Chapter 28

Rumble in the Winter

What an embarrassment. Oh sure, Alexander and Naomi got to go alone and hand with Issac like adults, but he, he was stuck with Kate and Yoko, two of the strictest people he'd ever known. He looked like a child while standing next to her for pete's sake. God, he only hoped his eternity would stay this way, especially if Yoko and the others decided to keep in touched for so long. And not to mention, his jacket was ruined, so he had no choice but to stand out in 29 degree weather and wait.

"Oh I remember this game from way back. Think you can beat me at it?" Issac asked, while holding the large mallet.

"Probably, but go ahead and do it." Alexander answered with confidence.

"Hah, alright, let's give this baby a good swing."

With the large hammer lifted above his head, two deep breaths were taken, before bringing it down hard on the bulls-eye mark. With a loud ding, the bell shot up twenty feet of fifty, before falling back down. According to the mark, he was "Strong".

"Tsk, dang. Oh well, that's what I get for not keeping up." he sighed, as his tail dropped.

"Ooooo that's great. Can I give it a try afterwards?" Minami asked, excited to join them.

"Sure. I'll just give it a whack, then you'll go." he told her, before taking the hammer.

Beating twenty feet would be a piece of cake for someone with his strength. And so, with a hard downward strike, the bell rose higher and high, until it read a grand forty feet. Even those watching clapped at his excellent mark, while Issac accepted his loss like a man.

"You've got potential. Tell me, how careful are you when it comes to hero work?" he asked out of curiosity.

"Thanks, and fairly careful. I tend to avoid breaking anything and work as efficiently as possible." he boasted.

"Think you could move here after graduation and take over as the city hero?"

"Hah, doubt it. I'll be heading back home afterwards. My tribe needs me there to help protect against bandits and other feral beasts."

"I see. Dang it."

While talking though, both heard a loud ding, before something small and shining landed between them.

"Wait, is that the bell?" Issac asked, while scratching his head.

"I think it is. Minami, did you do...this?" he asked, while turning around.

Yep, judging by the happy expression on her face and the cute goblin plushie in her hands, she'd completely demolished both of them.

"Holy crap, how'd you do that?" Alexander asked, surprised by the turn of events.

"Hm...I just, swung. Did I do something wrong?" she nervously asked.

"No, it's just...amazing is all."

Admittedly, he found those stronger than himself pretty attractive, even if he'd never tell her.

"What's with you?" asked Issac, after returning the bell.

"Huh?"

"Your face is a bit red. Are you catching a cold or something?"

"Maybe, but let's not let it ruin our fun. What's next?"

"Oh well, how are you at ping-pong?"

"Is that a challenge?"

"Right this way. You too Minami, you'll both be playing me."

"Okay."

At least they were having some fun, unlike their perverted friend who could only watch as they ran towards the tennis tables. This sucked, there were only a few minutes left before his match, and she still hadn't left them. For as kind of and generous as Kate could be, she couldn't take a clue for the life of her. Instead he found himself standing with them both in front of stand that piqued his hot-headed friend's interest.

"Oooo an archery stand." he gasped in excitement, while pulling out two dollars.

"You any good dear?"

"Are you kidding? I can't count how many times I've nailed him during training."

"Yeah, sure, you're good, but I swear you aim for the jewels sometimes."

"Do I? Must be my aim then." she teased, while handing the tender her cash.

"Doubt it, it's a pretty large target." he teased back.

And that got him a little smack upside the head by their caretaker.

"Act like an adult, please." she demanded, while casting a deadly glare.

"Y-Yeah..."

According to the sign on her right, three arrows were given, and she had thee chances to nail perfect 10s. And if she got them all, a fancy mechanical bow awaited her; perfect for Relia's arsenal.

"Sorry if he's been giving you too much trouble. I know he's quite the handful."

"Nah, it's nothing. Besides, I've kinda grown use to it at this point." she admitted, before steadying her aim.

"But, I thought you said he-."

"—I accepted his flaws." she answered, before letting go.

Perfect, a direct 10.

"You don't condone it though, right?"

"Heck no, I'll slap him upside the head or worse, but who am I to judge him based on one flaw. That's be stupid." she explained, before pulling back the next arrow.

"Yoko..." he said softly, feeling touched by her words.

"I made that mistake when we first met, but he's proven himself capable of becoming a great hero, all of them have." she continued, before letting go.

Another 10, just one more.

"Besides, we all have flaws, including myself. Stubborn, prideful, a decent sized jerk, but I'm still glad they're willing to accept me, despite all of that crap."

With the last arrow drawn, she took a deep breath, while keeping her eye on the prize.

"That's what he's taught me." he said softly, before letting it fly.

And bull-eye, right on the dot! What a beautiful sight, all three lined up beside each other, oh, what a stellar win.

"Congrats Miss, I've never seen anyone nail a bull-eye like that from fifteen feet. You're pretty talented."

"Thanks. I practiced a lot back home. So, about my prize?"

"Certainly. Here you go, an Atomic War Bow, you wanna know what makes it special though? If you channel your own energy into it, you'll never run out of arrow. Unlimited arrows baby!" the man exclaimed with great passion, after sliding it towards her.

"Okay...it looks nifty. What do you say Nate, is this worthy of my grace in battle?" she asked, while showing it off.

"You'll own with that thing. Oh! How about we try it out when we get back? I know Doa's gotta be rearing for a good match."

"No prob, but don't expect me to go easy on ya." she playfully warned, after grabbing her clothes.

"And don't expect to beat me in my own house."

What a pair. Even with their conflicting personalities, both still remained friends. Just seeing them both together, it really warmed her heart.

"Maybe, he has changed." she thought, while walking along.

And see even more come his match with Satoshi. But before that, he needed to partner up and prepare himself. Luckily,Doa and the others remembered their promise, and were waiting at the assigned spot.

"Ready to beast up?" he asked, after walking up.

"Yep. Good to see you Miss." Doa said to Kate.

"Good to see you too. So what's all this about?"

"Eh heh well you see, funny story, a friend and I kinda made a bet on who would win in a fight. So yeah."

"So you're gonna put yourself in even more danger?" she asked, in a worried tone.

"Not really. The field we'll be used works about the same as the one at the academy. Once activated, we'll both only receive chip damage to our physical selves."

"...So you won't get hurt?"

"Not really."

"I promise you, it's perfectly fine." Yoko added.

"Well, if you say so. Just don't go breaking an arm or something."

"Come on, we're Eternals, it'll take a heck of a lot to break our bones."

"Oh...okay. But before we go, who're these people?"

"Oh right, you didn't meet them earlier. That Keitaro, Alexander's partner, Minami's partner Jak, and Relia's Yokos. Guys, this is Kate."

Just by looking at them all, she could tell they were pretty decent people. Though the electric one kinda gave her the creeps.

"It's an honor to meet you Kate." said Keitaro, as he took a knee of respect.

"O-Oh, it's no big deal. No need to bow dear."

"You needn't worry about him. He's use to being all noble and stuff." Jak replied.

"Just like you two were." Yoko chuckled.

"Guess we lightened up since then, but we're still very devoted to our partners." Relia promised.

"Awww well aren't you too cute."

Among the chit-chat though, some had almost forgotten why they were there.

"Hey guys, remember? Match? Gotta go?" he pointed out.

"Oh sorry about that, got kinda caught up." Kate giggled, while giving off a light blush.

"Uh huh. Let's get a move on. I've got some bolt to kick."

So impatient, but how couldn't he? The past few "challenges" he'd been faced with were petty criminals and thieves, nothing that pushing him to his limit. Satoshi however, he had the potential to go all out and still come out on top, at least in his mind. Robots weren't push-overs, those who'd given up their flesh and blood for metal energy were capable of adapting, and the same went for him. Ah, he couldn't wait! And his excitement showed, he began grinning in anticipation.

"Yoko, he's got that crazy look on his face..." Relia pointed out.

"Just ignore it." she said, while looking straight ahead.

"Okay..."

Still, one question remained that still hadn't been answered.

"So Nate, you said this guy's name is Satoshi? Is he another Eternal?" asked Yoko.

"Nope, robot, kinda."

"Kinda?"

"I'll let him explain after the match. It's something even I have a hard time understanding."

"If that's the case, my head will probably explode." she chuckled.

"I don't know about that, maybe a migraine at worst."

"Oi..."

They weren't the only ones interested in checking things out, at least thirty others were scattered about to watch.

"Did ya'll tell them something?" he asked out of curiosity.

"I told maybe five." his partner answered.

"None." Relia answered.

"Relia...I know when you're lying."

"...Six."

"Ten!" Jak exclaimed.

"None."

"Keitaro...I know when you're lying."

"...None." he replied, while giving him a serious look.

Did he dare question him again?

"...Alrighty. Doa, you come with me. Everyone else, sit back, grab a drink, and enjoy." he told them, though the last bit was just to boost his own little ego.

"Think he'll be okay?" asked Jak.

"Knowing him, he'll find a way." Relia answered.

"Be careful out there." Kate pleaded in her thoughts.

"Whatever you do, don't give up." their bronze goddess begged.

Like heck he would. Out of all the fights they'd encountered, he was the most stubborn. Even Death would have a difficult time taking him, if that day ever came. But still, it never hurt to take caution. All he needed was permission from the owner.

"Excuse me sir, would you mind if me and a friend used this for a little bit?" he asked.

"Is that what these people are here for?"

"Yeah. So can we?"

"Hm, well we're not suppose to boot it up until this weekend, but I don't see what any harm could come from a test run. What's your name kid?" he asked, while typing in the settings.

"Nate Tesla."

"Oh...so you're the kid I've seen on the back of the paper? Funny, I imagined you a bit taller."

"Mhm. Just punch it when I tell ya." he growled, as they stepped in.

And thus, with everything set, the fight was underway, or it would have been if his opponent had bothered to show up. What was he going to fight? The freaking rocks? Oh yeah, that would entertain others for a good two seconds. They'd agreed on eleven, so where was he?

"Did he give up?" asked Doa.

"Maybe, but just to be safe-." he said, before suiting up.

Hey, that got a few claps from the crowd, now if only his stubborn foe would show up, they'd get even more.

"Come on out you coward and face me like a man!" he called out.

While looking around though, something caught his attention, a low whistle cutting through the wind.

"Nate!" Doa called out.

"I know."

With a swing of his right arm, he managed to block the projectiles headed his way, projectiles that only a ninja would have.

"Fucking throwing stars? Really?" he said in disappointment, while pulling one out from his bracer.

"Kinda lame." Doa admitted.

But just when things couldn't get even better, a dark figure appeared atop one of the stone pillars, its cape flapping in the wind.

"Who dares step upon my sacred land!" he called out, while glaring down at him.

Ah, now he understood. Fashionably late, but still able to give a good show.

"Tis I, the great Pyro Maniac! And you would be?!" he called back.

"Tis my honor to meet you Maniac, tis I, the shadow of the night, Demon Ninja Satoshi!"

"A demon eh? You look more like a pathetic cosplayer in that rag!"

Ouch, that kinda hurt, considering he made it a few years back for his own costume.

"You be correct, this filthy garment is not worthy to rest upon thy shoulders. Perhaps your flesh would be a better fit!"

"Then come get some! Now!" he roared, before raising both claws.

"All right." the guy said, before pressing the button.

With the hexagonal barrier up thee match began, as he jumped off the pillar and towards his opponent. Using thrusters attached to the back of his arms, legs and torso, Satoshi quickly flew towards him. This was new to Nate, but he stood his ground nonetheless, while also raising his arms.

"Eat flames!" he called out, before releasing two large blasts from his palms.

The crowd gasped at the sight, thinking he may have just baked his opponent, but they were wrong. Instead, his opponent merely passed through like nothing happened, thanks to a large plasma shield created from one of his inner cores, before funnel it into something a bit more destructive, a Plasma Beam.

"Shit!" he cried out, before dodging to the right.

Talk about a close call. A second sooner and he would have lost a lot of energy. Although, the explosion itself did nick him a bit, but only enough to take away 2%.

"What's wrong? Can't take the heat mighty hero? Or perhaps you'd prefer the name Mighty Zero." he taunted, after a safe landing.

"Hmph, I wouldn't get so cocky. You're on my home turf now punk, and I doubt that stupid shield will help you against my fists." he growled, before charging forth.

"Feisty, I like it!" he exclaimed in excitement, before drawing both daggers.

They both were on fire, while striking at each other, Nate with his claws and fists, and Satoshi with his sharpened dagger. Back and forth both went, while he tried clawing up that pathetic shield of his, before his opponent countered by slamming it into his face. It stung a bit, but not enough to keep him from grabbing it.

"Heh, say goodbye to your shield." he confidently said, before tearing the mechanism from his arm.

"Gah! My shield! You'll pay for that..."

"Sure, just like you will right now!" he exclaimed, before taking a deep breath.

While knowing what was coming, the young ninja jumped back a good ten feet, before grabbing something from his belt. With a loud roar, his foe unleashed an even large blast of fire, one he wasn't too sure he could avoid, but damn well would try. Quickly, he grabbed a few more small explosives, before chucking them into the flames. It took them a second, but after catching fire, all thirty nullified the attack with their own explosion.

"Nice try hero, but you'll have to try harder than that." he suggested, before shooting several projectiles from his wrists.

Throwing stars and and knives were his main attacking force, while a few more bombs followed as a precaution. However, the knives proved useless, as his armor blocked most, the bombs however did their job. In a loud explosion, their flames engulfed Nate, bring with it his blazing end.

"Nate!" Kate exclaimed in terror.

"I wouldn't worry about him." Yoko told her, with a confident smirk.

"Huh?" she questioned, before looking back at the blazing fireball.

She was right! He was still in the game, and in fact, his lack of knowledge had only given him more power. All eyes were on him, as the flames began entering his mouth, fueling the very power that made him strong.

"What's going on? This is impossible! No one beats the Demon Ninja!"

"Believe it sucka!" he exclaimed, before slurping up the last bit.

"You know what to do." Doa reminded him.

"Heck yeah. Big Bang Bomb!" he exclaimed with great passion, as a large fireball began forming overhead.

Those outside watched in amazement, as it grew bigger and bigger, its size only increasing the more power he pumped into it.

"That's it...more, more, more!"

Even his opponent looked impressed, before taking out a small silver diamond from his belt.

"That's pretty neat, I'll give you that, but it's all for naught." he said, before chucking the diamond into the swirling sphere of despair.

"What do you mean?" he asked in confusion.

He'd get his answer, as something strange began happening to his perfect attack. The diamond inside, it began affecting it, causing it to lose stability, while also drawing power from it. With a surprised gasp, Nate tried throwing it as fast he could, but it was too late, by the time it reached his foe, its flames had been diminished, and instead a small diamond fell in its wake.

"What? What just happened?" he asked, with a look of both confusion and anger.

"Didn't see that coming? See this beauty? It'll absorb whatever element its tossed into."

"You're kidding me..."

"Nope, but wait, there's more folk! For you see, there is yet another effect." he announced, before placing the crystal in a small slot along his left arm.

Thinking quickly, Nate decided the best approach would be to finish him quickly, as he charged forth. However, this prove costly, as Satoshi raised his arm up, while the palm opened.

"You didn't let me finish numskull." he warned, before pulling the trigger.

As if having his element taken wasn't bad enough, now he got a face full of it. These strange, blue flames were different though, he couldn't eat them, and it also chipped away at his E.P big time. Without much else to do, people watched, as he rolled across the ground, before hitting the barrier with a hard thud.

"Nate, get up. You can beat him, for sure." Yoko told him, in an attempt to encourage.

"Working on it..." he groaned, before jumping back up.

What were those flames, he wondered.

"Like it? I kinda based it off your uncle's old attack, but instead infused them with my core energy. No lunch for you this time I'm afraid." he taunted.

"Damn, he's pretty awesome."

"You're kidding right? He's kicking your butt and you've only got half E.P left." Doa warned.

"I know, but he's not the only one with tricks."

"Like what?"

"I don't know, I make them up as I go."

"Oh brother..."

Wait, what if he got the jump on him? Yeah, he may adapt to situations like that, but he couldn't adapt to physical strikes.

"Yo, Satoshi! I hope you're ready, cause I'm taking you down, all the way to China." he exclaimed confidently, before running forth.

"Heh, cocky little bastard. Oh well, it's your loss." he sighed, before getting back into position.

With his attack at the ready, he once again unleashed all Hell, but this time, Nate was ready. With the flame approaching, he instead used his power over fire to blast off from the ground like a rocket, propelled up in a horizontal line by the flames coming from both feet and hands.

"All right, knock his butt to the ground!" Yoko exclaimed, while the excitement in the air got to her.

"You got it! One ass whooping coming right up!" he exclaimed, while positioning himself directly overhead.

"What?" Satoshi asked, surprised by his maneuver.

What a move, many in the crowd thought, and it wasn't over yet. Knowing how fast his opponent could react, Nate quickly went into overdrive, as large blasts of flames burst from his back, forcing him towards his opponent at a speed he couldn't stop.

"Crap. Come on shield." he nervously said, while trying to create a temporary shield using more energy.

"Nope. Say your prayers motherfu-." he tried saying, before crashing into him.

So what could one do with a mini dragon boy on top of them? Not a lot, especially when he began giving his face a proper beating. Punch after punch, he made sure Satoshi knew who he'd picked a fight with, before grabbing his scrawny metal legs.

"Wa-Wait, isn't this going a bit too far?" he asked, his eyes looking more desperate than ever.

"You wanted me to go all out, so I'm going all out." he said, before spinning around and around.

Ugh, this did wonders for his stomach, as the world spun around and around. And what worse, he couldn't do anything about it. Thanks to his last attack, he'd drained every bit of power gathered in that small crystal. It kind of made it regret falling for a cheap trick like that.

"Nate please, I'm gonna hurl breakfast at you if you don't stop." he demanded.

"Suit yourself." he replied, before letting go.

But oh no, he couldn't let him off the hook that easy. Instead, he threw him into a nearby stone pillar. The crowd seemed to love it, while they took pictures. Even Kate calmed down after witnessing what he could do.

"Think you went a little far there." said Doa, a bit worried for their friend.

"Yeah...my bad." he replied, before rushing over.

Besides a few dents and bolts missing though, there wasn't too much damage. But damn, if the battle didn't wear out his body. Sometimes he forgot that robots had their limits, even if they seemed to lack them.

"Looks like I'm in the dirt. Ugh, who knew a dragon like that could do that much damage in such a short amount of time." he sighed, after seeing his friend walk up.

Seeing that it was Nate though, he couldn't rub it in his face, but instead, offered a helping hand.

"Need a hand there pal?"

"Eh heh, sure." he replied, before taking him up.

"You've got some need tricks. Perhaps we'll fight again once next semester is over." he offered.

"Yeah. You wouldn't have any spare bolts back home, would ya?"

"I believe we do. I'll have Wolven give you a check-up." he answered, with a bit smile.

"Oh good. Thanks for the match."

"Any time bud."

They were the only satisfied ones, Yoko, Kate, and the others were all clapping, as well as those surrounding them.

"Not so much an eye sore now." claimed Satoshi.

Yep, everything wrapped up pretty nicely. Both were proud of themselves and they'd given the crowd a pretty good show. But while walking back, something unexpected happened, a loud explosion shook the ground, as smoke appeared above the skyscrapers. Something was going on, something bad.