LLK Act I.War - War : 11th Hour Rescue

Description: It seems as if all hope is lost for the defenders of the YFCC. But two of their number had the good fortune to be elsewhere during the attack... and now Hotaru is in perfect position to coordinate a surgical rescue of those very same defenders with one of her fellow instructors. Although their way is blocked by the intimidatingly powerful XO of NESTS, the pair's teamwork and dedication see them through... but the victory is bittersweet and comes with the portent of more trouble on the horizon...

The YFCC has seen better days.
Those better days were relatively recent, in fact, in the wake of the recent recovery from NESTS /last/ assault on the Community Center. Compared to this, though, that occasion was like a summer's breeze; much of the interior of the Center has been demolished. Bullet holes pepper the establishment, the scent of gunpowder still hangs heavy in the air. It is terrible.
It's war.
This particular skirmish of the war had reached its end point some time ago. The YFCC's poor defenses were overwhelmed and crushed; those who had fallen were rounded up and put into one of the back rooms of the YFCC, restrained with bomb collars, heavy iron shackles and, just to be safe, sedatives.
NESTS spares no expense in its subjugation.
Many of the main forces of both NESTS and Shadaloo have fallen back at this point, to reinforce other, more important locations throughout the city. The soldiers and their captives are not completely alone, however; as armored men and women shuffle back and forth, going through the steady process of tagging and cataloguing those Center defenders actually capable of fighting, one figure stands amongst them: Zero. The dark-skinned, white-haired Second-in-Command of NESTS says nothing as his troops move back and forth around him; dark eyes watch almost lifelessly as the men move, before afixing his gaze forward, watching -- but doing nothing. The building has been secured...
... But for how long?

The YFCC has had a nice number of defenders that stood up against NESTS in the bitter fight. Of course, many of them had fallen and were taken to the back rooms of the YFCC. Of course, there is one of the members who has been giving the agents a very difficult time.
Several NESTS agents are surrounding one individual who seems to refuse to give up. Dressed up in a white, sleeveless hoodie jacket and a pair of black jeans, the Stray Dog has been fighting for his life. Each of the limbs are covered with blood that soaks and stains the clothes. The breathing becomes heavy. His arms are covered with darts. The hood shrouds his face.
Underneath the hood, his blue eyes are become feral, shaped with inhuman slits. "...Can't... fall... yet... not to the likes of... you."
Unlike Alma, Jiro doesn't generally go down so easily, even when defeated by the hands of Zero. Many of the NESTS agents that had been trying to get the collar onto Jiro had been shoved away. Any of them that tried to shackle him had been bitten. Anyone with the sedatives had been headbutted. Of course, this caused for some of the agents to use the sedatives in the form of tranquilizer guns.
He knows what is at stake. He also knows what the hell will happen to him if he gets caught. Interpol will put him to jail and he will have no way of proving himself. He is in NESTS's trap. This is not good.
Heavy breaths are taken, shoving one of the agents out of his way, until the snap of the collar is placed on his neck.
"DOWN MUTT!" A yank of the collar pulls Jiro back, and then Jiro receives a devastating punch towards the stomach by one of the NESTS agents. It's a familiar one.
Didn't he jack that guy's clothes? ...Yeah. That could be the grudge.
Nevertheless, it proves to be more of a punch as the an electrical surge sears along Jiro. Combined with the tranquilizers, Jiro finally collapses on his face.

Not all of the YFCC's defenders have been processed yet. Naturally the first ones to be collected and restrained have been its more powerful or resilient defenders such as Jiro. Some of them are clearly not going anywhere, anytime soon. If ever again.

In the middle of the hall, upon the shattered reception desk.. The sprawled form of the youngest defender lies still. His Chinese Kenpo uniform in tatters, blood painting half of his body. His head rolled to the side, eyes glassy and distant. Only the occasional stir of his horribly slashed chest suggests he may yet be alive as the pool of crimson around him grows ever wider.
Perhaps the soldiers figure its already too late and the boy's body will simply be carted off to dissection. Perhaps they're considering if that's even a worthwhile effort, he was hardly the strongest defender here. A boy, cut down, defending people he's never met before and one he may not even have liked all that much - But tried to defend all the same.
If he has any time left at all ... It likely isn't much.

It isn't the first time Hotaru Futaba has seen war. But the last time she witnessed events like these, they were far away from her home in Southtown. The sweltering jungles of Thailand were rife with refuges forced from their villages, the rumble of advancing tanks, and the sounds of violence. This time it's happening right in the streets of Southtown. From her living room window, the girl watched troops move through the streets. Living in the northern outskirts, away from the main focus of the invading forces, things had been relatively calm there...

But she was certain the same couldn't be said for other places in the city. Having made an agreement with her guest, Shurui, that the two of them would go find friends and friends of friends looking for a new place to stay and invite them back to her home to weather things out as long as possible, the girl had only just started venturing short distances out of Southtown Village to search for places where she could help...

All the while, she had been trying to reach others. Phones were spotty at best, the lines either locked down, damaged, or overloaded. But text messages, the child-spawn of Instant Messaging, seemed to work still. Messages were sent out as she tried to place the positions of her friends. Sometimes she got messages back, but it was the ones that she wasn't getting replies from that had her worried. And then she started getting more messages of a more dire nature. Something about the YFCC being attacked, coming from those nearby or inside...

Realizing just how many people she might know that could have very well been caught in the middle of it all, the girl began to panic for a moment. What to do at a time like this? Can the Japanese military hope to do anything about it or would they be as handily routed as the Thailand equivalent almost two years ago? No, she can't wait for that. She has to do something. She has to try. Fortunately, out of the messages the girl managed to get replies from, Frei seemed to not have been caught at the Youth Center. And he seemed willing to engage in the risky endeavor with her!

Thus it is the two find themselves in the basement of the YFCC, having broken their way in through one of the ground-level windows. Dressed in black jeans, white shirt, and black sweater, her hair tied back into a single pony tail, she doesn't really look the part of a typical special ops agent. But she could probably beat most such operatives up anyway! The bodies of three unconscious guards lying at her feet suggest that is likely the case. Peeking out into the hall leading to the stairs up to the lobby, she glances over her shoulder, "Looks clear. Let's head up." she states, urgency in her voice as she then hesitates, seemingly willing to let Frei lead the way!

He almost didn't see.

Frei's not a luddite nor a technophobe by any stretch of the imagination. But the YFCC instructor seems to find cell phones, for all their usefulness, annoying gadgets. He has one as a matter of combination expediency and virtual necessity in Japanese society today. But it's frequently either turned off, buried somewhere in his apartment, forgotten at work, let uncharged and thus with a dead battery... there are times he doesn't even answer it when it is sitting *right in front of him*. But things have been happening, lately, that've demanded his attention on many levels. Shurui's warning has left him searching for answers, watching the news, paying attention. He even, on a complete whim, left briefly for Kyoto to check on his family. After all, while he himself has no such power, Frei's brothers have the gift of psychic abilities...

He was literally getting off the train back to Southtown when the explosions started.

The YFCC was never far from his mind, but there was plenty to do right there at the train station. Thankfully it wasn't attacked in force -- apparently it wasn't quite as important as other mass transit depots, or more interesting targets -- but a few overzealous grunts found their way there, and Frei was, at least, lucky enough to be present and able to defend the innocents on hand. But by the time that was done, and he'd helped to administer first aid and all those other heroic things that everyday people can do, in other parts of Southtown it was probably too late. An invasion that for the victims must have felt like hours may have been over in a matter of minutes.

He'd asked his mother to call if she heard anything, which is why his phone was on, and vibrating away in his back pocket. And as he exchanged messages with Hotaru, the chi sage's vivid imagination filled with all of the potentially horrible things that could be happening at the Center. A Center that seems to, lately, have been stripped of many of its defenders, for good or for ill.

That he would join her in this endeavor was simply a matter of course.

He's not quite as dressed for action as Hotaru is, having been forced to stay in what he was wearing for the trip: a black Chinese shirt with gold embroidery and jeans. But the childlike features of his freckled face are nevertheless set with fierce determination. He nods once to Hotaru, and if he notices her hesitation, he doesn't show it; instead he makes for the short stairs up to the main floor and then pauses, putting his ear to the door. There's a moment, and then he knocks at it.

The guard on the other side, surprised, starts to open it a crack. Frei then promptly accelerates the door's opening tenfold, the heavy metal slamming into the guard at speed and sending him to the ground, unconscious.

"Sign says no entry," the redhead murmurs, motioning to Hotaru to follow.

Things proceed as scheduled.
With an almost lackluster expression, Zero barely even turns his head to regard Jiro as he makes his bold declaration; a thoughtful frown twitches across his lips as the young man speaks. Jiro attempts to resist, and Zero looks away as the guards strike him down.
"You already have fallen. That your mind cannot catch up to this reality is no concern of mine."
And thus, things continue to proceed. Slowly and calmly, Zero finally steps forward; it is the first time he has even moved in upwards of an hour. The NESTS XO strides calmly across the floor of the YFCC lobby, glass and stone crunching beneath his heavy heel as he proceeds towards the front desk. He stares at Kentou's fallen body, without an ounce of mercy or compassion. His lips part.
"... Take this one, too. We need more samples; he will suffi--"
It's as the guards begin to advance upon Kentou's fallen form that they are interrupted -- all with the sound of a crash. Zero stops, frowns, and looks towards the direction of the sound. He lifts a gloved hand; it twitches in a mild gesture, towards the origin of the disturbance.
"Investigate the disturbance. Be weary." The soldiers nod, and begin to advance swiftly, even as Zero frowns all the deeper. That source -- the basement? But what could be there...?

Even at a time like this, Frei seems keep a soft, humorous edge to him, a detail that doesn't go missed by the girl following behind him. The building is mostly quiet above. Evidence that what fights might have been transpiring hours ago have run their course and the resistance has fallen. The front entrance had been scoped out by the two before they came around through the basement. The newly repaired front side of the building was in ruins and the menacing Bison on guard was as good an excuse as any to find alternative means of entry.

Now that they're inside, however, the girl begins to wonder the worst. What if everyone is dead? What if they're too late to do anything about it? Glancing over her shoulder down the empty basement hall, she trails right behind Frei, eyes wide with a palpable level of trepidation. The first guard at the door is handled by, well, the door, as Frei makes prudent use of on-hand resources! The sound of more men moving to their position urges her into further action, putting the martial arts she has practiced for years for sport to use in a much more direct, dangerous fashion.

Zero would hear the noises - it isn't going well for his soldiers. The ruin of the interior is evident. The battles fought here have been terrible. But it isn't the smashed counters, damaged walls, or shattered glass that Hotaru notices when her eyes first come to rest upon the lobby. A soft gasp escapes her lips as she looks on from just inside the hallway, "Kentou...!" The bloodied body of her student is impossible to miss. He appears gravely injured but the look of death doesn't quite rest upon him. "We need to get him out of here," she whispers to Frei urgently, though by now attempts at secrecy are probably a vain effort.

Hotaru's partner isn't exactly choice of the year when it comes to stealth. It must be the red hair; for some reason, it just seems to breed people who are ever so *noticeable* in a crowd. That said, he does wince a little at the overpoweringly *metallic* noise of a big metal security door hitting someone in the face exceptionally hard, giving Hotaru an apologetic look as she steps by him. It doesn't last long, though; there's all those guards, wandering through and really just making a mess of the place, all things considered. The uniforms and the style, he doesn't recognize... and actually, given the redhead's meeting with NESTS overlord Igniz in the Strolheim tournament, that is a bit of good news that is not destined to last long in this situation.

The kenpoist alone would likely be more than enough to take on a crew of for-hire mooks; her blinding speed and unerring accuracy are levels above even many fighters, let alone common soldiers. Frei's methods for dealing with the sudden interest in their activities are different, but no less effective; for every NESTS goon that Hotaru's well-placed kicks and punches send to the ground, another has his momentum gently redirected into handy hard objects (like the floor, the walls, and in one case the ceiling) by her partner. In no time at all, the duo has made their way to the lobby, which... let's face it, is probably the most cursed room in all of Southtown. There are construction sites that see less demolition on a monthly basis.

Kentou's body sort of changes things.

He doesn't gasp, or even start; but the perceptive may notice that the pupils in Frei's typically bright green eyes shrink to near pinpoints. Why? Because this scenario is his nightmare given form. The fighters who work at the Center -- himself, Hotaru, Alma, Mizuki, even Rose -- are people with lifetime careers. And while Frei deep in his heart knows Kentou to be a perfectly capable martial artist, some instinct still tells him that Hotaru's protege is still a young boy. And now, a young and broken boy, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For the first time in the Center's history, a child got hurt.

One fist clenches.

"We do," he says to Hotaru in a dull-sounding tone, still staring. After a beat, he lets his fingers unclench, though his fingers twitch, as if the nervous movement can bleed off some of the whirlwind of emotions he feels right now. "We will."

The sounds are enough. Enough to let Zero know something is amiss. From the basement -- they came from the basement? Zero's brows furrow, even as his soldiers are devastated by the duo of Hotaru and Frei. To be able to even get there, they'd have to know the workings of the YFCC at the very /least/ at a basic level. Then they work here. Employees. Alma Towazu has been accounted for, so--
"It does not matter," Zero ultimately decides, upon which point he grips the counter top of the vaguely ruined desk with one hand.
Frei and Hotaru are not allotted much in the way of time to grieve, or feel shock, or rage -- their time to absorb the situation is ultimately circumvented by the horrendous sound of something ripping free from the earth. The sound of metal and concrete simply being ripped upwards assaults the lounge at a cacophonous level--
--before Frei Tsukitomi-Renard is greeted to the Young Fighter's Community Center with a massive desk flung straight for him.
"You will be allowed one chance to surrender before you are disabled, and I do not promise that your disablement will not be permanant," Zero helpfully supplies as bits of rubble drop with pitter-patters from his gloved hand to the floor, the only sign of the desk that once occupied his grasp.
"But I imagine you have already made your decisions."

COMBATSYS: Zero has started a fight here on the left meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Zero             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Hotaru has joined the fight here on the right meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Zero             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Hotaru

COMBATSYS: Frei has joined the fight here on the right meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Zero             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Frei
                                  >  //////////////////////////////]
                                 |-------\-------\0           Hotaru

Her breaths come faster as she struggles to keep a clear head. Discipline is a core part of her martial arts training. Not just of body but of mind. But seeing Kentou like this pushes her control to its limits. She feels angry and scared at once, and the threat of onset panic is almost enough to cause her to lose focus all by itself. A step back is taken, the girl finding it harder to breath by the moment. That's when Zero moves and azure eyes come to focus upon him.

Who is he? He's someone in charge. But it's more than that. The man radiates not just authority but the power to back it up with force. Is he the one that did this? If not, he certainly played a role in orchestrating it. His offer to surrender before he'll force the issue is barely heard by the girl, her mind a whirlwind of thoughts and worries. It's the sound of the desk being torn out of the floor that snaps her out of her daze, however, the young Kenpo artist blinking as she shakes her head quickly. To do what needs to be done here, this man will need to be defeated.

"I don't know who you are, but-" she starts to try and talk their way through this. Zero has other ideas in mind, as punctuated by the desk now flying toward Frei. She might have the reflex to get in its way... but as she darts forward, it's under the flying object the girl moves, rubble dusting her hair as she sprints for Zero directly. Frei is going to have to deal with his favorite desk for right now. Yeah, no way they're talking their through this. If she wants to get Kentou out of here, she'll have to fight her way through him!

She moves fast, a blur of black as she closes distance aggressively, trying to put her speed to use first and foremost. Her hands are drawn close at first, the girl acting as if she intends to slam the tall man's chest with her palms. But it's for his arms that her small hands snap at the last moment, going less for brute force and more for a quick grip and the leverage she needs to vault herself on up into four swift, kicking stomps. The goal becomes clear - by vaulting off Zero's shoulders to land behind him, she'll trap him between her and Frei, forcing him to defend himself on two fronts!

COMBATSYS: Frei blocks Zero's Large Thrown Object.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Zero             0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0             Frei
                                  >  ////////////////////////////  ]
                                 |-------\-------\0           Hotaru

There is something almost chilling in Frei's response to having a *desk* hurled at him, which is to stare it down. He knows that desk. How many hours has he spent sitting at it, watching kids come in the front door? Doing seemingly pointless tasks for no real reason other than it made him feel good to be in this building, available, adding something positive to the world simply by *existing*? And now, like the broken body of Kentou on the floor, it's being used against him. And it's quite frankly getting closer because Zero can hurl with some speed...

His fist shimmers with a hazy, invisble, heat-shimmery aura as he raises one fist and punches *through the desk*.

Such a defense is not without its drawbacks, of course; for starters, his hand hurts like hell and his body is pelted with shrapnel of wood and plastic as the thing effectively splits in two and crashes into the wall behind him in roughly equal chunks. The YFCC instructor did not walk out of that exchange unscathed. On the other hand, he feels his point is made. The haze around his hand is still visible as he brings it back to his side, Hotaru already making her assault on this unknown man in a whirlwind of agile motion. The redhead knows her pretty well by now, he likes to think; he has a good idea of what her sudden flurry of motion is going to be, and so while handling the desk issue may have cost him some time and momentum, he's not going to waste the opportunity Hotaru is trying to give him.

He starts moving a moment or two later, talking as he goes, hand still shimmering. "You've done whatever damage you came to do," the chi sage says clearly. "So now you can go and leave the wounded to us." It's his counteroffer, his giving Zero an opportunity to back out. The man does indeed exude an aura of confident power, but damned if anything is going to stand in his way at this point. As Frei told Seishirou Ryouhara in this very room, though in better times, 'I'm going to protect these people regardless of cost.'

Frei doesn't strike until he sees his potential opening, trying not to interfere with Hotaru's attack, but when he *does* attack, it's to snap a hand out for Zero's arm, looking to yank him forward off-balance and press a palm -- the glowing one -- to the NESTS operative's stomach. If he can manage that, Frei lets that stored energy release in a small but potent burst of pure force, looking to send Zero out and away from both himself and his fellow fighter.

COMBATSYS: Zero blocks Hotaru's Shin-Jou Tai.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Zero             0/-------/------=|=------\-------\0             Frei
                                  >  ////////////////////////////  ]
                                 |=------\-------\0           Hotaru

COMBATSYS: Zero fails to counter Medium Throw from Frei with Mabukousou.
- Power fail! -

[      \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Zero             0/-------/----===|==-----\-------\0             Frei
                                  >  ////////////////////////////  ]
                                 |=------\-------\0           Hotaru

To two so finely attuned to chi as Frei and Hotaru, the sensation Zero exudes at the moment they choose to act is unmistakable, and unavoidable. An icy chil expells from him, like being dunked in ice-water. The unnatural feeling lasts only a second as Zero's eyes glow a faint, pinkish purple. His frown seals itself. The glow fades, along with that forboding sensation.
"As expected."
Hotaru comes first. Its movements he's seen before -- less refined, less clumsy, but certainly patented to a point that it is recognizable, especially to a man like Zero. The palm-thrust is met cleanly on Zero's powerful chest -- but as she attempts to kick up him?
Like deja vu, each blow is met with the palms of Zero's hands, until Hotaru literally climbs up Zero's blocking motions.
"... Are you sure you should be instructing students, at your level of skill?" he asks; it's not even mocking, but patently designed to throw her off guard -- and perhaps even anger her.
"Such things can prove hazardous."
What Hotaru -does- do, however, is set the NESTS second-in-command up poorly to deal with Frei's own assault. Just as planned, Frei charges in on a perceived opening. Once more that unsettling sensation sweeps over the room, but whatever it might promise is left to obscurity as Frei's palm impacts against his torso, the sudden burst of chi and kinetic force enough to launch Zero off his feet in surprise. He gains roughly two feet of air before his feet slam back into the ground, skidding across the lobby floors with enough of an impact to dig furrows into the ground. Zero looks down. He frowns.
"I am afraid the operation is not yet complete," Zero responds as he stands up fully, his battlesuit slightly scorched from the place of impact. He lifts a hand, and beckons.

Step by step, he meets her stomps with flawless precision, as Hotaru ascends up and over Zero. She quickens her step, springing early into a flipping arc to land behind him by a few yards. Sliding to a stop, the girl whirls, her arms already raised to the defensive, prepared to try and contend with a counter attack. Frei's timely action spares her such a problem, however, as the red-head manages to knock Zero clean off his feet and send him sailing a short distance.

Turning to her side to face him, she finds herself next to Frei with Zero no longer between them... perhaps of his own volition. Her mouth is set in a tight lipped, neutral expression, her eyes and demeanor gravely serious. His words didn't go missed. This IS her fault. She took the kid in; trained and guided him, tried to help him grow into a proper young man. And right now he might be about to die because of the path she put him on. The girl winces, shaking her head, looking away from Zero for a moment, eyes resting once again on the wounded boy.

"No," she whispers, shifting focus back to Zero. She can't let him distract her. Troubled as she already is by the image, his words would only shake her further, and put her precise style of fighting on shakier ground. "This isn't my fault. You did this." Her voice almost a hiss, hands tightening then relaxing back into the open palmed position. A breath taken, a glance given Frei, and then the girl is back on the offense, sprinting forward to close distance, willing to risk engaging in close combat with the invading leader again. "We will take him, anyone else away from here!"

He's seen her student fight, perhaps, but the boy has only learned the first few levels of the Futaba styled Kenpo. The shift is evident from a couple yards out - a slide, a slipping of one foot apart from the other, arms extended out to her sides like the wings of a bird ready to take flight. Crouched low, she's there for only a split second before she springs, spinning into the air, aiming to drive the heel of her right foot directly into the taller fighter's stomach. It's an aggressive lunge, sacrificing defenses in favor of risky speed, but her landing is none the less graceful for it, spinning down onto her left foot and quickly recovering.

It could mean so many things. In truth, Zero's words reflect different anxieties in the hearts of both of the YFCC defenders facing him at the moment. For Hotaru they conjure up the almost parental -- perhaps fully parental -- feelings she has toward Kentou. And while the youth is Frei's student as well, the bond he has with Hotaru is on a separate level. For Frei, it is the constant feeling that one of the things he was here to do -- one of the things that only a handful of people, himself included, CAN do at all -- is all for nothing. These people might not have been hurt if you were here. And even if you were, what good does your being here do? Can you really train them to be something they are not?

The NESTS operative's words bring a dull sheen to Frei's green eyes, doubt overtaking him. The feeling of fury that's threatening to break down all the walls os his resistance is alien and thus insidious in its advances... and doubt, for all that it makes people question their strength, fuels anger. Confusion, too... they all make being angry, lashing out, an easy thing to do. His eyes hooded, Frei looks to the floor even as Hotaru looks away, the pair of them visibly abashed by those words.

And yet...

And yet, there is Kentou. Who clearly became so injured trying to protect people. Who actually is responsible for Frei coming to grips with the idea of a righteous anger, a pure and just fury that burns without consuming. Does he deserve any less than the every ounce of strength in Frei's body?


He does not rush in with Hotaru this time, but then... he doesn't have to. The unsettling feeling of Zero's energy -- the 'artificial' tang it leaves in the air, for lack of a better word -- pulses in Frei's senses, but even in the loudest storm there is an eye of calm. "No, believe me..." he says to Zero, bringing up one hand, haloed in a blue-white glow. "...it's done." The glow vanishes with an almost audible *snap!* as Frei closes his hand... and Hotaru's assault is suddenly augmented by a chaotic whirl of ice shards, deftly weaving in and around her attacks to make it that much harder for Zero to handle.

COMBATSYS: Hotaru successfully hits Zero with Aggressive Blow.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Zero             0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0             Frei
                                  >  ///////////////////////////// ]
                                 |=------\-------\0           Hotaru

COMBATSYS: Zero fails to reflect Hatsuyuki from Frei with Hankyou.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Zero             0/-------/--=====|===----\-------\0             Frei
                                  >  ///////////////////////////// ]
                                 |=------\-------\0           Hotaru

Slowly, Zero looks down towards Kentou as Hotaru affirms herself. This is not a match he can win, by his estimation; these two are too much, combined, for his level of ability.
But all he really needs is to buy some time.
"This is my doing, but stating the obvious is nothing more than a waste of effort; is the person who put a gun in someone's hand and directed their aim at a tank any less guilty than the tank for tearing down its opposition?" The words come coldly, almost matter-of-factly as Zero adjusts his coat. He looks towards Hotaru, his mouth pulled into a thin line.
"Do not shift blame upon me simply because you seek consolation for your failure."
But Hotaru and Frei attack, and the combined assault is far more than he can handle; the first comes from Hotaru who, while coming in in a manner that he should be able to anticipate, somehow slips past his guard. The lunge sacrifices, and that sacrifice is not for naught; the heel of Hotaru's foot /drives/ into Zero's stomach. The blow is like striking a brick wall. Zero staggers one step, and then another -- and then stops. "... hmph--"
But it's more than enough time for Frei to intercept Zero's opening. Despite his senses perceiving the assault, Frei manages to pummel /straight/ through the NESTS XO's defenses, that whirling mass of chi-born ice crashing into him. Shards of energy impale through his battle-suit, cutting his face with cold sharpness as the assault drives him further backwards, closer towards the exit. His suit, slightly carved, ripples around him as he rises upwards with a slight exertion of effort, lifting a gloved hand to his cheek to press against one of his bleeding cuts.
"...It would appear you are upset."

Working together, the two YFCC employees have a chance to defeat someone that neither could handle on his or her own. Hotaru drops out of her spinning kick, turning that angular momentum into an evasive step to the side, leaving a clear path for Frei's impressive blast of chi to follow its course and deal a noticeable amount of damage to the man. There is, in the back of her mind, the concern about threats from another direction. As powerful as this man is, he didn't take the entire center by himself and his militia. Other threats must be lingering in the vicinity, and the longer this goes, the greater chance of them coming into the lobby as well. Frei and she may have their edge while they hold the numeric advantage, but with additional reinforcements, that control could slip quickly.

Hands raised again, once again returning to her defensive posture as she forces herself to stay disciplined; to curtail the aggressive edge. He voices his observations - that they're angry - and she knows, inside, that giving into that emotion is not going to help Kentou, or anyone else trapped within, in the slightest. "It doesn't matter." she replies, tightening her stance, standing up straight, turning her shoulder toward the leader. "It doesn't matter who you are, either."

She takes a breath in then exhales, fighting for that inner calm she depends on. She knows what it meant to fight with anger at one time, but that is over a year in the past. "We're going to take these people away from here." Hands clench and unclench again, her body tensing, ready to spring again. She hesitates a moment, clearly waiting to time her advance with Frei, but when the time seems right, she leaps back at Zero. Extended arms sweep through the air in a pair of windmilling strikes as she aims to draw his guard high.

It's the single palm press that she leans hard into upon landing that's the real threat, however, as leg, torso, and arm muscles are aligned in perfect coordination. That kick from before was like striking brick, but that doesn't mean she's going to stop trying. With repetition, even stone can be weathered. "YAA!"

"You say that," Frei fires back, trying to stay calm, "like we shouldn't be." Certainly, if Zero has shown any sort of emotional affect for the two fighters intent on rescuing people from his clutches, it's amused disdain... and despite their headway against Zero's defenses, he maintains an impressive level of sangfroid. If he were a little more tactically oriented, Frei would have come to the same conclusion Hotaru did: that given the people arrayed against them, this man is probably only the tip of the proverbial iceberg and there are almost certainly more on the way. As it is, it's perhaps better for him that he *doesn't* make that leap of logic.

His fingers trail snowflakes into the air even as he brings his hand back, dropping into stance again. He notices Zero's eyes go down to Kentou for a moment, and his own do too, once again; the poor boy's body is like a magnet for the YFCC instructor's eye, a symbol that both bolsters his resolve and tightens icy fingers around his heart. Hotaru's words cut the air with the frigid edge of indifference, the young woman tightening her defenses and trying her best to get through this troubling confrontation. And indeed, her point echoes what's in Frei's spirit too: it could be a million of this guy, and neither his nor Hotaru's resolve would be any different. They're people on a mission.

"Besides," Frei says, dropping his hand to his right side, fingers extended in a knife-hand posture. Around that hand a silver-gold, pearly luminesence starts to flicker into existence. Despite himself, too, the redhead can't help but crack a smile at the swelling of pride in his heart at what he's about to say. "If that kid really did stand up to you, despite everything, then... I can't see how we're failures at all. We taught him right."

Hotaru chooses that moment to strike, and so does Frei. The young sage can't keep up with Hotaru's impressive foot speed, but in this instance it actually works to their advantage; just as Hotaru's palms are thrusting for their crushing strike, the other YFCC fighter is actually leaping over her in a low arc, that glowing hand making a sudden cutting arc through the air at a parabolic angle, the strikes coming high and low in tandem, and Frei's metallic chi singing out like a struck tuning fork if it strikes home.

COMBATSYS: Zero just-defends Hotaru's Soushou Shin!

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Zero             0/-------/--=====|===----\-------\0             Frei
                                  >  ////////////////////////////  ]
                                 |=------\-------\0           Hotaru

COMBATSYS: Frei successfully hits Zero with Houken EX.
- Power hit! -

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Zero             0/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0             Frei
                                  >  ////////////////////////////  ]
                                 |=------\-------\0           Hotaru

No amused disdain; from Zero, there is almost literally nothing to be found. No empathy, no delight, no arrogance. He is simply here. The damage the battle has wreaked on him is apparent in the damages to his suit, the blood that streams down his face, but he still stares at the pair with lifeless eyes.
Humanity is overrated.
"You say you will take them; maybe you will." Zero does not entertain any false notions of superiority as he speaks; his voice remains almost infuriatingly level, devoid of any of the classic arrogance of the morally depraved. "You will save them, and this boy. And then what? He will go off to fight again. And he will die. I am hardly the strongest being on this planet, nor am I the most depraved or violent."
Frei lunges forward at the same moment that Hotaru does; one of two things happens. The first, is that leaping assault, suddenly striking Zero with metallic chi in combination with physical might, vibrating his body with unforseen amounts of power. Blood is coughed up from the man as he is forced into a backwards stagger... yet when Hotaru attacks?
She'll find only a shield in her path, blocking her blows preemptively in a ripple of vibrant, scarlet-purple chi.
"Value for a test subject is all that stayed my hand. What of someone else's?"
This question is punctuated as Zero suddenly, finally attacks; the blow comes fast as Zero whips forward with that -skirt-, the fabric elongating impossible distances. The forcefield fades, and in its place? Hotaru is greeted with the serrated edge of Zero's heavy coat, aiming to carve her hip to shoulder in one powerful motion as blood oozes from the corners of Zero's mouth, his internals an aching mess.

COMBATSYS: Hotaru blocks Zero's Satsuma.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Zero             0/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0             Frei
                                  >  /////////////////////////     ]
                                 |===----\-------\0           Hotaru

Swing, swing, strike- The heel of her palm rebounds back off of a barrier of oddly colored chi. The pain in her arm is jarring. That went from striking brick to punching dead into the most immovable force she's encountered in a long time. The experience almost leaves her stumbling off balance, driven back harder than she had accounted for. Blinking, the magnitude of the scenario Zero paints remains somehow comprehendible above the pain in her forearm.

The image of Kentou standing bravely as Frei described it fills her with a level of pride. There is something to be said for standing up to tyrants and fighting alongside the others that would have tried to defend this center. But she would have almost wished him to simply flee. To run from this place and not place his life on the line - she hadn't prepared the boy enough for this. But she knows he wouldn't have run. A more tenacious, determined kid she's never met. At least he dropped fighting, she consoles herself - a struggle to accomplish against the detatched, clinical analysis of their opponent.

"All we can do," she replies, "Is our best. Then there can be no regrets." It might be simple. But it's the only way to get her mind off the countless outcomes he paints - the impossible paths that are to be found ahead. A breath in is taken, and she starts forward, readying to strike again, only to nearly step into a fearsome attack, that blade edged coat sweeping out toward her at a vicious angle. She turns into it, drawing her arms up. The slashing motion rips into the girl's legs and across her upperarm, ripping through the fabric easily and drawing blood in the process.

It draws a pained gasp from her lips as she staggers back a step as a result, forcing her to lose precious ground as she continues to risk close quarters combat with the NESTS XO. There is hope, on some level, that his forcefield defenses at least draw some effort from him. Maybe if she can keep pressuring him, he'll exhaust himself eventually. She steps forward to recover lost ground, aiming for a more simple, grounded snap kick, trying to keep his attention on her. So far that's word for helping Frei get in the shots they needed! "Kya!"

The ferocity of Zero's return assault on Hotaru makes Frei wince, especially when it becomes clear that the edges of Zero's coat are not just frilly metal decoration, but weapons capable of wreaking some impressive havoc on the kenpoist. He effectively landed from his overcommited aerial assault in a crouch, expecting to pay for it... instead the cape sweeps past him and at Hotaru. It's not a good feeling; while the chi sage respects Hotaru's ability to handle any type of attack that comes her way, he is also aware that he himself has put more focus on enduring repeated harm than she has... although that in and of itself makes her a natural target.

That doesn't mean he has to sit there and accept it, though.

He stands, hands glowing a deep green color as he holds them in front of him, making a few passes that are reasonably easy to recognize as tai chi hand pushes. He nods at Hotaru's words but more importantly, he refuses to move out of Zero's range; if anything he's trying his damndest to run interference for Hotaru, letting her get in the series of crushingly accurate hits that are one of her trademarks without opening herself up too much to reprisal. He simply advances, even if Zero steps backwards, hands still glowing that deep green; in fact, looking close, it's almost as if spectral leaves bleed outwards like a cloud and then vanish mere centimeters from them.

"We can't stop people from taking risks," he adds to Hotaru's statement. "We encourage them to do that, to test their limits and see what they can accomplish. And if they fall, then we have to be there to set things right again." He pauses, mouth open, and he hears the words 'that's what parents are for' form in his head and die on his lips. He doesn't... want to make that claim, not without knowing more about the family of the young apprentice at his feet, or the coworker being tortured in another room. But he said it once before to Remy, and again to his own mother: We are a family. Blood bonds come in surprising forms, not just genetic.

As Hotaru's kick sweeps in to his side, he once again tries his damndest to strike in tandem with her. In fact, in this case it's almost literal. Keeping abreast of the kick, he extends his hands... but rather than striking with a sudden burst of chi from his palms, that energy instead surrounds Hotaru's kick. The already formidable force of the kenpoist's strike is augmented by that flaring burst of green, a power borrowed and originating in nature... a counterpoint to the walls of sheer force that Zero produces.

COMBATSYS: Zero blocks Frei's Reiki.

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

COMBATSYS: Zero blocks Hotaru's Light Kick.

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

Once more, that uneasy feeling begins to swell. If Hotaru and Frei didn't notice it before, it's presence is large enough to be like an elephant in the room. Zero's eyes shut as his skirt snaps back to him, fabric rippling almost like a lake surface disturbed by the impact of a stone. When his eyes open again? They are glowing.
"Reality has not yet settled in for you yet."
Once more they attack in tandem. And this time, Zero is ready for both; there is no lost attention between either as the NESTS XO's glowing eyes focuses on the advance of his enemies. Both attack simultaneously--
--and both are greeted by Zero's forearms.
The strikes land in tandem; the kick smashes against the side of Zero's right arm, while that burst of chi is greeted by his left palm. Across Zero's body, lines of inky black tendrils slither into existence, cold, deathly chi impacting against the vibrant green of Frei's assault. Zero strains against each attack, his eyes narrowing as his arms begin to shake. His lips pull tight. "Enough."
A moment later, Zero /pushes/ away from the duo, leaving almost liquid-like afterimages stenciled in black behind him in the wake of his motion. His left hand smokes vaguely, his right arm sore upwards to his shoulder. He ignores it. There is still more time to kill.
He says nothing when the black aura that had surrounded him suddenly explodes into a shockwave that sweeps across the room; fundamentally harmless, but heralding something else. Something worse. The sensation coming with that shockwave is almost sickening, a noxious presence that is only amplified... as that fanged battle skirt begins to lift upwards.
"... Begone."
And suddenly, almost like liquid, the fabric of that cape suddenly -EXPLODES- forward, stretching and expanding to impossible lengths as it goes off with all the force of a cannonblast, aiming to /smash/ into both Frei and Hotaru in unholy volumes. Sharp edges seek to impale into Frei and Hotaru's shoulders, legs, torso, and /slam/ them against the nearby walls... before those metal bits begin to crackle with black and blue energy.
It's only a second later that those crackling charges of chi explode in volumnous spheres of terrible, black energy, seeking to engulf Hotaru and Frei alike.

COMBATSYS: Zero successfully hits Hotaru with Mokushiroku.

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

Their strikes in tandem are effectively warded, leaving Hotaru to snap her foot back to regain balance. She looks intent to press the attack. Give him no room, give him no time to breath or collect himself. They've pressured him well thus far but there's that nagging sensation that the enigmatic man is holding something back. Not out of concern for their well being by any means... but simply because it wasn't 'time yet.' And as he creates his distance, leaving those afterimages in his wake, the warning goes off in her head: It's time.

His terse declaration followed by command are accompanied by a blast of among the most unwholesome energy Hotaru has ever sensed washing over the lobby. A worried glance is cast Frei's way. He's the chi guru, after all, right? Is he worried? But the precursor - that presence - was only a herald of the real attack to come. That pent up energy at last unleashed, an unholy combination of technology and fearsome chi manipulation. And as the girl glances back toward Zero, she's just in time to see the cape twisting through the distance between them. If she had the breath to utter 'Impossible!' that might represent the thought that goes through her mind just before she finds herself skewered to the wall at her side.

Sharp, bladed points hold the young fighter in place. Her arm cut, leg gashed, the torso wound is the most severe. Frantically, she tries to pull herself free as a shockwave of additional energy rips along the impossibly transformed fabric. "AH!" The last breath in her lungs is forced out when the chi explodes. Unlike the energy she's often exposed to in normal fights, there is a presence behind this twisted power. Vile, painful, the exploding sphere obscurs her from sight.

And by the time it fades, a portion of the wall is missing, the teenaged martial artist collapsed at the foot of it, half-covered in debris. The desire to strike back immediately rushes to the surface. Gritted teeth, she pushes herself up with her right hand, her left hand pressing against her stomach. A flash of fiery indignation at having been hurt so occupies her expression for a fleeting moment only to be replaced with steely resolve. From down to crouching, to standing finally, using a portion of the wall for support, she gathers herself back up. This isn't over yet. The ticking timebomb she could tell they were dealing with has exploded. If they can just hang in there a little longer, maybe they can hope to outlast this... Of course, with the blood seeping over her fingers, she suspects her own endurance is limited. A worried glance is cast Frei's way, her mouth clenched close, silent for the need to focus on breathing just now.

COMBATSYS: Hotaru gains composure.

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

COMBATSYS: Frei just-defends Zero's Mokushiroku!

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

It's enough of a warning.

Like a hangnail, or a toothache, or the sense that you've left the house with the oven on. It's been bothering him ever since he came in, that chi of Zero's, and now the proverbial piper needs to be paid. The sudden surge -- no doubt in response to the continued team assaults on his person -- of energy from Zero blazes through every fibre of Frei's being once the NESTS executive decides he really, really wants to pull out all the stops. What had been, to this point, a steady amount of worrisome background noise is NOW the whistling sound that an atomic weapon makes shortly before impact. The young sage has literally no time at all in which to formulate a plan. But...

It's at these moments that Frei truly shines.

The feeling that he can't get to Hotaru, can't save her from this, makes his chest tighten with regret and pain, but as soon as the chi-laced bladed skirt comes his way the redhead is acting entirely on instinct. His body bursts with color, a nearly skintight aura of coruscating, prismatic shades swirling around him as every ounce of defensive mojo he has is brought to bear. Yet when each bladed tendril tries to find its mark it's a deceptively simple-looking response; hands come up, palms turning them aside, torso twisting imperceptibly so that some simply pass right on by. As the black energy grows, on cue, the rainbow hues around Frei come to life, ripping off his body and slamming into Zero's attack as pure counterforce, the entire display looking... disturbingly beautiful from the outside, the type of special effect that Hollywood studios pay men lots of money to produce, the power of sheer nothingness splashing against a barrier of every sort of chi that Frei can conceive of and, likely how instinctive this all is, some he probably *can't*.

When all is said and done, the three combatants are in a perfect line: Hotaru, needing to recover, is almost not even visible as Frei interposes himself between Zero, the statement he makes with his body absolutely clear: you can try, but it's through me at this point. His fingers trail light as he brings his hand around, and then assumes a defensive posture, taking a deep, slow breath before he speaks. "Neither of us came here to beat you up. Walk right out the door and we won't even try to stop you. But we're leaving with the injured whether you like it or not."

COMBATSYS: Frei gathers his will.

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

Inky tendrils lash out around Zero's skirt and body suit in the after-effect of his assault, excessive energy shed from his body as that serrated cape flows back towards him with the deceivingly peaceful sound of rustling fabric. When it returns, Zero takes a moment to assess the situation: one of the fighters, Hotaru, seems to have been downed -- for now. Zero is not so foolish to think that she is done for good and -- indeed -- she manages to gather herself back to her feet succinctly soon enough. Zero frowns; that's one deal with, but the other--?
Frei handles the chi and the sudden, unforgiving onslaught far more readily and easily than his teammate. Zero senses the ebb of chi that explodes from Frei with his every strike, his every deflection, his frown only deepening as he finds his assault not only dissolved... but the young man standing between himself and the far more susceptible target of Hotaru. He listens to Frei's words.
And for once, he smiles. It's hardly pleasant, and it seems by all regards to be something someone might mold on a mannequinn: lifeless, cold. But it's there. "Your method of thinking is too simple for this situation. You cannot see the bigger picture. I wonder if you will be able to?"
But Zero's question does not go answered; a second later he lashes out at Frei, even has he attempts to provide a barrier, aiming to simply /smash/ his right boot directly into the young man's shoulder in a sweeping axe-kick. Zero's posture remains slightly restrained, even as he sweeps outward -- retaining a defensive stance as he seeks to batter Frei directly into the hard ground.

It takes a moment for her vision to clear enough to take stock in the situation but eventually Hotaru's attention comes to rest on the back of Frei. Standing like a champion between her and Zero, he provides the necessary buffer for her to catch her breath and evaluate her own condition briefly. A faint smile of visible relief spans her expression for a transient moment, glad to see that once again Frei's inspirational talents for defense have pulled him through the storm of such a violent onslaught.

But the feeling passes quickly as Zero speaks again. He is right about one thing. She has no idea what the bigger picture here is. What these people are after. Why they attacked this center. Why Southtown has troops marching down its streets. All she knows is this fight, here and now, and what is on the line immediately in front of her. But that's enough for her resolve. "Maybe not," she admits to herself with a soft whisper, but says nothing more, completing the thought in her head. The small, immediate picture is important enough right now to occupy her complete focus. The room is still awash with the aftermath of that horrific attack, the air still charged with lingering energy.

Drawing upon that abundant energy for her own retaliation seems wrong on some level; like resorting to using an assassin's poison just because it's handy. But it's something the girl is willing to touch upon, if for a moment, if it means being able to drop the obviously superior fighter. Pushing off from the wall, dust and debris falling from her shoulders, the girl bolts at a forward angle just as Zero moves in to attack the chi guru bewteen the two of them. Her aim is to stay directly behind Frei for as long as possible before she springs to the side, planting her feet and hands against the wall, giving herself a launch-off point in line with Zero just as he gets in range of the red-haired monk.

There's more than enough latent chi lingering to fuel her charge. Not only that dark presence from Zero's malefic attack but that countering, almost purifying energy available from Frei's defense and preparation... Channeling it comes easily at that point as she crouches against the wall for a fraction of a second, small whirlwinds of dust kicked up by the vacuum created by her moment of ultimate speed...

And then she bolts, launching directly for Zero, her entire body awash with an explosion of blue chi that propels her forward as she literally aims to bodily tackle the taller man. Enough of his talk, enough of his prying at their psyche or focus. It's time to take him down with everything she's got. Should she accomplish her goal, it's a matter of gathering the rest of that energy into a gigantic sphere of blue, violet, and red churning energy, before letting it collapse right back through her, channeled down her arms into to the chest of the suited NESTS XO!

COMBATSYS: Frei endures Zero's Medium Kick.

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

Frei can sense it behind him, Hotaru's gathering of ambient energy to make her own attack. Not for the first time does he wonder why she brought Kentou to him, for the blue haired girl's facility with chi has proven time and time again to be prodigious indeed. But perhaps why these two fighters have been able to work so effectively as a team is their ability to sense what the other is likely to do. Call it familiarity, call it intuition; either way, in the right hands it's a potent weapon indeed. That... and the fact that they have much to fight for, here, something irreplacable on all accounts.

The chi sage knows he has to hold the proverbial line as long as possible. Steeling himself, he sets his feet, grits his teeth, and digs in for the inevitable. The axe kick swings downward and slams into the redhead's shoulder *hard*... far harder than he expected, in fact. The already broken and shattered tile cracks, then gives way as the sheer crushing force of Zero's kick literally drives Frei into the ground. But as strong as it is, the YFCC instructor refuses to be moved. He exhales one sharp breath in surprise and pain, but for a brief and terrible moment, Zero is... effectively stuck there, leg hooked on Frei's shoulder.

"Maybe not," he says, echoing Hotaru's words as he shoves Zero's leg off. "But do you think the bigger picture... would make us give up our friends' lives?" He can feel it now, more than before... Hotaru's fighting spirit reaching a fever pitch. She must really want to end this _now_, and frankly the freckle-faced fighter is ready to do the same. He stays where he is, but his hands come up in front of him, wrists touching; one hand bursts to life with a pearly white glow, the other with purple-limned black, the two auras swirling around each other in a chaotic pattern. As intense as the flow of Hotaru's energy was, Frei brings his own final technique to bear, the two creating a crashing wave front of power that makes the room almost hum in resonance.

He waits until Hotaru is clear, hopefully during that burst of bright blue... and when he's got his shot, Frei shouts inarticulately and thrusts both palms foward, the white and black energy becoming a point-blank, spiralling burst of energy with considerable force behind it... hopefully enough, combined with Hotaru's strike, to take Zero out of the fight at last. Through a wall, if need be.

COMBATSYS: Zero blocks Frei's Samsara.

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Zero             0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0             Frei
                                  >  ////////////////              ]
                                 |-------\-------\0           Hotaru

COMBATSYS: Zero fails to reflect Ten-shou Ranki EX from Hotaru with Hankyou.

[                          \\\\  < >  ///////////////////////       ]
Zero             0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0             Frei
                                  >  ////////////////              ]
                                 |-------\-------\0           Hotaru

COMBATSYS: Zero can no longer fight.

                                  >  ///////////////////////       ]
                                 |==-----\-------\0             Frei
                                  >  ////////////////              ]
                                 |-------\-------\0           Hotaru

"I wonder," Zero responds dully to Frei, even as that kick crushes into the younger man's shoulder.
"What is the value of comradery? It is a price you will no doubt pay soon--"
Zero's ominous words are cut off the moment that his leg is thrown backwards. Staggering, the man crashes his right leg into the earth, bracing himself for impact. He knows what's coming; the NESTS XO is nothing if not a observant individual. Highly tuned senses pick up on the swell of chi from both fighters well before it actually manifests itself in a visible way. The amount of power is impressive. This will be the end; he knows that much.
But he might as well give the courtesy of a fight before it.
Blindingly brilliant energy is unleashed from Frei in one beautiful moment of raw force, monochromatic hues swirling together in a mass of power as Zero snaps his gaze towards the monk. Both hands /thrust/ forward, enshrouded in pinkish-violet, artificially crafted chi as he meets Frei's burst with a simple, powerful forward thrust. The opposing forces meet, and lie prone in mid-air. Zero's arms begin to shake in a vague yet visible manner as he strains against the energy; his brows twitch, his lips peel back vaguely, the only semblence of emotion he has even shown since this fight began. One final push--
--The resultant explosion disperses much of the rest of Frei's assault as Zero goes stumbling backwards, body smoking... and placed right into the path of Hotaru's glowing body. His skirt lifts, as if to intercept, to stop her flat.
It doesn't work. Smashed into the ground by Hotaru's energy-laden tackle, Zero is afforded only a minute to ponder his next move before /all/ of that energy is channeled into him with such power, such force, that everything quite literally /explodes/. Sensors are overriden, battle suit functions are destroyed as the highly dense fabric is rent asunder in one brilliantly powerful moment. Sheer force explodes Zero straight backwards from Futaba in one moment; the NESTS XO /crashes/ through the front door of the lobby, smoking body hurled outside in one monumental thrust.
There is nothing, in the aftermath. And should Hotaru and Frei try to look... Zero will be no where to be found.

And with that combination of ultimate techniques, the two YFCC defenders manage to take down the menace before he can unleash another one of his devastating techniques. Frei's powerful force of chi leaves their target's guard open just long enough for the young Kenpo artist to land her own attack. Combining all that energy into a single, point blank explosion, pushes her potential beyond even normal circumstances. Fevor, anger, or just steely resolve could be the catalyst for such a strong blast, sending more dust and scattered debris away from the point of impact.

It's enough to knock her into the air clean off Zero, landing a few yards away in a seated position, a surprised grunt punctuating the destructive display of hostile force. Dirty and bleeding, she shakes her head, hands coming up to wipe her eyes clear before squinting toward where Zero was an instant prior. Seeing he's not there, she glances around quickly, already struggling to get back up to her feet, looking hurt and frazzled, but not entirely lost to confusion when her gaze comes to rest ultimately on Frei.

It's only then that she realizes she had been holding her breath throughout the entire combination and just now begins to breath with a surprised gasp. Staggering forward, her hand comes to rest on what remains of a counter. A sense of relief at the small victory doesn't last for long, Zero's forboding words just before their attack echoing in her mind. What did he mean by that? What is coming next in all this?

Pushing off from the counter, the battle-weary girl approaches Kentou. "We have to get him out of here... And anyone else we can find, too." She glances about the ruined lobby. Broken walls, shattered furniture... it looks like a warzone. Moreso than /most/ weekends, in any case. "We can fall back to my house... I have supplies and other people gathering there too. Hopefully we can get in touch with Mizuki-san... assuming she isn't here too." She winces, hand resting at her stomach again, glancing toward Frei hopefully, "Can you carry him?"

COMBATSYS: Hotaru has left the fight here.

                                  >  ///////////////////////       ]
                                 |==-----\-------\0             Frei

Light and darkness. Movement and stillness. Silence and cacophony.
These forces danced in Kentou's dimmed vision. Consciousness is a fluid thing for the youth now, constantly slipping in and out. Mercifully enough he feels very little pain..
..Which is how he knows he must be really, really hurt.

There is a familiarity to this commotion now. Voices and colors that tease his addled memory. The youth remains motionless, for even the barest twitch sends a shock-wave of agony through him.

Finally, there is quiet once more. Fewer individuals moving about now.. Only two left he thinks.
As the image stands closer now and speaks once more.. Kentou's lips manage a slight turn upwards, "...S...Sen..s...ei.."
Breathing is a shallow thing for him now, but none of that matters anymore.
That's Frei too! Frei is here also! And they seem just fine.. He should warn them about that big guy in the dark clothes but.. He's feeling so very sleepy.

All that matters is that Hotaru and Frei are just fine. He was so worried that he'd never be able to help them now.. But they didn't need his help. They're a-okay.

Kentou's eyes, his bloodied expression drunk with shock, are without focus - But he can yet barely see. His fingers crawl along the edge of the shattered desk beneath him, attempting to lift towards his two saviors, "..Fr..ei.. Hota..ru.. Kn..ew.. you...d.... be..."

The boy's hand falls aside. "..fin.e..." Head rolling as his eyes finally close. He can rest now. He can rest.

Such attacks don't come without cost... never mind the fact that the kick Zero delivered and Frei weathered in that last brutal exchange was far nastier than it looked. Not as bad as the wallop that he delivered to Hotaru, perhaps, but still painful... so when the kenpoist's gaze makes its way to her partner, he's leaning forward, head bowed and hands on knees, taking deep breaths... but at least *slow* breaths, the kind you take after exertion, not the kind you take when you're trying to keep your kidneys from falling out.

Eventually he stands up and takes stock of the situation. Zero is gone, and like Hotaru, Frei is disturbed by his words. Why this place? It seems as if the many factions in Southtown each have some compelling reason to smash the Youth Center on a rotating, monthly basis, and the very thought of that makes Frei's feckled countenance go taut in a combination of consternation and sheer stupid annoyance. He turns to look at the door, rubble crunching under his feet as he shifts to do so, and murmurs, "It's like living in Jerusalem..."

Hotaru speaks, and her partner in this endeavor turns to refocus on her presence, taking stock of her words. He hadn't even thought this out as far as 'someplace to go'; he just wanted to get people out and the logistics afterwards would hopefully make themselves apparent. The redhead gives a tight smile at Hotaru's thoughtfulness, and is about to reply when he hears a voice speak from the darkness, a familiar voice, that makes replying sort of moot.

"We are," Frei says quietly, kneeling down a bit near Kentou's position, shattered furniture and rocks digging into his calves a bit. With some effort, the sage lifts Kentou up and, as carefully as he can manage, arranges him across his back, the young fighter's arms draped haphazardly around his neck and Frei's arms hooked under his legs. "Just... be strong a little bit longer."

He turns toward Hotaru, ears perking and head tilted a bit. He can *hear* something, faint, but clearly going on elsewhere in this building. It's not over just yet, but somehow he doubts that another threat of Zero's calibre is lying in wait. "Alright. Lead on... and then let's get out of here."

Log created on 22:20:24 02/27/2009 by Frei, and last modified on 21:02:25 02/28/2009.