The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 2 - Ides Of March

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Description: The Kyokugen Dojo is rattled, and the Syndicate's alpha strike nears its completion. With his control of Japan expanding, Duke is eager to deliver the coup de grace to the Akatsuki-gumi. To this end he follows up on intel about the Scarlet Dahlia's last known location: Saitama City Hospital. Here, he intends to finish what he started. --- that is, until he encounters Kain instead, whose purpose for the Dahlia may be much different. Will the two Syndicate commanders have a friendly discussion, or will their clashing goals lead to blood instead?

For the Southtown Syndicate, the war was falling into place.

Duke had made his impression to the Kyokugen Dojo. Lee Chaolan was imprisoned by trusted ninja agents. The supernatural reinforcements had finally arrived. The Southtown Syndicate, forced into a war by the wild ambitions of Duke, was now reaping the gains of seemingly claiming the island. Oh, there we still holdouts. But the gains were satisfactory. It was clearly in the twilight of the battle.

It was time to end this war.

It could be simple enough to demand a ceasefire. But Duke had a more personal finish. A little retribution to give to the leader of the Akatsuki-gumi. Last time, he broke her leg. This time, he would be a little less subtle in his warnings. The spies had reported that the doctor had come to find a 'Scarlet Dahlia.' That same doctor was at the Saitama City Hospital. And with those pieces, Duke had come personally to find the young crime boss. ANd finish this war with a simple act of mercy.

Just a final order of business.

The doors to the Saitama City Hospital swing open. The waiting room had only a couple, a man and a pregnant woman, waiting to deal with some chance bleeding. And of course, a bored receptionist at the front desk. Of course, the bland serenity is broken as the black and crimson suited figure strides across the waiting room. Past the chairs, to the edge of the desk. The dark-skinned man with the scars burning on his neck comes to a halt, the pressure in the room building. Duke had left the car parked out from in the emergency zone; this should only take a moment. Duke leans over the desk, at the speechless woman, who was no long bored. Not at all.


"I am looking for the Scarlet Dahlia." Duke rumbles, his yellow eyes transfixed into the receptionist. The woman is speechless, as the smoldering rage of the crime boss builds. "We... I... privacy..." She sputters. Duke draws in a deep breath, and exhales from his nose, nostrils flaring. "I do not need to find her room, young lady. I can simply begin destroying the building, brick by brick, stone by stone, body by body. Eventually, I will get an answer to my question... or I will not need an answer to my question anymore." Duke gently puts his palms on the desk, as the flickers of fire boil from his body, a dry heat building as he asks one last time.

"Where. Is. She."

"Terrifying the poor woman is grossly inefficient." Heinlein speaks from experience, leaning too easily into the hallway that leads to the elevators, that lead deeper into the hospital; where he has already been. Without causing nearly such a fuss, at that. "The Dahlia is not here." Whether Duke believes the other Syndicate captain is one question. How Kain is a step ahead of him is another, and perhaps an offense, at that.

The statuesque blonde seems utterly unconcerned with either matter. "And if she were, she would /surely/ be gone by the time you finished Incredible Hulking your way floor by floor." The eyeroll is not visible; but it is /entirely/ audible. It's a different relationship, an odd one most likely, for Duke. Perhaps for both of them. Kain is not afraid of Duke-- and almost certainly, neither is Duke afraid of Kain.

As the more graceful predator paces towards the front desk, the receptionist's demeanor changes entirely. Comforted, immediately, by Kain's presence, smiling up at him as if he's ridden in there on a white horse to save her from this dangerous hoodlum. Murmuring charming, melodic Japanese to the woman, Heinlein passes her a not-insubstantial wad of bills-- not her first for the day-- and beckons Duke to follow him as he retreats from the reception into the facility proper.

Specifically, the elevator would take them up, up, up, almost directly to an expansive skyway connecting an upper level of the hospital to a parking garage. The offices on this level have closed for the day, and there is no foot traffic. Security has already been... managed.

"You best hope the Boss' lust for power outbalances his pride, Burkoff... or you are in an awkward position amidst your perceived triumph."

There are many ways to earn Duke's ire.

Kain's calm, charming arrival is like an open-faced slap across the face of Duke. Already on edge, the man's cool, collected disposing of his presence and the calming of the poor woman nearly incites DUke into a white-hot fury. And yet, when he mocks him, Duke almost seems to grow calm. Focused, as he leads the way to the elevator. The Scarlet Dahlia was gone? That in itself would justify flattening the building. And yet, there was something else stirring within his heart.

A deeper anger, boiling under the surface.

The smoldering rage of the crime boss simmers within the elevator, as he remains silent on the rise up. He was not showing he was listening; but his scowling demeanor and tight-lipped sneer endures as he waits. As it reaches towards the upper levels, the comment finally cuts. He should best hope that 'the boss's lust for power outbalanced his pride? That he was in an awkward position? It was all true, of course. But the very arrogance to confront Duke on this is enough to push him past the limit.

"Are you now acting as his lapdog too, Kain?" Duke snarls, unable to keep his temper. "The Syndicate has nothing left but the soft-hearted and the sycophants. Left to their own devices, they would tolerate the spread of the Akatsuki-gumi, even as the noose tightens around our neck. I broke her leg, and sent her men screaming into Hokkaido. If she is here, then she must have gotten wind of trouble." And Duke -glares- his yellow eyes, smoke building from the corner of them as he takes a step towards him. "But it begs the question, Kain. The only thing of value here is Dahlia. Was, here." There is a popping sound, as the crime boss clenches his fist so tightly.

"Why were you here, Kain, waiting for me?"

Something in Duke's confrontational words makes Kain... chuckle. Not mockingly, but perhaps with a touch of derision in the cold but sincere amusement. It's quietly hearty, even.

Needless to say perhaps, the other capo's agitation riles nothing of the sort in Heinlein. If anything, the lithe German's poise is broken only by how comical the assessment of the situation seems to him. "Are you no longer part of the Syndicate, then?" Kain inquires calmly, bemused; a fiery twinkle in his crimson eyes.

"Or simply a soft-hearted sycophant?" It has undertones of a parent being both deliberately obtuse and at least one-third incisive towards a temperamental child. Kain shakes his head, strides smoothly to one of the banks of windows looking out from on high over the city, and offers frank truth, "I came here, I suspect, seeking much the same as you. To sway or savage the Dahlia."

Granted, Kain's way has far more room for the dangerous woman to make a deal. And he's apparently ahead of Duke in seeking her out; that can't sit right on either count, can it? "You give yourself much credit. Running into you is an anticipated bonus. It would be nice to satisfy the variable in this equation that questions whether your strategy in this endeavour is cunning..." a slow, lupine smile spreads over thin, austere lips. "or utterly insane."

"Sway the Scarlet Dahlia?!"

The very statement only draws the intense burning anger of the crime boss more and more. To be talked down by Kain is to be talked down by Geese, or Hein. The low-born crime boss, the brute who hammered his way into power, was still only a mere brute even in the eyes of his peers? The statement of whether or not he is with the Syndicate does give him halting pause. It takes his next line, a soft-hearted sycophant, to shake him out of his stunned state. He was barely keeping himself from tearing into Jain, as the elevator continues to rise. And the incredulous statement in the end, whether he was cunning, or insane, pushes him over the edge.

"There is no swaying her anymore!"

Duke raises his fist at Kain, threatening him with every intent in his bones. "Last time we met, I shattered her leg into a smear. That was a mercy, and my reward for it was to be imprisoned and tortured by the NOL! No, my mercy this time is a clean exit of the Scarlet Dahlia from the world stage... by obliterating her skull under my heel." A surge of energy comes down his leg, telegraphing the very emotion of it. "There is only the peace of the dead for her from now on, Kain. This is total war."

"There is no more room for your soft touches anymore!"

Duke looks up and down Kain, teeth gnashing. "I should ask you if you are still part of the Syndicate, or if you are looking to carve your own seat of power. Perhaps with her yourself!" Duke -slams- a fist into the elevator, a half-hearted pound... and it is enough to send the entire vessel flickering, a groan rumbling from the machinery. Duke's voice drops into a deep baritone. "Stay out of my way, Kain. This is not -your- war, this is mine, and the spoils are all mine. Meddle in my war..."

"And there will be -hell- to pay!"

To that, Kain's eyebrow quirks. No swaying the Dahlia? "Why?" It's a simple question, right? With simple answers, naturally. There's a pause, a quizzical side-eye thrown subtly towards Duke. "You do know what Total War means, right?" Also: isn't it kind of the default posture of the Syndicate's supposed brute?

The truth is, Heinlein is the last person to underestimate Duke. In Burkoff, there is a kindred spirit, if one cast through a decidedly prismatic and haphazard fun-house lens. With Grant's help, Kain clawed his way up from the dregs of Southtown; among the worst places in the world. His sister was Geese's wife, but the less spoken of that, the better-- and Kain? The youngest captain in Syndicate history. He wears it like a man several factors greater in age. "Are you not in effect seeking to annex her operations yourself?" Kain doesn't deign to justify the insinuations with an answer, just a substantial touch of incredulity at the irony of it all. He stops short of laughing, again.

"If you are to succeed in this, to strengthen our position rather than weaken it, to expand our powerbase rather than diminish its manpower, you need people willing to fight for your cause. Not more inspired to squash you." It carries the same tone as the earlier lecture. The younger man prostelytizing to the elder like a parent teaching a lesson to an unruly child. The cost-benefit for this endeavor goes far outside any personal grievance; and Kain is relatively sure Duke knows that.

It's the pieces still shrouded on the board that concern the young blonde-- that should concern them /all/. "You think you are talking to a child, as you believe I see you as a moronic brute. This leaves as at an impasse, even as events spiral out of your control." Kain smiles slightly, darkly.

Chaos is a ladder.

Duke had his own ruthless amibitions.

"Of course I plan to. And whatever I can't take, I will burn to the ground. People can rebuild, and will when they see the wreckage of those who stand in my way! And those Akatsuki-gumi who refuse to let themselves die have all the opportunity to fall into our ranks. Fear is what will drive loyalty, Kain, not was of money! A path of peace, and open palm only invites weakness! Look how much she has already claimed of our territory, through the simple act of existing! She is not only one of those psychics, Kain..."

"But she is with -them-"

Duke shakes his head furiously. "It isn't only the Akatsuki-gumi, but their allies. Shadaloo has fallen behind the Scarlet Dahlia. Even her little pet, Lee Chaolan, has found ways to foil our information network. They are moving to tear us apart, as she cries crocodile tears to find more -allies-" Duke glares at Kain, still skeptical of his motivations. "And of our allies?" And Duke snarls, a grim foreboding of what was yet unsaid. "... There is the makings of another Metro City already in motion." Duke's rage subsides into banal frustration, as he looks at the elevator panel.

"How slow is this damned elevator?!"

"So you only use the act to question -my- loyalty in concern my eyes are on what you already covet." Kain observes, somewhere between stoic and subtly sardonic. "Just checking." If he is shocked by this, or takes any sort of offense by the obvious nature of the situation? Heinlein shows it not. "You realize The Prince was satire, yes?" Kain waves the query off as rhetorical. Of course Duke doesn't. If he's aware of the tome at all.

Then the topic of conversation moves to something of far more interest to the statuesque German. "Ahh. I was wondering what the hidden assets were. I was hoping they were yours." Alas. "It's likely more accurate to say the Dahlia has fallen in line behind /Shadaloo/, my friend." There is little warmth in the term, but it serves as a pertinent reminder nonetheless. Especially with the situation being balanced decidedly more harshly against them than Kain had hoped.

"You don't think the terms of that alliance, the nature of whatever leverage one has over the other, is intriguing information to gather?" The implication that such conniving is weakness seems to thoroughly amuse Kain. Knowledge is power. Or was it bacon? The elevator opens to a hallway, and a skyway that connects the hospital to an adjacent parking garage, looking out over the surrounding cityscape. Kain paces towards the far end, turning to gaze out over that view while addressing Duke, "What about our allies?"

"Our allies, Kain?

The question comes with Duke's rage resciding, the crime boss's presence still boiling forth as they stride out upon the skyway. He moves ahead of Kain, before turning around, cutting off the path. Yes, mock him. Tell him that The Prince was satire in the time of tyrants. Let Tyrants be as Tyrants are. "Do not think that Dahlia isn't pulling the strings; she is a manipulative coward, and most dangerous at your back than before you. But as for our allies." Duke tightens his lips. The weight of it was elusive. "You see, we all were supposed to be allies, in the Shadow Council. A pact to unite in the face of extra-dimensional invaders. So what allies, then, do we have in a gang war like this?"


If Kain wasn't convinced he was insane before, the burning yellow eyes of the crime boss might convince him now. "Monsters from beyond, the very same that nearly destroyed Metro City. I am buying them from Kira Volkov, who thinks she has cleverly built a casino base of operations under our nose. Certainly, we will be linked to it, and as the populace is already fearful of the Gears, they will react strongly. They are terrified of the unknown. And Soon... well, I am all too aware what Faustian bargains entail. Our arrogance will lure the most powerful demons to Southtown, to claim it as they did in Metro City. And when they do?"

"Then no one will care about our war."

"No space for retaliation, no room for tricks, for ambition, when the very world is at stake. You see, the Scarlet Dahlia fancies herself as a hero. She saved the world once before. Shadaloo, Dahlia, all of the Shadow Council would have to act to protect Southtown from the invasion... or they can refuse. And the pact is broken. If they do so? Well, the debtor of this Faustian Bargain would be Kira, wouldn't it? So we will turn on Kira and her creatures, and eliminate the last rival in Southtown. The city, the island, would be all -ours-, and when the time comes to reconstruct the ruins... well..." Duke smirks arrogantly at Kain, as he strokes his beard.

"Perhaps you can toss some wads of money to some broken neighborhoods, as a 'savior' of some lonesome street."

The smirk fades, as Duke releases his beard. "But of course, you have no ambitions for this. You have -come- to seek the Dahlia, haven't you? To discuss with her." Duke raises his fists. "That is your way, talking and manipulating, pulling power from the shadows, than seizing it up front. You've always been in The Boss's shadow, Kain. And I do not trust subtle anymore. I think it's safer for you to wait out this war the same way Dahlia has: bound in traction. I don't think the boss will complain about a few broken eggs in securing this omelette."

Duke's eye -fixate- upon Kain's leg.

If Duke's demeanor doesn't convince Kain that the man is insane, his plan might cross the rest of that distance. The graceful lieutenant takes his time to soak it all in, to consider it. It's sheer madness, of course it is; but Heinlein does not necessarily disapprove of madness, despite allegations of his softness.

"So you'll cover the lack of subtlety in this total war..." Kain echoes the term with a touch of dubious sarcasm, "by starting a second war with untold legions of beasts starting their own wave of violence across Southtown." Kain shakes his head. He laughs, heartily. Oh, this is richer than he ever anticipated, and the manipulative pyromancer doesn't bother to hide it.

"In all of this..." Kain ponders aloud, pausing as he gathers his thoughts, his words melodic, too calm, too icy. "Your biggest miscalculation--" Beat. "-- and that's saying something.. has to be thinking you understand 'my way'." The smile Heinlein offers Duke is anything but comforting, full of danger, full of confidence. Arrogant, even faced with this mad boss-- a rarity for such a beast. "And then you compound it trying to take -me- out of your way!" Another bark of laughter follows.

"Come on then, illustrious mastermind..." The title is obviously full of respect and sincerity, "Show me your power miraculously matches your appetites." Kain faces Duke sidelong, seemingly unprepared, one gloved hand hanging relaxedly from his jacket pocket by a thumb.

One war, into another.

Duke's lack of subtly was his signature; Duke was an open-faced slap compared to his more insidious allies and rivals. But he was an open-faced slap that would survive, and endure. Duke's endurance and strength was enough to send all into bedlam. And in the face of his strength?

Kain could only dismiss it.

Duke's rage surges back up, the font of anger returning tenfold. Body building in a tower of flame, Duke grits his teeth as he takes Kain's confidence head first. "My power, Kain." Duke snarls, as he draws up his leg high. Swinging it up, he hangs it in the air, like an axe kick. "Is unstoppable!"

And the foot comes down.

The skyway shudders as the full force runs throughout the skyway. The structure sways; it is only Japanese engineering that stops the whole thing from collapsing from the tremors. But the impact was more than a simple stomp. On impact, a shockwave of fire erupts through the narrow hallway. Blazing with overwhelming fire, the shuddering force runs deep as the structure groans. Duke wasn't afraid of bringing the skyway down, or even the building. Kain was in his way.

And he would break him like he broke the Scarlet Dahlia.

COMBATSYS: Duke has started a fight here.

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Duke             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Kain has joined the fight here.

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Duke             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Kain

COMBATSYS: Kain blocks Duke's Seismic Impact ES.

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Duke             0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0             Kain

An unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Kain's motion is deceptively subtle, anchoring his stance to the stalwart leg behind him and flexing his leading arm forcefully into the strike, readily meeting, opposing the onslaught with nary a flinch. The skyway shudders, but Heinlein does not, sliding slightly back under the sheer force, his stance all but unmoved.

Kain doesn't boast of his power, or telegraph his own intentions in this hilarious mess. He doesn't diplomatically inform Duke that he would gladly stand aside, perhaps even help Burkoff in his intention to spread chaos; to castrate Shadaloo. No, Duke's warpath is far too intriguing an element to the entire affair, there's no reason to calm it. Least of all the intention to break his bones.

The shockwave of fire erupts more around Kain than through him, a testament to that unspoken might wielded by the enigmatic German, its fiery conflagration scorching the walls, discoloring the carpet, but not mussing his suit. Luxurious blonde locks flow outwards behind Kain by the unseen winds... those obviously gathered by Duke's attack-- and those now surging forth within the deadly young man. Kain smiles, the spark in his blood-red gaze redoubling, burning like a dark-cored furnace deep within.

Unstoppable? "Noteworthy, perhaps." Kain offers only a measure of the respect Duke demands. Treating Burkoff's talent as some tiers below Duke's own estimation. It's likely criminal in Duke's eyes, and Kain knows it, bluntly prodding his supposed peer with bothersome realism. All the while, the statuesque blonde takes his adversary's measure, his gaze as much peering within as at the massive crimeboss.

COMBATSYS: Kain calculates his next move.

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Duke             0/-------/------=|=====--\-------\0             Kain

Duke had expected more.

With the full force threatening the building, he had expected a reaction, a look of fear, of awe. And yet, when the flames dissipate, Kain stands fast, ripping apart his energy with equal measure. Without even breaking a sweat, even. And when Kain stands fast, with only a smirk on his lips? That was almost enough to tear Duke into a berserker rage. The straw that breaks the camel's back?


"GRAGH!" Roars Duke, as erupts into a pillar of flame. Violet-red energy volcanos around him, as he chokes in white-hot rage. Bones crack and pop under his outrageous fury. And there, his rage nearly consuming him. he thunders at his opponent. Striding with heavy steps, he stampedes at Kain with the grace and finesse of a wild buffalo. "I will beat that smile from your face!" The crime boss bellows, as he attempts to slam his shoulder into Kain, with wild, nearly manic force. Should he connect? He would keep going, attempting to give a quick stomp as he is down. All with a bellow.


COMBATSYS: Kain blocks Duke's Aggressive Strike.

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Duke             0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0             Kain

Conversely, Kain expects exactly the exchange that occurs. It's not a mark against Duke, how steady the flame-wielder's footing proves, how impeccable his guard. It does however lend credence to Kain's assertion that Burkoff does not truly understand his lithe blonde foe.

Once more, Heinlein meets his adversary defensively, but anything but passively. His own shoulder, that ironclad arm, they clash with the flame-sheathed Duke's shoulder rush with a tremor worthy of a car crash.

Kain smirks, that's definitely the right word for it. "There is no shame in owning what we are." Kain observes, even as he's being damned, all but eye to eye with Duke. In that same moment, his gloved hand thrusts forth, seeking to clench vise-like digits around Duke's meaty throat, the strength in that lithe limb sufficient to heft his mighty foe off the ground.

"Delusional bouts of aggression, on the other hand..." he doesn't shout out the name of his attack, instead casually dismissing Burkoff's rage as the mistake of an unruly child; or a brute. Even as that grasping hand would erupt in cosmic fire, black-cored flame as hot as the stars seeking to consume Duke's skull and upper body in a tremendous, sudden conflagration, a bonfire that would brutally blast Burkoff right back the way he charged.

It's rather obstinant of Heinlein, isn't it? "Beating me changes nothing." Kain notes, a moment of sincerity, of sharing. Not that Duke will be prone to appreciate the wisdom. "Whereas losing here threatens everything." That smirk spreads anew.

COMBATSYS: Duke endures Kain's Schwarze Schleife.

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Duke             1/---====/=======|=======\-------\0             Kain

Duke had no understanding, truly, on Kain.

But Duke did not see a need for finesse, even now. He was a wrecking ball, attempting to wreck through that unmovable object. This time, though, Kain -does- act. As he rushes into Kain, smashing in unison, he is knocked back. Off-balanced, he is exposed as the blonde-haired man continues to toy and insult the crime boss. Enraged, Duke's whole body creaks and cracks as he leans hard back.

Just in time for the blast.

The blistering torrent of flame is enough to leave Duke's own as mere embers. The consuming, purifying fire consumes over Duke's form, as the stench of brimstone and sulfur fills the air. Duke gives a pained groan as he continues to lean in hard, the silhouette casting mangled shadows in the flash fire. For a moment, it looks like Duke was about to be ripped in half by the fire. A sudden jerk comes, as the moment the fire yields?

He -hurls- himself again at Kain.

Duke's upper half, chest and face, is a single, unifying burn. Blackened flesh and open sores mingle as the flesh peels away with the white fluid. Duke's eyes were sealed shut, swollen and crisped in the fire. But the damage was only skin deep for now; as Duke's bare teeth clenches over the withered, blackened scabs of his lips, he howls in rage.

"Shut your trap!"

Duke does not stop, as he begin to alternate full force body blows into Kain. Great, sweeping, slamming blows, battering with unstoppable force as he unleashes a reckless, relentless power directly into the man. "You are nothing but a smug bastard! You're not better than me!" Duke blurts out, his fury overwhelming him as after the third blow, he unleashes a devastating uppercut. "Arrogant fool... You are just like Geese!" He roars as he finishes the assault, leaping in the air to deliver a catastrophic drop kick, aiming to knock Kain down the skyway.

At the very least, it didn't seem he was blowing up the Skyway.


COMBATSYS: Duke knocks away Kain with Hell Bomber ES.

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Duke             1/-------/<<<<<<<|=======\===----\1             Kain

This time, the onrushing train that is Duke Burkoff is too much to stop. It was inevitable, truly, but that doesn't make it less of an... inopportune moment. Even as his form wavers and he seeks to glide deftly out of the path of that enraged locomotive, Kain is consumed in the collision, driven backwards by repeated hammering strikes and explosions of rampant energy.

Punched into the air, Kain is kicked groundwards before he bounces off the roof, crashing back-first into the garage side of the skyway, his impact cracking the wall, dislodging the door. Still, Heinlein smirks, a bit of blood trickling from his suddenly swelling lip. "You couldn't be more incorrect." Kain has said it before, but it rings differently, this time. With feeling. Investment.

"Pathetic." It's subtle, the turn in making Kain mad. It's easy to assume it's the devastating technique that did it. From his landing spot, Heinlein kicks a raging tumult of that dark fire across the gap seperating him from Duke, one Burkoff is certainly already clearing. He leaps forward himself, back into the fray, a gloved hand reaching skyward, clenching, and ripping forth a second, equally devastating skyfall of rampant, burning black napalm.

COMBATSYS: Duke interrupts Schwarze Lanze from Kain with Crack Up EX.

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Duke             1/----===/=======|=======\======-\1             Kain

He was not finished.

Duke is already approaching Kain, as he finally gets a reaction. Not just physically, but in tone. He comes out to the garage, ready to greet Kain with an opening present of more punches. Fire cascades over his form, burning footsteps outlining his steady approach. His eyes were scabbed shut; but his own rage would be his guide. The even stride comes, as that sudden rush of power floods around him. Fire, more fire. It is at him, over him, unseeing of the fire. There is no flight or fight. Only fight, as he draws back a fist to the building font of destruction.

"Couldn't I?"

Duke -punches- straight through the blast of energy, the relentless fury of the crime boss overwhelming the incredible power of Kain. The fire flays his flesh to the bone; only thin muscle manages to keep the entire limb together as he -smashes- the fist hard into Kain's jaw. With the lack of actual muscle, it was likely not that stinging. The second blow, however, a rioting uppercut with his left is less restrained; unchecked by the fire as he -smashes- straight. Sending Kain staggering back, he uses the same hand to grip his mangled remains of an arm, the blackened limb not even having enough fluid to bleed.

But it was already healing, before their very eyes.

"I have spent my entire adult life under the boot of men just like you and Geese." Duke roars, yellow eyes burning from the mask of burnt death that was once his face. It seemed that he finally was able to open his eyes. "For my entire adult life, I was stuck under those smug glares of arrogance, of superiority. Those silver-tongued words, of those who claimed to be my -better!- No more, am I just an attack dog to be let off my chain! No more, am I going to be you or his puppet from the shadows. You are cut of the same cloth, Kain..." He release his arm, as blood finally begins to pour from it.

"And just like him, you must learn this lesson the hard way!"

Even in this moment, to his credit, Kain does not show his own hand. He's smug with his secrets, too smug, as Duke pounds more blood from his face, sends the other crimelord reeling. He nearly loses all footing entirely, but his hand finds the ground on the way down, and Heinlein's body shakes... with laughter.

"You have your boot on as many throats as I, Burkoff. As many as Geese Howard. Claim what you like of your momentary upper hand; but it has not brought you clarity." Even with his own skull ringing, Kain brings himself gracefully to his feet.

"You have no righteous cause here, only misdirected rage. A poor use of resources." In Kain's grasp, in an instant, burns the blinding heart of a thousand suns. It at once consumes and dominates all light in the area, rushing into being as if a wormhole to the depths of the cosmos had been opened amidst Heinlein's fingertips, more power than most touch in a lifetime conjured in the blink of an eye, his own reserves pouring forth in impossible ferocity.

It grows exponentially, nigh-instantaneously, before thrusting arms, wildly flaring coat-tails, flowing blonde locks announce the projection of that conjured star forward. Its roughly spherical mass erupts constantly in shockwaves of fire, wildly flaring golden chi meteoric in its orbit of that central, ravenous mass, its width several times Kain's-- several times /Duke's/. Its gravity, inexorable.

The stellar projection draws a ragged, angry path forward, disintegrating what was left of the portal Kain crashed through; blowing out every window in the skyway in a glittering shower of pulverized, nigh-atomized glass as the entire structure lurches with an objecting screech. It threatens to do much the same to Duke.

COMBATSYS: Kain successfully hits Duke with Himmlische Seele+.

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Duke             2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|>>>----\-------\0             Kain

Duke expected so much from Kain.

Anger. Fear. Outrage. The crime boss was all too eager to crush this traitor, this enemy, his own -ally- for the sake of fear and hostile effort. His very allies were enemies now, and soon.... soon it would only be Nagase left. Was that his fate? No, as Kain rises up. It couldn't be. And yet, Kain responds with his own words.

With laughter.

Duke somehow gets more angry. His body snaps and cracks, his bones shuddering under the pure force of his rage. Wild, unleashed fury, boiling out like a volcano. If this was a fight on simple skill, Duke would have lost long ago. But in terms of power? Power was all that Duke unleashed. Duke almost believed that his raw power could outmatch Kain's skill.

And then the golden light emerges.

The heat is unbearable, the glare too much. Duke is forced to look away, as he -feels- the penetrating light cut through him, before it even comes. And the sun only grows brighter as it grows. The impossible power was beyond Duke's, beyond even... the World Warrior. Duke did not know fear. He could not know fear. He had stood in the face of oblivion.

And even then, it destroyed him.

When the blast is unleashed, the best Duke can muster is to block it with his boned arm. Rather, -smash- his limb into it, to disrupt it. For the effort? The sun consumes his arm. and it is only barely slowed down as it consumes his form in entirity. There is a howl of anger, then pain. Then a scream, as the shadow of Duke's shape within the orb. The explosion comes, and Duke is in the epicenter. There are dull, wet thumps as pieces of Duke are sent scattering across the garage; what was left of his arm is sent rolling on the floor at Kain's feet. Specks of flesh, of gore scatter around, as where Duke once stood, there was a blackened shape of bone and charred flesh, with the scent of roast pork and sulfur hanging heavily in the air. The figure was laying down, the outline of the blast around him. There is uncomfortable twitching, spasming as the sound of crackling meat is heard. Faint smoke rises from him. Was this it? Was this the end?




Thus comes the roar of the living skeleton, as the remains of Duke jolt up into a stand. Yellow eyes -burn- from the walking burn, the charred flesh oozing as it is forced to move. His organs, he must have just survived. And already, red-violet flame explodes around him, as the corpse becomes wrapped in flame. Stumbling at Kain, he swings his arm around, his only arm. Leaping in the air, he descends at Kain. And with the energy surging upwards around him, he -slams- his fist down at Kain's head. If the windows were blown out before, the explosion of volcanic anger blasts out around him in a cataclysmic, consuming cloud of flame. The garage finally shudders as the full blast rips the ground, the combination of both assault destroying the ground below. And with in, Duke would fall in the pit of his own making. Down down down below. Alive.

And just as enraged.

COMBATSYS: Duke successfully hits Kain with Ground Zero.

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  /////                         ]
Duke             0/-------/--<<<<<|>>>----\-------\0             Kain

For perhaps the first time in the exchange, Kain is truly suprised; even impressed. Duke is still standing, such as it is. It's a grotesque existence, some would say, but survival at any price is a bargain that Heinlein understands better than almost any other knows. Still, Duke's tenacity buys him another moment of that brutal, inexorable momentum, and Kain pays the price.

His guard blown apart as Duke touches down, Heinlein is launched backwards, and any other man would be plucked soundly from the fight, by now. ... almost any other. Kain, to his credit, maintains one knee as he lurches violently away, the impact of his passage further degrading the floor, and his wavering bodily integrity. Don't laugh, Burkoff says. Kain chuckles still.

"Don't be..." he murmurs, thrusting a gloved hand forward defiantly, another spiral of dark flame swirling about itself as the twin plumes cross in an instant to Duke, seeking to burn away still more of his body in fervent inferno, the torch only burning more intensely as it consumes the air between them, voluminous in its coalescent intensity. "So -foolish-!" It's the condition for Kain taking the entire thing seriously; the outcome as he lurches forward, breathing heavily in the wake of his attack matters little to that equation.

Regardless, Kain has to smile, to maintain a smug confidence. Just like Geese, a lapdog to the master. None of them have any idea, and in that, the blonde takes substantial comfort. "Soon you will be crushed under the weight you ignorantly shoulder alone." he predicts in a quiet whisper, unconcerned if Duke even receives the warning.

COMBATSYS: Kain can no longer fight.

[                       \\\\\\\  <
Duke             0/-------/--<<<<<|

COMBATSYS: Duke interrupts Schwarze Flamme from Kain with Minefield EX.

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

All Duke needs is a moment.

As he -smashes- down upon Kain, the pit crumbles, and the pair come crashing down to the floor below. Duke staggers on both legs, barely able to stand Kain laughs again. And with that laughter, his resolve intensifies. Duke looks up with burning yellow eyes, the form of man snarling with the shards of teeth. The spiraling flames explode at Duke. And the crime boss floods with chi in equal measure. Pointing his one good arm at the fire, Duke suddenly -explodes- as the flames touch him, the eruption of his crimson energy finally consuming the fire, negating it with explosive energy. And glaring down, staring at Kain, he responds, unharmed as he points that finger at him.

"I am not alone, Kain." Duke rumbles.

"With Nagase at my side, and also Hyena, I am never alone." Shaking his head, dead skin falls off, as his body begins to regenerate the burnt tissue. He sweeps his hand. "I don't -need- you, Kain. I don't need you, or Geese. You can think about that as you recover. That your path will be -nothing- without me. And when you are ready to submit? I'll let you crawl back, you and Geese, squirming like the worms you are as you come to take a piece our our greatness! Until then?" Duke shakes his head. "There's a hospital nearby, that can take good care of you." Duke turns his back on Kain, before pausing. "Oh. One more thing. If I catch you anywhere near the Scarlet Dahlia's trail, Kain?"

"Not even Geese will stop me from killing you."

And Duke finally commits to turn around. The crime boss is limping as pieces of blackened flesh peels off to wet, warm flesh underneath. Wincing at the cold night air, he halts a moment. "Dammit." Duke growls, as he looks down his body. The fire -was- fairly complete, and Duke did make sure to get the clothing that burnt off cheaply. "Where the hell am I supposed to get an outfit here..." Duke shakes his head. If Nagase wasn't overseas... he would have asked for her to come with a new change of clothing. Well.

He supposed Hyena would have to do.

COMBATSYS: Duke has ended the fight here.

Log created on 16:46:15 08/06/2018 by Duke, and last modified on 12:14:16 08/08/2018.