NFG Season One - Immortal Flames

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Description: Convinced that she can break through to the troubled Junko the same way that she has the other members of Team Thunder in the past, Ariastra soon learns that this particular problem child will won't be quite so easy to handle.

The time she had with Hated R was interesting. Before she gets her hands on the old team however, it is time to get Junko. Her match is done, so she won't get in the way

Being in the Team Thunder facility. She looks around. She nods at anyone she may come across, but her target is truly Junko. When she finds her, she says. "Hi, I am Ariastra, one of the five sponsors. It's time we have a little time together. So you will come with me." Ariastra is in her usual attire of her red shirt with a golden emblem, as well as black pants and her blue bracelet on her left wrist.

She doesn't ask the poor girl if she is busy with anything. She simply puts a hand on her shoulder, personal space be damned. After that, one moment they are in that Team Thunder facility, the next they are at an abandoned village. Maybe Junko felt the chi. Maybe she's nauseous, it wouldn't be the first person who needs a moment to get her senses back. "Ok you have any questions we need to get in the way?" She asks promptly. "Take a few moments to breath if you need to.

After her most recent encounter with Ichika, the young miko has found herself even more reticent to expose herself to unnecessary human contact. Her teammate's unexpected resolve had caught her off guard and in so doing caused the mask of seemingly unfocused hate and fury to slip, if only for a few moments. In the moment, she had been confused and vulnerable, unsure why anyone would brave the danger of her cursed flames in an effort to win her over. Now that she's had time to sit and reflect on the encounter, Junko's resolve to ensure that it never happens again has redoubled.

She is, in fact, on her way to give Ichika a piece of her mind when yet another unfamiliar soul chooses to bar her path. Her expression a mask of cold fury and single-minded determination, the miko doesn't even bother to acknowledge her would-be mentor as she tries to introduce herself. And she would have very likely simply barreled past Ariastra without so much as a word of acknowledgement had she not felt the touch of a hand upon her shoulder.

In general, invading Junko's personal space is a problem that solves itself. The air around her is constantly flooded with unnatural heat as if the girl herself is a roaring bonfire - and actually putting your hand /onto/ an open flame is its own punishment.

However, after Ichika's insane display of courage, even that no longer seems to be an absolute that she can count on to keep people away. So, when she feels the gentle touch of the immortal's hand, Junko all but whirls around to slap it away with a snarl of rage.

The transition from one point in space to another happens so fast that at first the miko doesn't seem to notice. She feels the energy of the technique, a sudden wave of brief nausea and disorientation that radiates out from the pit of her stomach as if the floor had just fallen out from beneath her feet, but without the immediate feedback of new visual scenery to inform her of just how jarring a change it really was she's left to assume that Ariastra's touch had been meant as some sort of attack.

Staggering away from the older woman, Junko's hand goes to her head as she tries to shake off the momentary queasiness. Already annoyed at being accosted in such a manner, the miko's anger flares visibly as she turns to glower at the sponsor, hellish red flames blazing to life in her dead crimson eyes.

"What... what did you do to me?!"

Even that brief touch was enough to burn her hand to a point, but which quickly heals, and she doesn't mention, at least not yet. It's not what she is interested in.

"Easy." She says after Junko seems aggravated. Really, who can blame her? But she keeps observing her, seeing the red flames in her eyes. "It's interesting. So much raw power." She says before even answering the poor girl's question.

Finally after another moment. "I took you to another location. We are in an abandonned village. There's just you and me, so there's no one else to worry about. You can explode to your heart content or what's not. I presume most people have told you to control your power. Or fight with more control or what's not. To be honest, I am curious what you would like. What do you want to learn? Control or to really let loose?" She cocks her head.

After she had time to answer, if she even want to answer. "I saw your interview, you're not here to make friends. That works with me. I will probably continue to piss you off anyway. Just know this, you have your place on this team."

That was not the answer she expected. As the disorientation fades, Junko slowly turns to look around at their new surroundings.

Based entirely on heat, her ability to perceive the world is quite limited. Warm-blooded living things are the easiest for her to detect alongside electronics and other bits of technology that put off energy. Non-living matter, such as plants and stone, tend to be quite cold and thus more or less invisible to her. It's a bit of an annoying dichotomy being able to rely on her senses to be aware of certain things and not others. It might actually be easier for her in some respects if she was completely without the ability to perceive things in a manner similar to sight at all.

But, limited as her perceptions are, even Junko can feel the sudden shift in the surrounding environment now that she stops to notice it. The cool stale air of the subway's recycled filtration system is gone, replaced with a far more pleasant natural breeze. Instead of sterile concrete and aging metal, the smell of dirt and rotting wood permeates the air.

"How did...?"

The miko's gaze snaps back to Ariastra, full of careful wariness now. While she does not take up an outright hostile stance immediately, her body language very clearly suggests she's ready to engage in violence if this strange woman tries anything funny again.

But, as it turns out, she hasn't been kidnapped for some nefarious purpose. No, it's far worse than that. This strange woman hasn't come to exploit her furious flames for evil or smite her for putting lives in danger during her last fight.

She's been dragged gods knows where, warped through space, and for all she knows time - in order to be /lectured/ at.

A very teenage groan of utter dismay escapes Junko's lips at this revelation, her shoulders slumping as her head rolls back to gaze up at the heavens with disdain. She had been expecting something like this when her uncle had informed her that she would have new mentors interested in furthering her martial development. Just what she needs right now, people convinced they can 'guide her down the right path'.

"Believe me, lady, if I wanted to give up control and simply let my powers loose, we wouldn't be having this discussion, because you and the rest of this miserable ball of dirt would already be on fire."

"Everything is connected." It's a concice answer to how they got there. Today was not about teleportation or anything of the like. Beside that, she simply observes.

Though she can't help chuckling, as she watches her. The groan escaping her lips seems to amuse her even more, but she bites her lips to calm herself down. She needs to get back to being serious.

"Lady is for old people. Granted, I am too old as it is, but like Ariastra is fine." She says before going to the jist of what Junko just said. "Been on fire until I was carbonized, not a fan. But if it happens again, it happens. I will still be there, and I will still annoy you." She says in a serious voice now, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "Bare with me some more, and you can explode on me and show me what you can and can't do.

"So you had your first match in the NFG. Tell me anything you want about it. Whatever you think is relevant, or hell, your opinion.

As she waits for an answer, two scythes, emerald green, appears in her hands. Perhaps Junko can feel the shift in the air again. She spins them around. "Look, you probably don't even want to be there." She keeps observing her, not because she's a freak or anything of the short. It's for another reason. "I will give you a chance to punish me for taking you here against your will. That works with you?" She can't help but chuckle again.

Great, more vague fortune cookie wisdom. Did the sponsors of this team all get their sayings by reading the bottom of Snapple lids?

The very notion that this woman had survived being burned to the point of melting into slag and considers it a minor annoyance is enough to ruffle the feathers of the miko's darker half. The demon stirs restlessly within her, its ire growing hotter with every provocation. Junko's jaw clenches as she tries to suppress the sudden surge of unreasonable anger that comes with her soulmate's attention, teeth grinding audibly.

"Keep asking for it and you'll find out exactly what I can do, /lady/," she growls irritably through clenched teeth.

But apparently determined to poke the bear until it finally snaps at her, Ariastra keeps right on talking. Her curiosity turns towards the first of what promises to be many unpleasant public debuts. Junko's opponent had been some sort of dancer, apparently. She has no idea what a stripper is but it sounds unpleasant. Fighting the staff-wielding warrior had proven taxing, her martial techniques completely foreign to anything the miko had ever seen before. In that one regards it had been an interesting experience. She has a feeling that telling this annoying witch that, however, will just result in her talking more.

Thankfully, the immortal's impatience provides the young miko an easy escape from having to answer. Though she cannot see the magical weapons that appear in Ariastra's hands, she can definitely feel the surge of power that accompanies their manifestation and notice the movement of the woman's hands as she takes them into her grasp.

Junko's eyes narrow, her brows furrowing as a dark scowl takes over her face. The temperature of the air around her suddenly starts to spike as the prospect of battle looms nigh.

"If you were looking for a fight, all you had to do was say so."

This woman has seen too many things, but it's not about her. She is however, extremely annoying, as if she is doing it on purpose toward Junko, pushing all the wrong (or perhaps the right?) buttons.

She continues along that line. "I am looking for a fighter, but all I really see is a weapon. A weapon ready to unload. A weapon ready to harm, main and kill. A weapon unconcern about itself. I mean a weapon has to be used and taken care of by someone. Is that what you are looking for? Someone to not care for you but simply handle you? Maybe handle your power because you can't? If you're someone's weapon, then the responsability falls on them, not you, when people are hurt, yeah?"

She gets in a stance. "Go right ahead if you want to shut me up. Show me what you are really Junko." She takes a deep breath. "Attack me, and while you're at it, you still need to tell me something about your match. We're going to use your brain, one way or another." Who knows what Ariastra is trying to do at this point.

COMBATSYS: Ariastra has started a fight here.

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Ariastra         0/-------/-------|

What the actual hell is going on here?

Ever since she'd first set foot into the clutches of this damn tournament people have been doing nothing but coming at her like moths drawn to a flame. Does she have some kind of glowing sign tattooed on her forehead that says 'please tell me your opinion of how to improve my life'? Or perhaps 'share with me your diagnosis of all my problems'. Not even the people she's known literally since she was born, the ones who should have a vested interest in actually caring about what happens to her, are this damned annoying about being busybodies!

What's even more frustrating is how adept these people seem to be at hitting close to the bullseye. If she was aware of just how long Ariastra has been alive perhaps that would be slightly less bewildering to the miko. With age comes wisdom or that's what she's been taught. Respect for the elderly, for those who have experienced much more than yourself, is only common sense. Unfortunately, a lot of what Junko used to consider simple manners has been burned out of her. Even if she did know the secret of this woman's immortality, she likely wouldn't give much of a damn. All that matters is she's sticking her nose where it doesn't belong and being extremely annoying about it.

Ariastra's suggestion that the girl is nothing more than a weapon is both right and wrong. In the aftermath of her great folly, her body has become little more than a ticking bomb. In many ways it would be better for everyone if she just threw herself into a deep hole in the ground and pulled the entrance in after. But such an extreme sacrifice is a bit much to ask of a lonely frightened teenager. That or maybe she's just too much of a coward to do the right thing. So in that respect, the immortal is correct in that she is a dangerous object ready to inflict harm upon everything around it.

Where her would-be mentor's guess falls short is in trying to understand the reason behind Junko's seemingly indiscriminate fury. Ariastra believes that the miko is simply looking for someone upon whom she can dump the responsibility for her wild rampages, a scapegoat that absolves her of any blame.

The truth is quite the opposite, however. Junko's barrier of hate and fire is a shield, yes, but one meant to protect others - from herself. Unable to ever fully control the supernatural power and fury now coursing through her soul, the best she can do is make it so that no one wants to be around her. It's the only way she can keep them safe and the only way she can ensure that her conscience isn't burdened by further sin.

"Everyone seems to think they have me all figured out for some reason."

Junko's eyes smolder with inner fire, her irises glowing cherry red like circles of superheated iron. Scarlet flame bursts to life around her fists, twin infernos of unnatural corrupted power. Heat and light pours forth from that fire, searing and brilliant in intensity, yet there is also an undercurrent of something more. Malice and rage, raw and primal, radiates from the miko like a tangible force, just as palpable to the senses as the uncomfortable warmth and far more unpleasant.

"But none of you have a damned clue what you're talking about! So spare me your trite wisdom! There's nothing here for you to find but blood and ash!"

Apparently tired of talk, or more likely tired of listening, Junko finally hurls herself into the fray. A snarl of almost animalistic fury rips out of her as she darts forward. Both of the girl's hands thrust forward as she draws within striking distance, her palms slamming towards Ariastra's torso both high and low at the same time. That wicked flame ripples gleefully with the motion, ribbons of black foulness coursing across its surface like sickened varicose veins.

Should the immortal fail to prevent contact with those burning palms, all of that fire erupts into her body in a violent rush of destructive power. She'll get her chance to experience what it feels like to be immolated yet again becoming a living human torch for the handful of seconds that it takes for the twisted chi to burn itself out.

COMBATSYS: Junko has joined the fight here.

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Junko            0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0         Ariastra

COMBATSYS: Ariastra dodges Junko's Rengoku Sougekishou.

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Junko            0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0         Ariastra

She awaits the first blow, because she's not going to do it herself. She's been annoying on purpose. Not that it makes anything better, of course. It just makes it what she decides with Junko. Everyone is different, which means different teaching. emit But what is Junko going to learn out of this. This is the big question.

She answers Junko when she talks to her. "Oh I probably got some right, probably a lot of wrong, because I am not you. But honestly, I've mostly been trying to piss you off. Yet, you didn't blow the whole place off yet. So points for that."

She feels the rage, the anger, the fire. It's impressive in it's own right. "Tell you what, if you manage to kill me, ask NFG to give you the trophy right now. You will have earn it. But what I really would like to find is the girl under all that fire and anger. Your power is impressive, but what's under is even better."

Not much more can be said about it, especially since the attack comes. But just before Junko would hit, she's not there, and Ariastra's voice can be heard from behind instead. "You still haven't told me about your match though." Yes, after all that fire she narrowly got away from, that's what she comes up with. "I am still waiting. Guess I can't hit you until you talk to me."

After those words, she rises her left arm in the air, and a lightning bolt strikes it straight on it, going into Ariastra. It doesn't hurt her however. Instead it seems to power her up, as her eyes have soem electricity in them a moment.

COMBATSYS: Ariastra screams and a lightning bolt strikes her from the sky. Her eyes are now crackling with electricity for a moment.

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Junko            0/-------/-------|====---\-------\0         Ariastra

Well. That's the first time anyone has ever admitted to intentionally trying to work her up.

Just about everyone in her village was witness to the aftermath of Junko's folly. They saw what it looks like when all of the restraints are gone and there's nothing holding back that ball of supernatural hatred any more. No one in their right mind would ever try to provoke that kind of destruction into rising to the surface again.

The miko herself played a dangerous game when it came to managing her emotions. On the one hand, it is impossible for her to ever fully restrain the seething fury of the thing now trapped inside of her. The harder she struggles against its evil urges for destruction and vengeance the more difficult they become to resist. She'd tried, at first, to completely seal it away, to pretend like she could simply smother the flames of something that had taken the lives of dozens of far more experienced spirit mediums than herself through sheer willpower.

That foolishness had almost resulted in another massacre. Now, she just did her best to keep the worst of the demon's impulses in check. Which meant allowing herself to channel the ancient malice and primal rage on a near constant basis. It's like a form of triage, in a way. There's an intense pressure in her chest, a crushing irresistible need to burn something until naught remains but ash. She can hold it back, for a time, but sooner or later there needs to be some sort of release or she'll suffocate.

Ironically, the most effect method of ensuring that no one was around to suffer from those outbursts was to embrace the unholy fury. By becoming a conduit of rage and spite she ensured that no one ever wanted to be around her. Her fellow villagers needed little incentive in that regards, for the most part, but there was always the occasional well-meaning soul who wanted to reach out to the poor unfortunate fool that had been the victim of her own youthful stupidity. They learned quickly the folly of that effort.

And now, it seems, she needs to go through the process of encouraging a whole new group of people that it's in their best interest to leave her the hell alone.

Ariastra's swift teleportation leaves nothing for the flaming strike to vent its fury on save the empty air, not that this seems to discourage the wicked flames. Scarlet fire erupts from Junko's palms as she thrusts her hands forward, detonating in a wild conflagration that sends out a shockwave powerful enough to set the miko's long snowy hair rippling in the aftermath.

"That's going to make this very one-sided then..."

Clenching her fists into a loose claw, Junko concentrates briefly and the guttering flames of her failed attack are sucked back into her palms even as fresh neon power bursts forth to strengthen them. When she whirls around a few moments later, the fire has condensed itself into a pair of small but potent glowing orbs clutched in her burned fingers.

"Because I have no interest in giving you anything but pain!"

Thrusting both of those searing balls of light forward, the miko lets out another wordless scream of fiery hate. Raw neon red power erupts from her outstretched arms, the two orbs of light bursting and then merging to create a lance of scarlet flame wider and taller than the young girl herself. That beam of destructive fury rips forward with far more power than the untested miko should be capable of putting out, burning the ground into a black charred line beneath it and setting ablaze the crumbled ruins behind the immortal with another eruption of heat and noise.

COMBATSYS: Ariastra endures Junko's Shakkahou!

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Junko            0/-------/----===|======-\-------\0         Ariastra

Ariastra is fine with being the output right now for all that rage, that fury, everything that it is, if it helps things. Does it? At this point who knows. She's just doing it.

"Is it? Do I need to strike you to take you down?" She looks at the girl, seeing the orbs now, made from the previous fire. "I will take all the pain you want to give me."

As if to prove what she's saying, she stands her ground, especially when she sees Junko pushing her body to be faster on this attack. She wants to hit. She needs to hit. Fine, then hit.

It damages the immortal, but not as much as it should, as the electricity she just absorbed protects her to a certain point. Yet there is some calcinated skin. "You do hurt Junko, but it's ok. Go on." She speaks so normally. Some pain can be seen in her eyes, but she does not show it in her voice. "I can take a lot more."

She still doesn't attack this turn. Holding her words.

COMBATSYS: Ariastra takes no action.

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Junko            0/-------/----===|======-\-------\0         Ariastra

The fire rolls over its target, scorching, burning, destroying. Grass and soil burn to ash and old rotten wood explodes into a blazing pyre in the background as the hellish beam blazes away. Pleasure radiates through her in a wave, the demon's lust for destruction intertwining with her physical senses so intimately that she can hardly tell the two apart. The rage and hatred feels /good/ to indulge in, a sweet ambrosial narcotic that caresses her soul with spiteful affection.

With a start Junko staggers backwards, her scarlet onslaught flickering and then guttering out. A low hiss slithers out through clenched teeth as the price of channeling those cursed flames hits her in the wake of their absence, her eyes squeezing closed against all too familiar agony.

It's getting harder to resist that alluring song of destruction of late. Perhaps it's a side effect of being forced to call upon her demon's strength so often since being tossed into this arena of warriors. She had done her best to only wield the monstrous power when it was necessary to maintain her sanity in the past. Now it seems like a daily occurrence almost.

Turning her empty gaze back towards the immortal, Junko glowers at her, struggling to keep the tidal wave of building emotion in check.

"I don't /want/ you to take more, damnit!"

She lets slip a curse. Hardly anything of note compared to the foulness that spills forth from some people's lips but her mother had always made such a big deal about keeping such filth from her young daughter's lips. Even that little bit of harsh language would be enough to set off warning bells were she among friends and family. But this woman doesn't know her, doesn't understand what sort of deadly game she's playing by trying to coax the miko's worst side out.

"I want you to leave me /alone/!"

If that means having to beat the woman senseless to make it happen, so be it. Most people had good enough sense to take a hint. Everyone she's met on this team so far, however, seems intent on doing things the hard way.

Lunging into another wild rush, Junko comes at Ariastra without restraint. Red fire engulfs her hands again and she leans into a full-bodied punch, using momentum, weight, and a hint of martial skill to drive a deadly haymaker square at the other woman's face. Impact would bring with it another explosion, more focused and concentrated this time, like a flash bang going off right next to her head.

COMBATSYS: Ariastra dodges Junko's Guren Bakuenjin.

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Junko            0/-------/---====|======-\-------\0         Ariastra

She definitely can still fight, even through the destruction. At least no one to hurt or kill here. Except the two of them, but she was willing, and it seems Junko had that price to pay.

When her pupil tells her she doesn't want her to take more, she says., "Ok, I won't take the next one then." It's really like she playing. Yet, she's also taking it seriously, so what is she doing?

Then more words come. "I want you to leave me alone." the girl tells her. "If I can hug you, we can stop fighting right now if that's what you wish." A weird offer for sure. Probably annoying too.

When the attack comes, she waits until the last moment, before she does a split on the ground, to let the punch pass over her. She slashes forward as she does, but she holds her hand back, before she actually hits. "Oh yeah, I said I would attack until you told me about your first match, and you haven't yet. Don't mind me, I will just powerup again." She rolls back and lifts up, another lightning bolt hitting her from the sky. No lightning should be coming from that sky, yet it keeps happening.

COMBATSYS: Ariastra screams and a lightning bolt strikes her from the sky. Her eyes are now crackling with electricity for a moment.

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Junko            0/-------/---====|=======\===----\1         Ariastra

*She's toying with you, girl...*

A deep rumbling voice billows up in the back of her mind as Ariastra casually evades her wild strike. It spreads out inside of her skull, sticky and foul, like oil oozing up from a crack in the ocean floor to pollute the waters. A shudder ripples through Junko's body at the touch of that foul presence, her skin erupting into a carpet of gooseflesh.

Listening to the demon's words is foolish yet she cannot deny the truth of what it says. The ancient woman isn't taking her seriously, intentionally trying to goad her into a frenzy. For what purpose she can't imagine. Does she really think that if Junko exhausts herself to the point of being unable to fight back she'll be appreciative and open to overtures of friendship? That all it takes to break her resolve and solve her problems is to let her scream herself hoarse like some child throwing a tantrum?

The very notion of being treated in such a manner is galling to the extreme.

*And yet, that's all you really are, isn't it? A child flailing wildly and without purpose. Naught but a pathetic joke.*


The miko turns to face her elusive tormentor, jaw clenched tightly as she hisses a rebuke. Though her response is aimed at the demonic influence trying to slither its way into her soul, no one but Junko can hear or sense the creature's presence, so intimately entwined with her soul as to be one and the same. As such, it seems as if she is directing her response at Ariastra's request for a hug - though it probably would have been the same regardless. Ichika had tried to hold onto her and earned herself some nasty burns in the process. She can't even imagine how stupid it would be for someone to try and full-body cling to her.

Which is precisely why that idea proves a tempting course of action. Junko's lips peel back in a snarl, wicked mischief glinting in her searing crimson eyes.

"You want a hug? Then stand still!"

Crouching low, the miko hurls herself bodily at Ariastra, arms outstretched. But should the other woman prove foolish enough to take that offer at face value, she'll find herself tackled to the ground even as the blazing hellfire returns to her ward's hands once again. Fists burned black from wielding that unholy power rain down in a frenzied barrage, scarlet flame and clenched fingers forming deadly hammers that smash into Ariastra's face and chest without restraint.

COMBATSYS: Ariastra blocks Junko's Mugen Ranbu.

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Junko            0/-------/---====|=======\=====--\1         Ariastra

She can't hear what the demon says, it is undetected. No matter how old you are, there are things that evades you, especially if you're not looking for them. So all she hears is that no. Maybe it was time to stop this. to fight back a bit.

While she's pondering that. She gets another answer. Ariastra is not crazy enough to think she will get the hug she seeks. Not like that anyway.

SHe is tackled to the ground, not stopping that part, but she uses her arms and some sort of energy shields, to absorbs the blows. They don't do as much damage as they should, though from the force of them, Ariastra still feels them in her arms.

"ok, I am sorry." She tells her and disappeared from under her, to be back on her feet. She then charges her scythes with electricity. When Junko gets back up, she makes her body spins rpadily, her blades, if she has her way ripping through whatever is in the way. Even anything else she may hit before or after Junko, leaving a path of destruction of her own before she finally stops spinning.

She ends up saying. "I might have more or less misjudged you, but you're stuck with me. If you think I will leave you alone, you are mistaken, it will never happen." She wipes her scythes on her shirt, if necessary.

COMBATSYS: Junko fails to interrupt Never-Ending Torments from Ariastra with Hou-ou Shoten Ha.

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Junko            1/----===/=======|==-----\-------\0         Ariastra

Junko tackles her opponent to the ground, belting out a cry of fury and eagerness to inflict punishment upon the woman who has been arrogantly playing with her for the past few minutes. But even that proves to be an ephemeral victory. Her punches come crashing down in a torrent on Ariastra's mystical defenses, flames bursting and scattering across the shields like fireworks. The barrier isn't able to keep out all of the scorching heat but it does enough to blunt her retribution as to make it thoroughly unsatisfying.

*Yessss... unleash your rage, girl! Show her what it means to make a mockery of you!*

Despite her lack of success in smashing the immortal's face into something resembling a lump of clay, the demon continues to whisper pernicious words into her ears. Its malice flows through her, empowering her strikes, flooding her limbs with searing unbearable heat until the miko's fists literally glow like embers.

Perhaps if she had more time, Junko might have simply been able to smash her way through that barrier with sheer rage and persistence. But, once again, the sponsor proves herself quite capable of slipping free of any such danger and simply vanishes. The teen's flaming fists slam hard into the ground, fire and earth spraying everywhere in tiny eruptions as she lets out a howl of frustration.

By now, Ariastra's tricks are becoming somewhat predictable. Even as the immortal comes at her from behind, Junko whirls around, one of her fire-imbued fists swinging up like a piston to try and catch the woman dead center as she whirls past. But the miko's efforts are a result of rage and not calculated tactical thinking. She knows basically nothing of the powers or capabilities of her foe, can't even see the threat that the wicked scythes present until the blades rip into her exposed side like a buzzsaw.

A cry of pain accompanies the teen as she's sent sprawling to the ground. Half of her fancy shirt lies shredded, the tattered remains of the white cloth quickly turning crimson as blood soaks it through.

Junko's eyes squeeze shut against this fresh agony. She'd trained against warriors wielding blades long ago, when she was still but a child and hadn't yet screwed her life up beyond repair. Back then her father had insisted on all manners of protective gear and carefully watched over her sparring sessions like a hawk, wary for even the slightest possibility she might get hurt. This is the first time she's ever been on the receiving end of an unfettered cutting weapon - and, much as she suspected, it hurts like hell, leaving her momentarily too distracted to offer any meaningful reply.

She felt the blows Junko gave her. They were nothing to laugh at. She's powerful, but to Ariastra's eyes, she doesn't seem to think much about what she does, she just do pure force. Something to certainly be cautious of, but needing more guidance.

She is surprise when she sees a glance of Junko trying to break through her own destruction. She's not sure if it was foolish or calculated. Unfortunate, failing to do so leaves her open to the blades, and it goes into the soft side. She frowns, and she doesn't press her attack.

After a moment. By my calculation, you have time to try to attack me one more time before blood lost will take stop you from fighting. You can if you want. But I am going to heal you. Enough so you can walk on your own and not bleed to death. That's non negotiable, even if I have to force that healing on you. That's clear? I don't care if it's going to burn me either when I put my hand on you to heal you." The look in her eyes shows she will not take a no for an answer.

Now she just watches to see if the girl will try a desperate attack or if the pain will be too much as it is.

COMBATSYS: Ariastra takes no action.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Junko            1/----===/=======|==-----\-------\0         Ariastra

Junko's reaction is likely not one that her immortal mentor expects - she starts to laugh.

Honestly, there's not much else she can do at this point. Teleported to the middle of nowhere, taunted into a frenzy, slashed apart, and now she's being 'offered' healing as if it were some kind of a threat. This woman is even more insane than she is - especially if she thinks the she's seen the end of the miko's resolve.

Rolling slowly onto her side, the teenager defiantly pushes up to her knees and then shakily to her feet. Blood continues to pour down from her wounds, her ruined shirt clinging messily to her side as it attempts to soak up the vital crimson fluid and clot the slashes closed. It might work, eventually, maybe even before she bleeds out too. But Junko seems completely unconcerned with the possibility of dying to her wounds.

"Calculations... hah! You still don't get it, do you?"

The miko holds up one of her hands, still aglow with infernal power. Her lips peel back in a rictus grin, flashing pearly white teeth stained orange in the fiery glow.

"You don't know a damn thing about me... so you can take your precious /calculations/ and shove them somewhere uncomfortable!"

Lowering her head, Junko opens her mouth and bites down on the bloody sleeve. Her arm, hanging limp and useless at her side, is dragged forcefully out of the way with a twist of her neck giving her access to the gore-soaked slashes on her side. Without even a bit of hesitation, the priestess shoves her flaming hand against the ragged wounds, pressing her cherry-red palm flat onto her side.

A sharp sizzle like fresh bacon being thrown on a hot grill fills the air, accompanied by the stench of burning meat. Junko's brows furrow, her jaw clenching ferociously to keep from crying out as she cauterizes the wound. The pain is intense, almost indescribably so, but dealing with the agony of being burned has become something of a speciality of hers at this point. She leaves her hand in place for several long seconds, keeping it pressed firmly in place until she's certain that the bleeding has been stopped.

With a sharp exhale, she falls to one knee, gasping in several long ragged breaths. Her injured arm flops loosely at her side again, quickly covering up the scorched and blackened flesh now exposed through a hand-sized hole burned into her shirt.

After a few moments of recovering her composure, Junko snaps her head up to regard the immortal woman with a ferocious glower full of spite and determination.

"I don't need your help, witch! So do what you want. Burn yourself on my flesh, if you're so desperate for suffering! You'll never break me!"

COMBATSYS: Junko gains composure.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Junko            1/----===/=======|==-----\-------\0         Ariastra

She didn't quite expect it, no. You can be one of the oldest person alive, you can still make mistakes. She frowns. "I am sorry." She ends up saying. "I might be over 5000 years old. I still makes mistakes. I want to be there for you, but I don't know how to connect with you. She shrugs. "I thought I had the way, and I screw up." She sighs. "I don't know you, but I learned things about you. So it's a beginning."

She watches as Junko proceeds to do her own blend of self healing, if one can call it that. "You can take care of yourself. You most likely can survive all on your own. It doesn't mean you should. You can hate me all you want. I will still be there for you, even if you hate it forever. Let finish this then. You have fortitude, I will give you that.

She brings her dual scythes together and makes them a single double bladed scythe staff. She watches her, as an icicle builds up behind her, and using her foot, tries to push her on it. "Let see if the ice gets you, or you get the ice."costs

COMBATSYS: Junko endures Ariastra's Fabled Memory.

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////      ]
Junko            1/-======/=======|=====--\-------\0         Ariastra

At this point, Junko doesn't have much left in the tanks. The demon's haunting voice continues to scratch at the surface of her mind urging her to unleash further mayhem, tempting her with yet more power if she but allows it greater control. While tired and angry, the miko is still cognizant enough of its foul influence to hold it at bay, though the effort takes most of what is left of her willpower.

As always, heavy use of the flames has left her body withered and broken. Her hands are burnt almost down to the core, little more than blackened skeletal husks at this point. They will heal, in time, but the pain of such intense burns is hard to ignore. It transcends simple agony, the thunderous numbness of her seared nerves pulsing like steady waves of suffering throughout her very being - or so it feels, at least. To add to her misery, the still smoking flesh of her cauterized cuts throbs in time with her heartbeat which hammers away to a war-like melody as adrenaline and spite flood through her veins.

So, when the immortal witch decides to unleash some of her power at the miko, there isn't much Junko can do but snarl defiantly at her as the kick sends her flying backwards onto the shard of ice. Fresh pain explodes into the girl's body, ice and fire and blood spraying in all directions as the frozen spear pierces her skin. Even before it touches her body the ice starts to fracture, flash-melted by mere proximity to the inferno that is Junko's personal space. But that actually only makes it worse, the single spike of frigid water splintering into half a dozen smaller shards that shred her like tiny swords as momentum sends her crashing down.

For a mercy, the ice melts almost an instant after making contact leaving nothing inside of her body to potentially cause further harm. The downside is that the rapidly evaporating water turns into a cloud of scalding steam that scours her sensitive back with a sudden boiling blast of heat.

Junko screams in agony but the pain just seems to piss her off even more. Crimson flame erupts in a blazing pyre all around her, engulfing her prone form like a cocoon even as her eyes start to glow brilliant red in their entirety. If Ariastra has watched her first match against the dancer she might have some inkling of what is about to happen. If not, well, she's in for an explosive surprise.

For a handful of seconds, the flames blaze and writhe, the inferno growing larger and hotter. Junko slowly staggers back to her feet, almost zombie-like now, as if her body is moving on strings instead of under her own power. Then, with a final unearthly scream, the priestess unleashes Hell.

Fire erupts in all directions, a cataclysm of searing red destruction that ripples out to engulf a massive sphere around her. Grass and foliage burn to ash almost instantly while the more dense scenery, trees and thick lumber from the scattered remains of the village, combusts like tinder creating a flaming hellscape all around. There is a brief moment, as the flames spread and begin to greedily consume everything within their path, where something else is visible in the blaze. It's difficult to see amidst the sheer turmoil of the roiling scarlet and black but a perceptive observer might notice the anomaly:

The faint outline of two massive feathery wings of pure scarlet fire unfurling out from behind the miko's back, fanning the flames of destruction as they spread wide and then vanish into the chaotic inferno once again.

COMBATSYS: Junko can no longer fight.

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

COMBATSYS: Ariastra endures Junko's Suzaku no Gekido.

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

Ariastra wanted to finish this. No words alone looked like it was going to work at this point. She is responsible. It's not ideal. It didn't work like she hoped. At least she saw a few things.

She observes as time seems to slow down. The ice fractures, and instead of a piercing spear, it shreds the poor girl like a smaller version of Lingchi torture. Of course it wasn't a thousand cuts. But she imagines the pain is there. She saw some of them melt right away. Both a blessing and a curse, as it seems to go from cold to searing heat in an instant.

When Junko screams in agony, there's a look in Ariastra's eyes. Thankfully, the girl can't see. The bloodlust of battle. Perhaps even some flashback. The Phoenix, destroyer of enemies, ever rising time after time. It doesn't last long as Crimson flames erupt all around her. "There we go." She nods to herself. She did see the match. She observes most of them, even if not in direct view of the fighters. Sometimes she shows herself, sometimes she doesn't.

Again, Ariastra simply observes as the flames grow larger and hotter. She would have time to do something, even probably teleport away to come back after, but she stands her ground. It's only fair after the thoughts that crossed her head.

Then the explosive inferno erupts. Fire in all directions, a sphere that promises a memory of pain, for anyone that survives it. Survive, she will. She has no doubt. She's not worried. She stands her ground. Her body takes the full blow of this. It's harden however, because after over 5000 years of battle, where you've felt pain and died over and over again, physical pain can be dulled. Coming back again is where the pain lies. But today is not a day she dies anyway. The pain is strong, but her body takes it. Her mind silently screams, and a smile forms at the corner of her mouth. Until, with her keen eyes, she seems to see the hint of something. Something she will keep for herself in her mind and ponder about it later.

She then falls on one knee. The double bladed scythe staff gone from her hands. Her clothes are doing better than the body beneath. They must be magic enhanced in some way. Perhaps they have a special signification to her.

She waits until her body settles a bit, since Junko seems out of juice now.

After that short time break, "That was interesting Junko." She's unsure if the girl is still conscious or not at this moment. She still speaks. "Now, you're going to let me heal you, or this is going to turn into anger, because I dare mention it again.?" After that, she says nothing else at the moment. She heals a bit of her own body, but not all. She would allow herself to feel this pain for a while. She just need to look presentable.

The eruption of scarlet hellfire lasts only a scant few seconds. Fueled by her pain and her rage, it consumes them both rapidly until nothing but hollow emptiness is left. When the fire fades away it takes with it the last of the girl's strength and she collapses heavily to her knees like a puppet whose strings have been cut.

Half conscious, Junko stubbornly refuses to allow herself to pass out as she had the last time her power had burst forth in such an uncontrolled manner. Soft groans mutter from her lips as she struggles to stay upright. She wobbles unsteadily, almost drunkenly, her head throbbing as what little she can perceive of the world swims chaotically in her senses.

"Told... you..."

After a few seconds of trying to find equilibrium, the miko slowly lifts her head to regard Ariastra. There is defiance in her expression and rebuke in the tone of her voice, but in her current state she comes across more like a child trying to convince a parent that she's not tired, fighting to keep her eyes from steadily drooping shut.

"Don't... need... help..."

In the aftermath of her destructive outburst, Junko continues to smolder like a hot coal only recently removed from a fire. All around her the abandoned village crackles and smokes with evidence of her power, scarlet flames hungrily devouring the ancient wood down to the very core. The girl herself sits at the center of a massive scar on the world, the ground scorched completely black for dozens of feet in all directions. Thick plumes of acrid smoke waft up into the air, both from the blasted dirt and Junko herself. Even the tips of her snowy white hair continue to burn, the last few inches glowing a dull reddish orange like heated iron.

The temperature around the kneeling miko is almost unbearably hot. Trying to touch her now would be like placing ones hand on a metal pan that's been sitting in the oven for several minutes. But, on the bright side, it doesn't look like she's in any state to fight back should her well-wishing mentor wish to try.

When it all stops, she watches the girl again. Watching is her thing, after all. She's good at seeing things. She doesn't seem to do too good.

"You did tell me you don't need help. I am your sponsor, and at this moment, I think you need it." She says rather sternly

After that, she looks around. Junko's power is indeed incredible, but to Ariastra and hopefully other people, she's not only power. She's also a person, a girl. Worth taking care of.

Her eyes go back on Junko, and Ariastra sees her body and feels the heat coming from her.

She takes a small pause, then she puts her hand on her shoulder. Her hand cooking right away. She still sends healing energy in the girl, even as her skin easily burns, because she can't shield herself from Junko. Not to send in the healing. She makes a face, her breathing becomes more heretic, but she doesn't scream.

When she's ready to remove her hand, it is pretty messed up, but she puts it behind her back. Time will take care of it. "You are stubborn/ I am too." Pain sipping through her voice some.

COMBATSYS: Ariastra has ended the fight here.

Foolishness. So much wasted effort on someone like her.

Junko's teeth clench as the other woman approaches, her jaw set defiantly despite her inability to do anything to stop her. The miko's eyes, still aglow with lingering crimson power, follow the immortal's hand as she reaches out to brave the intense heat.

The results are predictable and immediate. The soft sizzle of burning flesh fills her ears, accompanied by the nightmarishly familiar smell of cooking human meat. Flashes of unwanted memory assault her mind even as the stench invades her nose, images of those long dead as a result of her choices.


For anyone who has been paying attention to her activities the past few days, it should be fairly obvious that the teen has unnatural healing powers of her own. More than once her hands have been reduced to little more than charred blackened husks only to be completely fine the very next day. Bruises that she earned in her fight against Djamila, marks that should have lasted days if not weeks, gone by that very same evening.

Which makes this foolish display of pressing her hand to the hot griddle that is Junko's still smoking body completely pointless. Precisely what is she trying to prove? That she's strong enough to ignore the miko's wishes and foist her unwanted aid upon the girl? Is she trying to impress Junko with her bizarre powers and aggravating refusal to take a hint?

*She does not respect you, girl.*

Junko's head lowers, her gaze pulling away from the immortal's smoldering hand upon her shoulder. She regards the blacked dirt before her in silence, enduring this unwanted mending in silence. All the while the demon continues to whisper quietly in her mind, its poisonous words seeping into her weary mind.

*You are nothing to her... a plaything for her amusement. See how she ignores your wishes and does as she pleases.*

The girl's fists slowly clench, her burned skin cracking and splitting from the effort. Waves of soothing power surge into her body, attempting to salve the pain, but perhaps to the immortal's surprise they hit resistance. Something seems to be interfering with her ability to mend the damaged flesh, soothe the heavy aches, consuming her power and burning it away instead of allowing it to flow properly throughout the girl's body.

*You fought admirably... but your power was too weak! And what is your reward for that effort? To be treated like an invalid incapable of making their own decisions. She mocks you, girl! By the very act of foisting this 'kindness' upon you, as if /our/ power were not enough to...!*

With a start, Junko suddenly moves, swatting the healing hand away from her shoulder as if it were suddenly burning her instead of the other way around. The miko's hands lift to her head, cradling her face within her ruined palms as she shivers with silent emotion.

It had been close, so close to convincing her to listen. Only through a poor choice of words had the demon slipped up in the final moments, conflating the miko and itself as one and the same. In many ways it was already true. Her soul was inextricably bound to that of the monster on that fateful day, entwined in such a way as for it to be impossible to tell where one of them stops and the other begins. But she was still the one in control, still manning the helm of her own ship - for now, at least.

She didn't think of that. She should have known. She knew. She just went too far with the girl, and she had to at least do something about it. But like the rest of it, she did everything wrong in this bound.

She unfortunately can't hear the demon who whispers sweet nothing about her and what she means to the sponsor. She can just see her reaction to what she does.

She doesn't have time to pull her hand away on her own, Junko pushes it away. The result is the same, she puts her hand behind her back, hiding it from sights. Maybe if she knew of the demon, she would have handled this a lot better, or maybe not. She saw the brief image of wings, almost an illusion, earlier. She can't get all that implies. She sits down on the ground, but keeping some distance to Junko.

She finally speaks again. "I hope you learned something, anything from this. I wanted you on the team so bad, but I haven't really done you any good. You didn't do anything wrong, that failure is my own. I don't think I understand you very well, if at all." She takes a deep breath. "I knew instinctively what to do with the others, but it's not the same with you." She makes a pause.

"Tell you what, if you're hungry we will go get something. If you say no, I will finally listen and just take you back, and you can do what you want then. Maybe another sponsors will do better in this case. I won't force you to come with me again. Just know I will always be there if you need something. If you do come, I will do my best to be more attentive to your needs." Yay! Another long talk from Ariastra. But after that, she doesn't say anything anymore.

More words are spoken - apologies, justifications, excuses. For a long time Junko ignores them, her head clutched in her hands, overcome with the fear and grief of her narrow escape from the insidious whisperings of her dark shadow.

How many people would have suffered if she had taken its words as truth? How much destruction would the ancient demon have been able to inflict upon the world before being stopped, its wrath unfettered by her fragile resistance at last?

For years she had contended with the side effects of being bound body and soul with a being of pure malice and rage. Her own volatile temper was the most obvious, the miko's once gentle and kind disposition now twisted into a pale shadow of the hatred that burned inside of her with perpetual force. But only once had the demon spoken to her directly, as it did now, and even then it did naught but scream and howl like a captured animal, hurling curses and promises of retribution. The rage and the flames she could handle but these subtle deceitful whispers are by far the more harrowing threat.

Eventually the young woman seems to gather her composure, enough to at least rise to her feet. Junko pointedly keeps her back turned to Ariastra as she stares silently into the still burning ruins for several long seconds. In truth the destruction is not as terrible as it looks. Much of the damage caused by her flames was a result of how old and easily combustible the ancient wood was. But she can't see that. In her dead glowing eyes, all the miko beholds is the heat of the flames and the heavy scent of smoke on the wind - a small example of what would be left of the world if she ever slipped up enough to lose control completely.

"All I've learned from this," the girl says, her voice soft and pensive when she finally speaks. " that I can't trust anyone to understand my problems."

This is the second time now in so many days that someone has come at her like some sort of simple equation to be solved. They saw her as a small helpless bird with a broken wing, angrily chirping and flailing at the world in fury at the pain, desperate for someone or something to come along and take it away. They thought that she could be mended through simple affection and care, unable to see the twisted cancerous corruption hidden inside and how it fed upon her hopes and desires to grow ever stronger.

It isn't that she doesn't understand their motivations. To say that she has been overwhelmed by the displays of unsolicited affection and care from people who have known her only a few days would be a vast understatement. But, for all their good intentions, they were only making things worse. Tasting what could have been - what /should/ have been - wasn't a kindness. Experiencing that brief joy of knowing that someone gives a damn, that if she were to vanish from the face of the world tomorrow there would be at least one person who cared, was the most hideous form of torture she's ever endured.

"...take me back, please."

Ariastra stays silent as long as Junko needs it. She doesn't press her for an answer or to hurry up. She lets her time to think or whatever else she needs. It's true. She doesn't know what Junko goes through. So, at least for the small time left, she's trying to do what's right.

Then she finally speaks, an answer. "Well if you ever want to just talk about your problem... I will just listen. I learned my lesson. I am just offering. No obligations." She doesn't add anything, simple and concise now. As much as she can anyway.

As soon as Junko asks to be taken back, she says. "I am going to touch you one last time today, because I need physical contact to take you back with me." She gives her time to hear what she is saying and be ready for it. She expects at least some heat, but she will do it even if she is still burning with her other hand.

Finally, after that time to think, she puts her hand on her shoulder, and they are back where they left, in the thunder facility. "Thank you for your patience. You're free now." She couldn't salvage today. She could only think of doing better next time. If there were a next time. Beside she has her own thinking to do. The fact, for a brief moment, she enjoyed hurting a pupil...

A small nod, acknowledgement of the warning and, perhaps, the offer of support. The miko remains motionless, staring into the scarlet flames until the world around her warps and blurs. Her body is still hot to the touch but not painfully so, more akin to someone with a burning fever than a scalding stove top. Nor does there seem to be any hint of the supernatural animosity contained in that heat, now that the girl's temper has cooled. Another little clue, for the wise or perceptive, as to the nature of her power.

Once again the smell of stale recycled air fills Junko's nose. She closes her eyes and inhales slowly, even the taste of the filtered oxygen preferable to the lingering scent of smoke and ash still clinging to her senses.

Without further comment and without looking back, the miko turns towards the far end of the long tunnel where the dormitories have been set up. She had planned to have words with Ichika today. That girl too had misunderstandings about the sort danger she was putting herself in by trying to befriend Junko; misunderstandings that she intended to correct. However, after the painful 'lesson' from her mentor, she's in no condition to be doling out any reprimands.

That little chat will have to wait.

Log created on 14:16:56 09/11/2023 by Junko, and last modified on 04:39:19 09/13/2023.