Neo League 251 - #269: Alma vs Sakura

Description: It's an epic rematch, and this time, it's official. Alma and Sakura square off for a dramatic battle at the Heian Temple in Kyoto, and once again, these two founts of fighting spirit reveal the true scope of their passion and ability! It's as close as the last one, but in the end only one can stand triumphant... (Winner: Sakura)

Fights for the Neo League take place in some rather interesting locales, all over the world. Some lucky people can travel, some can't! The problem with more exotic locations, though, is that their enduring legacies are often threatened by the very fights taking place there. A particular location may have lasted 2000 years or more, but a couple ground-splitting attacks or wayward fireballs can put an end to them in a heartbeat.
So, quite a few fights take place in Japan, where they're not only used to rebuilding national monuments -- they seem to *enjoy* it. Take the current evening's location, Heian Shrine, for instance. The current shrine was built in 1894 is only the most recent rebuilding of the former Imperial Palace originally built in Kyoto some 1,100 years prior. Down the street, there are temples that have been rebuilt two and three times over. It's just something the Japanese people *do*, okay?
Sakura Kasugano, being Japanese, gets to have her own hand in rebuilding things, though admittedly her experience is not quite so grandiose. Particularly, she just rebuilds the fence of her backyard, and the battered-down Kim Dojo.
And for once, she's early... though that may be because the Heian Shrine is, first and foremost, a shrine. That, and her parents and brother came with her to Kyoto, so she really had no excuse to be =late=. Decked out in a pale blue karate gi, with a long white headband to match, she awaits in the Imperial Gardens, overlooking a wonderfully landscaped pond, and surrounded by the numerous buildings of the shrine.
And she's pacing, fairly nervously. She'd much rather have been late, quite honestly.

What an opportunity.
The Imperial Gardens in autumn. Alma Towazu got here early as well; very early in fact, taking advantage of Sakura's choice of location. Wearing a new ensemble purchased yesterday, earth tones complimented by the changing colors around him, he strolled throughout the shrine, silent for hours. He saw the sun rise over the shingled roof of a shrine, watched as the pale dawn light filtered through the trees, listened to the birdsong and the strangely soothing sound of gravel shifting under his shoes. He smiled at the people walking past, wondered at the thoughts of those who seemed lost in contemplation, and was lost in contemplation at times himself. At all times, though, whether carefully watching the world around him or lost in introspection, breathing deeply of the crisp air -- no matter what he was actually doing -- he felt as though he was truly engaging in this environment.
It's freeing, to be like this with no goal in mind.
Freeing, but not an escape. To Alma, moments like these are part of a greater rhythm of activity and passivity, and they are meant to be followed by bursts of more overt displays of one's passion for life. He doesn't see himself as being /less/ passionate in moments like these; far from it. Just... subtly passionate.
And, if you look past that elegant bearing, his well-kept appearance, and his mild-mannered expression, and the stray bangs that occasionally obscure his eyes, you may see the brightness of his gaze, and understand why he feels that way.
Jiro is missing. Noriko is cloistered at her dojo. Jae Hoon has an irresponsible brother, and still doesn't know who Alma is. Some girl who goes to Pacific High wields Psycho Power with incredible effectiveness. And he still hasn't figured out where to search for that Foxy Arreaza lady. Soon enough, Alma will have to start doing less flowing and more pushing-- he'll have to make an effort to reach out to the world, to the people in his life. Moments like these... they put all that into context.
Hands slipped into his front pockets casually, Alma has arrived near the pacing girl silently as though having glided through the air, good-natured smile almost out of place on the serenity of his features. He regards her silently for a moment -- before his smile widens slightly, and becomes a grin.
"Good choice," he says softly.

Nature has always taken a backseat to the people in Sakura's life. She's mostly interested in getting stronger, of course, but her friends and family are the most obvious, and the most obvious of her external concerns. It's only when her personal relationships are copacetic that she even notices the trees, the water, the rocks. By having an innate communion with chi, she'd ignored a large part of the world -- taking it all for granted. Her course of study now, though, all but demands that she push even harder to understand the inner workings, to rationalize and understand the inner workings in order to break through a new wall.
When she'd challenged Alma a couple weeks prior, it was just a spur-of-the-moment thing, a sudden desire to become stronger by facing that power which she has the most trouble with -- the one that she =doesn't= have any inherent, innate knowledge of. So, when she'd gotten the call from Alma... she picked one of the spots that was most likely to give her the edge, a place full of natural beauty, one with the most charged, humble forms of energy she could imagine. She needs the world at her back in order to face Alma, or so she'd thought when she'd selected the location.
And she's -totally- ignoring it by pacing around so nervously. "I can't lose this time, I can't lose, I'll =totally= beat him..." she mumbles, clenching her fist as she continues padding back and forth along the gravel walkway.
When Alma approached, she'd just decided to stop and think, for no reason at all. It may have looked like she was paying attention, but that's just a coincidence. It's only when her name is called that she looks to him, turning sideways to see him. He's just... =there=.
Her eyes flicker over his form for a moment, and she, rather abruptly, grinds her heel into the gravel. "I was gonna wear earth tones, too..." she pouts. "But it's not even autumn yet, technically!"
What's one week, though, really?
If her anger was any more than a joke, it's remarkably short-lived, as the girl's smiling again, flattening her palms to one side, and bowing. In her gi, with her current poise... she's no normal schoolgirl but a trained martial artist. And that's the attitude with which she pulls back, drawing into a formal stance, left arm parallel to the ground before her as she smiles. "Thanks. Ready whenever you are!"
And so is the crew, as the camera operators dolly up and zoom in, and the referee moves into position.

COMBATSYS: Sakura has started a fight here.

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Sakura           0/-------/-------|

"...ha ha ha!"
Shoulders shaking with mirth, Alma reaches back and rubs the back of his head sheepishly, grinning even wider now. "I just found myself in an autumn mood," he says in response, as if that should make any kind of sense. "If fashion can be used as a form of self-expression," he adds a little more seriously, "then one should follow one's intuition." You can tell a lot about a person by how they dress. Well, a lot about their priorities, at least. ...maybe. "However," he continues, the tall youth now back to his usual friendly soft-spoken tones, "blue does suit you."
As does the attire. It didn't really occur to him to think about how Sakura would dress, but the fact that she's wearing a gi right now strikes him as significant. Not, like, that she's trying to send him a message or anything like that; just about what it says about her, and this match. She may be exuberant, outgoing, even boisterous -- but she's very serious about what she does. That combination, contrast even, is refreshing.
"I've been looking forward to this." It's true in a general sense, even if he wasn't actually thinking about the coming fight at all for the last five or six hours. "Whatever the outcome," he adds even as he's shifting into a poised and relaxed fighting stance of his own, "I hope we'll have some time to talk afterward." A short pause, and then he smiles again, once more. "If you haven't explored the shrine much yet, there are some nice places I found that I'd like to show you... if you aren't busy."
"Please," he murmurs, his voice carrying to his opponent even as the referee shouts, "do your best."
He lunges, spirit soaring. This is it. This is inevitable surge of activity. This is where he makes use of the time he spent in silence. This is how he demonstrates what he learns, reveals how he feels. Although his eyes gleam with keen focus and intent, the young man can't help but let his smile widen even as he attacks, drawing his hand back and lashing out with a spike of soulfire, hand wreathed in flames of white and purple.

COMBATSYS: Alma has joined the fight here.

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Alma             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Sakura

COMBATSYS: Sakura interrupts Self Expression from Alma with Flower Kick.

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Alma             0/-------/----===|===----\-------\0           Sakura

Perhaps it's more that her color of choice would've been very close to Sean's, and his color of gi has =not= exactly been lucky lately.
Sakura didn't exactly think he'd want a rematch quite so soon. Nor did she think he'd up the ante by making it a Neo League fight. Nor did she expect him to =literally= up the ante by putting a favor of the winner's choosing as the prize. And it's with that recollection that she shudders as he discusses, at greater length, the notion of fashion -- for if =he= wins, he gets to give her a makeover. She shifts uncomfortably for a moment, cheeks turning pink... until he mentions the blue.
Well... she would =hope= blue suits her. Beaming a smile back at Alma, Sakura nods her head eagerly. "Ryu picked it out for me." He may not know much about fashion, but... well. His thoughts and hers =were= in sync at the time. "Maybe I should've, though!"
If she shows a lack of committment before the fight, it's all but vanished as soon as the announcer begins. Nodding back to Alma, she responds in kind: "Same for you, Alma!"
... Her eyes widen as his initial salvo is lit by white and purple flames, however. "Starting with that, huh?" she quips, shifting her leading leg to Alma's right, and raising her arm in defense. With a rather broad grin, she bats at the initial strike of soulfire with her padded handguard, wincing somewhat as the flames sear into her. But in the same fluid motion, her left leg had been arcing upward, her movement taking advantage of the fact that Alma was leaning forward to strike. That is... her foot is now able to crash down from behind, slamming onto his shoulder with a rather rapid motion. "Hriii-HAAA!"
None of the usual fanservice here, due to the gi, but the motion is more or less the same. Afterward, she hops back, grinning faintly. "I haven't made up my mind just yet on what you'll be doin' for me..." she notes. Gotta keep the light trash talk up, if nothing else!

Hmm? She's flushing slightly already. Was she practicing beforehand or something? ...Well, she might well have been, because her response is very well-timed in its execution, and the axe kick makes full impact on the tall boy's shoulder. Unable to resist the momentum gracefully due to the imbalance caused by his lunge, Alma can only allow himself to move with the impact instead, and the strike takes him to his knees before his opponent.
This makes Sakura's comment seem quite apropos.
She's got a sense of humor, though, doesn't she? Heh, he barely even remembers saying that. It was probably somewhere around the time where he was joking about getting tired of Jiro and turning to her instead, just as she advised him to do at the end of their last matchup. Ha ha ha. It's kind of nice. Sometimes Alma's deadpan humor goes over people's heads, and they think he's being serious. Admittedly, being able to see his eyes helps; he doesn't converse much over the phone. Well, at least Sakura knows he was joking. Ah ha ha.
Still, the physical world parallels the spiritual, so just he rolls with the motion of the attack, Alma rolls, as it were, with Sakura's comments. "That won't be necessary," he responds calmly, composed despite the blow as he leans forward from the kneeling position and plants his palms on the ground for the split-second before he lifts himself up suddenly into a practiced handstand right in front of her. "Save your energy for pitying me. I have to think of something to do with your hair."
That might smart, but it probably won't smart as much as Alma's oncoming attack, for he's only in that handstand for a moment -- he's always moving, even as he talks. In a quite acrobatic take on Hiten-Ryu mid-battle ingenuity, Alma twists onto one palm and lashes out with a quick roundhouse heel to the side of the girl's head. It's a gamble, leaving himself on just one hand, but if he's quick enough he may be able to pull it off.
Pretty fancy stuff.

COMBATSYS: Sakura blocks Alma's Light Kick.

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Alma             0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0           Sakura

Okay, maybe he was serious, maybe not! But the tomboy feared the threat of 'makeover' enough to remember it, and that's supplying the additional motivation she needs to push for victory -- kinda like offering food to Xiangfei for a win!
Still... trash talk is always good, in Sakura's opinion. Especially between friends who know what the deal is. ... It just leaves her speechless for a moment, because she really =doesn't= take any pride in her hair.
"Yeah, in your dreams!" When stuck for a reply, deny everything! And 'everything' in this case would include the kick that comes snapping for her head. The Taiyo student stepped back after her kick, giving her plenty of space to raise her arm, absorbing Alma's strike with her right handguard. She would press immediately afterward, but he put some oomph in the kick, forcing her back a step.
"You got a loooong way to go b'fore beatin' me!" she snaps, shaking out her fist as she strides forward with a rather quick knee strike, hoping to catch Alma while she's still reasonably close. She recalls from training with Sagat that Muay Thai can be *quite* devastating in close quarters, after all. "Hyaaa!"

COMBATSYS: Alma dodges Sakura's Medium Kick.

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Alma             0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0           Sakura

Never waste momentum. Though Alma's kick wasn't able to break Sakura's defenses, the young fighting model refuses to let all that effort go to naught, and with a twist of his arms he redirects his motion after the impact. It's a pretty complex calculation as it is, given his current position, and the last thing he needs is any extra variables -- but he gets one, most certainly, in the powerful knee strike that Sakura rockets toward his abdomen.
Alma feels light, as though buoyed up by his spirit. Somehow, reflexively, subconsciously, he knows exactly what to do.
The twist that he's able to manage as he removes his kicking leg from Sakura's handguard becomes his evasion, the knee strike just /barely/ missing the tall youth's side, sweeping against the back side of his jacket but failing to make contact with his body. Moving with wild grace he swings his body around and plants his feet on the ground as his arms come up, and as though inspired to ignite by his very desperation his hands come alight with soulfire even as he rises. Emerging from his acrobatics still in close proximity to his opponent and surging with fighting spirit, Alma lets the momentum carry him up and into the air, jumping off the ground as his flaming fists swing up, his spiralling arms aiming to strike Sakura first in the abdomen and then under the chin and lift her off the ground.
It's quite a recovery.
He's still grinning slightly, too, though the calmness of his features makes it look now more like just simple good-naturedness.
"Sakura," he reminds her, "I've already beaten you once."

COMBATSYS: Alma successfully hits Sakura with Rising Fury.

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Alma             0/-------/---====|=======\-------\0           Sakura

Perhaps she's just not used to fighting =Alma= yet. She normally prioritizes a defense options on a subconscious level, and part of the process involves her innate sensing of waves of chi -- which would be why Alma's got a rather clear advantage. Quite simply, Sakura doesn't know where to block if she can't see him.
Accordingly, with Alma spinning and whirling about, she does the only thing she can think to do -- get the heck out of the way. This entails jumping backwards.
There's two problems with that.
One -- the water behind her. She's aware of it, and planning on landing just at the edge.
Two -- Alma's aiming to hit her not once, but =twice=.
Three -- landing means she's inherently off-balance.
Combined altogether, this means Sakura's just landing when Alma's flaming fist slams into her, and the followup strike is enough to send the off-balance student flying into the air, with an impending threat of her falling into the water.
In midair, though... while she can't really do much else to quell the sensation of tremendously intense heat searing through her chin and torso, she =can= focus on throwing her arms to the side, rebalancing herself so that she lands on one of the many rocks in the garden pond.
Landing in a low crouch, she grins back at Alma. "D'ya ever think that was just luck?"
It's time to inject some of her own flames into this battle. As Sakura rises, she thrusts her hands forward, brows knitted in concentration as she shouts, "HADOOOOUKEN!" A brilliant plume of blue flame blossoms from her extended palms, clearing the distance back to Alma on shore with ease!

COMBATSYS: Sakura successfully hits Alma with Medium Hadouken.

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Alma             1/-------/=======|=======\=------\1           Sakura

Oh, man, right into the water again? Alma needs to pay more attention to these things. If she starts scaring him by taking off wet clothes without warning him she's got stuff on underneath again, he might have to say something about--
Lost in the song of battle that resonates in his soul, tasting the way his spirit mingles with the ambient energies, Alma lands gracefully, almost gently. Touching ground softly, the tall youth seems to fold in on himself a bit, his body relaxing after all that intense pressure to perform, lashes lowered as he sighs once in quiet satisfaction.
'D'ya ever think that was just luck?'
Alma's eyes widening slightly, he turns just in time to see a grinning Sakura perched neatly on some rocks before the bright blue haze of his oncoming destruction obscures all. The projectile attack slams against him and knocks him off his feet, sending him into a sprawl which he manages to transform into a backwards roll, tucking and rising back to his feet in a rather neat motion. Smooth moves aside, though, that one knocked the breath out of him, and he takes a moment to readjust his stance. A deep breath is all it takes to restore his concentration, the sweeping majesty of the environment and the moment bringing him back into focus.
It is a nice shot, too. Sakura, standing poised on the rocks in the midst of the pond; Alma, equally poised on the shore; the world around them, serene and untouched, sacred. Holy ground for passionate battle.
"I guess we'll see," he murmurs, more to himself than to his opponent. He looks rather impressed.

COMBATSYS: Alma gathers his will.

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Alma             1/---====/=======|=======\=------\1           Sakura

Sakura flashes a rather broad grin back at her opponent. Is she impressed? ... Actually, she's =been= impressed with Alma's skills ever since he began earning the aforementioned victory, so that should go without saying.
But neither fighter's going to win the battle through poses that look awesome in still frames. Tensing for one brief instant, Sakura suddenly leaps into the air, carving two quick somersaults in the air, before landing once more upon the shore of the pond. She doesn't bother with another witty assault, her breathing just a bit ragged from the sudden exertion, but rather launches into a simple, direct, and powerful punch to the jaw. Ryu would be proud! "Hyaaaa!"

COMBATSYS: Alma blocks Sakura's Medium Punch.

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Alma             1/--=====/=======|=======\=------\1           Sakura

Although Alma has allowed her the initiative by awaiting her return when taking advantage of her lack of space to maneuver in might have been the better tactical decision, he feels much better for the concentration, and he's ready when she comes. Parrying the fierce punch with his left forearm, Alma twists on his heel and lashes out with a high side kick to the side of Sakura's head, a ripple of power sparking around the limb but not yet igniting.
Whether or not that hits, however, Alma tries to use the motion to simply build yet more momentum. Torquing around after the kick, the tall youth twists his body, and gritting his teeth with effort, uses the kicking leg as a lever to boost himself into the air. In that moment of airtime, his body having turned enough now to allow it, Alma strikes out with a powerful back kick from his other leg, and this time, his soulfire bursts into action. Blazing with a halo of psychic energy, the charged limb aims to knock Sakura right off her feet, even if the last attack didn't hit.
Teasing is fun, but fighting is better. Feeling genuine and free, Alma's eyes glitter with purpose, reflecting the flames that burn around his body.

COMBATSYS: Sakura blocks Alma's Shooting Star EX.

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Alma             1/-======/=======|=======\===----\1           Sakura

Even though Sakura's able to raise her fist in time to defend against the kick, it still shakes up her defenses pretty fiercely. Knowing the likelihood that there's more to the attack, and knowing how much Alma could make it hurt, she takes a cautious step back. Her hunch proves correct, as the added space allows her the space she needs to defend against the back kick that follows.
The waves of psychic energy which accompany it, though, are more than enough to break through her defense and infiltrate her nervous system. It looks like fire; it =burns= like fire. And Sakura =really= doesn't want to be punching with her limbs feeling that way, intuiting that her accuracy would suffer greatly.
Which is why, after recovering her balance, she changes tactics again -- dropping low with an aim to take advantage of Alma's loss of balance in much the way he'd taken advantage of hers mere moments ago. Dropping low to the ground, she whips out a rather fierce spinning kick, hoping to knock his feet out from under him. It's not just one low kick, though... Kasugano's wielding her blue aura as a multiplier, allowing her to revolve around for two, three, four more kicks. "HA! HA! HA! HA!"
If she should be so lucky as to strike, the warrior in the blue gi would rise to slam a rather vicious roundhouse kick into the model at waist-level. "HAAAAAA!"

COMBATSYS: Alma blocks Sakura's Haru Ichiban.

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Alma             2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|===----\-------\0           Sakura

Now it's Alma's turn to back up.
Sakura's withdrawl has allowed her to defend successfully against the fighting model's blazing scything kicks, but Alma can't exactly will himself to land faster, and for a moment it looks like he's left himself entirely open to counterattack. Although he can only hope that her arms were numbed by the blows, those kicks of hers are fast as lightning, and his inability to defend right now may cause some serious trouble.
It is only his sheer resolve that saves him, lending an edge to his awareness.
The first kick that Sakura sweeps out with should by all rights have knocked Alma off his feet before he even touched ground, but, face set in a calm expression, the tall youth lashes out in a desperate aggressive parry with his leg and -- through perfect timing and sheer wild luck -- stops it cold.
This doesn't prevent Sakura from following through with her other kicks, of course, but by this time Alma has gotten to ground, and he's ready. He guards with his shins, retreating to maintain his balance as Sakura forces him across the field; but guard he does, and at no point does his opponent knock him off balance.
He has a moment now, once she finishes the array of attacks, to try and take advantage of the situation. For as she rises, twisting into that fierce roundhouse kick, Alma is lunging into the attack himself. Just barely weaving around her final strike, white and purple flames wreathing his right hand, the intensely focused young man aims to strike upward and catch Sakura under the chin, in the hopes of knocking his smaller opponent into the air slightly...

COMBATSYS: Sakura blocks Alma's Destined Duel.

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Alma             0/-------/=======|====---\-------\0           Sakura

Although the result may not be quite what Alma had hoped for, he unloads the rest of his assault all the same. Body a blazing blur, the fighting model roars like a raging lion as he unleashes a blinding series of flame-enhanced punches with explosive force, pummeling at Sakura's body as effectively as she'll let him.
Eyes blazing with the thrill of wielding such fury and being able to express his passion for the fight, he finishes with a final soulfire-wreathed backfist in the hopes of knocking the girl away, and stands strong in that stance for a moment, fist quivering.
Somewhere out there, Fei Long looks off into the distance and nods once, approvingly.

Sakura's not entirely pleased to know that one of her most powerful combinations has been, basically, =stuffed=, but at least she doesn't get punked in the face for her efforts. Nevertheless, she feels the need to follow through, on the off chance that the final kick lands anyway -- but sure enough, Alma's right there waiting.
If nothing else, Sakura's choice of locale comes to save her here. She's in a horrible position to defend, her arms still numbed from that soulfire attack of Alma's... but there is an overabundance of chi in such a natural environment. Gritting her teeth, she knits her brow in concentration, the chi becoming visible as a brilliant blue aura surrounding the girl's fists. Those fists are brought in front of her face, absorbing the first strike, and knocking her backwards.
By the second strike, Sakura's standing upright again, the blue aura in full force as she meets each and every blow, the shockwaves from the strikes made visible by the expanding waves of chi emanating from the girl's hands. Grinning as the series comes to its conclusion, Sakura nods her approval to Alma. "Not bad!"
Just before reaching forward for the front of Alma's earth-toned ensemble with an aim to fall backwards, using her foot -- and by proxy the pit of the model's stomach -- as a fulcrum with which to toss the young model backwards and over her head. "Hraaaa!"

COMBATSYS: Alma endures Sakura's Medium Throw.

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Alma             1/-----==/=======|====---\-------\0           Sakura

It seems a bit silly, really. He's just standing there, fist quivering with the intensity surging through his body, and it leaves him a sitting duck for not-so-overwhelmed Sakura's response attack. He doesn't even seem to struggle as she pants her foot in his abdomen and powerfully hurls him over her head as she flips over, casting the taller fighter down at the ground.
But that's exactly where he wants to go.
A flash of light suddenly emanates from Alma's body, freezing everything in its silhouette for a split-second before he suddenly rockets towards the ground in a burst of flame. Roaring out /another/ overwhelming kiai, he overtakes the girl's backwards motion with his own soulfire-fuelled descent and hits the ground probably far sooner than she anticipated. His impact against the ground is probably still quite painful, of course. In fact, he doesn't even fall properly.
He's too busy punching the ground as hard as he can.
A pyre erupts, a geyser of inner strength. Pink, purple, and traces of white burst forth as though Alma is pumping them from the ground with his clenched fist, the explosion of might aiming to blast Sakura up and away.
His eyes... they burn.

COMBATSYS: Alma successfully hits Sakura with Full Confession.

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Alma             0/-------/-----==|=======\==-----\1           Sakura

Sakura expected Alma to hit the ground.
She didn't expect to be =flung into the air= as a result of this. At least the camera crew gets a magnificent shot of her gi, rather than a ridiculous slow-mo shot of her bloomers, in this battle.
(the fans can thank Mike Bison for that, by the way)
Sailing through the air, she can only think of two things. One: that hurt like =heck!= Her body's busy screaming through the intense pain shooting throughout her entire nervous system. It happened in her last fight, and it's happening again now.
At least she's headed for nice, =hard= gravel instead of the surface of the water. Oh wait, that's worse, not better. Whatever!
Two: Kasugano was plotting out her next move already. Roll to her side in the midst of her fall, she lands hard upon her left shoulder, rather than her back. Some small comfort there, but the net goal isn't to lie there lookin' pretty... but rather to dig her heels into the ground, and use one hopefully-not-final burst of chi energy to kick off the ground sharply. Gravel flies in her wake as she rockets forward, sheathed in a brilliant blue aura -- Alma might get a flashback to a certain ex-waitress with braided loops -- righting herself in mid-flight, and finally touching down about six feet out from Alma.
But instead of a shoulder plowing into him, it would be -- with any luck -- a rising uppercut from the chi-accelerated Sakura.

COMBATSYS: Sakura has reached second wind!

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Alma             0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0           Sakura

COMBATSYS: Alma fails to interrupt Shou'ou Ken EX from Sakura with Divine Intervention.
- Power fail! -

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Alma             0/-------/--=====|====---\-------\0           Sakura

His plan worked /perfectly/.
Rising up from the ground neatly, almost seeming to unfold up into his poised stance, Alma turns away from his recently geysered opponent and tilts his chin up, closing his eyes. Quietly but deeply, he sighs with satisfaction, raising his right hand up to chest level and slowly clenching it. Two huge bursts of fighting spirit, culminating in an attack to finally overwhelm his opponent; an epic expression of his vast passion for the fight, with a dramatic ending worthy of the spirit that fuels him.
Nice work, Alma-kun.
The young bishounen -- for in a pose like this, he deserves the title -- tilts his head to look calmly over his shoulder, turning his gaze back to his opponent as she charges at him in what appears to be her last ditch effort. And though he looks at her with seemingly perfect composure, there is no coolness in his eyes. How could he regard such a display with detachment? Here she is, putting her all into the fight, every fiber of her being put forth toward victory, free of rage or hate but brimming with fury born of love of the fight. He can't help it. He couldn't stop himself if he wanted to.
It's almost out of duty, he reflects as he draws his hand back, flames renewed around his fingertips. If she's going to share such emotion with him, he has to reciprocate as best he can. All thought of victory and defeat aside, he plants his feet against the ground-- and lunges.
Gravel explodes around their collision, obscuring their forms.
It is only a moment before Alma goes flying out in the direction from which he came, his body hurled back by a series of rising blows. Spiralling loosely through the air, he collapses heavily on his back and stares vacantly up at the sky for a moment, just breathing. Due to the dust it's unclear whether or not Sakura has collasped after her attack, but it's not even obvious whether /Alma/ is still able to fight... until, with aching slowness, he raises himself to a sitting position. Still, he stares off into the distance blankly. And then--
He grins.
God, he loves women who fight.

It'll be difficult to see Sakura when the dust clears -- mostly because Sakura's not =in= the dust cloud. She'd flown out of it at the same time Alma did, in roughly the same direction -- fist-first, naturally. She =had= collapsed a good distance from Alma -- or rather, her knee dug itself a nice channel into the gravel as a brake -- but she's quick to spring back to her feet, churning up another loud cloud of gravel, a cocky smile dancing about upon her face.
Yeah... she's an adrenaline junkie, alright. Not that she isn't =panting= heavily from the extended duress, and -- as she notes, "... ha... you... you still... find ways to take... the wind outta me..." That =means= something when a perpetual-motion machine like Sakura Kasugano admits it.
She's =not= about to be worrying herself with form over function though. Riding her temporary adrenaline high, she charges right into the first thing that comes to mind: a quick, whirling kick aimed at knocking Alma back down -- this time, for the count! "Hyaaaa!"

COMBATSYS: Sakura successfully hits Alma with Light Kick.

[                             \  < >  ///////                       ]
Alma             0/-------/=======|====---\-------\0           Sakura

Alma eyes are glazed with the dullness of fatigue, but a warmth still shines through them as he looks up at his panting opponent, grinning weakly through his own heavy breathing. "Your technique... never ceases... to amaze me..." he manages, broad shoulders heaving, apparently unable to move from his seated position on the ground. "...I really thought... I had you there."
Not this time, Alma. Sluggishly he tries to twist out of the way of her attack as she rushes him, but it's to no avail; the whirling kick, fuelled by the girl's surge of adrenaline, strikes him in the abdomen and makes him double over, head slumping forward as his legs crumple. Now unable even to stay sitting, the pain in his midsection too great, Alma flops forward--
--but not before lashing out with one last burst, one last testament to the undeniable spirit that burned during this battle. The last of his fighting spirit, offered up to his opponent.

COMBATSYS: Alma can no longer fight.

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

COMBATSYS: Alma successfully hits Sakura with Self Expression.

[                            \\  <
Sakura           1/-------/=======|

He feels his final strike make contact, and though he takes no pleasure in her pain, he feels somehow satisfied by that, as though he's been able to make some final proof of his existence before his collapse.
But collapse Alma does, falling forward onto his knees in a rather similiar pose to the one he was forced to take at the very beginning of the fight -- only this time, the way he leans heavily on his palms reveals this guy is definitely not going to be doing any handstands.
"I...I'm finished..." he manages, still managing to sound rather composed despite the weariness evident in his voice. "W... w..."
He pauses, and then, swallowing once and mastering himself, Alma looks up at his victorious opponent -- and manages another grin that, though feeble, seems genuinely free of any hard feelings. His eyes, warm and smiling in admiration, meet her gaze. Even on his knees...
...he seems somehow... proud of what's happened.
"...well fought."

The kids in school will probably remember that shot of Sakura just kicking Alma over from his seated position. Much like they've mocked her for nailing her teammate Sean with a Hadouken in last week's SNF.
They'll probably continue to laugh until she kicks them over or Hadoukens them. Fair's fair, right?
Well... Sakura's pretty tuckered out herself, staggering backwards and throwing her arms out to the either side for balance after that kick, until she can square her feet up and steady herself. Backing away to a safe position, she throws her arms up, attempting to ram the blast with her still-numb shoulder.
It... doesn't work, though, and Sakura finds herself blown away, once again, by the burning sensation. By some miracle, she remains standing, possibly because she was able to dig her heels into that gravel, carving two rather large channels in the dirt.
Don't worry, the gravel gets raked every hour, on the hour.
"Y....yeah, no kiddin'!" Kasugano smiles back at Alma, flashing him a thumbs-up as she takes a few steps towards her fallen opponent. "Definitely a good fight!"
She pauses a bit, sifting her fingers through her hair demonstratively. "Think I'll keep it the way it is now though, if it's alright with you."

...oh, right.
"I regret the words I spoke during the heat of battle," Alma says solemnly, looking quite serious. "Your hair suits your energetic attitude and active lifestyle."
He cracks a grin, eyes sparkling with good humor despite his exhaustion.
"Anyway, I think I was the one supposed to fulfill a request of yours," he continues. Well, why not? It doesn't really occur to him to just mention that he was only joking -- though even if it did he probably wouldn't, because come on, he would look like such a liar. "But even so... I was hoping..." He had enough energy for a little deadpan humor, perhaps, but he's starting to run out of breath again, it seems.
"...we could take a walk around the gardens."
He reaches up slowly to run a hand through his hair, looking sheepish.
"I... wanted to discuss strategies for adapting fighting styles."
What? He did. It's just a very, well... /Alma/ request.

Sakura looks very, very confused until Alma speaks. Using sarcasm and comprehending sarcasm aren't =quite= the same thing when one's heart is pounding so fast you'd expect an engineer to shout out 'she kanneh take enny more, cap'n!'. The grin does snap her out of it, though, drawing a complementary expression from Kasugano.
"... Well... sure. We can do that." She scratches her nose, as the medical staff starts rushing out, bringing out drinks for the two competitors as the whole shindig starts winding down.
"Just so you know..." she starts, taking the drink from one of the staffers. "I charge royalties for the Flower Kick."

Is it just the light, or are Alma's cheeks a little red?
"Please," he murmurs gently, "no Flower Kicks."

Log created by Alma, and last modified on 18:03:18 09/18/2006.