Friday, August 10, 2012

Fight Scene from Girl Punches Out (Sen No Sen)

They stared at each other for what seemed like hours, but was probably only a few seconds. Emily’s heart was divided. The loudest noise in her head demanded that she kill this woman, tear her life away. The notion that it might be the only way to end the threat she posed to her family and friends was not a part of this calculus, true as it probably was. A single strike to her throat would suffice. She found the prospect repugnant, even viscerally nauseating. Ba We would have struck her down in an instant, without any hesitation. Why couldn’t she?
As her breath moved in the familiar pattern, Emily could feel the hatred in Miss Park’s heart. She tasted her fear, as well as her resentment. But what did Miss Park resent her for? “She sought me out,” Emily thought. “She attacked my family, destroyed my life.” There was nothing to account for it. But deep down, without exactly knowing what it could mean, she felt how her apparent serenity galled this woman. Fear and resentment were not a stable combination. Emily waited for the attack she knew must come. She remembered Connie’s warning about her skills.

She saw her shoulder dip. It was a feint, she felt certain of it. But she had by then what looked like a steel rod in her hand. She had to block it. Miss Park used the feint to cover a front kick to the knee. Emily was able to evade the first kick, but not the second. The force of the blow to her chest drove her back and to her knees. The only defensible option was to continue rolling out of the fall, to try to get some distance in the confined space. Miss Park anticipated this and surged forward, swinging the back of her heel toward the place she expected Emily’s head to be after the roll. It was a narrow miss. Emily pushed her leg back across her body hoping to close her off from any more kicks.
Her legs were limber and strong. Her moves were indeed suggestive of taekwondo, but more graceful, almost like a dance. Her hips swiveled, snake-like, with each step. The fluidity of her movements made it difficult to anticipate a feint or a kick. She was lanky and perhaps even a little taller than Emily. Her foot struck out toward Emily’s knee again, this time with no feint. She connected, hard. Emily felt her knee buckle and hoped it wasn’t broken. The pain was sharp. She tried to follow with a second kick to the chest. This time Emily managed to step just inside her raised leg and deliver a sharp reverse punch to her solar plexus. She tried to shake off the pain in her left knee while Miss Park staggered back struggling to catch her breath.
“You’re good, just like they said.”
Miss Park sneered at hearing this, perhaps feeling a rush of optimism about her chances. In that tiny opening, Emily lunged a jab at her head, but prepared her right leg to block. She managed to jam her knee into Miss Park’s raised thigh and blocked the hand swinging the iron bar. It clattered off into a corner. Once inside her defenses, Emily hit her with several hard blows to the chest and face. It was a series of spinning, flowing strikes, each one leading into the next and camouflaged by the one before. Once it started there was practically no way to stop it short of running away. But there was no room to run in that tight space. The final blow, a downward palm-heel strike to her face looked like it broke her nose. She bled profusely and stumbled back out of reach disoriented. That definitely wasn’t what she expected from a shotokan practitioner.
Emily figured she had never been hit in the face before. She had a distinct advantage over her in that department, she thought, with some little satisfaction. But why was she weighing little advantages? Why was finishing this woman proving so difficult? She had, after all, defeated Ba We just a little while earlier. And he was perhaps the most violent, dangerous individual she had ever encountered. Maybe she had gotten lucky, but when opportunity presented itself, she was able to seize it. The children were depending on her. She couldn’t fail them now. As she breathed out her puzzlement she visualized Miss Park’s style: quick, low kicks, difficult to defend, and often followed by higher, longer kicks. Above all, a flowing movement, one kick blocking and setting up the next one. That was how her mind worked, she could see. The pattern was palpable to her, as was the conclusion. She needed to control the first kick.
But her first kick was so damned fast. Emily blocked it with her foot pushing it out to the side. Miss Park grabbed her wrist and twisted as hard as she could. Emily was just quick enough to punch the bicep of the arm holding her wrist and seize the elbow. Miss Park barely twisted free and grabbed across her opposite wrist. They dueled each other like this, hardly moving more than a few inches from each other, staring eye to eye, probing, striking, twisting, wrenching. Each seeking the tiniest advantage to control the other with a joint lock. All the while trying to sneak a kick in below, or block one. They fought to a standstill, arms tangled and feet poised.
Emily knew what was coming next, felt it with near certainty. She sensed the sudden tension in Miss Park’s neck and shoulder muscles. She leaned away and then snapped her head forward, meaning to smash Emily’s face with the hard bone just below the hairline. It was a devastating blow… if only it connected. Emily freed her right hand and thrust it over Miss Park’s left shoulder as she jammed her left just under the ribs. She used the momentum of the head butt to pull her into a flip, grabbing and lifting with her left hand as she pulled her head forward. She grabbed her long blond hair, felt its coarseness, not fine like natural blond hair. As Miss Park tumbled past, a sharp tug on her hair might snap her neck. Somehow she couldn’t bring herself to do it. The hair slipped through her fingers as Miss Park crashed upside down into a storage locker a few feet away.
Both women were wounded. Emily was limping to keep the weight off her left leg. She wasn’t sure how badly her knee was hurt, but she didn’t want to test it just yet. Miss Park was bloodied and having trouble breathing. She may have suffered a broken rib. She was shaken by the last couple of exchanges, hadn’t expected the girl to be able to hit that hard, or to be that strong. Her despair grew.
Emily felt it all, breathed it all in. She knew with near certainty that Miss Park would try to finish her with a single, ferocious kick combination. A quick kick to her injured knee would allow her to swing the other leg around to kick through her head. When she hit the floor, Miss Park would bring her heel down through her face. She pictured the horror of it as if it had already happened. Once she finished her, she would dispose of the children. Then she could bury her father and salvage what she could here before returning home to rebuild the operation.
But the first kick didn’t contact her knee. Emily kicked her foot, then caught it in the crook of her ankle, trapping it and pulling her forward. She was never able to lift the other leg for the second kick. Falling forward, she tried to keep her guard up, but just couldn’t resist spreading her arms to try to regain balance. Emily punched her sharply in the throat as she fell. She released her foot and kicked through the knee, thrusting an elbow into her ribs and twisting her wrist down sharply. Miss Park’s head struck the bars of the cage as she fell to the side, struggling to breathe. Her head ended up wedged between the bars. She gulped for air.
Emily lifted her head out and helped her find a coherent position on the floor. Her leg was broken, her elbow smashed, her shoulder dislocated. A bloody foam oozed out of her mouth as her breath faded.
“Why couldn’t you just leave us alone?” she asked in a mixture of anger and sympathy. Miss Park’s eyes blinked up at her. Emily watched as her spirit fluttered like a bird unable to find the window. Disoriented by the dim light, unable to feel the familiar air currents, it smacks against walls and fixtures until it accidentally finds the opening, and then it’s gone. Miss Park was unable to form words.
“You were good, as good as anyone I’ve faced, as good as Tang Tian.” She saw a tiny glimmer of satisfaction at those words, maybe even a hint of embarrassment. “You, of all people, you should have known better. There are no shortcuts. There is only training.”
She said these last words as much to reassure herself as to help Miss Park understand something. The fear and hate seemed to fade away. All that remained was a child’s innocent surprise at the sudden finitude of her life. It danced around the edges of her eyes. And then she was gone. Emily sighed.
“I’m sorry about this,” she said to the dead woman, “but I’m gonna need your clothes.”
After she removed the jacket, sweater, shoes and pants she looked down at her. Bruised and broken, the body was strangely somehow still beautiful. “What a waste,” she thought. Her conditioning was excellent. “At least as good as mine.” Lithe and strong, lean as a snake, nothing wasted on her body. Soldiers train for battle, perfecting their skills and shaping their bodies, only to see themselves destroyed. That is their destiny. War makes the body beautiful only to consume it whole.
Sensei never tired of quoting to her from the writings of an ancient Buddhist monk, a sort of sword mystic, teacher of the great samurai. One remark came to her just then: “…the true master wields the sword to give life. When he must kill, he kills. When he should give life, he gives life….” So many had died there, but not by her hand. She had not killed when it was not necessary. Nor had she hesitated to kill when it was: the Russian in the cell, the General in the ring, finally even Miss Park, though in each case she sought to avoid it. She looked into the eyes of many of them as they passed away, like some sort of angel of death. Some were frightened, some relieved, most just confused. She served as the arbiter of their passage, an earthly Charon. Or perhaps a Valkyrie, carrying fallen heroes to Valhalla. But she’d seen no heroes, no one worthy of Valhalla. No one like Jesse, who died at the hands of the treacherous Miss Park. She hadn’t been there to see him off.
One other remark rang in her ears, related less happily by Sensei: “…the true master knows no friendship.” He read it to her only once, and regretted it immediately. On this day she felt the truth of it like she never had before. The angel of death can hardly have friends. And the prom, what about Danny? He can hardly have a Valkyrie for his date. It was a sobering thought. But perhaps it was the very meaning of her existence. She smiled ruefully.

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