Chapter 2

It was around this time yesterday when I first met, and subsequently defeated, Alexandra Milesworth, whom I had henceforth decided to call her Alex, since her full name was a mouthful (much to her chagrin). I had just finished my daily jog when I retreated to my apartment in need of some animated entertainment. Just as I opened the door, who do I see but three of my classmates, who might I say knew absolutely no bounds. It was Rat, and the foreign twins Night and Day. Sounded like the start of a really shitty joke.

They were all sitting on one couch, including Alexandra, as they were conversing. Once they saw me, the shortest of the gang, Rat stood up to greet me.

"Oh, hey!" he exclaimed. "We were just talking to your new roommate," he informed me.

"I see," I replied shortly. I looked over to Alexandra with pleading eyes. "Why did you let these guys in?" I asked her.

"Oh," muttered Alexandra. "Why, I don't require your permission to bring people into our shared, mind the word 'shared', apartment," she crossed her arms. I regarded her with a blank look of sheer exasperation.

"You wouldn't say that," I began. "If you knew them personally,"

"Relax, Lukey-boy," interrupted Night. "We were just getting to know our future classmate better," she replied. Currently, she was wearing a loose and silky purple skirt, and had a loose blouse which was obviously meant for someone with larger cups (i.e everyone - don't tell her I said that). She was around the same height as Alex, along with her brother Day whose actual name was Tom .

I couldn't help but simply sigh.

"Alrighty," I conceded. "Well, since she was the one to let you in, I can't really kick you out without seeming callous, so I'll let your invasion slide this time," I said. The four looked at me blankly before turning to each other and murmuring.

"What got him so stressed out?" mumbled Night.

"Honestly, we didn't even do anything yet," murmured Day.

"Yah, I know, right?" replied Rat. Feeling annoyed, I grabbed the back of Rat's collar and held him up, making him face me.

"I can hear you, you know," I seethed.

"Aw, come on!" he retorted. "I wasn't the only one talking about you, ya know!"

"No," I admitted. "But you're the most punchable one," I said. He raised his hands in surrender.

"C-calm down, tiger," he pleaded. I dropped him promptly, but he landed on the couch.

"Yo, Lucas," called Day. At the moment, he wore a flower-patterned bermuda shirt, swimming shorts, sandals and sunglasses that were currently resting on his messy black hair.

"What?" I asked.

"Are you coming for the monthly priority tournament?" he asked, grinning widely, showing off his pearly-white teeth. His question kinda caught me by surprise, but the date was right, so I guess I must have forgotten.

"It's that time of the month, I guess," I murmured.

"Was that a menstruation joke?" asked Night as she was choking back her laughter. I thought about it for a second before realizing what I said.

"Well, now that you mention it," I said as I chucked lightly.

Alexandra shot her hand up in the air before asking a question.

"What, exactly, is the monthly priority tournament?" she asked. Rat shot up from the couch and took on a showman's pose.

"It is a night of battle where students fight each other, pouring their hearts into their arms, seeking one thing, and one thing only…!" he yelled as he raised his hand up high, pointing at the sky. "...WiFi priority!" he yelled. What came after was a crippling silence as Rat maintained his pose for a few more seconds than necessary.

"Hah! No reaction!" exclaimed Day as he choked back his laughter. "Speaking of which," he continued as he turned around to face his sister. "You mind participating this one, Candy?" he asked his sister.

"Why?" she asked.

"Well, Mia Faye just finished her production break and released a ton of new movies! It's about fifty gigs, and it'll take a while unless you help me a little," he asked. Well then…

"WHAT THE HELL KINDA 'MOVIES' ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!" yelled both Rat. Night and I at the same time, completely gobsmacked that he would admit to that so easily. Only Alexandra remained unreactive, not really getting the reference at all. At any rate, there was no legitimate Hollywood actor by the name of Mia Faye.

"Well, pornos, duh," he said as he scratched the back of his neck idly. Alexandra visibly gasped as she stood up to distance himself from the perv.

"Y-you improper… you cur!" squealed Alexandra, at a loss for words. I'd blame it on her not being too exposed to swearwords due to her upbringing.

"WHY ARE YOU ADMITTING IT SO EASILY!" we yelled again, in unison, eerily enough.

"Look," started Day. "Will you do it or not?" he asked.

"Well," asked Night. "Why don't you do it yourself? Why should I support your porn addiction?!" she yelled.

"You know how I am at night," pouted Day.

"What do you mean?! How far up the leaderboard do you want to get?" she asked in disbelief.

"I'd prefer if I could get the download finished by tonight. At least one movie would be fine enough," he said. As we all stared at him in disgust, Night simply sighed.

"Remind me to soundproof your bedroom," she mumbled. A moment later, she stared her brother down. "Fine, but you owe me big time, and I mean Big Time!" she yelled.

"Hey," smirked Day. "It's the only life we've got, so we gotta live it Big Ti-" just before Day could complete the sentence, a collective slap from both me, Rat and Night shut him up promptly before he could finish spouting his dated memes.

"Jesus christ, you're unbelievable," lamented Night. Day lay dazed on the floor, unmoving. Night grabbed him by his collar and dragged him out of the apartment, leaving me with Rat and Alexandra.

"Are you coming for the battle?" Rat asked me. I mulled it over for a moment, thinking of what I could use the extra bandwidth for.

"Hm, I would, but I don't really know what to do with the additional bandwidth… perhaps if there was something for me to download," I mumbled. Rat gave his answer, deadpanning.

"The new season of Berserk will be out this Friday,"

"Where do I sign up?" I answered the moment he completed his sentence. Rat grinned brightly.

"Ataboy, alright, then. Shower, get changed and meet me at the lounge," he said as he walked out of the apartment. Once he left, Alexandra looked at me, raising an eyebrow questioningly, as though she was asking 'what the hell's wrong with those guys?'.

I sighed as I shrugged.

The lounge was pretty much the hangout of the dorm community. It was a rather large youth center with several floors. The ground floor had couches spread around. A table-tennis table in one corner, a large flat screen television on one wall with some game systems below it, and a pool table in another corner if you're feeling especially edgy.

The floors that go upward are mostly different sport courts like a futsal pitch, indoor tennis, a B-ball court and quite a few others. Generally, the further up you go, the more mundane the school might seem. That's why you go down.

Deeper down beneath the ground floor lies the arena floor. The reason why it was so far underground was primarily to aid in enforcing the walls and barriers preventing those within the arena to affect spectators when battling.

The arena was a fairly large square floor with grey, matte tiles covering the ceiling, walls and floor. A portion of the walls were made of glass so those outside could see the battle happening inside the arena. On the spectator area, there were tribunes on each side of the wall. There was also a small room that overlooked the entire arena from higher ground which controlled various functions like revealing weapon racks, releasing medical nanobots, loudspeakers et cetera.

At the moment, there wasn't anyone in the ground floor, neither were there anyone on any of the upward floors. Everyone was down at the arena, assembling for the school year beginning speech held by the mayor of Sunshine Creek, a student-elected official in charge of the dorm community.

Currently, the crowd was clamoring for the arrival of said mayor. Rat and the rest of the gang were loitering closely to the sign-up sheet for the tournament.

After a moment, a hooded figure walked towards the center of the arena, along with someone shorter following them. The taller figure stopped in the middle before unhooding himself, revealing his slicked back black hair, a thick and muscle-bound neck, a thick scar running vertically down, to the right of his right eye and an impossibly large and enthusiastic smile.

The mayor of Sunshine Creek, everyone. Known affectionately as Bobby. Next to him was his roommate and trusted secretary, Rose Sherwood.

"Boys and girls!" he yelled mightily, with his arms stretched out before him as he spun around slowly to face everyone. "Let's get this new school year started with a BANG!" he yelled, causing an uproar in the crowd.

"Hmph," I muttered, grinning slightly. "Still the overenthusiastic dumbass, huh?". My opinion was drowned out by the raucous crowd.

"I was told," continued Bobby. "That I needed to prepare a speech today, and I quote" he said as he raised his fingers as he made quotation marks in the air. "'Urge the students here to work to the best of their abilities, making them produce ground-breaking results', but…" he lowered his hands. "I'm not. Ya wanna know why? Because I trust that you didn't come here to sit around and laze all day.

I don't think there's a single guy here who doesn't know what to do with themselves. Honestly, you all are amazing. Now that we're done with that," he said as he fished out a piece of paper from his hoodie pocket. He straightened the paper and read out loudly from it.

"New admissions… a hundred and ten freshmen this year… ooh, new record" he said. He put the paper down and cleared his throat. "Alright, this goes to all the kiddies who've joined us. I'm not gonna sugarcoat it or anything, and I'm doing this for your own good, so…" he said as he grinned wider and wider. "Welcome to hell!" he yelled. The entire crowd basically blew up at that. Eventually, they calmed down enough for him to continue speaking.

"A knight in shining armour has never had his metal tested. None of you are gonna have shining armours when you're done here. This school will transform you, it will hurt you, and it will hurt you badly. The question is whether you can weather the punches and move on. Once you set foot in this compound, you relinquished your right to remain a child. You have your own apartments now, your own stipend and a hella lot of time on your hands; almost overwhelmingly much, really.

"Mommy isn't here to wash your clothes, or make your bed or clean your home. It's your job now. Other than that, knock yourselves out. Show us what you've got!" he yelled, The crowd continued cheering.

"Alright, as you all may know, today's the thirty first of August. End of the month, fellas. You all know what that means? IT'S THE MONTHLY WIFI PRIORITY BATTLES!" he yelled. "FIGHT HERE AND GET YOUR CHANCE TO UPGRADE YOUR BANDWIDTH!" he yelled. As the cheers died down, he continued. "Now, if you want to read the different prizes for each position, there's a bunch of posters hanging on the walls around you, so read 'em. We've got various prizes, but the top one…!" he yelled as he shook his head. "Oh, no, that's just too good to be true. IT'S UNCAPPED INTERNET SPEED! YOU WILL NEVER HAVE TO WAIT AGAIN, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IT JUST DOES NOT GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT!" he yelled. Suddenly, his secretary, Rose, tugged his hood, gaining his attention before she had something to say to the crowd.

"The crowd has waited long enough, don't you think, mayor? We all came here to see a battle, didn't we?!" she yelled. "This has been your mayor Bobby and Rose. Good luck with the new school year," she said. The students applauded her as they both walked out of the arena, allowing the tournament to begin.

The battles had long since begun. Because of the tremendous audience today, a plethora of clubs had used this opportunity, not to win extra bandwidth (that was just the cherry on top), but to promote themselves through fighting. What they seeked to do the most was to put on a show for everybody to set an interest in them.

There really weren't any weaklings present in general, meaning that all the people here could probably easily beat an average human. The president of the Karate club was currently up against a nameless peon who thought he could land himself some extra bandwidth by just participating (which he would, but he'd still receive some wounds to go). Needless to say, the nameless extra was defeated, quite easily, might I add. It took one direct punch to his solar plexus which shattered most of his ribs and punctured some vital organs. Luckily, the medbots were there to heal him before anything crazy might have happened.

The battles were pretty one-sided, as some evil genius who had made the tourney bracket thought to get all the normies out of the way before the fun stuff would begin. Needless to say, the beginner battles were nearly all one sided.

My battle quickly came up, and I thought to end this one quickly. On one side was I, and on the other was a tall and musclebound person. He looked really beefy, but I could tell that he couldn't be more than a sophomore, therefore my underclassman. Although I do my best not to judge people based on age, his overconfident smirk really got me thinking about whether he was all that strong as he thought he was.

"Announcement," crackled the loudspeaker. "Do either of the fighters wish to select a weapon from the weapon racks?" asked whoever was speaking.

"I do," said the tall underclassman. Swiftly, the tiled walls were replaced by weapon-racks which seemed to have every conceivable weapon made in the span of ten thousand years. The arena was pretty damn huge, so it spoke volumes when I said that not a square-inch of the reachable portion of the wall wasn't covered by some kind of weapon. My opponent went over to the melee section and picked himself a rather heavy-looking warhammer that required two hands to use. I simply remained still.

"Hey, squirt," said my opponent. "You sure you're not going to use a weapon?" he asked. I just nodded.

"The match begins on go. Three," started the ref through the loudspeaker. My opponent crouched as though he was preparing for a sprint.

"Two," I could literally see his veins bulging as he prepared for whatever maneuver he was about to perform.

"One," all the while, I stood still in a natural pose, waiting for him to show me what he's got.

"Go!" said the ref. My opponent rushed towards me, faster than I initially judged him to be. As quickly as he could, he drove his hammer right into my torso, blowing me back towards the wall behind me.

"Heh," murmured Rat as he watched the spectacle. Right next to him was Alexandra, watching with a bated breath. She cringed as the warhammer struck Lucas, but Rat couldn't help but snicker, which served to catch Alexandra's attention.

"Why are you laughing when it's your friend that's getting hurt?" she asked him crossly. He waved his hand, seemingly not buynig any of it.

"I think you're misunderstanding the true depth of Lucas's strength." began Rat.."Let me explain. My boy, here, has an innate skill, and quite a precise one, at that. I've dubbed it the Iron Jacket, but he hates that nickname. He says it's too unrealistic to name your skills," said Rat.

Alexandra looked over to see Lucas casually getting up after the violent attack as though nothing had happened. Alexandra gasped, awestruck by his defence. Suddenly, she remembered the battle that they had fought the day before. When she had struck Lucas' shoulder with her ethereal whip, she managed to disintegrate the clothing that covered his shoulder into a mere sizzle, but his skin was completely unblemished.

She quickly looked back into the arena, at Lucas' stomach. The area which was struck by the hammer was pretty much in tatters. Well, his t-shirt at least. He was as fine, weirdly enough. It was then that Alexandra realized exactly how great the gap between the two was.

With a fist clenched, and a defiant frown, she made a silent vow.

"Uhm," mumbled Rat as he looked at Alexandra, confused by her fervour. "Are you alright?" he asked. Quickly, Alexandra unclenched her fist and smiled at Rat.

"Oh, no! Just ignore whatever you saw," she waved of his look of caution.

"Well," he mumbled. "Whatever you say,"

"Hah! Still standing, are you?" yelled my opponent. I looked down at my stomach. My t-shirt was pretty much a bust, and I kind of regret having let him do that, since now I'll have to buy a new shirt. Well, live and learn, I guess.

"I really think you should give up," I said. He looked at me like he was just told a joke, and was waiting eagerly for the punch line. Seeing that it wasn't coming, he began laughing, himself.

"Aren't you a cocky little boy?" he sneered. Waving off his insult, I decided to approach him another way.

"Alright, let's make a wager. I give you one free shot. I stand perfectly still and you hit me. No trap, no tricks, no nothing. If I can still stand afterwards, you'll give up the match," I said. I took of my shirt and threw it to the side, making sure that it wouldn't sustain any more damage. My opponent looked at me quizzically before coming to his conclusion.

"Make that five," he said. Shrugging, I gave him the liberty..

"Fine, whatever. Won't make much of a differe-" my speech was cut short by the Goliath as he drove his warhammer into my face, sending me sprawling across the arena. Without giving me the chance to get up, he hammered at me again, sending me flying further. I hit the steel wall hard, and just as I was to fall, he jumped up to my level and hammered me down. I hit the ground with considerable force. I tried planting one hand on the floor to get myself up, but before I could, MC Hammer nailed me down with his hammer again.

Damn. His fourth shot already. Sensing that nothing else was to come from him, I stood up casually and looked at him blankly.

"Just give up, my dude,"

"HOW 'BOUT I 'GIVE' YOU THIS!" he yelled. He socked my head with his hammer, sending me cartwheeling to the side, but before I hit another wall, I pushed myself up with my hands and landed on my feet before skidding a bit further.

"It brings me no pleasure to do this. Give up," I said. Frustration grew visible on his face as his breath grew more laboured. He seemed to be more tired than I was. Well, to be fair, it took me far less energy just standing around an innately blocking his attack than it took him socking me around with his oversized mallet.

"I'll teach you not to mess with me! No tricks, you say?! Now I know what kind of lying sonuvabitch you are!" he yelled. Well… shit, he was right. I mean, it's like a reflex, dammit. I can't just go against it all willy nilly. I mean, I could, but then I'd have to take the hits head on, and I'm sure I would have died if that would be the case.

Well, there seemed to be no reasoning with him. He charged towards me once again, intent on destroying me with his hammer once and for all. As he brought the hammer down, I could see an orange-black hue encompassing the metallic part.

Well, he was unreasonably excited.

The moment he brought his hammer down, I grabbed it by the long handle and clenched my fist around it, breaking it. Having disarmed my foe. I flicked him on his forehead. The whole maneuver probably took a second, but was seemingly too quick for Goliath over here to follow. He dropped to his knees, holding his pained forehead as it began to throb from the flick.

"Do you give up?" he asked him, hopefully one last time.

"Y-...yes," he admitted weakly. The loudspeaker crackled to life.

"And we have a winner!" announced the loudspeaker. The crowd cheered from the outside, that much I could hear. I went over to pick up my discarded t-shirt and wore it once again.

The next battle was the mayor, Bobby, versus another fodder character. Needless to say, the battle didn't last very long. With his over-the-top vigor, he proposed that they would both clash fists at the same time, anime style, and whoever got blown back would lose.

The fodder guy lost.

Not much of a surprise, really. Honestly, none of the fights up until this point carried much tension. Whoever wrote the fight-bracket really didn't give a shit.

The last match from the first round was Night versus… wait a minute, they actually paired her against someone who might be stronger! Perhaps this fight would be more entertaining.

In walked Night, with a large sack on her back filled with black lumps. She wore black sweatpants, and a baggy and black long-sleeved shirt. On the other side was an average-height guy with a crew cut. He wore a white tank-top, a hoodie tied to his waist and brown cargo-pants. I recognized that he was a senior, but his name escaped me. Either way, I don't go around collecting people's names, because I really don't care.

I could see that the battle could really go either way, but it was best to just wait to see what would happen.

After the weapon-rack request was issued, Night went over and picked a naginata, her favorite weapon, it seems. In response, her opponent went and grabbed himself a pair of metallic gauntlets for protection. He made it obvious that he was a brawler.

The match was about to begin. Night smirked at her opponent maliciously, baiting him to get agitated. In response, he converged his lips into a mock-kiss before blinking at her, much to her disgust.

The match began, and the two fighters locked horns. Night brought her naginata down, intended on slicing his skull open. Her opponent blocked it with the metal gauntlets. She leaped back and dashed forwards for a horizontal slash, which was again blocked.

She spun the naginata, and hit his unprotected left side with the tip of the handle, causing him to stagger. Grateful for the opening, she went for another right slash, which was blocked with his one available hand. The force of the blow was enough to blow his hand back. She capitalised on the opportunity and rotated her polearm quickly for a left hit, which was blocked by his other free arm.

Feeling confident, she stepped in and kicked his solar plexus, sending him staggering backwards. After a few coughs, he stood up straight and dried his mouth with his forearm before giving a shark-like grin to his opponent.

This time, he was the one to charge in. He directed a punch to her face, which was deflected with the blunt end of the naginata. Just as the sharp end was to lop his head of, he fell back and kicked her while lying down. She regained her balance just as he kicked himself up and directed a flurry of kicks at her, most of which met their mark.

An equal exchange, it might have seemed.

The fight dragged on a little longer, with each party delivering their share of attacks to the other.

I looked over to my right and saw Rat already making a betting pool, notes tucked between his fingers as he waved the money around. Typical Rat. Like his namesake, he couldn't pass off an opportunity to be sleazy.

Back in the ring, the fight was still going on, with both parties duking it out. Their exchange was abruptly ended as Night unwittingly gave her opponent an opening, allowing him to plant his metallic fist straight into her cheek, sending her tumbling back, her lower lip punctured, and her nose bleeding.

Her opponent smirked viciously.

"I suppose you'd like to give up? Don't worry, you fought wonderfully, for a girl," he said. Well, that did it. He done goofed. There are no other words. He. Done. Goofed.

She stood up, fighting her pain with all her might as she fought to keep upstanding. She stared into her opponent's eyes, seemingly wanting to outright kill him.

Her glare was quickly cut short by her opponent who had kicked her right in her stomach. She rolled a bit more. The black lumps in the sack began falling out and spread around the floor. In closer observation, it seemed to be coal.

I'm guessing she was planning on going all-out. I checked the time. It was about ten pm, on a school-night, no less. Just two hours until midnight.

She stood up once again, and just as another punch was about to hit her, she dodged it, and used his open side to drive the blunt end of the naginata into his side, throwing him into a coughing fit.

Night threw the sack, causing it to spread more of its content on the floor. She began twirling her naginata, causing a breeze to blow. The coal dust began blowing around the arena until it began swirling towards Night. The blackness of the coal-dust began intensifying into something almost eerily black. I don't know if it makes much sense, but that was by far the blackest thing I've ever seen.

The sack of coal began emptying as all of it began swirling around her. She began covering herself with the unbelievably black substance, covering every square-inch of herself, leaving one eye. The rest of the coal began swirling overhead as it merged into a soccer-ball sized orb of pure blackness.

Yeah, she was pretty metal. Or non-metal, to be exact. Chemistry puns aren't that potassium, but still.

At this point, her opponent staggered back, obviously shaken up by the eldritch horror standing in front of him. He began crawling backwards as she held her naginata high with one hand. The naginata had still retained its original colour, but that was quickly going to change as black tendrils spun around the handle of the naginata. Her opponent began whimpering as he crawled back more and more. Eventually, he hit a wall.

Night drove her naginata down and pierced his stomach. The wound was incredibly shallow, and was completely non-fatal, but it was a part of the act. The black tendrils began reaching the blade, turning it night-black, too. The blackness, once it reached his body, began to encroach on him, much to his horror.

He began hollering and yelling, scared for his life. Night could only laugh.

"It wasn't supposed to go this far, ya know?" she said. "You made this personal, and now a girl made you piss yourself," she said. He looked down to his trousers, which had a wet splotch on his groin.

"O-OKAY, I-I GIVE! I GIVE UP, JUST L-LEAVE ME ALONE!" he yelled. Promptly, she removed the naginata, and the black tendrils, which had already reached his face, retreated back into the naginata. She removed her blackness telepathically, making it join with the black orb that was floating over her head. The black orb, on command, flew back into the sack it had come from.

"We have a winner!" announced the loudspeaker. The crowd was fairly shaken up by the display, and few really cared to applaud the horror show. Even Alexandra, who had sat next to me, was completely awestruck. I took the liberty to explain.

"Vantablack 3.0, it's called. It's a substance that absorbs 99.999% of light in the visible light spectrum. It's made of carbon nanotubes that are arranged extremely meticulously," I said. She looked at me in disbelief.

"You mean she has that much microcontrol?" she asked. I simply shrugged.

"Gene memory and Placebomancy are such cheat skills," I muttered. She looked at me, confusion evident in her eyes.

"Gene memory and Placebomancy? I think I heard that once before, but what exactly is it?" she asked. I tried recalling some lessons were we discussed it, and eventually remembered something.

"You know how people thought this stuff was magic about a hundred years ago?" I asked as I raised my palm, producing a faint glow. She nodded, understanding. "Well, when it was revealed that it was actually science, scientists began investigating why some people's abilities are so specific and culture-influenced. Social constructs had no place in natural science, so it was pretty much the source of rage of every scientist alive at that time," I began.

"Another question," I continued. "That scientists were asking was how people like the English mages, or the Dual Nation Samurai could pull of such ridiculously specific and precise feat. A team of anthropologists collaborated with some chemists, deconstructing the mystery. Eventually, they found that these things," I pointed to the back of my head. "The modulators that exists as a micro-organ somewhere in our brains carry a sort of muscle-memory from past generations. Nothing specific like memories, but only memories of abilities that our predecessors used," I continued.

"It takes a hell of a lot of focus and concentration to direct and micromanage every single carbon molecule to create a VANTA, let alone millions upon millions, but if the collective focus, concentration and effort from your predecessors, in addition to your own is added to the concoction, you can do those kinds of things, no problem. This, however, only applies to certain techniques that your predecessors had worked on, themselves.

"Now, placebomancy is basically tricking your brain into thinking that you're stronger than you actually are, by putting your faith in an external entity. Deities, objects, et cetera. See, the thing about our brain is that it can be tricked so easily, almost disgustingly so. Anyways, Night says she gets her powers from her patron deity Tsuku-something," I said. "Her family owns a shinto shrine in San Francisco and they practice Onmyodo there.

"However, a really precarious balance needs to be maintained, lest their suspension of disbelief diminishes. You can believe that you're the strongest because God said so, but that still won't exactly work, because… just ask a teacher, because I'm not really sure,"

"Hmm," hummed Alexandra. "Thank you for the explanation. Y-you are quite knowledgable," she admitted, with a light hint of trepidation in her stutter.

"Hey, thanks," I said, flashing a smile, much to her annoyance. She swung her head to face the other direction with a swift hum.

At least her attitude had changed marginally. That was a relief.

The tournament was coming to an end. Naginata-girl dropped of somewhere near the semi-finals, when she was forced to fight against Bobby. Without a second thought, she forfeited the match and left with what she had. Her brother could now watch his pornos to his heart's content.

I realized that the berserk season would probably be released all at once, as per tradition. It would be quite a few gigs, in that case. To be honest, I was pretty much going to drop-out at this point. However, I just felt that it wouldn't be that right. I had already come this far, and my prospective battle against Bobby was pretty-much preventing me from dropping out.

It was my turn to fight now. Finally, there was someone in my power level. After having defeated three other opponents with ease, I was pleased to see that Siri Norton was my opponent. She is currently the captain of the Kendo club, and having just defeated the fencing-club captain prior to this fight, she was intent on reaching the top, if anything, for her club's popularity.

She brought her own katana into the fight, no doubt forged by the Blacksmith, himself. Speaking of which, I couldn't see him anywhere, today. I figured he'd be here to advertise his wares, but no-dice.

The match began with a blast. The two of us charged into each other, I with a fist, and her with the sharp end of her katana. Her jet-black hair waved as she ran towards me. The punch was actually a feint, as I slid down on my knees, attempting to sweep her feet of the ground. She jumped over the legs and prepared to drive the blade down on my prone form. Quickly, I leaped out of the way and kicked myself up. I felt a light sting on my leg. I bent over to check and saw a red gash on my calf.

I directed my xeons to the wounded area in order to heal it faster, but it was taking a hella-lot of time, and it would probably be done in ten minutes. I didn't have that time. Moreso, the gash had severed some muscles, cutting my speed down considerably.

She leaped back, away from me. Then she splattered the floor with the blood that was on her sword. It wasn't much, but it was still pretty badass.

Shit, focus. I was in trouble. I was careless in my maneuver, and that would cost me. I could tell that the atmospheric xeons were running low due to all the fighting that had occurred. The healing was still in progress, therefore.

I hobbled myself up and raised my fists. She came forwards, with her blade as she went for a horizontal slash. I blocked it with my bare hands, making sure to harden them considerably, first. The sword bounced off from me, but she used it to gather momentum for another slash, which was blocked in the nick of time. She backed me into a wall, now, but kept going on with the attacks.

She kept firing at me, only to be blocked. She jumped back and dashed at me as fast as she could. She brought the blade high up… as a feint. As I brought my hands up to block, she went for my bare torso.

Before the hit could connect, I did my best to jump with only one leg and hardened my bare foot before blocking the strike. She wasn't giving in, enforcing her sword as she gradually cleaved into my sole. In return, I hardened my foot.

Our xeons were flaring all over the arena. It was truly a battle of attrition, and it seemed that she was winning. This was bad. I brainstormed as fast as I could before reaching a conclusion.

I had to use that technique.

I put my hands together and pointed at her like I was carrying a gun and yelled.

"SPIRIT GUN!". In response to my yell, she jumped back, startled by the unexpected attack… which never came. Whatever the case, the 'technique' served its purpose. I got a break from all the bullshit, and I made her look stupid.

She looked at me in open disgust.

"That was dishonorable,". Alright, I'm going to hell, I admit it. I just couldn't resist laughing. Seriously, what kind of a samurai movie does she think she lives in? I half expected her cheeks to flush, but her cold gaze remained as stern as ever. Points to her.

"Honor doesn't win the war, lady," I cackled. That seemingly did it. Enraged and blind in her fury, she went for another flurry of attacks. This time, with my half-healed leg as ready as it could be, I tried a sword-stopping technique.

As she brought the sword down to my head, I put my coordination and reflexes to the test. It was almost like time slowed down as my hands were gradually reaching each other.

The margin of error needed to be nearly null. The blade moved faster than my hands, so I needed this to be as precise as humanly possible. No, as precise as possible, fullstop.

The blade kept inching downwards. This was past the point of no return, meaning that I couldn't just dodge it. She could actually kill me at this moment. I mean, she'd get expelled, but still. I would have died. There was no other optiion but the sword stopping technique.

Only now did I realize the full extent of the stupidity that I possessed. Well, no matter. What's decided has been decided. There is no turning back. The sword was almost between my hands, and that was when I pressed them together.

I caught the blade.

Hah, crazy, right? I actually caught it. I fought against the momentum and brought it to a stand-still before pressing against it tightly, intending to break the blade.

After a few tries, nothing. The Blacksmith really did make this sword. Oh, shucks. Well, since Siri Ga Kill doesn't want to let go of the blade (after I tugged it), I decided to hold onto it, biding my time to think of another tactic.

"Dishonorable," she muttered. I'm sorry for not humoring your game, but honor gets people killed. I didn't say that out loud. I already had her where I wanted. Before I could pull of something else, Siri unexpectedly let go of the sword and used my open form to deliver a palm-strike to my solar plexus. It would have hit me if I didn't move out of the way in the absolute nick of time (seriously, screw inches, we were millimeters from each other).

"Return my blade," seethed Siri.

"Yeah… how about 'no'?"

Now that I had her sword, and she was disarmed, I could very well show her my own rendition of Kendo. I therefore did as I was shown. I swung it around like a maniac. Of course, she managed to dodge most of the attacks,

Feeling frustrated, I tossed the sword behind me and evened the playing field. We were both unarmed, and I could easily outmaneuver her, now.

I went in for a pretty straight-forward punch, which she danced her way out of, before kicking me in the head, almost causing me to lose balance. Thankfully, I didn't feel that much pain, so I regained my bearing before attempting to sweep her feet of the ground (again). This time, it was only a feint, As she was busy jumping, I (tactically) retreated, picked up the sword and leaped to another corner of the ring before tossing it aside.

I engaged her once again, this time making sure to dodge her own blows. I finally landed a hook to her right cheek, sending her skidding backwards. Furiously, she began swiping me harder with lightning-speed punches that I could barely follow. They were light, but enough of them could lead to an injury.

Thankfully, because of my extreme pain-tolerance, courtesy of my 'iron jacket' as Rat would have it, I was able to fight without pain hindering me.

"You're a perfect grindstone," I said. She made no indication that she heard me, but once we pushed ourselves from each other and created distance between us, she scoffed.

"Now, what is that supposed to mean?" she murmured, passive-aggressively.

I had an inkling that now wasn't the time to pull any punches. If I wanted to defeat my opponent, I'd have to expend a little more effort. I dashed towards her, kicking of the ground in a blinding speed. Taking her by surprise, I uppercutted her, sending her soaring. I gave a hook kick, sending her flying. Before I could reach her, she regained her bearings, landing elegantly, skidding across the arena.

Before I could get to her, she prepared for a diagonal kick in my direction. My momentum, being too great to abruptly break, I transformed my motion into a hook-kick, thereby crossing legs with her. The force of both our legs pressing against each other was purely a numbers game. The one with least amount of back muscle strength would lose. It was tight, but I pressed on.

Eventually, I managed to blow her back, sending her rolling across the floor. Upon quick survey, it was evident that she was bleeding, but not too heavily. A couple of minor gashes here and there that most likely manifested when I decided to get serious in my attacks.

She kicked herself up quickly, intercepting the blow I had prepared for her with her legs. She rotated her body, sending her other leg rushing towards my head. In the nick of time, I quickly brought back my head, making her kick miss by mere millimeters. I capitalized on her missed kick by hugging her from behind, tightly, before arching my back, sending her falling head-first into the ground.

"Wu-waaAAAIT-"

The moment her head smashed into the floor, her whole body just slumped. I'll be honest, that move wasn't the cleanest one that I've used, nor am I too proud that I had to use it, but fighting's fighting. My opponent could keep her honor, even if it led her to the grave. Me, I preferred living. It's a little thing called 'not letting people take advantage of you'.

That was probably the Trump-iest thing I've ever thought.

"The winner is Lucas King!" announced the loudspeaker. Roars of excitement could be heard, but I really couldn't care less. My calf was almost completely healed. My hands seemed to have lost some skin, courtesy of my inane sword-catching performance.

The semi-finals were up. It was Bobby versus the Freefight Club captain, Viktor Mikhailik. A tough opponent, if I do say so myself, but I'm sure he'll make it out alright.

After all, his battle was with me.