NFG Season One Finals - Round Four: Chevy vs Ichika

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Description: Before a packed-out arena, with the eyes of the world watching, Chevelle Beaumont and Kasumoto Ichika come face to face at last. They've lived together, trained together, even fought together before... but never in a truly competitive way, and never with so much riding on the line. What will happen now, when faced with the reality that only one of them can take that next step towards their dream?

The anticipation could not be higher here in Metro City's SlamMasters Arena. The stands are filled to the brim for what's sure to be a fantastic fight. Never before have Ichika Kasumoto and Chevy Beaumont clashed in an NFG fight -- the only time they'd even been caught on camera was in a grainy cellphone video captured early on in their career.

That cellphone footage gets screen time in the promo package airing on the screens above the arena -- a quick runthrough of each fighter's illustrious history. Screen time alternates between Ichika and Chevy as the promo shows highlights from the very beginning of the International Fighting Festival footage, right up until the very last fights. Each fighter, portrayed to be much larger than life, granted such grandiose titles as the "Thunder Next Door" versus the "Prodigy of Steel."

The audience is -pumped-, to say the least. Chevy's cheering session has prepared their posterboard cards -- and they're in the midst of carrying out a "wave" when all the lights dim. The arena falls into darkness, save for the lights of scattered cellphones. The music stills -- and the audience volume drops into silence.

Then three instruments make themselves heard.
The strums of an electric guitar.
The bars of a digital synth.
And the fast-paced beats of a drum kit.
You could call them... Resonant Objects.
Because that's the title of CYS' hit song, played live at the conclusion of the International Fighting Festival.

The audience roars in excitement. The Chevaliers may have come to expect the rolling waves of Dick Dale's electric guitar -- but this is a special occurrence -- and perhaps a confusing one for those who wouldn't know the significance of the song.

As the lights snap on over one of the entry doors, Chevy Beaumont appears -- and she's all smiles. As expected, she's sporting her custom attire designed by none other than the S in CYS: Shermie! And after waving to the crowd, she spins her staff and its buckets in a quick circle -- and begins surfing on a large wave down the ramp to the arena at center stage.

There's no fancy tricks, no special fanfare aside from the hallmark CYS song. Chevy doesn't need to get the audience more hype than they already are, after all. The grinning redhead hops up, sliding under the ropes onto the wrestling ring. And once she's there -- a wide sweep of her pole serves to "summon" the water into joining her onstage, as if it were nothing more than a trained puppy at a dog show.

She smiles, and waves to the audience. A mic is presented to her.

"Hey y'all! Thanks for comin' out! I know this is the first time Miss Kasumoto an' I have fought on stage, so... I sure hope y'all enjoy it!"

She hands the mic back -- and casts her eyes to the remaining entry door. Her heart is pounding -- and she -hopes- she's ready!

Backstage, Ichika has been completing a ritual she hasn't felt the need to do for quite some time. Through the song, the video, and Chevy's entrance, the girl has knelt with her sword on the floor in front of her, eyes closed, and concentrated on her breathing. The moment is finally here, it seems. Another step along the Warrior's Road awaits.

The response to the Ichikast had been mostly favourable. Unsurprisingly, there aren't many people who are fans of one of the two girls and not fans of the other. Their stories have been intertwined almost since the beginning of the Project; certainly long before the team selections were made. They hadn't fought each other publicly, but it is well-known how much they've tested each other and helped to develop their mutual fighting styles. Neither of them would be the fighter they are now without the other.

There is one moment that plays particularly in Ichika's mind, and which has been highlighted countless times on social media recently. The Rumble, Ichika having lasted far longer than anyone ought to have expected her to, running on fumes. The moment she had decided, then and there, that if she couldn't win, she would do everything she could to clear the path for her friend. The enormous amount of energy she had summoned to strike down Ayala; the sweet unconsciousness which had followed.

She stands, then, and fixes the saya back to the side of her outfit. "Not today, Chevy." She murmurs to herself, "Today, I must be the immovable mountain, and break your river around me."

When she walks out to the stage she is calm. The crowd is not, and she smiles just a little to hear their rampant excitement. she does not rush as she makes her way to the arena proper, and where Chevy had slid under her ropes, Ichika leaps over the top of all of hers. Her boots land lightly, and she holds out her hand. The mic is passed to her, and those bright, shining blue eyes fix on her friend. Chevy had words for the audience; Ichika only has words for her.

"Before our first fight, I said that it wasn't as though either of us were in danger of facing each other in the competition any time soon." She says, "I was right. That was eight months, two days ago. You beat me, then." She smiles at the memory. "I also said that if every loss could be like that, I'd have no complaints."

A small laugh, and the slightest shake of her head.

"Today, I will do my best to give you the same gift. If one of us has to lose, let's make it... a beautiful loss!"

She hands the mic back to the steward, and takes up her fighting stance, so much more polished and deliberate than she had been in that first fight. Eight months, two days, six hours, thirteen minutes and forty two seconds since that first bout began, to be precise. Now she would see how far she had come in all that time...

When the invitation came in to her inbox from Lyraelle to attend this spectacular semi-final of the New Fighting Generation final tournament, Shermie didn't hesitate to accept. With Yashiro and Chris otherwise engaged and the CYS touring schedule on hold till the new year, it is perfect timing for the Parisian to enjoy some girl time. The fact that her two favourite fighters are participating is a beautiful bonus! Ichika, the skilled schoolgirl who had displayed such joy in dancing to their music at the Hotel Southtown and Chevy, the ravishing redhead who made her costume design look so good.

Shermie herself is dressed to impress, wearing a slinky skirt suit that seems to be fitted to the festive season, not to mention her fabulous frame. It's dark green in colour and has been edged with white faux fur around the collar and cuffs on the jacket. Matching white faux fur boots add to the ensemble. As ever, her bright red locks are styled to completely cover her eyes, making it a mystery how she will manage to see any of the action.

She settles in her front row seat, crossing her long legs carefully, so as not to reveal too much to the cameras, of which there are many covering the event. "Ah, Lyraelle! This is looking to be an exciting evening ahead. Which of your little proteges do you favour to win?"

There's a definite hint of mischief in the musician's tone as she poses the question to the princess. She knows it's unlikely she will get a clear answer. After all, one needs to tread carefully when in a position of diplomacy.

Before she can get a response from Lyraelle, it's time for the competitors to make their entrance! First is Chevy and what wonderous thing is this? She's chosen to come out to a CYS song. Shermie leaps to her feet, cheering and chanting Chevy's name. Of course this causes something of a scene and cellphones are held up as some of the crowd start to snap photos of the keytar player.

The hydromancer is still very much the star of the show however as the stirring rock song plays out through the speakers. Her striking surfing display is always a favourite with the fans and the Frenchwoman can't fail to be charmed by it.

Then comes Ichika, her composure and poise remarkable in one so young. As she takes her time making her way to the ring, entering it with energy and grace, Shermie tilts her head to listen to what the younger girl says to her opponent and more importantly, her friend. Her words are full of wisdom and bring a smile to the fashion designer's face. She is very much looking forward to this match between these fine fighters.

Chevy crouches down as she calls to her obedient, watery 'puppies'. The cheers are loud, as she rests the buckets on the wrestling ring, allowing the water an easy path to crawl inside. And, just at that moment -- she catches sight of Shermie, and all the fanfare -she- is receiving. Apropos -- for both Ichika and Chevy are exhibiting fashions drafted by the Parisian's hand. Team Thunder, shining in the spotlight

It's a picture-perfect moment for her Chevaliers -- appreciation for all their support. And it might be a new memory for them to pass around. And what's more, it's a brand-new moment -- which is important in this age of live, streaming media, where nearly every move taken by Chevy or Ichika could likely have -some- callback to a prior encounter.

The way that Chevy moves as Ichika enters the stage, for instance, twirling her pole and buckets around her finger as a demonstration of her mastery? That's... really close to how she'd looked in the workout gym where the two had first sparred against one another. Right down to how she rests the pole atop her shoulder as she watches Ichika with admiration, nodding along at the shared memory.

Some callbacks are conscious, even thoughtful. Like the selection of Resonant Objects as the song -- one that was playing at the post-tournament celebration. Her agent may have suggested the song, but the more Chevy had listened to the song, the more she remembered the transformation that had taken place. She'd shaken off her chrysalis at that moment, emerging as a new person who wouldn't live in the margins of other people's definitions. She would make her own way, her own style -- and make sure that the people she cared the most about -knew- that.

Today, I will do my best to give you that same gift.

Chevy smiles, nodding brightly at Ichika's words. The audience is a bit too rowdy for her to share a thought without reaching for the mic. But that's okay -- because the hayseed's smile ought to do the job of conveying her mutual appreciation.

Chevy was... different, then, in that first fight. The pole and buckets may have been under her control, but the fact that she'd, at that time, rested the pole on her shoulder showed that they still had weight.

But now, as Ichika waits with bated breath for the fight to begin in earnest, Chevy moves the pole away, symbolically stepping away from that past. She twirls it around in a precise half-turn. Water sloshes, every so slightly, but not a drop escapes the confines of those two buckets as she swings the bespoke weapon in front of her. She wields the pole with confidence -- her right hand holding the weapon before her as if it weighs nothing at all, her left hand curled lightly, close to her shoulder.

Her connection with the water molecules around her -- vapor and liquid alike -- is just something she feels. It's not something Chevy even has to think about, now. The stance of the freckled Southerner shows an easygoing grace -- the serenity of knowing the water will always be there when she needs it to be, now.

The waterbender doesn't try to speak over the crowd. But with Ichika's memory, the words probably speak for themselves:

Come on at me when you're ready.

COMBATSYS: Chevy has started a fight here.

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Chevy            0/-------/-------|

It has to be admitted - not publically, but in the forum of her own mind - that Lyraelle Lightheart has mixed feelings about watching this match play out live, and for a few different reasons.

The most obvious one is that it's a fight between two of her Thundies. Not just any of them, either - the two that she most connected with. The aspirational part of her, anyway. She could feel a connection with Junko, but only in the sense of recognising a part of herself that had been best left behind. Ichika and Chevy, though, had brought out a part of her that she hadn't expected.

The sword fighter holds the same ambition she does, the same desire to put the world to rights. She's more driven and less likely to take shortcuts. Lyraelle's proud of her. She thinks of her like a little sister. It's kind of messed up, but it's nice.

Chevy is almost the opposite, in some ways. She's more like Lyraelle used to be, except she seems happy with herself. Lyraelle had felt a bit like her fairy godmother when she'd helped her come up with her new look, courtesy of Shermie. It had felt good to help someone looking to bring the best out in themselves rather than trying to be something different.

But Chevy coming out to the tune of a CYS song proves to be a resonant object for her, and not in a good way. It harkens back to a time where she had spent months working on a young girl, shaping her from a rebellious and independent spirit to someone who strove to do everything she could to earn her privileges, making herself the only light in a dark place for the girl, only to then rob her of that light. A CYS concert the girl had worked for weeks just to get a chance to watch, cancelled by her own orchestrations in favour of some red-haired jazz guitarist. Even now, the Parisian fashionista next to her has no idea that CYS' musical aspirations had been sabotaged at the time, or that Lyraelle had gone on to try and make a fool of Mitsuru by falsifying a letter indicating that she was a fan with cancer. It was honestly beyond the pale.

And somehow, she feels the same connection with these two as she had with Mitsuru. Just... through a different filter.

"Mitsuru-chan," the princess sighs next to Shermie, eyes welling up before she blinks away the moisture. "I mean, I don't know! Obviously, I can't show any bias, but -"

Then, Shermie's up and chanting Chevy's name. Well, that provides an obvious solution.

Standing up to her feet, she calls out: "Let's go, Ichika-chan!~"

Next to them, a small green imp stands on his seat and starts echoing his mistress' cry. On the other side of Shermie, meanwhile, a yellow ram-horned imp with a beard quietly holds up a sign that reads:


"Let's have a good, clean match," a portly red imp sat in the row back from the others and wearing a t-shirt that says 'Hated Red' on it calls out noncommittally.

When she began fighting, Ichika had tried to keep the crowd out of her thoughts. It was overwhelming for the young, socially awkward girl to even consider that there were other eyes upon her. It's difficult to believe that, now. The crowd goes absolutely wild. So wild, in fact, that she couldn't even hear her friend's voice. She returns the smile, instead. They are doing this for us; look at how much passion we have inspired in them!

No more delaying, then.

When she moves it is in a burst of speed, the girl simply erupts forwards, seeming to make a straight line dash right for Chevy, with all her extended reach and easy movement not taken into consideration-

It is a feint, of course. At the last moment, her foot plants hard, her knee flexes, and the girl leaps sideways. All at once her path is thrown into question, and those heavy boots of hers crash into the ropes, only for her to flip up and over. It is a sudden, befuddling approach, aiming to push Chevy's flexibility to the max - can she shift defense from the front, to an attack suddenly coming in from her upper left?

The sword flashes out, aiming for the top of Chevy's shoulder in a thin slash to punish her if the answer is 'no'. The question is asked. No doubt the first of many to come... and a truly awe-inspiring demonstration of just how far the once-awkward schoolgirl's acrobatic prowess and instinct for performance has grown; how can the crowd be anything else but entertained with such an elaborate opening gambit?

COMBATSYS: Ichika has joined the fight here.

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Ichika           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Chevy

COMBATSYS: Chevy blocks Ichika's Quick Strike.

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Ichika           0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0            Chevy

The audience is here for them. It's a bit unusual for fights in this arena, as there is much more of an overlap between the two fanbases than with other fighters.

That's a good thing -- as Chevy's able to fight her tactically-minded friend with a clear head. And it's also clear that she's ready to fight -- for even as Ichika makes her first, obviously direct approach, her friend is giving her a wry smirk and a raised eyebrow: a nonverbal cue that she isn't buying this false front for a second.

Ichika zigs to her left.
And Chevy sidesteps right, pivoting to face Ichika.
She grabs hold of her staff with both hands.
And swings the right end up to a diagonal.

She might know the attack vector, if not the exact -target-. As it is, Chevy expected a deeper cut. Sparks fly as the sword bites down into galvanized steel at roughly the same time as the denim-clad target. Even mitigated in such a fashion, the blade still manages to slice through the denim 'armor' of Chevy's jacket.

"Nngh..." grimaces Chevy as she steps back. The sliced fabric begins to darken as she swings around, hefting the pole and buckets like a lance, on her left side. With a sudden thrust, she pitches forward to plunge one bucket towards Ichika -- but, the thrust will come short, as water spills out of the leading bucket.

If Chevy's water hits its mark -- one of Ichika's hands -- it will freeze onto the limb and allow the hydromancer to exert her sway. And her first command would be given as Chevy sharply swings her pole -- and the captured limb -- sharply to her right, exposing Ichika's back to her.

And if -that- is the result, Chevy would then leap forward, pressing the pole between herself and the Justice student as she latches an elbow around Ichika's neck. Leaping into the grapple, she'd then hope to plant Ichika face-first into the mat!

COMBATSYS: Ichika blocks Chevy's Battleship Chains.

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Ichika           0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0            Chevy

Sparks fly in the first clash, and Ichika is smiling, delighted, to see the ease with which Chevy was able to keep up with her. As she descends, she is already sliding the blade back into place at her side, and this time, as Chevy moves, it is Ichika's turn to move with her. She twirls, and it looks almost like a dance as water splashes not against her hands, but against the back of her jacket. Frozen, the material jerks under Chevy's command -

And Ichika raises both her arms. The Thunder-themed garment is torn from her shoulders, and the cheering of the crowd gets even louder. It's easy to see why - it's almost difficult to believe that the pair didn't plan it between themselves, though they certainly hadn't. The end result either way is that the Ichika winds up facing her down again, and now she is without the mundane bit of padding she might have relied upon to cushion those future blows.

She'll just have to work around that.

Again, she closes the distance fast. This time, though, rather than feinting to the side, she suddenly slides down. It's a somewhat risky move; Chevy has a pole and the ability to sweep with it. But then, when had Ichika ever been afraid of taking the odd risk? She's got to find a way past Chevy's guard, and try to zip right between her legs, only slashing out at the back of the older girl's ankles as she's twisting around to hop back up to her feet, feels like an angle of attack which she might not be expecting - it's rare Ichika tries to take advantage of her shorter stature in that particular way!

COMBATSYS: Chevy counters Evasive Strike from Ichika with Low Tide EX.
- CRAZY Hit! -

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

Chevelle Beaumont is skilled at her craft. But she's... a bit -less- skilled at judging the unintended side effects of her abilities -- particularly when her brilliant, tactically-minded opponent happens to substitute her -jacket- for just her wrist. If the audience thought it was planned, seeing her eyes widen when the jacket is lifted off ought to set that to rest. Making it -easier- for the teenaged kenshi to catch frostbite against the hydromancer was not, in fact, a combat objective. Upon realizing what's happened, she releases her hold on the ice, letting the drenched jacket fall to the mat as she draws in her breath through her teeth as she brings her staff back into a defensive position. "Oops?"

Chevy understands her opponent's mindset though. Peeling out of her jacket was a slick evasion to avoid being encumbered with the ice, because speed is a key element of Ichika's style. Stepping back to reorient herself, her eyes snap right back to Ichika... only to find that the nimble fighter is making a -very- unorthodox approach at the taller girl's legs. Awkwardly, she aims to get out of the way, first and foremost -- and she manages this by slamming the pole to her right, and then using it as a fulcrum for her to lean sideways and swing both her legs up and over the charging Ichika. She'd wanted to go between -- this just makes it easier for Ichika to transit. And, in the process, water splashes out of her bucket...

But when Chevy -- ever-mindful to keep her eyes on Ichika -- realizes that the water is now -beneath- Ichika, she capitalizes on the moment. As she brings her feet down, she twists the lower end of the staff upward, sweeping the water into a powerful upsurge that catches Ichika in the midst of her attack.

Here, her practice kicks in. For with Ichika now momentarily engulfed in the wave, Chevy's able to catch hold of her -- and she does so by swinging the staff to her side, dropping her elbow into Ichika's ribs, and falling parallel to her as she slams the younger fighter to the mat!

It all happens so quickly -- one thing leading into another. If she'd stopped to -think- about what she was doing, she'd have had a nice gouge through her leg to show for it. But as it is, Chevy rolls free of the entanglement, springing back to her feet -- and splattered, head-to-toe, with water from the exchange. Her fans are eating it up.

She pants for breath. This fight's -really- lighting off, now...!

That was, of course, the risk that Ichika had been taking with her unorthodox approach. The girl finds herself swept up and beaten down in an instant, hitting the mat hard and having to roll away to try and recover her guard. It's the first time in this set of matches that Ichika has looked like she's at risk of losing control of the flow of things. In fact, that control has quite thoroughly been taken by Chevy, and the girl is wincing as she faces down her friend. Certainly, that had not gone according to plan.

Her jaw sets, and she takes a long, slow breath. "Calm. Focus. Learn." She says, softly. The three words that she had taken as her guiding principles since they were gifted to her. She'd tried going high, and that hadn't worked. She'd tried going low, and that had been very painful indeed. As Chevy had noted, though, there is one consistent element to her style which she needs to lean on; her speed and her momentum. She can't let Chevy double down on this moment of vulnerability.

And so suddenly, the girl is rushing back in. The blade flashes out, bright blue and brilliant. No artifice this time; no attempt to take her off-guard, she just aims to drive three slashing arcs of light right into Chevy's torso, staying close and inside her friend's guard as she propels herself forwards. Perhaps, she can power through...

COMBATSYS: Ichika successfully hits Chevy with Lambent Assault EX.

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Ichika           1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\1            Chevy

The essence of water is calm. A whirlpool may rage, the seas may froth -- but these are exceptions to the norm, aberrancies caused by largely external factors. Left to its own devices, water would deal no harm at all -- at least, within a human's measure of time.

Focus, though -- that's something Chevy'd had a big problem with at first, and Ichika knows it. The hayseed is still a little off-balance -- and maybe a little giddy from coming out on top in that last exchange. Accordingly, there's no time to rest on her laurels -- and she's been set up to expect something -less- direct in the past two strikes. She brings her pole in front of her, keeping her stance loose to account for Ichika swaying one direction or the other.

There is no sway. And by the time Chevy realizes this, it's too late. One stroke punches right past her thin pole's guard faster than she can move to account. Destabilized, she tries to mount a defense against the second, and the third, only to find her reactions a split-second tardy in those cases as well.

"Nngh..." Staggering backward, she drops to a knee, propping herself up with the point of a diagonally-tipped pole. The impacts are clear; the fabric of her white, soaked, one-shouldered top is frayed and threadbare in three places, pale skin already starting to turn a shade of purple.

Early on, this might have been a demoralizer. But now... she is calm. Chevy grins back, pleased with the exchange.

"Got me good with that one..."

She uses the pole to push herself back to her feet. She looks a little unsteady, to be sure -- but that imbalance is put to good use! As soon as her leading foot falls, she hurls her pole and buckets forward, aiming to lance them past Ichika's midsection. Specifically -- she hopes to hook the bucket right underneath Ichika's arm!


And if she manages to do so, she'd use the water left in her bucket as a means of pinning the bucket in place as she seeks to haul the smaller fighter off her feet, spin her about 60 degrees to one side, and then toss her across the mat like a skipping-stone!

COMBATSYS: Ichika just-defends Chevy's Quick Throw!

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Ichika           1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\1            Chevy

Ichika's smile is beautific as Chevy rises again. The last glittering traces of bright blue energy hang in the air, and Ichika - for once - has not sheathed her sword again. Instead, as the pole lances towards her, she stabs out. It's a rare motion from Ichika; the point of the katana, the thrust of it, was much more difficult to turn into a shallow and less-than-lethal attack. Surely, she hasn't changed her tune so quickly, especially against one of her closest friends?!

Of course she hasn't.

"When is a sword not a sword?"

The blade passes through the handle of the bucket that Chevy had intended to entangle her with. In the next moment, the lighter girl is indeed being spun around; her eyes sparkle with amusement with her trap; she uses it as a firm point, and the momentum Chevy had sought to use to hurl her across the arena is instead turned to Ichika's purposes - the girl pirouetting through the air as she controls her descent.

Both boot-clad feet land lightly upon the turnbuckle furthest from Chevy, and that beautific smile has turned into a full-on grin.

"When it is a lever."

And with a long enough lever and the proper fulcrum, she could move the world.

She flicks the sword, taking her time to sheathe it once more at her side as she looks down at Chevy from her elevated position. Those sapphire eyes of hers are aglow, the energy within her alive and dancing to the thrum of the battle once more. The challenge she issues is a silent one; come, then. She has led the other exchanges. Now, she bids Chevy to assault the Mountain.

COMBATSYS: Ichika calculates her next move.

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Ichika           1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\1            Chevy

As Miss Kasumoto not only -evades- the grappling lunge, but manages to use the taller girl's leverage and momentum to her own benefit, the hayseed gasps out in amazement. There were at least five ways that Chevy could have imagined this working out in her head, and that was not among -any- of them.

"Now don't that beat all..." she cries out with an impressed smile, stepping sideways to exhaust the last of her spinning toss. And, of course, she's still grinning as Ichika brings back one of her favorite sayings, with a new spin tailored upon it for the ad-hoc circumstance.

The audience roars, with hoots and hollers. No doubt Tom and Lou would have something to say about the swordswoman poised well over the height of the first few rows of ringside seats. But Chevy, locked in a battle of will against her dear friend, is far too focused to hear it.

Water has pooled about in a number of places throughout the ring. And, as Ichika has given her the chance to breathe, Chevy takes a moment to walk over and scoop up a puddle of it into one bucket, keeping her eyes on Ichika all the while. With a quick spin of the pole, the hydromancer evens out the water level in the two buckets.

The hayseed grins back at Ichika. "Leverage is a pretty handy thing to have!" she calls out -- as the moment seemed like it needed -something- to break the silence.

As Chevy squares up with Ichika, it looks like she's... thinking for a moment. Baby blue eyes glance to the sword, to her grip, to the piercing storm blue gaze. And for one good, long moment, it looks as if the Southerner might be willing to hold back, and wait for her tide to come in.

But no. She reserves the right to be unpredictable, too.

Chevy takes two quick strides to close the distance to her height-advantaged friend. Attacking? Against someone on the high ground? It might seem ludicrous. But as Chevy drops to a crouch, the pole pressed to her shoulders, parallel to the mat, there's no doubt about it...

She's going to try out an attack Ichika knows -everything- about.

She leaps skywards, thrusting the bar upwards into Ichika. It looks like she'd plan to ram the pole into the girl's throat -- but no, water would spill out of the buckets a moment beforehand. That water would flash freeze against Ichika's shoulders, cementing it into place.

It would seem even -more- ludicrous to Ichika, who knows the pitfalls of the maneuver, and how much trouble Chevy had securing the hold.

And yet, the secret lies in one difference: Chevy is already pretty much -soaked- from earlier attacks. Her jump is stronger, her lift greater. And if she manages to contact Ichika, she would flip -over- her. And -- rather than sling Ichika outside the ring, in a potentially -fatal- collision of friend to concrete -- she would change the move mid-strike.

To -hurl- Ichika bodily into the center of the wrestling ring.

COMBATSYS: Chevy successfully hits Ichika with Marsh Slam EX.
- CRAZY Hit! -

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Ichika           1/-======/=======|=======\-------\1            Chevy

Ichika is indeed a little surprised by the approach Chevy takes. It's not, entirely, outside the realm of possibility - but she had not seen this angle of attack coming. Even less so when she realises what move it is the hydromancer is pulling out of her arsenal. When Chevy does, in fact, go for it, Ichika tries to leap up and over her - to evade the incoming attack. Instead, she winds up with the ice splashing over her shoulders, and Chevy moving with far more speed than she thought was possible from her friend.

When she collides with the ground there's a heavy grunt from the girl, and she rolls several times. That, was a lot more effective than she had expected it to be. But she doesn't stay down for long, and when she rises, she is glowing.

In a tournament season which has been defined, in many ways, by increasing levels of fear from uncontrolled energy, it is perhaps startling to see the exact opposite. The power that rises in Ichika is entirely under her command. It will not hurt anyone she doesn't want it to; will not touch them at all, in fact. Her eyes blaze like tiny stars, unblinking and brilliant as she settles her gaze on Chevy. She'd suspected that she would need to, as Tom and Lou had so kindly highlighted, 'not hold back' in this fight. She hadn't, necessarily, expected that she would need to go so far, so quickly. But if she doesn't turn things around now, she is going to let all hope of seizing the momentum back slip away.

"The still ocean, vast and deep. The raging storm, ferocious and unstoppable. The twisting river, flowing around all obstacles. I know you, Chevelle Beaumont." Ichika intones. She always has had such a high opinion of Chevy's control over her element. But she's not backing down. She never has.

The girl's hand curls around the hilt of her sword. "Your Truth is powerful. Mine... is for Tomorrow."

And she draws the Katana.

Only once before has she shown this technique, and it was at her most desperate moment then, as well. When it seemed inevitable that she would fall. It takes so much out of her to call upon it; everything she has, in fact. The light around the girl intensifies, and the blade she draws from the saya is not the old, well-worn, mass-produced relic of some forgotten and misbegotten war. It is a beautiful thing. Shining and brilliant, it is everything a weapon should be. Forged to defend, to place itself between the weak and those that would do them harm, to strike down the monsters that poison the world. She had hoped, perhaps, that the next time she called upon it, it would be to bring down Junko, rather than to strike down her friend.

But the Katana is also her hopes. Her dreams. Her legacy made manifest. Here, in this arena, she shows her fans and Chevy's the brilliance of that vision. The Art of Fighting made manifest. She asks the world to give her the strength to take the next step on her journey...

... and this, is the Kami's answer.

She doesn't so much leap at Chevy, as suddenly manifest in front of the redhead. The Katana descends, and with it, all of that light, all of that power, the full potential that so many people have seen in Ichika for so long, is put into this singular blow. She gives it all she has: she can do nothing less.

COMBATSYS: Ichika successfully hits Chevy with Tomorrow's World EX.
- Power hit! -

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Ichika           0/-------/---<<<<|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Chevy

Chevy exits her flip just inside of the ropes, landing a bit harder than she would have liked due to the height of her acrobatics. She whirls around to face Ichika -- catching sight of the girl just as she rises back to her feet.

And sees her -glowing-. That's... not good for her chances. And neither is the dark and uber-dramatic tone Ichika has chosen for her statements. But she readies her pole by her side, preparing a defense. It does no good if there's no -motion-, Chevy insists to herself...

A defense that might have worked, if Ichika weren't so dad-gum -fast-. Chevy's eyes widen as Ichika is suddenly -right there- in front of her. She starts to swing the staff up...

But it's too late.
One moment Chevy is standing.
The next, she is literally on her knees.
Every muscle on her face pulled into a taut rictus.
Her denim jacket slipping off one shoulder.
And an ember seared into her chest.
-Still glowing-.
Beneath her: a stark, inverted shadow, capturing the moment of impact.
Her pole lies by her side, its buckets draining.

There was no time to scream, no time to brace -- no time to -feel- the Truth as it lanced through her.

Chevy exhales sharply, opening her eyes, staring dully at Ichika's feet. Trembling with the accumulated -shock-. Her entire body feels like it's on fire. She's ... alive, she knows this much. But whatever Ichika just hit her with... she has no words for that. But the burning sensations, she has a solution for that...

A crack of thunder from above heralds a rainstorm that begins to shower down. Chevy draws in her breath, closing her eyes with a smile as raindrops inundate her ravaged body. The glowing wound subsides, a savage ruddy blister left behind; surrounded by sliced and ragged fabric that wicks to her skin from all the moisture.

"I think... that oughta be one you save for a rainy day, Ichika..."

Her chiding voice still, impossibly, bears a light-hearted tone. Adrenaline is one hell of a drug. Invigorated, Chevy thunders forward, dropping low and aiming to latch her arms around Ichika's waist. As she moves -- the thunderstorm -- and the small -lake- created by its sudden appearance -- surge forward to encompass Ichika as well. And, if she manages to grab hold, then that rainstorm will cease -- and the pool will -blast upward- into a powerful geyser, propelling both Kasumoto and Beaumont some six feet into the air! At which point Chevy will keep holding fast onto Ichika, so that she can slam her down onto her back! Either way -- the impact will send a good portion of that lake bouncing into the air with a splash...

COMBATSYS: Chevy successfully hits Ichika with Sound Side.
?!? Weird Hit! ?!?

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////                    ]
Ichika           0/-------/----<<<|>>>>>>>\-------\0            Chevy


The Katana slides back into the saya at her side, rendered into a katana again, though Ichika's whole body is left outlined in that shimmering blue glow; not quite as intense as it had been when she let it flow so powerfully through her blade. She doesn't allow even a single spark of the unleashed chi to leave her, now. It remains gathered about her, providing a shield and helping to ease some of the pain of her wounds, to keep the air in her lungs.

The crack of thunder, the rain, and her friend's quip, bring the smile right back to her face.

"I should've known, even the Kami themselves wouldn't be enough to stop you."

And then she is hurtling into the air, and at the very moment of impact, a powerful blue shield erupts around Ichika. She can't stop the blow from shocking through her as the chi barrier bursts into sparkles and the second layer beneath helps to cushion the rest, but as she slides out of Chevy's grasp and back onto her feet, the girl is still very much standing.

And then she exhales. Surging forwards again, the sword is drawn and brought around in a single neat stroke, aiming to draw a line from Chevy's shoulder to her hip; the entire arena is soaking at this point, but between the multiple layers of energy she has managed to summon up to protect her, Ichika remains stubbornly dry, that spiky hair of hers still insolently upright as the girl completes her downwards slash...

And she's already starting to bring herself around, intent on finishing the combination that her fans know so well.

COMBATSYS: Ichika successfully hits Chevy with Genius Loci.

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

That blue shield. Chevy isn't really -surprised- to see the shield pop up -- though the sphere -does- feel a bit tingly in those brief moments where it intersect her body...

"Heh... maybe they just wanna see how this plays out?"

She tumbles free, pushing back to her feet. She gives a quick kick to her pole; with two big splashes of water, the weapon leaps back into her awaiting right hand.

She's completely drenched. The air feels cool and invigorating on her saturated skin, her soaked jacket and 'TEAM THUNDER' jeans. And when she looks back to her friend, she expects to see her sopping wet as well.

But she's not: that one sprig of hair is dry as a bone.
And that gives her a moment's pause.

That moment is all it takes for Ichika to streak forward. Chevy starts to lean sideways to vault away -- but that moment of distraction left her with too little time.

The strike is unerringly accurate, carving two perfect vent holes in the denim of her jacket; the loose flaps of fabric begin to billow with Chevy's movement. The jacket conceals the damage, and adrenaline keeps her from feeling it overly much, but the ruddy hue in the water that rolls off her reveals the truth of the exchange.

The hayseed has moved on from her early days. She -refuses- to simply roll over when the whole world seems to be watching -- her fans are counting on her.

But aside from that, Chevy recognizes that perfect slice from shoulder to hip. And, she staggers backwards -- not wanting to be party to what tends to happen next.

"I see you there, Miss Kasumoto..."

With darkness crowding in upon her vision, it's all she can do to keep her focus on Ichika. Setting her jaw, she brings her pole parallel to the floor, and starts to spin it, as if she were pedaling a bicycle with her hands. The motion draws orbs of water up from the pool at her feet, rolls them over the top of the pole, and then fast-pitches them at the Justice High student! Three, four, five shots in a row -- each of them fired fast enough to make even the nimble Ichika think twice about closing in!

COMBATSYS: Chevy successfully hits Ichika with Rinse Cycle.

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

And -- Ichika hesitates.

It's a moment that will no doubt, regardless of which of them is ultimately left standing, be dissected over and over again by fans and commentators. Every time she has dashed in and delivered that slash, she has followed up with a devastating blow; it is what the move is designed to do! But though her friend's outfit does its best to conceal the extent of her injury... there's only so much it can do to hide from Ichika's sight. She can see that Chevy is just barely holding on.

Would it be a beautiful thing, to tear into her now?

The moment's hesitation costs her dearly; before she can recover, Chevy has bought her distance, and though she tries to fend off the assault, she finds herself struck again, and again, each of the individual projectiles on their own wouldn't have been much of a problem, sparking off her shield. Together though, she is battered backwards, and by the time the assault ends she is barely standing herself. One more clean hit, and either of them will be done, she's certain of it...

The girl recovers her stance. Feet apart, sword held in front of her. She looks ragged; Chevy looks like she is barely standing, they are surrounded by water and the remaining, slowly-fading sparks from her shattered barrier. As she draws in her breath, all of the cheering of the crowd, their mad excitement for what is clearly the climax of this battle, recedes into nothing. Her eyes meet her friend's, and she smiles.

"The final step, then." She says, surprised to find that there are tears welling in her eyes. So much emotion. For once, she's not shouting her defiance and determined to prove herself. She's already done that. No matter what happens, who could deny that Kasumoto Ichika has done enough? She ... doesn't want this to end. She doesn't want the fight to be over, and to be that next step down the path already. A small, sad smile, and she swallows down that thought. They can't live in this moment forever. Everything, even the most beautiful things, has to end. Her voice is soft, but somehow it carries just fine.

"I'll see you at the top of the mountain, okay?"

And then she twists around, and if it were anyone else, she might hope to catch them by surprise - but she's sure that Chevy knows what is coming, as she catches one of those drifting motes of light on the tip of her blade, brings it around, and unleashes a single, tiny star to streak towards her friend, hoping to guide her back down into that darkness as gently as she can.

COMBATSYS: Chevy parries Ichika's Brilliant Spark EX!

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

In a way, it's something of a mercy that the two haven't -had- to fight on stage before. The friendship they had fostered behind the scenes was a driving force in their success. That one fight allowed Ichika to see a fight as a different kind of conversation. That one fight let Chevy realize that -both- fighters could stand to gain from battle.

But that's a very different circumstance than a true fight, where the line between victory and defeat is razor-thin. There have been easy fights and there have been difficult ones; similarly, between Ichika and Chevy, there have been easy conversations and there have been difficult ones. The past few months have, without a doubt, shaped the two young women into the two warriors facing off now.

It's tempting to push the limits, to go 'all in'. But perhaps that would be an unfitting end to the conversation -- as they both seem perfectly willing to cross the finish line -together-, somehow -- if that were even remotely possible.

Chevy seems more than determined to make that happen. After her water blasts needle into Ichika's defenses, she's already moving in for a followup. She swings her right bucket low, scooping up some of the precious water reserve from the pool at her feet.As Ichika recovers, and starts to level the sword at her, she swings her left bucket down in turn...

"Of course! See you there, Ichika."

But then, Chevy sees the relative lack of motion from Ichika's shoulders, and recalls what that implies. Most people would be moored in place or sluggish, standing in six inches of water. Not so with the waterbender -- for once she makes the decision to move, the water doesn't only -not- impede her: it -helps-. She flings herself just a foot to the right of that sword blade -- the shockwave from the blast tearing past her is such that it even ripples the flesh of her face and the denim of her jacket as she tears past. But one thing Chevy's bold advance leaves behind is... the buckets she'd just filled, which slam together with a loud sound.

And just after that, a second sound:
The sound of Ichika's concussive strike splashing down into a bucket.
Slamming it backwards.

The trick is, though, that Chevy has moved her grip forward, to the end of the pole formerly occupied by the right bucket. And with the fulcrum, Chevy herself, being right in front of Ichika, that means the shot accelerates the counter-clockwise spin of the pole -- a motion that began when Chevy launched herself forward into her attack.

If Chevy succeeds in her attempt to reach right past that extended sword and grab Ichika by the wrist, the torque of the attack would serve to hurl the kenshi downward at the mat, shoulders first!

COMBATSYS: Ichika interrupts Riptide EX from Chevy with Price of Progress.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >                                ]
Ichika           0/-------/------=|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2            Chevy

Ichika's eyes widen when Chevy not only evades her fastest attack, but is very suddenly in front of her. It actually causes a sharp intake of breath from the prodigy. It's, so rare that something happens which completely blows her expectations out of the water. There was no future she'd envisioned where this was possible. The fact that Chevy would catch her energy within the bucket, use the momentum of it to add to her own counterattack? It's... unprecedented, it's staggering, and it's...

It's beautiful. Truly, beautiful.

Time seems to slow down for Ichika. She can hear her own heartbeat within her ears.


And it is within the space of that moment, between one beat and the next, that she realises she, can't, let this slip away. There is one, tiny, fragile path to victory. If she didn't at least try to take it, she would always know that she gave Chevy less than everything she had, and that? Is too much for her to bear.


Calm, reserved Ichika hasn't shouted like that in quite some time. She does, now, as Chevy reaches out to snare her by the wrist.


She twists in the air, and she is so, so close to the mat. She can imagine the impact. The final, crumpling THUD that will spell the end of her journey. And she rejects it. Brilliant energy explodes all around her one last time, and Ichika's teeth grind together as she defies gravity, and sense, and logic. It is more than any girl her age should be able to do. Hell, it's more than anyone should be able to do; the final shield shatters, and Ichika's sword crashes into Chevy. The spiralling path she forces them both to take gives them a dizzying view of the arena, taking in all sides of it, and a crowd caught below them in startling tableau. Open-mouthed.



A single word at the apex of their flight, where Ichika's eyes are bright and brilliant and staring into Chevy's - and then, the girl is gone. She blurs out of existence, only to reappear behind her, one pace above Chevy, sweat pouring from the Justice High prodigy as she reaches those few inches further towards the heavens.


And then she is crashing into Chevy's back, the hilt of the katana powering down into her as she tears back down towards the very centre of the arena, to crash there, cushioning her impact with the redhead, and stumbling back, pain, radiates, through every last inch of her. So much of her wants to give in. So much of her wants to just, rest. But shaking hands raise the sword before her in a guard position.

She's come this far. She has, to see it through.

Sometimes, the fate of a battle can be decided in the blink of an eye.

Chevy may have worked with Ichika on her 'Marsh Slam'... but she'd spent the lion's share of her independent study time developing Ayame's gift to her, which she dubbed 'Riptide,' into an attack worth reckoning with. A successful execution would catch her opponent by surprise, buffeting them across the floor just like an ocean riptide would to an unsuspecting swimmer. Everything looked perfect, felt perfect.

And then Chevy found herself hurtling upward. Adrenaline dampened the sensation of the blade down to a mere shove, but the sight of the audience smearing into incoherent blurs is really what sold the idea that -- no, the Riptide did -not- fully hit its mark, and did -not- put Ichika down for the count.

Somehow, she hears her pole and buckets clanking in the distance. The sound is distant, and dreamlike, and at the moment... her fluttering heartstrings prevent her from processing the import of those sounds altogether. Her cheeks are damp -- and it's not due to the earlier rainstorm. She's happy, and sad, and proud, and disappointed, and exultant all at the same time. The dance is ending, the room is spinning, and... for that one moment, she gets to see Ichika from a perspective that no one else in the world can.

Intense. Determined, And caring, all in the same breath.

Chevy can't help but smile.
And in the next moment...

The redhead doesn't know what happened to -put- Ichika there -- but she can just sense that it happened, an instant before feeling the pressure upon her back. The kind sensation of a blunt force reversing the momentum of her upward flight -- the alternative, of course, to a life-threatening stroke.

The cheering crowd's changes from a spinning smear to vertical streaks. Chevy pulls her arms up.

And all goes black.

- - -

Chevy's crumpled against the mat, her eyes closed. Motionless, after bouncing once, twice from the precipitous, Ichika-induced fall. Some ruddy-colored water spills out -- but the color is transparent enough to be little cause for alarm.

The crowd roars. The Chevaliers wave their signs, their cries urgently begging for her to stand.

And then, all of a sudden, Chevy's body curls up; she draws in a deep intake of breath, her eyelids shooting open. For a moment, she scrambles to sit on the side of her leg, planting her hand on the canvas, staring wild-eyed around at the scene around her, just -one- beat away from leaping to her feet in panic.

She hears her name, chanted by the crowd. And she spots the shadow of a familiar figure, standing over her.

She looks up to Ichika. Standing ready to strike. Not congratulatory, but expectant, ready for the hydromancer's retaliation.

With her momentum stopped... the thought of doing -anything- right now is just anathema to the hayseed.

Chevelle Beaumont smiles. And delivers the only response she can to her dear friend. The only way she can repay that kindness.

"I'll be waitin' for you there, Ichika. You go do the very best you can, y'hear?"

And she sits up straight, eyes brimming with happiness. She smiles -- satisfied in knowing that she's given all that was reasonable to give.

COMBATSYS: Chevy lets the tide wash out.

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

COMBATSYS: Chevy can no longer fight.

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

Ichika gives Chevy the space she needs to make the decision. She's there, ready, with her sword in hand, if the fight is to continue... but when the redheaded teen declines to continue, the girl physically relaxes. All of the tension rushes out of her at once, and she sheathes her katana with a last and very final 'click' against the well-loved saya.

"That was, amazing."

It is only after that, as the last of the light around her dies away, that the full weight of it hits her. She hadn't, really, thought that she could win. She hadn't, really, considered what it would be like to lose, either. Everything, it felt, hinged on the outcome of this fight - and now, the fight is done.

And she won. She's going to the finals.

A bright smile breaks out over her face, and she steps forwards to help her friend back up to her feet - just as she had done with Buck. The crowd are still going wild. Some intrepid Chevaliers still cheer for their champion, others call for Kasumoto, and Ichika just looks out at them all, feeling as though she is floating in the clouds.

"I could really go for chicken and crepes." She says, with a laugh in her voice. Her free hand reaches up, runs through the messy mop, and then, she throws her hand to the ceiling once again, the devil horns thrown - she doesn't even need to say it this time. There isn't a soul in the arena who doesn't know what she wants to hear, and she's earned it.


So the battle is over and what a stunning spectacle it has been. Shermie has been totally wowed by the courage, class and charisma of both fighters today and she is proud to claim a connection with them, even if it's only through the clothing they wear. She can't help but feel that when the New Fighting Generation was created, this is exactly the kind of match the powers that be would have wanted to represent their exciting experiment.

She is back on her faux fur clad feet again applauding Ichika's impressive victory but also the flair with which Chevy bravely fought. She joins in the chant of "THUN-DER! THUN-DER! THUN-DER!" with the rest of the crowd.

Not only did the fighting finesse of the two females shine through tonight, their friendship is also clear to see. "You must be so proud, cherie" she gushes to Lyraelle, her coral pink coated lips curling into a smile. "Team Thunder have shone like stars. Your baby fighters are both winners in their own way."

Perhaps Shermie will one day cross paths with the swordswoman and hydromancer again, maybe in the ring. She's confident both of them would give her a fun fight. For now though the focus is on the final of this thrilling tournament. Will it end as it began with the Justice schoolgirl squaring up to the dancer named Djamila or will she face her fiery foe, Junko? Whatever the outcome of the other semi-final, the French woman hopes it is a dignified and dazzling display like this match has been.

The whole Midnight Channel crew are chanting along with the rest of the crowd, with the exceptions of Dodge the imp (who has yet to show a proclivity for verbal communication of any kind) and Lyraelle herself, who's instead calling out over the noise:

"Well done, Ichika-chan! You go, sweetie! What was that, Shermie? I couldn't hear you!"

She had been worried over the last few weeks that the drama in the Team Thunder camp would boil out of control, poison the well of goodwill between the teammates, and possibly even work to the detriment of herself and the other sponsors, but this match just goes to show that everything is going according to plan after all. Maybe even better than planned. If the other match goes this well, then not only will Team Thunder come out looking like the most exciting team in the NFG, but she and her fellow sponsors will look like geniuses. The Midnight Channel will have a whole new batch of talent flocking to it, and her plans to continue to stamp out the stigma around darkstalker competitors will be back on track.

Things are going perfectly.

COMBATSYS: Ichika has ended the fight here.

Log created on 07:44:11 12/05/2023 by Ichika, and last modified on 13:23:01 12/07/2023.