Dead or Alive - DOA R2 - Skleros

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Description: Lying in wait in hopes of making contact with a possible informant while also hiding out from the pursuing Lin Kuei, Kasumi of the Mugen Tenshin ninja clan finds herself ambushed by the Iron Mystic of the Miyama. Is he an adjudicator of vengeance motivated by the rumors of Mugen Tenshin hostilities among the clans? Or is his pursuit motivated by something else?

There was a time when just trying to survive to see a new dawn was a normal facet of Kasumi's day to day life. Pursued not only by the elite Hajinmon sect of her own clan, but also skilled hunters of other clans of the hidden villages, the Mugen Tenshin exile was used to life on the run. The intensity of the chase had cooled somewhat following her victory over Raidou and Hayate's recovery from his coma, but the young exile still knew that she was not welcome among most of the shadow world she had been raised in either and that she should never take for granted that anyone she encountered from that world was not her enemy.

But there was a new reason for her to be hunted now as rumors wove through the underground information network that the Mugen Tenshin ninja clan was attacking and destroying the hidden villages of other clans throughout the continent of Asia. The idea was preposterous - she didn't need to risk a journey to the home that rejected her to confirm that this couldn't possibly be true. Under Hayate's leadership, the idea of launching hostile, destructive invasions of other clans throughout the region was impossible.

Yet the rumors were cause enough to put others on her trail, including two close brushes with cyberneticaly enhanced warriors of the Lin Kuei. The first time she had fought, drawing her blade to defend herself and strike back at her attackers with enough ferocity to force their retreat. When they came after her again, this time with more numbers, she had managed to give them the slip, utilizing the more subtle skills of the shinobi to vanish into the mountain and continue her ascent...

The rumors had to be linked to the recent movements within DOATEC, the corporation responsible for so much of her life's misfortunes, let alone the harm to the rest of her family. But she needed solid information. Through connections, she came to be assured that the monks of the Fangjingshan mountain temples could be of assistance. Was it a coincidence that she was also given a match scheduled near the peaks of these mountains? Or are there multiple people pulling strings to control her movements? Either way, she had embarked immediately on the dangerous trek up precarious paths to finally reach this peaceful sanctum of life and water...

Here she waited through the night in the shadowed alcove of one of the sloped platform roofs. From there, she watched the light of the lanterns below dance across gentle waters, the fireflies zip through reeds to add their own small flame to the dark, and listened to the soothing sound of the waterfalls all around.

Coming for an arranged match, she was dressed in the outfit frequently seen in her public fight appearances - one noteworthy for being very noticeable rather than something she'd wear when slipping through the shadows unseen. A rich blue wrap dress wrapps around her figure, tied snug at the waist by a wide white sash. Short puffy sleeves cover her upper arms and while her back is to the flat edge of the alcove in which she perches, it is also emblazoned boldly by the golden insignia of her own name for anyone to see. With matching azure wrist and shin guards, she isn't entirely without protective gear, and given her upbringing, chances are are she had other tools out of sight as well. The slender blade sheathed at her back with its crimson tasseled grip serves as warning to anyone that she has teeth to bare too if pressed. But in opposition to her armaments, she has her long copper hair tied back into a loose high pony tail, the blue ribbon knotted into a large bow with the ribbon ends draping down the back of her head. White stockings cover her legs up to mid-thigh and a narrow simple white choker encircles her neck.

Resting in a seated position, one knee raised so she can drape her forearm across it, she leans back and watches from her rooftop alcove with a good view of the water filled area below and an angle on the last turn of stone steps anyone would need to climb in order to reach here.

Her tournament matches up until this point had proved little challenge for the previous Dead or Alive champion and while she had been uncertain of her ability to surpass Ryu Hayabusa himself, she now had a match against a renown fighter of her own accord to consider ahead. Idly, she checks the fit of her forearm guards one more time as she tries to balance her focus between the anticipation of the match and the anxieties of whoever is out to destroy the Mugen Tenshin clan forever...

It is the coward who claims coincidence where the brave embraces fate.
A vast ocean of brilliant stars twinkle in the night sky, their crystalline reflections shivering upon the rippling water where not consumed by the orange halos of flickering lanterns. Kissed by the chill lips of those burbling waters, the mountain breeze toys with loose fabric and brushes cool fingers across bare skin, no doubt a welcome bit of refreshment for any making the arduous climb.
Weeds swaying to the irregular creaking of shifting wood, the garden is alive with the buzz and call of hidden insects, the soft splash of a fish breaching. The rustle of green teased by the wind. Far off, the hoot of an owl.
The soul of nature thrives within this place, sensed even by those with no awareness. And to those who are aware, it blazes with hidden life.
Below, the stairs remain empty. The patch of earth so clearly intended for combat lies abandoned, still. And yet, the beautiful exile of the Mugen Tenshin clan is not alone.
Sent skyward by the power of a single, mighty leap, a ghostly figure rises into sight beyond the roof upon which Kasumi rests. Tucked as she is within the shadowed alcove, neither figure has a direct line to the other as hemp-wrapped feet touch down upon the wood with a solid THUMP, the arrival's cowled robe coming to settle around the tall, broad shape of its wearer.
Slowly straightening from his knees-bent crouch, the robed man steps up to balance upon the peak of the roof, hidden gaze dropping to consider the spot Kasumi occupied a moment before, and might continue to occupy even still. Though he does not move with the whispered grace of a ninja, nor does the build beneath the robe suggest such, if he didn't have some skill the exile would have surely sensed him before now. As she well knows, looks can be deceiving.
"Lost daughter of the Mugen Tenshin clan," the figure states, deep voice grinding forth from his chest like boulders dislodged from a cliff face. "Powers shift beyond the veil . Ancient accords are tested. Step forth and be judged worthy."
Old words spoken with solemn weight. A challenge to prove her place in a world poised on the edge of madness. The question is, will she accept?

Kasumi was used to being alone. Passing the hours with her thoughts. Daylight had graced the mountain when she had started the trek to this remote location but the sun had long slipped beyond the sheer peaks before she finally reached the site. Well ahead of the appointed match time, she had observed from the outskirts of it for some time. The rush of the waterfall made it hard to trust her sense of hearing in spotting any would be lurkers, but she could still at least watch, identify the places where someone might conceal themselves waiting for her to enter unguarded to make their move.

But even a careful visual inspection and slow walk through the observation platform's long deck revealed no others to be found. Only then did she take her perch, positioned to watch the approach and keep an eye on a good portion of the watery arena below. And there she passed the hours by. Sometimes in meditation, sometimes in thought. Trying to picture the match ahead - of facing someone armed with a combat variant of Tai Chi, of finding openings to attack without eating a kick to the face for her trouble. Other times she thought of those she opposed. Her enemies. DOATEC. She imagined there were many within the ranks of the company that were naive to its darker nature. But then there were those on the 'inside' well aware of the atrocities they were committing... Up to Victor Donovan, the man behind the division that had turned her life upside down, captured and imprisoned her for days, and used her DNA as a component of whatever secret weapons projects they were conducting. And then they did it all over again to her brother?

There would be no forgiveness, no rest until they were dismantled. And this time of change was just the right opportunity for it.

The night passed uneventfully. She had not budged an iota when a solitary monk descended to light the lanterns of the lower area, going through the ritual with patient perfection, clearly someone who had done so countless evenings before. And since the time he then ascended back up to the temples higher above the mountain, no one else had appeared.

Until now - the sound of a landing on the wooden roof announces a new arrival. She was a blur of motion an instant later, showing no signs of having been slowed down by her night spent hiding in the shadows. Heart racing, she convinces herself it isn't an ambush - someone bent on catching her unaware would have not landed with such an obvious noise. And not only that, there is no sound of them rushing toward her, trying to catch her off guard.

But still she repositions, slipping out of her perch, hands gripping the edge of the roof to sing herself below, landing almost silently on the walkway of the observation balcony, eyes raised toward the roof above as she holds her breath.

Then the voice comes and other thoughts are ruled out while other questions are raised. It isn't her opponent, that's for certain. But it's someone who knows who she is, not just by name but by history, by family.

He speaks of accords tested and she knows immediately to what is being referred... The rumors of Mugen Tenshin aggression would strain any existing alliances among the shadow villages. The ninja clans are suspicious by nature, alliances are not made lightly, and many balance on the edge of a blade with either party certain that the other party will still take advantage of them given the opportunity. Only a few clans share such a deep bond that they would disregard the possibility that the Mugen Tenshin have gone back on their word as an utter impossibility.

"I won't leave this place," she declares, turning enough to look over her shoulder, long ponytail swishing against her shoulder as she pivots. Not only was she supposed to be here to face her opponent, she had good reason to believe an informant would meet her here.

Which raises another question - is the owner of this deep voice said informant? She can't discount the possibility. Either way, she was committed to standing her ground. Too much depended on not fleeing this place.

If she was facing a shinobi of another clan, he could be here to find out the truth for himself. Or worse, out for revenge if his own village had suffered as many had in recent weeks of an attack blamed on the Mugen Tenshin.

"You should know," she adds, voice raised as she pivots once more, ribbons swinging as she turns, "The Mugen Tenshin have not adopted a code of aggression. Their-" Her voice catches. "Our leader would never betray our allies..."

"You stand."
Two words, and yet the meaning behind them is far greater than the sum of their parts. Within them can be found the confirmation that she has chosen to accept the challenge. Acknowledgement of her faith in the righteousness of her clan. Perhaps even a nod to her bravery in confronting the unknown.
Remaining balanced atop the peak of the roof, the hulking shinobi exists as a dark blot upon the stars. A phantom of shrouded bulk that seems not even to twitch, still aside from the gentle ripple of cloth in the wind. A sharp contrast to the wary twists and scanning eyes of the copper-haired young woman below.
"Very well."
Though still a rumble, the voice has gained a softer quality, one of reflective finality. Less the clash of boulders and more the grinding plates far beneath the earth.
That is all the warning Kasumi gets before a fluttering shape drops over the edge of the roof, shroud flaring wide like the wings of a demon as it descends upon her in a fluttering wave. Heavy enough that the wind can not gust it off course, the discarded shroud threatens to envelop the beautiful kunoichi where she stands, its flapping expanse briefly blocking all vision between herself and the river beyond. Perhaps it is being used to cover an approach? Or, it could be a--!
The wind blows, and wood creaks at the other end of the walkway. The result of weight settling upon a plank?
Her mysterious attacker's bulky form comes dropping through the cloak, muscular arms closing around the lighter ninja and bundle her neatly up within the cloak's scratchy fabric. Not one for silks or soft cottons, the disguise of Noboru Miyama is spun from wool and died a dark grey, thick and warm if not altogether comfortable. Hemp-bound feet thudding to the boards in a wide stance, he twists violently to the side in an attempt to sweep Kasumi off of her feet and bring her slamming down upon the boards with just enough of an impact to jar through her bones, before she is swept up, cloak bundle and all, and hurled effortlessly through the air, tumbling through space as she arcs out over the river and down, down toward the center of the cross-marked island.
However she lands, Noboru Miyama watches her descent from nearly the same spot she stood just moments ago, thin grey under-robe and loose pants rippling in the breeze. Shabby, shaggy, with long hair somewhere between blonde and brown and a length of black silk stretched across his lower face, he stares after her with his one ice-blue eye, the other scarred over and perhaps permanently closed.
"HRRRRMH." he rumbles, the hemp rope that wraps his fists creaking as he slowly flexes them closed. A long breath in, then out, and he crouches, launching himself up and over the rail to descend toward the island mere moments after Kasumi, making to land in a heavy crouch that crunches loose stone beneath his feet. There he will wait, ready. The Iron Mystic of the Miyama clan. Not a man known for his jokes or good humor.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi has started a fight here.

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Kasumi            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Noboru has joined the fight here.

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Noboru           0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0            Kasumi

COMBATSYS: Noboru successfully hits Kasumi with Embrace the Sky.

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Noboru           0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0            Kasumi

The extensive variety ninjutsu among the shadow clans is enough such that simply knowing an opponent is a ninja is almost useless when it comes to trying to anticipate their approach to combat. Some lean heavily on the use of weaponry while others elusive trickery and illusion. The Mugen Tenshin all possess a fluid, hard striking style utilizing elbow strikes and crushing kicks with the degree of speed with which their techniques can be executed coming down to the capabilities of the individuals.

Of this one who has issued the challenge, Kasumi is afforded precious little information initially, having yet to even lay eyes on her opponent. The best she can do is try to be alert, ready, and react to whatever comes her way.

Already she is beginning to move along the walkway, knowing better than to be stationary while leaving the rest of the field to the other to command as he sees fit. But she only gets a few quick steps along the walkway before the first attack comes. Anticipating the angle but not the nature of the ambush, the kunoichi whirls to face the first hint of sound, hands raised, muscles tensing as she prepares to spring.

But what she sees is nothing like she had anticipated, a wide shadow against the distant rays of dim dawn's light envelopes her view and cuts off all option of escape. Senses alert, she picks up the shifting of wood above the steady rush of the waterfall and the fluttering of the shroud descending toward her and for a moment panics - was there in fact two? Or did he reposition himself in that instant?

Her response is to strike back, moving with left shoulder forward, arm raisd, bent at the elbow, as she tries to slam her upper arm into the fabric. She turns then, right hand moving in next, an open palmed press aimed slightly higher than her left forearm. The intent is not just to strike blindly in hopes of catching someone on the other side but also to try and knock back the scratchy wool vision block before it can fully envelope around her.

The attempt proves futile, however, the instant the Iron Mystic lends his own strength of arms to the opening maneuver. Fully captured within the cloth, Kasumi attempts two counter attacks - trying to get her left elbow into a position to strike back through the thick material, and driving her right knee up toward where she thinks her opponent's center of mass is - but both are in vain as she's hauled off her feet and smashed against the walkway floor hard enough to stun her for a brief instant.

As things tend to be when ninjas clash, that instant is enough as Noboru is free to lift and hurl her bodily into the open air beyond the small safety fence of the observation deck.

Only when mid-air does she finally twist free, spinning her body along her vertical access to wring herself out of the bulky shroud and plunge into a more controlled landing within the tiled circle. The grass flattens around her briefly before springing back upright and the creeks continue to gurgle all around her as she looks back up at the shinobi of the Miyama clan with focused observation.

Getting a clear look at the exiled Mugen Tenshin ninja princess affords further details of her attire - such as the image of a goregous swan taking flight on the front of her skirt below the sash around her waist or the two pairs of blue ribbons the shade of her training uniform that are tied into a bow around mid-hip on either side, providing some small amount of tension keeping the front and back sections of her skirt from swaying completely freely.

Now is her chance to take in the older fighter herself. His imposing stature is no reason to hesitate - she is used to fighting foes larger than herself in most of her engagements - but she also knows that she can't discount the crafty nature of those who move within the shadows and looks can be deceiving. She's also not afraid to attack him while he crouches, knowing that it might be easier for him to guard from that stance but also equipped with plenty of options for attacking lower when necessary.

Her expression reflecting committed resolve, she moves in on him the instant he lands. Slipping in quickly, she bends her right knee forward enough to afford her a strong, back swinging knife-handed strike toward the side of his head. But the strike, while quite real, is not the true threat, as her forward momentum flows smoothly into an upward lunge as Kasumi brings her right knee up, targeting the Iron Mystic's chin. "Ha!"

If she manages to dislodge him at all from his crouch, she'd follow up by slamming her left knee up for a second knee strike before allowing her upward momentum to take her into a small arc and quick landing on the other side of the circle of tiles a moment later.

COMBATSYS: Noboru blocks Kasumi's Reppu Renkyaku.

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Noboru           0/-------/-----==|===----\-------\0            Kasumi

For the many shadow clans and hidden villages that haunt the secret places throughout the realm, there are often little signs to inform the careful observer from which they hail. Many of the clans around Mount Fuji have a tendency to wear some sort of clan iconography about their person. But as Kasumi makes her dashing approach, she can easily see that isn't the case here.
Other clans instead prefer to pass down special techniques, whether offensive or defensive, that help them to carry out their sacred mission. But if Noboru knows such a technique it is not revealed as he bows his head forward, long hair falling across his face mere moments before the Ninja Princess's knife hand strikes him squarely in the top of the skull, the impact vibrating back up her arm as if she'd tried to chop a boulder. Hands remaining clinched at the level of his ribs, the scarred brute of a shinobi avoids the following knee by rising smoothly to a stand, his coarse hair tickling across the bare skin of her thigh as he lifts his chin back up, azure shin guard nearly brushing the tip of his nose.
The hot breath of his rumbling exhale washes across her leg before the Iron Mystic drifts a single step back, Kasumi's follow up knee launching her in a low arc that brushes the trailing end of her skirt across the back of his head as she descends to land lightly behind him.
If he is a ninja, he is rather unorthodox. Oddly still, with an economy of motion much at odds with the exile's mix of speed and fluid grace.
And yet, there is something. Some presence of mind, the way he follows her movements. If he is not a ninja himself he is very familiar with them.
No sooner as Kasumi landed than does Noboru strike, Left foot slicing through the air with an audible 'FWOOOSH' as he whirls himself into a short half turn, ending side-on to her crouching back while the heel of his foot is driven squarely toward the enticing target of her toned backside. It isn't nearly as impressive as the sort of high kicks she herself is capable of, but there is certainly an abundance of power behind it for how little lead up he has.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi blocks Noboru's Medium Kick.

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Noboru           0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0            Kasumi

Tabi-clad feet alight against the grass with the same near-silence as her previous landing, ponytail, ribbons, skirt, and the crimson tassel of her sheathed sword falling only a split second behind. There is no pause in her landing, however, the Azure Kunoichi pushing up out of her landing into a tight spin to the right, right elbow leading the way just in case the older ninja had risked closing in tighter behind her. But the actual intended attack seems to be the whipping of her left leg around into the spin into what could have been a full-force roundhouse kick.

In a testament to her reflexes, however, the prodigy trained in combat since she could walk adjusts the upswing of her leg just in time to drive her shin into the sentinel's own strike, catching his heel on her sapphire blue shin guard with a loud crack. Even mitigated by the padded, sturdy armor protecting the front of her leg, she feels the blow in her bone, knowing full well there will be a bruise beneath the impact point later. But feeling his striking force even through her guard, she knows full well it's better than getting cleanly hit!

"Is this personal?" she asks as she is forced to withdraw from her intended kick in order to regain proper footing. Is this mysterious figure from one of the attacked villages? Or do his motives lie elsewhere?

Putting the dull ache in her shin out of mind, she springs back onto the offense, deterred only for a split second by the improvised defense. Using her left foot to launch her into a hopping spin to the right, her right leg lingers, serving as the axis of her turn and allowing her left leg to snap up into a strong spinning kick near head level of the stone voiced adjudicator.


Unless prevented, she would follow through the movement, continuing into a full turn, drawing her right leg up tightly, folding it into a readied kick right as the nimble ninja comes out of her spin.

In fluid unison, her left foot plants against one of the stone tiles, grounding her solidly while she leans back and pistons the chambered high side kick directly toward Noboru's center of mass!


COMBATSYS: Noboru blocks Kasumi's Medium Kick.

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Noboru           0/-------/---====|====---\-------\0            Kasumi

Heel meets guard with a muffled THUMP, grass swaying away from the impact in a rippling ring of motion. It is a warning as much as anything, a testing strike to gauge their apposing durabilities. With his weight balanced easily upon one foot, striking leg extended forward and down, he tenses his abdomen in a flex tight enough that she can see the ridged muscles going taught against his robe, applying perfect counter force to the weight of her block.
It's like slamming her shin into a statue, the larger shinobi rooted so thoroughly he may as well be channeling the chi of the earth. Perhaps that is his secret? The reason his bones seem to be so freakishly sturdy, absorbing blows and penetrating armor as if he were flesh grown over a frame of rock. Or, more simply, he might just be tough. Scarily, insanely tough.
"You ask as if my answer would alter our path." Noboru replies with slow inevitability. "Which would you weigh greater, actions, or intent?"
Answering a question with a question, the Iron Mystic brings his foot down in a stomp that vibrates the small island they stand upon, continuing to stand perpendicular to the copper-haired princess as she hops forward to attack. And again, she is granted insight into her opponent. Were he a baser man the sight of her skirt flowing away from one smooth, toned thigh might be a distraction. The tools of a kunoichi are many, and Kasumi can't be ignorant to the affect her well-honed form has on men. That mixture of athleticism and softness that causes guards to drop, and more grizzled foes to regularly under estimate her.
Noboru barely seems to notice, knees flexing as he crouches just low enough for her ankle to brush past his hair in another display of eery precision. Does he have the length of her limbs measured in his mind? Is it an instinct? Some sort of predictive calculus?
Rising fully upright with deceptive slowness, he ghosts forward a step, slipping closer in that fractional moment in which her back is turned. Hair and silken cloth swirling within easy touching distance, there is not a foot between his chest and her chambered leg, the scars and dusting of blond hair looming forward closer, closer...
Left arm sweeping up, he clashes an iron-hard forearm into the curve of her ankle just as she begins the kick, muscling it aside so that she lashes out at the air just past his shoulder. At the same moment his right fist flashes forward across the narrowing gap, aimed to drive a wedge between the twin peaks of feminine softness that grace her chest and strike her dead in the sternum. And, despite it being a jab, despite it being walked forward as part of a defensive maneuver, the blow strikes with near stunning force, attempting to jar her backward out of her kicking momentum and open her up for him to take a second forward step, ghosting past her left shoulder to stand just behind her planted leg.
Left arm snapping forward out of the sweeping block, he pivots, foot stomping, hips and shoulders twisting into a full reversal of momentum as he drives a devastating elbow back toward the center of the Mugen Tenshin exile's shoulder blades. A blow that, if it lands, could send her skidding back across the length of their small island, or potentially even further.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi full-parries Noboru's Bones of the Earth!!

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Noboru           0/-------/----===|=======\-------\1            Kasumi

"Intent drives action," Kasumi forces the words through grit teeth as she launches herself into her twin spin kicks. Looking at the stature of the man she faces, one would not expect him to be able to slip so easily beneath her airborne kick. Aiming high against opponents his size is usually to her advantage, able to add leaping momentum to her own blows and confident in their inability to simply duck out of the way. Statuesque in bearing, yet far swifter in motion than many she has faced with builds akin to his, the Iron Mystic does exactly that, much to her surprise.

She follows through all the same, switching legs as she pivots into a full turn, attempting to add even more momentum into her kick - combining honed muscle with added kinetic energy from her drop, the kick she smashes out is enough to batter through the defense of most fighters.

Instead, he redirects her strike with a forceful thrust of his arm and her stocking-clad leg rams past him.

With his target balanced on one leg, other leg fully extended in an errant kick, the opportunity to counter strike seems all but assured... If she didn't let her right leg buckle just in time, leaning further back suddenly, intentionally unbalancing herself so that she plunges out of the path of his fist. With muscle like stone, his arm passes over her lower abdomen, fist brushing between the curves tucked into the wrappings of her dress before she falls completely out of contact with the intended blow, her left leg swinging up over her.

Rather than simply fall to her back amid the grass, however, Kasumi's right hand slams down, thudding against the ground. Her elbow bends, arm and torso muscles tensing, before she pushes off with ample counter force to twist back up on her right foot, left leg swinging down in counter motion to bring the kunoichi rising back up in the direction of standing, already turned to face Noboru directly from behind, folding both her arms together to slam them up beneath his rocketing elbow strike even as fragments of disturbed earth fall from her fingertips.

"Actions," the Azure Ninja continues, bursting back onto the offense, "Can be accidents."

Her left arm would sweep up then in a circular motion, trying to drive his extended arm up further, or at the very least, prevent him from shifting into a proper defensive angle before she can strike. Meanwhile, she twists her body to the left in fluid motion with the attempted guard break, right arm tucking in tight, elbow out, legs bracing, feet dug in...

Before she surges forward with speed that rivals some of the fastest martial artists in the world, a blur of blue, white, and pale flesh, aiming to drive a devastating elbow strike into the potentially unprotected side of the Stone Sentinel's ribcage.

Her own motion would carry her past him, feet struggling for a moment to gain sufficient traction to slow such momentum all the way to the point that she would splash into ankle deep water, sending a spray of droplets into the air before coming to rest in a low crouch, body bent over her left knee, right leg braced to the point that her white-covered knee is just an inch over the water.

COMBATSYS: Noboru barely endures Kasumi's Oboro Gake EX.

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Noboru           0/-------/-======|=======\==-----\1            Kasumi

Viewed as a series of critical moments, flashes in time, one can see the exact point in which the momentum begins to turn. A stony fist brushing through a valley of silk. A stocking-clad leg swept high over head. The twisting pivot that puts her in the perfect position to respond, and, most telling of all, the Iron Mystic's right hand already beginning to reach across his body.
If the exiled Princess has eyes to see, at least one of the hulking shinobi's secrets is revealed in the way he has begun to react, moving even before her folded arms meet his elbow. It is not that he is fast, or uncommonly agile, it is his mind that has allowed him to keep pace with her up to now.
Slender arms meet elbow and the blasting strike is directed over her head, the upward press of her follow up palm feeling the way iron-like muscles tense throughout his body, preparing to receive the blow. Right hand continuing to move, he reaches across his body toward the kunoichi's side, battle-hardened fingers spread as if to plant against her middle and halt her momentum entirely, to out range the blow that he knows is coming and prevent its landing.
He is too slow.
Demonstrating legendary speed that very few could ever hope to match, the copper-haired girl explodes forth in a driving elbow that cracks the larger fighter squarely in the ribs, a huffing breath of a grunt forced from his nose as force ripples throughout his stony skeleton. Forced into a slight, sideways sway, his reaching hand manages the lightest stroke across one soft hip before she passes fully out of reach, blasting across the island that ends in a skidding slide through the shallows.
The last of the force rippling through his body to ground itself in the earth, Noboru's elbow drops, breath released slowly through his mask as he turns calmly about to face her.
"And so it is," The Mystic replies, left arm shifting to test the range of his movement, whatever aching pain he feels kept from showing on his masked face, "actions may reveal intent."
It is at that moment, perhaps unfortunately, that Kasumi may feel the loose shift of her silken dress as the wind attempts to grab it, the bow that had held the material taught across her left hip having come mysteriously untied. A quick review of how would bring to mind that faint whisper of a touch as the Miyama shinobi attempted to defend himself. A strategy to slow or distract her, perhaps?
Ice-blue eye dropping from the back of the beautiful kunoichi's head to the area of hip in question, he lets out a low, thoughtful noise, three slow steps carrying him forward to stand tall and stoic upon the exact center of the island's cross.
"Yet," he admits with rumbling calm, his grinding tone completely unmoved as he makes the admission, "There do remain, accidents."
Likely not on purpose then.
Feet planted just further than a shoulders width apart, Noboru Miyama lifts his left fist to hover a foot before his chin, hemp squeaking as the stony flesh tightens into a fist. All around them the wind seems to slow, then die, stilling as he breathes softly out in harmonious connection with the valley. As he breathes in, both the air, and the energy that flows beneath their feet respond, swirling softly around him as his scarred left eye flashes open. A pale, milky white, its gaze spears through Kasumi, piercing effortlessly through the fragile veils of flesh to witness that which lives within. The truth of what makes the exile what, and who, she is.

COMBATSYS: Noboru focuses on his next action.

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Noboru           0/-------/-======|=======\==-----\1            Kasumi

Both ends of the undone ribbon hang down straight against the side of her hip as Kasumi lingers for a moment to recover from the surge in speed and slippery slide to a stop. And then lingers for another few moments as it seems the Iron Mystic has not pursued her into the shallow rivulet, seeming to leave the choice up to the kunoichi on when to resume their violent exchange.

Waiting for three exhales, she finally pushes up, legs straightening as she pivots to face Noboru of the Miyama once again, water splashing lightly as she moves her feet into a loose ready stance, arms raised, left leg and left hand more forward than on the right.

His gravely voice mentions accidents the smirk that crosses her features is fleeting; there an instant then gone. Her breathing is calm in spite her early aggression and incredible surge in speed. There can be no question as to her athleticism as even thigh high altitude of this refuge does not seem to infringe upon her lasting vigor in a fight.

She is hardly naive enough to mistake the fact that he stands his ground for the idea that he is unprepared. It is not unusual for fighters to utilize a moment given to bring increased precision to their next strike. But stopping similarly for long is simply not the Azure Ninja's style. There would be no longer pause from her.

She contemplates the weapon at her back. Though her unarmed techniques can prove to be no less devastating, with their striking force, speed, and knowledge of where to hit to inflict crippling damage... Shrouded Moon can prove far more effective against those highly resistant to her strikes as this stone-muscled man seems to be. But drawing the tassled wakizashi is a commitment to draw blood, and, if necessary, rob a foe of their life.

While the half-masked is an aggressor, she is not convinced such escalation is necessary. Yet.

Instead she tenses, breathing through her mouth slowly. When she transitions to stationary to attacking, it comes a little slower than previously - feet finding slight resistance in moving through the ankle deep water, and traction suffering slightly due to the slick rocks in the bed of the stream. But that isn't to suggest that her next advance is slow either as she surges forward, one, two, three steps through the water then crossing the tile-decorated grassy landing to close in on Noboru again, her white stockings semi-translucent from lower shin down as water soaks through the fabric.

No statement this time, no question, as she twists to the left, shoulder forward, arm moving up to target the Stone Sentinel right below the bottom of his sternum. Right hand slams against left fist to add more force to the elbow strike as Kasumi aims to deliver another short ranged but potentially stunning strike.

Whether she connects cleanly through his guard, or tempts an immediate counter attack due to her close proximity, she is already converting her forward momentum into spinning her whole body to the left.

Left leg planted, she leans hard to the side, right leg snapping up and out horizontally at the hip as she scythes her foot into a hundred and eighty degree sweep toward Noboru's side with crushing force.


Unless prevented, she would continue the spin, balanced on her left leg as the center axis of her swift motion, before coming around in full and planting her right foot down against the grass as well.

COMBATSYS: Noboru blocks Kasumi's Aggressive Strike.

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Noboru           0/-------/=======|=======\==-----\1            Kasumi

Mismatched eyes of white and blue meet the Ninja Princess's honey brown as she turns to face him, as cool and calm as a glacial lake. More than simply focused, or centered, the muscular shinobi seems tuned in to some greater force, briefly one with whatever mechanical force hums behind the veil of the universe. Bad eye gazing into the world of spirit, energy, and fate, for a short time the Iron Mystic can read those illusive strands. Perhaps, if he but has the skill, even pluck them.
Unreadable in the face of Kasumi's fleeting smirk, Noboru waits with the indifferent patience of a mountain. It is no longer a mystery to the young prodigy that the man before her is a thinker. An odd mixture of predictive planning and raw physicality that is rarely found in the fighting world. But whether or not that will be enough to stand against one with her talents?
They will find out together.
Water splashes and sprays as Kasumi makes her move, closing the distance with another uncanny burst of speed. And though she isn't quite a blur of fair skin and silk, the brute has just enough time to bring his right palm forward, intercepting the elbow with a resounding 'FWAP!'.
Low grumble escaping him, the mystic applies fractionally increasing pressure to bleed off much of the force of the strike, hand driven a good three inches back toward the scarred expanse of his muscular chest. A twist of his wrist disengages the block, allowing her to spin free while his hand drops clear toward his hip, fingers curling into an ever-tightening fist.
Right foot sweeping forth to accept a forward shift in balance, he drops his left fist from the level of his chin and brings his tensed forearm slicing down to clash against her shin, bringing the perfectly executed spin kick to a halt with the spray of displaced water droplets.
With yet another bone-jarring impact rattling through both of their skeletons, Noboru pushes off from his lead leg with a burst of speed beyond anything he's shown thus far. Unlike the graceful bursts of speed and power shown by his beautiful opponent, the Iron Mystic seems to simply shoulder reality out of his way, exploding forward in a single, devastating motion that sees his bulk taking a single dashing step forward. Passing along the length of Kasumi's well-formed leg, he twists at hips, shoulders, and leans all of his considerable mass into a single, rocketing punch thrown from his hip, right fist aimed to plough square into the exile's gut and fold her slender form in two. To plough straight through her and send her hurtling backward to skip across the surface of the water in one, enormous display of strength.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi instinctively blocks Noboru's Fault Line.

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Noboru           0/-------/-======|=======\====---\1            Kasumi

With every move she makes, the observer from the Miyama will see motion the heart of the Tenjinmon branch of Mugen Tenshin Ninjutsu. Fluid, adaptable, mobile, swift, leaning more into strings of attacks than powerful, singular blows. From as far back as she can remember, she was told she would be the heiress of clan leadership, the one to take over when her father's time as hokage of the village came to an end. To this end, no efforts were spared in the training the Kunoichi of Destiny and as she transitions smoothly between attacking and defending, moving aggressively without crossing the line into recklessness, Noboru is witness to the fruits of these efforts.

It was no small loss when Kasumi forsake her destiny to pursue her personal vendetta against the dark shinobi who attacked her village and nearly killed her brother.
Though perhaps there was some solace for the wounded clan when Hayate survived the incident, at least.

Fearless, Kasumi helicopters into her spin kick, balanced perfectly on one leg as she attempts to do one complete, violent turn with intent of crushing the side of the Iron Mystic. But the attempt is stopped short, his unyielding forearm intercepting her kick, leaving her perched precariously on one foot for a moment as he comes in with a return fire blow that she would be hard pressed to weather even if she was well grounded on both feet.

That she reacts at all from her frozen mid-kick posture is a byproduct of her years of training. That she manages to do it in time as the steel-like arm jettisons forward toward her unprotected stomach must surely be raw talent - rare instincts in understanding the ebb and flow of battle on such a level that she need not wait to see what he would do next in order to try and protect herself.

Both arms move down, forearm above forearm, as she places her azure protectors into the path of Noboru's fist at the last possible instant. A crack echos against the rocky edges of the high-altitude refuge as the Shinobi in Blue is sent flying, folded forward, a cry forced from her lips along with her breath. Even through the armored guard, the impact to her stomach is more than enough to launch her backward clean off her feet and well beyond the circumference of the grassy landing.

But her defensive reaction did manage to mitigate the impact enough for her to retain enough of her senses to recover, leaning forward against her velocity, feet slamming down into the shallow water as she lands in a long backward skid through one of the rivulets, leaving a plume of displaced droplets of water in her wake.

Kasumi comes to rest in the shin-deep water of one of the pools, disturbed lily pads swaying about on the newly made ripples.

Both arms still folded over her stomach, she straightens up slowly, taking in a breath and releasing it with a slow exhale, shoulders rising and falling with her breathing as her eyes fix across the way back toward Noboru. Unfolding her arms, she shakes her left arm a few times as the armored forearm protector strapped there falls to pieces into the pool, revealing the reddened blemish on her skin from the absorbed blow.

And then she moves again, surging back through the water toward the Iron Mystic, not waiting to see if he would close on his own, the pool too shallow to slow her movements extensively. From three meters out, she ducks lower and seems to pick up even more speed, almost gliding along the ground as she closes the final stretch between them. Reaching out, hands seek purchase on the Miyama warrior's arms, intending to use them as anchors to pull herself up with her momentum into three rapid stomps of her feet - targeting his knee, stomach, chest, all in a bid to bring herself to the level of his shoulders so that she can kick herself into a backflip away as if intending to retreat after her brief moment of contact.

Letting down one's guard in that instant would be a mistake, however, as the kunoichi suddenly vanishes into a swirling helix of pink sakura blossoms only to reappear behind a handful of feet in the air behind Noboru, streaking down toward his spine right elbow first, with more speed than simple gravity alone would generate.


As with previous attacks, her target is to smash her hard elbow into his back with enough force to leave her safe to skid to a stop in her landing, her trajectory either stopping short behind him, or taking her into a slide beyond him depending on the final angle of impact.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Noboru with Oboro Zukiyo.

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Noboru           1/------=/=======|=======\======-\1            Kasumi

Striking with the force and precision of a steel piston, a wave of wind ripples out from the impact of fist against bracers, flattening the grass in a wide circle around him while the exiled Princess herself is sent hurtling away trailing silky ribbons and even softer copper-colored hair.
Joints crackle with released tension as the Mystic relaxes his hand, fingers flexing straight as it hovers before him in the wake of the strike. There is no magic that empowers him, no chi to lend him strength or durability. Only a body battered and beaten into a weapon strong enough to wield against the forces of darkness.
A body, a will, and the vision that guides them.
Moving with a single, violent motion, he retreats from his forward stomp to stand tall and planted once more, muscular arms raised in a guard with left fist before his chin and right forearm angled up at a diagonal across his body. Mismatched eyes tracking Kasumi's recovery into a watery power slide, he dips his head in her direction, long hair falling across his face.
Skillfully done.
And yet the blow was not without affect, one of the kunoichi's arm guards falling to pieces in testament to the strength of the blow. Having taken one another's measure, it is clear that he is not her equal in speed. Nor does he seem to match her in adaptability, or raw talent. But in terms of strength, durability, and patience?
Once more the Mugen Tenshin Exile rushes him in a glorious display of speed. Exiting the water in but a few splashing steps, she goes low and accelerates, a myriad of potential futures unfolding between them. Forcing a choice, a split second decision between many likely paths.
Right arm dropping low as if to intercept another rising knee, he leaves his left fist poised before his chin, the muscular limb making for a perfect handle for both small hands to latch upon, the nimble ninja's forward movement transitioning into hard stomps to his thigh, lowered arm, and finally his chest as she runs up his front with supernatural poise, trailing droplets splattering his front from her soaked stockings as she launches herself away in a graceful flip.
Having had only enough time to partially rotate his released arm, Noboru tenses every formidable muscle in his bulky frame to iron rigidity, hardening the support around his spine a fraction of a moment before she comes hurtling down from above, the high, feminine cry of battle ringing across the rippling waters.
Bone impacts bone with enough force to drive the ninja down to one knee, ground vibrating as he slams to earth beneath the force of the impact. Shoulders hunched, course hair blown forward over his shoulders, he rumbles out a low, rough grunt of pain while she continues forward, skidding past him to end a short ways ahead and to his right.
And yet, even in his moment of shock, golden-brown brows furrowed against the pain that sparks up and down the length of his spine, his right hand lashes out in per suit of her trailing leg.
Unless she manages to stop him, stony fingers will close around her sodden left calf and jerk her backward off her feet, dragging her along the grass in a sudden whiplash of motion. Rocks and stones will pass by in a flash as he hauls her belly-down across the earth, gripping hand coming to rest beside his downed knee as his already raised left drops like a hammer, attempting to smash freakishly hard knuckles squarely into that delightful hollow above the curve of her rump, targeting her tail bone in an attempt to hamper her maneuverability even by a fraction.

COMBATSYS: Kasumi fails to counter Combo Grapple from Noboru with Momiji Otoshi EX.

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Noboru           1/-------/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Kasumi

Even with the speed that he reaches after her, the kunoichi was not unaware of his reach. As before, she demonstrates a willingness to temporarily sacrifice balance in order to avoid a more immediate threat. Her forward knee bends as she starts to pivot, looking as if ready to fall onto her side just out of reach of the Iron Mystic's powerful hand. But she isn't simply trying to be evasive in the moment, for as her eyes track his hand, her own hand starts to reach back. At the same time, her trailing leg kicks upward slightly, intending to jar his grip astray and leave him vulnerable to her own retaliatory grab.

But his arm proves impossible to dislodge in spite her effort, fingers securing their intended grip. Before she can even finish falling to her side, Kasumi finds her foot pulled back, her body falling to the grass as she grunts softly.

Yanked back harshly, her arms flail, fingers trying to secure purchase in the grass covered soil only to leave raking claw marks instead. Hauled along, the back of her training outfit affords no coverage as the rear portion of the skirt slides to the side, exposing the quarter coverage white mokko fundoshi worn beneath. Even when he pulls her in close, she's still trying to scramble free, starting to try and roll onto her side so that she can force her free leg between him and her and thrust herself free.

But his stunning blow comes too swiftly, hammering into her tailbone just below her horizontally sheathed wakizashi with a clean hit, causing the Shinobi in Blue to bend backward, one arm raised, mouth agape as the intense pain radiates out from the point of impact. Other other arm reaches back on reflex to the bruising bone, teeth gritting as she sucks in a hissing breath.

While not the worst injury she had ever endured, it was certainly among the more painful.

And there's something else - something that feels off in the aftermath. Something apart from the sharp pain she can't fully ignore, more akin to the ebb and flow of energy she is able to channel through her stolen family heirloom blade, but not exactly the same either...But even still, she can't stop moving just because of this. Digging one foot against the ground, she straightens her leg, kicking herself forward into a low lunge, spinning half around into a brief slide along the grass.

Red in her cheeks betray the pain in her spine, but she's still standing, and still show signs of being able to move dangerously fast.

It remains to be seen yet if his attempt at disabling her alacrity will pay off.

Stony fingers dig into damp cloth with force that threatens to tear the delicate material, to gouge through and dig into the silken flesh beneath. Within Noboru's hands lies the strength to crush stone, the Ninja Princess very likely to have a deep, hand-shaped bruise encircling her toned calf when she checks it later.
Despite her flailing, clawing scrabble to prevent it, Kasumi is drug along the ground like the ditsy, topless heroine of an 80s horror flick. And, much like the self same heroine might, her skirt is tugged aside by the greedy fingers of the earth, revealing the smooth, perfect curves that lead from the backs of her stocking-clad legs to the crease of her beautifully arched back. A full three fourths of Kasumi's toned, supple rear is exposed to him, only just protected by the white cloth strip of her fundoshi. And though Noboru is a man of stone both within and without, hardened by decades of training and able to face down gods and tyrants with equal indifference, even he pauses at the sight of her pale bottom wiggling and flexing beneath him.
A fractional pause, barely notable, but how could she not notice, given the circumstances?
His fist falls with a resounding THUD, the force rippling out through her body in ways both delightful and otherwise, back arching in pain and hand coming to rest just above the curves of her peach before she kicks herself free with the ripping tear of one soaked stocking, lunging free of his iron-like grip so that she may face him with cheeks alight.
Mismatched eyes lifting to meet her pained gaze, the Iron Mystic remains tactfully silent, allowing another moment to pass between them as she gathers herself and he draws in a long, slow breath, returning to the cold focus of his center.
The fight must continue.
Exploding up from the ground in a sudden lunge of his own, Noboru hurls himself into a single, whirling spin, soaring five feet into the air as his back leg sweeps straight out to his side. From his side to forward and up, lifting higher, then higher as he twists a full 360 degrees. With only a quarter turn remaining and his leg angled up before him, he pivots his hips and brings his heel scything down in a spinning axe kick, the blow aimed to smash Kasumi full on center mass and carry them both off the edge of the island. To launch her ploughing off through the water before impacting the shallows with a splash that roars out in all directions, heel cleaving a path through the slick stones beneath as he crashes down into a landing crouch.

COMBATSYS: Noboru successfully hits Kasumi with Diving Kick.
- Power hit! -

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Noboru           1/------=/=======|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Kasumi

Turning to face Noboru, Kasumi waits. The observer from Miyama has rarely shown moments of action throughout the exchange, seeming to prefer to wait for her to come to him. And while she tends to find success in being the aggressor when it comes to keeping pressure on opponents she faces, a moment's reprieve would do wonders after the blow to her lower back. Still, she raises her hands, leaning forward slightly, feet apart with one leg forward in her normal ready stance. Bruised as she might be, with one torn stocking slightly torn and parts of her attire stained by grass, she will continue to fight.

But the Iron Mystic makes his move faster than she would have preferred, shifting to the first aggressive move following his initial ambush. He takes to the air, utilizing a steep angle of attack that adds additional momentum to his already formidable strength. Only having just risen herself, she knows with certainty that with the pain radiating out from her lower back, she isn't going to be able to move as she needs to in order to weave around the attack. Given another several seconds, perhaps she would have recovered in time, but that opportunity isn't to be afforded her now.

Sucking in her breath, she brings her arms, forearms in the path of his descending strike, shifting slightly to the right to thrust her right forearm forward so that the azure bracing over that arm can absorb the greater portion of the force, with her bruised left arm attempting to provide supplementary defensive bracing.

But for her effort, it isn't enough, and as if struck by a plunging boulder, the kunoichi in blue is sent hurtling, body folded in half, arms and feet trailing as she rockets several meters over the sanctuary's pools before splashing down on her back in knee deep water, splashing sheets of water, lily pads, and probably even some hapless fish in all directions.

Landed in a half seated position, hands planted against the mossy bottom of the pool, knees sticking up out of the water, the soaked ninja shakes her head, her drenched ponytail barely moving while droplets of water spray out from saturated bangs. Gritting her teeth, she scrambles up to her feet in the disturbed water, left hand wiping across her face to force water from her eyes, while her right hand rests against her stomach as she feels her diaphragm spasming from the pain of the blow.

Having her air cut off from lungs so punch drunk they've forgotten how to fight will effectively limit her capacity to continue. She has to act fast - the need to attack back driven by instinct honed by training. She seeks out Noboru, pivots toward him with another splash of water, then tenses, leaning forward more, winding her body to the side, pulling her muscles tight like an industrial spring ready for violent release.

And then she vanishes, leaving only swirling blossoms as the water collapses back in on the spaces her legs occupied. The Iron Mystic would have only an instant to prepare as the Tenshin Mugen exile explodes into a blur of motion at his side, left arm aiming to lock into his arm, attempting to pry it slightly away from his body while she spins her body to the left, aiming to drive another elbow strike into his ribcage at precisely the same place she had struck before. She would explode past him in the attempt only to vanish from sight two meters beyond and reappear on his other side, descending from above, a streak of white, copper, and blue, as she aims to plow her elbow into the side of his neck.

She'd aim to land out of the dive just past him, feet digging to a short slide, body already wound up tightly just as when she started so that she can rocket forward, right elbow leading, to deliver a third elbow strike far more fierce than any prior in their battle!

At the same instant, an explosion of sound erupts out from the point of impact, a blast wave of sonic chi that sends grass, pebbles, and a spray of water flying outward in a perfect circle around the two of them.

In the instant, she wasn't even aware of the phenomenon, and it certainly wasn't a part of the technique she unleashed, but while there is no visible manifestation of chi, there can be no denying its effects on the environment around them.

COMBATSYS: Noboru fails to interrupt Oka Ranman EX from Kasumi with Iron Sentinel.

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Noboru           1/-======/=======|>>>>>--\-------\0            Kasumi

Right heel cleaving through moss and stone as if they were wet clay, /self impacts the shallows like living thunder. Crouched in the ankle-deep water, right leg stretched to the side and left knee angled forward and out, water washes out from him in a knee-high wave, colliding with that caused by Kasumi's landing and sending sprays of foam leaping skyward. Plant and wild life alike swirl chaotically through the clashing ripples, water rolling back in to flood around the Iron Mystic's shins.
The river continuing to sway and splash from the forces brought to bear, Noboru pushes up from his crouch with cool focus, wading half a step forward through the nearly knee-high pool to settle once more into his fist-forward stance.
At nearly the same moment, the Mugen Tenshin exile regains her own feet, both of them taking a moment to assess in their own way. Observing her with mismatched eyes, he can see her pain, see the aching tightness gathered at her lower back, watch the flow of her chi as it fluctuates slightly out of sink.
He witnesses the odd spark that jolts down from the heavens to complete the circuit, filling her with a surge of power just as honed muscles begin to tense beneath the deceptive softness of her soaked form.
All at once, the fates align before him and he can see it all. The course of her strikes, the finish, and his one, fleeting chance to stop it before it can begin.
They move as one.
Water collapses in toward the space the kunoichi occupied, a rain of blossoms left to swirl gently through the air. At the same moment, Noboru's left fist drops,elbow beginning to straighten as he flashes a lightning-quick blow straight out to his left, forearm cutting the air with a roar of parted wind.
Appearing just beneath the potentially fight-ending blow, Kasumi can feel the hemp wrap of his forearm whispering across the silken strands of her sodden hair, arm snapping out to full extension as she blurs into her spin, the way to his ribs completely open and unguarded.
That tenuous thread of fate snaps, Noboru's only hope of disrupting the maneuver dying as her elbow hammers into the precise spot she struck him before. Through robe and skin she can feel the bones shift, both of them hearing the crack of fractures radiating across the centermost ribs before the iron cage of his muscles clamps down, absorbing much of the penetration and preventing the bones from being broken in full.
A grunt, low and rough, huffs forth from his nose as he begins a slow motion hunch, muscles flexing out against his robe, body hardening in the instances between the flowing ninja vanishes from behind him and appears above, sharp elbow scything down to strike him square in the side of the neck. A blow that could kill a normal man, or render a lesser fighter unconscious. But if nothing else the Iron Mystic lives up to his reputation, impact shuttering through him as he flexes his knees, bracing against the downward pressure of the strike.
She lands, sliding forth amidst a spray of sparkling droplets. His vision is full of her, a bruised and tattered angel, still fierce despite her wounds. Between them, his hand is lifting, having been moving in comparative slow motion even as his opening gambit failed. He knows he won't be able to block her. Any chance of that was lost when he failed to slow her with his opening gambit. He can only watch as she reverses course, briefly meeting her eyes as her elbow flashes in above his rising hand and strikes him squarely in the chest, making brief contact with dense muscle and course hair before the circuit within her breaks, releasing the raw force of nature's wrath squarely into the center of his sternum.
The bubble of destruction roars forth to sweep her surroundings aside, a circle of damp earth opening around her. Noboru himself is hurled off of his feet as if he weighed nothing at all, both eyes drifting closed while he soars five meters through the air. Crashing shoulders-first into the water, he ploughs a path back, and back, a great wave beginning to form before him...
And vanishes over the misty rim of the falls, hazy shadow dropping soundlessly out of sight.
Water cascades back in to swirl around the kunoichi's stocking-clad thighs.
The falls continue to roar far, far below.
A hemp-wrapped hand clamps hard upon the rock beneath the stream, the shinobi's masked face rising into sight as he hauls himself up against the weight of the stream. Long hair plastered across face and neck, robe a mess of dragging fabric, he rises calmly to a stand upon the edge of the fall, scarred hands dropping to unknot his belt. Shrugging the robe easily from his shoulders, he tosses it aside to land with a wet splat against the rocky face of the canyon, standing bare-chested before his opponent in grey pants and black mask. Beneath a course dusting of blondish-brown hair his fair skin is scarred, some small, some large, muscles ridged and powerful. His chest and ribs are a mottled patch of various colored bruises, but he seems no less powerful for it, fists lifting into a calm, cool-eyed guard in the face of her ferocity.
His left eye, however, has returned to its slumber.

A wave of confusion washes over the Tenshin Mugen in the aftermath of her attack, her mind racing through several threads of thought. For a few seconds, she stands, body heaving with deep breaths following the massive exertion of unleashing one of her most dangerous weapons in unarmed combat. The pain in her back and stomach is nauseating and everything in her mind is telling her to fall back. The intentions of this one are still not entirely certain... why risk further engagement and injury?

But her mind fixates on two key threads. What was that explosion of chi? It wasn't as if chi manipulation was a foreign concept among the Mugen Tenshin. Chi was at the heart of her teleporting ninpo, leaving springtide cherry blossoms in her wake. Hayate had the power of the wind woven into his techniques. When she drew Shrouded Moon, she could channel chi along the honed edge of the blade, augmenting the danger of its attacks. And of course, mastery of Rekku Jinpuu Satsu - a powerful, channeled blast - was the birthright of Hayate and hers, as progeny of her father, Shiden.

But what erupted at the moment of contact between her elbow and the Iron Mystic's unbreakable body was none of the above and she could not explain it. Was it something the monk of Miyama was responsible for? Was it something about this place? OR was it something else all together?

She also thought of her opponent in those first few seconds, as the realization settles in that he had gone hurtling toward the abyss. Beyond the edge of the waterfall is a steep plunge into a pool below. Miss that, and the fall into the valley would take several long, agonizing seconds before the abrupt stop at the end. Even though she had been attacking the man with all her ferocity, even though she had, in the heat of battle, gone for the neck, both figuratively and literally, she had not actually intended to take his life. Not that she was squeamish about the idea of it in principle, but she had only tapped into that killing potential of her training on very rare occasions in her life and had not meant for this exchange to be one of those times.

Shaking her head to scatter the confusion about that strange power that accompanied her strike, the soaked ninja starts to move forward toward the waterfall's edge, needing to see for herself what fate befell the stone-bodied sentinel.

She stops when his hand clamps on the cliff's edge, a flicker of surprise in her briefly worried features quickly replaced by a focused, resolved expression. She stays put as he sheds his tattered robe, perhaps a welcome change after what it had endured in her last technique. She, however, would not be following suit as water continues to fall from the bottom of her skirt, from the ends of her ribbons, or from her chin as it rolls down her cheeks from her hair.

Slowly, she returns to her ready stance as she studies the story of Noboru's battles inscribed on his scar-marked chest. There would be no denying that this was a man of conviction she faced. He also clearly intended to continue in spite the creak she detected in his ribs moments ago.

"Was that your doing?"

The ninja princess asks warily. If so, she isn't sure how. And if he seems simply confused by her question due to having nothing to do with it, then all the better for her anyway, she supposes. Her breathing is steadier now, the young woman benefiting not only from the natural vigor of youth but her intense training that she has never let up on in spite being in exile.

To close again then, that is her only option now. She learned first hand what price is paid in making Noboru come to her. The Iron Mystic moves as a wrecking ball and that is not a force of inertial she wants to collide with a second time... Not that she was oblivious to the close scrapes during her assault. Were she a hair slower his reaction would have stopped her cold. But the third option is to do nothing, or resort to more traditional ninja keepaway tactics of falling back while pelting him with whatever weaponry she might get her hands on.

But that is not the way of this. She would take the fight back to him, answering his quiet stare with unbreakable resolve.

Once more, the kunoichi plies her speed, surging toward Noboru. But unlike her prior techniques, she isn't bolting directly for him, as if daring anything to stop her. Instead, her feet splash through shallow water, then across the grassy patch of earth, digging in as she sprints out in a curved angle, at first angling away from Noboru then veering back toward him. The purpose fo this shift might become more obvious when studying the environment. Were she to charge him directly, she'd be bolting straight for the waterfall's edge. If she missed, she would go clean over it. If she connected, she might drive him over it. But at this side angle she comes in, a collision is more likely to strive them along the edge of the drop than over it.

Of course, there's the matter of anticipating her attack. Will she reach for him, smaller hands trying to secure enough of a hold to execute one of her grappling techniques? Or will she aim to deliver another crushing elbow strike?

Close, she leans lower, twisting her torso to the left, bringing her right shoulder forward... then simply lunges, feet leaving the ground as she spins into a rising shoulder slam, as if trying to bodily tackle the Mountain Monk. Of course, given her speed, and the coordination of leg, torso, and arm muscles in the attempt, it actually might be enough to dislodge even him!

COMBATSYS: Noboru blocks Kasumi's Suisei Chu.

[                          \\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Noboru           1/=======/=======|==-----\-------\0            Kasumi

Surely the world weeps in unimaginable anguish when Kasumi denies Noboru his shirtless challenge, but it does so quietly. Privately.
Rivulets of water drip slowly along the ridges and planes of the Miyama's stony torso, chest expanding, then relaxing with every calming breath. Between the wet silk that covers his face and the damage done to his ribs and sternum, the act of breathing can not be comfortable. And yet he forces air in, pauses, and releases in an attempt to recover what was knocked from him, still and calm in the face of pain and potential defeat.
"That which slumbers within you reaches out." Noboru replies, the low rumble of his voice muffled only slightly by his sodden mask. Cool blue eye tracking her approach, he adds, simple and solemn as ever, "It is not my doing. Nature, reaches back."
Planted like a mighty oak at the edge of the falls, water roiling and foaming around his braced thighs, the Iron Mystic allows his opponent her approach. No longer able to read the strands of fate, he must rely upon his instincts, the calculus of his mind. And, wounded as he is, muscles crying out for oxygen, he chooses the simplest approach.
She goes low, the entirety of the exile's well-honed body transformed into a missile of hard bone and supple flesh. In response, the shinobi tenses, veins standing out as an already hard body becomes solid granite, left arm brought low to shelter his ribs.
Shoulder meets hunched bicep with the SLAP of silk on skin, Noboru swaying only fractionally as the entirety of her gathered force breaks against him, resounding through the iron cage of his muscular system. Pain lances throughout his cracked ribs, throbs in his damaged chest, but he pushes through it, right hand lashing out across his body in an attempt to grab her full on by the face, stony fingers digging into silken skin and hair.
Allowing himself to begin to collapse, left arm still sheltering his ribs, he sways backward into open space as his hips begin to pivot, arm lifting the kunoichi free of the watery ground.
Hurling her over the edge into open space, tumbling perfect ass over kettle as he launches himself in pursuit.
Unless she can avoid him, the hulking shinobi will dive down from above, reaching out for a hand full of soaking ponytail. If he can get that grip he will drag her in close, knee smashing hard into her hip, before whipping her around to wrap her in an iron-like embrace. Soft chest molding intimately to firm, he will lock in the crushing bear hug, the pair of them rolling to point head-first toward the Earth. From 50 feet in the air they spiral down, falling, falling, speed increasing, until they are both about to impact the shallows at the bottom. Only then will he loosen his grip, giving them both enough time to break their impact as he hits the water with an almighty splash.

COMBATSYS: Noboru keeps on fighting!

[                         \\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Noboru           0/-------/----===|==-----\-------\0            Kasumi

COMBATSYS: Kasumi blocks Noboru's Avalanche.

[                         \\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Noboru           0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0            Kasumi

Nature reaches back? Cryptic answers are not entirely a scarcity where Kasumi comes from. But in this case, she suspects he gave the best answer he could in the time provided. It wasn't exactly as if she stood still to hear him out. She did pick up that he denies responsibility for the explosive burst of chi and in the moment, the Mugen Tenshin exile senses no reason to question him.

She leaps, turning her whole body into a projectile as she aims to deliver a crushing smash with her shoulder before ideally making it to the other side to land nimbly on her feet.

The Iron Mystic has other plans, however, as the much lighter fighter collides with his chest. She isn't surprised to be stopped short given her exchanges with him thus far, and already she moves to react as her left foot splashes down through the water and she raises her right foot to plant its sole against his knee, clearly intending to spring backward by using his own immovable stance for leverage.

But he responds even faster still, her vision blocked out by crushing grip over her face. A startled but muffled gasp escapes the young woman's lips as she finds herself pulled up off her feet. Hands reach up, clawing at Noboru's trunk-like arm, legs kicking, sending water flying as she's lifted by her head. Desperately, her right hand stops trying to pry herself free and reaches out, seeking anything she can get a hold of on his own body, but his reach exceeds hers and her fingers claw at air just shy of closing around strands of his hair.

In the next moment, she is hauled up and hurled out into the open air. But the open air is her home and Kasumi's reaction once released is whipcord fast as she twists her form around, bending briefly and pivoting along her vertical axis such that while still upside down, she's facing toward him now, bending her neck so that she can look up and watch the Mountain Monk as she plunges headlong toward the pool below.

Wind rushes past, causing the ends of her drenched hair and ribbons to dance in the air. But her expression is serene, focused, and exuberant. To be tested to the edge, to push past it... it was rare she felt the thrill of the fight to this degree. She is just shy of grinning as he dives after her, making a bid for a hold to pull her in tight.

But with having turned herself around, she is better positioned to react to the reach, hands snapping out to grab back, trying to use his arm as an anchor to squeeze her legs tightly around his head. If secured, she'll fold herself forward at the waist, then arch herself back suddenly, attempting to turn their straight descent to watery doom into a dizzying, flipping plunge through the air!

COMBATSYS: Noboru interrupts Hien Saka Otoshi EX from Kasumi with Entomb.

[                          \\\\  < >                                ]
Noboru           0/-------/----===|=======\-------\0            Kasumi

High above a valley in Fanjingshan China, a display of aerial combat is taking place the likes of which is rarely seen.
Powerful fingers tangling themselves in Kasumi's soft locks, Noboru manages to tug the Princess close, knee clipping her hip as the delicate-looking hands clamped around his forearm swing her body up and over his strike. The both of them continuing to tumble through the air, she lands lithely upon his shoulders, stocking-clad thighs clamping around his head with enough strength to squeeze the fight right out of a lesser man.
All is dark and quiet.
Face smothered against the wet silk that guards her, ears caught tight against satin skin, the shinobi can neither see nor breathe, senses full of the feel and smell of the joyous kunoichi. And yet, despite the ground that rushes toward them, he remains calm.
The Iron Mystic can feel the press of her abdomen against his forehead as she curls forward, preparing herself for the violent wrench that will send him into an uncontrollable spiral toward the ground. He has but a moment to act, and so he does, left hand scything up from his side to hammer the meat of her thigh with an impact that ripples through her toned flesh, the impact felt against the side of his face as it travels through her lower body. Pulling sharply down on her ponytail, he attempts to exploit her likely loosened grip to drag the smaller fighter off of his shoulders and down across his front, having just enough time to see the water rushing up to meet them. Thrusting Kasumi's head into the oncoming wall of water to break the tension, he jerks her sharply up and to the side, rolling beneath her to prevent a second head-first collision with the rocky bottom beyond. The end result is her face and shoulder impacting his iron abs while his hardened form takes the worst of it, keeping the drop from being too devastatingly lethal.
That, more than anything, is likely to tip her off that this was a test, not revenge. Fights to the death rarely end with your opponent triggering one of their secret techniques to make sure you don't get a broken skull. On the other hand, he does still have a grip on her hair, a low grumble vibrating through his torso as his muscles begin to relax, bubbles rising through the water that roils around and above them. Unlike the other times she witnessed him brace against hr this was more. A perfectly timed Iron Body defense, muscles flexing at the moment of impact to neutralize much of the force and keep his important parts safe. Still, he is partially lodged in the rocky riverbed, shaken, and not at his best. They might have taken the test just a touch further than they should.

Knocked loose, Kasumi finds herself yanked harshly out of place by her hair, neck bending back and body inevitably following. In the instant that follows, the tumbling ninja is already trying to latch back on in the plunging, airborne contest for control, but the distance remaining in their fall affords too little time to complete the attempt as she finds herself wrestled beneath the Iron Mystic.

On reflex, a breath is inhaled and then the two smash into the churning pool at the base of the first falls. Less than a second later and she smacks hard against the immovable stone body of the Miyama observe as they hit the rocky bottom.

If the painful stop wasn't enough, being underwater at the same time leads to a thoroughly disorienting experience as the rushing water around them clouds with disturbed sediment and white walls of tiny bubbles obscuring nearly all sight.

For a moment she is still, bubbles slowly leaving her nostrils as in her dazed state she forgets to preserve every trace of oxygen she possibly can. Eyes squint against the icy cold but it is impossible to make much of anything out as she tries to remember where she even is or what she was doing.

Fingers press down against the carved muscle of his torso, the first tangible evidence of consciousness, and in a rush, an understanding of what transpired in the seconds prior fills her mind.

Gritting her teeth, she begins to move, hands pressing down harder then, now holding what remains of her air within her lungs but for the small trace of bubbles still escaping through her mouth. Encountering a short limit of mobility as the hold on her hair stops her short, the kunoichi thrashes more violently for a moment, pulling legs up to drive knees into a potentially unguarded side while her hands take turns alternating in palm strikes dulled some by the amount of water each swing must force its way through.

But the aimless struggle quickly shifts into a more deliberate response as the captured Mugen Tenshin exile shifts both hands to Noboru's grasping arm while she tucks her legs up more tightly against herself, planting her feet on his torso instead of her knees.

This time when she whips herself backward, it is less an attempt to send him spiraling down through the air and more to wrest him from the basin of the pool while rolling onto her back, muscles taut as she strains to to move the heavier fighter against the additional weight of the water encompassing the two of them.

If successful, she'll have rolled onto her back, using Noboru's gripping arm for leverage, her legs bent at the knees, feet planted against his torso.

And with that, she'll kick out with all her strength, potentially launching the Mountain Monk upward and off her, perhaps even above the surface of the crashing waterfall!

COMBATSYS: Kasumi can no longer fight.

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

COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Noboru with Renzuki Toki Hoshin.

[                                <
Noboru           0/-------/=======|

The warped clack and clatter of shifting stone echo's through the water, cutting through the roar of thousands of pounds of liquid hammering into the surface above. Everywhere there is shifting grit and churning bubbles, lit only by the stars now that the lanterns have been left so far above.
Beneath Kasumi's twitching fingers, Noboru's torso is a wall of solidity and warmth against the chill of the water, a soft vibration shivering through him as he rumbles out a low grunt of pain. She can feel the shifting of muscle as he relaxes beneath her, the gathering power in his core as he shifts as if to sit up, rocks grinding away from where he has imbedded in the stony riverbed.
And so she hits him.
Small palms slap into his tightening core with just enough force to remind him she's there, fingers tightening around her ponytail in reflexive defense. He is just about to give it a tug, to drag her in through the swirling darkness, when one of her knees strikes him hard in his injured side and he locks up, tensing against the sparking pain that sizzles along his nerves. Even a man such as he has limits, and the exile Princess seems to have found them.
A second knee forces a rumbling cloud of bubbles from beneath his mask, loosening his grip enough for her silky hair to slip through his fingers while her hands clam around his arm, the smaller ninja rolling them both over as feet press against his flexed abdomen. For just a moment he is atop her, free hand rearing back, water parting as he prepares to land a finishing blow. To knock the fight clean out of her and sort this out when she comes around.
His fist descends, water forced from its path in a violent wave...
And he is air born, the Kunoichi's toned legs launching him straight up through the water.
The streaming being maybe 4 feet at its deepest point, the Iron Mystic breaks the surface in a slow forward flip, the force of the throw carrying him up and out at an angle. Falling from the sky, he crashes back-first upon the stony bank, head slanted down toward the pool while water streams from his hair and clothes, a soft snort clearing his nose of moisture and allowing him to draw in a slow breath through his mask, dizzy and exhausted.
"HRRMH." comes the rumbling grumble, hemp-wrapped hand lifting to rub at the side of his good eye while nobody is around to see him, two slow heartbeats taken to regain his senses, to recall his mission.
The girl. The Princess.
Planting one stony fist against the earth, Noboru levers himself up from the ground, rolling slowly over as he works his way to a knee. That done, he braces one hand against the bank and plunges his free deep into the water, reaching down to offer an open hand to the Kunoichi still lost beneath the water. There is nothing at all aggressive in the motion, rope-bound palm turned up and fingers spread in offer to help haul her free of the insistent stream.
Did she pass the test?

COMBATSYS: Noboru takes no action.

COMBATSYS: Noboru can no longer fight.

In the process of rolling and launching the Iron Mystic, the Mugen Tenshin exile placed herself on the bottom of the swiftly flowing water. With the buoyancy afforded by the stream and the little illumination afforded by the star-light sky above, she wasn't entirely certain which way was even up, left only to gauge direction by the fact that there was a solid surface behind her, which meant she needed to go in the opposite direction if she wanted to get a much needed gulp of air.

But that last feat of exertion was approaching the limits of the submerged shinobi. The aching bruises inflicted by battle, the fatigue of intense, continuous effort against the onslaught of the Seer from Miyama combined with the pressure of the swiftly flowing water around her combined to leave Kasumi feeling lethargic. Her mind raced at the urgency of surfacing, of getting out of the stream, of not being carried along with it over the next rocky edge, but her body was slower to respond.

Gritting teeth, the exile summons one last burst of strength to try and fight her way free of the current. Amid the murk, the disturbed sediments, and swirling foamy bubbles from the waterfall, a strong, rope-bound hand parts the way through, open and inviting reciprocation. Seeing it as the lifeline it was intended as, both of her own hands snap up to grab a tight hold of it.

Hauling the kunoichi free of the water would be a trivial thing for the monk. The moment her feet would find stability on the stone, an audible gasp of breath would herald the soaked girl's fall to one knee, one hand slipping from his while the other maintains a tight grip. Panting for air, seconds would go by before she would stand, using her hold on his hand briefly in the process before finally releasing it.

Water splashes against the rock at her feet as she turned her focus to the face of the enigmatic man, her expression one of intense focus for several heartbeats before it softens slightly, eyes studying him just below drenched bangs.

Her right hand reaches behind her, fingers closing over the grip of her sheathed wakizashi - Shrouded Moon - the heirloom blade that should be in the hands of the rightful ruler of the Mugen Tenshin clan. But the gesture seems merely to check that the blade is still in place rather than to show any signs of drawing it, and once the confirmation is made, her hand slips away from the weapon, leaving it in place.

"You certainly have a way of saying hello."

There is a moment, however brief, in which Noboru is left with only the river for company. Cool water drags past his spread fingers, and he can only hope that the princess hasn't fled in the confusion, or been dragged away over the cascades into the valley far below. For such a brilliant display of martial spirit to be followed by the failure of his mission would be a tragedy.
These thoughts are dispelled when two small hands latch upon his own, the drag of the exile's weight negligible against his near freakish strength. Even now, bent and bowed, battered and exhausted, grabbing hold of the mystic is like anchoring herself to a statue. A statue that pushes slowly to its feet, lifting her dripping form free of the water to stumble and kneel before him, his rough fingers clasped firmly in her own.
Bad eye long since having closed, the sodden hulk of a man gazes down at Kasumi where she rests, the icy focus of his gaze as cool and composed as when they first met. Blotches of dark bruising have begun to spread across his ribs, chest, and back, while little droplets of blood trickle from abrasions in his skin. Still, he remains braced until she pulls herself back to her feet, offered hand falling to his side while she moves to check that her birth rite remains sheathed.
"We have learned much of one another. Shared what is difficult to make clear through words alone." Noboru replies, the calm rumble of his voice cutting easily through the roar of the nearby falls. "The Miyama do not hold you, or your clan responsible, but there are many moves to be made and little time."
Fading a single step back, the sage scans slowly to his left, then right, eye alighting upon a bed of lush moss blanketed across some nearby boulders. Right hand lifting, he motions toward it with an easy gesture, hulking form relaxed and easy despite the pain he must be in.
"If you wish, lie upon the moss. I will do what I am able to lift the cramps from your muscles and ease your fatigue. The Lin Kuei yet pursue you, and there is much to tell."
If the offer of a massage were to come from most men, there would undoubtedly be some sort of ulterior motive. After all, it isn't every day a man gets to put their hands all over an actual for real ninja princess, let alone one that looks like, well, Kasumi. But despite his ragged clothes, his shirtless state, and the fact that he's definitely seen a lot more of her at this point than is proper, the offer seems utterly sincere. An opportunity to have the pressure point techniques he used reversed, and her energy refreshed before setting off upon the next leg of her journey. If one or both of them happen to enjoy it, well, that's nobody's damn business but their own.

She's quiet as he speaks, hands reaching up behind her head to close fingers over the top of her ponytail where the soggy azure ribbon keeps it in place, squeezing tightly and moving them down slowly to force some of the water out of her hair to splash on the stones at her feet. All the while, never taking her eyes off the Iron Mystic, maintaining a constant state of alertness that seems natural to her when in the company of anyone she hasn't known for long without rising to the degree of fidgety wariness.

Her hands having finished squeezing some of the water from her hair, they reach behind her back again, this time seeking not the sheathed weapon there but to press against the small of her back to evaluate the tenderness there. Already, her breaths have calmed as the intensity of the battle wanes, the stamina of youth combined with a lifetime of training having forged an endurance capable of extended feats of demanding physical activity without reprieve. That she is being amply cooled by the night air against water soaked clothing and skin likely only helps with the recovery process.

When he motions, she turns her head slightly, eyes flicking to the designated location before returning to study the face of the Seer of Miyama, faint smile toying at her lips. The half shake of her head suggests an inclination to decline. There are a litany of reasons to trust the monk and his offer, but complete trust takes time. But she pauses, eyes narrowing for a moment, then dips her head, "Very well."

She takes her eyes from him at last, striding over to the moss, crouching down to settle on it as her hands brush the back of her dress beneath her in the process of ending up in a seated position, bottoms of her feet propped against a sloped rock in front of her. "I would like to hear what brings you all the way here after me." She draws her knees up a little, folding her arms atop them.

"And should the Lin Kuei decided to make a move in the meanwhile, I'm confident they will come to regret it."

Log created on 19:09:36 02/21/2022 by Kasumi, and last modified on 01:28:43 07/28/2023.