The Hunter - Blood Atonement 1: Animus and Honor

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Description: What secrets lie kept within the hearts of men? What foul lusts and noble lights are hidden from their fellows, nurtured in those pulsing chambers of which only they have access? Dwell not overlong on the mysteries of men. Know only that there are depths unplumbed, and when the need be greatest, all things will come to light.

From one assignment to the next. With the fact that she doesn't need to sleep fairly well known among her commanding officers, Corporal Kaneko often pulls twice the responsibilities of most soldiers. An afternoon spent taking photos and preparing an Event Report in Chinatown was interrupted by an ambush that the fox-tailed soldier remains confused about even still. In the end, she was able to fend off her attacker and discovered the only Private Kiriyu's pride was harmed in his side of the encounter. Once the Response Team arrived, the entire incident was out of Renka's hands and, once making sure that the private would be okay, she returned to the Southtown base for a debriefing.

Missing: One NOL uniform, male, for average height, slender build.
Captured: One human. Identity and purpose of the attack still under investigation:
Wanted: One bat winged, white furred darkstalker, according to what her partner had been able to convey once the sleep spell was lifted by a dispeller.

The event left the vulpine NOL Corporal uneasy. If her attacker had been spewing hatred about the NOL or darkstalkers or something, she would be able to give context to the attack. As it stood, the motive was a baffling mystery to her.

But she also needed to focus on her next assignment - prisoner transfer. It seemed the reports on one of the darkstalkers held captive deep below the NOL base had piqued the interests of NOL Central Command and thus a transfer form had arrived in the morning. The prison levels of the NOL base were not a place Renka spent much time. Though most soldiers did rotations for guard duty in the underground prison, she found herself skipped for such responsibility. It didn't take long for her to notice that only humans got put on guard duty down below... and it didn't take much thought to imagine why.

There were two levels to the detention center. The first level down, not too far underground, contained the normal holding cells. Darkstalkers and humans alike would be imprisoned there. Humans would either be released following a thorough vetting or turned over to more traditional law enforcement authorities. Darkstalkers on this level would usually be coerced into registering or enlisting then released as well...

Then there was the bottom level, deep under ground, shielded by all manner of magical warding that Renka didn't remotely understand. It was there that the real monsters were caged. They were threats, not just to humans, but often to other darkstalkers as well. Creatures out of myth were housed in all forms of containment depending on their nature. When it came to keeping supernatural monstrosities locked away, the Librarium was the leading expert on the matter. Hellfire breathing devils, incorporeal ghosts, vengeful banshees, creatures of myth or legend too dangerous to be left to roam the land...

Today's transfer came from that level. Assigned as part of the guard dispatch for the basic operation, the Corporal wasn't privy to the details. She didn't need to be. Not that that prevented those dispatched with her from sharing rumors about what they had heard.

The convoy was simple enough. An armored Humvee with a fifty caliber machinegun mount lead the way, followed by a heavily armored, military moving truck. Both vehicles were painted in the dark blue of the NOL, with the Librarium's emblem on the sides: The winged sword with a halo on top. No one involved in the operation expected any trouble. After all, the transfer came in only recently, few even knew about it within the Librarium, and there had never been an incident of an attempted prison break on a NOL convoy as far as anyone knew.

There were two soldiers in the cabin of the truck, a driver and passenger, both armed. There were three in the Humvee. A driver, passenger, and one manning the mounted gun. And then there were the four in the back of the truck, riding along with the cage containing the prisoner.

All of them were wearing Librarium duty uniforms - crisp blues and whites, with splashes of red depending on the specifics of the individual's attire. The Master Sergent riding shotgun in the front of the truck was in charge of the operation. A Sergent riding shotgun in the Humvee was second in charge.

The back of the truck was enclosed, a bench running down each side. Renka sat on the left side, a simple spear resting against her shoulder, her sheathed sword resting across her lap. The other three in the back were distributed evenly, one more on the left, two on the right, each armed with viable melee weapons and firearms.

Having already turned off the highway, the convoy works its way toward the port. The cage was to be loaded on a ship heading out within the next hour. The top of the cage had the attachments necessary to be crane lifted into a secure vault in the sea faring vessel where the NOL had transfered scores of prisoners in the past.

Glancing toward the cage, the fox-eared demi-human can't help but what fate awaits the creature within once it arrives at Central Command. She can't feel sympathy for it... if even a fraction of the rumors the soldiers riding along with her in the back are true, the imprisoned monster can never be released.

"So," nudges the young man at Renka's side, "When do you find out if you and the Colonel are advancing in the tournament?"

Renka blinks, then lifts her right hand, resting it against the back of her neck. A light laugh is followed by, "Well, any day now, I think. I just do what I'm told."

It is rare for any creature dragged into the depths of hell beneath the NOL base to ever see the light of day again, and when they do, it is often through the bars of a cage on route to their final destination. Such was the fate of blood thirsty ghouls, massive ogres, and incomprehensible horrors that slithered and slid within the moist confines of their containers. But if the creature that now lies bound in the center of its iron prison realizes what fate awaits it, it does not seem to care.
'A bloody beast that tore the throats out of two guards who got sloppy when transporting it.'
'The screeching monster that was caught on camera, mauling a performer in one of those fighting competitions.'
'Devourer of the flesh of men.'
'Murderer of at least three children, and who knows how many others besides.'
'A crazed monster without reason or sense, little more than an animal.'
In the shape of an average-sized man, the creature lies huddled in the center of the cage. Its arms have been drawn back and chained elbow to elbow, wrist to wrist. More chains hold it knee to knee and ankle to ankle, legs pulled back to then attach ankles to wrists. Hogtied and helpless, one further precaution has been taken in the form of a heavy steel muzzle clamped over mouth and nose, the bulky piece of headgear encompassing the entire lower half of its face, with metal bands wrapped around its head and padlocked in the back.
Slow, ominous breaths gust through the tiny breathing holes drilled into the muzzle, each exhalation accompanied by a soft, wet rattle. The tangled cobwebs of its long hair are plastered to its face with sweat, dark strands contrasting the pale, sickly tint of its skin. Its eyes stare out toward the back hatch of the truck with roving insanity, bright yellow and alive with malice.
Clad in a soiled grey jumpsuit, it could almost be mistaken for a man. But it has been made abundantly clear to all who would transport this beast. What lies in the center of the cage is no man. It only shares the shape of one.
As the truck strikes a bump the contents within jump, cage rattling loudly, and the creature's muzzled face bounces off of the floor. A soft, grinding hiss leaks through the mask, muffled but still very audible. A sound full of hate and frustration, pain and fury.
Meanwhile, the armored convoy slows as the roads ahead grow worse, warehouses looming up to either side. This close to the port, the four-lane street begins to fork off into a maze of shipping lanes and side alleys, all rutted and damaged by the large tractor trucks that make use of them. At this time of night, with the pale moon hanging fat and bright in the sky, the normally bustling harbor district is nearly abandoned, the great hulks of storage facilities hunched around them dark and foreboding.
Slowing yet further, the humvee flicks on its signal and swings into a wide left turn, edging out into the intersection. It is half way through the maneuver, bulky length stretched diagonally across toward the next lane, when a quiet 'tchung' sounds out from a shadowed cluster of shipping containers. Invisible in the dark, a heavily laden bolt streaks across the distance and impacts the vehicle's right front tire, causing an immediate hiss of escaping air. A moment later, the action is echoed from the other side of the street, a second bolt burying itself in the left front tire.
One after the other, the explosive crossbow bolts lodged in the front wheels of the military vehicle detonate, bouncing the heavy humvee's front briefly into the air and blowing the wheel assemblies apart. As the front end comes crashing back to the street, metal grill grinding into the pavement, a much quieter 'Crack' rings out, and the gunner hunched within his nest jerks to one side, blood and bits of skull spraying the roof of the jeep.
Shadows stir within the surrounding alleys as unseen assailants begin to close in, their exact number and composition impossible to gauge in the darkness.

Anyone who has dealt with the hunting of monsters for long is aware that in the wake of every deadly creature is a pathway of carnage, suffering, and death. The stories vary in the details, but the severity is usually beyond what most people ever have to face in their entire lives. When you do it as a matter of your daily job, it's easy to grow inured to the stores of mayhem each individual captured horror was responsible before their eventual defeat.

Even though the stories of what tonight's 'passenger' is rumored to have done are shared in hushed tones, the mood among the NOL soldiers is calm, cordial, professional but not stiff. They've done assignments like this hundreds of time. Be careful, follow protocols, and stay alert, and it will go just as smoothly as all the rest...

Her answer given, Corporal Kaneko's attention returns to the prisoner. The bars of the cage are thick, the gaps extremely narrow, affording a limited but sufficient view to keep an eye on anything the meticulously bound creature might do. There is no sympathy for its circumstances to be found in the heart of the fox-eared NOL soldier.

The beast behind bars is just one more cordwood on the burning pyre of animosity that exists for darkstalkers among the humans. Whenever rhetoric is shouted on the internet programs or from the podiums of world governments, all they need are examples like this killer to explain why humans and the gamut of creatures that have hidden in the dark places of the world for all of time cannot possibly ever mingle. Only by working as a soldier of the Librarium could she ever hope to influence the negative impressions formed over millennia of human civilization.

The state of the world has long since proven that the humans have won. Learn to assimilate with them, or never know what it is to enjoy a life of peace, never know what it's like to not be hunted, chased, having to hide what you are just to see a friendly face... She doesn't hate the thing held in the cage just like she doesn't empathize with it. Dealing with this is her job, a step in her drive, her resolve to contribute to a better future for her kind. The uniform she wears is an emblem of her decision - the dark blue dress jacket, worn closed over a clean white shirt, a crimson tie knot visible at her neck. Her hands rest in her lap, pressing against the knee length dark blue skirt that matches her jacket. Unlike the rest with her, she doesn't wear any headwear. The two peaked ears sticking up over her head a likely reason why.

"So what's he like, anyway?" The young man to Renka's side nudges her again. She looks to her side, emerald eyes blinking once. "The Colonel." Realization clicks, Renka's mouth opening, a silent 'Oh' at her lips, followed by hesitation as she tries to figure out how best to answer that.

Her ears pick up the sound of something unusual happening outside and she turns her head away from the soldier to concentrate, body tensing. She doesn't have long before the explosions erase all doubt that the convoy is under attack. The prison truck lurches to a stop as the wreckage of the Humvee smashes down in the path of the road and shouts break out among the NOL infantry. There is no need to call for orders - the response to situations like this have been drilled into them through thousands of hours of training.

The two remaining in the destroyed escort vehicle roll out through quickly opened doors, making for the cover of the buildings. The truck driver and passenger follow suit, each individual armed with an assault rifle and melee sidearm. Everything happens fast, the eight men and women moving out, covering each other by watching the rooftops as they try to find cover. Keeping the prisoner from being stolen or rescued is a priority, but to do that from within the enclosed back of the truck is suicide.

The Master Sergent, a man of average height but incredible stature, begins calling out orders. Keep the roofs covered. Set up positions where eyes can be kept on the truck. Call for backup.

Renka is the last out of the truck. The scenario might be one they all train for, but for most of the troops on the assignment, this is certainly the first that training has been put to a very deadly test. Leaping down, her shin high black leather boots hitting pavement, she carries no assault rifle, bearing instead her spear in her left arm. The darkness of the run down section of the wharfs is no challenge for her, her eyes capable of picking out details as easily as if it was day. She didn't know everything that was going on - but she knew they were under attack... any enemy she finds will be attacked with lethal force.

As the bulky armored truck grinds to a halt behind the damaged humvee, the creature caught within tumbles forward, impacting the bars of its cage with a metallic crash. The low, ominous hissing continues to gust through the slits of its helmet, jumpsuit rustling as it strains against its bonds with a sudden jerk, every chain going taught. However, the tightening of its bindings draws a choking loop tighter around its neck, and after a moment of pulling the beast is forced to relax with a wheeze, huddled and still in its iron prison.
Outside, thick black smoke drifts from beneath the destroyed front of the humvee, swirling around the soldiers as lights are fixed to the ends of guns. Orders ring out, brilliant white beams sweeping the alleys and rooftops, searching for targets while the men double time it toward safety, keeping an eye on one another so as not to be suddenly overwhelmed. There are no muzzle flashes, no sudden blinding spotlights. Only the oppressive darkness of hulking warehouses set close to chain link fences on 3 sides, and a large open lot of stacked shipping containers on the fourth.
The sporadic illumination of the soldiers's lights passes over stained bricks, cracked cement, and filthy trash-strewn roofs streaked with large smears of white. Their enemy can be felt, watching, lurking, but remain unseen to all but one of the NOL.
As soon as Corporal Kaneko's boots touch ground, she can feel the eyes of predators upon her. And without the disadvantage of human vision, a quick sweep of her surroundings reveals the truth.
Men. Apparently human. Each of them with long hair spilling out from beneath broad leather hats, and black scarves wrapped around their lower faces. Wearing long grey coats with black patches, black clothes beneath, and black gloves, their silhouettes are surprisingly difficult to make out in the gloom. There is no skin for light to reflect off of. No gleam of polished metal. But each man seems to have some sort of cloth wrapped around the entirety of their left forearm, a crossbow on their backs, and a bandolier of knives visible beneath their coat as they move.
The fox-eared girl spots one figure as it slinks down into a crouch to allow a flashlight beam to sweep over its head, narrowly missing illuminating the crown of its hat. The figure is not 15 feet away from the men who exited the humvee, moving carefully but quickly toward them like a wraith. But even as that figure closes, two more can be seen slithering down off of the roof behind the men, dropping lightly to earth and ghosting toward them like wolves on the prowl.
The faint flicker of motion alerts Renka to yet more attackers. Another hunter perched upon a cargo container off to her left behind the stalled truck, having just finished sliding a bolt into place on his heavy wooden crossbow. A glance across the road reveals a second hunter rising up from behind a slight lip on the warehouse roof, having sheltered from a passing light just moments before. His own crossbow is lifted and braced upon the edge, pointed down toward the men around her.
The yelled orders of her Sergeant echo over the street, the humans around her completely oblivious to just how near at hand the danger really is, each with eyes pealed and guns up. Each expecting soldiers, men with guns and tactics similar to their own. Many of them ex-soldiers themselves, previous military experience telling them to get to cover, to expect a hail of gunfire as they disembark. Even the monster hunters among them wouldn't expect a monster attack to open by crippling the lead vehicle with some sort of IED.
Only Renka knows. She is the only witness as the hunter set upon the roof swivels his aim and fires, a soft 'Tchung' announcing the start of a crossbow bolt's humming journey down toward the throat of the nice young man that had been drilling her for details just moments before.
At the head of the convoy, the flanking hunters reach beneath their coats and come out with gleaming silver knives. Increasing their speed, the two men leap, flashing across the distance toward the second in command and his driver. In mid air, the shouting Master Sergeant's light passes over one of the men, but it is too late to save his target, the hunters dropping upon their prey in a struggling, stabbing frenzy even as the Master Sergeant begins to adapt his orders. One of the NOL men falls, blood spraying from his neck, and three separate search lights converge on the hunter with the bloody knife. Guns chatter and the figure jerks twice, bullets chasing him as he spins unsteadily away and dives sideways to roll beneath the Humvee, leaving a large smear of dark fluids in its wake.
It is chaos, and through it all, only Renka can hear the odd clicking rattle of metal from back within the truck. A sound that tickles memories in her mind, but with so much going on, so much death and potential violence crowding in from all directions, the sound does not seem to fit.
Whatever the noise, there is little enough time to ponder it as a sixth hunter steps around the side of her truck, knife already drawn, and lunges toward her back, attempting to slip the silver blade in beneath her left arm and directly into her heart. For a man he is frighteningly quiet, but the odd clink of metal beneath his cloth wrapped arm, the soft whisper of cloth and breath, and the stink of sweat all serve to alert her, even masked as they are beneath the sounds of battle and the stink of gunpowder and exhaust.

The air is thick with the scent of fear as Renka's feet land on the pavement and she begins to sweep the area. The NOL soldiers are brave, trained, organized, disciplined. But their hearts are racing, adrenaline pumping, each knowing that this could be the night that they die. For two already, that dread anticipation has already been fulfilled.

Renka knew that smell well. There had been times when it was she that elicited such delicious panic from humans. But those years were far behind her now. What she was also aware of was that mid the cocktail of scents she detected, she knew the source of each and every individual feeling fear. Their assailants, whoever they were, felt no such emotion.

Immediately, her eyes sweep the area. To the eyes of her human allies, they were being attacked by ghosts and shadows, their sweeping lights picking up no hint of their deadly attackers. But she sees it, hands gripped tightly on her spear as she steps forward, whirling around once, taking in the sight of the prowlers in the dark.

Everything is happening fast. Even by her standards, the speed at which the ambush is playing out is dizzying to keep up with.

"They're avoiding the lights!" she cries out, "They're all around us!" It's the only warning she gets to deliver before she's suddenly shoulder checking the NOL infantryman at her side, sending him stumbling to the right away from her, the crossbow bolt meant for him bouncing off the pavement instead.

Wide-eyed and panicked by the sudden attack from his darkstalker ally, there is a brief moment where trust is lost, and the young man whirls on her, assault rifle raised to fire. Almost as if anticipating the move, Renka's spear smacks his gun aside, the bark of the shot lost amid the countless others going on around them, "Get to cover!" the Corporal exclaims. The deflection and shout is enough to get through to him and the young man turns to hurry over against the wall, sweeping his gun's tactical light all around him as he goes.

The smell of blood reaches her soon after, seasoned with the scent of death and heavily shadowed by the smell of gunpowder and burning oil. Her allies are dying around her - this she knows. Many of them are pulling out knives or drawing swords, realizing that battle is transitioning rapidly into close quarters combat.

One is already barking into a radio in his hand, calling for backup. A Rapid Response Team will be deployed, including ground troops and air cover. But it will take time.

Suddenly, Renka slams the butt of her spear backward with potentially rib-cracking strength, before whirling around to leave the more business end of the weapon leveled. She's backing away herself, ears flicking every which way as she takes in the sounds around her, eyes glancing to her sides, maintaining as much peripheral vision as possible while keeping the one who attacked her in her sights.

Unlike when she was attacked earlier in the day, there is no second guessing herself now, no hope to use words to deescalate the situation. This is war and these individuals swarming over the rooftops and slipping through shadows to attack will clearly not hesitate to kill.

Lips drawn back into a snarl, she bunkers down behind her spear, retreating carefully from the back of the truck as the rest of the soldiers do their best to survive.

The world is chaos. Bright tactical lights cut through the night, illuminating the darkness with brief strobes of blinding radiance. The coppery tang of blood is heavy in the air. Men scream, steel clashes, and now and again the chatter of an assault rifle or twang of a crossbow cuts through the madness. And beneath it all, the gentle rasp and rattle of delicate metal parts tickles at Renka's ears from within the back of the Truck.
The Corporal's spear butt is caught on the left arm of the hunter, the force of the blow throwing him backward to slam shoulders-first into the rear of the truck.
Rebounding to his feet, the wily hunter dodges left to avoid a short burst of rifle fire from the chatty private, now hunkered against a wall behind her and sweeping his rifle around to offer covering fire.
Stalking steadily forward, the hunter apes Renka's own movements, keeping her between himself and the rifle-toting man behind her, using her as a shield against oncoming fire. At least for the moment the man she saved is reluctant to shoot through her to get to him. But how long might that actually last?
From within the truck, a soft thud of metal on metal carries through the open doors, followed soon after by the steady clatter of a chain. A pause follows. Another scrape. The loud screech of metal being violently bent.
The Knife wielding hunter that had been closing on Renka pauses, attention seeming to flicker past her and up toward a nearby rooftop. Something is communicated in that hidden glance, a message received. Fading a single step back, he gauges Renka for a moment, before whirling in a flurry of grey cloth and diving around the side of the truck, chased by another spray of automatic fire from the private.
The slow, ominous rattle of metal on metal moves steadily closer to the rear of the truck, and without a hunter to distract her, the fox-eared Corporal has nothing keeping her from glancing in that direction. All around her men fight and die, weapons clash and clatter. And ahead of her, the man-shaped creature is hunched in a predatory crouch, on the wrong side of the bars.
A long length of chain dangles from the manacle on the beast's left wrist, trailing out behind it and between the warped bars of its cage. The sturdy metal bars have been forced out of alignment just enough for the beast to slither through, but considering how thick the bars are, and how narrow the gaps between, even that is impressive. More concerning, however, is the fact that it was able to free itself from the chains in the first place. The cage was never meant to stop it. Only to slow it enough for the soldiers around to subdue it. And only then if it had somehow managed to slip its bonds, which should have been impossible. They were specifically designed to use its own strength against it.
Slumped forward with its head bowed, tangled hair falling around it, the monstrous creature's shoulders rise and fall with slow, rattling breaths. Left hand braced against the floor beside its bare feet, the creatures right hand seems to be fiddling with the padlock at the back of its head , that same soft rattling scrape reaching the Corporal's sensitive ears.
Slowly lifting its head, its golden eyes cut through the dark, scanning the open air before it, and finally come to rest on Renka herself. No longer are they wide and maddened, dilated with the crazed hunger of a flesh starved animal. The monster that meets her emerald gaze through the darkness is shrewd, brow furrowed in concentration rather than fury. There is intelligence in those eyes, calculation. A malicious cunning that slowly morphs to triumph, eyes widening as she watches.
The heavy padlock at the back of the beast's head is flicked free of its loop, impacting the floor behind it with heavy finality. A soft, wet exhale gusts through the slits of the muzzle as The beast withdraws its right hand from behind its head, flicking away the sliver of metal it had been using to pick its locks. Chains still rattling from its left wrist, it lifts both hands to unhook the metal bands and slide the heavy assembly off of its face, free for the first time in so, so long.
What was once hidden behind the mask becomes visible. Pale, sharp features, gaunt and sunken with illness or lack of proper nutrition. The tattered shreds of once thin lips, reduced to a mass of mangled scar tissue pulled back to reveal a double row of crooked, razor-like teeth that sprout from its gums with no rhyme or reason, a couple of which seem to have sliced through its left cheek from the inside. A trickle of dark tainted blood leaks from the wound, dripping slowly from the lower edge of its jaw.
Dropping the muzzle to the truck bed, the once-caged beast draws in a long, deep breath. Tilting its chin up, it releases it in a hoarse, rasping gurgle, bloody foam bubbling up from between its lips, and seems to luxuriate in the moment. Then, without warning, it uncoils from its crouch and launches itself free of the back of the Truck.
Two long chains trail behind the monster as it rolls forward through the air, one attached to a manacle on its left wrist, the other to a shackle around its right ankle. These threaten to tangle around its body as it falls toward the fox-eared corporal, but the monster flicks them deftly out to either side, uncoiling to try and plant his heels hard into her chest and spring backward toward the ground, dropping into a low tumbling roll across the pavement before springing up into a hunched crouch with her between him and the rifle-wielding private.
Almost the exact position the hunter had been in, in fact.

COMBATSYS: The Hunter has started a fight here.

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The Hunter       0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Renka has joined the fight here.

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The Hunter       0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0            Renka

COMBATSYS: Renka just-defends The Hunter's Medium Kick!

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
The Hunter       0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0            Renka

There is a desire to join the rest of her assigned squad in their violent battle, but with one of the attacking pack confronting her directly, there is no opportunity to disengage and regroup. For now, the figure advancing on her is her responsibility and she braces behind her spear to be ready for him. No words come from her. She and the other soldiers have one voice to follow in combat, and the Master Sergent is still barking out commands from across the way, leaving her and the other infantryman to hold this side.

Suddenly, her aggressor disengages, twisting out of sight, likely avoiding the spray of lead briefly sent his way. Pivoting to the right, Renka turns to look toward the truck itself. That something was amiss within was obvious to her already, but the sight of the prisoner outside of his confinement is enough to provoke a soft gasp of surprise. Were her her sight any less keen, she would barely be able to make him out and certainly not ascertain the means of his liberation.

rBut it isn't the fact that the prisoner is free that captures her attention the most. Nor his famished, withered appearance. Nor the assumption that their attackers have some connection to the captive.

It's the eyes. She meets them directly. She knows well the eyes of killers, but these eyes are windows into something beyond instinctual predation. It is a master's gaze that looks back at her, one capable of seeing the patterns leading to success amid a fog of chaos and confusion. In the dark places of the world, where creatures like her hid and thrived, even monsters had those they feared, the ones that were dangerous to all, against whom survival depended more on avoiding being noticed and hoping their hungry gaze would fall to another instead.

Renka's fingers adjust on the shaft of her spear. Instincts tell her to run. That was the way to survive in the past, to skulk furtively, to vanish. But those were survival techniques of the past. That is not her way anymore.

Gritting her teeth, she extends her right hand, releasing her spear briefly as the Hunter works at his muzzle. White-gloved and facing up, fingers open, small motes of glowing azure flame swirl into existence, starting as pinpricks of light and growing to the size of softballs, casting their sapphire luminescence all around her. She had hesitated until now to draw upon her power, since lighting herself up with nine orbiting foxfire spheres seemed like a bad idea in this battle in the dark. But she knew now she had no choice. Committed, she infuses the long polearm in her hands with the same energy, blue, flickering flame that generates no hint of heat coursing over the length of the spear, clearly representing no threat to the kitsune that's channeling it.

The Corporal is ready when the chain dragging attacker leaps from the truck, closing the distance between them in an instant. Raising her weapon into the path of the incoming kick, she braces behind it, looking as if she intends to absorb the impact with a direct test of strength.

At the last second, she relaxes her fingers, left hand drawing back slightly, giving the spear an angle against which the Hunter's feet collide. While her arms still absorb a significant amount of the impact, the angle of engagement allows the spear to slide hard to the left along her palms, taking with it enough of the force to spare her significant ache for her effort. Her left hand tightens at the end of the shaft, just before the sharp point would have passed across her palm, keeping the weapon from being lost in the defense.

"Go help the others!" she barks over her shoulder, not sparing a glance toward the armed young infantryman. Even though not commander of the squad, her rank does afford her some ability to make battlefield calls... and considering what she's facing, it's not like he takes much convincing to disengage to regroup with those still standing and fighting on the other side.

Whipping the spear under her arm, she has it back into both of her hands in a fluid, swift motion. Her breaths are calm - largely because they are an optional aspect of her unique physiology to begin with, but the heart in her chest races. The swarm of nine blue, drifting spherical lanterns make it easy to see her now in the dark. But she knows full well that the shroud of darkness was never a shield against these enemies in the first place.

The defense told her one thing - in spite his appearance, in spite whatever torment he endured in the deepest places of the NOL detention center, he's strong, and he's fast. If his condition is weakened from his full potential... she'll count herself lucky indeed.

When she charges, spear in hand, it begins as a linear advance. But the instant she has crossed into the range afforded by the reach of her weapon that she attacks, thrusting her spear forward with more of a feint than a deadly strike, letting it slip through her fingers again, this time toward her target. Her hands tighten near the butt of the weapon as Renka then twists her whole body into a wide, sweeping slash of the weapon at stomach level, taking a step back in the process, establishing a wide half-circle of threat in front of her, both attacking and defending in the same movement.

The trail of foxfire behind her spear leaves a crescent wake, causing both she and her target to cast dark shadows on the ground around them.

COMBATSYS: The Hunter dodges Renka's Random Strike.

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The Hunter       0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0            Renka

The clash is quick and fierce, both combatants coming away with a brief measure of the other. Slouched as he is, black hair tangled around his face and a long line of bloody drool dangling toward the ground, one could be forgiven if they mistook the beast for mindless. But the Corporal can see the truth in his eyes, the crack in the mask that he wore so masterfully these long months. There is no longer any use in pretending.
"Aaah." comes a long, wet sigh, "So stands the fox with eyes of green. The great warrior. The loyal pet. Such things have been said of you. Whispers in hallowed halls thought to be free of any who might understand. I have heard the true thoughts of your brothers in arms. Words they would dare not speak in range of your curious ears. Would you like to know what has been said of you, little sister??"
The voice that emerges from behind the tangle of hair and fangs is quiet and hoarse, full of odd wet pops and quiet gurgles, as if something were caught in the back of his throat. Staring up at the Corporal, the blue of her foxfire is reflected back in the yellow of his eyes, causing them to glow all the brighter.
There isn't enough time for further taunts or jibes to be thrown, because Renka is already charging him, leading the way with a quick thrust of her spear. This he avoids by swaying to one side, left palm planted on the pavement and feet spread, shifting his weight effortlessly from feet and hands to left hand and left foot, right sliding back behind him with a quiet clatter of chains.
From there, the beast springs forward into a no-arms cartwheel, chains whipping out behind him as he passes over the sweep of her weapon. The loose cobwebs of his hair brush across her ears as they pass head to head, right hand coming down in an attempt to clamp rough, blood-smeared fingers around her cheeks and jaw and drag her backward off balance.
Bare feet slapping pavement behind the fox girl, he finishes his flip and pauses just long enough to lean in a fraction, whispering so that only they can hear, "Such things's..."
Dropping straight down, he hauls on her face in an attempt to tip her over backward. Only if he can topple her will his right foot sweep up to brace against her lower back, the monster himself rolling across the ground as he flips her up and over his body, using his foot pressed against her spine to launch her through the air toward the wall the Private had been braced against just moments before.

COMBATSYS: The Hunter successfully hits Renka with Sign From Above.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
The Hunter       0/-------/------=|=====--\-------\0            Renka

The wide sweep of the spear requires follow through, Renka coming around a full three-sixty by the time she realizes that the prisoner has taken to the air, cleanly avoiding the threat of her strike. Even still, his speed puts him at risk as the fox-eared Corporal pulls up with her right hand, down with her left, pivoting her spear upward, its tip encased in a brighter concentration of foxfire. It's a split second too late, the Hunter slipping barely past the spike to land behind her, his hands finding purchase on her face.

From this close, her defensive options are limited and she freezes, eyes wide, perfectly still while her spheres continue to drift seemingly of their own volition around the two of them now. Her twin fox tails brush against the outside of his legs in their continuous swaying movement. Whether it's simply a subconscious twitch or she actually cleans any sensory input from the brief touch isn't clear.

But the moment of alarm passes as he leans in slightly, her teeth gritting. "I'm not your sister," Renka hisses, attempting to slam her head back toward him only to end up leaning more into the reverse momentum he inflicts with his hold on her.

Lauched easily by combination of expert skill and more than sufficient strength to send the slender darkstalker flying, she smacks spread-eagle, face first against the warehouse wall before sliding down to her feet and whirling around, pulling her spear back up into a defensive position. Blood trickles from her nose and a gash mars her forehead.

"I'm nothing like you anymore!" she snaps back angrily. She almost seems offended at the idea that they bear any relationship than of what said of her when she isn't around. "Change is a war, not a battle," she adds a moment later, her voice softer then.

"What do you want now?" she asks then, her tone challenging, "Your pack is here. Why not run with them?"

It would be a mistake to think she is actually interested in conversing with him, however, as the fox launches herself forward, right foot pressing off from the wall behind her for added speed. She leads with the spear, but at the last moment lunges to the left, right hand letting go of the weapon in order to swipe out toward him, fingers splayed as if claws though they lack any actual talons to be fearful of.

The actual attack is what follows behind, a wider, bright azure swath of foxfire that she attempts to sweep right over where he stands. Unless prevented, her own momentum would carry her past, Renka whirling on her feet to come back around facing toward him from behind, spear already back in striking position.

COMBATSYS: Renka successfully hits The Hunter with Mistaken Mercies.

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
The Hunter       0/-------/---====|=====--\-------\0            Renka

Having launched the lightweight girl over his prone form and toward the wall, the Hunter twists his leg around and plants his heel against the cement, contorting his body back into a crouched position with a quiet crackle of joints. Turning, chains clattering, he plants his foot as if to spring after the Corporal while she is recovering, but a spray of bullets from further along forces him to abort the motion into a sideways dodge, sparks flying as the bullets impact the pavement and skip humming away in unpredictable arcs.
By the time Renka turns, her green eyes are met by the yellow of her tormentor, his body now hidden from the view of her allies by the bulk of the truck.
"Sister, cousin, delicious fox so full of vitality." Comes the gargling response, chains rattling as the beast sways slowly back and forth in its hunch, eyes fixed upon her like a hunting cat. "The sweet siren song of your blood weakens his struggles. He is but a man,and our throat is parched. My throat. I will drink deeply of what you are, little fox, and then I will be away from here."
Her question earns her only a gleaming stare, head slowly angling into a crooked tilt as she launches off of the wall toward him. Lips pulled back, breaths bubbling, he lurches up from his slump and snaps his left hand out, aiming to grab the girl's outstretched arm as she comes hurtling in. Blood-slick fingers close around her slender wrist, begin to tighten, but her momentum carries her onward, hand slipping through his, and the roiling mass of energy that roars to life in its wake washes over his hand and arm to slam into the left side of his body, burning a path of spiritual fire throughout his veins.
A sound that is part hiss, part cough, and part gargling growl hacks its way free of the monster's throat. Twisting away from the flames, he bounds up onto the back step of the truck and turns a hateful yellow glare down upon her. It is while he is perched there, framed by the open square of the truck hatch, that 2 soft 'Tchung's sound from the rooftops, and he dives forward to avoid the dual crossbow bolts that streak through the area he so recently occupied.
touching the ground hands first, the beast tumbles forward and twists into a back bend balanced upon one hand and a foot, glancing up and over toward another rooftop. Apparently seeing something he doesn't like, he transitions into a sideways fling, moving ever closer to Renka, and dodges the single cracking pistol shot that rings out from above.
Tumbling forward and planting one hand, the monster swings his body around by it, chains throwing up sparks behind him, and flings himself foot first at the Corporal's gut. Hit or miss with the opening kick, he jerks his body up to standing and swings his left hand around in a wide arc, bringing a fist-full of gathered chain crashing in toward the side of her Skull. The first blow is followed soon after by a second, the monster rearing back and swinging again with savage ferocity.

COMBATSYS: Renka fails to counter Preeminence EX from The Hunter with Outcast Dream EX.

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
The Hunter       0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1            Renka

Of course he would know what he was looking at. Twisted, tormented, warped as his knowledge might be, the information would be there about the spear wielding creature playing dress-up as a soldier of the Novis Orbis Librarium.

A mythological entity of many names - a kitsune, a kumiho, a huli jing. The myths are varied - some say they eat humans, particularly relishing the hearts and livers of dying men, others suggest their sustenance is more spiritual in nature - the essence of life. Stories abound about their nature: vicious, insidious predators. Playful, teasing tricksters that might inflict harm incidentally in their pranking, but are not so malevolent as other creatures of legend. Others saw them as celestial creatures, messengers of the gods, wise and clever.

But he would know the truth from fiction. Kitsune can be as varied as any other creature. Some malicious, some benevolent, some recluses, some social. But it is the souls of humans that sustain them and fuel their supernatural speed, strength, and durability. Any other type of food consumption would merely be as a last resort, or out of curiosity.

The two tails swaying at her back indicate that the specimen he faces is somewhere between two hundred and three hundred years old. No where near as potent and terrifying as a fully aged kitsune, creatures some consider practically gods themselves, but still far more dangerous than an average person. Behind her combat skills lies centuries of experience, though it isn't unusual for such creatures to neglect actually focusing on training for fighting, relying instead on being elusive, leaning on instincts, or simply avoiding confrontation with anything that could prove to be a threat.

That this one remains standing before him in the face of a clear menace suggests that she has made a choice to defy her nature, to resist the urge to retreat into the shadows, to lead him on a chase through the city and attempt to lose him in the forests beyond. Instead she is choosing to fight him head on. A curious abnormality.

Dashing past him, she whirls, planting her feet, ready to lance out with the tip of her spear again, attempting to use the reach it affords against the unnatural movements of the escaped captive. Her heart races even as the largest of the foxfire spheres orbiting above and behind her seems to be reaching out with wispy tendrils of ethereal, faintly visible energy, connecting near the gash on her forehead.

He would understand that too. It's sustaining her, slowly undoing damage to her body at a minuscule cost to heir reservoir of soul energy. He would know other things too - that oxygen is a luxury, not a necessity. She could hold her breath for at least an hour if needed, without any loss in combat prowess. Her touch is how she collects her food - particularly her hands, ideally against skin, but not always necessary. Contact with fresh blood is another source of vigor for the fox demon. It will be something to watch out for, certainly.

He moves in close and she stabs back out with her spear, attempting to match his momentum with a vicious skewering. His speed proves to be enough to negotiate past the larger weapon, his foot smacking against her stomach, forcing the wind from her lungs in a pained gasp. She pulls up on her spear then, drawing back, readied to deliver a second thrust, but the weight of his chain reinforced fist cracks against the side of her head, sending her reeling, eyes closed as her vision becomes overwhelmed with flashing stars and a sea of red pressing in from the sides.

She nearly falls, catching herself by jabbing her spear down and using it as a fulcrum to twist herself around, landing on her feet facing him again, eyes opening as blood seeps down from beneath her hair, staining red and smearing against her white collar.

She hadn't missed the shots from both sides - the pack that ambushed the convoy tonight is not attempting a rescue... it's an execution squad.

The heavy steel-enhanced blow sends his target reeling, and The Hunter allows her to gain some distance, pausing to lift the chain to his face and draw in a long slow breath through his nose. Eyeing her over the metal links stretched across his knuckles, he slides his long, grotesquely scarred tongue out past his jagged teeth and runs it slowly along the dirty links, tasting the lingering essence of the fox-girl upon it.
"By blood or by fire." the beast murmurs lowly, standing completely still for the first time since he emerged, hair falling limply around his face. "By blood or by fire shall the damned know salvation. For it is blood that binds all things, and fire that cleanses. I have bound the souls of many fox spirits to their final resting place, cleansing the land of their remains. But you..."
Metal links rattle as the beast reaches over and begins to gather the length in, retracting it hand by hand until a bunched mass of steel links hangs from his left.
"I shall break my long fast upon you. From this feast will come clarity."
Peace given, the monster prowls forward toward the girl at a measured pace. As he nears, he begins to sway the mass of chain in his left hand back and forth, back and forth, hateful gaze tracing its way over the corporals' wounded face, down to the tip of her spear. Then, quick as a snake, he strikes.
Lunging forward, he swipes his left arm forward in a quick backhand toward the tip of Renka's spear, attempting to snag the head in the mess of tangled links. If he can catch it, he will jerk sharply downward, bending nearly double to leverage all his force into muscling the tip of the weapon nearly to the ground, only to spring forward and stomp his left heel down sharply toward the shaft, snapping the head off between himself and the ground.
Success or fail, the monster's right foot then comes swinging up around the shaft of the weapon, trailing its rattling length of chain. Though the kick itself is short, the length of chain is aimed to strike the Corporal's left arm and wrap around her body, allowing him to lean far back and jerk his knee up toward his chest, dragging her forward only to meet his heel as he reverses it toward her throat, performing a standing stomp before swinging his leg hard out to the side in an attempt to whip the lightweight fox off of her feet and send her twirling to the ground amidst the rattle of unwinding chain.

COMBATSYS: The Hunter successfully hits Renka with Combo Grapple.

[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
The Hunter       0/-------/---====|=======\=====--\1            Renka

Facing something like Renka Kaneko, many might make the mistake that she can be easily killed just like any other living thing. Knife to the heart, suffocation, severe head trauma, evisceration... fatal wounds for many, but not for a being sustained by the slow and steady trickle of life back from her reservoir, the gradual but inevitable knitting together of her body until it comes back together.

No, extinguishing something like her requires one to be far more thorough - seal her energy source, or run it dry. The former an option used by crafty spirit mediums, monks, priests, and others who claimed to walk holier ways. Then there were those who utilized the latter method - to wound and maim, over and over, until at last the well runs dry, every spec, every iota of stolen essence exhausted in trying to undo the perpetual damage inflicted.

The one speaking to her is not bluffing, of that she is certain. What hunter is this, a darkstalker that speaks of their successful hunts of the past? His words, garbled at times, just off from what they should be, sound as if they belong to those humans who specialize in the dark, often unrewarding long hunt to protect mankind from the creatures in shadow. But how can this be, when he is clearly a monster as well?

She ignores her injuries, allowing the largest of her foxfire spheres do its relentless work at trying to undo the harm inflicted. The gash over her forehead no longer bleeds though the flesh there remains raw. The ache in her head is another matter, throbbing following the impact of the chained fists, but she can't let that distract her now.

He closes fast and she thrusts her spear forward, only for it to be caught between the links of the heavy chains that once held him captive, metal and wood grinding against old steel. The weapon is pulled down, the end of it snapping against the ground as Renka releases her hold on the shaft all together and tries to draw back. Her broken spear smacks against the ground, the fire that rippled over its surface vanishing the instant the fox-eared fighter releases her hold.

She isn't in time, the length of chain striking her shoulder and whipping around, securing her upper arms in its weight. Yanked hard, she stumbles forward, helpless to guard against the crushing heel to her throat, a gurgling coughing gasp her audible reaction before his relentless momentum finds her hauled off her feet and sent tumbling along the ground.

She catches herself mid-tumble, taking control of her own motion, kicking off the pavement to land in a low lean, left hand planted against the concrete, her feet wide, her twin fox tails raised behind her back. She isn't breathing. She couldn't speak if she wanted to. The damage to her throat has rendered her mute for now, ghostly tendrils of energy already stretching down to caress her wounded neck and undo the damage. How fortunate for her that her trachea is not life critical.

Her right hand goes to her side as she lunges back at the Hunter, sword drawn amid a new burst of azure flame. Her course is direct as she leaps, twisting hard to the left as she leans into a powerful two handed slash, both hands gripping the drawn katana in a bid to carve into her assailant from upper right to lower left!

COMBATSYS: Renka successfully hits The Hunter with Power Strike.

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
The Hunter       1/-------/=======|=======\======-\1            Renka

Opening his fingers, the beast drops his fist full of chain with a noisy clatter, stooping low to retrieve the broken off head of Renka's spear instead. Snapped off six inches past the flare of the blade, there is still plenty of handle left for him to hold, and hold he does , turning to face the fox-eared girl with the long chain dangling from his left hand, and the spear tip held up and ready in his right.
"He does not want your death." the monster informs Renka through a mouth full of bloody foam. And though the sounds of fighting continue to rage around them, he is not difficult to hear.
The Corporal's rush is abrupt and fierce, seeming to take even her fiendish opponent by surprise. Throwing himself backward away from the oncoming blade, chains bouncing and clattering in his wake, he arches backward in a vane attempt to pull his body clear. Had he a little more time to consider he might have dodged left, or right, but caught as he is, the tip of the blazing weapon catches him high on his left shoulder. As the blade descends it is forced deeper, carving an ever bloodier trench down the beast's body as it enters closer and closer flesh. Skin, muscle, and organs part around the blade, releasing a torrent of reeking, brackish blood. As the blood flows down his front it makes contact with the blue flames that wreathe Renka's weapon, causing the spiritual energy to flicker and grow ghoulishly pale. To the touch of her power he feels, wrong. Poisonous. There is an immediate instinct to spit him out. To not allow what he is to touch her. The taint of his blood is oily and foul, corrupted at the most basic level.
Throwing his head back, mouth stretched wide in agonized rage, the wounded monster lets out a low, snarling call that rises and rises, scraping across the nerves like steel on a chalk board. Higher and higher pitch, the snarl transitions to a scream. A shiver of otherworldly wrongness runs along the spines of all who hear it, the sound raw, primal, and viciously alien.
Corporal Kaneko's blade buries itself in the Hunter's right hip bone with a jarring thud, anchoring them both in place. Not giving her a moment to jerk it free, the enraged monster reverses its lean and lunges forward, sword tip erupting from his back. Left hand clawing for a grip on whatever it can find, he grabs a large fist full of her top and jacket and hauls on it even as his head lunges forward, maw descending in a huge chomping bite for her left shoulder and the side of her neck. if he can get his teeth in he will whip his head back and forth, hair flying, jagged teeth shredding and biting with the ferocity of a wild animal. Then, seeming to remember there is a sword in his guts, he will turn sharply and hurl her up and away by the grip on her clothes, launching her across the street toward the chain link fence guarding the storage containers.

COMBATSYS: The Hunter successfully hits Renka with Feast Of Flesh EX.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
The Hunter       1/-------/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Renka

The vibrant, rich blue flame of her foxfire seems to bleed out its color in contact with the blood of the escaped prisoner, becoming a brackish pale green where her sword is embedded in his flesh. The attack was without mercy or hesitation. He might have been a prisoner once, but now that he's free, her instincts compel her to strike with every ounce of strength she has. The deeply buried blade is evidence of that.

But perhaps she struck too hard.

Recoiling at the taint of the spilling blood and the screeching howl amplified a hundredfold by her sensitive ears, she starts to disengage when the Hunter performs the unthinkable. Without seemingly any sense of self-preservation, he thrusts himself closer, the blood stained tip of her katana bursting out the back of his prisoner's clothing with a small fountain of gore. But the damage dealt to him becomes the least of her worries in that instant.

A powerful grip secures a hold on her dark blue jacket, preventing the fox-tailed soldier from breaking free in spite already being mid-step when he caught her. Eyes widen in alarm when suddenly she's being mauled by a bipedal shark. The response of the creature in his grasp is immediate panic, a strangled, gasping scream forced from her mouth through her damaged windpipe, mouth agape as she starts to thrash in his grip, pulling on her sword with her right hand, pushing at his shoulder with her left, attempting to knee and kick him off of her.

The pain is beyond comprehension as blue and white cloth is ripped to shreds and the pale flesh beneath thrashed by the violent bites and lacerations of inhuman teeth. Shaken back and forth, literal chunks of muscle shorn free by the sawbladed teeth, she finally plants her left foot against his stomach, knee against her chest, ready to kick herself free with her sword if possible, no matter the damage it might cause.

She doesn't get the chance as in the same moment, he turns, whipping the slender darkstalker through the air, a spray of blood painting the pavement beneath her trajectory. Chain links screech in protest, the supporting metal bars bending as the fence nearly wraps in around the living projectile, but the storage containers themselves put a final stop to her flight with a loud metallic thud.

Renka's slump to the ground is hardly controlled, landing roughly on her knees as she falls forward, catching herself with her right arm, her sword rattling against concrete as it remains within her grip. Her left shoulder along her collar bone into the side of her neck is a bloody pulp, the torn flesh bared, ripped down to the pale white of bone in places. For all of her supernatural durability, the kitsune is no more pain immune than any other human. If she could breathe, she would be panting for breath or gasping for air, wide eyes looking at her shoulder with a blend of disbelief and terror. Adrenaline races through her as her remaining foxfire spheres begin to glow more brilliantly than before, each becoming smaller, more concentrated, a tiny blue star.

When she finally moves, it's with a sudden jerkiness, clearly forcing herself to her feet by sheer will to defy the desire to simply collapse to the ground. Teeth grit, lips drawn back, blood soaks through two layers of clothing, staining her entire left side and splattering against the pavement and rolling down her left leg.

Her left arm hangs limp now, her sword held one-handed, arm trembling as she lifts it. Within moments, her whole body is shaking as the wounded animal starts to succumb to paralyzing dread. Closing her eyes for a moment, she very forcefully sheathes her sword at her left side, leaning forward in the process. The sheathing of the blade seems to calm her, providing a focus to direct all of her thought, all her energy to. Within a second, the tremors wracking her body are gone and as she opens her emerald eyes, their focus is sharp as ever, glaring back at the Hunter defiantly.

And then she bursts forward again, sprinting for him. She'll attempt to slide by his left side, drawing her sword in a flash the instant she passes. One of the azure sparks surges into her blade in the same moment she draws, amplifying the silent flame even further. Unless prevented, she would streak by, a bloody blur of blue flame sliding to stop several feet beyond.

COMBATSYS: Renka successfully hits The Hunter with The Lonesome Road ES.
Grazing Hit

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
The Hunter       1/---====/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Renka

The fox-eared girl is hurled away with blood trailing out behind her like the tail of a comet,leaving the monster hunched over in agony in the center of the street. A glistening greyish pink rope of something has flopped free of his stomach cavity and dangles against his thighs, followed by a river of thick black blood that oozes down his front with a consistency closer to mud than liquid. In fact, even as he slouches, breaths bubbling, eyes staring ahead half crazed and empty, the blood is hardening into a tacky barrier to hold his organs in place. Where once pale, sickly skin stretched across his torso, a glistening patch of black has formed, slick and oily in the faint light of the moon.
The bellow of outrage arises from somewhere behind the monster, followed by the pounding advance of one set of combat boots. Metal gleams, a fierce battle cry is shouted, and the young private that had asked her so many questions comes hurtling into sight around the back corner of the truck, pistol in one hand, machete in the other.
Perhaps the young man expected the monster would be slowed by his wounds, or maybe he is simply too brave a soul to care. Regardless, he charges the beast without hesitation, pistol lowered but machete flashing down in a gleaming arc toward the back of the creature's neck.
Curling forward around the dangling spaghetti of his misplaced gut, the monster ducks the oncoming blade without effort. Though clearly in agony, nothing about him has slowed. if anything, the taste of blood seems to have driven him into an all out frenzy.
Uncoiling from his hunch, the beast springs upon the unfortunate private as he stumbles by, shouldering him off of his feet and carrying him backward until they both slam hard into the metal shell of the truck. Finding that there is still an improvised spear knife clutched in his right hand, the beast drives it forward, stabbing the point through the soldier's machete arm and deep into the reinforced steel beneath.
Flailing and kicking, the private knees at the beast's injured guts, swinging his pistol around in search of a shot. The monster is faster, however, and bloody fingers clamp down around the gun, slamming it back against the vehicle and pinning the hand beneath above the young man's head.
Leaning in close, the beast draws in a long, deep sniff of the man caught between himself and the truck, drinking in his fear. Relishing the squirming terror of trapped prey. His mouth hinges open, blood pattering down upon the soldier's uniform collar, and he leans in yet closer, one side of the boy's vision blackening as all light is swallowed.
At just about the same time Renka regains her baring's, green eyes snapping open, the monstrous abomination chomps down on the right side of the private's face. The terror-filled shrieks of the soldier choke away to nothing as he loses consciousness, jagged teeth crunching noisily through bone, flesh, and everything between. When the monster pulls back it is with a satisfied gnashing of jaws, leaving a ruined mess where the young private once had an eyebrow, eye, cheek, and upper jaw. Blood and other fluids gush from the ruined crater, the body slumping limp, only the beast's hold on one hand and the machete through his forearm keeping him vertical.
The monster is still chewing when Renka hurtles in from behind, blazing sword flashing from its scabbard in a single, blinding swing. The attack is incredibly fast, fueled by the kitsune's resolve not only to do her duty, but to save her ally. it is a hero's strike, and by what she has seen of the monster thus far, he should not have time to react.
Hunger partially abated, blood frenzy spurring him onward, the monster moves with speed as yet unseen. The blade is half way free of her scabbard when he begins the dodge, and he is half way to safety by the time the strike lands. Blue flames flicker and shift as the edge of Renka's blade carves a narrow trench across the monster's back, splitting open jumpsuit and skin, carving shallowly into muscles mid way between hips and shoulders. But even as the strike lands she can feel the blunted impact, the loss of force as the monster rolls forward with the blow, leaving a smear of bloody black ichor across the pavement in the wake of his tumble.
A noise somewhere between a gurgling snarl and frustrated growl bubbles up from the monster's throat . Planting one hand against the pavement, he contorts himself back into a semi-upright stance, chains clattering, and turns to glare back toward the corporal now several feet away. The sounds of battle have grown ominously silent, air heavy with the weight of expectation. Black hair hanging across his blood-caked face, tattered jumpsuit a mess of smeared fluids, the beast lulls its long purplish grey tongue out and licks across its teeth, glare shifting to a gleam of sadistic pleasure.
Lifting his right hand, he levels the private's own gun at the fox-eared girl and hacks out another quiet sound. It could be a laugh, or at leased an amused grunt. Whatever it is, it is drown out beneath the cracking thunder of 6 precise shots as the beast unloads the soldier's service revolver toward Renka's face and chest from a distance of 5 paces.
There isn't much time remaining.

COMBATSYS: The Hunter successfully hits Renka with Blood And Thunder.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
The Hunter       0/-------/----===|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Renka

Perhaps there was wisdom in the Librarium's practice of recruiting and enlisting darkstalkers. Who better to face the monsters of the world than other monsters. Not only did they often possess powerful gifts, like regeneration, enhanced senses, super human speed, and knowledge spanning several human lifetimes about the world of the occult... there would also be no human families to mourn their loss, no hometown memorial for a fallen hero, no call from politicians eager to end the fighting to reduce the chance of human casualties...

But sometimes the human soldiers grew attached to their monstrous allies, sometimes they would even come to forget that the soldier standing next to them on patrol would have been considered a monster only worthy of being hunted down were the circumstances different. Sometimes, they would come to value their darkstalker ally lives just as much as any other human's.

Perhaps that's what brought Private Pierce back around the truck to engage the escaped beast at such great peril to himself. And perhaps it was the sound of his pain, his terror, that drove her to move even faster to intervene. If there had been anything she could to prevent the carnage acted upon his face, she would have. But all she can do is attack, all of her aggressive speed just enough to deliver a bloody if shallow slash across the Hunter's back.

Her follow through is flawless, right arm swinging high, her feet stepping into the motion to keep her from tumbling over from her own forward momentum even as her left arm continues to dangle limply against her side. Her feet find traction on the pavement, bringing Corporal Kaneko to a sliding stop, right arm lowering, elbow bending, her sword, encased in blue blazing foxfire, swept back into a readied angle in front of her as she comes to face the prisoner directly.

She pauses then, a rough, gurgling breath heard coming from her as her restorative energy works to knit back together damaged organs as her body tenses, katana gripped tightly, held at an angle that will allow for a responsive defense.

Then he produces the Colt Double Eagle .45 caliber pistol taken from his victim, levels it, and fires.

Having braced herself for a more direct conflict, there is nothing she can do to escape the six precision-fired shots. The first strikes the center of her chest before her ears are assaulted by the violent explosion of sound. Nothing comes out the back, suggesting the destructive round is lodged in her sternum, the only evidence of it the already bloodied hole in her jacket and shirt. Recoiling, she barely reacts when the next shot blasts through her already mangled shoulder and out the back, likely unable to discern that fresh new pain from what she was already suffering.

A foxfire sphere swirls down, intercepting a round headed straight for the kitsune's eye, bursting with just enough force to turn it into a glancing hit against the side of her head. The fourth buries into her left arm bone. The fifth shoots through her right ear, leaving a gaping hole.

The final shot centered between her eyes is met by a second foxfire sphere that detonates directly in its path, robbing the round of most of its momentum, leaving just enough force for it to slam right between her eyes. Head knocked back by the final shot, Renka staggers backward, somehow keeping her footing. The agony of the shots takes a moment to register, and all the world is a sea of silence, her ears completely deafened by the gun shots.

Rolling her head forward, the NOL soldier looks about to fall to face down to the ground once again. Somehow, be it unbreakable resolve, unfathomable resilience to pain, or a mind pushed beyond the point of accepting just how horribly damaged she actually is, she stays upright, blood seeping from six savage wounds, eyes fixated on the Hunter as if daring him to take another shot.

But she doesn't move either. Maybe she doesn't have it in her, maybe for all her heroic effort, her body simply won't cooperative with her burning spirit's desire to stop him.

Or maybe there is another reason. Before, he had used Renka as a line of sight block from Private Pierce back when he had an assault rifle. Now she positions herself between the hunter and his mangled prey. As her blood drips on the ground, as her breathing has completely stopped a second time, the fiercely loyal darkstalker holds the line against any further harm to her ally. Deaf, mute, maimed, and bleeding out, she will hold this ground.

COMBATSYS: Renka focuses on her next action.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////                       ]
The Hunter       0/-------/----===|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Renka

In the wake of the gunfire, the street remains oddly silent. Standing with his bare feet braced, body slouched forward and smoking gun extended, the monstrous creature stares toward Renka's near motionless form with gleaming gold eyes. Both beasts are badly damaged, both bloody and torn. Each of the ex-prisoner's breaths bubbles wetly through his fangs, fluids dripping down his chin. His muscles seem to jitter, gun shaking, as a riot of instincts burn through his brain, hunger gnawing at his insides.
The moment stretches, breath in, breath out. Smoke wafts through the air between them.
Throwing himself violently to one side, a shower of sparks flashes off of the pavement where he had been standing, followed a moment later by the loud crack of a gun. Turning the dive into a roll, the Hunter pauses at the rear of the truck, golden eyes sliding from Renka who stands just around the corner, to something up and past her now blocked by the great bulk of the transport. His breaths come faster, bloody spittle popping against his scarred lips, and the empty gun clatters from his hand.
"By blood or by fire."
Mangled and garbled, barely intelligible, the once hunter murmurs these words to himself. Wild eyes darting back down toward the mangled Corporal, then away, he scans his surroundings, seeming to grow ever more frantic.
Off in the distance, a soft, melodic whistling echoes off of the buildings. The tune is slow and wavering, drifting hauntingly over the silent streets like the memory of something lost.
Taking a single step back, then another, the monster edges further around the truck, moving away from Renka and her wounded ally. then, in a sudden scrape and rattle of chains, he turns and bolts for the fenced in containers, leaping up to perch atop the bent rail, then launching himself over the first line of containers in a high arc. There are no twangs of crossbows, no further shots. Only the soft, slow tune filling the darkness around the two remaining NOL soldiers.
Blood stains and violence, memories of horror. These are all that remain of the hunters. Whatever bodies may have fallen were dragged away. Whatever weapons they carried were taken with them. However, if the fox-eared corporal manages to follow one of the fleeing creature's last glances up and behind her,she will see a final man standing upon the raised lip of a warehouse roof. Long coat a deep black, this hunter wears no mask or hat. His hair is pale blond and buzzed close to the scalp, eyes a grey so bright they seem silver in the moonlight. Pale, ethereal, and sharp featured, he purses his lips and whistles softly into the night air while his gloved hands work deftly to reload a double-barreled flintlock.
The last note of his tune quavering in the air, the hunter glances down directly at Renka, dips his head once, and turns away. Without hurry he steps down off of the roof edge and walks slowly away in the other direction, vanishing from sight.

COMBATSYS: The Hunter has left the fight here.

[                       \\\\\\\  <
Renka            2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|

The wounded kitsune is perfectly still. With no need to breathe, she lacks the rhythmic rise and fall of her lungs filling and emptying of air. Of the nine foxfire spheres she started with, only three remain. Tiny, concentrated glowing motes zip about quickly as the soul eater pulls heavily on the last of her reservoir to keep her body from surrendering to multiple mortal wounds. Her mangled ear gradually folds forward as the blood flow from it slows. There is a slight tremor to her right arm as she concentrates all of her will into keeping a grip on her sword.

But still she stands guard, a voiceless sentinel keeping vigil in a mad world gone silent around her. This will be it. They will clash and it will all be decided. She must save every last bit of strength for that moment.

But then something changes. Deaf, she is caught by surprise at the shower of sparks near where the escaped beast was standing an instant before. Her head pivots left and right looking around her, but she can't take her eyes off the Hunter for long. She has tested his speed and knows full well he could be back on her in an instant.

She watches quietly as he becomes more frantic, unable to hear the haunting tone over the warehouse rooftops. But she sees the moment he decides to withdraw, recognizing that transition, knowing what it feels like to run from threats...

But it can't be she he's running from. She watches until the escaped killer is lost to the shadows of the wharfs before finally sparing a look back, using the Hunter's own final glance to know where to focus. When her eyes settle on the figure above, she is able to make out every detail as if studying him by the light of day.

In that moment, her right arm gives out, falling against her side, her sword dropping from her fingers to clang against the ground, its blue fire going out in an instant. There is no question in her mind that if the man intends to erase the only NOL soldier who has any chance of explaining what happened here, there is nothing she can do in her condition to save herself or the unconscious Private Pierce. Her mind is a fog. Simply staying upright is a trial of excruciating pain. But she refuses to fall even as blackness begins to close in on her vision.

The wounded Corporal is looking at the last of the wolf pack when he glances her way, dipping his head once. She's watching him as he turns to walk past the edge of the roof. And when there is no longer anyone there, she stares at the empty sky beyond as if not noticing that he is gone.

The Rapid Response Team arrives within minutes of the violent ambush's start, arriving with armored vehicles, weapons, helicopters, and medical personnel. Sweeping over the scene of carnage, there is very little need to check for a pulse in most of the bodies encountered, so violent, so decisive was their death.

A shout comes from the first to circle around the truck, bringing others to look at the sight of the only two survivers. One, a young man, his arm skewered to the metal exterior of the transport vehicle, half his face in ruin. The other, a bloodied, shot, bashed, and maimed darkstalker, somehow standing watch over the Private, eyes in an unfocused stare up toward the sky.

Both soldiers are found unconscious.

COMBATSYS: Renka has ended the fight here.

Log created on 23:40:00 06/28/2019 by The Hunter, and last modified on 03:51:01 07/04/2019.