Astolfo is one of the twelve paladins of the Frankish Kingdom in the collection of medieval legends and poems surrounding the historical figure Charlemagne. Astolfo appears in many early chansons de geste, but his most significant role was in Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto.
The main character of the epic, Astolfo's cousin and fellow paladin Roland, fell for a pagan princess, but his advances were rejected. Crushed, Roland went mad with despair and began to rampage across Europe and Africa in a blind madness. In order to restore his cousin's sanity, Astolfo traveled through Africa in search of a cure.
Astolfo had numerous adventures along the way, which included the subduing of a giant and the defeat of a supernaturally-regenerating bandit. When Astolfo arrived in Ethiopia, he met its emperor, who was plagued by a swarm of harpies that attacked him whenever he tried to eat. Astolfo scared off the harpies with his magical horn, and the grateful emperor directed him on how to find John the Apostle, who in turn explained to Astolfo how to return Roland's sanity.
Astolfo followed John's instructions and retrieved Roland's wits, which were sealed in a bottle, with the help of the prophet Elijah, and returned them to Roland, who came back to his senses. Freed of his madness, Roland accompanied Astolfo back to Paris, where they lead Charlemagne's forces in a defense against the invading Saracens.
- 1 Battle vs. Bellerophon (by Laquearius)
- 2 World War Royale (by Cfp3157)
- 2.1 Prologue: In DFederal...
- 2.2 Part I: Fuck You Kai Leng
- 2.3 Part II: I.C.E. Ruins Nico's Day
- 2.4 Part III: Nieder mit Dem Patriarchat
- 2.5 Part IV: Bring Me the Boy and Wipe Away the Debt
- 2.6 Part V: We Have A Mexican Showdown
- 2.7 Part VI: Co-Op Mode Unlocked
- 2.8 Part VII: The Boss Battle
- 2.9 Part VIII: Heroes Unite
- 2.10 Epilogue
- 2.11 Expert's Opinion
Battle vs. Bellerophon (by Laquearius)
"Get a move on, you damned horse, we don't have all day," mumbled Bellerophon as he leaned against a rock, impatiently waiting for his loyal companion Pegasus to sate his hunger on the fresh grasses that surrounded them. Remembering his mission, he scanned the horizon for any sign of his quarry. Iobates had sent him northward, with instructions to hunt down a troublesome griffin that had been harassing shepherds and their flocks. It was a foggy and overcast day, the perfect time for a griffin to strike and disappear into the clouds before any would-be trackers could locate it. Bellerophon chuckled. He knew that when he finally found the beast, it wouldn't be expecting its pursuer to have a pair of wings of his own. Pegasus whinnied, drawing the hero's attention back to him. "Ready to go? Let's hunt ourselves a monster."
"Your aid is much appreciated, Ruggiero!" Astolfo exclaimed as he slipped on his helmet. Ruggiero smiled. "Any time, my friend. Are you sure you have to leave so soon? Can't stay around for a few drinks to celebrate our victory?" Astolfo shook his head. "I'm afraid not. Now that the Saracens have been routed, I have little time to complete my mission for the King before they return to their homeland. But do not fret, if the hippogriff is reliable as it always is, I should be back within four days time." Ruggiero laughed, and put his hand on Astolfo's shoulder. "Excellent! Good luck, and Godspeed!"
"Calm yourself, good man. You are sure you saw the griffin here?" The old man nodded vigorously. "Yes, my lord! But this was a different griffin! Yes, not like anything anyone has ever seen! It had hooves!" Bellerophon raised an eyebrow. "Hooves, you say? Like a horse? How odd... Can you tell me exactly which direction it was headed?"
The few remaining embers of what was once Astolfo's fire began to fade away. The paladin's spirits were low; he wanted to keep searching for a village to find lodgings in, but it was much too dark, and he was tired enough already. Despite this, he took comfort in the fact that he had made good progress today, and the journey to the Saracen lands was nearly completed. Astolfo wrapped his cloak around him as a makeshift blanket, and allowed sleep to overtake him.
Bellerophon had not slept last night. There is no time for sleep, not when you're hunting down a murderous monster like a griffin. He had followed the old man's directions to the letter, and sure enough, as the sun was beginning to peak over the horizon, he was staring down at his quarry, which was curled up next to the smoking remains of a campfire. The puzzling description of the beast he had heard was indeed true: the griffin had not the rear legs of a lion, but those of a horse. What was even more confusing, was the fact that there was a heavily armored man sleeping only a few meters away. This was a curious case indeed, but he had a task to complete, and the frivolous details could be sorted out later. Bellerophon drew a dagger from his belt, and approached the sleeping monster.
Astolfo awoke to the sound of an piercing screech. Scrambling to his feet, he snatched up his lance from where it lay and spun around to meet whatever threat endangered his animal companion. He saw the hippogriff standing upright, having pinned a mysterious man to the ground with its talons. Even in his precarious situation, the stranger remained calm, as if he had done this many times before. "Who are you!?" Astolfo shouted. "What have you done to enrage my companion!?"
Bellerophon's breathing was strained under the weight of the massive creature, but he mustered a response to the stranger's questions anyway. "My name is Bellerophon, exile of Corinth. I have come to slay this beast for its monstrous actions against the people of this land, and I will not hesitate to slay you as well if you try to stop me!" Bellerophon then seized the hippogriff by the legs, and with a mighty push, hurled the beast back. The hippogriff crumpled onto the ground with a weak squawk.
Astolfo moved quickly. As soon as Bellerophon was freed from the hippogriff's clutches, Astolfo charged at him, the tip of his lance pointed at his chest. There was a burst of golden light, and Bellerophon was sent flying backwards, crashing into the ground in a cloud of dust. "Allow me to return your introduction! I am Count Astolfo, paladin of King Charlemagne! And I will not allow you to hinder my mission!"
The pain in Bellerophon's chest was excruciating, feeling as he been stabbed by a hundred red-hot blades. Overcoming his agony, he forced himself to stand, and shouted the name of his companion into the air, praying to the gods that he was listening.
Astolfo hurried over to his downed companion. He began to check the beast for any wounds, but was interrupted when the hippogriff leaped to its feet, and turned to Astolfo with an impatient look. Astolfo smiled, and then looked over to Bellerophon how was now accompanied by a magnificent white winged horse. "It seems our friend has a winged beast of his own serving him. How about I introduce you two?"
Bellerophon unclipped his spear from its leather sheath on the side of Pegasus's saddle, and retrieved his shield from where it hung over his shoulder. With his shield hand, he grasped the winged horse's reins, and urged him ownward. "To the air, Pegasus! We shall smite this beast and its master!" Bellerophon knew he had to be careful. Even ignoring the fact that the stranger's companion was a griffin-horse hybrid, this man was clearly no ordinary warrior... he must be favored by a god, and a powerful one indeed.
The paladin gritted his teeth as he readied his lance. He knew nothing about this man, where he cam from, or why he was so bent on slaying him and the hippogriff, but what he did know was that a delay in his mission for his king was not something he could tolerate. He commanded the hippogriff to take to the skies, who swiftly obeyed. The rider of the winged horse followed soon after.
The Corinthian demigod eyed his opponent's gilded lance cautiously, remembering it as the weapon that had floored him with a simple thrust. He spun his own spear around in his hand, changing the orientation and readying it for throwing. Steering Pegasus skyward to gain a height advantage, Bellerophon raised up the spear and prepared to end the battle with a single masterstroke. Astolfo saw what Bellerophon was about to do, and raised his shield instinctively, trusting in the shield's craftsmanship to protect him.
Astolfo's foe, however, was aiming for a different target. The spear left his grasp after a downward motion of the arm, and the weapon plummeted directly at the hippogriff's head. The hybrid was more responsive than its own rider, and it darted to the side with a quick and powerful flap of its wings. The spear sailed harmlessly past the pair, and plunged downward towards the ground below.
Bellerophon cursed his misfortune, and drove Pegasus ownward, before Astolfo could ascend and retaliate. He removed his bow from the sheath on the back of his belt. Drawing and knocking an arrow from his quiver, he took aim at the pursuing paladin, remembering how he had slain his foes back in Amazonia. He released the bowstring.
The first arrow buried itself in Astolfo's shield, and the four more that followed shortly after either bounced off his helmet or failed to pierce his chainmail. Astolfo's armor was sometimes uncomfortable, but he couldn't have been more thankful for it now. He encouraged the hippogriff onward with a light kick of the heel, and extended his lance arm.
Bellerophon growled in frustration. This new foe was far too well armored for his attacks to have an effect, and the beast accompanying him was much too swift. He placed his bow back into its quiver, and instead drew his sword. It was time to try something drastic.
The hippogriff rapidly gained on Pegasus. Astolfo should have realized that something was wrong, but his mind was purely focused on eliminating Bellerophon. The tip of the golden lance inched closer and closer to Bellerophon's back.
Bellerophon spun around suddenly, shield raised, hoping to cushion as much of the blow as possible. The lance's tip made contact, and Bellerophon was thrown from his mount. Pegasus dashed forward, unsure of what had happened, but determined to protect his master. Bellerophon grabbed hold of the forelegs of his horse, who was barely phased. He climbed alongside Pegasus's underbelly, and then, with all his strength, leaped towards his foe.
Astolfo barely had time to register what was about to happen. Bellerophon crashed into him and seized him by the shoulders, knocking off his mount, and sending them both plummeting to the earth.
Bellerophon ripped the shield and lance out of Astolfo's grasp, which immediately drifted away from the falling pair. He then grabbed hold of Astolfo's neck, cutting off his breathing while he raised his sword, preparing to cut away Astolfo's life with a single stroke.
Astolfo struggled, but to no avail. Bellerophon's strength was far greater than that of anyone he had encountered before, and his own simply gave way before the demigod. He released his grip on Bellerophon's wrists, and instead began to kick wildly at Bellerophon's unprotected legs. The demigod was only slightly phased, but it stunned him long enough for the pair to crash into the lake that lay beneath them.
Water surrounded Bellerophon, blurring his vision. He recovered quickly, and pulled himself up to the surface where he looked around hastily, until he located his foe on a beach just a few meters away.
Astolfo coughed up water as he climbed up onto the shore. His gambeson had soaked up water, making it many times heavier. The paladin couldn't bear the weight, not in his exhausted state, and he collapsed onto the sand. His spirits fell as the rising sun was blotted out by the figure of an enraged Bellerophon.
Bellerophon lifted Astolfo up by the neck, determined to finish what he had failed to do in the air. Deprived of his own sword, he threw Astolfo to the ground, knocking the wind out of him. He removed the paladin's own sword from its sheath, and raised it above his foe's throat. Bellerophon didn't have time to react to the earsplitting shriek that came from behind him.
The claws of the hippogriff ripped through Bellerophon's flesh, causing him to scream in agony. Seeing this as his last chance, Astolfo summoned every last bit of strength in his body and forced himself to his feet. He ran towards the demigod, slamming his shoulder into him and knocking him to the earth. He snatched up his sword, and thrust it into the downed hero's chest. Bellerophon gave one last cry of pain before his life faded away.
Completely enervated, Astolfo collapsed. The hippogriff prodded him lightly with its beak, and when it received no response, it lifted its master up with his talons, and took to the air, carrying him to safety.
Pegasus nudged his master's motionless body with his snout, whinnying sadly. With nowhere else to go, he laid down next to Bellerophon's body, hoping to, at the very least, keep him company for a while longer.
Due to the airborne nature of the fight, Bellerophon was unable to make good use of the advantages he had over Astolfo, leaving the Frank to claim victory with his superior protection, mount, and weaponry.
World War Royale (by Cfp3157)
Prologue: In DFederal...
“Alright class, remember to do the Constantine and Darhk readings before your discussions, and we will pick up with Summoning the Undead next class. My office hours have been cancelled today - please reach out to me over email if you have questions.”
Kayneth Archibald rubs his temples as his class leaves the room. Once a master magus and the most renowned voice in magical academia; reduced to teaching GE credits to overeager freshmen and seniors who can’t manage a schedule. One of the former approaches his desk, a young blond woman in her late teens. “Professor Archibald, I was wondering if I could-”
“Did you not just listen to me, Mrs. Chase? Office hours have been cancelled. If we have this problem again, I will deduct your grade even further.”
Before Annabeth can continue her protests, Kayneth puts up a firm palm for silence. He grabs his pack, and leaves the room. Annabeth frowns and marches out into the hallway after him.
She looks around, trying to find her professor, when a melodic voice calls out to her. “What’s the matter, Annie? Upset you don’t get to be perfect anymore?”
Annabeth turns and scowls at the blue-coated young man before her, a cocky smile upon his face beneath a pair of glasses. “Consider it a flaw, Saruhiko.”
As they walk outside to the campus of Eastern University, Kayneth Archibald takes his train to the Blue Collar district. The sunny sky and lush green public parks of the Wealthy District gives way to the darker, congested urban jungle where the magus was forced to live.
Kayneth lays his head down and looks pensively out the window. As the subway rolls to a halt, he nods at the young man in the green hoodie before getting off at his stop. After a short walk, Kayneth buzzes into his building. As he passes through the lobby, a man covered in green scales barges past him.
“Jones, when are you going to get around to fixing my shower?”
“When I can Blondie. You’re not the only person that lives here.”
“Don’t forget who you work for, Croc.”
At that, Killer Croc turns around and lets out a snarl. Kayneth yelps, resulting in a chuckle to escape from the mutated supervillain. The magus quickly hides in his home- a three room apartment, with a decent sized kitchen, a bathroom, and his bedroom.
He collects his mail, tossing aside bills and spam mail before settling on the final message. Trapped in a silver and red envelope, the paper states only a few brief lines. As his eyes wander down the page, Kayneth's disinterested scowl turns into an elated grin.
“A battle royale...At last!”
Kayneth triumphantly stands and crushes the paper in his fist. “This is my chance! I shall restore myself back to a position I truly deserve.” The magus walks into his bedroom, pulling out the flask which contains his Mystic Code. “One of these warriors is even a child! My victory is guaranteed.”
He looks out the window at the outward limits of the city, where he could glimpse the grand mansions of the 1 Percent district. He could practically taste the splendor and prestige he once took for granted. Rereading the names on the list of his opponents, he recognized one from the list of Heroic Spirits he'd learned of in preparation for the Grail War.
"I will find you first. Ire: Sanctio."
Across the city, Astolfo strolls through the White Collar district. His horn hangs at his side loosely, and his lance upon his back. The paladin approaches a large two story house, checking the letter once over to ensure the address was correct.
He knocks on the door, and out steps his cousin Roland. “Cousin, how are you! It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen you.” The two men briefly hug, with Astolfo giving a slightly concerned look over Roland’s figure.
“Indeed. I rarely get to travel up to this part of town, but who am to deny Charlemagne an audience?”
Astolfo solemnly nods as they walk into Charlemagne’s home, where their king sits in deep conversation with a man in a bright red cape. “How is it you haven’t managed to get to the White Collar district yet?”
“Some bad luck I’m afraid. My entry application put me downtown and I haven’t gotten updates since. I’ve heard rumors of one who could help, but…” Roland shrugs, and the pair sit at the table.
“I thought you had another bout.”
“Firstly, that was not me. You are the fifth person to have confused the two of us today.” Roland hangs his head in frustration. “Even if it were, the results aren’t in yet. I doubt they’ll be done anytime soon, so I would be stuck either way.”
Charlemagne’s booming voice interrupts the two cousins, and he puts his hand over the shoulder of the man beside him.
“Ho friends! My good man Richard here was just regaling me with his own tales in the Holy Lands. Quite a good time, these Crusades it seemed.”
The band of warriors laugh, with Astolfo pouring a healthy serving of ale into his tankard. Astolfo glances around the table, before walking over to a window. The paladin sighs in wonder at the hustle and bustle of the city outside.
“It’s really something else, isn’t it?”
Astolfo turns to see Richard walk over to him. Astolfo begins to bow, only for Richard to laugh and wave the gesture aside. “Although I appreciate the gesture, there’s no point for grandstanding. My title doesn’t have quite the impact it used to.”
The king looks out the window to watch, before turning to the paladin. “Quite different, isn’t it? And to think - this is just the middle. Average." Richard says, with emphasis on the final word." Imagine what I feel like, just a single district above you.”
Astolfo slips into a scowl, but forces his smile back into place as Richard turns back to him. “I’m sure you live a good life indeed, your majesty. Although, one would be blessed with any of our lives.”
“Only those that lack ambition would say that, dear Astolfo.”
The knight stomachs his pride, before walking back to the table. He grabs his abandoned scabbard, and begins his good-byes. “I wish you all a good evening, but I must bid farewell. Adiu, my friends.”
The other noblemen wave as they continue their feast, and Astolfo walks out. He bumps into a blond girl, who grunts in surprise. “I just left the office to deliver this to you. Perfect timing, buddy.”
Annabeth hands him an envelope before walking away. Astolfo reads the battle notice, and lets out a laugh. He whistles, where his loyal hippogriff lets out a screech as it lands beside him.
Mounting the beast, Astolfo flies into the city with a war cry. Battle awaits.
Beneath the flying knight - in fact, beneath all of DFederal - Cole MacGrath finishes climbing down the ladder of a manhole. He lets out a cough as the scent of the sewer fully engulfs him, before taking a careful step over one of the many puddles of water and sludge as he walks towards his home.
Cole pulls out his cellphone to check his emails. “Figures.” He says, reading the latest reply to his failed job application. “‘Regret to inform you’ my ass.”
The Conduit groans in frustration and punches the wall beside him, denting the pipe. A gruff voice echoes from within, a heavy drawl of anger. “You have any idea who lives here, punk?”
Cole hurries to the end of the tunnel as a gigantic man in sunglasses steps out of his own crawl space. “Yeah you keep running pal. Come back ‘round here and I’ll open up a fresh can of whoop-ass just for you!”
“If you could do that, you wouldn’t be down here Duke!”
Cole chuckles to himself as he arrives at his own space. Outside, as usual, Diarmuid sits with his two spears and a small fire outside of his humble shack. “How fares the job hunt, sir MacGrath?”
“It’s going, D. It’s goin’.”
The Irish warrior chuckles lightheartedly and gestures to the rare spot of dry land. “Take a seat then, Cole. My fire has not much, but it is warm and I’ve a skin of water to share.”
Cole shrugs and nods. “Keep your water, D. I’ve got something for myself.” He walks into his apartment, opening the cooler that doubled as a coffee table to grab two beers. He walks out and pops the caps, handing one to Diarmuid and keeping another for himself.
“Any luck getting out of here on your end?”
Before the Fianna could respond, a black orb opens up in front of them and a small girl teleports in front of them. “Is this the residence of Cole MacGrath?” Parcel says, frowning as she lifts the tails of her jacket out of the sludge.
“Yeah, that’s me.” Cole responds, with Diarmuid’s typical grin twisting into a frown. The two men rise as Parcel holds out a thin piece of paper. He groans as he grabs it and reads, while Diarmuid looks at the small child before him with disbelief.
“Child, you were the one who got second in the Juuni Taisen yes?”
“Technically I tied, but yes.”
“‘Tis a shame, it was not a victory." Diarmuid says, his frown replaced once again with a mirthful grin. "I thank you for the mercy you gave to me towards its conclusion. The humiliation of my defeat was unbecoming, to say the least.”
“...Don’t mention it.” Parcel looks at Cole as he reads his newest battle notice. “The instructions are on there. Good luck.”
She disappears without a good-bye, leaving the two men alone. Diarmuid looks at his friend and leans on his spear. “So, what’s the news?”
“Oh you’ve gotta be kidding me. Another one.” Cole crumples the paper and walks into his apartment. When he reemerges, the Amp is slung across his back along with a small backpack.
“Another freaking royale. You’d think whoever organizes these things could actually be original…”
Cole chugs the rest of his beer, and sprints towards the nearest exit. Diarmuid waves at his friend and raises his own bottle.
Cfp watches over eight monitors from his office, sipping from a glass of water. His assistant walks into his office, handing him a stack of papers. “Here is the latest batch of housing reports.” Annabeth says, getting only a tense grunt in response.
“Really glad I could help, boss.”
The user just grunts in response. Realizing her presence, he finally looks up and puts them to the side. “I assume our newest welcomes have been given their entry test.”
“Now, that just leaves-”
As if planned, a small black orb opens and Parcel appears. “That was the last delivery.”
Cfp smiles, and gestures towards the door. “Thank you, go with my assistant and she’ll write up your payment.” The two girls start to leave, before Cfp raises his hand. “Quick question - is it bad? Like how bad is his place?”
Parcel gives a noncommittal shrug, and they leave. The user chuckles and looks back at the monitor. He pulls up a separate tab on his computer, where a timer is counting down with one minute left.
Annabeth walks in. “Who do you want rounding them up first?”
Cfp smiles as he watches the clock tick down, barely paying attention.
“Oh…” Cfp looks down at a spreadsheet, tracing his finger along its names. “Eenie, meenie, minie, moe.” He points at a name on the sheet. “I choose them.”
“How thorough of you.”
She leaves to draft the notices, leaving Cfp to watch the monitors alone.
Cole climbs out of a manhole, quickly checking over his shoulders before launching himself onto a nearby roof.
Kayneth leisurely strolls out of his apartment, a large silver blob trailing behind him.
Astolfo flies over the tall buildings, his lance in hand as the hippogriff scans for targets below.
Merrill exits the small shack where she lives with the rest of her friends, before burying herself in the earth and leaving a trail of dirt in her place.
Nightcrawler gets off the bus and looks around, swords at his side, before disappearing into a cloud of brimstone and smoke.
Kung Lao starts to bounce up and down in anticipation, before letting out an excited cry and sprinting towards a fight.
Nico di Angelo barely edges into frame from the shadows, his pale face and sunken eyes darting back and forth before slinking back out.
Psycho Mantis hovers in the air for a brief second, turning his head towards the various citizens traveling to and fro through DFederal.
Cfp leans back into his chair and puts his feet onto the desk.
“Let the games begin.”
Part I: Fuck You Kai Leng
As he climbs out of a manhole, a rejuvenated Kai Leng raises his head as the citywide speakers blare to life. The traumas of the last time he heard them flashes into his mind, causing him to shake his head in a mix of fear and anger. He stands still, crossing his arms in impatience, as a voice speaks out.
"Attention all patrons of DFederal; the following individuals have been declared Persona Non Grata. Any person found to have been willingly assisting them will be put on an official watch list and dealt with accordingly. Do not interfere. You have been warned."
Kai Leng gives a dismissive grunt as a list of names are read aloud. I have more important things to do..., he thinks as he approaches one of the borders between districts. Suddenly, a sharp pain pierces his mind. Bringing his hand to his temples, Kai Leng draws his sword.
"Who's there? Come out and I might let you live!"
Psycho Mantis floats down from above, his face an enigma beneath the gas mask he wore. The psychic tips his head to the side quizingly, and Kai Leng's pain increases even further.
"Now what have we here?" He purrs, his voice nearly indecipherable due to his mask and his thick Russian accent. "Looks like you were on the way to your own little fight."
The cyborg huddles down to his knees, before immediately stopping. He stands back up, his eyes peeled back and his mind gone.
"Why don't you come with me first?"
Slowing his sprint to a halt, Kung Lao looks around for any sign of his would-be opponents. It was cowardly, the way they would hide and burrow away instead of facing him in true combat.
"Is there no one here who would face me?"
A laser blast flying past his head answers his challenge. The crowds all disperse as Psycho Mantis and his thrall, a cyborg wielding a sword, appear before Kung Lao. The monk grunts in approval, and raises his fist in satisfaction. "Ah, finally! Prepare to face the might of the Shaolin, Psycho Mantis!"
The monk begins to walk forward, only for his opponent to levitate up and his minion to draw his blade. "Face me yourself, fool."
"Something tells me that would not be wise." The psychic replies, peering into his mind for something to use. "Besides, it would not be a challenge for the descendant of the Great Kung Lao to best us both, would it?"
Kung Lao grits his teeth, and beneath his mask Psycho Mantis grins. "Or perhaps you were the wrong one to send? Your cousin would make quick work of this pathetic boy."
Lao nods in determination, raising his hand as a challenge to Kai Leng. The cyborg raises his own palm, firing off another attack from his palm blaster. Kung Lao teleports forward, letting the projectile fly behind him and into a nearby wall before breaking into a dash.
Using the momentum of his burst of speed, Kung Lao tosses his razor-brimmed hat at Kai Leng. The ninja deflects with his sword, but overcommitts and the blade follows the hat as it spins to the side. Kung Lao breaks the distance and slams his fist into Kai Leng's jaw. The cyborg grunts in pain, blood and teeth falling out of his mouth, before a quick knee to the groin has him doubling over.
Kung Lao's hat reappears on his head, and he follows up by tossing it behind his foe as he rolls backwards. The cyborg's sword clumsily passes over where Kung Lao once was, and Kai Leng clumsily attempts to course correct. Holding the sword out in front of him, Kai Leng flashes a devious smile and prepares to attack again.
The hat boomerangs into Kai Leng's head, slashing across his neck and drawing more blood. The ninja doubles forward, only to receive a swift kick from Kung Lao. He falls backwards, stunned and bruised.
Seeing his opportunity, Kung Lao tosses his hat into the ground. The saw spins as Kung Lao grabs his fallen opponent by the legs. Kai Leng looks in fear and starts to scream in terror, resisting to no avail.
Kung Lao drags his victim through the hat, sawing Kai Leng in half right down the middle.
"Is that the best you have, Mantis?" Kung Lao says, raising the two halves of the cyborg in victory. The spy merely crosses his arm, and quickly raises his hands.
Two nearby trash cans levitate, and fling themselves at the monk. He easily knocks them aside with two kicks, before dashing forward. He tosses his hat, which Psycho Mantis stops with his telekinesis.
"Not that easy, pal." Kung Lao says, slamming his fist into Psycho Mantis' chest with a palm strike. Much to his shock, his hand passes right through. The image of Psycho Mantis looks down, and a laugh begins to echo as it disappears.
"You really thought it would be that easy against me, the Master of psychokinesis!"
Steel scrapes over concrete as Kai Leng's sword floats into the air. It quickly charges forward, piercing into the monk's back. Kung Lao gasps in shock and pain as the sword cleanly penetrates him. Psycho Mantis deactivates his octo camo, before pulling the blade out with his telekinesis. The floating blade quickly thrusts itself into the monk again, and he falls to his knees.
Psycho Mantis looks at his victim, a hint of disappointment in his voice. "I sense much shame, and anger in you. We may have worked well together, in another time." He shrugs, before causing the blade to slash across the monk's throat.
The soldier looks around, noticing the sound of police sirens beginning to approach. As the announcer states that Kung Lao has been eliminated, Psycho Mantis hears the whispers of another mind near him.
This one full of self-hatred and envy. A perfect choice. he thinks to himself, reactivating his camo and floats towards the city's inner layers.
Part II: I.C.E. Ruins Nico's Day
A young man emerges from the shadows of an alley, a black sword at his side. Nico di Angelo huffs in a breath of air, looking over his shoulder at the squad of police chasing him. He quickly thrusts out his hand, and the ground behind him splits apart as he shifts to create a gap. Several of the DFPD officers stop, only for one to vault over the chasm before it gets too large. He pulls out a gun, aiming it at Nico.
"This is Officer K of the DFPD! Nico di Angelo, you are to turn yourself in immediately."
Nico scoffs, turning the ring on his right hand. Suddenly, three skeletons begin to rise out of the ground. Two draw small short swords as the third levels its own flintlock pistol. K groans as he fires, putting one down as the other two converge on him.
The demigod looks around, but puts aside the idea of shadow travelling again. He probably didn't have the energy for it, and he was already lost anyway. I have to get away from these people. he thinks to himself, only for a piercing cry to break his train of thought.
From the sky, Astolfo flies down upon his hippogriff. He raises his lance at Nico, aiming for the boy's chest. Nico raises his sword and attempts to parry the thrust, only to be launched backward by its magic. As he flies backwards, he thanks the gods for such magical intervention as Astolfo's hippogriff slashes its claws where he just was.
"You use foul magic, child. I would stay my blade, but your crimes cannot be forgiven." Astolfo says, the hippogriff landing and prowling forward. Nico groans in exasperation, pointing the edge of his sword forward.
Nico opens up the ground beneath the hippogriff, causing it to flap its wings to regain footing. The demigod sprints forward, leaping off the ground and tackling Astolfo off of his mount. The paladin recoils as a feeling of despair briefly overtakes him just Nico brings his sword to Astolfo's throat. Noticing the ruffle of wings, Nico turns around and swings it in a horizontal arc. The blade cuts the hippogriff, who recoils back at its touch.
With his opponent momentarily distracted, Astolfo shoves the boy off of him and draws his sword. He takes a quick swing, which Nico barely parries in time. Astolfo pushes ahead, towering over Nico as he swings his sword over and over again. The boy put up a better fight than expected, as his own silver sword is blocked at every strike.
Seeing his chance, Nico deflects another wild swing from Astolfo and feints a swing to the left. As Astolfo lowers his blade to block, Nico sweeps his leg underneath Astolfo's. Nico thrusts into Astolfo's hip, barely penetrating the chainmail but sending the paladin backwards in instinct.
Suddenly a wall of mercury blocks the two apart, with Astolfo on one side and Nico on the other. "Who dares to interrupt our fight?" The paladin snarls, turning his sword to the new fighter.
"This is nothing. A barbarian and a child - little match for me." Kayneth taunts as he strolls forward. Astolfo's hippogriff soars over the barrier that Kayneth's mystic code erected, screeching as to protect its master.
"Well, I'll let you handle the supervillain. See you 'round." Nico says as he disappears into the shadows. Astolfo mounts his hippogriff to flee, but collides into an invisible barrier of magic.
"While you two were scuffling in the dirt, I employed a bounded field. You're not going anywhere, rider." Kayneth pushes his hand forward. "Scalp." Several tendrils of mercury fling forward. Astolfo and his hippogriff barely avoid them as they fly forward, Astolfo aiming his sword at Kayneth's heart. He quietly looks down at the tome in his lap, muttering an incantation in a desperate attempt to stop the magic before him.
"Fervor, mei sanguis."
The Mystic Code instantly recoils back towards Kayneth, before reforming into several spiked columns in front of him. Unable to slow down, Astolfo and the hippogriff slam into the barrier at full speed. Astolfo is thrown from his beast, and Kayneth smiles behind the barrier. "Scalp".
Tendrils of mercury fling themselves forward, slashing both the hippogriff and Astolfo into ribbons. "I can't believe you fell for that. Such a simple trap, Astolfo..." Kayneth muses, looking at the bleeding paladin on the ground.
"I have no use wasting my time on you." The magus continues, looking at a piece of black fabric that had been sliced from Nico's own shirt. "But, I must play by their rules. Such a shame." Kayneth says, his voice dripping with malicious sarcasm.
Part III: Nieder mit Dem Patriarchat
In a small hovel, Merrill bows her head in reverence at the woman before her. The white-haired women before her finishes her final touches, and presents her with a gift. "Thank you, Asha'Bellanar." Merrill breathlessly states as she humbly accepts a broken shard of glass.
"Do not fret, child. I have always helped the People.." Flemeth muses, turning her back to the elf. "When they remember to help me."
The witch mischievously raises her eyebrow, causing Merrill to gulp back her fear. Merrill gave her farewells, before departing the witch's hut. She looks into the miniature eluvian in her hand, where the blue-furred face of one of her opponents appears. Merrill looks up to see a faint blue arrow of mist rise from the ground.
"This is much more convenient than a string."
"Mein gott, this is bothersome."
In a cloud of brimstone and smoke, Nightcrawler appears out of thin air beside a cell tower. He wraps his tail around the structure, while his two feet cling to its side. Spinning himself around, he groans in frustration. Where is everyone?
A light thwip reaches his ears, and he unsheathes his sword to point it behind him. His guard raised, Nightcrawler turns around, only to let out a laugh and put the blade away.
"Now, is that anyway to greet me Blue?"
"Mister Parker! What a surprise to see you!" The two old friends shake hands as Kurt sheathes his sword. "I don't suppose you're here to help then?"
"Meh, I might be able to fit you in between my hectic schedule. I've got a knitting class that I have to get to, y'know."
Suddenly, a giant boulder slams between the two. Nightcrawler teleports to the ground, while Spider-Man leaps off the surface and lands beside him. Before them, Merrill twirls her staff and lets out another blast of magic. "Na abelas."
"Did you get that one?"
Nightcrawler shrugs, before drawing his sword. "Don't suppose you'd be willing to take time out of your very busy schedule?"
Spider-Man laughs as he assumes a fighting stance. "Oh, I think I could manage to squeeze you in. Besides, everyone gets one."
Nightcrawler disappears in a puff of smoke while Spider-Man launches himself forward, aiming a shot of webbing at Merrill. She lights the material on fire, before barely dodging a punch from Spider-Man. She casts a mind blast, sending him reeling, before turning around to block a sword swing from Nightcrawler.
"I don't suppose we could settle this amicably, mein fraulein?"
Merrill just grunts and shoves Nightcrawler away, manipulating the earth to shoot vines and thorns around her. He slashes at the foliage, before teleporting back to safety.
The two combatants and Spider-Man look at each other in a face off, waiting for one of the others to make a move. Suddenly a wall of mercury surrounds all three of them. A blond man in blue approaches, clearing his throat.
"You, trespasser. Who are you to interefere in our combat?"
Spider-Man innocently brings his hands to his chest. "Oh, just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. How can I help?"
"I am Kayneth Archibald El-Melloi, ninth-"
"Oh, so we're using our fake names. I'm Webhead McGee."
Nightcrawler leans on his sword in amusement. "Aye, and I am the Dread Pirate Bluetail. At your service, mein freund."
Merrill giggles at the jokes, causing Kayneth to yell in anger. "How dare you insult me! Do you have any idea who I am?"
"Did the jokes not give you a hint?" Nightcrawler retorts, showing off with his swords. He looks at Merrill, nodding almost imperceptibly at her. She looks between the two men, and shrugs. "Oh yes, that is a clever plan."
"Well, it's not since you said something about it."
Merrill launches two fireballs at Kayneth, who raises his Volumem Hydrargyrum in a solid shield. The two magical projectiles fizzle out against the metal, before Merrill launches a series of magical bolts from her staff.
"I hate it when we do this." Spider-Man complains as Nightcrawler appears behind him, before teleporting them both. The superheroes reappear above Kayneth, with Nightcrawler going back to the ground. Spider-Man shoots two webs into the ground and slings himself forward, smashing into Kayneth. He stumbles back, before his Mystic Code lashes out at Spider-Man in defense. The vigilante flips over some attacks, before Kurt teleports both of them to safety.
"You dare to strike me? I didn't become part of this ridiculous fight just to end up beating a child in spandex!"
"Yeah, well fighting a grown up Draco Malfoy wasn't how I wanted to spend my afternoon either." Spider-Man launches several webs at Kayneth, where the Volume Hydrargyrum blocks the attacks. "We need to get rid of that thing."
"I can take care of that." Merrill says, dispelling the magic. Kayneth watches in surprise as his Mystic Code temporarily collapses into a puddle, only to look up to see two fists swinging for him. Nightcrawler and Spider-Man both lay into Kayneth with a flurry of kicks and punches, who collapses under the attack.
Nightcrawler and Spider-Man look up to see a ma aiming a pistol at them. Nightcrawler teleports his allies away from the scene, leaving only Kayneth to deal with the officer.
"By authority of the DFPD, I have been hired to bring you in."
Kayneth sluggishly rises as his Mystic Code returns, lashing out with his back still turned to the officer. "Do you think I would even think to hand myself in? How dare you! Scalp!"
The tendrils lash out, launching themselves at the officer. Kayneth smiles smugly, only to whimper in despair as he hears a familiar voice. "Time Alter, Doubel Accel."
Kiritsugu flips over each tentacle, before shooting his Thompson Contender. Reacting on instinct, Kayneth raises the Hydrargyrum's defenses. Realizing it one second too late, Kayneth remembers the power of the gun and screams as it tears through his stomach.
Collapsing into a pile of blood and mercury, Kayneth falls down with broken breathes. Kiritsugu effortlessly reloads the Contender before looking at the still-breathing Kayneth. He wordlessly fires the pistol into Kayneth's face, killing him again.
Nightcrawler, Merrill, and Spider-Man all reemerge from the fight, taking shelter in what appeared to be an abandoned restaurant. The three all cautiously look at each other, unsure what to do next. Nightcrawler breaks the silence, attempting to strike a casual pose.
"Merrill is your name, right? That's what the paper said."
Merrill nods. "And you're Nightcrawler? Under other circumstances, I'd like to meet you. But..."
Nightcrawler wraps his tail around Merrill's staff and yanks it away. "Let's not be too hasty about this. We've got, what, three others to worry about?"
The elf mulls it over, before nodding and lowering her hands. "I don't see why not. Besides, we don't have to kill each other. It'll be nice to make some friends in the city."
Smiling in spite of himself, Nightcrawler offers his hand to Merrill. "I believe that makes us allies, Merrill."
Spider-Man smirks and walks towards the door. "You two kids have fun. Don't stay out too late."
"You're not going to help, Peter?"
"'Fraid not. I don't like playing cosmic puppet as much as the next guy, but these guys are dangerous. Even Cap and Tony don't try to mess with 'em."
The thought of that makes Kurt shudder. "In that case, auf wiedershen."
Left alone, Nightcrawler decides to take first watch as night begins to fall. Merrill cautiously places magical barriers around her, before drifting off to sleep.
Part IV: Bring Me the Boy and Wipe Away the Debt
Cole wandered around the edges of the Blue Collar, easily hiding himself in the nightlife crowd as people returned home from work or took to the streets. He'd been in enough matches for everyone to have an idea of what he could do, so they all turned their eyes as if none the wiser. It was a welcome change of pace from New Marais or Empire City, even if it meant living in a sewer.
"Spare change, sir?"
Cole looks down to see a young man, no more than sixteen or seventeen, raising a cup in hand. "Please, anything can help." Gaara said, his eyes pleading with the Conduit. Cole rolls his eye, but fishes out a couple coins and tosses them in.
The Conduit kept walking, before finally finding what he was looking for; Jordi's Place. He walks inside, and breathes in the electricity as the numerous cameras, television screens, and various other electrical appliances hummed in his presence.
"You really know how to make an entrance, pal."
Cole turns to see the store's owner, Jordi Chin, standing in the shadows. His white suit did little to hide the criminal's mischievous air, with a crooked smile that didn't reach his eyes and a head of shaggy black hair.
"What can I say, Jordi? How's the school been?"
"Meh, it's here and there. But that's not why you're here."
Cole shakes his head, and Jordi pulls out a cellphone. He hands it to Cole, who shoves it in his pocket. "You'll owe me for this one, Sparky. I had to pull a couple strings to get that made."
"How does it work?"
"That phone is tapped into the entire district's surveillance system. And no, I don't know how it works. Point is, those cameras are now trained on each of the fighters you're up against. If they get out of range, another camera finds 'em."
"Got it, Jordi. How did you even get this?"
"I know a guy." Jordi says, putting his back to Cole. "And now, I know you to. Remember that."
Cole walks outside of the store, swiping through the feeds. A headache begins to form, and he rubs his temple in frustration. He spots the youngest one, Nico, and a pang of guilt entered his mind. Shame about this kid. Maybe if I keep an eye on him, I can still get him second...
His mind made up, Cole puts the phone away and begins walking towards Nico.
Nightcrawler is awoken with a start, swinging his tail in a defensive manner. Merrill catches it, and he teleports out of her grasp.
"It's okay, Kurt. It's just me."
Blinking his eyes, he observes his new companion. Merrill had her staff loosely in her hand, and a shard of glass in her other. He finally noticed the sound that had awoken her; police sirens.
"Gott in Heimel."
"Oh, I've never heard that before. What language is that? I've only ever heard the common-"
Nightcrawler grabs her hand, smiling and looking in her eye. "Merrill, we need to leave. Are you ready?"
The two disappear in a cloud of brimstone, reappearing on the roof. Merrill takes a deep breath, unused to the nature of Nightcrawler's teleportation, and rubs her head in pain. She looks at her eluvian, which shows the face of the masked man, Psycho Mantis.
"Can I see that?" Nightcrawler asked, and Merrill handed him the mirror. Rapidly, Psycho Mantis' face shifted to the boy's. A black mist rises from the ground and heads into the city; away from the police sirens.
"Can you see the arrows, Kurt?"
He nods, and the two begin to follow it.
That couldn't have gone better.
Psycho Mantis smiles beneath his mask from the balcony of an apartment. The owner had been incredibly nice - once he was convinced to be, that is - to let Mantis stay. Even if his religious rambling made for an annoying experience, Azrael had been easy to subdue with his broken mind.
Stopping his musing on the subject, Psycho Mantis watches as Nico di Angelo scrounges through a meal. The boy's angst and fear was practically a beacon for Psycho Mantis. From a peek into his mind, he'd also make an ideal target to take out sooner rather than later.
Locating the others wasn't hard once he knew what to look for. Holding the police back just long enough to get the duo moving; subtly putting it in Cole and Nightcrawler's minds to target Nico next; and none of them the wiser for it. He simply had to wait for someone to get there, and he could get them all to kill each other.
The girl will have to be eliminated first. She had resisted his telepathic suggestion with surprising ease, but he could feel the cracks were there. He would have to wait until everyone was together first, but until then all he could do was wait.
Nico glances over his shoulders as he takes the last sip of a can of soda. He could swear he felt eyes in the back of his head, but he put it aside. Rubbing his ring in spite of himself, Nico finished his meal and reached for plastic water bottle he had stolen. He uses his sword to poke a hole in it, pouring it out in a slow but steady stream. After several minutes of shoving it in various corners and nooks, Nico finally angles it correctly with the morning sun. A small rainbow forms, but just large enough to work.
"Oh Iris, goddess of the rainbow, accept my offering." Nico tosses in a gold drachma into the rainbow. "Percy Jackson."
In the mist, a boy with black hair appears in the Iris message, sleeping. Nico rolls his eyes, before speaking loudly "Percy! Get up!"
With a start, the demigod rolls up and looks in shock at Nico. He hastily covers his chest with his blanket. "Nico, it's like seven in the morning. What are you-"
"There's no time to explain. Where are you?"
Before Nico can answer, he hears a faint pop in the air. He instinctively turns, his sword drawn, as Nightcrawler and Merrill teleport behind him. He begins to rise, and looks quickly over his shoulder. A man jumps off from a rooftop and crashes through the Iris message, dissipating it apart. Cole instinctively launches a bolt of lightning at the duo, who teleport out of the way.
"Get behind me kid. We'll get you out of here."
Part V: We Have A Mexican Showdown
The four warriors face each other down, waiting for one of them to make a move. Nico acts first, raising multiple skeletons out of the earth. Their grey and white hands claw at the surface as they rise, and the first stumbles out with a dagger in hand. It lunges at Nightcrawler, who easily swats the attack aside and slashes at it with his sword. The skeleton collapses in half, still rattling its teeth.
Merrill quickly dispels the remaining skeletons, who stop growing as Nico's magic is halted. He yelps in surprise, giving Merrill a chance to launch a bolt of spirit magic at him. Cole leaps in front of Nico and raises an electric shield. The bolt dissipates in the field, and Nico launches a crescent shape blade of shadow at Merrill. She surrounds herself in stone, and the shadow breaks away upon contact.
"I don't need your help, old man."
Cole grabs Nico by the collar, and creates a pillar of ice beneath their feet. He leaps into the air, bringing Nico with him, and tosses a shock grenade behind him. Nightcrawler grabs Merrill and teleports them both above their quarry, tackling Cole and sending all four onto a nearby roof. Merrill is the first up, steadying herself with her staff. A splitting pain hits her head, causing her to scream in pain and lean onto the ground.
Nico stands up next, slamming his foot into the ground and causing several black shards to rise from the ground. He hesitates for the briefest moment, and a raspy voice enters his mind. "Strike her down. Finish this."
Psycho Mantis floats up to the roof, followed by a knight in red armor. He reaches out again, sending Merrill to the ground and trying to take over Nico's mind. The boy grabs his head and screams as he and his rocks fall down. "Interesting..."
The psychopath forces his control over Nico, only for the demigod to rise and launch the stones at Mantis. "You dare to resist me?!" He yells, halting the stones inches from himself. The two stand off as the others slowly rise, realizing their threat. Cole and Nightcrawler nod at each other, and attack Mantis as one. Azrael steps in the way, swinging his wrist blade at Cole while launching a blast of flame at Nightcrawler.
Cole narrowly dodges the blade as Nightcrawler teleports away, before grabbing the Amp off of his back and swinging it at Azrael. The weapon slams into Azrael's face, sending him recoiling back. Cole follows up with several bolts of lighting, frying the vigilante. As he struggles to stand, Nightcrawler teleports above him and slams down with a kick to the face, knocking Azrael out.
Merrill rises up and summons several pillars of ice to rise in front of her, forcing Psycho Mantis back. The four warriors face down Psycho Mantis, who stands alone. He growls in anger, before floating up and away from them. "If you won't fight each other for me, I will kill you all myself!" He gestures at Azrael, who's collapsed body rises against its will. The sleeping man draws a fiery sword, while Psycho Mantis heads towards the roof's edge.
Interrupting them, the blare of a siren stops all five warriors in their tracks.
"This is a Category 5 threat. All residents return to your homes - conflict is likely to occur."
The combatants see an army in the street below them. A hodgepodge of soldiers wielding an equally unique arsenal of weapons stands at casual attention. One steps forward, an alien that shocked all of them. His blue armor stood out among the various others, as did his facial scars and the hefty hand cannon of a pistol by his side. "I am Lieutenant Garrus Vakarian of the DFPD! You will surrender, or face the consequences."
Unsure what to do, Merrill, Cole, Nighcrawler, and Nico all look at each other in concern. They all knew they didn't have to kill each other, after all. A chilling laughter broke the silence, as Psycho Mantis floats down in front of the army. "You have amazing timing, commander."
"I don't do this for you, Mantis. Now show me your-"
Garrus' voice goes silent, as he and the army before them lower their weapons. Psycho Mantis' laugh pierces into the four others' souls as he forces his way into their mind. The ground shakes as the army, once collected to finally round up the fugitives, marshalls under Psycho Mantis' control. Garrus himself aims his pistol at the roof, silent.
"You are all nothing before me! I will kill you, and then take this whole city for myself!"
Cole looks at the others, before creating an arc of lightning in his hand. "Yeah, not gonna happen."
Part VI: Co-Op Mode Unlocked
The Conduit leaps into action, flinging himself into the air on a pillar of ice before slamming into the ground with a Thunder Drop. He launches several of the soldiers back, before they start to open fire on Cole. He quickly raises an electric shield to absorb the projectiles. He glances up at the others. "A little help would be great."
To answer his call, Nico groans with effort and raises his hands into the air. Waves of skeletons rise out of the ground, charging to attack the army before them. As a row of bullets and lasers try to cut them down, more break through and reduce the fight to a brutal melee.
Nightcrawler teleports Merrill and Nico to Cole's side, before drawing his swords. A bullet whizzes by his head, causing all four to duck. The four look up to see a sniper on the rooftop, preparing to fire again. Nightcrawler teleports up to greet him, swinging his swords down. Deadshot abandons his rifle as he tumbles out of the way, opening fire with his wrist guns. The mutant teleports out of the way, behind the mercenary, only to receive an elbow to the gut.
"You're not the first freak with teleporting I've taken down, punk."
Deadshot turns and lets out another burst of gunfire at Nightcrawler, who barely dodges it. Suddenly, two small hands grab Deadshot's foot. "What the hell..." A bamf cackles wildly at him as it teleports them both into the air. Deadshot freefalls towards the ground, where Nightcrawler quickly teleports above with his sword aimed at Deadshot's chest.
Back on the ground, Nico summons more waves of skeletons as Cole and Merrill take down rows of cops. Cole ducks under one wielding a laser sword before slamming the Amp into her gut. She convulses and launches backward, knocked out, while one of her comrades swings a chainsaw bayonet at the distracted Conduit. He rolls out of the wave as Merril traps the soldier in a telekinetic prison, crushing him with magic.
She then focuses on a crowd of reinforcements, and dips into her blood magic. The army of soldiers collapse onto their knees, wretching blood and falling into heaps. She summons a storm of fireballs above them, burning all that managed to survive the onslaught. Nico looks in shock at the mage, who innocently shrugs before continuing to fight.
Psycho Mantis growls in frustration as his new minions crumple like paper. He reaches out to Azrael, who leaps down from the roof and swings his fiery sword at Cole. The Conduit blocks with the Amp, launching him back with a shockwave. Mantis reaches out, looking for any mind weak enough to swing to his side.
Cole raises a shield, just as Nightcrawler teleports beside him with Deadshot. Nightcrawler slams the hilt of his sword into Deadshot's face, breaking the helmet and knocking him unconscious. Azrael approaches Cole and Nightcrawler, Garrus by his side.
"Blue, you want the pyro or the super cop?"
Nightcrawler looks the two over, before raising his sword at Azrael. "I'll take that one." He teleports forward, swinging his swords at Azrael, as Cole launches a lightning bolt at Garrus. The Turian rolls to the side, firing three shots right at Cole's torso. Cole leaps up and hovers in the air to avoid them, before launching a rocket at Garrus. He leaps back, caught in the explosion, and gets flung into a car. He weakly stands, before Cole tackles him down and locks him into place with a lightning arc.
As the skeletons leave the rest of DFederal's finest beaten, they start to surround Psycho Mantis. Nico stands among them, his sword drawn, as Psycho Mantis floats with his arms crossed. "I'm ending this, Mantis." The ex-soldier just laughed, uncrossing his arms and launching another telepathic attack at Nico. The demigod shakes his head, looking up to see his skeletons replaced with clones of Psycho Mantis.
"You're outnumbered, boy."
Nico gulps back his fear, unintentionally radiating in a deathly feeling of terror. Psycho Mantis recoils on instinct, and his illusion temporarily slips to reveal the skeletons silently awaiting Nico's command. The demigod grits his teeth, and the illusion shatters completely. As he prepares to give the final order, the ground shakes beneath them with a sickening thud.
Nightcrawler parries a final stab from Azrael and trips him with his tail, plunging his blades into the warrior's shoulders to pin him down. "Tell me that's you, mein freund?"
The demigod shakes his head, a shadow plunging the morning street into darkness. They all look up to see a large lizard bearing down upon them, quaking in legitimate terror as Godzilla roars at them.
Cole groans as he claps his hands together and stretches. "He's got a kaiju. Because of course he does."
Psycho Mantis floats up to its shoulder as it leans down to make room for him, smirking underneath his mask.
Part VII: The Boss Battle
Nightcrawler grabs Nico and teleports him to the roof as Cole and Merrill unleash a barrage of attacks at the kaiju. She blasts lightning, fire, spirit magic, ice, and whatever spells she has at her disposal as Cole begins to glow with a purple aura. Nico's army of skeletons charge at Godzilla, only for to get stomped under foot with each step it takes.
"I'm getting tired Cole. Hurry up!"
Finishing up gathering ionic energy, Cole flings his arms out as a crack of lightning pierces the battlefield. A gigantic bolt of electricity emerges from the sky, slamming into Godzilla. Everyone briefly covers their eyes as Godzilla absorbs the impact of Cole's Ionic Storm, pure white light erupting from the explosion. As the smoke settles and they readjust, Godzilla stands only slightly weak and glowing blue. It opens its maw, and an orb of blue energy begins to form.
"That can't be good."
Cole launches an electric tether to a nearby rooftop as Nightcrawler teleports Merrill to safety, narrowly getting out of range of Godzilla's attack. The kaiju unleashes its' atomic breath at full power, reducing the street of DFederal into cinders and burning the broken skeletons and dead cops into ash. Windows shatter, cars explode, and the sewage pipes explode beneath the ground into piles of steam. One such pipe launches a homeless child into the air, incinerating him in an instant.
The four warriors look at the devastation unleashed in total awe as Godzilla gathers its strength. It lets out a victorious roar, much to Psycho Mantis' frustration. "Attack them, you dumb beast!"
Godzilla swings a claw down, and the four barely dodge it in time as Nightcrawler teleports them away. "Can we do anything to stop that?"
Cole shakes his head, weakly launching a couple more lightning bolts. "I just hit it with the biggest lightning blast in the history of lightning, and that damn lizard is still kicking!" Nico raises his hand, knuckles pale in determination.
"I've got something. Cole, Merrill, we need a distraction."
The two oblige, launching blasts of magic and energy at the kaiju. Psycho Mantis lets out a laugh as Godzilla shrugs the attacks off and slams its tail into the building. Cole launches himself off of a pillar of ice to flee while Merrill burrows her way underground, both fleeing to safety.
"You have nothing! Absolutely nothing!"
Psycho Mantis feels a hand on his shoulder, and turns around to see Nico plunging his sword into Godzilla's skin for a handhold. Nightcrawler teleports away, leaving the two alone. Psycho Mantis chuckles as he observes the child. "Do you really think that blade will be enough to slay me and my masterful control of this beast!"
Nico wordlessly lifts his hand, and magical energy pours out of him. Psycho Mantis' laughing quickly recedes as he feels himself floating down. Looking over his body, Mantis screams in terror at his pale, intangible body floats towards the ground. Nico, visibly exhausted, speaks with a frighteningly low voice. "I, son of Hades, banish you to the Underworld."
Psycho Mantis' screams echo as the earth splits open and the wailing of the souls of the damn penetrate the air. Mantis' voice soon joins them as he floats into the crack, and it closes with a resounding, final thud.
(Cut the music please.)
Part VIII: Heroes Unite
Nico closes his eyes and collapses, falling off of Godzilla. Nightcrawler quickly teleports them both to the ground, laying the boy on the ground. As Merrill and Cole walk over to them, , Kurt puts a finger to Nico's pulse. The three surround the young boy, who lays silent. "He's alive, but barely."
Cole turns as loud steps interrupt them. As Godzilla wanders off, no longer under Psycho Mantis' control, Garrus limps over to them. He holsters his pistol and puts his hand up in surrender. He calmly walks over to the trio, placing a pair of hand-cuffs on the dying Nico's wrists. "And then there were three."
The Turian grabs Nico's body and places him gently in his cruiser. Garrus crosses his arms and looks at the remaining three. Cole breaks the silence first. "Is he gonna be okay?"
"By my calculations, he'll probably die." Garrus explains. "We could get him in a car and drive him to a nearby healer's to stop the damage. The guild can surely cough up someone that can fix him."
"Why don't you do that then?"
Garrus awkwardly starts to back away. "If it were up to me I would. But we've all got strict orders from up top. I can't let you out of my sight until someone..." Garrus trails off, and the three remaining combatants grimly wait for the answer they all know is coming.
Silence hangs in the air, no one sure what to do. Garrus silently gets into the driver's seat of his car, giving the three the space they need. He bitterly slams his fist into the dash, cursing the users who ran these stupid games.
Merrill draws her staff and assumes a fighting stance. She sends a small bolt of spirit magic at Nightcrawler, more as a courtesy than anything else. Cole and Kurt leap back in surprise as Merrill prepares another spell. She summons pillars of ice in front of her, clearing out the space for a final fight.
"Mythal'enaste. I hate to do this." She mutters, throwing a fireball at Cole. He launches himself on a pillar of ice before chucking lightning bolts at Merrill. She counters with lightning of her own, stopping the blast in its tracks, and follows up with tossing a large boulder at Cole. He dodges, and Merrill turns to see Nightcrawler teleport in front of her.
"Don't hold back, eh fraulin?" He says with a smile as he grabs her staff with his tale, kicking and using her as a springboard to flip to safety. She briefly stumbles before throwing a blast of icy magic at Nightcrawler. "I won't lethallin!" The spell collides into Nightcrawler, who briefly freezes in place before he can teleport to safety.
Merrill turns as Cole launches several ice crystals at her, hastily throwing up a barrier in defense. He launches a rocket at her as well as several cluster grenades, trapping her in a field of electricity. She burrows under the ground and escapes the cage, only to be hit by a single, precise bolt of electricity. Merrill gasps in pain as Cole follows up with a stream of quick bolts, each sending her back in pain.
Nightcrawler teleports behind her and sweeps her off her feet, and she lands with a thud. He wraps his tail around her leg and teleports her over to Cole. She casts a telekinetic blast from her mind, sending both men recoiling as she stands up again. Merrill summons a forest of earthy roots and vines from her feet, trapping Cole in place. Nightcrawler jumps and lunges forward.
"Not this time, Merrill!" He easily jumps and dodges around the vines attempting to catch him, before tackling Merrill to the ground. Nightcrawler grabs her by the shoulders, and begins a series of teleports around the area. He kicks, punches, and throws Merrill, never relenting as he exhausts her. Merrill barely sees the mutant in the haze of purple smoke, and the effects of interdimensional travel rip her apart.
Kurt lands with a final push to send Merrill in front of the now-free Cole, and she collapses at his feet. The Conduit creates an arc around her hands and feet, trapping her in place. Between ragged breathes, Merrill pouts at a grinning Nightcrawler. "No fair, I got tired."
Cole and Kurt laugh in spite of themselves, before awkwardly looking at each other. Nightcrawler assumes a fighting stance as Cole draws the Amp. "Best man wins, Blue." He throws his hand out, launching a shockwave at Kurt. The mutant teleports to safety, desperately looking for a weapon. He quickly retrieves his swords and attacks Cole, who raises the Amp in defense.
Nightcrawler teleports behind him, slashing at Cole's legs. The Conduit winces as the blade stings against his ankle, launching himself to safety on a pillar of ice. Nightcrawler pursues, slamming his fist into Cole's stomach mid-air. He lets out a grunt as he slams into a wall, while Nightcrawler teleports to give him a chance to breathe.
"Stay down, Sparky."
Cole looks around, grabbing a nearby lamppost. "I can do this all day Blue."
He drains the electricity from the utility, restoring his energy and healing the various cuts and burns he'd earned through the day. Nightcrawler lets out a grunt, both impressed and annoyed, as Cole charges forward with a stream of lightning blasts. The mutant barely dodges them with a quick teleport before Cole is on him again, swinging the Amp. This time Kurt plays defense as he deflects the weapon, only to heave as Cole tosses a shock grenade at his feet.
In the blast, Nightcrawler is flung backwards. He groans, only to feel a foot firmly plant itself on his chest. He looks at Cole, who shoves the Amp around Kurt's neck. "I think this means I win this one, Kurt." The mutant laughs, raising his hands in mock surrender. His tail whips forward, only for Cole to catch it in his grip. Cole sends a volt through it, shocking Kurt once again.
A horn blares as soon as Nightcrawler says this, signalling the end of the fight. The screeching of tires follows immediately, as Garrus' cruiser blares its own siren and he blasts off to the nearest hospital. Cole looks at Nightcrawler and offers his hand, bringing the mutant up to his feet.
"Welcome to the city, pal."
Cfp watches from his laptop as Kurt's screen goes black, and Cole's is the only one still lit. Annabeth strolls into his office, chucking an empty coffee to-go cup at his head. "You never told me Nico was one of them!" She draws her knife and shoves it in his face. The user barely bats an eye as he deactivates the computer.
"Can you draft the new housing notices? I'll contact housing to create space for the new arrivals, but I need you to write up the moving notices for Astolfo and Kayneth."
Annabeth screams in anger and tries to shove it closer, only for a strange force to hold her in place. Cfp's hand is slightly raised, and his casual frown slips cracks into a firm scowl of anger. Even beneath the domino mask, she could feel his eyes glaring at her.
"Please don't make me ask again, Mrs. Chase."
She reluctantly sheathes her knife and leaves the office, throwing Cfp the finger on the way out. He wordlessly grabs his cell phone, placing a call. "Governor, it's been done. I've done my part, and your boy is out of the sewers. God bless the U.S. of A."
In his new house in the Slums district, Cole plops down on the couch and cracks open a bottle of beer. As he pulls the recliner and turns on his television, a door bell interrupts his moment of peace. Groaning, he stands up and walks to the door. Opening it, he allows himself a smile as Diarmuid, Merrill, Nightcrawler, and Nico all let themselves in.
"Congratulations lethallin!" Merrill says as she hugs Cole, and the rest walk in. Nightcrawler and Diarmuid reveal a large cask between them, setting it down on a table. The small group barely fit in Cole's apartment, but they paid little mind as they sat around the table.
"This is beer from one of the finest breweries in Germany." Kurt says, tapping the keg and handing Cole a mug. Diarmuid raises his own in victory. "Hear hear, to the man who got out of the sewer!"
Cole laughs as they salute. "It ain't much, but it sure smells better." He turns to his former opponents. "I'm a little bit jealous. I won, but how is it you all got into better houses than me?"
Before anyone can answer, the doorbell rings again. Seeing the surprise on their faces, Cole stands up and approaches the door. He opens it, to see a young man in a maroon shirt and yellow domino mask.
"Who the hell are you?"
Cfp waves to the others before answering. "There's no need to worry about that. I'm just here on behalf of your country, to thank you for your service."
At that, Merrill pipes up in the back. "That reminds me, Mister...what's your name again? Anyway, I was just wondering how I happen to be from "The United Kingdom"? I've never even heard of that country in Thedas, and I-"
The user quietly groans, gesturing for Cole to come with him outside. The Conduit obliges, closing the door behind him. Cfp laughs as he runs a hand through his black and grey hair. "I'm thankful you didn't end up friends with Kayneth. If I have to explain that nonsense one more time..."
Cole coughs, and crosses his arm. Cfp realizes he's blabbering and quickly straightens himself out. "Anyway, I'm here for two reasons. The first is simple; I'm aware you're currently unemployed. I've got two choices for you."
With two pieces of paper, Cole reads them over as Cfp continues. "The first is simple - Ice-T Puppy Incorporated uses a rotating security staff of group warriors. However, after some recent debacles, I've decided to offer you one of our permanent positions as my private security. You'd answer directly to myself, my assistant Annabeth, or my company's head of security Clint Barton. Ask Nico or Kurt about either of them; they'll vouch for their character."
"And the second?"
"Yes...that one's a bit weirder. I had to pull some strings, but co-king Beast has expressed a willingess to let you help with a pet project of his. You'd have to ask him personally for it though - he won't even tell me what it's about." Cfp pulls out a photo of a man in all white. "He said contact this guy if you're interested."
Cole lights up, shaking the user's hand. "Gee, thanks for the boost. I really needed this." Cfp smirks and begins to walk away. "Don't thank me yet- I didn't say the second thing yet."
Cole watches in confusion as Cfp snaps his fingers, as a parade of people come out onto the street. A band begins to play America the Beautiful, while several men in red fire bazookas into the air as fireworks. The crowd starts to chant as Cole and the others watch in wonder.
"USA! USA! USA!"
Cfp laughs to himself and watches the chaos unfold. "Once again, Cole - congratulations. You've made it."
For full explanation, see the rankings.
- 8th Place: China, Kung Lao, 9 points
Kung Lao's ferocity as a fighter was matched only by his overconfidence and his lacking in options outside of his fists. In a normal fight that may have been suffice, but in the situation presented Kung Lao ended up biting off far more than he could chew.
- 7th Place: France, Astolfo, 19 points
Astolfo's magical items and his hippogriff mount ensured that he would present a strong fight against any of the warriors he ended up competing with, but he lacks guile and suffers from Kung Lao's problem of actively seeking out fights. His weapons weren't enough to serve as an overwhelming strength for that to be an adequate strategy, and he falls next because of it.
- 6th Place: Japan, Kayneth Archibald, 26 points
Kayneth's mystic code had the potential to be one of the single most powerful forces in this battle, but he was the worst warrior to wield it. His arrogance led him into situations where he underestimated a cast of warriors he really shouldn't have, resulting in him falling victim to himself more than anything else.
- 5th Place: Russia, Psycho Mantis, 38 points
Psycho Mantis is in the right place, but frankly there was a concern that his abilities would be overestimated. Mantis' powers are most effective when he gets the chance to play a long-term game and take control of the situation, but without the ability to do so Mantis didn't have the power to win.
- 4th Place: Italy, Nico di Angelo, 46 points
Nico is much more impressive on paper than in practice, considering the considerable restraint his powers place on him and, in turn, he places on himself. He's in the top tier because he can defend himself against threats and won't get drawn into fights he can't survive, but this is the point where surviving isn't enough and he has to actually try to win.
- 3rd Place: United Kingdom, Merrill, 52 points
Merrill may have been underestimated in this match. She has the most versatile power set of anybody involved in this match, and she's got the power to back that versatility up. The only flaw she's got in her camp is her lack of proper mobility powers or healing capabilities, making her a glass cannon that the others could exploit.
- 2nd Place: Germany, Nightcrawler, 61 points
Nightcrawler earns the runner-up position not in spite of his lackluster powers but because of them. Nightcrawler was simply the hardest person to actually hit, allowing him to fight against any of the other combatants and emerge unscathed until the final fight. However, by this point, his lack of any offensive options besides his own fists made him unable to secure the win.
- 1st Place, United States of America, Cole MacGrath, 69 points
Cole MacGrath won World War Royale, thanks in part to the raw power and the options he did have at his disposal. In terms of pound for pound power, Cole's electrokinesis was unrivaled, and was further bolstered by his ability to draw on the city as his entire battery. He could compete with the more mobile warriors thanks to his grab-bag of mobility based powers, while he had the perfect personality to ensure he could make and break alliances on a whim. Cole ultimately proved to be the strongest, the fastest, and the deadliest warrior.