NFG Season One - Metro City R1 - Ichika vs Iris

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Description: While they've met many times, Ichika and Iris have yet to cross blades. In the current round of the NFG, this little oversight is finally resolved, and the two have a surprisingly intense fight, psychologically speaking.

Well. Things have certainly taken an interesting turn since the Rumble.

Ichika stands on one of the lower platforms in the 'lake'. The girl's expression is as serious as ever as she contemplates the arena. She had an advantage here, she suspected; she'd actually trained here with Rei and Junko. The battle had been short lived, true, but she knew the area quite well.

Then again, Iris is literally magical, and even the wizard herself isn't entirely sure of what she is capable of. For a fighter like Ichika, who relies quite heavily on her tactical reading of situations, this is likely to be a very challenging fight. She'd enjoyed watching the replay of the Rumble and seeing all of those moves in slow motion, but they hadn't done a thing to give her any idea of how to counter it. What could you do against an enemy who could summon anything and be anywhere at any moment?

Only hope that she winds up being her own worst enemy, really.

The girl has a brand new jacket after the destruction of the one in the Rumble; remade perfectly right down to the studs and badges. She also, however, has bandaged hands. That particular gift from her new teammate isn't quite healed yet. Holding them out in front of her, she flexes her fingers thoughtfully and takes a long, slow breath.

No, she should be fine. A little tender, but nothing she couldn't deal with.

Her eyes take in the crowd; she certainly seems to have gained more notoriety since the Rumble and the release of the Ichikast, which is... good. That's what she wanted after all. Iris has her own fans, though, and there sure are a lot of people who have managed to find a break in their workday to come and watch the pair fight each other.

The sun is nearing its apex in the sky now; when the light will be brightest down on this artistic installment and its shimmering waters.

"I shouldn't have checked the points." She murmurs to herself. "None of that matters. Winning doesn't matter. Losing doesn't matter. The fight, matters."

Now if only she could really believe that.

She'd told Mint that she doesn't read anything online about herself, but that doesn't mean Iris can't read things online about OTHER PEOPLE. Of all the people in the NFG, Iris has *met* Ichika the most often, but *fought* her approximately never. Chevy is the runner up, since they'd also met multiple times but fought in the Rumble. It's not as if she was cruising for a weak spot to exploit or anything, but some idea of how Kasumoto fights is just common sense.

What Iris did NOT anticipate finding that was going to impact her was discovering what a fan favorite Ichika was in the places she looked.

When the Brit sat and applied her fanfic-writing brain to the notion, it made sense: she has a distinctive look, a strong ongoing narrative (from the point of view of the audience, at least) and... maybe not an 'underdog' thing going on, but certainly, she's Putting In The Effort. Basically, she has perfect face energy, and any crafter of narratives knows, that can take you far.

This, perhaps more than Ichika's skill with a blade, or burgeoning ability to channel energy, is what sticks with Iris after watching all those videos and, in defiance of the memes demanding you not, reading the comments.

That's the sort of mood the British magus arrives in: not exactly depressed, but certainly pensive. Certainly, if this were a competition of 'who wants it more,' Ichika would probably win. But Iris also really did do exactly what Mint suggested: she put her doubts, her fears, on paper, and she faced them down in the morning when she got up.

'You don't think you belong here. You're worried you haven't earned it. You're worried this was all a mistake.'

Well, the only way to prove any of that wrong, is to show up and do it... and to not give up when things look bad.

She's able to put a smile on her face, at least, as she strolls onto the opposite 'shore' from Ichika and gives her a little wave. "Morning."

It's a talent that the Kasumoto girl really hadn't expected to find that she has. At school, she'd been so unpopular she practically faded into the background next to her flamboyant Justice peers. No particular talent, no one field of study that she excelled at above all others, no... direction. It was only finding her place in the New Fighting Generation which had lit that charismatic spark in the girl. It turns out that she really does have things she wants; a drive that she refuses to surrender. And that drive has pushed her to be more herself than she had ever achieved elsewhere.

In many ways, they are the opposite; Iris doesn't feel like she belong in the fighting world, but Ichika feels like she might never belong anywhere else.

The girl returns the smile as Iris waves, and rather than bow as instinct would have her do, she returns the wave herself. "Hey!" She calls, "It's great to see you!" She grins, "Fewer pulse cannons than the last arena we were considering, but on balance, I think I like these surroundings more, neh?"

She cracks her neck and begins to stretch lightly, "I admit, I'd like more of a barrier between us and the spectators though. Hopefully Daidoji-san's match will make them reconsider that in future." Not to mention what had happened with Hawksley and the explosives in the Rumble. Surely, sooner or later, health and safety procedures were going to have to be adopted, right?

"But... let's try not to worry about such things. I've wanted to fight you properly ever since the beach, so let's just try to enjoy that!"

Ichika mentions the recent fights and their possibility of blowing the audience up, and Iris reaches up and rubs the back of her neck. "Yeah, I watched the video of that, uh..." A pause. Unlike the park these two are in, Djamila and Junko were up on a narrow walkway. It probably IS a minor miracle nobody died. She should really try and talk to Djamila about that, now that they're teammates, see how she's doing. And speaking of teammates...

"That Daidouji girl seems like... a lot," is the most diplomatic way Iris can phrase that. A beat or two of earned silence before she speaks up again, the Brit looking around the place. "I think we should be good, though. I can't speak for you, but broadly speaking I don't have any fighting techniques that fall in 'cluster bomb' territory."

As she bounces on the balls of her feet for a second or two, there is a very real part of Iris that is annoyed to discover she *doesn't want to do this*. When she'd fought Genie and Tamaki one-on-one, they'd been strangers to her, mostly. Fighting someone she's... well, who knows if they'd be considered "friends," but definitely more than "strangers" is a different story. What if she loses? Or worse, what if she wins?

And then a little Mint appears on her proverbial shoulder and says, pragmatically, 'I have that fight OUTSIDE the ring'.

"...Right," the magus says, after a delay, as much for herself as in response to Ichika. "Good luck, and en garde!"

There's water between them, but that doesn't mean much; most fighters might jump over the distance, but Iris blinks across (after an acceptably sportsmanlike delay of course), trying to come in low, hands at her side, Mint's advice in her head: focus on what you know well.

In a flicker of rainbow light, a fencing saber appears in Iris's right hand, looking to strike up and forward past Ichika's guard in a practiced fleche.

COMBATSYS: Iris has started a fight here.

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Iris             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Ichika has joined the fight here.

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Ichika           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Iris

COMBATSYS: Ichika dodges Iris' Medium Strike.

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Ichika           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Iris

"I've been working on my fireball, actually." Ichika says with the same conversational tone someone might take talking about a gardening project or a new recipe for cookies, "I think it's really coming along! But if I use it, I'll be careful about where I aim it." She's grinning; quite aware of how deeply surreal this sort of conversation is. But, well, that's what they are here for, right? To get better, to train their skills. To walk the path.

She nods her head a little more seriously at the note about her new teammate. "She is. I hope that we can help her find her way." A lot of implication in that; but after her discussion with the hot-tempered miko, Ichika is less inclined than ever to simply write the girl off. Unlike Buford she doesn't seem delusional, only ... burdened. And Ichika can certainly understand that feeling.

And then the fight is beginning, and Ichika's mind focuses. This is the part she always likes; Iris vanishes, and it is as though all of those outside concerns simply, slip away.

She reappears in the same instant and Ichika is already moving. It is a gamble - she doesn't know exactly where Iris is coming in, but she knows that staying where she was would be foolish; that's the one place Iris knows to expect her. The rapier flashes into existence, catches Ichika's twirling jacket and punches a neat whole through it as the girl turns to the right and grasps the hilt of her sword firmly.

In the same moment as she plants her foot back down to resume her stance she draws the katana, a single swift stroke that aims to slash across Iris' side, prioritising the speed of her strike over any kind of longevity - she's testing the older woman; curious as to whether she will be tangled in the battle with her jacket or whether she can recover quickly enough to avoid her strike in turn.

"It's not speed." She says, softly, as though confirming it to herself as much as anything else. "My eyes can't keep up with that at all. This is going to be ..."

And in stark contrast to Iris' reservations about fighting someone she knows, Ichika's grin is pure delight.

"... a lot of fun!"

COMBATSYS: Iris dodges Ichika's Quick Strike.

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Ichika           0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0             Iris

One of the drawbacks to Iris's approach to fighting is that using multiple types of weapons means she's never using anything she's really *mastered*; she has an advantage with a rapier or a spear because of past experience with sporting versions of both, but beyond that, she's relying on instinct, so she doesn't know lots of tricky maneuvers to use.

One of the BENEFITS is that as soon as she's struck with something, unless she puts the focus into keeping it real, the thing simply disappears, meaning she can make a strike with a heavier weapon and not be as burdened by the downswing as she might otherwise be.

A saber is hardly a heavy weapon, but it is to Iris's benefit that once she realizes the only thing she's struck home on is Ichika's jacket, she opens her hand and lets the weapon fade from existence back to wherever it came from... which is good, because as Ichika's slash comes in for a landing, the magus has to pivot to defense in a hurry. 'Pivot' in a very literal way, too; when you're on a platform surrounded by water you probably don't want to land in, your footwork options are limited. Thankfully, since a fleche comes in from low to high, Iris is already ducking down somewhat; free of the saber that might get in the way, she lets her rightward momentum increase rather than the opposite, so that she rolls a bit to the right, the katana shearing past and missing by a hair's breadth at most; in fact, for a second, a rainbow-hued strand of hair floats about in the air in the path of the slash.

Getting to her feet, Iris blinks as she gets a look at the expression on Ichika's face. It's not off-putting, but it IS slightly unexpected; of course, after their conversation in the coffee shop, maybe it shouldn't be. "It isn't speed," she admits aloud, having heard Ichika by virtue of being very close to her at the time. Iris gets her own faint grin as she explains, somewhat cryptically: "It's maths."

Not wanting to give Ichika too much time to plan her next strike, Iris actually just... charges her? At least, that's how it appears. Once the Brit gets close, however, her right hand -- now glowing a faint green-white color -- comes forward and traces something in the air: specifically, a rune -- a vertical line with small angled extensions at the top and bottom, like a truncated runic 'S'. When the rune itself is drawn, it glows, before releasing a localized burst of wind and pressure between the two fighters, with the force directed squarely in Ichika's direction!

COMBATSYS: Ichika blocks Iris' Eihwaz - Storm and Stress.

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Ichika           0/-------/-----==|-------\-------\0             Iris

"... maths?"

The clarification, of course, opens up many more questions. Ichika is absolutely the kind of nerd who loves maths, but she's never been able to use her impressive long division or algebra skills to penetrate the barrier of space time.

The katana slides back into the saya at her side after passing through nothing but air. She'd love to quiz Iris more about the mechanics of magic; but she's also learning a lot here in real-time. She'd figured the wizard would be able to dismiss her weapons pretty quickly, and it seems as though that 'easy come, easy go' mindset is set, which is good to know. She can't rely on locking the Osterlund heir down for even a second, at least not in that way.

The schoolgirl's jaw sets as she refocuses herself. No getting distracted. She can feel the power in Iris' hand, and that means another attack is coming.

Only, it isn't a weapon this time. As Iris traces the rune, Ichika narrows her eyes, tries to divine its meaning - and then she's taking into the air, leaping upwards and drawing her blade to cut across the localised airburst.

The power still washes around her, whips at her clothes and her messy hair, but the girl blunts the worst of it, and in the air as she is, her options seem limited.

Until she defies physics in her own way. Without warning, the girl is suddenly descending at a sharp angle, coming in fast to try and draw her blade across Iris' shoulder as she lands behind the older woman - flicks her katana to the side, and resheathes it.

"Incredible. Similar to a seal technique. But doing it on the fly rather than having to prepare it in advance..."

It's a fascinating thought. Not one that she's entirely unfamiliar with; Baiken could do it, after all, but Baiken is on a whole different level and seeing it in person is a very different thing. The energy Iris is using feels subtly different to what she is used to. She's at risk though; these are thoughts she should be having after the fight, not during it. If she gets too carried away trying to analyse this right now, she's going to lose the thread. She hasn't even begun to find her focus yet, she's thinking too much! And thinking too much about thinking too much does not, in fact, help to solve that problem even as she recognises it.

COMBATSYS: Iris parries Ichika's Artful Slash!

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Ichika           0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0             Iris

Unexpected, to say the least! Iris herself would never have thought to use an actual physical weapon to try and counteract an energy attack, but Ichika seems to do it pretty effortlessly. Not for the first time, Iris finds herself impressed by Miss Kasumoto's skills... and devotes a couple of mental cycles to pushing back on the negative inner voice comparing herself to Ichika.

Which is probably good, because Ichika herself is wasting no time coming back on the offensive, dropping down from above with something that's going to hurt if it lands, make no mistake. But at this angle, she might also realize that the energy from the wind never actually COMPLETELY dispersed; for a moment or two, Iris's feet are actually not touching the ground beneath her *at all*, though the pointed tips of her toes are at best an inch or two from the surface -- most of the wind was shaped into her attack, but some, kept in reserve, is ever so briefly allowing her to... well, not fly. But hover, weightlessly, keeping her up.

Iris, meanwhile, keeps her eyes on Ichika's blade, and now it's the wizard's turn to mutter: "Use what you know. Use what you know. Use what you know." And in a moment Ichika might notice, the light of realization shines in the blue depths of Iris's gaze, for just a moment.

A rainbow flash, and Iris brings up her left hand, holding a blade that is, at best, a foot or so long, but with a U-shaped crossguard to the hilt: a main-gauche, the companion to a saber when fighting Florentine, and perfectly designed to catch an opponent's weapon to parry it... which is exactly what happens, the edge of Ichika's weapon caught by the offhand dagger. Normally, gravity would be taking over, but the wind beneath Iris's feet is keeping everyone aloft for a split second tableau... certainly long enough for Iris's free hand to suddenly be holding a thin spear, which she all but tosses upward. The spear, however, goes wide of Ichika, or if it does connect, is merely a chance grazing blow potentially.

It's when Iris vanishes (and the things holding Ichika aloft are suddenly gone) that the true nature of the technique becomes apparent: Iris reappears ABOVE Ichika, catching the thrown spear before inverting herself and pulling an FF Dragoon situation, looking to drop onto the young Japanese lady from above.

COMBATSYS: Iris successfully hits Ichika with Raido - Solstice Journey EX.
-* WILD HIT! *-

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Ichika           0/-------/---====|=------\-------\0             Iris

Ichika's eyes widen in surprise as the attack is caught in a parrying guard. She starts trying to twist free, but her weapon - as Iris had just noted - is very much a physical thing. She doesn't have the range of mobility that Iris has. She briefly considers just grabbing the blade and forcing it down at a sharp angle; but her hands are already sore thanks to the blisters now chafing bloody beneath the bandages, and without her gloves to help protect her hands... that's a good way to lose some fingers.

So all she can do is try to inelegantly force the weapon free, and in a contest of raw physical strength, Iris has almost a foot of height and the magically-improved position to back her up.

The spear does indeed graze across Ichika's side on the way up, but it's the split-second where she is in freefall and has no way of restoring her defense that costs her most dearly. The spear crashes heavily into her back, and Ichika gives a shout of surprise and pain as she hits the ground hard. That, was unpleasant.

Still, to her credit, she doesn't stay down for long. The girl rolls free, and, hopping to her feet, she leaps backwards. Her eyes never leave Iris, and there's renewed vigor there too; the girl's brilliant blue gaze suddenly much more intense.

Ichika comes to rest on a taller platform, staring down at Iris as the crowd cheers the dramatic feat. "Haa... when we last spoke, you said you weren't sure if you were a fighter." Ichika says, and then one combat booted foot stamps down hard on the marble beneath her. She spins her sword, and then slams it back into her saya.

"I hope you have settled that question in your mind."

There's a visible effort to relax from the girl, her fingers wrapping loose around the grip of her katana. She can do this. She's getting overemotional again, but she can control it. Calm. Focus. Find that place she reached in the Rumble, and she can turn this back around.

"Because it's time to walk the Warrior's Road together, Iris!"

COMBATSYS: Ichika focuses on her next action.

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Ichika           0/-------/---====|=------\-------\0             Iris

Say what you want about this battle, but the VISUALS are going to make for a really excellent highlight reel: Ichika, recovering from her blow, landing on the high ground and dramatically placing sword in sheath, preparing herself stoically for whatever assault comes her way. Iris, spearpoint in the platform below her, landing in a crouch and then unfolding slowly upward to a standing position as her weapon fades from existence in motes of light, forced to look upwards to find Ichika prepared for whatever comes next.

The magus hears Ichika's comments about the Warrior's Road, but in truth, she is 75% listening, tops; she hasn't taken a hit yet, but she's breathing harder than normal anyway. Keeping up with Ichika takes effort either way. Still, it's not a thing that can get said and not get a response. "I think it remains to be seen, still," the Brit says, being as honest as she dares. In truth, she is still fighting the internal voice saying that ALL of this was luck, rather than skill. "But," Iris adds, as if she's responding to her inner voices and Ichika at the same time, "that just means the proof is in the doing, right? So..."

Her right hand extends, and in a burst of light she's suddenly holding a flail: an old school weapon of a wooden haft with a mace head attached by a short length of chain. Normally, it's a weapon for striking around shields, but right now, Iris is hoping against hope that it will afford her some advantage against interception, because:

"I'm REALLY wishing I'd never seen those Star Wars prequels right now," the Brit murmurs, before leaping across the distance from her platform to Ichika's and attempting a leaping strike, whirling the flail overhead before swinging it down at her opponent's head. Something something high ground, Anakin!

COMBATSYS: Ichika blocks Iris' Quick Strike.

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Ichika           0/-------/--=====|==-----\-------\0             Iris

Ichika can't help but smile just a little bit. She'd tried to watch the Star Wars movies for the first round themed challenge, she really had, but in the end pop culture just doesn't hold much interest for her. Outside of heavy metal anyway. She doesn't get it, but she does quietly echo, "Something something high ground indeed."

And then the wizard is on her, swinging the morning star. It's an impressive weapon; difficult to control and unwieldy, but the wild motion does indeed dissuade her from attempting to carve a path through it. Instead, she brings her sword up and smacks the ball away. Only, this time, it isn't just steel. A bright blue trail of chi is left in the blade's wake, and that's all the warning Iris gets before Ichika throws herself violently on the offensive.

The girl's palm still stings with the reverberation from the blow, but she doesn't let it slow her down. She slashes over and over in rapid succession, aiming to paint Iris' upper body with a series of bright blue lines - and then...


With a shout, the girl does her own vanishing trick. Would that it could actually be teleportation, but in her case there's no maths involved at all - just chi to empower her speed and force her to accelerate impossibly fast for just a brief moment.

It's not ferocity or anger which drives her to try and carve three more sharp lines across Iris' back. It's determination. Having been pushed so hard by someone who still isn't even sure if they deserve to call themselves a fighter, well; not only does Ichika herself want to demonstrate that she has what it takes to stand on this stage and proudly claim the title...

She wants to hammer home to Iris the kind of people that she's dealing with; the talent she is keeping pace with. There is no other way she can do that than by giving it her all! And so she does exactly that, pouring all the strength she can into the assault of sapphire power.

COMBATSYS: Ichika successfully hits Iris with Future Perfect EX.

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Ichika           0/-------/-------|=======\-------\1             Iris

It is, without question, Ichika's turn to pay back the hits she's taken... and then some. Iris might not know the deep lore when it comes to weapons fighting, but anyone with half a brain (except Anakin Skywalker, apparently) knows that leaping at someone from the low to the high ground is not a smart tactical move; the person on the high ground more or less has it all their way. But contrary to popular belief, pulling off that teleporting stuff in quick succession is NOT physically easy. A straightforward approach was Iris's only real option, other than letting Ichika come to her... from the high ground, an equally unsavory idea.

But the result is that the magus is more or less at Ichika's mercy after the flail is deflected; there's a split second where she realizes Kasumoto is BEHIND her, and turns as best she can in midair, but the preliminary chi assault means she's already staggering a bit from that, with little time and focus to call up some sort of defense. At the VERY LAST SECOND, with one free hand, Iris traces a pattern in the air -- another rune, like a capital 'Y' where the stem extends up through the middle like a pitchfork -- before Ichika's blade makes contact. The young swordswoman can probably feel it: the blows strike home, but there is some force there blunting the absolute worst of it... but it's an issue of triage more than an effective total defense, the last ditch thing that turns a potentially fatal wound into a merely severe one.

It also means when the Brit lands on the marble and stone, she rolls hard to an inelegant stop, and it's a moment or two before she gets to her feet, wiping a hand across her mouth and breathing heavily.

Some lizard hindbrain part of her wants to run, now, after that show of force, and it's in concert with the constant chorus of impostor syndrome in her head. But a very real part of her feels like, if Ichika's going to bust out the big guns, then maybe she should too. "Not bad," she says, as much to give herself the sound to focus on as anything else; that really did hurt a LOT. "Probably a lot better than not bad. But I'm not going to make it that easy for you." She extends a hand, the spear from before reappearing there in a burst of rainbow light.

Iris hefts it horizontally, over her shoulder; if Ichika's ever seen a pro athlete javelin thrower, it's the same general stance. With an inarticulate "HrrrrRAAAAAAAH!" the wizard lets the spear fly at Ichika, and much like the rapier thrust from before, Iris's actual experience with the weapon shows in the smooth flight of the lance...

Right before it vanishes.

Ichika being a smart fighter means she may know what's coming next: both spear AND Iris appear, together, BEHIND her, thrusting forward with the weapon held in her hand, rather than thrown...

COMBATSYS: Ichika blocks Iris' Ansuz - Gungnir.

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Ichika           0/-------/-----==|-------\-------\0             Iris

All she needs is enough leverage to suddenly haul the spear -- and Ichika with it -- laterally, twirling a 3/4 circle before effectively using the polearm as leverage to hurl Ichika into the air, spear vanishing the second it's no longer needed, and being replaced with something... a something that Iris looks down at before continuing with the move.

The obvious annoyance and frustration on her face tell the entire story, even if you didn't know what she had planned to summon: rather than a whip, what falls from her hand to the ground is a particularly lengthy bit of bike chain.

But then Mint's voice is back in her ear: 'And if you get eight thousand warhammers and two thousand squeaky mallets, then... just learn to whack people with the squeaky mallet instead.'

Gritting her teeth, Iris turns and flings the free end of the chain into the air, attempting to snag Ichika's body by whatever's reachable -- a leg, an arm -- and use the chain to yank her back down to the ground, hard.

Of course, that moment of hesitation and frustration -- even if she recovered from it -- might cost Iris and benefit Ichika, in the end...

Ichika does indeed know the 'attack from behind' trick. It's something she'd just used on Iris, after all! And as the girl is getting more firsthand experience with this fighting style, she can see what Iris is trying to do a little more clearly. Just a little, though. Not completely.

She spins, sword raised in guard position, and the flat of the blade catches the side of the spear. Which is interesting, because she had thought that Iris wanted to run her through. But no, that's not the full direction of the attack.

Instead, she finds herself being thrown into the air. As skilled with a blade as she is, Ichika is still ultimately a small girl; the momentum of Iris' hauling motion takes her upwards, even if it is on the blade rather than her stomach or side. It's still enough to make the girl grunt with pain.

And then there's a chain.

No time to second guess, the girl flings her katana down, and spears one of the links through the middle. The sword carries the chain back to earth, pinning it into the marble before Ichika lands herself, her momentum and grace momentarily broken thanks to the loss of the katana. That's, an interesting moment, but visibly Ichika loses some of that acrobatic mid-air prowess as she lands in a pained heap back on the unforgiving marble...

Then she is grabbing her weapon, pulling it free, and her prowess is restored.

The NFG can cover small-scale damages to these things, right? It ... it has to happen all the time.

"I don't want it to be easy." Ichika says, turning to face Iris again. The crowd are, frankly, going embarrassingly wild at this point. Both her attacks and Iris' have been nothing if not flashy. But right now, Iris has her full and undivided attention.

"I know you find it difficult to hurt people, and to be hurt." She says, that had been a theme on the beach, at least, and at the coffee shop; that discomfort around the idea that they would, ultimately, be doing violence to one another.

"But you can see it, can't you? Set the pain to one side. This is a contest of skill. Our determination, our fighting spirit, our talent, our selves... our Truth! That's what I want to see from you. And it is what I will try to show you, in turn."

When she had begun fighting, she had thought of it as a simple matter of resource management. Strange to think, now. There's so much more to it than just the cold, analytical fact that whoever ran out of endurance first would win.

Her little speech done, the girl is suddenly propelling herself forwards again - this time, though, the strike is pure and true, no tricks. Both hands grasp her katana and she swings it around in a slashing diagonal arc, aiming to cut Iris from shoulder to hip.

The energy has bled away from her sword, but her eyes still blaze with that brilliant sky blue. She's focused, she's calm, and she wants to show her friend the way - she just doesn't know how to win someone over in any way other than through the beauty of combat.

Of course, there is a little more to the slash than just that - aside from the fact that Ichika aims to stay extremely close and inside Iris' guard, she may also note that the girl's knees are already bending, her grip on her sword reversing, but whether she picks up on what that means likely depends on just how many of Ichika's previous fights she's seen...

COMBATSYS: Ichika successfully hits Iris with Genius Loci.

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Ichika           0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0             Iris

She has the best of intentions, but Iris's mindset is not necessarily 100% at 'be convinced' levels right now, perhaps because she's not doing as well at one of the *very things* that makes her feel like she's not a fighter: doing the fiddly bits. Any idiot can throw a spear; it's knowing what to do and making it happen when someone decides to, for example, attempt to cut you in half.

"Sorry for a comment that's going to annoy the hell out of you," Iris says, rolling her shoulders and trying to get into something approaching a fighting stance, "but you are REALLY philosophical for your age, you know that?" At the very least she has the good sense to smile afterwards to show her intentions, but you never know how that sort of thing is going to go over.

Or, it might not matter, since Ichika goes back on the assault with considerable speed, meaning there isn't a lot of time for Iris for think about everything she just said. The smart thing, here, would probably be to call up a shield of some kind; after all, defending against someone making an attempt on your well-being with a sword is more or less what they were made for. Some sixth sense tells the magus not to do that, however; instead, her hand comes up before Ichika makes landfall and is holding a shortsword -- longer than the dagger from before, but not as heavy or unwieldy as a longer blade -- held upside down, hoping to interpose it between herself and Ichika's blade.

That... does not work out; a heavier option may have been better, because Ichika's momentum means she simply slaps the shortsword out of the way, the attempted defense offering little to no resistance, the katana cutting a long line of red across the path of the strike.


Unlike a shield or a broadsword, a shortsword can be used effectively one-handed, meaning her OTHER hand is free, and whatever Ichika's planning, she might notice -- thanks to the cobalt blue-white flash it produces -- Iris tracing another rune in the air, this one a vertical line with a > in the center, like a P with the protrusion pushed halfway down.

That rune is Thurisaz, and it is associated with a number of things, but primary among them... is the god Thor.

This PROBABLY explains the thunderous crack as a bolt of blue lightning crashes to earth between the two opponents. If Ichika doesn't get out of the way, she's in for a hot time on the town... literally.

COMBATSYS: Ichika interrupts Thurisaz - Mjolnir's Echo from Iris with Bleeding Edge EX.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Ichika           0/-------/=======|=======\=------\1             Iris

Ichika opens her mouth to respond - but her eyes snap to the rune. There's a moment of surprise, and then - lightning.

There's no time to dodge. No time to erect a guard. No time, in fact, to change her plan. Genius Loci is one of Ichika's favourite moves; it sets her up so well for her signature technique, but the downside to it - as Ayame had noted - is that she is committed. There are other things she can try to do to maintain momentum if her opponent simply retreats and focuses on defense, but with Iris so close and the electricity arcing down, the girl can only do one thing.

Try to show that clash she had discussed; that moment where each of them gives their all.


Erupting upwards, Ichika's blade strikes the bolt from the heavens, and if it had been impressive to cut through the wind, it's even more visually stunning when she cuts through the lightning. Power strikes to either side of her, and though the girl's sword acts as a conduit to ensure that she still takes a fair amount of the brunt of the attack, she keeps on going through it.

Such a tiny body simply should not be able to pack so much force into it. Indeed... it can't. But this, more than anything else, is the heart of Ichika's style. Her willingness to demand too much of herself; to literally, physically hurt herself in order to claim victory when she saw that it was necessary. She's philosophihcal, yes, but... she's also startlingly ruthless when it comes to what she is willing to do. At least, to herself.

The blade catches Iris and lifts her bodily into the air once again, the sword-wielding schoolgirl twisting in a graceful arc as she rises up into the sky, still wreathed in crackling electricity, and tries to ignore both the shocking burn of that, and the tearing of her muscles as she deliberately overexerts herself.

When she lands this time, on another, higher, platform, she is at least able to retain her footing as she lands, crouched. Breathing hard, she flicks the blood from her blade, and sheathes it with a deliberate motion.

"... yes." She says, softly, "I'm, a precocious youth." She grins through the pain, rising up to her feet.

"Honestly? It's one of my better qualities."

This has been the point, so far.

In all of her fights -- except, perhaps, the Rumble, which was simply too much sensory overload for her to even have conscious thoughts about it -- it has been this point in the fight, when things are very serious, that the voice in Iris's head is the loudest.

'This is when you stop. You are being stupid. You were not meant for this and it's obvious. You're playing around, and they're serious.' And she thinks of it as 'her voice', but it's not: it is, very literally in her head, the sound of so many other people: her sister, her mother. Even, now that he's left her, the voice of her butler, who never approved of this to begin with.

It doesn't help that she has a lot of time to think about this as her body is falling toward the ground bonelessly; it's the sudden ungainly bounce off the marble at the end which pulls her out of it.

It takes Iris a while to get up after that. It would take ANYBODY a while to get back up after that, frankly. It happens in stages; pushing off the ground with her hands, getting to one knee, forcing herself upright but hunched forward. It's a good while before 'standing unaided' is achieved, and she says the only thing she can think in response to Ichika's statment: "I imagine it is." Her distraction is clear, the blue eyes vaguely glassy, as despite Mint's advice, Iris fights an internal fight.

'There's rules in life,' says her sister's voice. 'And you're breaking them all, right now. Go home.'

And then, hoarsely, Iris hears her own voice, speaking to... who knows. She even looks vaguely surprised to hear herself say it: "No."

The glassiness leaves her gaze, and in a flicker of light, she's on the platform with Ichika, deciding the effort was worth it. No attempt to sneak behind her. Just squaring off, plain and a simple. She extends a hand, and concentrates, and gets...

A black baseball bat.

But she doesn't look upset, even as the crowd wonder if this is another 'summoning mistake', as has happened at least once a fight so far. Iris calmly swings the bat in a circle, before crouching low with it, visibly wincing as that aggravates the wounds Ichika's inflicted so far. "No. Not because someone else wants me to," she says, unwisely responding aloud. "If I stop now, I just prove it all right. Rules were made to be broken."

And then she simply slides forward and attempts to swing the bat in a sweeping vertical arc; if Ichika doesn't do SOMETHING, she's going to get hit by a Louisville Slugger right under the chin.

COMBATSYS: Ichika blocks Iris' Fierce Strike.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Ichika           1/-------/=======|=======\=------\1             Iris

Ichika smiles just a little bit at the first note from Iris, but then the 'no' comes, and that tugs a frown onto her features.

No? Did she say something that required a rejection?

The summoned baseball bat is regarded with modest surprise, but it's not actually a terrible weapon. It's basically a club. And as Iris speaks, Ichika finds herself smiling. Ah. Right. Iris isn't talking to her at all; she's addressing... someone else.

Ichika can't know what the other side of this conversation Iris is having is, but she can glean enough to see that it is helping the wizard exorcise some demons. The upwards swing is met with a solid guard; palm braced against the back of her blade to take the brunt of the blow. It crashes into the summoned object and sends her skidding back a couple of inches.

Those brilliant blue eyes study Iris for the space of a heartbeat. She can see how much damage she's inflicted; the way the woman flinched when preparing for the attack, the obvious effort to recover herself. Three solid attacks and she had, indeed, turned things around. Finding her focus after that initial exchange, setting the mechanics of HOW Iris was doing what she was doing to one side and focusing on what she could do about it instead had been, undeniably, the correct choice.

But she finds, in this moment, that she doesn't want to press the attack. She doesn't want to make the 'correct' choice. After the relentless storm that she had become, the shift in momentum is noticeable. Because she doesn't really know... is she helping, or is she hurting? And right now, all the concern about points which had weighed on her mind before the fight began, seems so very secondary to the answer to that question.

Nodding her head sharply, she cracks her neck and swallows down that urge to aggression; right now, she wants to turn that fighting spirit away from violence and towards... well, more time. She isn't ready to end this.

"Show me your defiance, Iris. Show me the rules you will shatter."

COMBATSYS: Ichika takes no action.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Ichika           0/-------/----===|=======\=------\1             Iris

She's not...? Hmm.

The bat is gone, like all of the weapons Iris brings to bear, within moments of her attack having landed, and in the absence of a counterattack of some kind, the magus takes a step backward, collecting herself. It takes a second of listening to Ichika, and looking at her facial expression, to realize something, before she says: "...sorry. I didn't realize I'd said any of that out loud." That, at least, seems pretty believable, given the genuine surprise on Iris's face.

But maybe it's a surprise she needed. Mint had the right idea, but it is no slight on the Corporal's teaching ability to suggest that she PROBABLY isn't going to fix Iris's mental blocks about the NFG overnight. It's impossible not to take a hand and gingerly press it to her wounds, a little hiss of pain coming when she does so, but it's followed by a heavy sigh from the Brit, who looks off to the side as she says this, as if she can't force herself to say it while making eye contact.

"I owe you an apology, probably," Iris says a last, frustration evident in her voice. "I've probably been fighting more in my own head than properly focusing on you as an opponent." She turns back, grimacing as protesting muscles are used in the process. "I know how important this is to you."

She can't stop herself from hearing, 'she deserves a better opponent,' in her head. But this time it's Iris's own voice saying it, and that upsets her, visibly.

"But don't go easy on me," Iris says, finally, shrugging off whatever upset her, which to the outside world is a mystery without telepathy. "If I lose, I lose. And I know you are trying to be encouraging in your own way. But I don't... I don't want to end with 'well, you tried'. Failing is better than 'well, you tried'."

A slow breath, and then she's in whatever passes for a stance in Iris's making-it-up-as-you-go style. "See it through to the end."

COMBATSYS: Iris takes no action.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Ichika           0/-------/----===|=======\=------\1             Iris

"Determine that today you will overcome yourself of the day before, that tomorrow you will overcome those of lesser skill, and that later still you will overcome those of great skill."

A great samurai had said those words. There was much she hated about the legend that had been forged out of some of the most corrupt men in history; but that man's words had echoed down the ages. He, she can't help but think, had indeed walked this path before her, and had left so many insights that resonated down the ages.

Ichika can't stop herself from smiling just a little bit.. "You owe me no apology, Iris. You're right, I want to help. I want you to walk this Warrior's Road alongside me, because you have a lot to share with the world. And I have not held back. I promise, every step of this fight, I have given you my all."

She takes a deep breath, and the smile fades, the girl's expression serious once again. "But. I understand. It is time to finish this."

She summons her power. Blue energy swirls around her as she raises the sword above her head, and then she brings the katana down - there isn't a huge amount of space on these marble platforms.

And a surprisingly amount of that space is now suddenly filled with a burning blue wave of cresting power. The energy surges towards Iris, wider than the girl who summoned it and fashioned like an arrow, aiming to catch the woman and send her splashing into the water below.

Well. Ichika had said that she'd been working on her fireballs, hadn't she? It'd be churlish not to show the results of that training.

COMBATSYS: Ichika successfully hits Iris with Illumination Wave EX.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///                           ]
Ichika           0/-------/-----==|=======\======-\1             Iris

The raw truth of the matter is that Iris is simply too tired to keep this up much longer, and it shows as the wave starts heading her way. One might wonder why she doesn't use the whole teleporting trick more often to get out of the way of attacks; you'd think that if someone can simply disappear and reappear somewhere else, how would they EVER get hit by anything?

The answer is that the trick LOOKS easy, but as Iris explained to someone recently -- and implied to Ichika at the start of this fight -- the rest is literally math: you need to know where you're going to end up, and when, or the result can be a Big Problem. Those times when Iris HAS 'teleported out of trouble' were all, to the knowledge of no one but her, a combination of instinct and luck that could have gone very bad.

This is why she doesn't try it with the wave of force heading her way, but fatigue and injury are working against her... never mind the fact that Ichika's attacks feel particularly swift for their weight class. The Brit attempts to swerve out to the side from the blow, but the wave itself is too wide to do so effectively without hurling herself into the water, a much BIGGER problem. The resulting blow leaves her gasping, crouched on the marble surface, coughing loudly. Well, she asked Ichika to see it through, and she has.


In her mind's eye, Iris knows this isn't going to work; considering how blurry her vision it, how little her muscles want to do what she says. If she were listening to the 'rules', she'd say 'good fight' and call it a day. She'd let the desire to go slack and black out win out.

Instead she holds a hand out, the rapier from before appearing there, speared into the ground as she steadies herself on it... and blue eyes rake over Ichika's position, taking it all in.

Teleporting is all about choosing to arrive at a certain point in spacetime, right? So, what if...

Iris vanishes.

When she reappears, it's... well. FIVE Irises appear, simultaneously, each holding a different weapon -- a mace, a hammer, a spear, even the black baseball bat. Which one is 'real' might be a question on everyone's minds, but as Ichika may or may not find out, ALL of them are 'real' -- and hitting just split seconds apart enough to make it clear what actually happened: Iris plotted out teleports that were JUST separated enough, in time, to provide the illusion that she was everywhere simultaneously.

When the 'real' one reappears, it's back where she started, in the POSITION she started: kneeling, rapier keeping her supported, until...

COMBATSYS: Iris can no longer fight.

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Ichika           0/-------/-----==| the last, she slumps over unconscious, the magical blade vanishing in a burst of rainbow light.

COMBATSYS: Ichika blocks Iris' Hagalaz - Ragnarok.

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

Ichika had said she wasn't holding back; and she wasn't.

She's glad to see that Iris doesn't, either.

When Ichika had said her eyes couldn't keep up she hadn't been lying; she can't see Iris' attack in full. But in the time it takes Iris to stare her down, bleary and teetering, Ichika has a few moments to prepare her guard, even for an attack she doesn't see coming.

She raises her sword in front of her, and in almost the same instant that she is assaulted by not one but five Iris', that brilliant blue power of hers answers her call one last time. The girl is surrounded by a full hemispherical dome, shining sapphire energy which blunts the oncoming assault.

It gives her the fraction of a second she needs to spin in place, see the full extent of the attack, and though the dome shatters into a shower of brilliant sparks, to spin her sword through a sweeping motion, turning aside the worst of the blows, the hammer and the mace identified as clear priorities.

She's still forced to one knee by the exertion; the baseball bat had clipped her shoulder good, and the spear had found her side, but she is quietly pleased that she had been able to fend it off. That mind of hers had been grappling with the question for days now after all: How does one defend against someone who can attack from anywhere?

She is glad the answer was so simple: Defend everywhere.

But as Iris falls, Ichika rises, and when she is sure Iris won't stand again, she slides her sword neatly back into place at her side.

"Beautiful." She says, softly. "Truly."

COMBATSYS: Ichika has ended the fight here.

Log created on 10:10:24 09/12/2023 by Iris, and last modified on 04:45:54 09/13/2023.