His first tournament match since the Kanto qualifiers and Kyousuke is looking quite eager to start it. The young man has already claimed a layer that no one else is using, waiting for Raien to show up. It's been a while since he's dueled the young man, and he wants to show him how much he's improved in this game. That, and he wants to show off the new move he's developed. The kendoist has actually been holding off on dueling ever since he developed it, lest he accidentally reveal it before the tournament. He hopes the lack of practice won't come back to bite him, but it should be fine.

And so it comes that Raien enters the layer for one of the first duels he's had in a while. Of course, there was Eisaku, and then the three foolish ones that had tried to provoke him earlier, but he's still been away from the layer for a rather long time, in comparison to his usual gaps of less than a week in between practices. Some might say he'd been spending too much time elsewhere, but hanging out with Tomoe can never be categorized as 'too much', so far as he's concerned.

As he enters the layer area, his orange eyes scan the layers for any sign of Kyousuke, and they find him easily enough. Wait, orange eyes? Weren't they green last time Kyousuke saw him? ... A question worth asking. Kyousuke might even get an answer, though most people would be less than likely to. He heads over to the layer quickly, slinging his knapsack around to rummage about in it. Probably getting Karasu out. As he reaches the layer, he still seems to be rummaging, but he takes a seat anyways, across the layer from Kyousuke. "Good afternoon, Sakamoto-san."

Kyousuke yawns, leaning back in the egg shaped chair lazily as he hears Raien speak up. He sits back up and grins at his friend, at least, he thinks Raien's his friend. It's hard to tell with him. "Heya Raien-han! I's been a while." The samurai obsessed boy isn't the most perceptive of people, so he completel bypasses the orange eyes. Still, something about the young man seems... different, ah well. The kendoist already has Kensei out in his hands, but has been waiting on Raien to fall in. "Ya ready for this?"

Raien nods his head at Kyousuke's question, obviously as ready as he's going to be, once he pulls Karasu out. He sets his knapsack down and reaches around for a visor. He wonders how Kyousuke has been since the last time they saw each other, but doesn't ask. "Yes, it has." Perhaps it's the way that Raien speaks Kyousuke is noticing. His voice no longer takes a while to start up, or trails off. He's still unnecessarily brief, but he seems to be speaking without begruding others the words, if that counts for anything. "It's good to see you again. I trust you've something new to show me?" He places the visor on his head, powering it up without waiting for Kyousuke to reply, and throws Karasu toward the layer. "...Breathe, Karasu. Just breathe." ... ... Yet another of the inspiring fallin quotes from Raien. Karasu flies through the layer barrier and manages to end up on the ground, surrounded by odd sets of stairs going in every direction. Karasu looks around after making a perfect landing. The layer merits an eyebrow raise from Raien, who speaks under his breath. "Escher-ic. Wonderful."

Kyousuke grins over at Raien. "'Course I do," he says. "I think you'll be rather impressed by it." The samurai obsessed boy lobs Kensei onto the layer and his mind scrambles for a fallin phrase. He doesn't want to get yelled at again like he was at the Kanto Qualifiers. "Uh... jus' go an' fight Kensei!" he lamely finishes. The dues is not one for theatrics, not when it's not involved with the duel directly, but he's done something at least. Kensei, meanwhile, does a slight flip after passing through the barrier, and lands nimbly on the green tiled floor.

As Karasu looks about the layer, his Deus nods his head, speaking quietly. "I look forward to it." And with that, his face settles into that impassive mask, his arms crossing over one another. It's his game face, and Kyousuke shall get no further readings from him. In a moment of either silliness or defiance, Karasu imitates its deus, crossing its arms as its unblinking white eyes swivel to regard Kensei. This is a familiar opponent, though the puppet has never had a particularly easy time with the sword saint.

Let's start off big, shall we? Kyousuke's face becomes somewhat impassive also, and a... heavy feel covers the layer. At first, it might be unnoticeable, but a wind seems to pick up before a faint red glow appears at his feet. It seems this is the move Kyousuke had been talking about. That heavy feeling gets even worse as Kensei stares at Karasu, his face an emotionless mask, just as usual, though now there's a look of rage in the back of his eyes. Finally, the red aura solidifies, shooting up into the form of a blood red colored Chinese dragon, spiralling up and down the sword saint's body.

As Kensei charges up on the layer, Karasu tilts its head in curiosity, watching closely. Raien, however, speaks quietly. "...Very flashy." Raien is rather experienced with fighting games in general, and has more than enough experience on the layer to confirm his suspicions. Well, this should be Kensei's most powerful attack. The question is, how powerful is it? The samurai has certainly managed some powerful attacks before. Karasu uncrosses its arms, and they both lift up to either side, out-stretched and dangling high from the wrists. The puppet's feet only barely continue to touch the floor, and its mouth opens slowly. It gets the hint. This may be what the whole fight hinges on.

That heavy feel quickly changes to something else. Killing intent. Though simulated, Kensei seems to be giving that feel off quite effectively, especially as that dragon spirals up his arm instead, wrapping itself around his now drawn blade, much like one of his other attacks. Of course, this one maintains its long form as it covers his weapon. Finally, there's movement. The sword saint darts in, leaving a slight after image where he had just been standing. Then he's right in front of the puppet, stabbing out at his opponent throwing all his strength into it.

The wind seems to be displaced as the thrust cuts through the air toward Karasu. The puppet's eyes widen, and then its hands both clamp down onto the blade's sides as it comes in. In the past, this has been the most effective method of stopping Kensei's attacks when others were not available. Since the attack came in so quickly, the puppet didn't have a chance to amass any sonic defenses, so it did the best it could. Unfortunately, it was far from enough. The blade slides cleanly through the hands, only slowing down marginally before it slams into Karasu's chest with a great deal of force. The puppet seems to actually shudder as it staggers backwards, before its legs give out completely and the sword tilts down with Karasu's descent. At the last second, the puppet manages to shove the sword back with a respectable amount of force, towards Kensei's throat, but then Karasu simply crumples to the ground, twitching.
There's an approving sound from Raien, and he allows his mask to break enough for him to look worriedly at the life meter. That was one sickening thud, he couldn't estimate the damage based on impact alone. "... Very impressive." Perhaps too impressive. Raien's not certain he can really counter that... not with Kensei's other ace in the hole... but he can certainly try. ... Once he can get Karasu to move.

That worked nicely, even as his sword smacks him in the throat, but it certainly wasn't enough to knock out an angel like Karasu immediately. Still, there was a very nice chunk out of Karasu's life, and Kensei pulls back again. That red dragon fades away from existence, and the samurai glows with a white aura. Once again, he steps in, his katana at his side as he once again stabs at Karasu, this time with a less powerful attack, but still quite effective.

While the attack may be less powerful, Karasu is down and not responding properly. Not meeting with any proper defense, the attack damages Karasu only the slightest hair less than the previous one, and the puppet goes sliding to the foot of one of the escherian stairs. It makes a pained sound, like that of a dying animal, the first time it's ever done so in Raien's near flawless memory. Then again, it's the first time it's ever taken so much damage in so short a time. Raien actually winces very slightly, but it's not hard to erase from his face. He's not really concerned about winning, only improving. If this is how far the competition has risen, then Raien's break from the layer can only mean that he needs to improve that much more. ".../Very/ impressive." His face is a mask again, and Karasu slowly manages to stagger to its feet, almost falling back down in mid-ascent. Obviously, this is not going the way it used to.

Kensei's aura doesn't fade, if anything, it gets even brighter as the samurai charges in once again. He's still yet to draw his second sword, so he grips that katana with both hands as he charges in. Kensei has managed to get an incredible burst of energy to do all these attacks right in a row. As the samurai charges over to Karasu, he brings his katana down at the puppet, trying to continue keeping him on the defensive.

Karasu's mouth opens in a wordless protest, and its white eyes widen as one hand, hidden behind its body, snaps forward, a coruscating arc of white and black shimmering clawing its way forward from the puppet's hand. The sonic wave crashes into the blade with the force and sound of a bomb going off, as Raien puts Karasu's best defense forward. His eyes widen very slightly, the only hint of his surprise as Kensei's offense plows right through the wall of sonic energy like a hot knife through butter. It's not as bad as the previous attacks, but it's still worse than Karasu is usually ever hit, and he mentally calculates how many rounds Karasu has left to live. As he does so, he nods his head, and speaks quietly. "... It was a good match, Sakamoto-san." Even as he speaks, Karasu makes it clear that an obvious loss doesn't phase it... even if the attacks obviously do.

Karasu's torso bends backwards under the weight of the blow, yet afterward, it springs forward like a viper, throwing a desperate but poorly aimed blow at Kensei's head ... with its own head. Raien's calculations have revealed, not surprisingly, that there is absolutely zero chance of him winning this match, barring some kind of miraculous blunder on Kyousuke's part. Still, Raien doesn't walk away because he's going to lose. Make the best showing he can, take the opportunity to learn as much as he can. It's funny, though. Even the winner of last year's tournament wasn't this powerful. Kyousuke has really improved.

Kyousuke looks up at Raien. "It ain't over just yet," he points out. That sonic wall was enough to drain Kensei's speed it seems, and the samurai holds back from continuing his attack. The last time time he was on this layer, there was a lot more running around, but it looks like neither of the angels are much about running.

Shaking his head, Raien doesn't let that game face lapse, but his eyes smile, somehow. "It just ended. It will simply take Karasu a while to realize it." He stretches his arms before him, a very uncharacteristic display, and Karasu imitates it on the layer, closing its eyes even as Raien does. For a moment, it seems like they're taking a break together, but then Karasu yanks both of its arms back, and thrusts out a perfect side-kick towards Kensei's middle, skidding across the layer as though pulled by invisible strings, to close the distance between the two of them. Somewhat predictable, but you do the best you can in their situation.

Kensei dodges again, using more energy to do so than he's used to, but he slowly recovers from that sonic attack from earlier. Fortunately, the samurai has put some more distance between himself and the puppet, and now he's on the offensive again. He lowers his upper body, leaning over his katana as he eyes Karasu. Then, he blurs out of sight once again, reappearing in front of the puppet and stabbing with his gatotsu strike.

Karasu holds a hand up to stop the stab, and manages it, but only after its arm folds in on itself, and its hand smacks back against its chest with a clack. . . . Wait, a clack? Ah well, whatever's underneath that fluttering mantle, it's certainly still vulnerable. The lifebar drains a bit more, finally dropping down to what most angels' most powerful attacks usually do to Karasu. Unfortunately, that's really not all that encouraging.

Karasu pushes Kensei back, and stares at the samurai for a moment. Its head tilts a little, curiously, and then a little further, owlishly. Sadly, the head doesn't stop tilting until its completely upside down, for a familiar yet upsetting image. The head spins back around really quickly, with a loud clicking sound, and... ... what's this? It adopts a strange stance. Putting the left hip forward, it reaches back, one hand holding an imaginary sheath, and the other gripping the hilt of an imaginary sword. Raien allows his game face to drop, now that there's no advantage to it, and ... he actually smiles! ... In game! ... While 'It's the End of the World as We Know It' picks up in the background, he nods towards Kyousuke. "...A draw contest, then." ... Is he making a joke? The REM song raises up another volume notch in the background, as if prompted.

Kyousuke grins up at Raien, and he's not going to turn a challenge like that down. Of course, he's used up so much energy early on in the duel, it's a little difficult for him to work up more energy for his next attack. Still, he continues, and Kensei returns his katana to his sheathe, hand poised over his katana as he eyes Karasu. There's a moment of silence, then the samurai dashes once again, closing the distance between them, drawing his sword out in a battou jutsu style strike at the very last moment.

As Kensei dashes in, Karasu's mouth opens, wave after invisible wave of sonic energy pouring out. Kyousuke met Raien's challenge bravely, but Karasu's method of drawing is rather different than Kensei's. The drawing slash of Kensei's sword is slowed to a near halt, and Karasu's arm swings out, blocking the blunted attack easily. Even as the arm swings that imaginary sword, the last wave of Karasu's sonic wall explodes outward in the puppet's hand, straight at Kensei. It's not exactly a sword, but ... Raien makes do with what he has.

Kensei feels himself striking the wall of force and once again his strength seems to be sapped out of him, enough that he doesn't dodge the next strike, and the samurai is sent sliding back, his straw sandals allowing him to drop into his gatotsu stance as he does so. He eyes Karasu, then once again, he blurs out of sight, reappearing in front of him once again to send another one of those attacks at him.

As the draw-cuts are exchanged, Raien stands. Kensei got the first draw, but Karasu scored the hit. Well, that will stand as his sole comfort this match. He starts to speak, even as Kensei blurs out of sight. "Owari..." Karasu is speared in the torso, slamming back onto the steps in a painful and grotesque fashion, limbs bent every which way, and arms dangling down over the edges of the steps. "...Da..." Karasu lays there, completely destroyed, unable to even attempt a defense between its 'draw-cut' and Kensei's next attack. "... You've grown much stronger, Sakamoto-san." He pulls the visor off, and is still smiling when he sets it down. When was the last time he was beaten that badly? ... Never. It looks like he actually enjoyed it. "... That was the quickest match I have ever had." He walks towards the layer, but bypasses it, leaving Karasu there for a moment. He'd rather shake Kyousuke's hand. He's pleased with the growth he's shown.

It's actually somewhat unexpected as the last attack spears Karasu and pins him to the wall. The puppet usually has a solid enough defense that the attack wouldn't have gone through so effectively. The samurai removes the blade, unpinning Karasu from the wall, before resheathing his blade and bowing in respect to Karasu. The puppet did much more damage with his quick draw than Kensei did. Once that's done, his deus slips his headset off and mimics his angel, bowing to Raien before shaking his hand. "Was it?" he asks, surprised. "Well, it was a nice match anyway." That last attack Kensei received from Karasu really hurt.

Raien smiles and nods in response to Kyousuke's comments. "Indeed, it was." ... He's a /lot/ happier lately. Well, it's been a gradual climb since Kyousuke first met him, but it's really noticeable today. He smiled? During a match? ... And acted friendly? Even told a joke? If he didn't have so many of the same mannerisms otherwise, one might think he was replaced by aliens or something. "...I look forward to another match in the future."

Kyousuke smiles back at Raien, not really reacting to the changes in personality, though he does seem to note that the boy is indeed friendlier. He wonders if Tomoe has anything to do with it. "Yeah, let's duel again sometime!" he says. Next time he'll be even better prepared to duel the puppetmaster, and he reaches into the layer to retrieve kensei, who stands there solemnly now that his deus no longer sends him instructions.

Walking back to the layer, Raien retrieves Karasu, looking down at the puppet, and tilting him around a bit to examine him. He took damage. Not a great deal, Raien can probably fix it up in but a few minutes, but ... ... even so, that's still noteworthy. It doesn't happen. He shrugs, smiles, and slips Karasu back into his knapsack, now. He looks around the layers, trying to see if he can spot someone else he's looking for, and then waves to Kyousuke. "Good luck with your next match." With that, he waves, and disappears into the crowds.

Kyousuke nods and chuckles, wondering if Raien had seen the roster for the rest of the veteran's tournament. "Thanks, it looks like I'll need it, though I'm still not sure who I'm facing." The samurai obsessed boy isn't being modest either, he's going to be facing either Aogiri Mikage or Oi Ranmaru. He's faced Ranmaru before and lost, and well, he's heard Mikage, and watched her beat Misaka Keiichi before. He's going to be in for one heck of a duel either way. "See ya Raien-han!" he says, giving Raien a one finger salute as the older boy walks away.