Description: On the hunt for a Darkstalker, Lieutenant Yao Meifeng of the NOL runs into a different wanted Darkstalker. Unarmed, and without back up, the brave NOL soldier faces down the wild and furious werewolf, Gallon. A kung fu meets Bajiquan clash happens in the forests outside of Southtown. And with it comes a clash of philosophy and identity held by those who walk the line of man and beast.
A lonesome paved road stretches north and south, bordered by a forbidding wall of towering conifers. The moon watches the road, imperiously from above. But at such a late hour, few have reason to travel the road. Joyriders taking a midnight drive, perhaps, or opportunists hoping to take advantage of the forest's isolation to make an easy score.
Lt Meifang was standing about four meters into the thick of the wilds as the last car roared past, their headlights streaking past her decorative lenses. She notes two occupants, both human, and neither of them matching the profile of her target. She bristles at the hooded sweatshirt sticking to her fur. Its texture is fine on the outside, but so frustratingly prickly on the inside. The rest of her clothes don't bother her the same way -- smooth fabric feels good against her furred skin.
The tigress takes a deep breath, turning to walk away from the lonesome street into the heart of the forest. An idle hope that she'd find her prey, crushed. The mission calls to her, the scent of a hunt.
A low growl erupts from her throat as she walks further into the thick. The night air calls to her. A zipper is pulled; she works her way out of the sweatshirt, wrapping its arms about her hips and tying a knot. Her shoulders and arms now free of the fabric, the tigress' striped fur can now feel the night as it was meant to be felt.
The NOL lieutenant smiles to herself, and begins a light jog into the thick. Her nose wriggles -- for the further in she goes, the more the tigress' keen senses can detect... something.
The scent of a so-called 'darkstalker'. A possible lead to her target...!
The solitude of night. The peaceful distance from that noisy, danger soaked city. A place where, recently, countless of his kind engaged in foolhardy warfare at the behest of a charismatic demagogue. The promise that one is powerful, that your oppressors are weak, and that you are fit to rule is one endemic to worlds bother human and non it seemed. A tiresome, childish belief to the werewolf that continued to watch from the sidelines. Continued to grip his own existence and analyze it under the harsh glare of his introspection. Continued to find change even as he remained distant from it himself.
The crimes of decades past. The crimes of loosing himself for revenge, still bore deep scars.
His is, as is his wont, stripped to the waist. The trousers her wears are loose and flowing for movement, the sash is his allowed affectation. His thick fur insulation from both cold and heat, he feels the night breeze blow through it as he sits in peaceful meditation. Cross-legged near the motorway, it is a good perch, one that gives him a good read on movements of humans around the city, but one close enough to the depths he may disappear if needed. Though he has not had to do much since the conflicts in Southtown arose.
Eyes closed, breath deep and calm, his ear twitches as he litens to passing cars. His nostrils flare. He takes in the wind. He makes a grumbling sound, but he dismisses it. Something may yet be approaching, the beast calls to challenge, but the man deigns to hold fast. There is no reason to overreact. The last few times he has had erstwhile hunters it has not been a difficult matter. Most of them turned out to be personable chatting even.
The thought crosses his mind, had that poor girl fallen deeper into her own monstrous reality?
The jog quickens in pace. The tigress finds the scents of the forest an invigorating shift from the stale air of the city. It may be devoid of humans, but the vitality is clear nonetheless...
But over it all, that -scent-. The lieutenant has been tracking long enough to be able to discern the scent of a demihuman from background noise. The aroma tracks south, towards a bend in the street.
Meifeng's jog slows to a halt. Her nose wrinkles. And then the light of another passing car begin to sift their way through the trees. Vertical shafts of light, rapidly shifting planes.
And the distinct shape of -someone- sitting cross-legged, silhouetted in the light's moving path.
Meifeng draws in her breath. The silhouette did not match that of her prey. But perhaps he could be someone with a clue.
The lieutenant, no longer jogging, approaches the seated figure at a walking pace. Her striped fur would stand out in the moonlight, as would the fluffy tail swishing to and fro. Her dark-toned athletic top, her running pants or the sweatshirt wrapped about her hips, perhaps less so. She fits the profile of someone simply out for a jog.
But as she approaches, she would notice the closed eyes. The meditation.
Meifeng raises her left fist to her mouth. And coughs, lightly.
If the seated figure opens his eyes, he'd see a thin smile on the tigress' face, perhaps her orange eyes flicking across his form. He looks familiar to her, for some reason. But it's not registering just yet -- not until he speaks.
"Hi. ... I am sorry to disturb you. It is just that i am looking for someone."
Demihuman. . .
It is a term that Gallon is distantly familiar with, though not one his holds particularly fondly. He knows he was human. He was born among mankind. He grew. The beast came later. Even if he could not deny the beast, and it now was his face to the world, he could neither deny the humanity that burned within him.
But the beast, and the man, smell this new arrival. Distinct rippling in the air, and near silent sounding steps. Gallon feels her presence. He knows she is there. She also did the little polite coughing thing that people do, which helps. But he does not yet open his eyes. Perhaps, he feels, she will leave of her own accord.
Words. She is not leaving.
A yellow eye snaps open. Ears turn to focus on the woman. His head lifts from its tilted, resting state. "You have found someone," he says in a way far too gruff and perturbed to be a genuine joke.
He narrows his eyes, acclimating to the low light. He hums. "Do you often search dressed as such?"
Gallon knows she's arrived -- it's not hard for the tigress to -know- that he knows. And she's always felt it to be better to get straight to the point, rather than beat around the bush.
Even still, though, the flatness of Gallon's reply takes her aback a moment.
"Well, yes?" she comments, almost instantly. But then she realizes it ... might just be his way of warming up to conversation, after meditation.
Rather, -during- meditation, she corrects herself.
She blinks back at the follow-up comment, her ears pressing low upon her head. "... No, I don't, but... you are not the first to critique my fashion."
She sniffs, folding her arms in front of her. "I am sorry to disturb you," she repeats, "... But I do not know much of this area, I fear. I have combed the city for several nights to no avail." She offers another slight smile. "Have you seen a well-fed man, with bat ears and beady eyes?"
Gallon shakes his head. "Not a critique. A study. You are hunting, not rescuing," he remarks. He starts to slowly uncurl himself from his crosslegged sit to stand back up and stretch out his folded joints. "No equipment," he states, "And while you have no weapon, I am familiar with what our kind is capable of with only our hands." He takes the moment to hold a hand up, curling his fingers, displaying his claws.
He steps forward, steady and measured steps toward the feline. "I have not seen another darkstalker here," he admits. "Not before tonight."
He stops. A wind blows through his fur. His eyes are bright, and they stare. He is uncertain, cold and rigid, held under control as a beast within thrashes in uncertainty. The man holds sway. The man sees the woman. The beast sees the tiger. The man's curiosity gets the better of him. "Why do you hunt your own kind?" he asks.
Meifeng's tail had been swishing leisurely from side to side. For just a moment, once Gallon makes a distinction between hunting and rescuing, it pauses in this path.
The tigress stares back at the werewolf, her smile fading away. A poker face, for the moment.
"Yes, I want to find him," she emphasizes, watching Gallon draw attention to the lethality of his claws. Like the werewolf, her feet are shaped like those of her animal counterpart, but her hands are more like those of humans.
He states his lack of information -- and the Liutenant pivots as if to leave. "Ah. Thank you!"
She would have left -- but for the wind blowing throug her fur. She keeps her slitted eyes upon the canine, watching his approach. Despite her lack of weaponry, she does not seem particularly threatened.
Her eyebrow arches. She avoids the question, posing one of her own in exchange.
"Why do you not?"
Gallon is a sour faced individual at the best of times. Years of control, years of aversion to social interaction, both have dulled what little skills he would have had in those departments. He has been focused on strengthening himself, empowering himself, seeking a humanity in overcoming the wolf.
But he has never been able to. In the dark, to no one, he doubts he ever will.
A subtle ripple of muscle is the moment of indication he was expecting that pivot to turn into a strike, the beast never allowing a full rest for the werewolf. It will safeguard the man, as much as it torments him. Much as the man torments the beast.
"What have I to gain?" he asks. "Hounded as I have been to fight humanity for their entertainment." He takes a padding step, starting a circle. "I have yet to meet one to challenge me. It is no good to hunt weak prey. There is nothing to learn from trouncing unskilled challenges."
Meifeng has been the odd one out amongst scores of humans for as long as she can remember. Showing her emotions invited punishment. Withholding them allowed her to advance in rank. It's a simple correlation, and one she relies upon when dealing with people of any stripe, color, creed or race.
"Whereas my efforts make the world safer. I track down the unstable elements. The chaos, and disorder. Those who not only live /outside/ civilization, but actively seek to /disrupt/ it."
She notices the tactic of closing in. And as Gallon turns his circle, her head pivots to follow. Should that position become untenable, her feet shuffle to allow the motion. For her senses give her no information to suspect that simply holding position would be a bad move.
"The one I seek is far from unskilled." She shifts her stance slightly, the tip of her tail sweeping just over the forest floor beneath her.
"Perhaps he could be one to challenge you as well."
Gallon remembers distant humanity. Childhood. Care. The blood spilled on the pavement of mother, of master, the rage and the death at his claws. He knows civilization. He knows humanity. He knows what greed and cruelty looks like when it can hide behind a smooth face. He makes a sound, something akin to a scoffing laugh and the huff an annoyed old dog.
"Safer? Then you would do well to attend to the humans in your cities," he says, gesturing back toward the distant light pollution of Southtown. "For all your civilization it is as cruel and violent as any beast. And often for more petty reasons."
He stops his pacing to cross his arms, standing tall and head held to keep his focus on the city, but his ear is turned toward the feline. He does not find her aggressive, but her words mark dangerous ideology. The Beast watches and listens for postures, but the Man's perception goes beyond immediate sensation. They watch each other.
"Don't be so insulting to think I can be swayed by that," he dismisses what he sees as weak influencing on his goals. He has little care in the moment. The cat is here, present, not as ambiguous as some other potential Darkstalker.
"I will not be goaded into doing your hunting for you."
The tiger's tail sweeps back and forth at a constant pace, even as she hears the call for her to change her ways and police society instead of chasing random darkstalkers in the wilderness.
She has the urge to protest, to stop his speech, but she bites her tongue, listening. Watching. And waiting.
Meifeng hears the bitterness and frustration in this stranger's voice. The culmination of years of persecution. Gallon is not the first she's heard such words from, and she doubts it will be the last. Her response is calm, measured -- and practiced.
"I am glad to hear we are in agreement."
Her tail perks upward, to a slight degree, at the rejection to her suggestion. She shakes her head slowly, her lob-cut hair bouncing airily at the movement. She stares at him long and hard, recalling how he'd started as she merely adjusted her footing. And she speaks, matter-of-factly: "Stranger, you scare far too easily to be of any use to me as a hunter."
Meifeng smiles briefly, pressing her fist into her right palm, and bows crisply at the waist. "I do beg your forgiveness for the intrusion, and hope you have a restful evening."
Gallon doesn't feel so much he can tell people to change their ways inasmuch as point out hypocrisies in the nature of the civilized. It wasn't Darkstalkers sending cameras after him. It wasn't Darkstalkers hunting him. Though he is still more or less unknowing of the bounty on his head, so he isn't so far from being hunted by them as he knows.
The Beast hears the goading. And while the man has to ignore it, the Beast cares not. It exists, it exults, in the moment. It could move on and snuffle and hunt. It is the face that is most uncaring to the words of man. The words that mean nothing. What is psyche and soul to a world of blood and bone?
But it is not the Beast that listens to the words. It is the Man. "You do not understand what it means to be what you are, if you misread so easily," he tells her.
He shakes his head. "You will not find your quarry here, human." He holds his head up and smells the air. "And if you wish to apologize, answer me, why do you hunt this Darkstalker? Other than vague philosophies."
Meifeng is as she has always been: a beast raised by humans. The call of the wild is one she can perceive, and at times obey, but the human perspective is always present. For, as an officer of the Novus Orbus Librarium, she has rarely been exposed to any opposing viewpoints.
The very thought that she, as someone who has been in control her entire life, could not understand what it means to be /her/, is a paradox that has her poker face cracking into a disbelieving smile. "You know me more than I know myself? Pardon my disbelief."
If her own self-confidence were true, though, perhaps she wouldn't have taken such offense to Gallon's next statement. As it is, she lowers her eyebrows, frowning heavily as she crosses her arms. She hesitates to respond -- but then Gallon poses a question.
Her tail dips and darts back and forth with a sense of alarm. "He has hurt people. And he has stolen property that is not his. Neither is permissable in a functional society."
Gallon. . .generally doesn't much care for opposing view points. Much as he is prone to conversation, it is as much a fight and a challenge and a struggle as anything else. Though the Beast is oft there to temper anything that risks being too inward.
"I have seen greater beasts with less fur than you, whelp," he says, thinking to the knowing and cold eyes of the girl in red. "You haven't the heart for cruelty."
He looks back to Meifeng, his fingers roll, those long claws scratching the air at his thigh. Long arms too. And he is close. And he is quick. "Are you so certain?" he asks the woman. "Not of his charges, but of what is permissible? It would seem that violence and pain is as much needed as despised. As is using a Darkstalker to prey upon a Darkstalker."
Meifeng frowns as Gallon's analysis cuts to the quick. Her gaze meets his yellow eyes, before darting down to notice the claws by his thigh.
She slides her left foot back and to her side, keeping her right toes pointed towards Gallon. It could be a prelude to retreat, but more likely, it is a defensive stance for her chosen style of combat. She takes a wary step backward, her leading hand rising higher. Her tail springs high, alert.
"Watch yourself. Attacking me in place of my employer makes laying claim to the high ground... difficult."
She seems ready for a fight -- but as Gallon previously identified, she lacks any sort of weapon.
"I have not given the matter much thought," admits Meifeng, with some doubt apparent in her features. "I am not here to debate you -- nor am I here to apprehend you."
A low growl erupts from the back of her throat.
"But if my capacity for violence is in question, a demonstration can be arranged."
Gallon leans himself forward, hunching, bestial posture firming as his muscle coils like springs under ever greater pressure. The Beast thrills, inside it cries out to display power, to dominate, to showcase. The Man sneers, not disagreeing with the Beast's goals inasmuch as being overt about it. He is conflicted, but the portions of his being argue only on the tone, they agree on the meaning of the moment.
"I don't know your employer, hunter," he tells her, "But you serve as proxy. Your cause is theirs, your purpose is theirs. That is what you are when you fight for another rather than yourself. A hand, a tool, or a weapon."
He rakes a line in the dirt and belts a short howl to the sky. The sound ripples through the air, splitting the evening and rolling through the forest. "If you wish to know the fury of a beast. Then so be it! Show me what a woman in a tiger skin can do!"
COMBATSYS: Gallon has started a fight here.
The beast snarls. And Meifeng reflexively steps back, reversing her stance so that her left foot is forward, her left hand out, with her right hand raised high above her. It is not the stance of a beast -- but Baji'quan, the art of a well-trained human.
The words wound her -- words that remind her of her place in the out-group, in nearly every classification. A beast in a human's world, a woman in a man's world, a foreigner in Japan. And even here -- a human-raised beast, in the midst of the forest.
It is enough to furrow the brow of the proud officer who thought she'd claimed dominion over her emotions.
"This will prove nothing." she responds, drawing in her breath. Her eyes half-lid, as she tries to call forth the powers of her ars magus -- reminding herself, once more, that she'd left the saber safely in a NOL locker.
She draws both her arms in towards her chest, drawing her leading foot back -- leaving only her feline toes in contact with the forest floor.
"But, I accept."
And then, with an explosive burst of speed, she thunders forward, thrusting her right elbow towards Gallon's ribcage. "Hrrrrn!" She then stomps her right foot on the ground, planting it -- and follows up with a fierce, underhanded palm strike from her left hand! "Haaaaoh!"
COMBATSYS: Meifeng has joined the fight here.
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Gallon 0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0 Meifeng
COMBATSYS: Gallon endures Meifeng's Aggressive Strike.
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Gallon 0/-------/----===|-------\-------\0 Meifeng
Born human. Lived with death. Mother taken. Master taken. Humanity taken. Gallon has been through life knowing the pain and the desire to prove himself stronger than what he is. And he is both beast, and he is man. The blow comes in quickly. But the werewolf moves in to meet it.
She strikes him, his fur is soft, the whipcord muscle underneath is not so much. He seems to charge through the strike. To a trained fighter like Meifeng, the intent is open and clear, he took the blow at a favorable angle. He stepped in, as a trained fighter would to cut out an opponent's full range of motion. His stance is a beast, but his movement is martial artist.
The movement is sharp, swift, and the speed is what Gallon is using to drive his points home. The step in, the blow, what comes is a knee for Meifeng's solar plexis. A monster may disembowel with claw. A monster may bite with fangs. A monster doesn't attempt to knee an opponent in the stomach to drive the wind from her lungs.
Moreover, monsters tend not to sound chiding as they rush inward with a sharp bark of "Strike with meaning!"
COMBATSYS: Gallon successfully hits Meifeng with Strong Kick.
- Power hit! -
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Gallon 0/-------/---====|=====--\-------\0 Meifeng
Meifeng sees a beast before her, and she moves to contain him with two rapid strikes. What she does not expect, however, is the response of a martial artist -- one who knows that blows have purpose and intent. Her elbow is swept away, her palm strike moved away from her core. The taller werewolf may have an advantage of reach, but Meifeng believes herself to have the edge on mobility. And when those claws and teeth cannot reach...
She realizes her folly too late, as Gallon's knee rises upward. Knee strikes are a very human reaction -- a powerful explosion of force at a very short range. And she pays for it dearly, Gallon's knee hitting her squarely on target. The NOL officer howls with pain, her offensive halted squarely with a shot to her nerve center. Her body lurches backward as her tail trails forward; staggering, she nearly drops to one knee in pain.
She grits her teeth, choking off the pained cry. Tears in her eyes, she rises to her feet -- starting first with a high left palm strike. This one is not meant to hit though -- just a form strike, to bring her back to full height. "Hrrrn!"
She then lunges forward, dropping low as she stabs her foot twice for Gallon's shins. It is here, though, that she takes Gallon's advice to heart: gaining ground, she revolves around for a quick thrust with her left hip! Afterward, she would then sharply reverse direction, twisting about to thrust both her palms forward in a powerful body blow!
COMBATSYS: Meifeng successfully hits Gallon with Fierce Punch.
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Gallon 0/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0 Meifeng
Close in, Gallon hasn't moved past the woman. His normal action would be to bolt past his opponent. He would harry and hector. Wear them down, overwhelm them with speed and cutting strikes. But this is not one of those combats. This is not where a beast rends red ribbons through the hide of an idealistic young woman. This is where a fighter trades blows with another.
She comes at him. He moves, those kicks harrangue, they push him where he needs to be. His claws dig furrow in the dirt. He begins to roll, falling in line with the feint. He is open, his chest broad, exposed to the thudding palm thrust.
A deep, heavy woof as air presses from his lungs. He slips back farther. Lip curling, he bares fang, but his eyes close and he nods. His hand placed over the spot of his chest, judges, "Good. But not enough.'
He slips forward, low down, scraping the ground with his cutting claws. The limb ropes upward, but it isn't a cutting slash, it's a curled, hammering upward heel strike. A flowing, grace with his attack that carries through to a graceful passing. Wild, but utterly restrained.
COMBATSYS: Gallon successfully hits Meifeng with Fierce Punch.
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Gallon 0/-------/=======|=======\=------\1 Meifeng
The lieutenant may know a few things about Gallon that she is not sharing. She does not know his M.O., though, as she didn't expect to be fighting him. But she can, at least, tell that his attacks aren't murdering her, or shredding her clothes. Which is probably as good a sign as she can hope for.
She is, however, pleased to see his motions reflecting not only the -offense- of a trained martial artist, but the -defense- as well. When her palm strike lands true, she draws in her breath, preparing for the follow-up -- even as she enjoys the brief moment of success.
She raises her guard, as Gallon leaps in low. But while she avoids his head and fangs successfully, she does not expect the heel strike -- one which catches her full on the chin, snapping her head up and her shoulders backward. This time, she does drop to one knee, tears once more in her eyes as she rubs her sore jaw.
"Truly, you have much wisdom to share," she comments, turning her head to spit a bloody mass onto the ground. Though, while it seems she might be ready to tap out, she instead flicks her arms outward to either side, rolling forward into a tumble, signifying a shift in her battle style. She rises into a hard knee to the jaw, her tail snapping forward to shadow the strike. She drops her foot into a loud ground stomp, then leaps into a somersault, aiming to scythe her foot down onto Gallon's shoulder! "Hraaaa!"
COMBATSYS: Gallon blocks Meifeng's Diving Kick.
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Gallon 1/-------/=======|=======\=------\1 Meifeng
Was that mocking? Gallon doesn't know. He may as well take her words at their meaning. He settles back into his posture. Low, square, bestial and rolling but with hidden focus among the fury. His face cold, distant, animal. But he speaks with clear conviction. "Your style is heavy. Not usual for your kind."
He shifts his hips as Meifeng rolls in the air. His wrists clasp together and that's where Meifeng's leg crashes down. His elbows bend, his knees bend, his body absorbs the shock as the strike flows through him and into the earth. A twist of his body puts himself off from Meifeng's position. "You are not simply human. You've left yourself exposed relying just on that. Use your instinct. Be 'scared'," he tells the woman.
Now his body moves like liquid again. Almost cocked back and loaded. He spins on heel and he surges forward. He slips low with a spinning sweep. But it's just the opening, meant to force the tigress off her base so he can push forward for a close in hip toss.
COMBATSYS: Meifeng fails to interrupt Combo Grapple from Gallon with Fierce Combo.
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Gallon 1/------=/=======|=======\===----\1 Meifeng
Perhaps the young woman's word choice can be chalked up to translational difficulties; her Shanghai accent makes her Japanese pronunciation a bit more formal and stiff-sounding than she intends it to.
"Mm," she replies, agreeing with the assessment. Baji'quan is weighty and forceful. Its sister style of Piguaquan, which was employed in her kick, is also known by its principle of 'heavy hands' to suggest the round, flowing motions.
Gallon's defense, though, leaves her at a slight balance disadvantage. For while she had intended to stay low, with her hands outstretched to either side, she's still working on the recovery when Gallon drives for her feet. She helicopters her arms about in an attempt to regain control, but Gallon's move is too quick for her, taking her feet right out from under her. She finds herself whipped upward with no delay, the moonlit forest whirling around her. She is summarily deposited flat on her back, her tail coiling around her left leg as she stares -- however briefly -- up at the moon.
"My instincts are those of a killer," she comments, rolling onto her stomach, and then springing back to her feet -- though not without a pained gasp of breath. She draws both hands close -- then stomps sharply, thrusting her palms down, and then swinging them around to recirculate her qi.
"I have trained to unleash my fury in other ways."
Gallon had finished his throw by rolling himself forward. The somersault ended with him back on his paws, back in his position, feral posture with trained poise. He had not focused on her failed assault, and he was not pressing his advantage at the moment. He was trying, entirely, to listen.
Something in her words as she lay pained him. A stupid pride more man than beast. Stupid because he knew the beast could not have pride in being a Darkstalker, it simply was. So the Man felt empathy for the Beast. Foolish.
He shook his head. "They are not," he tells her bluntly. "Not moreso than your teachings. Mankind kills. They're are very good at it. I knew such before I ever met a Darkstalker."
He exhales, centers himself, finds his moment, and gently places a claw on the ground as he shifts to a nearly four point crouch. "Come then. Show me who you believe yourself to be."
COMBATSYS: Gallon focuses on his next action.
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Gallon 1/------=/=======|=======\===----\1 Meifeng
Meifeng steps sideways, bringing herself closer to the trunk of a tree, as she watches Gallon deny himself the opportunity to follow through. She slips out of stance long enough to untie the sweatshirt knotted about her waist and drape it across a tree branch.
"This is puzzling advice from someone who eschews his own ferocity," Meifeng admits, slipping her foot sideways and back into a Baji'quan stance. A thrust of her elbow, a rise of her knee, a stomp that brings her low to the ground, a high ascending shoulder push. Four stacatto motions, each clearing her qi passageways to slightly different effect. And then her arms pull out and away, rising into higher stances -- and her body begins to hum with a pale yellow light.
"I do not often -fight- dressed as such, " she states, recalling the earlier question. "So this may have to suffice."
In the next moment, she raises her knee. And the moment after that -- she rushes forward, thrusting her elbow towards Gallon. She rams with her shoulder as a follow-up, then twists her trailing hand into a fierce palm strike, raising her knee in the same rapid motion. Should those connect, she'd snap her heel downward at a sharp angle, aiming to hook it across Gallon's chest. "Hraa hraa hraa!"
COMBATSYS: Gallon interrupts Strong Punch EX from Meifeng with Fierce Combo.
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Gallon 1/-----==/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2 Meifeng
Gallon looks at the woman. Crouched low, his tail is raised, flagging back and forth, before settling. He is amused in a sardonic way. Comfortable and confident against this opponent. She does not annoy him in the way the pugilist did. Nor the Americans. He sees in her another pup that's misguided. The wrestler. Not the pitiful scientist who eschewed his nature and feared himself.
And when he is accused of that selfsame fear, the wolf goes cold. "Do not misread my intent," he warns her while he takes in her sharp, sturdy settling. He knows what is coming next. He plans for it.
She rushes. And so does he. He bleeds to near invisibility, moving with the ferocity of the North Wind blowing. Something past what a normal Darkstalker should do. He surges forward and charges into Meifeng's knee. She can feel herself hit him, but his speed is too great. His palm, wide, reaches to plan at her chest and throat, and he slams himself and her into the ground with a cacophonous thud. He looks down at her and while he doesn't slash, he does push his claws at her throat. "I do not eschew ferocity. But there's no joy in cruelty to the weak."
Meifeng is no slouch. The proud tigress has taken down many in the hunt, when the situation had called for it. But here in Southtown, her lack of familiarity with the environment does her no favors. And being goaded into a fight without the Ars Magus she's been training with is a considerable disadvantage.
She'd had a good feeling when her knee connected. It's just that everything -since- then has placed her in an awkward position -- on her back, with a werewolf at her throat. She has the -strength- to oppose Gallon, but with claws pressed against her, she no longer has the -will-.
Slitted irises stare back at Gallon. Tremors rumble through her chest -- a growl so low she isn't even in control of it. She flattens her palms against the forest floor, fingernails biting into the hard-packed dirt. The tigress tenses, her muscles taut -- ready for a reprisal or retreat, the moment the proverbial guillotine spares her. Fur yields to the sharp claws of the victor, flesh growing pale from the pressure.
She speaks back -- in a voice just above a whisper. Plenty loud enough for a lycanthrope to hear.
"Is that what you would call this? A joyless exchange?"
COMBATSYS: Meifeng takes no action.
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Gallon 1/-----==/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>---\1 Meifeng
Gallon holds familiar ground. Southtown's forests may not have been his home, but he has spent much of his long existence dwelling in the wilds. The mountains provide physical effort. The waters are cool and clean. He is natural in the wilds and regardless of the culture of man, the forest is generally familiar wherever one may travel.
The wolf man retracts his hand from the woman's throat. Similarly familiar world wide as the forest, neck pressure and pinning usually gets the point across quite well. But he does not continue his fight. Rather, he turns and sits. His posture relaxed, but the ready, willing tension of his body visible in the taut muscle beneath his hide.
"Do you expect me to find pleasure in this?" he asks, settling his crossed legs and huffing with English indignity at the statement. "There is no challenge - no thrill - in fighting an unprepared and incapable opponent." His head cocks aside, yellow eye staring at the woman, gauging her pride in the moment. He knows of man and beast, and this Darkstalker is far more the former than latter in his opinion.
"Do you expect me to savage you? To gut you and spray your blood to wet the trees?" he asks. "Is the brute of a Darkstalker meant to find glee in tearing some foolish young thing limb from limb? Unarmed, untrained, more ideals than skill?" He huffs again. "Hunters."
COMBATSYS: Gallon takes no action.
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Gallon 1/-----==/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>---\1 Meifeng
Meifeng remains stock still, watching Gallon as he withdraws. It's not until he sits that she feels safe enough to loosen her hold on the soil, adjust her palm placement, and push herself back to a sitting position.
She listens to Gallon's indignance. Fingertips massage her neck, working the blood back into circulation. It hurts: the truth, moreso than her neck. She'd thought she'd have posed more of a challenge than she had. She thought she could at least have demonstrated some skill to disqualify the "untrained" descriptor. She drops her gaze to the ground before Gallon, remaining speechless for a good few moments.
"You promised me fury. So... yes."
If he looks her way, Gallon would see a very sardonic smile. And he might catch the moment when she looks back up to him.
"Thank you, for showing mercy." Her hand rolls around to rub at the back of her neck. "I am no closer to my objective. But I have much to think about."
COMBATSYS: Meifeng takes no action.
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Gallon 1/-----==/=======|=======\====---\1 Meifeng
COMBATSYS: Meifeng has left the fight here.
[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ <
The wolf remains still and steady as a rock. His breathing slows, but each inward take of air brings physical tension only released with the outward breath. There is never a moment when he is not ready, and as the moment's pass, any exhaustion he may have felt seems to drift away with the rising heat coming off his frame.
"I had miscalculated you, hunter," he admits. "I had thought you more in touch with yourself. I do not begrudge one of our kind hunting another. That is the nature of all living beings." He lifts his head to the night sky, here only partially blotted by the light pollution from Southtown. "But you do not fight for yourself."
He looks back behind him, looking at her. "Sit," he bids her. "If your quarry is truly fearsome, then you are in no condition to challenge them. Rest."
COMBATSYS: Gallon has ended the fight here.
The lieutenant bristles as the lone wolf delivers his blistering assessments. She has... words to say, but none of them pretty, or even helpful to her cause after such a performance. Rather than give voice to those thoughts, she rubs the flesh of her palm against her solar plexus -- still raw and pounding from the earlier contact. "Mmm," she comments, to show that she's acknowledging the werewolf, rather than just blowing off the criticism as a kitten might.
Once she's told to rest, she acquiesces by folding her legs. Now, seated lotus-style, she clasps her hands together, closing her eyes.
Moments pass in relative silence, allowing the two to more closely hear the orchestra of the forest fauna and the breeze.
But she then speaks out.
"It's Gallon, right? Your name."
A steady moment of time. The peaceful quietude is also a distant symphony by an endless band. Small animals scurry. Birds take wing to hide or hunt. A weevil burrows through a tree with a steady rhythmic chewing of its mandibles. Here, even people are subsumed by the nature. Their machines blend with the noises, even if in many cases they silence the population of the region.
And the chorus of scents that pass Gallon's nose, that cloy and call in equal measure. It is a moment of peace that is found within the chaos of nature when one can experience in his way.
And in his way, he chastises. Jon Talbain is a confident man, he is older than his appearance suggests, and despite the rust of solitude he is still quite capable and knows it. He is used to his matter-of-fact manner being taken poorly. He is simply beyond caring. The Man taking cue from the Beast.
He huffs, the name, the one given to him by others. But it is a name that nonetheless is one that addresses him. There is no need to battle the tide of nomenclature. "It is what they call me," he agrees. "Among your circles."
His eye opens and he looks at the tigress. "And what should I call you?"
The NOL officer knows little of Gallon's challenges, save for the ones he's exhibited in staged exhibition matches and the ones documented in his dossier. And, well, the systematic deconstruction of her fighting style in under three short minutes. But, now that she has confirmation that the lycanthrope before her is indeed the same victor from those onscreen battles, she breathes a sigh of relief. It -would- make sense that he would prove such a challenge, with the history in mind. Though -- she arches an eyebrow at the way in which he distances himself from the appellation.
"My name is Yao Mei-Foong, " she states, slowly and crisply. "My 'father' and 'mother' found me when I was little, and remembering nothing of my past."
She lowers her chin, averting her eyes out of a sense of respect. "You may call me Meifeng. And what would you prefer -I- call you?"
As Meifeng knows little of him, he knows little of her. He may suspect, and he may be perceptive, but he does not know the woman or her individual path to the moment they find themselves. Generalities assist, but he is well aware there are devils within details.
He listens to her, and he as grown accustomed to the quiet discoveries that come once you know a fellow fighter through their physicality. It has become ritual. It has helped the Man show the Beast the nature of the world beyond its senses. It has helped him realize how much he himself is in need of growth.
He nods. He has judgment on the parents. He has suspicions, but he always has suspicions of ulterior motives. But he hears the name, he can recall some things of culture. "Your parents gave you a gift to the best of their abilities. That is respectable."
He takes a single huffing breath, very canine in its stuffy and humorless human way. "Gallon is acceptable, I've grown accustomed to it. My given name is Jon, my surname is Talbain. We are both foreigners here. In more ways than one."
Meifeng's tail curls about her as she sits and listens. With her conversational partner's skills made evident, her boldness has taken a backseat to quiet introspection. Slitted pupils widen, allowing in more of the moonlit scene before her.
"That is very kind of you to say. Thank you." With the heat of battle radiating into the cool night air, so too does Meifeng's language adopts cooler, less clipped tones.
"I apologize, for having started off on the wrong foot. ... I wonder, though, do many people call you Jon?"
She averts her eyes again, nodding as she tries to place the accent. It's certainly not an unfamiliar one, but rather than make an audacious and potentially offensive guess, she ... notes, "Chinese, here." She smiles self-consciously, figuring the name would have given that bit of information away.
"Mm, humans have little love for those who are different, regardless of the country. But the sentiment is particularly strong in this city." She frowns, thumbs pressing against one another, as the tip of her tail lifts, thumping into the ground.
"This is part of why I walk among them. To help reduce the... animosity."
The werewolf's ear twitches. He turns just enough to check on the woman. He could tell her that her name hinted as such, but be bites the snide tongue and simply nods to accept the information. "I was born in England, some time ago. I was human then," he admits as much. "But all things change with time."
He turns his attention to the distant city. "The humans here have been fighting," he says, in case she is newly from China. "Darkstalkers are not much more different from human when it comes to their behavior. Violence to assert power. Struggle for survival."
He shakes his head, annoyed with his bickering, despite the languid tone he has. "Walk among them? Or hunt for them? Being useful may make you an acceptable tool, but you will never be more than that to them."
Meifeng breathes a small sigh of relief as her gentle suggestion for Gallon to volunteer his own country of origin garners the intended result. "This is a long way from England, yes." She smiles, raising a finger to her chin. "Though, perhaps we could get tea together. Do you have a favorite?"
Meifeng, for her part, listens a little longer, encouraged by the way in which Gallon talks about the non-human condition. She shakes her head slowly to the assertion that she only serves as a tool, looking up to meet Gallon's gaze for a moment. "Perhaps to some. Maybe even to the majority. But others see me as an equal."
She frowns, once more looking down. Though it's mostly to sort her words into discrete thoughts: "... I must say, it is not hard for anyone to exclude me."
She glances up again, frown diminishing but still present. "Whether they be human, or 'darkstalker.'" She says the word, but distances herself from it, tonally. It's only because Gallon used it that she chooses to repeat it.
"Is it not good to feel useful? To feel wanted, and loved by others?"
A favorite tea. "I don't think I do," he admits. "It has been too long." His diet has been simplistic, natural to the extreme, for so long now he is unsure if he even has particular flavors he might otherwise prefer. He as simply survived, and that has been enough for him.
An ascetic life he had not questioned. One he accepted as penance until he was strong enough to leave his form behind. To leave the boiling rage he tempered when the moon rose high.
He looks at the woman, he pities her, in some way. He has always had a soft spot for children and his extended life allows him to consider a great deal of people such. Though it would be hard pressed to identify him as old. Regenerative abilities of his blood have made certain of that. Even now, he feels no lingering pain from his bout. Though he feels explaining such facts might just wound the woman's ragged pride.
"I am not the one to ask that," he admits. "I have had my loved ones torn from me. I would not know what it means to be excluded. I can only speak for myself."
He huffs. "I do not mind solitude as I am fated toward violence. I know that one can live for many years without others. But you cannot live without yourself."
Meifeng nods slowly. She... -could- go on about her love of tea. And -could- mention how many she's sampled over her comparatively short life. But she chooses to listen, both to spoken and unspoken cues -- and opts to leave the matter for a later time.
She listens -- and finds herself desiring a tea cup in her hand, so that she could fancy doing something instead of merely -sitting-, without the person she's speaking facing her. Her thumbs press together again, and she finds herself looking down at her thumbs, as Gallon continues his answers.
And then she plants her palms on the ground.
And rises -- albeit with a slight hitch to her breathing. She's recovered enough to walk well, but... well. Certainly not up to fighting form.
And paces, crossing past Gallon -- so that she can place herself in front of him. And here, she sits, in an identical pose as before -- but now, facing him.
Her tail, once more, curls along her. Flattening against the ground -- tapping once upon it.
"I agree," she says with a pleasant smile.
And that is all she says, for a few moments.
"Except that, as one who has lived for many years without others, and could likely live many more... I would think your answer more fascinating."
She draws in her breath, pleased. She's glad to see something other than Gallon's back, as a change of pace if nothing more.
"What of fate, though? Do you find yourself bound to it? Do you yearn to escape it?"
Movement. Gallon shifts to alert; his ears perk and his lip curls. A moment of the beast. A thought of betrayal. A tired, old dog's snarl at something that may or may not be a threat but curmudgeonly nature makes him grumble anyways.
But it's stupid reflex. The woman is just sitting in front of him. And so now he looks at her. His face dry, slightly frowning, looking at the woman plunk down in front of him. His eyes narrow as he gauges her, tries to sift through his suspicions and his preferences to enjoy the view and talk alongside, rather that at.
"I lived in the woods after my rage at human bandits robbed me of my humanity. I sought strength to grow beyond this curse. I have realized the folly of that. This is strength, and it has come to me. I have met some, like myself, but not like you." He speaks in riddles purposefully. He finds closer kinship to Bulleta than he does this tigress. He doesn't see the same cold beast in Meifeng's eyes.
"My life is as it is. I cannot say I can escape it. But I can make it my own."
The anxiety, the frustration, the will to be alone? Meifeng can appreciate all of these things, even as she makes a move that directly contradicts them. But that is how Meifeng prefers to deal with problems -- head-on, rather than delaying or avoiding them entirely. It is only cultural training that causes her to look down, to avoid the look of a male when speaking one's heart. To soften the blow, to speak one's mind whilst also downplaying the notion of a -challenge-. Something that might be more necessary for her in society, than the self-isolating werewolf.
"We are not as similar, no." She understands the difference -- the frustration inherent in -hoping- another can be the same, while finding they differ in key aspects. No longer is she trying to argue -- but to find common ground.
Fate and destiny... or cutting one's own path. Gallon avoids answering, yet again -- never wanting to be hedged in, or committed to any specific path.
"A dodgy answer. But an honest one." Her thumbs press together again, as she laces her fingers together in her lap.
She pauses, her gaze lingering on Gallon's face for a moment, before continuing. And then, softly, she asks: "I apologize for my earlier rudeness. I'll be going soon. But... would I find you here another day, perhaps?"
To challenge the wolf is to act physically. The Beast cannot be driven to fury by words. It doesn't care for words. Good or ill, it only perceives actions. The Man is different, but with time both of the side of Jon Talbain find common ground and learn to operate in sync.
He nods to the woman, he left his culture behind long ago. He left his adopted culture behind long ago. He seeks now his own, as he defines it, building strength and power to know and understand the nature of the Beast. He knows he has not fully found it. He knows little has truly challenged him. He knows only what he knows and he has increasingly learned he does not know all.
But that does not mean he must discard that he does know.
He doesn't avert, if anything he stares coldly. "Do not apologize," he tells her. "You were speaking from your heart. It's rare to do that. Don't lose that." He considers, his hand moving to the sash at his waist. A sash that he feels press against him, where an envelope sits folded tight among the fibers. "Perhaps," he says after a moment of consideration. "Though there is something that may move me from here. Do not hold it against yourself if you cannot find me again."
Within Meifeng, the soul of the beast had been tamed long, long ago. It is possible to stir the beast to anger, but the beast's fury runs out rapidly. The human is in control. And the human is a social creature, more accustomed to order. Values, and consistency.
She has not lost much. For she was raised in a family that mitigates the most obvious of risks by playing everything else safe. A family who ignores the smaller problems, yet is quick to address the larger ones without regret.
Meifeng smiles a bit more openly. Speaking from her heart is something she tries to do under -all- circumstances. Even when it is difficult to put into words. "Mmm." After a pause, she adds, "I am glad we have had the opportunity to talk." It's not necessary to mention the fight that's still wearing on her.
She glances to the sash, but rather than lean in for a closer look, she draws in her breath, feeling its influence upon her ribcage and lungs.
"I understand. Should I miss you, I wish you well in your travels." The tigress smiles brightly -- the moonlight shining just so, as if she had never lifted her head high until just now.
And then she sets her jaw. And pushes herself to her feet, as before. Her tail flicks into motion, expressing a mood altogether -far- more jubilant than the calm, graceful motions of her body.
She takes a step to the side. "It was good to meet you, Gallon. If you happen to find any tea in your travels, give it a try for me, mmm?"
Log created on 12:52:56 05/16/2021 by Gallon, and last modified on 22:19:48 05/17/2021.