Jack-O' - The Perils of Possibility and Pugillusionism

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Description: What does it mean to be real, and what does it mean to simply be a passing illusion...? In a desperate bid for food, Haruna Abe enters the hallowed halls of the Pugillusionist's Paradise -- but finds her competition to be a bit more than she bargained for. In the ensuing struggle, existential questions are inadvertently posed, magicians are potentially killed (?!) and the confounding nature of Jack-O's are considered. Can Haruna triumph, in search of precious prime rib--?! Another precious memory for Jack-O' Valentine is born.

COMBATSYS: Haruna has started a fight here.

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Haruna           0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Jack-O' has joined the fight here.

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Jack-O'          0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Haruna


Haruna Abe flips through her continuing education options brochures at the Sacred Order. "I hate these frigging things," Haruna mutters to herself. "Everyone here's twice as pretty as I am already... do they have to do this or do they just flip their immaculately blonde hair as their manservant come out and do it for them out of an abundance of weeping loyalty that comes from having the benefi-"

"Fully funded??"


A man in a checkerboard top hat stands in the judge's box in the west. There are a dozen or so chatting people in fine attire in the stands, but this is a brunchtime examination.

This man, who we will call Mr. Z., calls downwards into the ring, "So, then, are you prepared for your demonstration, the both of you? The credential of a Pugillusionist is not one which we distribute lightly, and we expect you to do your best. Naturally we may also put this recording on our mysteriously fantastic Youfight channel... rest assured that if it should draw great traffic, you will see a credit to your wine and dine bill."

Haruna Abe is wearing a flatteringly cut but old-style onmyouji's robe, complete with square hat, and is standing in the NORTH corner. She slides the lunch menu, which she had been examining with the hunger of someone with an expense account, into her sleeve.

"And the victor, of course, shall also receive -" Mr. Z flicks his hand around and holds up a gift card. "TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS - good for all admission costs, meals, and alcoholic beverages."

"It does not suit a contest of this sort to have no stakes. Now, then, I want to see a clean fight, a glorious fight, and at least two signature illusions from each of you."

Haruna looks to the south end of the ring.

Her eyes gleam with hunger.

Haruna looks to the south end of the ring.

It is distressingly empty.

"... each of you...?"

"(spit it out spit it out spit it out!!)"


"spit it out spit it out spit it out!!"






A great call echoes tremendously throughout the arena. A sound like a giant spitting trembles through its very foundations. Hushed gasps and cultivated murmurs thrum through the throngs of the Pugillusionist's Paradise's distinguished membership. And with the sounding of that spit --

--space rips open above one Haruna Abe in a gleaming, oblong slit of emerald, like the great eye of god was opening to glare at her.


A great shadow casts over Haruna Abe.

But first, perhaps some explanations are in order.


You see, Jack-O' Valentine was unsure if she could feel hunger anymore. She remembers, at one point, she could. Or perhaps that someone like her could, and their memories had tangled up with her own. But she did not actually -remember- feeling hungry.

A part of her wondered -- worried -- if she required no food, would she ever know what it meant to go hungry? And if she couldn't know what it meant to go hungry, did that, then, mean she had no drive? No impulse to survive? No biological imperative to continue on long enough to propagate her species? And what WAS her species? Sometimes she was certain it was human, and sometimes she was more inclined to consider herself a Gear, and oftentimes it was something else entirely.

This notion troubled Jack-O' Valentine greatly, and so she resolved to solve it by fasting for three days, and three days /exactly/ which was a mission of great importance and not at all a distra


KING OF IMPOSSIBILITY, THE HAIR-RAISING HORATIO is a long-time member of the Pugillusionist's Paradise. He is a flashy fighter, but not extraordinarily effective, a distinction that makes his fights satisfying to watch without the burden of expectation to excel. In other words, a middling fan favorite, often pit against newcomers to this grand tourney to weed out the worthwhile from the worthless and look good in a tophat while doing it.

"Where is my tophat--??"

Usually. Usually look good in a tophat while doing it.

And so it is that KING OF IMPOSSIBILITY, THE HAIR-RAISING HORATIO is currently rifling through his dressing room, looking for said tophat, when his finely-ish honed-ish fighting senses(-ish) pick up the faint sign of rustling from behind him. KING OF IMPOSSIBILITY that he is, he is already brandishing a wand of great, sparkling potential at the sight as he wheels around...

... only to find nothing there.

THE HAIR-RAISING HORATIO blinks. Surely this is impossible, and he ought to know. He was certain he saw something...

"... hungry..."

And so do the hairs on the back of THE HAIR-RAISING HORATIO's neck raise as he hears an eerie, tremulous voice behind him. His fingers trembling around his wand, he spins around once more --

And sees a terrible, tophatted silhouette with gleaming green eyes seconds before something great and bulbous and pumpkin-shaped lunges at him from the darkness, its great, pumpkiny maw opening wide to a churning dimension of endless jade--






Well anyway that's the story of how THE HAIR-RAISING HORATIO, KING OF IMPOSSIBILITY was impossibly spit out of a pumpkin before the pumpkin spit itself out of itself and then spit out a small woman with two-toned hair all in short-order directly above Haruna Abe.

The first -- Jack-O' Valentine -- crashes into the arena in a pumpkin-shaped mushroom cloud within a fifth of a second; her familiar Dopoulos shortly behind her. She rises woozily a bit later, shaking her head, a top hat askew on her head that doesn't QUITE match the strange metal mask covering her face.

"oooghhhh where am iiiiiii"

The second -- Mister Horatio of the raising hair himself -- is dreadfully swooned to unconsciousness now and currently on a collision course for Haruna like a runaway meteor.

It's fine.

He'll probably be fine.

"--a-and our second contestant--"

"oh no"



Jack-O's startled insistence, of course, does nothing to explain why she is currently bedecked in a magician's cape and eloquent three-piece tailcoat.

But some mysteries are better left unexplained, for the sake of wonderment and already beleaguered pose lengths.

COMBATSYS: Jack-O' successfully hits Haruna with Large Thrown Object.
Grazing Hit

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Jack-O'          0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0           Haruna

"That's one for Horatio," Mr. Z muses as Haruna looks upwards with an expression that can only be rendered by the following letter and numeral:


This is not what she had expected at all, and before she can think faster or in more detail, Horatio is being hurled into her. She is struck by this smooth magicriminal hard enough to smash into the sawdust-laden ground, sending up a pouf of the material, struggling for a moment, and rebounding up as the KING OF IMPOSSIBILITY falls, like an over-worked metaphor for the inherent fallibility of the nobility!

"pfu," says Haruna, who is the nobility (sort of).

Her hands go on her hips. Sawdust flutters out of her sleeves.

She glowers at Jack-O for a moment.

"I suppose you're the lovely assistant," she says, before lunging forwards with the hand she's held back, swinging it forwards into a curve-- and extending her index and middle fingers together, her thumb crooked at an odd angle.

Two strikes to the midsection! The second one comes with an effort to gently squish in at a particular spot to the right of the navel. The result would be suddenly disruptive, kind of like a cramp - a spiritual cramp.

"There's something strange about your energy..."

COMBATSYS: Jack-O' dodges Haruna's Female Protocol.

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Jack-O'          0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0           Haruna

"woogh that was the longest three days of my entire liiiiiiiife"

As Haruna Abe makes her gradual recovery from the inexplicable, illogical, dare we say, IMPOSSIBLE blitz of her competition (?), said competition (??) is currently woozily all a-fret. Engaging in a strange combination of nervous wiggling and uneasy wobbling, Jack-O' Valentine raises her gloved hands up to her masked face; somehow, those glowing green eye slits have widened with what looks like confusion and horror. Also, it's blushing. Somehow.

"Ooooo what do I do what do I do what do I DO?? I'm almost positive I was doing something SUPER IMPORTANT before this! ... But, regardless, the situation is what it is. I can already feel an intensification in my existential instability, like a rubber band being pulled in five different dimensions. I'll need to refuel soon. But there's something else--"

'I suppose you're the lovely assistance.'

"O-oh gosh, I don't know about LOVELY~~~ but you said it not mAH SURPRISE ATTACK!"

Two strikes to the midsection! They come in a flash of motion, faster than most human eyes.

Faster still, though...


... is the way that Jack-O' Valentine has already bent backwards into a handstand, Haruna's hands nimbly and inexplicably imprisoned between the twist of her ankles.

"... I'm sorry."

And there Jack-O' and Haruna stand for a frozen sliver of a moment, the magician(?)'s assistant (??) turned upside down, red and white hair pooling against the arena floor as Dopoulos sways uneasily just beneath her feet and Haruna's hands. It's small now, like the size of a keychain. Wasn't it larger before? Or maybe it was always small? It's hard to say--

"It must be hard for you to make sense of me. It's already hard enough for ME to make sense of me. You probably shouldn't look. But maybe you can tell me something, something I absolutely must know--"

And that moment lasts only a sliver of eternity before Jack-O' is -whipping- her lower body forward with intent to carry Haruna along for the ride, upwards through the air --

"Do you know if this establishment serves dessert? Hard candy preferred, but anything with sugar will do."

-- Dopoulos careening down towards her gut in short order.

"It's a matter of life~ or~ death~!"

COMBATSYS: Haruna blocks Jack-O''s Armed Combo.

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Jack-O'          0/-------/------=|====---\-------\0           Haruna

Haruna prods the pressure points of Thin Air, the second cousin of Nothing Atall. She frowns for a moment.

"Something like that," she says, before glancing at Dopoulos. Wasn't it-

THRUST! Haruna is seized and hurled up into the air with the raw power of Jack-O's truth-delivering lower torso, for as we all know, hips do not lie except when specifically ordered to by the American President. On the downstroke, Dopoulos comes for her - and Haruna is struck and impacts the ground once more!

"This," Haruna says as she wheezes for breath, "is the last time I am going to lay on my back with you, woman!"


She kips back up a little more creakily. She looks towards Jack then, and towards Dopoulos, and it is to Dopoulos she says, "So she wants to know if there's dessert at this place...? I don't know how she got in here without going through the secret passage, but whatever. Wait - mystery woman - I think I have your proof here!"

She reaches to the side of Dopoulos... and draws out...

The menu she was examining before??

("I suppose that counts," says Mr. Z, sounding unimpressed.)

At which point Haruna flicks it right dead at Jack-O's own ear. It's pretty heavy, it's in a leather case and everything! Though even with that kind of defense, it's still definitively a

Haruna prods the pressure points of...

An object. A being. An entity. An EXPERIENCE. A creature known only to science as Dopoulos. Haruna can tell she didn't hit the meridians of a live person, but she makes herself not look, as if by some cthonic instinct.

"Something like that," she says, before glancing at Dopoulos. Wasn't it-

THRUST! Haruna is seized and hurled up into the air with the raw power of Jack-O's truth-delivering lower torso, for as we all know, hips do not lie except when specifically ordered to by the American President. On the downstroke, Dopoulos comes for her - and Haruna is struck and impacts the ground once more!

"This," Haruna says as she wheezes for breath, "is the last time I am going to lay on my back with you, woman!"


She kips back up a little more creakily. She looks towards Jack then, and towards Dopoulos, and it is to Dopoulos she says, "So she wants to know if there's dessert at this place...? I don't know how she got in here without going through the secret passage, but whatever. Wait - mystery woman - I think I have your proof here!"

She reaches to the side of Dopoulos... and draws out...

The menu she was examining before??

("I suppose that counts," says Mr. Z, sounding unimpressed.)

At which point Haruna flicks it right dead at Jack-O's own ear. It's pretty heavy, it's in a leather case and everything! Though even with that kind of defense, it's still definitively a

COMBATSYS: Jack-O' blocks Haruna's Thrown Object.

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Jack-O'          0/-------/-----==|=====--\-------\0           Haruna

With a grim declaration, Haruna Abe leaps back into the fight!! Suddenly, a dramatic cut-in to Jack-O' Valentine's shocked face(mask)!!

"Gasp," exclaims Jack-O' Valentine, taking a single, staggering step back. Upside-down. With her hands.

"Is this... an ~indecent proposal~...?!"

With a soft 'hup!', the would-be Valentine flips backwards back onto her feet; despite the momentum of the motion, her hair does not whip about her in the doing, instead continuing to just... float around her in a manner most ethereal, like the laws of physics did not apply to it. To -any- of her. Spiked halo glowing dimly as it rotates around her new hat, the be-masked woman lifts a hand to her face, tapping a metal-covered cheek as her masked mouth somehow turns down into the thoughtful, glowing green slit of a frown.

"This is problematic," she murmurs, mostly to herself, as Haruna engages in conversation with wise Dopoulos; the familiar responds by rolling on the floor sagaciously and proceeding to vomit out a series of garbledly cartoonish sound effects. Presumably, this answer is incredibly wise.

"I don't think I can afford to make a detour somewhere else for a resupply, but I also can't afford to linger here banking on unknowns, either. Mm. In another situation the gamble might be exciting, but..."

Haruna reaches. Dopoulos makes boopsy warning sounds. Jack-O' gasps in revelation.

"... but if I just stand here doing nothing until a stranger helps me, I'm sure everything will work out~!"

And in a fit of magic, a deadly menu is thrown--!!

--and snatched out of the air in a frenzied blur of gloved fingertips!!

"HURRAY, EVERYTHING WORKED OUT~! Thanks, stranger danger!"

See? It pays to rely on the kindness of strangers. Try this at home, kids!


Her fingertips are stinging from the momentum just a simple - albeit heavy - menu managed to generate from Haruna's ferocious touch. But the mystery masked woman pays it no mind for now, green eyeholes narrowing pensively as she flips the menu open one-handed and peruses through the contents. The other hand?

The other hand is casually plunging a hand into spacetime and producing a massive, bulbous, angry-faced furnace out of nothing.

As you do.

"... there it is. I can work with this. Thank you -- you might have saved my existence, unless this isn't really happening and just a tangent possibility. I'm still not quite sure." Somehow, the smile that masked face casts Haruna's way is a warm one, making a surreally serene juxtaposition to the way Jack-O' casually hurls that fabricated fabrication engine to the ground with an adorable ~*POIK!*~ before proceeding to forge another one out of the fabrics between existence.

"Unfortunately then, I think we're at a bit of an impasse, aren't we?" The menu snaps shut. "You're very clearly strong, with tremendous potential for growth, but you're also missing some key macro and micronutrients which suggests you're a bit malnourished." How could she possibly know--


A third pod is plucked from creation.

"But I need these to be able to carry on with my mission. Hmm. It's unfortunate, but--"

And slowly, those pods start spitting out the cutest little creatures the entire world has ever seen, like if moogles had more adorable relatives that made them look like disgusting freaks in comparison. All of them carrying weapons: some from one pod bearing wands, others from another bearing a stick that looks like a sword, and the third kind bearing logs that are handled like spears. It's sickeningly sweet. But -- they're multiplying pretty quickly --

"-- um um ummmmmm, could you please die for me??"

And with this, her minions are briefly forgotten as Jack-O' -dashes- across the ground, menu discarded as she plunges towards Haruna --

--and tilts her head down as her spiked, floating halo spins up into a large, whirling dervish of pure, sharpened magic. Despite her words, she aims for a shoulder, and a shallow cut besides.


See, she cares. She just gets a little excited.

COMBATSYS: Haruna blocks Jack-O''s Spin the Wheel of Ixion.

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Jack-O'          0/-------/-----==|======-\-------\0           Haruna

It could be, Jack. You don't know. The only way to find out is to follow your


even as Haruna hurls the object towards her. Haruna herself furrows her brow as the masked woman raises a hand to her face and says that things are problematic. "A litle bit," Haruna says, even as Dopoulos seems to pop for the trick.

(Mr. Z frowns and makes a note. After all, even if it's not technically adaept, it got a big reaction... and that's what counts.)

(And then Mr. Z sees that the mysterious competitor is pulling some kind of furnace out of thin air... and makes another, far more approving note. This is a good trick, the man thinks. Almost as good as spinning...)

"What??" Haruna says, a common epitaph for those who face the Valentine Gear, as the fabricants are drawn forth and bring a birth of adorable little hell-monsters, which proliferate according to their kind. Haruna stares at them, back to Jack, back to the Gearlets, back to Jack.

"no???" Haruna then says, before there is a surging rush! A surging rush and a SPRAY OF BLOOD!

Haruna hits the wall of the arena, making one of the onlookers gasp and another frown at the droplet of something in his glass of champagne. But wait - is it really blood? Or is it... sweat??

No, it's blood.

Nonetheless, Haruna feels the cut. It's painful, but indeed, shallow. "Hah," she breathes out. "I think I'm starting to understand you. Well, that's glorifying things," she says as she slouches forwards, arms dangling before her like some kind of jiangshi.

Then she raises her right hand to her lips and kisses her index finger.

And then, proving that you can define insanity by trying the same thing again and expecting different results, Haruna lunges forwards again. But this time it is not so much a punch - her arm actually swivels round - as an effort to touch a point around Jack's midsection, a little past her side.

It tickles if she does.


And then erupts in a vaguely violet-hued release of her own interior energy, like someone stabbed a water pipe! (And given the angle, it may hit some Gearlings. How rude!)

COMBATSYS: Jack-O' dodges Haruna's Sombre Lance.

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Jack-O'          0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0           Haruna

And thus did everything work out fine, despite Jack-O' Valentine's

~Cruel Intentions~.

The whirl of her halo top comes to a slow end, the sound of rushing sawblades fading into nothing as little droplets of bright crimson decorate the space that separates those two fighters. Slash magicians. Slash illusionists?? It's unclear.

What -is- clear that Jack-O' is swift on recovery, almost improbably so. Whatever drives her makes her incredibly swift, springing back into a standing position like the snap of a rubber band. Bouncing sprightly on the balls of her feet, Jack-O' sweeps her right hand in front of her in a broad motion...

... and slowly, a series of panels arrange in front of her like an organ's keyboard forged from luminescent, violet-blue light. Green eyeholes slitting into narrowed points of thought, she taps several of those keys as Haruna recovers.

"Hmm... yes. That's the right combination. Let's try that." Her hand sweeps back, and those ethereal keys peel apart once more into dissipating data as the strange woman peers at her competition. "You do?" she wonders, the tone of her voice genuinely curious. "Oh my gosh, that's so flattering! I hope you still understand me tomorrow, because who knows what I'll be then--"

Suddenly, Haruna is in her personal space. Somehow, the mask eyes flicker in a blink. "Eh?" she muses, thoughtfully. Haruna touches her.

"Eh??" she intones, abashedly. She starts to tingle.

"Eh?!" she exclaims, shockingly.

"Hee hee, it tickles -- OH NO, IT TICKLES--"

There is a flash. An expulsion. It's like someone briefly burst a dam. In that moment, several things happen:

1) Haruna's diabolic tickling releases a shocking surge of energy.

2) Jack-O' takes exactly three steps backwards in the time it would take for someone to get halfway through an eyeblink.

3) Dopoulos, at the same time, lunges for Jack-O', mouth widening like a snake unhinging its jaws.

4) *GULP*

5) A harrowing mass of phantasmal minions cry out in adorable terror and are suddenly silenced.

In the aftermath, as that tingly hue of violet starts to fade, there is only Dopoulos resting just at Haruna's feet, cheeks puffed out egregiously. It trembles. Wobbles back and forth.





And then spits Jack-O' Valentine most mightily into the air, sending her careening straight-verticle past Haruna with a cry of


There is silence, for a bit, in the aftermath. And then:

"I'm a bit curious about you. You have an interesting way of manipulating chi, don't you?"

The voice comes from above. And Haruna need only look up to see Jack-O', sitting cross-legged on Dopoulos, attached still by its chain as thrusters it has spontaneously sprouted keep it aloft in the air.

Seconds before the thrust reverses to send it just kind of CRASHING into the ground beside Haruna. And does it again. And again. And again.


Each time absurdly pogosticking all around Haruna with dangerous force, but never actually -trying- to hit her. And for all Jack-O' might seem cartoonish --

-- the way Dopoulos tries to herd Haruna backwards and unsettle her footing -just- enough for several sword-toting Gearlings to take a swing with (thankfully wooden) swords to take said feet out from under her is nothing if not utterly deliberate.


COMBATSYS: Jack-O' successfully hits Haruna with Spectral Sentinel.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|======-\-------\0           Haruna

This woman! This woman is maddening, Haruna thinks. She only thinks within herself -- she cannot, of course, simply announce her emotions aloud. (That would make her angry, were she to consider it in more detail.)

The motion of the mask suggests something archaic. The shape of those cute little fuddy-wuddies suggests something worse.

But the touch of the meridian point releases that burst -- and Dopoulos moves forth, having devoured the minions, as the violet crescent of light fades. (Mr. Z applauds politely. Good light show. Technique even if it's not in a narrative yet.)

Dopolous shakes. Haruna looks at it.

It shakes again. Haruna takes a deep breath.

It shakes...

* Jack-O broke free!

Haruna's head swivels upwards and she looks at Jack-O with increasing levels of incredulity. "Well, thank you," she says, "it's a family tradition, it's all about meridians and the astrological influe- You know what, I'm going to explain it to you laaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" THUNK TUNP TUNP TUNP TUNP

Haruna lives up to her vow. She does not fall down again.

But she has a problem in the form of Gearlings smacking at her legs and feet with those little irritating bokkens and tsukkomens! The bruising grows. Until one of them hits a point just halfway up the back of her right calf-


Her eyes widen. And as she raises one hand up, a faint rainbow light seems to rise from her, violet-dominant but shading into every hue of the rainbow - just in time, of course, for this month - as she breathes out, "That was the point... oh! Oh, what are the odds -"

Her eyes swivel like turrets towards the bouncing Jack-O. No - to Dopoulos. "You're not the real body, are you?" she asks cryptically, before she lunges forwards anew. Not to strike Jack. Nor even Dopoulos. But to hook her arm in that chain - to loop it around herself!

"The art of my family is a potent tool for exorcism...! Are you using some arcane methodology or is this a sign that you are truly a 'Malicious Being', here to bring suffering to the fine province of California!!"

("State," says Mr. Z, with obscure pride.)

COMBATSYS: Jack-O' blocks Haruna's Celestial Prison.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Jack-O'          0/-------/--=====|=======\-------\0           Haruna

You're not the real body, are you?

The wild bouncing of the dastardly Dopoulos abruptly comes to an end. Hovering a modest foot or two off the ground, the familiar's glowing lips twist in confusion -- a mild contrast to how its master's (masked renditions) have contorted into something more considerate.

"... real..." she murmurs, and the insanity of her voice bleeds away into something calmer; the features of her jack-o'-lantern mask carves into an expression more somber as her hands press into her cross-legged lap.

"I've been wondering that for a while myself," continues the mysterious, magic woman; even if the words were not necessarily directed at her, they've triggered... something. A splinter of a past not wholly her own. "Certainly, this body isn't real in the sense you'd probably know it. It's a bit in flux. A bundle of possible data that hasn't quite solidified into a concrete concept. Like stem cells, stretching thin between the infinite potential of what they might be. Or or or like cookie dough before you cut it into a cute, stock shape~! ... but..."

Glowing green eyes glance downward, in the moments before Haruna capitalizes on this moment of indecision to lunge.

"... if I'm not real, then what am I? Just a stepping stone to someone else's moment in the sun...? I've enjoyed these little handful of memories I've managed to make. They're real. I know they're real. And they... they make me real. I don't want to forget them. I want to hold onto them tightly, even as they start slipping through my fingers. And if I'm being honest..."

... it's why I was terrified of I-No taking me back.

Her hands grip tight onto her pants legs until her gloved fingers tremble. And then she exhales, slips off of Dopoulos, and...

"... sorry, I'm a -- <3 [MALICIOUS BEING] <3?!"

And there lunges Haruna, gripping hold of that chain. Jack-O''s eyes go wide as dinnerplates.


And as Haruna loops the chain, Dopoulos -- suddenly shrinks, to about the size of a golfball. He's incredibly adorable.

And incredibly fast as a little minion BATS him away with a brilliant POIK~!

Thrusters engaging to maximum, Dopoulos' little cartoon horn sounds fill the air around Haruna as the familiar -spins- and -spins- and -spins- around her, to coil her further and further up in that retreating chain, until she's dragged --

--RIGHT into Jack-O'.

For a moment, the white-and-red-haired woman is a literal silhouette of shadow and gleaming, green eyes. It's harrowing. Horrifying. She REEKS of <3 [MALICIOUS INTENT] <3 such that all the audience can feel it and TREMBLE AT THE SIGHT. Slowly, she leans in.

The metal of her mask is warm as she whispers something to Haruna, beneath the din of the crowds, and draws back.

Her smile for the exorcist alone is sweet, but sad. Her wink, conspiratorial.

Which is impressive.

Given the mask.

"Make it look good, okay?"

And a second later, Jack-O' -pulls- her leg back. The chain -yanks-.


And then -whips- her leg straight vertical into the air, to send them and Haruna skyborn as Jack-O' begins to glow with OMINOUS POWER.

It all looks very impressive. But --


-- the chains start to loosen, at just the right time --


COMBATSYS: Haruna endures Jack-O''s Quick Throw.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Jack-O'          0/-------/--=====|=======\==-----\1           Haruna

What Haruna doesn't reveal is that she was guessing because Jack-O makes no sense, and her experience is that when someone makes *zero* sense - as opposed to, for instance, being a robotic duplicate of Ky Kiske (which is plausible, in theory) - is that they aren't actually what they appear to be.

In short... a youkai!! (Or something like that. Japan has an unusual concentration of bizarre entities like that... or were they all invented for fiction? It's not clear.)

"So you're some sort of potential, a ghost of things that could be, not things that shall?!" Haruna says hotly.

And then she is buried in <3MALICIOUS INTENT<3 to a level that she is not normally exposed to. Her cheeks color as she wonders, not for the first time, if she chose wisely to enter the Sacred Order. Perhaps she should have been in an office job... gone into freelance work... and then Jack-O disengages.

She cackles.

She hurls Haruna into the air and reveals herself - and the power of the J/O - a power that has motivated half the world since forever! Haruna tumbles upwards and she says -

"As you wish."

(Mr. Z raises an eyebrow.)

"I'll subject you to a brutal exor- no!" Haruna says, still flying upwards. "This is a place of illusion, isn't it? Something where performance and glamour is at least as important as anything to do with the protection of the innocent!"

("I mean, I GUESS," says Neal Patrick Harris, who was watching while eating his lunch. Neal Patrick Harris is ratio 1.7.)

Haruna reaches the apex of her leap... and takes off her right shoe. Which she hurls downwards, directly into a Gearling, who probably makes an adorable noise. But this is a feint. For when she comes down Haruna aims to snap her foot down, first to conk the Jack-o-the-Valentine atop her malicious noggin. And then, as she turns - to balance on her hands, fingertips extended - to snap outwards and hit her with a short flurry of blows. Upper thigh (right), bellybutton (or its near equivalent), the general area of the liver.

This one isn't pleasant, ticklish, or tingly. Indeed, it would feel as if an internal 'pipe' had burst... as if energy was pouring out, aiming to go to ground.

"It would be rude of me, don't you think," Haruna says as she kips back to her feet, "to simply make you disappear?"

COMBATSYS: Jack-O' endures Haruna's Judgment of Nobility.

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Jack-O'          0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0           Haruna

'So you're some sort of potential, a ghost of things that could be, not things that shall?!'

"I'm me," Jack-O' Valentine says, in the moments before the end,

"And right now, that's all I want to be, for as long as I can."

Haruna falls. And the sometimes-Valentine, to her credit, does a spectacular job of helping make it look good; eyeslits widen and then shrink into little, horrified pinpoints of churning green light as she takes a single, staggered step backwards across the harsh arena tile. Her hands whip towards the heavens in horror.

"H-how?! How could she break free from my ULTIMATE ATTACK, the #FAST THROW+#!?"

where did those glowing hashtags and plus signs surrounding her come from


With that blow, Jack-O''s be-masked eyes bulge out like a cartoon character's as she staggers dramatically backward, top hat crumbled into ruin for the doing. This all sets her up to sublime perfection for Haruna's follow up -- blow after blow connecting in a way beyond the physical, that drives deep into the heart of the systems composing Jack-O' Valentine. A pipe has burst.

And for Haruna, she might feel the immensity of an unending pressure behind that burst dam, and something greater still --

It would be rude of me, don't you think...

-- but all Jack-O''s expression says is 'thank you' before she collapses, with a dramatic, flourishing spin, towards the ground.

"Oh... no...!!" wheezes Jack-O', a trembling hand rising towards the heavens.

"My foul chakra... have been sealed... for ten thousand years...!"

Her mask contorts in tremulous panic, tears somehow streaming down its metal cheeks. It's all very dramatic. And conceals the way her free hand tucks behind her back.

"Is this... the end... of the lovable J-O'...?!~"

With that final tilde, the fallen Jack-O' snaps her fingers beneath her.

And each one of those minions and their spawning pods EXPLODE shortly thereafter in a beautiful prism of sparkling, shining magic as Jack-O' goes limp.


You can tell, by the way her eyes are spinning.


Also that.

COMBATSYS: Jack-O' takes no action.

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Jack-O'          0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0           Haruna

Haruna cannot really blame that on anyone. Not after what the Sacred Order has done to protect a certain GUILTY GEAR
(XRD 2nd Axxess Digital Dream Drop)

and yet, and yet, the blow is struck. Haruna tosses her hair back, adjusts her little cap, drips some blood and tells her foe -

"I will make your hashtags..."

Her hand twists around, "Disappear!" She twirls round with a flourish then, looking up to Mr. Z and putting her hands on her hips with pride. The teary panic behind her will no doubt be recorded... and then, with a searing sheering explosive chaos, Haruna finds herself triumphant.

In the battle.

Mr. Z straightens up. "I've made my assessment."

LATER, in the Magic Castle's dining room, where traffic is light because it's a wednesday and wednesday is always a slack-ass time for any service establishment, now you know why all those weird deals and events happen mid-week don't you !!,

Haruna, in a sleeveless cheongsam, grimly cuts into her 14-ounce cut of herb-rubbed, slow-roasted prime rib. "Never let it be said that I, Haruna Abe, have not kept my promises," she states, before grimacing as her cut bugs her. (Her shoulder is taped up. It will be fine within a week.)

Around them rests the residuum of an entree - lemon pepper calamari - an empty bowl of Thai-spiced curry crab bisque - an order of lobster mashed potato -

And on the other side of the table:

* Chocolate buttermilk tart, with lemon whipped creme fraiche
* Half a banana cream pie, complete with a "nutter butter" crust
* Pistachio custard and sour cherry preserve, prepared and delivered en creme brulee
* A gourmet donut trio
* Half-pint service of cappucino crunch, vanilla bean, dark chocolate, and the Magic Castle's specialty for the month of June: Occult Caramel and Creme.

It's extra decadent and rich because they wrote 'creme' instead of 'cream,' you see.

"Save me one of the donuts, would you?" Haruna complains.

In front of her is her documentation for her Pugillusionist test... which she has ruled to have FAILED, for only presenting a single basic illusion and having a lingering narrative.

Jack-O, meanwhile, has been granted full honors and membership as a Pugillusionist, which comes with exactly Jack-O and shit in terms of money, but does mean she can sneak in. However, the documentation has been made out in the name of Horatio and there is an attached note delicately asking if they should update the name in their records?

But that's life in the big city of Los Angeles, California.

"I hope the bill won't be too high," Haruna muses. "At least I'm not getting any liquor."

THE BILL WILL BE EXACTLY 250 AMERICAN DOLLARS. Plus tip. (Haruna is disgusted to learn about tipping culture, but that will be a story for another themed fighting event... coming soon!)

Log created on 20:12:52 06/07/2019 by Jack-O', and last modified on 02:26:37 06/09/2019.