The Black Dragon - Black Dragon R4 - Crossfire

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Description: Thus far the dynamic duo of spiritual warriors have proven to be a valuable asset to the people of Southtown, rescuing dozens of civilians trapped far beyond the reach of the NOL or PDF. But with the Dark Stalkers suddenly turning tail, their prospects for further aid seem limited. Unwilling to give up the fight until the job is done, Ayame directs their efforts towards a large movement of NOL troops, hoping to offer assistance where they can. Instead, the pair accidentally blunder into an ambush meant to catch the Librarium unawares, putting themselves directly into the conflict against the Dragon's forces!

The seemingly unlikely duo of demon hunting miko and divine guardian oni had been hard at work throughout various areas of Southtown for the entire duration of the outbreak of violence. Pest control, house cleaning, rescue missions, escort quests, and even gang busting had provided spikes of intense action. And between those moments, long periods of searching, exploring, and patrolling, as they scouted for the next location or party that could best benefit from either their combat prowess or the provisions that they had stockpiled into the increasingly war torn old battlewagon tan El Camino.

Unaffiliated with any of the major forces in play throughout the besieged city of Southtown, they found other ways to keep up to date on what was going on. From Riki beating information out of hostiles unfortunate to end up in her grip, to Ayame claiming Librarium radio equipment from one of the fallen NOL soldiers found a few days ago, the two were relatively well-informed about events taking place throughout the city.

When word started circulating around the communications networks that the tide of beasts seemed to be withdrawing, freeing up forces to concentrate their efforts on the source of the entire calamity, it seemed the pair's patrolling time had come to an end.

From a rooftop, the ogress and girl take a moment to survey the stretch of city between them and the Dragon's Den, the casino having very quickly become the building of greatest interest throughout all Southtown. The sun was falling low in the horizon, but there were still a couple hours at least of waning daylight to see by. Exhaling softly, leaning against her staff, Ayame stares at the edifice with a slight frown. They maintained their vigilence in helping the city for so many days now, their only breaks an occasional retreat back to the Meian Jinja on the city outskirts to afford the girl brief chances to rest. Now with the darkstalker hordes withdrawing, it was easy to feel as if they had done enough.

"From what I gathered," the Ichijo girl lifts her right arm, pointing off in another direction, "The NOL is mobilizing a large force from that direction. That will be the most visible dispatch, at least. I would imagine there are more units moving in secret from other sides." Her voice thoughtful at first before she breathes in then exhales, letting her arm fall to her side.

"Well, I suppose our work is done. No need to entangle ourselves in the military action to come." Ayame states without glancing toward Riki, her tone deadpan serious and the oni wouldn't be able to see the quirk of a grin tugging at the corner of the miko's lips as she speaks.

"I mean, it will probably just be a big gauntlet of non-stop battle against the remaining darkstalker forces and whatever humans so depraved as to align themselves with that Dragon woman... Nothing we need to concern ourselves with..."

From their towering perch high above the streets, Riki surveys the city alongside her tiny companion. It is the first time she's had such a vantage point and the sight of the the entire skyline stretched across the horizon is rather awe-inspiring to the ancient demon. When last she walked among humanity the largest cities barely stretched a dozen miles from one side to the other. Only the palaces of emperors and the monastery fortresses of warrior monks stood more than a couple of stories high. While skyscrapers are nothing new to her now, the sheer magnitude of human advancement in the past century is breath-taking.

The oni is uncharacteristically quiet for several minutes as she soaks in the scenery. The shimmering gold of the waxing sun paints broad streaks of pastel orange and yellow across fading sky and glittering glass buildings alike as it dips through the smattering of summer clouds, evoking a sense of poetic appreciation even in an uncouth brute such as the ogre.

A shame that it's ruined by the ugly stains of the past couple of weeks. The stench of rot remains strong even now as the dead continue to lay strewn out in the streets. Several buildings near the casino bear gaping burnt-out holes in their sides, evidence of the failed first assault on the strange fortress. Abandoned vehicles still litter the highways, doors left hanging ajar as their owners fled, windows smashed out by the ravenous monsters attempting to tear out those who sought refuge within.

Strangely, the sight of a war-ravaged city doesn't evoke a sense of sadness in the demon. Despite her ascension to a higher cause, being taken into Lord Enma-O's service hasn't done much to alter who she is at the core. Death and destruction are but a sweet perfume to the flesh-bound spirit, something that her companion has learned well.

A gust of wind rises up to engulf to pair of women, carrying it with it the unmistakable scent of sweat and determination to the ogre's supernatural senses. She doesn't need the miko to tell her that a battle is soon to be fought but the details of the operation, rather unsubtly waved in front of her nose like a piece of steak on a string, serve to entice the war-like titan. She turns into the wind, eyes closing as she inhales deeply. Her brilliant mane of golden hair flutters out behind her in the draft, waving wildly like a shimmering candle flame struggling to remain lit.

"I can smell them," she says, her deep voice soft and conversational, yet the edge of anticipation laced into it is hard to miss. "Even now, though battles be fought with bows of fire, the scent of war hath remained the same. Fear. Lust. Resolve. Anger. And..."

She pauses, words drifting off for several seconds. Her brow furrows as something new tickles her senses, something she's never experienced before. Rather than a scent, it seems to be almost like a distant song of some sort, a faint haunting melody that scratches at the surface of her shackled soul like a bed of thorns raking at exposed skin. It is decidedly an unpleasant experience but it fades almost as soon as she starts to understand it, as if somehow aware that it is being observed.

"That was..."

Her eyes open, glowing faintly with divine power, but the words to describe what she'd noticed fail to manifest. Snorting in annoyance, she shakes her head and turns to peer down at Ayame with a rueful grin, offering a shrug.

"Forgive me, I thought I had sensed something... but it hath gone now. Perhaps I may hath overindulged in our supplies again, hahaha!"

Their trips out into the city had mostly been supplied by pillaging abandoned stores. Riki never passed up an opportunity to add fresh cases of alcohol to the haul though they rarely lasted even long enough to reach the next store. One of the added benefits of this unexpected invasion had been the chance to get at such stores of booze outside of the temple's often meager stash and despite her towering stature, the demon has managed to maintain a near permanent status of half-sloshed. Judging from the faint tint of pink in her cheeks, now is no different.

"As for the battle ahead," she continues, shamelessly moving on from the subject. "Thou hath witnessed the poor state of affairs created by the Library's incompetence the same as I." She grins broadly with a flash of fangs, resting her large mitts on her hips. "Twould be nothing less than irresponsible to leave such matters in their bumbling hands!"

The comms chatter has been abuzz as the NOL prepares for a big move against the Dragon's base of operation. With its sweeping military might and numbers, the NOL can bring a great deal of power to bear, but the greater one's numbers, the more challenging security becomes. Just as the miko and the oni have managed to clue to the NOL's plans, so too have others with more nefarious ideas for how to respond.

The silhouette of a little girl makes her way down the open street, sniffling softly. Her dress is long, like a hand-me-down, and she wears an oversized hat as well. Perhaps she's been scavenging for clean clothes and couldn't find any that fit? She drags a napsack slightly behind her as she walks, causing it to thump every now and then when she hits a particularly large peddle or crack in the street.

"Hello? Anyone?" she calls to no one in particular, slowing her advance only briefly to listen.

There seems to be no sight or sound of the approaching NOL force yet. If anyone has been deployed, they must be keeping to reconnaissance numbers before their main force advances.

As Riki speads, Ayame glances up over her shoulder at the towering ogress. At first, only faintly curious as she mentions the smells of the battlefield, but slowly turning to face the her partner with a more focused gaze as the woman continues. Her eyes search Riki's, mouth pressed into a thin, thoughtful line.

It's not common for her companion to wax poetic in their time together, though usually their time together is occupied by Ayame's acerbic sarcasm or Riki's disarming needling. Or battle. Lots of battle lately. Quiet times like the moment taken on the rooftop are few and far between lately. But now, on the eve of what seems like it will be a resolution to the conflict, they have a rare chance to pause.

As Riki shrugs, Ayame hmphs softly, dismissing the moment just as readily, "Must have been." though her tone betrays lingering thoughts as to what had derailed the oni woman's thoughts so.

The girl turns to face out over the city again then, fingers tightening on her staff as she listens to Riki's thoughts on why, perhaps, they shouldn't retire just yet.

"Indeed, you do make a rare bit of sense." she allows, corner of her mouth upticking slightly. "It would be irresponsible of us to leave the final outcome to mere chance. Well then, let us-"

She pauses, picking up sounds of movement below. Dropping to one knee, the miko surveys the street below the building, head canting to the side slightly. Her brow furrows as thoughts race through her mind. How could this little girl come to be here? Outside of the safe zones? This long after the initial invasion, the odds of survival would have dropped off rapidly without others around to protect her... but what if her guardians only recently fell? Even in spite all the warnings and clear and present dangers, some of Southtown's citizens simply refused to relocate, not trusting the government, the NOL, or anyone else to keep them safe.

"Hm..." the miko muses, pushing back up to standing. "I will talk to her. You... try to be inconspicuous." she finishes with a dry tone, backing away from the edge of the roof.

A minute later and the Ichijo girl exits the building into the street. Having only recently returned to the city following a chance to clean up at home, she is the very image of a Shinto priestess guardian. Pristine white and crimson clothing, flowing sleeves, and long, straight hair held in check only by a red ribbon tied into a bow. A welcoming sight to any troubled local, one might imagine.

She lifts her right hand, her left hand still clasped on her rune-carved wooden staff, "Hello," she calls out, approaching the girl with seemingly little concern. An expert at concealing her wariness, it would be hard to detect the moments she takes to scan her environment, to identify shadows and blind spots, to pick out cover. It's likely she's dealing with a civilian here, but something feels just a bit off about this situation as well.

She doesn't close distance too fast. If this really is a startled, lost girl, the last thing she needs is an aggressive approach. Instead, she approaches slowly, watching for signs of nervousness or skittishness in the demeanor of the potential darkstalker escapee.

"I can help you," she offers, "Are you alone?"

The ogre's grin widens at the rare vote of confidence offered towards her ability to judge a situation. Though the miko doesn't share Riki's lust for battle, her enthusiasm for tackling the infestation of monsters over the past couple of weeks speaks of a lurking desire to put her skills to good use. It's merely a difference in motivations. That the two very different warriors are so easily able to play around each other's personalities speaks volumes of the deepening bond between them.

Their brief moment of comraderie is interrupted by a rather unexpected event. Shifting her gaze down towards the street at the same time as the miko, Riki's eyebrows cant upwards in surprise at finding a lone young girl wandering the streets. Similar questions to those that race through Ayame's steel-trap mind drift lazily across the oni's thoughts at a more sedate pace, her arms crossing over her chest as she silently contemplates the situation.

Fortunately, neither of them have to wait for the demon's sluggish thought processes to come up with a course of action. With her companion declaring her intent to investigate the matter, Riki shrugs and remains where she is, silently watching the meandering child from above while Ayame takes the long way down to street level. She doesn't even bother trying to comply with the girl's command to remain hidden. It's not like she can duck down behind the lip of the roof. Instead, she settles for staying mostly motionless, kneeling down to make her towering profile slightly less obvious should the girl cast her gaze upwards.

With some extra time on her hands to consider the unusual nature of this development, a few of the gears in the ogre's head finally start to grind together, albeit with great protest. Her eyes narrow on the child with concentration as Ayame emerges into the open to try and establish communication. Judging by her cautious approach, the miko has realized that something about this is quite strange. While it's not impossible that someone could have remained hidden and safe these past couple weeks, this part of the city was one of the hardest hit, bordering the wide highways that serve as arteries for travel throughout the metropolis. There would have been very few opportunities to scavenge for supplies with the dark stalkers roaming openly in large packs followed shortly by the roving gangs of biker thugs who would have used these very same roads to get around.

The nagging sense of wrongness at the back of her mind finally solidifies into something concrete as she notices something - or rather, the lack of something. She had been trying to find some obvious sign of malice or ill-intent by reading the girl's soul but discovered nothing. And that is the problem. There is literally nothing there. No fear, no hunger, no sorrow. A quick sniff at the air confirms that there aren't any smells that should be present either, such as sour stink of sweat or the pungent aroma of someone who hasn't bathed in days.

"My lady!"

Riki rises swiftly to her feet, taking a step forward to the edge of the roof as she bellows down at the miko. Her voice is filled with alarm and warning, an unusual set of emotions for the essentially fearless demon. She doesn't yet hurl herself to the street, exercising a brief spark of wit by waiting to see if her call of warning causes any unexpected developments.

"Be on thy guard! Tis a ruse of some sort! That girl hath no soul!"

Automatic weapons fire rings out from above and across the street, tracing a line of busted pavement as bullets cut a path toward the miko. Even as they do, the wind picks up just so, pulling the "girl's" hat hard against the tethers holding it in place. In that brief window, Ayame may notice that the elaborate scarecrow is mounted on a small drone, a tank-treaded creation that looks as if it belongs with a bombsquad. The speaker crackles from wind blowing into the mic, but by now it has served its purpose.

Burst fire continues from the opposite rooftop, the well-geared mercenary perched slightly behind the lip of the roof as he opens fire with steady, controlled clips of fire. His intent doesn't seem to be kill so much as suppress or wound. Capture, perhaps?

"Move in for CQC, cut off her escape," he says over his radio. "And watch out for the big bitch on the roof. Looks like a Darkstalker."

On cue, two dark-armored mercenaries descend on the scene. One, a big-bodied figure, barrels through a nearby storefront in a low sprint to take cover behind a parked car. A second, smaller and leaner, emerges from a burnt out APC, moving to the side of the vehicle and hunkering down to better draw a bead on Ayame. Safeties click ominously, but more bullets do not follow yet.

COMBATSYS: Hayley has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Hayley           0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Hayley has ended the fight here.

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Squad Kilo       0/-------/-------|

The oni's shout carries easily along the otherwise deathly silent street. No soul? Ayame's eyes widen slightly, the girl recoiling from her position of a few years from the figure not so in need after all. Her left hand on her staff, she starts to lift her right hand, not hesitating for an instant. She's already been caught in the open by an ambush ranged attack at the onset of the siege and she isn't waiting to see if the same thing is about to happen here.

No soul... undead? No, undead would still have those telltale signatures of a being once alive. Some kind of construct then? Magic? She hadn't thought to look for magic - while the threats facing the city have certainly been supernatural, the actual attacks the darkstalkers have levied against Southtown's populace have skewed toward the mundane - claws, weaponry, and teeth.

A shimmering barrier of pink snaps into existence in front of her extended right palm just in time to present a shield against the initial burst fire. She had the observation and warning of her partner positioned above to thank for that. Most of the shots seemed to be training toward her rather than aimed directly at her, but even close call warning rounds would glance off the discus of translucent energy.

Backing up, only then would she realize the nature of the ruse - no magic, no desecrated tombs to send a soulless zombie her way. No, this type of deception is decidedly simple, and decidedly human.

At last, she thinks to herself, whipping to the side as fire comes from somewhere behind her, her barrier moving with her. Better suited to fending off attacks from a single opponent, being pinned between two with automatic weapons presents a challenge she can't so easily deflect.

Finally, two descend into view, claiming cover available to them.

There is a moment's thought that these could be NOL or military forces, that her companion in arms has caused them to assume that she was part of the mad Dragon's campaign of terror. Maybe this situation could be resolved with talking? Turning to the side so that she presents a more slender profile, glancing back and forth toward the two black armored men, Ayame begins to back up toward a building on the side of the street with slow, cautious steps.

The shimmering pink barrier in front of her palm is sustained for now, though even as she moves it back and forth between the two armed men, it's clear she can't cover herself from both of them at the same time. At any moment, one of them has a shot.

"Who are you? We two are here only to find survivors and escort them out of the area. We are not your enemies!" The latter part she can't be sure of, not entirely certain of who she's dealing with. The NOL should have Riki and her on file, but in chaotic times like this, any number of mistakes in the chain of communication are possible.

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

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Squad Kilo       0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Ayame

While Ayame may be more inclined to try and defuse the situation with words, diplomacy goes out the window as an option that even crosses the oni's mind the moment gunfire starts to fly in her ward's direction. She isn't familiar enough with modern technology to understand the nature of the threat - or lack thereof - posed by the drone, but she's well aquainted with the deadly nature of bullets directed against mortal flesh.

Seeing the predicament that the miko has been placed into with dangers from multiple angles, Riki wastes no time in trying to do what she does best and make herself a more threatening target. Taking several massive steps backwards, she dashes towards the edge of the roof and hurls herself skywards with a colossal leap. The titanic demon clears an absurd amount of distance, flying completely across the entire intersection on a parabolic arc towards the foolish mercenary attempting to take cover and spray enfillade fire down at the retreating priestess.

A bellow of furious challenge precedes Riki's descent as she comes crashing down at the mercenary like a golden-tailed meteor, slamming into the roof top with such force that the entire building shudders and several of the windows shatter in a spray of glass. The attack isn't elegant or subtle but it isn't meant to be. She wants the attention of every one of these bastards focused on the giant monster about to start doing its Hulk impression all over their faces.

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

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Squad Kilo       0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Riki
                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0            Ayame

COMBATSYS: Riki successfully hits Squad Kilo with Fierce Impact.
Glancing Blow

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Squad Kilo       0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Riki
                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                  |-------\-------\0            Ayame

In cover on the street, two of the mercenaries keep their sights trained on the priestess wielding strange power with such ease. The bullets pinging off her barrier hardly go unnoticed.

"I thought you said they weren't NOL," one of the merc says, slightly above a whisper. Undeterred by the barrier, they kept their rifles trained, refraining from more fire when she makes an attempt at diplomacy.

"We can't let you pass through, miss." The soldier who speaks up is the one behind the APC. Despite her nondescript body armor and helmet, the voice is certainly that of a woman, and one with an Eastern European accent. "If you're here on a rescue mission, you need to come with u--"

The raging shout of the oni drowns her out in a storm of fury before Riki launches herself across the entire street before smashing down on the roof. The sniper from before scrambles from his position as Riki comes down. Hands slam onto the lip of the roof and he vaults clear over, missing the worst of the impact at the cost of hurling himself bodily off the rooftop and toward the street. For several painful seconds he freefalls, finally hitting the ground in a roll and a gasp of pain before rising up and hobbling toward the cover of the APC where his teammate waits.

"Covering your six!" shouts the bigger, burlier commando behind the parked car. His accent is different. More formal. Perhaps British? "Grenade out!"

%His motions are practiced and precise. Like the kata of a karateka he jerks a grenade off his vest, pulls the pin, and hurls it overhand toward the rooftop where Riki landed, bouncing it off the damaged lip and into the crater she made on her landing.

"Rescue mission, huh?" the Eastern European woman speaks up again, rifle still trained on Ayame.

Of course they're not friendly, the girl thinks to herself. Even the Librarium, notorious for being overly zealous in their attacks against unassociated darkstalkers, would be slow to open fire on a human girl presenting no sign of danger in the stret. The drone deception, the burst fire assault weapons - no, these armored individuals are not part of the solution. Which means...

The girl stalls, mentally counting down the seconds in her head. Six, five, four...

"We are licensed with the Librarium, my companion is free to travel the city as freely as any other." Ayame replies as if still trying to explain herself. She heards the thundering step, the whistle of wind through that wild mane of hair. The edges of her mouth quirk upward, shifting from a deploring look to a hint of a smirk.

Three, two, one...

Riki lands with a ground rumbling impact right as Ayame calculated she would based on the distance between them and the time that had lapsed since the first shot. There were times when over-thinking could get herself into trouble - a weakness her companion surely lacked - and this was one of those times where the oni's protective instincts were invaluable.

With the distraction, taking into considering where Riki lands, Ayame skips backward rapidly, the oni's body blocking one of the mercs and her barrier held out between her and the remaining one. She shrugs her right shoulder toward the woman, smiling now.

"You shot first."

The sound of action to her side goes ignored for a moment, the girl confident that Riki has things handled there for the immediate moment. Instead, she makes her own move, darting to the left suddenly. Dropping her barrier to free up her right hand, her fingers slip into the sleeve of her priestess attire, coming back out with a light blue paper talisman.

In the shadows cast by the setting sun, the ghostly light blue flame flickering over the talisman is plainly visible as the girl flicks it toward the well-geared woman's position, partially with intent to hit, but also to keep her attacker distracted long enough for her to make it to the low wall adjacent to the building's entry stairs for her to take cover herself!

The attack flies swiftly at first, considering its nothing more than thin paper, but once it's gone half the distance, it suddenly bursts into a much brighter ball of spectral flame, rocketing toward the woman with both precision and nearly invisible speed!

"Let them have it, Riki!" As if the oni required any encouragement. They would need to take these two down, words were never going to solve anything here.

COMBATSYS: Riki endures Squad Kilo's Concussion Grenade.

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

The tiny sphere of the grenade clatters and bounces neatly over the roof, expertly thrown to land right into the large divot created by the ogre's heavy landing. Riki glances down at the device without comprehension, unfamiliar with something as modern as a hand grenade, and decides to ignore it when nothing immediately happens.

Turning to give chase to the fleeing sharpshooter even as her companion calls for a shift to gunboat diplomacy, the amazon steps up to the edge of the roof and prepares to drop over the side. The concussive blast detonates behind her moments before she can commit to a landing point, a raw wave of force crashing into the ogre right as she jumps. A yelp escapes the titan as she's propelled forward with a great deal more momentum than she had intended, her voice filled with surprise more than pain. But her expression quickly shifts from wide-eyed confusion to menacing grin as she sails down towards the street.

Despite her lack of finesse, if there's one thing Riki is good at it's using her size and durability to turn her entire body into a weapon. Though she hadn't intended on cannon balling straight into the ruined APC, that quickly becomes her plan as the speed imparted to her by the powerful blast sends the demon careening directly on a crash course with the large van.

Letting out another enthusiastic war cry, blazing crimson fire erupts to life around the oni's entire body turning her into a more literal sort of meteor this time. With a cacophonous crunch, she slams into the side of the large armored vehicle hard enough to dent the thick metal bulkhead inwards several inches. The aura of hellish energy explodes like a fireball, the soul-searing power flying out in all directions like liquid napalm. Even worse, such an impact is more than enough to send the entire thing skidding sideways, tipping the APC up onto one set of wheels and threatening to simply flatten the mercenaries who had been taking cover behind it when it comes tumbling over.

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo just-defends Ayame's Binding of the Condemned Soul!

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

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo blocks Riki's Helldiver.

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

"That was a warning shot," the woman quips back at Ayame. Her tone is even, but there's a certain arrogance, maybe even snark underneath the surface. "I couldn't ask you questions if my man had shot you dead on the spot."

The soaring talisman forces the woman to pull back, wary of what it will do. When it bursts into flames, curls, and chases after its target, the armored woman finds herself on the defensive instead. She glances back, then leaps up to grab the rail of the APC and hold herself aloft with one arm. Her boot strikes out swiftly and surely, slamming the loose door of the busted APC so hard that it swings forward on the hinge. With a cacophonous clang it slams the other end and smashes into the fireball, scattering in a shower of blue light before the mercenary drops back down from her perch to land with a thump.

"Chike!" she barks, "Engage the priestess up close! Watch out for more tricks!" Her attention shifts to her other teammate, still limping his way toward her after ditching the cover of an overturned dumpster.

And it's at that moment that Riki's course becomes clear and the amazonian ogress descends toward the APC like a humanoid meteor. When she impacts it and sends it careening, the lady mercenary only has a brief moment to react.

"Fahim! Brace!" The woman vaults up again, leaping into the air and planting both feet on the imbalanced APC. She kicks off the vehicle like a springboard, launching herself backward toward her squadmate. Her squadmate looks up just in time to see his squadmate crash into him, back first, knocking them both clear of getting painfully pancaked by the falling vehicle as it smashes down with the sound of warping metal and cracking pavement.

Despite the painful dogpile, she's back on her feet in just a moment, sliding her arm under the other merc's armpit and hoisting him up to his feet on the leg he didn't land on earlier.

"You need to lose some weight, Saska," he wheezes. "Your ass almost killed me!"

"Shut up, Fahim. I need your focus on the hornhead."

Meanwhile, the bigger, burlier man, Chike, shoulders his rifle and comes barreling toward Ayame like a linebacker. Stampeding like a bull, the man charges the wall at full speed until, suddenly, he weaves like a professional footballer to zip around it, close in on Ayame, and throw a sharp left hook at her jaw.

"Those robes," he says in British-accented English, "a priestess, yes? I hope you will forgive me, but I have orders."

COMBATSYS: Ayame instinctively blocks Squad Kilo's Medium Punch.

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

"Hmn," Ayame replies to the woman later identified as Saska, expression showing amusement at the rejoinder given. The next moment, she's swept her arm in a backhand swing, sending the target-seeking talisman flying. Given the speed and precision apparent once it's locked on, the response executed by the woman mercenary is evidence enough of the skill level of their attackers.

A far cry from the thugs and desperate gangsters they scattered days ago, this group is well armed with military-grade hardware. And, as she observes the woman barking out instructions with quick, efficient commands, it becomes immediately clear to the girl that they're also well coordinated - likely having trained as a group rather than being assembled from a random pool prior to this engagement.

But they don't have an ogress on their side, so... they're still facing an uphill battle as far as Ayame is concerned.

Having recognized the protection her barrier might offer her against firearms, a heavy melee striker is called in to engage with the young staff wielder directly, demonstrating quick adapting on the fly. The miko is afforded only a brief moment to observe the chain of chaos triggered by Riki's explosive entrance into the fray before Chike charges at her with no intention of letting her hang back and fight from a safe range.

"Tch," Ayame grunts, right hand starting to slip toward her left sleeve, likely reaching for another one of many talismans she must have stowed there. But with the speed that the brawler is closing in, she seems to change course at the last instant possible. Whatever 'trick' she had in mind, she must have decided it would have done little to dissuade the large man from plowing through it and bowling into her.

That he weaves with such control while keeping his speed up suggests he's already wary of another such attack, making himself a harder target.

Before her hand reaches her sleeve, she twists her staff into an angle in front of her with her left hand, her right hand slamming against the wooden pole to brace for the incoming blow just in time, a proper defense executed only by combat instincts honed by a young lifetime of training.

Fist meeds wood as Ayame is driven back, her left shoulder hitting the wall of the building behind her, the staff bowing slightly before snapping back to its normal shape.

Chike's words are easily heard in the close quarters combat range they've assumed and the girl with long, strawberry-blonde haired girl smirks from behind her staff. "A gentleman then," she answers the British man. "I will repay the consideration."

As she speaks, crimson energy begins to flow over the engraved staff in her hand. In the waning light of evening, its dim glow is plainly visible as it illuminates the space around the two, shadows flickering in dark red light. The intent of her words may be unclear at first as she surges forward in an aggressive counter attack, leaping into a full spin of her body, whipping the long, glowing weapon around in a smashing slam aimed toward the man's upper arm. Given an instant to land, she's whip around the other way in an instant, attempting to drive the end of her staff into his side.

"Riki! Please abstain from killing anyone!"

A request, perhaps out of consideration for the warning shots, or for the curt apology of her more immediate opponent?

Either way, she'd finish with leaping a second time, whipping her weapon up and overhead, aiming for a crushing overhead smashing blow against the top of Chike's head!

The thunderous crash of the APC slamming over onto its side is almost as ear-splitting as the ogre's impact. Riki rides the heavy van as it topples underneath the combination of her weight and momentum, balancing on the crumpled side panel like a surfer catching a wave. Even when she's sober, her coordination isn't particularly great so the large divot the amazon is currently standing in does most of the work involved in keeping her from tumbling onto her ass in the process and even then it's a near thing.

Wobbling unsteadily as the APC slides to a halt, the oni pushes herself upright, towering even larger than she would normally. She gives the pair of mercenaries who narrowly avoided being crushed by her make-shift attack a broad grin, flashing a set of pristine white teeth that are mostly human, save for the wickedly curved canines on the top and bottom. Dismissively flipping her wild hair over her shoulder with one hand, the demon leans forward to rest the other arm on her knee, her demeanor nonchalant in the face of the deadly soldiers.

"Greetings. I believe we hath not yet been aquainted properly. I am Riki, the great and terrible oni! And thou art all about to experience a veritable tsunami of regret."

Lifting one of her massive mitts, she enthusiastically punches it into the palm of the other. A quick squeeze of her mighty fingers fills the air with a cascade of unpleasant popping sounds as the giant's joints crackle in anticipation. Shimmering ethereal light fills her her eyes, shifting the irises from a pleasant sky blue to a blazing neon red as hellish power rises up to puncuate the threat with a bit of visual flare. The acrid scent of sulfur and brimstone fills the air, overwhelming even the pungent aroma of decay that has settled over most of the city; it's hard to say which one is harder on the senses.

However, before the monstrous guardian can unleash whatever demonic suffering she has in mind upon the two goons, she's called to heel by the commanding voice of her companion. Even though it is phrased as a request, she knows better than to assume that the miko expects anything other than obedience when it comes to these sorts of things. Letting out a long-suffering sigh, the ogre turns her gaze towards the sky momentarily, as if beseeching the gods for assistance. Sadly, the heavens are frustratingly silent on the issue.

"Can I at least make them /wish/ they were dead?", she whines, rubbing the back of her neck grumpily. The prospect of getting to cut loose on what are very obviously well-trained soldiers had gotten her all excited. The past few weeks have been a non-stop carnival of violence and mayhem but, outside of a few cunning dark stalkers graced with a bit of favorable terrain, nothing has really pushed her limits or required her to go all out. On top of that, this is her first time getting to go up against modern weaponry and she'd been hoping to push these warriors to their limits to see exactly what they can do. Stupid relatable humans spoiling all her fun.

Lifting one hand, Riki extends her index finger as if pointing at something in the sky and draws a wide circle. The air above her hand shimmers and disorts as if the very fabric of reality is rippling like the surface of a pond. With a soft pop, a large circular object simply snaps into existence, plopping neatly into the ogre's upturned palm - a shallow bowl of bright red laquered wood.

"Well, if I shant be allowed to indulge myself in that way, I suppose I shall have to rely on other means for making this enjoyable."

Lifting the bowl up to her mouth, Riki tilts her head back and makes loud obnoxious slurping sounds, gulping down the contents of the bowl. A familiar searing heat floods into her belly as she gulps down the divine liquor, guzzling alcohol so potent that it has literally killed those without the constitution to handle it. Despite her terrible table manners, not a single drop of the sacred booze manages to escape her lips nor spill over the edge of the bowl, and within only a few seconds she has downed the entire contents of the large dish in a single pull.

The faint hint of red in Riki's cheeks and nose has brightened to a rosy hue by the time she lowers the massive sakazuki. The sacred artifact vanishes into thin air as she dismissively tosses it over her shoulder, fading away in another ripple of space and time. Inhaling a long deep breath, the oni closes her eyes, savoring the lingering taste and the pleasant warmth in her guts.

She doesn't give any warning when that seemingly innocuous behavior changes into something more dangerous. Fresh brilliant power glows in her eyes as she snaps them open, turning her gaze down towards the mercenaries again. She leans forward to exhale a deep sigh in their direction but the fire in her throat becomes something a little more literal in the process. A massive gout of bright red hellfire explodes outwards to engulf the humans, washing over them like the breath of a dragon.

Their armor offers little protection against such an attack, for the nature of these fires are not mundane, but spiritual. Every vile deed that the mercenaries have commited in their lives, every act of violence and theft, all of the lies that they have told and all of the harm that they have inflicted upon others - all of these things become kindling for the flames as they sear away at the very souls of the two soldiers with divine condemnation and judgement.

COMBATSYS: Riki successfully hits Squad Kilo with Breath of Heaven.
Glancing Blow

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

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo fails to counter Requiem For Fallen Blossoms from Ayame with CQC Counter.

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

Muscle and bone meets wood as Chike drives his fist toward Ayame only to be intercepted by the miko's deft staff. The wood gives, bends, but does not break, absorbing the blow and forcing the burly, bodyarmored brawler to take a step back. His fist goes out and back up, closely guarding his face and chest with the tight, high-fisted stance of a boxer. His footwork is nimble, despite his size, each step light and measured to keep him moving and ready to spring into action.

"Of course," Chike nods, his face still obscured by a helmet. "Much appreciated. Your traveling companion seems a bit..." Chike pauses, as if it feeling the words out before choosing one, "battle hungry."

When the staff whizzes through the air, Chike moves to intercept. He sweeps his arm in, aimed at striking the the staff and cutting off its momentum so that he can close in the gap. In doing so, he underestimates the strength and overestimates the distance, and his mistake is punctuated by the woody thump of staff against muscle.

The flurry of strikes batter him like trees in a summer storm, first cracking against his ribs hard enough to stagger him, then slamming down on his head and driving him to the asphalt with the crack of his fiberglass helmet and a shattering of the visor.

"Okay, Riki," Saska answers, reflexively checking her rifle with the sort of precision that implies muscle memory, "that's probably the most eloquent way I've been threatened in some time. Maybe ever."

"Yeah, wasn't expecting that one," Fahim quips, climbing to his feet to lean against a cracked concrete barrier. "Isn't it usually more like 'grrr, argh, murder-death-kill?' Something like that?"

One can almost see Saska roll her eyes inside her helmet. "Focus--" But when Riki breathes force a great gout of hellfire, the atmosphere changes metaphorically as well. "MOVE!" she bellows, her and Fahim spreading out and diving for cover. Flames lick at their heels as they clear the worst of the inferno, Riki's spiritual fire ignoring their armor and scorching them spiritually instead.

"What the shit!" Fahim exclaims, rolling around on the ground to try and extinguish himself. Saska, meanwhile, rips her helmet from her head to reveal the face underneath--woman of Eastern European descent with brown hair swept forward and up to the right with a short braid in the back. A scar shows under her eye next to a pointed nose. Her skin is a bit pale and her eyes are a distinct grey. She bites her lip until it bleeds as she tugs at her armor to check for burns--from the half-cover of another concrete barricade.

"What did you do to my man, Darkstalker?!" Her rifle clicks even as she keeps it out of sight.

The staff dance comes to an end, the miko standing with the weapon gripped by both hands, positioned at a protective angle in front of her. Every step, every shift in direction in the three strike chain was executed with precision, as if she had simply executed a kata performed thousands of times in whatever training she must undertake. But to dismiss it as such would be to miss the underlying adjustments she had made on the fly, the way she slipped her hold on the weapon to be biased more toward one side, making its length less predictable, or the way she adjusted her second strike to account for the man's specific boxer-like stance, as if she knew exactly where he would be vulnerable.

The staff wielding miko was a prodigy of combat, combining intellect with uncompromising dedication to perfect her art. There would be no hint of battle spirit about her, no sign that she was relishing an opportunity to let loose. Instead, the battle priestess seemed the exact opposite of her far larger companion. She was using the tools at her disposal to solve a problem presented by the ambush, nothing more.

"It has been a rough couple weeks," she replies, her tone dry in spite the hint of bemusement in her eyes regarding his assessment of Riki being 'battle hungry.' That's putting it mildly, for sure. "So manners are not quite what they should be today."

She doesn't strike the man while he's down, instead taking the opportunity to assess the situation with Riki. Whether out of some personal code of combat ethics or simply because it's a better use of her time in that instant is a detail known only to her at that moment.

She knows her request was heard, the oni's loud complaint at not being able to go completely ballistic on these human targets hard to miss, so she isn't concerned about that. And she is beyond caring about property damage at this point. As destructive as Riki might be in any combat she truly enjoys, the damages will be a rounding error on the total cost this entire disaster will inflict on the island nation.

But still, she feels the need to keep an eye on her. Even if these soldiers are individually tougher and more skilled than the threats they've faced the last couple of weeks, no single one of them could likely stand up to the ogress and hope to come out the victor.

No, it's their coordination, their teamwork, and their observant leader that truly makes them dangerous... tactics can quite often be the enemy to Riki's more reckless approach to the art of battle and the miko considers it her job to make sure that her partner doesn't get blindsided while she pauses to empty the giant saucer of demon sake.

Once Riki is fully engaged in harrying the two mercenaries facing her, Ayame's focus shifts back to the man who tried to strike her. "You work for the Dragon, right? If it is just for money, you are not getting paid nearly enough for what your team is about to go through... If it out of loyality for her demented cause, well.." Any amusement from the girl's face fades away as she starts toward him, "Then you all are going to get what you deserve."

Having given him time to maybe shake some of the daze inflicted by her last strike, Ayame leaps at him again, this time whipping her staff up and overhead, letting it slip through her fingers until she's gripping it such that only one forth its length remains before slamming it down hard from above, aiming to deliver a potentially debilitating shoulder strike. The crimson chi continues to burn coolly over its surface, a wake of it left in the air as she swings the overhead blow down toward her target!

The brilliant gout of flame dies out after only a few seconds, the crackle of hellfire transitioning into an ill-mannered burp. The ogre wipes a forearm across her face, cleaning away a bit of spittle but leaving the wide grin.

"'Scuse me," she offers, not sounding particularly contrite about her manners nor the state of suffering that she's left the mercenaries in. If anything, she looks quite pleased to see them writing in pain as the spectral fire burns away at their essense.

"What hath I done?"

Riki snorts and hops down from her perch atop the APC. The concrete shudders at the impact of the massive demon and she has to reach out to steady herself against the over-turned slab of steel, apparently unbalanced by her own landing. Despite her monumental size, whatever it was she had to drink seems to have done a number on her sobriety and in a hurry too.

"Merely indulged in a little spirits, is all!"

The big oaf blinks for a moment and turns her gaze down to the male soldier who is still flopping around like a beached fish in an attempt to put himself out. It doesn't have much effect, unfortunately, seeing as the fire isn't physical in nature.

"Ooooh, that. Hmph. Naught less than thou deserves," she says, an air of haughty reprove seeping into her voice. "Tis but a taste of what awaits thee in the underworld! A small brush with the flames of judgement. Thy own sins are coke for the flames and they return the suffering thou hath wrought upon others tenfold!"

She remains rather eloquent for a drunk, particularly a drunk ogre. Maybe monsters were more culturally enriched in feudal Japan. Either way, she doesn't have much sympathy to offer these two louts. An average mortal commits many sins in their life but rarely any that warrant particularly harsh punishment. Such a person would experience great discomfort when subjected to the flames but it would be like accidentally stepping into a scalding shower, painful but brief. Soldiers, however, tended to have far more allergic reactions to having all of the pain they've caused revisited upon themselves and killers-for-hire usually have much larger body counts.

Heaving herself away from the APC, which shifts and groans in protest at being further manhandled, the oni uses her new momentum to stagger in a mostly straight line towards the barricade where Fahim has taken cover. Needless to say, such a flimsy obstacle poses little issue to the towering titan. Grinning with entirely too much enthusiasm for someone with mayhem on their agenda, Riki kicks the concrete barrier and sends the entire thing flying sideways like a frisbee. With an extremely noisy crunch it plows straight into the wall of a nearby building, putting a hole wide enough to drive a car through into the side of the structure.

Hoisting both of her massive fists into the air, the ogre does her best King Kong impression and brings the twin wrecking balls of flesh and bone slamming down at the now exposed mercenary. It's a fairly slow attempt at an attack and telegraphed so hard that people in the next county saw it coming a week ago. So obvious, in fact, that it seems hard to classify it as anything other than an intentional bit of jobbing.

Clearly the demon isn't quite interested in ending this fight after only a few paltry exchanges. It's also possible that she's taunting the Dragoon, daring her to do her worst. Or she's drunk off her ass and moving with the grace of a pregnant walrus. Probably one of those things.

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo blocks Ayame's Power Strike.

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

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo dodges Riki's Gigantic Smash.

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

Chike grumbles lowly, pieces of his helmet flaking away like glass from one of the countless busted windows around the besieged Southtown. He shifts his weight subtly, slightly, inching over the concrete gingerly as Ayame shifts her stance.

"Yeah," he wheezes, still struggling to get a second wind after having by battered along the ribs. "That is quite fair, miss." Winded or not, the burly fighter maintains an atmosphere of politeness. He slowly rolls over onto his back, working off his busted helmet while Ayame observes the other fight from afar.

Beneath the helmet is burly, weathered man with dark brown skin and tired eyes. He waits for a moment, not making a move as Ayame doesn't go for the finish. When the staff finally falls, his arms rise to meet it. Crimson energy splashes like a stone in a pond as the wood impacts heavily against a plated forearm guard, Chike bracing his arm with his free hand to keep the strike from connecting fully with his shoulder.

"Your form is quite good, miss," Chike says with the half-smile of a tired man, "I can tell you are exceptionally trained or very talented. Perhaps both!" He suddenly shoves back, not to open a counterattack but to create a window through which he can move. "And perhaps too good for me, no?" If uninterrupted, Chike rolls, then springs to his feel, hobbling briefly before getting up to pace to sprint back toward the others.

Fahim keeps rolling on the ground, his fingers digging at his armor like a madman, desperately trying to dig in, to pull something out as it burns away at him. As Riki descends like an avalanche, however, jobbing though she may be, the mercenary takes it seriously. Getting burned by soul fire seems to have put the fear of ... gods, or maybe devils, in him. His roll is frenzied, desperate, as he flops on to his back and works at shuffling away from the ogress despite his injured leg.

"So what's a Darkstalker doing working with a priestess, anyway? Don't you usually spend your time, I dunno, snacking on people?" Fahim chuckles, instilled with misplaced bravado even as Riki bears down on him.

Saska, meanwhile, remains cool. Collected. Calculating.

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo calculates its next move.

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

Giving time for Chike to rise may not be efficient in terms of resolving this confrontation quickly, but the staff-wielding miko seems to be willing to let events play out at their own pace, unhurried in her own approach with the ambushers.

The moment he's on his feet, however, he's pressured once again by her skill with the long weapon. The crimson fire of the staff trails behind its swift movements, easily visible in the evening's shadows. The flames themselves are clearly not natural fire as no heat seems to radiate from the weapon or its impacts, nor does it burn or spread like fire consuming the sins of the wicked like her much larger divine guardian. But they still possess the aura-assaulting potential of any energy strike anytime she manages to deliver a strike through the mercenary's guard.

As her blow is braced against, Ayame takes a step back, making sure to not over commit to her attacks to the point that she becomes off balance or blind to the rest of the skirmish taking place around them. Chike's weary smile is met with a an intense but cool expression, lacking the warmth of banter fighters often fall to when engaged in a fight for their well-being, pride, or reputation. "I have devoted my life perfecting these skills in order to be able to protect people from the likes of you, or that Dragon and her uncaged beasts..."

She starts to move forward again, slipping into that range where she is most dangerous - where the reach of her weapon affords her the ability to strike while staying out of range of unarmed retaliation. "Perhaps you once knew such a life." she considers, the coolness of her voice slipping away slightly. The man looked to be a veteran, a soldier of fortune who had survived many battles to be certain. But where did he start? Is he ex-military? Law enforcement? Did he once wear a badge and swear an oath to protect?

As Chike suddenly rolls to the side, Ayame hesitates, choosing not to strike until she has a better idea of what he's up to. Once he turns to sprint back to the rest of his team, however, she begins to stride after, at a far less hurried pace.

Riki, unsurprisingly, seems to be in her element. These mercenaries are skilled, but nothing Ayame had seen yet suggested they would be able to overcome the ogress now that the huge woman was building her unstoppable momentum. Still, that was no reason to relax.

No longer pressured, the girl relaxes her hold on her staff, her right hand slipping into her left sleeve to produce a rich blue paper talisman. Bringing it up to her mouth, she bites a corner of it, tearing it free, before releasing it to fall to the pavement in front of her.

Still walking, slowly and with purpose, she steps past the swirling sapphire aura that erupts out of the torn ward, blue ethereal energy swirling up from the ground to wrap itself around her staff, dim crimson flames giving away to brighter azure power, the sense that she's taken the lack of pressure to build power unmistakable.

COMBATSYS: Ayame gathers her will.

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

The local area experiences yet another minor quake as the ogre's fists slam into the pavement, missing the wisely elusive mercenary by a healthy distance. The concrete where he used to be stretched out takes the worst of it in his stead, cracking apart into a spiderweb pattern as the ground dents downwards into a small crater beneath the demon's might.


Riki barks out a laugh at the man's attempt to chat her up with casual conversation. Most people tend not to have a lot on their mind other than running away when a titan is coming at them like an angry gorilla. The ones who have stopped to converse with her in the midst of previous battles were usually far more terrifying than she herself or else suffering from an overdose of hubris. These soldiers seem unusually chatty, however, and she sees no reason not to indulge their curiosity.

"Were thou to ask me that question a millenia ago, I would scarce find cause to disagree. But the world and my place in it hath changed much over the ages."

The oni rises to her full height, resting one hand on her wide hip as she takes up a relaxed posture. She makes no immediate efforts to pursue the wounded mercenary, displaying the same measure of good sportsmanship that her small companion has offered to her own dueling partner. The blazing hellish energy in her eyes fades away, allowing them to return to their normal, if still clearly unnatural, crimson hue.

"But thou art mistaken. I am no Dark Stalker and it is no longer my desire to inflict suffering upon humanity. Quite the opposite - tis my duty to see that those of evil intent are brought to justice so that they may deal no further harm to the innocent."

The giant sweeps her arm out towards the city, gesturing at the devastation and death that has replaced what was once a bustling metropolis. Ruined buildings with busted out windows and doors ripped from their frames - ignore that one with the fresh hole in it - line streets littered with abandoned cars. The smell of decay fills the air and one doesn't need to search too hard to find dried bloodstains smeared across concrete. Fat carrion birds swirl overhead in thick clouds, their movements sluggish and lazy from feasting like kings.

Riki's amused and drunken expression fades away in a moment, the demon sobering up seemingly on command. She affixes the pair of mercenaries with a stern look, her large brows furrowing into a scowl.

"The destruction that hath been unleashed here is... beyond vile. This tapestry of suffering was not wrought by warfare nor disease but the actions of a monster. Whatever her reasons, whatever her goals, the Dragon shall be held to account for the death she hath unleashed. Judgement will be passed."

Riki's transformation from fun-loving brute to righteously pissed-off monster accelerates at breakneck speeds as her thoughts turn towards the turmoil that she has witnessed over the past couple of weeks. Her fingers clench into tight fists, the muscles of her tree-trunk like arms bulging with a surge of fresh power that makes the veins under her skin stand out. Her lips peel away from her teeth, as her scowl evolves into a full-blown snarl, offering a quick reminder to the mercenaries that she's packing some seriously wicked, if well maintained, fangs. The horn protruding from her forehead begins to glow and the neon blaze returns to her eyes as well. A whirlwind of invisble power roars to life around her, fluttering her wild mane of golden hair and loose robes in a dramatic display.

"Starting with those who would call themselves servants to such a despicable creature!"

The oni crouches, her legs flexing into equally impressive displays of raw physical might as she gathers the strength to hurl herself at Fahim. The ground shudders yet again as the massive woman explodes into an all-out rush, tearing across the street like a runaway locomotive, bellowing a roaring warning that anything foolish enough to stay in her path is likely to find itself a whole lot flatter afterwards.

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo counters Reckless Assault from Riki with Got Your Back.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Squad Kilo       1/-----==/=======|=======\=------\1             Riki
                                  >  ////////////////////////////  ]
                                  |======-\-------\0            Ayame

Chike's gratitude for not being painfully exploded as he flees is unspoken, but he takes the opportunity to move toward his teammates unmolested. For a tall, well-muscled man, he moves at a brisk pace, his legs pumping like the pistons of a well-oiled engine.

Fahim's muscles tense. His teeth grit. "Divine punishment, huh? That's pretty big talk, but then again, we've been seeing a lot of weird shit lately." The false bravado returns, a thin veneer of confidence over a man likely terrified in the face of monstrous power. His face still obscured by his helmet, his emotions remain mostly an enigma, perhaps to his advantage.

But his body language betrays him in the face of Riki's charge. The ogress, rippling with muscle, barrels down on him like a human freight train approaching a wounded animal on the tracks. Ceramic, cloth, and reinforced plastic scratch and scrape against the street as he tries to shift, to crawl out of the way on his wounded leg. It seems, in that moment, he may become a bloody smear on the broken sidewalk.

Chike sweeps in without missing a step, injured though he is, the giant of a man barrels down on his teammate, slams his palm into the smaller man's chestplate, and heaves him off the ground one-handed to carry them both out of the divine guardian's judgment--at least, temporarily.

But Fahim is not helpless himself as he rolls a canister of smoke behind them, the metal cylinder belching forth a thick cover for their escape. "Could you have done that a little faster, my man?! I almost pissed myself!" Fahim protests.

But the smoke covers more than their escape. Saska launches in a flash, leaning forward as she closes the gap in an instant. The woman leaps, strong legs throw forward in a Systema style leg-scissor takedown aimed to catch Riki from the rear while there's the brief distraction. Even so, the Serb knows her powerful legs will prove insufficient to down the oni as she twists and pulls herself in as if to transition into the takedown.

Silver flashes in the pale light of the moon. The knife comes out in an instant, twists deftly, and thrusts upward past the rippling muscles of Riki's arms and abs toward the vulnerable flesh of her armpit. Saska scowls, her face twisted with determination as she aims to kick away once more, even if it means leaving the knife in the oni.

In their adventures over the last couple of weeks since the mayhem broke out, the two had encountered all types. Feral beasts, nearly feral humans, desperate gangsters, enraged sentient darkstalkers... But this group of disciplined mercenaries was something else. Unlike their previous foes, their movements were coordinated and well timed, engaging and disengaging, sometimes moving according to barked out orders, but other times acting with flawless precision without so much as a hand gesture to signal.

And as all three collapse together to contend with the fierce threat a rampaging oni represents, Ayame finds her assessment of their ambushers confirmed. They move as a unit that has worked together for some time. Skill, strength, and a combined concern for each other. It's too bad, she considers, that they had thrown their lot in with the Dragon. This group was exactly the sort that could have done a lot to protect others in the siege of Southtown...

"Tch," the girl grunts as Riki's menacing charge is met with a last second save by Chike. She starts to sprint forward as the smoke bomb goes off, preventing her from seeing Saska's ambush of the ogress from behind. Her staff wreathed in cool, blue flames now, Ayame stops just shy of bolting blindly into the smoke cloud.

Instead, she slides to a stop, right hand whipping into her sleeve then back out, two more talismans snapped between her fingers. A backhand swing accompanies the small spark of chi she adds to the stored spell in one of the ofuda, causing it to unleash a sudden gust of wind before her path as the spent ward burns to ash. Harmless, but the burst of air is sufficiently strong to clear the smoke.

"Get off her!" the girl shouts, surging toward Saska then, her staff gripped in her left hand, her right hand still holding the second talisman she had drawn - a faint red with black ink. Swinging her right hand back the other way, she unleashes a burst of bright light between her and the mercenary woman.

It might seem at first to be an attack in and itself, but other than potentially temporarily blinding her target if she should look toward it, the distraction's true purpose is to conceal Ayame herself as she slides in closer, slamming her chi imbued staff out with a forward thrust targeting Saska's ribs, intending to back up her demand by separating her from Riki with precision-applied blunt force.

If there is one persistent critical weakness to the oni's overzealous love for barreling right into a fight like nothing can stop her - is it that things actually can stop her. Lacking the supernatural durability of her true form and it's nigh immunity to mortal weaponry, her wild charge into a group of coordinated mercenaries proves less productive than she had hoped.

"What sorcery is this...?!"

Slowing her rampaging charge, Riki hits the cloud of smoke with an exclamation of confusion. This is a new trick to the demon, her escapades having never quite warranted an intervention from anyone armed with smoke or tear gas before. Growling at her sudden blindness, the titan swings wildly at the thick cloud, hoping to clear the air or get lucky and smack someone by pure chance. The smoke screen only slows her down for a few seconds as the mercenary reveals his position by speaking but a few seconds is all that is required to launch the ambush.

Saska's expert takedown manuever works about as well as she expected. The ogre staggers, mostly out of surprise than anything, almost tripping over her oversized sandals as her leg suddenly gains a lot more weight mid-step. As Riki attempts to regain her balance, she reacts as any humanoid might, lifting her arms out to steady herself and presenting the trained killer with an excellent target.

A cry of surprise and pain bellows from the cloud as the blade strikes home, burying itself deep into the muscle below the ogre's arm. Her arm swings backwards in instinctive reaction to the stinging pain, swatting the mercenary away even as she kicks herself free. The blow sends Saska harmlessly tumbling away, now devoid of her weapon, just as Ayame's quick intervention sends a blast of ferocious wind to clear away the smoke.

"Cowardly little..."

Snarling at the mercenaries as her companion keeps them at bay, Riki reaches down to grab the handle of the combat knife and yanks it out of her flesh with a sharp tug. A dark wet stain spreads outwards from the ragged puncture wound, soaking the soft fabric of her robe. The oni holds the weapon up to inspect it, the deadly blade looking more like a butter knife in her gargantuan hand.

"Hmph," she snorts, turning her blazing gaze towards Fahim and his rescuer. "Thy allies wilt need a bigger blade to fell me, little men."

%tRiki presses her thumb against the hardened steel of the knife's blade and snaps it in half as if it were no more a challenge than breaking a pencil in two. Grinning fiercely, she discards the now useless hilt and takes the sliver of sharp metal between her thumb and index finger, aiming her hand towards the men as if it were a loaded gun.

The warbling keen of vibrating metal fills the air as the giantess flicks her thumb again. The knife blade explodes out of her hand, zipping in a deadly bee-line towards the injured mercenary like a bolt fired from a crossbow. His armor will probably absorb the worst of it but Riki is mostly just buying time. Mortal body or not, her supernatural healing augmented by the divine liquor will mend the worst of the dangerous puncture within a few moments.

And then she's going to see how far she can push that request not to kill anyone.

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo dodges Ayame's Fall of the Mourning Star.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Squad Kilo       1/-----==/=======|=======\=------\1             Riki
                                  >  ////////////////////////////  ]
                                  |=====--\-------\0            Ayame

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo dodges Riki's Thrown Object.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Squad Kilo       1/-----==/=======|=======\=------\1             Riki
                                  >  ////////////////////////////  ]
                                  |=====--\-------\0            Ayame

Squad Kilo moves like a well-oiled machine. Ayame and Riki eclipse them individually with a combination of raw talent, power, skill, and training. Even so, the mercenaries move as honed unit that has likely overcame superior fighters through teamwork, grit, and, in truth, dirty tricks. All is fair in war, as they say.

Saska tumbles and rolls as Riki swats her, riding the impact to harmlessly tumble into a low crouch. As she rises out of it, Ayame is closing the gap. A talisman lights the area like a evening sun, flaring out with blinding luminosity. The Serbian mercenary covers her face with her forearm and rolls back instinctively, dropping onto her seat and whipping her leg out like a scythe aimed to take the miko's legs out from under her.

"Trust me," Saska says, "I don't have any plans to stay with that brute."

The knife blade cuts through the air with a whistle, the improvised projectile shooting toward Fahim like a bullet. He drops backward suddenly, the blade showering sparks as it ricochets away.

Chike lifts him back up to his feet and wedges himself between the injured man and the others. "Keep pulling back," he says under his breath. "Support position."

"With what?" Fahim asks, "I should have brought a bazooka!"

COMBATSYS: Ayame just-defends Squad Kilo's Medium Kick!

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Squad Kilo       1/-----==/=======|=======\=------\1             Riki
                                  >  ///////////////////////////// ]
                                  |=====--\-------\0            Ayame

Given her aggressive rush, the sweep for Ayame's legs was a threat that could have taken the girl clean off her feet, potentially sending the girl into an awkward tumble at best. Not likely devastating on its own, but every second of time any combatant could be removed from the fight in this engagement could ultimately be deciding.

Just as the power of the mercenaries is augmented by their ability to work as a coordinated unit, the potential of the combined efforts of the miko and the oni vastly exceed their individual abilities. Removing one for a moment would allow a dog pile on the other... and given Riki's commanding presence, it's perhaps difficult to imagine engaging the titan with anything less than everyone involved.

However, though no where near as intimidating in appearance, it's abundantly clear that the miko's precision skill and blend of the physical and mystical energies is every bit the threat the ogress's bulging muscles represent.

Crimson energy swirls through the air around her following the flash used to briefly blind Saska and as the sweep kick comes for her shins. Without losing a step, Ayame's right hand slips away from her staff, clawing down through the air, fingers sightly splayed as she draws that same energy down into a barrier in front of her legs. Saska's strike would impact resistant energy rather than the bone of the girl's leg.

"That would be good for your health."
Perhaps it wasn't Riki she was worried about when she executed her intercepting strike, but rather that trying to tangle with the oni directly would get the woman's head squished for her trouble.

Scattered by the force applied to it, that same energy swirls up into the miko's staff, combining with the azure flame to form a violet hue as Ayame leaps for Saska, clearly intending to keep pressure on the squad leader in order to limit her opportunities to coordinate with her allies. Hauling her staff up over her head, Ayame slams it down hard toward the woman, a trail of violet fire in the wake of her leaping strike, a brief battle-cry of effort escaping the girl's efforts as she seeks to further scatter the squad.

The point of impact, whether pavement or some part of Saska, would experience an explosion of light violet energy and enough force to leave a crack in the ground. And in the aftermath, the miko's staff would return to its earlier crimson light, the augmented power coursing through it spent.

Riki clucks her tongue in annoyance as the make-shift projectile deflects off the heavy armor, failing to penetrate the terrified mercenary despite knocking him on his ass. The larger man is at his side in an instant, removing any opportunity to capitalize on the soldier's moment of weakness.

With her chance for a quick kill stymied, the oni shifts her gaze sideways for a few moments to witness the skillful display of her tiny companion as she clashes with another of the team's members in a brief exchange. The mercenary's reflexes prove to be quite impressive as she avoids being caught in Ayame's unexpected burst of power while retaliating in the same motion. But, as expected, the dour little miko matches her opponent with equally swift reactions and proves once again that she is every bit as capable of holding her own as the titan at her side.

The demon grins at the priestess, enjoying a warm tingle of pride at having found such a capable human partner. All that's left is for her to start doing what she does best and run wild on these scumbags. Even if they can counter every move she makes, they can't focus on dealing with her crushing blows and Ayame's mystical assaults at the same time.

"Tis too late to run, knaves! Thy fate hath already been decided! Rawwwr!"

Putting a mild bit of theatrical emphasis into a bellowing roar worthy of any oni, Riki thunders after the retreating mercenaries, every loping step shaking the ground as she gives chase. The searing blast of Ayame's spiritual assault rips past her on the left, promising to unleash mayhem upon the female of the group. Trusting that the miko's attack will keep Saska busy for the moment, the ogre turns her attention to the pair of men attempting to beat a hasty retreat.

Chike's positioning between her and Fahim makes him an obvious target but Riki has no intention of allowing these sell-swords to have that moment of heroic teamwork. Picking up speed, the oni quickly becomes a living freight train of muscle and bone, a quarter ton of living battering ram flying across the street at steadily more terrifying speed.

It will be a simple matter for the mercenary to avoid such an obvious attack - all he has to do is step out of the way. Of course, if he does then the hobbled man behind him will most likely bear the brunt of the assault. There is also the highly likely possibility that trying to stand in her way will just mean the both of them get run over and trampled into street pizza. The only question is whether or not this mere mortal thinks he can contend with a raging demon charging at him like a bat out of Hell.

COMBATSYS: Ayame successfully hits Squad Kilo with In Memory of the Cardinal Dusk.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Squad Kilo       1/---====/=======|-------\-------\0             Riki
                                  >  ////////////////////////////  ]
                                  |======-\-------\0            Ayame

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo dodges Riki's Raging Demon.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Squad Kilo       1/---====/=======|-------\-------\0             Riki
                                  >  ////////////////////////////  ]
                                  |======-\-------\0            Ayame

The focus on the oni is almost natural. While the mercernaries have not hardly given Ayame any slack, the raw, bestial power of Riki has frequently drawn their attention away from the miko. When returns to the fight, Saska tries to remove her. She does not succeed.

The blinding flash catches her wide open, leaving her disoriented. She would draw back and readjust, but her boot impacts with the barrier and further confuses the mercenary.

As her eyes start to readjust, Saska finds herself overextended and open to reprisal. Unable to guard or reposition, she takes the staff blow head-on when it slams into her middle with an eruption of power and the sound of cracking pavement. The mercenary's yelp is cut short by the wind being knocked out of her by the miko's blow, after which she does not immediately move to retreat.

Chike and Fahim, meanwhile, find themselves between a rock and a hard place with the incoming assault from Riki. As the oni picks up speed, barreling down on them like a runaway truck, sweat beads on Chike's brow. He glances behind only briefly, trusting Fahim to take care of himself when the time comes. He leaps from the charge, bounding into a sidestep and planting his boot to pivot and pursue. He chases, trying to catch an opening from behind where he stood no chance fighting her head-on.

Fahim, meanwhile, must improvise. Stuck with a bum leg from the earlier dive, he draws a small, pistol-like weapon. Rather than aim it at Riki, however, the man fires it to the side with the bang of a pressurized chamber that launches a hook and wire across the street to punch into the side of a parked car. The line retracts, pulling Fahim messily across the street as the man hisses as the strain against his arms--sparks flying from his armor with the rapid drag.

But Chike doesn't linger on the spectacle, instead charging in toward Riki. There's the flash of something metallic as he snaps out a combat baton, fully extending it before swinging it around to try and club the oni from behind like a t-baller taking aim at the stand. The oni, however, may find it about it as effective.

Landing out of her leaping slam, Ayame draws her staff back up, the blues and violets coursing through the flickering flames of her signature sanguine-hued chi now faded away from the outburst of strikes. Now only the crimson flames flicker over her staff as she pivots it into a position that affords her equal opportunity to strike or defend as needed. Even with her success in landing a blow on the elusive Saska, the miko's expression betrays no indication that she is enjoying the figh. A stoic opposite of her opponent, she seems to engage out of duty, obligation, and responsibility.

These three aligned with the Dragon, they attacked her and her companion, they need to be dealt with. Simple as that.

The oni's declaration, even if exaggerated a little to draw attention, rings true. It's too late for them to flee now. On the loose, they would just be another resource for that mad woman behind the weeks of hell Southtown has endured.

"You have no chance against us," the girl points out. Initially, she wasn't sure. As confident as she was in her own abilities and the fierce power of her partner, the mercs were no slouches either and the miko had been shown her own limits on more than one occasion. But now she was confident.


The imperative is delivered coolly as the shadow cast by her glowing staff flickers against the street behind her.


One by one, they will be injured and removed from the fight, of that she is feeling certain. And as if to drive home her point, she keeps her focus on Saska. Her right hand slips from her staff as she surges forward again, fingers reaching beneath her voluminous left sleeve to withdraw another one of her weaponized pieces of paper - each meticulously prepared beforehand to contend with the challenges Riki and she have faced on a daily basis. This one is dark blue parchment, the ink on it a milky white painted into intricate glyphs.

Though Ayame swings her staff with her left hand as she closes in on Saska, it's merely a feint - the real attack comes from her right hand slamming out, palm forward, attempting to plant the talisman on the woman's torso. If she makes contact, the talisman will explode into ebony energy in an instant, tendrils of black, writhing power that seem to physically pierce into and through the woman before stabbing into the ground as if to root her in place.

But there would be no physical damage - the attack is purely spiritual, as the miko draws on the sealing power of one of her more dangerous talismans to pin Saska to the concrete by her very spirit!

COMBATSYS: Riki barely endures Squad Kilo's Aggressive Strike.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Squad Kilo       1/--=====/=======|===----\-------\0             Riki
                                  >  ///////////////////////////   ]
                                  |======-\-------\0            Ayame

As expected, the oni has pretty much earned everyone's undivided attention in much the same way a train that has jumped the tracks, grown teeth and horns, and is currently eyeing you like a fresh cut of ham might do so. Riki tears across the pavement with wild abandon, putting on every bit of speed she can muster. There is no changing course or slowing down any more, merely crashing into the first thing stupid enough to be in her way.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, neither of the mercenaries wish to be the backstop that catches this particular fast ball. Chike moving aside is somewhat unexpected as his evasion seemingly leaves the hobbled Fahim with no where to go. Fortunately for him, the thousand year old demon hasn't caught up on her pop culture yet and is unaware of the power of utility belts. The rope trick that pulls him to safety catches her completely off guard leaving nothing but abandoned cars to catch the brunt of the ogre's stampede as she charges into the space he occupied only moments before.

The titan's eyes go wide at this impressive display of ingenuity but her attention is drawn back to the mostly uninjured mercenary as he delivers a parting shot. The baton cracks solidly against the side of her knee and while the impact itself isn't particularly painful, it throws her balance out of alignment just enough to make her next step hitch. At the speed she's moving and with all that weight behind her, the laws of physics dictate only one outcome to such an event.

The amazon tumbles forward as she stumbles, just barely managing to shift her momentum sideways as she topples to the street. What follows is an awkward and noisy crash into the side of an abandoned taxi. The hood screeches like an alley cat as her beefy fingers dig into the surface for purchase. The side of the vehicle that she careens into doesn't come out much better, crumpling inwards as if the car were no more than a massive beer can. Both car and oni skip off the curb of the street, taking a few parking meters and a street sign with them as they smash into the side of a nearby building.

Fortunately, the car hits the wall first, acting as a cushion for the rough landing. What little durability it had left is exhausted by this second bit of abuse, however, leaving Riki slumped over a ruined bit of mangled yellow metal when they finally come to a halt. Grimacing as if she's done little more than stub her toe, Riki peels herself out of the wreckage with no obvious trouble. She turns towards Chike, baring her teeth at thim in a fierce grin, knowing full well that the sight of the ruined auto-carriage left in her wake will provide all sorts of unpleasant images to the mercenaries as to what would have happened had they failed to remove themselves from her path in time.

"I would prefer if thou ignored the girl's warnings," she says, already starting to jog towards the burly soldier. "Tis much more enjoyable if thou resist until I have broken thee apart!"

The oni's attack isn't another charge this time. Instead, she simply lopes forward at a solid clip, launching into a powerful punch once she's towering over the human warrior. Her 'punch', however, turns out to be more of a swipe as she attempts to snatch Chike up in her massive hand. If the poor sap is unfortunate enough to be caught, Riki starts to do her Hulk impression, smashing the mercenary into every unpleasantly hard surface she can find in swinging distance.

COMBATSYS: Ayame successfully hits Squad Kilo with Anchor Through the Endless Dark.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Squad Kilo       1/=======/=======|===----\-------\0             Riki
                                  >  ///////////////////////////   ]
                                  |=======\-------\0            Ayame

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo counters Ogre Smash from Riki with Brutal Reversal.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////                       ]
Squad Kilo       1/----===/=======|=======\=------\1             Riki
                                  >  ///////////////////////////   ]
                                  |=======\-------\0            Ayame

Saska groans, lowly and slowly, as Ayame raises out of her strike. Having been blindsided by the blow, the mercenary seems slow to recover. She gasps, struggling to get a response together. Finally, she spits.

"How threatening," she hisses under her breath. One hand goes to her ribs when she starts to rise, and she finds herself clutching them in discomfort. The feint comes, and she braces, ready to take a blow that never comes.

Instead the talisman explodes into tendrils of shaped spiritual power, each piercing through the mercenary and then pinning her to the ground. When she's not immediately dead, she starts to rise, looking at where she thoughts the wounds would be. Not full of holes, Saska starts to rise--only to find she cannot. She struggles several times to get up, but to no avail.

What follows are several rude statements in Serbian.

Chike's baton comes out much worse for the wear as it seems to have been warped around Riki's remarkably durable body. Raising the baton to inspect it, the mercenary has a brief look of surprise mixed with mild fright before tossing it away. "Come now," he calls, "I would hope you'd be more accomodating to your companion. She seems reasonable!" Chike calls to Riki, using the bravado to conceal the fact that using the baton on Riki seems to have ruined it. But he has no time to dwell on it before Riki is approaching him again.

The built by surprisingly agile mercenary ducks and weaves, avoiding the initial swing. He would, despite his best efforts, be caught by the grab, but Fahim intervenes with a timely burst of small arms fire from his sidearm to draw Riki's attention--and aiming at her legs to throw her off balance. He seems to have decided to risk his companion, trusting Riki's statuesque musculature will keep his teammate from being filled with holes.

And Chike moves in sync, slamming into Riki back-first and transitioning into an over-the-shoulder throw intended to use her own mountainous strength against her. In a fair fight, even he'd be outmatched in raw power--but by coupling it with technique, he hopes to flip her over to the ground in a smooth, judo-style throw.

The long string of epithets from Saska go ignored by Ayame, and not entirely just because she can't understand them. Were she a wayward spirit, Ayame could count on the dark,piercing tendrils to keep her securely in place for several minutes. But against a living human? One as fit and trained as she? She figures she has a good several seconds, at least, in which to resolve the rest of this altercation.

She's already turning toward the oni when Riki takes the kind of tumble that would be terminal to most and absolutely crippling to nearly all the rest. Eyes widen slightly, mouth opening, right hand lifting as she balks in open alarm. But when the oni wrests herself from the wreckage of metal and brick, the miko's expression shifts back to the same focused intensity she bore for most of the battle.

"Stay put," she states to Saska, turning away from her to face the rest. Once more her right hand fishes a talisman from her sleeve - a rich, red parchment with lettering that seems to burn with an emissive orange glow flutters between her fingers. Inhaling, Ayame slaps the ofuda against her staff, wrapping it around the rune-carved surface, causing it to vanish in a flash of bright, blood-red light.

Leaning forward, she braces herself, clearly primed to burst into action. As she pulls her right hand away from her staff, it brings with it a shimmering, translucent mirror image of her weapon - one forged of pure chi rather than sturdy wood.

Her attention locks on Chike. He was the one to attack her first, and he remains the furthest of the trio from incapacitation. It's time that things came full circle.

"Good work, Riki," Ayame states. "Let us finish this."

The miko bursts into action, her left hand holding her wooden staff, her right hand closed around the shaft of pure crimson chi. Chike is her target, the experienced martial artist having demonstrated prowess in melee combat that would require being fought with full intent.

Getting close, the combat priestess would unleash a whirling frenzy of strikes from her two weapons, twisting her body left and right, feet pivoting into full turns or fully planted stomps depending on what she needs in order to dish out the next bash. The energy staff bears no physical mass, leaving it difficult to defend against by standard martial techniques, while her wooden staff whirls with such speed that only a veteran fighter could hope to keep his eyes on the movements.

Ten seconds and thirty strikes would be Chike's to contend with before Ayame would slide to a stop, standing with her weapons at her sides, shoulders rising and falling with the deep breaths she takes.

Riki's fingers close firmly around the mercenary's torso as she snatches him into the air. Yet, rather than simply begin to slam him into the ground immediately, she finds herself falling into an old habit from the days when spreading terror and destruction was second nature. The demon lifts Chike up in front of her, bringing him level with her face in order to give him a wicked grin that reveals her wicked fangs and the burning glow of hellfire behind her eyes.

"I have thee now, little m-agh?!"

The oni's gloating is cut short as a burst of gunfire rakes across her thigh. Bright red wounds erupt from her hardened flesh proving that she isn't completely immune to damage. The pain forces Riki down onto one knee and her grip on Chike releases in a spam of surprise, leaving the bulky warrior in the perfect position to capitalize on her moment of weakness.

Seeming to realize this, Riki takes another wild swing at the mercenary only to find that he's already moving to counter. Unbalanced and overextended by the skillful teamwork, the demon's own weight does most of the work as Chike uses his body like a fulcrum to flip her up and over his shoulders. A thunderous crash booms as she hits the pavement, splintering yet another small crater into the street.

For the first time since the fight began, the oni doesn't seem inclined to immediately shake off her injuries and leap back into the fray. She remains splayed out on her back for several seconds, staring up at the sky with a faint look of surprise, still trying to figure out what just happened. When Ayame rushes past her to engage the sole healthy threat, she gives the girl a sheepish grin and laughs.

"Just... need a moment here..."

Groaning, the ogre rolls over onto her side and onto all fours, slowly pushing herself back to her feet. A thin sheet of blood covers her right leg but as before her wounds seem to be closing almost in real-time and she does little more than favor that side slightly. Leaving Chike to the miko's martial prowess, Riki turns her attention to the little punk who thought he was going to take cheap shots at her from safety.

Putting her hands on her hips, the oni directs a strangely pleasant smile at Fahim. The acrid scent of sulfur in the air suddenly begins to grow more pronounced as a faint breeze that seems to touch only the demon begins to stir, fluttering her hair and clothing in its wake. Riki's eyes begin to burn with fresh unworldly power and blossoms of scarlet fire erupt from her fingertips to engulf both of her hands.

%"I hath enjoyed this fight, despite thy use of cowardly weapons from afar. I commend thee and thy allies for thy prowess in combat. But my lady wishes to see this brought to an end."

Dropping to one knee, the titan lifts one of her flaming fists high into the air, the hellish flames crackling and dancing around her hand as if alive. She pauses there dramatically, flashing the distant mercenary a mischievious grin.

"Time to face thy judgement, o wicked soul. I would offer thee the comfort that the pain will be fleeting but this is but a glimpse of the fate in store for thee once thy miserable life comes to an end!"

Riki's fist clenches as she delivers that bit of cheerful news, the muscles in her arms bulging to the point of straining against her skin. With a roar of effort, she slams a flaming punch into the pavement in front of her. Concrete shatters like fragile glass underneath her powerful strike and her arm buries itself up to the elbow in the street as it cracks apart.

One crack in particular grows continuously wider as it extends in an erractic line towards Fahim, seeking him out as if some deadly intelligence is guiding it below the surface. The fissure rips across the street towards the mercenary at incredible speeds, an ominous red glow pouring up through the cracks in its wake. Once it reaches its destination, the oni drives her other fist into the ground with equal ferocity and a powerful explosion tears the street apart beneath Fahim as a geyser of pure hellfire erupts at his feet.

COMBATSYS: Ayame successfully hits Squad Kilo with Final Solstice.

[                          \\\\  < >  ///////                       ]
Squad Kilo       1/=======/=======|=------\-------\0             Riki
                                  >  ///////////////////////////   ]
                                  |==-----\-------\0            Ayame

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo blocks Riki's Gates of Hell.

[                            \\  < >  ///////                       ]
Squad Kilo       2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=------\-------\0             Riki
                                  >  ///////////////////////////   ]
                                  |==-----\-------\0            Ayame

Chike's victory is momentary, a brief overcoming of impossible odds through a combination of technique and, most importantly, teamwork. Riki goes down, however briefly. Ayame moves to assist her ally, and things quickly go south for the mercenary.

The flurry of strikes is so rapid, so precise, that he barely knows just how many times he was hit. Can one count the raindrops in a summer storm? Such is the challenge he is faced with keeping up with Ayame's curious twin staff style. The man stands there, as if awestruck by what just happened. In a moment, he drops to his knees. "I think," he wheezes, refined British accent still present, "we choose the wrong target." With at thump, he goes to the ground.

Fahim now faces an impossible challenge. His bodyguard is downed. His commander is pinned. His leg is busted.

His opponent is unleashing hell.

The geyser detonates beneath Fahim, sending him launching like a ragdoll. The man's armor gives some protection, but not enough as he tumbles through the air briefing, screaming at the searing pain as Riki's supernatural flames burn away at his sins.

It is, fortunately for Fahim, brief before he clonks onto a parked car and goes quiet--save for the alarm in said car ringing until it warbles into silence.

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo takes no action.

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

COMBATSYS: Squad Kilo can no longer fight.

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

Ayame is quiet following her barrage of attacks, leaning forward, her back to Chike, lungs working overtime to recover from the exertion required to execute the all-out assault. Her wooden staff is held across in front of her at an angle, arm primed in such a way that she could clearly reverse into defending herself if pressed. Her right arm is out at her side, fingers closed over that ephemeral staff of pure, rippling crimson energy casting its luminous glow over the shadowed street.

She hears Chike's words behind her, the decisive thud of a body beaten beyond its limits. From another angle behind her, a street-wrecking explosion of force and hellfire. Only then does she close her eyes, allowing herself a faint smile of satisfaction kept hidden from both her partner and their battered foes. A soft exhale is released, her breathing once more under control, and her smile melts away in an instant.

At her right side, she twirls her chi staff, the energy becoming a blur before scattering into a thousand motes of sanguine residue drifting through the air. Turning sharply to the right, she sweeps her wooden weapon through the cloud of stray power, drawing it back into the weapon as the smooth, cool burning crimson fire once more coats the rune-carved surface of the miko's signature weapon.

Eyes glance over the battlefield. The ruined vehicles, the shattered walls, the pulverized concrete, and of course, the damaged bodies of the trio who thought to take her and her dangerous ally down for the Dragon's sake. Her attention passes over the still forms of their opponents quickly before her focus is brought to Riki herself, brow furrowed slightly.

"They did not get the better of you, did they?" The question posed as a challenge masking somewhat the concern that lies beneath. When it came to the ogress's durability, it was always difficult to ascertain just how close to collapse she really was. The injuries and blood loss were abundantly clear, but other than being a bit slow to recover from their last attack, she seemed just as fierce as ever... Will this be like before, where she's ready to fight again in no time, or will this fight have left a more lasting toll?

"I suppose it would do well for us to discuss in depth the kinds of weapons modern humans have at their disposal sometime." It was clear that the oni had been ill-prepared for the firearms and gadgets the mercenaries had deployed against her. While it seems to have worked out this time, the Ichijo scion is not one to leave blind spots unaccounted for.

Standing up straight, Ayame rests her staff against the ground, leaning against it slightly as she surveys the aftermath. The trio's injuries were likely too severe for them to become immediate threats to anyone else, but there was no denying their choice to align with the woman behind the travesties of late, and for that, there had to be consequences.

"I will call the NOL and let them know about this bunch. It will be easy to secure them for now." The grappling hook cabling will make for perfectly serviceable restraints until the Librarium is able dispatch someone to take the mercenaries in, removing one more tool from the Dragon's arsenal before the end.

"The end of this war is near." Ayame rubs her left shoulder with her right arm idly, "It will not be long now. We have already been delayed here too long."

COMBATSYS: Ayame has left the fight here.

                                  >  ///////                       ]
                                  |=------\-------\0             Riki

As the explosion engulfs the mercenary, Riki allows a satisfied grin to spread across her face. Justice is served for one more wicked soul. How many does that make now? She probably should have been keeping count but numbers have never been one of her strong points. Ah well, her lord will surely let her know when the tally hits its mark.

Withdrawing her hands from the ruined asphalt, the oni turns to survey the rest of the battlefield. As expected, the theatrical performance of a rampaging monster had drawn most of the attention onto her allowing Ayame to deal with each of the mercenaries one at a time with her superior dueling skills. Teamwork at its finest! Of course, she can't help but notice that the girl's role failed to take its fair share of the stab wounds and bullet holes which seems a tad biased.

Riki turns a broad grin at the miko in response to the unsubtle poke at her pride, seeming to shrug off the little priestess's insult as easily as she has the injuries inflicted upon her.

"Their armaments stung me only slightly less than thy words, my lady. If only they had weaponized thy sharp tongue, I twould be on the ground begging for mercy already."

Despite her jovial retort, the ogre moves somewhat tenderly as she rises to her feet, still favoring her injured leg with a wince. She takes a moment to inspect the injuries now that the fighting has died down. A trio of small red holes weep faint trickles of red from her thigh. None of the shots managed to hit a vital artery it seems - that or her healing powers subverted such a deadly injury into merely being crippling.

"I hath never been shot before," she admits, prodding one of the wounds tenatively. "Tis a rather disagreeable experience."

Dragging herself over near Ayame, she takes a seat on another of the abandoned cars, its hood crumpling with a squeal beneath her bulk. She lets out a long sigh and nods in agreement with the girl's suggestion that she learn more about the sorts of weapons that might be employed against her in the future if they're going to be going around playing vigilante against militarized human foes.

"Aye, that seems prudent. I will keep watch over these villains while thou contact the Library and inform them that we hath done their job for them" She beams a grin at Ayame. "Again."

Log created on 13:24:31 06/07/2020 by Ayame, and last modified on 11:35:38 06/28/2020.