A tall, unsmiling woman who breaks 6 feet by a few inches. One visible almond eye has a way of telling you, no, she would not laugh at that joke, so don’t try. Verga’s skin is somewhat light, and her body is visibly strong—massive reserves of life energy have prolonged her youth, appearing more like a woman in her late thirties/early forties, though her eye has a certain weariness to its lined and lidded gaze that does not match her appearance. PERSONALITY TRAITS
The condition Verga was born with stains her hair, eyes, eyelids, and nails a valley-lily blue. Her hair falls nearly shoulder length, and the bangs over her face sweep to the side. Behind the hair, an eyepatch covers up a scar and an empty socket—you give up some things, chasing power. Verga’s fingernails are all filed into long, sharp points, and her fingers are thin and calloused.
On the surface, Verga’s wardrobe is simple. Clean black turtleneck jumpers and white cargo-pants. Very efficient. Her boots are dark and hardy as well, though maybe a bit sleeker than functional, heels a bit higher than appropriate for a martial artist and survivalist. A round brass disc buckles a heavy and aesthetic belt. On her sunset blue greatcoat, subtle and intricate floral patterns carve up the collar and the sleeves. Pieces of Verga’s hidden vanity, always poking through.
■ Cold BACKSTORY & MOTIVATION
■ Socially awkward
■ Commitment issues
■ Uncomfortable around children
Verga could not have shown you her hometown on a map. She could not tell you the name of the lake below the village, the mountains that blocked out the morning sun, or the woods that surrounded her childhood on all sides. Her world was nameless, one of plowing snow and dark forests, and fairy tales whispered over crackling fires.
Verga’s learned how to cut trees and make camp, how to kill animals and light fires, how to keep the frostbite from turning her fingers and toes into blackened corn-husks. She learned basic math and literacy so outsiders couldn’t trick her, and she learned to distrust people, and to distrust nature, because both would always be looking for the upper hand. If given the choice, she felt most at home in the forest, in the winter, in the quiet. One day, decades in the future, she would emerge onto the world stage as a renowned martial artist, but even then she could never feel comfortable in the city or the crowd.
Though Verga’s neighbors were never the affectionate type, and most exchanges, even with family, were short and gruff, she was always appreciated for pulling her own weight, and then some. Verga had been born with a unique condition, siniydusha, the blue ki, which grew easily and logarithmically, and endowed her with enormous strength. By the time she was sixteen, Verga could carry more firewood than any man in the village, and could endure biting cold that would glue even the hardiest lumberjack to the fireplace. Each year her strength swelled. But it was never enough. The village began to seem unbearably small; she stayed out longer and longer on her excursions. One day, when she was 19, a hunting expedition took Verga to the very edge of the valley. Without giving it any conscious thought, she just kept walking.
For over a year Verga traveled east through thick, unforgiving wilderness. She was searching for something, and she didn’t know what, not exactly, but she knew she wouldn’t have found it back in her old valley. She fought off beasts, and she fought off the elements. Even with her strength, it was utterly grueling. More than once Verga sat beneath the trees, staring up at the sky, dizzy with exhaustion and starvation and certain she was going to die.
The handful of towns she passed slowly filled in the gaps in her knowledge of the world—she was in Siberia, which was a part of Russia, and, the few times her power was brought to light, they called her strannik: a Nomad.
After a run-in with Chinese border patrol and a two-week string of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and fights, Verga was scooped up by a local tai chi master, who recognized her potential, and her lack of affiliation to any other nation or organization.
Her new master would aid her in obtaining Chinese citizenship, and teach her the local languages. And during the next few years, she found exactly what she had wanted for so long—training, purpose, and power.
Tai chi did not agree with her at first. Verga’s hard, inflexible personality made the fluid martial art an ordeal. Years passed. Verga worked, and worked, and at some point that work paid off. Her blue ki grew, ravenously. Success met her in multiple local tournaments. She even began developing her own martial arts style—tai chi, and later arnis, weren’t enough. She would not be satisfied with what things were when she could dream so vividly what they could be.
Verga was not stupid, however, and sometime after surpassing and leaving her old master, she realized it took more to survive in the outside world than martial arts. At 26, she enrolled in a local university.
It was at school that she became acquainted with Ryuzo Ryoke, a Japanese exchange student. Verga rarely had strong feelings when it came to other people, who in most cases either confused or alarmed her, but she wasted no time in deciding she openly and mightily hated this boy.
Ryuzo was from money, and it showed. The newest car, newest laptops, newest clothes. And, like Verga, he had quite the ego, though where Verga was reserved, and preferred to speak with her actions, Ryuzo was all talk. Unfortunately, he too was an aspiring Nomad, and had the power to back up his boasts.
Sometimes they sparred, and sometimes Verga would win. Sometimes she would almost win. The loses burned her pride like frostbite. When Ryuzo mocked her for her strange habits, her accent, her grades, it killed Verga to know that any punch she threw at him could be matched by one just as strong.
In academics, Verga was hopelessly behind her classmates, including Ryuzo. His successes in the face of her failures frustrated Verga in a way only her early years in tai chi could rival. Their rivalry grew, then one semester peaked when, after gaining the upper hand, Verga lost her temper and very nearly killed him. All Verga’s frustration poured out of her just then, her confusion at the strange new world she lived in, her hatred for the industrialized city, her frustration with her own academic progress, her loathing of Ryuzo. Eventually, she pulled back, not knowing or caring if Ryuzo was still alive. Then, she did something she couldn’t have explained, just like she couldn’t have explained why she kept walking all those years ago, when she left her village for good. Picking him up, Verga took Ryuzo to a local hospital.
She allowed doctors to extract her own ki for healing. For some reason, the thought of him dying, and her being responsible, drove a deep, uncomfortable spike through her belly.
She was there when he woke up. There wasn’t much to say. Uncomfortable, unhappy, half-wishing she had left him to die, Verga left. She would return only once afterwards, to drop off a bag of pao after the local streetcart accidentally gave her extra. Later, Ryuzo confided in her that she was the only person to visit him at the hospital. Parents were too busy, he said. What about your friends? she’d asked. He shrugged.
It wouldn’t be long before Verga realized the sickly feeling that had been following her since the fight was guilt. Unfamiliar, ugly territory. Ryuzo, for his part, seemed more reserved. No more taunts, at least.
It took time, but eventually the two took to talking. Ryuzo, despite whatever he said before, was quickly fascinated by Verga’s stories of her upbringing, and listened raptly to her every word. Verga soon found Ryuzo the only person she was comfortable asking simple questions that, prior, she had been too embarrassed to ask her master. They began to confide in each other. Their old, injured egos began to swell again. They trained together, they studied together, and before long they were dating.
It felt, to two young adults, both in their own ways unfamiliar with the realities of the outside world, that they were at their peak, the top of the world. Their feats in tournaments brought them modest fame, and to them modest fame felt like the most glorious thing in the universe.
Both were interested in refining their own, unique takes on martial arts, and their arguments over whose was better were ultimately settled by a strange, alien thought—what if we had a child? They could teach that child everything they knew. A legacy worthy of their talents, a trophy that would combine the best of both of them. This was only an idle thought, and they didn’t start actively trying for a kid so much as they stopped actively avoiding it. After all, even without condoms, it could be months, maybe even years, before anything happened. But within two weeks Verga was pregnant. Under encouragement from Ryuzo, she decided to follow through with it.
Verga put a pause on university and, with a little dissatisfaction, her training. Ryuzo visited regularly. They had arguments over the child’s name, of course, both wanting a name to reference themself over their partner. And during the second trimester, a doctor informed them their child would be born with Senshinōben.
It was a hereditary disease, one that drastically stagnates life energy. The baby would be pitifully weak from the moment she was born, with minimal ki reserves. If she was born at all, that is—its chance of survival was incredibly slim. A doctor hesitantly gave the option of an abortion, though this wasn’t something Ryuzo or Verga were ready to hear.
They talked. They argued. Martial arts does not prepare you for a looming miscarriage. Ryuzo visited less and less. From the way he talked, you would think Verga wasn’t pregnant at all. In following days, weeks, he made no acknowledgement to her pregnancy, or the Senshinōben, and whenever Verga pressed him he stammered and dodged and half-answered, and usually left early. Verga felt spite germinating inside her, imagining Ryuzo going to classes, pretending she didn’t exist. She had always known he was the weak one. She consulted with doctors on the possibility of an abortion, but something—stubbornness, fear, pride—held her back.
As successful martial artists, the two had funds for extensive medical care and consultation. Eventually, it was decided to C-section the baby and place it in a heavily monitored neonatal intensive care unit. The surgery was a success, but the baby’s condition remained uncertain. Ryuzo continued to avoid her. When the child finally stabilized, it was time for Verga to figure out what it would be called. Ryuzo failed to show, which Verga told herself was inevitable, but it didn’t stop the angry disappointment as she held her baby, alone. The child would take her surname, ‘Ilgraven.’ On the paperwork, feeling all those weeks of spite and anger come boiling over, Verga jotted down ‘Shippai’ in a burst of impulse. It was a Japanese word, her husband’s language, and it translated to ‘failure.’ Shippai Ilgraven would be her daughter’s new name. When Ryuzo found out, they shouted, then they fought. This one was a stalemate. Bloodied, bruised, Verga went to the car to take little Shippai out of the back seat, while Ryuzo stormed off. He did not come back until Shippai was half a year old.
To Verga’s enormous surprise, he was back to apologize. She, of course, would not and could not forgive him, but he was there to help, and Verga couldn’t refuse. To the public, of course, it was a sweet little picture—two famous martial artists raising a child together. News of their strife would not reach the tabloids.
But as Shippai began to walk, and speak, the two began training her. Verga was determined to have this child throw off her name, her disease, to fight through and conquer it. Maybe if she did, all Verga’s pain and confusion would be vindicated. Maybe, the guilt would go away.
Where Verga was a cold wall, holding Shippai at arm’s length and pushing the girl silently to grow, no matter the cost, Ryuzo was a constant and anxious fire, always telling her to do better, to be better, a fixture at Shippai’s side.
Meanwhile, no longer pregnant, Verga returned to her own training. To her frustration, the meteoric growth of her teens had slowed down, and her ki would grow only at a normal rate now that she approached her thirties. It was good to be fighting again, but her martial arts seems hollow now. She continued to fine-tune her blend of tai chi and arnis, which she now dubbed ‘Tikhiyvolna,’ the Tranquil Wave. She garnered attention in local tournaments, and imitators of her technique began to crop up, enough to gain her little experiment in martial arts proper respect as its own school, and, for herself, the title of Tikhiyvolna Master. But the limits of punches and kicks and self-defense seemed so small in the face of the struggles of the last few years. It was like being back in her old village again, surrounded by trees, unsatisfied by the smallness of the world. Verga hated that no matter her skill, no amount of martial arts could take away her powerlessness before miscarriage, broken hearts, crying babies.
Whatever she did, whatever she said, Verga loved her daughter. She didn’t know what to make of that, of course, and, on some level, it disturbed her. But those few moments when she would play with the girl, show her how to build little towers out of wood blocks, or how to make twig dolls like the ones her parents made, or laugh while Shippai roared like a movie monster and knocked over her buildings—Verga was happy. But it didn’t make the guilt go away, or the pain. And even if she loved her, love wasn’t enough. If anything (and maybe Verga knew this) it made things worse—a mother may be hateful, and that’s a simple, understandable evil, but a mother who loved her daughter—she should’ve known better.
Verga and Ryuzo were not good parents. They pushed their daughter to reach the stars, and when she couldn’t, when the reality of the Senshinōben beat her back down, they, either consciously or subconsciously, would blame Shippai. Ryuzo would became passive aggressive and guilt-slinging, Verga would go cold as stone and speak only curt, harsh indictments. Eventually, the tiny shred of goodwill that had built up with Ryuzo’s return fell away. They argued, and argued, and argued, and Shippai cowered on the sidelines.
When Shippai was seven, the two took their daughter to Japan, where Verga hoped to put her through survival training like what she endured in Siberia. On the way, as they often did, Shippai’s parents fought, and fought. In the airport. In Japan. Up in the mountains. While they walked the hiking trail, Ryuzo finally succeeded in pulling Verga’s trigger with a comment about her taking his future from him. She ordered Shippai to wait for them by a bench on the hiking trail, and told Ryuzo that she was done. Done with him, done with Shippai, done with all of it.
That broke through his bluster. But what about Shippai? We can’t leave her here.
I can, said Verga. If you want to raise a child on your own, be my god damn guest.
She marched off down the path, and Ryuzo tried to follow her. By the mountain base, they came to blows. For the first time in a very long while, Ryuzo was victorious, but he must not have felt victorious, because when Verga met his gaze, beaten and gasping for breath beneath a Japanese fir, he turned, and he fled. Verga knew her daughter was waiting for her up in the mountain. But she couldn’t return. Not to China, and not to Shippai, not to Ryuzo. Once again, Verga was marching off into the wilderness, alone.
For the next fifteen years, Verga sought only the hard and tangible. She sought power. She sought anything that would keep her from powerlessness. And Verga was very good at amassing power. She let her martial arts skills go rusty as the benefits of her blue ki slowed with age, and instead spent her time scouring the corners of Asia for old powers and terrible sorceries. She might occasionally participate in tournaments, a way of maintaining her fortune, but otherwise Verga Ilgraven faded from the public scene. The thought of people, always somewhat uncomfortable to Verga, even at the best of times, was now downright frightening. Power had been her first love, and, she now realized, it should have been her only.
In the last few months, noting her loss in a recent tournament, Verga has decided to begin work again with her martial arts skills, and has quietly returned to the city in order to find sparring partners. She keeps on a straight face, deflects questions about her daughter, and hides admirably her great distaste for almost every single thing about the busy cities of Japan.
SPECIAL MOVES & TECHNIQUES ■ Singularity
A powerful gravitational pulse centered on Verga. A single faraway target is drawn rapidly towards her (though it doesn’t restrain them or prevent counterattacks). Verga cannot perform any other ki-techniques while the Singularity is active, and, if it misses, it will take about twenty seconds for gravity to settle down enough to reuse the attack. The reach of the Singularity appears as a multicolored rippling in the air, and, while fast, it is possible to dodge.
Singularity is her only special move without a shot limit.
Another side effect of the Singularity; Verga is pinned in place while it’s active, allowing her to counter other, similar distance-grapples by using Singularity to lock herself in place. This also means she can't use Singularity while on the move.
■ Time Blade
A blade of ki hefted in both hands. Large as a car, and can be thrown short distances. Its movement folds time. Light in the vicinity is blueshifted ultramarine, and anyone struck feels a drop in speed as their movement through time is dampened. Time Blade has 3 shots per hour, and is Verga's preferred attack.
■ Gravity Lens
A powerful shielding move that warps incoming attacks around Verga, and exerts a violent outward push and downward weight on all nearby objects. It takes huge, ki-infused power to shatter the Lens, though its defense isn’t impenetrable. Gravity Lens has 3 shots per hour, though if shattered becomes more difficult to conjure again too soon.
A strobe of X-ray light that moves at high speeds. With middling damage, the Wave-Particle is the weakest of Verga’s prodigious attacks, but it has long range and moves extremely quickly—Verga’s most versatile move. She can grab onto the Field’s tail end and use it to close distances quickly. Wave-Particle has 2 shots per hour.
Ki pressurized then ignited, a thick, rippling wave of stardust and superheated energy expanding from Verga’s person. Supernova has wide reach and spread, perfect for mobs, and can dizzy opponents with the strength of its light. Supernova has 2 shots per hour.
■ Black Hole
Projectile of crackling gravity, to be hurled then detonated it at will. When Black Hole detonates, anything loose within about half a basketball court of space is sucked towards it and dealt crushing gravity damage. Target go free when they reach the center. However, Verga can also be affected, and must time Black Hole to ignite while she herself is out of range. Can be difficult at long distances. If succesfull, it can interrupt combos and create an enormous hole in an enemy's tempo, opening them up to further attacks. Black Hole has 1 shot per hour.
■ Dark Matter
A powerful, invisible attack that moves like a phantom through the space between atoms. Dark Matter has medium range, high damage, and is exceptionally dangerous due to almost no visible tell. Dark Matter is one of Verga's strongest attacks, and has 1 shot per day.
■ Antiparticle SUPER MOVES
Ignite an enclosed block of reality with oppressive cold heat; every particle experiences an equal and opposite anticharge against it; massive damage and immobilization; disruption of ki flow. Verga’s single strongest attack, bar none, a fridge-sized space of annihilation, but it is a short range move that requires Verga be within melee range of her target. Antiparticle has 1 shot per week.
■ Harmonic Release WEAKNESSES & LIMITS
Martial art technique developed by Verga using the principals of balance and rhythm. The limits of her body are overruled, her natural abilities pushed right over the brink. Adrenaline and oxytocin production skyrocket, her heartbeat slows while each beat pounds like the world’s largest drum, and Verga gains a dramatic, supernomadic increase in movement speed, reaction time, and hit strength, as well as endurance to extreme temperatures. This is an entirely physical, martial technique, and does not rely on ki. However, it will only last for about five minutes, and once it wears off her speed and strength are halved for the immediate future.
Unlike her daughter’s Full Release, a move that forces the body into overdrive like a screaming taskmaster whipping an unwilling servant, Verga’s Harmonic Release seeks to breach human limitation through symphonic balance between mind and body, and, while exhausting, does not inflict serious harm on the user like the Full Release.
While Verga’s ki attacks are enormously powerful, their raw power is also their greatest downside. Verga has pursued only the most dangerous of techniques during her quest for power, and, as a result, most of her special moves have a limited number of ‘shots’ before her body can no longer sustain them. She must act conservatively against stronger foes, something that doesn’t come naturally to Verga due to her pride. In addition, almost none of her abilities can safely be used in closed in spaces, like hallways, and are difficult to use without harming allies. She has a certain lack of versatility, as her abilities cannot be easily fine tuned or controlled—they operate at either 0%, or 100%, no middle-ground.
If Verga's abilities are spent, she has to rely on martial arts, and, while quite competent, her style focuses on self-defense, and isn’t appropriate for the shows of aggression and power that Verga relies on by nature.
Verga’s old fascination with fame has faded in the last twenty years, and she now has a very low opinion of it, and people who seek it out.