KOF 2019 - Prelims 2 - Team ARTISTISM vs Team Kyokugen

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Description: Amidst a tranquil bamboo forest, the contenders of Team Kyokugen and Team ARTISTISM come to a clash of body and spirit. Things get maybe ever-so-slightly philosophical, which is just the unfortunate byproduct of fighting Slayer. But still! Violence! Hurray!

The bamboo forest that surrounds the shrine is not, despite the thickness of the bamboo, unfamiliar with visitors. After all, the shrine itself is fairly popular, and the forest is fairly pleasant itself. And, of course, there's the idea of running battles amongst the bamboo--an idea as old and as popular as any sort of Japanese fiction, brought to life by adventurous sorts--or those that enjoy the tension between the quiet tranquility of the forest and the stress of battle.

As such, despite the thickness of the bamboo, there are some large clearings to be had--whether by nature or by nurture, impossible to tell--and Marco is waiting in one, the clearing carpeted with soft, tall grasses. In deference to the area, several cameras are mounted on the trees, unobtrusively, to record this preliminary match, all controllable remotely; otherwise, only the soft sound of the wash of a breeze can be heard, as Marco sits--kneels--in seiza.

In contrast to his usually loud, boisterous personality, his eyes are closed and he is breathing deeply, regularly, meditating upon the mysteries of life--and thinking, of course, about how to approach this match, though Kyokugenryuu does not invite itself to any particular subtleties in combat. It is, after all, a martial art of the 'hardest' kind, with a particular emphasis on reaching limits, barriers, and goals--and smashing through them.

There is a reason why classics become what they are, and it is a quality hard to define beyond a single word: timelessness. They evoke a feeling, a connection, and that sentiment endures throughout ages -- throughout generations.

It's something that can be said of the tranquility of this bamboo forest.

"Ah, good. It appears I am precisely on time."

And it applies, too, to what is about to occur here.

It is a deep and refined voice that cuts through the quiet sound of Marco's meditative breathing. Aged in a way difficult to place beyond 'old' -- and almost certainly not there a moment ago. So too is the feeling of his presence; simply... there, where once was complete, empty air before Marco. As if someone had just decided to start spontaneously existing inside this forest.

But there sure as daybreak stands the man known as Slayer when Marco next opens his eye, all prim polish and gentleman's bearing. The be-monocled man currently busies himself with a very well-made looking pipe -- one hand cupping it in shadow while the other lights its contents in a little spark of orange flame.

But those brown eyes are no less sharp when they turn Marco's way; the smile on Slayer's lips, too, is no less congenial as he puffs out the first, dwindling cloud of smoke from his pipe.

"Greetings, young man. You may call me Slayer; it is an honor to meet you." Pipe hanging from his lips, the bearded man calmly tucks his hands into his pockets, head canting to the right. "Marco, yes? A student of Kyokugenryuu? A fine art indeed. Powerful and pure in intent, when wielded well."

The red of his caplet ripples just slightly as he turns to face his opponent. Despite his calm stance, there are no openings in his defenses; he is ready to fight.

"I am looking forward to our bout, young man."

Fighters come in all shapes and sizes. Some are rough and tumble, some are practical, some are flashy... some are classy. Slayer, it appears, despite the rather rough-sounding name, is the last, quite a contrast to Marco's definite 'wandering hobo' look. The man arrives on the scene, those sharp eyes taking in everything; as he is addressed, Marco opens his eyes, releases one slow, final breath, and rises out of his seated position. Perhaps reacting to Slayer's own somber mien, Marco nods to the man.

"An honor," he echoes. Then he smiles that great big smile and all is normal again. He wasn't quite sitting on the right spot, but it's only a few steps away, and then, facing Slayer, he goes through a quick flourish of his arms, ending with him pushing them outwards, slowly, breathing out, that orange-yellow chi flaring up around his hands down to his elbows, only to fade away just as quickly.

His feet slide on the grass, moving his left leg forward, his right back, arms raised and hands balled into fists--a classical, orthodox karate fighting pose allowing for quick movement and a steady center of gravity. "I am looking forward to testing my skills against yours. This will be interesting," he adds.

COMBATSYS: Marco has started a fight here.

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Marco            0/-------/------=|

Chi flares. Slayer can feel the pulse of life as much as he can see it light up the evening sky in a brief spark of yellows and oranges. With a considerate air, the dandy brawler rolls one shoulder, and then the other, the soft popping cracks filling the emptiness in the air between their exchange.

"Indeed so," agrees the nobleman with all due, respectful congeniality as Marco settles into that traditional stance. A strong one. Classic for a reason; quick movement, to provide quick reactions. Slayer considers it for a moment, the light streaming in from between bamboo shoots glinting off the glass of his monocle.

"I would ask you to be sure to give it your all, but from the look of you, I think I needn't worry. The passion in your stance is clear." And Slayer's hands slowly lift, crossing over his chest as if in some adaptation of a funeral pose. The fingers of his hands clench and unclench mildly as his eyes shut.

"Excellent. Well then --"

Brown eyes snap open.

"Shall we begin?"

And in the next moment, Slayer is moving. For as peculiar as his stance is, the fluidity of motion he brings to bear is certainly undeniable. In one second, he is a solid twenty feet or so off from where Marco stands. In the next, he is in the Kyokugenryuu practitioner's defenses, low to the ground, left hand clenching into a fist.

And in less than that, he is surging upwards, to bring that fist crashing towards Marco's jaw in an uppercut.

COMBATSYS: Slayer has joined the fight here.

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Marco            0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0           Slayer

COMBATSYS: Marco blocks Slayer's Strong Punch.

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Marco            0/-------/----===|-------\-------\0           Slayer

"Ho!", exclaims Marco, as he watches Slayer move into his stance. It's an interesting one--definitely not something Marco has seen before. His wariness level ratchets upwards, and so he is, perhaps, somewhat _less_ surprised by Slayer's sudden, fluid momentum, coming in with a low-to-high uppercut reminiscent of a certain boxer--Marco's eyes didn't actually catch the movement, but his arms are interposed, all the same.

That solid punch thwacks off forearms that have been toughened against bamboo, against elm, against oak, forearms that, underneath their covering of hair, are scarred and hard with experience. Which is not to say that he doesn't feel Slayer's punch, even through that--he does. But he remains solid--reaching out for Slayer's lapels.

His intent? To grasp Slayer by those lapels, his strong fingers twisting into the cloth, and to pull the man forward into a solid headbutt, a time-honored Kyokugen tradition. Should it connect, Slayer may realize that Marco's head is, indeed, hard, toughened much in the same way as his forearms are--it'd'be like slamming into a solid piece of mahogany three inches thick.

COMBATSYS: Slayer blocks Marco's Kyokugen Zutsuki.

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Marco            0/-------/----===|=------\-------\0           Slayer

Fist impacts forearms in a solid collision. And in the midst of Marco's bracing guard --

Slayer smiles in firm approval.

"Well done!"

It is a praise that is short-lived, of course, because they're in the thick of it now; the fact that he even finds the time and attention to spare the words might well be a testament to the dapper gentleman's own perplexing skill. Moreso, however, is the way he answers Marco's reprisal. He sees the hands snapping forward before he feels them gripping the expensive fabric of his coat lapels into taut bundles, but he does not stop it. No.

Instead, he immediately moves -with- the motion, supplying much more speed than the Kyokugen practitioner had intended, and meeting -- literally -- head to head before Marco can build proper momentum. The resulting CRACK of skulls is resounding, but ultimately much more harmless than it could have been. More to the point, though...

... it will, with any luck, separate them just enough.

Just enough so that Marco might see the fact that Slayer is still in motion even after impact. His right hand is lifted high --

-- and SWINGS down in a singular, brutal downward cross, a pistoning jet of violet energies plunging behind his fist ensconced with a helix pattern of pinks in its wake.


COMBATSYS: Slayer successfully hits Marco with It's Late.

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Marco            1/------=/=======|====---\-------\0           Slayer

The simple trade of blows lets Marco know--he's in for a fight. He can feel it, from the impact behind even that blocked punch, to the way Slayer responds to his own attempt at a headbutt. There won't be any holding back.

And, indeed, there isn't. The vampire is in motion almost before Marco recovers from his own technique; Marco 'sees' the attack in any almost reflexive, instinctual manner, sensing it almost more than actually seeing it. In fact, it's just a flash of energy before the impact. Marco knew he wouldn't be able to mount a proper defense against the incoming punch, and so he attempted to at least absorb and control some of the impact--to no avail.

There's a solid sound--somewhere between a thump and a crack--and Marco is bounced off the ground, head-first, thrown sprawling by the incredible power behind the punch.

He's still quick to rise, but that punch rocked him, for sure. He's not moving quite as smoothly as he did before--there's a noticeable stagger, even as he shakes his head to clear the stars.

"What a _punch_," says Marco, loud enough to be heard but almost as if he's simply commenting to himself. Mind back on the fight, he centers his vision on Slayer once again, breathing in deeply, once, to center himself, and then his hands flare with his own energy, a warm orange-yellow with a white core. But what comes is not exactly warm or friendly; Marco shouts, his voice echoing with an odd tone from the residual spillover of chi, "HAOH... SHO KOH KEN!!" and he flings his arms forward, wide, unleashing a massive wall-like projectile of power for Slayer to deal with.

Which, of course, the dapper man may well do--but Marco can't afford to hold back.

COMBATSYS: Slayer blocks Marco's Haoh Sho Koh Ken.

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Marco            0/-------/-------|====---\-------\0           Slayer

A resounding crack rings through the forest of bamboo as Slayer whips back from his rebounding opponent. Violet-pink light traces lingering, chaotic sparks at his clenched fist as he sweeps low to the ground and up again just as Marco makes his swift - if swaying - rise.

The undying dandy is once more standing tall by the time a thick puff of smoke spills past his lips.

"An impressive recovery, young man," commends the (retired (?)) assassin just after Marco's wondering musings. Slayer seems content to stay there, for the moment, as if favoring the distance; arms crossed diagonal over his chest once more, he watches with keen brown eyes as the Kyokugen practitioner centers himself.

He can feel it, of course, before it even reaches an appropriate density to manifest before the naked eye -- that flare and focus of potent chi. His monocle reflects the ebbing hues of Marco's building offensive, a brilliant, rising tide of oranges and whites. His eyes shut. He grips onto the scarlet fabric of his caplet with his left hand.

And as that wellspring of roaring energies tears through earth and roots beneath them on its searing path towards Slayer, the ancient dandy grips tight to that cape --

-- and -sweeps- it forward with all the impressive flourish of a matador.

Within a matter of seconds, what was once innocuous if not stylish cloth rapidly expands from a caplet to a cape to a large bright red shield of fabric now as tough as steel. It becomes a barrier between him and the signature Haoh Sho Koh Ken of the Kyokugenryuu art, orange-white energies clashing with the almost-living fabric in an explosive expulsion of power. From where he holds his cape, Slayer feels the powerful tingle of it numb its way down his arm. The force alone pushes him back, digging trenches through the earth between bamboo shoots as the momentum and force of the chi wave rages and slowly dissipates against his barrier. Dirt kicks up wildly around him... but eventually, he comes to a stop.

As the haze dies down, that cape, now belching smoke from pent up resistance and heat, rapidly shrinks down once more into a simple caplet swept anew over Slayer's shoulder. And the gentleman himself --

-- is grinning. This -- this is an excellent showing.

Within the next moment, Slayer is moving, the distance provided by Marco's assault giving him some handful of seconds to recognize and react before Slayer is punching through his defenses once more, looking to grasp him by the front of his outfit --

--and hurl him with all due swiftness towards one of those durable bamboo shoots.

COMBATSYS: Marco blocks Slayer's Quick Throw.

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Marco            0/-------/------=|=====--\-------\0           Slayer

While it's disappointing, certainly, to see that his attack didn't land, Marco must absolutely appreciate the panache with which Slayer did, in fact, deal with the blast. Still, a fight's a fight. He can't afford to gawk or to stop paying attention--and the distance given allows Marco that time to react, though it may not seem like it at first, as Slayer easily grabs the Kyokugen 'graduate student' by the dogi and rips him around towards one of the bamboo.

Marco is prepared, though, and what seemed to be an uncontrolled flight instead ends with a little flash of his own. To wit, Marco tumbles into a position where he can hit the bamboo with his hands, and convert that momentum into a quick spin around the bamboo, dragging his feet into the ground to bleed off the momentum, and take off into a short run, pounding the grass with beefy feet--then taking a quick hop and throwing himself into the picturesque, perfect flying side kick, the kind of kick usually seen on martial arts movie posters.

It's accompanied with a kiai, not the sharp piercing cry some think of, but a short bark of focus and force.

COMBATSYS: Slayer blocks Marco's Medium Kick.

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Marco            0/-------/------=|=====--\-------\0           Slayer

For all that his opponent might seem like raw, walking brute force to the untrained eye, there is finesse there in Marco's movement -- a fact Slayer perceives quite clearly as the Kyokugen graduate deftly depletes the force behind his toss by using that very stalk of bamboo. Not only that, but he then uses it to his -favor-, giving him that swift, running headstart to close the distance between him and his opponent.

"Hmm," Slayer muses to himself, in the moments before Marco takes to the air. The right corner of his lips twitches upward around his pipe, just so.

And, far from being someone to -not- answer such passion in kind, Slayer waits until the exact moment that any evasion would be impossible to act. Marco's sole lances outward with vim and vigor and a raw, passionate bark --

--and it is met in turn with a sharp, upward kick of Slayer's own, as the finely-crafted rubber of his polished shoe heel impacts with Marco's leg in a surprising show of flexibility for a man of his (apparent) age and consummate attire. Then again, considering who Marco's master is, perhaps it's not so surprising.

Regardless -- the clash of limbs goes off like a parrying of swords, the crack of muscle and bone resounding in a way that makes the grass beneath them rustle briefly. It lasts only a second before Slayer pushes off, -leaping- backwards through the air to land impeccably on a particularly thick knot of bamboo roots, arms crossed over his chest and bearded chin perched quizzically upon his upraised right hand.

"Quite similar to the traditional style of your school," considers the ancient dandy, brows furrowed. "Tell me, young man -- what do you wish to do with that talent of yours?"

COMBATSYS: Slayer focuses on his next action.

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Marco            0/-------/------=|=====--\-------\0           Slayer

Slayer's defense has been most impressive; Marco's failed to get through several times already. He's expecting an onslaught, especially after that defense, but, Marco flipping backwards and landing on his feet, will find that Slayer backs off... again, most stylishly. It's no surprise to the burly man that his sensei(s) are well-known, particularly Takuma. The old man is... wacky, in a manner perhaps unbefitting of the head of such a dojo, but he is who he is. Given a chance to, perhaps, rest for the moment, Marco takes it, though he doesn't do anything so bold, or disrespectful, as drop his guard.

The words, after a moment, are more considered than perhaps could be expected of such a boisterous personality. "I seek only to share what the master's teachings have given me with all those who would take the lessons in hand," he replies, and while the answer might be a bit rote, it's given with sincerity and passion.

As he readies himself once more, tension flowing out of him, then back in, like breathing, he adds, "That is why I fight, to show the world what Kyokugen is."

COMBATSYS: Marco gains composure.

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Marco            0/-------/-------|=====--\-------\0           Slayer

"A teacher, then, is it?"

The considerate words come with the spilling of gray smoke on the heels of Marco's answer. Orange embers gutter out just beyond the rim of that painstakingly hand-carved pipe as Slayer takes it in hand and starts to methodically refill and tamp down those contents. It might seem to anyone watching that the undead dandy is taking this altercation lightly, perhaps, trying to taunt his opponent by fiddling with a pipe of all things in the middle of a fight.

But Marco can certainly tell, his guard never drops for a moment. Even like this -- actual openings in Slayer's defenses are a thing few and far between. He isn't dilly-dallying. All of the considerable weight of his attention is on the Kyokugen practitioner.

He's preparing.

And sating his curiosity in the process. "That is a fine goal. The only lasting life is what is passed on to the next generation, after all. One must tend carefully to the flame, lest it sputter out."

His pipe ignites, with little obvious method of lighting it; Slayer shakes his hand a moment later as if he were snuffing out a match nonetheless, though, and sets the pipe once more between his lips, embers glowing fresh once more.

"It is good to see some traditions stay strong. Well then!"

The undying noble rolls his neck with an audible pop; his fingers crack in the next moment. His smile is a sharp one.

"Let us resume, young man!"

A flicker.

And then Slayer is airborne, falling towards Marco at high speeds as the muscles of his arms bulge to a straining point against his sleeves. Fingers curl inward like claws. And as he completes his descent, he -rakes- those hands downward in a brutal crossing stroke, rending furrows of pinkish-white energy cleaving through the air like bat wings in their wake.

COMBATSYS: Slayer successfully hits Marco with Undertow.

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Marco            0/-------/---====|=======\-------\1           Slayer

There's a great sort-of ripping sound, or so it seems to Marco, as Slayer's raking hands cleave right into the place Marco is. He knew, he was ready, but Slayer is just too fast--he's there and attacking almost before Marco's command to his feet to move have even arrived. He makes the barest of backstep motions--really just jerking back--before that energy tears into him, and those hands.

And then he's flying backwards, straight for another bamboo stave. He does catch himself on this one, on one hand and one foot, bending the stalk backwards and just barely having enough time to sidestep as the flexible stalk rebounds towards right where he was.

"You are perhaps the most powerful opponent I've ever faced," Marco tells Slayer, taking just a half-moment to gather himself... and march once more unto the breach. Or, run, really. He can't match that inhuman speed of Slayer's, but he'll do his best to get to the man, once again taking only a few steps before launching himself--not into the sky this time, but across the ground, a crackling, blue-white aura flaring around his foot, drawing a bright afterimage for the cameras, as he launches himself like a missile, foot-first, at Slayer.

COMBATSYS: Slayer dodges Marco's Kohsen Kyaku.

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Marco            0/-------/---====|=======\-------\1           Slayer

Obliging might be the best way to describe Slayer in these moments, these little slivers where Marco gathers himself once more. Where others might try to press relentlessly, the dandy seems content to wait where he stands -- less a gesture of arrogance, and seemingly moreso one of pacing. As if willing, and wanting, to give Marco that scant few seconds he needs to press a more powerful offensive.

So he does not hurl himself after Marco as he rolls off his straining stalk of bamboo; instead, when the vampire noble lands, forearms shrinking down towards a more manageable size, he watches with a subtle note of esteem as Marco boldly dives back into the fray. It may be the Kyokugen user is outclassed here. He even notes it, words that draw a look of small, wordless amusement to Slayer's expression as he straightens out.

But it does not stop him.

"Powerful, perhaps," he concedes as Marco dashes groundwards, not one for false modesty.

"But I always find myself much more impressed with the strength of the human spirit."

And as if to prove that point, Marco boldly attacks, that swirling corona of blue-white roaring at the tip of his foot to crash into the dapper gentleman like a warhead. Slayer can feel the strength of will behind it. His legs tense.

And mere seconds before Marco's foot can crash into him, Slayer LEAPS into the air, becoming a dot amidst the countless bamboo shoots rising like spires amidst the greenery.

And when he comes crashing down...


It is with arms crossed, one foot axing downwards to pummel powerfully into the spot the undying noble predicts his opponent will end up stopping with all that accumulated momentum brought to bear.

Marco check 1

COMBATSYS: Marco fails to interrupt Diving Kick from Slayer with Kohou ES.

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Marco            0/-------/=======|=======\=------\1           Slayer

Marco sails past Slayer, and immediately drops his feet, skidding in the grass, throwing up a cloud-trail of ripped up blades of green and dirt, already turning, feeling that Slayer will be on the attack. Still, in that brief moment before everything goes down, Marco finds time to--briefly--agree.

"Kyokugen is the ultimate expression of that spirit!" he says, in much more his usual tone, and he decides to show that. To demonstrate it. He knows Slayer is coming, and he has only one possible response in mind--to blast right through Slayer, to give him the kind of walloping that is the absolute mark of Kyokugen Karate.

And then, suddenly, he's tasting the ground again, grunting involuntarily in pain, the wind driven from his lungs; trained reflexes are all that keep him moving, rolling away from Slayer, trying to find his way to his feet before Slayer attacks again. It's training, but it's also that instinctive reflex borne of, though Marco would steadfastly deny it in public, fear.

He trusts that Slayer won't kill him, publicly at least, but there's that elemental fear that comes when a man who believes implicitly in his own strength comes up against someone that much stronger than him. It shows in his actions, if not in his face, though truth be told, that face isn't really particularly good at expressing emotions right now, being bruised and bloodied.

Fear. It's a sentiment - a drive - Slayer is far from unfamiliar with. What he is, how long he has lived, his profession until (relatively) recently -- one grows adept at noticing it in others. He cannot help but to.

And so he notices the telltale tinges of it even in the more subdued shades of Marco's reactions as the (still relatively) younger man reflexively recovers from the undying dandy's powerful leg blow to gain distance between himself and his opponent. The heel of Slayer's downward arc completes its arc even as Marco rebounds from it; it's perhaps wise he moved as quickly as he did, given how the earth ruptures beneath the eternal observer's polished shoe heel in fissures that chase after the retreating Kyokugen practitioner.

Keen brown eyes remain on Marco the entire time, even when they seem like they are not; he sees that primal trace of fear in his movements, in his body language. But he does not comment on it, does not call it to light. Instead, the vampire crisply rises to his feet, straightening out his jacket with a single, perfunctory tug of the lapels.

He sees the fear. But he also sees how Marco still attempted to break through regardless.

"Indeed it is, young man."

And that is why he does not remark on it.

Instead, he is in swift pursuit seconds later, trying to keep a relentless melee against Marco's battered defenses. He reaches for the front of Marco's gi.

"Hone that spirit well!"

And then the dapper dandy seeks to -flip- backwards with Marco in tow, waiting until their apex when the Kyokugenryuu practitioner is directly above him to lash out with a powerful kick to his solar plexus aimed to rip the other man away from him and send him flying straight vertical through the air. He is strong, indeed.

But it's still hard to shake the very subtle impression that Slayer is still holdig back, just a bit.

COMBATSYS: Marco blocks Slayer's Combo Grapple.

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Marco            1/-------/=======|=======\=------\1           Slayer

Marco's fear is a primal thing--that is, something he isn't even fully aware of himself, a subconscious thing. He would tell you that he doesn't fear anything at all. Slayer's speed--that incredible speed--that he's demonstrated throughout the fight is brought into play again, the vampire gripping Marco and flipping him up into the air.

But the kick meets Marco's forearms again, and while that defense bends, it does not >break<. The force of the impact is certainly enough to move Marco, and he capitalizes on it, flipping around the impact, rolling away from where Slayer is, tumbling through the air and landing hard on the ground--but on his feet.

He's off his feet a moment later, even, bringing all that dedication to the fight to bear as he lunges once more. Once again, on the attack, rising with a sharp knee thrust, intended to transition into a dropping heel kick, a sort of extended axe kick with less arc.

But he's on the edge, and he knows it; there's a trembling fatigue in his body, induced by pain, not to mention the constant exertions. Giving his all takes the price--but it's a price he pays gladly.

COMBATSYS: Slayer interrupts Hien Shippu Kyaku from Marco with Dandy Step.

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Marco            1/-----==/=======|=======\==-----\1           Slayer

Even now, there's still fight in him.

To Slayer, that Marco continues to push on and give it everything he has, even as the rigors of this bout truly begin to sink into his bones, is a deeply impressive feat indeed. And one he does not intend to look down upon, or do the discourtesy of underestimating.

Still, it is remarkable how calm Slayer remains throughout this fight -- the man barely even looks to be breathing as he hops back up onto his feet, back turned to Marco, smoke spilling around him in clouds thicker than what a simple pipe rightly ought to produce. Standing straight, feet together, the man, in that moment, looks more prepared for tea time than fisticuffs. But that would be ignoring the raw preparedness that practically ripples off him as Marco lunges into the fray. The way his body seems to waver and smear like the palette of a painter dragging across a canvas.

The faint red glow in his eyes when he turns to look at Marco flying towards him, knee first --


It all happens in an instant. In one moment, Slayer is a smudgy silhouette roughly ten feet out from Marco's advance. In the next, he is -there-, his own clothes and limbs stretching out behind him in inky trails like his body was viscous. Marco's knee grinds violently against the side of his head.

And he, in turn, weaves past it, winds up his fist --

And buries it, rapid-fire, into Marco's jaw, like an echo of his opening salvo at the start of the fight.

And that'll do it. The jabs don't account for a lot of damage--Slayer could almost certainly have just landed a crushing left against Marco's jaw--but as close to the edge as he is... well, to borrow a phrase, the soul still burns.

Unfortunately, the body has reached its limit; the last jab topples the swarthy, muscly man, dropping him to his knees, and then to his face. He offers no resistance, then, having taken all the damage that his body can accumulate. For this moment, Slayer simply reigns supreme. This is certainly a fight Marco will reflect on, in a quieter moment--not as an analysis of 'what went wrong', but on the nature of strength and how it is expressed and not expressed.

But that's for when he wakes up, for right now, he's just going to be sleeping.

COMBATSYS: Marco takes no action.

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Slayer           1/-----==/=======|

COMBATSYS: Marco can no longer fight.

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Slayer           1/-----==/=======|

One swift blow later, Marco falls -- but having fought valiantly nonetheless, to the bitter end.

It says something indeed, reinforced though Slayer's already supernatural flesh is, that when he draws back and touches his head where Marco's blow grazed him -- as he withdraws it, he sees smudges of crimson decorating his fingertips. A line of blood frames pronounced cheekbones all the way down to the dandy's jawline, dripping little droplets across the grass below as Marco falls flat.

Slayer's brows lift, almost in something like surprise -- and then, lips part in a grin, fangs briefly exposed to the world in an expression of that elation.

"You have great potential indeed, Mister Rodriguez," he says sincerely, even as he procures a handkerchief from his jacket pocket to wipe at that swath of blood. "But more importantly, you have true strength. Once you fully understand the root of that, I've no doubt you shall become a great champion of your school. They are lucky to have you."

Marco may not be able to hear him -- but it does not dilute the earnestness of the undying noble's words, nor the sincerity of how respectfully he bows to his fallen opponent, seconds before he falls backwards, caplet billowing out behind him into a floating lounge chair.

"With such promising students leading the way, Kyokugenryuu's future is a bright one indeed," muses Slayer, almost to himself -- and, as he waits for the next of this promising school, he quietly lights his pipe, pondering in the restored tranquility of the forest.

COMBATSYS: Slayer awaits the next challenger.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Slayer           1/-----==/=======|

To call the previous round "exciting" would do it a disservice. Even against the Slayer's tremendous power and wealth of experience, Marco put on a showing worthy of Kyokugen with his grit, determination, and well-trained technique. The fact that one of the Kyokugen School's most dedicated practitioners could not stand against Slayer is a testament to just how frightening the mysterious gentleman is. Retired or not, he certainly seems to have not lost any of his edge. Some would dread going against this kind of opponent. They'd fear the battle is already lost before it has even started.

But not Ryo Sakazaki.

Ryo's excitement has been building since the last round started, and it has taken a momentous effort on his part not to interfere---with his cheering, of course. Instead the blond-haired man has stood with his fists clenched and a dopey smirk on his face from the excitement. Watching some of the hits Marco took (and the blows Slayer intercepted) got a few grimaces out of him, but it seems to have done little to curb his enthusiasm.

"Slayer, huh? I'm Ryo Sakazaki." Ryo says as he moves toward the center of the clearing. He steps through the tall grass with a confident stride, his bear feet barely visible as he walks. One hand rests on his shoulder as he rolls his arm in the socket in an opening stretch.

"You seem like a polite guy for such a scary name. I gotta say that you live up to it, though." His fists collide in front of him before he leans forward into a traditional bow of respect to one's opponent. Once that formality is handled, he puts one foot forward and the other back, his legs tensing as he assumes a wide, low karate stance. He brings one hand forward, fingers together and extended. The other is pulled close to his waist and clenched in a fist.

"Seems like a lot of new faces are out and about lately."

"But I hope Marco didn't wear you out too much, because I have no intention of holding back. Show me your best!" Ryo's drawn back fist surges with orange chi before he thrusts it forward, palm open. Chi flares out of the center of his palm in a basketball-sized wave that erupts toward the older gentleman!

COMBATSYS: Ryo has joined the fight here on the right meter side.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Slayer           1/-----==/=======|-------\-------\0              Ryo

COMBATSYS: Slayer just-defends Ryo's Ko'oh Ken!!

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Slayer           1/-----==/=======|-------\-------\0              Ryo

"Ah! The inheritor of the art himself takes the stage."

The musing words come on the heels of Ryo's introductions as he makes his way through the bamboo forest. And there, he will find Slayer waiting comfortably at the cusp of its entrance: one leg crossed over the other, the undying gentleman lounges comfortably on his floating cape, the scarlet-bright fabric refashioned into a fashionable seat as he sets about working on refilling his pipe. Despite the bizarrely casual nature of it all, though, there is nothing in the amicable man's bearing that suggests an opening or weakness.

It would be a mistake indeed to assume Slayer were taking this lightly.

If nothing else, it is the polite earnestness of his words that would likely confirm that fact: "It is a great honor to be given the opportunity to meet one as famous as you, young man." His head dips as he withdraws his pipe, sharp eyes remaining on Ryo the whole way through -- considering. Assessing. "You have done much to not only live up to, but bolster the name and legacy of your art. There is strength in that."

Strength Slayer, at least, seems happy to test.

"I suppose there is much one can tell in a name. I've grown rather fond of this one, over the years. But do not let it put you off. Let us see what you can do!"

And Ryo, at least, seems all too content to deliver exactly that; behind his monocle, sharp brown eyes widen just slightly as Ryo masterfully focuses and -exerts- his chi into a wave of orange. There's scarcely seconds to react from his seated position. And yet --


-- and yet... it is not even a second later that the retired assassin is already on his feet. Not even a second before he is gripping that strange red cape and whipping it forward with a flourish. Not even a second before that cape -expands- outward like a grand pair of bat wings, revealing nothing but unending darkness on the other side --

--and then -folds- around the Ko'oh Ken, enveloping it like it was making a nicely wrapped gift of it.

The chi struggles visibly within the distending fabric.

And it is just as it starts to collapse into who knows where that Slayer leaps above, grabbing his cape from out of the air to sweep it elegantly over his shoulder just seconds before he seeks to deliver a graceful spin of a kick to the side of Ryo's head upon his descent.

"Then let us begin!"

COMBATSYS: Ryo blocks Slayer's Medium Kick.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Slayer           1/-----==/=======|=------\-------\0              Ryo

Ryo's eyes widen when the Ko'oh Ken disappears into the blackness of Slayer's cape. "Eh--" Fighting the confusion, Ryo steels his resolve. "So you've heard of me, huh? I guess I've had more of an impact than I thought."

But then Slayer is closing the gap, sweeping his leg for Ryo's head. The karateka reacts in turn, bending his knees and snapping his forearm up to connect with the kick and eat some of the momentum.

"So what do you call your style?" Ryo asks. "It must be something if you can keep up with Kyokugen!"

But Ryo does not stop to talk, instead dashing in low to try and catch the dandy vampire while he recovers. By cutting in low, Ryo positions himself to launch with a short, aggresive uppercut that doesn't take him off his feet like Marco's earlier technique.

COMBATSYS: Slayer blocks Ryo's Mouko Raijin Satsu.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Slayer           1/----===/=======|=------\-------\0              Ryo

So what do you call your style?

Feeling the sturdier impact of forearms rather than the jostling strike of shin on skull, Slayer -snaps- his leg back towards the ground as he lands in a luxurious swirl of fabric. They are close, now, and the pace of combat frenetic and relentless. And yet, nonetheless, Slayer finds the time to respond in the moments between the surges of violence between them:

"I'm afraid it has no name nor legacy like a style of your pedigree." His calm voice cuts crisply through the air even as Ryo dashes towards him. He's going low. It will probably be something quick, to try to batter Slayer's defenses. And he, of course, is all too willing to show it the respect it deserves --

By meeting it head on.

Ryo charges. And so, too, does Slayer, meeting him halfway and forcing a preemptive assault. That fist flies, and meets Slayer's right palm with a meaty THWACK of impact. Smoke billows out in a plume between them as he holds fast.

"I suppose you could say it's something of a self-taught technique."

But he's still moving.

It's the left fist; where his right holds strong, his left carries through with that momentum, bulging and flaring with a hammering contrail of pink-yellow energies that comes so fast wind visibly sweeps in drilling patterns around his fist. A straight shot -- but a very fast one, aimed for the dead center of Ryo's sternum.


COMBATSYS: Ryo guards against Slayer's Pile Bunker.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Slayer           1/---====/=======|===----\-------\0              Ryo

Ryo's fist impacts with Slayer's palm with a ripple of force and a meaty thwack. Ryo's brow furrows with consternation. It's not the expression of a man frustrated, however, but of one facing a challenge. There are wheels turning. The thoughts of how to overcome such impeccable defense.

"Hah! Self-taught?" Ryo says, "I'm guessing you were something of a prodigy in your younger years, huh?" The left first snaps forward, completing the continous motion of the aggressive block. Ryo's eyes widen, but he does not hesitate. Marco gave it his all, so Ryo has to pick up where he left off.

Slayer's fist impacts with a two-armed cross block. Even so, Ryo's bare feet slide through the grass, digging it up and barring the fresh earth underneath before he comes to a stop. The whole motion is narrated by another meaty thwack of dense, supernatural power against muscle, bone, and even skin hardened from years of rigorous training.

But when Ryo lowers his guard he's smiling with excitement. "Though I could never guess how long ago that might have been with the power and speed you're packing. My old man may want to ask for some pointers on keeping that kind of vigor!" Ryo shifts his footing, bending his knees and setting himself heavily on the ground. Chi begins to gather around, rising off of Ryo's body in an orange aura as he gathers his power with a mighty kiai.

COMBATSYS: Ryo gathers his will.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Slayer           1/---====/=======|=======\-------\1              Ryo

"Hm. Yes -- something like that."

There's an ineffable calm to Slayer in his conversational tone that belies the rapid-fire force behind his fist. As quick as he is to attack, he is equally so to mount his defense, energies swirling in wildly dissipating patterns across his fist as it snaps backwards in preparation for a counter-assault.

It never comes. Sharp senses notice the lack of a clear offensive long before Ryo even begins to gather that power through him; keener senses can see the thrum of life force that circulates through Ryo's body as clearly as it rises off of him like orange-tinged steam. A sharp smile of subtle approval is the Kyokugen student's reward as Slayer straightens in the seconds before his opponent begins to build up his reserves of strength, well-manicured hands coming up to take hold of that eclectic tie and serenely straighten it out.

"But I would say much of what I learned, I learned from studying abroad," continues the undying gentleman, tone measured as those sharp eyes fall on Ryo. "There is much to be found and much to grow from simply by immersing oneself in the variety of life. Life and the passion therein comes in a thousand thousand forms -- it is a most heartening and inspiring thing to think even I have yet to experience a tiniest fraction of it all. In the face of all that, how could I help but to strive to keep up with it all in earnest?"

He talks, but does not press any advantage; several feet off from the Kyokugen master, he instead crosses arms over his chest, right lifting to cup his chin pensively as he considers his opponent -- and the energies he is bringing to bear.

"Your companion, Mr. Rodriguez, wishes to bring your school to a wider audience. That is why he has joined this tourney. An admirable goal, to be sure. Is that why you, too, have come here? Or is it a different thing that drives you?"

Waiting. Planning.


COMBATSYS: Slayer focuses on his next action.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Slayer           1/---====/=======|=======\-------\1              Ryo

As the power peaks, Ryo shifts his stance, reaching forward and extending a hand, palm open toward Slayer. The other stays near his side, ready to move for attack or defense.

"Huh," Ryo says, "Waxing philosophical? I guess I can understand that. I know I didn't really find strength until I got out into the streets of Southtown with something to drive me." Ryo rolls his neck. "And it certainly seems to have done Robert a lot of good, even if you might say he's more of the 'genius' around here."

Ryo raises an eyebrow. "My goals? I do want to prove Kyokugen as an art worth learning," Ryo says, "...but I'd be lying if I didn't say I want to test myself, too. Tourneys like this get my blood pumping!" Ryo clenches a fist with a slight creak. "...maybe it's seeing the world in my own way, like you said!"

Ryo extends his both fists, putting his wrists close together as orange chi swirls in between. "So did Marco show you this one already?"

The chi surges to its climax.


He hurls it forward, a great wave of chi rippling over the grass as it cuts through the air.

COMBATSYS: Slayer blocks Ryo's Haohshokoken.

[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Slayer           1/---====/=======|==-----\-------\0              Ryo

"Strength and power are quite different things. That you understand that speaks much to your ability, young man."

They are words of praise from the unusual dandy -- but they are uttered so plainly that they carry some hard to define weight of experience on each syllable. Like what he offers the Kyokugen heir apparent is something much more than light compliments.

And it is an assessment proven in the raw fury that comes next behind Ryo's next strike. Not just power, but finesse -- Slayer can see that quite clearly. He knows the Haoshokoken, of course. But there is a difference here. He looks up as Ryo begins to gather that chi into his palms, orange light reflecting off the polished surface of his monocle.

"Well said! To fight for its own sake -- there is very few finer ways to test one's limits!"

And it comes.

Broiling chi rips forward. Slayer bends at the knees just slightly. His right fist cocks back. Winds up. His eyes widen. Not in surprise, nor fury... but subtle, understated elation.

And he meets that wave of chi with a strong right hook.

Fist impacts the surface of that tremendous crescent; he can feel the burn on his knuckles and the pressure drive all the way to his shoulder joint. The force pushes him back a foot, two, five -- digging furrows into earth as grass is sheered off at the roots.


And then with one strong -push- --

-- he knocks the great wave of chi skywards into a blistering bright explosion that shines briefly like a little sun directly above them.

It is a beautiful if short-lived sight -- but one perhaps best not dwelled upon as Slayer -pierces- through the haze, hands drawn back, his right still smoking thickly from the impact.

"He did indeed!" announces the fighting gentleman as chi sparks at his fingertips. "But much like the musical composition of a maestro, even the subtlest differences in notes between masters can produce profoundly different results!"

All said within the time it takes him to breach past Ryo's defenses -- distance causing the slightest of delays before he raises his hands up and -sweeps- them downward in two mighty, diagonal blows -- claws of violet energies searing behind them like mighty batwings in their wake.

COMBATSYS: Ryo interrupts Undertow from Slayer with Koho Shippuken EX.

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Slayer           1/-======/=======|====---\-------\0              Ryo

In the wake of the Haohshokoken, Ryo's palms remain extended, his muscles tensed. Releasing that much chi at all seems as though it were as much shoving it at Slayer than throwing it. And so, what happens next takes Ryo by surprise. The raw power--no, refined power. Power honed by a healthy dose of skill and experience is breathtaking. Ryo can't help but stare for a moment, though he never drops his guard.

"--to be honest, I'm not sure why you weren't in World Warrior. Here I thought all the strongest contenders came, but--wow. I'm getting fired up!" Ryo gets some bounce in his step as he draws his fist up, shifting stances slightly.

And just in time for Slayer to close the gap, sweeping into two, overhead blows, each with the force of a sledgehammer. Ryo steps back, but firmly. It's not the agile dart of someone trying to evade a blow, nor is it even the frantic scurry of someone failing to do so. Instead Ryo steps back onto his toes, digging them into the dirt. His muscles got taut and his shoulders square the blows come for him.

And then he steps forward into them, his fist snapping forward in a sharp, straight punch like a bullet from a barrel. It is packed with the stiff, linear power karate is known for. Even as he strikes the first of the blows hammer hard into his opposite shoulder, rattling him as it forces his foot to break through the earth blow in a small pit.

Why wasn't Slayer in World Warrior?

It's perhaps a good question for someone of his apparent power and raw endurance -- in fact, why he hasn't been seen as a figure of any note in -any- tournament until today might be good cause for question. But answers, unfortunately, have to wait -- as for perhaps the first time in this fight, the undying noble is caught unawares by his opponent's assault. He sees it as he swings, of course -- the way Ryo's heel digs in in preparation. But by that time, it is too late, and he is already well-committed to his plan of attack. Brown eyes widen briefly.

But the smile that accompanies the expression in those moments before impact speaks to something wholly different from surprise or outrage.


Ryo steps forward. And his boldness pays off in a fist introducing itself to the dead center of Slayer's chest. The vampire's footing is staggered as violet energies burst and dissipate in the space surrounding him; punching him feels, in many ways, like trying to assault a steel wall, but Ryo is very far from inexperienced with dealing with unyielding targets. He takes one step back; a second. His polished heel scrapes across grass and dirt.

"I am not much one for the center stage," comes his answer, finally. His right hand curls into a fist.

"This is more something like... hm. Sating curiosity, I suppose."

And that fist comes rising in the intervening spaces, a solid, simple uppercut -- but one deceptively strong, aimed to hammer directly into the underside of Ryo's jaw.

"So far, it has been well worth the effort!"

COMBATSYS: Ryo blocks Slayer's Fierce Punch.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Slayer           1/-======/=======|=====--\-------\0              Ryo

"Curiosity, huh? Trying to figure out what's going on in the fighting world?" Ryo asks as he sidesteps, trying to strafe around Slayer in the moment's reprieve. The break is only a moment, however, before Ryo is once again put on the defensive. In the moment in between, Ryo works his fist, apparently working out the stiffness from hitting a deceptively solid target.

But when the counterattack comes, Ryo is ready. He strikes downward with his fist, impacting Slayer's own punch with an angular parry that takes the brunt of the blow with a meaty thump. It's enough to leave his arm numb, but it keeps him from taking the body blow he would have otherwise. As he strikes down and intercepts the punch, Ryo steps forward onto his other foot, pivoting into a return strike.

He snaps forward with a high kick this time, apparently aiming at overcoming that impeccable defense with a change of tactics.

"So what do you do with this kind of power, if you don't normally fight?"

COMBATSYS: Slayer interrupts Medium Kick from Ryo with Mach Punch.

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Slayer           1/-======/=======|=======\==-----\1              Ryo

"I suppose one could say the world at large. After all..."

The impact of bone and muscle in that exchange of fists is met with a short, lively "hah!" of enjoyment from the undying dandy the very moment his attack is so deftly parried. Caplet swirling behind him in the soft gush of wind resistance the trade of blows inspires, he is quick to snap his arm back a moment later.

"... these King of Fighters tournaments are nothing if not a magnet for kind of trouble upon which the world turns, wouldn't you say, young man?"

If it sounds like a hint there's likely something amiss with this tournament, it might well be; one might well call the grass green, too, for how matter-of-fact the observation sounds. But there's likely not much time to ponder it within those intervening spaces: Slayer has pivoted sharply backward on his right foot in the space of time it takes Ryo to step forward, a strong glint in his eye. Ryo aims high. Slayer's right hand curls into a fist.


And the sound of his voice is drowned out by the crack-boom of the man abruptly breaking the sound barrier with the velocity of his fist as it collides with the side of Ryo's face just seconds before his foot cracks against Slayer's shoulder, sending him lurching towards his left but sapped of most of its momentum as broken air rings widely around his arm.

"I have been enjoying a brief retirement with my wife," he muses in the aftermath, a puff of smoke spilling between his lips. "Power need not always be used; it is oftentimes much stronger in not using it at all. 'One sword keeps another in the sheath.'" He cracks his neck.

"Though it is still important to keep the edge sharp."

"Yeah," Ryo says, "something about these things just draws all of the trouble out of the dark corners I guess..." Each clash echos with tremendous force as the two men deliver each blow with practically supernatural power.

But Slayer brings speed into the equation as well with his supersonic retort, the punch slipping past Ryo's leg in an instant and catching him on the cheek. For Ryo the action is almost instantaneous. His jaw ripples as his head turns. He lingers for barely a second before the impact catches up with him and sends him soaring backward to smash into a nearby tree with enough force to splinter the bark and wood beneath him. Rolling out of the blow, Ryo lands on all fours, staggered.

But he rises up again, rubbing his face and then working his jaw with a solid grip by his fingers. "Oof," Ryo said. "Like getting hit with a tank shell," Ryo pauses. "Not that I have any experience there. Good hit!" He slips back into his fighting stance, raising his fists in defense.

But he's on the move again, barely pausing. "Retirement, huh? Definitely haven't lost your edge yet, I'd say!" Inwardly, Ryo wonders a bit what the wife of a man like this might be like. Is she as unusual as him? Maybe she's practically normal by comparison. "So I get the feeling you think something's up with the sponsorship, huh?"

Ryo pivots, transitioning from a sprint into a slide, turning on his feet to deliver a sudden swift elbow to the side.

COMBATSYS: Ryo successfully hits Slayer with Mouko Raijin Gou EX.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Slayer           2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\===----\1              Ryo

In the thick of things now, there is barely any time for consideration; just action. Unadulterated and pure, it is here, in his subtle ways, that Slayer seems at his most lively, thrown into the thick of things against an opponent that has truly honed his craft. There's a glint in his eye, a smile at his lips. His body language thrums with understated tension of someone truly getting their blood to a proper boil.

And Ryo far from disappoints.

It says something indeed, that for the first time, Slayer does not have a moment to get in a comment of his own with the speed and ferocity of Ryo's attack. In one moment, Ryo is recovering. In the next, he is at Slayer's side in a sudden rush of orange fabric. Brown eyes glance downward, meeting briefly with Ryo's.

"Hm-?" is about all he manages to voice before an elbow buries itself into his ribcage.

The sheer force behind the blow is staggering -- and it is enough that it actually takes the gentleman vampire -straight- off his feet, tearing him from the ground in a kick up of dirt and grass as if he was practically attached to the earth itself. The raw force issues a thunderclap of a shockwave; bamboo sways mildly in their immediate proximity. Slayer spirals through the air --

-- and his heel finds itself planted firmly into one of those swaying stalks, the tensile strength of that shoot straining and then CRACKING as he pushes off of it.

"/Well done/ young man!"

And it is with this lively declaration that Slayer all but flies back towards Ryo. He lands five feet out, heels screaming a deep tear across the earth making furrows in his wake as he continues to mount the offensive with one strong, clawed sweep of his right hand through the air like a broad, smacking strike -- the vicious curves of clawed violet energies screaming in his wake supplementing physical strength as he speaks.

"You must admit -- it is a peculiar way to frame this tournament, is it not? Almost deliberately so."

COMBATSYS: Ryo fails to interrupt Under Pressure from Slayer with Tenchi Haoh Ken.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Slayer           2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=====--\-------\0              Ryo

Ryo maintains his posture following the blow. Exhaling, he seems to release that pent up energy. It's as if a well-oiled machine simply had to stop and vent that excess power it'd built up to deliver that blow with mechanical precision.

But there is no time to wait. No time to breathe. There is only the fight, in this moment, and the need for immediate, decisive action.

"Thanks," Ryo says, "but I'm not done yet, and I think I've still got plenty to learn."

But then Slayer is back on Ryo. Orange fabric goes taunt against muscle as Ryo shifts his footing, spreading his feet and setting his weight on his calves as he shifts into a low and powerful posture like a Horse stance. One arm is ratched back like a coiled spring ready to strike. He gets prepared to deliver the counter blow--

But it is too slow. The violet energies rip into his gi like the claws of a tiger. The impact rattles, staggers him with enough force to knock him back. It drives Ryo back, digging trenches under his feet before he goes airborne and smacks into the bamboo in a shower of fiber and leaves.

"Yeah," It takes him a bit to answer. He brushes blood and spittle from his mouth as he climbs up, first onto one knee and then onto his feet. "Seems almost like they're trying to stretch things out a bit, huh?"

He can see it, and he sees what might have been. If he was just a sliver of a second too slow. If Ryo was just a sliver of a second too fast. He can see the strength behind that wind up, in the chi that circulates powerfully through Ryo's body, in the moments before impact.

It is a bold move. And one that Slayer does not respect any less when his blow connects a hair's breadth before Ryo's.

Energies around Slayer's clawed fist dissolve away into countless, dissipating silhouettes of bats in the aftermath of that exchange of blows. He exhales a breath he does not need, a small sign of excited tension that he has been fortunate enough to feel with ever-increasing regularity in this tournament. Smoke pluming outward thickly from his parted lips, he turns his intent gaze towards Ryo as he makes landfall, as he drags himself up onto his feet slowly but surely. Blood on his lips, but still ready to fight.

Slayer's smile is a small one, but no less sincerely pleased.

"Indeed so," he agrees with Ryo's assessment. "What it amounts to might mean nothing -- or it may well have implications far more profound."

And dangerous, goes unsaid.

"Regardless... it has given me ample excuse to meet many interesting people."

The way he speaks -- like he is somehow at a remove from those people -- might have implications all its own. But Slayer does not do Ryo the disrespect of taking him lightly just because he is recovering; soon enough, the gentleman brawler is on the move, sprinting across the ground before -leaping- upward. He sails high -- and then comes soaring down, left hand cocked backwards to -piston- downward towards Ryo in an overhead blow as he descends rapidly upon the Kyokugen master.

COMBATSYS: Slayer successfully hits Ryo with Medium Punch.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Slayer           2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\-------\1              Ryo

A moment too late. The thought lingers with Ryo only a moment before the fist connects and launches him backward into a slide on his back. His orange gi becomes picks up dusty shades of brown and green before he comes to a stop. When Ryo moves to get to his feet it is with effort. A struggle to regain his footing and resume his stance. Even so, Ryo's determination pours through every movement, from when he snaps back into his stance to when he extends his hand forward, almost in defiance.

"You sound like the kind of guy who's had a few students in his day," Ryo says, "but yeah. Meeting interesting people makes it all worthwhile if you ask me." Ryo looks at Slayer, one eye closed.

But then he surges forward once more, launching himself into a low sprint--a move halfway between that and a lunge--and closes the gap. Feet dig into the tall grass and the earth behind as he applies the brake, sets himself, and shifts position. What follows is a volley of punches, one after another at such a pace that his hand seems both there and not there. The movement is a flash of skintone and the black of his wristband, hit following hit too fast for the untrained eye to even follow.

COMBATSYS: Slayer interrupts Zan Retsu Ken from Ryo with #All Dead#.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >                                ]
Slayer           0/-------/-------|=======\=------\1              Ryo

"Mm. I had one, some time ago," muses Slayer as he completes his landing with a CRACK of feet on earth, fist completing its motion to pound ground. All the same, the way he stands up not moments later is refined. Calm. The damage of the day's exchanges of blows have shown in bruising skin and the hint of blood, in damaged clothing and the sign of split skin at his knuckles.

But he is still every bit the image of refinement as he straightens his suit out once more.

"A shy young man, who attempted to compensate for social shortcomings with a firebrand's temper. Tragically rude. Excellent taste in music, however." Slayer considers this for a moment even as Ryo snaps back at the ready, preparing his attack. "He had -- and has -- true potential. I would like to see him master it, one day. Or perhaps simply come to terms with it."

His brown gaze looks up. He sees Ryo. Prepared. Seconds away from attacking, despite everything. Every ounce of him a determined, passionate -- firebrand.

Lips part around pipe in a grin.

"That is an excellent look, young man. Very well! I shall fight in earnest!"

Everything that happens next, happens in an instant.

Ryo crosses the distance. Slayer winds back. The first punch CRACKS into Slayer's sternum in a blurring blitz of speed that no normal eye could keep up with.

The uppercut that roars to life before Ryo comes even faster.


Slayer's fist never actually touches the younger man. But it is the raw strength of force of it that catches Ryo in little more than its after effects -- like being caught in the splash zone of a force of nature. The ground beneath Slayer splinters and concaves.

And that raw kinetic force rips Ryo straight up and off his feet with dizzying, unearthly strength all its own, to send him straight towards the sky -- where energies swirl and churn above like the infinite star-studded expanse of the cosmos.

Slayer's eyes shut. His lips part. And he recites.

"Orange like the sun /
Burning evermore brightly /
... Endless potential."

A small show of respect.

The Ran Zetsu Ken is a well-practiced, time honored Kyokugen technique. In Ryo's hands--even more so Takuma's--it can become an unrelenting barrage of blows that can prove a challenge even for a highly seasoned opponent.

But Slayer's experience and technique go far beyond any normal opponent.

When he cuts in, Ryo's eyes go wide. He has only a moment to react. A second to change course, to intercept the blow, to do something about the impending strike that's upon him.

The moment passes.

The punch--whether direct hit or not--is enough to launch Ryo skyward like a rocket, sailing upward toward the stars in a terrible demonstration of unrelenting power. He seems to almost linger there, for a moment, before crashing back down into the tall grass with a heavy thud.

"S-such power," Ryo manages to say. "--a good match."

But that is all he manages before going out like a light.

COMBATSYS: Ryo takes no action.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Slayer           0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Ryo can no longer fight.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Slayer           0/-------/-------|

Like any good performance, fighting is ultimately an expression of passion. It is art, violent art though it may be.

And commitment, more than anything, is key to any expression of passion.

So Slayer follows through completely on that motion. He stays there, arm extended high towards the towering heavens, even as Ryo soars up above him. Brown eyes shut closed, head downturned, he remains poised and yet still so ready for whatever may come next, as if simply waiting within the tense silence of the moment.

Ryo falls into the tall grass. And finally, those all-too-weighty eyes crack open again with a dawning smile. He looks towards Ryo.

"Indeed it was, young man," he concedes readily and earnestly, bringing his hand to his pipe.

"I am eager to see how both you and your companion will grow further still beyond your already impressive talents. You will make good use of this tournament, I think."

And as Ryo fades out -- as the crew goes to pick him up and tend to his injuries -- as the winner is declared with a shaky voice -- Slayer looks all around him.

And for a countless distance around them both, every single bamboo shoot has been snapped in two or uprooted like so many twigs in a storm.

"Ah," muses the undying dandy with a mild blink.

"Perhaps I got a bit carried away."

COMBATSYS: Slayer has ended the fight here.

Log created on 00:53:05 06/22/2019 by Slayer, and last modified on 20:00:01 07/14/2019.