Neo League 476 - #483: Hotaru vs Alma

Description: Siblings, if not by blood then by heart, face off against each other for the first time in well over a year. So much has changed since their last epic struggle that it may as well have been a life time ago. Fight after fight, the Psycho Power using Alma had always managed to stay one step ahead of the Kenpo artist. And while he has become more aware of his own abilities since then, Hotaru has gotten stronger, smarter, and faster as well. Their strength gives out at the same time in the end; a triumph shared by them both. ( Draw Match )

The sun shines high over legendary Mount Fuji, illuminating the crystal flow of the White Thread Waterfalls on its lower slopes. Thousands of small streams of water flowing from the mountaintop trickle their way down through hidden cracks and crevices and converge on this one spot, forming a landscape equal parts vibrant and tranquil. It is an awe-inspiring testament to the glory of nature and the mysterious power of natural beauty, besides being a fantatsic tourist spot.
Some might argue that it is a travesty to disturb this peaceful place, befouling its inherent sanctity with conflict or violence. But any place where vitality and serenity appear as perfectly synthesized -- mutually reinforcing, even -- is an ideal place to represent the spirits of the two young people that find themselves here. One in particular, a tall and stylishly clad blond young man, appears quite at home; standing by the lake where these many little waterfalls join together, he gazes out and considers both the evident aesthetic value and the possible metaphors to be derived, seemingly ignoring the camera crew quietly setting up a little ways away.
Every day is a beautiful day when you're Alma Towazu--
~ I feel like just another stream... ~
--but a setting like this still helps.
~ to find a kind of unity here. ~
The moments before battle are equally precious to those within it; they merely require a different eye of appreciation. Normally Alma is lost in his own world during that time, and perhaps it is for the best, for most of his opponents don't deserve the burden of his unique take on sincere self-expression. But his opponent today-- well, this has been a long time in coming.
Alma looks away from the lake and towards his opponent, wherever she might be standing, and smiles, reaching up to brush a stray lock of red-tinged blond hair away from his warm hazel eyes.
"...thanks for joining me."
He shares what he normally cannot through combat, forges connections sometimes even while his adversaries do not notice-- but here, that won't be necessary. The connection between them is too strong, too deep, for this to mean anything. And that in itself interests him.
He knows what it's like to fight a brother.
"I hope you won't go easy on me," he murmurs, smile growing.
What is it like to fight a sister?

He had teased her about wanting to have a match with her from nearly the day she came back to Southtown after just over a year spent away. And at long last, the promised duel fell due. A more fitting location the girl could not imagine than this verdant pool. From countless avenues water flows here, only to unite as one in the clear blue pool at their side. A

Some of the water takes to the air - a fine mist blowing past the fighters, borne by a cool breeze that comes down from the stalwart mountain above. So many paths, the girl muses, only to come together here. The sound of her name in Alma's voice provokes a glance his way. He might catch a glimpse of her reminiscence in those expressive, sapphire blue eyes. Their own lives had followed a number of threads, draped over contours too innumerable to account for. Yet here they stand together. Just like the pool brings together the rivulets from above, so too will it serve as the stage for the two youths.

The Futaba heiress can't help but contrast this occasion against the time her brother by birth came to see her in the church yard she maintains not long ago. The rejection, the apathy, the scorn from one she had expected nothing of the sort left scars she has kept hidden in her heart from all others since that fateful fight. How different that night was to this day. She had sought a brother for years only to lose him in the end. But it is only now that she looks at the contemplative young man at her side and realizes an important fact: she had been looking in the wrong place.

"Alma," she replies, her smile slow to form in the shadow of her thoughts, but pleasant once there. "You know better than to have any doubt." The smile becomes a grin as she shakes her head with a chiding tone, dismissing the darker thoughts from her mind. If Gato refuses to acknowledge his sibling, then at least there is one who will. And that's all she needs.

Her own clothing would hardly be a surprise. The pristine white blouse and trousers. The regal blue Chinese styled vest with an elaborate floral print in the fabric. Gold bands form the trim and buckle the vest closed at her neck while the entire outfit is offset by the vibrantly red ribbons holding in place the two pig-tails one would come to expect by now. On one of her poofy, white shoulders is a Scarlet Macaw with a plume of feathers on its head that nearly match the girl's ribbons. Why he decided to perch there might be anyone's guess, but Hotaru has already mentioned that his name is 'Yoshi,' and that he would probably be their only audience besides the camera crew at this remote location.

"Hopefully your work at Youth Center hasn't resulted in a decline of your ability," Hotaru adds, the sparkle in her eye suggesting that she very much expects that isn't the case in spite the verbal jab.

"I wonder."
This is in response to her last comment, of course; his eyes are already sparkling from his smiling response to her earlier chiding. Indeed, he does know better. But something about the light banter-- there's no need for meaningful words, for him to speak his feelings. Just maintaining that faint connection with a little back-and-forth is enough for him; it's like the tiny streams, converging one by one as they flow into the nearby lake. She'll understand. That effervescent feeling, the spiritual buoyancy of this moment.
"I guess we'll have to find out."
The lead cameraman announces that the cameras are rolling, but Alma does not seem to pay any heed. The tall young man continues to regard her, gentle-eyed, mildly smiling. His kindness shows, but not so much his wonderment-- yet that is what he's feeling most of all, right now. Never before, he thinks, has he so treasured the moments preceding a match. It's as though he doesn't want it to begin. Maybe if they could just stand here for a while longer, gazing into each others' eyes, stretching a second into eternity, only the water's flow and its constant soothing sound to mark the time...
But an essential part of the beauty of a great moment is in its passing.
Alma steps away from the water's edge, dark shoes brushing through mist-bedewed grass, dark blue designer jeans darkening slightly more as his legs gather some of the waterfall's produce. His white paisley-patterned overshirt is snug around his form and reveals how casually and naturally his torso moves and arms swing as he begins to circle towards a more open area on the grass, bordered at some distance by old logs bedecked with multicolored fungi and above the bright green leaves of the overhanging branches. His smile, his eyes do not change. He does not seem like one about to begin a battle.
But then, for Alma, conflict...
"It's time," he murmurs. just another form of cooperation.
Without his lips parting noticably or his expression changing, he takes a deep, silent breath of the fresh, revivifying air, taking the ambience into himself; breathing out, he projects his self into the area, preparing for the clash of souls.
"Are you ready?"
He stops his pacing, standing straight, limbs relaxed, body straight and tilted slightly to the side so that he looks at her sidelong; the gentleness of his features belies the intensity growing in his eyes. Not a gaze that one would need to avert one's eyes from, not a force that would dominate or overcome. It is a will that by the conditions of its existence must make itself known. It is a fire that cannot be quenched.
It is his self, and he is prepared to share it.
He takes no noticable action, but Hotaru will see what others cannot.

COMBATSYS: Alma has started a fight here.

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Alma             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Alma focuses on his next action.

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Alma             0/-------/-------|

The cameraman says it's time but neither seem to care. For the two combatants, 'It is time' is steeped with significance. It is time. Time for them to renew a ritual of bygone years. The cooperative struggle of two unique souls blended into one violent, beautiful dance for a precious, transient moment, before it ends and life goes on. Until the next such reunion for another match. In the past they have always gone his way. Hotaru could consider the pressure is on her to break that streak. Or maybe the pressure is on him to maintain it. More likely, it is infinitely irrelevant compared to the moments between now and when the match concludes.

Alma takes a step back toward the grass covered area and Hotaru turns to watch. Her left hand comes up, resting lightly against the top of the feathered head of the perched parrot. The girl looks to the side and leans her forehead close to the bird's and for an instant there is contact. Yoshi takes this as a signal to surrender his perch atop her shoulder, lifting off with a small flurry of wings before relocating to a nearby tree branch, leaving a small swirl of feathers around Hotaru that slowly drift to the side.

'It's time,' Alma says, and now Hotaru moves from the water's edge to claim a spot in the grass a little ways off from the young man.

She is silent to his inquiry at first. Crossing her arms in front of her, she inhales deeply before exhaling slowly. A centering technique. A small piece of Tai Chi that she has picked up in her sampling of so many martial arts in recent years. Those crossed arms are shifted, the girl turning such that her shoulder faces toward Alma as if to present a more narrow target to aim for. Her right arm is forward, lowered a little, positioned for defense. Her left arm bent at the elbow, raised up to the level of her head, prepared for striking.

"Nn," she finally answers his question. She is ready. For the cameramen the fight started well over a minute ago. For these two, the fight started years ago. And now it continues. "Life is strong here," she states. It isn't just an observation but also a warning - advising him that she might be able to strike harder with her chi based attacks than normally possible. Alma projects himself into the area. She can feel it. His presence. In contrast, she takes in from her surroundings, invigorated by the life around her.

The moist blades of grass that were bent beneath her feet spring back into place with their natural resilience, flinging beads of water a short distance into the air. Hotaru is no longer where she was an instant ago. A lifetime ago. The first strike comes from the girl, now directly in front of Alma, her blue-shoe clad foot whistling through the air from the ground up toward his chest. Her left foot is planted into the ground as she kicks from the limits of her reach, chancing a quick strike to knock his stance loose. "HA!" her cry punctuates the area, juxtaposed against the steady, soothing sounds of a thousand water falls.

COMBATSYS: Hotaru has joined the fight here.

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Hotaru           0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Alma

COMBATSYS: Hotaru successfully hits Alma with Light Kick.

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Hotaru           0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0             Alma

Alma steps forward.
From the perspective of the viewer -- who must have been either quite patient or intrigued to wait as the two opponents savored the moments before their battle -- it's as though the girl is attacking an unsuspecting bystander, the way he seems to walk into the attack. It doesn't appear as though he allowed her to hit him out of some mistaken sense of chivalry or pompous act of self-assurance. Though his features as ever only mildly express his feelings and even moreso now, only the faintest furrowing of his brow accompanying a quiet grunt as the kick impacts against his body, he seems to have honestly not seen the attack coming. As though he hadn't been looking.
The spirit of this place fills his very being, and...
He seems to fold in, lurching to the side and down.
...the fuel, the life of this place and the life within him, needs a spark.
A kick-start, if you will.
The first attack seems almost like an accident; the way his leg sweeps around as he apparently begins to fall is just too natural, but if she doesn't see it coming it will surely send her stumbling. Thrusting out with a palm to catch her in the midriff, Alma looks up, his eyes brightening. The aura of this place is too vibrant. It can obscure his real vision; distract his attention from the five senses others rely upon. But here she is, right in front of him, and in his mind's eye her aura fuses again with her form and he sees only the determination in those sapphire eyes... and it is echoed in his own.
His flowing moments become more rapid now, and as he moves a faint white haze follows him, distorting his already confusingly spontaneous moments. He continues with a series of kicks and low strikes, attempting to weave kind of spell around her with all the movements-- and if he can succeed, his final blow will be the telling one, where he pauses for a sudden moment, letting all the afterimages converge, and thrusts out with both palms with enough force to mostly likely take the petite girl off her feet.
As his gaze matches hers, so too does his cry.

COMBATSYS: Hotaru parries Alma's Autumn Rain!

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Hotaru           0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0             Alma

The first kick was a guarded one. A careful exchange of power for caution. A light, though still stern tap from her right foot to his chest. And then it begins. She hadn't planned on it. That split second, reactive hop off her left foot that takes her over his initial kick. But the girl is fast. Faster than he might remember. The palm strike is handled, out of necessity, differently, as Hotaru grabs hold of his passing wrist long enough to actually pull herself back to the ground faster; at ease in the air, but needing to touch the earth from time to time.

Her eyes break from his then, as she avoids the rest of the rapid kicks that follow, pushing her speed further to keep up. There is a surge at the same time. It would be easy to sense even if it weren't so plainly visible. A lively glow along her forearm as the girl multitasks just a little, stepping around the kicks while focusing on her own attack as well.

She can feel it then. The breath of life around them in this garden tended by the hand of no man. It's strong. She had warned as much. And for a brief moment she becomes its avatar, channeling that strength, allowing it to manifest itself in the palm of her hand. When both of his arms jut out, aiming to deliver an attack that might yet bear the kind of force necessary to knock her off her feet, Hotaru returns fire.

Leaning back to avoid the strike while simultaneously swinging her right arm forward, her palm cupped at first. Until her arm is nearly straight, at which time her fingers extend and the blast itself shoots forth. A brilliant flash of blue, its shade matching the deepest parts of the nearby pool, and then the attack itself - a large, pulsating sphere headed for Alma with so precious little space for him to react.

Perhaps he will remember the attack from before. A solid impact followed by a splash of chi before it dissipates and fades away, leaving no trace of its passing other than the impact of where it struck. Another exclaimation. Another shout. "YA!" His window of opporunity so very brief.

COMBATSYS: Alma blocks Hotaru's Hakki Shou EX.

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Hotaru           0/-------/-------|===----\-------\0             Alma

The grunt is one of decisiveness-- and approval.
Alma feels it too. Such is the nature of his fighting style and the manner in which he utilizes his Psycho Power; such is his unusual advantage, perhaps even more unusual than his abilities themselves. Psycho Power is said to be a power born of the self, but Alma's self is composite, formed in equal parts of his memories and passion, and the environment itself. Though he is not a chi-user, this mindset toward combat he possesses puts him in an oddly similar situation...
He reaches out to grasp the Hakki Shou as it comes, extinguishing it within his fingers, cradling the flare of light even though the foreign chi must burn; an unconventional block indeed. No emotion flickers onto his calm features; he looks down at the fading light with a gentle gaze.
It's a little piece of her heart...
She never used to be able to defend like that.
...he won't let it go to waste.
Though he's been put on the defensive by this turn of events, he seems to accept that, shifting his stance and letting his power flow through him. The young man's presence is undiminished; his being permeates the world around him. The spray of the miniature waterfalls fades into the placidity of the lake, and so too do the many influences on him, both outside and within, seem to combine into the mild and composed features he displays.
It may be a bit of a shock, then, to see, as he lifts his handsome chin again, that his eyes nearly glow with pink and purple flecks of rising power.
She's done well.
He doesn't need to say it.

COMBATSYS: Alma gathers his will.

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Hotaru           0/-------/-------|=======\-------\0             Alma

With his hand he brings the small projectile's path to an abrupt end. Normally seeing that attack that takes so much effort from her being squelched is a disheartening sight. But here, creating it was easy. And to see her brother handle it fine is accepted as just being how it is. That one he handled. Next time it may not go so well.

Hotaru regains her footing after that rapid exchange of attacks. The cameras may barely have a film speed fast enough to have fully captured the exchange that transpired in a blink. But now that Alma is backing off a little, the fight slows slightly, following the natural ebb and flow of any epic struggle. Hotaru catches her breath as well then, having had to hold it until that exchange completed.

Her eyes are back on Alma's. In the past she had always been blind to the power he draws upon. She could see it with her eyes but not truly /feel/ it. Not unless his attacks landed. But ever since their communion on the old church pew a month ago, she has started to notice it more and more. That presence of his. She can feel it build even before she meets his eyes and knows it for certain.

Half of her wants to hold back. Allow the fighter to build up his strength. Show her what he can do. The other half of her is reminded of her committment to not hold back. To give no quarter just because she is curious. He will probably see it early. The quirk of a smile as she keeps the pressure up, this time taking to the air.

Some fighters jump in order to build momentum. Others to avoid their opponent. Hotaru jumps to feel the freedom it offers. To move like a bird for an instant. To defy the law that says all people must stay grounded. Her arms are raised as she keeps her body vertical. Her right leg kicks down, heel first, as her foot attempts to find purchase upon the male model's shoulder. If she manages, she will use that moment to return to the air a second time - a forward flip as she takes herself away from Alma into the field behind him.

COMBATSYS: Alma interrupts Koushuu Da from Hotaru with Blaze of Glory EX.

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Hotaru           0/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0             Alma

Alma too seeks freedom.
And just as it is possible for laws to liberate instead of oppress, providing individual opportunity through social regulation, so too is it possible for the ties that bind one person to another to free them from their limited perspectives even if only for a moment-- occasioning a chance for personal growth. Duties like these may weigh heavily on some, but for Alma... passion and duty are inextricably linked. His passion fuels him onward; he must seize this moment to challenge and to strive. His responsibilities, born of his pursuit of that passion, provide him the opportunit; his responsibility to honor Hotaru's skill with his own, his determination to put himself forward with unstinting sincerity of purpose.
His reflexes are superb; his technique is eminently precise. But the preternatural way in which he seems to perceive and prepare for her movements, as though he senses her desire to fly before she even steps forward to take flight, is more than just physical ability, and saying he saw them through aura sense would just be to confuse what that 'second sight' really represents. The feeling is as visceral as it is visual.
He couldn't stop himself if he wanted to.
And he doesn't want to anyway.
He leaps. It's as though the residue from his initial combination remains; a faint afterimage as he takes a quick step back, seeming to leave a superficial shell behind as his eyes burn with deep-seated purpose. Straight into the air he goes in the blink of an eye, twisting to gather momentum, and she is stomping a little too far away, the afterimage in his old position fading just as her stomp brushes it-- and Alma spins around fully, revealing the bright flare of white pink-plumed soulfire he cradles in his arms, and sweeps his arms out in a primal offering, crashing the full weight of his self against her.
The girl is blown a bit higher into the air from the strike and it is here, seemingly frozen a couple yards above the ground, that the young warrior-model unleashes the full brunt of his infinite fury, his arms a blur as he jabs raw fire against her form again and again, making no physical contact and not needing to. His mind is no longer as foreign to her as it might be to another opponent, to be sure, but it frays her ability to distinguish between self and other as much as it would anyone, threatening to temporarily dissolve her ability to focus by collapsing her mental perspective on the world. The onslaught is finished in an instant, but who can count the blows? Not the viewers, at least; the next they will see is Alma closing his eyes and drawing his palms together on his chest as though in a religious trance, still somehow hovering in midair, and then with sudden savagery tear his arms apart and unleash one final fiery shockwave that will send his opponent tumbling back to earth.
He flips forward once gracefully, falling slower than she, and lands quietly on his feet.
Sighing with a quiet satisfaction that has nothing to do with success or victory, Alma lowers his gaze for a moment, though his posture remains as straight as ever. When he looks up again, his eyes smoulder with the embers of his spirit.
~ How glorious! ~

COMBATSYS: Hotaru has saved the state of this fight.

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Hotaru           0/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0             Alma

The risks of taking to the air is that it leaves open the chance that another might take that finely honed control of her ability to navigate the heavens away in an instant, and within that instant the Kenpo artist is helpless. She had taken into account that he might not be there when her foot came down. Such shifts in the field are easy to adjust for.

Having him take to the air - to enter her domain and challenge her for it head on was not what she expected. The blur of afterimages leaves her confused. How did he move so fast? What it is that her heel struck when he hovers before her in the air all the same? There is a split second attempt to react and as he turns she does likewise, tucking her legs up and twisting her torso to the side as if intending to barrel into him shoulder first. If he wants to take the high 'ground' from her, he'll have to fight for it.

But that quick correction does nothing to change the outcome when Alma unfolds his arms and unleashes his attack upon the girl, stopping Hotaru's trajectory short and even reversing it. Eyes widen, her breath released with a gasp. There is another attempt to correct - to defend herself, curling sideways as if to reduce the clean shots. But Alma strikes not with fists but with a power that cares not for the point of impact and the countless impacts that follow keep her suspended in place until the final shockwave that ends her sojourn through the skies and sends the girl crashing back to the ground.

By then there is no last ditch chance to recover and Hotaru lands hard in the grass, sliding a few yards before coming to a rest. There is a struggle then as she starts to prop herself back up, hands pressed into the moist fronds, her head shaking for a moment as she tries to clear her head. For a moment there's a conflict - a deterioration of focus that leaves her dazed. A fleeting moment of feeling lost.

At last she is back on her feet, however. A shake of her head, a recovery of her breath, the focus of her attention becomes once again Alma. She knows she can forgo any expectations that his abilities have atrophied during his busy time with managing the YFCC. That much is certain.

COMBATSYS: Hotaru focuses on her next action.

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Hotaru           0/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0             Alma

Alma takes a moment, as always, to revel in these sensations.
In person, his actions all seem smooth and natural; for those watching a recording, however, and able to maintain a more impersonal eye, one might criticize him for putting such dramatic posturing, as subtle as it is, ahead of merciless strategy. One would be misunderstanding Alma in two profound respects. First, of course, would be regarding his motivations for fighting: more than just seeking to put himself to his limits, he seeks to push his opponent to her limits as well, so that they might meet each other halfway in their straining and struggling and achieve the heights of glory that he knows can be found in the true clash of souls. In that sense, critiquing his strategy would only be evidence of the critic's shallow understanding of combat such as this. Yet even from a pragmatic perspective -- and this is the second point -- such moments of stillness in the midst of the chaos of battle are paramount to developing the dramatic atmosphere that, as Fei Long himself understood, is key to the art of Hiten Ryu.
Alma is fighting, even as he merely stands.
Far from being unconcerned, he watches her attentively as she begins to rise; having closed his eyes for a moment, palm resting peacefully on his chest, he steps forward and gazes again into her sapphire eyes. In battle, his usual mildness only makes him seem inscrutible. He exhibits none of the usual signs of violent intent-- up to the moment that he lunges.
Alma sweeps in and seems to lurge forward, then thrusts out with his knee, feinting a snap kick toward her abdomen. He only stomps down with it, though, aiming to suddenly bring himself into close quarters and attempting to unbalance her with a left-handed shove to her chest. This, successful or not, then becomes a left hook toward her head, opening up for his attack: a fierce right cross to her abdomen.

COMBATSYS: Hotaru interrupts Strong Punch from Alma with Tenshin Shou.

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Hotaru           1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\1             Alma

Back on her feet, Hotaru has time to get her senses back in order. The pain of Alma's attack was unlike anything she has had to cope with in a /fight/ in a long time. The pain of shifting perspectives. The absolute agony of truth. Other than the shockwave and the tumble to the ground, the physical impact on her body was not significant. But the ability to continue fighting - now that was hampered substantially.

She can come around, though, and by the time he is back on the offense, Hotaru is reacting preemptively, clearly fully aware of the battle, her mind getting back up to speed just in time... to not get out of the way. The feinted kick is all but ignored. Either she knew it was not delivered with the intent to strike, or she just didn't care - willing to take the hit in order to secure a strike in the midst of his attack.

Her arms extend out to her sides as she recoils, crouching up like a spring under pressure, her legs bending a little. The crouch gets her a left handed palm strike to the face, the one intended to shatter her balance and leave her open for the rest of the attack. She is almost not able to recover in time, precariously close to being hapless in the face of the rest of his strikes. But then, just as his hook comes, the girl lunges.

The spring sprung, she leaps into the air at a sharp angle. Her leg and torso strength lend themselves to the attack as she collides bodily with Alma, directly into his chest, at the same time his fist knocks her solidly in the head. It didn't go as smoothly as she had hoped, but her strike was delivered all the same. Knocked a little off course by his blow, the girl manages a shakey recovery at the apex of her leap into the air, before finally turning it into a smooth, graceful pirouettes back down to the ground. 'Huh,' she muses silently as she completes the turn. 'A rainbow in the mist.'

Her feet touch down and her arms lower from being held out like wings to rest against her sides. The moment to recover is extremely brief, however, as Hotaru immediately slips back into a ready stance. Her shoes, plenty dampened by the moisture in the grass slide out a little as she switches from being airborn to staying quite grounded. One with the earth for now, perhaps to stake out a new area to control.

As usual, Alma should be careful what he wishes for.
The two fighters collide powerfully and at first it's difficult to tell who came out the better, with Hotaru moving haphazardly through the air and Alma reeling from her unexpectedly prompt response. But as she begins to recover he begins to fall, and while the blue-haired girl is touching down the tall blond is twisting in an attempt to break his descent.
The blow was fierce enough to take his breath away, and though the sensation of his psychic strikes connection was a viscerally satisfying one, he is releasing that he cannot shrug off the girl's strikes the way he used to. Her technique is far superior to what he remembers, and he cannot help but be pleased. If only he had the wind in his lungs to express it.
Yet it takes more than breathlessness to wear at Alma's iron resolve, and he attacks immediately out of sheer instinct and the demands of his own passion for the fight, his inner fire craving release. Even as he slams his palms into the grass, spraying droplets of water everywhere -- they'll have to zoom in and slow down for the playback on that one -- Alma steadies himself on his left palm, feet still arcing up toward the air, and thrusts out his right hand. Eyes flashing with summoned power, he unleashes a quick burst of Psycho Power, a roiling little gout of raw soulfire that ripples like the rising tide.
"Kuu," he begins quietly, and then, "SEIHA!"
It's a bizarre position to attack from, but it looks pretty cool-- and even these unusual movements are blessed with the grace that makes all of these exchanges seem like one constant flow, the connection between them unbroken for even an instant.

COMBATSYS: Alma successfully hits Hotaru with Sacred Wave.

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Hotaru           1/-======/=======|=======\==-----\1             Alma

She's grown stronger, but it isn't just that. She's learned more about the way the human body works. What muscles can compliment each other with the purpose of delivering force. What angle is better for slipping in the best impact. In sum total, her knowledge has grown along with if not faster than her physical strength.

One thing hasn't changed though. And that's her ability to roll with the hits and keep coming back for more. The trade she just made - her strike in exchange for half of his, was pushing her luck a lot. He hits plenty hard even when his attacks aren't laced with the Psycho power he has at his beck and call. And it's shaking her head, trying to recover from that trade off that leaves her too slow to escape the trajectory of the incoming soulfire. That he didn't take the time to actually land before launching it gives him just the edge he needs to get the blast to her in time.

A step back out of desperation does nothing to deal with a projectile that barrels in on her in a straight line, and Hotaru is left to recoil in pain as she loses even a bit more ground. A gasp, a grit of teeth, a determined focus back on Alma, and then she's off, feet pressing against the soft soil with enough force to leave small divots where she stood. Hold nothing back, she tells herself as she charges toward Alma. Attack with everything she has. The surge before she even gets close is easy to sense coming. The build up. An expenditure of everything she has left - a pool of strength augmented by the crisp air, the vedant environment.

It isn't attack with feints, distractions, or even anything particularly fancy up front. A slide kick that will fall just shy, her extended foot retracting swiftly, as if she never intended it to connect anyway. And then a flip - a double-kicking strike, backed by a torrential amount of blue energy, the outskirts of the blast expanding into a fine mist that matches the white vapor from the nearby falls. "Tenshou..."

COMBATSYS: Hotaru successfully hits Alma with Ten-shou Ranki EX.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////                        ]
Hotaru           0/-------/-----==|=======\=======\1             Alma

The flip kick like none other the girl can dish out. A combination of muscle coupled with a surge of chi that serves merely to force an opening as opposed to merely hoping one exists. It has the power to knock all but her largest foes clean off their feet and in the case of the male model, it suffices. He has just been struck by the single hardest attack Hotaru can do in a single hit.

The lithe fighter rises with him, her own momentum carrying her upward. The blue energy falls from around her, fading, dissipating, its purpose served the girl gladly gives it back to the earth that so copiously provided. Both of their journies skyward end at nearly the same moment and for an eternity in an instant they defy the gravity that seeks to control them. It is long enough for the girl to make the necessary corrections. A slight twist, a stretch of her arm to accommidate a little turn, and then the two begin to fall. "Ranki!"

Alma is not left to plummet alone as Hotaru collides with him while in the course of her own descent. The impact is on the damp, slippery grass, and they slide, having come down at a shallow angle. To the cameras it may look like the girl merely intended to perform a simple airslam - to both control her own return to the ground while also preventing the blond from controlling his. But when friction finally defeats the inertia of their fall, Hotaru is straddling the young man, her knees on the ground at his sides, her palms pressed firmly against his chest as she leans hard into him.

There is a moment's hesitation. She has him where she needs him to be in order to complete what she set out to do. But there's a question in her mind, perhaps thinking of the last time their minds touched each other. To take the next step is to draw out his aura and blend it with hers. And she finds herself both eager and reluctant to do so. She has performed the same attack when angry or panicked, and in such a distressed, frantic mindset it is easy to tune out the influence of the other. But she feels neither animosity nor alarm here. If anything, this is the closest to nirvana she has ever been in the midst of a fight. What risk will she take, blending his energy with hers? Will moments meant to be kept hidden from the light of day once again be shared?

To stop now is to forever wonder. To hold back is to break her promise to do no such thing. To shy away in fear would be to betray the passion of this fight. The moment of indecision passes, and the girl's fingers shift slightly as she reasserts the pressure on him. It starts quickly then and only builds from there. Drawing power from within herself and from the world around them. But also drawing some of his own out. The manifestation visible to all is a sphere, mostly blue, but crackling with lines of yellow lightning, that surrounds the duo.

She would be unable to create such an attack on her own. It requires taking from another for just a moment, the union of two to create an attack greater than she alone could perform. "aaaaaaaAAAAAAA" Young Futaba's voice begins small, quiet, but builds. The concentration it requires to maintain control of the sphere around them is intensly draining.

Finally she can maintain it no longer. To collect more would be to risk severe injury to them both and she isn't about to do that. The sphere collapses suddenly, its center-point being directly in the middle of the girl. For a moment she funnels it all right back through her, channeling the mixture of energies she borrowed from Alma and their surroundings down her arms, funneling them back into him, returning what she took and /then/ some.

There is a blast, a sphere of invisible, concussive force that explodes out from the two fighters. It flatens grass, disturbs the pool of water, and sends pebbles flying through the air before its power is vented. Then only silence, punctuated by an exhausted sigh as Hotaru bows her head, her pig-tails resting against her shoulders. Her hands on his chest shift again, this time to support herself rather than hold him down, her shoulders sinking slightly. All of the kicks, swings, small blasts of chi were precursors to this final, culminating attack. It's all she had to give. If her Hakki Shou was a piece of her heart, then this was a piece of her soul.

He opens his heart to her.
He can do nothing less. Just as she knows in spite of her natural hesitation that she has no choice but to give her all, so does he offer up everything even as only the recipient of the assault. For during her initial approach he felt what he only feels with those opponents to whom he is most attuned: a sense of inevitability. Surely even without such odd emotions he would have no chance of evading this all-out attack; she is quick as the lightning she will soon emit. He is not betrayed by his sentiments. But the sentiments remain: this is destiny. There is something fated about this conflict, as there is with all truly meaningful conflicts. Not because the victor has already been chosen; of that, he has no knowledge. Rather it is because he knows now beyond a shadow of a doubt, seeing the fullness of her conviction, that duty to the fight, to each other, and to themselves ties them together in an unbreakable bond. She will not hold anything back. Neither will he.
What he feels, then, as he is struck by the raw power of her blows leading down to the ground, could be called a sense of resignation, but not to pain or defeat. What he feels is a final faith, a deep trust earned at last; he has nothing to worry about for this battle. Though he is not a man who lives for ends, still the realization that his end has been achieved sets his soul at peace. Their souls have collided. The barrier between them, that supposedly untranscendable barrier between one discontinuous mortal self and another, has faded in this moment of ultimate intensity. In moments of great grief, hearts can be united; so too in moments of profound glory.
And sensing the glory of this moment, his soul embraces her own.
Thus the power of her attack is only amplified as he hits the grass, blond hair dampening with dew, back arching even as she stays seated on his chest from the sheer force of the energy surging through his prone body and accomodating mind. It passes through him as though he were an empty vessel, eliciting small spasms from his form as it goes. While she screams with effort, his eyes close and lips part, trance-like. It seems as though he may very well have, if it were possible, vacated his own mind.
She sighs, relaxes, begins to recover. He is as a hero slain, a martyr at peace.
Then he opens his eyes.
Hazel is gone, replaced by vibrant blue, with traces of yellow.
The unnatural color begins to expand then, moving beyond the pupils until it threatens to engulf the entirity of his visible eyes. As the blue grows, however, lines of purple and pink streak in from beneath his eyelids, permeating the foreign color and taking the place of the yellow. They seem to feed on the blue, growing and throbbing, until in only a few fascinating moments his eyes are fields of pink and purple... sparkling oceans of pure Psycho Power.
He gasps once, a short sharp breath-- and then Hotaru feels herself slump to the grass.
She's still kneeling as she was-- but her hands touch only the green-wreathed earth.
Alma is gone.
He's simply disappeared.
And only the slightest of rustles behind her provides the tired girl with any warning at all as a hand glowing with the pure white essence of his soulfire reaches toward the back of her head and attempts to grip her there, the tall young fighter gazing down at his sworn sister with an air of implacable majesty...

COMBATSYS: Hotaru interrupts Absolution from Alma with Hakki Shou.
- Power hit! -

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

COMBATSYS: Hotaru can no longer fight.

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

Just as she, he could not have done this without help.
The teleportation has come in fits before, but for the first time, standing here as his power explodes directly into his opponent's psyche, Alma feels as though he has attained a legitimate mastery over it. Profound awe pervades his senses; the ecstasy that he feels in this release is, he sometimes suspects, more potent and heady than any physical pleasure ever could be. Admittedly, he wouldn't know. But no one can deny that it is fulfilling to express yourself directly to someone, transcending the limitations of language just for a brief moment and letting one's feeling simply flow.
Flow it does. There are no images this time; just as this level of raw emotion is beyond words, so is it beyond image now. The fullness of his self cannot be captured by any single memory, even if there are a few that are particularly defining. No, more than anything it is his present sentiments that are shared with Hotaru now. Courage. Enthusiasm. The eagerness to challenge; the competitiveness of one gentle at heart. His sincerity of purpose. The value he finds in this fight-- in their relationship. Hope. Gratitude.
The melding of their egos will surely send her reeling in a way he will more easily survive, though she has another surprise in store for him yet. But it is not exactly pain she will feel; the internalized burning sensations of his flame attacks are not present here. They are beyond that point now. With this raw infusion of his barrier-splitting power, the mental boundaries that normally contain one's awareness seem to vanish. He has only unlocked a door. It is the environment that completes his attack; her senses are assailed unrelentingly.
The whole world pours into her-- and no one heart can contain that much.

Finding herself kneeling in the grass, her fingers digging into the rich soil, so full of life here, the girl has only a moment to feel confused. Has she awoken from a dream? Perhaps she fell asleep in the tranquil gardens outside the church she maintains. It's happened before. Lulled into peaceful repose with only the song of birds or the trickling brook to listen to. But she knows, soon enough, that this is no awakening from a dream but merely the continuation thereof.

Alma's hand reaches the back of her head and then her mind fills with colors, emotions, instants from her own life, moments of pure happiness.

Her senses are overwhelmed. Touch, as the throbbing aches from the strikes he landed seem to vanish from her consciousness. Sight and hearing, as she can see only blindingly bright colors and hear nothing but the beating of her own heart. Even her sense of time as an entire life flashes amidst the pervasive outpouring of Alma's own emotions.

It is at once invigorating and exhausting. Life is not meant to be experienced this way. The body and mind cannot keep up with it before they react defensively, shutting down, withdrawing. 'Too much of a good thing' not merely a pithy axiom. Fading fast as his hand rests against her head, collapse is imminent. But there is something left. One last shot. As the last strands of consciousness begin to snap the girl's hand clenches, digging into the dirt, a surge of one last attack - a final gift from the earth beneath her and the sky above.

Her forearm ignites with a vibrant blue aura and just as she is about to give out, Hotaru pushes herself from her knees. She never quite gets to fully standing as she swings around, the lean into her brother almost clumsy as she lays her left hand against his shoulder. It's a blink of an eye later that her right hand slams forward into Alma's chest, repelete with that bright, lively chi that she can handle so well. There is a discharge - a splash of energy against him. "HA- ah!" A gasp and finally Hotaru's ability to continue for now is gone - her vision blackens and her muscles give out as she returns to the dream she thought perhaps to have awoken from a moment ago.

He moves to embrace her.
Their fights have become more than Alma could have ever imagined, much as Hotaru has grown to achieve new depths he never would have fathomed. Their energies flow like blood, pulsing through their bodies, with their mingling cementing a relationship already risen to a powerful level-- truly, these are blood ties. Feeling her overwhelmed by the raw effect of his ultimate purifying strike, a still entranced Alma spreads his arms slightly and steps toward the smaller girl, his eyes oddly vacant now that the Psycho Power has been released. He moves, driven by a level deeper and more profound than mere instinct. He does not need to think; the urge to catch her fall comes first.
Her hand against his shoulder; his dull gaze lowers.
And his head jerks back toward the sky, sparks shooting up.
Seemingly stunned, he is unable to prevent her from collapsing to the soft grass once her muscles give out. But anyone who is watching closely will see that a semblance of sentience has returned to his eyes, even if only for a moment. He continues to gaze upward, however, blinking a few times.
And then he smiles.
The smile grows slowly but surely, a blossoming flower in time lapse, the buds of his lips parting to reveal something far more beautiful than his perfect teeth: the emotions he summoned forth in his attack openly displayed on his features for the whole world to see. What no one else could have understood from their exchange-- perhaps this will help them realize how the two fighters must feel. It is at least impossible to ignore; though who cannot know what it means to fight for love will if nothing else be intrigued or confused. The power of this moment sets it stark before the eye of the mind.
He smiles, at whatever it is he sees.
It is only too late that a watcher will notice that with every passing second he has been leaning back slightly more, and slightly more again-- for he will already be keeling backward. There is an odd sort of grace in it; if not in the motion itself, than in the finality it symbolizes.
As he embraced her, the grass embraces him.
And the fight is over, victory shared between them.

COMBATSYS: Alma takes no action.

COMBATSYS: Alma can no longer fight.

Log created on 03:01:47 09/15/2007 by Hotaru, and last modified on 05:55:24 09/18/2007.