Ragna - A Master and His Pupil

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Description: After catching wind of the disastrous encounter outside the Lincoln Tunnel, Jubei thinks it is about time to visit one of his dear pupils. Meanwhile, Ragna the Bloodedge is still wandering about New Jersey, trying to navigate his next destination. The last person he expects to run into is his teacher, who comes to educate him on his Grimoire usage, poke fun at him regarding a certain "rabbit", and inform him of a side project that may pique his interest.

Rush hour traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel was nothing new, of course. But rush hour traffic around a destroyed car and two madmen brawling it out? That made headlines. And even a cat has access to newspapers.

It takes a special cat to be able to read said newspapers though. And the One-Eyed Twin Lotus was one such specimen. The identity of both men was easy for him to surmise -- Craig Marduk is not a man to keep his mouth shut for anything. And the other figure had just enough idiosyncracies that his identity could be none other that of Ragna the Bloodedge.

Jubei had made his way out to the New Jersey waterfront as soon as he could. Without access to a scrying bowl, or drones, or instant access to overhead satellites, his tracking would have to be done the old fashioned way -- scent and deduction.

His first stop, of course, was the Lincoln Tunnel itself. He'd risked being spotted by the NOL in such an area, especially with the bright orange smock he wears -- but he was sure to be quick as he flitted from one car roof to the next, sniffing all the while. The scent of disturbed seithr had drifted considerably since the altercation -- but it was enough to serve as a waypoint.

The key data point was the path left by the Azure Grimoire -- a statistical anomaly that perturbed all in its wake. If Ragna had not been so charged, so animated... perhaps it wouldn't have left such a clear path. But it was enough to give Jubei a sign.

And yet -- the disturbance was of a limited duration. The path had grown cold. And after several hours of walking... Jubei found himself sitting atop the rooftop of an industrial building, a good distance south of the Tunnel. The land around the Tunnel was prime real estate, zoned for residential and commercial use. Neither of which, he suspected, Ragna would want any part of. But here to the south was the industrial district, a maze of competing industries -- none of whom would be particularly surprised or upset to see a wanderer here or there, so long as they didn't try to make a permanent lodging. Surrounding the industrial park was a well-intentioned pocket of greenery -- a public park, meant to offset the carbon spewed out by the industrial park.

The overcast sky and relatively low temperatures made it a great time to travel -- for humans. For cats, the warm rooftop made for a good place to rest, and nap. From up here, the orange-frocked cat could rest his eye for a moment -- and occasionally watch, just in case the distinctive red jacket of his target happened to flutter into view.

See, Ragna should really pay attention to the news more often.

Surely then would he learn how much of a stir the incident at the Lincoln Tunnel caused among the general public. However, being the vagabond that he is, with the preference for solitude among the masses, he hasn't picked up any word of the public's reaction to the disturbance.

What difference would it make if he did have some kind of awareness about it?

Perhaps it may make his life a little easier in that he wouldn't likely be traced by anyone. For the last week, the Bloodedge fellow meandered along the cityspace, mostly maintaining a fairly intentional distance from the locals or anyone who could potentially rise to the bait of his bounty. Even though he regularly embarks on the mission of tracking down NOL bases, he had thought it best to avoid any other run-ins, given that he had used the immense power of the Grimoire and, consequently, also received some rather unwanted side effects.

Mostly, just that he had been very exhausted in the days following the event.

With no proper place to rest for any extended period of time, he has had to make pit-stops here and there while he recovered from his injuries and scoped out the unfamiliar city. All while reasoning that the more he coasts about in areas with less traffic, the better off he is.

Man. Why couldn't he be transported to some place a little more recognizable? Damn rabbit...

Anyway. When the Grimoire-bearer ends up in an industrial area about a week later, he kind of grumbles to himself because he is definitely disgruntled and annoyed by this point. Why? Because it's not like he is any more familiar to this place than he had been when he arrived.

But of course, this makes sense. He is still in fucking New Jersey, after all!

Honestly, he'll never understand Rachel's games.

Despite this, through the fairly deserted warehouses does Ragna traipse. Any stranger he crosses seems not to mind his presence, which is interesting if you consider the fact that most people watch the news and would be alerted by his appearance. Either way, he sticks to one of the general passageways, managing thus far to not be trapped within the interwoven maze.

Where is he headed? Well... he kind of saw a sandy landscape nearby. It would be nice to settle in by the water and feel the ocean breeze against his face. Surely that would soothe the discoloured bruising around his eye and various other places along the length of his neck.

The nose of the orange-frocked cat begins to twitch, a familiar scent carried to it along the breeze. It's a pleasant change from the scent of sewage and industrial waste. Jubei lifts his head, ears lifting from within their fabric shrouds, pivoting towards the direction of the scent. It doesn't take long for the Twin Lotus to pinpoint the distinctive jacket of his protege.

It does, however, take him a while to wake up more properly. He stretches out on all fours, back arching, twin tails poofing out. He yawns, his body shuddering from the motion. And, finally, he stands up on his hind paws, sniffing once more at the wind -- a double confirmation.

"Well, then," he says, to no one in particular. And he tilts forward onto his right foot, squinting in Ragna's direction with his one eye.

The side of a neighboring building begins to weep with black ink. And then a second building, then a third and fourth. Each blot of ink drips downward -- and with a gleam, each blot turns into a hexagon, circumscribed around the shape of a cat's paw.

Jubei draws in his breath. And then he lunges forward -- vanishing.

An orange streak rushes to connect the hexagonal seals. One, two, three, four. The last seal catapults Jubei outward some ten feet over the ground, his frock rippling, fluttering loudly as he thunders past.

The cat twists about once in midair, his black and white fur a tumbling yin-yang. He'd been launched out from behind Ragna, but he somersaults past, landing upon the ground some twenty feet ahead of him.

Ragna ought to recognize the eyepatch. The black and white fur. And the paw sticking out of the orange frock, as it lands on the ground before him. But most certainly, the feline samurai's smile.


A loud voice, laden with a thick Kansai accent.

He rises to his full height, the swords' scabbard jangling on his back.

"You look like y'lost a fight with a cement mixer. How the heck are ya, kid?"

Today is honestly such a good day for a lazy meander through these wide passages.

The Grim Reaper is surprisingly slow, although this could be chalked up to his complete unfamiliarity with the area. Maybe he is just dallying. Whatever the case may be, he carries about his leisurely stroll, navigating his way through in the hopes of finding some beachy reprieve on the other side of this labyrinth.

Mmm. Wouldn't it be nice to relax with the sounds of the waves being the only thing to disturb him?

What a silly notion, Ragna.

So caught up in his own head, his somewhat excited determination is disrupted by some motion he doesn't really anticipate. Something goes whirling past his vision, an amber blur of some kind of form catapulting right on the edge of his peripherals. Immediately, Ragna pauses mid-step. Hand reaching back, the palm hovers over the hilt of Aramasa, he is prepared to engage in whatever this supposed threat is...

And then, there's fur.

And twin-tails.

Oh, and that familiar eyepatch.

From this distance, even HE can see the material of it creasing with the ever growing smile of the supreme feline warrior. A face he has not seen in quite some time, actually, and this encounter could really be fortuitous or just plain annoying. However his Master wishes for this to go.

Visibly softening, a long sigh draws from his lungs. Bloodedge rises to his proper height, removing his palm from his weapon to perch on his hip. Heterochromatics gaze across the threshold to where Jubei stands some short distance away, clearly pleased to be here for whatever reason or another.

"Yeah, well, the other guy had it worse." Thin silver brow arches over his bruised iris while he cants his head slightly. "What're you doing here anyway? Miss me enough to come to wherever the fresh hell this place is?"

The old master had seen the "kid's" hand snap to Aramasa. Ragna was ready to counterattack, even though it wasn't strictly necessary. That's good, he reasons. Part of the reason the NOL's bounties have been so high.

The cat nods approvingly. His tails swish from side to side. "Well, sure. But the fact that I had to go and read all about it says somethin' too." The predator flashes his fangs -- and yet, his swagger and demeanor still codes the expression as 'friendly ribbing.'

"I'm here because yer gettin' sloppy. Bustin' out the Azure Grimoire over some loudmouth punk?"

The cat crosses his overly large arms across his chest. "You woulda been in real trouble if you'd stumbled across -two- of those oafs, Ragna. An' that ain't somethin' I'm just gonna sleep off."

The old cat lets forth a harrumph. "So yeah, kid. I s'pose I -missed- you, in the sense that I -missed- sleepin' soundly without bein' afraid you'd lose that Grimoire."

He looks down at his mechanical paw, partially unsheathing one of his razor-sharp claws. "Aside from that, though. We gotta talk a bit."


Yeah, Ragna doesn't like listening to crap like this, regarding his technique. Never has. Even as a child, when he trained day-in-and-day-out, Jubei likely had his hands full with the spirited little boy he had once been.

In truth, he figured himself to be graduated from scoldings such as these. Being told he's sloppy? It kinda rubs him the wrong way, despite knowing it comes from a place of wise critique. So, he says nothing to defend himself. Not immediately.

The fight with Marduk had been particularly frustrating, in ways more than just one. The forefronting reason was that the guy was an absolute moron, spouting off nonsense and not even realising who he was fighting. Even went as far as to throw around an insult involving his own freakin' name, as if he were some casual bounty hunter looking for the same damn cash in! On top of that, he was considerably stronger than Ragna could have expected, to the point that he was certain that if the Azure wasn't activated, he would've lost that fight in short order.

As such, some part of him still feels justified in his choice to use the dangerous power of the seithr. The last thing he wanted was for his teeth to get kicked in and his ass carted off to some NOL HQ where he likely would have a run-in with less than desirable faces wishing to extract his bounty and whatever else they wanted from him.

The situation was unavoidable, in his mind.

"The bastard was gonna take me out if I didn't use it!" he grumbles, hands splayed at his sides, fabric creaking from such a straining movement. Clearly, Jubei has caught the Grim Reaper during one of his sour moods... although, when is he NOT in a sour mood? "You could've easily slept it off, Master; I walked away from that fight, didn't I?"

That may be so, Ragna, but you are kiiiinda bruised to hell right now. Those are not markings of pride.

"So, what? You say you wanna talk, but it seems like you came here to lecture me instead." Bloodedge is not pleased with this, either, and surely the feline warrior can ascertain that much. The glint of unsheathed metal sparkles, causing him to squint slightly, but he otherwise doesn't move. Not until he is certain of his teacher's ambitions here, outside of this supposed "talk."

Jubei has a history with rebellious youth. His own darling kitten won't even give him the time of day. His newest student held up a middle finger to the NOL and managed to survive. And of course, there's Ragna here -- whose rowdy rebellion has earned every bit of tough love that the feline master sees fit to dole out. Because if the one-eyed cat ever were to ease up on the pressure, there's no telling -what- Ragna would end up doing.

Except, that, well, he hasn't 'lectured' Ragna in a good long while. And the red- and green-eyed Bloodedge just demonstrated how much harm can occur without such a lecture.

Jubei scratches the back of his head with his paw. "Right, right, what was I /thinkin'?/ The NOL /loves/ just kickin' back and relaxin' after their agents takes an beating with hundreds of people filming. They'd never even dream of sending an army after ya."

The Twin Lotus scoffs, looking aside. At least the 'kid' still has the good sense to call him 'Master.'

He unfolds his arms, letting the mechanical paws that serve as his primary weapons droop to his knees. "Nah, you got a point. Ain't much of a 'talk' if all you're gonna do is whimper like a beaten dog, rather'n answer my questions."

Jubei turns away from Ragna, casting his scarlet gaze across the surrounding area. He draws in his breath -- attuning himself to the energies of the world around him. To assure himself that -- at least for the moment -- no other dangers exist.

But then he speaks, in only the general direction of Ragna: "Lecture's over for now, kid. It's time for a pop quiz."

He takes a step back. And his slotted, mechanical paws turn supine, six razor-sharp blades springing out from their hiding spots. The wind kicks up in a vortex around him, a palpable pressure that ruffles his orange overcoat into motion.

Black and white fur erupts into life -- showing off that the master can look like a ferocious lion when he puts his mind to it.

"Prove it, kid! Take this old cat down a peg and I might let you off the hook!"

He holds for a moment -- and adds. "And no Grimoire, unless you're ready to pay for it!"

COMBATSYS: Jubei has wandered into a fight here.

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Jubei            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Jubei gathers his will.

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Jubei            0/-------/---====|

The hell?

"A pop quiz?" His tone is absolutely incredulous as he observes Jubei shift away from him, seemingly distracted by another task. Ragna could only begin to guess what it is that gathers the supreme feline's attention, but whatever it is, the redirection is short-lived. All the signs point to familiar behaviour he has witnessed in the many years he has endured the training with his master, in which monochrome fur is set alight with a newfound energy surrounded by a wildly spinning vortex. It turns Jubei from humble cat to fercious beast in quick order; nothing that frightens The Grim Reaper by any means, but enough to set his teeth on edge.

Because /of course/ his Master would travel to the other side of the damn globe to educate him on something. No surprises there.

"God dammit..." the lean fighter complains under his breath as he shifts his stance into something more defensive. Reaching behind, his palm grabs the hilt of his trusted Aramasa, swinging the blade clockwise until it extends out in front of him, sharpened tip grazing the cement below.

Deep underneath that gruff facade, Ragna knows there is no chance he is winning this fight against Jubei. Perhaps this'll just be a proper shit-kicking to get his head on straight, or whatever it is the feline wishes to accomplish by engaging him in this. There always has to be a darn lesson, doesn't there?

Though, as it is positioned to him that he is not permitted to use his Grimoire, handsome features contort in mild offense. "Seriously? I wouldn't win against you even if I DID use it!"

Ugh. Whatever.

Crouching low, the pupil gazes upon his master, acknowledging for just a moment that no matter what he does, there will be no coming out on top with this one. May as well indulge the old man since he had travelled all this way. Naturally, he says nothing on this, and instead launches himself into a dash, dirt kicking up from under the soles of his shoes. Arm glowing with radiant black energy, Ragna rushes Jubei with the intent of striking him across his furred face. A follow-up with occur should this attack hit by way of an energy-infused uppercut that would send the feline slightly airborne and off a few short feet from him.

"Let's go!"

COMBATSYS: Ragna has joined the fight here.

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Jubei            0/-------/---====|=------\-------\0            Ragna

COMBATSYS: Jubei auto-guards Ragna's Hell's Fang.

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Jubei            0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0            Ragna

Ragna's reluctance to fight comes as no great shock to Jubei. Which, of course, is the largest reason the old cat has no hesitation against bearing down on him as hard as he does -- the young man -needs- to be challenged if he's ever going to improve his skills.

"That ain't the damn point, Ragna!" he calls back over the roaring winds. "It ain't about winnin' or losin', it's about me seein' how bad you've been slackin' off!" Truly, a motivational speaker.

The winds continue to whip about him, even as Ragna leaps in. The cat returns Ragna's intense stare, and gives a brief nod in assent. The challenge is met -- and Jubei is ready.

Ragna's arm sails in -- and rather than hit any sort of furred face, there is the clamber of seithr-forged steel within a double-ended scabbard, held up by both of his surrogate paws. The master had hopped backwards, letting the momentum of the blow rock him backwards -- such that when the followup punch comes, he's already been knocked far enough back for it to whistle harmlessly past him.

He flies back in a shallow arc, landing not long after the initial impact. But almost immediately, the old cat whips sharply to his side in a confusing tumble. His tails stream behind him for balance, sharply veering off as he changes direction.

And in his next move, the cat takes flight -- leaping into a quick forward somersault!

The cat growls in mid-flight: "ONI-GITSUNE!" He unleashes the Dream Blades of Musashi -- the first in a horizontal slash at chest height, while the other slashes in a rising vertical -- as Jubei hopes to awaken Ragna's fighting spirit!

COMBATSYS: Ragna blocks Jubei's Form Two - Demon Fox.

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Jubei            0/-------/--=====|===----\-------\0            Ragna

Hand goes down, but instead of being met with a furry face, Jubei collides seithr steel against his imbued fists. In most circumstances, such an interaction would be cause for severe pain, but it is likely due to the energy wielded in his hands that he is able to avoid too much surface damage, save for some scraping along his knuckles. However, a rather sufficient momentum is created, and therefore away Jubei rolls, as intended, although Ragna notes the lack of damage on the cat master. Clearly, his attempts to land some sort of hit are fruitless, as expected, and so he clicks his tongue in mild annoyance and takes a half-step back.

Only for that sliver of opportunity to be snatched away by the lithe feline, who shoots off into the air, taking flight, and preparing an assault mid-way that serves to strike down upon Ragna's upper torso. Aramasa is brought up as a shield, in which the sharp blades of Musashi cross over the metal, screeching from the contact.

"Nice try, Master!" he snarks, jaw set. The large sword sweeps around his body now, out of the way, so that he may take advantage of the aerial assault Jubei has chosen to bestow upon him. "But can you take THIS?!"

Should he get his angle right, the weapon will be swung backwards in an undercut motion once more, the slash intent on licking up the front of the feline's upper body. As the steel leaves the pavement, a rush of pitch-black chi will rise in its wake, erupting from the earth and soaring up to bite down on Jubei, should this attack succeed.

COMBATSYS: Jubei blocks Ragna's Dead Spike.

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Jubei            0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0            Ragna

Small size has its drawbacks, to be sure -- nearly impossible to watch a live concert, difficult to be seen in line at a restaurant, a real pain trying to drive. But in combat, there are a number of advantages, chief among them being that a small fighter is, on average, more difficult to hit. Ragna, though, has clashed with his master enough to know the difficulty of such -- and it shows, when he launches a counterattack almost immediately thereafter.

The old cat is able to see Aramasa swing towards him; he interposes one of his Dream Blades in the way, the flat clashing with Ragna's weapon in a shower of sparks! Jubei pushes backwards afterwards -- though a yelp follows shortly afterwards. For while Jubei had deflected the blade, he hadn't fully accounted for the burst of raven-black chi that followed with it -- chi that bites into his tawny feet, tugging him out of his controlled stance and threatening to knock him off-balance!

With a snarl of exertion, Jubei wrenches himself free from the attack, twisting his body in mid-air so that he can land on his larger paws. After something of a handspring, he offers a grunt of approval. "Eh, quick thinking..." he comments, but it would seem he's withholding a final verdict for the moment, as he lands back upon his hind paws.

Dropping low, he slashes out with two quick strikes. The first, a horizontal sweep of one Dream Blade -- a shallow cut aimed to bite at Ragna's shin! But while a human wouldn't be able to follow up the blow, the nekomata able to bring another strike to bear, with his tail coiled around the handle of his second Dream Blade -- and swinging it in an upwards diagonal! "But don't get cocky!"

COMBATSYS: Ragna dodges Jubei's Power Strike.

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Jubei            0/-------/-======|====---\-------\0            Ragna

Thinking quick. Staying on his toes.

These are not skills that come naturally to Ragna; the ability to behave this way has only been honed through years of intense training under Jubei's tutelage, since he is more the type to fly into a fight without considering the consequences of his actions. More often than not, doing so has resulted in rather fruitful results, but there has been the odd time where such behaviour has not worked out in his favour. Perhaps this is something Jubei is trying to reinforce, given that he sort of rushed into the fight with Marduk.

Whatever. The Master knows his student, that much is clear.

After all, how could he not? For a time, Jubei practically raised him into the man he is today. There are some intricacies about Ragna that only he would know, and that likely includes when knowing how or when to discipline him. As such, an occasional ass-kicking on his behalf isn't unusual by any means.

Even still. Ragna ends up flashing his teacher a half-cocked grin, because the praise is going to his head just slightly. It always feels good to accomplish something he isn't so proficient at.

The words Jubei utters following the approval is well placed. The Grim Reaper most definitely is on a small ego-trip while the rapid approach of the small-bodied warrior encroaches in on him. Luckily, he maintains a heterochromatic gaze on the cat, observing his advance. When those twin blades aim true to his legs, nice and low, the lean fighter side-steps out of their reach, avoiding all impact. "Too slow!"

With Jubei crouched low, an opportunity opens right up for Ragna, so naturally, he takes it. Anything to up his chances in this fight!

Dominant leg winding back, he teeters a moment, then swings it right around in a low side kick aiming right for the crest of the old cat's temple. A fierce cry bellows from his lips alongside this attack, demonstrating the fighting spirit Jubei so happens to want to drag out of his often-disobedient student.

COMBATSYS: Jubei counters Light Kick from Ragna with Immovable Object EX.

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Jubei            0/-------/=======|>>>>>>>\-------\1            Ragna

In battle, one must know not only their strengths and weaknesses, but must also be able to realistically gauge them against their opponent. Overconfidence -- as Ragna exhibits now -- can be just as much a weakness as underconfidence.

In truth -- strong emotion of -any- kind can blind a warrior to the changing tides of battle. Any emotional baggage must be shed before one enters the battlefield, lest it spread a corrupting influence onto the battle state. Such is the Path of the Empty Mind -- the tried-and-true battle philosophy espoused by the Twin Lotus. The Path of the Empty Mind is not about intelligence, or skill, or strength. The Path is a realistic assessment of the state of battle, based upon a solid foundation of reason, and devoid of emotion.

Jubei fears that Ragna has let himself stray too far from the path. The swung blades, and Ragna's quick evasion, are testament to that.

Perhaps Jubei had overcommitted. Perhaps his swung left him open to counterattack.

Or perhaps it was bait. For while Jubei was twisting in a clockwise fashion, he was also listening with his ears, and paying close heed to the ebb and tide of chi. He was paying close mind to not only the path of his swords, but the reactions of his student, the slight breeze, the rippling of cloth. And the shout of a brash, often disobedient student.

The old master is far from defenseless. Ragna's foot was aimed with the intent that the master would remain still, rather than stepping forward to follow the sweep of his blades. And as Jubei steps forward, Ragna will feel a sharp rap on the side of his shin: a palm strike from his right paw, denying Ragna's momentum and nudging that leg upwards.

But then, the air displacing in a donut-shape wake, Jubei thunders in an upward diagonal. An orange-frocked missile plunges upwards, as Jubei's shoulder slams squarely into Ragna's center mass.

He rebounds backward from the strike, retaking his swords in paws as he continues his whirl about to face Ragna once more.

"You ain't listenin', kid. I said /don't/ get cocky."

Perhaps it is the frequent lone meandering that has Ragna forgetting some of his hard-earned lessons. Maybe it is pride and ego.

Whatever it is, the brash desire to forefront his cockiness is there, shining in his features as he swings his lean form about in order to land a swift kick to his Master's temple...

Except, all attempts at fronting this bravado are immediately halted in their tracks.

Jubei is quick, as a small creature would be, and therefore is able to land a sharp rebound to the leg coming in. A stinging pain shoots up the length of his shin, right up into his knee cap, causing him to instantly retreat the assaulting leg rather lamely off to the side where he attempts to hover it above ground for half a second.

Fuck, that hurt!

Also. Said second is immediately taken from him as the old cat swivels around, his small form practically catapulting right into Ragna's gut. Such a tiny creature normally shouldn't have that much power, but this is Jubei we're talking about here. A supreme being that holds much more strength than most can surmise. Even his own students, at times.

All the wind soars from his lungs in a whooshing, "Urk!" The impact absolutely knocks him away, sending him skidding against the pavement. Forearms scrape along cement, forming rather nasty rashes along his skin, unseen thanks to his sleeves. The back of his head smacks against the ground upon initial collapse, scrambling his brain off into a mild dizzy spell that immediately makes him feel nauseous.

Cool. Ow.

For a few moments, The Shinigami lays here to allow the spinning to pass before he attempts to rise, disgruntled expression painting his face while he comes to his feet. "Yeah, yeah..." he grunts. "I get the point." A hand holds his temple a moment, then readjusts itself around the hilt of Aramasa, holding her two-handed. "I ain't going down yet though, Master."

And in proving this, the pupil stamps off the ground, propelling himself airborne with the massive weapon wielded above head. Ragna shouts out another intense cry as he guides the transforming blade down. Raven-coloured chi immerses the sword, manipulating the shape to form a scythe as it aims right for Jubei's crown, intent on slashing through the length of his feline body!

COMBATSYS: Jubei blocks Ragna's Blood Scythe.

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Jubei            1/-------/=======|>>>>>>>\>------\1            Ragna

Jubei's scabbard clacks against his backside as he keeps his stance. One sword tucks into the bottom of the scabbard, by his left hip; the other is sheathed over his right shoulder. Each makes a satisfying 'clink!' as it slides into its respective place.

Once the swords are stowed, Jubei... stands there, his paws hanging low by his knees. To the uninitiated, it would appear to be the exact -opposite- of a defensive posture, giving off a lazy, lackadaisical air, devoid of tension or anxiety. The Path of the Empty Mind is at work here, immunizing him from the emotional swells that his student might be going through.

"I wouldn't've expected you to," comments Jubei, as Ragna steels himself for another attack pass. His comment, delivered in a level, neutral tone, may be the closest to a compliment Ragna will get for the moment. For the master knows that his disciple fights more tenaciously when he's at a disadvantage.

The Twin Lotus is no slouch himself, though. The old master holds his ground as he watches Ragna soar high up in the air, then crash down with his blade overhead. The hooded cat pivots, his arms blurring into motion. And -- much as before, the scabbard is raised to view, its leather straps hanging loosely around his form. Jubei pushes upwards on the scabbard with both his sleeved paws.

The Blood Scythe bites into the scabbard, threatening to split it in two.

But Jubei holds it back. Straining with the might of his feline body. Suspending the blade upward, even as the unstoppable -might- of the chi-laden strike is redirected against Jubei, the black, inky void blasting into him him.

The cat holds the blade upwards. Raven black splashes against him, forcing the samurai cat backwards some six meters, his hind claws carving ruts into the concrete with a hellacious grinding noise, churning up clouds of chalky white dust.

When the white dust and the black voids clear, Jubei is still there -- holding up his scabbard against the mighty Scythe.

"You're just as strong as I remember." Another compliment, cloaked in impassive fact. He twists his scabbard, pivoting sideways so that the blade can slip past him without further harm. And then he leaps back, some six more meters, returning the damaged scabbard to his back.

And this time, he leans with his right shoulder forward, his right paw near the lower of the two swords. A prepared, iaido stance. His shoulders bob -- calmly. And yet he clearly communicates a -threat-, now.

"But this ain't a race, Ragna. Take yer time, and focus. Come at me with a clear head."

COMBATSYS: Jubei takes no action.

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Jubei            1/-------/=======|>>>>>>>\>------\1            Ragna

Yeah. Ragna is probably getting a little steamy here.

It annoys him at times that his teacher can be so good at reading him, even in the most subtle nuances of his movements. Too damn easy is it for Jubei to simply withdraw a scabbard and meet its edge with the crook of the scythe, deflecting it off and away from him like he is batting a fly. Scoffing, the lean form soars back down to the ground, cladded feet touching the pavement with a scuff as he regains proper balance over his own weight.

Aramasa suspending just slightly above concrete, the pupil gazes heterochromatics upon the master, annoyance sparkling in every bit of his micro-expressions. Sure, he is getting complimented, but he knows better now than to take on those words and feed his ego with them. That last blow certainly taught him that lesson. One that he so often forgets.

And yet, a calm patience descends between the two. The energy flows off Jubei in waves, like a cascading shoreline touching upon the sand. Despite being positioned as a threat, the feline radiates the serenity of a wise old man who is so keenly dedicated to instructing and guiding his students.

He is suggested to focus. Recollect.

Okay, fine, old cat. Ragna will do just that.

A deep inhale sucks into his lungs. Then, he breathes it out, slow. Steady. Mismatched irises stare straight ahead, off at his adversary, as he attempts to regain some semblance of control over his irritation and his lack of focus. Honestly, he hates doing things like this, but he knows the benefit and so begrudgingly does them, specifically when his Master requests it of him. Palms reflex themselves between a tight and gentle grip, testing the weight of the sword, stimulating his muscles.

A clear mind. A clear head.


COMBATSYS: Ragna focuses on his next action.

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Jubei            1/-------/=======|>>>>>>>\>------\1            Ragna

Loss is the best teacher of all. For failing to rein in his guilt, he lost a daughter. For the arrogance of believing that might could defeat guile in a head-on clash, he lost a wife. And -- in the first, crucial misjudgment -- for blind faith that things would work out in the end, he lost his own brother.

The cat may be old. And the cat may be patient. But when a teaching moment presents itself, there can be no delay. The lesson must be taught while the wound is still throbbing, while the shame is still fresh. By acting quickly, the context may be lost, but the -lesson- will be seared indelibly into the psyche.

The goal is not injury. But to compel the injured flesh to grow back stronger.

Ragna keeps his distance, staring back with mismatched eyes, choking back on the anger and frustration. It's a look Jubei knows well, branded into his memory from dozens of previous occasions -- and from the tunnel fight with Marduk. The Grim Reaper's ferocity is a powerful advantage -- but only when the fierceness is working -for- him rather than against him.

The Twin Lotus offers a grunt.
It could be read as approval.

But there is nothing on his face to suggest that.

Jubei nods once. And then begins to stride forward, keeping his shoulder forward, his leading elbow cocked to one side.

His pace quickens, feline paws making almost no sound sound as he sprints across the concrete. The sound comes from the Dream Blades clinking against the damaged scabbard, jostling across his back.

But the swords remain set in place.
Three blades lash out instead.
Three diagonal cuts, down to his left.
Three jagged scars, left in their wake.

If Ragna is focusing, he'll know what's coming next -- three more diagonal slashes from the opposite direction. Another volley from Jubei's left paw -- and then a fourth from his right. Four sets of rapid, shallow slices intended to challenge the Grim Reaper's focus. Four grunts of exertion from an aging Master.

COMBATSYS: Ragna blocks Jubei's Fissuring Slash.

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Jubei            1/-------/=======|>>>>>>>\>>-----\1            Ragna


Dammit, this is frustrating, Ragna thinks.

No. Must focus. He /has/ to.

Even though the preference is to go flying in brashly, sometimes the ability to take a step back, to breathe, is much more effective. Something he always forgets, too, and that alone is rather irritating.

But, he does it. Does he ever. Even if he has to pull at his own teeth, he tries.

And, just when he thinks the effort is wasteful, Jubei shifts. His furry feet pad along the pavement, slow in their approach. The master has donned a familiar stance through his stride, and Ragna definitely knows what to expect from it. Still, he doesn't move. Doesn't give any indication that he even is going to budge.

Until the last second.

Aramasa lifts from her position at ground level, the razor-sharp blade meeting with the incoming assailant in a brilliant clash of steel that grinds hard enough to earn sparks. It is a rapid movement, so easily able to slip past one's eye should they not be paying close attention. But, The Reaper is, as he forces his adversary from their collision.

Even still, he manages to catch the assortment of attacks aiming for his midrib. The lean fighter contorts his torso so that he may bring the sword back around to stop the assault. In the onslaught comes enough power to jostle him just slightly, however. Enough to stagger him a step or two from the sheer force of the feline warrior.

Not surprising, and somehow, Ragna maintains his cool.

The distance he has skidded isn't terribly far from where Jubei lands, therefore the towering man is able to close in quick for a blow that is intended to smack right into the nape of his Master. A fist, tightly balled, directs itself inward through a forward spin that creates a momentum so quick, it may even appear blurred to onlookers.

Maybe not to the cat, though.

COMBATSYS: Ragna successfully hits Jubei with Medium Strike EX.

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Jubei            1/-----==/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>---\1            Ragna

The One-Eyed Twin Lotus and the Grim Reaper have known each other a long time. Their skills, their speeds, their strengths -- they're all known quantities. But most of all is trust. Trust is the one principle that makes training exercises like this work. Because, no matter how hard it gets, or how painful it becomes, trust means that they'll work through it together.

Which is why Jubei saw no problem with pressuring Ragna head-on, in such a deliberate pressure attempt, slashing relentlessly with feral ferocity. Experience guides his claws, but trust guides his heart.

His claws batter against Aramasa, repeatedly, in a shower of sparks. He pushes forward each of the four assaults, and is rebuffed each time. Somewhere, deep inside the Vault of the Empty Mind, Jubei would smile -- but that honest pride wouldn't show on his furred features.

He lands just one hop away. And he raises his claws, the impact points still red-hot, prepared for a strike from Aramasa.

But it is not the sword that Ragna relies on. The fist is a surprise -- and moreso, the -angle- of such.

Yelping with pain, Jubei lists sharply to one side, his forelimbs shadowing the gesture. A worthy surprise from the man he demanded to focus, just moments earlier.

Shaking off the pain with a grunt, he steps sharply to the opposite side, withdrawing. His crimson eye takes one look at the industrial building beside him -- up till now, nothing more than a backdrop.

And then he quickly thrusts forward -- striking not with the sharp end of the blade, but the hilt -- aiming to stagger Ragna with a powerful blow.


But he would not stop, driving his hind paws into the concrete, and leaping back sharply. Black veins of seithr would be left in his wake, pooling and spreading like ink on the surface of a pond. Rebounding off the building wall, he'd launch himself forward, unleashing both the Dream Blades, slashing an X-shaped gap through the midst of the void, seithr trailing along the tips of the cutting blades. The power would be invigorating -- a further challenge to bring out Ragna's best!

COMBATSYS: Ragna interrupts Miroku - Spherical Illusion from Jubei with Inferno Divider EX.

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Jubei            1/----===/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>-\1            Ragna

Quite honestly, Ragna is pleasantly surprised when his fist collides. In no way did he expect to land a blow, but somehow, luck came through for him enough to bite into the Master's neck and jostle him slightly out of his reverie.

Yet, The Reaper has no moments to spare for celebration, for Jubei is off in a blast of speed only a cat could be capable of.

Spinning about, the pupil searches the air, for where the old feline would land. The movement is much like a zig-zag, easy enough to follow, with inky blotches in the wake of his assailant's attack. Ragna turns about-face, gloved hand gripping tight to the magnificent weapon at his side. In the seconds he has before the nekomata rebounds full off the wall, the lean fighter considers his options.

This, naturally, is a technique he has witnessed before. Dodging surely would be his most successful endeavour, because blocking it would likely be a hit or miss... but he also doesn't want to open up another opportunity for a strike...

So, perhaps, another approach is necessary.

Forced to think quickly, Ragna takes a deep stride to the left, bending himself at the knees. As Jubei launches towards him, Aramasa swings behind, grazing along the concrete. The slashing motion of the blade seems to cut through the pavement, into the earth, and from that crack emerges a gust of raven-coloured chi. It bursts forth, rising up high into the air, the massive fangs of spiked energy biting up into the feline and likely cascading high enough to even swallow him whole. The energy would recede soon enough to the earth, the faint glow of it's power fading away into nothingness.

All that remains is Ragna, who stands, actually somewhat winded by the effort of his own attack, and looking a little more exhausted than he had prior.

Jubei is caught off-guard. The inklike void, that was to be a catalyst for damage, momentarily blinded him to Ragna's counterattack. His sharp ears had heard Aramasa grinding its way across the concrete, but by that point it was too late -- the cat was committed, with only limited opportunity to change course.

Chi engulfs the cat -- a fact noted by a pained growl from the old master. The gust of energy engulfs him whole, sweeping him violently off-course, up and to Ragna's right. The Twin Lotus whirls about in mid-air, layers of jet-black chi sloughing off of him one at a time like the layers of an onion. He lands a few meters away, swords still gripped firmly in their respective paws: one pressed against the ground, the other held back to the cat's right.

The cat pants from exertion; his shoulders bob slowly. "Good," he comments, once he catches his breath.

Only then does he rise back to his full height, sheathing his swords once again with an audible "cl-clink." "You passed, congratulations." Finally, the old master cracks a smile. It might pass for a rward.

He pauses to straighten out the collar of his jacket, rolling his neck from one side to the other. "If you wanna push yer luck we can keep goin'. Otherwise, we can talk about that invite from the rabbit."

The old master bares his teeth for a grin. His stance is loose and casual -- though, that can change in a mere heartbeat. Really, though -- considering the "rabbit" Rachel Alucard's relationship to his student, either of his statements could be considered 'fightin' words' in the right mindset. How Ragna reacts to them will be just as telling as any of the master's previous challenges.

COMBATSYS: Jubei takes no action.

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Jubei            1/----===/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>-\1            Ragna


Well. That isn't the response he entirely expects, at least not right off the hop.

Maybe it is because he is feeling the tug of exhaustion or something. But it is not often that he receives praise, considering how brash he can be when it comes to his training.

What spins him further is this notion of "passing." What did he pass, exactly? Ragna probably will never know, with how elusive the wise teacher can be at times.

Whatever. He'll take it, and the dumb smile that crests upon the furred features of the feline master.

Judging by how Jubei is choosing to stance himself, with weapons sheathed and height fully drawn, there is the possibility that their fight - or his education - has ended for now. Often, The Reaper likes to test his boundaries, and he is tempted to do such, but the mentioning of the invite has him pausing for two reasons. One: he actually kind of forgot about that stupid letter (in truth, the moment he saw who the sender was, he didn't bother to read it and simply tossed it away). Two: how did the old cat find out?

Really, he shouldn't be so surprised that someone of his Master's standing would catch wind of Rachel's antics. Maybe it is because he doesn't expect for Jubei to actually give a shit about it. These things are just games that he is less than inclined to partake in, yet more often than he cares for, he is dragged right in. Usually, kicking and screaming.


Ragna can't hold back the perturbed expression that graces his handsome features. Aramasa is not sheathed away, but the tip of the blade does get redirected to his side while he shrugs himself out of defensiveness. "What about it?" And then, his face falls into something considerably more dramatic. The Shinigami appears grumpy, like a petulant child in some respects, at the mere suggestion of whatever Jubei has in mind for him.

"... Don't tell me you think I should go to whatever the hell it is that rabbit has going now?"

Jubei offers a shrug as well. Perhaps it's contagious. "I'm not here to tell you to go or not go."

He'd noticed that Aramasa hasn't -quite- been stowed -- and he chances fate by pointedly looking away for a moment. Though Ragna certainly nailed him with those last two strikes, the old master's fine testing his student's limits in one way or another.

"I wouldn't expect she'd take 'no' for an answer though -- especially if she considers you part of the 'entertainment.' So, I guess be ready for that. Heh." He scratches his cheek, whiskers twitching, as he turns back to address the Grim Reaper.

"Just remember, she likes to toy with people. She -wants- to see you get pissed off. Keep yer cool like y'did just now, an' you'll be fine."

The old cat starts walking closer, letting his oversized paws lag along behind him, lazily. "So, yeah. I didn't have to go far to chase you down -- I've been over in Metro City, workin' on another side project. Partly why I'm gonna accept Miss Rachel's invite."

Here, Jubei looks up to Ragna's eyes, curiously. "My question is, why the heck are you in New Jersey, of all places?"

As of right now, Ragna has no intention of bringing his weapon down upon the feline. If he truly wanted to, there is an even greater chance he would be faced with something rather nasty in retaliation. So, yeah. Aramasa steadies at his side, unmoving for the time being, while the two engage in casual chit-chat.

Unfortunately, he has to concede to Jubei's words. No matter much he has protested to Rachel, she seems to see it fit that he be transferred damn well anywhere at her leisure for any and all of her stupid little games. Power like that really shouldn't belong in the hands of somehow so inclined to be whimsical with them, to take people against their will and throw them in places they have no desire to be in...

Or, well... maybe that IS what it's for, but Ragna honestly never wants a part in it, damnit!

Yet, time after time, he is at her whimsy. Probably why he is stuck somewhere in the middle of some state in the United States, having to meander about to find some semblance of understanding over his environment.

It is a wonder how many of those useless invites she sent out, but clearly, he wasn't the only one to receive one. If the old cat is going, then there has to be some reason for doing so. And so, he says, "You got some other pressing reason? Or you just going for shits and giggles?"

As likely expected, The Reaper's expression twists into utter disbelief and annoyance, although it is not directed at anyone who is present. If Rachel could see his face, surely she'd know his mood is explicitly for her and her alone!

Damn rabbit!

Ragna's free arm lifts in an incredulous display of defeat. "I have no fucking idea!" he exclaims. "I just up and poofed here a week ago for some goddamn reason or another! Probably for her amusement or some crap."

Jubei probably -could- have continued the battle -- but with the flow of adrenaline waning, the chances of that drop with each passing moment. He's good at playing it off so that it's not -too- obvious, though.

"Yeah, that side project. We were gonna see if Miss Rachel can help us out with a site that's seein' some pretty serious seithr corruption. Few of us can solve it ourselves, but... " The cat's nostrils flare. "... not without takin' out a few city blocks in the process." He folds his forelimbs, frowning. "That's kinda the least favored option."

And now that he's out of the fight, and no longer adhering strictly to the Path of the Empty Mind, he finds Ragna's annoyed scowling to be as amusing as it -ought- to be. With a grin and a shrug, he notes, "There's worse places you coulda ended up, I s'pose. Probably better-smelling ones too."

Jubei reaches back at this point, swiveling the swords' scabbard around so he can get a better look at the new fracture across its surface. He frowns slightly -- but he has other thoughts to share.

Looking up, he notes: "Oh, the 'we' is me and another student I'd picked up when I couldn't find you. Name's Clio. Really knows her stuff about Magic Formula, Ars Magus and all that. I think she might becoming to the Rosalia with us. I'm kinda hopin' it ends up being a good place for you two to test your mettle. An' maybe give -this- old cat a break from your shoutin' and complainin'."

The one-eyed cat winks back at Ragna. Or maybe it's a blink of sleepiness. Might be tough to tell for sure.

Vaguely, the thought crosses Ragna's mind regarding NOL and their involvement in this supposed seithr site. Having made it his personal mission to search and destroy whatever those bastards have to offer in exchange for information is of great interest to him. Perhaps it is worth considering a check-out with his own scrutinizing eyes.

That is, if Jubei would even give him any details specific to its location.

That part miiiight be like pulling teeth.

So, he focuses on his complete disgruntlement of the Alucard woman, sharing his displeasures with total exasperation, as he does. If there is anyone that understands his pains, it has to be this wise old cat, right? After all, he was the one Rachel decided to deposit his battered body off to.

Though, a touch of that annoyance does turn onto his Master, because what? Does he actually think Ragna is /going?/ It is most certainly NOT in his agenda, and if he has to do everything in his power to absolutely avoid all possibilities of the rabbit finding and transporting him...

Ah, who is he kidding? She will worm her way through anything he puts in place. Her way will be satisfied, much to his chagrin.

Still. This doesn't stop The Reaper from blurting out an irritated, "Like hell am I going. And if I have to? My focus will be to get the hell out of there. I have no interest in playing in these games of hers."

Besides, what benefit could he have in meeting this new pupil of Jubei's, other than knowing someone else who could potentially grind on his nerves?

Ugh. What a pain.

Silver strands trickle across his features as Ragna resists a hard eye-roll. Aramasa is sheathed by a swoosh of his arm heading backwards, settling the weapon sturdy against his backside. "Isn't it your job to do the teaching? Not me?"

For a moment, Jubei's gaze drifts over to the sight of Aramasa, still suspended loosely in Ragna's hand. The old master's gaze doesn't linger there for very long, mind -- just enough to acknowledge that his student had never fully stood down from the little 'pop quiz.'

And yet, the Grim Reaper is still incensed about the inevitable: Rachel Alucard's undying fascination with him. Ribbing Ragna with a good-natured tone to his voice, he notes, "The thing about spoiled princesses is, they usually have enough at their disposal to ensure they can hold onto what they want."

The master doesn't stay in place, though; he starts to pace slowly to the side as he continues to share his ruminations about the so-called "rabbit: "Ah, but maybe yer right -- who knows? Maybe the rabbit won't -notice- her favorite plaything going AWOL."

Okay, now he's teasing. And he flashes a grin to make sure Ragna knows it.

But what Ragna may or may not notice is that the cat is quietly pathing in a wide circle around Ragna, towards the side that Aramasa is being held. If the Twin Lotus were to attack right now, Ragna would be at a slight advantage to defend, but a poor place to counter-attack as he had before. But Jubei is -- at the moment -- letting Ragna's ramping frustration work to his benefit.

Jubei laughs. "Ragna, maybe you've noticed, but my teaching method, thus far, exclusively revolves around knockin' you onto yer ass." He raises one oversized paw to stroke at his chin, thoughtfully. "Come to think of it, I was goin' /easy/ on you just now, Ragna. Maybe I'll dial it up to -half- my true power."

Ragna continues to enjoy the full attention of Jubei's one-eyed gaze. For the moment, Jubei is content to keep his distance, though he continues to pace that wide circle around Ragna.

The destination of the seithr-corrupted site, though, might be more forthcoming than the student may have thought earlier, though.

"Or you can just cool yer heels for now. And come with me to Metro City Park. If you don't mind hanging with two other fugitives from the NOL's all-encompassing eye."

Favourite... PLAYTHING?

Even though this fact is glaringly obvious and true, it doesn't make Ragna feel any less frustrated about the situation as a whole. Jubei is prodding at him, as the old cat does from time to time, and he knows it. Yet, he is steaming, if only because he hates to acknowledge Rachel's fondness for screwing around with him.

So naturally, he is losing some sense of focus. It barely registers that the wise master is circling him. Probably not a good thing, but whatever. He is too pissed to consider the potential outcomes.

"Yeah, no shit. Wonder how you treat your other students," he grumbles. A large palm rubs across handsome features as he exhales an exasperated sigh. Truly, this new student has their work cut out for them if Jubei instructs them similar to that of himself. Although, The Grim Reaper had been quite the spit-fire, and maybe not all pupils need to be driven into the ground, sometimes almost literally, by their instructors.

Heterochromatics dart up quite suddenly, narrowed dangerously, as he peers between splayed digits to the supreme feline some distance away. "You wanna run that by me again?" The threat of Jubei /taking it easy/ on him is more than enough to rear him right around, a sharp glare directed straight ahead.

Honestly, it probably would be in his best interest to at least check out whatever it is that this seithr site has to offer. If NOL is somehow involved, it'd be two birds with one stone. If Jubei or these other students of his have further insight to his goals, then he should take the smarter path and go along with it.

But it doesn't help that his teacher could sometimes completely rub him the wrong way, like he is doing now...

Man. What a pain!

Another sigh. "Fine. I'll go with you." Arms fold across a broad chest. "Not like I have anything else better to do around here anyway."

COMBATSYS: Jubei resumes wandering.

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Ragna            1/-<<<<<</<<<<<<<|

Log created on 16:19:00 05/12/2021 by Ragna, and last modified on 14:46:38 05/15/2021.