Devil's Tournament - DT R3: Ryu vs Athena

Description: Ryu versus Athena in the third round of the Devil's Tournament. Ryu beats up a little girl. (Winner: Ryu)

The semifinal round of the Devil's Tournament. Mystery has driven this entire affair forward, and it's not just for the fighters. Now the whole WORLD wants to know: just who is behind this gathering of warriors? Who had the money and the clout to put an event of this scale together in the first place? It's proof that anticipation, more than anything else, drives humanity in its moments of greatest excess. The belief that all the speculation, all the guesswork, all the conspiracy theories and weird projections and media hype will somehow culminate in something amazingly revelatory practically hangs in the air like mist as spectators crowd the shut-down Charles de Gaulle Place surrounding the massive Arc de Triomphe, where today's match will take place. The marble arch itself is lit by the typical gold floodlights, and the trees in the surrounding plazas glitter with strings of white 'fairy lights' like will-o'-the-wisps dancing in their branches. Despite the calm beauty of the scene, the roar of eager spectators is deafening, people straining at the barricade set up around the Arc plaza itself to give the fighters some room.

And room, they are going to need. The people who've risen to the top of the competition are among the strongest and most experienced of the profession; a battle between Athena Asamiya and the wanderer Ryu is almost guaranteed to be a pyrotechnic, acrobatic, and wide-ranging display of martial -- and supernatural -- ability. It's also patently clear that the two competitors were likely drawn here by similar motivations; Athena's reputation for involving herself in anything that has the scent of injustice or dark deeds is well-known, and even Ryu, who is typically known to battle only for the joy of the fight alone, is rumored to have some stake in this tournament full of unknowns... but with the latter's typical reticence to speak with (or acknowledge the existence of) the media, it's all guesses. Of course, those guesses only add to the mystery of the tournament itself in a feedback loop.

The truth is that Ryu has always been haunted by dark dreams and concerns about the man with the 'Heaven' mark, the man who killed his mastter. But they are something that through meditation and calm observation he has minimized... until now. Their return makes him worry. But even now, as he steps onto the 'field' and tightens his red handguards to the cheering of an appreciative crowd, he can't quite put his finger on it still. For now, there is only the fight.

And as much as he doesn't quite want to fight Athena -- she's the kind of person he'd trust to root out the devilish details behind this event -- the Wanderer knows that the psychic is not only a formidable opponent but wields a power he needs practice fighting against, a power that she uses for good and that others, such as Vega, turn to more devastating ends. If he's to eventually combat the forces of Shadaloo,

he'll need the sort of training that only this sort of match can provide.

When she entered, she wasn't sure if she could make it this far. Though a well known fighter, Athena Asamiya was more famous for her stage presence and multiple successful albums than her combat prowess. She set out to prove otherwise and, thus far, has managed to do just that. But it wasn't just about proving her abilities. Like her world-famous opponent, she too has been trying to reach the top, to secure the promise that the devil behind the event would come out into the open. And with each match behind her, she's getting closer.

At her previous fights, her arrival to the match was heralded by blasting music, a fancy entrance, fighting outfits that were a carefully calculated blend between practical and visually appealing. Athena and her agents knew how to put on a show and to a small extent, that's what those fights were. She had been the favored going into them and even though her opponents gave their all, she managed to stay a step ahead.

Skeptics of the fighting idol's ability suggested there were back door dealings to make sure she came out of those fights looking good. Rabid fans of Athena insisted that she wasn't even trying her hardest yet and that she could easily smoke the competition if she was going all out. Athena knew there was little truth to the rumor mills, but when interviewed, she handled accusations and wild theories with the same blend of ready smiles and professional neutrality that she always did when controveries came her way. She knew how to handle her way around the press, at least.

For this match, however, there is no attempt at promoting image or selling albums, in spite her agents' insistence that it was a golden opportunity. Instead the violet haired girl enters the cordoned off area clothed in a more humble, simple red and pink Kung Fu outfit, like she used to wear for matches before fame swept her up. Since making it through the previous round, she had been looking forward to this match for the entire week. Ryu is, without a doubt, a man she holds in high esteem, and as she walks across the emptied area of the plaza, feet clad in soft, red shoes, her eyes are on her opponent.

Those hoping for a blood-shedding match between violent rivals aren't going to find that in this semi-finals match. No, here stand two with ideals that aren't too far apart, with goals that are hardly opposed to each other. She may be the smaller of the two, but someone as knowledgeable as Ryu would know the true nature of her power - a psychic presence few can match. Even now, she focuses inward, filtering the excitement and energy of the crowd. Each fighter holds equal sway with the audience, with countless hoping to see the famous Ansatsuken master take the tourny, and an equal number rooting for Athena to see this through. Of course a number are just hoping for a good fight, not followers of either combatant.

"Ryu, it is an honor." the girl speaks up, her voice carrying surprisingly well in spite the loud background noise. She rests her fist in her palm and bows her head before standing up straight again. "Someday," she adds, a playful smile already at her lips, "You'll have to teach me how you manage to avoid reporters so well."

Plenty of people have probably underestimated Athena Asamiya. Ryu will not be one of them. Though their encounters have been few in the past, the Wandering Dragon has felt the sting of her special powers more than once... and even if he hadn't, encounters with people like Oro or Tung Fu Rue have taught Ryu the important lesson that small packages are often just explosive power compressed into a small space... and which is all the more furious when released for that fact. Much like Athena, Ryu is also centering his thoughts, bringing them within, focusing on the fight... knowing this moment in time, this place and this opportunity, will never rise again. Even if he and Athena face each other in the future, this time, this NOW, is unique. Special. Important. And so the yelling and swaying of the crowd falls away for him as well, becoming like the background noise of a roaring waterfall.

Which makes it all the stranger when the Wanderer's response, with a faint smile of good humor, is to say "Brown hair, brown eyes. Not that tall. Barefeet so I'm a little lower to the ground. They just keep skimming the crowd for the head, so if I take this off..." And here, hands come up and tighten the long-tailed red hachimaki that circles Ryu's forehead, before he continues, "...they never notice." A pause, and then a shake of the head. "Maybe I shouldn't reveal such advanced techniques in the public eye?"

But small joke aside, the Japanese man is soon all business, setting his legs apart at a faint angle, feet turned slightly inward, and fists up at torso height. It's the loose, highly adaptable stance of Ansatsuken, familiar to the crowd. "I expect we shall have an... enlightening battle, Miss Asamiya. It's my pleasure."

A nod of the head, to signal that the time for polite talk has ended. Now the man in the white gi surges forward, delivering a snap kick for Athena's shoulder. A test, as the psychic would well know... a dip into the water before Ryu hurls himself into the rapids.

COMBATSYS: Ryu has wandered into a fight here.

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Ryu              0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Athena has joined the fight here.

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Athena           0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0              Ryu

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Athena with Medium Kick.
- Power hit! -

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Athena           0/-------/--=====|-------\-------\0              Ryu

"I should've known," she replies, slipping into her own ready stance, hands raised, palms open, boucing lightly on her toes - a stance favoring deflection and mobility. "I'll have to give that a try sometime." But of course she's being facetious. Ever since she was discovered, she's never been able to disappear into any crowd. Her presence is supernatural, eyes are drawn to her even if she simply stands quietly by. And when she closes her eyes for a brief moment to tap into her fighting potential, the reason for that becomes even more clear.

It emanates out from her like a sudden pulse of invisible yet entirely real energy, like a shockwave that should be seen kicking up dust and blowing hats from off the top of people's heads, yet there is nothing seen, nothing felt - physically - from this phenomenon. For a fraction of a second, it is as if all the world is muted, a collected breath in anticipation for what is to come. When her violet eyes open, Athena's demoenaor has shifted. She is ready for the clash to come, the contest of their desires, their skills, their training, their passion for the fight. "Likewise," she answers his cordial, sincere words.

When he approaches, she moves forward as well. Her speed is well known, and she must be thinking to land the first strike herself. That eagerness costs her, however, being on the offense when her opponent is every bit as swift to act as she. His kick comes out first - a testing strike that doesn't leave him particularly open - and her counter momentum leaves the precision strike sending her reeling back further than one might have expected from such a probing strike.

She's immediately on the counter offensive, however, sucking in her breath to fight off the pain. A leap into the air indicates the rough vector of her attack, before she tucks herself into a ball and /drops/ out of the sky at a sharper angle than might be expected, her entire body shrouded in rose-hued Psycho Power. As if calling on a divine source for the movie, her voice echoes across the plaza, "Phoenix Arrow!"

The teenaged dive bomber aims to collide with Ryu and force him backward, only to finish her attack by launching from her right hand into a strong kick with both feet in order to trip him up.

COMBATSYS: Ryu dodges Athena's Phoenix Arrow.

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Athena           0/-------/--=====|-------\-------\0              Ryu

He has always marveled at this: the ability of people such as Athena to effectively grab physics by the back of the neck and point it in the direction they desire, though such a rough description hardly does the graceful midair turn that Athena performs due justice. Still, that abrupt spin down toward the ground -- and Ryu -- is swift and unexpected, which anyone can tell by the widening of Ryu's eyes when he realizes the flying kick or chop he was *expecting* from such a leap isn't coming. This is perhaps why his response looks comparatively graceless; he hurls himself to the side in a tucking somersault, rolling to a stop a few steps away just as Athena's dive slams into the ground mere seconds later. Even as she must be pulling herself standing, so too is Ryu, having escaped retribution by a narrow margin.

If true afficionados of professional fighting fault Ryu on one thing consistently, it's that his obsessive focus on the moment of the fight makes him a miserable performer... in fact, this is usually when comparisons to the decidedly more flashy and upbeat Ken Masters come up, and a discussion of if showmanship gets in the way of technique begins. His own thoughts stray to this for a moment, and Ryu decides that if Athena is any indicator, showmanship need not obscure fighting skill at all. However, Ryu remains comparatively stone-faced, his big flaw. He has little to say now that can't be said with his fists.

Case in point: he flows back into the fight once both fighters are standing and steady, attempting to grip Athena's wrist with both hands and then effectively flip her down onto her back. It has more in common with Judo than the karate forms that serve as the basis for much of Ansatsuken, but it can be just as effective if properly applied.

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Athena with Medium Throw.

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Athena           1/-------/=======|=------\-------\0              Ryu

His reflexes are what she would expect of a man of his stature. Her feet sweep out with crushing force but Ryu's legs aren't there to be struck. The attack does leave her extended, however. But she reacts with an admireable amount of speed and dexterity, pushing off with her right hand into a horizontal spin over the ground to kick up to her feet without skipping a beat.

On her toes, she whirls around, trying to get a bearing on Ryu. Normally she doesn't require line of sight to pin point the location of her opponent, but there is something almost overwhelming about the presence of the man so many people would dismiss as being 'boring', and it's hard to locate him admist the ambient buzz she feels being so near to him now.

He's fast. He's already reaching for her by the time her hair falls into place against her shoulders and her eyes have locked on his. She knows his intent - the way he reaches backing up what her mind already knows. It almost seems like he's too late, her form blurring for a split second. But his grip is sure and out of a puff of rose hued energy, he'll fling Athena to the ground hard enough to knock the breath from her.

The set back doesn't stop her, however, as she tucks into a roll and comes up standing a couple yards away. The first couple exchanges have gone poorly for her, she knows, but she's still got plenty of fight left in her. Whirling back on Ryu, she hangs back for a moment. The fervor of the crowd is dizzying and her opponent's mere presence somewhat disorienting. Chin would chastize her for letting those things get to her, she knows. She needs to get her act together.

Slipping back into her stance, she breaths in the slowly exhales the tension building within her. By the time she has done so, she has finally closed out the last of the distractions, becoming truly focused.

COMBATSYS: Athena focuses on her next action.

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Athena           1/-------/=======|=------\-------\0              Ryu

For a moment, Athena's eyes when lands on the ground -- that moment where Athena is feeling herself pulled away, when the real world unfortuantely demands payment for the taxing things professional fghters demand of it -- remind Ryu uncomfortably of Adon. The thought surprisies him, takes him aback, even, as he considers it, but even as he gets back into stance, he can see that danger moment passing as quickly as it came, Athena's admirable stage presence and iron control over her abilitty comeing to the fore. While it's expected -- Athena's no crazy person -- it's also a relief. Ryu isn't sure he'd want to deal with Berserker Athena, in any way.

On the other hand, the momentary shift in perception is enough to force Ryu to bring his eyes back to the fight as well. She's not going to attack, not just yet, and Ryu has little desire to make an attack of his own and seem like a bully or aggressor. Plus, he's like to see more of her unique style... especially after his match with Jace in the Argentine outback. So he took hangs back, takes stock, and thinks things through. He's going to have to, since Athena can attack at a variet of speeds and angles.

While there is a break, Ryu manages to say despite his usual moratium, "Harder than it looks... I know." Let that be their commiseration, from now. Instead he watches her moves, knowing that her defensive abilities are noteable as well.

COMBATSYS: Ryu focuses on his next action.

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Athena           1/-------/=======|=------\-------\0              Ryu

It's better now that she's focused. Her expression is serious but by no means severe, locked in concentration. For now, the only other person in the world besides her is the man standing across from her. It's quieter now. She likes it better. He speaks, his voice a welcome intrustion into that moment of quiet, and she nods, smiling just faintly. "It is."

There's nothing trivial about what they're doing out here. Their years of practice, relentless training, and countless matches against too many challengers to number may lend a certain graceful ease to their movements, but it is by no means easy. Even here, two fighters that have won their previous bouts to make it this far, are going to have to watch every step to do their best. Athena is committed to meeting that bar, regardless what happens.

"Thank you," she adds, and leaves it at that. She is a blur of motion then, darting forward once again on the offense, her arms out at her sides as she leans into the sprint.

To get back into this fight, she's going to need to pour her all into her power. Whether she held back against other opponents or not is beside the question right now - there is no doubt she's attacking with all the strength she can muster. Psychic energy courses through her form, becoming visible once it reaches her arms where it begins to collect in her hands in rapidly-expanding spheres.

The idol fighter springs forward from a few yards out, snapping her arms forward, bringing that collected power together into one massive, explosive ball of pulsating Psycho Power. The size is easily enough to envelope Ryu if he is caught within it!

COMBATSYS: Ryu instinctively blocks Athena's Round Psycho Reflector.

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Athena           1/-------/=======|==-----\-------\0              Ryu

There's no getting away from that. Never mind the size of the shining sphere of energy, which alone is enough to make evasion tricky; there's the fact that Athena has been training her gaze on Ryu carefully for some time now, anticipating routes of escape and adjusting her attack to compensate. It's a very smart way to fight, and it is only Ryu's instinct for battle that saves him. One foot is about to leave the ground, an attempt to hurl himself away, when some impulse in his mind, some suddenly-heeded and subconscious evaluation of the situation, tells him to stay put. The leg slams back down, knee bent, so that Ryu is in horse stance, and bringing one arm up, he seeks to withstand, rather than avoid, the psychic onslaught as best he can.

For a moment, the Wanderer isn't even visible; the field of power obscures him entirely from view. But within, Ryu is marshalling his will, summoning whatever reserves he can to fight off the sensation of being attacked with Psycho Power, a fascinating sort of simultaneously numbing-burning feeling that defies logical description. When the proverbial smoke clears, however, Ryu is still standing... though only just. His posture sags a bit with fatigue, for nobody could weather that storm unscathed... but at least he has succeeded at partially deflecting what might have been an otherwise decisively overwhelming assault.

The best move now, however, might be to give himself some breathing room, and so the Ansatsuken Wanderer makes a reprisal in kind. While still in this low horse stance-like posture, one knee comes up almost above his waits, before Ryu tilts his torso back and then extends that leg forward in a viciously strong front kick intended to send Athena sailing back across the plaza, with a resounding "Ei!"

COMBATSYS: Ryu successfully hits Athena with Joudan Sokutou Geri.
> Determined Hit! <

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Athena           1/--=====/=======|====---\-------\0              Ryu

The crushing assault is significant in its pressure, that attack alone is more than many opponents can withstand, let alone weather while remaining standing. But young Asamiya knows full well there are plenty of fighters stronger than her in the world. Right now, she might be facing one of the very best there is. She has enough of a bead on him to know, even before the near blindingly bright sphere of Psycho Power fades, that he's still right there, standing close. She'll have to respond immediately.

The flow of psychic energy ebbs and she begins to move. But the focus on offense leaves her defense lacking. When the Ansatsuken moves, he does so with speed that rivals the fastest she's ever fought, and it's all she can do to try and bolt away, conveniently in the direction he was already aiming to send her flying. Her backward slipping unfortunately, for her sake, only makes his strike even more sure, his foot connecting with the idol fighter's sternum with crushing force.

She's enough of a featherweight that the kinetic energy of the strike is transferred into backward momentum rather than a literal fracture of bone, but even that response is rough on her part, Athena flying backward, twisting in the air, landing into a sideways slide some yards away. She really felt that one, moreso than the first.

In fights at this level, a few mistakes compound rapidly, and Athena is hardly so inexperienced as to not recognize that she's falling behind rapidly. Times like this call for greater efforts, and she isn't about to stall out now. Breathing in deeply, she releases energy she would normally have stored up for a longer fight. This... will not be a long fight.

Her intention to leave an impact becomes abundantly clear when an all-encompassing shroud of Psycho Power blossoms up around the girl. The color is a bright, rosey pink, but one mustn't let the inocuous color make it seem harmless. Two dark, blue spheres burst up around her in a tightly woven pattern. "AaaaaAAAAH!" It would be foolish to try and attack her from behind her barricade, but Athena isn't hoping for that kind of novice mistake anyway.

When the power level peaks, she raises her hand, and all that energy surging around her rises up into a single, concentrated bullet of pure Psycho Power over her head. Like a tiny super nova of pain, Athena's gesture of swinging her arm forward to send it hurtling toward Ryu may seem harmless enough. But the cruise-missile of psychic energy she's sending his way by that simple gesture is far from harmless!

COMBATSYS: Ryu dodges Athena's Shining Crystal Bit+.

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Athena           0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0              Ryu

While she may be using a different power than the chi that Ryu is used to sensing and manipulating, Athena is full of fighting spirit, that ineffable quality that seems to permeate all fighters. Of course, its flipside is 'killer instinct' and it is perhaps a bit more sinister. But either way, there's something about pro fighters, the real ones, where they can sense each others' intentions when things get serious. And as Athena recovers from that kick, Ryu knows that she is now definitively serious... and that, despite having an apparent lead in momentum, it would be foolish to underestimate her now... now more than ever, actually.

This knowledge may save Ryu's life, to put it one way. The Wanderer tracks Athena like a hawk as she suddenly explodes with power, power that is a palpable force in the air so potent even the crowd's roar seems to die away by comparison. As that power grows, however, the Dragon takes tiny steps toward the younger fighter... barely perceptible changes in position, but each one closes the gap between the two fighters inch by inch. She's right in that Ryu isn't going to hurl himself at the powerful barrier she's constructed, but that doesn't mean his defense isn't going to be a little aggressive. In fact, he's counting on her certainty that Ryu won't get close, which becomes apparent the second she raises her arm. Tucking low to the ground, like a soldier running to avoid shelling, he takes off toward Athena at a dead run, looking to close the gap between them as fast as possible, assuming that once she's thrown whatever she's going to throw at him, it won't boomerang around and hit him in the back.

But then there's the reality of the shot, a small and deceptively powerful arrow of Psycho Power that speeds at Ryu at what feels like, to him, an appreciable fraction of the speed of sound. And perhaps it is in that instant that, much like during his fight with Adon, the desire to simply revel in the moment of the fight gives way to something else: Ryu's genuine desire to reach the end of this tournament and unmask the 'demon,' so that the terrible premonition in his heart can finally be stilled.

He leaps. The psychic bit shears past his ear so closely that even when the replay is analyzed later, the distance MIGHT be less than a millimeter.

There is a moment, in that haze of slowed time, where Ryu acknowledges that Athena has mastered her power at this level at such a young age... and understand that it was only good fortune being on his side the helped him there.

And even as he rises, Ryu's hands are cupped at his side, a glowing blue-white cyclone of chi gathering there as he leaps *at* Athena, before he swivels the entire affair forward, palms out, and returns fire in kind, unleashing a bullet of compressed energy, a screaming cerulean bullet that may just finish up this fight here and now. "Shinkuuuuuuu... HADOOOOOUKENNNNNN!"

COMBATSYS: Athena fails to reflect Shinkuu Hadouken from Ryu with Shield Psycho Reflector.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Ryu              0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Athena can no longer fight.

[   \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Ryu              0/-------/-------|

She realizes the vector of his reaction even as she releases the projectile from her control. Had he moved a split second slower, she could have corrected for it, made the slightest adjustment, potentially altered the course of the match or at least turned momentum in her favor. But fights at the top echelon are decided by those micro-moments, and this time around, they have favored her opponent. No. Not this echelon, she realizes. /His/ echelon. Ryu is beyond her abilities right now.

As the super-condensed projectile of Psycho Power goes flying, she isn't bewildered or frustrated. In a certain way, it's good to know that there's someone beyond her current abilities that can be trusted - that not all the most powerful people in the world are maniacal psychopaths. Of course, she put almost everything she had into that attack, and Ryu is coming in for another blow. There's not time to evaluate the gulf between them just now.

Pulling her arm back, the masterful martial artist has left her precious little time with which to react. She has one recourse left to her as her left hand joins her right in front of her before rapidly expanding, leaving a growing discus of Psycho Power between her and Ryu. Everything happens too fast her for her to truly know what went wrong. Did his projectile pass through the space occupied by her barrier before it had fully manifested? Did it simply shatter through because she didn't have the strength to withstand it?

One thing she is quite sure of is the crash of that chi that explodes against her with incredible concussive force. It takes the idol fighter off her feet and sends her sliding yards along the plaza on her side. She'll be glad she dressed conservatively for this bout or there would be some pretty painful rashes on her skin from that landing.

Rolling to her hands and knees, she starts to push back up, possessing without a doubt the will to keep going if not the physical capacity. The reality of her situation becomes apparent in the attempt, however, and with a released gasp, she drops back to her knees, supported by her hands. Panting for breath, she shakes her bowed head once, acknowledging the fact that she's beat. Lifting her head, she musters a smile for the Ansatsuken master. The tournament officials quickly realize Asamiya has conceded the bout and the customary cheering and post-matchup hullabaloo begins to get underway.

Seeing what a top tier fighter is like in person is a sobering lesson, she muses quietly to herself. If she is to ever fight against evil forces that exceed Ryu's potential, she has a long ways to go.

To his credit, when Athena is ready to get up, Ryu is there, extending his hand downward to help her up. As far as he's concerned, the jubliant crowd -- many of whom are still chanting Athena's name, such is how beloved she is to these people -- is still a million miles away. If and when she accepts that hand up, the Ansatsuken Wanderer finds time to speak, in a moderate voice intended only for them alone. "I have often thought about people with your powers," Ryu says carefully, not wanting to speak aloud what might not be public information. "Those of us who fight constantly train to master ourselves, everyday. But it must be an even greater challenge for you, since you know the consequences of NOT mastering your abilities. I think that is a terrible burden and you should be proud of how you've borne it."

An awkward pause follows. The Dragon is good at saying things he wants to say, happy to put things into words, but it is usually his fists that do the talking, and this accounts for his shy and retiring demeanor around people. He doesn't have his counterpart's talent for clever chatter; another aspect of the Ken/Ryu dynamic where the latter respects the former. However, he is serious indeed when he looks Athena in the eye and says, "Don't worry. Leave the rest to me."

Log created on 15:04:58 05/13/2012 by Athena, and last modified on 10:50:03 05/14/2012.