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O Grania, white as snow, it would have been a better choice for you to have given hatred to me, or gentleness to the Head of the Fianna.
— Diarmuid Ua Duibhne

Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, also known as Diarmid O'Dyna and Diarmuid of the Love Spot, was the demigod son of the god Donn and one of the most famous members of the Irish warrior group known as the Fianna. Diarmuid, who was famed for his beauty, was given a magical love spot above his brow by a supernatural woman, which made any woman who saw it irresistible to him. It was this "blessing" that would lead to Diarmuid's death, Fianna leader Fionn mac Cumhaill's corruption, and the downfall of the Fianna.

Diarmuid initially attained fame after he defeated a massive army of soldiers during his quest to save the life of his lover. He would become one of the greatest Fianna, and Fionn's most trusted friend. All of this would change in one night.

Fionn, then an aged warrior, had decided to remarry to Grainne, the daughter of the High King of Ireland. On the night of their wedding, however, Grainne had the misfortune to look upon Diarmuid's love spot. She was instantly enamoured with him. She drugged everyone at the wedding and demanded that Diarmuid run away with her. He initially refused, but then Grainne imposed a geis (a request that could not be refused without loss of honor) on him. Diarmuid was forced to choose between dishonouring himself and betraying his friend. He chose to preserve his honor.

Diarmuid and Grainne spent the next few years on the run from Fionn. Thanks to the god Oenghus, they always managed to evade him. Fionn would eventually pardon the pair, but he never forgave Diarmuid for his betrayal. He would finally have his vengeance when he allowed Diarmuid to die after being wounded by a boar during a hunt.

Battle vs. Achilles (by Laquearius)[]

Sing, O Goddess, of warlike Achilles, peer of Ares, slayer of men and heroes. Sing of Diarmuid, fearless and courageous Fian, who clashed with the bloodthirsty one, on that fateful day...

Diarmuid strode across the sandy shoreline, his eyes darting back and forth across the strange land his ship had brought him to. "Surely the Otherworlders could not have made a mistake... but this land is surely not Éireann," he mumbled to himself as he made his way to the top of a dune. Upon reaching the summit, he spied a great camp ahead of him: countless tents constructed in rows, hundreds of mighty ships beached on the shores. The sun was beginning to set, and several servants were travelling in between the rows of tents, lighting lamps. One tent sat just ahead of him, at the foot of the dune. "Perhaps I shall inqure here, learn more about this strange land. Sincerest hopes that these men are peaceful.. but if not..."

Diarmuid pulled Beagalltach halfway out of its sheath.

Achilles was alone in his tent, putting on his armor: gifts from his mother, forged by Hephaestus, the godly smith. A great, wrathful fire burned in his eyes, ignited by the spark of loss. Patroclus was dead, slain by Hector. Tomorrow, all of Troy would pay for what they had taken from him.

Achilles heard a voice from outside his tent as he place his helmet over his eyes. "Hello? Is anyone home?"

The tent flap flew open as Achilles exited. The demigod was marvelous to look upon, his golden armor shining brightly in the last light of the day. "Who are you, stranger?!" demanded the Achaean. "A Trojan spy, here to slit my throat as I rest?"

"You are mistaken, my lord. I am... lost, you see."

Achilles was blinded by his anger. No reason would be heard by his mind this day.

"A likely story." Achilles drew his sword and took up his shield from where it hung on his back. "Your commander will die at my feet, and countless of his bretheren before then. You can be the first."

"You're mad!" shouted Diarmuid, as he leaped out of the way of Achilles's first swing. "But if it is a fight that you seek, I will not back down!"

The Fian tossed Beagalltach to his left hand and took up Gae Buidhe with the other. He thrusted the yellow spear forward, aiming for Achilles exposed right arm. Achilles quickly raised his shield and knocked the blow away before making a jab of his own, which crashed harmlessly against the Fian's enchanted chain mail. Diarmuid recoiled from the force of the blow, but recovered quickly and made a swipe for Achilles's calves. The demigod quickly sidestepped the attack, and Diarmuid followed up by rolling out of his opponents range to avoid a counterattack. The Irishman scurried back up the side of the dune, and then leaped off, his sword aimed at the Achaean's neck. Achilles reacted quickly and swung his shield over his head, crashing into the Fian and sending him flying several meters.

Diarmuid got to his feet in an instant. Spinning around, he hurled Gae Buidhe at Achilles, who easily blocked the projectile with his shield. Achilles snatched up his own javelin, which lay against the side of his tent, and thre it at the Fian. Drawing Moralltach, Diarmuid hacked the incoming javelin apart with one swing of the magical blade.

Now understanding the threat that his opponent faced, Diarmuid took out Gae Dearg, the red spear. With spear and sword, he began to sprint back across the beach. Achilles tossed his sword aside and took up his spear, a massive dory crafted by his old mentor, Chiron.

"Come then, assassin of Troy! Face your death!"

Diarmuid readied Moralltach for a strike as he approached his target. Achilles watched carefully, preparing to counter the next blow. The Fian sprung into the air, thrusting his sword directly at Achilles's face. Much to Diarmuid's suprise, the unstoppable blade didn't even scratch the divine armor. Diarmuid tumbled out onto the sand.

"No armor has ever stopped Moralltach before... what kind of beast are you?!"

Achilles thrusted his spear at his downed opponent, who quickly rolled out of the way. Darting back and forth across the sand, he handily dodged each of Achilles attacks, before he found a chance to hurl Gae Dearg at Achilles's exposed calf. The red spear tore through the demigod's skin, sending him to his knees with a shreak of pain. Diarmuid snatched up his sword again, and began to bring it down into Achilles's neck.

Achilles was faster. He swung his shield upwards, striking the Irishman in the jaw, stunning him. Then he thrusted his spear with all his might into Diarmuid's chest. The spear punched through the chain mail and directly into Diarmuid's heart.

Achilles stood up, grimacing at the intense pain in his legs. He removed his weapon from his slain opponent, and kicked his corpse away.

"First you fall. Hector is next!"

Winner: Achilles

Expert's Opinion[]

Diarmuid had a range and agility advantage, but none of that mattered due to Achilles's unbreakable armor, especially the shield. Eventually the fight would come to close combat, in which Achilles's superior strength and heavy weaponry gives him an advantage. In the end, the immovable object overcame the unstoppable force.

To see the original battle, weapons, and votes, click here.

Juuni Taisen Battle Royale (by Leolab)[]

This warrior won a Battle of the Season Award
This warrior won a Battle of the Year Award
This warrior won a Fantasy Battle of the Year Award
This warrior won a Battle of the Decade Award
This warrior won a Fantasy Battle of the Decade Award

Prologue, 22:30 – 23:00[]

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Twelve people came to at once, waking up in a partitioned room. The slate-grey concrete was functional, the lighting just bright enough to see. A woman in red struck the air beside her, startling the others when her hand slammed against an invisible wall. They looked around at their fellow captives, the semicircular room allowing them to view each other.

Quite suddenly, the flat wall vanished, revealing a figure sitting at a desk. It wore a loose grey windbreaker, with the hood up. A red mask with green line stenciling covered its face, allowing only a pair of small brown eyes to poke through, while loose black silk pants disguised its lower half. The figure’s right hand wore a glove of the same material, but the left, curiously, was nearly bare, the outline of a black-and-grey carpal tunnel brace poking through the sleeve.

“I assume you all have questions,” the figure said, his deep, masculine voice reverberating through the room. “You may call me Leo. Allow me to explain your situation.” His eyes swept the room, satisfied he had his audience’s full attention. “You twelve have been summoned to take part in the Juuni Taisen. It’s a gathering of warriors every twelve years. You shall be let loose in the city, and fight to the death.”

“Do we have to kill each other?” a young girl with a cello case asked, raising her hand as if she were in school.

“You will die if you do not. Consider this a test of your duty; it’s not only Youkai that will attack your charge with the intent to kill. Moving on, bombs have been surgically implanted in your necks, each one powerful enough to wipe out a city block. If anyone or anything removes the bombs while you are still living, they will explode instantly. There are two ways to have the bombs removed. One is if you are amongst the dead,” the man locked eyes with the thin man in a white shirt as he says this, the meaning of the glance lost to all but the two of them.

“Two is if you win. Now, to win you must do more than just survive; you must gather the bombs from the necks of all the other participants. Minus those of the idiots who tamper with them, naturally. Once the game starts, your bombs will explode in the span of twenty-four hours. If multiple bombs are near each other, living or dead, the timer will slow. Fear not, the bombs are quite sturdy. The components shall not shatter no matter what may hit it. Any questions?”

“To confirm,” a man in a blue coat chimes in, affecting disinterest, “We have to kill each other within twenty-four hours, slice open the necks of the dead and gather some bombs. If we don’t, we die. That about right?”

Leo nods.

“So what do we get outta this?” he asks, petulant.

“Other than not dying? Simple. The chance to have a single wish granted, without asking help of a white-furred manipulative allegory for Mephisopheles. Ah, I forgot to mention. You may not leave the city limits. You won’t die if you do, because that would be a dick move when I don’t give you a map. You may go as far above or below ground as you wish, though that won’t bypass the boundary. Everyone clear?”

A smattering of affirmations and head nods go around the room.

“Since you’ve all come from different realities, I guess I should at least introduce you. You’ve been selected specifically because you have a connection to one of the twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac, so I’ll include which one. Starting from my left, the fashion disaster in the mouse ears is represents the rat, Parcel.” Leo indicates a short girl, likely prepubescent, wearing a hooded blue overcoat with mouse ears attached, wearing a pair of large, goggle-like glasses.

“Next to her in the school uniform is the representative of the ox, Ayaka Ushigura,” Leo says, indicating a blonde girl wearing a blazer, a ribbon, a skirt, thigh-high stockings and fancy shoes. She adjusts the cello case on her back, slightly nervous under the eleven eyes boring into her.

“The man next to her represents the tiger, Enishi Yukishiro,” he continues, as the combatants look at the white-haired man. He rolls his shoulders, looking relaxed in the sleeveless blue skintight shirt, grey bracelets, and loose orange pants that ended above a pair of sandals. He adjusts his small glasses, looking confident.

“The scantily-clad woman next to him is Panne, representing the rabbit,” Leo says, as the spotlight is now given to the woman he indicated. She looked ready to bolt in her ripped, purple shirt, fuzzy shorts, and purple boots, rabbit ears pressed down against her head.

“The woman in the red dress is the warrior of the dragon, Angela Victoire Blendin,” Leo says. Angela, looking haughty and relaxed, leans on her lance as the other warriors examine the billowing, red-and-white dress, the two overlarge belts that hang loosely around the waist, and the glittering tiara nestled in her fire-orange hair, which curled in several ringlets.

“The dude who needs to zip up his damn pants is the Serpent of Akasha, Michael Roa Valdamjong. He represents the snake, if you couldn’t tell from his title.” The other warriors tried to hold in their laughter as Roa elegantly lounged, letting his unbuttoned white shirt and partially-open fly reveal his abdomen. His red eyes took in the crowd, his black hair contrasting with his albino skin.

“The one in the cowboy hat is Hol Horse. His surname should tell you what he represents.” Hol Horse tried to look tough as the attention turned to him, his wild blonde hair showing underneath his hat. His brown-and-grey outfit was practical, unlike some of the others in the room.

“Representing the ram is Godolf Auora. He’s the one with the ram horns on his helmet.” The young man indicated looked around, resting his spear on his shoulders as the open black-and-green vest hung about him. His helm, shoulder pads, gauntlets, and boots appeared to be made out of a black metal, and the chain of his spear attached to his right gauntlet.

“The warrior of the monkey is Saruhiko Fushimi, in the blue coat.” Fushimi clicks his tongue in annoyance, his open blue waistcoat, black button-down vest, square glasses, blue pants, unkempt hair, and the open, upturned collar on his undershirt presented a contrasting image of order and individuality. A lock on his sheath clicked open, to his muted surprise.

“In the maroon rags is Morrigan, representing the Rooster.”

“The rooster?” The mage asks, arrogant sneer on her face as the hooded shawl that barely covered her upper body turned towards their host, “Why, pray tell, am I given that bird?”

“You’re associated with crows, and roosters crow,” Leo replies. As Morrigan bristles, he continues, “Yes, I know it’s a lame pun. I could just explode you right now if you think it too much of a stretch.”

“We wouldn’t want that now, would we?” she says, backing down for the moment.

“Representing the dog is Judge Magister Gabranth, wearing the full plate” Leo says, continuing the introductions. Gabranth looks on imperiously in his armor, cape hanging about his shoulders.

“And the remaining one is the representative of the boar, Diarmuid ua Duibhne,” Leo says, indicating the man in a leather cap, a maille shirt under a cloth tunic, and leather sandals. He looked around in utter confusion at the other, more outlandish warriors, feeling ill-equipped with only his sword and spear.

“Now, then, I believe you lot have fifteen minutes before the bombs start to count down. Exit through the tunnel behind you, and you will emerge in the city designated for combat. If you remain in the tunnel after those fifteen minutes have ended, you will die. The tunnels will collapse as well, to prevent accidental reentry. Have fun.”

The twelve warriors did as they were told and hurried out the room, none wanting to be caught. Leo, for his part, got up from the chair and turned, the wall behind the desk opening to reveal a small circular elevator. He rode it up to a darkened room, where several monitors glowed. Information on all the warriors, their locations, and a holographic map of the city representing that data were scattered across the room. He looked on as small models of the competitors began to appear at various points around the city.

Once she rounded a corner in her tunnel, Parcel loitered about for a minute. Then, she used her ability to teleport to the tunnel beside hers, and followed along it. As it tapered into a ladder, she stopped and listened for a few minutes, determining the sound of another within the space above. She teleports again, and exits her sphere in a Japanese-style home across the street from the one the tunnel lead to.

Ayaka, having followed her own tunnel, looks around at the Japanese mansion she had entered. It was set up similarly to her own home, and there was even food in the fridge. She sets her cello case on the counter and pops it open, checking to make sure her axe was inside. Mentally apologizing to the inhabitants of the house, she grabs a bag and starts tossing some prepared food inside.

Enishi emerges in a small dojo, seemingly located on a hill. He takes a quick look around and peeks outside, spotting a convenience store. He swiftly breaks the glass and enters, grabbing some food as he ignores the alarms.

Panne emerges in what appears to be the barracks of a military base. Finding the layout similar to the Shepards’, she stretches a bit and then transforms, checking to see if her beaststone still worked. As it did, she hops out the door in her rabbit form, intent on exploring.

Angela emerges in a stylishly-furnished penthouse suite. She also makes food her priority, stealing a bag from another apartment and cleaning out the pantries. That done, she makes her way down and out of the building, holding her lance at the ready.

Fushimi, for his part, emerges in a large police station. He immediately turns one of the computers on, finding it still works. He smiles as a security feed pops up. The creators of this city were vigilant, it seemed, taken to a nearly paranoid degree. There were few places left unobserved. He spots a manila folder lying on a desk; nearly identical to the others there, except it was labeled with the name “Michael Roa Valdamjong.” Not a particularly common name, and one he’d heard a few minutes before. Curious, he picked it up and leafed through the contents.

The rest of the warriors had taken their positions, and a loud chime reverberated through the area. It was 23:00, and the deathmatch had started.

(End music, even if you don’t want to.)

The Hour of the Rat, 23:00 – 1:00[]

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“Too simple,” Fushimi says, clicking his tongue in annoyance. The systems set up were highly centralized, and extremely easy to circumvent. There was little challenge in hacking the surveillance feeds and redirect them to his phone. He flips through the feeds, checking to see if they worked properly. As he does so, he notices something small in a camera feed.

It was another manila folder, this one labeled “Hol Horse.” Fushimi checked the placement of the folder, a good three blocks west of the station. He strides out, having figured out its significance. Information won wars, and he’s found himself in one.

On the other side of the city, Parcel watches the house across from her with care. Whoever came out was either going to be her first enemy or her first ally. Based on the introductions, there were precious few of her opponents to team up with. She breathed a sigh of relief as she saw a young girl in a school uniform walk out, carrying a cello case and a bag. Parcel steps out as well, aiming to introduce herself.

“Hi,” she says, waving her hand, “You’re Ayaka, right?”

“Yes,” the older girl says, looking startled, “You’re… Parcel?” she asks, strong country accent forcing Parcel to pay attention to every word.

“Yeah. My tunnel exited nearby. You’re the one who didn’t want to kill, right?”

“Yes,” Ayaka says, “But if I have to…”

“I’m not here to fight,” Parcel says hurriedly, “I want to make an alliance.”

Ayaka’s face brightens at this, and she smiles at the younger girl. “Of course! I’d be happy to be friends with you.”

Parcel’s eyes widen in surprise, not expecting Ayaka to trot out that particular word so quickly. “As long as you can follow the rules,” she mutters, extending her hand.

“Friends help each other, right?” Ayaka says brightly, taking it in hers “What other rules are there?”

“That’s all,” Parcel says, pulling her hand away, “I’m a Contractor, so setting rules makes things easier. People are more likely to listen and help that way.”

“A Contractor..?” Ayaka asks, looking slightly confused.

“Inhuman killing machines, runs solely on logic, has special powers… none of that ring a bell?”

“No. We don’t really have any of that where I come from. I do have powers, but I’m pretty emotional,” Ayaka laughs self-deprecatingly. “Say, what’s your power? Mine’s just super strength, but since I’m the head of the Ushigura clan, it’s pretty high.”

“Teleportation,” Parcel says, “I can go where I want, and can take other people or things with me… did you search that house thoroughly?” she asks, changing the subject abruptly.

“Just the first floor. All the doors leading to the second floor were locked,” Ayaka says, following Parcel’s gaze. A small folder was displayed in the window, with the name “Enishi Yukishiro” written on it. The fact that it was night made it stand out all the more. “Isn’t that…”

“One of the people we’re fighting,” Parcel says, and beckons to Ayaka. The older girl walks closer, and gasps in surprise as a black sphere envelops them both. She looks around as it shrinks again, and sees that they’re behind the window Parcel had noticed earlier. The folder in the window turned out to be a projection, but there was a small, secure safe in the wall under the window.

“Think it’s in there?” Ayaka asks, pointing to the safe. Parcel nods, and she reaches out for the hinges. A pair of spectral ox horns grow out of Ayaka’s head, and she twists each hinge with one hand. They snap off, and the door falls on the floor. She grabs the folder, and notices Parcel’s shocked expression. “Not too girly, is it?”

“It’s pretty cool, I think,” Parcel says, “But let’s look at what the folder says.”

Elsewhere, Diarmuid stalks the night. He was in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people. All he was told is that he would have to kill… but the masked man didn’t seem trustworthy. Even were he to win, he didn’t think his wish would be granted that easily, even if he had something he wanted for himself. “If it were that simple…” he mutters, cursing his misfortune. As if Grannie hadn’t brought enough trouble on him as it were.

He paused, realizing that he may have a wish to ask. If his wife hadn’t given him her love on that fateful day, much misery would have been avoided. He snapped out of his reverie, looking around him. He had wandered between two of the massive structures that dominated this place. A narrow path lay before him, and lit by the strange, fireless lamps was a very, very pale man.

“I am Diarmuid ua Duibhne,” he states, brandishing his spear with his hand on the pommel of his sword, “Who are you?”

“Roa,” the man said, tones of psychotic insanity in his voice, “And I ask you put your spear up. I’ve no mind to engage in a fight I cannot win.”

Diarmuid did as bidden; he felt no hostility from the man before him, simply madness. “I can take you under my protection, if you so wish,” he says, proffering his hand. Roa smiles and nods.

“There is a ritual amongst my people,” Roa says, walking towards the extended hand, “Between one offering protection and one receiving it. Do you mind?”

Diarmuid nods, and gestures for him to go ahead. Roa’s eyes alight with manic joy as he takes Diarmuid’s hands and positions his mouth over the Irishman’s wrist. He sinks his teeth into the flesh, drinking up the blood that wells to the surface. Diarmuid feels a slight pain as something enters back, and Roa stands.

Diarmuid collapses, eyes widening in pain and horror as a sensation spreads from his wrist to the rest of his body. Something was inside his veins, something malicious and evil. Roa threw his head back and laughed as Diarmuid writhed on the ground, trying to hold on to a sense of lucidity.

“You simple fool,” the vampire spits, “you gullible, stupid man. How did you even fall for that?” he laughs, enjoying his victim’s cries of pain. “One thing you got right, though. You will be protecting me. Hunting for me. Killing for ME!”

Diarmuid’s last sensation was the maniacal, mocking laughter of the Serpent of Akasha as his soul fled. His corporeal shell remained, however, and slowly gathered itself off the ground. Its now-red eyes looked at its master, and it wandered off into the dark.

Roa smiled. If he had judged his foes correctly, this one should be enough. He turned and walked away, seeking an abode to wait out the day. The sun would rise in a few hours, after all.

Hol Horse walked around the city aimlessly, smoking a cigarette. The Emperor was in his hand as he moved, ready to fire at any threat that approached him. He spotted a police station with the door open, and entered.

He was greeted with a sword to the throat.

“Woah there, buddy,” Hol Horse says, trying to make himself sound jovial and friendly, “No need to be so hasty.”

“Hol Horse? The cowboy?” his assailant asks.

“Yes, yes. Hol Horse, at your service.”

“You are a man who works best with a partner, yes?” the man asks, and Hol Horse nods.

“Better to be number two than number one. That’s how Hol Horse lives.”

“I’m Saruhiko Fushimi. Join me.”

“Okay, boss,” Hol Horse says, and the sword lifts from his throat and slides back into its sheath. He turns to look at his new partner. A thin man in a blue overcoat and glasses, the man looked bored. Suddenly, a question comes to his mind. “How’d you know I work best with a partner?” he asks suspiciously, “That wasn’t said in the introductions.”

In lieu of words, the man simply tossed him a folder with his name on it. Hol Horse flipped through it, reading a rundown of his life, his abilities, and his character. “There’s a bunch of these scattered around,” Fushimi says, “Looks like there’s some for each of us to find. That masked man didn’t tell us everything.”

“How many did you find?” Hol asks, looking around.

“One for each of us,” he says, pointing to twelve folders on the desk. Fushimi’s own folder, however, had been doctored. He didn’t want his new ally to know that he’s a good liar, after all. “I’ve set up proximity alarms around the place,” he continues, “It’s how I knew you were coming. We should take watch in shifts; it’s almost 1 AM, and I want to try and get some sleep.”

“Right, boss,” Hol Horse says, instinctively following the man’s composed and competent commands. “I’ll take first watch, so you go ahead and doze off.”

“Thanks,” Fushimi says, and turns towards the cot, smiling. The dossiers implied that Hol Horse would be easy to manipulate with a show of strength and charisma, and it had worked. He needed rest, however, and set up a couple proximity sensors near the door to the barracks, while he took the backmost bunk.

After all, no one would trust another that easily in this situation.

(end music)

The Hour of the Ox, 1:00 – 3:00[]

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Enishi walks through the city, resting his Wato on his shoulder. He couldn’t afford to be caught with his sword sheathed this time around; the situation left no room for theatrics. As he rounded a corner, he spotted an enemy, the young man with the ram horn helmet.

Godolf, noticing his foe’s footsteps, turns and launches an attack, throwing his spear at his assailant. Enishi ducks under the projectile and spins, bringing his sword in a wise arc aimed at his foe’s exposed abs. Godolf blocks the blow with one of his gauntlets, and the sword skitters off the thick metal. A sidestepping swipe brought Enishi out of range of the spear, which flew back along its chain. Godolf lunges, and Enishi jumps over the strike. He kicks off the spear and rises higher into the air, and uses his Wato to gain even more height. He flips like a buzzsaw, bringing his blade down in a vertical strike against Godolf.

The Warrior of the Ram, rather than taking the blow head-on, uses the flat of his spear to slam into Enishi as he descended. The blow sends the swordsman off-course, and he crashes through a wall. He leaps to his feet and charges out of the building, only to fin that his foe had vanished. Ehishi smiled to himself; his foes seemed to be weaker than he was. He continued on, confidence boosted.

Ayaka and Parcel, meanwhile, had located a map of the city in one of the abandoned mansions in their area. Parcel retrieves it with her power, and the two sit side-by-side looking at their loot. “This area is probably our best bet for a base,” Parcel says, pointing at a cluster of buildings. “There’s a shopping mall, a hospital, and a good mix of open spaces and hiding spots.”

“Alright,” Ayaka says, deferring to her younger companion, “Do you want to teleport there now?”

“Sure. I just hope that masked man remembered to stock everything.”

“Huh? Isn’t this place…”

“I don’t think it’s actually abandoned. The area looks like it was meant to look lived in, but it doesn’t feel like it was. We’ll worry about that once we win. It’s irrelevant now.” Decision made, Ayaka steps near Parcel as she teleports them to the area she specified.

The mall was large and spacious, and the hospital well-stocked. Parcel and Ayaka headed to the food court, realizing they hadn’t eaten properly yet. Parcel climbs over the counter and starts to raid the fridge, while Ayaka helps herself to the kitchen. Having made food, the pair sits in a corner booth to eat.

“Reminds me of how I used to live,” Parcel says, wolfing down her meal.

“What happened to your parents?” Ayaka asked, concerned for her new friend.

“Don’t know, don’t care. They didn’t want me, anyway,” Parcel says matter-of-factly. Ayaka looks at her in horror, and she continues, “I’m a Contractor. In my world, people like me are viewed as inhuman murderers by nature. My powers awakened, they talked about how much of a pain my existence was, and I left. Lived like this until Pandora picked me up to be a lab rat—what are you doing?”

Parcel panics slightly as Ayaka hugs her, interrupting her story. “That’s just… too sad,” the older girl says, letting go. “Nobody should have to go through that.”

“I’m sure you have troubles, too,” Parcel says, feeling awkward.

“Just normal girl stuff, like keeping Kyoichi-san safe, wondering if he returns my feelings…”

On the other side of town, Gabranth walks though the night, scanning his surroundings for any sign of trouble. He notices a nearby police station, and heads towards it. If the authorities here were as paranoid as they were in Archadia, he would probably find some useful terrain advantage, or at the very least a map. He steps into the station, and immediately draws his weapon as alarms resound. He sees a man in a cowboy hat – Hol Horse, their host had introduced him as – making a curious gesture with his hands, as if holding a pistol that wasn’t actually there.

“Stay where you are,” the blonde man snarls, to Gabranth’s confusion. He takes a step forward, before Hol makes a gesture as if he was pulling a trigger. Something invisible slams into the ground in front of Gabranth, much to the man’s surprise.

“It’s been an hour, Hol Horse,” Another voice floats from behind the man, as a skinny male in a blue coat walks past him, “Let’s invite Gabranth here to join us. The more the merrier, right?” Fushimi glances at Hol Horse, who lets The Emperor vanish.

“Why would I join you?” Gabranth asks, “You are my enemies.”

“Only in the end,” Fushimi says, “Nothing to say we can’t help each other be the last three standing, right?”

“Hmm…” Gabranth says, mulling over the decision in his head. “That… sounds logical. My sword is yours, for the time being.”

“Good,” Fushimi says, and gestures dismissively at the manila folders behind him. “This is what we have on the others. We’ll keep watch while Hol Horse gets some rest.”

Several miles away, Panne walks through the city, tense and alert. The concrete and steel buildings, while they did not reek of manspawn as she’d expected, were wholly alien to her. She swiped some fruit from a cart and bit into it, finding the green apple tarter than those of her world. As she walked, she heard a pair of footsteps approaching. She changes into rabbit form and leaps, shifting back to a humanoid as she lands on a roof.

One of the warriors she was fighting shambled out on the street, bleeding from his wrist. Panne sniffed the air, and shrank back from engaging. Something about him smelled foul, worse than the Risen she had faced in her world. She’d fight him later rather than sooner; if she wanted to undo the massacre of her tribe, she’d have to kill him at some point.

She shifts back into rabbit form and stealthily hops over the roofs and away from the shambling corpse. She hops onto a large street and shift back, just before a woman in a red dress rounds the corner. The woman smiles maniacally, having finally found a good challenge.

“I am the Dragon Warrior Angela Victoire,” she pronounces, pointing her lance, Perpetuelle, at her foe. “Shall we dance, Warrior of the Rabbit?” In lieu of an answer, Panne shifts into rabbit form and charges straight on.

Angela releases a wave of fire, projecting a massive gout of flame in front of her. Panne, unable to stop, runs through this and shrieks, burning. The intense heat kills her quickly, charring her flesh and burning the bone. Angela frowns in disappointment; any of the Princesses would have turned aside a strike that weak. A flash of her lance crumbles Panne’s carbonized neck, and Angela claims the first bomb of the game.

Godolf walks towards a pair of large buildings. One, from the signs outside, appeared to be a market. The other had an H emblazoned in a circle, a symbol entirely foreign to him. His prior encounter showed him that he needed supplies; if he wanted his wish, for his love for his liege to be reciprocated, he would need something to let him stand on even ground with the other warriors.

“We have company, Ayaka,” Parcel says, looking at the monitors in the security suite where the pair had dragged a mattress. “Looks like the Ram guy.”

“That’s good for us, right?” Ayaka says, “We found that folder about him in the mattress shop, so we know what he can do.”

“Do you want to fight?”

“Yes. We’ll need to if we want to win, right?”


“You keep watch, Parcel,” Ayaka says, smiling at her friend, “Your abilities aren’t suited for combat, so only help if you feel safe doing so.”

“Sounds like a plan. Let’s go.”

Godolf looks around the wide, open space, looking at a marbled statue of an armored man in the center of a fountain. He looked up to see a black sphere disappearing, revealing a pair of girls, one with an axe gripped in both hands and the other wearing a blue mouse hood.

Parcel vanishes, moving to a location where she could see the battlefield. Ayaka uses gravity to augment her own already massive strength, driving her axe towards Godolf’s head. He blocks the strike with his spear, the force of it driving him through the stone tile. He pushes with his spear, launching the girl into the air. She passes the statue while airborne, and kicks its head at her foe. Godolf swats it aside as she lands, spectral horns sprouting from her head.

(end music)

The Hour of the Tiger, 3:00 – 5:00[]

loop in another tab (right-click on video and select loop)

Ayaka immediately charges back in, swinging her axe at her foe. Godolf backpedals out of the way, and tries to retaliate with a swipe from his spear. Ayaka simply ducks under it and beings her axe up, narrowly missing his head. Godolf retreats into a swipe, trying to catch his foe on the attack. Ayaka, however, simply slams her foot into the ground. Slabs of stone, concrete, and rebar swivel up, broken off from the floor, and intercept his strike.

Ayaka charges forward, unleashing a straightforward flurry of attacks. Godolf dodges, and uses his spear’s chain to try and maintain distance. He throws the spear at short range like a javelin, but Ayaka sidesteps the attack. She steps forward and spins, gaining momentum for another strike with her axe as Godolf retrieves his spear. Godolf parries the blow, and is sent flying across the room through its sheer force.

His back slams halfway through a pillar, and the spear flies out of his hands, clattering on the floor beside him. Parcel teleports next to it and uses her powers to create a black sphere surrounding herself and the weapon. Before Godolf could reel his weapon back in with its chain, Parcel vanishes, taking the blade with her to the rooftop of the mall. She swiftly returns to her hiding place as Godolf staggers to his feet.

Undaunted by the loss of his weapon, Godolf swings the chain attached to his gauntlet. The black metal links fly through the air at Ayaka, who ducks under it and lets it wrap around her axe. She swings her axe backwards, launching Godolf towards her. As he comes flying, she slams her fist sideways, hitting his helmet directly. The helmet, able to ward off the strongest blows and even gunshots without a scratch, shatters. As Godolf reels from the blow, Ayaka brings her axe into an overhead swipe.

Godolf tries warding the blow off with his bracers, but these shatter as well. The force from the blow breaks his arms. He looks up helplessly as another strike from Ayaka drives her axe into his head, killing him. Parcel teleports back to Ayaka’s side as she looks at Godolf’s limp body squeamishly. “Do I really have to…”

“Here,” Parcel says, walking up to the corpse, “I have a couple tricks I can pull with this.” She uses her power, a black sphere enveloping her and the dead warrior. She reappears next to Ayaka, and a small grey box plops down next to her. Parcel teleports into a store, steals a handbag, and returns, dropping the object inside. “Let’s get back to the security room,” Parcel says, walking towards Ayaka.

“Sure,” the older girl replies, and the pair teleports back to their den.

“Take a nap,” Parce says, without preamble. “I’ll take the first watch; you must be tired from your fight.”

“Our fight,” Ayaka says, changing into a pair of cow-print pajamas. “It would have been longer and closer if you hadn’t taken his weapon away.”

“You still did most of the work, though,” Parcel says, rearranging the monitors to better suit her stature, “You need the rest more than I do.”

“I’ll take you up on that,” Ayaka yawns, climbing into the mattress. “I have found my wish, though,” she murmurs sleepily.

“Oh? That boy of yours?”

“No. I want him to truly love me; I have to do that on my own,” Ayaka replies, her exhaustion making her country drawl slightly stronger.

“What then?”

“I’ll ask for you to be in my world, as friends.”


“We’ll just hang out and talk, none of this survival stuff. You’ll have parents who want you, and…”

Parcel looks over at Ayaka as she trails off into sleep, contemplating her words. After staring at her new friend for a couple minutes, she snaps back to the monitors, slightly rattled, and notices a crow perched on top of the skylight above the now-cracked and broken atrium.

Morrigan flaps away, replaying the fight in her mind. While the Ox girl was clearly more capable in a direct fight – the shattered stone and steel attested to that – she judged the Rat the more dangerous foe. Despite her youth, she had a quick and creative mind.

The wind carries her far, passing over the Boar’s corpse shambling through a construction site. She glides towards her primary investigative target, the police station. The Monkey, Dog, and Horse reside there, all currently rested. She shifts into a smaller form, a bee, and slips through the widow to listen in on their plans.

“Our most troublesome target is the Snake,” Fushimi says, pointing at the surveillance image of Roa on the table. “Be it through luck or cunning, he’s avoided detection by the city’s cameras, save for when he killed the Boar several hours ago.”

“Who else is dead?” Gabranth pipes up, “And by whom?”

“The Ram was tag-teamed by the Rat and the Ox, and the Rabbit was killed by the Dragon.”

“So Rat and Ox have three bombs, and Dragon two,” Hol Horse says, “The man said bombs in close proximity would be slowed, so if we take out some of the loners we can wait out the other alliances.”

“I’m still not sure how much of what he said was accurate,” Fushimi says, “But if he’s telling the truth, that’s a sound plan.”

“So we go out, find some people, and triple-team them?” Hol Horse asks.

“No. You work best as a pair, not a trio. You and Gabranth will go hunting for prey.”

“And you do what, sit on your ass?” Gabranth snarls.

“No. I will work on tracking down the Snake.”

“I thought we determined that I would be best to face him?” Gabranth asks

“Yes,” Fushimi says with some irritation, “Which is why I’ll contact you. I’m by far the best here when it comes to information; it makes more sense for me to be searching for the hardest target.”

“Alright,” Hol Horse says, leaping to his feet. “Let’s get started, Mr. Tin Man.” He summons The Emperor to his hand and turns to walk out the door, when he notices something rectangular flying at him. He turns and shoots it, shattering the item. “What? How did they?” he starts, looking around like a madman.

“That was a radio,” Fushimi says, sighing in exasperation. Gabranth sends him a silent, pleading look, to which Fushimi only gave a nod of commiseration. The Judge Magister stands up and puts his helmet on, grabbing another radio and giving it to the cowboy.

“Don’t break this one,” he says, and Hol Horse sheepishly follows him out of the police station.

Fushimi watches the two leave, and walks over to where he’d stashed the dossiers. He pulls out the one with his name on it and tosses it in the wastebin. Then, he channels his Red Aura, setting the contents on fire. He didn’t care if someone else figured out the others’ weaknesses, he needed to cover his own tracks.

With that, he exits the police station. His paranoia proves founded, as Morrigan shapeshifts back to her normal form.

“Now what tidbits have we here, I wonder?” she says, rifling through the folders in the drawer.

(end music)

The Hour of the Rabbit, 5:00 – 7:00[]

Play in another tab, please.

Morrigan, having finished reading, shapeshifts back into her crow form and takes wing, flying above the city. The sprawling maze of streets hid her foes, but she felt no need to fight at the moment. Spotting movement, she swoops closer to investigate. The shambling corpse of Diarmuid continued to wander, fully subordinated to his master’s will.

Curious, Morrigan taps into the energies of the Fade, peering into the swirling depths of the dead man’s soul. Foul, tainted wires, not unlike blood magic, filled the empty shell. It was a mere puppet animated by another’s will. She pulls back, having caught a glimpse of where the lines led. She takes wing as the sky lightens behind her, dawn on its way.

Gabranth spots a bird overhead, but pays it no heed. His immediate concern was finding prey… and keeping his blundering teammate from fouling it up. He grimaced under his helmet, certain that the leader of their trio simply didn’t want to deal with the cowboy beside him.

“You know,” Hol Horse says, “If we run into a woman, let me talk to her first.”

Gabranth merely grunts in response, trying to tune out the noise.

“I know I may not look it, but I can charm any lady. They’ll help me out, ya know?”

Another grunt.

“My Stand is weak, so…” Hol Horse cuts off as Gabranth holds his hand out, and motions them to hide. They duck into a recess just in time, as Angela walks across the intersection in front of them. She pauses at the crossroads and looks down the street, right at where they were earlier.

“I know you’re there,” she calls, taunting the pair. “Come out and fight! Show me the color of your soul!” Her imperious command echoes through the street, but the pair stay hidden. A sneer rises on her lips, and she points her lance straight ahead. “Will none of you give me a challenge?” she roars, and directs a massive gout of flame down the street.

The intense, searing heat billows past the pair, scorching everything around them. They shrink further back, trying to avoid the onslaught. Wood turns to ash, concrete melts and catches fire, and the pipes running below the street burst, unable to keep up with the rapid increase in pressure. The sudden torrent of water does nothing to quench the flames. The small droplets scattered about look like liquid embers, refracting the flickering light.

And as suddenly as it started, the assault stops. Angela clicks her tongue in disappointment, and strides away. Gabranth and Hol Horse stare in stunned horror; the street they were just walking down had been turned into a wrecked, broken hellscape in the span of a few seconds. Fire still burned in patches, but the stone slag was rapidly cooling.

“Did you want to try and charm that?” Gabranth asks, voice dripping with venom.

“I think that one’s more dragon than woman,” Hol Horse says, still in awe of the raw power displayed.

“What happened?” Fushimi’s voice comes through the radio, starling them both. “Are you two all right?”

“We’re alive,” Gabranth replies, “No thanks to the Dragon.”

Fushimi sighs in relief. “Good. I’d hate to lose teammates at so early a stage. Damn fire knocked out the cameras on the street.”

“We’re going to go through the buildings to get around it. The ground doesn’t look too stable,” Gabranth says, smashing a gauntleted fist through a door. “We’ll radio if we encounter someone we can fight against.”

“Win first, then call,” Fushimi says, and the radio cuts off.

Enishi looks in the direction of the massive torrent of sound. He blinks, trying to get rid of the afterimage the geysers of flame burned into his retinas. He wasn’t sure how far away he was, but that was something he needed to investigate. He starts to run down the street, and skids to a stop as he hears footsteps nearby.

He peeks around the corner, spotting the shambling corpse of Diarmuid. As its lifeless eyes scan the surroundings, Enishi sees his chance to get ahead. He storms out, striking at his foe’s neck. The corpse never saw it coming, and the blow lands clean; if it hadn’t hit the bomb, it would have taken Diarmuid’s head clean off. A quick flurry of strikes chops off the limbs and butterflies Diarmuid’s spine, exposing the bomb. He grabs the grey box and walks onward, tossing and catching it in his palm. He whistles cheerily, secure that he’s just bought himself some time to think and investigate.

In the mall’s security room, Parcel’s eyes snap open. She gets out of the mattress and throws her coat back on, as Ayaka drops a bowl of fried rice in front of her. “How was your rest?” she asks, watching Parcel demolish her breakfast.

“I slept well. Thanks,” Parcel says, neglecting to mention her dreaming of Ayaka’s wish being fulfilled. “Anything interesting happen?”

“A bunch of automated police alerts came in half an hour ago. Something blew up here,” she says, pointing at the map they laid out on the floor. Parcel takes a look at the map, and at the alert.

“It’s probably a trap,” Parcel says. “The alert is a little too detailed to be automated – at Pandora, those things are templates someone types information into. Either someone set off a bomb and is using this to lure people in, or they saw one go off and are capitalizing.”

“Something did happen,” Ayaka says, “The security cameras outside caught some fire, and there was an enormous noise. I’m surprised it didn’t wake you up.”

“Which means people are going there anyway. If we want to collect some bombs, it’s going to be the place to be.”

“Want to teleport there and set up an ambush?” Ayaka asks, to which Parcel agrees.

Gabranth takes several swipes at a wall with his weapon, and kicks it down. Hol Horse follows him through, and the two continue through the building. Hol Horse opens his mouth, and then quickly closes it after a helmeted glare from his partner. They hear voices ahead, and slow their pace, not wanting to give their location away.

“What even did this?” One of the voices asks.

“Whatever it was, we should be cautious. It’s likely that others will have seen that police alert,” another answers.

Hol Horse bursts into the room, blowing their cover. Ayaka, reacting on instinct, slams her axe into the ground, creating a wall between Parcel and the attackers. “Run,” she yells, “I’ll take care of these. We’ll meet up at our base!” Parcel does as bidden, and teleports away.

Gabranth runs in after Hol Horse, and splits his weapon in two. He strikes at Ayaka, the blows coming as fast as a thought. The youth barely has the time to block, and isn’t able to get a hit in. Gabranth continues to drive his foe back, the flurry of strikes overwhelming her. Ayaka then kicks the ground with her foot, and the floor collapses.

She lands on her feet, and uses the opportunity to swing her axe at the recovering Gabranth. Several small impacts on the head push it away, however, resulting in it simply smashing through the floor. She flicks her eyes towards the man in the cowboy hat, who appeared to be cupping the air while holding onto a beam. Gabrath recovers and they continue fighting, on even ground until Hol Horse finds an opening to shoot.

Parcel stands on top of a nearby building, surveying the area. Ayaka had told her to run, so she obeyed. It was everyone for themselves in this battle, after all. She stops, feeling a tug at the emotions she shouldn’t be feeling. She was a Contractor, a being of logic. Abandoning an ally shouldn’t be a big deal for her.

Parcel grimaced, then, remembering how their alliance started. Agreeing to be friends. She just had to use that word, didn’t she? Parcel thinks. Berating herself internally, she teleports.

Ayaka was not unscathed. She bore several puncture wounds from The Emperor, and multiple deep gashes. Her foe wasn’t entirely unwounded, either, but she was definitely on the worse end of the fight. Her legs collapsed as her armored foe stalks towards her, raising his swords. She could only hope she’d brought Parcel enough time.

A black sphere enveloped her, and she found herself in a hospital, with Parcel by her side. The young girl was frantically searching through the supply cabinets for supplies. “Why did you…” she gasps, weakly.

“‘Friends don’t abandon each other, and absolutely don’t betray each other, no matter how illogical,’” Parcel says, as if quoting something. “Those are the rules. Now stay still while I find something to…”

“Are ya a surgeon?” she asks, “I’m done for if you’re not.”

“There has to be something…”



“Parcel, please,” Ayaka gasps, as her friend runs to her side.

“I’ll win,” the younger girl bawls, “I’ll win, and make your wish my own. We’ll be friends, just two normal girls…”

Sometime later, Parcel stands on a balcony in the hospital, looking on the table in front of her. Two grey boxes rested there, one with an “A” scribbled on it in marker, illuminated in the dawn. She placed both of them in a satchel, and teleports to the entrance. It was time to hunt.

(end music)

The Hour of the Dragon, 7:00 – 9:00[]

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Morrigan perches on the roof of one of the buildings, still in crow form. She dips her beak into a cut of raw meat, swallowing it to restore some of her energy. She was a few blocks away from where the explosion had occurred. According to the documents she read in the police station – and one she found herself – the likely culprits were either Angela or Fushimi, the Dragon or the Monkey.

As If called by her musings, Angela turned the corner and wandered into the street. Morrigan tracked her quarry visually, keeping a natural profile. The Dragon Princess either didn’t notice or didn’t care, as she passed by without incident. A few paces past, however, she stopped suddenly and raised her lance. Morrigan cocked her head, curious.

Coming directly towards her was Yukishiro Enishi, his tiny glasses resting above a confidant smirk. Morrigan flew off, leaving the two to their fight. She knew how it would turn out. Enishi, for his part, charged in recklessly. Angela’s lance was longer than his sword, so his best chance was to get close. He ducked into a slash, diving under the lance. In the blink of an eye, Angela backsteps out of the sword’s range and angles her lance downwards.

Enishi twists his body, narrowly avoiding impalement. A flick of his wrist brought his sword up, but Angela punches the flat of the blade, sending it off course. A kick threw him back, and he took his ready stance. Angela, however, just stood looking at him in disappointment.

“Stop holding back, damn you,” she growls, “Weaklings and cowards to a man,” she spits, furious.

Enishi laughs lightly. “If that’s what you want…” he says, still suicidally overconfident. He activates his Nerves of Insanity, his neural fibers bulging as if they were muscles. He charges in again, prepared to kill.

Angela, seemingly disinterested, strikes. As Enishi feels the wind past him, he realizes he’s out of his depth. Even with his boosted reaction time and speed, he barely had time to react to a basic thrust. Nevertheless, he continues his assault. His recklessness gained him nothing, as his strikes were repulsed by his foe’s lance. He kicks back, trying to gain distance. He lands in stance, and locks eyes with his foe.

Angela smiles, and takes a stance. Every muscle in her body tenses, as if she were a bow and arrow drawn and ready to fire. She releases her flames around her, and the temperature skyrockets. Enishi tries to move away from the heat, his heightened senses making it even more unbearable. Angela’s gaze pins him down, however. Her gaze drives home that he is a mere housecat trying to scratch an angry dragon.

“ÉCLAIR!” Angela shouts, finishing her wind-up and letting loose. All Enishi can do is marvel at its simplicity; all Angela did was wreathe her lance in fire and charge forth at a high speed. He feels his blood boil, figuratively as well as literally, as she reaches him. He could dedicate his life to combatting this technique and still lose.

The lance rips through and immolates his body, and he dies. Angela catches the bomb before it hits the ground. She clicks her tongue in annoyance again; none of her foes seemed strong enough for her to use her strongest techniques on. She grabs some food from her bag and continues walking, in an even fouler mood than before.

Several blocks away, Gabranth slices through another wall, finally exiting the block of buildings he and Hol Horse were making their way through. He brings his radio up to his helm and turns it on. “Fushimi, you there?” he radios.

“What is it?” his supposed ally says, sounding disinterested, “Did my lure catch anything?”

“That message was you?” he growls, “I’d appreciate it if you’d warn us next time.”

“Sorry,” Fushimi says, sounding anything but.

“We fought the Ox, but the Rat saved her. We don’t know where they went.”

Fushimi gives a weary sigh, and checks his phone. “They made a base at a mall with an attached hospital. Check there.”

“Alright,” Gabranth says, shutting off the radio and tossing it back to Hol Horse. It was getting to be time to dissolve the alliance, but the buffoon behind him was a wildcard. A man with an invisible gun that shoots invisible bullets he can control. Fortunately, he was as incompetent as he was powerful. Gesturing, Gabranth leads his companion to their quarry’s lair.

(end music)

The Hour of the Snake, 9:00 – 11:00[]

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Morrigan glides on the wind, surveying all below her. Her shapeshifting abilities had let her be present at most of the other combatants’ deaths, or the start of it. She had decided the best course of action was to wait out the other fights, and take out the Snake as the day waxed. The morning sun washed over most of the city, illuminating the devastation and blood running in the streets. A flash of movement caught her eye, and she banks towards it.

She flies over the construction site, and sees a young girl examining it. She vanishes in a black sphere and appears at another spot in the site, seemingly making a plan. Morrigan turns away, not wanting to be noticed. Even if she is in animal form, there were no other animals around the city. She didn’t want anyone getting suspicious and attacking her. She changed her bearing, heading towards her quarry in a seemingly random pattern.

Roa plucks the cork out of a bottle of wine – red, naturally. He pours it into a glass and drinks, receiving neither nourishment nor drunkenness. He looks around at the mansion he had chosen for his abode, utterly bored. Someone had killed his Dead, so he was stuck doing nothing in here until night fell again. He has no materials to create a familiar; nothing alive remains in this city, save for the other contestants. With nothing to do, he wanders through the mansion.

He then notices a small folder peeking out from behind a painting. Curious, he breaks the paining and opens it, seeing the name “Gabranth” on it. He flips through the contents, eyes widening in horror. This particular foe was going to be troublesome; his powers nullified his own. The speakers in the next room let loose a blast of static, startling him.

“Hello all participants,” all the audio devices in the city say at once, “This is Leo, your host. I regret to inform you that our acquisitions department did not manufacture the bombs correctly. The timers will not, in fact, slow down in proximity with other bombs. You have twelve and a half hours left. Use them wisely.”

“So much for that plan of yours,” Gabranth grumbles, turning to see the shocked Hol Horse behind him. “Not much has changed, though. We just kill them and take their bombs.”

“Y… yeah,” Hol Horse says, still shaken. Gabranth looks at him in derision; it seemed he trusted the masked man who had brought them here. “Ah, look,” Hol says, pointing to a 4x4, “We might use this to get out.”

“Of the city?” Gabranth scoffs, “Not going to happen.”

“If he hadn’t set up the bombs correctly…”

“Guess who the first person to try that would be?”


“No, you bloody moron. The Rat. The person we’re trying to find. If she’s able to get out, she will. Continue tracking her down, and we’ll know the answer.”

Parcel returns to the mall, having failed to teleport outside the city. She grimaced, as it would have offered additional tactical options. Undaunted, she checks the security feed and freezes in surprise as she notices the pair walking towards the mall.

Gabranth and Hol Horse look at the two buildings, each with a busted door. “I’ll check out the hospital,” the armored man says, “You go look at the mall. If you find the Rat, kill her.”

“Got it, boss,” Hol Horse says, and turns his back. He barely has time to gasp in surprise as Gabranth stabs Highway Star through his chest. He uses Chaos Blade to decapitate his former ally, and grabs the grey box implanted within his neck.

Meanwhile, Fushimi relaxes in a café, looking at the video feeds on his phone. Luckily for him, he had his charger. Gabranth took longer to act than he had anticipated; he thought the cowboy would have worn out his welcome faster. The kettle behind him whistled, and he poured himself a cup of tea. He then takes out a pad and paper, and writes down everything he knows about the situation.

He’d anticipated that the bombs didn’t actually slow when near others. When they were all gathered in the large room, he’d asked if they needed to collect the bombs within twenty-four hours, and their host had said yes. The line about their team making a mistake was probably another lie so that the warriors gathered would fulfil their purpose without distrusting him too much.

But what was their purpose? Simply combat? Did whatever ritual required to grant a wish really require eleven sacrifices? Or was their host simply capable of it, and the killing was pointless? Fushimi dismissed that thought; setting this place up would have taken too much effort for it to have had no point. What kind of person would take enjoyment in a fruitless endeavor? He froze, glass halfway to his lips, with that last thought. His mind hit on something, something he didn’t want to believe.

That was the man’s aim. Enjoyment. Nothing much had happened in the three and a half hours, other than the frankly disappointing slaughter of the Tiger. That was why he let that information slip, to spice things up a bit. Was he doing it to please a crowd? Or was this mere self-satisfaction? Either way, his host was either one of the most twisted human beings he’d ever met or works on behalf of a group of them.

He gulps down the tea, trying to get rid of the bitter taste in his mouth. He gets up and walks out of the café, not wanting to remain much longer.

(end music)

The Hour of the Horse, 11:00 – 13:00[]

In another tab, if you would be so kind

Gabranth walks into the mall, his swords still separated into two blades. He catches sight of a blue mouse ear before it vanishes around a corner. He strides to catch up to it, and takes a cautious look around the corner. A cluster of tripwires greeted him, along with four concave green rectangles. Curious, he holds Highway Star by the pommel and uses it to slice one of the wires.

A blast resounds, and a concussive wave shears past the hallway, followed by a mass of high-speed steel balls. Luckily for Gabranth, he had withdrawn his sword before it was too badly dented. He notes the blue hoodie again, and follows to another corner. Peeking around, he sees another trap identical to the first. This time he casts Protect on himself, and simply walks through. The explosives go off again, but his magical protections reduce the damage enough that they don’t even scratch his armor. Following the disappearing blue mouse ears, he eventually reaches the mall’s security room. Bracing himself for the largest blast yet, he walks in.

And finds nothing. A glance in a mirror set up on the console showed him his quarry, impish grin on her face. He whirls around, only to find she’d vanished again. Gabranth stalks back into the corridor, magic protecting him from yet more traps and explosions. His rage builds as he storms back out into the mall proper, completely unscathed but time wasted.

“FACE ME, YOU CUR!” he roars, unable to contain his fury. “Being the Warrior of the Rat does not mean you have to skulk like one!”

“I do,” Parcel’s taunting voice comes over the loudspeakers, “If even Ayaka couldn’t face you, what chance do I have?”

“More than if you continue this farce,” he growls.

“Well, that’s certainly true,” Parcel replies, standing right next to him. As he turned to bring his sword down on her neck, however, he found them floating in the air, a good kilometer above the mall. Parcel teleports herself to the roof of a building below, patiently waiting for Gabranth to fall.

Gabranth combines his sword in midair, and uses one of his special techniques, Innocence. The air pressure from the strike slows his fall, and he lands with a light thud. Looking on in annoyance, Parcel teleports to another nearby roof, and hefts a rocket launcher. She fires at Gabranth, who runs out of the way. Parcel teleports to another roof and fires another rocket at him, and he jumps.

Gabranth lands on the missile and kicks off, gaining enough height to reach Parcel’s perch. He swings at her, but her teleportation surpasses even his speed and she reappears across the street. She picks up a submachine gun and fires, but Gabranth shrugs off all the bullets. He simply kicks off towards her, and she vanishes again. He spots his quarry down below next to a barrel on a wet street, and leaps down to strike. She teleports again, and his blow only shatters the barrel, letting loose a flood of grease.

A lit match falls from above, setting the liquid – as well as the oil covering the street – on fire. Gabranth walks on undaunted, his Technicks preventing the heat from damaging him. Parcel continues to flit between buildings, launching attacks at him that he either dodges or shrugs off.

“Bloody monster,” she growls, and vanishes again. Gabranth continues walking down the road, searching for his prey. Based on the chase, she’d set up a route filled with traps and equipment. He spots her again on top of a building, taking aim with a rocket launcher.

“Do you really think you can et your revenge like this?” he asks, glaring.

“We’ll see,” she replies, smug grin back in place. The chase continues, Gabranth drawing inexorably closer to his target. Every time he thought he had her in reach, however, Parcel kept herself just ahead. Furious, Gabranth enters a construction site, and stands in a small depression. He sees Parcel standing before him, back to the wall.

“Are you finally done running?” he asks, barely restraining his fury.

“You’ve busted through all of my tricks. Only thing I have left is a straight fight.”

“Good,” Gabranth says, “You’ve learned your place. Fight, and die trying to avenge your partner!”

“Before we fight,” Parcel says, vicious smile on her face, “answer one question for me.”

“Acceptable. What do you wish to know?” Gabranth asks, splitting his swords and getting ready for battle.

“What takes eleven minutes to fall 50 miles?” Gabranth stops, looking confused. “I’ll give you a hint,” Parcel says, as she manifests her teleportation sphere, “You’ll find out in four seconds.” With that, the youth vanishes. Gabranth grimaces under his armor, and stows his weapon. The question was clearly an attempt to buy time, but for what?

He looks up and found the answer to both his question and Parcel’s. It’s a road roller.

The piece of construction equipment slams into the warrior. Not even his magics could protect him from the crushing weight as his armor crumpled, reducing him to paste. The crash, large enough to create a mushroom cloud and utterly devastate the area surrounding the construction yard, sends shockwaves through the city, drawing the attention of the other combatants. Angela looks towards the noise, and spots a black sphere dematerializing in front of her.

Parcel stumbles out, and Angela laughs, calling out to her. “I am Angela Victoire, the Dragon Princess! Now, shall we –”

She cuts off with a frown as Parcel notices her and vanishes. She punches a nearby lamppost, and it crashes to the ground. For someone of her abilities, finding someone willing and able to fight was proving difficult.

As the aftershocks of the massive impact die down, Parcel returns to the construction yard. She walks towards the center of the crater, where the remains of the road roller mixed in with the meaty mush and crumpled steel formerly known as Gabranth. She closes her eyes for a second, feeling some relief. She had avenged her friend.

Her moment of sentimentality passed in a blink, and she immediately walks right next to it, spotting a pair of small, grey boxes poking out of the sludge. Her mouth momentarily drops in surprise; it seems their host was right about at least one thing: the explosives were indestructible by normal means. She uses her ability to transport the bombs back to the mall.

Fushimi, meanwhile, stares at his phone in awe, not expecting the flashiest takedown yet to have come from Parcel, of all warriors. His mind did a rough calculation, and found that the road roller would have hit with the force of a 16-kiloton nuclear warhead. If she dropped that in the city, she would wipe out everything in a nine-block radius, assuming she didn’t drop – god forbid – something larger. His mind made up, he starts to make his way towards the mall where the Warrior of the Rat had made her nest. His top priority right now was to recruit or kill her.

(end music)

The Hour of the Ram, 13:00 – 15:00[]

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Fushimi makes his way through the streets, still cautious. According to the cameras, Angela was wandering around the area, destroying everything she came across like a force of nature. It was something he’d have to deal with sooner or later, but he was hoping to have Parcel as an ally for that first.

His hopes are dashed as a woman in a red dress rounds the corner. Angela grins psychotically and lashes out with her lance, striking several times faster than the eye could see. Fushimi releases his Blue Aura just in time, and the strikes bounce off a barrier. Angela’s grin grows wider; she’d finally found someone to contend with. She points her lance at him, and starts her usual introduction.

“I am Angela…”

“Victoire, the Dragon Princess of Agnis, the Land of Fire,” Fushimi completes for her, sounding bored. “And I am Saruhiko Fushimi, third-in-command of SCEPTER4.” Angela cocks her head in confusion, not recognizing the name. Fushimi curses under his breath; he’d have to trot out the lines his King had forced him to practice. “Special police. We are the shield against the chaos,” he says, still sounding bored as he draws his saber and holds it vertically in front of him.

He lets his shield drop as he swings, sending forth a slice of blue light. It scythes towards Angela, who merely deflects it with Perpetuelle as he leaps back, sending three throwing knives imbued with his red aura around her. It erupts in fire, the swirl of purple-red heat converging on Angela, who merely laughs.

“I commend your temerity,” she says, “For using fire on a dragon.” She winds up, taking a stance like a taught bow. Fushimi swiftly imbues a pair of knives with his green aura, and throws one of them underneath his foe. He throws the other high into the air. The knife flies over the one planted into the ground, completing his attack. A lightning bolt cracks down, causing his foe to flinch.

Still unfazed, Angela’s eyes light up with joy. She roars the name of her next technique, entering it from no stance.


Angela rockets forward, propelled by an explosion of fire behind her. Her lance, now wreathed in fire, points straight at the heart of her foe. Fushimi concentrates his barrier in the palm of his hand and moves it barely in time to block, appearing to catch the lance as it flies towards him. The force of the blow sends him flying back several blocks, though he doesn’t miss the chance to let loose another flurry of throwing knives as he soars. Angela deflects these with an almost contemptuous flick of her wrist, and she takes her stance again, winding up for a charge. “Éclair!” she yells, closing the distance rapidly.

Fushimi has more time to react now, however, and simply sidesteps the stab. He brings his saber down as she passes, but the blow only glances off of the Dress. She swerves, turning to face him. “You didn’t really think simple steel could penetrate a Dress, did you?” she asks, amused. In response, Fushimi channels his blue aura into his saber and swings, sending several blue arcs at his foe.

Angela releases a burst of fire, the sheer heat cracking the concrete, melting asphalt, and acting as a barrier against the attack. The magic flames make the blue arcs evaporate as if they were water, but Fushimi remains composed. Angela gasps in pain, looking at her side. A knife clattered to the asphalt, blue light fading from its edge. It had barely penetrated enough to draw blood, the dark red almost blending in with the crimson of her dress.

“Mikoto’s fire was stronger than this,” Fushimi says, the sweat trickling down his neck giving away his bluff. Angela, however, simply laughs.

“Wonderful!” She says, trembling in ecstasy, “This is what I’ve been looking for! Come, Saruhiko Fushimi! Come, man of SCEPTER4! Show me how bright your life burns!”

Fushimi clicks his tongue in annoyance. He seems to have won her esteem, an honor he could have done very well without. Angela releases even more fire, melting the buildings around them. Fushimi throws up a barrier as the flames wash around him when an idea comes to mind. As the fire returns to normal, he drops the barrier and channels his green aura into his saber. Electrical energy swirls around the blade, sparking and crackling until he swings, letting free a bolt of emerald lightning. He leaps over it, throwing three knives in a triangle around his foe.

They hit the ground and erupt in a blue aura as the lightning hits Angela, and she finds herself the sole target of the discharge, trapped in a blue prison. She screams in pain as the bolt rips through her, sending her nerves firing. The attack bypasses her Dress, which remains whole. She collapses on a knee as Fushimi lands behind her, twirling his knife.

She gets back up and turns to face him, winding up for another stab. Fushimi tries to retreat, using his throwing knives to put up several barriers between them. He didn’t know how, but he could tell that this strike would be stronger than the last.

“Allumage!” Angela yells again, propelling herself forward with an explosion, her lance wreathed in flames. The asphalt evaporated in her wake as she passed overhead, and she meets the first barrier. It crumples like paper, and she continues undaunted. She slices through ten of them, and is only slowed enough for Fushimi to concentrate the blue aura in his hand, barely able to block the strike.

Angela leaps back and fixes Fushimi in her stare. “I was hoping to save this,” she says, “But I can’t do that now. Feel honored, Saruhiko Fushimi! Your life will be burned out by my strongest technique!”

With that stated, she unleashes fire like none seen before. The immense heat shatters the storefronts, and turns the interior into ashes in a flash. Fushimi leaps back and starts throwing blue aura-infused knives into the ground and buildings, having had a premonition of oncoming death. The woman – the monster – in front of him had shrugged off everything he could throw at her, and she was still holding a technique in reserve.

Preparations finished, he held off on activating the barrier. This one had so much of his power put into it that it would rival one of his King’s, one of the inscrutable Munakata Reisi’s, if for a short time. Angela, for her part, was concentrating her Dress into her weapon, the mass of pure Alma shedding off her body and funneling into her lance. Behind her, a massive dragon made of fire opened its mouth, sucking all the air in the area into its insatiable gullet.

“Come! GENELON!” She yells, pointing her lance at Fushimi. He forms the barrier as the dragon breathes out, expelling a gout of flame that turned the surroundings into cinders. Everything for blocks around was reduced to ash and slag as the fire slammed into the barrier. Said barrier was the only thing keeping the rest of the area safe, but even that wasn’t a sure thing. Indeed, the blue light cracked and vanished, overwhelmed by the sheer power Angela displayed.

The fire washed through the street, vaporizing everything in its path. The massive wave only faltered once it hit the city limits, where the barrier preventing the warriors’ escape held firm. Another mushroom cloud rose from that edge of the city, its size dwarfing that of the one Parcel released earlier.

Angela sighs, lowering her lance. She looks at the complete and utter ruin her attack had made, the line of destruction clearly visible. She walks past a manhole cover – the only thing to survive the blast intact, likely because it was just behind the barrier – and looks at the ground in front of her. Rooting through cinders in her underwear was far from the dignity a Princess should uphold, but she had little choice.

Right as she was thinking that, a sword erupts from her chest. Eyes widening in surprise, she turns her head and sees her foe, hale and healthy, and an open manhole cover. Taking no chances, the man slices her throat open and stabs her through the nose.

Fushimi, exhausted from utilizing his blue aura to protect him and his physic-bending green aura to stop the pipe he was hiding in from melting, opens the back of her neck with a flick of his blade. The small grey boxes they were collecting fell out, and he scooped that – along with the other ones his foe had collected – into his coat.

(end music)

The Hour of the Monkey, 15:00 – 17:00[]

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Morrigan flaps down and lands in front of an enormous mansion, taking her human form. She looks up at the massive edifice with disdain, noting its garishness. She strides up the marble steps and uses a blast of force to throw the doors, made from the same stone, open.

Several arcs of lightning converge on her location. The entryway lights up with a brilliant flash, and Roa leans over the railway to see how it turned out. His equations brooked no intrusion. Eyes glinting with confidence, he hopes that the strike left something for him to use. The marble door closes with a thud, followed by a stifling feeling of dread.

Sheer awareness of his own mortality makes his skin crawl as he waits for the dust to clear and he takes a second to realize exactly what’s happening. Not even facing down Crimson Arcueid, the berserk True Ancestor and the strongest being in the world, gave him such terror. Meaning it was induced, and that his foe was…

His thoughts are cut off as he ducks, the spears of ice flying through the air where he just was. Morrigan walks, unscathed, out of the debris. His life weakening, Roa scampers down the hall, pursued by a blast of fire. Scared for his life, he hurriedly prepares several equations to trap his foe with. As he returns to his senses, he waits in one of the inner chambers.

He hears his traps trip, one by one, as his foe walks unconcerned to where he huddles. Morrigan’s footsteps walk towards the door… and past it. Roa barely holds in a sigh of relief – he hadn’t thought a foe this strong was participating. The footsteps stop, however, and turn back towards him. Eyes widening, he grips his knife and waits.

The door bursts open, and Morrigan enters with an arrogant sneer. The lack of traps past this room had alerted her to its occupier; the mental instability caused by the Curse of Mortality was useful in such hunts. Roa charges her with his knife, but misses. He swings again, and misses. Try as he might, he can’t seem to land a hit on his foe. It was as if the knife itself wished to miss.

Desperate for any chance at victory, he draws on his Mystic Eyes. Lines and dots crisscrossed his opponent, and he aimed a stab at one of them. He misses completely, his knife glancing off of a bit of jewelry. The gold pocket mirror falls out of Morrigan’s clothing and shatters on the floor. She looks at it for a fraction of a second before throwing a haymaker at Roa.

It lands, and he is thrown backwards by the force. He hurriedly makes changes to the equation of the mansion, causing the floor to drop as he landed on it. He repeated the action, slamming through the mansion until he reached the basement floor. He collapses there, breathing heavily until a feather touches his face. He then scrambles to his feet, looking for an ambush point.

Morrigan lands, and shapeshifts back to human form. She waits in silence, trying to figure out where her foe is, before shrugging and shapeshifting again. Her moth stretches and widens as her body structure changes, growing fur and fangs. She turns into a wolf, utilizing the animal’s enhanced senses to determine where her prey was. Her lupine eyes widen in surprise as she catches his scent above her, and she is helpless when he drops down and pins her head to the ground.

Roa bites into Morrigan’s neck, and she twists as she returns to her human form. He takes but a little blood, but injects some of his own essence into her. He steps away, smiling, as her body is wracked with pain. She feels the malicious will invading her body, inexorably gaining control. Morrigan stands up and looks at Roa.

She sneers, and spits out a portion of blood. Able to move on her own, she rips the life force out of her foe and uses it to augment her own. “What…” Roa says, flabbergasted, “How did you…”

“I am a mage; I have walked in the Fade. This pittance is nothing compared to a demon trying to control your mind,” she says, finishing with a bewitching laugh. Roa feels a chill, staring into the indomitable woman’s eyes. He belatedly realizes that the chill is physical; his body was freezing solid. Before he has the chance to cry out, his body was encased in a block of ice by the witch’s spell.

Morrigan then rips several chunks out of the rock the basement sits on and sends them smashing into her new ice sculpture, pulverizing it. A few minutes later, she walks up to the snortable pile of vampire and plucks out a small grey box. She then shifts into a crow and flies out of the mansion, sparing a moment to grab her now-broken mirror.

(end music)

The Hour of the Rooster, 17:00 – 19:00[]

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Fushimi lounges in the police station, watching the monitors. He has only two foes left, but he was still worn out from his fight with Angela. He needs some rest, more so than his opponents. He opens a word processing program, and types out a short message. It was asking the other two combatants for a two-hour ceasefire, which they would use to recuperate. This would be followed by the three of them meeting to finish the fight. He thought they would agree, but there was one other who needed to sign off on the plan.

“I trust this won’t cause any problems?” he says aloud, looking at the camera, “I don’t want to set this up and have you ruin it because it’s ‘boring.’”

A loud beep from the computer drew his attention, and words appeared under his draft. “I see no issue,” the words say, “Everyone needs a break now and then. And a melee a trois will be fun in and of itself. You have my approval.” Fushimi nods at the camera, unsure exactly how much their masked host could see. He sends the message through the police alert system, asking the recipients to fire off a flare in acknowledgement.

Morrigan receives the message, and casts her hand in the air. A ball of fire leaps forth, illuminating the twilit sky above her for a few minutes before fading away. Killing Roa had been simple enough, but the hunt had exhausted her. She shrinks down into a crow and takes flight, keeping on the move in case Fushimi was lying.

Parcel, for her part, simply grabbed a flare and teleported to a random location, firing it upwards. The flare sputters for a sec before exploding in light, competing with the setting sun for brightness. The terms worked in her favor; despite being unwounded, she’d had barely any sleep since the match started eighteen hours ago.

She then teleports to the abandoned armory she had discovered earlier, and roots through the remaining supplies. She lays out several carefully-selected explosives, handguns, and other equipment in a specific place on the floor. Having properly prepared, she teleports to the hospital room to pay one last visit to her friend’s corpse.

Her task done, she walks out of the building, checking again to make sure that the bombs she had collected were with her. She then walks into the mall, heading to the food court. She steals herself an early dinner, eating quickly and lightly. She stocks another few items to eat before she left, and shakes out her bag.

She grabs a few mines and teleports to various entrances around the mall, taking the time to prime and arm them. There was always a chance that the other two were lying about the truce, and she wanted to take no chances. She even puts charges inside the hospital as a decoy, just to be extra cautious. Her fortifications complete, she returns to the security room.

She puts on her pajamas, and sets her alarm to wake her fifteen minutes before the appointed time. As she slips under the covers, however, she notices something resting on a chair. She quickly grabs it and returns to the bed. A few minutes later, Parcel is sleeping soundly, holding tight to a set of cow-print pajamas.

In the police station, Fushimi’s fingers fly over the keyboard as he looks through documents and surveys the area he had chosen for the final showdown. He’d chosen the city center because it was neutral ground, and came with high-security storage to keep track of all the bombs. Unfortunately, whoever built the city didn’t keep many records.

“Lazy bastards,” he mutters to himself, “Documentation is either incomplete or not there.” He starts as a set of words show up on the screen.

“Isn’t it more interesting that way?”

Fushimi growls at the masked man’s taunting; he was the kind of person who wanted to know every little detail when planning an operation. That meticulous personality rebelled against the more laid-back, slightly hedonistic bent of the man running the show. A muted ping catches his attention, and he turns his focus to the rice cooker he had plundered from an appliance store.

Fushimi mechanically shovels food into his mouth as the sun finishes setting and night resumes. Satisfied that he had reviewed the available information, he fires up the proximity alarms around the station, as well as the automated lethal security for good measure. The other two seemed to be keeping the ceasefire, but more caution is better than less. He strolls towards the barracks, preparing to get some rest.

Morrgan gorges her temporarily-lupine belly on a few select cuts of meat and vegetables, recovering some of her energy in preparation for the coming fight. Based on the information she stole from Fushimi, Parcel – her other opponent, according to the communication – had a very limited set of powers. In fact, according to the other dossier she had found while flying around, she had the greatest raw power at her disposal of the remaining three.

She berates herself about being complacent as she finishes her meal and prowls, finding a small alleyway. Her love had far less raw power than her mother; a mere mortal could hardly compare to an Elven god. This did not stop him from slaying Flemeth, despite her mother turning into a dragon. Indeed, as the Hound’s death had shown, Parcel’s power was not to be trifled with. Fushimi had even tangled with the Dragon in direct combat – something Morrigan herself considered tantamount to suicide – and had won through guile.

These thoughts and more running through her brain, she rests a paw on the asphalt, and twists the energies of the Fade to her will. She inscribes multiple glyphs on the ground, making the small area a magical fortress. As a further bit of protection, she applies a particularly strong variation of the Force Field spell to herself as she curls up on the ground. She closes her eyes, her preparations finished, and takes a nap.

(end music)

The Hour of the Dog, 19:00 – 21:00[]

In the city center, twelve roads converged into one large roundabout, in which there was the entrance to a subway. Parcel, Morrigan, and Fushimi each enter via a separate road, and meet at the center of the roundabout. Several fingerprint-scan lockers are embedded in a stone rectangle beside the entrance, with one open. A note was inside, and the three examined it carefully.

“This one can be opened by any of you three,” the note read, “Makes things easier for you. – Leo”

Looking at each other in mild exasperation, they place the unmarked grey boxes they had brought with them into the locker. That done and sealed, they spread apart slightly, waiting for someone to start off the final battle of the match.

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Fushimi breaks the staring match, throwing two pairs of knives at his foes. Imbued with his red aura, they erupt in fire. Parcel simply teleports away, while Morrigan lashes out with an ice spell to keep herself safe. Parcel reappears in the air, pointing a handgun at Fushimi. She fires a few shots, but he puts up a barrier to block. Morrigan tries to freeze her solid, but she teleports again Reappearing above Morrigan this time, she immediately vanishes again.

Fushimi charges the apostate, and Morrigan has just enough time to cast a glyph on the floor below her. Her foe’s charge triggers it, and a massive wave of force sends him flying back. He lands on his feet, and his attention is immediately drawn to a hand grenade that went flying in the opposite direction. Parcel’s ruse had failed, due to sheer luck.

Parcel teleports back into the fray, dropping another pair of grenades near Fushimi’s position. He dives out of the way, and concentrates his blue aura in his hand to catch the lightning bolt Morrigan had thrown at him as he landed. He hurriedly throws his shield up again, as Parcel vanishes and reappears, pointing a rocket launcher at her foes. She fires, and Morrigan brings the earth up around her in a defensive wall.

Both warriors are unscathed, and Morrigan causes her makeshift shield to explode outwards, sending sharp points of stone flying. Fushimi swings his sword, and a blue arc turns the most dangerous fragments into dust. Morrigan recalls a couple things she read while rummaging through Fushimi’s notes, and places her hand on the ground. Fushimi, thinking her vulnerable, tries to throw a pair of knives at her, but another glyph throws them aside.

Then, the ground erupts. A massive gout of steam and dirt billows out of the ground, shooting high into the air. The force knocks both combatants off their feet, but they manage to right themselves. The steam escapes in seconds, filling the battlefield with a fine mist. Morrigan throws her hands in the air, and a blast of power makes Fushimi’s hair stand on end.

An otherworldly cold ripples through the battlefield, the unnatural chill turning the water-soaked atmosphere into a glacier as it passed. Fushimi channels his red aura so that he himself doesn’t succumb to the chill. He throws clusters of knives at the advancing wall of ice, and they create a web of fire. The magical chill battles the aura of heat, each trying to overwhelm the other. The thermal shock cracks the ground, as both warriors try to force the other to give.

The web of fire winks out as the glacier shatters, and the two stare each other down, trying to catch their breath. Fushimi recovers first, and sends another blue arc at Morrigan, who shapeshifts into a swarm of insects. The attack scatters the swarm slightly, but she is unharmed. She flies at her foe, who prepares a blast of fire to incinerate her. She transforms into a bear as she reaches him, roaring and swiping at him with her paws.

Fushimi struggles to defend himself against the onslaught, parrying most of the strikes with his sword. He is unable to get a barrier up or find space to throw a knife, so he channels his red aura and unleashes a blast of fire at his assailant’s eyes. Morrigan rears back at the unexpected strike, giving Fushimi enough space to attack with his saber.

Morrigan shapeshifts into the form of a crow, and a quick flap of her wings sent her over the killing blow. She dives towards her foe, talons extended to rake his face. Fushimi simply backhands her with his free hand, sending her tumbling through the air. A quick shift to cat form lets her right herself, and Morrigan changes back to human form as she lands.

The pair then hears – and feels – rain falling, despite there being not a cloud in the sky. Fushimi smells the air, and his eyes widen. The drops weren’t dark just due to the lack of light. He looks on in shock as Parcel reappears, impish grin on her face, and drops a small canister between them. He hurriedly puts up a barrier around himself, and Morrigan, taking note, casts force field on herself.

The device ignites, as does the rain of crude oil that Parcel had teleported to the heavens. She stood safe on a building overlooking the field, watching as Fushimi and Morrigan stood still in a sea of fire, taking advantage of the reprieve before combat started once more.

(end music)

The Hour of the Boar, 21:00 – 23:00[]

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As the fire dies down, Morrigan and Fushimi both turn to look at where Parcel is standing. In unspoken coordination, they unleash everything they’ve got on the young girl. A sustained barrage of lightning, fire, knives, hexes, and sword beams utterly destroys the building. As the dust from the rubble clears, they catch a glimpse of a vanishing black sphere. Standing in the rubble, completely unscathed, is Parcel. In a line on either side of her is a row of long, steel containers at varying heights. On each is a GAU-8/A.

She brings out a small switch emanating bundles of wires. Recognizing that this can’t be good, Morrigan hurriedly weaves a complex spell based on Force magic, which launches her in the air; she then shifts into a falcon and circles the area. Fushimi uses his green aura to phase underground as Parcel flicks the switch, and a hail of 30mm bullets rakes the area. Letting the barrage continue in case one of them slips up, she notices movement out of the corner of her eye.

Diarmuid’s corpse, moving like some sort of grotesque worm, was crawling over the wreckage. Feeling slightly sick, a couple quick flashes of her black sphere sends him in the air, and her behind the firing line. The mutilated corpse falls through the crossfire, massive shells finally letting him find peace.

Parcel removes her earplugs as the barrage ends, allowing her to hear a cry from above. Morrigan, in falcon form, tucks her wings in for a dive, aiming right at Parcel’s head. Just before she connected, however, Parcel teleports a few meters to the side. Unable to correct, Morrigan crashes to the ground. Her form returns to human as she dies, bones and organs irreparably shattered.

Parcel attempts to teleport away, but as she activates her powers a knife flies past her head, shearing off and incinerating one of the ears on her hood. She is left helpless as Fushimi impales her, giving her a mortal wound. Contrary to his expectation, however, she simply laughs.

“You might find a little surprise,” she says, coughing up blood, “I do hope you can count.”

And with those words, she dies.

Fushimi, unaffected, uses his sword to slice open the necks of his final two opponents, collecting their bombs. He then walks over to the locker, the only piece of the roundabout still unscathed, and opens it, retrieving the nine bombs inside.

His hands freeze as he recalls Parcel’s final words, and he sprints to a car. It seemed the Rat was a sore loser; she had hidden the final bomb somewhere. He hotwires the vehicle and tears down the road to the police station. He arrived there with one hour left on the clock.

He speedily flips through every single camera feed in the city, trying to find a hint as to where Parcel had hidden the bomb. He finds it fifteen minutes later, positioned in a place he should likely have looked in from the start. The hospital where she had made her base. A small grey box marked with an “A” was sitting next to the corpse of Ayaka Ushigura.

A race against time, Fushimi dashes out to the stolen car and slams his foot on the accelerator. Half an hour later, he finds himself in front of the hospital and charges in. He blows through the traps, tanking the building-shaking explosions with his blue aura. He bursts into the room where the bomb lay, mere minutes left on the clock. He grabs it, and finds himself standing in the same circular room he started the battle in.

Heart still pounding, he takes a couple moments to collect himself. As he calms his breathing, the wall in front of him opens, revealing an elevator. He steps in warily, taking the lift up to a darkened room, where his host awaited him. The masked man claps, standing in front of a holographic display of the ruined city.

“Well done, Fushimi,” He says, sounding amiable. “Now… your wish?”

“I…” Fushimi starts, nervous, “I want to be friends with Misaki again.”

Leo nods. “That’s easy enough. Don’t screw it up again.”

Fushimi gives a rare smile, and the masked man gestures him towards the elevator. He enters, a well-deserved feeling of accomplishment washing over him.

(end music)

The Hour of the Cat, Outside of Time[]

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After Fushimi left the building and returned to his own world, Leo took out a black laptop and sat down to write as the keyboard’s red backlight spilled some light into the room. He grimaces in irritation at the exercise; some idiot a while ago decided that every match needed a breakdown afterwards. Probably to cater to those who lack reading comprehension… he grumbles in his mind. At the very least he’d put forth a stipulation that said idiots couldn’t make one themselves if he’d made one on his own.

He puts his headphones in and types, reviewing the footage of the match. Task done, he stretches out and reads the report he’d compiled on this battle’s results.

12th Place: Diarmuid ua Duibhne, 17 points. Diarmuid was, all in all, ill prepared for this match. He came in with no magic, low durability, and the kind of personality that would get him killed. His compulsion to be conspicuously heroic, as seen in several moments during the Pursuit, most famously with Oisin’s chess game, ended up being his undoing. It left him ripe to be taken advantage of by someone more cunning.

11th Place: Panne, 19 points. Much like Diarmuid above, Panne’s equipment and powerset was lacking compared to her competitors, and her personality was ill-suited to take advantage of ambushes and dishonorable tactics. Her distrust of others helped her get a little father than Diarmuid, but her durability is too lacking to help in the straightforward battle situations she’d find herself in.

10th place: Godolf Auora, 26 points. Godolf’s armor and durability better allowed his straightforward approach, but this was still his weakness. He simply didn’t have enough power to back his honor – and against these opponents, overwhelming power is necessary.

9th place: Ayaka Ushigura, 40 points. Ayaka had explicitly superhuman abilities, namely strength, which allowed her to survive this long. Unfortunately, when confronted by the likes of the rest of the cast her straightforwardness was her downfall. She didn’t have enough raw power to place much higher than this, what with her personality and innate kindness.

8th place: Yukishiro Enishi, 53 points. Enishi’s personality lets him take better advantage of the situation, but he also doesn’t have many options outside a straightforward fight. His defenses are far too low for that, and he lacks any sort of ranged game or supernatural power. He ultimately places low due to this; the other combatants had equal or greater skill, and more power.

7th place: Hol Horse, 61 points. The Entire Equine made it this far solely due to his ability to partner up. At this stage of the game, though, alliances will start to fall apart. He doesn’t have the wherewithal to survive on his own. As Gabranth stated during the match, Hol Horse’s ability is extremely powerful, especially because the majority of people can’t see his Stand. He’s just too much of a buffoon to use it properly.

6th place: Gabranth, 67 points. Gabranth was one of the more unpredictable warriors, with him being able to go either way in terms of allies or just going alone. He’s a formidable defensive wall, with high offensive skills. However, that alone was not enough to win. His rage, a core part of his character, lead him to make reckless decisions, ones he isn’t strong enough to survive.

5th place: Angela Victoire Blendin, 76 points. Angela is the last of the straightforward fighters. She made it incredibly far thanks to her sheer power and combat skill, allowing her to overwhelm even the strongest of her foes here. Like those who placed in the lower/bottom tier, however, her personality makes her more susceptible to trickery and cunning strategy, which proves to be her downfall.

4th place: Michael Roa Valdamjong, 78 points. I’ll be frank, Roa doesn’t deserve to have placed this highly. He is far more impressive on paper than he is in any of his actual deeds. He only makes it this far because some voters constructed scenarios to his advantage, rather than looking at how the battle would actually play out. He would get a lot of mileage based solely on his hiding, but not as much as most think.

2nd place: Morrigan, 90 points. Morrigan is a force to be reckoned with, having by far the most versatile powerset in the tournament and the skill and guile to use them perfectly to her advantage. She strikes just the right balance of power, stealth, and manipulation, allowing her to blitz the competition she decides to fight. Unfortunately for her, this wasn’t enough to get her a win.

2nd place: Parcel, 90 points. Parcel has, by far, the lowest combat ability in the entire roster. Where she excels, however, is her ability to escape and hide, as well as an impressive amount of creativity. These both got her extremely far, but her lack of direct combat ability (despite what the sim shows; I made her a little more badass because she’s an awesome character and I like writing her) means she falls just short of victory.

1st place: Saruhiko Fushimi, 100 points. Fushimi has the most balanced skillset out of the warriors in this match, having decent power, stealth, and manipulative ability. This lets his corner and outfight people who are deficient in one of the two areas, while only really fighting when necessary. These traits gave him the win, and he deserves it.

(end music, if you so wish.)

Expert's Opinion[]

See The Hour of the Cat in the battle.

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