Neo League 465 - #470: Rugal vs Kurow

Description: Revisiting the locale where the two first fought, Rugal and Kurow battle it out amid flames, waves, storms, a collapsing pier, and a fierce gale. Styles are shared, techniques explored, news revealed, and judgements rendered. To the remote audience it was the fight of a veteran against the a young prodigy. To the two combatants, it was a clash of mentor and student, an evaluation of progress on both their part. And while Kurow doesn't come out the victor, his improvement since last their last fight is undeniable. (Winner: Rugal)

In the aftermath of the war in Thailand there were a number of left over, ruined locations that served no useful purpose whatsoever. Shattered outposts, sabatoged radio towers left smouldering, caved in bunkers... With all the rebuilding that has had to be done in the cities, there's been no time to even get to attending many of the more outlying areas yet.

Leave it to creative fight coordinators to figure out something to do with the locations left derelict by the war now over. The time is late afternoon though the nearly black clouds overhead make it hard to tell, casting a darkness that one would almost associate with nightfall. The sight is one of the battlegrounds of the war, situated right off the shore. A grey mist, mingled with smoke of burning wreckage blankets the area. A half-sunken, ruined husk of a tank protrudes from the crashing waves, leaking oil that continues to slowly burn over the surface of the water, putting up black smoke to add to the mist and clouds. The orange flames cast flickering, dancing lights over what remains of a wooden dock jutting out into the ocean.

The wind out here is intense, indicitive of the fury contained by the storm clouds overhead. The air is warm, humid, and doesn't feel quite right as the pressure drops rapidly. None of this seems to phase Rugal Bernstein in the slightest. The tyrant of 'R' waits on the wooden, partially damaged dock, dressed in his signiture red suit. Normally the colors are brighter, but in the darkness it takes on a hue closer to that of dried blood. The wind that blows inland ruffles his coat and blond hair, causing the ends of the thin, black scarf that hangs open around his neck to dance in the air in front of him as if some living creature struggling to break free. One glove-clad hand is in his pants pocket while his other holds a small, golden pocket watch, the lid clicked open, the man's eye watching the minute hand tick by as the moment of the match approaches.

The trees along the shore are resilient, having weathered many a storm, but even they are slightly bowed due to the intensity of the slowly building gale. The burning oil spill is spread further, however, driven by the movement of the water. Depending on the whims of the currents, it could very well set this old dock ablaze.

Kirishima was surprised to hear a summons for a battle so soon after his brutal beating at the hands of Ryuji Yamazaki, but when he found out just who the summons was from, he summoned every last ounce of strength in his body to bring himself out here, to the ruined nation of Thailand, for this battle. To him, though, this is as much a training session as a fight; he remembers the first night he trained with Rugal Bernstein, and he remembers the promise that they exchanged. Every time they fight, from there on, they'd have to bring something new to the table.

Kirishima certainly has a wealth of tactics to draw on if what he's seeking is something new. The high schools of Southtown are a perfect breeding ground for new styles, new methods of attack -- if someone's going to pick up a new trick, starting there certainly wouldn't be the worst possible idea. Curiously, the youth carries a weapon with him -- one that is not his claws. At his side hangs, of all things, a sword... he may not even use it, but if there's one technique he thinks he should demonstrate for Rugal /eventually/, it's that of Hyo Imawano. After all... he may need to talk to Rugal about something /else/ of the Imawano scion's.

The youth looks around the desolate, wrecked shore of Thailand, and thinks, for only the shortest moment, about just how much was wasted here. He has no moral qualms with how Vega handled the nation... but he has numerous tactical ones, and the sheer amount of ruin for something so transient is disgusting. Any important battle, after all, should be wasteless.

The youth, not making the mistake he did earlier today, is already out of his typical, restrictive Justice High uniform, having replaced it with his more combat-worthy alteration on the way to the match. "It's been some time," he says, giving Bernstein a small, knowing smile. "This isn't far from where we met."

"Very astute observation," comes Bernstein's reply. The wind blowing through the trees and the roar of the waves crashing against the shoreline more than conceal the nature of their conversation from the recording and filming devices set up throughout the area. But for the two men standing on the rickety old dock that looks like it might not last through this fight, let alone through the incoming storm, their words are spoken loud enough for each other to hear. "Precisely three point fifty-seven kilometers from here, to be exact." How the man knows the distance down to such a finite value is anyone's guess, but there isn't a lot that slips by his attention to detail. "We've both come a long way since then."

The hand in his pocket slips out into the open, coming up to rub across his moustached lip with a contemplative look in his eye. "You have been busy lately. Your appearances in Howard's league get quite the buzz going, and now the Neo League as well? You have done well to situate yourself as a public figure in the minds of those who follow such things. Building up the hype, using the tools the public is so eager to give you to get the time to speak out whenever you want... Perhaps this match today will serve to further enhance your progress in such... ambitions." The tone of his voice is approving, encouraging. While he may not know exactly why Kirishima pursues such things, that they happen to coincide with his own long range plans is... fortuitous.

The pocketwatch is glanced at again. The cameras are being handled remotely, so there are no officals out here to officiate the match. No audience nearby at risk of being exposed to the kind of power that is likely to be thrown about now. "The match begins in sixty seconds," Bernstein states with finality, clicking the pocketwatch lid shut and sliding it into an inner coat pocket. "I trust your preparations are completed."

He almost seems to smile as he continues, his voice demanding yet not disapproving, "Let us see what techniques you have to show since our last time spent training. I assure you that I will not be holding back." Bringing his hands together, knuckles are popped ominously, the sound loud enough to be heard even against the water splashing up onto the dock as a particularly large wave crashes into it, leaving a layer of frothy foam as the only evidences of its transient existence.

COMBATSYS: Rugal has started a fight here.

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Rugal            0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Rugal takes no action.

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Rugal            0/-------/-------|

"A long way indeed," Kurow Kirishima replies, addressing that comment first; what he doesn't let slip, of course, is that he feels he's been coming much farther, much faster, than the man he's decided to train under. Perhaps there's a grain of truth to that, too -- after all, youth offers one limitless growth potential that age does not... on the other hand, it certainly can't be said that there's a man more dedicated to learning new tricks, at any age, than Rugal Bernstein.

"And -- I admit, having such status publically is something of a double-edged sword," he adds, in the last few seconds before the fight. "Though I must say, it's quite the way of getting certain other fighters to sit up and listen." The countdown in his head to the fight's opening ticks down its last few seconds. This is quite the tall order -- Kurow is almost sure he won't find victory tonight... but he might get closer.

"I trust you saw the match I had with Rock," he says, just as the match finally begins. He wastes no time in moving to catch Rugal, leaping forward and into the air. When he reaches the apex of his jump, he swings his foot up, doing a split-second calculation in his head before aiming it down like a forceful axe into the face of Rugal Bernstein. Nothing new... not yet, anyway -- just raw force, which may come as something of a surprise from Kurow. He's not in his usual stance, or even anything near it -- and even from this one strike, it's obvious he's sacrificing a little speed for brute strength.

COMBATSYS: Kurow has joined the fight here.

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Rugal            0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0            Kurow

COMBATSYS: Rugal fails to interrupt Flying Kick from Kurow with Medium Kick.

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Rugal            0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0            Kurow

"The public loves a good rivalry." Bernstein replies to the comment about Rock. Apparently he has picked up on the interaction between the two. "You handled Howard's son admireably. It would seem his training isn't progressing as rapidly as many thought it would." Rugal chuckles faintly at that. If Rock thinks to take on fighting legends of the world, he's going to need some more instruction than he's getting from the likes of Bogard.

When Kurow takes to the air, Rugal decides to test out something just recently observed. He's seen a varient of it from a famous Tae Kwon Do fighter from Korea recently, but this new version seemed even faster, coming out in an instant, catching even him off guard when it was executed by someone who actually managed to dominate him firmly in a match. A sudden crouch, leg muscles bracing, his back curling forward as his entire body seems to coil down like a spring ready to strike back when the moment is right.

And then he springs it, a take on the Flash Kick of Guile fame, attempting the American's crushing retaliation against the airborn attack, feet pushing off as Rugal flips up and backward into the air, the blank he was on shattering beneath the pressure, leaving a narrow opening in the dock. But his foot slices through the air right past Kurow, his aim not quite right, his practice with the stolen move not what it should be.

The mid-air collision knocks Rugal back down, but he recovers fine, feet landing with a meaty thwack some yards away, the ache of the attack that got through impossible to miss. Hmn, the move requires some refinement before he can put it to use against anyone of real talent, he muses. He'll shelve that technique for now.

That's a move Kurow recognizes -- he saw Guile snap several of them off immediately in his face out of nowhere back in Thailand, another fact which might well have played a role in the interplay of those particular techniques here. When Kurow lands, making the boards on the dock creak, he can't help himself from smiling -- it's rare that he pulls such a fast one on a man like Rugal, and he feels he has every right to be proud.

"It's strange," he notes, on the topic of Rock, "he always seems to know how to counter my clawfighting, for all he complains about weaponry. When I use something else, though, it's as though he simply can't focus." The youth again wonders about common ancestry between his fighting style and Rock's; the similarities between the Eye of the Dark Storm and the Raging Storm, right down to the name, are just too much to be a simple coincidence. "Breaking the ring with his body seemed to please the crowd, though."

Taking a few steps away from Rugal, Kurow decides to reconsider his offense a little before advaincing in again. While he can certainly catch Rugal by surprise /once/, trying to do it twice is just asking for trouble. "... And what about you, then?" he asks, as he studies Rugal. "Trouble with the American special forces? I'd know that kick anywhere."

COMBATSYS: Kurow focuses on his next action.

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Rugal            0/-------/-----==|=------\-------\0            Kurow

Standing still once more, the wind playing havoc with his coat, hair and scarf, Bernstein is listens and observes. The smile, faint as it may be, is noticed. A hint of pride at managing to get past Rugal's initial counter-strike. Well, it's good to have a moment to enjoy a moment's success. But how long will it carry him through this exchange?

"He thinks he has his father's adaptability and Mister Bogard's experience to know when to use it... But what I saw there suggested both fancies are hardly founded on reality. He has a long ways to go yet. But it will line him up to be the face to your heel, you realize. And that has its advantages." The tyrant of 'R' has spent enough time studying what makes the masses tick to predict what is likely to develop between the two young men - a rivalry that will only escalate their popularity, as ignorant fans cling to one or the other with their adoration...

As to the question about special forces, there's a grunt. The previous night's fight was a rather dark hour for the man who was convinced, prior to that moment, that there existed so very few who could so thoroughly best him as Guile had. "Trouble... I suppose. A soldier's soldier, he fought with careless impertinence coupled with timing enabled by having no clue what he was up against. I have never seen such ignorance propel a man through unlikely odds before." His tone is full of disdain. Far from respecting the American warrior who bested him, Bernstein is convinced something else had to have contributed to his inability to take the man down. Only a madman would punch straight into the face of impending death with /zero/ regard for self-preservation after all... And reading the clearly insane can be so incredibly difficult.

As Kurow falls back and holds his ground, Rugal wastes no such time after having had his say, going back on the offense, charging forward, his long stride easily taking him over the missing plank that had crashed into the water from his previous leap. There is a moment where it seems his attack is imminent - a swift left punch, flying in straight, followed by a further reaching, damaging right fist. The first a tap meant to stagger the boy, the second a crushing blow, aimed wide to smack him even if he manages to slip by the first, as Rugal takes on something resembling a boxer's stance.

COMBATSYS: Kurow interrupts Medium Punch from Rugal with Yasha Guruma.

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Rugal            0/-------/--=====|====---\-------\0            Kurow

The use of pro wrestling terms frustrates Kurow a small amount, but then, the real reason he loathes the 'sport' so doesn't enter in, so he manages to shove it down. Unlike that abortion, these fights are real. There's no 'selling' between fighters, no cooperation, no predetermined ending to the story. Unlike those men, real fighters must rely on only the strength within them to find that ultimate end -- just as in 'real life.' Despite what he heard about Robert saying as he played with his phone on the way here, for all the Kyokugen man's complaining, this is not even close to being the slap in the face that Kurow perceives wrestling to be.

"Rock seems to be very... adaptable in that regard," Kurow notes. "He plays the role the situation demands of him -- hero, thug... in a way, it's admirable." Perhaps that's part of what Kurow likes, in some strange way, about his opponent -- despite all their differences, he can see slivers of himself in the other young man. "I suppose it's what gives him so many fans -- it certainly can't be his skill."

Then the topic shifts to Guile, and Kurow replies, "That's the strength of cannon fodder -- winning through blind luck and irrational willingness to endanger oneself." He thinks back to a conversation he had with his sister months ago on the same topic; it's good to see that Kurow's trainer shares his loathing for those who get by on sheer bloody-minded stupidity.

When Rugal comes in with those punches, Kurow can see instantly what's coming -- he's going to unbalance him with the first hit, then destroy him with the second. It'd be a good idea... if Kirishima didn't know exactly how /Rugal/ would deal with such a technique. He swings a leg forward to meet the punch, bruising his own leg somewhat, and then rolls forward; it seems that even from this stance, some of Kurow's Imawano-ryu tactics still carry through, as he rolls forward through the air at Rugal, keeping the whirling momentum of the kick. His body is enveloped in that usual black ball of chi, and he starts to cleave through Rugal's defenses with wave after wave of cutting white energy swirling around the ball. Needless to say, Rugal may not be able to worry about trying a second hit, for the moment.

The chi imbued attack cleaves through Rugal's lack of defenses, having left himself open with the more aggressive attack launched Kurow's way. Even as the young man reacts aggressively rather than evasively, Bernstein's right arm adjusts swiftly, moving in to intersect Kirishima's retaliation with what he believed to be sufficient force to deal with his attack decisively.

The amount of power the black chi Kurow mastered for this attack spikes to a level just beyond what Bernstein had calculated it would, however, and rather than the sound of Kurow being stopped by the collision with his fist, there is the rending of cloth and flesh to fill in with the rushing wind.

The attack doesn't quite fell the man by itself as Rugal staggers backward, keeping his footing and the presence of mind to actually take a long stride back over the missing plank before coming to a stop. The dock begins to creak, old, rotted boards straining to hold to gether as the tempest picks up in strength.

The boy has changed his tactics and it isn't merely because of the stance. He is striking back rather than being evasive, showing no fear of the pain that a single error could cause and going for the decisive counter attack at just the right moment in spite the possible risks... Heh. He's fighting just like Bernstein told him to, punishing even his instructor for making the assumptions about how he would behave when under attack. He's learning fast... faster than Rugal had even expected.

"Compared to you, Howard's boy is nothing," Rugal asserts, his voice leaving no room for argument - not that he'd likely get one from Kurow. "As for Guile... I'll see to him another time. His luck cannot carry him indefinitly. But he does perhaps deserve special recognition in light of his success." The thoughts of a nice, shiney, bronzed Guile have appealed to the man since their match in Russia.

A hand comes up to brush absently at the tatered white shirt, streaks of red already beginning to soak through. No matter... the wounds will close. Perhaps before this match has even come to completion. The board beneath the man suddenly gives way, though even as it does, Rugal has already taken to the air into a higher jump this time than the ill-fated flash kick earlier, only to enter a single spin, his right leg slaming out hard toward Kurow's torso at a sideways angle that just might knock him clean off the dock if it connects - simple, strong, a pure move delivered with specific intent.

COMBATSYS: Kurow dodges Rugal's Medium Kick.

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Rugal            0/-------/--=====|====---\-------\0            Kurow

Even with his tactics changed the way they are, Kurow still has just a hair more agility than Rugal, and he uses every bit of it to the fullest advantage here tonight -- when Rugal goes for a hard sideways spin-kick, Kirishima tries something unorthodox. If he's focused on knocking Kirishima /off/ the dock, starting from the air, the attack is going to land high. Kirishima leaps backward and down, /off/ the dock, grabbing onto its edge; in a single quick motion, he swings around underneath it and puts himself right back where he started a second later, out of the way of Rugal's attack entirely.

Even Kurow himself doesn't know what he's tapping into here -- the last time he fought Rugal, truly /fought/ him, the powerful German tore him apart. To be doing as well as he is... it /must/ be a sign of skill rather than luck, he tells himself. And the fact that both fighters are going into the brawl somewhat fatigued from the day's earlier battles certainly can't be factoring in in the least.

"We all have our vendettas, I suppose," Kurow says, on the topic of Guile. "I had an... altercation with Ryuji Yamazaki over some perceived slight only a few hours ago." There, of course, Kurow can pinpoint everything he did wrong -- and the one thing he did right, which Rugal has just found himself on the receiving end of. "He seems shockingly worked up at the moment. Perhaps losing that 'shiny belt' is bothering him more than he lets on."

That's all Kurow has to say about the pair's less-than-stellar moments earlier in the day, though; when battling, it is best to focus on the task at hand, which is precisely what Kurow does. Kirishima is starting to wonder if he'll /ever/ be able to surprise someone with as vast an array of techniques as Rugal with something new... but then, it might be better to try to surprise him by using things he wouldn't expect /from Kurow/. This is his logic in trying a move he recalls dimly from his training in Imawano-ryu but never really paid much attention to.

With a quick forward dash, a leap, and a turn in midair, Kurow tries to grab Bernstein by the head and then simply let gravity take the pair, slamming Bernstein's body into the dock and his head into both Kurow's shoulder and the rickety wood, possibly even sending the pair down through the construction. The move is really designed more for fighters like Raizo than like Kurow, but it /was/ covered in training -- he has at least a modest amount of skill with it, if not nearly as much as the elder Imawano clawfighter.

COMBATSYS: Rugal blocks Kurow's Strong Throw.

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Rugal            0/-------/-======|===----\-------\0            Kurow

Bernstein's feet collide with the wood that creaks and strains beneath his leather soled black shoes. Kurow avoided the attack like a veritable ninja, using the actual fighting stage itself as a means of escape, only to come up on the other side. "Heh," the man grunts, turning around to face the boy as he mentions tangling with Geese's hired man. "That a brute criminal thug like him is even involved in the competative fighting arena suggests that he's merely a pawn of Howard's to drum up excitement over the that title. Chances are, he doesn't even know he's being used..."

Kurow's return to action is just in time, because it begins to seem that Rugal was about to do the same, the two stepping forward in the same instant. The leap through the air is watched with measured compsure though the man does nothing to stop him from grabbing hold of his head. But Rugal's feet hold firm, his back bending only slightly, his fists clenching as he counters Kurow's momentum with powerful muscles in his torso.

This perhaps just gives Rugal a chance to exercise a far more simple attack than some of his earlier maneuvers, gloved hands lifting up to try and snatch Kurow right out of the air before he realizes his attack has failed to topple the tyrant. If he gets that grip, the two are going for a little ride as Bernstein leaps into the air, holding the high school student over his head, before slamming him down toward rapidly deteriorating surface of the rotting dock, putting distance between them.

Another wave crests the platform, bringing with it some of the slick oil that resting atop its surface. The flames from the smoldering tank have spread over more of the surface of the water, making the dock seem almost to extend out into a river of fire than a storm churned ocean.

COMBATSYS: Kurow interrupts Quick Throw from Rugal with Fierce Punch.

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Rugal            1/------=/=======|===----\-------\0            Kurow

As Kurow spends the briefest of moments considering his options, he finds himself lifted up into the air by Rugal, feeling the power that the mighty man wields almost immediately as his bones start to grind a little. He only has a split second to rethink his entire strategy, but a little light goes on in his head and he decides to go for the risky maneuver.

Kirishima lets the man pick him up and start pulling him into the air, taking a deep breath and bracing himself; the second he feels Rugal start to let go, he goes for the weapon that he wasn't sure he'd even use in this battle but felt the need to bring just in case the opportunity came. Lashing out with the blade, he gives it a hard downward slash at Rugal the second he's let go of, using it to drastically slow his downward momentum and also give Rugal a vicious slash down the middle. It's not as powerful as Hyo's downward stab... but it does precisely what Kurow needs it to.

"I couldn't help but notice your impressive collection of artifacts," Kurow notes, changing the topic as he lands back on the dock; he takes a step back as a plank, having caught ablaze from the burning water, gives out beneath his feet mere seconds after he touches down. "There is a blade I have seen used against me before, possessed by one of the Imawano twins... it is his ancestors' blade, and possessed of some strange, dark power." With a quick flourish with his own sword before putting it away, he says, "This one is merely a copy."

The vicious slash does precisely what it needed to do, sparing Kurow much of the slam intended while also dishing out some punishment for his powerful opponent. He might notice that for all its viciousness, it doesn't seem to have phased his opponent too terribly much either. But against a man like Rugal, it's going to take a lot of individual attacks building up over the course of the fight to wear him down anyway.

The taller fighter lands, his back toward the shore, his body a silhouette against the flames that wreath the dock now, fire dancing around the now burning pillers that support the soon to be wrecked platform while lightning crashes over head, briefly illuminating the area with a ghostly white before all fades back to black.

"A generational heirloom, you say," the intrigue would be impossible to miss. Kurow Kirishima just happened to touch upon one of the very few non-combat areas of interest the crimelord would be curious about. "Tell me more of this power," the demand comes, Rugal standing up straight even as blood from the slash rendered streaks over his tattered white shirt.

COMBATSYS: Rugal focuses on his next action.

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Rugal            1/------=/=======|===----\-------\0            Kurow

The fight seems to be 'on hold' for the briefest of moments; perhaps Kurow needs time to reevaluate his tactics, in light of Rugal's immense endurance. Perhaps the discussion of that family heirloom is more important. Whatever the reason, Rugal gets the time to reevaluate his tactics and study both Kurow and the area

The youth, facing the shore (and Rugal), tries to shut out all distractions as he speaks. There is no flame, no lightning -- there is only Kurow, Rugal, the words between them, and the dock beneath them. To factor anything else in, in this moment, is the surest of all paths to failure. "It's something... very cruel, if power can be considered cruel," Kurow says, "and very old. It's not like Raizo's... the only other men I've felt such a power from are myself and..."

The words don't even need to be spoken. Rugal knows enough about Kurow, at this point, to make the obvious assumption -- Mugen Imawano, Hyo's father and Kurow's first master. "I don't know more than that." With the explanation concluded, Kurow finally decides to break the tension of the fight, leaping forward and making it seem as though he's going for a hard strike right at Rugal's chest... but there's something curious in the way he moves -- his upper body is just a /little/ too far back for that...

... because when he gets too close for Rugal to reevaluate his tactics suddenly (by his own estimations, at least), he tries to hook a leg underneath Rugal's leg and then simply shove him downward, sending him tumbling to the docks. Almost everything about this fight is different from Kurow's conventional tactics, as Rugal is probably noticing by this point; it's all so... straightforward. (Perhaps that's the youth's entire plan -- keep surprising Bernstein with things that from anyone else would be unsurprising.)

COMBATSYS: Rugal counters Quick Throw from Kurow with Scorpion Blow.

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Rugal            1/------=/=======|======-\-------\0            Kurow

Kurow's description of the artifact in the possession of one of the Imawano boys certainly seems to capture the rapt attention of the tall fighter, though that isn't all he is paying attention to. His mind is begining to expand upon the ways Kurow is fighting, calculating the various styles he is rapidly incorporating into his responses against the most renown mimic in the world.

He isn't bearing just Imawano-ryu, but rather bits and pieces from styles from styles all around the world. It's like fighting a younger version of himself. Cocky, confident, certain that anything anyone else could do, he could do better. He was eager to rub it in people's faces. Take their signiture techniques and punish them with them. It was all part of that most dangerous game to him. That cruel, malicious desire to crush the morale of his opponent with his own power.

And now Kurow is demonstrating that same ability. That lighting fast flexability in selecting just the right technique to deal with the ebb and flow of the battle between them. In time he will only get better, more powerful. Bernstein's inhuman eye flares red as Kurow leaps, capturing in an instant the nuances of his trajectory, the adjustments he is making in order to try and catch Bernstein off guard. The amount of force he is using in his strike... no, too weak to be a strike. A feint.

That snap judgement is all it takes for Rugal to put a stop to the leap, right hand snaking out with inertia-stopping force as it grabs hold of the boy by the neck. In the past he has often used such a tight grip in order to express some thought or other to his opponent. But right now all he does is turn around, slamming Kurow down to the dock on his back. The wood groans, straining to keep the two of them up against the pressure. But all hope of that is put to rest when Bernstein's left arm slams down to smash against Kurow's chest with more than enough force to completely shatter them both down through the dock toward the knee-deep frothing water below. The pillers burn and down at the far end of the pier, a large section of it collapses, sending cinders into the air.

And finally, Kurow Kirishima gets a good, solid dose of humility from the man he's training under. When Kirishima's caught by the neck, his eyes widen and he instantly starts to realize the folly in trying to pull a fast one on Rugal Bernstein -- he really shouldn't have done that, and he knows it in that moment of intense, raw pain from Bernstein's forceful slam. There is only one thing he thinks his opponent could have done better.

Now that the youth is in the water, he thinks, he has numerous advantages Rugal does not -- less water resistance due to his smaller frame. In turn, more speed and perhaps even a little bonus striking power with his legs, albeit mitigated by the fact that Rugal just puts out more raw force with every strike. Still, terrain games are one of Kirishima's stronger points -- perhaps, he thinks, this is where he'll take the fight back, in spite of that scrutinizing red eye, in spite of the German's raw power, in spite of whatever experience Rugal has.

Perhaps it's madness that prompts the younger man to try another tactic that is likely to get him thrown into the proverbial meat grinder a second time. It might just be guts and self-assuredness. Whatever the case, Kirishima tries a technique he remembers Daigo using on him in a fight in Gedo's courtyard so many months ago -- back before Thailand, before Shadaloo's fall. Before the game changed completely.

Coming up out of the water, Kurow tries to catch one of Rugal's legs with his own and wrap his arms under the German's, and then start rolling forward along the ground, grinding Bernstein into the fallen debris and eventually launching him toward the place where the flames burn hottest. Like Rugal, he doesn't bother with words anymore. He just keeps moving forward, trying to secure his victory.

COMBATSYS: Rugal counters Medium Throw from Kurow with Genocide Cutter EX.

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Rugal            0/-------/-======|=======\==-----\1            Kurow

The new environment presents a change in the nature of the battle. Up top it was about taking to the air, avoiding the collapsing foundation of the very platform upon which they fought. But down here, beneath the dock, the ground is soft, the knee-deep water rising and falling with the swelling waves coming in from further out. Overhead, the wood is being rapidly consumed by the hungry flames and all around them the pillers burn, their surfaces splintering from the heat. Bernstein's pants and the bottom of his coat are already soaking in the water - a change in resistence that he will have to compensate for. Not to mention the way his shoes sink into the sand...

Once again Kurow tests his speed and ability to move so very fast in spite the rapidly changing circumstances. But while Kurow may have years of experience battling in a number of different locations, Bernstein has decades. Perhaps he's fought his way through such a confluence of water, sand, flame, and wind before and by drawing upon that time he is able to handle it flawlessly.

In that instant, Kurow is given another chance to see that infamous move in action. The one he has slowly been learning, integrating by degrees into his own attacks. Bernstein's own creation - a deadly combination of brutal force, piercing, lashing, razor-sharp trails of chi, and defense all brought to bear in an instant. "Genocide-" The word comes as a growl as Rugal's left leg comes up out of the water, a red blade-like blur that knocks the Justice High student to the side in order to prevent any further progress...

The right leg comes next, sweeping up in a circular arch, driving Kurow into the air, "CUTTER!" The dread move carries them both into the air where Bernstein lands one final strike with the left leg again, this one a straight shot to the stomach as he drives Kirishima sideways, directly toward the flaming wreckage.

For Rugal, it's a controlled drop back down to the water where he lands with a splash. For Kurow, it's a life-threatening moment, where something far more than a Neo League victory may hang in the balance. Just how far is the tyrant of 'R' willing to go?

Experience wins out over specific training, and Kurow takes the series of kicks in the chest. Perhaps the most agonizing part of the entire debacle, as each successive kick of the Genocide Cutter plows into his body, is that he can tell exactly, right down to the portion of a bone, where the force from each crushing strike is going. He instantaneously knows which parts of him are shattering, which parts of him wouldn't have were it not for his earlier battle with Yamazaki... and a little knowledge is a painful thing.

Kirishima slams down into the water, sending a fine mist in all directions, clutching his side. He tries to focus through the haze of pain that's starting to pervade every maneuver he tries, but it's just no use -- Rugal has him, pure and simple. Still, there's one thing he has yet to try -- something else he met in Thailand. Here, he'll need to have a lot of raw tenacity simply to survive... and he remembers such tenacity best from a certain American who just wouldn't quit.

Kurow starts to crawl toward Rugal, obviously seriously wounded. Perhaps he means to tap out on Bernstein's leg and signify an end to the fight that way. The desperate look on his face certainly wouldn't make that a difficult conclusion to draw. It also wouldn't actually make it a /correct/ conclusion to draw, though, and as Kurow springs up, he tries something unorthodox: snagging Rugal's leg with both hands on the way up... but for what?

COMBATSYS: Rugal blocks Kurow's Ankoku Nage.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////                   ]
Rugal            0/-------/=======|=------\-------\0            Kurow

What /would/ have happened, of course, is Haggar's Giant Swing -- a vicious whirling throw that could send even the likes of Rugal Bernstein flying away.

Kurow's early strikes dealt a respectable amount of damage against the tyrant of 'R', but the suited, bleeding, scratched, cut, bashed, kicked man continues to fight. Not only that, but it seems his strength is slowly coming back. Is it inhuman regeneration? A body honed through constant abuse to just keep taking anything others can dish out? Is it just iron will, a refusal to give in? Or is it all a show? Maybe he hasn't been that hurt bad and the attacks have not quite done as much as one might expect, contrary to how he behaved?

Kurow would know. Would know of Bernstein's strength. He would know just how hard his attacks landed and what effect they had. But the cameras? They will probably never know. As Kirishima makes a desperate attack to recover from the vicious signiture attack, developed and perfected over decades of fighting, his arms manage to get a tight grip on the man, and it even seems that he may be able to carry out the attack, demonstrating that tenacity to deliver unorthodox techniques... just as Bernstein had taught him with the Kaiser Suplex.

But while Rugal does stumble and just about fall backward, his arm reaches out to the side, a knucked fist slamming directly through the burning post, wedging his arm in tightly and preventing Kurow from budging him even another inch as arm and torso strength combat the ninja's attempt to move him.

The splintered piller cracks in half as Rugal pulls his arm from it, sending soot and smoke into the air around them. As for his attack? A raised foot, water pouring from off his shoe... and a swift stomp directed at the young man in the shallows, intending to finish him where he crawls.

COMBATSYS: Kurow fails to interrupt Light Kick from Rugal with Random Weapon.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Rugal            1/-------/=======|===----\-------\0            Kurow

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Rugal            1/-------/=======|===----\-------\0            Kurow

When Rugal puts his hand through the post, Kurow thinks he sees an opportunity that he's almost /sure/ he wouldn't see if he were sticking to his usual evasive tactics. Maybe if he snags that post, if he just rips it up and catches Rugal's hand with it, he can throw the entire attack off ba --

Nope. That was a terrible idea, Kurow finds out, as Rugal's quick kick stomps him down into the ground again. Things are looking a little more like what Kurow expected now, which isn't necessarily a /good/ thing by any stretch of the imagination -- at least not for him. But he's starting to find that he's just outclassed. Even if he is, in many ways, the next Rugal Bernstein -- and he can /tell/ it from the way both of them have been moving -- he's just that: the /next/ Rugal Bernstein. He's got an awfully long way to go, a fact which he has plenty of time to ponder from his vantage point down in the dirt.

By this point, the fight is already over and Kirishima knows it. His only option, then, is to try to drag Rugal down /with/ him rather than fall on his own.

The thing is, even as he stomps the boy back down, Rugal can tell what he was trying to do. And in truth? There's just a small flicker of pride to see Kurow go for something so bold. If it had worked, it still probably would have done little to turn the fight around in his favor. But it certainly would've left a literal impression on the crimelord.

The loss of the piller is more than the beleagured dock can take, however. Coupled with the damage caused by the fight and the other structural destruction from the flames and strong gale, that's the last leg it had to stand on. There is a reveberating shudder along the length of what is still standing... and then it all comes pouring down around the two fighters. Beams, splinters, sparks, coals, landing in the water, sending up a thick cloud of steam and smoke as the fire is choked out upon splashing beneath the waves.

"You fought well," comes the succinct analysis of Kurow's abilities. A glove covered hand reaches down, intending to pick the boy up by the front of his attire and heft him up before him with a powerful left arm. "You have been learning. Integrating not just techniques, but /knowledge/. And you use it well. There is no shame in this defeat." He was just fighting a nearly impossible, uphill battle against the man who has been teaching him thus far. And the final lesson comes, a single swift punch with his right, aimed for the side of Kurow's head, intended to put the boy out cold while his hand never relinquishes that hold upon his shirt.

COMBATSYS: Rugal successfully hits Kurow with Jab Punch.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Rugal            1/-------/=======|====---\-------\0            Kurow

Kurow tries. Oh, does he try -- but it just isn't enough. Even as he tries to twist his way out of Rugal's grasp, the combination of a rapidly, continuously changing environment thanks to that crumbling bridge and an outright faster fighter catches him. The punch lands right on Kurow's temple, a massive shock to his nerve centers in spite of its relative weakness. His body spasms for a moment, and someone like Rugal can easily tell that Kurow isn't going to be able to pull off much more of this.

... but he /can/ certainly try, as he told himself he would, to go for that last Pyrrhic shot, that single blow that won't win him a fight but might cement the idea of a battle well fought in Rugal's head. "Fought? I'm... still..." he starts, gritting his teeth as he slowly brings his hands out to catch Rugal's arm, "... /going/..."

The youth can feel his legs going. The second he hits the ground, it's over for him -- they're going to give out. He can tell that much. So why not try to use that downward momentum for all it's worth? Tightening his grip on Rugal's arm as much as he can, the youth tries nothing more complex than a hard reversal, taking that arm and using it to pull Rugal in, slam him into the ground in a forceful (if highly sloppy) whirling piledriver, and ...

... nothing. After that, Kurow just can't do anything, especially not if Rugal tries to strike the piledriver down with something of his own. The ninja is just out of gas.

COMBATSYS: Kurow can no longer fight.

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

COMBATSYS: Rugal fails to counter Izuna Drop from Kurow with Medium Punch.

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

"Hm?" comes the questioning grunt in reply, as if the man is not convinced that the boy is even speaking with his conscious mind. How can he at this point? That punch was aimed to finish him with exacting pressure, taking into precise account all the damages he had been put through. All the attacks that landed, all the effort he put forth. All the battle injuries he started the fight with. Rugal discerned them all, and so very much intended that final blow of his to do all that was needed.

But Kurow has another metric by which he powers himself. A will, tough as iron, much like Bernstein's, that drives him beyond what his physical limitations would suggest. That is the mistake Rugal made. The error in calibrating that attack. His eye showed him all but /that/. Only a human eye can perceive that detail, as Kurow struggles to move and deliver one last attack.

Pulling his right hand back again with a shake of his head, the crimelord swings forward, intending to drive it into Kurow's stomach, knocking the wind out of him, ending even his ability to /speak/ at this point. But feeding him that arm just lets Kurow do what he wanted in the first place, pulling even Rugal clean off his feet into a piledriver into the shallow water.

It isn't enough to take the tyrant down, as Rugal lashes out with his legs, getting back up, seawater pouring down off of him as he rises back up to his feet slowly, fists clenched as he draws back, body tensing to deliver a more decisive, finishing blow to put a stop to the struggling young man. But the fight is over. He can see that. His opponent lying in the mist-shrouded wake of an outgoing wave as choking smoke begins to get blown away by the wind.

At last the storm has landed and rain begins to fall, dousing out the flames of the wreckage, putting to rest the frenzied heat that filled this battle ground. His arms relaxing, hands unclenching, Bernstein lowers his head slightly. "You have my gratitude," comes the statement as he turns to walk toward the sandy shore. He would have knocked the boy out and tossed him there himself. But after the determination Kurow demonstrated, he can tell young Kirishima can fend for himself. It isn't his lot to drown in the shallow waves off the coast of Thailand. His destiny is far greater than that.

Saying Kirishima can fend for himself, in this instance, isn't saying much. Rugal had Kurow's number there, no question about it; the boy's /beat/, even if he isn't /unconscious/. Now that he isn't processing Rugal's mile-a-minute punches and fast, exacting counterstrikes constantly, the adrenaline rush is already beginning to wear off; it's all Kurow can do to pull himself out of the way of those slow, in-and-out waves, and keep himself from drowning.

He can't speak. He opens his mouth to say something to Bernstein's gratitude, but finds his body finally failing him. It just doesn't have any more to give; this becomes apparent as even the youth's attempts at dragging himself even farther from the water slow, and eventually cease altogether, leaving him just far enough to avoid any unfortunate accidents. Maybe it's the chemical fumes from all that burning oil that finally make him slip into unconsciousness; maybe Rugal really did get what he'd intended, just ten seconds too late. Whatever it is, Kurow Kirishima finds himself once again defeated by Rugal Bernstein in Thailand... but by a far closer margin than before.

Improvement, his unconscious mind tells him as rain falls on his unmoving body. It's good enough.

COMBATSYS: Rugal has ended the fight here.

Log created on 00:37:03 09/04/2007 by Rugal, and last modified on 06:34:04 09/06/2007.