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Dragonball Victory Preludes: The quarterfinals

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Tetsuko Ueda vs Mizuko Shiokaze

 

The announcer was at his usual level of hyperbole. There was a seed change in the tournament. The most first appearance fighters to ever make it to the quarterfinals has happened. And Tetsuko, The Iron Girl, was one of them.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to introduce, stepping out of the gate to our battle stage, our first competitor for this match! And she is a real spitfire! Equipped with the latest self-defense technologies and adaptive tactical programming, she is Capsule Corporation's newest Android, and has threatened several match time records in her qualifiers and opening round matches! The blue haired Iron Girl is here now to show the strength of her engineering, but don't doubt her heart as well!"

 

Tetsuko stepped out on to the walkway leading to the battle stage, wearing a white and yellow bodysuit she used to use when she was a test pilot. Designed for high-visibility, and durability in high-G maneuvers. And it was just about what she needed when her first couple of outfits were tore up severely with Tetsuko's style of high-speed combat. She wore a white semi-transparent rain cloak over it, partially for dramatic effect, but also a light rain had been happening off and on for the match. Not that it dampened the spirits of the fighters, spectators, and the bottom lines of the peddlers selling cheap raincoats and umbrellas.

"Here she is! UEDA... TETSUKOOOOOOO!"

The crowd erupted in cheers as Tetsuko tossed away her cloak standing in the center of the ring. But then a chant started through the crowd, drowning out the exited fans of the newcomer.

"Mi-zu-ko! Mi-zu-ko! MI-ZU-KO!"

Tetsuko turned towards the entrance as she could start to make out with the lighting her opponent.

 

"A... Swimsuit?" Tetsuko puzzled as she walked out to where everyone could see her, and then everyone lost it.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, this young woman needs no introduction! In her Third consecutive appearance in this round of the tournament, let's give a warm welcome back to The Walking Typhoon... The Living Tsunami... SHIOKAZE... MIZUKOOOOOO!"

 

Tetsuko could get a full measure of the young woman as she strode up to greet Tetsuko in the center of the ring. And she was impressed now at the full setup. It wasn't just a swimsuit, but it looked durable and designed to take a lot of punishment with the fabrics and materials chosen.

"Ooooh! That outfit is sooo cooool!" Tetsuko gushed. "What's the flappy thing around your neck?" She said, pointing to the sailor collar that was part of the fighting costume.

"Oh?" Mizuko said with a harumph. "Just a shout out to my girls on the swim team back home. I adapted our school uniform to this outfit." She said, waving to the crowd once, hoping a camera would catch a shot for all her friends.

 

"Wait... they allow Teenagers to fight?"

"They've let kids in, kiddo... And I'm a Senior, thank you... Have you looked up the tournament history with that Wi-fi brain of yours? There was a certain spikey haired boy and his bald-headed best friend as part of one year's offering." Mizuko said, placing her hands on her hips. Enjoying the banter, but starting to get impatient."So... that suit... what's up with that?"

"Oh, this... just decided to throw this on. It's the most durable outfit I own. Used to wear it as a test pilot."

Mizuko snickered.

"What?"

"Yellow and white. Expecting to fall overboard?" She said taking a couple steps back before taking a defensive stance.

 

"Enough pretenses I see..." Tetsuko said taking a couple steps back as the crowd grew quiet. A fight was about to begin, between a cagey veteran and a newcomer making waves.

Tetsuko purposely hesitated as she wanted to see the level of resolve Mizuko could throw into her punch. When it connected Tetsuko slid back on the wet but still not slick as-of-yet battlefield. Her eyes widened. "Your skin... muscles... they're... abnormal for a human."

She could also see Mizuko's breathing slowed, and each breath was deep. "Yea... I train at about 1000 feet of water. I think the longest I've managed to hold my breath at that depth and still train effectively was 10 minutes."

The pressure at 1000 feet was amazing... surely the girl had to be doing something else to hit with that sort of force. Tetsuko responded with her best, her punch landing square on Mizuko's jaw. "I detest dishonesty and liars." Tetsuko said. "What's your tournament training regimen?"

 

"Five Minutes at 2000 feet." Mizuko said with a smirk as suddenly her speed jumped up, as she hit Mizuko with blow after blow, her strength and speed was truly a match. Tetsuko responded with matching ferocity, but could see that at that depth it was like training with weights. That and you learn breath control.

The thought of training dangerously made Tetsuko skip a beat and Mizuko slammed a punch into Tetsuko's gut that ripped open her outer skin, wires and hoses stuck out as well as hydraulic fluid spurted on the battle stage as Tetsuko rolled like a rag doll. When she got to her feet, Mizuko held out her hands and the falling rain seemed to stop and collect in her hands. "You seem to be interested in what it's like to train at that depth... although I wouldn't recommend it... You seem to be out of your depth, Tetsuko."

 

Mizuko suddenly surrounded Tetsuko in an orb of water that compressed hard on her. "300 feet... 400 feet..." Mizuko said, slowly constricting Tetsuko with increasing water pressure. Tetsuko winced from the pain as she felt water rush in from the breach in her skin into her body. She tried to talk but her vocalizer didn't work in water. "500 feet... 600 feet..." Mizuko said, walking over as the orb became smaller and smaller and Tetsuko's body strained. "I know you're tough... But I wager you're not designed to operate at depth for very long with that sort of breach."

Tetsuko could hardly move... her body had swelled up and her skin strained. Her musclature was almost completely useless with that sort of pressure on it. Then Tetsuko smiled as she blinked out of existance for a moment appearing 10 feet behind Mizuko. Followed by Mizuko being hit with a riot hose of water pressure coming out of the skin breach Tetsuko had, right into the orb of water Mizuko created which dispersed after she hit it. She saw the almost cartoonishly expanded Tetsuko expelling the massive amount of water crammed into her. Not just from the “wound” as it were, but from anywhere that could expel water. "Yes... I am tough... and resilient."

She grinned as the rest of the water was purged from her body.

 

People thought the fight was over right there... "Oh? Then I'll have to do this." Mizuko said, grinning from the ground.

Tetsuko barely had enough time to see orb after orb of water strike her as Mizuko propelled herself up into the air on a column of water, jumping on to other columns as she fired away. Tetsuko knew she had to respond. Matching shot for shot with her energy blasts first knocking away the orbs, but then she started to connect, and in the process started to recover her energy reserves off of Mizuko's own energy. Mizuko fell from the air as Tetsuko found a second wind, but the damage she was incurring was starting to take a toll.

 

Mizuko glared as she jumped up into the air using the prodigious strength of her legs. Water started to form into a compressing orb of water in her hands as she went up. Tetsuko prepared to move but started to feel her right leg was failing. She had been flying for most the fight, but she had to switch it off until she could get restocked with energy. Tetsuko started to hover again and fired blast after blast into Mizuko, but floating orbs of water stopped each shot. Then Tetsuko executed a desperate gambit, teleporting behind Mizuko and grabbing her and torpedoing them both into the battle arena like a pile-driver.

Tetsuko teleported away at the last moment, sliding back from her own momentum of flying, and she knew she was about out of energy... There wasn't much dust and smoke from the crash, the rain had dampened the rubble enough to prevent the view from being obstructed.

 

And Tetsuko's heart sank. She underestimated Mizuko's overall toughness. In fact water was entering Mizuko's pores and seemed to heal her... and re-energize her in the process. "That was a good showing, Mizuko... but it seems you have much to learn about fighting. This time... I'm advancing." She held her hand out as she walked towards the unsteady Tetsuko... she couldn't activate her flight at all, and her right leg protested against even staggering.

 

Mizuko formed another orb in her hand, as her eyes glowed a phosphorescent blue-green. Tetsuko could sense the spike of bio-energy within Mizuko... and it scared her... how could Mizuko recover so fast, yet it took such effort? Then it dawned on her... Tetsuko showed her cards too early... her blasts could restore her own energy by stealing it from Mizuko, but she displayed that too fast! The glowing eyes suggested that Mizuko was exposed to some sort of bacteria in the deep waters of the ocean that infected her with a helpful strain that in exchange for certain things, namely the minerals kicked up from the battle arena and Tetsuko's own mineral-oil like hydraulic fluids Mizuko's energy and overall well-being was restored.

Suddenly more error messages started appearing in Tetsuko's mind as Mizuko prepared to take her shot. Then a sudden display of a warning message came up in Tetsuko's mind. "Broadcasting Black Box data, in preparation for terminal collision. Advising immediate ejection." came up... an old, legacy message from her test pilot days.

Tetsuko fell to her knees and screamed. "I YIELD!" There was fear in her voice. She had hit her limit. No... crossed it. And everything in her programming was telling her to fight further invited damage she might not recover from... or worse.

 

Misuko hesitated, the orb that was about to get launched into Tetsuko dissipated.

“What?”

“I... YIELD! Please...” Tetsuko begged. She trembled with her head downcast.

Mizuko's eyes widened... Tetsuko Submitted... a rare thing to see in these tournaments. Then again the Android didn't have the same tells in terms of being injured a human did... and perhaps... Mizuko stretched before offering a hand to Tetsuko. “Sorry... sometimes in a fight people get a bit too into it and need reminding this is just for sport.”

 

“The match is OVER!” The announcer shouted from his booth, as the large jumbo-tron screens showed Mizuko's face as the victor. “Mizuko is moving on to the Semifinals!”

Capsule Corp technicians ran up to Tetsuko after Mizuko helped the injured Android back to her shaky feet and back down from the battle stage. “Thanks... we'll take it from here.”

“Right... Tetsuko?”

“Y... Yeah?”

“If they get you patched up enough, I wanna see your face in the spectator's section for tourney participants!”

Tetsuko grinned. “I plan on it!”

She brought up a thumb's up before collapsing. A couple more technicians grabbed a stretcher to take Tetsuko backstage where Capsule Corp set up a special field maintenance tent. They placed her quickly into a tub that was full of what looked like water after strapping on a clear respirator face-mask to her head and let her sink into the water. It looked like her skin slowly knitted back into place.

 

...A few hours later, into the next day almost...

Tetsuko's mother, Ai Ueda sat down near the clear vat on a seat, straightening her labcoat. She looked over the apparently healed Tetsuko. The nanites in the liquid even fixed up the tearing that happened on her suit.

“Tetsuko, dear... the repair systems are done.”

 

Tetsuko weakly opened her eyes. “How... how long I was out?”

“You missed out on the rest of your round's matches.”

“I hope the Semifinals haven't started yet!”

“No, not yet, not for a few more hours. They've not even started breakfast for all the tournament participants. Losers and Winners.”

 

Tetsuko blinked as Ai tapped an icon on her data tablet saving the black-box data of Tetsuko's fight. She then pulled out a swim ring sitting next to a crate in the tent, and tossed it on to the surface of the pool-like vat. Tetsuko swam up to it and slid into it. Leaning on to the ring she looked at her mom.

“I really sucked out there, didn't I?”

“Query:” Ai interrupted. “Did you gain valuable combat and tactical data back there?”

Tetsuko blinked for a moment. “I... Yeah... I did... several gigabytes worth.”

 

“Then you didn't suck.”

 

Tetsuko sheepishly took off the respirator mask as Ai patted her “daughter” on the head. “Enjoy the bath and relax. I'll see you at the tourney breakfast.” She said with a smile.

 

Tetsuko quirked an eyebrow. “How far did Capsule Corp expect me to go?”

Ai sighed. “To... be honest your lack of combat experience should have cost you in the qualifier round. It seemed your training was more than sufficient to blow away everyone's expectations.”

 

Tetsuko smiled.

“About time you smiled again about this.” Ai said pushing Tetsuko's ring into the water a little. “Now... enjoy your rest. See you later.”

Ai walked out, leaving Tetsuko in a quiet tent. Leaning back in her ring she looked up at the tent roof. It was raining again, and it was the dead of night... as Mizuko walked in.

“Nice... you got a little swimming pool.”

“M... Mizuko? Shouldn't you be sleeping?”

 

“I got a real jump of energy after our fight. I doubt I'll be sleeping for a few days.”

She leaned against Tetsuko's pool. “What sort of thing is this?”

 

“This is a Nanofab Repair Pool. It is part cleaning pool, part maintenance bay, and part repair garage.”

Mizuko laughed, poking at Tetsuko's swim ring. “I wager I couldn't swim in it.”

“Actually you can, the nanites ignore anything biological.”

“Anyways... People are going ballistic over our match.” She said, pulling out a computer tablet to show Tetsuko the thread postings about their match. Some claiming it could be MOTY (Match of the Year) material.

 

Tetsuko grinned. “Actually, I learned far, far more about my own ability than anything. I don't need people to tell me we had an awesome fight.”

 

Mizuko grinned. “I can't wait for my next one, but this one...” Mizuko said leaning her head over the pool. “...this one was the best match I've had in a long time going to these tournaments. And I've gone to three of them. Three years running. Never got past the Quarterfinals.

 

Tetsuko leaned over. “I still love your swimsuit. I want one.” She said with a girlish grin.

Misuko laughed. “Well, I think after this I don't mind naming you an honorary member of the Swimming Club.”

Grinning, Tetsuko scratched her head. “So... What's School?”

“Huh?”

“What's School? I know it's something like a training facility of some sort... but...” Tetsuko said scratching her chin.

Mizuko just blushed. “You... don't go to school?”

“No... I was fully programmed before activation.”

 

Mizuko frowned a bit in confusion. “You're like... literally born yesterday aren't you?”

“I've only functioned for 3.25 years.”

That revelation cracked Mizuko up. “And here you are pontificating about teenagers being allowed into the tourney!”

Tetsuko blushed.

“Don't worry about it.” Mizuko said sliding into the pool and floating on her back. She looked so comfortable in water. “I'm going to catch a nap.”

“Shouldn't you get a flotation device or something first? You can use my ring if you want... or my respirator...”

“Don't worry. I naturally float even when sleeping now. I have to intentionally think of diving to actually go underwater.”

Tetsuko smiled in awe of her strange friend. She looked her over. “No gills?”

“Eh?”

“You're like a mermaid!”

“Nah... I'm just really healthy.” Mizuko grinned before closing her eyes. “Wake me up before breakfast. I hear their omelets are to die for.”

Tetsuko nodded. “Okay. I wager you'd wanna dry off. And skeedaddle before the technicians show up.”

Mizuko impishly grinned. “Not the first pool I've snuck into, kiddo.” She said, dozing off.

All Tetsuko did was watch Mizuko's bio-energy flow. She was curious more and more about the one who beat her. And it was a natural state of mind for Tetsuko. As that was how Tetsuko learned. If it wasn't for the fact Tetsuko was a fighter she would be a phenomenal scientist. She pushed Mizuko a little, wondering what would happen and see how her body balanced itself in the water.

“Hey... trying to sleep.”

Tetsuko meeped before sheepishly moving away. “Okay...”

 

It was obvious they would be friends, but this... this was the strangest friendship that Tetsuko has ever endeavored to have. But... Mizuko was really, really cool in her eyes.

 

Ai watched everything that transpired from a security feed. One of the technicians was turning red with frustration. “This is completely against protocol!”

“Yes, and they're kids... let them be. We've been trying to have Tetsuko make more friends and now she's made one!”

“But... the liabilities alone...”

“Tetsuko's there. That's more than enough of a safety consideration.”

The technician grunted in grudging approval. “Okay... that girl better not mess the nanopool system up.”

Ai laughed patting the technician on the back. “Don't worry about it.”

 

Ai knew it would be hard to let Tetsuko be her own girl... and have to deal with life as a super-powered android. Having moments of calm would be highly important. As Tetsuko will have very few from here on.

 

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Her opponent entered the fight of combat with a predatory stalk, his feet sending up small clouds of sand. Long black hair fell past his shoulders, a mane of thick midnight. His body was well-muscled and he knew how to use that power, how to project an aura of ferocity. An open coat covered his upper body while a gi covered his lower legs. The dark colors combined wtih the featureless black googles and mask he wore created a sense of menace. Datura was mildly impressed with him, for a human.

 

He stripped off the jacket, revealing a black gi top but it wasn’t the uniform which drew her eye. It was his right arm, which was made of metal. Datura blinked as it flexed and moved like a real arm. She’d never seen anything like it before; Saiyans didn’t lose limbs like that, not permanently. She had heard that other species had to deal with it but they were weak.

 

Her opponent dropped the jacket to the ground. Datura tilted her head in consideration of him, wondering if he’d say anything. Humans, like all males, felt the need to trump their physical prowess. This one didn’t seem to need any self-adulation.

 

The bell rang and Datura moved. Her opponent moved, too, displaying a strength and speed that startled her. She darted to the left, keeping her strong side closer to the man. He mirrored her and Datura guessed his right was his strong. As she circled, she could see the Capsule Corp logo on his arm. They closed together and his right forearm crashed into hers. It almost hurt, sending tingles of sensation down her arm. She didn’t care; pain was life.

 

She twisted behind him and wrapped her weak arm around his throat. She pulled back against him, trying to pull him off her feet but he was strong. She’d never felt a human with this kind of might and a wide grin stretched her face. He bucked against her and nearly took her off his feet.

 

She kicked one of his knees out from under him and he fell, dragging her down with him. She laughed as she ignited her flight and took to the air, ripping out of his grip. He was right behind her, leaving the ground in a burst of power. Laughing, she spun to face him or rather spun so he faced her foot. He twisted away but only avoided taking her sole in his face; she still hit his shoulder.

 

He closed and they engaged in a flurry of blows, too fast for any but the most powerful to see. Datura got in several good strikes and she felt his fists hit her, too. Her left hit hard but his right was worse. The metal blows seemed to impact all the way to her bones but she ignored the pain. She’d have worse.

 

Back and forth they went, striking and attacking each other with focused intent. Three minutes in, she wasn’t sure if she would win and excitement boiled in her veins. The best fights were ones you weren’t sure you would win.

 

The end came when he knocked her out of the sky. It was a lucky blow that drove her to earth shoulders first and left her just dazed enough that she can’t get up. He drove her into the sand of the arena with a metallic elbow strike.

 

When she regained consciousness, she realized she’d never bothered to learn his name. Next time, she’d learn her opponent's name ahead of time, so that she could learn about him or her. Next time, she’d be more prepared for the fight.

 
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Squatro did a couple of quick leg stretches while his opponent paraded in. Supubla, a purple-skinned alien that looked like a cross between a worm and a centaur, with an upright yet curved body, four legs and a large rounded nub of flexing flesh at what would be the rump of a human. Without fanfare, Supubla sprang forward. It was a prodigious leap.

 

Squatro acted to block the soaring slam, blocking the accelerated punch with the side of his arm, but he had enough room for thought to remember his studies on his opponent. Those legs and lower muscles gave quite a lot of jumping power, and helped manage the presence of fatigue better than Squatro's would. Squatro retaliated with a quick chop.

 

The two traded a flurry of punches, bouncing around the arena like Mexican jumping beans. When they broke off for a moment, Squatro felt bruises on his arms and sides, but so too had Supubla, if those bluish marks were any sign. Squatro grinned. Sure, he had his duty, and he was doing it. But business could mix with pleasure. To actually put himself to the test was fun.

 

His feet beat a rhythm and Squatro flew into the air with Sky Walk. Then, he flipped over, head over heels, blue slashes lashing out. "Storm Slice!" The Storm Slice was fast, and the first once actually winged Supubla, whom leaped clear past the second----

 

Wait, where did he go?

 

"Hoooooo!"

 

Crap. Supubla had leaped high enough to get above Squatro, and grappled him for a painful landing.

 

*KRAKOOM*

 

Squatro groaned in the crater, but wasn't giving up yet. Down to the basics of dirty fighting. He slammed a knee between Supubla's legs.

 

Whom staggered back several paces and hissed, but not actually that bothered.

 

Dummy, Agent Squatro. Not everyone has their nads in the same--- Skehehehehehe. Of course. Squatro moved forward and so did Supubla - but Squatro broke out of his impromtu feint and came behind Supubla. "Pointer Pistol!" His index finger slammed rapid-fire into the nub of flesh, and the howl there confirmed his suspicions.

 

The foot caught him as he was congratulating himself. Made him really mad. This is gonna suck. Which indeed it did.

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Shiori Kiba believed in appearances.

 

When she stepped out onto the tournament field and walked across to her starting mark, a dramatic swirl of cherry blossom petals was carried by the breeze around her and scattered little pink ovals across her side of the square. The onlookers enjoyed it. It didn't matter that it only happened because she'd paid a boy to collect a bag of cherry blossom petals, then pour them into the wind as she walked out. It was the right thing to have happen. Why it happened was beside the point.

 

Appearances were her first line of defense.

 

Across from her was a towering, imposing bull of a man. He was impossibly barrel-chested, to the point his gi gaped open to expose hilariously overdeveloped muscles. She wasn't immediately sure if the somewhat short, forward-swept horns on his head were the result of nonhuman origin, experimentation, surgery, or what...but they looked ridiculous. He was hirsuite as well; hair caking his chest and arms, giving him a thick beard and mustache, and a mullet that was only slightly less offensive than the horns.

 

She was five feet, seven inches, and while it was hard to gauge her exact weight under her miko shrine maid robes, it was pretty clear it couldn't be much. Compared to El Toro over there, it looked as if she'd be trodden underfoot without him even noticing her. They'd let her bring her ofuda  though. A little white squared ribbon attached to a short stick. After assessing the stick and confirming it had nothing funny about it, and was far too fragile to be of use in combat, the tournament directors had approved it. Shiori had been happy about that. It was important. For the appearance.

 

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The Bull Man stared at her incredulously as she took her place and bowed at him, beaming magnificently. He snorted and bellowed, "WHAT IS THIS?!"

 

Still beaming as if she were a teacher dealing with a student who was particularly precocious, Shiori said in a piping voice, "Good afternoon, honored warrior! Please forgive me, but I must defeat you today! I hope we can still be friends...perhaps if you agree to forfeit the fight?"

 

He burst out laughing, and looked to one side, outside the boundary that marked the fight arena. A man standing there, taller and thinner, shrugged and nodded at him. Confirming that the fight was in fact as it was intended to be. With a chuckle, the Bull Man smacked one giant fist into the other open hand. "Well, this will be short."

 

Shiori held her ofuda out and placed her first two fingers outstretched against its tip. "Kami of sky and sea, spirits of sun and earth...give me your blessing so I can carry out your will," she incanted, eyes shut. A ripple of 'oooos' passed through the crowd as a nimbus of golden light wavered into being around her. "Give me strength to prevail, fortitude to endure, purity to cast aside all temptation and doubt. Make me your instrument kamisama, and I will be your hand upon this world!"

 

No more cherry blossoms? Damn that kid. He must have used them all on the first toss. No tip for him. Ah well, the lightshow was enough.

 

El Toro snorted again, but was evidently a man of few words...he lowered his head and charged across the arena. It was actually pretty impressive. Somehow he managed to accelerate to a good speed across the very limited space of the arena...and he had amazingly good balance; good enough to lower his head to her height and still manage to stay on his feet as he ran that fast!

 

The shrine maiden adjusted her footing, reached out, and caught his head on her tiny hand. The force of the impact caused wind to puff out, scattering the petals on the ground and shoving her backwards. She flexed her ankles, and dug her feet into the concrete of the arena floor without moving much of anything else. She wound up leaving two furrows in the ground, each one just deep enough for her toes, and about two feet long. Another foot, and she'd have been in danger of being shoved out of the arena. Irksome. It seemed 'the bull' was not named that just because of his obnoxious snorting, and the horns.

 

He yanked his head back, eyes widening. Though he'd shoved her back with the force of his charge, her hand and arm and body hadn't flexed or moved at all. She made the cutest smile at him she could muster and chirped, "That was a strong move! Goodbye!" And then she vanished. An instant later she was behind him, and with an open palm struck him in the back, shoving him towards the arena's edge.

 

Despite the differential in size and mass, The Bull was slammed forward, his eyes widening comically as he tried to fling himself back, and windmilled his arms. She was just about to go for the kill when he stomped. The ground heaved when his foot hit the broken concrete and punched down into it, embedding and giving him a stable point to regain his balance. Simultaneously, Shiori was surprised and had to regain her balance, costing her a valuable opportunity to exploit his moment of weakness.

 

Her bright smile became harder to maintain. What had she expected though? It was the quarter-finals now. The chaff had been weeded out.

 

His sheer bulk and musculature made just hitting him a little less effective than Shiori liked, so she switched tactics...nimbly scooting back over the centerline and facing him where he'd anchored himself at the edge.

 

"Great Lady of the Sun," she prayed, holding up her ofuda, "who's will created Heavens and Earth, show us the wrath that burns from on high and scourge the wicked from my holy path! Amaterasu's Lance!!" White fire erupted from her hands, and speared out across the arena in a beam of light that socked directly against The Bull's leathery hide. She held it on target, moving with him as he yanked his foot clear and shielded his face.

 

"Ahh!" he shouted, more from anger than pain. The light faded, leaving a livid burn across his chest and abdomen and forearms. But his face revealed he was just getting madder. He roared across the arena at Shiori, and if he'd been holding back before, that was over now. Bellowing, he slammed his fists in haymaker after haymaker, each one making a tremor in the ground and cracking concrete when it fell.

 

Shiori wavered and vanished, avoiding the first. The second she deflected without even moving, catching his wrist with her ofuda and pushing it just enough to one side that it just missed her head. The third caught her and her holy radiant aura flared and snapped. The impact knocked her down, and with a triumphant roar El Toro leaped to her and pounded his fist directly down, crushing her against the concrete floor of the arena.

 

For a long moment, he stayed where he was, panting, his ham-hand partially embedded in the ground. The crowd gave a shocked noise and people stood up, wanting to see what had happened while simultaneously not wanting to see the bloody, ruined mess that must surely now be covering his knuckles.

 

When The Bull took his hand out of the ruined arena floor, Shiori was there, lying on her back in a pit of crushed gravel. Her ofuda stick was snapped

 

She wasn't smiling anymore.

 

"You...are...a...HORRIBLE PERSON!" she shouted, leaping from the hole she'd been slammed into and latching onto The Bull's gi. Startled, he stumbled backwards, and she cocked a hand back. Lines of white light flowed from her fingertips, making a set of wickedly long, slightly curved 'claws' that she used to start slashing at him.

 

"Do you have ANY IDEA what that would have DONE to me?!" Tough as he was, those claws ripped his hide open and delved deep into the flesh beneath. Blood spattered across Shiori's face and shoulders, staining the white kimono. "That was NOT OKAY!" Another slash laid into his arm down to the bone, and more blood flowed.

 

Shiori, now smeared with red from head to foot, dropped off of him as he fell to his hands and knees, and crimson fluid pooled under him. He was breathing hard.

 

She lifted her chin, her eyes cruel and scarlet. "Let the heavens judge you for what you have done," Shiori sneered, and lifted those terrible whitefire claws...this time aiming for his neck.

 

And El Toro, on all fours, his horns pointing out...did exactly what his namesake did. Again, his ability to accelerate, even under those circumstances, was shocking. And he was on her level now, and had much more leverage because of that lower stance. His head rammed into her midsection, sending her staggering backwards. Even trailing blood, The Bull was too angry to feel pain, or fear. He followed up immediately with a one-two combination that Shiori had to leap up to avoid. Or rather, she avoided the 'one' but the two was much quicker than she expected, and hit her in midair.

 

Shiori had time to muse as she flew. She thought about gravity and physics, and how they were underestimated at one's peril. She thought about how when a man is named 'The Bull' one might pause to consider that being on all fours isn't a sign of defeat and submission, but rather simply another combat stance. Appearances.

 

Using her momentum, she was able to flip in the air to land foot-first...but there was nothing she could do to alter her trajectory once El Toro had struck her. Nothing to gain leverage on in midair. She landed lightly a good five feet beyond the arena boundary.

 

Damnit all.

 

A bell sounded, and medics rushed out onto the field to help The Bull, who had dropped to one knee. Blood loss most likely. His last flurry had been a desperation move, it seemed.

 

Shiori bowed. The formality of it was belied by her being covered in his blood. "Well fought, sir. I have much to learn." She tried to keep the whole 'upbeat perky' thing going, but right now she just wanted to go home and check to see if he'd broken anything that she'd have to set or risk it healing badly. She hated rebreaking bones that hadn't set right the first time.

 

As she walked away, another swirl of cherry blossoms came down around her. Maybe that kid wasn't so bad after all.

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The short stocky old man with the bald head wearing the pastel robes trotted along behind the woman in fighter garb his voice merely a whisper intended for her ears alone. "Remember initiate Syn, you are the last of the..." She spins around stopping as she faces him, He rapidly back pedals trying  not to run into her,  her grimace at his sibilant voice causing him to fear that she might lash out at him as unthinkable as that thought may be.

 

"Enough," she nearly yells several heads turn at her out burst," I have entered this arena four times and four times you have said exactly the same thing!  I know who and what i am." She lowers her face to within millimeters of his, their noses almost touching.  "I do not!" She towers over him his back bending as he leans away from her. " Need! " Her voice rises as she leans closer and closer with each word. "To Be Told!" He leans so far back his eyes impossibly wide staring at her reddening face His balance totally lost. "a fifth time!" He falls onto his butt, all dignity lost, "Of course, Of course Initiate Syn forgive me my overzealous actions but you must not lose your self to the temptations of this strange and amazing place." taking deep breaths the girl reaches down and pulls her Chaperone to his feet. "No, Frier Laznozen, it is i who needs forgiveness please accept my apology."

 

As the Frier brushes the dirt from his bum , the girl is distracted by the laughter in her head she sends a thought down her link to her two NA Tigers < and enough from you two as well and you better be in the sky-box or else> Turning back to her escort she smiles at him and bushes a little dirt from his shoulder. "You had best go and see to Monte and Cristo i have a feeling they will be trying to cause trouble and i need to get my mind into this next fight. I never dreamed i would make it to the quarter finals on my first tournament." Frier Laznozen sketches a short bow to this young girl whom he has spent the last 18 years rearing "May the Graces of Neo-Genesis carry you Initiate," he smiles, "good luck, Karmahl." he turns and runs back the way they had just come as the girl alone now turns to the opening doors leading into the arena.

 

Karmahl enters through the sliding gates and spies her opponent across the arena standing in the opening to his gate. They both stop and study each other slowly not taking eyes from from the other they move into the starting position as the announcer begins his act leading to the naming of the contestants for this round.

 

She takes her position taking a neutral stance her mind racing nano enhanced synapse firing her vast knowledge of the tournament players finds him, the information rising to the surface of her memory <ahh yes an Oriaon Brother, but which , not 1 or 3 both of them were eliminated in the first round> Her opponent takes a similar stance as her mind continues racing < and 2 is not competing as his legs are still regenerating from his last contest a week ago so it must be 4 the matter manipulator or 5 the energy channeled> suddenly her ears register the end of the announcers listing. “...facing a widely celebrated member of the Oriaon clan number 6!†“wha... number 6 but†she is interrupted as the fateful words echo across the arena!

 

“BEGIN!â€

 

Karmahl moves with lightning speed flowing into an advanced martial arts form designed to measure the opponents skill and strengths. #6 likewise counters with a similar move showing his own wariness.

 

The two fighter spar for several moments moving around the arena floor.

 

Attack, parry, lunge, dodge, feint, riposte the moves fly at speeds to fast to follow with unaided vision but neither fighter lands any solid blow no points are scored but information is learned.

 

Keeping the fight moving Karmahl reviews what she is learning about 6

 

<he is stronger than I am but not by much, I am slightly faster, in truth I see nothing special about him I sense no nascent energies and see no power auras> she thinks, <time for a strategy shift> .

 

With a loud Ki yell she leaps backward conducting two complete back flips and raising her arms she yells “BATTLE FOG!†As rapid as a storm rolling in from the sea the area surrounding #6 is shrouded by a roiling silvery cloud. Her opponent stops crouching straining to hear see or feel any thing to indicate where the attack is coming from but his senses are blinded by the cloud, then he is hit by a force more powerful than any he has felt in this tournament...

 

As the cloud encompasses 6, Karmahl drops her hands to her waist braces her feet draws a deep breath and as she lets the breath go with another loud cry her arms shoot out palms forward aimed at the silhouette of 6 “KI BLAST!†a searing white burst of energy rips through the cloud striking 6 full on sending him flying head over heels but miraculously he lands on his feet in a battle stance apparently unharmed,

 

The crowd goes wild! This is More like it!

 

In the Sky box the two NA Tigers Press their faces to the pane of Plasticine-glass separating from the outside low menacing growls coming from deep in their huge chests. And the Frier covers his mouth his eyes wide in shock his whispers escape his fingers “No mortal can take a War-Witches Ki Blast unscathedâ€

 

In the arena the shock lasts only an instant as she launches her next attack a flying leap. 6 responds with a leap of his own but his is much more powerful. The combatants meet in mid arena several meters above the floor as they pass they exchange blows a flurry of thrusts and parries and blocks and then they each hit the ground 6 , his feet and one hand to steady himself smashing the points of contact immediately charges the girl across the arena.

 

Karmahl slams into the ground on her back chewing up the concrete as she skids into the wall, she staggers to her feet and only get a moment before he is upon her raining blows she barley and painfully parries. <by the holy foundry he was concealing his strength I need to get away from him> Leaping straight up She activates flight to give her some space to form her defenses <this isn’t just a martial arts fight anymore>

 

As she rises 6 grabs her ankle and spins her around disrupting her contragrav field hurling her with incredible force toward the other wall. In a panic she raises her force field at the moment of impact the force absorbs the impact but the field collapses and again he is almost on her, but this time she will pull out all the stops calling out again as she has seen in the data base recording of the old tournaments.

 

“ARMOR ENCASE!†and a shimmering translucent material not solid yet not liquid flows out of her skin to cover and protect key vital points. Not pausing to wait she makes a second leaping attack at her super strong foe drawing upon her neo magic she strikes as they make contact!

 

“WINTERS KISS!â€

The blow lands.

 

As her armor protects her from most of his blows but not all she hits the ground awkwardly and rolls into a defensive stance. She is bloody and bruised and exhausted but the Kiss worked... there he stands Oeiaon 6 frozen, immobile, waiting for her finishing move. Before he can regain movement Karmahl draws upon her remaining neo-magic and raises her arms. A swirling ball of spinning fire coalesces between her open hands and she calls out her attack her voice reverberating through out the arena “METOR STORM!â€

 

Just as 6 breaks free of his ice prison the fire shoots into the air and forms into many spinning balls of plasma and strike down into the arena floor creating a molten inferno where 6 stood, an inferno hotter than a sun.

 

The crowd stands cheering then sudden the cheers turn to oohs and ahhs for as the flames fade there stands 6 naked but unharmed his eyes now burning with the same fire as the storm which should have incinerated him.

 

Karmahl's jaw drops and her eyes bulge in shock then she realizes <oh! Absorption!> and out loud she has time for only two words

 

“oh noâ€

 

 

 

 

 

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