The Black Dragon - Black Dragon R1 - Chasing Your Tail

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Description: As with everyone else in Southtown, the NOL was caught completely off-guard by the sudden horde of monsters that seemed to appear from out of nowhere. Unlike most everyone else, their paranoia and military discipline has left them in a better position to do something about it. While the majority of their standing forces have been dispatched to help quell the worst attacks, a few elite officers have been ordered to investigate the source of this disturbance. Corporal Renka sets out to do precisely that, using her supernatural senses to follow a trail towards the south edge of town. Or maybe it was to the east? No, definitely north now. Wait, this place looks familiar...

he Southtown Novus Orbis Librarium went on high alert the moment reports started coming in about widespread darkstalker activity throughout the city. At first it sounded like a couple packs had gotten fed up with their present circumstances and decided to go out in a blaze of glory tearing a swath of death and destruction across the metropolis. But then more reports came in and it became clear that something else was developing rapidly. Too many spread out incidents to chalk up to just one or two berserking packs, and the creature variety was also too diverse to dismiss.

Forces mobilized swiftly. They had trained for this. Even though their usual deployments involved responding to a single aberrant creature on the loose, or a crazed magician who finally snapped, the expectation maintained by the strict regimens had always prepared those employed by the NOL for larger scale emergency action.

The first priority was to secure the civilians. This was the promise made to the governments that allowed them to establish their foothold, who gave them a very liberal guidelines and few limitations to work within. If the Librarium couldn't uphold their end of the deal when things really went south, any trust the public might have in them would be eroded.

But there was another priority, secondary but no less critical to the preservation of lives. Figuring out what had triggered the rampaging beasts to tear through the city. Where did they come from? How had they all moved in at the same time? That there had to be a connection was indisputable, but what could it be?

An emergency re-assignment had Corporal Renka Kaneko diverting from her normal menial duties reporting to Captain Shimotsuki to take on a special task. Such times were not infrequent, and though the reprieve from dealing with the severe woman was nice, the assignments themselves often proved to be difficult, high risk ventures that required the absolutely best of her abilities to accomplish. Determined not to fail, to let down the Librarium, her peers, or her superior officers, the fox-eared soldier approached each special assignment as a fulfillment to her oath of enlisting, of doing her part to repay the opportunities and rights the organization gave her.

Standing at attention before a curt Major who wore a distinct black uniform, Renka pays rapt attention to the orders rattled off. She was to go out into the city and investigate, answering temporarily to the Intelligence division.

"Find out who sent them. Use your..." The major waves his right hand dismissively, "Darkstalker radar and figure it out."

Renka blinked. Darkstalker radar? "My sense of smell, sir?"

The dead stare her question earned her put a stop to any further questions. It was clear the Major wasn't interested in the particulars of how she did her job only that it got done.

Dismissed to carry out her task, Renka moved into the city. She was issued a phone that had all of the current info about the assaults, where they were happening, which ones had been contained, where other creatures were spotted and what directions they were going in. The military car she was issued was good for getting to the city border but no further, the roads blocked off by vehicles either caught in fender benders or simply abandoned by a panicked populace. Ditching it by the side of the road, she went in the rest of the way on foot. Her supernatural physiology afforded her the ability to move at a swift pace with no sign of tiring anytime soon, drawing from her stored up reserves of soul energy to supplement her endurance.

She started by moving to known hot spots and attempting to follow the trails backward, her keen sense of smell guiding the way. But before long, it became clear that simply backtracking the roaming packs of creatures was not going to work. Their paths crisscrossed too much, the packs breaking up and reforming organically as they flowed through the city, a whirlwind of teeth, claws, and fur. Trying to walk back the routes they had taken to find the source was simply not an option.

So instead she resolved to find one. If she could hunt down and isolate one of the marauding darkstalkers, maybe she could get some answers directly.

Using the data being supplied to her mobile device, she went to a location of a recent citing. Her nose would lead the way from there. Once or twice, she came across people on the streets, trying to hurry home or perhaps lacking any home to hurry to. Initial reactions had been wide-eyed fear at seeing Renka's ears or noticing her twin fox tails, but the uniform itself was what set their minds at ease and allowed her to provide calming council and directions about known safe refuges they could retreat to.

The uniform was important, she knew. It was what set her apart from the creatures on the attack. A dark blue blazer, normally buttoned up but allowed to hang open for mobility for now. A white blouse with a crimson tie at her neck tucked into a long, dark blue pleated skirt. It was distinctive and similar to other NOL personnel people would have been exposed to, and it meant she was one of the 'good guys', she told herself. Of course, the two fox ears sticking up out of her long mane of red-blonde hair tended to make wearing the official beret annoying enough that she didn't bother. At her hip rested a sheathed sword, its thin blade and slight curve suggesting a katana-like weapon.

Ears alert, her sense of smell told her she was on the right track as she moved her way South through the densely built sections of the city.

Fear, it would seem, is an excellent motivator for getting people to respond quickly. The streets are largely deserted as the lone operative makes her way to the southern edge of its borders. The initial attack had been reported sometime shortly after the noon hour but the full extent of the assault wasn't realized until nearly two hours later. More time had passed since then as leadership scrambled to respond to the immediate crisis, trying desperately to curtail the worst hot spots and cordon off easy access deeper into the city. By the time the Corporal had received her orders and set out in search of answers the sun was already beginning to dip below the towering skyline of concrete and glass.

Only the faint traces of dying orange light keep the blackness of night at bay now, smeared across the heavens like swaths of pastel paint from a careless artist's brush. Neon street lights have flickered to life, their blazing white bulbs casting cones of illumination down onto the sidewalks, small white circles of safety against the quickly growing shadows that stretch out to consume the city. Most of the buildings along the road lie dormant, their occupants either too terrified to draw attention to their presence or no longer there to do so.

Likewise, the faint trickle of life signs that she had encountered on her journey from the city center have completely dried up. Not even the scuffle of homeless animals digging through the trash - an almost ubiquitous sound in any major city - is discernable in the oppressive silence. The only people that she stumbles across are those that failed to escape the ravaging beasts, mangled and maimed corpses splayed out in glistening pools of their own blood.

A faint breeze blows through the empty streets, carrying upon it the stench of death. The olfactory assault is almost overwhelming, even to those without the enhanced senses of the ancient fox, making it difficult to pick out a clean trail to follow. Victory comes to the persistent this evening, however, and eventually the unmistakable scent of a dark stalker cuts through the miasma once she has traveled far enough to escape the dense residential complexes and started to move out into the industrial sector.

The trail takes her on a winding path through alleys and over more than a few fences and rooftops. It would seem whatever was responsible for creating it possessed a great deal of agility or the ability to scale walls. The trail grows more distinct as time passes offering hope that she might be closing in on her quarry.

Some ten minutes after picking up the first scents, however, the scent veers sharply to the east cutting directly across a large industrial yard. In the day time, such lots are dotted with a myriad of hazards not limited to scattered tools, rusty forgotten nails, and large holes more than capable of breaking an ankle with an unwary step. At night, the dangers are all the more threatening for their difficulty to be noticed. A pair of large cranes loom like threatening sentinels at the entrace of the yard, heavy metal hooks swinging ominously from creaking wires in the wind.

At the center of the lot, something moves as she draws near. The faint light makes it difficult to make out but there is an unmistakable shifting of the shadows near a pile of stacked lumber, a small humanoid shape slipping quickly out of sight, its silhouette followed by a long slender tail.

The fading daylight would be no concern for the kitsune soldier. Hers were a predator's eyes, and as she moved through the long, dark shadows cast by the buildings, they widened, pupils dilating, taking in every scrap of light and forming a fairly complete picture of everything shrouded in darkness around her. Even the occasional non-broken street light was enough to fulfill her need.

Only when moving down a particularly dark alleyway did she lift left hand, palm upward, conjuring a small mote of sapphire foxfire, illuminating her way only so long as she needed it before letting it scatter. No sense in making herself an easily scene target.

The later it got, the more she began to move as a hunter. Leaning forward, stepping quietly, moving in fleeting bursts from cover to cover and scouting out the way ahead. Pausing to sniff the air, to pivot her sensitive ears around, seeking for practically any sound other than the occasional drip of leaking water.

She stops for a long while at the first bodies found, standing just shy of the pooling blood next to one, face cast down, mouth pressed into a thin line. Her right hand tightens into a fist at her side. This was pointless slaughter. It was monsters killing people who could not have posed any threat to them, violent, savage, and seemingly without much purpose other than to sow death. There was nothing clinical about this killing. It was targeted at these people specifically. They just got caught up in the roaming whirlwind of death.

Lifting her face, Renka pressed on. She couldn't risk losing the scent, her only trail. While the fences didn't slow her down, finding ways up onto the rooftops to stay close to the trail sometimes proved more challenging. Whoever she was following was definitely more mobile than she, a detail she would not let slip from her mind if she managed to catch up.

The industrial yard gives her pause. It was unfamiliar terrain and an environment she had no prior experience in. Pausing at the gate, one hand resting on the frame, she tries to make sense of it from her position. It was too large to try and circle around, the chances of losing the trail were too great.

Jaw set, the NOL soldier presses forward, her pace slower as she picks her way around the larger holes and avoids kicking the occasional stray metal bucket. She'll have to trust the thicker soles of her ankle-high boots to handle the rest.

The fox-eared operative freezes at the sign of movement ahead. She knew she was close but not THAT close. Her eyes scan the yard ahead, picking out high places that would be easy to ambush from. After holding still for ten seconds, she moves on, this time veering toward the lumber stacks but circling around the long way, outside of the central construction. Senses at their highest alert, she resists the temptation to cast the area around her in the faint blue light of foxfire until she gets closer to the lumber. Only then does she hold out her left hand, conjuring a minute sphere of flickering blue flame, doing a quick visual sweep of the area around herself.

While the corporal's reticence to rush blindly into an unknown situation speaks well of her caution and military discipline, her hesitation proves to have cost her the chance to close with her quarry. Though she spots no signs of obvious ambush, when she finally makes her circuitous way over to the pile of lumber the magical foxfire casts its glow only upon an empty patch of dirt. Whatever had been here a minute ago is now long gone.

A closer inspection of the area would reveal a small set of footprints, though some rather confusing ones. What appears to be a mixture of animal-like paw impressions are interspersed with human handprints that overlap closely. The pattern seems to indicate that something with both paws and fingers wandered through here on all fours - that or a rogue circus clown handwalked past this place along with his upright dancing bear. Knowing Southtown, the possibility can't be discounted.

Regardless of their potential comedic origins, the scent that Renka has been tracking is very strong here and both tracks and smell lead further to the east, across the yard and out into the streets once again. Considering she had spotted movement here not long ago whatever she's chasing must be in a hurry, either because she's been noticed or because they're up to something. Only one way to find out.

Renka glances right, then left, then whirls around once, her faintly illuminating ball of foxfire providing her with enough light to see her surroundings fairly clearly. What she doesn't see, however, is anyone else. A faint frown crosses her lips, ears tilting forward as she peers around her again, this time focused more on where the others might have gone rather than where they are now.

Stepping forward around the rest of the stack of lumber, she checks the ground, letting just a little more energy slip into her light to let her make out the markings on the ground more clearly. She knows she must be tracking something agile based on the routes she's had to follow just to get here. But clearly stealthy as well. Had she not caught the slightest glimpse of her target of interest, she might not have realized they were so close and their departure from the lot had been completely silent.

The fox-eared soldier closes her eyes for a moment, combining the evidence in tracks with the blend of smells carrying her forward on her mission, trying to get a better sense for how many individuals she might be stalking after. The absence of dead bodies in the industrial yard affords her the chance to try and distinguish individual scents than the overwhelming odor of death she had been traversing back in the alleyways.

Eyes open after a moment, their new direction identified. She glances along the route to the East then lowers her hand, allowing the foxfire lamp to vanish. Images of the bodies she had come across fill her mind. She was no stranger to the ugly sights of death and there had been a time she might not have thought twice about coming across a trail of human remains, but those days were far behind her now.

It was too distractingly easy to picture her peers with the Librarium, those human souls who trained, patrolled, and fought alongside her, ending up dead like the civilians she had seen. Lips draw back, a faint growl in Renka's throat, her hands clenching into fists. This was no time for a long, drawn out hunt. Every second she delayed meant another minute a human somewhere could be at risk of being attacked by her quarry.

The disciplined search is set aside as Corporal Kaneko takes off after the trial in a faster run, leaning into her stride. Whether they were running from her or just in a rush to get to their next scene of mayhem, she would find them and put a stop to their rampage!

Free of the muddling influence of death that permeated the air outside the unfinished lot, the smell of the quarry is clear and sharp; definitely animal in nature, though precisely what kind is difficult to make out. Whatever is responsible for the trail seems to be light on its feet, judging by the shallow imprints and the fact that there is no trace of it to be found despite her previous proximity. She will have to move more swiftly, it seems.

The tracks and scent cut a winding path across the construction yard, emerging once more onto the abandoned city streets. Free of the potential dangers of unseen tripping hazards and rusty caltrops, the corporal's increased haste allows her to move swiftly in pursuit, keeping the scent of her target fresh and strong. Almost no sooner than she begins the chase, however, things start to get complicated.

After only a block, the trail veers sharply to the right, disappearing into a shadowy alleyway. Half a dozen trashcans lie overturned, their rancid contents scattered across the pavement in a filthy carpet of refuse. Worse, the stench makes it difficult to follow her lead leaving her no choice but to wade into the mess and hope to pick it up again on the other side. The sheer density of the garbage makes it impossible to avoid completely, even should she slow down to try and better navigate through it, barring some ability to float or run along the walls.

Upon clearing the foul obstacle, the scent and several fresh pawprints become noticible once more, vanishing around another bend in the alley. Following it leads to a confusing romp through the narrow passages between buildings, her quarry seemingly taking random turns at erratic intervals. Several more times she's forced to brave freshly up-ended dumpsters and torn-open garbage bags almost as if the creatures are trying to throw her off their scent.

After about ten minutes of this disgusting game of tag, the trail suddenly seems to vanish at a dead end. Turning another corner, the soldier finds herself staring at a solid concrete wall with no obvious signs of a doorway or side passage, hidden or otherwise. However, a closer inspection of the area would reveal an emergency fire escape ladder leading up towards the roof, its rungs stained with fresh pungent smears.

Thus begins the next stage of the game she is forced to play. The trail leads her a merry chase around the residential district, diving back down to the ground level and then right back up to the roofs almost every couple of buildings. Several times she's forced to leap gaps at least ten feet wide in order to clear the space from one roof to the next; that or spend the extra time to safely descend and then ascend.

Ahead of her, the faint tantalazing glimmers of a potential end to her extended hunt seem to flit across her vision, vague shapes just at the edge of sight darting between outcroppings only to vanish when she turns to look at them. They always seem to be able to keep just ahead of her regardless of how quickly she moves or how recklessly she pursues them. Each time she reaches the site where one of those maddening shadows made itself known she finds nothing except another taunting image flickering across her peripherial vision further down the road, always just a little bit closer than it was before.

By the time she manages to close the gap enough to potentially make out what it is she's seeing with her supernatural vision, it becomes obvious that she's just been taken for a ride. The familiar towering shapes of the two cranes come into view as she swings around a final corner, silently standing guard over the large empty construction yard. She has just enough time to see a slender feminine shape slip quietly into the yard, its humanoid features broken up by large patches of dark orange fur on its arms and legs and a long slender tail. The creature pauses at the entrance, her body completely hidden from view save for the tail. It swishes back and forth with a couple of sassy pops, clearly taunting the foolish fox, before it too vanishes into the shadows leaving behind the faint echo of amused laughter.

Faced with the first trash-filled alleyway, the NOL Corporal balks, recoiling from the putrefying odors assaulting her senses at first contact. Someone is definitely trying to keep her off their trail, she realizes, deliberately sabotaging the smells she has to compete with in order to pick out her quarry. Gritting her teeth, the frustrated fox moves forward, trying to navigate around the refuse piles but ultimately having to trudge through them, kicking aside trash and occasionally evening having to sway her arms out in a bid to keep her balance on the uneven surface.

Making it out the other side, she continues forward some ways, trying to pick out the scent again, though identifying it clearly is a lot harder now that her short boots are caked in spoiled garbage. But after staggering forward some ways in a quasi-nauseated daze, she spots the familiar prints anew. Knowing she's still going the right way helps her focus more on the smells before her rather than the ones trailing behind her and she resumes her chase at a more rapid pace.

As she encounters new choke points filled with upended refuse, she has to repeat the process all over again, though sometimes she manages to perch on the containers themselves to make it across the hazards a bit more efficiently.

But then comes the wall and she stops short, blinking in surprise, looking back and forth trying to make sense of it. Did they scale straight up? Only in considering that potentiality does she notice the fire escape ladder. Grunting softly, Renka backs up then runs for the wall, stepping up it far enough to grasp hold of the bottom rung of the ladder and pull herself the rest of the way up.

The up and down ordeal that follows is taxing, pulling from her inner reservoir of energy, but not enough to really come close to exhausting her. Perhaps prior to her military training regimens, the kitsune might have been too drained by all the climbing and navigating to keep going at full strength, but since enlisting with the NOL, she has pushed herself hard, always trying to extend the lengths she can go without needing to stop and rest, learning to burn her sustenance of soul energy more efficiently, knowing when to balance mundane sources of energy burn like normal food against her supernatural supply. The training has paid off, Corporal Kaneko keeping pace without wearying. She would be relentless in her pursuit unless her targets of interest could truly manage to lose her entirely - something they didn't even seem to be trying intensely hard to do.

The leaps across the gaps between buildings are handled readily enough. She has a good gauge the distance she can and cannot make and never toys with ranges that might be too risky. It's when she feels like she's getting closer, however, that true frustration starts to settle in. Chasing shadows, flickers of movement, or impressions of certainty that someone is just around the corner, each time she comes up empty handed only fuels her rising exasperation. A rush across the street from one ally to another only to find no one there after all draws a soft growl in her throat.

Smelling of garbage, coated in dust from her climbs up to normally untraveled rooftops, the normally patient darkstalker's temper rises. When she clenches her right hand again, wisps of blue foxfire swirl over her fingers as she imagines what she's going to do to whoever has toyed with her this night.

And her mood isn't improved the moment she sets eyes on the construction yard, two familiar cranes towering well over the surrounding fence. Teeth grit as her right hand goes to the grip of her sword. The figure vanishing around the fence and out of sight, pausing only long enough to taunt her with its slender tail, is enough.

"I should have known." Renka grumbles to herself, sprinting toward the yard. Of course it's cats. She knows she's being toyed with, that whoever she's chasing has definitely gone out of their way to exasperate her, that she should reign in her temper and not let down her guard... but she's had it!

"I can keep this up all night!" she exclaims angrily. Taking her on a tour of Southtown isn't going to get her to give up the chase!

By the time she's reached the entrance, the creature has made it back to the stacked pallet of lumber near the center of the yard. She doesn't attempt to hide herself from view any longer, apparently bored with the game of tag that she's been playing with the corporal for the past hour or so. Enough time has passed that proper night has settled over the city, the distant circle of a full moon beginning its arc across the sky in silverly facimile of the star whose radiance it reflects. Pale light bathes the previously dark lot, offering the fox's supernatural senses more than enough illumination to get a good look at her quarry.

More human than animal, at least in its outwards appearance, the dark stalker appears quite similar to a teenage girl with dark brown skin. A short ragged bob of dull orange hair frames her face and patches of similarly colored fur adorn her body. Her arms and legs are covered from the joint down to the extremities and her otherwise naked torso is sheathed in a pattern of orange fuzz that looks almost like a fancy bathing suit, swirling tantalizingly around her chest and hips while managing to remain modest.
%tThe creature's more animal aspects stand out in stark relief compared to her humanoid frame. Her hands and feet are slightly larger than they should be, each fuzzy digit ending in a large curved black claw. Her eyes are likewise bigger than usual and the reflection of the moon makes them all but glow a pale yellow, split vertically by dark black lines. The shaggy haircut would normally have concealed her ears, were they they not of feline design and resting atop the crest of her skull, and a long tail that lies lazily draped over the edge of the pallet swooshes back and forth with relaxed disinterest in the potential mayhem ready to be visited upon its owner.

As Renka steps intot he yard, the cat gives her one of those infuriatingly smug grins that every domestic house cat seems to have genetically ingrained into its repretoire of expressions; seeing it on a young girl's far more expressive features only makes it even more insufferable. The dark stalker chuckles at her again and clucks its tongue, adopting a mocking babyish tone.

"Hmmhmmhmm! Awww, did da poor widdle doggy get all tuckered out?"

From above a second voice just as annoyingly smug as the first drifts down into the yard, revealing the presence of a second catgirl, this one sporting white fur and longer hair tied up into a loose pony tail. She peers down at Renka with a look of idle disinterest, draped negligently across the extended arm of one of the cranes. She hadn't been there only a few moments ago when the corporal had been looking at the yard from afar and it quickly becomes apparent that there are a whole lot of places that more of these creatures could be lurking in a place like this.

"It looks rather upset," the long-haired white muses, sounding bored. "I thought they liked chasing their own tails."

A faint scraping sound from behind her announces the presence of not one but two more of the sneaky felines emerging from behind a large industrial wastebin. They slink casually but quickly to take position a few feet outside of the yard's entrance, squatting down into a very cat-like crouch that looks mildly odd when attempting with human physiology, their knees jutting up around their heads as they lean onto their haunches and place their hands on the ground in front of them. Identical Siamese twins, their skin coal black and their fur pale white, smirk at her as their tails swish back and forth in tandem. The one on the right speaks first, tilting her head to the side curiously while giving her twin a meaningful glance as she does so.

"It is a rather fluffy tail. Perhaps we can use it for a pillow?"

The other cat mimicks the gesture, responding to her sister with the same conversational tone of voice, speaking as if Renka isn't even there.

"A wonderful idea. Oh! And what luck. She even has two of them."

The twins' smirk widens as they stare at each other, enjoying some sort of private joke for a moment, then turn their attention back to the fox, eyes shining with something far less pleasant than their playful banter.

COMBATSYS: Cat Girl Swarm has started a fight here.

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Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/-------|

Rushing into the yard, Renka comes to a stop within a few steps upon noticing the orange furred cat girl perched on the lumber stack. A blink to take her in, but she doesn't study that one first, instead glancing over her shoulders quickly in anticipation of ambush before shifting her attention back to the one in plain sight.

Standing up straight, the NOL soldier's right hand rests on the grip of her sword, its familiar touch providing an anchor in her otherwise agitated emotions. Lips draw back at the first needling, canine teeth rarely bared made visible by the moonlight, a soft growl rumbling in her throat. Renka opens her mouth, about to retort, when the fox hears the voice of another up above her. Neck craning, green eyes flick across the perched white-haired nuisance. That's two...

At the hint of movement behind her, her mMouth presses shut into a tight-lipped glare as she glances over her left shoulder, her right ear pivoting toward her right shoulder, making sure to pick up the slightest sound suggesting movement from her blind side. Her twin tails swish in unison at her back in swift, jerky movements, inversely mirroring the turns of her neck as she keeps the two behind her in sight for now. Four then... How many more could there be?

Renka draws her sword with her right hand, her left moving to join it in a two handed, tight grip. With her stance still facing mostly toward the lumber stack, her sword is held to her left side, positioned angled equally between the cats behind her and the one in front of her. Another quick glance is spared for the one on the crane, making sure it looks as lazily perched as before.

In addition to taking in their appearance and postures, she's also studying their smells. Which of them carry the scent of blood and death on them? The growl in her throat dies out as Renka barks, "Did you all do it?! Did you all kill those people?" She shakes her head, the vexation of their taunting combined with her frustration at the trail of murderous death she crossed in chasing them down causing a pounding in her head in time with her racing heartbeat. "Do you realize what you've done?!"

She needs to calm herself, the quiet voice in her mind insists, she needs to focus and not get riled up.

Remember her mission.
Remember her ambition.

Renka takes in breaths, relying on the mundane support of oxygen to fuel her for now. She'll need her soul fueled strength imminently, no sense in burning through it prematurely. The cycle of inhaling and exhaling is also a chance to try and cement her thoughts. She wants to know why this is happening - she needs to find out who put this horrific night into motion and what drove all these darkstalkers to do what they've done.

But above all else, she needs to stop these four from doing anymore harm.

The first proof that the feline menaces aren't dealing with any ordinary fox spirit manifests in the form of cerulean fire sweeping down the length of her katana from the hold her hands have on the sword's grip. Leaning forward, feet sliding apart, the uniformed darkstalker is clearly readying to attack, whether by duty or provocation matters little at this point.

The second warning comes in the form of nine spheres of azure flame that swirl into existence behind Renka's back, swirling in a lazy, patternless orbit over her shoulders and behind her head. Foxfire - the visible manifestation of soul energy stored up within - and proof that the cat pack is antagonizing a kitsune of at least a few hundred years in age. A soul-leeching vampire known for its ability to combine illusion with dangerous foxfire.

Her anger at their wanton murder and no doubt some degree of instinctual dislike of their very nature propels her to strike before she can become further entrapped in their games. Launching off her right foot into a full spin to her left, the armed NOL soldier lunges for one of the twins.

She leads with her left shoulder as she's going to tackle into the first one she gets to, but upon getting in range, she'll pivot to the left, driving her right knee in toward the girl's stomach. An overhead bash with the pommel of her sword would follow, attempting to knock her target back and put both of them on the defensive.

"Why are you doing this?!"

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

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Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0            Renka

COMBATSYS: Cat Girl Swarm dodges Renka's Light Strike.

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Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0            Renka

In the face of the corporal's growing anger, the cats merely continue to smile, unperturbed by the accusations of misconduct hurled at them. The stench of death comes from everywhere now, the sheer amount of violence that has been unleashed upon the city carried on the chill evening wind. It practically coats her senses like layer of gauze drenched in something particularly foul draped over her nose making it difficult to pinpoint whether a particular member of the small tribe she's stumbled across is personally responsible for the acts of murder that she has come across - at least, by scent. There are no obvious signs of bloodshed marring their claws or fur either; damn cats and their habitual fastidiousness.

"Hmph." The orange tomcat lets out a dismissive sniff, turning her nose up at the claim as if it is beneath her royal notice. "All we did was play with the humans a little. It isn't our fault that they were so fragile. A few little scratches..." She pauses mid-sentence to flex her claws and they dig into the surface of the lumber with a sharp scratching sound, peeling curls of wood away like sharpened chisels. Her aloof smirk widens, revealing narrow fangs in a wicked grin. " And they just... fell apart."

Above her the longhaired white shifts her posture, folding her arms together to create a pillow which she rests her chin on, peering down at the kitsune with slightly more interest than before, perhaps intrigued by the idea of claiming one of her soft fluffy tails for her own. The movement comes at the perhiphery of Renka's vision just as she starts to look away from the crane, almost as if it waiting intentionally until she was distracted to try and draw attention back to itself.

"Just a bit of fun," the creature purrs, her lazy smile just as lacking in concern or empathy. "If you want to get all riled up about it, you should go and chase after your fellow dogs. They're the ones really tearing the place up."

Behind her the twins let out a giggle in unison, lifting a paw to cover their mouths in a faux gesture of manners. The gesture comes quickly after the crane cat makes herself the center of attention, forcing the corporal to keep her head on a swivel should she wish to maintain optimal threat awareness. Every move could be the beginning of an attack and these pesky little creatures seem to be fully aware of that, using mere threat of their presence to toy with her yet further.

"Filthy mutts," the one on the left says. "They always get too carried away. The idea of so many bones to gnaw on must have strained their tiny little brains."

"Which makes them perfect for this job," the other counters. "After being caged up for so long they must be ever so pent up. Poor things. They just wanted to romp around for a while."

The addition of naked steel and foxfire to the discussion causes all of the cats to turn their head towards Renka, eyes narrowing slightly. It isn't enough to rattle them or ruin their nonchalant expressions but the corporal would find that the drawing of her weapon has firmly fixed her as the focal point for several sets of predatory eyes. Silence fills the yard for several seconds as the soldier makes her intent known. None of the cat girls make a move, merely watching and waiting to see what she will do, though an observant eye would notice the faint tightening of muscles beneath their skin as their hunter's instincts key up in the calm before the first pounce.

Renka's sudden pivot towards the twins elicts an equally rapid explosion of motion from the two salt and pepper felines. The one that she had been targetting with her initial strike bound almost effortlessly to the side, springing deftly out of the way of the shoulder tackle just in time to avoid being checked to the ground. Her sister likewise avoids the knee meant to take her in the gut, sidestepping to Renka's flank with a quick hop that keeps her within in fighting distance to the kitsune.

Not wanting to waste the opportunity, the closer twin lunges forward, her claws raking at the hand which holds the dangerous blade. But her strike is a feint, brushing only quickly into range and then swinging wide to allow her to nimbly scamper away and out of range - the true attack comes from behind. The first twin, having immediately turned around after evading the rush, lunges at Renka in complete silence. Her claws extend in a long raking slash at the fox's wrist, likewise attempting to disable her ability to wield the katana before it can become an issue. And like her twin, the Siamese doesn't stay in close proximity for more than a moment, striking and then attempting to pounce out of range once again.

"Why, indeed...?", the longhair muses almost philosophically from her perch, watching the brawl unfold below her like a queen gazing down from her palanquin into an arena where a group of unlucky slaves have been forced to fight for her amusement.

COMBATSYS: Cat Girl Swarm successfully hits Renka with Shiny!.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/------=|======-\-------\0            Renka

The first of the Siamese twins evades and Renka commits to her attempted knee strike against the second who manages to prove equally elusive. Coming to a stop just shy of a small drainage ditch dug along the outer border of the construction yard, she whirls against the first cat to leap for her just as they intended, kicking up dust as she braces herself.

Pivoting her arm up, she draws her sword into the path of the strike, intending to punish the aggressive strike with a potentially painful block against the sharp edged blade.

The painful slice against her right forearm and wrist comes as a complete surprise, claws digging deep, tearing easily through the coat of her jacket and the white, long-sleeved blouse worn beneath. Gasping in surprise, Renka turns on the second only to find that she's also backed out of range. Blood drips to the ground at her feet from three deep, fine gashes along her right arm and as she flexes and relaxes her right hand, it's clear the intended damage has been done.

Illuminated by her own foxfire, her eyes reflect the azure light of the dancing orbs as she glares back at the one who successfully drew blood from her. With an intake of breath, her right hand slips away from her sword grip leaving it held up by her left alone, clearly not her dominant based on her movements thus far.

Breathing accelerated now that adrenaline courses through her red blood like any other, she holds her ground for a moment, trying to step back and turn to keep the two from easily flanking her while also attempting to keep tabs on the other two who were merely enjoying the spectacle from afar for the moment.

Of the nine foxfire spheres, one in particularly is larger than the rest at roughly the size of a soccer ball and maintaining a more central position in the slow but unpredictable orbits of her orbs. From the larger one, thin, gossamer tendrils of faint blue energy stretch out toward her right arm. They would be hard to see in the bright light of day, but by night, their touch is easily noticeable as they begin mending the inflicted damage ever so gradually.

She had heard their words though. Werewolves? Reports had come into the NOL that verified that much. But... "Cages?"

She had been almost certain this mayhem had originated from the unsightly structure Lord Jedah Dohma had erected in Southtown. A beacon for darkstalkers looking for refuge without having to fall in line with the Librarium, it seemed the most lilely source to her. But the idea that darkstalkers would be caged within the so-called embassy seemed unthinkable and the confusion is reflected briefly in her eyes before she shakes her head. She needs to stay focused. These creatures will claw her to pieces just like those people if she lets her guard down. Already, she's finding what it's like to be on the other end of a deceptive fighting style...

Gritting her teeth, she shakes her head. "You still have an array of choices to make, even now after all you've done. Please choose life, perhaps even redemption someday, by surrendering now!"

She twists into a backhanded sword strike with her left arm, the movement not nearly as expert as she is capable of normally but still posing some risk if entirely ignored.

But it too is a feint as she launches out of the full bodied spin into a low leap forward, right arm snapping out, fingers splayed as she rakes her bloodied hand through the air toward the other twin.

The attack will seem born of desperation, not even close enough to reach in spite her lunge. But a split second behind the movement of her arm, a swath of vibrant foxfire fills the empty air, forming a flaming crescent that threatens to wash over the upper half of her target!

COMBATSYS: Cat Girl Swarm dodges Renka's Mistaken Mercies.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/------=|=====--\-------\0            Renka

Girlish giggles burst from the twins as they pull their bait and switch with masterful skill, pouring the salt of their smugness into the stinging cuts. The two slender dark stalkers maintain a cautious distance upon completing their maneuver, circling slowly around her like a pair of satellites locked into geosynchronous orbit. Their movements are quite odd to watch now that they are no longer sitting still, their feline reflexes turning their slightly hunched and predatory bipedal stride into something graceful if slightly unnatural. They keep their torsos swiveled towards Renka even as their legs carry them sideways. Both arms are held close to the chest with their paws hanging loosely at the wrist but the deadly claws remain extended and ready.

"Oh dear," says the tomcat, hopping down from her perch to wander towards the front of the yard. She moves with no apparent urgency, sauntering with the same demeanor as a someone going for an afternoon stroll that has spotted something interesting along their path. "It looks like the poor thing has injured her paw."

"A bit too excitable, like an overgrown puppy. You can't blame them for reacting so," chimes in the longhair, content to remain where she is.

The twin whose claws had tasted her blood idly lifts her claw to her face licking some of it away with a couple flicks of her tongue. Neither she nor her sister offer any further verbal taunting into the mix but their expressions mirror the playfully condescending tone of the others.

None of the cats make any immediate attempt to strike at her again, clearly enjoying the advantage of having her alone and at their mercy. They intend to play with her for a while and do nothing to hide it; after all, she's far more interesting sport than the helpless civilians. Who knows? Maybe they can even capture this unusual dark stalker. She would make a fine prize to present to the Master and rewards are always swiftly granted to those who please her.

So the cats watch, allowing Renka her brief moment of reprieve as she calls upon the power of her spiritual orbs to mend the harm done to her hand, the light of her foxfire reflecting from their large glassy eyes. Her call for a more civil resolution to the disagreement and a cessation of their murderous hunt is met with more high-pitched haughty laughter, bombarded from all sides by their aloof mirth.

There is no time for her tormentors to formulate a reply. She lunges forward, blade spinning in a wide arc meant to fool the Siamese into believing that the fox had mistimed her strike or improperly judged the distance. But it seems that revealing her supernatural talents had the unfortunate side-effect of putting the creature on guard for tricks just such as this one.

The cat drops low into a forward roll, her body coiling up into a fuzzy ball as she tumbles like a bowling ball underneath the shimmering wave of foxfire. Just as her roll brings her bowling into Renka's ankles, she unfurls with a spring-like energy, driving the heels of her feet towards the fox's torso. The force of the lunge is augmented by the catgirl's arms which she pushes down into the ground, turning her entire body into an inverted piston, attempting to use all of that force to kick the over-extended corporal straight up into the air.

COMBATSYS: Renka fails to interrupt Medium Hurl from Cat Girl Swarm with This Matter of Honor EX.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\0            Renka

Lunging into her strike, Renka realizes the reflex of her target are more than up to the task of slipping beneath it, her aggression rewarded with nothing for her efforts. Planting her feet, she twists her body into an anticipated attack from behind. One of the softball sized foxfire spheres surges into her left arm, lending a burst in speed such that even with the almost impossibly narrow window of timing afforded her, the fox manages to lash out with a left-handed straight stab with her blue flame wreathed sword.

The strike passes narrowly over the rolling feline, however, Renka's aim not anticipating that the counter attack would come from such a low angle. Leaning forward, left arm extended, she's completely defenseless to the slamming of two heels into her stomach. The targeted concussive force folds the slender creature over in half, forcing the air from her lungs with a spittle-laced gasp of pain, and launching her high up off the ground.

Lacking the nearly always reliable feline grace of her tormentors, Corporal Kaneko isn't able to twist herself into nearly as ideal a landing as she'd hope. Managing a flailing half-turn of her body, her fall from the sky comes to an end as she smashes shoulder first into a wooden crate. A cloud of wooden splinters and a plume of dust conceal her painful landing as Renka lies on her side amid the debris.

Grimacing, she pushes herself up with her left hand, still gripping her sword in her fingers, while her bloodied right hand finds its way into a interior pocket of her blazer. A small metal rod there is gripped in her forefinger and middle finger, her thumb pressing down hard on the spring-loaded end of it. A distress beacon carried by every soldier deployed, the act has undoubtedly set off an alert back in the Librarium base's tactical center.

Of course, given how spread out the attacks have been, and how thinly deployed the NOL soldiers are, her beacon could be one of any number going off at the moment.

Getting one knee beneath her, the kitsune rises out of the ruined crate, dirt and wood shrapnel falling off her as she does so. Her foxfire spheres have followed her throughout her ordeal, albeit often at a delay, and the eight that remain have settled into orbit behind her once more.

Gritting her teeth, Renka tests her right hand again now that the largest of the spheres has had a chance to ameliorate some of the damage. Fingers respond with a tightly clenched fist and her wrist moves in time with her intent. That's something, at least, she thinks to herself, ears pivoting outward at forward angles as she sweeps her attention across the lot to re-orient herself.

For now, however, she continues to grip her sword with her left, holding the glowing blade up at a defensive angle in front of her. There's certainly no reasoning with these monsters. Anyone who associates hellbeasts with dogs has definitely never met these cats! Still no closer to figuring out where they came from, or what the motives behind the invading bands of darkstalkers would be, Renka's resolve remains strong in spite her setbacks. If she can just remove one of them from the equation...

The other three cats watch Renka's unfortunate impromptu acrobatics lesson, their heads following her up and then down along the sharp ballistic arc in unison. They all let out a noisy wince when she comes crashing down on the crate, clearly unimpressed by her attempt to straighten out in midair. If they had them on hand, they'd likely all be holding up score cards with rather poor ratings; yet another source of judgement heaped upon her by the stuck-up furballs.

"Yyyyeouch." The tomcat makes the obvious observation out loud, her voice full of faux sympathy. "That one looked rather painful. You must have gone, what? Ten feet up?"

"Twenty," calls the twin who hadn't launched Renka through the air like a cannonball, correcting the orange tom matter-of-factly. "Pretty sure I saw her clear the rooftop!"

The white catgirl stretches out as she rolls from one side to the other, propping her head up on one palm. "Too bad she has the misfortune of not being one of us. A cat would have made that landing with ease." Her tail swishes back and forth, a pleased look on her face at the suffering inflicted on the corporal by her lack of unnatural aerial grace. "It wasn't a half-bad effort though. Perhaps with some more practice she could be taught a new trick."

The twins move to close the distance with Renka, slinking to a point a dozen feet away from her to stand side by side. Their eyes sparkle in the moonlight with glints of mischief as their grins widen at the suggestion, tails once more synchronizing into exciting back and forth flicks of motion.

"Oooh. Could we keep her, do you think? It might be amusing to show her off to the others."

The other twin looks thoughtful, rubbing a large claw on her dark chin for a moment in exaggerated contemplation.

"Maybe... but what would the Master say about bringing in random strays? We don't even know if she's house broken. Imagine the embarassment. She doesn't even have a collar!"

The other pouts, kicking forlornly at a random piece of wood lying near her foot, but her disappointment vanishes as another flash of insight takes her.

"We could get her one! There's bound to be some extras lying around. We'll just take one off of the mutts that have gone and gotten themselves killed."

"Now there's an idea..." The other says and the two of them share another long knowing stare, grinning to themselves before turning their excited faces towards Renka once again.

"How about it, doggie? Play nice and you can be our pet," the first says, her twin picking up where she left off without any pause between. "It's loads more fun than working for those silly soldiers with the funny hats. And the master will be pleased to have a new recruit after tonight."

Now in close proximity with all but one of the creatures, a detail that had not been apparant before becomes noticable. As the creatures go on about collars and their mysterious master, faint glints of something metallic shine around the base of their necks. Though it is difficult to make out in the dim light against the near coal black skin of the twins, a thin band of solid black metal encircles each of their throats. The one on the tomcat is far more obvious, especially now that the corporal knows what to look for.

If such things were meant to be hidden, the dark stalkers show no such concern for keeping them secret. They offer no obvious signs of angry or worry should she attempt to study the thin chokers - on the contrary, they seem quite eager to puff their chests out and display their subtle jewelry if it's obvious that she's interested in them.

COMBATSYS: Cat Girl Swarm takes no action.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\0            Renka

On her feet, Renka's cheeks have gone red. The pain of the savage clawing has diminished some, her reservoirs of stolen essence having repaired damaged tissues and restored most of her strength there. And getting launched high enough to smash through the crate on impact still leaves her without the capacity to breath as her lungs struggle to recover from being punch drunk enough to remember what their job is. But the redness in her mien comes not from pain but furious exasperation at the quartet of mockery she's endured thus far.

Lips drawn back into a perpetual growl, she holds her ground for the moment, trying to figure out how to overcome their vexing speed and perfectly timed trickery. Green eyes flick to the orange cat briefly while the one overhead is ignored for now. Not that she considers her less dangerous than the others, but her demeanor has shown little interest in getting directly involved yet and Renka has enough to keep track as-is.

But then the twins start talking again with their bile-churning banter and she can't resist shifting her focus to them. At first she dismisses the comment about a collar as simply another ire-provoking taunt. But then they speak of the werewolves again and the fact that those who got taken down by any of the hopeful protectors out in force tonight would have a collar to spare and Renka reconsiders the dismissal.

They speak of her being a pet and the kitsune tenses, about to charge the one speaking just to put an end to their prattle. But trying to run down the twins has been a disaster thus far. She needs to resist the urge to try and cut them with her sword as they make the sickening offer of being their pet. She's no one's pet! But no, she needs to be centered, focused. She doesn't fight like a wild animal - those days are long behind her. The sword demands much more than that.

Maybe she needs to go after the target that isn't fighting with a seemingly mind-melded twin. The orange tomcat catgirl is getting closer now... perhaps her speed should be tested next. Her twin tails sway alongside each other behind her back, raised slightly as she leans into a stance that lends itself to an aggressive lunge without sacrificing balance where she stands.

Renka's dust covered legs tense as she leans forward, sword gripped still in her left hand as she lets her right arm hang loosely for now. But then she stops, the hint of the collar on the tomcat catching her eye. Eyes narrow slightly then she risks a glance at the Siamese twins, seeking out the same neck pieces on them.

"Tch," the fox-eared corporal grunts, her lungs beginning the quick, rhythmic cycle of taking in air again. "You'd know well enough about being housebroken pets. So high and mighty just because your master let out out of the house for once." So tonight was an orchestrated attack. But the nature of the organization behind it sounds like something far from an alliance of darkstalkers fed up with being treated like animals by humanity. They all belonged to someone or something... their collars a mark of ownership common across them all. She only imagined the long haired white above had one too.

"You don't seem any different to the werewolves to me!"

One of the seven smaller foxfire spheres orbits around in front of the fox-tailed creature. A deep inhale on her part and the wispy flame vanishes into her nostrils and mouth, giving her a much needed burst of strength and energy. "Is that what he makes you call him?" she asks, pivoting back and forth between the twins and the tomcat, "Jedah Dohma? I bet he likes being called Master, huh?"

COMBATSYS: Renka gains composure.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/-----==|=====--\-------\0            Renka

As riling up the kitsune seems to have been half the point of engaging with her at all thus far, her clearly flustered reaction at being batted around like a plaything merely makes the aggravating cats more amused. Their smirks widen slightly as she takes up a defensive combat posture despite still struggling to catch her breath, as if watching a cornered mouse prepare to valiantly defend itself in a hopeless display of doomed bravery. No signs of disappointment make themselves evident in the face of her obvious disdain for the idea of surrender. Considering how they've been toying with her, poking at her pride and self-worth with every mocking word, there's no way to even be certain they were giving the offer serious consideration to begin with.

Nevertheless, their banter has unwittingly revealed a crucial detail to the corporal. The significance of the collars to her investigation cannot be understated. But like any good detective, she's not satisfied with merely finding a loose thread and as she picks at the lead she has unearthed the clueless kittens are happy to oblige her with yet more details.

Of course, they do it in the most obnoxious way possible - they laugh at her again. Even the aloof white, who has mostly offered little more than mere commentary thus far cannot contain her mirth. An over-sized paw lifts up to cover her mouth daintly as she titters, the silken fur resembling the elbow glove of some high-society debutante.

The others have no such pretenses of dignity. The tomcat's head tilts back as she lets out a deep belly laugh, clutching her hands over her stomach as she doubles over trying to contain residual sniggers. The twins literally fall over backwards onto their backs, rolling about with high-pitched girlish giggles. If her insults had done anything to sting their pride, the pain was thoroughly washed away by her following comments.

"You think...!"

The tomcat staggers sideways, extending an arm to lean on the towering fence surrounding the construction yard, gasping as she tries to form words around her giggles.

"You think... that prissy purple ponce... is our...?!"

Unable to finish the sentence, she just shakes her head as she descends into wheezing chortles. The twins likewise attempt to get out words of their own but just end up sputtering broken phrases between their snickers.

"Jedah...! Likes being called...!"

"Snorted it... right up her nose!"

The white recovers first but even she struggles to compose herself, her slender mouth twisted up sharply at the corner as she fights to keep herself from suffering the same fate. Rising to from her stretched out perch for the first time, the elegant feline slinks down the arm of the crane on all fours, shifting her position to the roof of the large square cabin where the operator would normally sit. Not only does this put her much closer to the others but it leaves her in a commanding position to pounce down from above should the fox attempt to abuse her companions in their moment of weakness. As if to make this clear, her claws dig into the metal surface of the roof's corner, peeling away several small yellow shavings of old paint.

"And what of you, hound? You wear no collar but that uniform is very clearly bearing marks of rank upon it. Seeing as you have spent the last half an hour trudging through fresh garbage merely on the possibility that you might be able to follow the trail that we so very obviously left behind for you, I struggle to believe that you are any less subservient to those who hold your chains than we are to those who hold ours."

The creature speaks with elegance that belies her fellowship with the cruder members of the small tribe. Likewise, she holds herself with a great deal more dignity and poise as she looms from on high, her expression filled with a noble haughtiness that is all too familiar to the unfortunate grunt by now. Even the damn color of their hair is the same. The white idly inspects the nails of one hand as she continues, her soft voice no less filled with derision than those of her peers for its more refined vocabulary.

"The difference, my dear, is that unlike the mangy brutes that you share a common ancestor with, we are far more valuable to the master. A mindless shock trooper isn't difficult to procure, particularly not one so..." She wrinkles her nose in distaste, eyeing Renka out of the corner of her eyes for a moment as if casting the accusation at her as well. "Smelly."

COMBATSYS: Cat Girl Swarm takes no action.

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/-----==|=====--\-------\0            Renka

Now that she has a clue to chew on, a direction to pursue, the unending train of aspersions from her feline tormentors no longer pack the sting they did at first. The time bought by their uproarious laughter has been valuable to the NOL soldier. Still surrounded, still out numbered, she feels her strength at least returning. With still seven spheres of energy orbiting behind her, she's got plenty left to see her through this if she can turn it around.

Their reaction isn't too unexpected. She had already suspected that Jedah's eyesore of an embassy wasn't actually the origin of these attacks. It's hard to imagine him being able to keep up the story of it being a sanctuary for darkstalkers if they show up just to get put in cages, after all. But she's certain of it now - the collars, they wouldn't just be symbols of ownership and subservience. They would have a purpose. Trackers, perhaps? Maybe some type of control device? Shock collar?

She would need to get her hands on one to have any clue, and most likely it would take someone back at the labs on base to really identify whether there was something more to the leather straps.

With catgirls laughing and giggling all around her like a bunch of partying teens, it's easy to get lulled into forgetting how dangerous they are. This group cut down innocent people on the streets for fun like a cat mauling a rodent it had no intention of eating. Their giggling mirth seems so entirely unconnected to the monsters they are but Renka hasn't let down her guard in the slightest all the while they talk.

Overhead, the long-haired white draws nearer, becoming a more present threat than she had been before. The fox's ears twitch at the sound of metal scored by the claws of the aloof one of the group, paint flecks drifting down from above. She poses a question and Renka bristles, tails lifting slightly behind her back as she gets defensive again, "I'm not a hound," she grumbles, finding herself drawn back into their petty, distracting insults in spite her attempts to focus her thoughts.

Her expression becomes a hard glare as the cat pokes at her ties to the para-military organization she has dedicated herself to. "The NOL is dedicated to protecting anyone who can't save themselves from the likes of you," she snaps back. "And I'm more than eager to devote myself to that cause." She points toward the white feline with her sword, "Our circumstances are nothing alike. When humans see this uniform," she lifts her right arm with its shredded sleeve and rests her hand at her chest, "They see that just because I'm not like them doesn't mean they need to fear me."

Renka shiftsher sword to her left side, tensing up again, like a spring ready to be released. Ears pivot forward, taking in every slightest sound, tails raised, swishing behind her. "When they see you," her tone shifts, eyes flicking to check on the twins again. A feint- they won't be her target again, not after her failures to get them so far. "They're reminded why they hate us."

Renka scrunches her face in disgust at yet another comparison made to the more canine-flavored monsters running amuck in the city tonight. She has no live for werewolves either and knows full well that most of them would happily tear her to pieces given the chance. Though, at least they'd make it quick, Renka thinks ruefully, instead of this unending verbal vituperations from the cats.

The tomcat is her target as Renka springs into action, rushing forward, a blur of blue light trailing from her sword and foxfire spheres as she surges toward the orange catgirl. Only when she's almost within striking range does she bring her right hand up to the grip of her blade, pivoting to the right slightly before twisting violently to the left in the execution of a slide by sword slash straight out of a classic samurai duel. Unlike her prior attacks, this one is direct and to the point, no warning given.

COMBATSYS: Cat Girl Swarm interrupts The Lonesome Road ES from Renka with Ball o' Yarn.

[       \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/-======|=======\===----\1            Renka

As she might have expected, the fits of raucous laughter that had consumed the cats is only partly genuine. Her sudden lunge towards the tomcat is met with an instant and unsurprised response, the creature's bright yellow eyes snapping up to focus on her with the full clarity of premeditated action. Rather than attempt to flit away like the graceful twins, the tom rushes forward to meet her mid-charge before she can properly execute the elusive drive-by slash. She pays for that brazenness as the sword begins to whip to the side, taking a grazing hit to her fuzzy belly that elicits a pained hiss from the dark stalker.

But despite the fact that Renka's blade has finally tasted blood, she once more finds herself at the mercy of the bizzarely coordinated troope of cats. The tomcat grips her by the shoulder as it twists to the side, piroutting narrowly around the deadly cut. It comes around behind her, gripping her other shoulder as it does so, and leans backwards with a sharp tug. Both cat and dog go flopping backwards onto the street and as they fall the tom plants her powerful hind legs into the small of Renka's back, kicking her up into the air just as the Siamese had done previous.

Her trajectory through the air does not take her into another crate this time; instead, she goes sailing directly at the twins. Already lying on their backs, the two kittens lift their paws up above them offering a mildly less painful landing platform than hard wood. The first catches the tumbling officer rocking backwards slightly from the impact, but with a grunt of effort, she kicks the fox back into the air, passing her over to her sister like she's setting up a volleyball to be served. The second Siamese catches her deftly as well, bouncing her up and down on its feet a couple of times before finally sending her sailing right back into the crate again, leaving her literally right where she started.

The white waits patiently for Renka to make her rounds between the others, continuing to clean her nails with quiet patience. Once the corporal comes sailing back to the spot beneath her perch, she shifts her gaze back down to the fox and resumes speaking, as if their conversation had been interrupted by a polite cough.

"No, you foolish little beast. They do not fear you because you are wearing a collar. A symbol of subservience to humanity. Do you honestly think that they stopped being afraid of you because you put on their clothing and learned their customs?"

The white shakes her head a couple of times, eyes closing with a sigh.

"Of course they did, the fools. Which is precisely why so many of them are now lying dead in a gutter. They forgot how dangerous the world is. We are here to... remind them."

Committing to her slash with everything she has, Renka swings her sword, one of her foxfire spheres swirling down into her blade causing the azure to glimmer more brightly for a brief moment right before the fox pulls her arms to the side, blue-flaming steel whistling through the air for her target. It would be wrong to suggest grim satisfaction at the cut of blade against the flesh of her target, but rather a sense of relief, of building conviction that she can fight her way through this.

In an instant, the scent of fresh blood is picked up from the target of her attack, suggesting success in her attack. But something is off - the orange tomcat is moving wrong, twisting around her, spinning on her feet as if everything was perfectly fine.

Renka's green eyes widen as she never even gets to the follow through part of her sword swing, gripped tightly by the shoulders and far too off balance mid-attack to the slightest thing about it. The best she can manage as she falls backward is keep a grip on her sword with her injured right hand, both of her arms flailing about her in a reflex reaction to getting hauled off her feet.

The fox-tailed fighter is launched into the air, flipping head over heels in a dizzying aerial tumble. The first of the twins catches her on her descent, front paws catching her shoulders while her feet slam into Renka's stomach in a second perfectly executed blow to her unprotected abdomen.

The writhing NOL victim twists in the air as she falls toward the third of the cats to take a turn at batting her around, powerful hind legs smashing into her rib cage to send her flying sidelong back into the pile of broken boards and scattered splinters where Renka lands in a second plume of dust.

A pained groan slips through her lips as she grimaces. She felt the give of bone in her ribs from the final kick and just trying to scrunch herself back up to standing invites sharp, alarming pain. The small cuts and bruises from her chain battering, on the other hand, are visibly mending as the largest of her foxfire spheres hovers over her, feeding her with restorative energy.

Some might find the clearly regenerative nature of the supernatural creature intimidating, but with these sadistic cats, it might just make the wounded fox all the more appealing a toy - one that doesn't break nearly as easily as the people they slaughtered in their marauding tour of Southtown.

Hissing, Renka props herself up on her elbows, covered in dust from head to toe from her repeated trips to the loose dirt of the construction yard. Lifting her head, teeth grit, eyes opening to take in her surroundings, her right hand remains clamped on her softly burning sword, clinging to it like a lifeline in increasingly desperate circumstances. The looming threat of potential death didn't have much sway in her mind - it was a concept the nearly immortal creature didn't really have much appreciation for only that it was something that others feared.

But the threat of captivity? Of being dragged back to wherever these hellcats were released from? That got her heart racing. She had already experienced one brush with being sealed in her existence, she couldn't imagine what their so-called Master promised would be markedly better by any measure.

But above that was the callus lecture from the long-haired cat perched comfortably above the fray. Moving one knee beneath her as she started to rise again, wary of an ambush in the process, she finally gets to a crouch, one knee pressed in the debris of the crate beneath her.

"All this fighting, all this death. Is it so hard to imagine a world where all lived in peace with the humans? Look at the world. You think you're accomplishing anything tonight?! All that will happen is they push back, even harder, make darkstalker lives even more oppressive. The same cycle that has always come and gone. We attack them, slaughter their villages, and they retaliate with armies, with weapons and numbers we can never match. Attack their cities and support will just flow into the NOL, giving it even more leeway to deal with the 'darkstalker problem'." Renka pushes off her knee into a forward leaning posture, legs slightly bent, sword held defensively in front of her with both hands again. The moment's reprieve has given her ribs time to knit - fragile still, to be certain, but she can move at least.

"It's a war without end, just battle after bloody battle, and you're making it worse for all of us!"

Renka lurches forward, her first step and a half suggesting the twins had earned her ire once more. But she pivots on the second step, twisting into a leaping overhead strike with her sword, targeting the tomcat instead. Out of all the cats so far, only the orange furred one has proven just slow enough to catch with the edge of her sword. The first blow might have been glancing, but maybe it's slowed her down enough too that she might just catch her with the aggressive attack?

COMBATSYS: Renka successfully hits Cat Girl Swarm with Power Strike.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Cat Girl Swarm   1/------=/=======|=======\====---\1            Renka

"Hard to imagine?"

The white sniffs daintly at Renka as she attempts to rise once more, barking yet more of her accusation as if her moralizing will somehow strike a chord within the mischievious tormentors that surround her. The cat continues to talk to her as if she were a child throwing a temper tantrum, speaking with a soft warmth that might be comforting were it not for the edge of derision behind it.

"Of course not. Anything can be conjured into the mind as plausible if one is delusional enough with hope, desperation, or naiveity."

She trails off, allowing the fox to vent her frustration at the apparent pointlessness of the carnage and suffering unleashed upon the city. She paints the picture of a cycle of destruction and retaliation, an almost inevitable wheel of pain and misery that seems to keep spinning around and around no matter how much time passes. The cats stare at her, each of them sporting a smug knowing grin as she speaks, privy to a private joke that she just can't seem to grasp despite how close she is to answering her own question.

None of her foes make a move as she insults them, allowing her once again to take the initiative of aggression. The twins eyes gleam as she seems to come for them, knees bending slightly in preparation for some sort of counter measure to whatever she has in store. Instead, she feints once again into the tomcat, apparently emboldened by her previous modest amount of success.

Either the first strike against the orange cat was more telling than it had let on or she has correctly guessed that it lacks the same keyed up agility of the others. Whatever the case, the creature fails to evade the strike despite being fully prepared, catching the flaming blade's tip as she attempts to leap backwards out of range. A high-pitched yowl of surprise and pain explodes out of the dark stalker as the deadly weapon paint a bright blue line from shoulder to hip. the impact catches her mid-leap, tossing her in a wild flailing tumble into the yard's heavy fence. She hits with a solid crunch that could be bone or wood splintering and tumbles to the ground, curling up into a protective coil as she lets out a pitiful whine.

Almost immediately the long-haired white is on the ground, positioning herself between Renka and the fallen tomcat. She makes no move to strike, merely blocks the blade-wielding soldier from moving in to claim a kill. Her eyes glitter with the same twinkle of moon-lit amusement but there is something else in her expression now, a hint of satisfaction, as if she is pleased that the fox was finally able to strike a decisive blow. Yet when she speaks, there is obvious venom that bleeds into her tone.

"My, but aren't we judgemental tonight. Quite happy to turn on your fellow dark stalkers when there is benefit to yourself, are you? Or do you hold some deep-seated love for the humans who, by your own accounts, have slaughtered countless numbers of our kind? Don't lecture me about the cost of war while you hide behind the coattails of your masters, traitor, content to cut down your own kind to stay in their good graces."

Behind Renka, the twins spread out as the white talks, moving to equidistant points behind her on the left and right. No matter where she might attempt to strike next, the other will be in easy range to punish her for it if she is not careful or quick enough. Her only other option is to go for the aloof queen of this little group but considering how deadly her underlings have been thus far there's no way to know if she herself is an even more dangerous creature. However, they are content to wait for the moment, biding their time while the leader speaks.

"But," the white says, allowing the heat to fade out of her voice, "What you say is correct. All this will amount to little, save to rile up the humans. They will be angry, afraid, and prepared to do anything to defend themselves against such attacks in the future."

The white's smile widens to an almost Cheshire-sized grin, flashing her pointy fangs for the first time. Her tail becomes more energetic as she speaks, waving back and forth behind her like a flag in a headwind.

"The weakest will have been culled in the initial attack. Those that survive will be both motivated and proven survivors, warriors ready to fight to defend their homeland. Did it ever occur to you, dear hound, that such an outcome was precisely what was intended?"

The queen's eyes shift momentarily as she asks her question, her gaze flicking towards the twins and then back for only a brief moment. It's the only warning that Renka has to prepare for the attack. Whichever one of the cats is currently in her blindspot comes hurling forward, springing silently and instantly into a powerful strike. Claws extended, it attempts to tackle her from behind, shredding and tearing in a wild unrestrained frenzy of feral ferocity. Once the first has her attention, her sister piles on as well, attempting to bury Renka in a cartoonish dust-cloud of flailing claws and teeth. The onslaught lasts only a few hellish seconds before the duo spring away once more, scampering back to take up position around her.

COMBATSYS: Cat Girl Swarm successfully hits Renka with Caturday Night Fever.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Renka

Her leaping strike lands, Renka's feet hitting the soft packed dirt an instant before her sword slices through the air, a thin crescent of foxfire trailing behind the blade's swift motion. The thin cut sliced into her target would deliver a sense of burning along the length of the gash, even though there would be no outward signs of such, no burning of flesh, no smoke of scorched fur. The experience would be brief but intense, fading away along with the azure line left in the cut.

Renka's follow through would have her sweeping the weapon to her left side, leaning forward, having fully committed to the attack just like almost every other effort she had made against her attackers, tails whipping at her back to help counter balance the aggressive stance and enable her to recover out of it quickly.

Not so quickly, however, that the long-haired white hasn't descended from her perch above to insert herself between the growling fox and her wounded, mewling target. Renka is immediately on the defensive, sword held with both hands now, the healing applied to her right arm sufficient enough restore most of her mobility and strength. Behind her back, five foxfire spheres swirl in their lazy, patternless orbits. The largest of the dwindling swarm is smaller now but still over twice the size of the others as it continues to try and mend the steadily accruing damage she's been subjected by their precision assaults.

The white is glared at, teeth bared, Renka glancing over her shoulder either way quickly on occasion, one ear always pivoting opposite her head's motion in attempt to keep her blind spots at least partially covered. But it's clear that the apparent queen of the quartet is holding most of the battered fighter's attention, green eyes studying her intently, trying to get a read on this untested foe, trying to anticipate what to expect from her.

The growl in her throat fades when the word is hurled at her, green eyes widening slightly as the dust covered, torn soldier balks. The stricken look on her face suggests the expression had cut deeper than the sharpest catgirl's claw.


For a moment, Renka looks stunned. She had weathered most of what the feline mob had hurled her way verbally without much more than a look of exasperation or frustration. But before she blinks her eyes, suppressing the reaction deep within, she looked legitimately hurt. It was the first time she heard it said out loud, dropped casually, a word among many, like it was nothing special. But beneath the moonlight, cast in the shimmering glow of her sword and foxfire spheres, she actually seems to loose a bit of her complexion.

"I-" she cuts herself off, the words calmly uttered by the darkstalker in front of her swimming in her mind, her vision losing focus. A traitor? Everything she was doing was to pave a better path for all non-humans, wasn't it? Of course, she enjoyed the privileges and rights afforded her by the Librarium, but that was just part of showing others of her kind how life could be better for them as well if only they too would cooperate!

She bites back any further reply, some of what the smoothly spoken creature was saying starting to sink in. It was a culling - not just of people caught up in the mayhem, but of the excess within their own forces.

This means they will all be falling back somewhere... their night of bloodshed was not the end of something that had finally exploded into uncontrolled chaos. It was the /beginning/ of something planned. Blinking her eyes, wrestling with the ache in her heart at being called a traitor by another darkstalker, Renka doesn't even see the signal made to the twins to execute their ambush.

Blindsided by the first, she's subjected fully to the full violence of the feral clawing unleashed against her. Strips of blue and white cloth go flying along with thin trails of crimson as the kitsune is subjected to the savage attack, staggering forward at an angle and nearly bowled over entirely. Rather than turn on her attacker, at least, she manages to anticipate the second assault coming and braces herself in against that angle though still lacking the time to even do anything about it. One of the five foxfire spheres remaining surges down into the path of the second twin, bursting into a shimmering, gossamer barrier of translucent blue. The small mote of energy isn't enough to stop the second attack outright, but it does push back against the claw swings, each sharp slashing attack dulled in its threat if just a little.

Falling to her knees out of the second attack, Renka catches herself with her hands, her sword thumping sidelong against the dirt. Small thin lines of blood cover her cheeks, forehead, and her left ear is sliced cleanly in half near the tip. The push back to her feet is with obvious effort, the creature, durable as she may be, clearly wearing down on the relentless attacks from the group of cats. Still, she rises, teeth grit, eyes focused again - not on figuring out the mystery behind this attack but on her more pressing, immediate problem of three still perfectly healthy, dangerous predators surrounding her.

Deliberately, she sheathes her sword at her side, sliding it into place with a click before releasing her hand from its grip. With a shrug, she sheds the blazer of her uniform, the jacket barely recognizable as clothing at this point anyway, landing in the dirt in tatters. The white button up blouse worn beneath isn't faring much better, the sleeves torn away below the elbows, the back and shoulders of it featuring several rips and tears, and the cloth remaining stained red with her blood.

"I am not a hound!" she barks out. The five azure spheres hovering behind her burn more brightly now than before, their glow illuminating the area around her in intensely cool light.


She whirls then, launching toward the white haired cat, arms out at her sides, fingers splayed, four foxfire blades of fire trailing out past them. "I. Am." Her feet don't touch the ground, the creature gliding the rest of the distance, slashing out with her right clawed hand, a wreath of foxfire following. "Not." A second slash with her left hand. "A." And a third, final slash with both hands crossing in front of her, leaving a blazing X of foxfire at the center before she lands into a slide in the dirt. "TRAITOR!"

COMBATSYS: Renka successfully hits Cat Girl Swarm with Ashen Hearth ES.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////                  ]
Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/---====|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Renka

The leader of the cats does not miss the obvious damage that her casual insult has done. She tries to play it off nonchalantly, smoothing her expression out into the smug mask that she has worn for most of the evening, but she's hide her own surprise at just how much being called a traitor seemed to catch the fox off guard. Had she honestly never even considered it? Never wondered what it meant to side with the human authorities agaisnt even her own kind? How delightfully absurd.

The twins react to her silent command with the same ruthless ferocity that she has come to expect from them, tearing into the unsuspecting soldier like a pair of rabid badgers. The sight would be gruesome if she hadn't already witnessed several equally savage maulings over the course of the evening. The fox, at least, manages to emerge from it mostly in one piece, if not particularly happy. Of course, she hadn't intended for them to kill her. That would be a rather pointless end to this unexpectedly entertaining turn of events. Now that she's found a sore spot in what has otherwise been a rather unwavering defense, she fully intends to exploit that weakness and see what comes of it.

At least, that was her plan up until the infuriated kitsune comes flying at her like a twin-tailed comet. A shock of surprise goes through the white as she attempts to shift gears, her legs bending slightly to give her the necessary spring to hop safely out of range of the wild assault. But, like her orange compatriot, she misjudges the distance and timing necessary, catching the full brunt of the mystical blades in the chest before she can evade.

The cat girl queen staggers, the haughty expression smacked right off her face as the second flaming claw comes crashing into her from the left. Desperately, she attempts to ward off the final blow, lifting her arms up feebly to intercept the double-clawed strike but it does little good. With a pitiful yowl, she goes flying backwards, tumbling into a sprawled heap not far from the fallen orange that she was trying to protect.


A cry of disbelief and alarm rises up from both of the twins in unison behind her, their faces twisting into masks of horror as their leader falls under a barrage of blue-white fury. For a moment, they just stand there gawking at the unmoving body of the white, disbelief writ large across their faces. Then, slowly, they turn to glance at each other, sharing another meaningful look.

Whatever hold the arisotcratic cat had over the two little demons vanishes in real time. Their lips peel back into furious unrestrained snarls, eyes goes wide and wild as deadly feral instinct wells up to wash away their control. Claws and fangs glint menacingly in the moonlight as, with a high-pitched squeal of feline hatred, they hurl themselves bodily at Renka. Playtime, it would seem, is over.

COMBATSYS: Renka blocks Cat Girl Swarm's Pounce.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/---====|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Renka

Renka drops out of her forward glide into a roll along the ground, coming to rest in a low crouch, arms out at her sides, fingers stretched open, curved inward just slightly with tension, the four elongated foxfire flame claws still glowing in the dark, small sapphire motes of power dripping from the ends of them to vanish into the dust. The predator is silent other than the breaths passing through her mouth, her body moving in time with them, the slight rise and fall of her head.

Teeth grit, her eyes were locked on the form of her latest target, the white feline demon only partially responsible for the surge of emotions rushing through her. Adrenaline coursed through her body, blood pumping furiously in time with a thundering heartbeat. They had provoked her, drawing the normally patient enforcer into a raging berserker. She wasn't one to fight angry. Not for a long time. She had learned from another patience, enduring longsuffering, of not being easily provoked.

Preceipts ingrained far deeper than any edict of the Librarium.

But as she rises to standing, there is no remorse, no regret for lashing out. These cats had picked a fight with a fox, their early antagonism making them confident they could handle her. She flexes her fingers again, claw-shaped azure flame at her finger tips still bright. She was struggling to pull her emerald eyes from the still body in front of her. This was her prey - it was hers to claim. They challenged her and now should suffer the consequences. Maybe she would reach out and feed hungrily on the soul of the white long-haired. How long had it been since she had tasted cat?

The incoming attack from the twins only partially pulls Renka from her mental fog. She whirls into them, rising her right arm into their path. The arm they had wounded so severely early on was strong now. It would hold. The energy from her claws swirls into a barrier in the path of the first demon's leaping strike, preventing her from getting to Renka at all for a moment.

The bloodied, tattered NOL soldier whirls on the second, a foxfire sphere surging into her right forearm as she braces it into the attack, slamming it outward, preempting the intended claw strike and shoving the second of the twins backward.

"Article forty seven, section seventeen, subsection four, paragraph five dictates that Librarium soldiers in the field are authorized to use lethal means to extract information critical to the safety of any population under the Librarium's protection." She states the words, her voice a touch distant, as if she wasn't even fully conscious that she was citing from the extensive rulebook many NOL soldiers probably never even bother to read.

"As you have yet to tell me what I need to know to protect this city, I cannot stay my hand."

The words calm her, give her time to reign in her anger. She has a job to do, an oath to uphold. This isn't about revenge. These creatures were being driven by another... and that one would truly deserve her ire.

She snaps her right arm down, ignoring for now the bone-deep ache only exacerbated by her last defense. She had to decide what to do. Only two foxfire spheres remained and the twins who had proven tricky to deal with all this time were still strong.

The fox-tailed fighter makes up her mind. And then she bursts forward.

For a moment, each of the twins would think that Renka had singled her out to charge. It might take a split second to realize that there were two kitsunes now surging toward them as if determined to shoulder slam them to the ground. It would likely take another few seconds to realize that neither of the two charging figures of Renka had the swarm of foxfire spheres following her.

No, those had drifted elsewhere, toward the two cat demons that were down, where the real Renka's brief invisibility comes to an end with her standing close to the one presumably named 'Isha', flaming sword in her hand.

COMBATSYS: Cat Girl Swarm blocks Renka's The Hour of the Fox.

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Cat Girl Swarm   0/-------/-======|>>>>>>>\-------\1            Renka

The twins strike the resolute defense of the kitsune with hisses of fury and outrage. The first flails and snaps at the blue barrier that denies it in frustration but eventually falls away as her sister is rebuffed with a well-timed strike to the chest that robs the lunge of its momentum and sends the slight feline backwards a couple of feet. Both of the cats land nimbly on their feet, their rage doing nothing to rob them of the preternatural grace they've displayed all night.

Renka's sudden recitation of the law which binds her actions elicits a confused look from the twins as they fall back but it buys her only a couple of moments before the anger returns. The scene unfolds into something of a reversal of their previous roles with the fox calmly speaking while her foes seethe with indignant hate. While she may have resolved to strike them down out of duty, there is little but hungry malice in their feral snarls.

The shift in the little terrors' demeanor also seems to affect their approach to the fight. As illusions explode towards their targets the kittens make no attempt to evade the incoming strikes. Instead, they hunker down, preparing themselves to weather the pain that is about to come in order to get at their target with the least amount of delay. Just as the clone are about to slam into the cats, they leap forward, meeting the charges with flying tackles of their own.

A dull whump fills the air as foxfire magic explodes into soft flesh but the false foxes fade away moments later, their purpose fulfilled. Snarling in pain and determination, the twins hit the ground running. It takes them but a moment to zero in on the kitsune as her magical invisibility fades.


"Get away from her, you bitch!"

The sight of her flaming blade looming over their fallen leader like the Sword of Damocles fills them with a surge of panicked strength and they launch themselves with complete disregard for their own safety at the corporal, attempting to tackle her away from the white, bear her down like wild lions bringing down another animal under their superior numbers and rip and tear until she stops moving.

COMBATSYS: Renka counters Bad Cat-titude from Cat Girl Swarm with Recorded in Blood.

[                                < >  ///////////                   ]
Cat Girl Swarm   1/----===/=======|-------\-------\0            Renka

Quickly, momentum has turned against the four cat demons. With the orange writhing in pain on the ground and the once seemingly untouchable white lying still on her side, the pressure is left on the twins that had vexed the bloodied fox for the majority of the violent fight. Their speed, their seemingly mind-linked coordination, their instinctual reflexes had proven Renka's better when the soldier was angrily chasing them around, surrounded on all sides by threats.

But circumstances have changed drastically since then.

The sword wielding darkstalker was no longer surrounded by foes on all sides. Where there were four, now only two remain, numbers perhaps closer to what her years of fight experience had prepared her for.

Where she had been fighting angrily, striking out with heated emotions, lunging at her opponents with exasperation, manipulated by their words, there was an almost unsettling calm to the creature now. It was as if her hot fury burned itself to cinders when she lashed out at the white-haired cat demon, the large swaths of foxfire spilling from her claws a violent release of the maelstrom of emotions the sharp tongued felines had stirred up within her. When Corporal Kaneko's illusory concealment falls and she comes to rest near Isha, she's looking down at the fallen foe with something more dangerous - cold, composed resolve. Her sword at her side, her arm relaxed but her fingers gripping tightly, the look in her eyes almost inscrutable as she stares at the one that had lorded over her from above just moments before.

And finally, before Renka had been trying to run the twins down, a tactic that was bound to fail given their vastly superior speed and ability to both evade and strike her when acting in perfect unison. But now? Now the bond that existed between these four cats was their weakness rather than a strength. Simply by positioning herself near the one that seemed to be their leader, Renka was forcing them into action, into attacking her without the games, without the deception. She knew what compelled them now because she had been there before herself - desperation, brought on by the threat of losing one they cared about.

To think that she would be the catalyst for such emotion twisted the outwardly calm kitsune's stomach in knots. That wasn't the role of a hero, was it? To force her foes to attack her in hopes of saving one of their own from a predator's wrath? But in this moment, it was the most... expeditious path to victory that laid before her, and in this instant, duty and honor clashed.

She knew they would move, would charge her again. Instead of silent attacks, they cry out loudly. Instead of having one attack while the other baits her, they both commit. Just as she anticipated.

As they leap, their hated target doesn't seem to move, just looking down at Isha with that unreadable, chilling stare. And as their claws lash out, seeking to shred and rend flesh asunder, their success seems all but assured...

And were it not an illusionary copy of kitsune, perhaps it would have been.

Renka appears on their right and left. She attacks without warning. One of the two foxes is another illusion, moving silently on a direct collision course for one of the twins. It would explode into sapphire flame on contact, inflicting that same deep, soul-burning pain the mystical creature's energy was capable of.

The other the soldier herself, throwing herself into a short, violent dash, twisting her body to the left into a fully committed swing of her azure flaming sword toward the body of the other Siamese cat, a crescent of foxfire flame scorching through the air in its wake.

Leaning into the follow through of her strike, Renka is slow to recover. She's panting now, her lungs working hard to circulate much needed air just like any mundane mammal would need.

"I had implored you," she gasps as she slowly rights herself, only two foxfire spheres behind her now. "To choose life." Standing up straight, she flicks her sword to the right, scattering the blood claimed by her last attack against the dirt. Her voice is heavy with emotion barely suppressed. But in spite signs that the near tireless creature was actually approaching her limits, her eyes were sharp and focused.

If anything, she seemed to be getting stronger.

"This outcome was your choice." She holds her sword with just her right hand now, the maiming wounds on her wrist that had slowed her earlier on all but closed now. Blood still seeped through her shredded blouse, the garment more crimson than white at this point, but little by little, those wounds too would slowly seal.

Renka blinks, and then shakes her head.

"Or, perhaps more accurately, your master's choice."

The illusion is so well woven, so craftily placed, that the two remaining cats don't even see the sucker punch coming. Blinded by emotion and devoid of any thought for their own protection, they make for easy targets. The two-pronged assault is swift and decisive, both the kamikaze clone and its creator impacting on their targets in perfect unison.

The detonation of azure light sends the first twin sailing sideways like a cannonball, her body engulfed in brilliant witch-fire that clings to her skin like napalm. She tumbles wildly for a few moments until her spine impacts on a nearby street lamp with a sickening crack, the unmistakable sound of bones snapping filling the air as she flops to the pavement. The other's demise is less gruesome but just as vicious. The mystically-charged blade slices into her exposed side as easily as if she were made of paper, carving a red line from shoulder to hip that very nearly bisects the airborne kitten completely. She lands with a soft thud, leaving a bright red smear across the ground as she tumbles to a halt a few feet away. A slowly expanding pool of blood begins to form underneath her motionless body after only a few moments and the air grows thick with the cloying and unmistakable scent of death.

This time there are no more words offered in reply. The arrogant voice of the small pack's leader remains silent, robbed of her haughty confidence by a single well-placed swing of the blade. The back and forth banter of the young twins, their minds so well in tune with each other that they seemed to be on the same psychic wavelength, fails to manifest another of their strangely creepy yet somehow cheerful suggestions. The street goes eerily quiet save for the distant sounds of desperate fighting drifting at the edge of hearing like ghostly whispers.

Amidst the carnage, only the brazen tom remains, her life spared by virtue of avoiding a direct strike from the fox's deadly blade. The sharp rasp of her strained breathing cuts through the quiet as she stirs, her eyes fluttering open with an effort of obvious will. Gritting her teeth in pain, the dark stalker pushes herself up against the wall, slowly managing to lift herself up into a sitting position. She casts her gaze about, eyes questing over each of the fallen cats one by one, the sight of each motionless body sapping what little strength she has left from her visibly.

When she is done, she stares silently at the ground between her feet for several long seconds. Then her eyes slide closed and she takes a deep ragged breath, shaking her head as she speaks, voice shaking with from the strain of her injuries and something far more painful.

"Finish it. You got what... you wanted. Now you can.... be a big damn hero... or whatever. That's why... you fight for them... right?"

She lifts her gaze up to look at Renka, raw contempt burning in her tear-stained eyes. Her lips peel back into a wild grin that slowly wavers as the words spill out of her in a furious rush becoming a snarl of utter hatred.

"I'm sure the humans will... pat you on the head and tell you what a... fucking model citizen you are...! Maybe give you a... shiny new medal for your...!"

She's cut off mid-sentence by a harsh fit of coughs and almost falls over again. It takes her a few moments to regain her composure, her eyes squeezed shut as she sucks in several deep breaths. Eventually, she sinks back against the wall and shakes her head again, her righteous fury seeming to freeze into an icy and vindictive numbness.

"I hope... she skins you alive... and makes a coat out of your hide..."

Lifting her sword across the front of her, Renka doesn't even turn to watch the orange tabby take in the aftermath of the violent, bloody affair. Instead, she stares at her weapon, rich blue mirrored in her dark eyes, standing just enough that she might see the living cat demon out of the limits of her peripheral vision. Her left hand lifts, fingers playing lightly with the dancing azure flaming coating her sharp blade for a moment.

Then, like tugging at gossamer threads, the mythical creature draws the flames from her sword into her hand, the wisps of azure flame dancing over her fingers and swirling around the back of her hand before settling into a sphere in the palm of her hand. Lowering her hand, the newly formed foxfire sphere moves lazily up to join the other two in the patternless dance orbiting above and behind Renka.

Next, the fox tugs a small, white square of cloth from a concealed pocket on the side of her dust coated, blood speckled skirt. With one long, caring caress, she draws it along the blade of her weapon, from the base out to the tip, wiping away the remnants of blood, the crimson victory still dripping from the tip until she blots it away with the cleaning cloth.

The cloth is dropped to the ground as Renka slides her weapon into its sheath at her left hip. Only then, as the weapon sinks fully into place, does she turn toward the sole survivor of the quartet, the other three voices, the other three souls stolen by the bloodbath. A siren wails in the distance and other voices cry out somewhere far away. The night is far from settled. But as far as matters here are concerned, there is no question as to the outcome.

'... big damn hero...'

Renka glances at the bodies of the fallen, each in turn, before her gaze falls back on the survivor. There was no satisfaction to be found in her somber expression. The deaths didn't gain her anything but removing threats from the street this violent night in Southtown. She was a predator - but the flesh carcasses of others would provide nothing the energy vampire needed.

'...shiny new medal for your...'

Renka glances over her shoulder to where her tattered jacket lie, with her rank insignia and a couple small ribbons across the breast pocket, acknowledgments for jobs well done, bravery in the face of deadly threats, participation in events under orders from above.

The predator returns her focus to the cat, walking forward. No, the dead would provide her with nothing. But perhaps their collars would. Maybe they were more than just decorations, emblems of ownership. No... the only one that could provide her with anything of value now was the wounded animal in front of her, the air rich and savory with her blood.

She stops at the last cough-ridden curse cast her way. Renka blinks once. 'She'? For a fleeting moment, she's confused. Was the cat delirious from pain or loss of blood? Did she think Isha was still alive to- Then it clicks.

The Master.

Another clue tucked away in her mind. The soldier resumes her approach, slow, steady, deliberate steps. She felt health seeping back into her from the glowing orb of sapphire fire at her back. Her mangled ear was fully repaired now but for a patch of skin missing fur. But she also felt just how famished she was. Mending all that damage, flinging all that foxfire around- it had cost her dearly. And the war had just started. She would need all her strength for whatever was to come. There wasn't time for the safer, more passive means of replenishing her reservoir.

Renka crouches down in front of the orange cat girl. "I do believe there is a better future ahead. One where we no longer live beneath the heel of humans, chased from our lands, barred from their cities, hunted, sealed, exterminated... Working for the Librarium is not the fulfillment of my ambition but the first step toward it. It may take years, maybe decades to see my vision realized. But it will be a wonderful era... darkstalkers and humans coexisting without the hate, without the fear that poisons the world today."

The fox shakes her head, her form illuminated softly by her healing foxfire sphere. "I regret... that you will not be alive to see it."

She reaches out with her right hand, fingers stretched wide, grasping the catgirl by her face and pressing the back of her head against the wall behind her. Renka leans in closer then, her voice a whisper. "If it is any solace, either will your master. She will be found."

Renka closes her eyes then. "Your soul is in anguish. It is time for you to rest."

And then the kitsune feeds. Not on flesh, not blood or bone, but on the weakened life of the wounded cat. Her touch would be enough, pulling hungrily, satisfying that void in her own soul, not stopping until every trace of essence in the creature is taken for herself.

Only then would Renka pull her hand back.

"Rest in peace."

She stands, tilting her face to the sky. A deep inhale followed by a slow exhale before she closes her eyes. There was no time to reflect, to dwell on the brutality of the attack on Southtown. She had a job to do. A moment later, she has fetched her tattered blazer, claimed the collars of the dead, and left the construction yard and its ghosts behind.

COMBATSYS: Renka has left the fight here.

[                                <
Cat Girl Swarm   1/----===/=======|

"Unit number oh-five-nine, vitals have flatlined. Confirming. Units oh-five-six, oh-five-seven, oh-five-eight, oh-five-nine, vital signs zero. Squad Isha confirmed KIA."

Kira nods idly as the young mercenary rattles off a series of numbers from the console in front of him, only half paying attention. Her focus is directed at the large holographic display being projected on the wall of the command center. A shimmering map of Southtown laid out in 3D representation from various angles takes up the majority of the space. Scrolling feeds of text whir past in the margins of the map, comprehensive reports of real-time data being collected by the micro-sensors in the collars of her minions and hijacked satellite feeds.

Scattered across the complex web of the metropolis's streets are dozens of small dots, each one representing an individual dark stalker. The majority of the markers are a bright neon blue but interspersed among those are small clusters of dark red - the living and dead. After only twelve hours nearly ten percent of her forces have been slain. A horrible rate of attrition under any normal circumstances but the most losses are often taken in the initial clash of forces. Sacrifices are always necessary to achieve anything of worth and these creatures have been trained to be precisely that - expendable, deadly, and unwavering in the face of death. The ultimate shock troopers.

Were it her own men out there in the field being butchered so badly she would likely be furious right now. She always takes it personally when those under her command die. It isn't only because it harms the reputation that she has painstakingly built for the Dragoons as merciless unstoppable warlords but because, in some strange little way, she considers these people to be her family. But these creatures? No, she feels nothing for them. They are aliens, outsiders. Like a general preparing to march on a fortified castle, she has gathered up the peasants and prisoners and sent them in as a first wave to expend her enemy's resources. In that regard, they are proving to be a remarkable success.

The mercenary's slitted eyes narrow slightly as a pleased smile spreads across her face. Spreading out around the markers of her own forces, large smears of green color stain the dull gray of the holographic buildings, an indication of the territory that has been abandoned by the Japanese defensive forces and essentially now belongs to her. A significant portion of the city's center was now under her control along with the outer suburbs where the rural populace has been left to fend largely for itself.

The thick patch of green spread out like an amoeba from a dense core near the business district where one of her more valuable minotaurs had plowed through a hastily constructed barricade, exposing the city's flank to a tidal wave of fresh attackers. Long narrow tendrils snake outwards down narrow city streets and through alleys, coming to a stop only when they hit large black lines - indicators that mark out the currently active defensive checkpoints established by a mixture of NOL and JSDF forces.

Her control over the city won't last, but then, she doesn't need it to; not forever, anyways. She just needs enough time to accomplish a few key goals, undermine a few potential dangers that might pose a threat in the future. Soon enough she will make the rest of the world see the truth. For now, however, all she needs to do is drive this city to the brink and let them experience how dangerous the world really is when the monsters come out to hunt without fear.


The call for attention snaps Kira out of her musing and she turns to peer in the direction of her operator, eyebrow quirking upwards questioningly.

"The signals for four deceased assets have begun to move. No vital signs detected. All four collars belong to combat group "Isha". They were marked KIA only two and half minutes ago."

She frowns for a moment then nods. It was only a matter of time until the collars were discovered. A small squad or elite operative with enough foresight to investigate beyond the obvious must have taken them down somewhere secluded where they had enough time to search the bodies. It doesn't change her plans any but it could accelerate her time table if someone is able to decode the signal's heavy encryption and follow it back to the casino.

"Monitor them. Let me know where they end up."

The soldier confirmed her order and turned back to his station. Kira returned her attention to the map, her eyes questing out over the various arrays of colored dots until she finds the one she's looking for - a cluster of red dots moving ponderously down the streets of a secluded suburban section at the south end of the city. She watches the blip make its way back towards the city center for a minute or two. Perhaps this is one of the handful of individuals that she sent her hordes out to unearth - a skilled warrior capable of taking on multiple deadly monsters driven into a klling frenzy and emerging victorious. Someone willing to kill in defense of humanity without remorse or hesitation.

"Well," she mutters, smiling to herself as the blips start to draw closer to the wide smudge of green. "Try not to die, whoever you are. I'd very much love to see what you're capable of in person."

Log created on 14:22:33 03/22/2020 by Renka, and last modified on 11:49:32 04/05/2020.