The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 3 - Waking the Sleeping Dragon

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Description: With Sunshine City in chaos, Syndicate assets in the city disrupted. But there are logistical thefts and disruptions outside of Shadaloo, Illuminati, Interpol and Akatsuki even. Following a mysterious message sent to her, Nagase finds herself drawing the attention of a violent agent of stone: The ninja Tremor. And he is a herald of a darker power within Sunshine City: the rise of the Black Dragon Cult itself.

Nagase knows a lot of things, but at the moment, she can only focus on three. One -- control of the ports of Sunshine City is slipping from under the Syndicate's grasp. Two -- Kolin and the shadowy organization she works for are partly responsible. And three - this weird message she'd received may point the way to the rest.

It'd be nice if there were more details, of course. As it is, the email was about as vague as promises of a Nigerian prince's fortune, and almost as trustworthy. But really, the Southtown Syndicate operative really didn't have the luxury of turning down intel. Duke Burkoff demands results, and if following up on this lead can get at least -one- of the thorns out of their collective side, all the better.

Nothing says she has to be -stupid- about approaching though. All the message said was to be in this location at a given time. This... temple, to some long-forgotten religion, its stone pillars ravaged in a futile attempt to bridge the land and sky. Some of the stone pillars arrayed around the central altar have stood the test of time. All of the pillars stand empty.

And then, in the blink of an eye, on the stroke of midnight in a moonless sky, one of them is no longer vacant.

Nagase stands atop one, her amber lenses the only marks of color upon an all-black attire. Her arms folded, she stares down at the altar, fully expecting the message to be nothing more than a farce. A waste of her valuable time. And yet -- she gives the mystery informant the benefit of the doubt -- for she can't afford -not- to, at this point.

Quiet as a grave. Still as a tomb. Beneath the city of sun lay a great wyrm slumbering.

It turns, it's coils twist and shudder. The struggle in Illyria stirred its terrible heart. A taste of power from a realm beyond brought back from a faerie land. Warfare above stoke fire in the belly of the beast. It trembles, it quivers, and its eyes may yet begin to open. As its operatives and catspaws begin to show their claws.

Whispers in the digital mind to bring the curious and the foolish alike toward the earthen underground of the Cult of the Black Dragon. To learn of their enemies, to learn of the figures playing out above. Those that have trespassed on the center of their power. Quiet whispers to cautious men. Who will send their own into the cthonic depths.

Nagase arrives to the quietude of this place of slumbering power. And thus it is for a time. At least, until the earth trembles and the ground shifts. The pillars shake, sending small stone clattering noisily in an otherwise deathly stillness.

Two lights, eyes in the darkness, the color of molten stone appear atop a pillar across from Nagase's position. A crouched figure in a stone and dust colored cowl, face hidden by a metallic mask. His voice is rough and deep as the shaking earth itself. "You have come for answers," he says. "But are you certain you wish to know?"

It's spooky. It's creepy. And the roiling flows of chi are strong enough to evoke some of the ninjutsu prodigy's interest.

But then, all of a sudden, the earth trembles, and the choreographed pose of control is torn asunder. Arms unfold, fingers splay outward. The Iga-ryuu ninja maintains her balance, but not without a look of abject alarm. For it seems the message was truthful, if nothing else.

Her footing settles -- but then the two eyes reach out to her, blazing pools in the midst of darkness. A question is asked.

"... Yowza. Nah, nah, I'm good. Ciao!"

And the black-garbed woman claps both her hands together, her form folding into a compact, one-dimensional line.

And then, there is silence.

Roughly five seconds later, the space atop a completely separate pillar ripples, and Nagase's form reappears -- this time with her hands upon her hips.

"... Mmm, on second thought, count me in the 'yes' column." She tilts her head down to the altar, one eyebrow arching in a perplexed expression.

"What the heck is going on here?"

Independent actions around the world. To strengthen and to gain toward power. The former Lin Kuei known as Tremor has been at task around the world for a time. Mostly on his own, a few times to assert Black Dragon continues the lesser games of arms dealing and conflict profiteering. Simple acts of chaos to fund the greater need of the wyrm. And while his loyalties are not terribly deep, he will do as needed for the cause of the cult so long as it does not interfere with his personal needs.

As he crouches, watching the girl disappear and reappear, his fingers spread out over the pillar underneath him. He feels the stone. And the stone feels in return. A subtle quaking of the earthen temple. A vibration. Felt and felt in return. "Your Syndicate treads on unstable ground," he intones with leaden weight. "I come bearing a message to you and those you've chosen to serve."

With his words, the lights in the darkness wink out, but the faint shape of the figure remains. All is still for a moment. And then, bursting from the stone beneath Nagase's feet comes Tremor, erupting up with a volcanic uppercut.

COMBATSYS: Tremor has started a fight here.

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Tremor           0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Nagase has joined the fight here.

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Nagase           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Tremor

COMBATSYS: Nagase counters Strong Punch from Tremor with Trick Spiral.

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Nagase           0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0           Tremor

The Iga-ryuu ninja was already quite anxious. She'd already made a mistake, obeying her intuition to flee before she could tell herself -not- to. Before she could remind herself that she -needed- to stick around to see this through, to follow the rabbit's hole to its end.

And yet, for those brief moments where she reconsidered, she'd made a bargain with herself. She'd been surprised once -- even with her eyes open, and her Battle Disc System in full alert mode. She resolved to -not- be caught off-guard again. And it was only with that resolve set fully into place that she would return. On her -own- terms.

Her chin puckers into a walnut at the herald of darkness, and his words. He knows full well that she is one of the Syndicate -- and what's more, he seems to view her as a threat. Could... -he- have been the messenger, she wonders? The thoughts flick through her mind, as her mouth begins to part. The first question begins to form.

But she was ready for a fight. The conditions are just not -right- to ask more questions of this mysterious stranger. Her teeth bite down -- and she steps back off the pillar.

A volcanic fist erupts upwards, into the space she'd occupied a split-second earlier. Her hands fall alongside her aggressor, on either side of the uppercut that burns with cinder and acrid smoke just inches in front of her face. Her hands latch down around the beltline of her attacker. Her anxiety gets the best of her again, as she spits out a curse through grit teeth, while applying a spinning momentum to her rising opponent.

"Nin nin, motherfucker!"

And the attacker's upward momentum is used against him -- the arc of the flight bent by the spin into an inversion as she comes alongside a craggy, half-obliterated column. Nagase's motion pulls him into an upside-down arc, his head and shoulders pointed downward -- and she hopes to scrape him against the battered column, to grind its craggy shards into her opponent's flesh, to have them tear open wounds.

It happens in an instant -- with the Syndicate ninja leaping back to safety as soon as the payload is delivered successfully.

Boots tap upon the ground, as she glared back at her opponent.

"Ah, damn -- sorry, was there -more- to that message?"

Stone crashes to stone. Dragged along the pillars, slammed into the ground. Crushed down as the craggy rocks shatters and falls about him. Victory for Nagase. A stellar approach and a fallen enemy. A superb effort of chi and training that fells the mysterious ninja brought to bring a message.

Two lights, eyes in the darkness. A small laugh. Footsteps scraping on stone. A bright glow now, cracks and rifts beneath the surface of the man's flesh. The stone ground against him heats, becomes molten, reaffirms against his chest and stomach.

"A test of skill. Congratulations. You've won."

From the shattered stone around Nagase rise the very rocks she's already broken. They crack and crumble off each other before they hurtle like meteors directly for her. The brown-clad ninja remaining where he stands, the wounds opened up on him, fissures in stone, closing by the power of the molten earth underneath his skin.

COMBATSYS: Nagase dodges Tremor's Rock Start.

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Nagase           0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0           Tremor

Nagase may be directing her gaze to her opponent, but after seeing what he can -do-, she's also keeping tabs on the flow of chi around her. Any slight motion or perturbance could be the start of a rebuttal. Any subtle shift, the only measure of warning she could hope to receive.

She sees volcanic rents in his flesh. And she shakes her head. As if she needed -another- reminder that she was only here out of anticipation of her boss's tempestuous fury.

Her eyes narrow in response. Even after that supposed victory, he mocks her. Tests her patience, again.

And the earth trembles around her -- from all directions. Meteors, painted with the same palette as that of molten lava.

The kunoichi flashes a look of apology, as she claps her fingertips and palms together. "C-c'mon man, you're trying too hard."

The rocks hurtle towards her. And in the wink of an eye, she disappears -- much like before -- allowing the rocks to smash one another into a dustcloud of oblivion.

Her voice can next be heard from the direction of the altar -- as she sits practically on the -shoulder- of the long-forgotten deity.

"I mean, heck, I'm not gonna lie, it's pretty awesome to watch. But, gosh, I'm starting to get the feeling you don't -like- the Syndicate here. Like you might not -want- to work with us against Shadaloo or the Illuminati."

She reaches up, nudging her spectacles higher upon her nose with the back of her index finger. The Battle Disc System is hard at work, cross-referencing Tremor's motions with those of previously recorded fighters. Perhaps it can glean insight that her empirical data hasn't yet shown...

"I mean, heck, you guys wanna go it alone, that's cool. We'll just have to crush you like we have the Akatsuki." Amber-lensed irises lock down upon Tremor from her supposedly-safe perch, as she clenches her hand into a fist. "... My boss's words, y'know, not mine, yeah?"

COMBATSYS: Nagase calculates her next move.

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Nagase           0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0           Tremor

Tremor watches, observes, and bides his time. The stones streak and fly. They find nothing but shattering stone and give an ember's glow to the darkness in the recesses of the old temple. While the girl leaps and bounds, dances and flashes away.

He shows no emotion. No concern at the girl's taunts and words. He stands his ground and slams his fists into each other. They shine, cracks and rends in his body glowing with inner heat, passion and fury. As do his eyes. Eyes that watch the kunoichi and her flashy systems.

He is Lin Kuei, trained at least, his motions will read as much, another of their elemental kind. Moving solid and steady as the earth. The stones around him building up, melding into him, becoming one against his body.

"I will be here when you wish to demonstrate your skill," he tells her, chest rising and falling, heat building and ebbing around him. He has time. He is patient. He is as the earth.

COMBATSYS: Tremor gains composure.

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Nagase           0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0           Tremor

Nagase -had- started off with a large dose of anxiety, but as the pace shifts from a high-speed exchange between ninjas into a test of patience...

Well, Nagase bristles at that, lips curling into a frown. Her first two fingers extend in a pantomime of a negotiating posture.

"Seriously? All the lines you could've answered with, and -that's- the one you went with?" The tech-ninja rolls her eyes in an overwrought display of rebellious youth. "Tch. Fine."

Both her knees draw up. And then she springs up into the air -- and folds vertically into a single line, practically vanishing from sight.

The air ripples, unfolding from a spot directly to Tremor's right.
And yet, nothing comes of it.

The air ripples to Tremor's left flank -- and -that's- space unfolds into a gout of flame, as Nagase rips herself out of thin air, pistoning her foot in three rapid kicks. First, with a chi-wreathed kick to the back of the knee. Second -- a nerve strike to the elbow. Third -- a spin kick to the back of the waist, aimed to knock her opponent off-balance with a furious blossom of flame.

Make fun of -her- technique, will he...?! She fully intends to find out just -what- this strange ninja is going on about!

COMBATSYS: Nagase successfully hits Tremor with Strong Kick.

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Nagase           0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0           Tremor

Struck. A burst of flame. Kicks. One. Two. Three. Tremor staggers, steps back, plants his feet. Remains standing. "Is this what your syndicate brings, or your clan?" he asks, stone and pebbles falling from his chest, the signs of the kicks remain, cracks show the heat under his stony skin.

"But I wonder, just how strong you are."

He lurches forward, swift, cutting the air with a massive spinning back hand. The shear momentum of his unconcerned, grinding pressure turning into a rotating hooking punch toward Nagase's head. He is a ninja, but he seems to simply be using his bulk and size to bear down on the faster Nagase.

COMBATSYS: Tremor successfully hits Nagase with Klean Slate.

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Nagase           0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0           Tremor

Nagase shakes her head in immediate response to the question of her allegiances. There's lots of ways she can answer that, but the kunoichi is mindful of the fact that excessive trash talking tends to have a negative effect on her fight performance.

It's rather kind of her Battle Disc System to remind her of that with a scrolling text banner on the upper periphery of her lenses, as she hops back, raising lightly-curled hands in a ready stance.

Not ready -enough-, though. For while Tremor lurches forward, the Iga-ryuu ninja had expected him to swing at center mass instead of center sass. She leans her upper body backward, but without committing fully to the escape, she gets socked in the jaw -- hard enough to send her into a topspin as she flies backward. She manages to stop herself just shy of landing sideways, armored palm slamming into the ground with enough force to catapult herself back to her feet.

She rubs her injured cheek with a hand, trying to work some feeling back into her jaw. Unfortunately for Tremor, she can still talk. "Tch -- If it's clan aggro you want, we'll -make- the time..."

She'd been keeping her distance, since her recovery. And really, it looks like she was inadvertently backing herself against a column. But the fact remains that her AI has been keeping tabs on her position -- and as soon as she's close enough, she leaps backward. Fashionable (but black) boots slam into the column -- and she thunders forward.

Just as before, there is a series of kicks, making use of the sprightly shinobi's slender height. But these kicks are aerial, and she -is- targeting center mass, hoping to whirlwind kick him five times in rapid succession, each whirling impact punctuated with a brilliant blossom of orange flames! "Hya! Hya! Hya! Hya! Hyaaaa!"

COMBATSYS: Tremor just-defends Nagase's Assault Mode - Ozuma!!

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Nagase           0/-------/---====|====---\-------\0           Tremor

The ninja of stone and earth returns to his resolute stance once his strikes find their place, and the technological kunoichi is pushed back. Though she is yet silenced.

Tremor stands as a statue, eyes glowing embers in the dark and ancient temple. A shrine to a slumbering wyrm. A place dedicated to the cult that considers itself true masters of Sunshine City. He is here to guard, but moreover, to learn and draw what he can from the forces that seemed to have claimed the most so-called victory over their enemies. And, if he can, send them a message in the form of one of their own. The wyrm is waking and the world will quaver for it.

The kicks come fast. Each one drives Tremor back. Step. Step. Step.

Each fiery kick strikes a forearm of stone. Fire and molten spark flash. Flash. Flash against the inky black shadow that fills the chamber. A moment, a picture of time, of the two ninja clashing in the center of the pillar filled room.

The brilliant dance crashes and with one final fiery strike it bursts a crumbling stone figure piled in the shape of a man. But leaves nothing of the ninja, Tremor, behind.

Silence in the temple. Silence and shadow.

Green glow, two eyes. Glittering gems in the darkness. A satisfied exhalation from the shade. "Is your strength in your training, or your toys?" he asks, wondering, each word tumbling rough and ragged, but savoring the moment of Nagase's assault.

The sound of twisting, cracking stone in the darkness. Green, a glint on the ground, a jagged wheel of crystal risen from the earth with the call of Tremor's elemental might. "Let the kombat begin," he speaks.

With the grinding of holy hell, a squeal of crystal cutting stone, the sawblade of glittering edge races through the earth and flings itself bodily at Nagase, each edge catching light and scattering it off its green cutting edges and facets.

COMBATSYS: Tremor successfully hits Nagase with Krystal Kutter.

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Nagase           1/------=/=======|======-\-------\0           Tremor

Nagase is allowed the thrill of her boots slamming into the rocky exterior -- only for her pride to crash to the ground with the collapsing facsimile of the opposing ninja. A curse is loosed as she coils back on the ground, springing back defensively. Her eyes cast first one way, then the other, as fingertips press down firmly upon the panda heads decorating the hilts of her twin ninjato.

Her Battle Disc System is at a loss. But, after a moment of wild searching, she finds the glowing eyes one moment before the question is voiced.

The question seems to frustrate her. But not -half- as much as the notion that Kombat had not yet begun -- that's enough to lower both eyebrows, to curl her mouth in anger.

A crystalline sawblade erupts from the earth. And while the shinobi leaps, her motion is not enough to clear the whirling blade. Its edge sends off sparks as it collide with her armored boots. But what's more, the sawblade digs deep into her left thigh, spurting a fountain of crimson as the alarmed kunoichi cries out in pain.

Collecting herself on the ground, she clamps her hand over the wound, vitae splattering across her armored gauntlet. Her AI injects a pain suppressant and coagulant into her blood with a hiss, but the effect is far from instant.

"Tch..." she responds, vaulting back to her feet in defiance of the pain. "-- it's -neither!- The true source of my strength is the confidence I got at age twelve, when I put on my Lightning Spangles training bra for the first time!" Limping sideways, she peels her bloodied hand away from the wound, snapping through several rapid sealing motions with her hands. Black, inky chi pools up in front of her, tracing into several smaller circles.

With complete seriousness, she levels her eyes back at the Tremor's glowing green orbs. "Stare into the abyss long enough and maybe it'll give a yee-haw back at'cha!"

And then suddenly, Nagase splits into two flickering shadows -- one on Tremor's left, one on his right.

Blades whistle out from their scabbards. Time and time again, the kunoichi makes up for her relative lack of strength with unrelenting, blistering speed, striking dozens -- even -hundreds- of times, it seems -- slices with the ninjato, strikes with her armored gauntlets, whirling kicks to the midsection. If everything lands as planned, she would juggle Tremor into the air with a series of three backflipping kicks!

COMBATSYS: Tremor blocks Nagase's Punishment Mode - Mirage Assault.

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Nagase           0/-------/------=|======-\-------\0           Tremor

He was getting to her. Good. Tremor had found that most people responded poorly to being disregarded. Especially those that seemed to like talking. It was amusing to see them when they finally began to realize the seriousness of the situation the overconfident find themselves in. The two women in Illyria. The hopeful girl trained by Spangles. The man who sought. So confident, but there was power and truth behind them when they became angry.

As angry as a god on a mountaintop.

"You are also a fan of Lightning Spangles? You have fine taste in role models. But how do you feel in failing her?" Tremor asks, assuming a ready position as the twin shades of Nagase appear to fight.

Strikes, slashes, a whirlwind of blades hits the stone cragged face of Tremor. And like wind it buffets against his every blocking arm, lifted knee, and tuck against the violent series of assaults. The first kick strikes, and it seems to send the massive man up and back, but he turns in the air and lands, three point style, on the ground a distance away.

He is still for a moment, patient, and he looks toward Nagase with his emerald eyes glowing. His hand, in the faint glow of pale green that licks out from under his cracked skin, is buried in the ground. When he stands, he rips from the earth a conglomerate of stone and green crystal. He holds this mass in front of him, staring at Nagase.

His other fist crashes down onto the mass, it explodes, shrapnel of razor sharp shards and heavy stones scatters into the dark temple, but much of the rending force is directed at Nagase. And in doing so, Tremor says one thing to his opponent in a leaden intonation.


COMBATSYS: Tremor successfully hits Nagase with Krystal Shatter.

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Nagase           0/-------/-======|=======\-------\0           Tremor

Nagase's attacks land, time and time again -- and yet, the mountain of a man seems to be nigh-impervious to just about everything she's brought to the table. It's to the point that her bones start to ache from the sheer effort of slamming her armored gauntlets and boots into him for so long.

But that's not stopped her before. She flips away, as she watches Tremor land -- and takes the opportunity to respond. "Also a fan?" She coughs -- partly to hide her amusement at Tremor's response, and partly because -holy freaking ow- her wounds are adding up. She flashes an overly cheerful smile -- "Why, who -ain't- a fan, pardner? Glad to run into one of the gang!"

But even as she watches, Tremor unearths another treasure from the ground -- wreathed in green as before, but this one less of a blade and more of a... well, geode?

"I don't mind failin' her, honestly -- she failed us first," she answers. It's tough to keep smirking when she's on the losing side of the fight, but somehow the smartaleck kunoichi manages.

The geode shatters, and rocks erupt outward. Nagase turns her shoulder into the strike, casting her eyes about for an escape route -- but her response to the shards is much too slow. While some rocks careen across the armor of her hands and feet, many of the chunks plunge into her back, shoulder, and legs like spears. Nagase's body is dragged backward from the sheer fury of impact -- it's only after the majority of the wave passes that she is allowed to drop to one knee, panting in exhaustion.

"... Y'know, it's been real fun, but I kinda think you don't -want- to tell me anythin' about..." She trails off, her voice weary, the thought dismissed with a wave of her hand.

Gathering her hands together, she seems to be dismissive of the entire idea of -fighting- any longer, really. "Eh, just pretend I'm swearin' vengeance or something. I got a reputation to keep!"

And then she vanishes -- only to reappear just in front of Tremor! She whips around in an instant, whipping a poison-laced kunai at the foot of her opponent -- poison enough to be problematic for him, if nothing else. And in the same whirling gesture, her form turns into a black mist, rapidly shearing away into oblivion.


COMBATSYS: Nagase can no longer fight.

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Tremor           0/-------/=======|

COMBATSYS: Nagase successfully hits Tremor with Punishment Mode - Poison Beat.

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Tremor           0/-------/=======|

The tech ninja is scattered. Tremor stalks forward. The ground begins to tremble. Stones start to rise from the earthen floor. "You will be a monument to the risen Dragon," he tells Nagase, eyes shifting toward a molten gold.

But the ninja is making good on her escape. The stones summoned by Tremor still and stand like the walls of a mausoleum. Tremor hitches in his heavy steps. She's in front of him, and she pitches a blade into his foot before he can react. His eyes brighten with a golden fury. And then the girl is gone.

Still now, dark in the old temple. Tremor leans down and pulls the kunai from his foot. The cracks in his stony skin flow with the essence of the poison.

He hesitates, chest rising and falling. The poisons run through him. His glowing eyes close for a moment. The stones recede. His shape crumbles, a statue facsimile. The message has been sent; do not tread on a Dragon's Horde. Sunshine City will not be open to the Syndicate for long so long as the Cult claims it as theirs.

COMBATSYS: Tremor has ended the fight here.

Log created on 20:22:48 10/06/2018 by Tremor, and last modified on 12:59:00 10/10/2018.