Description: While some other groups need to manually make their way out, in the tournament semifinals, competitors found themselves with much easier disposal. Airlifted onto a massive floating battlestation that is DOATEC's secret Fatal Core facility, Kasumi meets her challenger in a massive arena on the facility's broadcast floor. Here, al the threads about the dangerous Dead or Alive tournament meet, along with the trail of an old ghost of the Mugen Tenshin -- but the company is still pulling all the strings. Her opponent today knows a thing or two about pulling strings: Representing Heihachi's eye in the tournament, Whitney has developed interesting details that suggest the corporate upheaval is not just localized to DOATEC. Together, they could access Fatal Core's advanced communications arrays. But first -- they have a battle to settle.
A slow curl of smoke dances about the end of a burning cigarette. For a moment, the smoke vanishes as the smoker inhales. The following gout of smoke rolls like the breath of a smoldering dragon. The smoker's tired eyes look at the surroundings. He took in the high tech showcase; this scientific marvel of a stage he was meant to prance about on. The world would see that DOATEC had all this power to shape the world beneath it. The world would see DOATEC's ability to bring great fighters together. The world would see DOATEC.
So much posturing. So much performance. So much pandering.
Whitney Saulder holds a burning cigarette between his fingers. He licks his free thumb. He pinches the end closed. Here he has no performance. There is no shuffling step. There is no bleary doddering. His clothing, while not pressed, is a far cry from his usual disheveled appearance. The blazer is doffed and the sleeves of his shirt are rolled into cuffs at his elbows. The broadness of his calloused hands evident with the small size of the cigarette pinched between fingers. He appears in this soaring station much more the man that is behind the act.
His eyes, still tired, are cold and distant. He watches the DOATEC workmen. He takes them in, assesses their access and capability. He ponders which ones would be best to isolate and remove. Few here are what Saulder wants. He knows he needs closer contacts. People in the know. People with access who, when removed, the Illuminati know exactly what agents to slip into the vacuum of corporate hierarchy.
All alongside Mishima interests. At least, the interests that Whitney Saulder plans on making abundantly clear for Heihachi to put his focus on. It is not enough to put pawns in play, one must also guide the arms of the players.
But before that can be taken care of, there is the matter of the fight at hand. Whitney has word of his opponent. And he has a curiosity about her. Wonderings and wanderings in the mind that he cannot solve with pondering alone. No, he will ask her. He will test her. He will see what it is she fights for, and he will find where she stands on the matter of a world on the precipice of change.
In a rare moment, Whitney Saulder finds himself with a fleeting feeling of something other than boredom.
A tournament veteran, the Mugen Tenshin exile is familiar with over the top show pieces used to feature fight venues. No stranger to the pressures of facing those who have made it to the upper echelons of fighting tournaments, of the audience expectations, of the potential of being distracted by all of the theater around it all. She can tune those out easily enough. She's done it before in dozens of high profile matches.
But being here, in the Fatal Core, built and promoted by DOATEC as a demonstration of their wealth and technology, she can't get one match in particular out of her mind - the match against the treacherous bastard Raidou in the finale of the first Dead or Alive tournament. It was her first death match, her first time claiming a life. And the end of the first chapter of the journey the Kunoichi of Destiny set out on the moment she decided her pursuit of vengeance was more important than her place among the clan.
The speakers can't drown out the thoughts that feel all to fresh in her mind now that she finds herself here again. The place is different, bigger, louder, more extravagant, and flying. And her opponent... an enigma far removed from the hulking traitor who's defeat had consumed her every thought only a couple years before.
The anticipation she feels is an echo of that time. The bitterness of fighting in an event sponsored by DOATEC blended with the drive to succeed anyway. She wouldn't relent, wouldn't give them the satisfaction of seeing her bow out of their theatrics even though she knew it all for what it was. She would win their dangerous game, and then she would go after them.
There was a debt to be paid for what they were doing to the reputation of her clan among the shadows and she would collect.
Thoughts rush through her mind as Kasumi stands on the suspended platform her match is slated for, wind whipping the ponytail in her dark copper red hair along with the lengths of the vibrant blue ribbon that keeps it in place. She stands in a sturdy body suit of mostly black with blue highlights of similar hue to her ribbon's. Form fitting, extra layers of leather seem to provide extra protection over the front of her thighs, knees, lower legs, forearms, and torso. Additional padding around her forearms in the form of dark cloth held in place by dark blue bands will undoubtedly help with defense. Her fingers are covered in white gloves, sticking out against the reflective polished black of her attire.
Honey-brown eyes seek out and lock onto her opponent, reading him as best she can though there isn't a ton to make out by looks alone. Taller than he lets on, perhaps to disguise his strength or reach, surprisingly... mundane attire, someone who could blend in anywhere and go unnoticed.
Not much to go on. She'll have to figure him out as they clash.
Slipping her left leg forward, she turns slightly, left shoulder more forward than her right, palms raised, partially angled toward each other, bouncing lightly on her feet. It's a simple stance, basic even, almost deceptively so considering the legacy of the Mugen Tenshin Tenjinon Ninjutsu that she wields. But in this match beneath the Fatal Core, looks can be deceiving.
COMBATSYS: Kasumi has started a fight here.
The young woman with the brilliantly colored hair was one with a history. Tournaments past showcased her talent. That this kunoichi was a threat to the Mishimia Zaibatsu's goals was a fact undeniable. In a world among liars and fools, Whitney could not see such a thing in his opponent. It was rare he could view someone with a respect. Even the Dahlia, for all her vaunted and true power, had a fascinating and infuriatingly self deceptive self. This ninja seemed to stand at odds. A fighter with a purity. At least, it seemed so.
And when Whitney could not understand something, it made his teeth itch. He wanted to know. He craved to see if this was another deluded, deceptive crank hellbent on hiding the truth of their brutish existence. His tired eyes bore on Kasumi. His focus steady. His curiosity piqued.
As as he wondered, he muttered steady words. "I measure every grief I meet with narrow, probing eyes. I wonder if it weighs like mind, or has an easier size."
His steps are steady, approaching the center of the platform with leaden weight. His blonde hair ripples with the wind. His chin inclined. His pale blue eyes unblinking. His thin lips parting just as he runs his tongue over his teeth.
"I've seen your kind before," he says, voice sonorous and smooth. "Possessed of a curious heroic bent and a predilection toward theatrics. We're here to fight, are we not? We are not. But we will."
He takes a sniff and rolls his shoulders. "Should we both survive. Well. I wonder how many bodies this station needs to operate?"
He shrugs, and with it he lurches toward the ninja. His hands yet stay within his pockets. His weight twisting to a violently lifting shoulder charge. The opening brunt of force that hides a more focused, potentially more devastating, spike kick down at his opponent's kneecap.
COMBATSYS: Whitney has joined the fight here.
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Kasumi 0/-------/-------|======-\-------\0 Whitney
COMBATSYS: Kasumi instinctively blocks Whitney's Crushing Blow.
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Kasumi 0/-------/------=|=======\-------\0 Whitney
She watches as he approaches. Normally she is the one to take initiative, to charge her opponents, to ply her speed to her advantage in hopes it proves overwhelming. But in most cases, she has an idea of what to expect of them. Her training pit her against an entire gamut of fighting styles, and her experience since leaving home has introduced her to many more. But everything about the man's approach, with his hands in his pockets, his heavy steps... is he going to draw a weapon from his pocket? A knife, perhaps? She herself wears a blade across the back of her waist, shorter than a katana - no, the crimson tasseled weapon is closer to a washizaki in length. But she makes no move to reach for it, her hands currently held far from it.
Perhaps its keen steel is meant for another.
Her eyes glance him over from head to toe, considering but not skittish. A kick, perhaps? Maybe one of the many leg focused arts she's encountered? But even they have stances that can be recognized, gaits that lend themselves to spinning into powerful strikes.
He speaks and her somber expression cracks, a blink of surprise as she's pulled from her introspective consideration of what to expect from this man. She cracks a faint smile with the right corner of her mouth as he speaks of a heroic bent, admitting guilt without uttering a word. The half-smile only solidifies further with his final comment, the expression only barely reflected in her eyes.
While she does have this fight on her mind, the Shinobi in Blue's motives definitely lie elsewhere. She's not here to fight him. But she will. And she will not face him with anything less than her best.
"We will." Kasumi agrees, moving lightly on her flat soled feet, clearly ready to move. Now that he's closer, perhaps she'll initiate - the speed with which the Mugen Tenshin exile can go from standing still to attacking is a frightful thing to experience.
But his last sentence gives her pause, another blink, a question that begs an answer but requires a moment's thought to respond.
"Not all of them are guilty," she replies and the mysterious man makes his move.
He almost catches her open as his innocuous seeming shrug transitions smoothly into an angled shoulder charge, but Kasumi's defense comes more from instincts honed by a young life of rigorous training than strictly reaction speed as she brings her arms up, shifting her footing to better brace against the collision she isn't prepared to avoid. But even braced, the shoulder charge nearly staggers her, driving her arms apart as she sways backward a step. A perfect opening for the follow up strike for her knee that could hobble the ninja right out the gate. But she skips back out of the way, noticing the dangerous second strike just in time.
It would be a mistake to think she was responding purely defensively however, as the kunoichi's counter attack comes the instant her feet touch the ground, body twisting to the left as she strikes with a knife-handed blow toward Whitney's seemingly undefended torso. A twist of her shoulders would bring her left hand in for a second one, followed by another from her right, then another from her left. Out of the left knife hand strike, her body continues pivoting to the right, her left leg drawing up, hooking at the knee as she twists it sideways and swings her feet out toward his stomach. The momentum would have her continue turning to the right in an attempt to spin into two steps away from him, putting distance between them.
A question burns on her mind - who is he? Another with a vendetta such as hers? It would hardly be surprising to think DOATEC had made countless enemies in their amoral conquest for power... but he doesn't fit the profile of a vigilante either. Perhaps when she gets a second to inquire.
COMBATSYS: Whitney just-defends Kasumi's Reppu Renkyaku!
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Kasumi 0/-------/------=|=======\-------\0 Whitney
"Guilt. . ."
A single word reverbs, bounces, in Whitney's mind. It hits with more intent and greater assail than the physical strike. No discount to the prowess and power of the woman he faces, more a reflection of the state of mind of the man. It is, ultimately, something of greater immediate interest than the needs of the body.
Undefended as a man with his hands in his pockets, the torso does appear to be an inviting target. However, the stabbing strike finds a swiftly cutting, cupping grip. Whitney's hands, rough from his profession, move with startling efficiency to intercept the first of the strikes.
Enough of a moment to take stock of his opponent. "Guilt is a lie."
The second strike from her left finds a heavy slap against a counter deflect from Whitney's quick hand. "Do think they're so ignorant?"
Smack! Hand meet hand. Blow meet blow. "That they don't know?"
She parts from him. And he dusts off his hands. He feels out the stings of her blows. He slips his hands back into his pockets. He stands before her an American of a name mentioned within shadows. A killer by trade and by nature. One of countless others. A name that's died before, many times because he hired another to act as him, and has left them in a car in the middle of the desert to boil in the sun and freeze under the moon.
He has made little secret of his ties to the Mishima Zaibatsu. He wants that fact to be known. He wants it to be clear that Whitney Saulder is, above all, here to assess the potential market threat posed by DOATEC. He is a contractor. He is assessor. He is a killer. And all is the puppet show of a man who truly wants to know everything he can in order to move pawns and players for a master of greater vision.
But here, confronted with a new and curious mind to consider. Most of Whitney Saulder's purpose can slip. She isn't likely to stop him. A mention of guilt suggests she has little problem with bloodshed, simply the person who bleeds. An annoyance. But within acceptable standards. Still, he wants to know how she ticks. It might be exploitable.
"To be able to see every side of every question. To be on every side, to be everything, to be nothing long." He recites, and he watches. He considers her. He wants to see her movements. He wants to gauge her approach. He wants to feel her in his hands. To see if she would break.
COMBATSYS: Whitney focuses on his next action.
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Kasumi 0/-------/------=|=======\-------\0 Whitney
From pocket to defense in a flash, moving precisely to deflect the precision strikes as quickly as she can execute them. She knew better than to mistake his defenseless seeming stance for vulnerability, but she wasn't sure what from his guard might take until now. Disengaging after her fourth attempt at getting through his guard with her knife-handed strikes, the Shinobi in Black begins to circle him, hands raised, each step executed in such a way that there is effectively no window where she would be caught completely flat footed should he make a move.
Her expression reflects a focused resolve, eyes locked on him. She's listening to his words, but whether that rapt attention lends itself to manipulation, subtle or otherwise, is perhaps yet to be seen. His pair of questions seem to indicate his words weren't idle banter meant more to distract than challenge or else she would have considered ignoring them at all. The man's part to play in all this is not an easy one for her to trust - one corporate cog disrupting the machine of another's. Helpful, perhaps, but only so far as it empowers another entity likely just as vile as the one she holds a more personal grudge against.
But really, could those behind the cameras, the glass walls, the technicians, researchers, and even rank and file security truly be that naive? Or is every last one of them her enemy? It was easier to think of meting out justice to those at the top. Not so comfortable to contemplate going much broader.
"Some of them," she replies, wind tousling the tassels of her sword and length of her ponytail about. "Must know." She continues to circle, either forcing him to match her angle or dare to be flanked. "Most must suspect."
It's a tough question and the asking of it stirs up conflict long enough for her to force it back down. "But I have to be sure." Her targets - the ones that perhaps she would draw that steel sheathed at her waist with real intent - were specific. Or that was the ideal at least. The masterminds were very well entrenched, some with identities she only knew as monikers or vague references. There was so much work to be done to root them out.
"Then for you, it is not so?" she asks back - to say there was no condemnation in her voice would be wrong, but it's reserved. She won't be riled up simply by being confronted with words implying a less discriminating approach to 'problem solving'.
Each shift of her foot could simply be another step in her circling or the beginning of an attack. When the moment comes, she's faster than even before, toes of her foot touching the sturdy alloy platform, leg muscle tensing, before launching herself into a forward flip toward him from whatever angle he has allowed her to secure.
Out of the short hop, she drops, right leg snapping up, heel descending with threatening force for his shoulder, giving him even more distance to cover should he hope to guard with his hands again.
She would land out of the dropping heel kick in deep splits, a demonstration of her flexibility with her right leg forward, left leg behind her. It should seem for an instant a vulnerable position but one that likely lasts too quickly to respond to as the kunoichi suddenly vanishes, leaving a swirling helix of cherry blossoms and the faint scent of Spring in her wake
She reappears a few steps back, already surging toward him, twisting to the left as she slams her right hand out, this time aiming to deliver a stunning palm strike squarely to the center of his chest. This singular blow packs more impact than the four knife-handed strikes of a moment prior - clearly some form of escalating the pressure she intends to apply to the contractor.
COMBATSYS: Whitney fails to counter Tenrai Kyaku Chifu from Kasumi with Pointed Rebuttal.
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Kasumi 0/-------/-----==|=======\-------\1 Whitney
A world of beasts. Each one hungry for their needs. Their base, simple, primitive needs. They desire to consume. They desire to feel comfort. They desire. And they lie. They all lie. The people behind glass. The operators of machines. The organizers and the technicians. All of these people are willing to sacrifice how many to the grist mill in order to eat and sleep in their comfort and self-assurance?
Whitney Saulder sees all of them as equal. The difference lay not within mastermind or mook, but rather the honesty either of them treat their ambitions. Whether or not they admit to their willingness to be like Whitney Saulder knows they are.
The way they are like him.
The American is not yet attempting to rile the kunoichi. There's no gain in that direction. There is only conversation. And if he should find hands around her throat, he thinks that he will find the truth behind her vengeful eyes.
But there is something in what she says. Something that pricks at his skin. Something that makes his teeth itch. "How can you be sure? When they lie to themselves?" he questions.
He wants to talk, but the fight takes priority. It bores him. He lifts his chin. He looks and he gauges the short rolling flip.
He lashes out, the hand comes from the pockets. A thumb arcs through the air. He aims for her eye. He aims for the softness.
But Kasumi is well trained. She is quicker. She has a skill and a fluid style that runs against the brutal directness that Whitney Saulder bothers to utilize. The heel comes out of his expectations. A crashing blow that shakes the man. His knee drops to the ground. He is thick, and he can take more than his dishevelment may suggest.
But it's in his rising that his other hand starts to pull from its pocket prison. And then she's gone. A whirling nothing but the faint scent of spring blossoms in her wake.
The pain. The frustration. The beast behind the coldness. Those are only visible a moment before the ever present dullness of Whitney's thinking mind returns. A cold static. A distant irritation. And a waiting, slouching posture. An invitation for a new attempt.
A pause - countless details detected in the exchange force her to reconsider everything she had thought up until now. An almost relaxed stance once there is a couple meters of distance between them.
She had perceived that he went for her eye. The eye that can deceive from what it observes. She had struggled to identify his fighting style early on. Kicking? Grappling? Punching? A hybrid of one or more? But none of those ideas aligned with what her instincts were telling her - as casual as the man before her appears, the truth is something else entirely. He's deadly. Like a loaded gun, the aim of his lethal intent might be under the control of who wields him, but the threat is always there, the menace implied simply by existing.
He would easily detect that wariness in her now. But it continues to be coupled with a certain open sincerity that makes it hard to disbelieve the kunochi.
"I can't." she admits without guile or preamble. She can't look into their souls, assess their guilt, or even try to determine what justice is fit for each puppet in the show.
"For most of them." For a moment she casts a glance upward, taking focus from him long enough to consider the technological wonder above, before snapping her attention back to the contractor.
"But I'm not here for them." Kasumi shifts, slipping back into her ready stance. "But the ones pulling the strings at the top." They are without excuse. No one telling them what to do, no one forcing their hand. All the power money can buy and in their wake, a debris field of ruined lives. For them, she can be certain, nothing wavering.
"Remove them and the rest..." her voice fades, the young woman lost in thought for a moment. What of the rest? Will the company crumple if beheaded? Is it too big for that?
A slight shake of her head forces the question aside, eyes fixed squarely on the dangerous man.
The tell for her next move makes it clear when she is going to make her move, knees bending slightly before she launches self forward, body tucked into a tight flipping ball of black pliable leather. Two full forward flips later and she's suddenly dropping at her opponent, right elbow leading the way, left hand open and pressed against right fist to add additional force to the descending blow.
COMBATSYS: Whitney counters Medium Punch from Kasumi with Dreams Deferred.
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Kasumi 1/-------/=======|==-----\-------\0 Whitney
There is a disdain in Whitney Saulder for the fighting styles he sees as painfully romantic. Acrobatics, flourishes, katas and techniques, all these things he sees as pointless foppish extravagance to cover up the brutality of a fight. Worse still is the philosophical fighting. The shiny coat of pacifism and nobility that covers a killing intent and the brutish flailing of apes killing other apes. Even the so-called modern martial arts, to Whitney, lug about the weight of the past. They clamor about being better, being more useful in a life or death situation. But to Saulder, he just sees sportsman desperate for approval against the established arts.
Moreover, he disdains the bits and pieces he has taken and assimilated into his technique. The awareness of his opponent, the direct aim for soft and debilitating areas. Disable, cause pain, kill. Everything else is excessive. Though he is not without his own deception. His weak posture, his slouch, even hiding his hands are a matter of display. At first to misplay his ability and size. Later to confuse and put opponents off guard. Eventually, though, it is a reflection of his tired loathing for the way the world acts around him. Something he begs to understand, but refuses to meet on its own terms.
"Are you thinking?" he questions, the woman's fading thought strikes him as amusing. Close, so close to seeing. But it seems his ideological prattling had the intended effect. The acrobatic young woman telegraphs herself plainly. Almost too much. From others, he would expect this to be a bluff. Something tricky afoot. But sometimes, Whitney Saulder thinks, a bluff must be called.
His posture turns, narrowing his profile as Kasumi comes down at him. He surges forward, his right arm slipping from his pocket and turning palm upward. She elbows, but his reach is longer. His hand catches her throat and tightens as a vice.
He holds her there a moment, knuckles whitening with tension. "Kill the head and two more will grow. Ambition is human, the hungry will take the place of what you remove. Hungry unknowns. Unknowns desperate and willing to do what their predecessor would not."
He twists and hurls Kasumi to the ground with a burst of furious violence. "All so you could feel better? So you could lie to yourself and say justice was served?" Word spent, he reels a foot back and swings it hard against Kasumi's side, putting space between them again.
"Kill if you want to kill, it's human. But there's no need to bullshit our nature."
Normally she can take the risk of leaning heavily on shorter ranged but hard striking elbow blows. While direct, the speed of her techniques is usually enough to slip by the defenses of others. And even as she plunges down at Whitney, the Shinobi in Black is counting on that being the case here as well. Just how fast can he respond, hands in pockets, body partially slouched, muscles seemingly relaxed and not at the ready
Fast enough, it seems, as her fall is cut short by his hand shooting up over her strike to catch her by the throat. Everything about her controlled descent falls to pieces then, body continuing the fall underneath before being brought to a halt with neck wrenching force. One needn't be a combat expert to know the danger his hold represents. Far too much of human vitality depends on the throat - blood, oxygen, the core of the nervous system - every split second in his hold is to risk savage or even lethal injury.
Normal reflex in this situation sends one scrambling to pry loose the painful, threatening grip at one's neck, desperately plying one's strength against another in hopes crisis can be averted. But initially, it seems as if the captured kunoichi will do nothing, the whiplash of her sudden stop seeming to stun her into inaction beyond staring back at him with widened eyes. But then comes motion, her left hand reaching up, fingers clamping down on his wrist, applying pressure but far too little to be able to break free on that alone while her legs kick helplessly at empty air.
But the ninja's right hand is the one to watch for, having reached to her waist to close over the grip of her blade. The draw comes swiftly, steel sweeping up with a reverse-grip strike, keen edge sweeping toward Whitney's forearm. Whether by awareness or coincidence, however, she finds herself hurled to the ground before her defensive strike can so much as cut the fabric of his sleeve. Landing hard on her side, she gasps, starting to roll onto her side, free hand planted against the platform while her other still holds the heirloom blade.
Sucking in a pained breath, she isn't afforded more than a split second recovery before the solid kick sends her tumbling along the platform several feet before coming to rest face down, the wind literally kicked from her.
Gritting her teeth, the Mugen Tenshin exile plants her hand, getting one knee beneath her, before rising up to standing, already sliding the wakizashi back into its sheath as she turns to face the contractor directly. There is a silent focus, cheeks reddened slightly by a blend of frustration and pain. She needs to focus. She needs to keep her head in the fight.
She also needs to breath.
A coughing spasm heralds the return of oxygen to her lungs, at least, as the young woman turns, slipping back into her ready stance from before, lips pressed together with a focused expression. A couple more coughs follow as her diaphragm resumes its duties. She'll ignore the pain in her ribs, the ache in her neck. She has to press on.
"I'm not doing this for me," she protests, voice still a bit raspy. Again she surges forward, closing in on him. It seems another linear, direct attack, attempting to test speed against speed, even though that didn't go so well just a moment ago. But she's watching for something else, moving in as if ready to drive her palms into the man's sternum... and trying to spot the exact moment one of his hands leaves its pocket so that she can shift her own grasp toward his arm, seeking to secure a tight enough hold on his arm to yank the man off balance with a backward lean and sudden reverse step.
If she can disrupt his own strange lack of stance, she'll once again vanish in another swirl of pink blossoms. A rush of wind might warn him of her follow up strike as Kasumi appears a meter and a half away, already dashing in, twisting to the left to slam her right palm out, attempting to drive the strike through his hopefully disrupted defenses to slam the heel of her hand into his stomach!
COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Whitney with Senpu.
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Kasumi 1/------=/=======|==-----\-------\0 Whitney
Whitney Saulder is a man who has lived his life with deadened emotions. The joy he sees on people is unfelt. The sadness at loss is equally alien. He knows of emotion. He considers it academic. He knows these signifiers of social acceptance as something other people do. Something he can read, identify, and know how to replicate if need be. For years, he questioned sincerity of such emotions. But he has learned that the delusion runs deeper and that most people around him are not so canny to be aware as he is.
Frustration, however, is something deeper. He knows the look and the heat of an animal trying to survive is real. It is no protracted dance for the other social apes. And he can see it in Kasumi as the spark of his words and the pain of her rebuttal has taken her back in the moment.
He may not find a particular joy in her pain. He does, however, feel a primordial comfort at the understanding of events. That he is facing a true face and not some manufactured delusional ideal.
But she continues yet. "Neither am I," he tells her. "Heihachi Mishima is paying for this. Yourself?" He holds back his doubts. He is already presuming some sort of fluffy abstraction. That she is fighting for victims or the world or a nebulous convenience that serves to buffer the young woman from bloodlust with the soft cotton of social philosophy. He is ready for her to come out with it as he is certain he is ready for her next overly extensive acrobatics.
Kasumi is terribly fast.
Strike. A burst of pain. A shock of breath. A ratcheting twist. The arm pulled from its pocket taken and twisted. A seething growl comes from the man. A fiery and simple annoyance at behind pulled off his feet and send bodily to the floor. Hammering to the ground with a heavy and leaden thump.
On his back, his brief burst of sensational fury fades swiftly. He holds no grudge. His anger is the moment. And that distant mindset lingers even when the air is driven from him by the sudden appearance of sakura petals and pain. His clothing is baggy, but his denseness and size is evident under Kasumi's driving palm. He lurches with the strike. His hands no longer seek the refuge of his pockets. His knees lift and tighten in. He moves with alacrity. He has no intent on letting the girl go so quickly again.
He snaps for Kasumi's elbow. His broad hands slapping at the joint. He intends to take it, twist it, and to mantle a position over the ninja and find a moment where he can drive his weight into her chest with the point of his knee.
COMBATSYS: Kasumi full-parries Whitney's Violent Grapple!!
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Kasumi 1/--=====/=======|===----\-------\0 Whitney
There is a moment where it seems like his reach for her arm will succeed - that he'll have the opportunity to secure a tight grip and pull the lighter fighter into a stunning introduction between her sternum and his knee. But just before his fingers latch onto her extended arm, the Mugen Tenshin runaway twists her forward leg, twisting her body to the right, snapping her arm just out of reach. In the same instant, her left shoulder rises, aiming to wedge under his own reaching arm to drive it upward and deny him access to one avenue of his formidable defense and possibly even stagger him off balance in a precarious moment of decision.
His question still echoes in her mind from a moment prior however, and even in that heartbeat between defense and launching into her next attack, she can't help but answer, venom in her words.
Venom not for him he would instantly sense, in spite his probing questions and the pain he's inflicted with his deceptively efficient approach to combat. Whatever transpired between her and those behind the organizations nominally running this event has kindled something dark in the young ninja. That for all her efforts to make sure that she doesn't cross a moral line, part of her wishes she could go after her targets without restraint, without reservation, and without hesitation born of inconvenient ethics.
Sweeping her left hand up, Kasumi attempts to further prevent the lowering of his arm while she twists back to the left in one fluid moment of lightning speed.
She'll blur past him in an instant if not prevented, her right elbow seeking to strike Whitney's side where she's attempted to prevent his defense. She'll vanish a meter beyond him, yet another swirl of drifting blossoms, this time reappearing above and behind him, diving once more elbow first, aiming to drive it into the back of his neck and stun him long enough for her to slide to one final stop just in front of him.
Feet seek friction, body pivoting, legs bending, muscles tensing as she repositions facing him again, right elbow forward, left hand cupped over right fist.
Then comes a final short dash, faster than any he has witnessed thus far from the Kunoichi of Destiny. Unless stopped, the young woman in black will drive her elbow into his sternum, a rush of wind and a shockwave of force accompanying the impact.
COMBATSYS: Whitney blocks Kasumi's Oka Ranman EX.
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Kasumi 0/-------/------=|===----\-------\0 Whitney
Such sudden strength. A forceful intensity in the ninja that clearly signals a much greater purpose than some simple payment. It flows through Whitney's cold and brutish assaults and opens the man wide for her approach. She cuts off his mobility. She holds his balance in her hands. She has the advantage. All she needs now is to push through and she can take her pound of flesh from those that have wronged her.
Whitney finds the righteous fury curious. He can't find it in him to hold grudges. They're ineffectual to his long term needs. There is little point to them. But he knows that for some people, the need for personal petty satisfaction is useful. And what is useful to others is useful for himself.
"They've wronged you?" he questions, almost innocently with deep and honeyed tones. "And you wish for some form of justice. Well then. I won't stop you."
Close words in the clinch. Close words held when she comes for him. He releases her, but he does so with his feet planted and with his base held intact.
Gone in a flash, he turns and the weight of his arm shoves aside her spearing elbow. A shearing pain, certainly, but not a threat to consciousness in the way it would have been if she was just faster.
It buys him time to face her on when she comes for him. Just enough time to close one hand into the other. To take her elbow into his palms. The force drives his hands into him. He exhales with the power Kasumi presents. His legs hold firm in a deep horse stance. His body ripples, his clothing shakes. His face remains distant and predatorily alien.
"Allow me one question; do you truly think these people here don't know your purpose? How many have they hurt while you play in their games?"
Question asked, Whitney lurches forward with his forehead leading the way. A lumbering motion that comes in with a curiously faltering knee. It makes him seem to drop before he lashes out with a followup strike; a clawing palm crashing toward Kasumi's orbital bone. But even that is a layer of distraction.
The true aim of swinging with a thrusting right is to coax Kasumi to turn left on instinct. Because his left hand is swinging with a broad palming clap mean to thunder over the ninja's eardrum.
COMBATSYS: Kasumi blocks Whitney's Blind Assurance.
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Kasumi 0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0 Whitney
That she can't simply break through his defense with her relentless chain of speed of aggression is actually quite shocking. Rare she has faced an opponent capable of keeping up with the pressure of her swift but punishing strikes and never has she found such defensive prowess in one who seems so relaxed about it. Only in the moments of collision does he seem to be affected in the slightest - she can feel the impacts, the kinetic force being driven into his guard - but unlike most opponents she has faced, it never seems to completely shatter like she would expect from most.
She's stopped, her elbow impacting his strong palms. The young woman's forward momentum, concentrated into her forward elbow, is enough to push his strong arms back against him, but his stance holds firm, his feet planted, and his balance sure. She's there for a moment, not accustomed to being stopped short instead of being able to dash into a controlled slide following the successful execution of one of her most decisive techniques. Time enough for him to voice his request, his two questions challenging her purpose in fighting - in this /specific/ fight. It's a fair question. By going to the vicinity of her matches, she's always wherever THEY want her to be, dealing with whoever THEY want her to face. On the surface, it seems strange to comply with such requirements. He's already sensed that lucre is not her driving motivation, so it can't possibly be about the prize...
There is the slightest flicker of a smile at the edge of her lip, a sparkle in her eye. He wouldn't understand, she thinks. The need to prove herself again as she did in the first Dead or Alive tournament, to force her way through every opponent to get her shot at that bastard Raidou. The feeling of being unstoppable, the thrill of success against each skilled opponent in her path.
She had come this far a second time, there was no bowing out now.
But the moment of introspection is afforded only an instant as the contractor attacks. Kasumi's right arm rises as she leans back, rear leg bracing, catching the hard impact of his forehead against the length of extra padding on her forearm, skin and bone impacting cushioned gray fabric covering. The pain registers immediately, and her back foot slips slightly, while her arm briefly blocks her view.
Perhaps it's best she can't see for that instant, failing to notice the deceptive transition into a follow up strike and left to only react to the movement itself. She reacts as he hoped, forward leg twisting, ankle flexing, pushing herself toward the left to avoid the only slightly telegraphed blow.
It looks like he'll get a clean hit, his strong palm swinging in toward the side of the Mugen Tenshin exile's head. But her left arm intersects, snapping upright in an instant. The last second defense is hardly braced enough to completely absorb the blow, her arm smacking against the side of her head against the force of his palm, driving her into a side-long stagger that would threaten to leave her vulnerable if she wasn't able to recover out of it quickly.
"They know who I am," she declares, pride mixed with bite. She certainly never anticipated otherwise. And they would know why she is here.
She's already twisting back on Whitney in that instant. She wouldn't relent, she would stay on him, break through that incredible defense of his. Crossing her arms, she attempts to drive his left arm upward, hoping to catch him before he can snap it back with that lightning speed of his.
If she can't break through his guard, perhaps she can prevent it outright, twisting her body toward the right, bringing her shoulder forward, elbow already aimed, right hand locked into place, cupping her left fist.
Could she have stopped them faster? Could she have saved more? She can't dwell on that, she can't take on the crushing burden of every soul harmed by them. She can only pursue her own path to an end.
"And it won't save them."
Once more the Shinobi in Black rockets forward, aiming to drive her elbow into and through the larger man's ribcage in another feat of remarkable speed.
Her cry is audible close even if all but drown out by the huge engines of the Fatal Core.
COMBATSYS: Whitney fails to counter Oboro Gake EX from Kasumi with Refutation of Reason.
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Kasumi 0/-------/----===|===----\-------\0 Whitney
Such furious pride. Such clear intent. Such as it is with the emotional.
In that moment, he seems to stop his pressure. A haphazardly placed hand reaches for the woman's elbow. She ploughs through it. And into him. Glorious pain. Feeling.
She strikes with enough force to send him back. She slides on the mass of his back and shoulder. His arms cross forward over his chest. He rolls with the blow. The ache of that weight thrumming through his body. His feet kick up. He barrels to his knees.
There he stays a long moment. He breathes deeply. His breath comes in gulps. He exhales a slow, deep sound. "Dropped my cigarette," he notes with distantly machine cadence. He remains low, knelt, he sees the moments ahead of him going the way he wants to. The way he can bend and alter his plans by. Knowledge of a person's actions is nearly as good as controlling them as long as goals do not meet cross-purpose.
A lesson the hired killer felt some lesser agents of the cause could use.
"Good," Whitney says, his voice shifted to approving. "You are righteous. You seem to know your path. I'm not one to stop you. Should we end this farce and get to our true goals?"
He opens up his arms, chest exposed to the woman. On his knees. He smiles, but it never reaches his eyes.
Kasumi slides to a stop once again, body low to the ground, leaning forward over one bent knee, her other leg behind her, toes pressed against the ground as the speed of her assault bleeds out and her momentum once again comes to a stand still.
These feats of speed aren't without their price and that, coupled with the buffeting and bruising she's suffered at ruthlessly efficient brawler's hand, have the young woman panting for breath as she pushes herself back up to standing, twisting on her feet to face the unusual mercenary once more. Ponytail and red tassels of her sheathed sword whip behind her in the wind that rips across the platform, her eyes settling on him as he assesses what he has seen of the vigilante shinobi and the conviction she holds for her path.
He declares it good - a statement that seems to surprise her given the way she pauses again, mind perhaps trying to reconcile the comment against what she thought of him. Does he think it's good? Is this deception? He seemed a man who's adherence to a cause only went so far as the deposits his account received... did she misread him?
The moment of brief quizzical uncertainty passes as Kasumi cants her head to the right slightly while she continues to catch her breath. In the end, there is no smile cracked, no nod of acceptance for his judgment, but neither is there hostility or rejection.
They can co-exist in this world as long as their paths don't cross, two operatives moving through shadow, agents of change, entropy, or disruption depending on the ends to which they apply themselves. She understands this, that for now, The Contractor and she aren't at odds... but that it could always change, sometime in the future, for some other cause.
Kasumi's body tenses as she plants her feet, sliding one leg forward, the other back, toes of her rear foot braced against the platform. She twists her left shoulder forward as she has done before, preparing for another burst of speed. Can she muster the same lightning fast velocity again after all that?
Perhaps not, but she seems determined to try.
"You're right." she replies, something seeming to click in her mind. She glances up for only a moment, taking in the Fatal Core and all its extravagance.
Once more the Mugen Tenshin prodigy surges forward, closing in on Whitney, seeming primed to stick to her tried and true frontal elbow strikes. He may be presenting himself as an open target, yet she doesn't hold back in the slightest. One foot lands and she twists, earlier than on her previous attempts, kicking off the ground, forward momentum taking her gracefully into a cartwheeling flip kick, right leg first, followed by her left, each aiming to crash into the Zaibatsu's hired man and force him downward, even if just slightly.
If she can land in front of him, falling out of the cartwheel kick, both legs bending tightly as she crouches down, then launches herself into a backflipping kick, ends of her feet targeting the mercenary's potentially lowered face.
Only at the apex of her backflip would the ninja fall back on her vanishing tricks, sakura petals blown on the wind through where she had been a moment prior.
She'd reappear, falling from behind him, whipping herself to the left, slamming the heel of her right leg out, targeting her opponent's head from behind.
The combination is about as fierce as anything else she's thrown his way. Even in this, the potentially final moments, she holds nothing back!
COMBATSYS: Kasumi successfully hits Whitney with Oboro Zukiyo EX.
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Kasumi 0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0 Whitney
She is fast. She is capable. She will kill several before the end of the day. This is allowable. The ones that deceive themselves with justice, with revenge and their emotional lies can be allowed to wallow in their delusion when it serve the purpose. They continue to serve themselves, pretending to serve an unseen master they call fate or morality. So few are willing to everything into their belief. Into their desires. To acknowledge the base instincts and purpose under which they operate. It was, ultimately, disappointing and frustrating. But it was not unusable.
He has taken his time to formulate how this prodigy will be useful to him. To the ultimate plans of the Illuminati. Strings to pull, here, with his current employer, and with his true employer above. Webs woven in conflict and plans laid out in the moment. There will be openings, power vacuums, and the hungry that will always line up to fill in. All because status quo must be maintained, and will be maintained. It is one of the trustworthy aspects of a boring, tiresome, frustrating humanity.
And with Kasumi's apparent acknowledgment of his goals, Whitney pulls another string.
All that stands is to finish the pageantry of the fight. And, perhaps, something else.
She comes down in front of him. He looks at her, and keeps his effected smile of placidity.
The strike crashes into him. A heavy kick that throws him back. The second hit strikes, pushing him yet farther. A dance of destruction that crushes the man back and back. But at the end of it, she appears behind him. A fierce blow the back of his head. He soars forward, hitting the ground with a thump, bouncing, sliding and going still.
He lay ahead of her, still and unmoving. His arms out at his side. He remains there. A thought coming to him. A deep breath sees his back rise and fall. His hands move and press. He rises up slowly. His head hanging as he hoists to his knees. Moving slowly, with cold and distant expression marred by blood and the burgeoning swell of wounds.
"Are you seeking any other justice?" he asks. "There may be something to our goals, after all. But I still need to assess you."
He rushes forward. His hands remain in his pockets. His body thrown forward and turning, shoulders first, then up, and finishing with a single cannon kick for Kasumi's chest. Blunt power, seemingly nothing more than that.
COMBATSYS: Kasumi full-parries Whitney's Strong Kick!!
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Kasumi 1/-------/=======|====---\-------\0 Whitney
Landing in a crouch from her steep angled descent, Kasumi's left arm crosses in front of her, her right arm out and slightly behind to her side, head bowed. She had struck cleanly, each attack leading into the next, conserving and transferring momentum from blow to blow, augmenting her own whipcord muscle strength with the weight of her body propelled with the kind of speed she is capable of moving at. Three solid hits, designed to stagger, stun, and knock unconscious against a foe unprepared to defend against it...
And the Contractor didn't seem to try to guard himself. No last minute movement to defend with those strong yet lightning fast hands of his, no advanced bracing technique that might turn his body steel hard, he simply got hit - one, two, three, and he's down. Yet... the Mugen Tenshin exile lifts her head, bangs blowing across her forehead, and watches as The Contractor starts to move. First arms moving, then hands pressing, and a moment later, he's standing again. The Shinobi in Black had faced many a durable foe in her time, but they usually had something else enabling them to weather her assaults - advanced ninpo or unbreakable resolve to force their way through the pain. Whitney didn't seem to demonstrate either, yet still he stood. What keeps him going, she wonders, moving through the pain, advancing on her in spite the risk of further injury. Was it curiosity that drove him? Or an agenda she had yet to discern? Did he feel no pain or was he simply capable of shoving it down, deep in side, and move forward anyway?
A mystery for another time. In this instant, she was going to see this through. They may both already be ready to go their separate ways, both prepared to pursue their agendas - to the detriment, she was certain, to DOATEC and anyone aligned with them. But there was to be one last exchange, another test.
And another question.
"Yes," the kunoichi confesses, as she turns, legs tensing in anticipation of needing to move once more in spite the feeling of being pushed to the limits of her endurance.
"NESTS." She thinks of the genetically mutated creature she had encountered once in a bamboo forest hut, a victim of their amoral experimentation.
"Shadaloo." She remembers the American fighter, his mind twisted and compelled to serve the dictator.
"SouthSynd." She remembers the ruthless brute she faced in the arena, his body pulsing with regenerative power; such ruthless ambition would only lead to others hurt by the cartel.
The young vigilante, too resolved to acknowledge near futility of her task, too focused to think it impossible.
The mercenary moves, the potential impact of his movements hardly hindered by the fact he keeps his hands pocketed, and Kasumi retreats back from the lunge of his shoulder but when he kicks, she's right back on him again, kicking off the ground, arching her back as she weaves around the extended leg, moving so fast that to the mundane eye it is as if she had teleported once again. But there were no swirling cherry blossoms, no scent of sweet spring that accompanied that technique. She was simply moving that fast.
Mid-air, her legs seek to lock around the larger man's neck just above her ankles. And with that fierce momentum, she would attempt to wrench him back down to the ground he just rose from, falling with him before trying to pull her legs free and rolling to a crouch rather than risk the peril of staying too close to the unpredictable man.
"Whatever it takes." she whispers, perhaps to herself now rather than as further answer.
COMBATSYS: Whitney fails to interrupt Sakura Madoi Hoshin EX from Kasumi with Debts Paid.
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COMBATSYS: Whitney can no longer fight.
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There was little aim to fight. Not to win. No need to do that. He had little to gain through a show of force and a contest of blows. No. He was an assessor. He was here as an actuary. And he had made his assessment of the kunoichi. She was an impressive talent. Her skill and threat level easily matched that of individuals such as the Dahlia. It was not to gain by confronting her directly.
But she was angry. She had enemies. She had enemies of the usual ilk.
Saulder recalled numerous times he had assessed the power players of the world. Every time a NESTS, or a Shadaloo or a Syndicate moved to take more power than was socially acceptable, that they would be battered by the fools and the delusional. There would always rise a challenge to remove them. It would do little to directly disrupt the lie.
She spoke words he expected. She spoke words he could work with. He just needed to continue the farce. Pain was worth the price of putting himself out from too much scrutiny.
Pain indeed. His pushing assault is weak in the face of her locking leg. Her twisting body tearing him from his feet and driving him to the ground. He saw stars. The physical body cried out at the foolishness and the bubble of frustration burst for moment that the body could manage to hold the rage of an animal with its life threatened.
But the body can only hold so much. And the dead emotions of the blonde American were always simple and fleeting to the dust of his life. He remained still. Letting time tick. Letting the acknowledged end of the dance happen. She will win. She will likely massacre, though she will also likely attempt to keep it minimal. Both would be acceptable.
The chaos will buy him time to gather information. And to establish that there may yet be other avenues for her rage. But that is later. For now, the kunoichi can choose just what blood she will spill. Whitney Saulder will not fight. He has already seen the weapon he has at his disposal.
Out of the landing, Kasumi tumbles to a crouch, clearly still on the defensive. She knew she had only taken partial measure of the man - that there was far more to him than she gleaned from their encounter in the tournament. For many, their story, their path could be read in how they fight, their techniques, their types of defenses, and their grit. And if not that, then there would be their words to give one enough of a window into their nature.
But for the Contractor, an uneasiness lingered within. She knew that she didn't understand him. That she probably never could understand him. But if she knew one thing it was that he was dangerous. If she did find herself aligned with him in achieving her goals... it would be worth taking a hard look at what brought her there in the first place.
But at the same time, not everyone involved on all sides of these conflicts can be a saint. Anyone who dealt in the affairs of the shadow world knew that much.
The Mugen Tenshin exile lingers in her crouch, left arm raised, angled as to be able to shift into a block in an instant, while her right arm is lowered, fingers pressed against the platform with enough tension as to be ready to launch herself into motion should the need suddenly arise.
But unlike before, he doesn't get up this time. There is a brief narrowing of her eyes, an uncertainty once again, about whether this too is deception - for her, or for those observing them - but in the end, for now, it doesn't matter.
Wind whips at the young woman's ponytail as she stands slowly, arms dropping against her sides. A dip of her head in Whitney's direction - an acknowledgment that while the fight itself might not have been something either of them were participating in for the tournament proper, she still had to acknowledge his remarkable speed and ruthless ability. One slight misstep... well, no matter now.
She glances upward at the remarkable feat of technology that is the Fatal Core. Soon those in their flying, metal palace will find themselves the target of every skill in her arsenal. They may know that she is coming, as she admitted to the Assessor, but it would make no difference in the end.
Hand lifting to rub her side gingerly, the young woman in black crouches slightly then leaps for a more elevated platform. Another leap follows almost instantly as she springs to even greater heights before vanishing into the superstructure of the Fatal Core.
COMBATSYS: Kasumi has ended the fight here.
Log created on 12:05:55 04/11/2022 by Whitney, and last modified on 18:09:05 05/23/2022.