In the waiting room, Kourei Raien had been sitting quietly, with his head slightly bowed, as though tired or depressed, when in fact neither was the case. He was simply relaxed. Tournaments are something he is used to, even if the scale of the Angelic Layer tournament, and the floating chairs had rather unsettled him in his first match. It's just another tournament, with more people that he doesn't know watching.... A small smile appeared on his face as the announcer called each Deus out. More people that he didn't know... and at least one that he did. With that thought in his head, his spirits were lifted, and he stood, walking out of the waiting room, onto the arena, and towards his chair. The lights were blinding...

That was then, and this is now. As the chairs rise into the air, and 'ENTRY ANGEL!' is proclaimed, he looks across the empty space to see his opponent, lifts Karasu up with one hand, and speaks only barely loudly enough to be heard. "Don't die, Karasu." ... Not the most inspiring fallin phrase, but then, he was never one for such things. He throws the angel underhand towards the layer, where, after passing through the barrier, Karasu rights itself, coming down for a smooth landing (first time for everything.) Slowly, the white-haired and oddly attired angel stands to its feet, the white eyes looking towards the other opponent without blinking. Always without blinking. Raien's face becomes an impassive mask... and the game begins.

Just another tournament, just one more round infront of the masses. Mikage has never been one to enjoy the gaze of the crowds, but she has at least one thing to her advantage - she can't really see them. Thus, the smile she gives and the wave towards the audience is part of the well-trained act she's developed to get through the moments before the match starts. After that, everything is between the two combatants and their angels and the rest of the world became similar to the little dotted backdrop of the auditorium layer.

As her chair is raised up to it's full height, Mikage takes a slow, deep breath to calm herself. Strangely, she isn't quite as collected for this last of matches. Unlike many who have the endurance to go through match after match, Miki's health has always been less than optimal, so after many matches, she is a bit tired. Mikage rises to her feet and extends her arm, her angel balanced carefully on her forearm. It seems almost as if the angel were sleeping in that seated position. With her eyes closed, Mikage's voice comes across the layer and across the arena. "Spirits of wind and water, soul of the binding storm, will of the earth, heart of my heart. Be my wings... Rei! Fallin!" The long sweep of Mikage's arm sends her angel tumbling towards the wide expanse of the layer. at first, it seems sa if she will simply topple unceremoniously on to the layer surface, but instead, her eyes flash open and her great wings extend. With a roar, the gargoyle glides down to land atop a small pile of rubble. Her talons give a soft click of sound, and her wings fold behind her as she crouches, bowing her head towards her opponent.

Karasu's feet churn up well-trodden dirt as it stands to its feet, and trods up the beaten path towards the temple wall. Almost immediately, Rei swoops down, landing upon one of the numerous piles of debris that litter the temple's entrance. The effect her appearance has upon Karasu is almost immediate. The white-haired angel suddenly falls down onto all fours and makes a series of harsh clicking sounds, its head slowly rotating ninety degrees to one side before rapidly spinning back with another loud click. Raien actually raises an eyebrow, cracking his game face before match starts, and looks from the gargoyle up towards the seat of the opponent across from him... and smiles.

"So... the 'Athena' of the tournament, hmm?" Raien is of course referring to the goddess of battle and wisdom, but the double meaning is not unintentional. He bows his head slowly, and the smile abates, until there is once more nothing left but that impassive mask. "...This should be good." His eyes slowly drift closed, and ... so do Karasu's. Eyes that have never closed on the layer before. "... I'll take the measure of you now." Raien isn't a fool. His chances are probably slim. However, his goal for the tournament wasn't to win, it was to play, and to learn. And his chances of learning... and thus, success, by his way of thinking... are very high. Raien's eyes snap open, as do Karasu's, and the normally white eyes are now black from the edges of the irises to the center of the pupil. Karasu throws itself forward, tucking its head underneath itself and pivoting in the air to bring a foot arcing out towards Rei's head for its opening attack.

"Hardly an 'Ahena' of any sort, but thank you for the compliment." Mikage murmurs, although her voice remains soft and slightly amused. She inclines her head slightly and then seems to focus more seriously on the match at hand. Even so, there is a weariness that borders on exhaustion in her eyes. However, that doesn't mean that Rei's reflexes are any slower than usual. The gargoyle tilts her head from right to left, her ears twitching now and again as she peers at the oncoming form of Karasu. The strange angel certainly doesn't move in the usual manner, so Rei has to watch carefully to find the path of the foot that is aimed at her. She hisses slightly, but rather than simply defend or dodge out of the way of the attack, she lowers her head and leans her weight towards the foot, aiming her armored shoulder to no only absorb the impact but also to give something quite hard and painful to slam one's foot into.

With the first attack successfully taken care of, Rei buffs at her armored shoulder with one hand, clearing a smudge from it as she seems to consider the next move. However, this is only a split second, a momentary lapse between motions, and then she moves again. Stepping forward, Rei lashes a kick first towards Karasu's abdomen. As she spins, however, her tail comes about and swings low towards the odd-moving angel's legs. It is one of Rei's own 'testing' strike, seeing how an angel handles two quick kicks in close succession.

Karasu's foot is rammed into by Rei's shoulder, and the angel spirals backwards as it falls down towards the layer floor. Even as it does so, Rei attempts to give it the boot, straight into the abdomen. On hands and knees, it'd ordinarily be pretty difficult to avoid being treated like a football, but then, Karasu isn't exactly 'ordinary'. The angel plants its hands into the ground before its legs fly up into the air, almost as if being yanked by invisible strings around its ankles, and the kick whooshes by. The tail, however, was not taken into account, and it comes low, where Karasu's legs would've been a moment prior, to sweep Karasu's hands out from under it. The puppet-like angel spirals again, but then an arm lifts up into the air, as if it too were being pulled on invisible strings, and then Karasu is dragged away from Rei by that same arm. After a moment, the puppet lurches forward again, this time bringing an edged hand towards Rei's throat.

Seemingly confused by her opponent's strange movements, Rei only manages a quick motion to get herself out of the way of the hand that comes aiming towards her throat. Her own hand comes up as she rubs it slightly, sticking her tongue out as if imagining what it would be like to lose that head. Then, she backs away slowly with her arms raised in a defensive posture. After a moment, she backs up against one crumbling pillar, causing some dust to rain down onto her head. She sneezes a few times and shakes her head, forgetting about going on the attack for the time being.

There are a few moments where Karasu just tilts its head, watching Rei. After all, for all its reputation, the other angel seems to be a bit more light-hearted than Raien expected. But then, Raien's expectations and reality are rather rare to match up. There are three successive clicks as the angel's head tilts further and further, until it is upside-down, much like an owl's quizzical stare. Suddenly, it leaps towards the other angel that has so thoughtfully backed herself into a corner, its head spinning back into a more 'normal position', while the body behind it rotates the opposite way, causing the mantle upon its shoulders to flare out like a wide circle, presenting Rei with an odd view of a spinning head and twirling brown cloth, and not much else. The plan? To charge straight into the other angel. Simple, if a bit ineffective.

Rei certainly isn't exactly what one would usually expect out of such a high ranked angel. She may have her more demonic moments, but she also has her silly moments as well. And rushing head-first into an attack is something she knows all too well. However, it seems as if Rei will not be diving head-first into things just yet. A faint glow clings to her ankles as her ears fold backwards. She leaps upwards out of the way of the rushing Karasu. There is a small hiss of warning as she flaps her wings and lands with a click on one of the higher columns of the ruins. Her arms draw outwards and then lash through the air with quick motions. From her hands, blades of twirling wind spiral upwards and sweep across the layer, aiming down towards Karasu's exposed location.

As Rei avoids its attack, Karasu slams headfirst into the pillar, and falls down flat onto its face. It stands with a little headshake, and looks up towards the gargoyle with those black eyes, which, once more, are unblinking, but seem to be watching her with an interest that is usually not seen from the puppet. And then the wind howls. Karasu has weathered a lot of interesting things on the layer, but scything winds are not amongst their number. The tempest plows into it with the force of... ... well... a tempest, fraying and slashing at the already tattered brown mantle as the puppet is carried into the temple wall, where it flattens against the surface until the wind dies down, before falling back to its feet.

The lifebar ticks down several notches, and then the angel turns its eyes back to Rei once more. They narrow slightly... is that emotion? Karasu's mouth opens, and a low rasping sound fills the layer as it apparently tries to yell something at Rei, but the words do not come. As the rasping sound fills the layer, Karasu lurches up through the air in a diagonal path as if the one holding those 'invisible strings' had just given it a really good yank, and it moves straight for Rei, bringing a closed fist to bear towards the gargoyle's midsection. Well, at least it doesn't seem to have any problem reaching her new position. Now hitting her, on the other hand...

The attack not only reaches Rei, but it nearly hits her. There is definitely emotion on the gargoyle's face as she looks quite surprised, ears perking upwards as she yelps and leaps upwards, spinning slightly in the air as she lands ontop of a piece of what appears to be ruined ceiling. Her feet skid upon vines that have grown themselves into the rock, sliding down them until she lands on the ground. Shaking her head out, she checks herself up and down to see if all parts are intact, and they seem to be, although she seems far more exhausted in exchange for such acrobatics. Her arm reaches up in a quick motion, pressing a button at the side of her head. From her headset, a set of horns extends upwards, making the feminine gargoyle seem slightly more demonic. She lowers her head and begins to race forward. Like a bull aiming at a matador, Rei's forehead slams into the pillar, seeking to either knock it over on to Karasu or at least upend it so that it stops becoming a suitable place to stand.

Ordinarily, Karasu would simply let the pillar fall atop it, but there's one thing that characterizes Raien enough that it sometimes overrides the way his angel would normally react. An opening. Whenever Raien sees an opening, Karasu has to take it. This is probably an easily exploitable weakness in Raien, but usually opponents aren't very good at leading him to see an opening that isn't there. In this case, the opening is small, but it's something. Karasu swoops down in front of the pillar just barely in between it and Rei as the other angel charges forward, and a hand lances out to slam an open palm against Rei's head right in between the horns. The puppet's natural durability, along with the unspoken aid of its mouth being open and a low hum filling the layer, very nearly negates Rei's attack entirely. In fact, it's more likely that the sudden stop hurt the gargoyle more than it did Karasu. As that hum continues to build, Karasu lashes out with a slap towards Rei's lowered face, intending to clip the angel while she's recovering from her attack. Raien watches, his face still calm, and says nothing. As per usual.

Fast. Rei may not be one of the speediest angels on the layer, but she has her moments. Rather than taking a great time to recover from her attack like many more power-built angels, Rei simply rolls away from the pillar and into a crouched, feral stance as her horns naturally receed back into the headset she wears. It's strange that a gargoyle wouldn't have natural horns, but Rei is a strange creature of her own right. Luckily, in her spin-turn combination, she manages to avoid the attack that comes in towards her face. It wouldn't be good for her to have a palmprint implanted there, now would it? However, the true reason for her burst of speed becomes visible after a moment. Her feet seem to glow blue, in a soft echo of the powerful aura she had used earlier. Slowly, that aura flows up towards her wings, hovering there for a moment before turning a deep, fire-red. It almost seems as if Rei might launch into another of her whirling kicks, but instead of kicking outward, she simply spins with her wings infront of her. The wind seems to draw inward, pulling plants, rocks, and debris into the cyclone, threatening to pull Karasu into the whirl right along with it.

As the slap whiffs, Karasu turns to look towards Rei, and those black eyes... blink. Retractable horns /are/ rather odd. Why not just have normal ones? ... Perhaps to avoid any problems with them getting snapped off? Well, whatever the case, as soon as it turns, it notes that Rei is doing more of that fancy wind manipulation. Alright then, if that's the way it's going to be, fine. Raien's eyes narrow, and the puppet lurches forward, right into that twirling cyclone, where it stops. Slowly, against the wind, it reaches out, until its hand is right in front of Rei's face, and then, the wrist joint bends far inwards, before the hand itself lurches back outwards into a closed backfist, smacking the gargoyle across the face and halting the winds, taking only a small amount of damage. Well, so much for that. The puppet simply waits for Rei to recover from the hit, those now-black eyes staring silently towards her with actual emotion in them, and then Karasu crosses its arms, as if to say 'Well? What now?'.

The announcer yells out gleefully as sickling winds and strange, marionette-like maneuvers abound on the layer. "Rei's winds are harsh and stifling, but Karasu pushes through them and counters them! What an amazing match!" Of course, the announcer says this about /all/ the matches. "What more excitement awaits us?!? FIND OUT... ... After this commercial break!" ... Eh?

What now? Well apparently there is a momentary commercial break, at least that's what the announcer calls. With a blink, Mikage watches as a banner showing a dancing box of pocky scrolls across the sky of the layer along with annoying music reminding those watching to 'go to the lobby for a snack'. "Baka..." The girl murmurs to herself, and then turns her concentration back on to the layer itself. What now? Rei seems to look momentarily dazed, and then crouches with her hair standing slightly on end. Her claws dig into the ground, making marks in the earth where they touch. From those marks, a blue glow begins to form, lashing upwards like frozen lightning. With a roar, these gashes spark, and then lash across the layer with a trial of ice shards, shooting up from the ground and aiming to spike anyone not quick or defensive enough on them.

As the frozen slashes arc upwards towards Karasu, the puppet remains for a moment with its arms crossed. Its mouth gapes open, and a low, pulsing hum fills the layer, increasing in volume and repetition quickly, until it's rather loud, almost a roar. The air ripples and shimmers as sonic wave after sonic wave blasts against the 'claws' of ice. They almost entire dissipate before even hitting Karasu, and it's only the tiniest hint of any damage at all that shows on the indicator, as the puppet-like angel's nonchalant demeanor is broken by its own actions. It draws its arms in a little, and then flares them outwards as a final sonic wave tears out of it, ripping past the claws and towards Rei, most likely knocking her down. And an opportunity is an opportunity. Raien nods his head, and Karasu twists its torso to one side before leaping into the air in a spin. Adding to the effect, the puppet-like angel is 'yanked' high up into the air before similarly being 'tugged' straight back down towards Rei, its hip joints pivoting in an odd fashion as it spins. First one and then another leg hooks out, the two mirroring each other's motions as if they were /both/ Karasu's left leg, an odd sight indeed, and they flail out towards Rei below, intending to simply slam her into the ground. Of course, this would leave Karasu on the ground as well, but.... ah, details, details.

The backlash from Karasu's sonic scream not only surprises Rei, but leaves her sensitive ears slightly deafened from the sound. Her ears fold down, trembling slightly as she's thrown slightly backwards, her heel catching a rock and sending her sprawling. However, just because Rei is down and out, doesn't mean she's totally out of luck. As the strange, flailing attack comes towards her, Rei ducks her head behind her hands. There is a moment, a flicker of something invisible hanging in the air, and then a sound like a *clang* as the blow hits against both that shield and Rei's metal shoulder-pauldron. She seems stunned for a moment, but not truly so. Blinking once more, Rei sets a claw beneath herself and launches herself forward. Once more, those horns come out of her headset. It seems as if she plans on using herself as a spear to ram strait into Karasu's oddly-moving body. If nothing else, it should at least drive him back a little, or so she hopes.

Still down on the ground, Karasu rolls over as Rei charges in, and as the horns charge in, its knees bend in backwards, sending its legs up to brace themselves against Rei's midsection. As a result, rather than being speared, the only impact from the attack is the force of the charge against Karasu's legs, and while that's respectable, for an angel like Karasu, it's not really that much.

Meanwhile, in his seat, Raien makes a slightly annoyed sound. He's been pushing Karasu to its limits this entire time, rather than pacing himself as he normally would be. He really wants to know how far the gulf between them is, but he hasn't seen it yet, he hasn't seen the light at the end of the tunnel that puts the other deus on a different league. Really, if anything, with Karasu awake like this, the battle seems to be going almost evenly. Now /that's/ just ridiculous. Obviously, his opponent is holding back. The idea that he'd be close to a champion, not even half a year from starting the game, is laughable. "Are you going to treat me with kid gloves the entire match?" He doesn't sound particularly thrilled about this, but at least he's not /yelling/ like he did when Keiichi kept Zankoku from finishing Karasu off. He's come a little ways, but he's still upset when an opponent doesn't give it their all.

During this time on the layer, Karasu simply lets one of those legs lift up, hoping to give Rei a good thwak in the head. It's hardly an impressive or graceful thing, to see a chicken-legged puppet kick, but it might be amusing, if one is in the right mindset....

"Kid gloves?" Mikage replies, lifting her head to look away from the duel for a moment. "Perhaps you're underestimating yourself..." It seems as if the young woman is being totally serious, one pale eyebrow lifting over the red-visor as she tilts her head in a cat-like mannor. Her angel does much the same, giving a confused sound. "However... if you wish to hasten things along, we'd be happy to oblige." She shrugs her shoulders, and then looks down at Rei, giving a bit of a nod.
Rei closes her eyes, lifting her hands skyward as she starts to focus her energies. There is a flicker of something high above, lightning in a clear blue sky. Then, clouds begin to swirl as if summoned form the depths of the layer itself. They swirl like a pending hurricane, growing steadily darker as they join together. There is a rumble of distant thunder and the wind begins to blow, casting leaves from the trees. The temperature drops lsightly, causing breath to hang in the air. However, this is only the pre-lude. The audience who recognise this attack begin to cheer, knowing they are about to see one of the most fantastic layer effect spectaculars that exists. However, for the moment, nothing seems to happen but a charging of power as Rei's eyes glow.

"Ooooh! This is--!" The announcer's voice bursts across the layer only to fall silent as he watches like everyone else, the impending storm demanding an announcement, but none coming from the announcer. Instead, he just tries to up the suspense to play off the audience's anticipation. "How will Rei's opponent defend against /this/?"
Raien watches the growing effects, and nods his head once. Realistically, it would probably be wiser to try and seek refuge inside the temple, if weather effects are coming into play. However, Raien knows Karasu is about to run down anyways, it has been playing at its limits for too long. Much better not to back down, and to observe the full extent of this attack. "... Thank you very much." He bows his head courteously towards his opponent.

This doesn't signify Karasu's giving up, however. Far from it, as the storm builds above, a 'storm' of sorts builds down below, around Rei. As Karasu's mouth opens wide, a loud roar is heard on the layer, as if the sonic based angel were challenging the ominous sounds of Rei's attack. The air around the gargoyle shimmers and ripples as a massive sonic wave comes crashing in from all around her, Karasu striking that perfect chord, and channeling the complete force of its sonic abilities into a single blow.

Rather than saying anything in response, Mikage simply nods her head. In some ways, she'll never understand certain people and how they act when playing on the layer, but she's come to accept that everyone is different and their actions have their own reasonings. So, the pale girl closes her eyes. It may seem like a bad move, leaving Rei quite open to attack, but rather than being hit by the sonic blast that is sent her way, Rei leaps over it, flapping her wings as she takes to the skies. It almost seems as if the angel glows moreso as she rises up into the clouds. There were a number of angels who could get out of the way of this particular technique, one had even done so by latching on to Rei, herself. However, she seems to want to avoid this at the moment. Thus, from her high vantage point, she wields the power of the growing storm.
The rumbling thunder becomes almost deafening. Lightning streaks from the skies. Wind whips stones, wind, and hail against those below. Lightning crackles from cloud to cloud, and then begins to arc downward towards the layer surface. Rain pelts cold droplets and all of thus combines together into the pure rage and force of a hurricane. This is the storm, Rei's master technique.

The storm. All the force of a hurricane, holographic or not, pelts Karasu, ripping into the angel forcefully. The puppet's mouth opens as it does so, and the rain, the wind, the fury, is almost blanked out from Karasu's notice by what would under most circumstances be considered a nearly impenetrable sonic gale... but the lightning... Oh, the lightning is not so blotted out. Indeed, as the forked leader shatters the sky, so does it pierce straight through Karasu's guard, fierce though the sonic 'winds' may be, like a hot knife through butter. Karasu is thrown through the air, as is often the case with lightning strikes, slamming against the temple's outer wall like a ragdoll, only slowly sliding down it after the attack has begun to abate.

In his seat, Raien's eyes watch, emotionlessly, even though this is exactly what he'd wanted to see. He gets the tactile response as the attack penetrates Karasu's guard, and his head tilts downwards just a little. Powerful though it is, he gauges its limits clearly and concisely. Sound waves are nothing in comparison to lightning, but even so, Raien's mind begins thinking of weaknesses in a holographic lightning attack unbidden, in the background. Consciously, he's just watching. Focusing. Karasu will wind down now, there's no getting around that. But it will /not/ fall.

The puppet's head lowers, tears of bubbling pitch escaping its eyes, and as it looks back up, that blackness that fills its irises seems to flow outward with the tears, until the eyes are white once more. Emotionless once more, those eyes stare, unblinking as they normally are. Whatever Raien called from within the puppet to meet the challenge of this match, it's obviously spent. As is Karasu... but not without that final, likely futile, attack. High in the air Rei remains, as the storm slowly begins to abate, but that does not put her out of Karasu's reach. The puppet crouches down, its knee joints each bending in opposite directions as it tenses, and then.... it leaps upwards, completely ignoring the puppet-like illusion for just a moment as it rises through the air, before it is 'caught' by those invisible strings once more, bringing it on a bizzarely elliptical swing around Rei's position to bring itself towards her in a full contact body slam. It seems that this will be its final act of defiance in this match.

If Raien had wanted to see some of the more unusual techniques of Rei, he surely got what he asked for. Still hovering, Rei's glowing eyes turn towards her attacker. Even at the end, he has not given up, and in some way she respects that tenacity. However, it seems that the gargoyle will not allow herself to take any further damage during this match. If this is how it is going to end, so be it... She snarls, summinging up her courage, her will, her strength as she flaps her wings. The force is like striking a brick wall in mid air. She braces herself with the power of the wind and her wings, taking the force against her armor and roaring her own backlash against the blow. As the gargoyle's eyes slowly shift back to their green tone, she gives one final look at Karasu before nodding her head. She extends one arm outwards, and aims it at his chest. From her palm, a massive rumble of thunder rolls, followed by a flash and a force of wind and sound thrown down at him. It seems a suitable end for an angel that uses sonic techniques to face the only sonic ability Rei happens to have - her thunder strike.

Karasu practically /bounces/ off of Rei in the air, and slowly drifts backwards in the air, lowering ever so slightly with every moment. It's done. However, just because it's done, doesn't mean it's going to let the other angel do anything more than the slightest of damage to it with its own style of technique. No, the weather and elements may be Rei's domain, but sound is Karasu's domain. As the thunder slams into the puppet, its mouth snaps open, and a sound like a bomb going off results as sounds collide, and Karasu throws its arms out forward, re-directing most of the force that got through. Still, the clash of sounds sends it flying straight towards the edge of the layer, its tattered brown mantle billowing in the wind. Being high up in the air doesn't help things much, but it does give Karasu the advantage of flying out straight towards Raien. Convenient or planned, it happens either way, Karasu leaving the layer barrier and un-animating, as it flies straight... into Raien's lap. Now that /is/ a bit too convenient for chance.

"... Game over."

The buzzer sounds, and a moment later the crowd erupts in cheers for both sides. It isn't just the winner who is cheered for, quite a few people calling out the name of 'Karasu'. "Rei... Win!" The announcer calls out, before splitting off into commentary on the match. Mikage seems to ignore this banter, nodding her head as she looks over to her angel. Both deus and angel seem tired, perhaps more so than some others, but there is a smile on both faces as Miki holds out her hand. Rei does a backflip, passing through the layer and landing neatly in her palm. Then, as she takes off her headset, Miki looks across to Raien, "You did very well, but remember something, ne? Not all of us play with 'kid gloves'. I was giving it my best, and I hope you were as well." It is the respect that Mikage has for her opponents to play to her best ability, especially at this level. She slowly bows her head towards Raien, and then presses a button on her chair to lower it towards the ground. The sooner she can rest and relax away from the crowd, the better.

Raien listens to Mikage's words respectfully, but there's a tiny, almost invisible shake of his head. She may even be being truthful, but he doesn't quite buy it. It doesn't add up. He's only been playing for a little while, and he can have Karasu keep up with the best in the tournament for most of a match? It doesn't make sense to him. This game isn't like the other fighting games he's played where he catches on right away. It takes time and experience and practice, and Mikage has a lot more of all of that on him. Well, his inner struggles to understand it are his own. As the chairs lower, he climbs out of his own, and heads towards the waiting room, stopping only to give a slight bow towards his opponent. "Thank you for the match." And without waiting for her repsonse, he's off towards the waiting room. Anything to get away from the crowds.