SNF 2023.02 - Love You To Death

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Description: Lanterns, gondolas, the full moon--it would be the start of a lovely evening, except for the depressing lack of bloodshed. That's where FUMIKO comes in, as we've pointed them in the direction of a strange and wicked darkstalker in the vicinity, however, this will bring her in direct conflict with HONEY, who has been lured to Venice with reports of a crazed swordswoman. A sword allows for quite a bit of artistic expression, after all, especially when your medium is thick and red. Will the two of them paint the town red for us tonight, in a stunning duet?

A pale disc in a dark ink ribbon of water. A reflection of a reflection broken by a pole of a gondolier. Though brilliant, the full moon was but as single light competing a fiery glow of Venetian light; lanterns and lamp alike. From flickering candle to electrical incandescence. Points of light cast color and shadow into a chaotic dance that in desperate need to be perceived cried out for the eyes of both resident and tourist alike.

And each one could yet hold threats unseen.

At least, that is what Fumiko Abe knew. Darkstalkers had become something of a known entity as time had passed. Once a mystical threat. Then a terror. Now beings with support, with international awareness. The monsters were growing banal, but their threats were nevertheless present. And the artist would do the accounting. If she did not, then what would he have been lost for?

The white-haired woman shook her head, she dismissed that lingering line of antiquated thought from her mind. She could not be that. She should not be that. She was to live well. She was to live for herself. She would not allow the fury inside to take control of her.

However, she had heard a tale of a terrible Darkstalker that went unchallenged. And while she was in Venice, she could tend to more important matters than gallery mixers and pretending to tolerate the small minded pretentions of the financiers that debated merits of her work and bid on owning a momentary piece of her emotions.

No, the showing was simple, but it was the least interesting aspect of her life. And it had dominated her time since winning the Worldwide Rookie championship. Tonight, as she drifts in a boat while carrying a lacquered sheathe hidden inside of a large tube carrier, she is ready for the true display of her artist prowess. One far more personal, and far more powerful.

Honey isn't quite sure how she keeps getting sent places to do vigilante things. Yes, okay, she DOES sometimes do it in Sunshine City, but SNF has more than once pointed her in the direction of a crazed fighter and just said 'go'.

Like tonight. There is no Darkstalker here, at least as far as Honey knows. Nobody told her about one! Instead SHE got told about a crazed swordswoman. And honestly Honey thought about dropping out, because she's not really into getting cut up on camera by crazy people, but, well... what if she COULD do it?

So tonight, instead, Honey is perched on the edge of a bridge. Literally perched; she's in her red dress with the heart-shaped plate and she is crouched on the railing. She's gotten a few strange looks, but she's just told them she's doing something that has to do with Fashion and it becomes OK for her to be eccentric again. (It helps that she actually is doing some fashion thinking while she's up there. She even gave out a card!)

She is, however, looking away from Fumiko, silhouetted by the moon and quite visible from the gondola.

Fashionably sticking out is the name of the game for most of those who find themselves among the global fight community. Much like Honey, Fumiko is hardly one to fit in with the day to day dress of Venetians. Wearing the proper looking hakama may work when she is performing her swordwork, or even in Japan, but it stands out as an almost staid dress in Venice. The keikogi top even moreso. But while most could see that as simply a curiously old fashioned mode of dress, the fact that the lone woman in a gondola is also taking a moment to slip a wrist supporting batting gloves onto her hand is a genuinely oddball fashion statement.

The motion is done with a calm, measured reverence. As well as is the slow and steady removal of a pair of long sheathes from the carrying case tubes that hid them. Their painted cracked surface reflects moonlight off the gold lines that intercut the polish. Fumiko runs her fingertips over the edge of the sheathe of her larger sword. She feels their weight again. It doesn't bring a smile to her face.

She stands, balance kept on the boat. The belt of swords clicks about her waist and she looks at the passing buildings with a calm, cold demeanor. She seems aloof, even if inside is a torrent of thoughts and furies.

She may want to be away from that part of herself, but she cannot. No more than most can divest themselves of a shadow. She is here to be a monster to monsters. So be it. This would be better perhaps than her performances and tournament play.

Her passing takes her eyes upwards, toward the oncoming bridge. She doesn't take much stock in her, not even as she drifts under and passes in front of Honey. While Fumiko's dress is out of the ordinary, she has come to expect the same from just about anyone else in the worlds she travels in.

Perched on the bridge, there's no sign that Honey sees Fumiko, at least for a few moments. What is she looking at up there?

But then, even at a distance, a sound makes itself clear. A click. Which wouldn't be much in and of itself, except it makes her look around, seeing Fumiko drift past beneath her, a pair of swords at hand. Honey's eyes widen. She's come to the obvious conclusion:

There really is a crazed swordswoman! And she's right underneath her!

Honey tenses, then leaps off the bridge as Fumiko's gondola passes beneath. There's a flicker of red, a swoosh of movement from the dress - and a few moments later, Honey lands on the other side of the gondola, causing the entire thing to rock dangerously for a few seconds. Honey keeps her balance pretty well though.

"You! Are you that swordswoman? Don't lie, I see the sword carriers!" Is there a term for those? She really has got to learn it.

The boat surges under the sudden weight. A quick foot forward, catching on the bench opposite her seat, arrests Fumiko's near ejection from the shallow craft. The quickness of the position also sees the swordswoman's hand go to rest just above the hilt of her blades. Ready to draw at a moment's notice. Coiled as any snake ready to strike.

She must wait a moment for her long curtain of hair to stop waving in front of her eyes to see just who has attempted to hijack her boat. And to call out an accusation. One that confuses Fumiko for a moment. Enough for her to stop and blink at Honey with some puzzlement. In her confusion, she disregards her saya in the moment and looks down at her feet. "It's a poster tube," she says in a deadpan, uncertain voice.

This actually seems to throw Honey for a few moments. "Oh," she says.

Then her brows furrow. "In the middle of a gondola at night?" Also, she recognized that stance as a combat stance, even if Honey doesn't know enough about swords to tell what type it was - she looked like she was about to draw the poster on Honey, and that just doesn't make sense.

"...can I see the poster?"

It takes a moment for the realization to hit Fumiko on just what this woman was talking about. She briefly, very briefly smiles when that moment hits her. "You do not mean. . .I see." A short breath follows, but the woman's posture does not shift from that ready pose.

"You meant to come here and challenge me because of my swords. I see that. I assure you I am only here on the matter of a Darkstalker. However, I feel I may have been misled." Fumiko's eyes close and her breathing steadies to deep, paced motion. The flow of fury fades to a silence in her mind.

"You are one that looks for fights. There are dangers in this world. Are you looking to combat them?" Fumiko asks softly. "Do you not have family that misses you? Do you not have a duty to them to see their faces? Are you risking your life committing yourself to recklessness?"

Her questions come quickly, though they hardly seem too judgmental, almost sorrowful attempts to plead to this woman across the boat from her. Fumiko's eyes open. "Do you have any ideas what monsters walk in moonlight?"

COMBATSYS: Fumiko has started a fight here.

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Fumiko           0/-------/------=|

COMBATSYS: Honey has joined the fight here.

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Fumiko           0/-------/------<|-------\-------\0            Honey

"Well, I'm not a Darkstalker, though I did get dumped into their bar a couple weeks ago, which let me tell you was a bit of a surprise!" Honey is a big talker, apparently. She blows air out, making her cheeks puff out.

"But they DID tell me that there was a swordswoman here, and I DID sign up for a match; why they sent me out here after a mad swordswoman if there's only a regular swordswoman, I don't know. But if you're going to take up a challenge, I certainly couldn't not give one!"

Honey brings her hands up into an almost cats-paw position, held in front of her. "I have a pretty good idea what's out there! And maybe I'm risking my life, but it's my life - and if nothing else, fighting in the night's a good way to show people who you really are." She gives a little shimmy -

And then she lunges forward, half-punching and half-batting at Fumiko, trying to push her back with her open-palm strikes! Even though there's not a whole lot of 'back' on the gondola.

COMBATSYS: Fumiko Toughs Out Honey's Cat Scratch!

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Fumiko           0/-------/----<<<|=------\-------\0            Honey

"I can see you are no Darkstalker."

Words spoken coldly. Fumiko's focus is writ on her face. She waits her position on the gondola. A steady hold. She allows Honey to come close. All to read the woman, to understand her, to study the art in her posture and demeanor.

"Are you so selfish that you care nothing for your family's feelings?" she asks, shifting her posture to bare her shoulder toward Honey, to take the batting blows with unflinching resolve and a cold eye of judgment. "Then so be it, but please show me that you have the strength and skill to be so uncaring."

Close in, while Honey is striking at her, is when Fumiko moves. A slick step that carries her past the curious American. A short click of a hilt. The blade is partially drawn in passing. The rolling step obscuring a close in, belly punching blow from the blunt end of Fumiko's blade hilt. A testing thump of a strike. But one designed to switch up where Fumiko is on the boat. To put her in a better position, on a better surface, and with better awareness of her stylish opposite.

COMBATSYS: Honey blocks Fumiko's Positioned Strike.

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Fumiko           0/-------/---<<<<|==-----\-------\0            Honey

"I'm pretty sure my family doesn't care what I get up to," Honey says, with uncharacteristic straightforwardness - normally she never talks about her family! And indeed she's not going to tonight aside from say they won't be a problem, either.

Fumiko rushes in - and Honey is ready for it! She bats at the striking hilt, and though she can't stop it dead she can at least deflect it away from her stomach, leaving the palm of her hand stinging and painful instead. It still lets Fumiko pass by her without slowing down much, repositioning on the boat...

...and with Honey now behind her, she spins, delivering a surprisingly powerful kick at Fumiko's flank. "But if you want to see some power and style, Honey's got you covered~!"

Honey's style involves a lot of moving around and there's not a whole lot of room to move on the gondola; it's narrow and while there's a few paces on it forward and back it's not something Honey cares to jump on a whole lot. Which is giving her a bit of a problem! But, well, she picked the location, mostly.

COMBATSYS: Fumiko interrupts Strong Kick from Honey with Flashing Blade EX.

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Fumiko           0/-------/-<<<<<<|=======\-------\0            Honey

An intriguing response. One that Fumiko Abe does not miss. But she cannot allow the implications of what was said get in the way of her test. Is this girl capable of being what she needs to be to stay alive? Fumiko has to know before she will allow herself to rest comfortably tonight.

"Will they care if you never return home?" she asks.

The movement is quick. Moonlight catches the blade in Fumiko's hand. She seems to simply step through Honey's kick. The strike solid as can be, but the stalwart swordswoman moves past with a grace that suggests little more than a glancing blow. And little more than a slight motion of her wrist.

The swordswoman's hair blows in the wind brought by the drifting of the gondola. She stands with her back turned to Honey. She clicks her sword back into its sheathe. And in the aftermath, the cut is felt.

"Unimpressive so far. Show me more."

"I don't really need to explain myself to you, do I...?"

Honey feels a little off-balance in this fight. Off-balance beyond the physical - she hasn't ever fought on a rocking boat before, but she's more on edge from all the questions. She's decided that she's just going to have to ignore them if she wants to manage.

Because she didn't manage to land that foot on Fumiko. Honey finishes her spin, lands, and only then realizes she's been cut at all; a painful line across her leg that makes her stagger, nearly tipping the boat a little further than she meant to. She recovers from the unbalance by lurching low, looking like she was tipping forward.

But as the boat rocks back, Honey uses the momentum added by the shifting gondola to improve the speed of the rising uppercut she turned the stagger into!

COMBATSYS: Fumiko blocks Honey's Cat Upper.

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Fumiko           0/-------/<<<<<<<|======-\-------\0            Honey

A quick attack. Her opponent was fast with her fists as she was with her mouth. Fumiko respects the challenger's skill, despite her cold words. But she finds a deeper flaw in the young woman's conviction. Something that brings a cold cut to Fumiko's heart.

Honey's fist clashes with a suddenly raised scabbard. Cracking against the lacquered frame, rattling with a sharp report. Fumiko stands close to the other woman and there she states, "No."

Fumiko pushes back from Honey, her balance maintained as the shallow draught boat totters one way and another. Her cold focus and intent not straying, as sharp and steady as her drawing hand. "But the world is dangerous. The Darkstalkers. The living machines. The despots. All of them live to kill the idealist and the brave. The selfish ones with no care for those they leave behind. Who die for nothing."

"I refuse to let a child join the ranks of ghosts."

Her draw comes quick. It swings wide. An arcing slice that catches the moon above and creates a crescent reflection wavering in the air, glittering even as it threatens to carve Honey in half.

COMBATSYS: Honey dodges Fumiko's Bamboo Splitter.

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Fumiko           0/-------/<<<<<<<|=======\-------\0            Honey

"A child?!"

Honey is eighteen. She doesn't consider herself a child. Most other people don't either, even if she's not quite old enough to do *everything*. But it's rare someone just up and calls her a kid now that she's in college.

Honey tilts her head one way and the other, loosening her neck and shoulders up as she just looks straight at Fumiko. And then she smiles, a slightly crooked grin. "Well, if you want to underestimate me that bad... I've already fought undead and gotten away with it. Maybe you are the mad swordswoman!"

Fumiko swings - and Honey isn't there. She was, moments ago, but suddenly she's taken to the air, a mighty spring that lifts her well off the boat. The slash misses Honey's boots by less than an inch, threatening to carve into those heels.

But now she's on her way back down, a double-handed axehandle blow to show for it: a powerful blow that she tries to simply smash through Fumiko's equally powerful guard with!

COMBATSYS: Fumiko blocks Honey's Cat Hammer.

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Fumiko           0/-------/-<<<<<<|=======\-------\0            Honey

Fast. Very fast. But how much can one continue to run? The question flickers in Fumiko's mind. It sours her. The young woman comes down like a meteor, her axehandle blow striking with a passion of an insulted young fighter. Once more it hits the interceding scabbard. One more the crack echoes off the walls of the Venetian buildings. The boat sags deep, almost giving way to water.

But Fumiko Abe does not break the deep, rooted stance she holds. Her intensity reflecting back up in the woman only ten years her junior with a deep, rage-fueled grief. "There are far worse things in the dark. Why are you so dedicated to discarding your life?"

She shoves back, standing dangerously far against the pointed stern of the vessel. Footing close, poise balanced and ready, hand hovering over the hilt. She inhales one steady intake, and releases tension from her frame. Her eyes slide closed. "I cannot underestimate you, because I do not know you. What I know is that you may have those that will mourn, and I want you to know that there will be those who will mourn you if you are lost."

Once more she states, "Show me your strength."

COMBATSYS: Fumiko enters a meditative state.

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Fumiko           1/-------/<<<<<<<|=======\-------\0            Honey

"Look, I'm a street fighter. S-T-R-E-E-T fighter. And a fashion designer, of course; I make fighter's fashion and costumes. I'm not going out and monster hunting, usually; I'm not crazy! I do tournaments! And street fighting!"

Honey really doesn't have any particular interest in risking her life in violence. Getting beaten up is one thing, and she has accepted that. Going out and getting stabbed or shot? Nah.

"But hey, if you're that determined..."

Honey does not immediately attack because she's convinced Fumiko is going to pull out another one of those painfully fast draws like she opened the fight with. (Her leg still hurts from it!) But when she decides she *isn't*, Honey lunges in, sliding low across the bottom of the gondola in a sliding kick.

COMBATSYS: Fumiko interrupts Medium Kick from Honey with Left-Handed Draw EX.

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Fumiko           1/------</<<<<<<<|=======\===----\1            Honey

The explanation is simple, and direct.

Fumiko Abe smiles.

"So you are not one of the hopeful selfish fools? You're just a competitor. Good."

The hesitation is enough to give Fumiko a read on her opponent. The kick comes in, and Fumiko feints with her right hand. The expectation of the draw hiding her left as it reaches down not for the full size blade, but for the shorter of the two. Drawn with the left side, Fumiko flicks her blade downward, cutting like a farmer's harrow as she dashes over the low kick. The nondominant hand is just as quick as her main.

She finishes her darting cut opposite on the boat from where she started. She turns to look back at Honey and bows. "I will no longer fight you as a concerned widow," she explains, "I will now witness your art and face you as Fumiko Abe, Worldwide Rookie level champion."

"Usually, yes! It's just that the matches they've signed me up for lately are a little weird!" Honey really isn't sure where they're finding them.

Oh. She *was* going for one of those fast draws. Just a little later. The blindingly swift slice draws a yelp of pain from Honey, because really there's only so many ways you can gracefully get cut by a sword and she is a master of none of them. But she's still moving, so it can't have been bad enough to stop her.

"Oh, good! About time!" Honey tests her leg, finds it still holds her weight, and once again springs into action. Faster than before - she figures if she's going to end this fight she had better do it quickly, before Fumiko cuts her to pieces over time. She rushes forward, trying to plant one hand on Fumiko's shoulder and vault herself up - almost straight up, in fact, springing into the air high enough that if they were going under another bridge she'd have to worry about smacking it with her forehead.

And then she comes down in a leg drop, angling to catch Fumiko with it and half-kick, half-flatten her to the ground - well, boat, with Honey's leg across her neck and pressing the air out of it. It might look embarrassing for Honey, but Honey is completely unbothered by the scandalous positioning - and one has to admit it *is* a pretty good leg drop.

COMBATSYS: Fumiko endures Honey's Face Crusher.

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Fumiko           1/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|==-----\-------\0            Honey

And the swordswoman does nothing.

Honey leg lock catches Fumiko. An asphyxiating grip. A clutching, crashing smash to the deck of the narrow boat. But close has, so far, been playing into Fumiko's ultimate understanding of the young opponent she faces. And this close was a degree too familiar.

Fumiko feels her pulse thud in her ears. The closed airway. The tight grip. A choking moment of the world falling away into a distant notion. The ebbing of consciousness.

The fury rises within. The boat bobs deep in the crashing weight of the leg drop. But as it rises back up, bouyed on the water, Fumiko rolls her feet upward, curling over herself. Angling to get her taller frame over Honey. To keep her on the ground where she can draw the two blades at her hip at once. Through the pain, through the close tight grip. To use the grapple as a way to get to the underbelly and to sweep forward with twin flashing wave of steel. kept close in. A drawing cut.

COMBATSYS: Fumiko successfully hits Honey with Goryo's Wrath.

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Fumiko           2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|======-\-------\0            Honey

This is really *too* close for Honey to do what she wants to. She's fast, she's agile, she's aerial - and she has absolutely no room to move around on this gondola! Honey would never down herself for long like this on land, but her usual reflex is to roll and right herself, and right now if she rolls she will either stop at the raised edge of the boat or roll right off into the river.

Which would be what they call a 'bad idea'.

So it's Fumiko who recovers first, and Honey gets the idea of what she's doing as she does it; she draws her legs up to protect herself, but too late to stop the blades from striking home. They catch on her dress - Is that dress *armored*?

It sure is! Fumiko carves into it, tearing it open despite its protection. Underneath it Honey has a complicated-looking harness that looks like leather with a lot of buckles, and though she's not gutted she's not exactly having a whole lot of fun right now either. But better the dress top than her!

Honey manages, with a pained grunt, to stretch her legs back out to try to lace them between Fumiko - and then she *does* roll, bringing Honey onto her front as she tries to pull Fumiko's legs out from under her and drop her to the ground. Honey rises pretty dang quick after that, shaking off the tattered remnants of her dress top and leaving her in just that black harness - the scraps would only tangle and get in her way now. "I don't even think it's worth fixing..." She'll just have to make a new one!

COMBATSYS: Fumiko interrupts Power Throw from Honey with Kamae Tachi EX.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///                           ]
Fumiko           0/-------/-<<<<<<|=======\==-----\1            Honey


Two swords rest at home in their scabbards. Fumiko drifts in the air, propelled by the violent force of her rage. She silhouettes against the moon, clothing and hair fluttering in the night sky. Down she looks upon the boat and her younger opponent. She sees a competitor, not some erstwhile heroine in a strange costume. This girl isn't someone to test and to show her that there are powerful heroes still alive to throw themselves against the darkness. This is just another one who wants to test their art against hers.

Test, and come up lacking.

She lands.

The boat bobs.

% Arms dart out for her.

A blade flashes in the night.

What Honey tries to tangle shift and dance. A whirling dervish of a motion, a rolling barrel leap. A draw strong enough, fluid enough, to twist the swordswoman through the air. To leave her lashing over Honey's back with the intensity of a cutting wheel. Only for the blade artist to land on the far side of the narrow boat, balance kept with a ballerina's precision. Slowly slipping her katana back into its scabbard. "It's good you wear armor," Fumiko tells her young opponent. "If you're going to leave yourself so open to your opponents."

The glint of metal disappears as the blade closes into its home with a final sounding, click.

Honey is a competitor, sure - but a relatively untested one. She's gone into dark places (once or twice) and came out on top, and she's fought those individuals who she could, but she's never entered a tournament. Never fought the best of the best.

Never fought against paired swords at all, for that matter, which is making her guesses for what Fumiko intends to do worse than they should be.

A blade in the darkness slices out at Honey's back. It catches her harness again, though not *just* the harness since it slices a line up the side of her back, too. Honey starts to rise - and then thinks better of it, thumping back down on the gondola. She's not quite unconscious, but she's not entirely conscious, either.

COMBATSYS: Honey takes no action.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Fumiko           0/-------/-<<<<<<|

COMBATSYS: Honey can no longer fight.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Fumiko           0/-------/-<<<<<<|

When Honey doesn't rise. Fumiko's posture calms. She slowly edges herself toward the center of the gondola and it's two seats, nudging the fallen Honey into a more safe laying position with her sneaker. Just enough so that she may sit down and calmly finger comb her hair back into position while enjoying the moonlight waters. Since, she has surmised, that this whole fight was engineered as a ruse by fight coordinators looking for a more candid experience.

Fumiko Abe would have to have words with her organizers about such deception later. This was possibly worse than the high school girl.

"Thank you for your demonstration," she tells the dazed Honey. "I apologize for your outfit. If you would like, I've a lovely room near Ca' Pesaro. The least I can do is offer you a chance to rest after all this. If that's not too presumptive of me. Perhaps a coffee? The Italians do it wonderfully."

COMBATSYS: Fumiko has ended the fight here.

Honey says, without getting up, "I'll be okay." This is probably true; none of her wounds are *that* bad, comparatively speaking. It's mostly the cumulative beating that's keeping her down.

She does push herself to at least sitting after a few moments, pushing those long tails of hair out of her eyes. "It's meant to be fought in!" At least she's taking it in stride, though it does mean an awful lot of sewing. But that's not all bad; it means she can make some changes she's been thinking about.

"I'd love a coffee! But maybe I should go get a shirt first."

Log created on 18:10:15 03/10/2023 by Honey, and last modified on 10:30:00 03/16/2023.