SNF 2019.01 - SNF: Beds Are Burning

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Description: For all their power, even the Command Gear Ramlethal and Sagat, the Broken Tiger have dreams that may never be fulfilled. In lieu of trying and failing, the Saturday Night Fight committee has offered them the next best things: someone else to distract them, and an awful lot of money. With the caliber of both opponents, only the remote Ayers Rock can hope to survive as the Bloody Valentine and the Heavenly King unleash their terrible power!

There are many considerations when beginning a fight between two titans of fighting, but chief among them is Location. For a claustrophobic fight to push your two combatants together, the Fight Commission uses a 'cage match'. For the confidence of a partner, a 'doubles exhibition' or a 'tag team match'. For a fight between people near the highest ring of the pinnacle known as "Fist", you want them 'far away'.

Few places are as Far Away as the Australian Outback, vast stretches of scrub brush, heat, things that hate you personally, and a majestic orange stone backdrop that has been worn away by the ages.

Both fighers - the Muai Thai Emperor Sagat, and the Command Gear Ramlethal, had been simply notified of a latitude and longitude by the fight commission and a large bounty to be claimed by the winner.

A single flag sat in fluttering loneliness in the dry heat, blue against the browns and tans and dry greens with the Southtown Fight Commission weakly billowing. Above, the sun beat down on the land, and it was quiet.

That is, until the sonic boom and air displacement of the missile known as Ramlethal Valentine sent the flag to bending at a near-90 degree angle before twanging back with a 'doioioioioi' of metal. Having overshot her mark, the milk chocolate skinned weapon-woman extended her nigh-bare feet onto the ground like brakes, furrowing two two-inch lines into the ground as she threw up earth and brush in equal measure. "It is empty. No cameras."
"Not a production."

First adjusting her oversized hat, and then sweeping back her long hair, Ramlethal crosses her arms under her chest, her cape finally settling down over her shoulders as she does so.

"How exciting."

"There are always cameras."

Sagat sits cross-legged a few yards from the flag. He was sitting there when Ramlethal flew in; he was there five minutes beforehand; thirty; sixty...

It's been years since his last sanctioned fights. A match with the knight-turned-king Ky Kiske was the very last, but the one before it stands out as the reason why the former Emperor went on sabbatical: he and a young skater against another skater and Ryu Hayabusa (AKA: /the wrong one/) in a roller disco brawl that ended with him angrily throwing cameramen due to being manipulated into then aggravated during the fight. With a sterling 0-4 record for his post-World Warrior comeback and a legacy growing increasingly tarnished with each bout, he fully retreated from the public eye, which in turn led to giving the Shadaloo cartel more of his energy.

However he might feel about the cartel's leader and goals, Sagat can't deny that it has made good on his investment several times over. Another meeting with Ryu (the /right/ one) lingers, as it ever did, somewhere in the hazy reaches of the distant future, and the bloody work of enforcing Vega's will keeps his edge well-honed for that day; until then, the cartel gives him all the training resources and material distractions he could ever want-- and as he's learned, his capacity for 'want' runs deeper than he ever knew when he still had a crown to motivate him.

The rotating pool of fight reps that Shadaloo now uses in place of the singular, smooth-tongued man who got Sagat his fight with the wrong Ryu sent the threadbare details along as soon as they hit his public-facing inbox. It's not a new occurrence: the SNF and other fight organizers, despite - or perhaps even /because/ of - his checkered history regularly extend invitations in the hopes of coaxing another fight out of him. Before he was a punching bag for teenagers, before the fighting scene exploded in the wake of World Warrior, he was one of the most recognized faces in the scene; there's money in another Sagat fight no matter /how/ it goes.

What made this invitation different from the rest was the lack of embellishment. Coordinates; a date and time; a purse helpfully translated into dollars, yen, euros, and baht; and nothing else. No gimmick, no contract, no overtures promising the moon and stars down the line if only he'll take this first step to show he's serious... just the barest minimum one needs to schedule a fight. If it /hadn't/ come from the Representation, Sagat would've figured it was someone looking to blackmail or otherwise deal with him, and until the very last moment the possibility lingered in the back of his mind. The simplicity signaled a purity of purpose, a fight that can stand - be /sold/ - on its own without the need for manipulation to add an extra layer of interest. Even still, he was dubious when he accepted; what if the SNF - or Neo-League, or... - had simply gotten cleverer?

A long night of bottles and pills in a Tijuana nightclub VIP section on Shadaloo's dime helped him shed some of those pointless worries, though. The Cartel provides.

"There is always a production."

After the club, he was on a plane to Australia. From the airport, he found a truck to bring him here. Once he was here, he sat; once he sat, he didn't stir.

That was-- it was /hours/ ago.

"No fighting organization on Earth is in the business of doing charity for its /fighters/. There is an angle here; pray that hidden or airborne cameras are as far as it goes, if you like."

At least, he didn't until /now/. Bare save for blue and red muay thai shorts, taped fists and feet, and a patch over one eye, all seven feet and five inches of Sagat unfurls until he's looming over the Command Gear. A shadow that'd engulf most spaces merely cuts a long, broad sliver out of the reddish-orange expanse of their arena. The air around him warms and subtly ripples with chi while the scar slicing between the tanned twin peaks of his pecs faintly glows orange.

"But don't let it distract you from showing me what you're capable of."

A derisive sneer twists what had been neutral, even placid features as he lets his eye roll down the length of her. Tree-trunk arms fold across his chest and his head cants ever so slightly left-wards.

"'Command Gear'. I suppose that I should /thank/ our humble organizers: I was occupied while you and yours ran rampant through the world, and when Krauser saw fit to exploit the tournament that /I/ created to massage /his/ ego, but even still, I watched. And I /wondered/."

/What/, he doesn't say-- aloud, anyway; the predatory gleam in his eye as it rolls back towards Ramlethal's own is practically a shout.

COMBATSYS: Sagat has started a fight here.

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Sagat            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Ramlethal has joined the fight here.

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Sagat            0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0        Ramlethal

Sagat's words - his patient meditative zen (or quiet seethe) - causing Ramlethal to turn, her perspective shifting with her eyes and her chin tracking slowly. As one amber eye catches the first glimpse of the unfurling body of Sagat, Ramlethal's nostrils flare in a sharp inhalation. The rest of her rotation comes with an adroit sweep of her left heel back and her right foot planting: a sudden spin to come fully facing her opponent that causes her toothy cape to flare out in glistening segments that clearly drip something not unlike drool.

Slavering at the 'meal' before the Gear.

"Sagat. We have been denied our conflict for a long time." Ramlethal begins, her eyes flicking across Sagat's arms, his legs, his bindings in a saccade frenzy of information acquisition.

And of an animalistic appreciation. She sees his Strength, and her eyes rove to confirm this. "You did not miss much. I fought a girl who channeled a god, and was taught about the power of a higher being. Then, the Gear Army crumbled and Justice was defeated, and I was taught about the reality of Mankind's strength." Ramlethal explains, bringing the entire arc of one of the more important struggles of the previous age to a summation of two sentences.

Her arms fall to her side, with fingers extending widely and then clenching back into fists in a slow rhythm. "I drifted, seeking some answer to purpose. To find the reality of Mankind's power. Engaging with the Commission, I have been placed against a demon, and taught about his absolute fist. I was placed against a succubus, and learned..."

Ramlethal pauses, blinking once. Her neck untenses, and her fingers pause in their squeezing of nothing. "I have no idea what I learned, fighting her. I think it was that monsters can be annoying and that she and I-No have too much in common. It is unclear and I do not dwell on it."

As for his challenge, Ramlethal offers a mere slight, sharp nod, the two tips of the 'ears' of her hat bobbling comically. "It will not. I surmise that the Commission has placed us here to have us far away from other things. It does not matter: You are the first true 'man' of power. The first human I have met who is not 'merely' a human but ascendant among them. The titan of Muai Thai. I had..."

Ramlethal's fingers finish their squeezing as she cants her head up, to look 'down her nose' at Sagat (which is a total failure, and mostly she stares down her nose at his abs, and looks totally stupid doing so). "I wondered as well. What would a Man do against a Gear? Against a Valentine?"

"Show me." Ramlethal breathes, her voice rising to a relishing, licking-the-inside-of-her-lips intensity as she gestures with her left hand, her stance raising as her heels leave the ground. A plume of green fire surrounds her back like wings, before two greatswords of absurd volume appear hovering at her flanks, one already surging into motion with a horizontal upsweep straight towards Sagat's dead center of his chest - right on the bullseye of an X across his pecs with a metal-bending speed that leaves a whistling through the empty plains.

COMBATSYS: Ramlethal successfully hits Sagat with Power Strike.

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Sagat            0/-------/----===|-------\-------\0        Ramlethal

In Ramlethal's defense, there's p l e n t y for her to look at: each nigh fist-sized segment of flesh is as rigid and sharply defined as the great stone axis where they're standing. Each has a story of its own to tell about a young village boy's grueling journey from nothing, to the very cusp of immortality, to the depths he's sunk to since.

"The organizers of the world don't give a damn about lessons, creature, but glean what you can from their whims just the same," Sagat replies, still sneering but less drenched in derision for the moment. "They exist to turn our blood, sweat, and pride into coin lining their pockets, and nothing more; you may as well take something of value for yourself from them in turn."

Everything from the fanged and salivating cape to the swords manifesting at the cat-hooded girl's sides is clocked and accounted for at rapid speeds despite his apparent handicap. The former provokes mild intrigue while the latter bring his arms uncoiling to bare his chest.

"I, on the other hand, am /always/-- hnnf--!"

Metal bites into flesh and fire licks out from the impact point. Blood sloooowly oozes away from the blade on both sides, trickling down the myriad trails cut into his chest by years of dedication. His right knee's bent and his toes are just barely on the ground; he /tried/ to block, but even with his eye on her blades and his other, subtler senses tingling with green flames... she was much too fast for it.

It's a blow that could cripple or kill a Man in one swift and terrible swoop, but a Mountain of Muay Thai...?

"-- happy-- to dispense /lessons/--!"

The final word rises to a near roar as he lunges into the arcs of her followthrough, ducking low for a step before planting himself exploding into a snap kick aimed at her ribcage. His legs are like pillars, dense and intricately carved to suit the precise vision of an artist whose preferred media are muscle and broken bones; the shin that almost, but didn't quite catch Ramlethal's steel is /more/ than hard enough to've weathered such violence, honed and weaponized in a way that his chest simply isn't.

COMBATSYS: Sagat successfully hits Ramlethal with Medium Kick.

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Sagat            0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0        Ramlethal

The Fight Commission may have been deciding to sell the (relatively long-distance viewed) tapes of this conflict, this battle of titans, as a pay-per-view special. They may have done it for a weapons test, or to get the pair far away from anything else that was going on.

Maybe the Illuminati had dropped a dime on seeing if Ramlethal and Sagat would kill each other. It's not unlikely.

However Ramlethal had described her motives, as a created weapon seeking purpose or a terrible alien seeking the best Mankind had to offer, her strike had sliced through air and flesh with a lethal intent. And for all that perfected weapon's intent, like a pulled trigger or two keys and a red button being firmly depressed, Sagat does not die.

The Muai Thai Mountain does not fall. Certainly he stumbles in his block, but he remains resolute and counterattacks. The change in Ramlethal's eyes, her posture, is immediate. Coldly clinical, detached, even bored eyes widen. Her shoulders cant inward, giving her a hunched posture and her knees pull forward incrementally, her whole body radiating out the excitement of Sagat's bare vigor.

It's really a shit posture to take a snap kick to the ribs, and moving from 'barely contained, hungry delight' to getting out of the way of an explosive guard-step into a truly stunning kick just isn't in the cards.

And so Ramlethal goes flying, the shock of the kick transitioning through her taut body like ballistic jelly as she spins once before obliterating a bare-limbed squat tree into a cloud of splinters and dust, bouncing once, and then rolling thrice as the momentum bleeds off - until a thrust from a hand lifts her into the air, and her splayed toes catch the very air, landing on three and fifteen points - her toes and one hand dustily braking her the rest of the way, while her right hand sways free and flying swords race to catch up to her on the fat winged forms of the split Lucifero.

"Yes. Yes! I was looking for this. Show me more!" Ramlethal calls, a predatory excitement already filling her chest and slipping free from her crooked lips.

Like a cat, she springs forward, thrusting through her fingertips and toes and cratering the ground behind her in an acrobatic, limber twirl that brings one of her own far less chiseled but no less toned legs sweeping through the air trailing more of that burning green chi for the head region...

Which on Sagat is about two feet higher than most, so Ramlethal comes up short, the arc of her kick instead seeping towards his chest. Following through, her floating opposite knee snaps up into a knee strike, and the spiral finishes with a tumbling axe kick down upon Sagat's shoulders as she corkscrews through the air, blatantly disrespecing and ignoring physics as she does so, landing in a four-point catlike crouch, with both hands and toes perched on the ground to provide a lower profile -- which may be useless against a man whose meat and potatoes is a perfect mastery of kicking.

Sagat, someone who regularly deals with physics-breaking animes, probably has seen this trick once before, but with a different color of fire.

COMBATSYS: Sagat endures Ramlethal's Kruroj.

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Sagat            1/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0        Ramlethal

It doesn't /start/ with Sagat's head, but Ramlethal's assault certainly /ends/ there: her knee /SLAMS/ into his chin on the way up and her heel strikes the back of his neck and skull after she drills back down, crushing him to a knee right along with her. The Command Gear can probably feel the rocky tension of his bones and muscle slowly but surely yielding to her might, but it's the fire coursing over his body from the point of impact that does the real damage. Thick wisps of smoke hiss from several points of his being as his personal aura briefly warbles into being, orange clashing with emerald in a largely vain effort to mitigate the harm; elsewhere, he simply blisters. Skin bubbles in broken lines that trace the paths Ramlethal's chi is taking over him until the flames hit the ground and-- travel for several yards further, /then/ flicker out.

His whole body trembles for a beat as he begins to straighten. A grimace twists his features--

-- muscles knot across his back, hips, and thighs--

-- and he abandons trying to stand up in favor of just hopping a half-step forward to abuse overlong hitboxes with a sweeping kick targetting her shin. Before the motion even completes, the grimace begins to twist further, until he's grinning; it's a toothsome, savage expression that only expresses the joy of hearing bones snap, and feeling flesh turn to pulp in the heat of battle... but it's a grin, just the same.

No gimmicks.
No embellishments.

Just a fight for money and knowledge.
Just /violence/, distilled to a point of near-purity.

"As you wish!" rumbles across Ayers Rock a split-second before potential impact-- before the moment where, if his foot meets her leg, he'll finally force himself upright so he can throw an immediate follow-up roundhouse towards her skull.

COMBATSYS: Ramlethal blocks Sagat's Tiger Claw.

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Sagat            1/-------/=======|=======\==-----\1        Ramlethal

This is what Ramlethal had been searching for. This feeling.

When fighting in Hokkaido, Ramlethal had felt nothing but distaste, and the bitterness of failure.
When fighting during the World Warrior, she had felt little but the experience of domination, and then the strange aftereffects of her side-dalliances. They had confused her, and with Justice's fall, unseated her.
I-No had pushed her in this direction, but couldn't have known her true needs. Or, perhaps, the magical musician had known them specifically.

It was the singing in her bones, the trembling in her muscles, the light glimmer of exertion on her skin. Not because she fought a killing monster, or a powerful demon, but a man.

Her limbs connected with his skin, and there was a connection beyond simply burning foot and heel and knee against meat.

And, in turn, his long stride becomes a weapon, reaching out to capture Ramlethal's crouching pose in an orthodox sweep without frill - a pure thing, elemental and simple, refined like the tense cords of his shoulders and back, his shins and forelegs, his heavy hands - he does so. His sweep is the perfect answer to the Command Gear's profile reduction, forcing her to rise up into his strike, or take it: rolling is no option with a reach that fierce, and an intensity that savage.

Captured with the huge man's leg, into the huge man's roar, with his roundhouse assured to connect, Ramlethal brings up facing forearm and elbow in a tight V to block the roundhouse, steadying the tensed arm with her free hand's palm pressed against her clenched bicep and forearm.

The connection Sagat gets with Ramlethal's legs is as expected: yielding as flesh, as any other 'mortal'. But against forearm and braced hand, it's entirely different - the first indication that something is afoot. Like hitting a brick wall, the roundhouse meets hard and unwavering energy just off her skin, a crackling emerald field or plane of force projected from her hand. Sagat can feel - he knows, seeing her eyes light up with that same shared exuberance - that Ramlethal didn't know if her defense would work, would allow a reversal. But it did.

Having stopped the roundhouse just short of sending her through the very picturesque orange mountain-plateau, Ramlethal has all the negative frames in the world to push her advantage back. A second emerald shield-plane flares into life from her raised fist as she extends her fingers, clawing through the air as she extends her hand in a flame-limned reach to shove the field into Sagat's body in a rising attack, the field bifurcating into two claws that leave smouldering rents in the air or anything with the ill fortune to be in the same space as it.

Her cloak billows out like a jellyfish umbra, reaching a fully-extended posture in the space of a heartbeat before sneezing down while collapsing around her like a squeeze bottle, expelling force and energy alike to launch her airborne - leading entirely with her shoulder to crash into Sagat. This close, his reach may not matter.

This close, all of the Gear's gravity-disrespecting aura could not avail her. But the excitement of brutality had seized both of them by now.

COMBATSYS: Sagat blocks Ramlethal's Murdo.

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Sagat            1/-----==/=======|====---\-------\0        Ramlethal

When an angry young man who once idolized Sagat tried to take him to task for his fallen state, Sagat nearly left him for dead in Thailand.
When Shadaloo sought the contents of a NESTS transport, he personally stopped it then battered the opposing Cartel's guard monster and clone so it could be claimed from Southtown's streets.

Organized or not, Sagat's participated in fights of all kinds since dragging himself from the ruins of World Warrior, with opponents of all shapes, sizes, and talent. Many have surprised him; several even defeated him, feeding his resentment towards the fighting commissions of the world and deepening the chasm in his chest first cut by Killing Intent.

Today may very well be the first time in years that he's had the luxury of engaging in the art of /combat/ with an opponent whose abilities meet - if not /exceed/ - his own.

Even in confronting Heihachi Mishima about the farce of a biopic the Zaibatsu produced about him, he trampled through Mishima's tower like a raging elephant rather than the champion he once was. He was fighting his own freshly wounded spirit as much as the formidable titan of industry, and that made all the difference between then and now. The rage - the /shame/ - is still there, boiling away in his gut, but it's no longer /fresh/. Broken pride's been reduced to a rich demi-glace of envy, entitlement, and vicious sadism, velvety enough to coat his life or the back of a spoon. The consistency's the key: it's /part/ of him now, fuel instead of foe.

Consider the clash between his shin and her shield: years ago, the frustration of being denied satisfaction by a narrow margin might've driven him to hurl himself after her as she switched gears for offense, eager - /desperate/ - to drive a counter-attack through impossible swords and green fire just to leave his mark upon her. Instead, his hips abruptly shift the opposite way so he can plant his striking leg and raise the other with a brisk hop, adroitly cancelling the rest of his followthrough to protect himself. Emerald claws rake along either side of his shin, leaving shallow, bright red trails that ooze ruby pinpricks. Her shoulder's not far behind, driving him backwards along Uluru until her momentum gives out. Fire and scintillating force leave black marks all around his shin; by the end, there's smoke curling up between them.

Before they completely separate, another brisk twist and a slight forward thrust of his hips send his shin /across/ her emerald force-plane, intensifying the smoke--


"/More/," he rumbles, taunting the Command Gear over the sustained sound of cauterizing wounds.

His lips savagely part, giving her a flash of white as she hits the ground and he darts right in, uninterested in allowing even a gap of inches between them. Sheer height makes reach one of Sagat's most convenient tools, but the explosive potential contained in his muscles doesn't need much room at all to reveal itself-- as Ramlethal may learn when he unfolds practically atop her and his leg /screams/ towards her shin, intent on taking her legs out as close to her landing as he can manage. He's incredibly fast for his size, but she's fast /period/, and those shields are clearly up to the task of stopping his blows; removing her base gives him a chance to bring the fight to a pace he's more comfortable with while making it that much harder for her to safely protect herself.

COMBATSYS: Ramlethal blocks Sagat's Tiger Kick.

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Sagat            1/----===/=======|=====--\-------\0        Ramlethal

Ramlethal had expected her strike to tear, to rend, to reward her burning claws of chi with blood. She had wanted to taste it. Like a shark the smell of blood had urged her on, and the burning of flesh had enticed her like a fine steak. It wasn't enough entirely because it was not a meal before her, a silver platter for her to feast on rabidly, and instead a challenge.

While her background was complex, and her backstory filled with more twists than a romance novel trying to outdo its competitors (or a badly written game about light darkness hearts darkness friendship light memories), her goals were very simple, and shone through.

She wanted it to be difficult, brutal, and engaging. And Sagat provided all that, spinning out of a telling blow into a perfect block, pacing his energy, showing his mastery.

"You're far better than that demon!" Ramlethal offers in a clipped, toothy bark while Sagat snaps in to her shin with his blurringly speedy pillar of a muscular leg. On contact, Sagat is rewarded with a gasp of pain and the sequential microconnections of his leg striking muscle and bone that yields in way bone certainly isn't 'meant' to.

With a redoubled effort, the Gear aborts her upward flight to curl up almost fetally, her hands crossed over one another with fanned-out fingers - placing two desperate green barriers between her and the rest of the jackjammer force of Sagat's kick, absorbing force but getting no distance - the Muai Thai artist is far too skilled for that, keeping his spacing perfect and pressuring into Ramlethal's desperate guard. She has no choice but to convert that defensive barrier into her only advantage.

Sweeping out her hands from the cross-block outward to either side, the barrier shattering but not dissipating. Instead, the fragments of field turn to flame, joining with her sweeping ground aura to surge up Sagat's body in time with her hands coming back to close around the massive man's leg. Pain and desperation mix in equal measure with the intimacy of a hug - and the flames threaten to capture Sagat in their searing ring.

So captured - or otherwise, with their spacing so deeply close - her hands rise up, favoring her still-good air-stepping foot to lunge the remaining few heads of distance to double-fist smash Sagat right on the crown of his head, her speed a preturnatural thing.

"I will -- I'll-!" Ramlethal pants, barely able to add her thoughts in a rational way between movement, pain, magical control, offense and defense. Sagat knows - she was built by the finest of heretical science to do this, and she's pressured by a man.

And she loves it.

COMBATSYS: Ramlethal blitzes into action and acts again!

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Sagat            1/----===/=======|=====--\-------\0        Ramlethal

COMBATSYS: Sagat barely endures Ramlethal's Flama Cargo.

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Sagat            1/-======/=======|======-\-------\0        Ramlethal

COMBATSYS: Sagat interrupts Sildo Detruo from Ramlethal with Tiger Uppercut.

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Sagat            1/-======/=======|=======\==-----\1        Ramlethal

"And you're better than schoolchildren and lab exp--"

Sagat's grin takes on a wicked edge after he catches himself, even with his shin caught against her barriers instead of mangling her leg in full.

"-- well. Better than /most/ lab experiments! You fight like someone with nothing to sustain you but the fight itself-- like a weapon in desperate need of a battle worth its existence! Hungry-- lggh--!"

/Much/ better: he pulls away when the cross guard dissipates, but she intercepts his leg before it makes it even a foot nearer to the ground and before he knows it, he's aflame. Crushing pressure and ravenous flame tighten not only his captured limb but every muscle in his body as he concentrates on letting the pain flow through him without dwelling on it-- without letting it /stop/ him, even as flesh bubbles and peels in ragged patches. There's a brief moment of resistance against her grasp, but she's strong /enough/ to make it difficult, especially while he's already got burning chi to grapple with.

"-- lost--! Tell me-- little lab experiment," slides through his teeth in a strained purr as he fixes his eye on her and arches a brow, "whatever did you /DO/-- before someone-- saw fit to TELL you? In the space-- between leading an ARMY-- and selling your skills-- to entertain the people you once marched against?"

She has to let him go at /some/ point, he's betting, so it's just a matter of surviving until she does, so he can withdraw and take a second to catch his--

When some point comes, she's even hungrier than he anticipated. Despite his taunting, he's running out of steam /quickly/: her fists to his skull could easily be the blow that knocks him out for good if he isn't careful, and he /knows/ this. The sheer speed of her follow-up may have caught him off-guard, but his eye's racing after her once surprise fades. He remains tense even as the last of the flames clinging to him dissipate, but he doesn't intend to test the hardness of his head against her fists; that would be a risk for an elephant, not a predator with something to prove. Blocking /properly/ would involve awkward angles and a high likelihood of mid-air maneuvering. However: there is one thing - exactly one, fortuitous thing - that may yet save him from suffering a bad concussion or worse:

She jumped.

"Tiger," he inhales, a non-sequitur cherry on a rude sundae. In a heartbeat, over seven feet of dense muscle and denser spite becomes a tightly compressed ball hunched near the desolate surface of Ayers Rock. Brilliant orange whorls unfurl from the scar when he hits his lowest point, swirling through the air around him for another beat before coiling around his right arm and fist. He /BURSTS/ back to his full height so insistently that he flies into the air to meet her, driving now-glowing knuckles between her arms and towards her chin. Her fists slam into his shoulder on the way up, but the soft, sharp *pop!*s and stabbing aches that follow are preferable to seeing two or four of her.


"I -- am no -- experiment!" Is Ramlethals' response, in the first part. It comes in pants, as both fighters had left behind the cleanliness and clarity of voice and thought that a 'clean' fight would have offered.

No, both were deep in it, and both were in it to win it.

She gets precious little time to do much else. Each frame of awareness, even as honed and optimized as Ramlethal's, can't react to Sagat's transition. Her fists come down, as he taunts her - barks out inquiries about her purpose, her weaponhood, her drive. She answers with a singular fury, and Sagat takes that force down, across his head, deep into his core. Down, into his legs.

Like a spring pressed tight, he lowers, and Ramlethal gawks down. Her irises lower. Her pupils dialate.

Sagat says 'Tiger'. Ramlethal's mouth opens slightly into a confused, uncomprehending :o.

The taped rocket of four-knuckle cruise missile connects with her chin with a deep crack, and her bafflement is hidden as her floopy cap's rim is sucked onto the top of her face by air pressure as she goes flying, not just in the air, but away at least a few stories up, before arcing down, down, down.

ker-CRACK, comes the fallen Gear after ending her parabolic arc, landing face down on Ayers Rock in a heap, propped up in her sprawl on a single knee. Her hat crumples defeatedly under her nose, ears splayed flat against the ground. Sagat recieves a moment to breathe, even if her far-weakened flames keep him bound. He'll break free, given just a second of time and focus.

First clawing furrows into the rock, and then shoving her hands with force to prop her body up, Ramlethal looks dazedly at Sagat with her jaw set askew in an unnatural way, moving with deliberateness rather than speed. A broken leg affords little else. "I--"

Pain lances across her face, as fingers establish that her jaw is dislocated, and she re-sets it with a sickening hollow-wet pop. "--was lost. So I did... nothing. Drifted. Hid." Her eyes shutter, as she stoops and picks up her hat, dusting it off with two quick pats. "Learning. To follow impulse over order. But I remembered."

Her fists tighten around her hat and she finishes jamming it back on top of her head firmly, wobbling knees steadying with spite and determination in equal measure. "The pain of loss. The emptiness of lack. The shame of defeat. I was programmed to be perfect, and lost. 'I cannot lose!' was what I knew."

She points a one hand, index extending in a slight bow of tension and trembling. "It was you I was missing. A fight I'd be proud... I would be satisfied in. Win, or lose."

Her aura returns, lifting her feet up just off the ground with her toes just kissing the ground, and her blades rematerialize, the two full mouths of the split familiar talking around the blade-hilts in their mouth. "Whaff, you fforget abou' uff?"

"Shut... up."

The hold releases. Sagat has all the time in the universe to make his move. All he has to do is avoid one last gambit. Pressure builds around the pair, a rumble in the surrounds. The wind picks up, and the two greatswords do not fly to Ramlethal's sides, but angle in front of her, tips pointed towards the titanic man and spinning like a dryer working through its cycles.

"Thank you, Sagat. You are... a perfect weapon. Do not die."
An electric crackle at the center of the spinning swords fills with emerald bright enough to make the surrounding daytime seem dim, heaving in a pressurized intake before belching forth a singular beam of green not unlike his hated rival's signature move.

Ramlethal doesn't defend herself any more - arching her back and hanging in the air in the exultance of letting loose all her magical power in one final do-or-die technique.

COMBATSYS: Sagat blocks Ramlethal's Calvados.

[                           \\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Sagat            2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|===----\-------\0        Ramlethal

Sagat does his breathing from one knee after a heavy landing. Fiery chi flares out around his other leg with each breath, clashing against the flames still clinging to it until the emerald snare bursts into a shower of vivid sparks.

The pain of loss.
The shame of defeat.
Programmed perfection.

Keeping his eye on Ayers Rock makes it easier to maintain a cruel, toothsome smirk as his life falls from her lips.

"A /failed/ experiment, then," he lowly rumbles, "eager to prove that it still has value..."

Burning amber rolls along the slash in his chest as he rises with trembling limbs and taut muscles. The charge in the air around her's palpable, and gradual enough to provide a window for sudden, unexpected aggression to blunt whatever's meant to come... but Sagat's past the point where mindlessly smashing a bladed reflection of himself doesn't hold the same visceral appeal that it once might've.

"... and seeking something-- /anything/-- to justify its own existence."

He's grown into more evolved forms of self-loathing. Thus, he gives her all the time she needs to marshal her power, and when it's unleashed in an annihilating wave, he /lunges/ forward to meet it, less-burnt knee arched forward in an effort to take in everything she has left and spit it back in her face. Magical fury crashes against his shin, and while it breaks around him at first, he's buffeted relentlessly until he's ultimately consumed, leaving her briefly alone atop the Rock.

Seconds later, as light fades leaving the telltale thrum of raw power hanging in the air, he's back again, smoking and heaving for air on all fours while blisters burst all across his skin.

"Fortunately... for /you/..." he wheezes, strained and rough as he slooooowly rebalances on shaking legs, "... perfection means... that I am not... without /mercy/...!"

Immediately after that, he grimaces, clutches his chest, and only /just/ manages to keep himself to 'doubling over' instead of 'collapsing in an enormous heap'.

"You want... to atone for the sin of imperfection... to find satisfaction in a realigned purpose...?"

Taunting the mirror is step one. Attempting to assert a measure of superiority over it is step two, but it's currently up in the air thanks to the sheer /amount/ of power Ramlethal was able to summon against him. Now it's back to step one, but it's just a prelude to rolling on to three:

Smashing the mirror /mindfully/ and letting the thrill of violence spare him from tilting too far into self-reflection.

"I would be HAPPY-- to oblige!"

The gap's long enough for him to close the distance between them and punctuate his promise with a sweep for her precariously poised legs. The methodology's roughly familiar in that the sweep's closely followed by a snap kick towards her shin, but two things are new:

1.) After going for her shin, he twists around to throw his other leg towards her ribcage, then pivots /again/, hooking his heel towards the side of her head.
2.) "Tiger--"

If he manages to make it /that/ far, he'll cap the rapid-fire combination of crushing kicks off by leaping towards her, thrusting one leg forward while fire races from foot to knee to turn his limb into a burning javelin intended to all but impale her as he hurtles past her--

-- to his knees, upon his eventual crash landing.

And whether it's crashing to his knees after a final, flaming kick, or collapsing there when his last-ditch combination goes awry, the end result is the same: a final, forward slump that leaves him unconscious with his face against stone as he finally succumbs to blisters and bruises.

COMBATSYS: Sagat can no longer fight.

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

COMBATSYS: Sagat knocks away Ramlethal with Tiger Raid.

[                                <
Ramlethal        0/-------/=======|

COMBATSYS: Ramlethal takes no action.

COMBATSYS: Ramlethal can no longer fight.

The Calvados - a terrifying hurricane of maryoku energy - is as spectacular as it is draining. Many would run. Few would be shocked in fear.

Sagat runs right into it - and pulls through it. Ramlethal slouches over, simply breathing and hanging loosely in the air, like a stringed puppet, breathing deeply like a runner after a sprint.

Sagat and Ramlethal had spoken to each other, and past each other. As the mountain of a man doubles over and recovers, and Ramlethal hangs, the Gear emits an odd noise - like a cat with a hairball.

Over the seconds, it finally resolves itself into a strange and breathy laugh - one that the deliverer seemed genuinely confused about the sheer act of.

"How confusing. No. You are wrong twice:"

The gear raises a single short-nailed finger. "Imperfection cannot be atoned for. But if I was to be perfect, I would be. I am not, so I must learn something else. And..."

Her second finger comes up, with a too-broad, too-toothy grin.

"Mercy isn't an aspect of perfection at all."

It certainly isn't, as the final flurry of strikes hammer into her. First her shins, collapsing her stance into the second spinning strikes, flattening her taut stomach across the blade of Sagat's hardened foreleg which likewise erupts into a blazing chi.

The last attack finishes her, the point of Sagat's knee striking her dead on the center of her face, a 'whump' of force exploding behind her as her aura flares to a tremendous pressure - and like a balloon, pops, and deflates, as she crumples to the ground.

To lay on the mostly-not-destroyed surface of Ayers Rock feeling very, very sorry for herself.

"... itai..."

Log created on 17:25:51 01/26/2019 by Sagat, and last modified on 12:43:28 01/30/2019.