Circuit Of Champions - Worldwide Master Belt Riot: Honoka vs Baiken

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Description: The plan was simple: Have a Master Belt Riot, with all the slots open for challenges. And the simplest of plans fall apart, when it turns out Lee Chaolan is missing for the Master Belt Riot! But where there is weakness, comes new strength: the spot is ripe for the pickings. Honoka and Baiken come to the Hokkaido grove for a desperate battle for Lee Chaolan's open slot: the loser keeps their current standing. But the winner? The Worldwide Championship Master!

Honoka Kawamoto knew two things for sure, going into this so-called "Master Belt Riot." The first was that current events more or less demanded the Twilight Star Circus star step into the spotlight, lest current events spin wildly out of her control. Performing in front of an adoring public might be a terrifying prospect to some, but it's a much-needed ego boost for the talented juggler, beset on all sides by a shadow war with no simple end in sight.

The second is that the profit-minded PFW fight organizers are a bunch of heretical pricks. Staging a fight in the midst of Ainu sacred grounds, honestly?! While a lonesome mountain road winds its way just a few hundred feet from the fight venue, the fact remains that -- at least when first contacted -- a number of priceless Ainu relics were arrayed all across the forest clearing. She comforts herself by reminding herself that they seem to at least be equal-opportunity heathens, as their previous matches have sought to desecrate lands held sacred to many different religions.

Luckily, the world-famous juggler has a number of connections: status as a third-place King of Fighters contender opens a number of doors. Grave markers -- most fastened to trees, others pitched nearby to them -- were cordoned off with heavy, protective barricades. On the recommendation of an Ainu historian, the most fragile artifacts were relocated away from the clearing, while others were shielded with heavy metal domes.

A more-or-less level playing ground, the grassy field in the center of the grove has been cleaned of forest debris, surrounded by water-filled temporary barriers. The professional fighters inside the ring don't need protection, of course; they're an obvious safety precaution taken for the literal -thousands- of guests packed into the grove.

Many fighters would be content to wait away from the howling masses until the designated time. But the pre-fight, too, is a battlefield which the consummate professional would seek to gain control of: she's out bright and early, having seated herself on the lip of the circle of movable barriers. Her legs are folded up, lotus-style; a precarious enough position for the narrow barriers, even if she -weren't- also juggling two diabolos at the same time. A placid smile seems right at home on the performer's perfect features, for her complex routine was committed to memory some years ago. Keeping the rapidly orbiting juggling props from hitting the ground isn't just -easy- for Honoka Kawamoto -- it's -relaxing-, too.

So much so, that she even gives a yawn. ... Admittedly, that's just a nod and a wink to the audience that the time for battle approaches!

It's been a while since Baiken has showed up for a SNF. She always has tended to come and go as she pleases, so that is no surprise at all, but she usually shows up when they specifically ask her unless she's otherwise occupied.

And the shadow war doesn't interest her as much as it could. Baiken doesn't give a shit about crime unless she's being paid or monsters are on site. With SNF accepting more Darkstalkers, she's been paying more attention here, anyway.

Baiken arrived quite early, but not where anyone could see her; some distance off and in a tree, where she could enjoy her smoke in reasonable peace. She tuned out the crowds as they began to arrive, paying as little attention to them as she could. That this is Ainu sacred ground is another thing she doesn't care much about. If Baiken has faith in anything, it's not this.

On the other hand, that means she doesn't object to Honoka setting up the arena as she likes to 'protect graves' or 'ensure that artifacts remain intact'. Which may be a mistake, given what she knows about the other woman; she's tricky. But Baiken seems to accept this.

Baiken actually drops to the ground in the middle of a confused and rather suddenly enthusiastic knot of fans. She can be tracked primarily by the noise of the crowd, because she is too short to be seen over it, until she pushes through the last of them and weaves her way through the guard-rails and barricades. Baiken does not play to the crowd - she never does, and in fact rarely acknowledges they exist at all, which has given her a different sort of fame that she doesn't entirely understand.

"Kawamoto," she says as she steps into the ring proper, the first word she's spoken all day that anyone has heard. She inclines her head slightly. She'd been hoping Chaolan would appear so she could get him back for her last defeat, though it was quite some time ago now; in his absence, she'll take what she can get. She needs the practice, whether or not this ends in victory.

COMBATSYS: Baiken has started a fight here.

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Baiken           0/-------/------=|

It's true that Baiken's arrival would have come as a shock to the audience members in her direct vicinity. The sea of onlookers parts for the one-armed swordswoman; their praise and awe is unmistakable, with cheers making up for the hushed whispers -- is that -the- Baiken? Is her sword a prop, or the genuine article? So many inane questions, so easy to ignore...

But the folks in the VIP tent, positioned directly across the ring from Baiken's recuperative tree, seemed to have known she would be arriving. Outside the tent are stationed six men in black suits, with red shirts and black ties, their eyes shielded by matching sunglasses. And inside the tent sit six more men, similarly dressed minus the sunglasses. The whole dozen is Japanese -- but the guest of honor seated in the center of the tent looks different, dressed in all white, with skin almost -ghostly- pale in comparison, save for the ruddy-colored scarring present on the lower third of her face. At first it looks like she might be seated on a metal throne, but as the whole seat pivots to the side, it becomes clear she is seated upon a motorized wheelchair.

Seated equidistant from both impressive women, the performer continues her juggling routine, focusing her gaze upon the scarred swordswoman. "Miss Baiken..." she notes with a pleasant smile -- the only obvious reaction against such a laconic greeting. From a show business perspective, it's brilliant marketing to pit someone so quiet against someone with such a mastery of crowd appeal -- a veritable crash between function and form. The juggler's neon-highlighted forelocks bob as her head and shoulders dip in greeting -- though her hands continue to guide the wands through the practiced routine.

She hops off her barricade, stretching her arms out to either side. It'd look like a perfectly normal stretch; the spinning diabolos are accomodated with practiced, natural ease. "I sure am sad Mr Chaolan couldn't make it out to the event..."

A referee steps out from the barrier, nodding first to Baiken, then to Honoka. Salutes are given, communications are made with the fight officials. And the simple "country folk" persona of Honoka continues her vapid smile as she steps into a silent pirouette, the wands parallelling her forearms as she spins them outward. The diabolos fall towards the ground, caught only by the cord stretched taut behind her back, and bouncing back up into the air.

Once more, Honoka faces Baiken, lazily twirling the cord as if it were a gymnastics ribbon, as the diabolo fall into a stable parking orbit, just above the lithe performer's waist level. "... But don't you worry, Miss Baiken, I'll do my best to pick up the slack..."

The signal is given. Fighters ready? FIGHT! And the cord pops once, twice -- propelling the diabolos into high skyward arcs. If Baiken attemps to follow them, she'd be able to ascertain that they're not aimed to hit her -- but they follow two -separate- arcs. And they have seemingly -nothing- to do with the performer as she vaults into the air, spinning into a dramatic triple pirouette -- wreathed in brilliant pink and purple lights!

No, the true threat is when Honoka snaps out of her pirouette. She'd be hoping to gather -both- of her diabolo wands into her right hand amidst her spin. And after two solid -thuds- sound in Baiken's periphery, the psycho-power-infused wands would seek to crack against Baiken's good shoulder in a high overhead strike! If Honoka manages to land her strike, she'd shove forcefully with an open palm into Baiken's midsection, shoving her backwards. But even still, the one-eyed swordswoman might want to watch her footing though -- as those diabolos embedded into the grass certainly weren't there a moment ago -- they might be a tripping hazard!

COMBATSYS: Honoka has joined the fight here.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|=------\-------\0           Baiken

COMBATSYS: Baiken parries Honoka's Crushing Strike!

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|==-----\-------\0           Baiken

Spectators - at least spectators who have paid attention to Baiken in the past, in World Warrior or SNF or whatever event they choose where she actually makes herself public for a while - are very aware that her sword is extremely real. She just doesn't always draw it. Her empty sleeve often has the more interesting weapons.

Baiken rarely expects to hide from a true expert, especially when she's not really putting her best effort into it. Hiding from the crowd is not a challenge. Hiding from Honoka is harder, and hiding from the VIPs is hardest (if only because there are a bunch of them and they have a general idea of where to look for her).

She looks at the VIPs with her single eye, almost thoughtfully, before focusing her attention on Honoka. "Baiken," she says, her voice slightly sharp. "No 'miss'. Just Baiken." Nobody has ever gotten Baiken to say whether that is her given name, surname, or only name, and she doesn't appear to be interested in confirming it one way or the other tonight. Maybe she just doesn't like to be called 'miss'.

Plus, she thinks, with some minor self-amusement at her own expense, I'm a little old for that.

Baiken isn't sure what to make of Honoka. She seems... well, 'unintelligent' isn't the right word. Simple, maybe. And yet she also doesn't feel entirely comfortable with that opinion. Baiken is aware that Honoka's fighting style is tricky, and there's something else about her that doesn't seem to quite fit appearances. Nothing that Baiken needs to worry about; she doesn't feel vile magic or anything. But something to think about.

"You will," Baiken says. She's going to pick up the slack, try and fail, or go down in disgrace. And at this level of challenge, Baiken doesn't think she's going to go down in disgrace by choice.

When Honoka comes in, Baiken is already moving. She does not draw her own sword, which may give Honoka some idea of her preferred style: keep them guessing. The biggest surprise to Baiken is that Honoka does not go for her weaker side, with no arm, which most people who have not fought Baiken before try at first to see if she actually *is* vulnerable on that side.

She isn't, but sometimes it seems everyone has to check.

Baiken catches the descending paired wands - well, not quite catches them, because she doesn't want to touch that psycho power, so she catches Honoka by the wrist, deflecting her with a sudden push from her bare hand. Baiken makes it look easy, but it's nothing of the sort; she feels the impact all the way up her arm, and she came within an inch of getting her hand struck by that energized power.

But since she didn't, Baiken turns the force into a pivot, blurring as she moves rapidly to behind Honoka. That's harmless. Less harmless is the push kick she delivers with a grunt of exertion once she gets there, aimed at the small of Honoka's back to propel her forward and do some damage but without the insult that kicking her in the butt would provide (as Baiken is not trying to taunt Honoka, just keep her off-balance).

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Honoka with Mawarikomi EX.

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Honoka           0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0           Baiken

"Baiken, then..." It's always safer to err on the side of greater politeness, especially when you're a performer putting on a show witnessed by thousands of people -- adoring fans and otherwise. And besides -- Honoka Kawamoto is certainly not one to question someone on their use of an assumed name.

The expert swordswoman is wise to assume that the juggler's style is not as down-to-earth as it seems. The unorthodox placement of those diabolos is one sign; if Baiken had taken two steps back rather than a half-step sideways, she would've found her balance upset by the juggling prop protruding from the ground. But as she decided to intercept the whirling acrobat with applied force, well -- it didn't work -quite- as the nimble Red Master would have hoped. Indeed, the smack is enough to draw Honoka off-balance, causing a wild fluctuation in the pattern of Psycho Power emanating from her wands as she reorients herself.

The juggler's sneaker presses into the soft grass, as she tries to square up with her opponent. But Baiken proves to be a bit faster than expected, maneuvering around behind her just the same. If the fighter had struck from in front, she'd have had a defense; the small of her back is completely vulnerable. And while waraji sandals are generally soft, Baiken's kick is decidedly -not-.

For the lightweight Honoka is flung forward so abruptly, she leaves the ground. And when she lands again, she can't stabilize herself, tumbling into the ground for a full revolution and a half with a grunt. The diabolo cord flails around wildly in her wake.

Luckily, she recovers quickly, rising first to one knee. Spitting out blades of grass, she rubs her face with a hand, a bright red blush across her cheeks. She steels herself, nodding back in tacit response as she leaps back to her feet. One of her wands lashes out like a whip, cracking against the heavily lacquered surface of one of her diabolos. As the weighted prop flies high into the air, Honoka whirls around to reel the wand back in...

She lashes the wand around for a second strike, but while her stroke is low -- as if aiming for the other grounded diabolo -- she instead skews the strike upward, aiming to 'shoot' the wand under Baiken's arm, with the trailing cord around the limb! Energy streaks its way down te length of cord like wildfire, seeking to engulf the limb -- and by proxy, Baiken -- in pink psi-flames! But really, the largest threat seems to be retribution: Baiken knocked her off-balance, and Honoka seeks to repay the favor by jerking Baiken abruptly off to the side for a followup!

COMBATSYS: Baiken blocks Honoka's Kohumumatki.

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

Baiken has never been much for politeness. She tends toward blunt and direct, with no time for the formalities. Maybe the 'miss' is just too much for her.

Baiken knows that to allow Honoka to control the positioning of the battle is a good way to get herself... well, not killed. The stakes aren't that high in SNF matches. But publically defeated, possibly humiliated - those are definitely at stake, and Baiken has no interest in suffering either.

So though she watches where the falling diabolos fall, she doesn't always move in the expected way to avoid them. Doing what she did - moving forward, close enough that her sword would only hamper her if she chose to draw it - is one of those tactics she uses. It's not like Baiken is entirely dependent on that sword, either.

Baiken does not wait around for Honoka to rise. By the time she's up, Baiken is already moving again, prowling around with her hand resting on her still-scabbarded sword hilt. She moves smoothly, deliberately, across the grass; not extremely fast, but with purpose.

When Honoka goes for the grounded diabolo, Baiken doesn't do anything about it; that isn't an opening she can exploit, but she's fairly certain it's not angled to land on her head. When she lashes the other wand at her - that's when Baiken moves. Defensively, at first.

Baiken plants her hand against her sword's kashira - what would be the pommel-weight in a European sword, and is just a cap on her katana - and pivots both her body and the entire blade and scabbard on her hip. She partially deflects the reaching wand not with the blade but with the scabbard, though the lashing, energized cord snaps against her arm rather than wrapping around it; it stings, both from the force of the cord and from the energy coursing along it, but it doesn't pull her as off-balance as Honoka was intending.

*Then* Baiken draws the sword. She goes low too, trying to catch Honoka before she rises. Her blade shimmering with pink chi, Baiken stabs low and then leaps upward, putting her entire body behind the blow. "OURYAAA!" Her kiai game is on point, at least, as she goes upward, the blade streaming chi behind it.

It isn't a killing blow, certainly. Not at this level of skill that both of them have shown to get here. But that doesn't make it any less a fierce one.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Honoka with Kuchinashi.
- Power hit! -

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

The Twilight Star juggler is most comfortable with a home-field advantage. But it doesn't seem that the scarred swordswoman has a problem with playing on the visitor's side. For as Honoka lashes out with her tethered wand, Baiken already has a sound idea of how to respond. The scabbard is a much hardier surface than her forearm, and it's unsurprisingly immune to the tongues of psychic flame. Honoka oversteps a little bit to ensure that the tether remains slack -- and that itself proves to give Baiken just enough leverage to pull off her plan.

The sword flashes out -- and stabs squarely into Honoka's thigh, splitting her legging. As the blade drags upward, it cleaves a line across her right hip, spasming reflexes forcing the juggler to retreat backward with a yelp of pain, before the blade can shear her arm clear off. The surprise hit seems to have been even more effective than Baiken had intended, if the sheet of crimson trailing from her blade is any indication.

Honoka staggers backward, gathering both wands in her right hand as she clamps her hand down upon her ribs. Tears stream forth against her will, though she is able to clamp her jaw shut to keep another cry of pain from escaping. Bloodstained flesh is bared, beneath the perfect line cleaving the top of her shorts and the lower right side of her shirt. It's not -that- revealing -- but the Ainu woman is more than a little embarassed all the same, with crimson staining her cheeks.

But then her knuckles turn white, as she clenches her hands into fists. Bright pink energy blossoms outward from her ankles, searing the grass. Her eyes narrow into lines as she glares up at the airborne Baiken.

She takes one purposeful stride forward, blocking out the pain shooting through her side.

She drops low to the ground, nearly to one knee, with sparks flying outward.

And then she whips herself into a backflip, the Psycho Power smearing into a twin circles of light, that scythe through the air as she backflips through three complete revolutions. If she hits Baiken, it would feel as if someone ignited firecrackers right into the swordswoman's skin -- and that's not even counting the kicks themselves!

COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Baiken with Kamui Atemka.
Glancing Blow

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

Baiken was hoping to keep Honoka off balance - both physically and mentally, breaking up her stride and plans and not letting her control the flow of the battle. It feels like she's done that; Baiken feels the bite of the blade and is pleased by the results.

But she's still in midair when Honoka reacts, and that makes life a little challenging.

Baiken is caught in mid-descent when the first arc of light on the end of Honoka's foot carves through the air. She looks like she is falling right for it, and in fact Baiken does not see an easy route to avoid it. So she doesn't. If anything, she braces into the strike.

Baiken accepts the first fizzing, sparking impact against her lower legs. It hurts - it hurts a lot, actually, certainly more than she expected, and draws a startled, angry yell. But it also pushes Baiken up and along the direction of Honoka's rotation, knocking her towards what would be over her head if she wasn't flipping around like that.

This isn't enough to get her past the kicks, but it puts one of the barricades in 'reach' for Baiken. Reach, because she has to snap out the strange mechanical claw on the end of a chain from her nominally empty sleeve. The chain must be fifteen feet long, and even then it's a long grab for her. She couldn't have done that without that first hit.

Baiken uses her new anchor point to yank herself forward and down as she retracts the chain. The barricade slides perhaps a foot closer to her, but it's heavier than Baiken and also anchored, so mostly she goes down to it, avoiding the other two kicks in favour of slamming (also painfully) into the ground next to the barricade.

Releasing her claw's pincer-grip on the barricade, Baiken whirls, the chain partially but not entirely retracted. She whips the closed 'fist' of the claw around like a weight on a rope, attempting to slam it into Honoka's flank from behind her, a little more wildly than she'd like but with significant force. Baiken is /absolutely/ taking Honoka seriously - not that she wasn't before, but it's a little more obvious now. Those Psycho Power burns on her legs are a sign that she needs to.

And yet, despite that, she's grinning. FINALLY, she thinks. She hasn't been challenged properly since her defeat in World Warrior.

COMBATSYS: Honoka just-defends Baiken's Power Strike!

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

There are those who die in battle, and there are those who come -alive- in battle, whose every instinct drives them inexorably towards conflict. Fortunately, venues such as Saturday Night Fight and the Crucible of Champions exist to allow such people to work out their conflicts in ways that can not only innervate the spirit of the participants, but enthrall thousands of excited onlookers for a few thousand yen per head.

Honoka continues whirling about from her first whirling kick -- though as soon as her second flip kick fails to land, she starts thinking about an exit strategy. Not to mention -- she's still seething with rage, and damn if she wants to let gravity take its course for mere spectacle. That sword across her side hurts like -hell-, and all the moving she's doing is probably -not- good for the eventual healing process -- and that means she needs to end the fight as quickly as she can. Where her long-term health is concerned, even a loss would be better than a long, protracted battle against the one-armed samurai.

She twists in mid-air, transforming her "wheel" into its "axle," hands and their wands snapping to one side while her toes point to the other. Her spin slows long enough for her to lay eyes upon Baiken -- only to see that not only has the swordswoman grounded herself, she's flinging that claw right back at her. The acrobat blurs reflexively, right hand allowing one wand to slip into the rotational spin. An instant later, the wand is caught in her left hand. And due to the shift in spin, the space formerly occupied by her flank is now empty space. And what's directly in front of the claw is, instead, the two wands snapped into a perfectly perpendicular cross. Her elbows flex, the slackening pressure on those wands deadening the claw's momentum as she breaks free...

Only then -- as the sound from the weapons clacking together dissipates -- does her clenched jaw relax. Only then does her face break into a half-smile again.

Yes -- Honoka's needed a fight like this, as well.

Pushing free, the acrobat rights herself, sneakers pressing once again into the terra firma. Her long locks -- raven black hair highlighted in bold neon pink -- tumble downward a split second later, necessitating that the young woman lift the curtain away from her eyes with the trailing end of her left wand.

A brief nod of appraisal is offered.

And the moment seems -- at the same time -- much too fast, and much too slow. Like she -wants- to catch Baiken's eye, for some reason.

And yet, in the very next instant -- Honoka is in the air again, as if she practically skipped forward an entire second of time. Her left hand carries both wands, while her right hand extends towards Baiken's collarbone. If she manages to make contact, five painful 'fingers' of Psycho Power will lance into her with the force of electrified lightning rods. She aims to wrench Baiken right off her feet and use her to cushion her landing. And if Baiken makes contact with the ground while Honoka still has her psi-powered talons stuck into her...?

She'd then know what it feels like to be struck by a bolt of lightning, as Honoka leaps away to safety.

COMBATSYS: Honoka successfully hits Baiken with Niwen Horobi.

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

Baiken well understands living and dying by battle. It's the only time she ever feels alive nowadays, and she fully expects to - and has accepted - that she is going to die by violence. It's like they say: live by the sword, die by the horrible monstrous being.

(They do not actually quite say that.)

Though she'll never admit it to the other woman - or indeed anyone, out loud - Baiken is impressed by Honoka's reactions. Her clenched claw rebounds off the wands, and rather than allow momentum to take its course freely, Baiken retracts it; still swinging on an arc, the claw and chain are pulled back up her sleeve, hidden away until she needs them again.

She does meet Honoka's gaze with her own single eye, and that may have been a mistake.

Honoka takes the opportunity to approach, far faster than she really should be able to. Baiken takes a step back, her sword rising to defend herself, but one of the fallen diabolos is just behind her. Though she's too alert and agile to slip and fall on it, it still keeps her off-balance for the critical moment as Honoka grips her with the 'talons' of psychic energy, painfully striking true.

Baiken hits the ground under Honoka, and the Psycho Power discharges in what feels like a lightning bolt, causing her back to arc and a spasm. Baiken turns what could have been a flop into a reflexive roll away, disoriented, but Honoka has leapt away to safety herself and Baiken has that instant to get to her feet. She's growling, low in her throat, angry as much at herself than Honoka.

Baiken snaps her sleeve out again, and once again the claw flies out. This time the four pronged 'fingers' of the claw are wide open, and Baiken tries to slam Honoka's upper arm with the 'palm', causing the claw to close around it, painfully tight. If she manages it, Baiken yanks with her free hand, her sword having been sheathed somewhere along the way, to try to drag Honoka over to her.

Apparently she's decided that if it's not safe to reposition, she will force Honoka to reposition for her.

COMBATSYS: Baiken successfully hits Honoka with Kabari.

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

There's a wealth of information to be gleaned from body language alone, to say nothing of the subtle shift of emotions. Baiken may not say anything, but the Ainu tusukur is more than happy to extrapolate from the information she has at hand. And that's what made that -particular- illusion work: playing into that mutual appreciation, and using that -too- as a weapon. Stretching that one shared moment for just an instant longer, to conceal her approach.

It doesn't make the appreciation any less sincere, in Honoka's mind. It only shows that both high-caliber fighters will need to use -all- skills at their disposal if they hope to succeed.

Honoka hops back from the fallen Baiken, and as she does, she rams her heel into the lucky diabolo -- the one which caused enough of a hesitation for the gambit to succeed. The juggling prop sails over her shoulder and into her awaiting hand -- a small touch which might go unnoticed by Baiken but is enough to draw applause from the crowd.

No showboating goes unappreciated though -- for while Honoka is attentive enough to realize that something's coming her way, her intent to just swat the strike away with a raised forearm goes slightly awry. "Ye-owch!" she howls, as her jacket-clad arm is pincered and tugged towards Baiken, threatening to pull her off-balance.

But as Honoka's getting pulled over, she jams a wand tip into the claw in hopes to free it -without- enabling the trap to work against. With most fighters, having both hands occupied would be a fatal miscalculation, but the juggler is a master of coordinating several discrete actions at once. And the one that matters more to -her- is greeting Baiken with sneaker treads to the knee, as a step for which she can walk right up her front with a series of swift kicks, her sneakers liberally wreathed with clouds of Psycho Power. To Honoka, they'd feel like cushioning clouds as she backflips to safety... But to Baiken, they'd smell acrid, burn at the eyes, and feel like a swarm of razorblades given life.

Also -- somewhere in the exchange, she happens to have tossed her diabolo back into the air. Where it goes, perhaps only the audience knows!

COMBATSYS: Baiken interrupts Evasive Strike from Honoka with Baku.

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Honoka           0/-------/-------|====---\-------\0           Baiken

Baiken is still irate at herself for falling for the distraction, if distraction it truly was. She'll get over it eventually, but Baiken tends to simmer.

She also isn't paying any attention to the crowd. Honoka might showboat. To Baiken, they are more of an obstacle than anything else; she really shouldn't, say, fire a gun in their direction, but otherwise they're just kind of there. She's good at tuning out noise she doesn't need to pay attention to, focusing only on her opponent.

From Honoka's perspective, there is one advantage to Baiken's new four-'fingered' claw: it's not especially sharp. Her older, more primitive one was just a bunch of bladed metal hooks on a frame; the new one has four 'fingers' set around a central weight with a trigger than can cause them to snap shut. Oh, it's got spikes on it, but the spikes are all on the outside, and they're not exactly razor-sharp either. She only had to fear those when Baiken was using the whole arm like a flail.

So when they clamp down around Honoka's arm, it's uncomfortably tight but not bloody. It gives Baiken a good grip to work with when her free hand grabs the chain and yanks Honoka closer by raw strength. She only does that once, getting Honoka to stagger toward her and then taking the more steady pull of the chain retracting.

By the time Honoka reaches Baiken, Baiken has her hand free, since the chain is pulling back on its own. As the fingers of the claw slip from Honoka's arm from her prying at it, freeing her, Honoka kicks out, but Baiken is prepared for it. She thrusts her palm out higher.


A symbol appears in the air before Baiken like a shield - red and pink chi, deeper near the bottom, brighter near the top. It's kanji, but in an archaic, calligraphic manner, so even for the audience members fluent in Japanese it is difficult at best to read. Baku: the binding.

It saps at Honoka's power, dampening the Psycho Power before it hits Baiken, but more than that - it saps at her vitality, threatening to drag her unconscious as Baiken temporarily locks away some of her energy. It's hardly a permanent thing, but it doesn't need to be to be enough to be a good plan in a battle like this.

Her foot does hit Baiken though, even bereft of Psycho Power. Baiken takes a hopping bound back to try to avoid a follow-up, but more of her attention is on holding the seal in front of her.

A lot of things happen in rapid succession. And Honoka Kawamoto finds herself at the center of it all.

Her kick slams through. And yet, her Psycho Power dissolves into steam from Baiken's binding seal, dispelling rapidly. Honoka had been hoping to build momentum with the kick -- and while she gained -physical- momentum, the red-pink shield disrupts her flow of energy, forcing her muscles to give out.

She flips backward, sneakers landing in the grass. And almost instantly, her joints give out, forcing her to shoulders to droop, only one knee remaining upward. Kneeling -- as if to royalty.

She remains this way for a second, maybe two -- her head bowed, expression obscured by twin curtains of raven- and salmon-colored hair.

The sound of an electric motor can be heard from the VIP Tent. As twelve black-suited assistants begin their preparations to break down the tent, the wheelchaired figure within simply begins rolling out of the tent, parting the sea of audience members with no more than the mere hum of motors. Some would recognize her distinctive white-and-black dress; some would know her as the Scarlet Dahlia. But it would be difficult for any to approach the VIP with her encircling shield of guardsmen.

Honoka, in far too much debilitating pain to rise from her kneel, draws in her breath. There is much more she could have done -- but the swordswoman seems to have known the precisely correct way to shut her down in nearly every key inflection point. There is pushing forward, making a valiant stand -- and then there is the cognizance of futility. Were this a life-or-death battle, perhaps she would have resisted; as it is, though, her response is purely verbal.

"... The difference between us has been made clear enough, Baiken. I yield to you."

After a pause, one hand rises to sweep away the curtain of hair to reveal her a content face. With a more uplifting tone, she adds with sincerity: "Congratulations."

The wheelchaired Dahlia continues to drive away, not looking back once -- the lone person against the tide of onlookers who seems to have understood the fight's finality before the juggler's humbled declaration.

COMBATSYS: Honoka takes no action.

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

COMBATSYS: Honoka can no longer fight.

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

Baiken holds the seal in place. One heartbeat, two, three -

She breaks it, the pattern in the air almost immediately starting to dissipate as she steps away from it, though it will take longer for the effects on Honoka to fade.

Baiken is clearly expecting a counterattack from Honoka, even from her kneeling position. She does not immediately redraw her sword, but she's ready to; her hand is on her katana's hilt even if she's not gripping it as firmly as she would if she was wielding it this moment. Ready to draw or to lift her hand and do something else, in other words.

But none comes.

Baiken does not look away from Honoka even when she hears the sound of mechanical whirring and the electrical hum of a light motor. Not until she gives her surrender. Even that doesn't cause Baiken to relax very much, though she gives her opponent a slightly stiff nod. The end of a battle can be the most stressful part. Part of her wants to keep going. "I accept," she says after a few moments longer, and releases her hand from the katana hilt.

It might be polite to offer Honoka a hand up. Baiken does not. She turns and begins to stride away, slowed slightly by the impacts to her legs but trying not to show that she still feels them. This battle is over, and that means her purpose here is done.

She doesn't slow when she passes the Dahlia, either - or, more accurately, the Dahlia's guards, at some distance. But she does look, out of the corner of her eye. Interesting, she thinks. Apparently this battle got more attention than she thought. Should she be honoured or worried?

That's a matter for another time, especially as the crowd is now a little bit rowdy from the victory. Time to make her escape.

Log created on 20:25:41 09/04/2018 by Honoka, and last modified on 17:48:08 09/08/2018.