Neo League 526 - #548: Alma vs Duke

Description: '...when the boy began to delight in his daring flight, and abandoning his guide, drawn by desire for the heavens, soared higher. His nearness to the devouring sun softened the fragrant wax that held the wings: and the wax melted: he flailed with bare arms, but losing his oar-like wings, could not ride the air.' (Winner: Duke)

Forced to fly back to Southtown in the middle of his series of fights in Metro City, Alma Towazu still found himself inexorably drawn back to the city where he plans and hopes to open his second venue of the YFCC, with a little help from his friends. Determined to understand the unique feel and ambience of this mottled pearl of a city, the epitomal metropolis of the modern Western world, Alma walked, worked, talked, and fought his way through its streets, feeling himself growing more comfortable, believing himself to understand both his environs and his own abilities a little better with every moment that passed. But he never expected a gilded invitation to be awaiting him upon his return, handed to him by a dark-suited man who wordlessly departed before any questions could be asked.
It was a challenge.
And challenges, of course, are just what Alma is looking for.
With the unflappable confidence of one both passionate towards victory and detached from defeat, the beautiful young fighting model went directly toward the Opera House at the specified date and time, unsure of what he would find, assuming only that it would be in the context of the Neo League, and that if it were a trap--
Well, then he would die following his dreams.
~ I would like to be able to support my loved ones as much as I can, but-- I can only be strong enough to support them if I continue to fight. And I can only be the person they know if I never stop trying... ~
Anyway, most likely, he'll survive this, whatever it is.
He'll probably just get beat up on national television.

Il Paradiso's grand atrium is filled with an unnervingly empty loneliness this evening.
When Alma Towazu steps within the bounds of the illustrious opera house, he is greeted only by the sounds of his own footfalls echoing against the lavish walls. It's an unusual sight; typically, on a Saturday, at -night-, Paradiso is almost certainly packed full of the richest of hob nobbing socialites Metro City has to offer, seeking to immerse themselves in the 'cultural experience' that none of them really care for. Yet, nothing. Alma is greeted by empty air and the whirl of unseen cameras recently set up around the chambers. Was this some sort of prank, perhaps? A cruel joke by an equally cruel man.
"Do you know about the story of Icarus?"
The voice is dark, gruff. Unpleasant. But filled with a contradictory sort of elegance that, all together, is a tone that Alma has heard before. Whether he remembers is of no concern. The voice continues, behind him, smoothly, "I'm sure you do; Daedalus, Icarus' father, fashioned two wings of wax for him and his son to escape from prison. Daedalus warned his son not to stray too close to sun or sea, because either would ruin those wings and his chance for freedom. But Icarus, in his youthful arrogance, flew too close to the sun, and his wings melted away and damned him for his stupidity."
The last word is spit out in vehemence as a man dressed in distinctive black and scarlet steps in out of the shadows behind Alma. He smiles. But...
... No matter the expression, Duke's cold eyes tell the story his face never could.
"It's an interesting story, don't you think?" He mulls the words out in a contemplative tone. His right hand lifts, rough fingers pressing against the distinctive scar running the length of his neck.
"I'm going to beat you into the ground, and you're going to leave this city. If you don't... just consider yourself Icarus." His body drops into a fighting stance. His smile dies.
"I'm the sun."

Back stiffening, Alma gazes straight ahead, lips parting, eyes widening slightly, before swallowing once, silently.
Why him?
He'd risen quickly in the ranks of the Neo League while here, of course, to be sure, but most of the names of the opponents in the upper echelons he only vaguely recognized if at all. He hadn't had any time or inclination to do serious research on the people he might be facing, especially as he has been seeking only to further his own potential, using the tournament as a means rather than an end.
He should have known that man would be here.
Not here in Metro City, maybe, but-- here, in the high rankings.
Alma doesn't respond, either to the story or the rhetorical question, waiting silently without turning to face his opponent in the shadows behind him on the stage. He stares straight ahead, listening mutely to Duke's threats.
Alma is mildly surprised to find he is not afraid.
Awed, however-- he is definitely awed. Even if he hadn't been defeated before, this man's power is palpable. This is not the ferocity of some common bully; Duke is no coward, whatever Alma might like to believe about the origin of evil. This is a man who clearly knows what he wants; the fact that he has the power to get it only lends itself to the method, not the ambition. This is a man who knows what he wants.
He wants to crush Alma.
"I see."
Alma's low, calm voice, belying as always his androgynous features, shakes only slightly.
"But you know..."
And when he turns around to face Duke, red-tinged blond bangs forming a silken frame around his gentle eyes, the young man is smiling softly.
"We all burn up someday."
His soft gaze is imbued by his recognition of the danger he faces, but as he relaxes his body and lifts his chin with a quiet dignity, the young man's humble grace is compounded by an unhesitating resolve.
"And most of us don't get to choose where: in the heights, or the depths."
He raises his hands--
"Grateful for the chance..."
--and sharpens his gaze.
"I'll choose the sun-- and the heights."

COMBATSYS: Alma has started a fight here.

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

COMBATSYS: Alma focuses on his next action.

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

COMBATSYS: Duke has joined the fight here.

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Duke             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Alma

Why him, indeed? The answer is simple. Alma still hasn't learned a thing since the last time they met. So it's only fair...
... He get another lesson.
He should be thankful it's on television, otherwise he might be learning a very different sort of lesson today.
Hell's Executioner stands tall. Impassive. Save for the cold rage that perpetually burns in restrained fury in his eyes, he might as well be a statue as Alma speaks. The words are meaningless to him. The offer of mercy, however much it might be, had an expected answer... and Alma has given it.
"Just like any other kid," he notes caustically.
"Too eager to die."
But he sees the resolve. That kind of resolve that he hates, and it is echo'd in a distorted way in his own eyes. The resolve of a man who has been to hell and back and been torn apart and remade by hardship. Resolve and drive beyond 'youthful confidence.' And that's why...
"I'm gonna grind that look of yours into dust."
Alma is resolved. But so is Duke. Where Alma waits, solidifies himself, sharpens his mind... the Southsynd lieutenant is far more prone to action. His right leg presses against the ground, and in one push... he seeks to start the fight out with a bang.
Exploding across the ground in blurring speed that melts black against the red of his clothing, Hell's Executioner pushes across the atrium in an echoing flurry of steps. Within scant seconds, he is within Alma's defenses, seeking to drive a single knee straight into the model's midsection with such force as to take the air from his lungs. "GRAAAAAGH!!" It is followed quickly enough by the twist of his body, bringing that leg jutting OUTWARD.
If Alma isn't careful, he'll be introduced to the sole of Duke's foot with a painful crack of impact and a gutteral roar.

COMBATSYS: Duke successfully hits Alma with Light Kick.

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Duke             0/-------/-------|===----\-------\0             Alma

He tries; he really does.
Alma lunges in with determination, bringing his arms down in an instinctive attempt to block the rising knee, his blood already roaring in his veins, pulsing with the sudden beat of a new battle-- and Duke is simply too strong. Alma is literally knocked off his feet by the fierce, quick attack, his practiced guard smashed by the raw fury of Duke's mighty strike.
But he rolls and recovers, getting almost immediately to one knee.
It's obvious already to any viewer that Duke possesses an overwhelming power that Alma cannot match, but there is more than a tragic glory in the way that Alma responsed. There is a very real defiance, a passion so sincere that one might almost believe he has a chance.
He seems to, anyway, for when he rushes at Duke it is with a hand engulfed in all the soulfire he can muster, Soul Power blazing brightly in his fist. Roaring with the pride of a lion he slashes out, emitting a gout of fire that looks like nothing less than a sword of psychic flame.
He strikes out, aiming to cut Duke from shoulder to hip with bright pain.

COMBATSYS: Duke endures Alma's Blaze of Glory.

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Duke             0/-------/---====|===----\-------\0             Alma

Tries, but fails.
Duke intends to make this a repeating trend for the entirety of the fight.
The series of leg strikes leaves Alma's guard ripped asunder and his body flung into the ground like naught more than a ragdoll. Yet, like any persistent variety of cockroach, he is quick to his feet, still burning to fight. Still capable. Of course, Duke isn't worried.
Beating the courage out of a 'warrior' is a slow, methodical process, and luckily...
He is a very patient man.
Soul Power blossoms from Alma's fist in the form of a churning blade. Fire licks across his arm as he makes a dead rush towards Duke, empowered by his resolve. The enforcer's response is ultimately an unnervingly simple one. He just -doesn't move-.
"You think -that's- resolve? That's -worthless-," he hisses, Alma sweeps out in a wide strike, aiming to carve from shoulder to hip.
He doesn't move until the very moment that psychic fire touches his skin and burns the mind and flesh in an instantaneous process that -sears- with white-hot agony on dual levels. The moment it contacts, the moment that Alma begins to swing -upwards-... Duke is lifting a leg high into the air. It would seem for all the world that he is just going to crush Alma like an ant...
... Except for when his foot stomps into the -ground-, and not yielding flesh.
Pain and fury amplify the force and speed of the movement as Alma finishes his swing. The ground rumbles violently, to unsettle Alma's feet, perhaps even take him -off- them...
... And is followed by an immediate, circular RUSH of rage-born fire that blooms from Duke's foot. It seeks to do little more than wash over Alma in a burning, explosive blaze, and knock him -back-. Far, far back and away.

COMBATSYS: Duke successfully hits Alma with Seismic Impact.

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

Alma's mightiest technique, born of the purest incarnation of his fighting spirit, is for all intents and purposes for naught. Even after witnessing Duke's power again, he is totally unprepared for the relentless way in which the scarred man ignores his sword of psychic flame to unleash an explosion under Alma's very feet, indeed hurling him far away, to the opposite end of the stage.
Only just managing to break his fall with his palms, still managing to roll with a semblance of grace though a dazed expression remains on his features, Alma shakes his head with mingled shock and awe as he rises shakily.
~ Incredible. ~
He can't match the man's power or speed-- but can he also not match his will? He felt that strike pierce deep enough into Duke's mental defenses; the man himself just seems determined to ignore the pain. It's a different sort of resolve, and one Alma actually knows well. It's quite like his own.
Might it be even better?
~ I... refuse to believe that! ~
There is no way such a man can possess the conviction of the pure-hearted.
Clenching his fists and steadying himself, Alma closes his eyes for a moment and sucks in a deep breath, centering himself. It's not a naive ignorance that lends him his faith-- he has the sense, however, that this is something he simply needs to believe to be himself. He has to believe in the power of his ends. It is the only way in which he might be able to make that power real.
And if he can, he will.
Channeling all the spirit he possesses, Alma tries to make his dreams at reality.

COMBATSYS: Alma gathers his will.

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Duke             1/-------/=======|=======\===----\1             Alma

Purity of heart just leads to ignorance and naivete. It leads to a false sense of comfort and resolve.
True will comes from a burning heart of rage. And true -convinction- comes from endless sacrifice. It's something that Duke feels Alma will never possess. And that's why...
"I hate that face."
With a snap, Duke's black clad leg sweeps backwards against the smooth marbled flooring of Il Paradiso's atrium. He says nothing more than those four, simple words. His gaze does the rest for him, burning into Alma like an inferno unto themselves. His right hand clenches... -tight-. So Alma isn't going to give up yet, is he? So be it.
That just means he'll have to go through even more pain, and that's something that Duke has always excelled at delivering.
The cold fires in those dark eyes just ignite all the further as Alma gathers himself, pulling that soulful might into himself. And where Alma tries to use his own spirit and mind to channel his strength, Duke's response is so much simpler.
He runs. Straight for Alma.
Blurring speeds carry Duke like a train towards the psychic. His actions are simple, and straightforward, but they possess two undeniable qualities: raw fury... and pure, unfiltered -strength-. His motion picks up. His right arm flows backwards, bending at the elbow and building tension. And then...
He just RELEASES it all like a sledgehammer. One fist to greet Alma's face with the promise of resounding, unholy fury.

COMBATSYS: Duke successfully hits Alma with Volcanic Bomb.
- Power hit! -

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Duke             0/-------/-------|>>>>>>>\>>>>>>>\2             Alma

The sound of fist burying itself into Alma's jaw echoes throughout the lonely atrium. He's felt this pain before.
Now, he gets to feel it with all Duke's unbiased fury brought to bear.
With the thunderous crack of impact, Alma -should- be introduced to the floor with enough raw power to leave an everlasting impression. But Duke doesn't allow it. Hell's Executioner does not -allow- Alma to fall, instead gripping him by the legs the moment before he strikes with a grasp that could likely fracture the bones of a lesser man. And then... he spins. Once, twice, three times in a disorientingly fast circulation, until all that tension is simply RELEASED with the upwards fling of Alma towards the air. He goes soaring...
... and Duke is right there, rushing across the floor underneath him.
A single leap brings Hell's Executioner into the air the moment that Towazu begins to descend. He greets the psychic halfway with a powerful grip onto his sides, fingers -digging- into his ribcage. He lifts. And then... "HRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!" He introduces Alma to the expensive marble of Il Paradiso in a powerbomb that causes it all to EXPLODE in cacophonous fury. Chunks of rubble fly in an omnidirection spray as Alma is buried deep into the ground. Duke says nothing. He just gets up, and leaps back, offering nothing more than a stare that would suggest nothing less than murderous fury.
"... Hmph."

He forgets what it is to not feel pain. The whole world is white heat. Agony ceases to be agony without the memory of peace, becoming his whole world, and he knows a strange serenity as the floor crumbles around him and his tortured body is bounced off the stage.
He sees nothing. Rather than making his dreams a reality, his reality has become nothing more than a dream, fleeting and effervescent, ethereal, half-gone.
He does not remain buried; he floats through the air like a falling angel, twisting limply, arms spread as though unconsciously offering himself up to the world.
Then he senses an other.
It is just a moment, but he grasps it. In the blur that the world has become, he senses one other. He does not remember that the other was his opponent a split-second before, but he feels that font of power with the only sense remaining to him-- and, instinctively, he reaches out in the only way he remembers how.
Without even seeming to be conscious, as Alma twirls through midair, one hand unfurls and a sphere of power surges forth, trembling dangerously in midair for an ominous second before exploding out with overwhemling force, a geyser of Psycho Power literally emerging from the air, angling down and aimed to slam into Duke and drive him into the ground, engraving upon his soul all that Alma has remaining to him.
With that, he can be at peace.
With that, he falls...

COMBATSYS: Alma can no longer fight.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Duke             0/-------/-------|

...and does not rise again.

COMBATSYS: Duke interrupts Full Confession from Alma with Random Weapon EX.

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

Alma falls...
... but likely not in the way he might think.
Duke stands solid as Alma lifts from the ground. The psychic seems to move on the strings of a puppeteer. A marionette guided by some unseen force. Is it resolve? No.
It's stubborn insolence.
"You're an idiot."
The words are snarled out in vehemence that permeates throughout Duke's entire being. He's done playing nice. He's done toying with Alma. And he's done -staring- at that -face-. He intends to rectify that problem with a downward swoop, bending at the waste. "Don't you -get it-? ..." Large, calloused fingers grasp securely onto a heavy chunk of marble. That sphere ignites from nothingness, a broiling, expanding mass of psychic power. Duke seems not to notice, or likely... not to care.
"You don't even know the FIRST THING ABOUT WILLPOWER."
The geyser erupts from a spark, and Duke once more rears his right hand back. A blood-curdling roar rips out from his throat. Peace? Alma isn't going to get peace. Not for a -second-. That energy cuts through the air, ionizes it with the power of the soul. And all that will, and all that soul...?
Duke smashes through it with nothing more than a piece of marble and a look of fury and pure -resolve-.
Even as Psycho Power burns at his mind and soul and body, the majority of it dissipates into nothingness around him as he drives that single piece of rubble straight across Alma's face. It buries in with a bloody, deafening strike of impact. And before Alma can fall? Duke grips him by the back of his shirt. It's a scene that'll likely have to be editted out later on, as Duke pulls that hand back once more. Alma is clearly beaten. The fight should be done.
And yet Duke introduces the psychic's face to marble slab again all the same. And again. And one last time... before simply dropping him to the ground.
"... You don't know anything. Ignorant little brat." Blood drips from Duke's burned and singed fingers as he drops both his makeshift weapon and Alma to the ground. Silently, he twists on his heel, presenting his back to the young man as he does. "Leave -my- city. If you don't... I'm going after your friends, next." He doesn't know if Alma is still conscious or not. He doesn't care.
He knows the -meaning- will get across just fine.

COMBATSYS: Duke has ended the fight here.

Alma's not conscious. He wouldn't be able to hear Duke even if he were still at the vague semblence of consciousness he was at when he struck out for the last time.
Being hit with a fat chunk of marble only makes it less likely he'll hear.
The model is a mess, blood streaming from his brow, his nose, his mouth, though somehow, in some unearthly fashion, he does not seem terribly disfigured. Yet he will not recover from this soon. It's time he was introduced to the Metro City hopsital system. And it's a sign that there may be limits not even to Alma's power, but to his philosophy.
What fuels Duke? What makes him so overwhelmingly strong? And why can't the faith and grace and determination that have carried him so far in life make Alma anything close to his match?
Is what Alma possesses really not resolve at all?
He may not be aware of Duke's latent threat-- but he will not stay here much longer. This will not deter him from his earthly ambitions, such as they are, but it will give him great food for thought. He has finally found what, intuitively, he was seeking: the next level of his challenges, the next limit to his ability. What is he still missing? In what manner must he further evolve to be the kind of man he wants to be? How should he change?
Fighting Duke again would be fruitless now.
But someday... someday...
If he survives his journey, he will return.
And wings of wax will blot out the sun.

Log created on 21:29:17 11/04/2007 by Duke, and last modified on 10:39:25 11/10/2007.