Shina - Chinatown Central

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Description: With danger on the horizon, Shina the Leopard meets up with the NOL officer she fought alongside a few weeks ago. Warnings are intended, to discuss a potential threat of vengeful yakuza and their Darkstalker ties. However, things do not entirely go as planned, and a fight ensues, followed by a new leg of their journey beginning.

Work, work, work. Meifeng Yao had assumed that she could return to Shanghai after finishing with her assignment. And yet, here she is, still smack dab in the middle of Southtown.

The tigress breathes in a sigh, setting down her cup of boba tea. Her attention drifts to a small tablet on her tabletop. Two red dots on the display seem to be jockeying for her attention. Neither succeeds in that gambit, as she looks away to her plate, idly nudging about grains of rice. Those notifications can wait.

At least the urbanized tigress was able to carve out a slice of time for herself in the midst of all her NOL duties, seated as she is upon the patio of a new addition to the Chinatown district. Tapioca pearls slide up a straw as she leans back in her seat, ignoring work for this rare moment of respite. She takes a moment to admire Southtown's commercialized tribute to thousands of years of noble Chinese heritage. And she breathes in, taking pleasure in the familiar scents -- a far cry from the staid inner offices of the NOL headquarters she's been stuck within.

No, those notifications can wait. The tigress scratches her left ear, as she gazes absently into the distance, a beatific smile on her face.

Jeanne Gado hadn't intended to draw the NOL tiger into what she felt was a personal back and forth between particularly violent peers. She'd had enemies. She had problems with people that she's faced down on the battlefield. Sometimes the war continues after all sides go home. It wasn't that alien to the girl growing to be known as Shina, the Fighting Marvel, the leopard.

But after the bullets, the small army brought down on her and Tarmo, Shina was realizing that a threat leveled at her may also drift over to even NOL soldiers. Shina had figured Meifeng to be beyond the grips of some fight broker. But lately, she was doubting that. So it's been a matter of putting in to try and contact the woman.

She started with looking at bounty lists, a reason to be around the bases. Requests made. Office contacts dug up. And eventually a new notification. One to get ahold of Meifeng with an offer to hang out. Shina knew of a really good spicy bun somewhere inside of Chinatown.

And that's where she is, getting a big bag of steamed buns. A bag of stuffed spicy prizes that she carries under her arm like a football while she makes her way through the crowds. Protecting her package en route to the meet up.

Truth be told -- it wasn't till Meifeng received Shina's message that she'd even stopped to consider how long she'd been working without leaving the complex. A loyal and dedicated worker, Meifeng was more than accustomed to putting all her waking hours into her work. Not to impress anyone, per se; it's just that there's always more work to be done than time to do it.

But it's of no matter now. Personal time is important. And Shina -- well, there just hadn't been an adequate opportunity to spend time with her, not until she -made- the time. Her left ear quirks again -- and this time, her attention is rewarded with the sight of a familiar face and an armload of sticky buns.

A furry, striped arm shoots up over the crowd. "Hiiii!" calls out the tigress, rising from her table with a broad smile on her face. On the table before her is the remains of one tiny little appetizer plate; apparently the tigress was hungrier than she'd thought.

"Shina!" she begins, when the leopard-in-hiding approaches to a more conversant distance. The tigress' fluffy tail swishes to and fro. She's out of uniform -- wearing a pale blue blouse and tailored taupe slacks. But those orange and black stripes of hers are so very difficult to conceal. "It's so good to see you, how have you been?"

Shina is not one for many changes of clothing. She tends to travel lightly. But her usual is switched out for repair. Though other than a switch in color, it would be hard to tell that the denim pants and red top she has on is much different from her usual. She would argue that it is.

More important are the buns. She has those safely under her arm, though she holds them up as she gets closer and hears the call of her taken name.

"Meifeng!" she butchers with her present accent, but it's an attempt. "I have these buns, so that's good." She lets the bag hit with a dense and dull thud onto the table. "Buut," she continues, a hand going to pat her thigh before she drops into the cafe seat, "I have been better." Her arm flops over the back of her seat. "Just because I'm used to being shot at doesn't mean I enjoy it."

With her boot, Shina nudges the table, bouncing the bag and rattling Meifeng's appetizer plate. "But first, I want you to try these." A bid, and very catlike, coy eyes watch Meifeng. The spicy buns are a pleasure to eat, but like with Tarmo, Shina wants to see Meifeng's face in the face of the heat.

Nothing wrong with a personal style. Unless that style were just, y'know, the uniform of a global pseudomilitary organization that just happens to be feared by much of the world. Thankfully, Meifeng keeps work life separate when she can.

Her nose wriggles with the fascinating new scent making its way over to her; her smile gains a few notches, accordingly. The scents of home, in a manner of speaking. Her mouth is watering just -thinking- about what's in that bag -- particularly as Shina specifically calls attention to it. "Mm-hmm...?"

As Shina takes her seat, Meifeng does as well -- though she remains a bit more prim and proper, keeping her knees together and sitting upright, with only her tail daring to stray outside the proverbial box. The tigress's smile is dampened, though, as Shina makes reference to, well, -gunfire-. Her mouth parts in anticipation -- only for the leopard to tease her with a waft of that scrumptious scent. ... Though she might find a short growl escaping her throat. Hard to tell if that's due to hunger or a reaction to the friendly manipulation.

"If you insist," she states after a moment of hesitation. It's clear she's still in a good mood, all said, as she extracts a sticky bun with both hands, bringing it close to her nose. More nose-wriggling ensues, as she savors the fresh-cooked aroma. "I am pleased you thought of me, Shina! Now, let's see..."

She brings it close.
She takes a bite, rolling the sample about in her mouth for a moment.
Her tail stops swishing.
Her ears fold back.
Her whiskers twitch.
And her irises widen to the size of saucers.

Chew, chew, swallow. Meifeng opens her mouth, and Shina might even see flames escape within that the brief interval.

"... Whooo! That is ... quite hot! Hunan style, yes? Aah, ahh..." Her tail swings into motion again, though it's more of a -fanning- motion, now...

"These do remind me very much of one restaurant back home. Though... much, -much- more hot." She eyes her boba tea for a moment -- but decides against it, for the moment. And flashing Shina a brief smile, she dares to take another bite.

"This is a rare treat! And it is from around here? Is this a special order?"

LEan forward. Learn forward. Lean forward. Arm coming off the back of the seat and resting on the table. Shina's intent is entirely on the bun. Entirely on the tiger lady eating the bun. The nose wriggle. The bite.

The reaction.

Shina bursts into laughter, slapping the table hard enough to once more cause cutlery to bounce. But it's not solely in the realm of torment. She loves someone else savoring in the capsaicin pain that she reaches in for one of her own. After a little bobble for heat of a different sort, she sniffs for the moment and takes a mouth burning bliss.

The buns might be objectively bad. But Shina is a 19 year old raised by mercenaries and along the way became a cat creature as a part time self improvement project. Her taste is subject.

"They are amazing, no?" she asks through a bite. She points the bun to somewhere in the teeming throng of people. "They are down there. I was here with a friend and found them. You should have seen his face. He cannot handle the spicy."

The moment of happiness puts Shina in a much better mood for her to return to her own head in better spirits. "But I have no drink. Did you try the tea here? Is it any good?"

Thanks to her privileges as Meifeng has tasted food from all across the spectrum, from the worst flavor imaginable to the height of culinary perfection. When you're living from hand to mouth, it's necessary for everything to taste, at the very least, acceptable. Besides, some would argue that the main -purpose- of spice is to make barely tolerable foods palatable; in which case, it's definitely doing its job here. That, and, well, it's hard to go wrong with meat for a predator.

Meifeng is more than happy to see Shina's exuberant smile -- and that provides a flavor to the meal all its own. The Shanxi native is finding it hard -not- to smile and nod along with Shina's empassioned assessment. "Aiyaa, yes... quite... quite the kick!" It's clearly not the first spicy food she's had in Southtown, and from the size of her workload, she doubts it will be the last. "Oh, no... did they have anything tamer for him to try? It's a shame to go hungry with so many good restaurants around."

Tame. Considering her company, the word amuses her as it rolls off her tongue, just a little bit.

Though, when Shina mentions tea, Meifeng's eyes go wide. Not as wide as on her first bite, though. "Oh, um -- quite good, actually! There are many flavors! So many flavors." Meekly, she slides a full glass of water over to Shina -- untouched, from the looks of it, having been hiding in the shadow of her cup of purple-colored boba.

"Are you a fan of boba? This one is taro flavor, but they have strawberry, mango, red bean flavors... and thai tea, if you would like to try something as spicy as this." She smiles faintly, pushing her glasses back up along her nose. "If you are not, then there are many different kinds of tea available also -- oolong, green tea, black tea, milk tea..."

Shina takes the drink with a quiet, off-hand 'merci' and then proceeds to down it in a go while Meifeng explains the spectrum of teas available. Each glug of water a punctuation mark as Shina mumbles and watches Meifeng explain.

An exhale of heat. And Shina puts the glass down. "Those are a lot of different than I was thinking," she remarks, and hums. "You decide. You are the expert here," she bids, hands offered up in supplication. "I am used to black tea, but if there are others that might be better in this heat. Then I will open myself to them."

She shrugs, offering up herself as she's already foisted a flavor on Meifeng. She may as well just take it in turn. It's a fun back and forth. A show of friendship. But she isn't here just for the happy escape.

She does have more important things to talk about. And her face does drop to something more serious. "You know, make it sweet, because my news is bitter. Do you remember that bat that you paid me for?"

Meifeng's forehead whiskers twitch briefly as she considers Shina's request. So many options -- and the Chinese native feels like she's about to introduce the Frenchwoman to a brand new world. "Ooooh... I see...!" Clapping her hands together twice, she nods eagerly at the opportunity. "Well, it is warm, so it is best to have a frozen tea like this boba." She smiles cheerily, waving at the server to get her attention. Yes, the buns may be from a different restaurant, but boba tea is pricy enough to make the cafe table profitable all the same.

Splitting her attention between the server and Shina's face, a smiling Meifeng places an order: "Strawberry is the best option, I feel! It is hard to go wrong with strawberry for a first time boba sampler. Especially with such heat. One large, please?" The comment about serious business, well... yes. She'll get to that in a moment, after the server steps away.

And with that, Meifeng leans close, elbows propped up on the table so that she can keep her voice low and directed only to Shina. "Yes, I remember the bat. But I do want to warn you not to drink too fast, when it arrives. Okay? Is something of a surprise." It might -not- be a surprise if Shina had noticed the little black masses lurking in the depths of Meifeng's taro tea, but perhaps that's fair game after the spice bomb.

"Gao Tenfeng is safely back behind bars in China now. His Ars Magus has been stored away for safekeeping. Is... something wrong, Shina...?"

Shina does not like coffee. Odd though it may be for a Frenchwoman, her preference lay within the smoother teas compared to the bitterness of dark coffee. So she can only hope when she sends her future taste buds into the care of Meifeng. The idea of strawberry is something she's in line with. It was sweet. And she needed it.

She leans back in her seat and she props her cheek and chin against raised fingers. A look away. The matter at hand has to be addressed. The sweetness will help recover. "The problem is not him, but where we were in that fight," she says, avoiding directly looking at Meifeng.

"I thought you wouldn't be targeted because of your connections."

The words hang hollow. She leans closer. "The yakuza who ran that ring. She's not been appreciative of our work. The destruction from the bat's book. It drew attention she didn't want." Hands up, Shina's mouth quirks into a tired 'what are you gonna do?' frown. "She's been targeting me."

"And they've gotten enough that I think they might start targeting you."

Ms Yao does not quite know what to think about Shina's "bitter" news. It's clear something's bothering her, and that's as clear a sign as any for Meifeng to take it seriously. Which is why the tigress' ears cup forward, signaling her full, undivided attention. Nose twitches at the residual heat from the spicy buns, and tail twitches just because that's a thing it does.

"Where... we were?" asks the NOL officer, quick to avail herself of the moment of silence. She keeps herself leaned in close, folding one lightly-furred hand over the other as she listens, remaining silent till the last.

At which point she frowns. Not overly much -- but enough to show the sentiment sinks in.

"I suppose they had not thought to consider the damage that would have occurred had we fought -inside- the hall." She, too, seems resigned enough to the reality of the situation that she shrugs her shoulders. It'd be a perfect time for an 'it is what it is,' but Meifeng's never been a fan of that turn of phrase.

"Well, I suppose it is a good thing that I rarely have opportunity to leave the Librarium headquarters, then." The tigress offers a brief, self-effacing smile. "That does not help you, however. Tell me more about what has happened. Gunfire? That seems woefully ill-advised for someone wanting -not- to attract attention."

Shina quiets when the drink arrives. She takes ahold of the tall drink and studies it. Turning one way, then the other, she leans in to sniff the berry scent. A hum as she looks at the faint images of the phantom boba sitting in the liquid. An interesting thing. She smiles at the look of it all before she takes a tentative, then full sip.

A sudden cough, a surprise at what comes up through the straw. She makes a very pleased him. "This is tea?" she asks, track derailed for the moment. "It is not what I expected, but I will take this on a day that is hot." It isn't the refined, peaceful tea she enjoys, but it is something new and special.

"Anyway," she shifts back to her topic, hands fidgeting and bouncing the straw up and down inside of the boba tea. "A few of the lower ranking ones assaulted me. They were not worth a fight. But one of them came later. They drew me in with the idea of a client. And ambushed the meeting."

Another long sip, eyes closing, a moment of joy. A sigh when she releases the straw. "They are getting brazen. And I know that their boss has Darkstalker connections. They used guns on me and my friend. They may use something else for you."

Meifeng sits up straight as the server sets down the drink. Her mouth closes, pressing into a firm half-smile, as she watches Shina's examination. And when the first sip is taken, Meifeng stops holding her smile back from its full potential.

And when Shina coughs, she breaks into an all-out giggle.

She clarifies, with a sobered but still pleased expression, "It is called, ah... Boba tea." A manicured nail taps against the side of her cup, singling out the tapioca pearl. "After the boba. Some varieties have actual tea. Others, flavoring. But for a first time, boba is better without, um ... 'real' tea."

"I am sorry for the slight deception. Is worth it to see you smile." Meifeng takes a sip from her drink, slurping cheerily as a true boba professional should.

Still -- the darker topic cannot be avoided any longer. Meifeng's expression darkens. "I appreciate the warning. I shall be vigilant. But in the meantime, I am more concerned for you. As far as the NOL is concerned this matter is closed, but if they choose to escalate, it will not work out well for them." She once more folds her hands upon one another. "It is foolish for anyone to be attacked. Do you think we should attempt to meet with them to express our concerns?"

Her tone may sound naive, perhaps bookish. And perhaps to coincide with that, the saber at Meifeng's hip rattles lightly against her seat -- a sign that she stands for far more than just one or two people.

Shina pauses for a moment at the comment. 'worth it to see you smile'. Unexpected. She laughs, lightly, and sucks hard on the straw of her boba. "It is good. Not tea, but it fights the heat from the bun," she admits. Yes, the bun is in fact spicy enough to warrant a drink to truly combat the heat.

But her face, smiling as it is, begins to flatten to something less hopeful as Meifeng goes on. She isn't a fan of talking things out. It just often doesn't seem to be an answer in a world of people who can make their cause right or wrong by being the one that survives the longest. Where strength made the day. And to be just and good meant also having the power to back it up. Words weren't a place for that sort of thing. They were often used to avoid the trials of war.

But as a mercenary, she knew what it meant to fight for those that couldn't, or wouldn't.

Shina puts the cup down and rests her hand over the top, the straw thread through her middle and forefinger. "They are yakuza," she says, knowing that much, though what real ties she doesn't know. "Mother Hanbo does have ties with Darkstalkers. They fight for her. I do not think she will be quick to be seen allying with you."

Shina's hand goes to the table. She presses her fingers down. As she is, they're thickening, claws slipping through nailbeds to dig at the table. "I would like to claw her face off," she admits. "Send her a message that people like me speak."

The happy times can only last so long, it would seem. And -- as Shina sees right through Meifeng's diplomatic words, the tigress' ears stand up more fully. And her tail's motion slows to a near halt.

And yet -- she waits for Shina to finish, with only the faintest of smiles upon her face.

Meifeng glances pointedly down at the claws on the table. "That is understandable. However, the table will not send that message on your behalf."

Meifeng makes a point of relaxing her stance. Even to the point of reaching over, and taking what would seem to be a penultimate sip from her cup of boba.

"It is less a question of allegiance. And more of whether she wishes to continue to do business from the comfort of her own home, or from a prison cell." The thought of -darkstalkers- harassing the tigress only makes her smile grow. "The Librarium is tasked with preserving peace and order among all beings, supernatural in particular. And, moreover, the Librarium has already proven its willingness to divert personnel from other reasons to accomplish what any one branch cannot or will not."

Meifeng sits up straight. And with a swish of her tail, her saber rattles again. Her voice grows distant as she recites an oft-repeated credo. "Dispatched in mankind's darkest hour, we are the Knights of the Azure Flame."

Shina blinks, her pupils large but growing smaller. Along with that, her hand is as well. Thickening fingertips slicking to her slender fingers. The claws are put away. Shina shrugs and smiles sheepishly. The table remains with the curious marks. "The table knows what it has done," Shina says mock-ominously.

But Meifeng is correct. There is no reason to dig at the table in impotent frustration. She picks up her drink and waggles it in a gesture to nothing before taking a boba supping drink. "And you are saying that you are the one here for Darkstalkers? We are alike in that way, then."

She pauses now, and looks down while Meifeng speaks off the creed of the Librarium. Shina points down to the saber. "Why is that doing that?"

In her calmer state, Meifeng flashes a toothy smile at the false prophet of doom. This is Chinatown, in the midst of the fighting capital of the world; the shopkeepers are used to minor collateral damage like claw marks.

"I am... an agent. I hold no secret decoder ring that would reveal the inner workings of the higher echelons of command. However, if darkstalkers are to be used to threaten innocent civilians, like your friend, then it is incumbent on us to start the wheels of Justice turning."

Meifeng blinks back, at the seemingly unrelated question. Only to find that Shina's looking... at her hip. Or rather, what's attached to it.

She wiggles. It clambers again.

"That?" She covers her mouth, snickering lightly. "Perhaps it has a mind of its own."

Still -- she can't help but feel like Shina might... -not- prefer this course of action. "... It comes down to what we know, or do not know, about this boss, in the end. If resources are the question, the only variable is whether command feels an intervention is necessary."

Drinking up the small pearls from the bottom of her tea, Shina eyes Meifeng with a shard of scrutiny digging into her thoughts. She stops and looks down into the cup, bouncing the straw. "I would think you would know if that is your job, no?" she asks. "Or is it that you just do everything and it was coincidence you were chasing a darkstalker to a darkstalker friendly fighting ring?"

She shrugs, batting at the little boba with the end of her straw. Still, her eyes aren't on the fidgeting, they're on the other woman's hip. "A mind of its own?" she asks, but doesn't push the avenue further.

The cup goes down, Shina's weight rests on the table. "All that I know of Mother Hanbo is that she has ties to Darkstalkers. I don't know who sits above her. But I know she has at least two human lieutenants as well."

Shina picks at the table. "I don't know what resources she has otherwise."

Meifeng shakes her head slowly. "I was on a mission to attack one specific darkstalker. The same as you, finding contracts -- it is simply not a good use of limited resources to attack blindly. After all..." She sits up, the motion twirling the straw around in her nearly empty cup. "... If I were to apprehend every darkstalker I saw, I would have a lot more than one yakuza group after me."

She slurps the rest of her boba, a playful smile still upon her face. And just to demonstrate, she wiggles her hip -- and the sword clatters again. "Mind of its own. Funniest thing."

Still... she nods slowly. "I can consult with our Intelligence Division. Perhaps they will be able to find out more. Possibly give us some leverage that we do not currently have."

The tigress' tail darts about, side to side. "Or would you have something more aggressive in mind? Leap in without a plan, and see how far it gets us?" She rests her chin upon her knuckles, mouth curled into a feline grin.

'Mind of its own'. That was certainly one way to described a sword. Not one that Shina would ever use, or expect to use, or expect to genuinely explain things. That wasn't any of her concern right now. She slurps, heavily, and puts her cup down. And she leans back against the chair.

Shina has a think. She doesn't know the angle Meifeng is coming from. Or what her direction might be. "Am I reading you right that you would prefer the more aggressive angle?" she asks, crossing her arms. The raised, quizzical eyebrows don't do much to hide her growing grin.

She leans off the chair again. "Because I've had the need to sharpen my claws. The last few performances have shown me I've gotten dull with my better half."

The silly grin fades away, as Meifeng shakes her head slowly. "Not... as such. I tend to prefer plans. I have had bad experiences charging in on my own... which is one reason I tend to favor having a team at my side. Scouts to gain intel, fire team to provide assistance, cavalry on standby to save the day should unexpected guests make an appearance."

Meifeng glances at what's left of her bun. And makes quick work of it, blowing out as if she expects her breath to be lit aflame.

"Whew. But that is not very, well... -exciting-. Waiting for other people. Whereas if you are interested in sharpening your claws, that might be something I -could- help with. In the immediate to short term."

And then, the tigress smiles again.

Shina had hoped to just maybe warn a girl about a potential problem. She hadn't expected the tigress to be about to call in a whole battalion for the situation. Squad maybe. But this sounded like all out warfare for a troublesome yakuza. It was almost kind of funny to hear the overkill being verbally paraded before her.

"What, you don't think you can handle things yourself?" Shina asks with a teasing laugh, once more taking up the boba tea because it helps with making a coy grin.

She drinks, finishing up the treat, letting Meifeng get to a point that drives a particularly interesting point home. "So you are more interested in action than not," she says. "I see. And what kind of warrior would I be if I were to turn you down? I have fought alongside you, maybe it would pay to get some more practice in?"

She doesn't think of it as giving information to an enemy. That sort of concern isn't hers. She's young, brash, and capable. The NOL are magic cops. She's not any of that. Even if she isn't exactly human. She's just having a good time.

Whether command wants to pull in a battalion is their call. Meifeng is not much older than Shina, herself. And it's probably fair to say Shina has much more street smarts than her -- making Meifeng herself a bad choice to scoping out a proper assault strategy. But she has already divulged more than she probably should, to a civilian -- even a contractor who has worked with her.

All in the name of friendship.

"I am just being realistic about things," she comments -- with remarkable lack of sarcasm considering the operation she just thumbnailed out. An eyebrow whisker twitches as she takes in her breath. "If the Yakuza are anything like the Triads back home, light bats of a paw will only entice them to attack more."

Though, her mood does lighten up at the thought of a sparring match. The urge to return a tease, though, takes priority. "I would not think less of you for fighting on such a hot day. Perhaps we should wait till the fall."

She grins. "Or it might be better to fight neat the water's edge. A river, perhaps?"

Shina isn't aware of what bureaucratic limitations that Meifeng may have. She's ignorant to structure or hierarchical dispensation of organizations like the NOL. She barely knows how Yakuza run. She's always been part of her father's unit. She's just fought. It's what she knows. Not the business end.

Street smarts are only so good when they are so focused as Shina's own.

But sparring, mutually so, that's something she knows and it shows with her lighter mood. "So it's hot," she says with a shrug. "If you want to risk that river, then let us go to it." She recalls the dirty, stinking thing she was near with Tarmo. It nearly made her retch once before.

But maybe, with a good fight, she'll have too much else on her mind to care about the stink.

"... That river? You mean the Gedo?" Meifeng recoils in disgust. "Oh, no, no. There is one just outside town. You will like it better, I promise."

Five minutes later, it's time for a drive. And twenty minutes after that -- well, one wouldn't figure on it being -possible- with Southtown's urban sprawl, but the two find themselves surrounded by the signs of nature before long.

Meifeng parks the borrowed company car in a lot not far from a babbling brook. It's still moderately hot out, particularly on the rock-filled parking lot, but that would seem to be about the only place in the area that's not covered by a canopy of trees, battling with one another for the rights to the life-giving sunlight above. Birds sing, leaves rustle... It's got everything the spires of Southtown, shimmering in the sunlight off to the east, lacks.

It wouldn't be hard to infer that Meifeng can be a little... intense. Maybe even singleminded, as she's wont to give no more than one- or two-word answers. Traffic is a little... more bothersome in China.

"Now this, Shina, is a much better river. I found it while I was searching for Tengfei." Fingertips lace as she stretches her arms high overhead. "Ahhh! To get free of the smog and pollution, finally! It is like heaven out here, yes?"

Meifeng was right, this babbling brook was a lot nicer than the Gedo. Rocky, trees, a pleasant little spot of nature a distance away from the noise and smells of Southtown proper. Shina steps out of the car, thumbs hooking into the belt loops of her pants. She strolls around and kicks at some of the smaller rocks about the parking area. She closes her eyes and lifts her head to the sun, taking in the air with a long steady breath.

Exhaling the long breath, Shina nods as she looks to Meifeng. "It is pleasant out here. Quiet." She walks closer to the second largest source of sound in the moment, the babbling brook. Crouching, she flicks the water with her fingers and smiles.

But she and Meifeng had a different, entirely not peaceful reason to be out here. Shina pushes back up and wheels back around toward the tigress. "So, are we looking to sharpen our claws here in this little peace of heaven?"

The tigress has always found fresh stream water to be a pleasant alternative to the smothering humidity of a city. Many things that Meifeng has sought out recently have been reminders of home, but not this one; this place reminds her of -why- she fights with the NOL. To preserve what's worth saving in this precious world.

Meifeng walks along the stream, letting the water gurgle over top of her toes. For this outing, she's picked a pair of bespoke shoes, with springy treads, bound together by neoprene and paracord, that allow her feet to stretch and breathe. And, being waterproof, they also allow her to walk in the water whenever she darn well pleases. The lower hems of her slack legs, well, she seems to be fine with those getting wet.

And with each graceful step, she seems to be realigning herself with nature. Each motion gentle and relaxed, in perfect harmony. She steps out of the water, raising her left hand up -- and gazing through her fingertips at the forest canopy, momentarily lost in thought.

Peacefully, she gives her response with an airy tone. "The chance of causing widespread, irreversible damage to this area is so small that I accept the risk."

Her hips slide backward, in concert with the heel of her right foot, carving a small channel in the soft silt of the stream's banks. Her left hand settles into an open palm, raised nearly vertically, while her right hand, also an open palm, floats near her face. A stance suggesting her knowledge of the art of Pi Gua Zhang. "Though, I am not opposed to spending additional time here afterwards."

COMBATSYS: Meifeng has started a fight here.

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Meifeng          0/-------/-------|

Protecting the natural places of the world is a noble cause. Shina fights for money, but she still prefers that the money she makes comes from good sources. She drives herself to fight for purpose, justice and honor. She has to keep herself human, for lack of a better word, or else someone with her place in life becomes nothing more than a monster.

The kind of monster her father might just have allowed himself to become.

She rolls her shoulder, looking to see the posture and intent of her opponent. To read what level of 'friendly' this whole thing is about to be. She saw before what underestimating her opposition got her. Even after beating Tarmo, she's seen how tough he can be. No doubt the tigress is just as capable. Shina reminds herself that she can't have those mistakes keep happening.

Without a weapon but her own hands, she cracks her knuckles and raises her guard. She's still dressed as before, not the best for the looseness of fighting but she's gotten used to making do with restrictive outfits.

But. . .

"Nice shoes," Shina remarks, looking at them. "Always have trouble with mine after a good fight. Maybe I should look into something more high tech. After I win, you'll have to tell me where you got them."

Hands up, Shina's eyes lock onto Meifeng, and for a moment her pupils shift to thin slits, bleeding to a dark yellow of a beast.

COMBATSYS: Shina has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Meifeng          0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Shina

Meifeng does her best to be what people need her to be, even if it's not necessarily what they -want- her to be. She feels honored that Shina has thought about her enough to call her up and pass along a crucial warning. And she feels like... it's a good opportunity to practice skills with a friend willing to stand by her side.

"They serve me well. Normal shoes do my feet no favors." The tigress's sunny disposition shows not just upon her smile, but upon her motions, as the fabric stretches to accomodate the feline officer's wider stance.

But, Meifeng notices Shina's eyes shift, and reacts with a broad grin. "I suppose it would be even more difficult to find shoes that can keep up with you, though." She takes a step back, sweeping her arm so that her right shoulder is pivoted forward. She reaches for her sword, but rather than withdrawing the blade, her outswept hand draws with it three orbs of azure light. The three orbs float upwards, falling into a gentle orbit surrounding her.

"Mm," she comments, not overly concerned about the orbs, and expecting Shina to be similarly disaffected considering their earlier side-by-side battle. "... A friend told me not long ago, that I have lost much of my... 'true' nature. I hope to be able to work on that." She bows her head for a moment. "So... shall we begin?"

And then, with the preparations complete, Meifeng's tail twitches -- the only sign that she's about to spring into motion.

The tigress suddenly surges forward into a long leap. Her arms windmill overhead -- palms swinging as if laden with heavy weights, arcing down towards Shina, as her sandal-shoes dig into soft silt. And regardless of whether her palm strikes connect or not, she'd be snapping forward again -- this time with her shoulder and upper arm, for a powerful thrust into Shina's center mass. "Hrrrraaa!"

COMBATSYS: Shina blocks Meifeng's Strong Punch.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Meifeng          0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0            Shina

Shina the Leopard is just what she is; barring the secret that lives just under skin. That part isn't the most obvious, but it is what she is. She wouldn't know how to be what people need. She can only hope to be what she is and that her goals line up with those she cares about. In that way, the tigress opposite her is far more adult than the young warrior.

"Seriously, about those tips. If you know anything that could work with both, I could use that. The budget on boots is already too much," Shina says with a laugh. But even good natured, there are signs that Shina is not entirely human. A cant of her head, the color of her eye, the shape of her teeth.

"What is your 'true nature'?" she asks. "Are you like me? Just, not as often?"

But the fight is beginning already. Colorful orbs, twitchy tails, a windmilling approach and a chest compressing palm to the center. Shiny stuff. Meifeng's palms slap noisily, but glance off Shina's arms. Stinging pain, but for now just the opening gambit. And Meifeng's rushing shoulder hits Shina's palms. The force of the push shoves Shina up and back away from Meifeng.

Shina lands, boots scraping the dirt before the tread of Shina's boots catch and she turns herself toward Meifeng in a flash. She plants her left foot and begins to roll around on her toes. The ground crunches with her rotation. One leg lifts, tucking before she comes out exploding with a heavy heeled spinning back kick for the square of Meifeng's belly.

COMBATSYS: Meifeng blocks Shina's Fierce Strike.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Meifeng          0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0            Shina

"I... think they will work?" With as flexible as her footwear is, Meifeng suspects they will work fine -- but it might take a little experimentation on Shina's part to see if that hypothesis holds out.

And just like that, the fight is on. Shina is pushed back -- and delivers a response in kind. Damp dirt is flung out with the fierceness of Shina's strike. Meifeng thrusts her forearm in the path of the blow, with her three orbs swooping in at the very last instant before contact, absorbing a nearly minuscule amount of the shock. Meifeng is, nonetheless, shoved backwards from the effort, her custom shoes carving two more tracks into the dirt.

"I cannot shift form as you do," she responds. As she shakes her forearm free of dirt, the three orbs sweep back around into their proper orbit. "But, I have lived with humans for as long as I can remember."

The tigress shifts her stance slightly, digging in her heel -- and then thrusting forward abruptly at Shina, leaning into a rushing elbow strike. She then twists into a high snap knee. If the tigress is allowed to continue, she would thrust forward with a palm strike, follow up with an overhead spin kick, that leaves her low and prepared for a counterattack, as her spinning orbs drive down onto Shina from above!

COMBATSYS: Shina dodges Meifeng's Form Two - Thundering Downpour.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Meifeng          0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0            Shina

The idea of 'true' forms when Meifeng can't shapeshift just strikes Shina as weird, even silly. But she never was all that spiritual of a person. She's as open as she feels she should be, and expects people to be the same in kind. It's a curious thought, but not one that she can focus on in the moment. She's trying to kick Meifeng very hard.

At the same time, she has to avoid getting her clock cleaned. She follows out of her kick and lowers to a crouch when Meifeng darts at her. Close in, the elbow swings, nearly nicking Shina's chest. A follow-up kick swings over and Shina slinks her way around the kick, Meifeng's heel brushing through Shina's brush of hair.

The fight is ferocious and Shina is closed up. Meifeng's staying on top of the situation very well. So Shina does what she can; she blasts forward to take over the opportunity. A crackling lightning flashes brilliant violet when Shina cocks her arm back. And then she swings forward with a thunderous blast of a blow.

COMBATSYS: Meifeng fails to interrupt Assault Blow from Shina with Form Five - Howling Whirlwind EX.

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Meifeng          1/-------/=======|===----\-------\0            Shina

It's true. Meifeng drank the kool-aid of martial arts spiritualism. She'd be happy to discuss such a topic with Shina, should the opportunities present themselves.

Right now, though, she is focused on delivering the fruits of her studied labor to Shina via a combination of strikes. The wind whistles past, a testament to Shina's quick reflexes and athleticism. The counterattack, as well, demonstrates Shina's read on the situation.

Lightning crackles. And for a moment, Meifeng hesitates in consideration. She is perfectly poised for a less obvious counterattack: a perfectly-timed slam with her hip would disrupt Shina's attack before it could truly hit its mark. But that hesitation costs her: the lightning-infused strike slams squarely into her side, jolting the tigress backward and hurling her off her feet. The tigress snaps her hand up to her glasses as her hip skips across the silt, her azure orbs close in tow. Bouncing back into the air in a wild rolling tumble, she manages to slow her roll a few meters later, landing in a three-point stance. Her tail flicks sharply outwards, freeing itself of a light dusting.

And Meifeng is, despite the pain, smiling.

"Lightning, mm?" She pats out the sparks, twitching sideways for a moment as the voltage gets its last little dig at her. "That was a nice one there...!"

And when she lowers her leading arm, her trailing arm hangs high -- as if burdened by leaden weights, and the need to keep them separate from her body. The "Heavy Hands" style of Pi Gua Zhang.

She approaches, closing the broad gap to Shina with long, graceful strides. This battle's just getting exciting!

Normally, the pouncing strike is the kind of thing that puts her close in for her preferential grappling and muscledown tactics. This time, however, it's the kind of aggressive blasting that pushes back against the onslaught. A pacing, spacing blast of lightning and a fist that now has Meifeng back a few feet. Shina's left in the wake standing in a low crouch of a position, feet still poised in a position to jolt forward again.

Keep the pressure, always be attacking, the credo of warfare.

She doesn't have the same kind of trained style as Meifeng. She is honed, but her style is still naturalistic and direct. There isn't the same kind of precision and practice as Meifeng's trained steps. But the fluid, directed action that Shina has is natural, predatory, and built through a lifetime of practice.

It's that kind of motion that carries Shina directly into Meifeng's radius. She pushes herself at Meifeng, pouncing with a rolling wheel kick that sees Shina fling herself with a reckless abandon at the tigress.

COMBATSYS: Meifeng just-defends Shina's Aggressive Strike!

[       \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Meifeng          1/-------/=======|===----\-------\0            Shina

Meifeng may have been striding closer, but Shina didn't seem to want to wait. Continual, relentless assault is a proven strategy -- and one that the tigress' instructors helped her refine into a calmer, more balanced approach. Until recently, she had thought that was what she wanted -- to protect. But as of recently, she's been at something of a standstill in her development.

She's hoping for a middle ground -- somewhere between flowing like water, and raging like a forest fire. And she -sees- that path in one blazing instant -- one in which she stiffens her stance, bringing her palm high in a knife-hand. The three orbs swing close, mirroring the gesture in an L-pattern. And an instant later, when Shina unleashes her aggressive strike, Meifeng pivots towards it -- allowing her three orbs to distribute the force of the impact across themselves.

For an instant, the spheres all shatter in perfect synchronization, with a clash of white noise -- deadening the kick so that it crashes against Meifeng's shoulder with the strength of a firm shove.

A moment later, the shattered fragments of the orbs reform, with a faint yellow hue -- whirling off to the side. But by this point, Meifeng has redirected the force of Shina's kick, coiling into a low crouch. She springs back up into the air -- attempting to return the favor with a windmilling strike from above!

Should she land with the windmilling, 'heavy-handed' strike, she'd shift tactics into a Bajiquan shoulder strike, followed by a roundhouse kick of her own.

By this point, the yellow orbs have begin whirling into a cyclone! If Shina isn't careful, she would soon find herself sandwiched between Meifeng and her orbs' whirlwind -- one attack after another, culminating in a twin palm strike that knocks her backwards into an explosion of unleashed qi!

COMBATSYS: Shina fails to interrupt Unbound Form - Relentless Typhoon from Meifeng with Rising Razor.

[       \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Meifeng          0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0            Shina

Always push forward. Continually press. Overwhelm the enemy with lightning fast strikes and tactics. Shina is used to being smaller than her opponent. Now is no different. She has to stay within the reach of her opponent, strike and tear through. And with the orbs, it's a wholly different kind of assault. She's inexperienced against this kind of assault, and in the moment, she makes mistakes.

Her body ripples. Fingertips reach out, lightning crackles. Her fingers twitch and shift, body bursting outward. Claws rip up and out as Shina's form shifts with a yowling roar. Her body thickens, grows, tailed and bestial as she slashes upward trying to rend Meifeng's brilliant approach.

But her inexperience, and her poor control of her other form. The hand pummels back against her snout. Blindingly bright lights flashing in her eyes. A sudden thud from orb after orb. The cries aren't human when she swings at them, batting, missing, and once more slugged heavily by the whirlwind spheres.

Exposed, open, a blasting palm strike explodes outward, sending the wereleopard hurling through the air. She crashes against the dirt, rolls, and comes to a stop. There she pushes herself over and starts to plant herself, claws digging into the ground. She sags, and shakes her head. Animalistic eyes open and stare at Meifeng, and a growl escapes from her throat.

It's a beautiful sight -- if a little terrifying in its own right. Meifeng had born witness to Shina's transformation in the fight against Gao Tengfei, but seeing it here -- the literal eruption of a bestial form from within that of a human -- up close and in person. Had Meifeng not been in control of herself, stepping through the motions of an oft-practiced kata, she would surely have stopped to stare.

The tigress does show some remorse on her face, however, as the cascade sequence of strikes runs its course. The tigress keeps her distance, snapping her foot back, grounding it within the damp silt with a small splash. Her muscles tense -- as vague as their forms may be beneath her clothing -- as she reasserts her stability. And she speaks -- quietly.

"And for now, we resemble sisters, of a sort." She offers a smile, at that.

She steps closer -- though she is careful to keep her distance, as she takes in the changed state of her sparring partner. Her whiskers twitch in the breeze. Her tail flips about. And she gets a good look -- not just at the similarities between her leopard cousin and herself, but at the differences as well.

The orbs circle about her once more, waiting. And Meifeng takes a slow stride forward, watching to see how Shina reacts.

COMBATSYS: Meifeng focuses on her next action.

[       \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Meifeng          0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0            Shina

Shina's back on her paws, leaned forward with the shifting in her body posture. Her hands flex and twitch, claws out and open. Eyes of a predator look over at the woman opposite her, her friend, currently her opponent. She doesn't lose any of what she is in this shape, it's one she could use more. It's something she needs to properly integrate into her form. Her recklessness has allowed her to learn of her flaws.

Meifeng's skill has taught her well.

Sisters. A funny statement, but it's not one that Shina can say is entirely wrong. She just offers a shrug to Meifeng, and likes her prominent fangs.

She needs to work the best of both worlds as she is, but right now, with Meifeng's comment, she sticks to remaining a semi-mirror to this newfound 'sibling'. Shina doubts there's many like her that Meifeng runs into on a daily basis. So for now, Shina will just stick to the fur coat.

And she'll try to show the best sisterly love she can; beating the holy hell out of each other in training.

Shina surges forward. She pounces, leaping into the air. Her body rolls, not with the wild abandon of a beast, using a kind of takedown she hasn't tried in this form. Clawed paws, sturdier legs, longer appearing ankles, it's a risk to her aim, but if it works she'll hook Meifeng's shoulder and neck and bring the tigress crashing down with locking thighs.

COMBATSYS: Shina successfully hits Meifeng with Trap Leg Through.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////           ]
Meifeng          0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\0            Shina

Both the ferocity of a beast and the patience of an instructor have merit. The spectrum of control expands vastly in both directions, and it is ultimately up to each person to find his or her own path. This is a concept Meifeng was taught early -- and it sticks with her now, as she deftly guides her orbs back to her side.

It doesn't matter which path one walks however, without putting in the time to practice. And that is what she appreciates most about Shina here -- a partner to push her in ways she hadn't expected. Meifeng sees the leopard approach, and lowers her stance in anticipation of the lunge. It might have helped her for a strike, but it does not help for the grapple, for the tigress soon finds herself caught between locking thighs, and slammed down into the ground. In that brief moment, the orbs do nothing, and her arms do nothing but give Shina a better handhold.

The trip to the ground is mercifully short. Meifeng grits her teeth as she lands hard on her shoulder, splashing up a small amount of wet dirt. But, even grappled, she still has -some- measure of control. She attemps to make the best of this exploration of her bestial side, and trying out this close-quarters combat. She hopes to grab hold of Shina, digging in her fingernails as she seeks to unload three rapid-fire knee strikes at her. If she manages to clear enough space, she'd then use that space to pry her feet upward -- and kick herself free of the hold!

COMBATSYS: Shina blocks Meifeng's Strong Kick.

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Meifeng          0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1            Shina

Shina's bestial aggression does temper her grappling skill. The tool that is her leopard shape is not fully integrated into her mind. She still struggles with some parts of herself. The feet aren't the normal shape she's used to, claws grip differently than hands. The increase in mass and muscular structure that throw off the well honed spatial memory of oneself. All are bits that Shina has to come to grips with to master herself.

But for now, she fights tooth and nail with her partner. Claws rake and kick. Meifeng fights back with ferocity. A heavy blow that could knock her clean off. And it's one that forces Shina to break her hold in order to avoid taking devastation to her ribs.

Relinquishing her grip on Meifeng, Shina braces and bats the kick back. Shuddering at the force of it, she is glad for her tactical retreat from the moment. But for that retreat, Shina knows she must push herself to recapture momentum.

Still in close, she rakes for Meifeng, claws raking, gripping, pouncing to roll over the tall tigress and tear her, toss her and monkey kick her with razor sharp foot claws. Aiming to send her up, stagger her and push her back. All to put the woman into the open for her to launch herself full. Body shifting, bringing her back to normal. A twist in the fight as animal slicks to human for a rapid assault.

COMBATSYS: Shina blitzes into action and acts again!

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Meifeng          0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1            Shina

COMBATSYS: Meifeng blocks Shina's Combo Grapple.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Meifeng          0/-------/---====|=======\=------\1            Shina

COMBATSYS: Meifeng just-defends Shina's Diving Kick!

[          \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Meifeng          0/-------/---====|=======\=------\1            Shina

Drills and practice can only take the body so far. Persistence hardens the body against attack, but at the cost of also making it resistant to change. The forge of combat is a crucial component in strengthening the weapon beyond purely mechanical means, purging its impurities and reordering the raw material into a sharper, more perfect form, allowing drills and practice to keep the cutting edge honed to sharpness.

Meifeng's 'heavy hands' style is of limited usefulness in tight quarters -- there's no room and no time for the attacks to build up the momentum to deal damage like they ought to. It works out a little better once Shina backs away to a safer distance -- but this is only a temporary mercy, as the leopard jams right back into striking range. The tigress raises her arms to defend against the raking claws; the cloth of her sleeves shreds in the attack, but she's left to withstand the grappling that follows! Meifeng is pulled forward and off-balance for a moment, though when Shina pulls up for a monkey kick, she manages to interpose her elbows in their path to mitigate the impact. The NOL lieutenant is forced backwards -- but in that one momentary gap, her orbs sweep into the path of Shina's attack! Her eyes widen in surprise, but her training keeps her on track. The three orbs merge into one, and Meifeng whip-snaps her palm into it! Both Meifeng and Shina strike the orb at the same time -- and the entire mass starts to pancake, absorbing both attacks with a rubbery, gelatinous surface tension -- with the fluidic orb taking on a brilliant crimson hue in response to the increased pressure!

It's barely enough to stymie that second attack from Shina, but the elastic reaction does give Meifeng the chance to bound backwards to a safe distance. Meifeng draws back her palm, and the crimson orb dutifully obeys...

It is now time for Meifeng to respond in full With the momentary shock of Shina's reversion into human form acknowledged, Meifeng snaps her left forearm forward in a scything blow. She gives one last metaphysical shove to the orb with her right hand before curling it around for a deep right-armed elbow strike, carving downwards at an angle. She sharply reverses direction, whipping herself into a reverse wrist strike, then chains into a high blow with her left knee!

By this point, though, the crimson orb has circled around to behind Shina. And as Meifeng delivers a clearing stomp to the damp dirt beneath the two, the crimson orb unleashes the bulk of its potential, shattering into a series of razor-sharp shards, each cutting with the fury of a hurricane's biting winds!

COMBATSYS: Shina counters Form Four - Roaring Tempest from Meifeng with Mad Trap.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Meifeng          0/-------/--=====|===----\-------\0            Shina

The tigress was proving to be a very talented opponent. Quick, skilled, and more than capable of keeping Shina's claws at bay. It's a training session, one that's showing Shina a great deal of how things work for her. She's made mistakes, pushed herself past her limits. She's starting to see how she needs to use what she is.

A kick away, one that doesn't bring her what she needs. But she cannot focus on the mistakes she's made. The sudden threat that comes at her needs all of her mind. She feels everything in her coil down. Her eyes slick shift, yellow and focused. Animal in a human face. She sees what's coming and knows what she must do.

The elbow. She twists. Low and underneath. Both hands lift. Left tap elbow, right push arm. The first hand is human. The second hand heavy and clawed. The wrist comes swinging toward her. It's met with a set of fangs clamping down on that strike, gnashing, holding fast. Snarling, low down, she continues that hold when Meifeng's knee rises. So she can catch and flip backward in a roll that dogs the tigress to the ground.

It's only there that she releases the tigress' arm and dismounts with a single parting slash that crashes and crackles with violent lightning striking down.

What works in a dojo will not necessarily translate into the reality of a fight -- this has been proved countless times before. But Meifeng can state with assurance that in none of the prior executions of her Roaring Tempest has she been countered by the fangs of a leopard.

Meifeng yelps with surprise -- a feral reaction, very unlike the passive, formal method that marks so much of her speech patterns. Undeterred, she continues the attack sequence nonetheless; follow-through is important. Or at least, it was until she found herself on the receiving end of a dismounting slash, forcing yet another primal cry out of the tigress as lightning sears through her bared belly. Not wearing -this- blouse again -- but there are worse fates for good clothing.

And yet, when Meifeng kips back to her feet, there is a smile on her face. It's true that she's bleeding from the fang marks on her arm, and the tawny fur of her tummy may be seared black, but those are acceptable forms of sisterly affection in this context.

The tigress drags her left hand parallel to the ground, drawing the shattered shards of her sphere back from the ground. As they begin to coalesce back into three azure spheres, the officer lashes out at Shina with a rushing palm strike, before stepping up with a rushed high knee to the abdomen. She follows this strike up by twisting into a rolling kick, twisting to dock the top plane of her foot with Shina's side!

COMBATSYS: Meifeng successfully hits Shina with Medium Kick.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Meifeng          0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0            Shina

The lightning lingers, and Shina licks the taste off her fangs. She was quick back to her paws. Her claws out, she is already in motion for the next strike. Both the well trained and the 'natural' know that follow-through is the key. Too little control of the flow of the fight means a loss. And Shina's pride doesn't want to take another hit. She's already felt too out of body lately. She needs the training. To keep up with the people's she's finding herself growing fond of.

The kick comes and Shina's barely present to react. Swinging around, it hits hard into Shina's side. A whuff of breath comes form the feline fighter. Her body starts to turn. Not entirely from the kick, but the blow to the side down give her the impetus to stagger and roll. Turning an arc and physically reshaping, becoming something more human, in her motion.

Tucking in, she turns from the blow, exiting the spin it's put her in, continuing the dance of the fight, moving to the rhythm of the strikes. Her bootheel spins outward, already the boot itself has gone through terrible tearing and wear from Shina's physical transformation, but it remains on enough to come swinging for Meifeng's side in a cutting heel strike.

From one cat to another, a tit for a tat.

COMBATSYS: Meifeng just-defends Shina's Medium Kick!

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Meifeng          0/-------/-======|=====--\-------\0            Shina

Normally, a body's natural processes will kick in for a bite wound or gash, instantly starting to repair a wound almost as soon as it occurs. Electrical shocks can disrupt that process, though. And it's right after Meifeng lands her kick that she starts to feel the twitch of muscle, the pangs of the aggravated wound. It's not enough to force her to stop immediately, but it's definitely enough for her to consider whether a 'spar' is going to be worth more permanent injury...

A contrasting theory to 'quit while you're not too far behind' is 'whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' And with an opponent as engaged as Shina, the urge to continue is much stronger than the urge to fall back and lick wounds. She stays close -- which also puts her at a marked disadvantage for the moment in which Shina spins a heel strike at her, as she's too close for her long limbs to provide an adequate defense. Her lips curl back in a hiss, as she flicks her wrists upwards...

At the very last instant, her three orbs swing up into the path of Shina's kick; one at her toes, one at her heel, one in the middle between. The orbs flex with the impact, slowing the kick by just a split-second, buying Meifeng the time she needs to reflexively spring out of its path. If it weren't for the officer's mastery of the Ars Magus' ability, it would have been a painful strike indeed!

Breathlessly, she hops backwards, landing on her back foot; the orbs are flung around to the side, sweeping around behind Meifeng in a wide orbit. The silt squeaks beneath her foot as she abruptly reverses momentum, driving in close to slam her shoulder and back at Shina, aiming for a stunning blow! If she manages to land the blow, she'd whirl around into a snap kick, aiming to propel Shina into the air. And by this point, the orbs would be spinning ever faster, churning the air into a whirling vortex with the aim of suspending Shina in place for a moment!

COMBATSYS: Shina parries Meifeng's Form Three - Rising Gale!

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Meifeng          0/-------/=======|======-\-------\0            Shina

Shina spins down to a low crouch. Her eyes are wide, pupils dilated, alert, thrilled with the rush of the back and forth combat. Different from her and Tarmo's grappling tussles, Meifeng is what she was meant to stand against. She can feel the vibrations that connect the two felines. Shina might be, in some ways, artificial compared to Meifeng but their shared tenacity in combat makes Shina's heart race beyond the physical exertion.

She can't stop. She won't stop. Not when things have been heating up. Each stopping of her assault might be frustrating in some ways, but it also builds her knowledge of how to approach, it fuels her desire to strike hard and home. When the pressure keeps applying, Shina knows any bulwark will eventually break. She'll eventually find the weak point. Eventually find an approach.

And that's when one opens up. Meifeng's approach brings her shoulder toward Shina. Not the first shoulder first thrust that Meifeng's used, and this time Shina is ready for it. She takes a flying leap, slowly curling in a slow arch.

And in that moment of time, that is when Shina takes her initiative. She rolls to place her feet down, trying to land in a pounce atop Meifeng's shoulders. She plans to crash down and kick off Meifeng. To put Meifeng's forceful shoulder against her, toss her off balance, push her away and down to eat the dirt while Shina makes good on getting a solid footing and a return to the fight being at her pace.

COMBATSYS: Meifeng Toughs Out Shina's Scramble Snatch EX!

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Meifeng          1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\1            Shina

A thrill had run down Meifeng's spine when she was first able to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with Shina. And now, in the heat of combat, the tigress feels it even moreso. Energized, by the sense of having someone who fights with the same tenacity, by someone whose profile checks so many of the same boxes as her own. The communication is perfectly clear, a spar between two cats that will undoubtedly leave both gasping for breath.

Such it is that Meifeng's attack creates the perfect opening for Shina -- a leap that brings the leopardess to her shoulders! Lieutenant Yao opens her mouth in surprise, but not enough for her to flinch out of its way. The move is too fast to deal with, too oddly placed for her to defend -- and she's far too curious to see where it goes to think of how to deploy her orbs appropriately.

So she grins, two sharp teeth jutting out past the rest. And she bears it, allowing her shoulder to get slammed downward at the ground, digging a hole in the damp silt just as if it were a shovel. If anything, it looks like she hits the ground -too- hard, her hips continuing the motion as they fly overhead. It's a painful fall, but not a graceless one, as Meifeng's grounded shoulder becomes a fulcrum, her toes the edge of a lever. Could it be true that cats really -are- liquid?

Meifeng's shin hits the ground, and then her toes. And -instantly-, her toes bite in, and she bursts out of the ground with blazing speed. It isn't the first time she's tried a mudmask, but it's definitely the messiest -- and she's growling with excitement as she plows her way back to Shina's height, contesting the half-leopardess' attempts to set that pace!

Mud flies off the grinning tigress as she whirls about, leaping into a flying axe kick! Pain? It's a pittance compared to the rush of adrenaline coursing through her right now -- and she's determined to provide the best exhibition of her style for Shina to witness! With a roar of excitement, she'd segue from that kick into a low shoulder slam, aiming to catch Shina in the ribs and juggle her upwards. Two of her orbs would then slam up at Shina, with an aim of keeping her off-balance as Meifeng snaps into a followup kick! She'd continue attacking in a similarly fast-paced pattern, culminating in one final kick that brings her heel downward at Shina's shoulder!

COMBATSYS: Shina blocks Meifeng's Unbound Form - Raging Cyclone.

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Meifeng          0/-------/----===|=======\=------\1            Shina

The chance to fight someone so much like yourself in a world that can threaten you with feeling alone is a brilliant thrill. A chance to open up with claw and fang. To feel in that moment a freedom of self. She's seen her other side as a tool; a weapon to use in the suddenness of the moment. But in this fight she's seeing how it takes both of her to work as one to avoid and to strike.

Shina lands on thick claws when she hits the ground. Padded feet dig into the dirt, she lowers, turns, a tail lashing out for sudden balance needs. A switch to feline muscle and agility. A steadiness to her lowered posture. One that clutches deep and snarls, a rippling yowl to answer Meifeng's excitement.

She surges forward, a snarling ripsaw of a woman that brings herself slamming up against the flying kick. Both of her claws raised high, catching the force of the blow. The strength of the kick ripples through Shina's planted frame. A torrent of sharp pain lances from top to bottom through the leopard. She bares her fangs, shuddering to hold up against the forces acting against her.

And then comes more. A slam to counter the shoulder, pushing out and past the strike. Slamming a hard strike against the orbs that fly toward her. She keeps just ahead of the damaging blows. Each one pushing her more and more to a drive.

And when the last heel comes crashing down, Shina rushes through the strike. She bleeds into the lightning that trails behind her. A lightning streaked claw slashes leftward, slashes rightward. A third rakes upward to claw Meifeng into the air. If she connects, Shina takes a pouncing leap to catch Meifeng into the air, rolling, and driving her back to the ground. A landing crash that Shina will punctuate with a dual slash over Meifeng's chest that leaves furrows into the ground, carving an X into the dirt even underneath the tigress.

COMBATSYS: Meifeng interrupts Cross Blade Zapper from Shina with Form Seven - Whistling Gust EX.
- Power hit! -

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Shina            0/-------/----===|

COMBATSYS: Meifeng can no longer fight.

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Shina            0/-------/----===|

A feisty strike, a committed defense. Explosive force collides against an advancing guard, each of Meifeng's blows meeting its match in perfect choreography. The tigress has weathered many fights in her days, but none has stoked the fires of her heart so much as this battle here. Though her yellow lenses are caked with mud, it's plain for her to see Shina's face behind each strike -- a look of determination that compels the tigress to give it her all.

And then -- a bolt of lightning. Shina rushes in, a child of lightning -- and Meifeng bites back her enthusiasm, keeping her jaw shut out of concern for the unfolding barrage. Lightning-streaked claws are warded off by her forearms, her sleeves shredding and sparking with each strike. Droplets of blood begin to fly, to intermingle with the globs of mud loosing from her fur. The third claw rakes -- and Meifeng coils up, taking the blow on her forearm instead. Bone strikes bone, hammering her upward into the air with a dull reverberation she can feel all the way up. As Shina follows her skyward and makes to grab hold, Meifeng brings her knees up to her chest. The grapple is made -- but just as Meifeng is being slammed downward, the tigress throws both palms back to meet it.

Powerful shoulder muscles tense beneath rippling fur. Mud splashes outward in twin waves, as Meifeng unleashes her coiled potential -- a rising kick to meet the falling Shina! As Meifeng vaults back to her feet, she fires off a second snap kick -- and then a third, clearing the space for her to snap both arms wide, dissipating what's left of her rapidly-unleashed potential!

But then -- she lists sharply to her right side. If it weren't for her outstretched arms, she'd have most likely toppled...

In a moment, it becomes a moot point, as the tigress chooses to seat herself where she stood, rather than tumble to the ground in a considerably less graceful fashion.

"Uuuuuhhh..." she laments, forehead wrinkling as the ignored pain returns with a vengeance. Her blood is pumping so hard -- and yet, as two muddied hands snap to her temples, it becomes clear that the NOL lieutenant can fight no more.

"I had better stop," she comments, her former grin shining through the duress of her current condition. A mud-caked tail flicks back and forth; aside from that, it doesn't look like she's going anywhere fast.

"Aiyaaaaaa. The storm's lightning itself has nothing on you, Shina..."

A skilled back and forth. A skilled dance between two partners. A wild primal fury between two felines. And ending with a slashing, kicking, brutal ball of conflict that ends with Meifeng punctuating her skill with precise kicks that crunch and crack against Shina. Her bright furred form falling back, slipping to a knee, head hanging low. A deep and shuddering breath comes from the beast woman.

Heavy, chuffing breaths come. A rumbling growl deep in Shina's chest. Her clothing straining to hold her, failing in the onslaught of the beating she's taken. But holding enough. She shifts her weight and stands up. She takes a slow, stalking step forward. Yellow eyes bright, hungry, great fangs showing. The claws on her thick, paw like hands slick out like small scythes.

And then Meifeng relents. Shina stops. "Okay, cool!" she says, in her voice, not much different but for a slightly more contralto husk.

She visibly dwindles back to her normal, human self. And she laughs happily until a sudden grip of pain in her side makes her twinge to the right. "Owowowowow," she seethes. But all the while, she's got a more human version of a toothy grin.

She opts then to flop down to sit, and then to drop back in the dirt. She's not afraid of getting a little muddy. Especially not after this.

"Wuzzat?" she asks, looking up at the sky, imagining the blood rushing in her ears is the babbling brook and not just her heart rate. "I can't hear you over the river. But that was really awesome what you did there. It's fun fighting you."

COMBATSYS: Shina has ended the fight here.

The tigress' heart pounds in her chest, no longer willing to be ignored. It's doubtful she'll say any more for a while, for she too is breathing much too heavily for conversation. That doesn't stop her eyes from tracking Shina as she returns to her human form once again, an appreciative smile painted upon her feline features. Meifeng, for a brief moment, considers flopping over as Shina does -- though in the back of her mind, she still fears the crack of bamboo upon her for even showing such lack of discipline.

Accordingly, she forces herself to sit in a lotus position, folding her legs. Her saber clatters lightly in its scabbard; a moment later, Meifeng welcomes the return of her three orbs with an open palm, before stowing them back in her Ars Magus. Her tail flicks back and forth with long, sinuous sweeps, as she lets her lungs dictate the pace of her recovery.

Fluffy ears swivel towards Shina in confusion, as one half-lidded eye widens. The sounds of the river are no louder now than before, she would fathom -- but she's frequented this site enough to know the proper sounds of the rhythms. Smiling brightly, she nods in agreement. And raises her voice a bit, though not so loud as to be rude.

"It was really fun, yes -- to see you move with such speed and skill!" The tigress looks down at the red strokes criss-crossing her furred arms, glad that her shredded sleeves could not voice their disapproval of the match. A twinge goes through her spine, in memory of the debilitating lightning strike from earlier. "You are quite a formidable opponent! I think we have a lot to learn from one another -- each time I thought I had you, you were sure to prove me wrong."

And then, another thought strikes her. And she leans forward -- with a minor hitch at the spiking pain -- and removes one of her bespoke shoes.

So that's what Meifeng wanted to say. Shina closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. The air is warm, but the damp dirt feels better. But she knows she'll need a hell of a shower after this. She doesn't have any special equipment or weaponry. She hasn't needed any lately in her life. She is such a thing now. But with each part of of her now in some degree of pain, she things it best to just remain pretty sprawled out.

It's comfortable that way.

"I have been fighting since I was adopted by the mercenaries. It is in me to move quick, being smaller as I am. But you, I expected more from the sword," Shina admits, hand going up to suggest she is indeed conscious at the moment. "Less from the glowy tennis balls." Her hand makes a vague waving gesture that are, in some way, meant to explain that she means Meifeng's glowing spheres. "What exactly are they?"

A slow roll onto her side, Shina gets herself into a position to look at Meifeng in order to talk. But she pauses, looking at Meifeng taking off her shoes. "What are you doing?"

Meifeng isn't particularly nervous about her current state of dress; after all, it was she who proposed a fight against an opponent with murder mittens. But she could use a change of wardrobe and a shower too -- a fact she acknowledges by peeling off her mud-caked tinted lenses and brushing them off the less mud-caked front of her blouse. Mind, as she glances over to the sprawled-out Shina, she reminds herself that there's no instructors around to berate her for relaxing... but old habits die hard.

"Oh," she comments, absently brushing her fingers along the scabbard at her side. "I do not use the blade to fight friends. Only the most terrible of foes." She laughs faintly, at the thought of using the weapon against Shina. "Besides, it is of limited use against someone who fights as closely as you."

She, too, makes a similar hand gesture as Shina -- though her hands weave through more purposeful, deliberate motions. "This sword is my Ars Magus. A focus, like Gao Tengfei's, that stores incantations. Almost all soldiers in the Librarium use an Ars Magus of some sort to channel their will."

Where her hands were graceful, flowing before, her digits snap into coarse, angular positions now. "My Ars Magus is the bridge between myself and the elements. Whereas you can call forth the lightning without one, mm?"

She seems amused -- both by the line of questioning, and by Shina's shift to look at her. "You were asking about my shoes, yes?" She pecks away at some of the larger clumps of debris with a fingernail. "Though I have made a mess," she notes with a chuckle. She pulls at the fabric, demonstrating: "But you see, how it stretches here, like leather would not?" She nods. "I can wash it off if you would like to see better."

Only use the sword to fight foes. Right. And here Shina was thinking things were going all out. At least, the way Shina was intending to use her teeth and claws. Buuuut, the leopard doesn't need to explain that part of her open assault policy. Chalk it up to not being raised with training and instructors and a father who takes to the hand to hand battlefield.

She laughs, all the same, to her own thoughts, ruffling the backsplash of hair she has. She leans forward, resting most of her weight on her arm. Still watching the shoe while she listens. "I thought is was something all warriors could do," she admits. "Maybe not lightning, but, something to that effect. No?"

She tucks her legs in, finally lifting herself to something of a sit on her hip so that she can take a look at what Meifeng has in hand. "Let me see. The way my foot changes shape, it's severe, and frankly it hurts to tear boots so often. Anything better will be appreciated."

Meifeng's forehead wrinkles as Shina suggests that 'all warriors' could wield energy in a manner that does not require an Ars Magus. "There are many warriors who can, and many who cannot," she states flatly. Though, after a moment of thought, her expression eases back into a faint smile. "I suppose it may also depend on your definition of 'warrior.'"

She falls quiet, though it may be because she's wiping mud off her shoes. And when Shina asks, she hands the shoe over. "Shoes made for humans do not put much emphasis on the ball of the foot, the base of the toes. Those shoes wear out quickly for me, as this is what bears the brunt of my weight. So most shoes snap in half within a week or two."

Meifeng slips out of her lotus stance, shifting her weight onto her hip as Shina has, so that she can lean closer and drag a finger across the treads of the shoe. "Whereas these shoes start off 'broken' by design, separating the movement of the toes from the movement of the heel. Still the same tread coverage if, say, I were to descend a hill. But a much thicker tread for the ball of my foot." The tigress stretches her toes, demonstrating the tendons and muscles as she speaks about them.

"In short, by human standards, your feline form and mine do not so much walk as 'tiptoe.' So, we need shoes that can facilitate that, providing both flexibility and support." She traces her fingertip along the compression bridge in the center of the shoe. "It fits like a very snug sock," she notes with a grin.

Shina is ultimately a younger person. She just expected people who go toe to toe to have the ability to call upon some greater power from without. "I do not think I've seen any like that." She doesn't consider Meifeng in this case. After all, the spheres were proof enough of Meifeng's control.

But that is just a momentary though, the shoes are important. She turns the footwear over, studying its shape and support. She pokes, prods, and makes little humming sounds as she does. She taps the treads with her fingertips. A push on the bottoms. Turning it over to look at the base. She applies pressure to the shoe to figure out as it bends. She considers how it would work with her own shifted feet. A small frown of consternation comes across her.

"I believe the problem would be how to make it work for both of my feet," she says, offering the footwear back to Meifeng. "But it is something that I must think on. Because I do not always like getting my feet wet or muddy just to fight."

Meifeng nods with a grin, slipping her shoe back on. "Well, when I was getting sized for this shoe, I had put on a sock, and then stepped onto a board covered with special paint. The thickness of the paint showed the shoe maker where I had placed the most stress." She starts to rise to her feet -- but is soon discouraged by her injuries, and decides instead to demonstrate with her shoes from a seated position.

"I think that he could make you a shoe, but this one might not be the best, of course."

The tigress absently rubs the wounds on her arm. "Is it... painful, having two 'big' toes? I hear that humans stub them a lot."

Meifeng trying to get up and giving up Shina to snicker into the back of her hand. She is enjoying this moment. The pain from a good fight is just a sign of how much fun it's been. And though she isn't too considerate in just how Meifeng got the wounds in her arm, Shina does care enough to let Meifeng know, "You can rest, I do not think we will be needed to fight again so shortly. This is it war, it's a friendly competition."

She shifts, sitting up, pulling up a knee to rest her arm on. "I would like to see this shoemaker. If I could get something better, I would like that."

She has to consider the question for longer than she felt she should. "I just have toes," she says. "I do not consider them painful, no. Maybe it is different when I freshly hit them, but I don't think of it otherwise." Shina laughs. "A strange question. Do you find it painful having toes? Surely a kick or a stone may hurt your own?"

Meifeng is thankfully not in any great hurry to leave; she nods with Shina, content to enjoy the peaceful sounds of the babbling brook.

With a cheery nod, she notes, "I have a card from his shop back in the car, I can make you a copy." She stops, for a moment, and adds, one hand ruffling the hair on the back of her head. "... though, Shanghai is a bit of a trip. Perhaps we can make a voyage there together?" She smiles hopefully, at the thought of showing Shina her homeland. Or, at the very least, somewhere -closer- to her homeland.

The tigress wiggles her toes, though it'd be harder to see from beneath the fabric of her shoes. "... I... I mean, all of my toes are about the same size. All the time." She grins in a self-effacing manner. "They hurt just like anything would! But I am more apt to injure the middle two than the outer two."

Shanghai is quite a bit farther away than local Southtown areas. "A card would be nice, yes, but it would be hard to find someone who is there." Shina taps at her lip and shrugs. "It would not be the first time that I hunted down a man across the world." She shrugs, adding. "I would take the card."

Shina looks at Meifeng, the invitation was surprising. "This is a surprise. A strange invitation." She thinks, looking aside. "You do not know anyone," a pause as she searches for the words, "Feline. Do you?"

Shina shrugs. "Never mind. I will go. Shanghai is big, there is a lot to see there. And perhaps my target will have move there rather than Southtown." She pops a grin for Meifeng. "Maybe on the way we will see who stubs toes more often."

Log created on 12:20:38 08/16/2021 by Shina, and last modified on 15:29:42 08/27/2021.