The Black Dragon - Black Dragon R2 - Barking Up The Wrong Tree

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Description: Responding to the crisis, the monster hunting duo have already managed to do some good for the beleagured citizens of Southtown by rescuing several trapped residents on the outskirts of town from becoming snake food. But the danger is far from over and thus their work continues. Leaving the struggles against the main force of dark stalkers to the army, miko and oni take their talents on a tour of the city's outskirts to see if they can rescue anyone else who has been left behind in the fog of war.

Hours have passed since the seemingly unlikely monster hunting duo of miko and oni took on a clutch of naga all by themselves. It was only in the aftermath, when the pack of serpentine killers was either dead, sealed, or retreated far out of sight that the survivors in the besieged apartment building began to peek out of their homes to discover that their rescuers were one bloodied, huge ogress and a battle torn, comparatively diminutive priestess.

Not one to bask in the glory of the moment, Ayame was receptive of their expressions of gratitude for only so long as it took to escort everyone out of the building into the parking lot, where the surviving residents piled into their cars to move further into the city where NOL forces and military personnel were managing to hold the tidal wave of marauding darkstalkers at bay.

It would have been nice to fall back with them, to consider their job done for the night and join the survivors behind barricaded lines. But neither the girl nor the guardian demon could rest while there was possibly still more they could do in the fight against the surge of hostile creatures.

Watching the residents drive back off down the darkened streets, Ayame and Riki caught their breath next to the old 1987 dull tan El Camino that was to serve as their combat chariot. The vehicle's hood was covered with spots of varying sizes where the paint had been melted away by naga spit, but the thick American steel beneath the paint was still just as irresponsibly sturdy as ever.

It was a chance to rest for a moment while the miko tended to her injuries with first aid supplies piled into the passenger seat, wrapping what remained of her shoulder burn and bandaging up a cut on her leg with enough gauze to stem any further risk of blood loss from now.

There was food and drink to be had while the car's radio broadcasted a steady stream of news being reported from around the city, sharing whatever news was working its way to the press from various defensive forces. By listening, it was becoming possible to form a mental map of what areas of Southtown were safe and secure, what areas were contested, and what areas were, as of yet, in an unknown state. It was the last category on the list that Ayame was most interested in - places where people might still be trapped with no chance of rescue in sight.

"Time to go," she murmured, sinking into the driver's seat of the heavy old car and turning over the deep, rumbling V8 engine. The 'pickup-truck-wannabe' bed was Riki's seat on the vehicle, even though the shocks groaned and the frame creaked in protest whenever she got in.

Driving slowly enough to avoid plowing into the various obstacles, debries, and abandoned vehicles left in the streets, Ayame navigates the back roads of Southtown, the duo working their way around the outskirts, keeping their eyes peeled for any signs of trouble.

"I hope you are still fit for the task ahead," she comments loudly through the open sunroof of the car while turning down another side street. It's her way of asking if Riki is going to be okay.

"I cannot be burdened down, you know."

No, really it is.

Her answer comes by way of a thunderous belch as the giant demon finishes off the last can of beer in the case that had been nestled behind the driver's seat. Riki turns to give the miko a grin, crumpling the now empty husk of aluminum into a wad the size of a golfball with a single flex of her fingers. She discards the shiny ball with a casual toss, sending it sailing to join its brethren in an open paper bag resting by her feet in the bed of the car.

"Heaven's forbid I cause thee an ounce of distress, my lady."

Somehow, she manages to make the claim sound mostly genuine though one glance at the woman's face would dispel any notion of sincerity. Not that Ayame would even need to bother looking up. Making her life less peaceful seems to be the ogre's mission despite her many her vows to the contrary. Less boring, is the way Riki explains it, as if her penchant for getting into mischief and emptying out the household stores of booze on a regular basis fall under the umbrella of entertainment for anyone other than herself.

Despite the horrific injuries that she had sustained in their struggles with the naga male and his brood, the oni's body seems to have all but healed itself completely. The shredded mess of raw hamburger that her shoulders and neck had been reduced to look quite normal, if a little red, though that could be the beer at work. The creature's vile poison has already been expunged from her system and even the tiny holes where its fangs had sunk in deeply are now little more than tiny pock marks. Within another hour or two, even those will be gone, leaving nothing to mark the deadly encounter save the memory of it and the alcohol will take care of those soon enough.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much that could be done about the blood and slime. The couple of towels and small bundles of gauze they had on hand wouldn't have even put a dent in the mess that was made of the amazon's hair and clothes. So she still more or less looks, and smells, like she's been rolling around in a slaughter house. The dark red fluids leave the lower half of her normally golden mane stained, the two starkly opposing colors fading into each other like a bad dye job.

Her outfit hasn't fared much better but managed to weather the acidic storm of ballistic spit mostly intact, the only real damage leaving the strap over one shoulder hanging precariously to the side. Not that Riki has issues with showing herself off save those that come from her annoyed mistress making a fuss about it. Nothing to be done about it right now, either way.

"Have you decided upon our next destination?"

Leaning over the open sunroof, Riki's heavily muscled arm descends into the cab to rummage around in the bags of supplies sitting in the back seat. She fishes about for a few moments before successfully nabbing a couple of sandwiches neatly wrapped in clear plastic. No effort is given to trying to remove the wrapping in a dignified manner - instead, she simply digs the tip of one pointed nail into the surface and peels it off like a candy wrapper, taking half the hoagie off with one big chomp.

"If itsh going to be ah long trip, we should shtop and reshtock on shupplies. We sheem to be running low."

The expression Riki's answer provokes is a tormented blend of bemusement and annoyance, Ayame's mouth twisted in a scowl forcing its way against a heartfelt sense of relief at the oni's recovery from the savage injuries she suffered back in the apartment building stairwell.

"The heavens have not managed the slightest success on that matter by any measure..." comes her reply with an accompanying grunt.

Still, it's a blessing to have the demon along at all. Riki's brawn and fearless ferocity often assured that the most brutal of their enemies' attention is directed her way... coupled with the innate supernatural healing provided by her demon blood, the oni had proven herself a valuable ally time and time again over their time fighting monsters together.

Brow furrows as the girl continues to peer through the windshield of the 80's era steel beast, looking for any sign of /active/ violence. There was plenty to see of the aftermath of attacks. Buildings with the doors and windows smashed in, the occasional wall with a gaping hole, bricks scattered everywhere... blood streaks in the street and, tragically, the occasional body of another person who lost their life to the swarming monsters.

"There are more running rampant than we can possibly handle on our own. Our focus is on rescuing anyone we can find." Another quiet, ruined storefront is driven by without stopping. As much as a desire to pursue every clue of monster presence they come across courses through the miko's blood, it isn't time well spent compared to saving a single life if they can.

The priestess driver makes a face as Riki crams half a large sandwich into her maw, devouring in a bite what would sustain the girl for hours. Still, the oni was right, as much as Ayame ever hated to consider that possibility. She glances at the gas guage, confirming that the underbelly of the beastly car still has plenty of fuel to keep them going for quite a while. But there's a chance they would come across someone in need of food or drink... it would be good to have extra on hand.

Nothing would be open right now... or at least, certainly not staffed by anyone. But that doesn't mean there weren't abandoned markets to acquire supplies.

"All right," Ayame responds. "Keep an eye out for a place to resupply."

"Very well."

Polishing off the last of her sandwiches with only a few bites, the ogre rolls over onto her knees and turns to lean her chest against the back of the cab, aiming her sharp gaze in the direction of travel. Technically, she would still be fulfilling her task should she point out a likely place to gather fresh supplies only after they had driven past it, but she's learned that the little miko took exception to her completing tasks in a manner that had to be described as 'technically correct'. Besides, the cool evening breeze on her face feels quite pleasant and offers a brief reprieve from the stench of blood that clings to her like rotten perfume.

While the city's outskirts aren't nearly as jam-packed with convenience stores and strip malls, even rural residents need to buy food. It doesn't take long before the more mundane businesses that line the street give way to a massive building nestled inside a vast parking lot. Though it is difficult to make out in the dim light, Riki's demonic vision manages to pick out a dull neon sign on its exterior that reads "ITO YOKADO" in bold English letters. A handful of colorful banners large enough to be read by passing drivers hang from the upper stories proclaiming various sales in Japanese.

Riki isn't terribly familiar with exactly what a grocery store might look like. She's heard them mentioned in passing by the local temple residents but her forrays into the city have been few and offered little opportunities for sight seeing. Perhaps she should have mentioned that she didn't know what she was keeping an eye out /for/ when the girl asked her to be watchful. Oops. Regardless, the marvels of modern advertising save her from a potential scolding as one of the large banners proudly offers a thirty percent discount on fresh fish.

"I believe that building will provide us with that which we seek, my lady."

Riki points at the large marketplace nestled into its own little nook on the opposite side of the road. At a glance, it seems to have been abandoned like the rest of the suburbs. None of the lights inside the building are on and only a handful of cars lay scattered around the parking lot, abandoned by their owners. More than a few mangled corpses are strewn about the area, unfortunate shoppers caught by the initial onslaught with no where to run or hide. Several of the glass panes on the first floor entrance have been smashed apart but the debris seems to have fallen inwards rather than out, indicating that something had forced its way inside; something that didn't care about getting shredded by razor sharp shrapnel.

Following Riki's acknowledgment, Ayame is quiet, her eyes on the road or scanning the buildings they pass by. Their route has avoided heading directly into the thick of the city, leaving the towering skyscrapers off in the distance. Even still, it's some time before the multi-floor, densely packed buildings give way to a more flat, suburban sprawl.

The damage out this far seems more sporadic, the two sometimes driving blocks before seeing evidence of supernatural violence. In the cabin of the tank-like car, the Ichijo girl has the radio playing, the volume just loud enough to be audible without drowning out anything Riki has to say. The messages repeated through the two-speaker sound system of the old car continue call out places that have been designated safe refuge - neighborhoods safely secured by the NOL, malls held by the military, blocks cordoned off by brave police forces taking on the supernatural threats for the sake of the people...

Occasionally they encounter other vehicles on the road. Some are headed toward the heart of Southtown, likely hoping to make it to one of the secured zones. Others contain passengers clearly intending to take their chances with getting the heck away from the besieged city all together, veering onto the routes that will take them directly in the opposite direction.

Now that the adrenaline rush of their first encounter is out of her system, the miko is left with time to think - between the occasional interrupts from Riki anyway. Brow furrowed, her thoughts wander, mind full of questions for which she can't discern ready answers.

What happened?
Who is behind this?
The naga spoke of having been taken from their homes, of taking homes from humans as vengeance. Taken by who?

How had things escalated to this point without being contained earlier? Did the NOL know something it was keeping to itself? Had she grown complacent in trusting the paramilitary organization to handle large scale supernatural threats and investigations?

Not since the Gear War had the nation seen such devastation. And these attacks were more personal than the army of lab-created monstrosities. These attacks were targeting people in their safest of places - their homes, their streets, their places of business.

Having only paid enough attention to the road ahead of her to avoid crashing into anything, Ayame links when Riki speaks up again, pulled from her train of thought to glance toward the indicated station. The path of carnage through this section is easy enough to read in the stains, the damage, the bodies.

The old car slows to a stop, the girl's hands on the large steering wheel as she stares out her window across the street at the store. Eight hours ago, this place would have been alive with customers, workers, and routine daily traffic. Now it was a quiet battleground in the aftermath of a very one sided fight.

"Tch." the miko grunts, cranking the wheel and turning the heavy vehicle into the lot. Turning the engine off, she leaves the headlights on, their light cast toward the broken windows, sending some illumination into the structure.

Pushing the door open, she steps out of the car, grabbing her wooden staff from where she had it angled across the passenger seat. "It seems unlikely that anything would have cause to linger here, but..."

The old steel automobile creaks and rocks noisily as the heavy ogre clambers from its bed to join Ayame on the street. She takes the lead quickly, moving several paces ahead of the small teen while eyeing the darkened building with mild suspicion. Their rescue efforts at the previous location had been met with ambush and bombardment forcing the pair to make hasty reactions that had nearly gotten them seperated and taken out individually.

Her fingers clench into fists at the memory. This time she has no intention of allowing anything to threaten her ward due to a lack of readiness.

"Tis abandoned, twould seem," she reports, finding no hint of movement in the darkness as her eyes sweep over the area, alight with a soft crimson glow. The empty lot offers little in the way of cover or concealment from which to launch an ambush like the one they'd blundered into previously. But the problem with monsters is that they rarely play by the rules, so there's no point in taking any chances.

Lumbering off towards the nearest car, Riki paces a slow circle around the abandoned SUV, even kneeling down to peer beneath the carriage just to make sure there aren't any gremlins or other tiny critters hiding below. Ankle-biters are the worst sort of trouble. Fortunately, no such threats present themselves and after a thorough inspection of the other half dozen or so vehicles the oni stomps her way back to Ayame's side.

"No sign of danger hath taken root to ambush our approach."

While the parking lot is an easy enough threat to assess, the interior of the store is another matter entirely. All manner of things could easily conceal a hidden danger within, a possibility made all the worse for the lack of power. While the demon has no issues with darkness, without electricity to fuel its lights the girl will be at the mercy of her human senses. The illumination offered by the headlights will extend only a short ways into the interior and is no proper solution.

"I trust thou hath a method of creating light with thy magic?"

The demon holds up one of her hands, scintillating red flames dancing in her palm. While definitely eye-catching, the ethereal fire does little more than stain the nearby surroundings with a faint scarlet hue, offering little in the way of light.

"My hellfire will not avail thee in that manner once we are within."

The store is one of those necessary risks in such a situation as this. Each movement, each new area is a new possibility of threats, an opportunity for something to sneak out of the shadows and pounce upon unsuspecting prey. The two hunters are cautious, careful, and competent. Each new area is approached with caution, with places like the parking lot leaving little room for ambush. It's a wise move, stopping here, but even so, the store presents one of those essential risks of a desperate situation. They need supplies, not only for themselves, but for possible survivors.

And the Hounds know this too well.

The first of the darkstalkers bounds over the rooftop, hurling itself over the signage and the facade to land on the street heavily enough to crack the pavement slightly and put itself between the two hunters and their four-wheeled chariot. Its long nails clack against the asphalt as it kicks off into a sprint, bounding on all fours toward Riki, the larger and more imposing off the two.

And as it draws near, it rises up to its hind legs, twisting into a shoulder-charge to try and slam into the massive ogre and knock her through the storefront.

COMBATSYS: Riki has started a fight here.

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Riki             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: The Hounds has joined the fight here.

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Riki             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0       The Hounds

COMBATSYS: Riki endures The Hounds' Lunge.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Riki             0/-------/----===|=------\-------\0       The Hounds

COMBATSYS: Ayame has joined the fight here on the left meter side.

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Ayame            0/-------/-------|===----\-------\0             Riki
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       0/-------/------=|

Ayame hangs back as Riki begins to scout out the parking lot between them and the unlit store itself. Gripping her staff in her left hand, her right arm crosses in front of her, hand rubbing at her left shoulder. The severity of the acid burn from the naga was diminished significantly by the restorative talismans she utilized back at the apartment building, but there was a lingering ache, a stiffness she knew was going to take longer to fully fade.

She watches curiously the thorough job the oni conducts, checking under and around the vehicles that could possibly provide cover for something waiting to ambush them. It's an unusual sign of caution from the guardian ogre who's penchant for shoulder ramming in any direction a threat may or may not exist is far more familiar to the miko. Was it the naga encounter? They had been caught flat footed at first, and even after fighting their way inside, they came precariously close to being overwhelmed while separated from each other.

Perhaps the experience had left a lasting impression...

As Riki returns, Ayame has moved around to the passenger side of her car, fussing around in the backpack of supplies sitting safely in the plush seat on that side. At her ally's observation, she nods in quiet acknowledgment. And when the demon asks as to her ability to see in unlit interior, the miko turns around with a faint grin. Clipped to the crimson rope cord belt of her hakama is a small square light.

"Something like that," she answers with a bemused grin, walking forward while glancing down to work the switch on the clip-on light with her right hand.

The audible click followed by the bright, directed glow from her belt light, is heard only an instant before the sound of something launching from above, hurtling through the air.

Hands going to her staff, Ayame whirls, looking up and following the powerful beast's arc into its landing.

She knows what it is in an instant. The size, the rough shape illuminated by the cone of light from her belt, the smell... The radio had spoken of werewolves moving through the city, but this was the first one she'd seen this night.

A crimson glow flows over the surface of her rune-etched staff as the werewolf barrels tower Riki. Gritting her teeth, Ayame rushes toward it. "Incoming!" A bit faster and she might have been able to intercept the beast's charge, but as it stands, all she can do is slam her staff toward its back as Riki answers it's ramming attack by refusing to budge.

Attempting to crack the creature on the back, the girl also avoids committing into closing in tighter, instead using the reach of her weapon to leave space between her and the werewolf. Already, she's looking for others... the radio reports were coming in about /packs/ of monsters. She was quite certain this one was not alone!

Riki's large eyebrow quirks upwards at the small flashlight. Not a talisman then, but a piece of modern technology. She supposes that it makes sense; if humans can harness light in their ceilings and on their streets then obviously they can create smaller more portable versions of that invention. It lacks the adventurous flare of a good old fashioned torch but that might just be her nostalgia speaking.

The oni's reactions are not quite as quick on the uptake as her small companion's. She whirls around towards the sound as the beast's lumbering leap launches it off the roof top with a mighty bound that clears half the parking lot. Turning to face the creature as it lands behind her, Riki lowers her center of mass into a sumo-esque crouch, her knees bending as she spreads her legs for balance.


The massive wolfman slams into the ogre like a fuzzy freight train but the massive amazon proves to be the victor in this particular match up of immovable object versus unstoppable force. She lets out a grunt of effort and discomfort as the beast's bony shoulder digs into her chest but for once her bountiful cleavage proves to be a help instead of getting in the way, absorbing the bulk of the impact like a pair of airbags.

"Hah! Our foe comes to us this time," she says, barking out a laugh.

Now this is a fight she can appreciate! A big hunk of muscle and claw that she can pit herself against in a straight up brawl. No tricks, no pitfalls, no poison - just raw power and fury.

The ogre encircles the beast with her massive arms, attempting to crush it flat against her body before it can withdraw from its failed attempt to tackle her. She holds it fast for several seconds as the girl approaches, trying to give Ayame an easy shot at the creature's unprotected flank. Her biceps and thighs bulge in an impressive display of physique that looks somewhat out of place on a woman as she wrestles with the beast, doing her best to keep it contained lest it break free and assault the girl. Wolves tended to run in packs, so the faster they can deal with the one that couldn't wait for his buddies to launch a coordinated strike the better.

"I shall repay...nrgh... their manners... in kind!"

COMBATSYS: The Hounds dodges Ayame's Quick Strike.

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Ayame            0/-------/-------|===----\-------\0             Riki
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       0/-------/------=|

COMBATSYS: Riki successfully hits The Hounds with Ogre Smash.
- Power hit! -

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Ayame            0/-------/-------|=====--\-------\0             Riki
[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       0/-------/----===|

Drool drips from the muzzle of the beast as it growls lowly in that moment where Ayame gets a good look at it. Her descent upon it is swift and tactical, the staff cutting through the air toward the beast's back after it smashes into Riki's chest and stops much shorter than its intended destination.

But the wolf is quick, with feral cunning. It drops to the ground, narrowly avoiding the staff as it rushes the air where it's head once was. This is not enough to escape the larger oni; however, and soon the wolf is pressed against the beast of a woman in a terrible bear hug. It squirms, frantically, like a dog attempting to escape a bath. Even as it does, several pops and cracks can be heard as Riki leverages her strength.

But from within the store comes the patter of paws and the clicking of claws. Another wolf barrels through the door with a slam of metal and the jingling of the bell hanging from the handle. The second wolf leaps, launching itself into the air to try and land on the oni's back and sink it's teeth into something vulnerable. A shoulder. The neck.

Ayame goes unassailed for a moment later, the animalistic wolves focusing on what at least seems to be the larger threat.

Leaving a brief wake of crimson flame in the path of her staff swing, Ayame swings hard but fails to connect the weapon with her target. She moves with the missed strike, feet responding to the undesired but not entirely unexpected outcome with ease as she shifts her balance and returns to a ready stance without having left herself to aggressively positioned.

The miko's expression is grim as Riki wrestles with the hundreds of pounds of fur, claws, and muscle in her grasp. Unlike the oni who seems to relish the fight, the close quarters challenge, the test of strength against strength, brawn against brawn, the warrior priestess doesn't appear to be deriving the slightest bit of entertainment from the battle.

Though Riki might struggle to recall a time the girl ever seemed to enjoy combat at all, for that matter.

But that doesn't mean that she's hesitant to fight. With one of the creatures to close in Riki's grasp for now for her to strike, she surveys their surroundings another time, ears picking up the sound of advancing creatures from within the store. Gritting her teeth, she braces behind her staff in case she finds herself a target of one the furry missiles, but their predatory instincts are telling them to deal with the large oni for now rather than the much smaller foe in crimson and white.

When it instead surges for Riki's back, Ayame turns, right hand releasing her staff to slip into her left sleeve, withdrawing an off-white parchment with light blue inked glyphs covering its surface. Holding it between her fingers for only a moment, she is quick to hurl it toward the leaping wolf with a backhanded swing of her arm.

"We will want one alive, preferably conscious!" she barks out as the white talisman flies toward the wolf, glowing with pale white flame. In the aftermath of the naga fight, there was certainly nothing left alive or conscious enough to bother trying to glean more information from... maybe one of these werewolves will possess enough faculty of thought and speech to be useful.

Should the ward get near enough to its target, it will suddenly explode into a swarm of spectral, white chains which seek to wrap around and constrict the leaping hunter!

COMBATSYS: Riki just-defends The Hounds' Dogpile!

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Ayame            0/-------/-------|=====--\-------\0             Riki
[       \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       0/-------/----===|

Crushing the struggling wolf to her chest with bone-crushing strength, the ogre lets out a wild hoot of laughter as the creature attempts to worm its way out of her grip to no avail. Her lips peel back in a fierce grin, a pair of fangs almost as long and wicked as the dark stalker's deadly canines flashing in the muted crimson light of hellfire that dances in her eyes.

"Be still... you mangy thing...!"

Despite the wildly flailing claws of the panicked creature and it's unfortunate predicament with her chest, Riki manages to avoid anything worse than a few scratches and some doggy drool slobbering all over the front of her tunic. Keeping the monster at bay takes all of her attention, however, leaving the miko to fend for herself and keep an eye on the ogre's exposed backside.

It's a good thing that Ayame is well aware of this fact as a second werewolf hurls itself into the fray, attempting to rescue its beleaguered pack mate, or at least use the distraction to try and take the giant unawares. A magical talisman goes to intercept the dark stalker but it's already in the air before the spectral white chains can attempt to stop it from diving at furiously at Riki's back. Bound up or not, the thing is going to sail into the oni like a furry missile.

The priestess's command not to get carried away with her new playmate comes at just the right moment. Turning her head to peer over one shoulder at Ayame, the ogre notices the impending danger in the corner of her vision. Whirling around with a sudden pivot, she shifts her grip on the first werewolf, tucking it underneath one arm. With a hand now free, she extends her palm out to meet the incoming furball, letting it run straight into the solid mass of her massive mitt like a brick wall. Thick fingers snare closed around the beast's neck and she curls it up against her side just like the other one, holding the two frenzied mongrels like a football player clutching a pair of pigskins. Their heads protrude from the vice-like collar of her muscular forearms, their snouts half-bured in her bosom.

"Oho! Another beast comes to join the fray! Very well! There is plenty of me to go around!"

Flashing a wide grin at the miko, Riki displays her catches proudly.

"Which one strikes thy fancy, my lady? Tis been many ages since I last kept a pet. I am quite partial to the black one, myself, he has spirit!"

She wiggles the arm where the first werewolf dangles in her unorthodox grip, the beast still struggling and gasping despite its injuries. Her arms tighten around both of the unfortunate beasts, applying more of the titanic strength into choking them out. Normally, she'd just smash her enemies flat but if the girl wants to take one of the mangy things home, who is she to argue? As for being conscious, well, it'll wake up eventually. Probably.

COMBATSYS: The Hounds blocks Ayame's Binding of the Condemned Soul.

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Ayame            0/-------/-------|====---\-------\0             Riki
[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       0/-------/---====|

COMBATSYS: Riki successfully hits The Hounds with Random Swat.

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Ayame            0/-------/-------|====---\-------\0             Riki
[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       0/-------/--=====|

The first werewolf continues to flail, struggling to escape the grip of the musclebound oni. Even as it does, the second makes its lunge---and Ayame's fireball soars over Riki toward the newcomer.

The wolf is put on the defensive; he draws back, raising his paws in an attempt to guard as the fireball crashes into him and explodes into a series of embers and bits of flame. Worse becomes worst as he then smashes into Riki's extended palm, prompting a whimper from the beast.

And then the two of them are soundly caught, pressed heavily against Riki's generous bosom as they kick, flail, and attempt to avoid suffocation while trying breaking out of the oni's ironclad grasp. One manages to tilt is muzzle around enough to let loose a howl, desperately calling for help.

And with it, another wolf circles around from behind the store, darting through a small alleyway toward the side of the building. It runs at full tilt, zooming toward Ayame in hopes of catching her exposed when it lunges, teeth barred!

COMBATSYS: Ayame blocks The Hounds' Medium Bite.

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Ayame            0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0             Riki
[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       0/-------/-======|

The flying attacker manages to clear enough distance as to only be partially afflicted by the energy bindings of the miko's ward, earning it a quick glower from the girl that lasts only so long as it takes for Riki to start manhandling the latest addition to the party. Already, her right hand has joined her left in gripping her staff tightly, the weapon held in front of her in an angle that allows her to twist it into a defensive or attacking position with minimal movement.

That the oni is enjoying the fracas is enough to annoy the Ichijo girl a little, but after watching the events of the creatures' desperate struggle against the large woman for a few seconds, she can't help but look begrudgingly amused herself. It's a welcome chance to forget the night's carnage or the close brushes with disaster that happened at the apartment building, or of all-consuming rage she had seen come over the guardian ogre in the midst of a violent bloodbath...

For a few seconds, at least, she's able to forget everything else outside of their immediate circumstances and the sight of Riki wrestling two werewolves until they're thoroughly grappled under her control.

"Yes, yes," Ayame releases her staff with her right hand, lifting it to wave it back and forth with dismissive flair, "That one will do." Assuming any of these beasts are capable of speech, of course. As of yet, there has been no evidence of such... perhaps they are far more feral than the naga they fought earlier in the night.

The sound of another charging threat captures her attention and Ayame whirls toward it, hands on her staff again, the crimson flame rippling coolly on its surface bathing her in faint red. She doesn't need her belt light to see the third arrival oncoming as it crosses into the twin beams of her parked car momentarily.

The intent of its attack is clear, its teeth picking up the light an instant before Ayame slams her staff out sidelong into the path of the creature's incoming snout. Catching its bite on her weapon instead of her far less sturdy skin, the miko braces against the impact, arms bending as she slides back a few feet in her own struggle against what is, for her, a much larger opponent.

A moment later, however, the attack abated, the girl twists her body to the left, pulling her staff with her, attempting to side step around the werewolf and, with a spin of her body and lengthy weapon, trip the creature up with a strong smash to the back of its legs!

"You beasts seem confused. The two of us are hunting you, not the other way around!"

"Very good, my lady! I shall subdue the rascal immediately."

Riki turns her attention back to the pair of dark stalkers trapped in her arms giving each of them a broad smile. She loosens her grip on the black-furred werewolf enough to shift her hand down to its neck, digging her thick fingers into its mangy fur and holding it aloft by the scruff like a disobedient puppy. With a mighty toss she plants it head first into the pavement at her feet, attempting to knock the beast unconscious without shattering its head like a watermelon.


The other werewolf finds itself the sole focus of the oni's attention after that. Still in possession of most of its strength, it starts to struggle frantically again the moment it feels her hold loosen. The creature's dogged determination almost succeeds in allowing it to slip free as she attempts to get a proper hold on the thing but the ogre proves to be the more tenacious.

After several seconds of trying to avoid having her fingers nipped, she grunts in annoyance and reaches down to snag the the thing by its tail. A blazing sheathe of crimson hell flames erupts around her hands, engulfing the wolf in searing energy, its entire body flaring up like an oil-soaked torch. No doubt these beasts have a great many sins to act as kindling for the soulfire and it eagerly consumes that negative energy, eating away at spirit and body alike.

"Haha! Thou speak with great zeal tonight, my lady! Thy firey spirit is an inspiration!"

Drawing back her arm like an Olympian athlete preparing to hurl a javelin, Riki takes a moment to aim then hurls the flaming canine at the beast currently attempting turn her companion into a chew toy. While her mistress is certainly capable of taking care of herself, what's the point of having back up if it doesn't back you up?

COMBATSYS: The Hounds blocks Ayame's Random Strike.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Ayame            0/-------/------=|====---\-------\0             Riki
[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       0/-------/-======|

COMBATSYS: Riki successfully hits The Hounds with Flames of Purgatory.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Ayame            0/-------/------=|====---\-------\0             Riki
[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       1/-------/=======|

Teeth barred and drool dripping, the wolf grinds its fangs against the sturdy staff of the miko. The fur of its back shimmers in the lights of the El Camino, its back wet and red. The two clash for several moments, Lady Ichijo's strength and leverage levered against a larger opponent before finally she twists, deftly, and redirects him. The staff smacks against the wolf's flank with a meaty thwap, sending the beast limping away from the resolute miko.

The others, meanwhile, struggle against a meaty oni who seems to have knocked them lower on the food chain despite their best efforts. Struggling in Riki's grasp, the werewolf breaks into a cacophony of whimpers and howls as it ignites with supernatural flame, the beast's sins serving as kindling.

And so, the darkstalker is chucked like a flaming projectile, soaring through the air and smashing into the other wolf assailing Ayame. The two wolves tumble across the asphalt before crashing into a parked Toyota, denting the side. The far wolf, with the limp, hobbles away with a snarl, moving back toward Ayame. Rising onto its hind legs, it draws back and lets loose a furious roaring howl, spittle flying as its supernatural lungs threaten Ayame with tremendous force.

The other wolf, still ablaze, lays still. The flames crackle. Hopefully a beast being cooked by soulfire doesn't smell.

COMBATSYS: Ayame blocks The Hounds' Feral Roar.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Ayame            0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0             Riki
[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       1/-------/=======|

Ayame doesn't relish the idea of wrestling the werewolves anywhere near as much as her significantly larger ally. Managing to disengage with the one that was far too interested in getting bite of priestess snack, she checks back in on Riki to see that the oni is having a devil of- er- divine time of showing the beasts whatfor. It must be cathartic after having to fight a bunch of acid spitting, arrow firing, tail whipping naga to wrestle creatures far more straight forward in their intent and combat methods.

She shakes her head, releasing a soft huff of amusement in spite herself as Riki commands one of the creatures to sit. On one hand, someone else is clearly responsible for unleashing them on Southtown. On the other hand, they were responsible for everything they did from there on out. Seeing them whipped, burned, and hurled around like toys by the oni, it's almost hard to remember that these creatures likely have the blood of humans in their claws, that lives have been lost by their feral rampage.

The moment the thought occurs to the girl, she suppresses any sense of amusement, fingers tightening on her staff as she grits her teeth, the crimson flame coursing over her wooden weapon seeming to glimmer just a little bit brighter.

Maybe deciding that Riki is more than they can handle, one of them comes after Ayame again, not quite closing distance before belting out a fierce howl from a short distance away. The sound is no distant call to the moon but rather a projected, concussive blast of foul smelling breath. Drawing up her sleeve covered arms, Ayame is buffeted by the shout of dominance, driving back a few steps before catching herself.

Still holding her staff defensively, the girl reaches into her sleeve to pull out a rich blue piece of parchment that she brings to her mouth, tearing off a corner of it with her teeth before dropping it to the ground at her feet. Sapphire blue flame ignites from the dropped talisman and Ayame reaches out for it with her right hand, drawing the stray energy into herself all the while being careful to not let down her guard.

"There is no stopping her when she gets like this," the girl states with a nod toward Riki before glancing toward the one burnt crispy by the purifying blaze of hellfire. "But it is not even a fraction of what you deserve."

COMBATSYS: Ayame gathers her will.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Ayame            0/-------/=======|====---\-------\0             Riki
[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       1/-------/=======|

Now divested of her two playmates, the ogre has a moment to collect herself and survey the situation. She idly dusts some stray fur from the front of her tunic, her gaze sweeping ponderously around the parking lot in search of fresh enemies to pummel. To her dismay, none seem to be forthcoming, leaving only the lone snarling beast currently trying to serenade Ayame for her to contend with.

"Is that it?"

Riki puts her hands on her hips, frowning with obvious disappointment. The voice on the radio had said there were roving gangs of dark stalkers practically crawling over the entire city. Thus far their encounters have amounted to little more than a small handful each time. Barely enough of a challenge to even get her spirits up! On the upside, there's probably more beer in the store, so she at least has that to look forward to.

"If this is all the fight these beasts can muster, it makes one wonder how the defenders of this city have fared so poorly! Perhaps a whack from thy staff will sort them out, hmm?"

The oni grins broadly in shameless reference to the many times she herself has been clouted over the head by that very stick. Her habits of sleeping well into the late morning and lazing about like a freeloader are most often the cause of rousing the little miko's ire but certainly not the extent of her transgressions against the teenager's strict idea of proper behavior.

Lacking her ward's penchant for thinking too hard about the circumstances, the ogre instead focuses on milking whatever entertainment she can out of her remaining opponent. She bends her knees and back, hunkering over into a stance more in keeping with her brutish nature, her arms held low and wide as she squares off with the wolf. Roaring a wordless bellow of challenge, the amazon takes off at a sprint, her heavy footfalls sending tremors through the asphalt as she thunders forward.

The final few steps of her approach are skipped in favor of a leaping lunge. Fresh hellfire leaps to life around her fist as she barrels towards the werewolf in a low ballistic arc, her hair fluttering out behind her like a golden comet tail. The hammer blow of her balled up knuckles swings in hard as she approaches, attempting to deck the howling mutt straight in the snoot.

COMBATSYS: The Hounds blocks Riki's Helldiver.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Ayame            0/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0             Riki
[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       1/------=/=======|

The original werewolf, thrown heavily to the ground by Riki's slam, remains motionless for now, its brains scrambled by the impact. Perhaps it has decided its best option is to be a good dog.

The one that just roared at Ayame snaps its jaws ferociously, a froth seeping around the edges of its mouth. A low growl echoes from the beast before it digs its claws in and surges toward Ayame once more!

That is, until the oni bellows and surges forward with tremoring footfalls. The lunging, chi-infused blow comes down toward the wolf, forcing it to draw back mid-lunge and go on the defensive. With feral cunning more than skill, the beast swings forward a claw and collides with Riki's hammerblow in a trading of force that drives it backwards but spares it from likely being smashed into the dirt.

Panting heavily, the beast paces, rising up on two legs to walk more like a vile mockery of a man. Its claws hang loose, but ready as it eyes Riki, sizing her up and waiting for an opening. Around its neck glistens something silver and rectangular--tags, perhaps, dangling down in front of its chest. When it sees its chance, the beast lunges, dropping low and moving in a blur of claw, fang, and fur. It leaps up, driving both claws downard in a slash to try and cut through the oni's guard. From there, it bares its fangs once more, aiming to bite into the oni's neck and take its pound of flesh for the trouble she's brought upon it.

Clenching her fist, the blue flame drawn to it from her torn talisman swirls around the miko's right hand. Brown eyes stay focused on the creature in front of her as Riki takes a moment to survey the remnants of the pack. The oni does raise a good question, the girl realizes, thoughts racing through her mind. The naga were dangerous because they were entrenched, but that clutch of serpents never would have posed a threat to defense forces out in the open...

And while these werewolves were clearly more than capable of tearing through groups of untrained civilians, martial artists, police, and the several other groups inevitably out in force this night should be able to keep them controlled. Yet...

"No one was ready for it," Ayame answers Riki's question, jaw set, expression a glower at the werewolf looking eager to take another pass at her. "Complacent." she punctuates her thought.

Growing up, the world had largely been oblivious to the threats hidden in the shadowy places of the world. Myths, legends, ghost stories, all considered works of fiction. When the existence of the supernatural became irrefutable in the eyes of anyone who watched the nightly news, the initial reaction had been fear, backlash against the dangerous threats. Calls for investigations, containment, of improved resources and training to deal with so-called 'magical risks.'

But it didn't take long for society to grow complacent. There were enough of the creatures shown in good light, harmless, amusing for entertainment or specific types of labor, but not something that needed to be feared anymore than the modern man fears randomly being mauled by a lion.

They had let their guard down. It was mainstream these days to talk about how little threat the darkstalkers were, that the danger associated with them was overblown and that measures such as signing over broad powers to organizations like the NOL were reactionary.


Ayame moves her right hand, still covered with coolly burning sapphire flame to join her left in grasping her wooden staff.

"Someone set this all in motion. Someone who will need to be stopped."

As Riki once more successfully pulls the werewolf's attention her way, Ayame bursts into motion, closing in behind it. As she sprints, her right hand pulls away from her staff, taking with it a blue, ethereal replica of the weapon. Closing in on the werewolf, the miko wields two staffs now - a physical, wooden one, with crimson flame along its surface in her left hand, and one formed purely from shaped azure energy in her right hand.

"Someone who will suffer for what they have done to my city!"

The instant she's within range, she unleashes a maelstrom of whirling attacks, spinning into strikes intended to smack the werewolf's arms astray, preventing it from defending itself, twisting herself around to strike the sides of its legs, first with her wooden staff, then its temporary replica. Bashes to the chest, back, and sides follow, all to rob the creature of any will to fight before she comes to a stop, the blue staff dismissed, its energy fully spent.

COMBATSYS: Riki interrupts Rip and Tear from The Hounds with Charging Ox.
- Power hit! -

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Ayame            0/-------/------=|=====--\-------\0             Riki
[                     \\\\\\\\\  <
The Hounds       0/-------/-----==|

COMBATSYS: Ayame successfully hits The Hounds with Final Solstice.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Ayame            0/-------/------=|=====--\-------\0             Riki
[                             \  <
The Hounds       0/-------/-======|

Riki recovers from her rejected flying punch more gracefully than the wolf, merely falling to one knee rather than being sent staggering backwards by the exchange. She lets out a grunt of acknowledgement at the boldness of the beast trying to match blows with her directly but it seems that the outcome of the fight is a foregone conclusion at this point.

In terms of power and weight, she has these creatures utterly out-classed individually. It large groups even mundane wolves can be a terrible threat, easily capable of taking down large beasts that would destroy a lone predator through instinctual pack tactics. With its pack mates being taken out of the equation so quickly, the remaining dark stalker is a pale shadow of its true potential as a combatant. Only it's apparent utter lack for self-preservation seems to be keeping it here as any normal group of predators would have scattered after suffering such losses.

"Aye," the oni replies, rising to her feet. "No one ever is."

Nearly a thousand years ago, when monsters such as herself had roamed the world far more openly, people took the threat of random invasions by blood-thirsty beasts quite seriously. Towns usually had militias ready to fend off packs of bandits or the odd yokai but most people went about their daily lives without devoting much energy to the thought that their survival hinged largely upon the whims of creatures far beyond their power to stop. Certainly, large numbers of properly trained soldiers were a match for a marauding group of oni but there were never enough of those to protect everyone all the time and no one wanted to devote themselves to a life of discipline and hardship on the odd possibility that someone my come crawling out of the darkness once or twice in their lifetime. Peace and prosperity made men complacent and there are always things ready to take advantage of that indolence.

Turning her attention back to the werewolf, Riki flashes him another fierce grin. She squeezes one fist into the other, filling the air with disturbing crunches and pops as her oversized joints crack like someone tap dancing across a sheet of bubble wrap. Her sense of caution has mostly been relaxed at this point, believing the danger to be largely past. Now she's just going to have fun with this.

"Come, mongrel! Let us see if you possess the strength to impress me!"

Whether due to her taunt or its own uncontrollable bloodlust, the dark stalker accepts the challenge. It comes in low and fast, darting forward on its oddly bent hind legs like some mockery of a man. The creature's claws glint in the soft pale light of the car's high beams, deadly talons ready to shred the ogre's mortal shell just as easily as the naga had earlier in the evening.

Any sane person would have regarded such a danger with far more respect. Even skilled martial artists are capable of being ripped to shreds should they make a single ill-timed mistake. But Riki is not a creature of mortal concerns, at least, not entirely. While her vessel is capable of being injured, such damage is temporary at best, and she has displayed many times the ability to function while sportings wounds that would have felled a rhinocerous.

Eyes glinting with an almost child-like glee, the demon squares off with the on coming feral missile and meets its wild fury with her own. At the last possible moment, she launches herself forward, intercepting the downwards sweep of those rending claws with a sudden charge that catches the beast completely defenseless. Its tears at her shoulders as she scoops it up like a bulldozer but the impact throws its aim wide leaving only tiny lacerations that weep thin trickles of blood. Its jaws snap hungrily at her neck, seeking to clamp down on her soft jugular and rip out her throat but a massive hand closes over its snout, holding it fast as the pair of them barrel across the parking lot like a runaway train.

Only when when they reach one of the nearby cars scattered around the parking lot does the wild ride come to and dramatic and bone-crunching end. Letting out a bellow roar of triumph, Riki drives the unfortunate beast straight into the metal exterior of the car, throwing all of her weight into a final surge of momentum. Glass and metal explode in all directions with a cacophanous crash, the side of the vehicle buckling inwards at punishment it wasn't meant to endure.

Riki releases her grip on the beast and steps back quickly, allowing the miko to deliver the finishing blow with her flurry of magically empowered strikes. Though the fight was almost certainly out of the beast it never hurts to be sure. Besides, she's had almost all of the fun in this particular encounter! Best to give her mistress a piece of the action lest she be accused of bogarting the entertainment.

As the fight intensifies, the wolves seem to be losing not only ground, but spirit. As feral and vicious as they are, they are fundamentally pack predators. Whatever is driving them has done a fine job of turning them into attack dogs, but when it comes to tactics against targets of superior skill? They are found wanting. Losing its packmates has taken the threat from the wolf in a way not unlike a deflating balloon, and almost as sad. That is, were it not a bloodthirsty beast set upon falling upon the innocent and the unwary.

In a brief instant, there is a realization. Perhaps, in those fleeting seconds, the werewolf feels genuine fear as the lights of the El Camino shine in its eyes and the oni powers into it unexpected, taking it clear off its feet before its teeth find purchase in Riki's shoulder.

The stampeding oni makes her way across the lot, the wolf writhing, twisting, trying to escape the entire way. The two of them smash into the side of a parked SUV, assailing it with such force that it rocks on its shock absorbers and bounces in a storm of fiberglass, metal, and window. Blow after blow falls heavily upon the beast, each one driving it back into the imprint in the vehicle as it starts to rise again.

And yet, somehow, it lives. It staggers, bloodied and beaten to a pulp, but it does not fall yet. Blood and drool pour from its mouth along with a stray fang. It's once ferocious snarl is reduced to a wheeze, but it does not fall. This is it's last mistake.

The miku descends upon in as a whirlwind of blows, two staffs wielded with the grace of a dancer. Blow after blow fall upon it, knocking away its paws, taking its legs out from under it. The darkstalker is beaten down with blow after blow before finally slumping heavily onto the pavement with the crunch of busted glass underneath it.

COMBATSYS: The Hounds takes no action.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Ayame            0/-------/------=|=====--\-------\0             Riki

COMBATSYS: The Hounds can no longer fight.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Ayame            0/-------/------=|=====--\-------\0             Riki

Sucking in her breath as she comes to a stop, Ayame whirls away from the collapsed creature, checking for signs that the other two that attacked them are likely to move in the slightest. Then another quite turn as she checks their surroundings, looking out for any others waiting to ambush the unlikely monster hunting duo.

Only then does she exhale, standing up straight, relaxing her guard at last. The crimson fire bathing her staff flickers then fades, falling from the weapon as a few final, vanishing motes of stray energy, and then all is quiet. The girl's eyes flick to the vehicle that served as the unfortunate barricade for Riki's pulverizing charge then flashes a glance toward the oni, brow furrowed as if to suggest that she considers the vehicular mayhem to be entirely unwarranted. They're supposed to be containing the situation, not blowing things up worse!

But she doesn't say anything. All things considered, she can let a little wanton destruction slide considering the remarkable job the oni had done in quelling this pack's fight, keeping their attention and taking them all to the ground in pure contest of force of one against many. What's one smashed in SUV against that? The werewolves might have damaged it anyway!

"Well." the priestess states, followed by a long pause. "I suppose we can resupply now." Not that she, herself, needs much. But the ogress can be insatiable when it comes to food and drink. Grabbing some more first aid supplies wouldn't be a bad idea either as there's always a chance they might come across survivors in need of aid...

Already, her right hand is fishing in the voluminous sleeve covering her left arm. As the surviving naga before, each of the werewolves will be bound with a long lasting sealing ward that should keep them secured long enough for the NOL to pick them up on a sweep.

It's in the process of applying a talisman to the one who suffered her aggressive beatdown after already having been pulverized by Riki that she notices the tag dangling from its neck.

"Oh?" the girl muses, dropping to one knee and reaching down to take hold of it for closer inspection.

Some kind of identification? Part of who whoever unleashed the beasts keeps track of them?

It's a good thing that the oni doesn't thrive on the vocal praise of her mistress. That would be a barren desert to cross indeed! The thrill of a good fight is more than enough to slake her thirst, though in this case she can't really call it more than an appetizer. Ever hungry for more opportunities to brawl, Riki takes her turn to survey the area again while the miko sees to the fallen, mildly hopeful that there might be other creatures lurking nearby who would be drawn to their presence by the rather noisy end of the battle.

"Alas," she says, a sigh of disappointment in her husky voice. "That seems to be the last of the beasts here. Just when things were starting to get fun, too..."

But when one aspect of life offers disappointment, you turn to another for the salve of hope. The towering amazon turns her gazes towards the shopping mart as Ayame mentions supplies. Her expression becomes something almost lecherous at the prospect of having free reign to raid an entire warehouse full of food and alcohol. No doubt a great many of said supplies won't survive the trip out back out to the car.

She takes a few steps towards the darkened building, practically drooling in anticipation, but when the miko pauses to inspect something that has caught her eye the ogre does as well. As much as she'd love to go running off to gorge herself on fresh meats and wine, she isn't about to make the mistake of leaving the young woman alone out in the open. The plunder can wait, for a few moments at least.

"Hast thou discovered something of interest, my lady?"

Moving over to stand next to the girl, Riki peers down at the small sparkling piece of metal around the beast's neck. The act of tagging pets with a collar is not particularly familiar to the demon, save perhaps a harness for a mount or warhound. She peers at the odd bit of jewelry with a blank expression, waiting for the miko to explain whatever significance it might have to their current mission.

When Riki moves over next to Ayame, she'll find the she has a tag resting in the palm of her hand still affixed to the collar belonging to the beaten werewolf. "None of these seemed capable of speech," she ponders. "So I doubt we will get anything from trying to interrogate one." If only the naga weren't also all dead or so far gone that waiting around for them to be remotely capable of answer questions was out of the question... Maybe they're being a bit TOO effective in their monster smashing skills.

Resting her staff against her shoulder so that she can use her left hand as well, Ayame fishes out a very small knife from within her sleeve. "Maybe..." she answers Riki's question. "Maybe not. No doubt whoever sent these things into our city will have known some of them would be, well..." she gestures toward the throughly battered werewolf with a wave of her hand. "So it is unlikely that this will point directly back to their source."

Leaning forward, she feels around in the thick, mangy fur, finding the collar with one hand and slicing it off with her other. Tucking the knife away, she pulls the marker off the beast's neck before standing up and holding it out in front of her, using the El Camino's headlights to get a better look at it.

"But... there could be something. A finger print of a slaver, perhaps." She doesn't sound hopeful, but her word choice implies where her mind is thinking in terms of how these creatures ended up in Southtown. She release a slow exhale, turning to the store, ever present frown returned.

"Okay, let us grab some things and get going. Still a lot of work to do tonight." She doesn't like the idea of looting the store, but there's certainly no one there to take credit, nor does she have anywhere near enough on her to pay for whatever horde of goods Riki might haul off without a second thought. "I imagine the store owner would have likely given us something for cleaning out his market of monsters anyway, so... We can consider this supply run saving him the trouble of having to offer it to us."

That line of thinking seems to assuage any morale reservations she has with the 'all expenses paid' shopping trip, her expression shifting into a faint, rueful smile.

"Come on. Better this place cover the cost of whatever appetite you worked up than I..."

COMBATSYS: Riki has left the fight here.

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

COMBATSYS: Ayame has ended the fight here.

Log created on 22:41:40 04/17/2020 by Ayame, and last modified on 21:15:54 04/20/2020.