearm like a sack of potatos, while with the other hand, he strokes her thick blonde hair back and coo's softly, "Shh. That's enough for now, girl. Let's get you some rest and more tapioca."

When Maki comes to, she'll be settled back into the seat she had been seated at previously, with a fresh serving of her favored treat waiting for her. As for Zeku? The only sign of him is a business card propped up against her confection, with all of Zeku's contact information. It seems that the old man has gotten himself a cellphone and an email address. Written on the back of the card is written, in very artful penmanship with a flowing script, a haiku:

Impertinent Girl,
So full of vigor and zest,
Come and take your place!
~Zeku-kun <3

COMBATSYS: Zeku has ended the fight here.

Log created on 19:31:05 08/01/2018 by Zeku, and last modified on 09:36:44 08/20/2018.