[Soul Society]
(Kobayashi Household)

Momoka enjoys the dessert as much as anything. Of course, when it comes to the mention of the festival, she sighs, good mood expelled somewhat. "...I'm afraid given the circumstances we find ourselves in, that is unlikely. But... I do hope to see it with you one day." She offers another fragile smile before savoring the last few bits of her pudding.

"What was your plan from here this night, Setsurou? I do hope you mean to continue your gentlemanly behavior." She winks teasingly. After all, this seems like quite the setup, and with any other girl Setsurou would certainly succeed in turning them into putty in his hands with all this pampering. But of course, Momoka is not just any other girl.

(Engineering HQ - THE ARENA)

The tinkerer stands in shock. His beloved clock was stripped from the inside. In its place, along with several other bits and bobs, is some manner of contraption that Chouko is feeding stalks of bamboo into.

"Hey, papa! Look what I made! It'll help you with the bamboo cutting, so you can have more time to make fun stuff!"

But his eyes are on the clock, he drops his bag and caresses the empty container like some kind of lover. He couldn't even fathom this situation, as good as Chouko's intentions might have been. He tells her to go to her room. She can't understand. It comes to yelling. She heads to the loft, crying.

Chouko winces as she picks herself up again, wavering on her feet. "My old man was a crazy old goat. But he was right. Time shouldn't be wasted. So I can't stand down, Sakadatsu. Not until I win." With that, she breathes in and out, taking up a hakuda stance.

The ape growls again, baring its teeth. "You are trying to move too fast. You always have been. You drive yourself to your limits of body and mind, but you do not truly respect them because they have always come to you-"

"Can it. I'm sick of the philosophical crap. This isn't about making some kind of moral realization. This is about Takenaka Chouko making her own path, regardless of what anyone says. Even you. And I need to take that path, because we're in the ****iest place we've ever been. Just punch me, man." A flash of rage erupts in Sakadatsu's eyes as he obliges, swinging with one of the remote gauntlets as Chouko holds her ground.

As she breathes, calming her mind and nerves, things slow down. Sakadatsu had size over her. Mass. Strength. Defense. She could exhaust herself with her skirmishing attacks, and would still end up losing. But there was one basic law of Hakuda that she could exploit. Even easier than normal, given the circumstances of the fight. And so, turning in one smooth step, she puts a palm on the gauntlet as it flies by her. Then, grasps it for leverage. Then uses the momentum and force to turn, guiding it instead of forcing it... then throwing it back.

Sakadatsu is mid-swing as this happens, and the metal gauntlet hits him clean in the skull, sending him sprawling back. He's hardly down for the count, but the disorienting blow and the shock of the action leave him reeling for a moment. Chouko is tempted to take advantage, but holds her defensive stance for now...

And in renewed rage, the spirit gives a primal roar and launches a renewed assault against Chouko, attacking with all of his gauntlets at once. She continues smoothly dodging and deflecting the blows, but even in this she is battered and exhausted. Once again she is sent to the ground as an open-palmed gauntlet strikes in a window of overextension, the captain gasping on the ground.

But as winded as Chouko is, so is Sakadatsu as he calls the gauntlets back. "...you have fought well. I was wrong. But still you are not ready. Not for lack of trying."