The universe is, to our knowledge, like one big spiderweb: a vast infrastructure of unique worlds, each one branched off of the last and kept connected by only a thin, spindly web that ties it all together. The residents of these universes possess a spark within them - an energy that has the ability to span the universe, bypassing the barrier that divides the world to connect them to their partner.
You live in the hub station of the universe; the utmost central point of it all. This universe is the place where the division is the thinnest, and where the connection from the other worlds come through - searching for their partner, people like you. Once they are found, and you and your partner are linked (often through dream), you gain a mark on your body that connects the two of you for life.
A sport has been made of this: Astral Battling. It is the biggest sport in the Centralverse, and to be a battler is an honor, but this has not always been so. Exactly sixty years ago, during the famed Galactic Tournament: - the biggest event in Astral Battling - tragedy struck. While the full scope of events that transpired are still a mystery, it is known that the entire event was saved from even worse tragedy by a participant of the tournament: Daylin Hakima, who held the title of champion for over fifty years after that. He held an undefeated reigned, and passed away of old age still undethroned.
Though, now that is a title of prestige and power, it was not always such. Less than a year after the events of that year, Astral Battling was deemed too dangerous, and outlawed across the world. This however, didn’t snuff out battling, of course, as underground battling circuits still went on strong. Exactly five years after it had been outlawed, a tournament was held in the underground, that would take the name of the Galactic Underground.
Though authorities had caught wind of such a tournament, they were unable to put an end to it until fifteen years had passed; and astral battling was fully shut down for five more years, until Daylin would lobby for their return, thus, reinstating the Galactic Tournament.
Forty years after the events of those days, here we are, with the famed Galactic Tournament. Though this may be the first time it’s happened in three years, the format is the same; the best battlers the world, and their sponsors, have to offer come together, clashing for a chance to fight the champion. And you… Each one of you, are within this mix.
These are characters that you may know, as famous battlers.
Name: Daylin Hakima
Status: Champion of the Ages - Deceased
Personality: He was known as a level-headed champion, and he never backed down from a challenge. Daylin didn’t let his status of “hero and champion” go to his head, and was much more humble than people expected. When asked what the hardest thing he ever had to do was, expecting the answer to involve his legendary effort to stop what occurred at the tournament, the champion laughed and told them that it was “proposing to his wife.”
World or Region: The Nomad Plains
Techniques: It would be easy to write an entire book on the different abilities Garlock used in over half a century of battling (in fact, someone has), but we will list his most prominent traits.
• Indomitable: Garlock was extremely resilient, and nearly impossible to take down.
• Powerful: Garlock was huge, towering, and solid muscle; he had the strength to rip whole trees from the ground to strike his opponent with them.
• Adaptable: He may have looked like he was missing a few crayons from the crayon box, but Garlock adapted to situations much faster than the average astral, and it kept him alive as often as his strength and spirit did.
Name: Clint Harrington
Status: Former Champion - Alive
Personality: Kind to his fans, Clint tried his best to please them and keep up with them the best he could during his time. He does not seem to hold any feelings one way or another about his loss two years ago.
Name: Masked Magician
World or Region: “My World”, an actual quote from him.
Masked Magic: The Magician fought with a combination of fire and ice; symbolized by the symbols on Clint’s left and right hands.
Super Move: Using the might of his magic, he creates a storm of fire into ice; alternating the used elements at will. It is not known if this attack truly had any known drawbacks to him.
Name: Conrad Merryweather
Status: Champion, Alive(?)
Personality: Working behind the scenes almost constantly, he never seems to really… See any of his fans; entering and leaving before they have the chance to speak with him, as a busy fellow.
The sun had gone down about an hour ago, yet the stadium had nearly lit the entire city up by itself. The roar of the crowd was loud enough to pierce the walls, even echoing to where most of you already stood - behind the stage. The room was fairly nice, with a line of comfy chairs and monitors so you could watch the games as they went on. It wasn't dissimilar to the small rooms they had provided your teams in the stadium, so you could go over briefing and strategy.
The opening ceremony had just started, signaled by the beat of the drums and the sound of the music. They had gotten a bit of a newer band, but one that showed promise and didn't charge as much to host the opening ceremony. As the door to the backstage opened, the music got deafeningly loud for half a second, before two staff members walked in, closing the door once again. They walked up and down between all of you, handing each of the participants that had already sat down a piece of paper.
The paper reads:
"I'm sure your teams have already gone over this, but just to make sure you understand this: You're supposed to go onto stage when it's your turn to battle, give a friendly handshake before and after, battle, maybe give a bit of wave or a gesture to the crowd, and then leave. Whatever you do, please do not try and speak to the crowd, especially if it involves taking a mic. We've... Heard stories. Fill free to talk to the other participants, before, or even while you're on stage. Heck, it'd probably look good if you said something to each other on stage."
The paper also, seems, to have had the first night's schedule:
"First match: Ashley Williams vs Aaron Stillen."
"Second Match: Steven Fukui vs Alexa Lockhart."
"Third Match: Hannah Bailey vs Jade Johnson."
"Fourth Match: Jasmine Kinkitsu vs Kyoko Valera."
"Fifth Match: Stella Harrison vs Heather Grayson."
"Sixth Match: Chloe Reed vs Joseph Williams."
"Seventh match: Clint Harrington vs Jessica Sinclaire."
But, that aside, it looks like you have some time before the event begins. Perhaps you should socialize, and talk to the other participants? You'll be seeing them a lot over the next five weeks.
This dinner rush is going to be the death of me! Aaron flipped several of the burgers on the grill over, struggling to hold back his coughing as the smoke stung at his eyes. They had him trying to do way too much at once; he was the only person cooking burgers for the entire joint, and he still had to take the fries out of the fryer.
"God, the fries!" He nearly dropped one of the burgers on the ground in his haste to turn around, splattering a bit of grease into the air, which landed on his arm. "Ow!" Aaron did, in fact, drop the spatula that time, cradling his stung arm to his chest and trying to wipe the grease off.
"What's taking so long?" The manager, an older man who had worked there longer than anyone bothered to remember, shouted from in front of the counter. "And what's that racket?!"
"Nothing! They're almost done, sorry!" Aaron yelled back, hurriedly throwing the spatula in the sink, already moving toward the fryer. He pulled the basket out, and to his great relief, the fries were only slightly overcooked. The majority of them were still crunchy, golden shards of greasy goodness. He didn't waste anytime throwing them onto plates by the handful, ready to be served up with the hamburger.
The waiter - a sweet, sixteen year old girl that looked just as flustered as him - took the orders as soon as she could, and Aaron heaved a sigh and gave himself a second to relax. When is he going to let me go? The normal dinner cook had called in sick that night, and so even though his shift was supposed to be done over an hour ago, he was still here. He glanced at the clock apprehensively. I'm gonna miss the match if I don't get out of here soon.
Just the thought of forfeiting his first match made Aaron's stomach turn. He had been working overtime to make sure he could afford to take the next two days off to train, and now it was probably all for nothing. He had come all this way just to be behind before it all started. "No, that's not gonna happen. I can still make it on time if I get going soon."
"Are you talking to yerself, kid?" His boss, standing in the doorway, glared at him like he had grown an extra head. "Y'know what, don't answer that. We got another guy in here, you can go ahead get gon--" By the time the man had looked up, Aaron was gone from behind the counter, and the door to the restaurant was swinging in the wind. His was work hat was lying on the floor, in the spot he had been moments before.
"THANKS, BOSS, I'LL PAY YOU BACK SOMEHOW!" Aaron hollered over his shoulder, squirming out of his work shirt, which had his sponsorship shirt beneath it. He did his best to keep running while he was changing, hopping on one foot at one point while he changed his shoes from the ugly, black no-slip shoes to his worn down sneakers: he still had a mile to go, and the match started in eight minutes!
Jessie put in a pair of earbuds with a huff when the music started. Definitely not her taste. She flipped through her text messages, noting one sent by her coach:
[Text: Scarlet] You’re not up for at least three hours, do whatever you want for the first hour then come back up to prep
A man in a black t-shirt labelled “GT Staff” tapped her on the shoulder. She pulled out an earbud and tinny sound of hard rock could barely be heard over the boom from outside. “Huh? What’s up?”
He handed her a piece of paper and moved on to the next person. “'I’m sure you teams have already gone over this,' blah blah blah, not important.” She shoved the paper into her coat pocket and returned to her phone. Another text came in, this one from her older brother:
[Text: Lucas] Good luck Jess. Mom wants you to Skype us after your match
[Text: Jessica] Thanks Luke. Will do
[Text: Lucas] I have a crush on Samus!
[Text: Jessica] Excuse me?
[Text: Lucas] I do not! The Brat got a hold of my phone when I wasn’t looking
[Text: Jessica] Of course ; )
[Text: Jessica] Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me
Jessie held back from bursting out into laughter while she texted her younger sister:
[Text: Jessica] *high five*
[Text: Sarah] HEHEHE
[Text: Sarah] Tomorrow I’m going to make “love” a shortcut for “think Samus is hotter than”
[Text: Sarah] So when he tells Riley “I love you”...
[Text: Jessica] XD
After a few more minutes, the music subsided and the announcers began talking about the first match-up: Sun Wukong vs Dovahkiin. Even if she didn’t have to get ready, Jessie only planned on watching the first two matches live. She got up and looked around, but Aaron wasn’t in the lounge. Odd. Maybe this Ashley person was instead? Jessie hadn’t seen him in the training room, and considering how she sometimes spent entire days there trying to meet everyone, figured he practiced off-site. It wasn’t very common, but she knew a few fighters who did. This might be the only time she would get to say hi to him. If she could find him, anyways.
Ash walked into the room with his team and looked around. He found a seat that said his name on it. There was one problem. Someone was sitting there already. He walked over, and pulled out his Nerf gun. 'You, you're in my seat. Move!" He pointed his gun at the unfortunate person's head.
"Oh, Ashley Williams! I'm so sorry, I was just warming it up..." The coward looked up and nearly turned white. Ash's face looked like the specter of death decided to park itself there. He shot the guy in the face, and holstered his gun, freeing his hand to grab the coward by the shirt collar.
"The name is Ash. Forget it next time, and you're going through a window." He tossed the man aside and sat down. His team sat around him with his teacher, Amadeus, sitting beside him. Amadeus looked disappointed, but spared the lecture for now. Ash was handed a paper, which he skimmed over and tossed aside.
"Someone get me a drink while I wait for my opponent."
Amadeus spoke, "No. Stay away from alcohol. It will impair your judgment next fight."
"Come one teach. I fight better when I'm liquored up.
"I said no! Just sit quietly and try not to make a fool of yourself."
Ash sighed and laid back. "Then can someone at least get me some water? Apparently there is a prohibition." Someone brought him a plastic cup with water in it. He drank it, pretending it was whiskey. He started to look a little more pissed, and would probably shoot off at the next person to speak to him.
Stage lights were blaring, the crowd was roaring in her ears like a wave of thunder. Much unlike her first step into the arena when she first began, Alexa drank in the attention with a smile...a crooked, quivering grin. Nope, she was never going to get over that sharp sting of stage fright, screw that. Where was Goldlock's blazing fire of confidence and pride when she needed it most?
In a matter of moments, her half-smile warped into a gritting of teeth, a pounding of her heart in her chest.
Practice spars were fine, but man, pressure drove her bonkers.
In an attempt to distract herself, she hastily wormed her phone out of her hoodie pocket. The case was custom made, hastily painted in sloppy copper acrylic. From the headphone jack, a small keychain hung, make out of vinyl, perhaps provided by a sponsor, in the form of a mechanical crab. A disgruntled groan was made in its direction, before she looked around at who had arrived.
Well, butter her buns and call her Paul Bean, it's--
"JADE! Jade, Jade..." There was a shout, a word, and then a mutter. The hand she had just jut out towards the purple hoodie-clad girl dropped. God, her anxiety had even leaked into her voice, making excitement sound like terror as though Jade had done something wrong. She had to correct herself, fast.
At the end of the line of people, a peculiar individual stood. Was it the way she stood? Was it the clashing colors and themes of her outfit? Her puffy jacket was a shade of navy blue, tufts of white fluff puffing up at the top...an urban rocker. Her shirt? A headphone-wearing smiley with Xs for eyes...trendy? Yet, she also wore checkered black and red stockings, and a eye-blaringly bright red skirt. Don't forget the spiked black leather boots to top off the gothic topic...everything blended out into a loud noise of color. Loud, yet quiet. A blaring silence. Masking her identity, a large cardboard box with antennae was upon this fellow's head, black circles cut out for eyes, and a triangle for the mouth...dials hastily drawn on the right side of her face in black crayon. There must have been a black mesh behind the holes, for the light did not touch her true features. Her head...her head looked like a child's craft project, to put it bluntly.
Her posture was straight up, feet out a little to the sides, hands balled into fists at her waists and her head dropping down. She stood perfectly still like a doll, or, maybe, like she was preparing to drop the hottest mixtape of all time. Perhaps the latter, considering her choice of attire. In front of her, there was a light blue backpack. This Japanese internet idol-looking fellow didn't appear much for conversation.
EXCITEMENT! There was a multitude of ways to describe what Hannah was feeling right now. If you could read her mind, this feeling would be everywhere you looked. Having played for one of the biggest clubs in England, Hannah had grown accustomed to the spotlight. This was, uh..."slightly" different. Instead of entertaining the crowd with some keepie-uppies and goals, tonight she would have the eyes of the world on her. Was that an exaggeration? If it was, it wasn't far from the truth. In her eyes, this tournament was just as big as the World Cup or the Olympics; if not, bigger. Ah, this is it. This is what she had been looking for. Not necessarily the spotlight. Sure, she loved to entertain the crowd, but that wasn't her only motivations. Hannah could finally meet new people; experience new cultures; and explore the world of course. She knew her dream was clichéd, but did she care? Not in the slightest! Tonight, she hoped to entertain many people. But uh...she was lost.
"Welp. That's just wonderful.", she sighed. She flipped her phone open to see if she'd got any messages. And of course. No new messages. She put her phone away and continued to walk for a while. Thankfully, it looked like there was someone there to greet her - a member of her sponsor team! "Finally! I was starting to get worried I'd shown up to the wrong place there. How are ya, sis?~", Hannah exclaimed, running over to greet her sister. Yes, that's right. Her sister.
"Ehh, not bad Han. Yourself?", she hugged her sister affectionately. Due to her recent battles, they hadn't seen each other for quite some time.
"Well, other than excited, quite tired I guess." she said, sounding quite exasperated. Even though she sounded tired, rest assured, Hannah would give her all when she finally got in there. "So, uh...How's mum and dad?" she asked, a slightly sombre expression on her face.
"They're...they're proud of you, Han. They're going to watch you tonight, so, don't worry about it, m'kay?", she said, reassuring her sister.
"Thanks, Lex." she said, smiling sadly. "A-Anyway, where do we go from here?".
A loud fanfare of cheers and jeers filled the whole stadium. The noise was enough to drive anyone deaf, sending chills down Hannah's spine. Even whilst playing with Arsenal, she hadn't been in front of this many people before. Usually, she'd play in front of about 20,000 people in a final, but this was...an impressive crowd. People sure loved to see their heroes, didn't they? She could emphasise with that, of course. When Hannah was younger, she went to a lot of Arsenal games, and has even got a shirt signed from her favourite player. Of course, seeing her heroes play inspired her to play herself. Right now, they still had a while to go before the games begun, so she had some time to...socialise! Socialise...! Socialise...? Everyone seemed to have their eyes glued to the seemingly endless amount of monitors, 'cept for a few. Well then. Seems like most of the contestants were here. "Better find a seat--", Hannah mumbled to herself. Not wanting to sit down at an empty table and thus seeming like an anti-social outcast, Hannah forced herself to pick a seat. Just then, she heard someone shout "Jade"...It was probably the same Jade that she'd be facing soon. She looked towards the source of the voice. A girl, roughly her own age, shouted. Once she had locked on, she homed right in for the goal.
"You!...Who are you?!", she asked enthusiastically to the blonde girl.
Unconsciously sleeping in one of the chairs, Jade had set an alarm to wake her up roughly around when it was her time to fight. Why did her team insist on pulling all-nighters before every match...? She was awoken as she heard someone call her name. Several times. Her eyes cracking open to see Alexa, she gave a small wave as they said hello, before noticing that someone else was walking up; perhaps it would be better if she didn't intrude on that conversation.
As the event continued on, the music finally quieted down, and the announcer began to give a speech. You could hear each of your names called, but it doesn't seem like it was time for you to go out yet. He's most likely just giving introductions. You still have a bit of time before the first match.
Stay calm, Alexa. Stay cool, we're all friends here... 'cept the monkey man. Man, that monkey could just screw off for all she cared of in the multiverse right now. Now? Now, she'd have to get an entirely new super move, to add insult to injury! But...how? Maybe she'll just screw herself up spectacularly. Yeah, that seemed legit.
"Jade! Good to see you here! E-excited for the big game tonight? I suuuurre am!--"
What's this? Conversation turned down by her best-so-far friend? Blasphemous! Unacceptable! This was it, the funeral of her dignity! Oh what a world, oh, what a night! ...Oh? Something was behind her? Knowing Jade, what could possibly be more amusing than the thought of catching shuteye? Well, she'll be. What the heck was just so--
"You!...Who are you?!"
The jab of conversation smacked her in the head like a rake, causing her to violently flinch and whip around on a heel to face the individual, as though expecting to finally face the bittersweet embrace of death. Though, fortunately, it never came.
Introductions were never her strong point, no matter how bubbly and cheerful-eyed the drinker of her details happened to be. Hopefully, a half-assed dabble of speech would be enough to get the point across and leave her with time to be alone with her thoughts again. Last time she tried to introduce herself to somebody, she exploded.
"Eh-- uh... Alexa." Syllables fell out clumsily from the face framed by locks the color of a mustard disaster. Clearly, she was experiencing great difficulty in keeping up sociable prowress, lips twisted in a half-smile. All in all, she really sounded like she couldn't wait to go home after all this. "...Counterpart of Goldlock, sits in room and feels like garbage. Yuuup, that's me. 'Sup, kiddo?" In all it's juiciest details, the truth was delivered in a sigh. Whoops.
From what she's been told, Ashley wouldn't be difficult for Jessie to spot in a crowd: burly, muscular, missing an arm, and carrying a shotgun. She didn't really believe that last part. Who brings a shotgun to an Astral battle? Aside from the Astral. Ah well. After about a minute, she found him sitting with what was probably his team. The stub where an arm should be was a dead give-away. No one else she saw had any missing limbs and . . . well, he actually did carry a shotgun. Damn. How'd he get away with that? He was looking pretty focused at the moment, probably getting "in the mood" for his next fight, so Jessie didn't bother interrupting him. They could talk after his match.
Speaking of the match, where's Aaron? He's going up in a couple minutes, but a no-show means he forfeits the match. That would leave a really bad impression for his first fight. Jessie pulled out her phone to text him. She wasn't paying much attention while walking back to her seat and accidentally stepped on a girl's foot. "Oh gosh, sorry about that!" she said to her. "I was on my phone and didn't bother looking up." The girl was about the same height as Jessie, maybe a bit shorter, and had dark green hair. An odd choice, but she couldn't really say much with her own hair colour. "Pretty smooth, right?"
Ash was nursing that water, trying his best to remember what his favorite whiskey tasted like. But all he tasted was disappointment. "So, what do you guys have on this Aaron person"
"Well, his astral is Wukong. He has a tendancy to make clones out of his fur, and he wields a weapon called the Ruyi Jingu Bang."
Ash snickered at the weapon name. Sounds like he just got a new nickname for his lower member. "Anything else?"
Amadeus closed his eyes and and pulled up a small report. "At least read this before you start asking more questions. The team writes these to give you insight."
"Fine," Ash took the paper in his hand and began to read it. "But I tell ya, reading is not my strong point. Can't you guys add pictures, preferably in pop-up form?" He took note of one thing. Wukong could transform, and it was where his power would drop. 'Perfect, I already know I can beat him."
"Do not underestimate your foe Ash. There are reasons why this astral is equal to heaven. Don't let your guard down for a second."
"Yeah, yeah. Look, you retired after losing to the strongest fighter in the world. I'm still young and spry. I got this, piece of cake, in the bag, and everything that means I have this. Now, can I have that whiskey I wanted?"
Amadeus began to pinch the bridge of his nose, sighing in disappointment. "No, Ash. You act more of a child than my grand son."
Ash laughed and fired a nerf dart at a fly buzzing around for some reason. It hit the mark, knocking the creature out of the air. "I still got it."
In hindsight, maybe she was a bit too hasty with her sudden confrontation. It sounded more like a challenge rather than a friendly introduction. Ah well. There was no point in worrying about it now. In fact, the girl who turned around looked infinitely more worried than Hannah did. Her awkward smile didn't seem to help either. Wait a second...was this?!
"Oh, I remember you! You were at last year's tourney, right? God, how could I forget such a clumsy girl like you?", she shouted, enthusiastic to finally meet her. She remembered watching Alexa and Goldlock on the big screen last year. At first the underdogs, they actually proved themselves to be a worthy opponent. Well, you don't get into the tournament for nothing. That's for sure. Still, she couldn't believe she was actually meeting her in the flesh. If Hannah remembered correctly, Alexa would be playing against Steven Fukui. She had to admit, she didn't know much about this Steven character but she was sure that Alexa would give him a good game. Okay, so, Hannah might be a total fangirl, but who cares?! Anyway--
Noticing her voice was rather deafening, she tried to talk a little quieter. "Hey, Alexa! I'm Hannah... Bailey." she said as if almost forgetting her second name for a second. Eh, it happened. "Um...it's nice to meet you Alexa!", she whispered this time. She outstretched a hand, smiling brightly at the girl. Hopefully, she hadn't scared her off by this point. That would really suck.
Yawning as Alexa began to say something about being excited for the game, Jade gave a subtle nod as she leaned her head back in the chair, trying to get some sleep. "Yeah... Yeah, I'm excited." She muttered, before slowly dozing off once again... Only to be awoken near immediately as a foot collided with her own... Painfully hard. As they muttered something trying to explain themselves, she merely brought her feet up to rest her head on her knees, wincing for a moment before opening her eyes. "Yeah... Real frickin' smooth.
As the event continued, Stella paced in circles; almost oblivious to the rest of the participants. Instead, she seemed to be going over several papers of written strategy, before sighing; stuffing them into the pockets of her jacket as she began to shuffle around. "I can't just... Go over strategy the entire time. I'll be too nervous by the time I get up there if I do that... No, maybe... I should try talking to someone, try getting my nerves to calm down. Who doesn't seem to be too busy...? Ah, maybe her...?" Shuffling up to the girl with the box over her head, Stella cleared her throat, glancing around as she looked around. "So... Excited for the tournament...?"
As the announcer's speech came to an end, there was an audible pause, before the crowd went wild; the screens in the backroom all lighting up, displaying the astral profiles for Ashley Williams' very own Dovahkiin, and Aaron Stillen's Wukong. A speaker cut in, in the back room; his voice coming through crystal clear. "GET READY, FOR THE FIRST MATCH OF THE DAY! It's Aaron Stillen, versus Ashley Williams! Come on stage, guys!"
Wait, what?! No, it's Ash! ASH!
He bolted out of the room before Amadeus could talk sense into him. He was fuming. How dare someone say his proper name without his permission. He got onto the stage, and pulled his nerf gun on the announcer.
"You got some nerve!"
He fired a dart right at the guys head. He then holstered his gun quick, expecting a fight.
"You better be feeling lucky tonight."
He walked to the sync station while flipping the bird.
Aaron was close enough to see the entrance of the Galactic Stadium now. The building was a shining star in the otherwise dark city, easily discernible from miles around, and he was close enough to hear the music blasting with deafening force. His muscles burned like he hadn't felt in the last two years, and his lungs screamed for him to slow down and breathe, but the thought of being late was enough to give him his second wind.
The looming figures of two tall men wearing black jackets that read "SECURITY" in big, bold yellow letters blocked the entrance. Aaron knew he wasn't supposed to enter through here - the competitors had a special entrance in the back that lead directly to their waiting room - but he could hear the announcer calling for the first contest and knew he didn't have time to loop around the big building.
"Sorry fellas, no time to explain!" Aaron burst through the entrance. The two men lunged at him and tried to grab him, but he ducked under their outstretched arms, stumbled for a second and then kept running. He was in the final stretch now, and he wasn't going to lose this tournament before he had ever even made it to the starting line.
"Aaron Stillen, please report to the sync station! I repeat, please report to the sync station! This is your last chance before you forfeit the match!" The announcer's voice was even louder now that he was inside the building, where every wall had a huge speaker tacked up to it. Aaron weaved through the crowd of people standing around in the lobby, yelling apologies for bumping them as fast as he could while simultaneously staying a step ahead of the security guards. They were following him now, and they were taking none of the precautions to not run people over.
He careened into a doorway, and stopped dead in his tracks. This was the stadium: every inch lit up by lights, ever single extra space covered by gigantic monitors that were playing runs of past battles and advertisements, a live band playing on stage and every single seat filled - an accomplishment that blew his mind, because he knew the Galactic Stadium held well over 100,000 people. He could even see the sync station, with a huge man (who he assumed to be Ash Williams, his opponent) standing on the left side, tapping his foot impatiently.
"I'm here! I'm not forfeiting!" Aaron shouted, leaping over the blockade that had been set up to divide where the spectator seats ended and the arena began. He sprinted over to the sync station Ash was at and doubled over, his hands on his knees as he greedily sucked in the air he had been denying his lungs. "Sorry I'm late, I got caught up at -"
Before he could finish his sentence a security guard crashed into him, and he was slammed into the ground. "No! No, I'm supposed to be here! I have an ID, I just was late and I couldn't take the normal entrance and - " he continued to stutter an incoherent explanation, rummaging through his shirt pocket and pulling out an ID that matched his name and description.
(Really struggled with this post. To clarify: Aaron entered through the spectators area, if that wasn't clear. The reason he got tackled by the security guard was 1.) he didn't present an ID, and 2.) any competitor is supposed to come through the backstage area.)
Almost immediately, a staff member came running out from the backstage, pulling the security officer off of Aaron almost immediately. "That's him! That's him! Jenkins, get off of him! God damn it Jenkins, I said get off him!" He yelled, until the security officer eventually got off of him.
As she was babbled to about her performance through her years, the slightest shred of pride bubbled up from her quivering heart, translating into...possibly the least photogenic grin to ever grace mankind, crooked and kinked like a bent out bike chain.... Until the comment about her clumsiness. Yes, that part was quite true.
It then swooped down upon her, the grim realization that she had never truly mentally prepared herself to interact with fans this up-close. Well, fan and soon-to-be opponent some time in the future. In return to the outstretched hand, she reached out her right, a worn-out black glove that was well-loved and cared for over the years, the occasional amateur stitching job done here and there. "Pleasure to be with you, Hannnnna." Lifting a brow, Alexa drew out the name, as though unsure of the pronunciation.
From the moment she released her grip, the crowd roared, signifying the beginning of the first round. "...Pull up a chair, we're going to be here a while." Though it was highly uncharacteristic of her, she secretly could not wait to see the monkey king's cranium caved in. Was it out of spite, perhaps? Highly likely. The screens shot on all around them. A portrait of both fighters, then a flicker to their astrals, splash screens sliding past eachother. While the stats for their astrals began to scroll across the monitors, the blonde searched for the nearest chair, deciding to scoot right up next to Jade. After all, she seemed the most trustworthy, here.
One moment, she was standing as still as a stick in the mud. The next, she sprung to life as though an invisible power switch on her back had been flipped, her head jerking up to face the one that had addressed her. The hollow drumroll of cardboard rattled against her head, the triangle-cut mouth seeming to gape in childish curiosity. Though, not like it ever displayed any other expression, of course.
"Golly, am I? AM I?!" Her voice was bubbling over the brim with enthusiasm, like a cheerleader that had been on the receiving end of one too many Redbulls. Every move she took was full of bounce and lively stride, as though every day of her life was a cheesy drama performance she had been over millions of times, yet the box stayed securely on despite being far too wide for her head. Around, she circled the one that approached her. "Don't you know me, young lady?" A pose was struck, hands at where her ears would be. "It is I, the hottest internet sensation!" With the next step, her hands upon her hips as she leaned in. "With one fell swoop, my name sweeped the nation!" Another pose, and another. She was nearly back to her starting position behind the backpack. "I'm the pop star idol that all the freshest kids know! Now, if you don't mind me, when I get through those doors at my turn, I'LL be the new star of the show! ...Implying this show, too. Just you wait and see, darling!~" Mind it also be mentioned that she swapped through a pallet of accents and voices for each sentence? What an odd, abstract young girl.
Aaron brushed himself off, doing his best to make himself presentable. He pulled his beanie down more over his head, and straight his unbuttoned flannel to make sure that his sponsorship symbol was still visible beneath it.
"Sorry for the misunderstanding, Jenkins," He rubbed the back of his neck, his cheeks stained by an embarrassed blush. "I'll make sure to be here on time - and in the right place - next time."
Without waiting for a response, Aaron pivoted on his heel and sprinted onto the stage. He could feel thousands of eyes staring at him and judging him, and it made the hair on the back of his neck stand up out of sheer fear, so he chose to focus on his opponent instead. "Hey, man, sorry I was late! Hope we can still get off on the right foot... Ashley, was it?" Aaron thought it was a weird name for such a huge, intimidating guy.
While he was talking, he hurriedly punched in his information into the console, doing his damnedest to make up for lost time. He didn't even take time to marvel at how cool it all was, like he normally did. It pulled up a 3D image of Sun Wukong on top the Nimbus Cloud, with his name above his head in bold orange letters, and displayed his strengths, weaknesses, and abilities beneath that. "Ready whenever you are."
Ash punched in his info, and the dragonborn appeared above him with the info. Ash also fired a dart at Aaron, but his aim was off this time.
"It's Ash. Don't forget it".
He took a seat and synced in. Everything was dark for a while, but he knew he would be in his prime form in just a moment.
The abrupt hostility caught Aaron off guard, and he could only blink as the foam bullet whizzed over his shoulder, hit something behind him, and fell to the ground. Uh... Was he really that upset I was late? The puzzle pieces clicked together in his mind when Ash corrected him on the name. Oh. Can't say I blame him for wanting to use a nickname.
Aaron nodded and laughed the attack with the Nerf gun off. "Oh, my bad! I've gotcha man!" Ash didn't seem to acknowledge him (or maybe even care) about the apology, and instead took his seat and synced in. Aaron swiftly did the same, not wanting to hold the contest up anymore. He felt the familiar tug that ebbed at his mind increase, and he let it take him, descending into darkness.
Sun Wukong VS Dovahkiin: 1st half
Sun Wukong hovered at the summit of the arena, sitting cross-legged on top of the Nimbus Cloud. The breeze jostled him from his soundless rest, and he opened his eyes, admiring the view from so high in the sky. The forest below looked like it was built out of baby trees; they seemed so small from so high in the sky, and - was that a warrior?
The Dragonborn synced in, landing on his two feet in a clearing. He took quick note of his surroundings, a perfect circle of trees and a dense growth towards the north. He awaited Wukong and the signal to fight.
The Monkey King’s lips curled in a smile. On his whim, the Nimbus Cloud descended at a rapid pace and headed in the direction of The Dragonborn. “Greetings, horned warrior! I am the Great Sage, Equal of Heaven! Who are you?”
“Finally, a worthy opponent. I am Dovahkiin, lost bloodline of Tiber Septim, and slayer of dragons. Might I ask of your name Great Sage so that I may have the bards sing of it for ages to come.” He readied his sword, and had Oakflesh cast to take on the look of wood.
“Songs about me?” Sun Wukong posed to puff out his chest and make himself appear more grand. “I am Sun Wukong, the Monkey King!”
“No you’re not, I am!” A voice said from behind Dovahkiin, and another Sun Wukong hopped around excitedly. “Don’t listen to this impostor!”
“Silence, both of you!” Another voice, identical to the first two, shouted. “I am the real Sun Wukong and I will not listen to you fools slander my name!”
The three bipedal, anthropomorphic monkeys continued to argue rather loudly - and boisterously - over which of them was the real one, completely ignoring The Dragonborn in their angry tirade.
The Dragonborn wasn’t phased in the slightest. The only way a strong opponent will fight is if you show your strength to them. "WULD!” He dashed towards the three monkeys, slicing at all of them in one go. They all disappeared in a puff of smoke. “So it was an illusion. No warrior would be so blind to turn their back on their foe.”
“Where do you think the real Handsome Monkey King is?” Sun Wukong said from behind Dovahkiin. He was standing upside down on the Nimbus Cloud, his head eye-level with the horned helmet the warrior wore. “Wait! That’s me!”
He dropped off of his cloud and righted himself mid-air, landing nimbly on his feet. “Why did you have to destroy all of me so fast? Couldn’t you have left them alive for a little longer?”
The Dragonborn jumped from the voice behind him. Another illusion, or was this the real one? “A tricky one aren’t you? I had to see for myself. Fought many a mage who made magical clones.” The Dragonborn cast Magelight at his foe, a bright ball of light came from his hands at a quick speed. He followed it, ready to strike once it landed.
Wukong brought the Ruyi Jingu Bang up (which he was gripping with his tail) to block the overhead strike from the sword of eternal cold. He wasn’t even paying attention to the battle, though, more curiously poking at the light stuck to his chest. “What’s this? A wisp of light?” He tried to create a clone, but the light stuck to him, revealing him as the true Sun Wukong. “That’s not fair! You’re taking the fun out of it!”
“Call it a tactical measure.” The dragonborn's voice had changed. It sounded arrogant, and a little unsettling. “You want to talk fair? They told me you could make clones. So I waited for you to play around like the child you are.” He moved in, screaming "Wuld!" to close the gap and tried to land a kick on the monkey king.
The kick struck Wukong’s breastplate with enough force to launch him into the air and leave it with a dent. He managed to land on his feet in a low-lying branch of one of the trees, but he didn’t look all that winded. The Monkey King scratched at his chin curiously. “What else did they tell you about me? Did they mention how Handsome I was?”
“They said you smelled like ass.” The dragonborn had to keep up the pace. That kick was impressive, but it would be a bit before whirlwind sprint could be used. He came under the tree. "Hey Monkey King.” The dragonborn slapped his ass and started to hoot and holler.
Wukong clapped his hands together. “Oh! Are we doing party tricks?” He squeezed his eyes shut tightly, and grew two more heads, four more arms, and was suddenly holding three Ruyi Jingu Bang. “What do you think of this?”
Dova placed one foot on the trunk of the tree, and raised the other while shouting Wuld. He ramped up the side of it, getting on the same level as Wukong, and taking a swipe with his sword from the side at his foe. “Not even that scary buddy. I got a handy from five chicks at once.”
“But I’m a Monkey with six arms!” The Sage moved all six arms, creating a wall of Ruyi Jingu Bang in front of him. The sword bounced harmlessly off of the defensive move. “Watch this!” He brought all three of the poles around simultaneously to swing at the Dragonborn’s midriff.
“Oomph” The Dragonborn was sent flying into another tree, falling towards the ground. “Nope, can’t fly…” He slammed his sword into the trunk to slow his descent. The bark froze when the blade entered, but gave him a good hold. “That hurt more than I thought it would. Was pretty sure his power drops in that form.” He would have to yell at the research department later about it. He climbed down the tree, but was a still a little winded.
Wukong snapped his fingers and all of his extra heads, arms, and Ruyi Jingu Bang’s returned to the normal form. “The Great Sage is hard to catch off guard!” He shouted (to nothing in particular) and hopped off the branch to land in front of the Dragonborn. “Ready for the real fun to start?”
“You better believe it.” The dragonborn ran forward and yelled Wuld once again, spear tackling his foe while screaming, “I don’t go down that easily either!”
Whoever this girl was, she didn't look very open to conversation. Jessie smiled apologetically and continued on, leaving her phone in her pocket this time. But she still didn't know where Aaron was...
The crowd exploded.
The combatant's names were announced and Ashley - er, Ash - bolted through the stage doors. And Aaron still wasn't here. Jessie elbowed her way through the crowd of battlers surrounding the screens. Just in time to watch Aaron fly into the stadium, sprint to his station, and get tackled by a guard. “Well,” she muttered, “at least he showed up.”
Ash didn't look like the friendliest competitor, but watching his Astral and Sun Wukong banter each other was fun to watch. They seemed to be an even match for each other, too. It was too early to tell who would win.
Amused by the girl's slight mispronunciation of her name, Hannah tried to contain a small giggle by putting a hand over her mouth. "No, the pleasure's all mine.", she said, grinning. Judging from how loud the crowd was getting, it appeared as though the first match was about to start. Nodding at Alexa's other comment, she followed the girl and sat down beside her. With eyes glued to the screen, she wondered who was going to win the match. It was thoroughly entertaining so far. The wisecracks and the banter had the crowd in stitches, including herself too. Their boyish behaviour made them quite the the pair of crowd pleasers. Out of curiosity, Hannah wondered who Alexa was rooting for. She decided to ask, because why not?
"Hey, Alexa, who do you want to win?", Hannah asked, curiously. To be honest, she didn't care who won. As long as it was entertaining it'd be enough for her. Although if she had to pick one person for victor, Aaron would be Hannah's pick. The way he arrived late, with those guards chasing him was just perfect. Someone just play Yakety Sax over that, please. Guaranteed YouTube viral video right there.
Alexa LockhartThe entire display was watched with a blank face, or so it may be implied, as the thick rolling curtains of golden locks made it difficult to read her expression from the side. Of course, it should be obvious. The false smile remained plastered to her features, only slipping away when she caught sight of Wukong's new abilities.
'Wait! That's bullshi--!' She wanted to cry out, though no words fell forth, as she feared a punishment may be put in place for carelessly tossing foul language out like anthrax-dusted rose petals. Instead, there was a lurch forth from her seat...and then a slow settling back down. There really wasn't a peaceful way to put this together.
Of course she wanted the monkey man to be blasted to smithereens! For private reasons she would not pack down upon her new aquaintance. Though, the comment regarding a handy from five women finally got a gross, nasal cackle from her. "Nnnheheh. From lady bugs, perhaps." Was it simply just in her to lay down the burns? Perhaps that polar opposite of a personality astral fit her better than once thought. Was it-- Oh, god. Their partnership was forged by puns. That had to be it.
Sun Wukong VS Dovahkiin: Part 2
Wukong was a veteran at fighting trained martial artist and reading the body language of his opponent, but he was too busy taunting to notice the tackle until it was far too late to dodge. It lifted him off of his feet and knocked the wind out of him, and he ate the dirt hard enough that there was a loud CRACK that he was sure was one of his ribs shattering, because there was suddenly a sharp and throbbing pain in his abdomen. “Plegh!” He spat the mouthful of dirt and grass out into the Dragonborn’s face, and sharply brought his knees up to smash into the Dragonborn’s chest in an attempt to seesaw him off.
“Aarrgh, I’m blind!” The Dragonborn was pushed off and landed on his back. He was scrambling to his feet while trying to clear his eyes, somewhat panicked. “You’re dead you damned ape. Dead!” He swung wildly, seeing everything as a blur.
The Monkey King kicked back up to his feet quickly, unable to hold back a heavy grunt of pain as his full weight was brought down onto his wound. He easily swept the desperate attack away with a flourish of his staff, knocking the Dragonborn off of his balance, and the immediately followed up with a heavy blow to the stomach, snapping one foot forward and twisting his hip to achieve the full power of the swing.
The Dragonborn was knocked onto his ass again, but this time he decided to do something risky. He pushed up from his position towards the direction his foe just hit him. “WULD” he shouted, careening towards Wukong and balling up. He decided to cannonball this bastard if it was the last thing he would do.
Sun Wukong started to somersault over Dovahkiin, his muscles bunched and already bending at the knee to launch himself into the air, but the pain in his side flared white hot before he could and he seized up, gasping in pain. The blow hit him square on the chest and his breastplate shattered, and he was propelled into the trunk of an ancient tree that was behind them. He collided into it with enough force that the tree gave an agonized groan and slowly began to tilt on top of him. Sun Wukong reflexively raised his left arm to try and shield himself from the crushing weight, which proved to be a mistake, because the bone snapped like a dry twig. The Monkey King was buried completely under the tree, just the very end of his right hand and his feet poking out.
“Holy poop that actually worked?” The Dragonborn got up from the ground, a little tired, but not done. “You got more tricks marmoset? Or are you actually done for? Guess not seeing as your hairy ass is still here.” He inched towards the flattened primate, sword pointed at where Wukong’s torso should be beneath the tree.
“YOU DARE TO STRIKE THE GREAT SAGE, EQUAL OF HEAVEN?” Sun Wukong’s voice was like rolling thunder, booming out from every single corner of the arena like he was everywhere. “I’LL SHOW YOU, FOOL!” He lifted the tree off of the ground with a single arm and held it above his head and threw it at Dova, cradling his limp and injured arm close to his chest.
The Dova tucked and rolled out of the way. “Guess playtime is over!” He was smiling. “This is what I’ve been waiting for.” He tossed his sword aside. It already proved to be useless against Wukong. He was going balls out with this one. “Hey, Mankey King! MUL QAH DIIV!” With the utterance of his Dragon Aspect shout, the dragonborn was coated in armor resembling a dragon. The power seemed to explode from him. He ran towards his foe to fight mono-a-mono. “Fight me like a man!” He went with a left hook, and would try to follow it with a right haymaker.
Sun Wukong easily sidestepped the left swing, and caught the right in the palm of his good hand; the sheer strength of the blow was enough to drive him back several inches, and he was forced to dig his feet into the ground to hold out. “I am no man, mortal. I am much more, for I am the Monkey King!” The sky above parted and made way for a regal golden cloud that zoomed down toward them, and Wukong somersaulted above the treetop to land on top of it. “Witness my true strength!”
The Sage raised the Ruyi Jingu Bang above his head with a single hand as the cloud rose into the sky. It began to grow and widen at an immeasurable rate, and did not slow until it was twice the length and width of any tree in the arena, and probably ten times heavier. It stretched so high into the sky that it eclipsed the sun and threw an entire portion of the forest into a seemingly unending darkness, and yet he still managed to control it with a single hand. It looked like he was holding a skyscraper above him. “Never challenge the Great Sage, Equal of Heaven again!” He bellowed and channeled all of his strength and rage and pain into this final strike. The Nimbus Cloud hurtled toward the ground like a falling golden meteor, and Sun Wukong swung the staff down at Dovahkiin.
“You should dodge.” The dragonborn spoke in the back of his mind, but Ash had a better plan. “Nope, we’re catching that, and we’re gonna send it back to him” He raised his hands up and caught the pole, but it was a lot heavier than he thought. "WULD!” He tried to use the force of the shout to push back, but it only caused the ground around him to crack. “WULD!” A second time, but it still refused to stop. "WULD!” he slowed it down, could this be it? No, maybe one more time. "WULD!” Now he was pushing back, but it’s not enough. One shout, he had to make a choice. "WULD!” With that last word, he pushed to staff to the side of him, and jumped. The earth beneath him began to give way, and he made a mad dash towards safety. His armor would wear out any moment. Steady ground was just a few feet away…
The force of the staff hitting the ground shook the arena with the force of two planets colliding, and the entire forest trembled and the earth shook. Every tree for a mile was ripped away by their roots like a leaf blown in the wind, and a huge storm of dust had completely overtaken the section of the forest like a bomb had gone off, making it impossible to see anything but shadows. Sun Wukong knew he was in trouble. With his magic gone the Nimbus Cloud gave way beneath him, and the Ruyi Jingu Bang started to fade into oblivion. He was falling through the air, fast, and hit the ground beside the crater his attack had caused, making a much smaller version of it himself. “Eegh. . .” He groaned, but the combined will of astral and battler was enough to keep it together and stay synced. They had to win their first match.
With a gargantuan display of determination and grit, Sun Wukong climbed to his feet. His fur was matted to his flesh by blood and sweat and dust, his armor lie around him in ruined and fragmented pieces, and his broken arm still hung limply at his side.. He inhaled raspily, and coughed more blood into his good hand. “F-face the Great Sage, coward!” He roared to the sky with half of his normal volume, but all of his normal charm, his eyes narrowed to look for the shadow of a figure through the dust. He may have been weaponless and injured, but he had trained in Martial Arts longer than his fool of an opponent had been alive. He slid into an advanced offensive stance he knew utilized kicks more like second nature, and glanced around suspiciously.
Though the Dragonborn’s armor wore off, he wasn’t going to back down. His sword was good as gone, his magic pool was out, and all he had were steel covered fists. “You got one thing wrong about me friend. I’m no coward.” He went in with both fists clenched. He went with a right jab, and would follow with a straight kick to the sternum. “Let’s do this like grown folks do!” There was a look of respect on the dragonborn’s face.
Wukong weaved away from the first punch, but the immediate kick caught him off guard and he was sent reeling back a foot. What martial art style was this? There was no finesse to it, no display of skill; it was just brute strength and force. He could do the same. The Monkey King struck out at Dovahkiin with a feigned open-palmed strike at his chest meant to bait him into a false defense, and then quickly launched into a pattern of complex attacks directed at his stomach and face.
The Dragonborn fell for the bait and the other attacks landed perfectly, causing him to stumble back a few feet.. He still had enough in him to keep going, so he sent a punch into the stupid monkey’s face.
Wukong avoided the hit by barely an inch, and he felt the wind from it rush over his ear as it sailed by. He quickly forced the Dragonborn away with a roundhouse kick, desperately looking for an opening he could abuse before he was gassed. He was easily the more skilled of the two in hand-to-hand, but he had taken the brunt of the pain their first fight.
Dova kept coming, and responded with a kick of his own. Wukong saw his opening and tucked to the side to avoid the kick, then smashed a kick of his own into the side of Nord’s unarmored knee. There was a loud snap. The Dragonborn screamed in agony, and collapsed to one knee, but tried to endure it and get a punch in. Wukong caught the slow punch with his good hand, and then kicked him in his remaining knee. Dovahkiin fell to the ground, but planted both hands firmly into the soil and tried to push himself up. He refused to lose to an overgrown chimp. “I told you… I don’t go down that easy.” He had a plan, but didn’t know if it would work.
Sun Wukong spoke with a smirk, “Improve your skill! Then find me again.” The Monkey King went to end the fight, but the Dragonborn somehow managed to power through all of the pain and rise from the ground and launch himself in one final attempt to hit Wukong with his elbow.
Sun Wukong—tired of the same game and still in excruciating pain—pivoted on his heel and executed the most powerful reverse-roundhouse kick he could muster. The heel of his foot caught the Dragonborn hard on the jaw before he could reach him, and Dova’s momentum worked against him as his head snapped to the side fast enough to give him whiplash. The ground rushed up to meet him, and it was finally enough to put him away. Dovahkiin de-synced.
WINNER: Sun Wukong
Aaron de-synced but remained in his seat dumbly for a minute. His entire body ached as if he had been the one to take the metaphorical train that Dovahkiin had run over Sun Wukong. Instinctively he held the arm that had been broken close to his chest to protect it, and kept the foot that had been hurt in the last strike off of the ground. The crowd was roaring louder than he had ever heard, but it was like he was in a completely different place. None of this seemed real: how could he have won? Everything had been stacked against him.
In the arena, Ash was rubbing his jaw. “I can still feel that. Good game kid.” He put his hand out to shake Aaron’s hand. Normally he shoots his opponent in the face with his nerf darts, but he had nothing but respect for this guy.
Ash’s hand being shoved into his face broke Aaron out of his trance. “Thanks man, you too! I really thought you had us when that tree broke Wukong’s arm, and I’ve never seen anyone try to lift the Nimbus Strike like that!” The teenager looked like lightning trapped inside of a bottle: contained, but bouncing around and desperate to get out. Aaron was struggling not to start dancing around the stage to celebrate. “Great fight thou-....”
Ash walked off the stage, his team meeting him “Good fight Ash. We’ll go over the footage and consult Amadeus.” Ash put his hand up, “Fine, but do your research a little better for my next opponent. I don’t want to go in thinking their weakened and get knocked into another damn tree. If you guys need me, I’ll be down the street at the bar.” The team tried to stop him, but he just shoved them aside and kept walking. “Amadeus isn’t going to like this.” One said. Another simply shook their head and motioned the others to head back to the suite for analysis.
Aaron followed Ash off of the stage after awkwardly being ignored, but instead of exiting he headed to the battler area backstage where the rest of the competitors would have seen the battle. He was used to celebrating success with a team, and even though he didn’t have one here. . . maybe he could find a friend or two to enjoy the victory with him? That was the plan at least.
Jessie crossed her arms and shook her head The Dovakhin raised his hands to catch the Riyu Jingu Bang. “It’s not gonna work,” she muttered. The staff crashed into the earth, his attempts only delaying it, as he dived away. “He should’ve dodged. He would’ve been fine if he dodged.” His shouting wouldn't have saved him from the shock wave, but that was nothing compared to the staff itself. She was surprised he could still walk away.
But Wukong might not.
Aaron narrowly lost his first match against Jessie. Wukong knocked Samus down and winded her. There was no way she could dodge the massive Riyu Jingu Bang, so she activated her own super move to save herself. Wukong might have centuries of experience, but Aaron only had two years. Jessie’s been with Samus for six. They took the full force of the super move and had just enough energy to shoot Wukong out of the sky. After they fell, Aaron couldn’t take any more and desynced.
That felt like ages ago. They practiced for hours every day after that fight. Jessie dragged him through hell and back again to ready him for the tournament. When Wukong went down, Aaron had to get back up.
And there he was. The Monkey King clambered out of the crater, not fully strong, but still alive. Still synced. But so was the Dragonborn. Without weapons or armor, they clashed in fist-to-fist combat.
It only took one punch for Jessie to know who would win. If it wasn’t for his inhuman stature, she could take on the Dovakhin herself. He was strong, slow, and ungraceful. It doesn't matter how hard your one punch hits if you can’t land it. A few more seconds and the shouting brute of dragon’s blood fell to the ground, defeated.
The two desynced, shook hands, and parted ways. At least Ash was a good sport about that. He sauntered off the stage and left the stadium, but Aaron walked towards the battler’s lounge instead. Jessie’s blue eyes lit up. The doors swung open and she elbowed her way through the crowd - again - to find her friend. “Hey Aaron! Good job on winning your first fight,” she said with her hand up for a high-five, “but what took you so long? I was afraid you weren't gonna show up.”
"Al...Alright then." Was Stella's only response, before stepping back. She wasn't really sure how to respond to the girl, other than that simple response... ["Well, at least someone here is confident." Looking around, she moved to watch the monitor as a familiar face stepped on stage; albeit from the wrong side of the stage.
As the battle came to an end, a man clad in a black and white suit was standing on stage; awaiting the victor of the match. As Aaron began to walk back stage, however, he followed, microphone in hand as he grabbed Aaron by the hand. "Mister Stillen sir, Mister Stillen, Sir! We still have to do your post match interview!" He called out, trying to bring him back onto the stage.
Aaron obliged the high five and smiled with relief, glad to see a familiar face in the sea of strangers, who he knew thought of him as nothing but competition to be put down. "Work ran late, and the guy who was supposed to take over my shift canceled." He rubbed at the back of his neck?a nervous habit he had developed over the last month or two?and chuckled quietly. "Was about ready to tell my boss to shove it, but I can't really afford to get fired. . . literally."
It wasn't common knowledge to most, but Aaron's sponsorship wasn't exactly a package deal. He spent most of his free time at work, and he reviewed his own games and strategies. Thus far, he had been shouldering the work of an entire team on his own, and in the brief moments that his adrenaline would wear out it would show: baggy eyes, a tired slouch, and a tendency to black out the world around him and just go through the motions.
"I got here though," he laughed it off. "Had to run a mile and dress on the way, and my entrance might not have been the most subtle, but at least I didn't get DQ'd my first match...." Aaron trailed off when he heard someone shouting from back on the stage. A weird looking dude in a black and white suit, who was holding a microphone, was running backstage to chase after him. "Shit, did I mess it up again? Sorry Jess, I gotta go."
He jogged back onto the stage and over to the suit clad interviewer, hoping the strange fellow didn't give himself a heart attack over the interview. "My bad! I got a bit out of it after that last match, must have taken one too many hits to the head!"
Ash went to the bar next store to the stadium. It was a convenient location, though a bit pricey. Nothing he couldn't afford, but even he knew it was highway robbery. All the screens had the tournament on them, and it looked like his latest opponent was getting a post game interview. "Well, could be worse. I might have made a bigger ass of myself."
He went over to the bar and found a seat close to one of the T.Vs. He motioned to the bartender, and got himself a scotch. Whiskey was for when he won, scotch to ease the pain of losing. It wasn't until he nearly finished his drink that Amadeus took a seat beside him. "Barkeep, bring me a soda. No alcohol. I'm the driver for this fool."
"Let me guess, I messed up, I need to report for sparring early tomorrow, and why did I ever decide to help train you in the first place?"
"Ash, I'm not here to talk down on you. Although sparring in the morning is not a bad idea. I see a lot of potential in you, but I feel like you're wasting it. I know you didn't try in that match. You haven't tried for a while. What happened over the season break?"
"A man doesn't get emotional, teach. Let's just say a stupid decision that I'm still sorting out."
He knocked off the rest of his drink and motioned for another. "You're drinking a lot more lately."
Ash downed the scotch in one go. "Is there anything else? I'm not a kid anymore. Haven't been since that bear incident. I became a man that day and haven't looked back. So if I want to enjoy a stiff drink, I have every right to enjoy one or six. Seven is for special occasions, eight is when I get laid."
"Ash, everyone is worried about you."
'Then tell them not to. I'm fine, and have been fine. I'm just celebrating a good match."
"You only drink scotch when you lose. You hate that drink. I can see it on your face. Just don't get too drunk tonight. I'll walk you back when you're ready."
The two sat in silence, figuring there isn't much else to do than watch the rest of the opening day ceremony.
Nodding, the interviewer gave his best smile as he led Aaron back out onto the stage; before waving towards the crowd. "No problem, Mister Aaron Stillen! After all, this is very new to you. In fact, we've heard that you've only been battling for two years! Tell me, how does it feel to be standing up here, with the crowd cheering your name, on the largest stage in the world, having won your first match of the tournament?"
Aaron took a moment to gather his thoughts before he answered the interviewer. His heart was pounding heart enough that he was scared it was going to burst out of his chest, like some freaky alien in those B-movies he had seen, and staring out at the crowd wasn't doing him any favors. He had been in front of a stadium of people before, but never to this scale and they had never been focused solely on him. "Uh.. It, uh... Yeah... I've only been battling for the last two years, and uh..."
The interviewer laughed, in the fake way a new's reporter does when they tell some shitty joke about the weather, and he patted Aaron on the shoulder. "Take your time, kid, we're in no rush!" He turned toward the audience. "You all aren't going anywhere, are you?" The roar of the crowd was more than enough assurance that they were, in fact, not leaving until they got their monies worth.
Aaron nodded, taking a deep breath and screwing his eyes shut hard enough he saw fuzzy colors, like the snow on a broken television. It helped him reign in his nerves and his thundering heart, and when he opened them again and looked it the crowd, he smiled. "It feels great to be here in general, but it's really cool that I won. Ash gave me a great match!"
"Well what do you know, it looks like we've got ourselves a rare species here: a good sport!" The interviewer was obviously experienced at his job. He pandered to the crowd and hyped up whoever his subject was, and then seamlessly shifted onto the next question before anyone got restless. "What were you thinking when he got up after that attack from the sky? That really looked like it was time for you to meet your maker, from our end."
Aaron flashed back to the moment he had watched the Dovahkiin rise from the rubble of the forest, and the hopelessness that had overwhelmed him as he plummeted from the sky. He had thought that he had messed it up again; he had failed Sun Wukong again, just like he had in his first battle with Jessie and Samus*. "At first? I was... well, I was pretty bummed out. I wasn't sure I could beat him without the Ruyi Jingu Bang or Nimbus Cloud, and I was a lot more hurt than he was."
"But you pulled it out in the end. What gave you the drive to finish the battle?"
The desire to not fail Sun Wukong. To prove that he did belong here, no matter what anyone else thought or said. The need to win and reassure himself that he could do it, and he wasn't in over his head. Aaron wasn't sure how to explain in just a few words everything that had been going through his mind. "I guess I just really wanted to win, and so did Sun Wukong." He smiled and leaned back slightly. "It also helped that we'd been in the same situation a couple times before, and a friend has been helping me out on staying synced."
"It sounds like you've got yourself a good team!" The interviewer glanced at his watch, and obviously he realized the time, because he shifted to the next question. "How do you think you'll do in terms of the rest of the tournament?"
The teenager wasn't really sure how to answer that one. He was still riding on the high from his first win: the thought that he had four or five more battles hadn't occurred to him yet. "I'm not sure. I'm just gonna take it a day a time and see how it all goes, y'know?"
"I certainly do! Don't want to stick your foot in your mouth, eh? Smart move!" He laughed and motioned with his hand as if to wave off his own bad joke. "Well, that's about all the time we have! Anything you want to say to any fans you have out there before you go?"
That was a thought that forced Aaron to stop his current thought process, sending his train of thought flying off of his mental train tracks, where it collided with the side of a mountain and exploded, just as the conductor jumped out the window and kicked a stray tourist in the head. He could have fans? He hadn't even considered that people would look up to him, and wasn't sure how to feel about it in the slightest. His entrance earlier was suddenly much more embarrassing. If he had fans, had any of them stopped being so when they had seen how much of an idiot he was? "Um... I'm the Monkey King?"
God damn it all, Aaron...
The interviewer burst into a bout of laughter at that, pinching the bridge of his nose and holding the mic away so it didn't pick up the noise he was making. "You're really something, kid," he said quietly, and then reigned in his laughter and brought the microphone back up to his mouth. "You heard him, folks! He's the Monkey King! Lets give our primate overlord a round of applause while we get ready for the next battle!"
The stadium clapped for him (possibly out of pity for how awkward he was), and Aaron was lead off the stage by the interviewer. "Good job out there, and don't worry too much about it. I've seen much more embarrassing things in my time." A smile tugged at the edge of the older man's mouth. "Go ahead and tell the next two contestants to head to the sync station, Monkey King."
Aaron face was stained permanently red from embarrassment. He graciously took the opportunity he had been provided to slip into the lounge where the rest of the battlers were waiting, keeping his head low, and only raised it long enough to loudly say, "Steven and Alexa, they want you to head out to the stage." The latter of the two names - which he had read off of the paper they had been given - seemed somewhat familiar, but he shrugged it off.
*: Aaron had a battle with Jessie the first day he arrived, which he lost because she survived his ult, and he de-synced due to lack of experience.
Jessie chuckled and shook her head. "Right, post-game interview. Better get to that." She made her way back to the screens where his interview was being shown. It was his first match and looked pretty high from it. His last words made her laugh. Some of the other battlers gave her strange looks, which she promptly ignored. "I'm the Monkey King!" she bellowed when he returned. "Is that your new catchphrase?"
There was a disruptive outcry from Alexa as she lurched forth from her chair, the flimsy piece of plastic and metal topping over behind her as though cowering in fear. "Impossible! Impossible! None of that should have happened! The odds were clearly against that hopeless brat!"
The antisocial lump had caught aflame from the moment she stood up, pouring out her rage passionately as though it was a stage script she knew by heart. The moment the guards raised up on their haunches at her unruly behavior, she quieted down, drowsiness draining the lively color of her eyes. "...I'll kick his ass someday. Just give me a second."
No second glances were given to Aaron when she was called forth to the stage, jabbing her hands into her pockets and shuffling out through the entrance.
Oh, how the crowd departed in her ears. Left and right, spotlights danced around like frantic fireflies, bearing symbols of various colors. What were they? Words? Astral marks? Elemental icons? Nonsense? Yeah, probably nonsense. Bringing her gaze to the roof to distract herself from the stage fright, the twisted array of screens tangled and dangled above along with all the other bits and gizmos like a technological wonderland.
Hear that, sonny boy? Reality's comin' t'get cha.
The scar of anxiety was torn open once more, a crooked, gritting-teeth grin upon her face. On the screen, it displayed the splash of both her and Steven, then their astrals swooped in on either side to replace their portraits with a flashy animation, slooowly gliding for a moment as they were shown off before flying back out of existence. In their place was one half of each of their astral marks pressed together, split down the middle by a lightning-bolt crack. All in a delicious, rotating 3D render. Well, to the terminal she went. For glory.
Alexa could already feel the courage of her astral collecting in the back of her right hand, burning with...valiant warmth, perhaps. The circular platform to her side of the terminal was as always, everything in simplistic glossy jet, the only source of color from the various rectangles that decorated the stand...and the rings she was now standing upon. Her sponsors had made a fitting choice for the illumination, randomized flickering between various shades of yellow and orange illuminating her like a lantern's light. Now, all that was left was to wait for Steven, and perhaps approval from the announcer.
It was in this moment, she took on the nasally, airy voice of a timid young child, leaning closer to Stella. She almost sounded quite...sad. Lost. "Do you...not know me...?" Ah! Holy hell! When did she get there?! Was she just that light when walking in boots, or was this matryoshka of a freak secretly part ninja, too?
"I'm not scary, am I?" Came a new voice, deep and tomboyish with a hint of lazy. Raising up from her hunchbacked position, she threw her hands back out of her pockets. Shockingly enough, it looked like her movie star demeanor was wearing off. "Or are you having a little..." They reached up to cover the eyeholes, she feigned cowardice. "...Stagefright?~" Her fingers shot back out to allow herself to see, wiggling like tiny jazz hands.
Aaron wavered when he saw the girl - Alexa's - reaction to seeing him, and the fact that she painstakingly went out of her way to pretend he hadn't been the one to call to her to the stage. She brushed past him with her shoulders hunched, curled into herself like everything around her was hostile and her hoodie was the only shelter from it. Did he know her? The name had seemed familiar, and when he got a good look at her she appeared familiar too, but trying to wrestle the memory from the foggy recesses was like trying to dodge every drop of rain when running through a storm. In other words, it was rather pointless.
"Huh...?" Aaron shook his head to clear away the thoughts, turning around to find Jessie shouting at him from across the room. A smile stretched across his face out of habit and he closed the distance between them so he didn't have to shout himself, saying, "Hehe, it could be. I could call my fans monkeys," he stuttered over the word "fans", because it was still weird to think that he had people looking up to him.
"They'd be my monkeys, and I'd be their king," he struck a dramatic pose, puffing himself up and stabbing a thumb into his chest. After only a second, he broke the pose and laughed. "What do you think? Too cheesy?"
As the box-headed girl crept up on her, Stella herself tried to back away further; very obviously growing uncomfortable at the girl's presence. "Why did I have to try and talk to the one that would follow me...?" Shaking her head, she tried to give the other a smile; though, it was a bit forced. "Y-yeah, something like that." She responded to the stage-fright comment, fidgeting with a strap on her coat.
Behind the scenes, the battler's entrance opened up as the fighter's on stage got ready. A staff member walked in first, holding a small paper. "Alright, so, I would like to inform everyone that there has been a change in plans. Miss Heather Grayson has dropped out last minute. Luckily, we were able to find a replacement in record time, and as such, I would like to welcome Tyler MacEntire. Your schedules have been updated accordingly, and we would like to apologize to those of you who had already put time into forming strategies against such an opponent. That is all." As the staff member finished, he motioned for someone to walk into the backroom; likely the new participant.
As Aaron called his name, Steven gave a small thumbs up, before getting up himself. Cracking his neck, he motioned one of his team members to follow him out onto stage. As he walked out onto the stage, he re-adjusted the beanie with their logo on it as he walked to his side of the sync machine. He went to say something, but ended up shaking his head; merely telling it to the staff member that followed him on stage instead. As he walked forwards, hand outstretched, his staff member followed alongside him, speaking for him. "Good luck, and have fun."
At motion of the staff member, a brown haired man walks through the entrance. A smile is stretched about his face as he looks over the room, meeting the eyes of anyone who looks at him. "Please, just call me Mac. That's what most people do. A shame Miss Grayson had to leave, but I'll do what I can to make a suitable replacement." Waltzing over to the staff member, Mac bends over to mutter into their ear. "You wouldn't happen to have a spare sheet with the match listings, would you?"
With the hiss of pneumatics, the screens of the syncing station were lowered down to Steven and Alexa, displaying the models for their astrals in all their 3D glory. A huge step up in tech from when he had first arrived to the arena, but there was a unique charm to the digital artwork that used to be shown in the early days when she first watched these battles.
A roar of flame flooded the darkness of her screen, warping into a warm tangerine display. With little blips, the stats, abilities, and name came on the screens from their respective sides. Though, where was Goldlock? The digital model cartwheeled into view, took an aggressive stance, and vented a taunting puff of flame from their gauntlets' vents while flashing a cocky grin. From the speakers, came a little pre-recorded 'Let's do this!' along with the metallic swing of a UI sound came with a big green (READY) popping up from the bottom. Wow, they really went all out with something that nobody would see.
"Top of the evenin', Steven!" Here, at the platform, she finally felt a little more at home. It wasn't typical Alexa, but it was a far happier Alexa, wasn't it? After removing the glove upon her right hand and tossing it over to a member of her crew, she jutted it proudly towards the man, the geometric crab with a cracked shell glowing as brightly as the flicker of courage in her eyes. "Good luck to you too, eh?"
She lay silent, the concerned, minimalistic expression carved into the box facing straight forward at a clearly uncomfortable Stella. She was quick to notice this. Her hands returned to her pockets, a casual voice was donned, as though trying to best alleviate the situation...a gaze was cast to the side. "Well, gee. If that's the case... There was a pause, the hollow gaze of the box soon returned. "Hey, bud. It's the first night, don't sweat it out there. Chances are, I'm in the same shape you are under this big getup...maybe. Can't tell, can ya? Well, let that food for thought marinate in the broth, kiddo. Just head out there with a big ol' grin, see?" She shuffled to stand over by the girl, making a gesture for the screen. Particularly, she was noting Alexa. "Even a total antisocial blob can burst forth into an amazing bundle of dreams, if there's something there to drive them. Take that chip of advice, I'm going to go meet the others. Toodles!
Without second thought, she was back into a springing bundle of animation and energy as she approached Tyler, pulling the schedule for the night out of her pocket. "Right here, buddy-o!" Beneath the TV head of a cardboard box this punk rocker wore, one could almost hear their smile. "This your first tourney? Got a name?"
Mac tilted his head to the side curiously when he saw the girl with a cardboard box, but brushed it off, presuming it to be some form of sponsorship costume. When she brought out the paper, he hastily took it to study the names. "The name is Tyler MacEntire, but again, you can just call me Mac. Sorry if I seem out of place, but I'm usually given more prep time before a competition. Thankfully, I've been through this kind of stuff before, so...." He paused when he reached the fifth match-up on the list, and looked back at the helpful box girl, cocking his eyebrow. "Say, you wouldn't happen to be Stella, would ya?"
Jessie watched the hooded girl that Aaron had just called to the stage. She recognized her, having seen her fight not too long ago in a practice, but she ran off before they could be introduced. Maybe that was a good thing, she thought. It was probably in her best interests to steer clear of Alexa from now on.
The blonde left Jessie's thoughts when Aaron came up to her. She laughed at his reply and jabbed him lightly in the arm. "Way too cheesy. But the whole 'Monkey King' spiel is pretty good, though. I think it suits you. But you have to say it with more..." She took a deep breath and held it for a moment, looking for the right word. "Confidence," she finally said. "You're the king, man. Act like it. Come onto the stage doing backflips, rip the mic out of the announcer's hands, and shout 'I'm the Monkey King!' as the crowd goes wild, 'Monkey King, Monkey King, Monkey King' . . ." She stopped shouting and put her arms down. "Or something like that."
After having shaken his opponents hand, Steven stepped back; smiling. "Yeah... Good luck..." He repeated, his voice sounding forced, and foreign, as if he was having trouble forming the words. As he stepped back, he peered at the large screens, taking into note his opponent's screen. Beside the screen, another lit up, with three silhouettes coming into view; before a brief static overtook it, being replaced with a rotating question mark. In a similar fashion to before, from the speakers sounded out a pre-recorded voice message; a native English voice echoing out. "No, that isn't right is it?"
Smiling at his own Astral's voice, Steven stepped back to his side of the machine, as a referee stood between the two. Over the speakers, a loud voice echoed out as he began to speak, holding his hands in the air. "Alright, our combatants are ready. As was the case with the last battle, our participants will be fighting in The Champion's Forest. On my mark, both of our combatants will sync into the battle..." His voice trailed off, as he held up a hand; all five fingers out stretched.
"Five..." The referee started off, slowly curling a finger downwards. "Four..." He continued, the crowd beginning to chime in. "Three..." he persevered, his voice echoing out along with the crowds cheers. "Two..." He cried out, a grin coming to his otherwise stoic face. "One..." He called out, balling his hand into a fist as he rose it into the air.
To be frankly honest, she was a little taken aback by the uncertain tone that Steve's astral carried. Goldlock was overflowing with such overabundant confidence, but this one was... was it questioning him? Was it questioning its own presence in the world? Of course, that would be a concern for a later time. Now? Now was the time to fight, get it over with, and head on home no matter what the outcome was. No, something about that outlook just felt... plain strange to thing about. Something really wasn't right, was it? Yeah, that's right! She shouldn't be sitting around contemplating what to do, she should just... y'know, do it! Yeah, like, right about--
Just as she was on the edge of panic, eyes darting about the arena, a sense of warmth enveloped her, the roaring of flames crackling in her ears. It was as though an invisible torrent of flame had wrapped around her in an ensuring embrace, convincing her that everything was going to be alright. Heck, she sure hoped this gut feeling was no liar. Alright, no more stalling! This was it, the main event! Although her movements were spastic, Alexa smacked her hand down upon her palm... a reflex action that would be sure to leave a mark when she came to. As though the world was flipped onto its head, a flood of stars poured into her vision, pulling her through a great white gravity. As bittersweet as the whole concept was, she was far more than eager to leave Earth behind, even for a little bit. It was true that she had the potential to make many, many friends in her corporeal state. Though, the emotion of happiness that she felt as this 'other self', this 'better self', she preferred to dub it...
As the world flipped around and the ceiling of reality was only but a floor, she stood now upon the tree-studded sky. A familiar breeze combed through the rolling mane of gold that cascaded from her head, as if dancing with the leather coat that flapped in the wind. Where an awkward grin that struggled to face the crowd once was, genuine cheer bloomed across her visage. In fact, as though hoping the crowd had their sights upon her right now-- and how truly amazing she must have looked in her cool gear-- she struck a few little poses. With a small sigh, her hands returned to resting upon her hips, the metallic sheen of the orange work gauntlets deciding to take a break to regain their energy.
Though, this was no time for a leisurely stroll. Right, right, she had a battle to attend to, didn't she? The sort of battle-y battle of battles where she'd smash someone's screen in. Ahh, yes. It was going to be another one of those beautiful days. The ribbonlike pair of antennae stricking up from her head twitched idly, as though waiting to pick up on the sign of a presence. Thusfar, all looked pretty safe. Taking the hint, the beetle shell of a backpack attached to her popped open, a drone no bigger than a soccer ball rolling out onto the forest floor. "Good to have you back, lil' buddy!" The astral flashed a grin as the six spindly legs popped out of the shell, wriggling about until it propped itself into an upright position. Cute.
At the questioning, the girl with the box for a head reeled back a little. Was it as if the comment insulted her greatest ancestors? No, she just... had a strange flow to her movements, like a curious bird cocking its head as a primary form of communication, obnoxious chirping to come directly after. "Alas, I ain't." A Texan accent was upon her, now. Behind her, a pointing finger was jut in Stella's general direction. As though someone had changed the channel on this dollar-store TV girl, her voice got all nasally and squeaky. "The 'timidated girl over there, ya see? Me? I'm just an ordinary Joe battler, just like you! No need to worry." Of course, her, being as easily distracted she she was, turned her gaze to face the monitors. This... 'Steven' guy. She had quite the strong curiosities about that fellow's astral, seeing as it was shadowed out and all. Though, one of them had quite a boxy head, didn't it?
As the words echoed out, Steven closed his eyes, sliding a hand over the gray, glowing symbol on his forearm out of habit. The world seemed to shift and change around him as he felt himself divided up, until finally, all of him made it to a body.
In a clearing of the forest, sparks of color began to fly out in every which way, before a single, massive die was thrown into the air from seemingly nowhere; rolling for several seconds above the forest, before flashing a single number in every direction: One. In immediate response, the die seemed to explode downwards in a myriad of color, as a single figure was constructed from the ground up amidst the chaos. Inconspicuous, his entrance was not.
The figure stood a bit taller than Steven, however, a good bit of that was simply his head. Atop his body was an old, CRT-TV, with several dials on the front. The display by default showed a bit of a color-spectrum, before fizzling out into a static-y mess. The static was interrupted as a smile was 'drawn on', in mess of scrambled colors; until a flash of light overtook the screen, and the display turned to a blank screen.
His outfit was rather normal in comparison to his head; he wore a a striped dress-coat with a white dress-shirt, and an orange bow tie. He wore white gloves, with a pair of brown dress-shoes at the bottom of it all; and in his left hand, he carried a wooden cane, similar to a Sheppard's crook in shape. At a snap of his gloved finger, a pair of small dice appeared over his left hand, palming them as he began to walk around.
A muffled whistle echoed out through the forest as he walked; prompting him to pause, and tuck his cane under his arm as he began to turn the dials. His voice grew clearer, ever so clearer with each turn, until the number '58' was displayed on his screen; and his voice came through crystal clear. Perfect. "Aha! There we go!" He exclaimed, as he took his cane and began to lean on it. "Now then... Where is our opponent?" He asked aloud, his volume increasing as he twisted a different dial up; perhaps he was trying to lead them to him.
Thrown for a loop at the sudden change in her vernacular, the girl came off as fairly. . . eccentric, but her straight forward demeanor was admirable. Mac followed her gaze to the screen playing the current battle, but he didn't recognize most of the names. Probably have to call my organizer. . . He thought to himself, thinking that the Steven fellow looked familiar - or at the very least, the logo of his sponsor did. The girl he wasn't too sure about, yet the matched looking interesting enough, and Mac opted to hold off on conversation until after the battle so he could watch it.
Of course, just as the drone-building fellow was beginning to get comfortable, it was hard not to notice the disturbance in the arena. I mean-- come on. Even a blind man would be able to notice a giant die cascading over the treeline and crashing into the Earth below. Things like that make a loud noise. Plus, it didn't help that the familiar buzzing in her head to indicate the arrival of an enemy was present. It was dull, but still noticeable. At the same time, it felt more like an itch, as though trying to determine whether or not this entity was... real.
It was about as sudden as the tug that had brought her into this world. Curling up and around through branches and leaves, a prismatic wind lit up the scene. At the same time, the hum no longer jittered. Whoever they were, they were North of where she stood. Damn, she had only got one drone down, and it was already time to seek this bastard out... whoever it was. Either she could stomp forward and track this fellow down, or she could stay back and try to think of a new battle plan. After all, something was going a little screwy with data, and she managed to lose an entire super move! Playing it safe, she cast a hand out, ordering the little ball drone to scuttle off and scout the area. With a soft honk.
"Come on, ol... 'me'. Do something cool. I know you've got it in there somewhere." A brow was raised at the silence. Among it, a gaze was cast down to her hands as though expecting knowledge to simply float down from the heavens and nestle up to her palms. Sadly, as expected, that was not the case at all. However, after the first drone had scuttled off, the hopelessness was answered by an involuntary creaking open of the shell upon her back. From the depths of the inner workings, a bronze disk slipped out to the forest floor, rustling against the leaves with each bounce and roll until it came to an anticlimactic thump and halt against a tree trunk. Intrigued, she made an approach to this foreign object, kneeling down to take it up into eager hands. Was this a building material? Highly likely. Though, what the hell was she supposed to do with this fiddly little thing?
Aaron chuckled at her suggestion, which slowly grew into a deep, healthy laughter that rumbled up from his stomach and filled the area around him as Jessie animatedly acted out what he should be doing. "That. . . was amazing." He wiped a tear from the corner of his eye, smiling brightly, shoving the weird way the other girl had looked at him to the back of his mind. "I'm not sure I'm quite that flexible, though. I'd probably end up flat on my face."
He offhandedly rubbed at the Nimbus Cloud astral mark with the palm of his left hand, nervously tracing small circles on it. The room was a good bit quieter than he had expected it to be; most of the people were off on their own, or talking to their teams to rehearse last minute strategy. It was a bit unnerving, especially after a representative of the Galactic Tournament dropped in to tell them one of the competitors had been replaced at the last second.
Aaron leaned against the wall and watched the new guy, Tyler, interacting with the girl with a TV-box on her head. They both seemed nice enough, at least; maybe not everyone here is so bad after all. The blonde looked over at Jessie, and recalling that she had been battling for six years, asked, "Is it a normal thing for people to be replaced so late?"
Jessie couldn't help but laugh with Aaron at her display. "Thanks," she said, still chuckling. "And the backflip part was a joke. Leave fancy acrobatics to Wukong."
She thought for a moment about his question, but then shook her head. "Not really," she replied. "Usually their opponent just gets a bye for the match and then there's one less person in the round robin. Happens every year, someone gets injured or DQ'd and the spot doesn't get filled. Maybe he was on the waiting list and just happened to be around when the other droped?" She shrugged. "I dunno. Could be new policy." The redhead glanced up at the screen and then pointed at it. "Hey look, that's the guy you and I fought! Remember that? His name's Discord, right?" She tilted her head back and laughed. "Oh man, that fight was a lot of fun."
He kept up his routine as he marched forwards, towards where he hoped they would be. One way or another, both of them were bound to find each other eventually; but, from what his analyst had told him... He'd probably be better off finding them soon. Rolling his dice a around in his hand, he pocketed them, before moving a hand back up to his dials. Perhaps he could at least draw out a sign of their location if he...
Called to them. Turning his volume as high as it would go, he turned his brightness down a bit to conserve power, a light chuckle echoing out from his speakers. "Ah, one, two, three. One, two three." He called out, as if testing his voice. "Goody! It didn't backfire on me this time, always a good thing, yes. I would like to ask that you reveal yourself; so that we may give the viewers a show, and something grand to watch." He called out, his tone cocky, and confident. "Especially, a request, considering the replay's we have seen of your past..." He paused, as if to add emphasis. "Battles." He finished, as you could practically hear the air quotes in his voice.
Was he trying to bait her out?
To a half-insect lady with hypersensitive senses, it was not a difficult task for her to notice Discord. Hell, she could nearly pinpoint that bastard's location right now. Not to mention the fact that even the slightest mutter would have easily been picked up by the drone barreling towards him by hopping from branch to branch. Even the slightest crackling of those little dice would be enough for this cunning apex predator. Figuring that it had done enough waiting, the drone's spindly legs hooked on, taking roost on the limb of a sturdy tree. Here, it would wait for the first signs of Discord's approach.
A good side to being this 'new self' whenever she set foot in the arena, was the overabundant courage that flew into her very being. The downside? She was a total hothead. "WHAT?!" The voice boomed forth from her mouth, a violent cascade of golden sparks crackling forth from her eyes as though a match had been lit within their fiery orange hues. Disc in hand and gritting her teeth, she made a mad sprint in the voice's direction, a thick trail of mist in her wake. Alright, so she was a fraction of an inch away from being the champion, but he did not have to bring it up like that! Heck, who does that? No, seriously, who?
When the buzzing in her head grew louder, she screeched to a halt, acknowledging the threat at hand. Ah, right, right. There was a safer way to go about this, wasn't there? With a series of peeps, the twin gatling guns of the mounted drone spun slowly, chunking out a few bullets in Discord's general direction. It was a warning sign. He was not alone, and had made quite the foolish mistake of boldly challenging her, Goldlock of Blackforge Rift, in such a taunting manner.
"HOLY HELLA HOT DAMN!" Burst out the voice akin to the tone of a sassy black woman, as though forcing her opinion out into the world with a violent punt. How... annoying. She was excitedly slapping her hands upon the front face of the box she wore, the twisted wire antennae bopping from the force. Barely able to contain herself, she scuttled forth, pressing her face up to one of the monitors in the waiting room. Conveniently, it filled the entire space in one fell swoop, blocking the view from everybody else in that corner of the room just so that she could gaze upon Discord in his entirety. She seems quite pleased with herself.
The bullets fired towards his general direction barreled into the trunk of one of the nearby tree's; well, at least he knew where they were coming from. Stopping in his tracks, the TV-headed man took the pair of dice from his pocket, before tossing them out behind him. As he waited for the results, he turned his volume down, and his brightness back up; they had finally shown themselves. Resting a hand on his staff, two numbers lit up in his mind... 2-6.
Immediately, he threw a hand out, and a swirling, colorful portal opened up beside it. Immediately, a disproportionately large (in comparison to the portal) fridge was thrown; in the general direction of the bullets, towards the drone. "Bah! A fridge, again?" He asked aloud, an almost pissed off tone to his voice.
The match was about to commence, the competitor's astrals having been introduced; one held a fair resemblance to the girl beside him. Maybe that's where he got the idea from. Perhaps she's a fan? He pondered, continuing to watch the battle. When it seemed as if the actual fighting was about to begin, the entire screen was covered by a cardboard box. The girl with the box on her head seemed overly excited about the fight, and had moved in, blocking the entire screen.
Tyler could heard the sound of bullets, and complaints about a refrigerator...? He grit his teeth, not wanting to seem irritated, and reached forward to firmly grasp the girl's shoulder. " I'd hate to sound too familiar, but perhaps you should take a step back from the screen? I can't imagine it's good for your eyes."
Taking desperate measures, the drone began to fire even faster once the kitchen appliance had been drawn out. Though, was it to any avail? Sadly, not. With a violent smash, the drone was reduced to nothing but crinkly bits, the legs twitching with the last final sparks that ran through them. Whatever was left took on a bright orange glow and lifted from the ground, shooting back to the lady as a ball of light and slipping under the shell upon her back. She stood there, mouth agape at such a swift, merciless killing of her child. No words fell forth for quite a while, actually.
Clutching the large disk in trembling hands, another loud burst of sparks shot from her eyes as she re-entered the burning rage that had drove her here. She wasn't too sure what she was thinking at the time, for the series of events that took place were all a blur. "A fridge? Are you joking right now? Please, tell me you're joking, for bug's sake." The astral was truly trying her hardest to hold back from wrapping her fingers around that tall bastard's throat. After all, this was meant to be a show, not a murder. "Of all possible weapons, you killed my child with a FRIDGE?!" Whoops, patience is gone.
Casting her charisma to the wind, she took a wild swing of her hand, chucking the disc violently in Discord's direction. Then, something... weird happened. It began to hum and change direction, swinging up and around in a strange arc until it hovered behind the TV-headed fellow. There, it stood idly, until a shrimplike tail shot out from the underside. At either side of the disc, golden wings rose up, and two itty bitty headlights now powered on, staring the enemy down. Last but not least, a singular cannon popped forth from the stomach compartment, taking no hesitation to fire off a hearty shot of yellow plasma. Was this... a new drone type? Hella sweet!
The little fellow was pried away just in time for the unveiling of the strange new drone, the circular holes in the cardboard staring at Tyler with the hollow, lifeless gaze that the black mesh behind them provided. Her gaze was brought downwards as she rummaged around in her pockets, pulling out two strips of black electrical tape, which she promptly slapped above the eyeholes. When they stuck, they gave off the impression of thick, pissed-off eyebrows. "Well excuuuuse me, mister! Have you ever managed to find an astral that looked almost exactly like your own? Me neither! That style, those colors... I have to talk to this guy after the fight!" This mosaic of different themes brought her hands up to where her cheeks would be on the box, giving off a dreamy sigh. The sticky coating of the tape loosened, the eyebrows now hanging at a sad angle. "...Oh, deary me! I'm getting ahead of myself!" Her best impression of Discord was donned, though... it sounded a little strange on a female. "Actually, I might lose my head if I keep daydreaming! I need a battle plan to take on... whoever.. I'm up against!"
Aaron looked up at the scene displayed on the monitor: a TV-headed man VS an armored crab lady. "Yeah, it was." He snickered, recalling the battle that Discord had come in third place one-vs-one. "It's hard to believe you two didn't notice me." He shook his head, looking away from Jessie, back to the battle that was currently underway.
The smile on his face curdled like rotten milk left out on a sunny day when he saw Goldlock pull the drone out from her shell. Memories that he had forgotten rushed back to the front of his mind like a tidal wave, leaving him slightly dizzy and nauseous, his stomach turning precariously. "I remember her now!" He groaned, smacking his palm into his forehead hard enough to leave a red whelp. "I can't believe I didn't recognize her before. . ."
As the drone was crushed, Discord noticed as a curious ball of light made it's way to a nearby figure; a lead, of sorts. Turning his gaze to follow the ball as he approached it slightly, however, he would quickly learn that he didn't even need to seek them out; as a loud, ranting echoed out into the sky. "Yes," He replied, a sigh echoing out from his speakers. "The fridge wasn't my first choice either, to be honest. A chair would have been much more inconspicuous." He continued, rattling the dice in his hand around slightly.
Tightening the hold around his cane, he got ready to roll the dice; however he was caught off guard as an odd, disc was thrown at him. He stepped to the side with an odd burst of speed, only stare, as the levitating disc moved to position itself behind him. That couldn't have been good. Offhandedly dropping the dice as he turned around, and began backing up, numbers began to flash around in his mind as he watched the disc transform into some sort of yellow dice. Out of habit, as specific numbers flashed into his mind, he threw his arms up to protect himself... 5-1.
A very thin, thin, stone wall shot up from the ground, causing the plasma to explode upon contact. Not without damaging the wall, however; in fact, it even caused the wall to backfire a bit, a shard of stone flying out from the center of the impact, and implanting itself in Discord's left arm; a rainbow of liquid beginning to seep out around it. "Lovely." He muttered as he stepped back; his left arm returning to his side, dropping the dice into another roll as he tried to ignore the pain...
Jessie shrugged at Aaron's reply. "Wasn't really paying attention. I didn't expect someone else would be synced in already, either." She snickered. "Besides, I just sort of ran up to him and figured I'd spar with the first person who looked ready. He just happened to be ready on that machine."
She winced as the wall gave way and injured Discord's arm. Probably hurt the guy a lot more than it would her. "Who, Goldlock?" she asked after Aaron's outburst. "I haven't fought her yet, and I've fought almost everyone here. Never saw her in the sparring room." Jessie crossed her arms. "Have you? What was she like?"
Aaron shoved his hands into his pockets. "Yeah, I have. She was a lot like Sun Wukong: all of the attitude, but none of the humor." Sighing, he leaned back against the wall. That was one more person he could be sure didn't like him. "She didn't like fighting me all that much. She's really based around those turrets, and I didn't give her all that much time to set them up."
He looked back at the screen, watching Discord backpedal. He wasn't going to win doing that. "That's not why she doesn't like me, though. I think I'd be less confused if it was." Aaron shook his head wistfully. "She says I ruined her Super Move, somehow, and now she can't use it."
After seeing the first attack, the usage of a stone wall was catching her off-guard by a long shot. Not to mention that there was a set of dice thrown before both attacks. What was this dumb bloke's moveset, anyway? What element did he fall under, absolute chaos? Whatever bucket of fish he was filed into, she didn't want to stick around long enough to find out what it was!
"A chair, now?" Such venomous words were spat out with a sneer, rather uncharacteristic of Goldlock's usual cheery attitude. "Oh, I know! Perhaps you'll need a little somewhere to sit down and recuperate once I learn the color of your blood!" Scratch that, it was cheerful, but just... all the wrong kinds of giddy. As the wall exploded, her facade shattered along with it. "...Well, I guess that solves that question, it's all of 'em." Raising her arms in a shrug, orange sparks shot out from her wrists, curling around her hands and fusing together until her trademark pair of massive gauntlets was summoned. Without another word, she disregarded the drone, a wild swing of her arm sending an arc of flame flying in Discord's direction.