And now . . . the forum staff brings you the Fight Club ROYAL RUMMMMBLE!

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Shards of stone literally shattered as Engar took a step forwards, the crackle of energy that that mere step made sounding out like the crack of doom. All around him the screams of the crowd echoed, as he approached Hwoarang across the broken arena they only grew and grew, people pounding on their seats in a frenzy of passion as he made his measured way towards his lone opponent. There was a thump and vacant groan as, in the background, the Lone Rider landed from his fall but neither paid him any mind.

He paused, not more than a meter from Hwoarang and raised his hand.

The screaming abruptly ended, leaving Hwoarang's rasping breaths and the crackle of Engar's energy as the only sounds throughout the arena.

"This."

Engar blurred, his image becoming one long streak from the still cracking point his feet had vacated to the space Hwoarang had, until the last second, occupied. Two auras clashed, faster than the eye could follow blows were sent and defended. As the whirlwind rose up around the two blurs, sparks shooting out of the auras and cracking tiles as they grounded themselves, a scream emerged from it all.

"Ends!"

All the energy that had been whirling around the two suddenly blew back against the audience as Hwoarang was hurled, unhurt, out of the battle and across the arena in the opposite direction. With a burst of energy he spiralled in mid air, landing right in front of the edge of the arena; chains jangling in the wake of his aura. He was just collecting his breath and looking up when Engar fired.

"NOW!"

His left hand gripping his right arm which was extended, palm open, towards Hwoarang; Engar forced a burst of energy through the hand in a burst of pure white energy - a sun the size of a beach-ball emerging as his arm ricocheted backwards. But none of that mattered; all Hwoarang could see was the fast approaching orb; all he could think of was 'This is it.'

--- clang, clang, clang.. ---

As time slowed to treacle, as though his senses were trying to collect his last moments with the most precise detail, Hwoarang could pick out the strobe light effect the orb had ? the pure beauty of it as it sliced through the air towards him. He was captured by it. There were, after all, worse ways to die..

--- clang, clang, clang.. ---

Hwoarang turned with glacier speeds, his vision sluggishly focusing on something approaching on its side. To Engar, trying to move against the all encompassing wave of what could only be SaiyanPride's energy, it was as though he were looking down on Pride running normally. But he wasn't, he was almost horizontal as he defied gravity - his feet pounding on the chains as they strained taught against the turn-buckles.

And he was going to make it..!

Powerful arms grabbed Hwoarang by the shoulders and, kicking off from the chains, the two rose together away from the energy blast that hammered into the chains and sent white sparks writhing along the metal. The two, their colours distorted and other-worldly in Pride's aura, looked down on Engar coldly.

Whatever madness that had held Engar before was gone now; cold sanity told him that as long as both survived neither could be defeated.

"Oh well," Engar grinned, "I knew this was going to be difficult.."

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"That was one hell of a close thing," Optimus' voice resounded around the arena, "those two are some team!"

"Indeed, my disciple has his work cut out for him in this," Cucumba's voice came, unstrained and clear, "You were in the fight personally, what do you have to say Deverz?"

"I'd just say to remember that there can only be one winner to this Rumble." Deverz shifted in his chair. "They've all got to be considering that, even Pride and Hwoarang."

"Personally I think they're all doing great. Engar looks to have a bag full of tricks he's only started to reveal, I mean the force and a sabre? Pride and Hwoarang have to be careful now, though Pride blew us away with that transformation of his. If he was making ripples before, he's making tidal waves now! And Hwoarang? He's a powerhouse of skill and energy - I mean he's been in this thing from the beginning and he's still going! And lets not forget the fighters in reserve. Scruffie? Magus? SA_Gohan?! There's so much left to reveal; believe me folks we're only getting started!"

Silence filled the box as Hibiki felt the combined shock coming off of Cucumba, Optimus and Deverz.

"Now give me my bloody PSP back!"

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"I'm getting to Engar first.."

"Wanna bet?"

Both warriors grinned then, their feet having just enough time to register the fact that they had landed, made their move. Both became streaks of energy, sparks of energy trailing them as they shot off in opposite directions in a diagonal move to opposite sides of the arena. From there, with Engar glancing from side to side in confusion, both warriors repelled of the chains and raced each other towards their opponent. Their target. Engar.

The warrior with his eyes closed and hands clasped tightly together as though in prayer, his head bowed in concentration even as the two approached. The crowds screaming was a roar in his ears, the ceaseless commentary from the Admins a toneless natter; none of it mattered to him even as his opponents increased their speed. All that mattered was very little. All that was important was the sound of air that flowed around him; all else was insignificant. He listened to it, identified it, and when it changed he reacted.

Before their very eyes, hands still clasped, Engar took a step back and turned even as Pride's fist sent repercussions through the entire arena. Still turning, the lashing sound of Pride's peculiar aura in his ear, Engar raised his clasped hands and, calling upon his aura, brought them both down upon the back of Pride's head like a club. All at once his aura began to fail and, stumbling to knees, Pride held his head in order to ward off the darkness that threatened to pull him into unconsciousness. Hwoarang meanwhile was just appearing, his feet barely touching the ground before springing up in a spinning kick that almost caught Engar off guard.

Almost.

Ducking under the attack Engar rose up even as Hwoarang soared through the air, his hands opening up as he extended them out towards Hwoarang's unguarded chest. There was a thump, audible over the arena, as Engar discharged a blast directly into Hwoarang's chest - then silence as he plummeted backwards onto the arena floor. Smoke trailed his mute flight path.

Turning to make sure Pride was down for the count, Engar walked right into a solid punch and, too dazed to think straight, had only began to raise his hands in defence when he met another. Dancing momentary on his feet, Pride paused and grinned before continuing to pummel blow after blow into Engar who did nothing to stop him - merely bouncing from blow to blow like a doll.

His back suddenly exploded in pain, from behind him Hwoarang turned in mid-air and with a scream of vengeance smashed the heel of his right foot into the side of Engar's head. Landing with a crack on his knees, falling still forwards until his hands were pressed against the cracked, rough flooring of the arena; Engar looked defeated in the eyes of all.

"You've been here longest, you deserve this Hwo.."

A drop of blood beaded on the curve of Engar's split lip.

"Maybe I do and maybe I don't, but I'll accept it anyway!"

The blood slid down along his chin, leaving a bright red stripe behind it.

Hwoarang's aura flared to life, blue and red sparks exploding outwards as he sought the power to end Engar in one blow. The tiles around him cracked and shattered, spiralling away in the tornado that surrounded him and his two opponents.

It reached the curve, more and more blood following it, building it up.

Hwoarang drew his fist back, mouth open in a scream that was lost to the blast of wind that surrounded them all. The audience could barely see them now and the whole crowd falling silent as they realised that nothing they could produce could compare to the sound Hwoarang's aura was generating.

Finally, inexorably, the blood lost it's grip on Engar's chin and plummeted towards floor.

Hwoarang brought his fist down, his whole aura dying as all the energy of it was focussed into one blow.

---plop..---

Hwoarang found himself, in this perfect moment of contrasting energies, staring into the mad grin of one Engar, apprentice of Cucumba. The warrior who had troubled him so much. The warrior who had taken down Deverz. The warrior who had created the Rogue Sabre. The warrior who-

The warrior who had caught his blow with one hand.

The tiles around Engar for a dozen feet shattered simultaneously, revealing the broken concrete beneath them as they peppered the air like grapeshot. And from Engar rose up a beam of golden light, surrounding him and reaching through the hole in the ceiling, lighting the heavens energy as he began to scream. Turning as he rose, slow but as inevitable as the collision of galaxies, Engar gripped Hwoarang's arm in both hands and brought him over his head - smashing him remorselessly against the concrete.

He turned to Pride, grin still in place as tiles exploded around them, and even as his pixilated aura enveloped him, stepped forwards to attack. Pride brought up his fore arms to deflect the worst of the attacks, relying on his aura to defend him, but Engar had other things in mind. His fingers danced lightning fast across Pride's arms, his fingers touching down almost randomly on points on each arm with Ki-aided precision. Then he stepped back and, cold grin still in place as the sparks clawed their way across his bruised face, waved for Pride to attack.

SaiyanPride was worried but couldn't afford to waste any opening, especially when his partner was down. He darted at Engar and brought both of his powerful arms to bare.. only to have them fall limply at his side. Shocked, Pride looked down at his useless arms then back up at Engar to receive to Ki-enhanced punches to the face. Pride stumbled backwards, terrified at the prospect of losing his control to the extent that his whole defence collapsed, and was unable to block as Engar rose up and swung his left foot around to catch Pride full on the face in a blow that sent him careening towards the edge of the arena. He landed hard, still skidding, and with no control of his arms to slow him down just kept on going.

As the crowd looked on in horror Pride skidded right under the chains of the ring and, one useless arm trailing behind him, plummeted towards the darkness -

"Got ya!"

until Hwoarang snatched that last arm, his other hand slipped around the chains of the arena. Straining his weight against them, the weary warrior heaved Pride back into the arena, dumping unceremoniously onto the ground before turning to look for Engar.

"Thanks.. for.. that.." gasped Pride, still feeling the after-affects of his shock.

"Don't.. mention," replied Hwoarang, leaning hard against the chains, "We're.. even.."

Pride took another deep breath, then stood up - his aura flaring up around him. Hwoarang followed suit, the contrasting colours of the two looking haunting in the dark setting.

"It's not over yet," Pride grinned, "Not until Princess over there says uncle.."

Outwardly Engar looked calm, the crazed grin he had worn in his momentary burst of energy fading to a sombre expression. Inwardly, however, he was exhausted. That momentary explosion had cost him more than he would ever admit to anyone; he'd deny it to his dying breath but in that moment there was nothing he wanted more than to lie down. But he wouldn't; no matter what happened, no matter what it took..

He would not lose the Rumble..
 
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Hwoarang had witnessed both Engar, Deverz, and SaiyanPride test the limits of his mental perceptions. Each fighters, physically questioned the definitions as of which his masters had teached him. He turned to Engar, his aura flashing as quickly as the blindness that accompanied it. "I can sense an internal battle within you. Should I fear your line between life and death? "

Engar rolled his eyes as another gush of wind filled the arena. "I have grown beyond such questions of purpose. You perfect yourself with an expression of concern. When it comes to peers and prods of moderation, don't quit your day job."

The crowd grew quiet, forcing the Tae Kwon Do prodigy into realizing again their anticipation in the next set of fate defining alternatives and continously pinnacle tests. Hwoarang was momentarily focused on the crowd's natural and wealthy collection, making him feel his own sense of purpose. Hwoarang had not only been explained and enlightened in the extents of gathering energy, he also had quickly developed the ability to sense it. Standing in the dark hallway before his name was called, he had studied his opponents, and tried to quickly interpret their sources of power. Ironically, Engar and SaiyanPride were two he couldn't quite descibe mentally or with what seemed nervous and lightly spoken theories.

His aura tensed violently, ambiently echoing Hwoarang's request for the battle to take it's next steps in evolution.

"Will this eventually, crank up a little?"

Hwoarang knew this battle had only just begun.

"What is my future between these arena walls?"

His aura altered visually and ambiently with an easily expressive representation of Hwoarang's will to...

"...just survive."

He quickly spun away from SaiyanPride, sliding across the floor, his solid red aura reflecting in the eyes of the audience as they automatically focused on the first fighter to take action. Hwoarang approached Engar with a certain grace of his own, launching two quick opposite sided jabs and a stiff right kick for added effect. Engar, easily dodging the first two melee attempts, found himself open and unable to thwart the last. He rocketed across the ring, but quickly reached down grasped the top chain. Using the chains as a pivot point of return, he landed on the edge of the octagon. Forced to dunk under a violent and almost unexpected slashing right heel from Hwoarang, Engar flipped over the chains. Landing beside his obviously adept opponent, he quickly launched two opposite sides jabs of his own. Hwoarang pushed off the right, forcing Engar to rotate towards his opponent as he launched the left. Suddenly, Hwoarang became an afterimage, reappearing next to SaiyanPride.


Optimus Prime's mouth dropped with a countenance of disbelief. "His speed has increased. He also learned that technique from Vejimaru, I suppose."

Cucumba smirked with a light sense of admiration. "That could or could not be the case. Ki is a mysteriously powerful thing sometimes."

Hibiki covered his ear as he focused on the minute broadcast from his ear piece. "This just in... Smith has retired."

Cucumba turned to Hibiki and sighed. "A short career, but he did make his mark."


Hwoarang stood next SaiyanPride, his arms crossed, staring at the elusive Engar. Turning with an almost paranoid reaction to his fellow CATALYST ally, he watched as SaiyanPride began to walk forward.

Hwoarang erupted with ambiently noticable aura, causing SaiyanPride to look back. "Your turn to... try."

SaiyanPride laughed. "We'll eventually wear down this machine. I know we can..."

SaiyanPride noticed Hwoarang grow a face of concern, barely dodging a powerful right cross from Engar. Engar unhesitantly continued, rotating mid-air to the left of SaiyanPride. Exiting his previous gravity defying state, he extended his right foot into the chest of the phenomenon. SaiyanPride stood as if nothing had happened, yet it was visibly obvious that Engar's kick had pierced the phenomenon.

Engar became a hurricane of power, wind howling with each and every move he made. He quickly waved his arm in a waving motion, launching SaiyanPride towards the opposite side of the octagon. "You thought you cold mock me? You two may be fast... but fate doesn't tend to work against it's obvious creators!"

Engar quickly and rapidly trancended to the octagon, dispelling an almost visible trace of aura. The wind began to envelope him in an extreme display of concentration, fallacious and perplexing to those who witnessed it. The crowd began to scream and deplore in uncomfortable and random outbursts, insisting Hwoarang to realize there mental misery.

Hwoarang's eyes filled with fear, denomating the current possibilites.

"Not the madness...."

Visions of the crowd began to spread through his mind, reflecting in a mirror image of his vision.

"....It's spreading."

Hwoarang watched as the entire crowd began to riot, there simple minds becoming habitual thespians. Astonishlingly, Engar increased the mentally achieved tempest to seismic proportions. He quickly extended his hands, orchastrating the mysterious wind towards his two opponents. Engar's eyes flashed with determination, almost signaling the increase of speed, creating a cyclone that rotated and constantly crashed directly towards Hwoarang and SaiyanPride.

Hwoarang turned towards the phenomenon, his forearms the only shield from the blistering wind. "Hold on!"

SaiyanPride had awoke from his momentary slumber, noticing how much his head quaked with pain. He then found himself gripping the chains for immediate stability, easily ciphering his impossible assistance. "It's... up to you!"

Hwoarang quickly nodded and turned to Engar, realizing that the modiwan had encouraged his aura into an increase in undulation. The pride that proceeded the carrier of the Iron Fist, became visual hallucinations as Hwoarang began to scream.

"You must gaurd the Iron Fist with your life...."

Continual energy swelled in his veins, itching to spread to it's familiar places.

"Destiny can sometimes only be a path with unmarked trails...."

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy ignited with energy, creating his own epicenter of a siesmic miracle. His aura began to actually proliferate and whip wildly, churning against the wind that Engar seemed to effortlessly impose.

Hwoarang threw his arms into a tense formation, as energy became instantly concentrated in his dried blood covered fists. His aura still progressively distributing mass, rising like a giant over Engar's mentally enigmatic cylcone.

Engar watched as Hwoarang, unlike his basically imprisoned ally SaiyanPride, began to move against the wind. Sparks of lightning began to flourish randomly as the Tae Kwon Do prodigy took his first step. Engar's eyes immediately flashed and he increased the wind's strength. Hwoarang screamed again, a burst of increased aura continuing the struggle.

Engar's face filled with concern.

"He isn't budging! Who is this guy?"

Hwoarang's began to scream again, increasing the repetitions of his earth-shattering footsteps. Concentrating all his energy into his right fist, he began to blur through the whirlwind. "Jinsokuuuuuuuuu......... IRON FIST!!!"

Engar tried to drop his trance like state, forced into the defensive procastination that only became a problem. Hwoarang's aura drenched and rising right fist connected, creating a rippling effect that only became a chain reaction of pain for Engar. The modiwan rocketed skyward, clenching his face with an obvious admission of the point of contact.

Finding the wind all but dissapated, Hwoarang gave chase as fast as he could. The Tae Kwon Do prodigy blurred towards Engar, surprised as he watched the modiwan quickly gain composure. Hwoarang tried his best to react, but only led himself into a trap. Engar quickly launched his right fist into Hwoarang's chest, sending his own rippling effect through the arena. The Tae Kwon Do prodigy was sent reeling, noticing another gust of wind ambiently introducing itself. An emotion of annoyance spread through him mentally, creating an ignition of alleviating promises.

"I'll break you down Engar... even if it takes an eternity... I'll break you down."
 

Mephit74

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Now approaching the ring at six feet, two hundred and twenty pounds . . . teh mean pwnage . . . BRIM!
 
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As the winds of the stadium began to pick up once more, Hwoarang began to focus himself again, attempting to keep his ground once more against the furious gale. Thinking only of how he was determined to break Engar’s will, and his face to match, Hwoarang was so intently focused that nothing else going on in the world mattered to him, but breaking the wind’s power and reaching Engar.

And then something happened, something that caught both Pride and Hwoarang completely off guard. The wind is waning, thought Hwoarang but why? The answer came almost as soon as Hwoarang was finished asking himself. The crowd is chanting? What is it now?

“THUNDER!”

Hwoarang and Pride both exchanged glances of bewilderment, then turned their heads toward Engar who was staring past them towards something.

“THUNDER!”


Hwoarang heard the crowd chant again, this time hearing them give off something of a stretched out moan afterwards.

“THUNDER!”

The voices of the crowd started to pick up and become louder, giving an ominous presence to the air. Something big was coming, and Hwoarang, Pride, and Engar could all feel it.

“THUNDER!”

Hwoarang and Pride both averted their own gazes to match Engar’s, going across the octagonal ring, and out toward the entryway.

“THUNDER!”

From the shadows of the tunnel, the fighters could see something move.

“THUNDER!”

At once all the fighters knew what was coming.

“THUNDER!”


It was the next opponent

“THUNDER!”

Their next challenge

“THUNDER!”

It was

“THUNDER!”

Brim



All of the fighters flinched as two massive explosions of firework erupted on either side of the tunnel. The crowd erupted in turn with chanting to the song that now each fighter recognized.

Thunderstruck thought Brim, Judging by their expressions, I would say that this song was a good pick for my entrance.

Making his descent to the ring, Brim took in the atmosphere, making acute observations of the carnage that is Royal Rumble. Seeing Hwoarang and Pride on the opposite side of the ring from Engar, Brim could only assume that Engar had been dominating the battle in the moments before he had entered. So he is the one thought Brim, he is the one I need to look out for. Without even watching what had gone on so far in the rumble, Brim could tell it had been fierce. The ring looked fairly beaten, almost as much as the faces of Pride, Engar, and Hwoarang. Blood was splattered all across the ring, in different stages of drying, rocks littered the arena, varying in size, and the ceiling had been nearly torn asunder. This place is close to being completely destroyed he thought.

As he entered the ring there was a moment of gentlemanly respect between all of the fighters, each holding up his own defense, yet none were readying an attack. From the moment he entered the ring, Brim’s gaze was set on Engar. What does he have? Brim wondered what is it about him that is keeping these two so beaten down?

“Nice flashy entry,” sneered Hwoarang with the lightest sound of a jest, “hope you have something more to back up the fireworks.”

“And a good day to you too,” Brim retorted to his fellow faction member, never letting his eyes waver from Engar “tell me, are the dried blood stains on your clothes a fashion statement, or are you just getting your ass whooped?”

“I-”

“As fun as **** talking is,” Pride interrupted “I hope you are planning to fight with fists, rather than words, because this aint no Sunday picnic.”

“I am well aware, thank you” Brim replied “picnics don’t generally involve bringing buildings close to destruction…but just to let you know, this is a rumble, and aside from all other outside alliances or friendships, I fight to win. If it favors my plans, I will fight alongside you, but don’t think for a moment that I won’t have my fist in your face the minute I deem it necessary. This is a fight for personal glory, and while our faction will receive some glory should the winner be a member…what is the saying again? Oh yeah ‘To the victor go the spoils’.”
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Brim had always been a loner. From the day he was born, he was destined to be alone. Unwelcome by all he met, and eventually cast aside by his family, he knew the meaning of true loneliness. But in his loneliness he did not find pain, or suffering. To him, loneliness was his only companion, a companion who would be there with him, always. His decision to join Faction: Catalyst was only one to further his own goals. He had no special preference for those in the faction, in fact, the only reason it had been F:C instead of another, was that he was sexed one night by a stunning member of the faction who possessed intriguing ninja skills. After being asked by this stranger to become a member, he decided to do it, after all what harm could come from it? To be completely honest, his loyalty to this faction was not a strong one.
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“HEY!”

Brim watched carefully as the man he had been pondering upon so greatly spoke up from across the ring.

“Do you think we are going to get this thing started back up anytime soon, or do you plan on beating me up once you have thoroughly put me to sleep with all of your babble?”

“I was wondering when you would speak up,” said Brim, eyeing up the man across the ring as he thought, what is up with this guy? He doesn’t look like a killer, but he seems to be giving these two quite the lashing. “Tell me something, how is it that a scrawny little man such as yourself can have legs and bulky here all torn up?” He must be hiding a great power…I can sense it coming from him…his looks are quite deceiving.

“He is Cucumba’s prodigy,” struggled Hwoarang “and quite deserving of the title.”

“Well then,” Brim began, “I guess I will have to take you somewhat seriously now won’t I?” Engar scoffed at the demeaning comment.

“Seriously is not the word used when describing the attitude that should be taken when facing your own demise.”

“True, but talk does become boring, and action is what the crowd wants…so what do you say?” asked Brim.

“In that case, I say…” Engar grinned as he focused himself once more “LET’S SEE HOW STRONG YOU ARE!”

With this being said, Brim felt a great ripple in the air, and with it, a power he had definitely not expected. Being caught off guard, he was thrown about like a rag doll by the gale force winds. Rolling and flipping to the chains, Brim was lucky to manage a grasp on them, preventing himself from falling out of the ring. Damn he thought to himself this guy is good, I didn’t realize this fight was at such a high level of intensity.

Pulling himself with great trouble back into the ring, Brim cast his gaze towards his sides, where he could see both Hwoarang and Pride battling the winds with their auras. So that is it…using auras to hold your own. Gathering himself, Brim forced his shaking body to stand against the tearing winds. Bringing his hands together, Brim focused himself. Ignore it…ignore the winds, ignore the sounds, ignore all things but what you desire…there you will find the answer.

As Brim opened his eyes he saw that the wind was no longer tearing at him. His clothes, now tattered and torn, lay neatly against his large frame, moving only lightly with his breathing.

Hwoarang and Pride were both staring at Brim with gaping mouths. What is he doing? How is he doing it? They were both astonished at the fact that he seemed to be deflecting the winds away from himself seemingly effortlessly.

Upon seeing this blatant rebellion against his power, Engar was enraged and began to focus the winds into something of a horizontal cyclone, aiming solely for Brim. But Brim still stood in uninterrupted peace, an eye of a hurricane, his gaze upon Engar stone.

“Rest yourselves for now,” Brim said to his fellow faction members “I shall test his mettle.”

Realizing that his attack was doing nothing but wasting energy, Engar let down his whirlwind, and instead focused on bringing his aura to its peak.

“You’ve had it easy so far,” Brim said “fighting those two as worn down as they were surely wasn’t a challenge for you was it?” Brim could hear something of a protest coming from the direction of Hwoarang but paid no attention. “Come now, I am a fresh opponent with strength and determination to match.”

With these words said, Brim began to gather his energy and strength within himself. Feeling power flow throughout his very tissue, Brim’s body began to seethe with energy, causing him to emit a shimmering glow from his flesh. It was time to test this man, and to test his own limits as well.

Letting out a raging roar, Brim began his initial charge upon Engar. As he threw himself toward the waiting Engar, the arena itself cracked with every step of determination, shook with every stride of confidence.

He would end this quickly

Lunging forward, Brim’s first attempt was a heavily powered right cross to Engar’s head, which was in turn dodged with ease by Engar. Quickly drawing himself back in, Brim began an assault on Engar, hurling punch after punch and hitting nothing but air. He’s too damned fast! I am just wasting strength if I never land a hit.

Sensing a moment of hesitation, Engar moved to counter, bringing himself in close. Using his speed to his advantage, Engar laid into Brim, landing four jabs to his midsection before Brim had a chance to react.

Feeling the pain before knowing that a punch had even been thrown, Brim tried to pull himself back, but to no avail, Engar had already seized Brim by the arm. Pulling Brim towards himself, Engar used his free elbow to crush Brim’s head backwards. Still holding on, Engar pulled in his free hand to his chest, and formed a ball of ki. Thrusting his arm towards Brim, he let his energy release, causing a powerful explosion to knock Brim back across to the other side of the ring.

Brim knew he had sorely underestimated his opponent once more, a mistake that does not go unpunished. Pushing himself to his feet, Brim could hear a taunting voice behind him.

“’Rest for now’ he says, ‘I’ll test his mettle’ he says…aaaahhh phooey!”

Looking in the direction from which he came, Brim could see through the settling smoke a twitching grin settling upon the face of his opponent.

“How you managed to thwart the blowing winds is beyond me,” Engar began “but from that little performance, I can tell that it was simply a fluke.”

A fluke? Did he just call me a fluke? No, I can’t let them take me for granted, I must push myself, if I cannot push myself to meet their level, what good am I?

Bringing his composure back, Brim reset his stance, this time changing his tactics. With a light hand gesture, Brim beckoned Engar to attack. Seeing this gesture, and feeling compelled by the opportunity, Engar made a charge upon Brim, coming head on with a force so powerful, Brim could feel his energy pushing the air out of the way.

Jumping in the air, Engar twisted himself, bringing a roundhouse to Brim’s left temple. Bringing his arms up to block, Brim never got the chance, as the foot he saw coming his way was nothing but an after image. Bringing his arms back, Brim brought up his right knee; just in time to block the side kick which was Engar’s true attack.

Before Engar had the time to recover from the shock of knowing that his attack had failed, Brim threw a left cross, connecting with Engar’s face. Following his first blow, Brim delivered a right elbow to the ribs, in connection with two more blows to the ribs, Brim delivered an earth-shattering uppercut to Engar, sending him flying.
Not one to waste an opportunity, Brim launched himself into the air. Appearing above Engar’s speeding body, Brim drew back his right arm, gathering as much energy and strength as he could. Thrusting forth his arm at the moment of impact, Brim’s crushing blow was met by Engar’s crisscrossed forearms.

“Don’t think you will get in a shot so easily.” Spat Engar

“Don’t speak before the shot is over.”

Frozen in midair, time seeming to stop, a look of surprise washes over Engar’s face. As he looks toward Brim’s fist he can see a rippling of the air around his arm. Something else was happening; it was not a normal punch that Brim had thrown.

Some sort of energy had begun to seep from the muscles of Brim. This energy began writhing and lashing out, tearing the sleeve of his shirt to shreds. Giving an evil grin to Engar, Brim unleashed what was the true power of the punch.

Engar was blasted downward, spiraling into the floor of the arena.

“What just happened?!” exclaimed Optimus.

“His initial punch was but a decoy,” explained Cucumba “the real power followed behind his punch, a sort of mix through adapting force manipulation with ki.”

“Incredible” gasped Optimus

Landing on the arena floor, Brim was winded. That punch took a lot more out of me than I had planned, this guy is really strong.

Engar was slow to get up. How could someone like him be able to do something like that? I was told that few others had been trained in force manipulation, but judging from his crude use…is it possible that he has learned it by himself? Incredible. I guess I need to give him more credit than I thought.

Hwoarang had appeared at the side of Brim. Both watching intently Engar’s movements, Hwoarang spoke up, “I won’t stand by idle any longer, this guy cannot be taken on alone, we must work together.”

Giving a nod of approval, Brim prepared for his attack. A combined effort…this will take some cooperation…ugh I hate cooperation.
 
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"It appears that Hwoarangs endurance is finally failing some, he just doesn't have the strong showing he did all through the rumble thus far. I dare say, his time may come soon," said Optimus. "Brim seems to have put 110% in, knowing full well that these people are playing for keeps."

"I have to concur, he's got the heart of a champion, the courage of that young man astounds me. But the Iron Fist can only go so far, and that distance may be closer than he realized," shouted Cucumba exitedly. "Now that we are in the thick of the slobberknocker, it's obvious he's being beat like a government mule."

"Also interesting to note, mates, is that there are two memebers of Faction: Catalyst in the ring. Will this change the dynamic of Pride and Hwo's alliance," asked Deverz.

"Maybe, maybe not, what's important is that every man in there knows that it's ultimately each man for himself . . . and that at the end of the day, there are no alliances," said Hibiki sagely.

Cucumba casually reached up and stopped a 2 ton slab of rock from the arena ceiling that nearly crushed the announce booth. He tossed it over to the side, allowing it to break up on the floor.

"Regardless, the fact remains, that this arena destruction . . . well, has grown out of hand."

Cucumba stood and walked around the booth as the other judges looked at eachother and then at the admin in confusion.

The green machine lept in the ring, landing between Engar and the two faction catalyst members. The crowed was stunned silent.

Each of the competitors turned their attentions wearily to the Green Devil.

"This fight has become difficult to . . . contain. Therefore, it would be in everyones best interest if I changed the rules . . . just a little."

The admin threw his bansaber in a wide arc, slicing through three of the suspension chains, and broke the fourth with a spearhand strike that was a good 10 feet from it's target.

The ring hung for a moment, then slammed into the ground, forcing all the people in it to regain their balance. When they looked around, the crowd was gone.

As they all began to question what had happened, Cucumba spoke again, "There will no longer be ring outs, you must eliminate opponents by KO, submission or death. The crowd has been moved for their own safety."

The admin walked back to the announce table, slicing through the chain barrier as he went.






<HR>



The ring is now gone, as is the crowd, keep that in mind.

Hwoarang gains a loss token this round. Though he didn't do terrible, he didn't quite have the impact of the other writers.

The order is SaiyanPrideXIX, Hwoarang, Brim, Engar and the new entrant to be named.


(i thought the ring was indestructable? :? ) -hib

The ring is, the arena surrounding it isn't. :D - Engar

And if anyone can break it, it's me. :D - Cucumba
 
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Blurring fists and feet. That was all the Phenom saw now.

The four contenders battled furiously and at speeds

The big green guy had irked Pride. He knew of him, sure--the ancient horror, he who was before what is, and all of that good PR. After Pride's mighty transformation, they'd locked eyes for but a second--so much so that Pride hadn't even taken notice--but now it seemed as if that brief moment had been an eternal glance between two titans. Pride was tiring slowly but surely, but pound for pound he was still nearly unstoppable. His newfound speed and vigor combined with his aura's multiplied resistance to damage made him an incredible opponent, and together, he and the other Catalyst members had taken it to Engar.

The force user was no slouch. He routinely flung them away, choked them, and violently slammed them about. But things had become distant now. Pride was in what he might have deemed a state of shock, somehow; everything was moving slowly. All sound became a garbled, muffled tangle of deep timbre. He felt like he was underwater--or at least, his perceptions were.

His memory was behaving strangely, as well. Pride had no recollection of his past before his time as a fighter. All he had remembered was that he had torn his way out of a black pine box--one that had been nailed shut--and narrowly avoided a death of asphyxiation. From then on, it was a search to find who'd done it. And to find who he was. Though he remembered escaping the box, he remembered it in a distant, hearsay kind of way--as if he'd been told of it, but not been there. He knew of his mother's death only because one of the men guarding said box had made a comment about it. He couldn't remember his name at all--he may not have ever even known it--but the fellow was not much of a fighter either way. A short, stubbly man with a high-pitched shriek of a voice. But again, this memory was a distant vicarious thing.

Fists and bodies and boots and blasts flew; Pride was taking quite nicely to firing these bursts of energy. It was the first of them that had triggered his memory surging headache that he was now trying to ignore.

He had fired it almost instinctually. That first blast felt so natural, as if it had been an extension of his body, fully under his control. Within a few moments of the tangling fray, he was firing quick shots and arcing the waves as he willed with ease--something that he didn't think was possible. A distant memory of some natural talent was gnawing incessantly at his brain, and a headache that felt like the beginnings of a world-class migraine had begun to be born there.

A kick caught him and sent him flying during a wave of minor dizziness; damn that Engar. He slipped through the ropes in a moment of groggy respite. Fortunately the green one--who's factual existence as an ancient horror somehow did not frighten nor exalt Pride--had changed the rules. Landing outside of the ring didn't cause him to be eliminated, but Pride noted it was an irrelevant sigh of relief he had breathed. He'd landed on top of his bike, tilted over on its side and damaged in the ring's descent. It gave him an idea.

Heaving the bike up by its front end, Pride leapt back into the ring and, like a screaming maniac, took a heaving swing at Engar.

Engar spun and made a sort of yanking motion, dropping to the ground himself. The unfortunate victim of the telepathic swap was the newcomer Brim.

If their alliance had been fragile, Pride had shattered it when he slammed the bike's back end into Brim's entirely unprotected jaw. The Phenom's full force had been put into the blow, and Brim was sent flying into the far wall of the arena, sliding violently along the ground until he slammed into the floor and wall's respective apex. The haze of combat slowed as Brim struggled to get up. He was dazed and confused, but also furious.

Pride looked mortified at what he'd done. Conversely, Hwoarang's face was one of calm but disappointed expectance. The face of a man who knows that trouble is coming and was destined to come, yet had hoped that it might pass over him and those akin to him just the same. Brim's allegiance with Pride and Hwoarang was fragile to begin with. Now he'd gone and shattered his face with a major league swing of a custom Harley that weighed in at something over a ton.

"Brim, I--"

The sound of a slow, possibly antagonistic clap cut him off in the sudden silence of the arena. It was that one. The big one. Cucumba.

"Nicely done," he commented. Even his voice was overpowering, but Pride stood firm. "Very nicely done."

The tone, it seemed, was drenched in sarcasm. He'd horrifically bludgeoned his own teammate--how was that a job well done?

"Thanks, Freak," Pride responded, and then realized the obvious comeback at his burning digital form.

"You're not so run of the mill yourself. I've never met someone with such raw physical attributes that didn't also have the good sense to not look like a broken television."

The Mad Old One smiled. It was a friendly smile. A knowing smile, perhaps. But Pride detected sincerity in it somewhere--under layers of animosity, perhaps--and returned the gesture. "This, coming from a six and a half foot kosher dill?" Then he said something that wasn't like him at all.

His tone changed to a gravely serious one for a moment, completely free of his will. And Pride spoke the true name of the Mad Old One. "Cucatoth," Pride had said. There was a tinge of recognition in the voice, and then the headache suddenly replaced any thought of the word--a name which Pride had never read or heard before, to the best of his knowledge.

There was a quiet moment, and then it was ruined by Brim, who squarely dove for the distracted Pride and landed a massive running kick squarely into the Phenom's crotch.

The high pitched choking sound that came out of Pride after the blow was indication enough that he was in a furious amount of pain from the impact. But then something else terrible happened; his aura dropped off, and the surging energies withdrew into his body once again. He was returned to his normal form.

Brim saw his opening as the Phenom helplessly held his crotch, wincing and moaning through gritted teeth. He leapt forward but Hwoarang stopped him, tackling him down and trying to hold the street-smart Brim. "No!!" he yelled, but it was no use: Brim struggled furiously to be free and attack the wounded Phenom, and Hwoarang was tangled with him, forcibly trying to verbally calm the heated fighter.

Pride was only dimly aware of this. The injury had hurt worse than most of the blows he'd endured thus far, and he couldn't even think straight at that point. He was also mildly knowledgable of the fact that his powerful new form had withdrawn. It had been difficult to keep up but once it had disipated, the pain from the jockshot multiplied exponentially--as did his now-horrific headache.

Slowly, Pride turned around, wincing horribly the whole time. Hwoarang was too busy holding Brim back to have noticed what Engar was doing. But Pride noticed. Oh yes, Pride had noticed.

Engar had a maniacal look on his face. "It's over now, you digitized freak!! NO ONE insults my master!!"

And above him hovered the motorcycle.

With a clang that sounded like two tons of metal being dropped through an infrastructure of steel girders, the bike swung its back end into Pride's face with horrific violence. He was sent reeling backward into the chain ring ropes, helpless. His brain was completely scrambled; the pain was far beyond even his threshold.

The bike moved forward, it's shadow making Engar look maniacal and insidious beneath it. With a gesture of his hand it swung again. Another violent snapping crack, this time in an upward arc. Pride's jaw didn't break; his gritted teeth, however, all shattered and cracked against one another. A thick squirt of red blood flew out of his mouth and nose. Hwoarang noticed.

"NOOOOOOO!!!!!"

He's helpless, for god's sake!

Hwo let go of Brim and rushed to help Pride but Brim had grasped Hwoarang's leg tightly. "LET ME GO!!!" he screamed. "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, HE'S GOING TO KILL HIM!!"

The clangs were ringing out, echoing through the arena...along with Engar's maddening laugh. Pride, somehow, was still standing. Clang after clang after clang, and he still tried to defend himself, putting his hands up groggily. Engar's speedy telekinetics responded easily enough by smashing him in the ribs or stomach when he put his hands up, and about his head when he dropped them low.

He found it hard to believe--this mighty warrior reduced to mere child's play. Engar would kill him at this rate, and good riddance. If nothing else, he had at least hopefully seen the last of that infernal scrambled aura of his. One thing still bothered Engar, though, and he made sure to vocalize it.

"How DARE you speak the master's ancient name aloud!"

Clang.

"He is to be revered--!"

Clang.

"--respected--"

Clang.

"and FEARED!!"

Clang.

"You merciless coward!!" Hwoarang cried out from his tangling struggle with Brim. "He is defenseless!!"

Engar flashed Hwoarang a sinister grin. He was no longer functioning on honor or reason; this was an offensive mounted out of pure antagonistic desire. He would later shamefully recall this barbaric assault with a tinge of self-loathing. But at that moment, Engar was like a shark; sensing his prey's weakness, he was deep into the blood frenzy now. There was no turning back. And that sinister grin that was barely even Engar's face said it all--"no remorse, no regret, no mercy."

Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang. Clang.Clang.Clang.Clang.CLANG!CLANG!CLANG!CLANG!CLANGCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANGCLANG!

The violence Hwoarang witnessed nearly brought him to tears. Though Pride still stood, consciousness seemed to have been long gone away from him. Blood streamed down his dulled, expressionless face. His body was nearly completely limp. The motorcycle's heartless chrome was smeared and caked with his blood. Pride wheezed, and tried to step forward.

"PRIIIIIIIIIIDDDDDDDDDEEEEEEE!!!!" Hwoarang screamed.

Amazingly, Pride staggered forward. How he still lived, Hwoarang did not know--he mounted no offense and certainly offered no defense during the onslaught. His fists were up, groggily so. A wound opened on his head showered blood across his face and his top. The crimson mask made it difficult to tell if he was even awake or not--were it not for the fact that he was making an effort to walk, Hwoarang would have guessed no. At least, that was what he'd have thought if he weren't so preoccupied staring in gaping disgust at the dishonorable friend his newfound ally seemed to be reaching.

He cried out once more, but Brim held him firm. He was too distraught to focus. Later, he would regret his emotional reaction to the sights he saw; later, he would think, I could have helped him if I'd just focused.

"Haha!" Engar shouted triumphantly. "The mighty warrior Pride! Behold the mightiest warrior, everyone!!" And then another violent clang. This time the bike was used to clothesline Pride, dragging him outside of the ring. His ankle, however, got caught on the ring chain somehow, and rather than being slammed into the far wall as Engar had wanted, Pride slid off the front of the bike and downward. The back of his head cracked limply on the pavement of the ring. Blood poured from him as he now hung upside down by one ankle.

Consciousness was fading. Blood loss...head trauma...he resigned to nearly accepting his fate. He was absolutely helpless.

His vision cleared for a few moments. He was looking directly at the being he'd called "Cucatoth."

Cucumba. The Mad Old One.

Maybe it was the euphoria of mere semi-consciousness, but he sensed a lot of different things as he saw the Ancient Horror standing there observing, arms crossed. He appeared as a god, surveying a fight that he was eager to see end one way, but was disappointed somehow with his desired outcome. As if a man desperate to reach a destination were disappointed with the means of his travel. Somewhere deep, Pride believed that the Ancient Horror looked on him with pity. This was not an honorable end for such a warrior; perhaps the venerable Ancient One sensed this and was disappointed by his disciple's cheapshotting, his advantage-siezing methodology for eliminating the Phenom.

The upside down view of the Mad Old One also bore way to what Pride though was a hallucination: a series of six dark robes, billowing in the winds. It was at trhat point he was sure he must be dead, looking through dead eyes, because the reapers' henchman had apparently come. The spectral beings stood behind the Green Horror and his fellow anouncers. They appeared to be unaware of the spectral presence for the moment, but it was not long before Cucumba turned around instinctually. The beings dissipated as soon as he looked toward them, and reformed of smoke without a sound when he turned back towards the ruined Pride.

A pair of legs landed in front of him. He looked up and saw Engar, smiling. Above him, the bike spun in place, awaiting its command.

Pride feebly tried to look up at his assailant, but he could barely manage. The room was spinning now along with the bike--although behind it, he once again saw six spectres in a line, hovering patiently.

"Goodbye, mighty Phenom!" Engar proclaimed. Sliding backward, the bike moved downward to occupy his position. It pulled back about 7 feet, and Hwoarang screamed out an horror as he watched the bike slam against the limp upper chest and neck of his ally.

There were three impacts. The first two were from roughly 7 feet away. Pride somehow remained conscious, though his windpipe and breastbone had been mercilessly crushed. The last gliding smash was from 20 feet away, shaking the ring with it's impact. There was a wet smacking sound with each hit that made Hwoarang sick to his stomach.

Pride's limp body was telekinetically removed from the chain. Hanging limply in the air, Hwoarang knew that he had to be dead. Miraculously, he still appeared to move; Hwo thought it a trick of his anger and frustration, but he could've sworn that he'd blinked.

"PRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDEE!!!"

The Phenom was dropped unceremoniously on the floor. The bike was held over him.

"Goodbye, supposed Phenom," Engar said to the limp body. "And good riddance!"

Engar leapt away smoothly, as the gas tank of the motorcycle detonated, spraying flaming gasoline and motor parts down around the Phenom-No-More. His aura still functioned somehow, and the fire cascaded down around him, creating a semi circular outline. He still drew breath, but it was ragged; debilitated. His chest barely moved. His eyes were closed. Pride lay still in the ring of buring debris. Cucumba looked on.

Optimus spoke first. "Wow. In a surprise turn of events, it looks like the Phenom is--" and then Cuc had stopped him, grabbing his shirt.

"He still lives." For the moment...he still lives.

Hwoarang finally managed to break free of Brim's grip and bolted towards the flaming circle where Pride lay. He was promptly smacked with one of the bike's flaming tires, flung upward from the debris' impact. He was knocked down into the center of the ring.

"Enough of your heroics!" Engar shouted. "The Phenom is dead and you are next to go!!"

Hwoarang gasped and then stood. His fury got the better of him. "I...will...KILL...YOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUU!!!!" His aura's flare was preposterous and instantaneous in its fury.

Cucumba paid no attention as the two fighters engaged, though. He looked at the body lying within the ring of flaming wreckage instead, and with earnest.

Dancing in the flames were the silhouettes of six robed figures, not unlike grim reapers in appearance or presence. Cucumba could see them now; it seemed that the closer to death he was, the stronger their resonance became. The Mad Old One sensed a great power--there was an ancient, familiar aura about them. It troubled him, along with the business of unwittingly being called Cucatoth. By some fool biker hooked up to god knows what kind of technological mess, no less.

Cucumba felt a maddening urge to blast the limp body of Pride into oblivion; a sudden irrational fear of the six spectral creatures surrounding him. They knelt in the flames and began to pray some unspoken words as the life slowly faded from Pride's body.

A chant rose up from them; one that the others might have sensed in the vaguest way, but one that was all to clear to Cucumba/Cucatoth.

"Ominos Eidelos."

The others would not know what to make of these words, but Cucumba did. And he did not like what they meant at all. The language of the ancient texts.

"Seventh Rider."

No normal man could survive a beating like that. And yet, he is alive. Barely, but alive. And here these spectral druids chant in the tongues of the ancients...but it can't be. There are no more riders. And yet...he knew my ancient name. How is that possible?

And then that maddening terror tried to weasel its way into his mind. What a daring prospect. It was possible that Pride was something far worse than a being from beyond the grave.

A being from before the grave.

Something unwittingly older than death and life, perhaps?

The seventh rider lay limp in the circle on his back, the others praying their chanting prayer around him in their spectral choir. The fighters in the ring were too engaged with their battling to notice or sense anything out of the ordinary.

But Cucumba felt it. Despite the blazing wreckage not 15 feet away...the arena was getting colder.

Again came that maddening urge to immediately eradicate that body and dissipate the spirits around it. He resisted the need as the chant began to get louder in the psionic plane. Cucumba's eyes never left the firey circle. He waited for Pride's body to react, for the spirits to do something. He waited patiently, arms crossed. Looking forward to an eventual challenge.

An inevitable challenge.
 
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Hwoarang stared at the ghosts with a blank expression, his adept senses tingling with messages of a paranomal resonance.

This guy even has connections in the afterlife...

What was just a momentary mental engagement of confusion, soon became the prestages of an overwhelming anxiety. Hwoarang gritted his teeth, beginning to slowly develop the opening stages of denial. His young faction, it seemed... already permanently down one member.

No, this cannot be...

He turned to Brim, shaking with anger. "Why did you stop me?! I could have saved him! Where is your honor?! Where your is bravery?!"

His blind rage continued as he turned to Cucumba and the rest of the judges. His voice echoed violently, mentally enstilling a sudden wave of fear that shook the hearts and souls of the entire private onslaught. "So.. this is what has becomes of this tournament? Your personal horror theatre?!!"

Cucumba, temporarily in a daze of amazement at the attempted revivial of the phenomenon, slipped from a dream as he turned to Hwoarang. He had already realized, sensed the explicit connection between Hwoarang's emotions, and calculated it's necessary connection to the extents of his natural power, knowing beforehand... he risked the entire audience to wrath of an unstable weapon.

Cucumba had defeated Hwoarang before, but his immediate opinions were now filled with one assurance.

How quickly this one has adapted...

Cucumba quickly scrolled through his possible replies to another bold and easily expected assumption, his eyes reflecting the impossible amount of pulsating ki that Hwoarang was currently projecting. "You know your ready and you know SaiyanPride is going to live. You alone can't defeat my pupil... his distinctive mercy is the only thing that is possible."

Hwoarang smiled, as the ground around him began to crack. Scattered fragments of the arena floor rotated around the Tae Kwon Do prodigy, floating parallel to his mid section. His eyes flashed red once again, insinuating a mental acceptance throughout the entire practicaly vacant arena, that Hwoarang was far from defeated. "I'd admire your competitive level of concern, but it should be known... that... I NEVER ACCEPT DEFEAT!!!"

Cucumba began to slightly snicker, crossing his arms with a level of arrogance. "Prove it."

Brim stepped infront of Hwoarang, clenching his right fist towards Cucumba. "You would be wrong to doubt us!"

Engar broke the following moment of silence, echoing with a laughter of unrivaled entertainment. "You should focus on your current threat... I just can't decide which one of you is next to go."

Hwoarang quickly spun around, spreading fresh cracks and faults across the arena floor once again, tensing as rising telekinetic fragments increased their numbers around Hwoarang, accompaning his aura, pulsating to almost a sporadic extent.

Brim backed up, glancing at Engar and noticing an unusual amount of fear that had suddenly and visually captivated the modiwan.
"Hwoarang... STOP! Your committing suicide! Look at SaiyanPride!"

Hwoarang turned to Brim, his determined expression never faltering.

Through the anger... I become reborn

Brim began to distance himself from Hwoarang even more, his street smart intuitions mentally signaling focus to one perticular message.

Hwoarang is about to explode....

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy began to tense his body violently, still increasing the amount of pulsating visible aura. It became solid red, swollowing the tint of blue that had accompanied it earlier. "Through the anger... I--become-REBOOORN!."

His aura spread, forcing Brim to retreat even further back against sudden violent winds with no sensible direction. Blinding sparks ignited randomly, influencing him to shield his shock filled eyes. Brim could barely watch as a blinding silouette of even brighter energy, within the visual sea of red aura, increased in it's size. Brim noticed a flash in his poriferal vision, soon hearing nearby thunderous echoes radiating off a physically tested planet. The sky was increasing it's flashing outside the arena and everyone gasped with amazement at another literal revival of the rumble's first entrant. Dust and particles from the arena floor began to cloud up, forming a giant circle that began to surround the Tae Kwon Do prodigy.

Everyone could hear Hwoarang laughing, even under the ambiently dynamic rumbling and ear piercing whistle of wind that accompanied this obvious transformation. Cucumba sighed with despair, convincing himself with an overload of guilt, that he made a terrible mistake, but had somewhat corrected by instructing the audience to leave.

I've let this tournament get out of control... risked too many lives. Now I can only fear the consequences of my actions. I can only fear this mystery... this intuition of an unstoppable weapon.

Hwoarang began to walk forward, his violently pulsating aura progressively decreasing from it's previous size. Lightning flashed through the arena's many gaping holes, a thunderous echo soon following. Hwoarang took another step, increasing sparks of highly static energy that randomly emerged and sprung randomly from his head to his feet. He stared at Engar with an enlightned expression. "You will find that there is no end to my limits... your actions of hatred only make me stronger!"

Engar's eyes lit up, his face slowly developing enough sensation to speak, his mind finding ability to think.

Where is Hwoarang still getting the constant strength and resolve to pull this incredible amount of energy from?

Engar threw his left arm up in a defensive formation, tensing his right and resting it with a professional and offensive intensity. "What... what are you... a machine?"

Hwoarang continued to chuckle, his demeanor suggesting a possibility, cleverly revealed. "I've been called one... I certainly share some similarities."

Engar paused from his battle ready focus, questioning how literally he should take Hwoarang's reply. He knew Cucumba was counting on him to survive...

I shall not let my master down... I will survive! I'll finish SaiyanPride for good!"

Engar launched off the ground, rotating with mezmorizing rhythem and impressing everyone with his usual grace. He extended his right arm, gritting with focus as the handle of his lightsaber found itself in his quickly grasping hand. The modiwan continued to perplex and deny the reality of gravity, his obvious direction towards the determined celestials, each of them focusing hard on the ressurection of their last living symbol.

Hwoarang began to step forward, disappearing and reappearing as an intercepting blur. Engar ignited his rogue saber, rotating his body into a vertical flip. Engar had timed his manuever well, the modiwan's rogue saber screaming down on the questionably lifeless SaiyanPride.

Suddenly, Engar felt a warm hand grab him by the back of the neck, squeezing tightly, and growing warmer. His body was becoming numb, he had dropped his lightsaber, and was losing the ability to stay awake.

Who is doing this? The celestials?.... I can't move!

Engar began to hear a familiar snicker, feeling a sharp piercing, as the grip of his enemy grew even more tighter.

Hwoarang's voice echoed through the entire practicly vacant arena. "You asked me earlier.... if I was a machine?"

Engar, with what little strength he had left, started trying to kick himself free, only to find himself caught in an unrentless grip. Hwoarang smiled, flipping back, his tight hold on Engar never losing strength. Descending to arena floor, he slammed the helpless modiwan with an echoing thud.

SMACK!!!!

OptiPrime began to run forward, gaining considerable distance from the other judges. "Cuc, he is going to kill him!"

Cucumba blurred forward with unimaginable speed, his outstretched hand quickly grasping OptiPrime's forearm. "You'd be wise to not interfere... whether or not Hwoarang's intentions are fatal... Engar knew what he risked when he entered."

His fearful pace easily weakened, OptiPrime headed back to the other judges, swollowing his own personal guilt.

Cucumba soon followed, his body turning to walk back to the judges, though his head still found a concerned reason to stare at Hwoarang and Engar.

Hwoarang... I hope you do the right thing.

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy, kneeled beside Engar, tensed his face. Focusing on the energy absorbtion of his defenseless enemy, Hwoarang had one thing on his mind.

I'll suck the life out of you... you murderer!"

A familiar light flashed, as thunder echoed once again in the distance. One of the celestials attempting to ressurect SaiyanPride noticed the connection, turning to another, his voice remained low. "His anger awakens the Gods."

Another celestial turned to the one who had previously spoken. "He's someone SaiyanPride was smart for creating an alliance with. We can only hope now... he comes to his senses."

The celestials turned back to ressurecting their last chance of winning this tournament, chanting mysterious hymns of an almost forgotten language.

Hwoarang eyes began to glow solid red, his right hand--still pinning Engar down by the neck--following suit, engaging a level of concern to everyone else.

Engar began to kick even more, noticing with each kick, his whole body began to grow numb. "Why don't you stop wasting time and kill me! You freak experiment from a lab!"

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy's glowing eyes slowly began to fade, releasing everyone from the terrible force of fear that had perplexed and troubled their very souls. Hwoarang let go of Engar, falling back on to both his knees, his demeanor suggesting a painfilled flashback. Covering his face with his hands, the red tint of his flashing eyes poured between his fingers.

---------------------------------------------------

Awakening from a mysterious dream, Hwoarang's half closed eyes spread into a blurry daze. His head felt like a million nails had been hammered into it, his teeth grinding from a wierd and nervous reaction.

Where am I? Who are you!?"

He noticed he was in a hallway, laying down, but traveling at a great speed. He soon noticed it was the medication that was hammering his head.

What is going on? Was I in an accident?

Hwoarang felt an itching sensation in his eyes, reaching to scratch it he noticed he couldn't move either of his arms. Leaning his head down, he gasped...

Why am I strapped to this thing!

He looked to his right, noticing a military doctor grasping the pole of an IV stand, the tube of the IV coiling down to the top his right hand, piercing an obvious vein. Through the dizzying senses Hwoarang currently possessed, he over heard the another doctor from somewhere around him.

"He's starting to wake up... open the IV up more."

------------------------------------------------------

Hwoarang awoke from his daydream, shaking with anger. He looked up at Engar, who was holding the back of his neck and staring right back at him. "If your a machine... then the only way I can defeat you... is by killing you!"

Hwoarang jumped to his feet, watching as Engar began to step back and motion his eyes toward his distant rogue saber. "If I was just a machine... how could I bleed?"

Engar shook his head, intensifying his level of focus. "I don't care what you are... I'm going to kill you... may you join SaiyanPride in the afterlife!"

Hwoarang exploded, dropping to his knees. "Let me guess... you thought I actually transformed earlier!"

Engar's mouth dropped, questioning how much another comment like this from Hwoarang should be taking literally.

You mean there's more?

Hwoarang solid red eyes began to glow like the birth of a star, his red aura spreading in every direction. Lightning and thunder made themselves known constantly, winds from an unknown source forcing everyone to hold on to what they could.

The judges holding down their table, OptiPrime turned to Cucumba, trying his best scream over shreiking winds. "I don't know how much more the arena's foundation can take. This guy practicaly creates an epicenter everytime he powers up! It would be wise for us to plan an outdoor even next time!"

"I think your right about that," Cucumba laughed.

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy wasn't going to hang it up anytime soon, increasing his aura's diamater to even more mind boggling lengths.

-------------------------------------------------------
The angry and annoyed crowd outside, watched as the many gaping holes of the arena filled with a red glowing tint. One guy yelled with a nervous reaction, intuition verbally getting the best of him. "That has to be Hwoarang!"

The crowd soon followed with a crowd's usual overwhelming and terribly audible spurts of nervous conversation. Thunder growled, warning the crowd as a bolt of lightning found itself slamming into a car. The crowd ran, distancing itself from the arena as as fast as they could.
--------------------------------------------------------

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy reached deep within his soul, tensing his muscles to violent extremities. The people who still stood in the arena, could only see a giant behemoth of pure energy, shielding their eyes from the wind, and wondering if Hwoarang was ever going to end this physical torture.

Backing up, Engar looked to Cucumba, noticing they were only people who could withstand the winds. He nodded to Cucumba, smiling as he watched his master nod back. Turning to Hwoarang, he reached out, telephathically bringing his previously distant rogue saber to his open right hand. He stared deep into the aura, searching for Hwoarang.... searching for the kill.

Where is that idiot!?

Engar slowly began to notice two glowing dots that over-powered the behemoth aura in brightness, telling him where Hwoarang might actually be. They soon disappeared as the Earth began to shake, causing Engar to re-adjust his footing for the sake of better balance.

Hwoarang's voice echoed through the entire arena once again, instilling another shockwave of fear through everyone. "I'll show you real power... GOVERNMENT ISSUED!"

The ground cracked and faulted in every direction, meeting the previous cracks and faults that Hwoarang had created earlier. Hwoarang's aura began to pulse constantly, sparks of pure energy spontaneously appearing all over it. Unsettled particles also began to build up around the violently erratic aura, smothering the red tint with a brown cloud of dust. A shockwave sweeped the arena floor, making everyone's heart jump. The highly audibal level the aura was previously exhuberating began to decrease, preparing everyone for the stages of a short lived relief.

Engar stared deep into the cloud of dust and particles, searching for even a sign of Hwoarang.

I must be ready... for anything!

The cloud soon floated off into the night sky, slowly revealing the silhouette of a very larger individual. Engar ignited his rogue saber, questioning the results of the actual transformation he witnessed...

This can't be Hwoarang....

Hwoarang began to laugh, stepping forward has he made himself known. His overall appearance had not changed; what had changed, was the bulk of his muscles. They gleamed with a ripped essence, constantly overlapped by the motion of pure sparks of energy. Hwoarang was a weapon of both earth's and man's design... a weapon that would take a whole army stop... or in this case, a young modiwan.

Engar charged Hwoarang, blurring across the arena with amazing speed. Rotating his rogue saber to his right side, he unhesitantly entered Hwoarang's threatning range. Engar launched of the ground, landing to the immediate left the Tae Kwon Do prodigy, launching his rogue saber as he spun away from his opponent.

vroommmmmm...... WHIFF!!!

Engar gritted his teeth, as he witnessed Hwoarang disappear right before his very eyes. Hwoarang reappeared again, but it was as if he hadn't teleported at all. A trail of his after-image perpetually followed him, only visible when he would stop. Engar chased after him, planting his feet and swinging his rogue saber valiently at every chance his eyes could make the position of Hwoarang.

Hwoarang began to laugh more and more, mocking the modiwan at each of their meetings. "You don't have the speed to catch me.. drop your blade and except reality!"

Engar grew angry and decided to hold his ground, figuring this strategy would make the Tae Kwon Do prodigy come to him. "Let's see if this speed can match the elegance of my rogue saber. Tempered fool... show me what you got!"

Engar heard a familiar voice exhale right beside his ear, "With pleasure," forcing him to turn around and brace his rogue saber in a defensive manner. Engar began to slowly rotate, trying his best to follow the invisible gust of the wind that Hwoarang had become. The modiwan thought he saw Hwoarang to his left, turned, and swung violently, praying for contact.

SMACK!

Engar staggered to his right, his cheek stinging like never before. Engar turned towards the direction of his attack, hoping to see Hwoarang actually standing there....

CRACK!

Engar slid across the arena floor, feeling a lot of pain, but still barely grasping his rogue saber. The modiwan's momentum slowly decreased, as he found himself laying right beside the feet of Brim. "Still doubting us?"

Engar looked up, his face going from a staggering acceptance... to absolute anger. "Why you!!!"

The aggrivated modiwan jumped up, his rogue saber motioning towards a death blow, instigating towards Brim. Brim dropped back a good distance, throwing his fists up in a defensive formation. Engar laughed, blurring towards Brim.

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy screamed "Don't you even try it!", blurring towards Engar. Engar noticed immediately, contemplating this new strategy as quickly as he could.

Now is my chance!

Engar turned his direction towards the opportunity Hwoarang had given and met him, swinging his rogue saber in multiple eye dazzling directions. Hwoarang dodged the first flurry of death wishing slashes, finding himself in retreat mode... now that Engar had finally cornered him. Engar chased him, still swinging constantly, right into the arena wall. Hwoarang ran up the wall, summersaulting over the relentless modiwan. Landing, he barely dodged a swip of Engar's infamous rogue saber. The modiwan quickly reacted with a left elbow, catching Hwoarang squarely in the jaw. Engar swung his rogue saber, expecting to inflict fatal damage on the stunned Tae Kwon Do prodigy. Hwoarang turned, using his arm as a wall of defense. Engar's rogue saber bounced off the Tae Kwon Do prodigy's arm, causing the modiwan to fortify his balance by throwing his left behind him.

Hwoarang staggered back, holding his upper right arm and gritting his teeth with pain.

Vejimaru cuts my right forearm... now this punk cuts my upper arm... it would be wise if try to keep all my limbs intact!

Engar, excited with his new found success, chased Hwoarang down... his rogue blade giving chase.

vrrooooooommmmmmm....
 
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What have I become?

Unwilling to relinquish his new-found advantage, Engar brought his Rouge Sabre down violently; slash after slash slicing through Hwoarang's mocking after-images while the real one danced just out of reach. His features tightened into a permanent scowl in the face of this new threat, Engar certainly wasn't the same friendly, competitive fighter whom had stepped into the ring not so long ago.

Hwoarang is my friend..

His figure blurring with every move he made, Hwoarang only grinned as he leaped from seat to seat - the two now making their way steadily up the stands. No matter how fast Engar moved, no matter how well he predicted Hwoarang's actions; the prodigy was always two steps ahead. Feinting to the left then bringing his sabre around in a horizontal slash from the right, Engar lunged forwards in an attack on Hwoarang's mid-section but met nothing but air.

Pride didn't deserve such pain..

"What's the matter, Engar? Not wearing you down, am I?!"

Spiteful laughter haunted Engar's every step. He could almost feel Cucumba's disapproval, no matter how well the ancient horror hid it. Having Hwoarang taunting him was only the icing on the cake, every bitter little emotion he felt was fuelling an inferno of rage and bile that threatened to overwhelm him.

Who am I kidding? It already has..

Engar pushed back his fatigue and kicked off the ground, his Sabre whirling around in arc that would have severed Hwoarang's head from his body.. had he not disappeared. As Engar landed he turned, the Force rippling at his side as a warning, and he brought his Sabre back around with deadly accuracy that still failed to meet its mark. Instead Hwoarang was behind him but only for an instant, by the time Engar had forced himself to turn the Tae-Kwon-Do Prodigy had moved again.

"Just face it! You can barely see me, how could you possibly hurt me?!"

Must take back control..

Screaming, Engar lowered his Sabre and outstretched his free hand towards Hwoarang. The steps around him shattered as he brought his considerable power to bare, focussing it all through his arm in a fiery yellow blast that threatened to blind Engar just as much as it did Hwoarang. This time, out of all the times Engar had tried to attack, Hwoarang chose to remain still; his arms folded and eyes glimmering blood red, he awaited death with a grin.

Please.. not more..

The blast hit Hwoarang dead centre and enveloped him in an explosion that threatened to knock Engar off his feet, beams of light blasting forth from the epicentre of the maelstrom and bursting through the cracks in the arena walls. Bent over, his whole body shaking from a mix of terrible regret and irrepressible rage, Engar wasn't even sure whether he was happy or sad that Hwoarang was gone..

"You really can not comprehend what you're up against, can you?"

The light faded away, bright sparks of energy grounding themselves in the seats, to reveal the Tae-Kwon-Doe Prodigy. The blast had, to all intents and purposes, been completely useless. He was undamaged.

Unscathed.

Unimpressed.

Please..

"Is this a private party, or can anyone join in?!"

Instinct alone guided Engar, too conflicted inside for any kind of quick thinking, and he ducked only in the absolute last possible second. Blinking as a shadow passed overhead, Engar turned and, on instinct again, crossed his forearms in front of his head to block the full force of Brim's punch. As the echoes bounced around the otherwise silent arena, Engar looked up into the grim, determined features of a hardened warrior. With no other choice he dodged backwards, his head bobbing away as a punch came close to knocking him out.

No..

He couldn't go down, not in his present condition. He had been battling solidly for four rounds and, with no feeling of bias or real bitterness, he could say that he had been the main focus of the other fighters' attention. Slowly but surely they were grinding him down and he didn't know how much more he could take.

More..

"You don't have time for day-dreaming!"

Engar had stumbled backwards, his feet finding little purchase amidst the remains of popcorn and soda, and that alone saved him. As he fell backwards, doing exactly what he had just sworn he wouldn't, Engar noticed the strange rippling affect surrounded Brim's arm, the signature side-affect of his delayed punch technique! Landing hard, Engar could for the first time truly witness the power of the blow without directly experiencing it - if that punch had landed he would have been out of the fight completely..

I..

Summoning his fading strength Engar brought his sabre around on the seats beside him, slicing a hole and sliding swiftly through it. Feeling pure, unadulterated rage building up inside of him, Engar leapt from seat to seat; he made his way down the aisles, back towards the arena. Behind him he could feel Brim and Hwoarang, both confident with their increased strength, baring down upon him. He could almost taste the sweat pouring off their bodies as he launched himself from the last row, the sound of metal tearing as Hwoarang's foot tore right through the seat he had just been upon merely a part of the background, and as he landed on the cracked tiling of the arena he could swear he could hear their angry hearts beating.. Or perhaps that was only his own.

Can't..

As he backed away from his opponents, his senses confused by the apparitions that surrounded Pride's body, it was merely coincidence that he was approaching the Judge's table and his master. In spite of everything he knew that there was no help for him there and wouldn't have looked even if he had thought there was.

"Interesting, isn't it Engar? On this very arena you told me that you were going to 'end' me.."

Hwoarang grinned and crouched low, his arms coming up into a tightly formed stance.

Take..

Brim balled his fists and smirked, ready to deal an end to an opponent whose time had finally come.

He was alone.

This!

But he'd be damned if he'd go down without a fight!

Arms hanging loose, Engar swayed easily to the right as Hwoarang appeared before him and drove his foot sharply where Engar's head had been. Rolling right under Hwoarang's sweep, Engar came up and slid between Brim's successive punches - he ducked and twirled around the street-fighter with balance and grace that momentarily cast doubt on his weariness. Brim turned with fury and brought both arms around in a clubbing motion that almost caught Hwoarang on the chin - Engar meanwhile escaped a punch that Hwoarang had almost connected.

"What are you doing?! Fool, you almost hit me!"

"Watch your mouth, you overgrown punk!"

Grinning, Engar backed away from the quarrelling fighters, his previous anger and hate forgotten for a moment in light of the success of his gambit. While Hwoarang and Pride had worked together easily, Brim was much more accustomed to fighting solo. He hadn't yet adapted completely to team battling and while Engar could sympathise, that didn't stop him taking advantage of it..

Speaking of which..

Engar hopped further backwards and gripped one of the immense chains that had bordered the arena until Cucumba had sliced through them. Turning, baring the weight easily enough, Engar tore the chain free from the turn-buckle that held it and continued to spin. His aura crackling to life, a scream cutting through the bickering, Engar spun once more then brought all the titanic weight of the chain down upon his opponents.

Hwoarang dodged the blow easily, disappearing when Brim expected help in blocking and leaving the lone fighter right in the chain's path. The whiplash caught him in the stomach and bore him around and away as Engar released the chain, screaming profanities at a momentarily bemused Hwoarang who turned in time to see Engar rise up with a snap-kick that hammered into his chin. Reappearing at the Prodigy's side, Engar formed an amateurish spear with his hand and plunged the the Bridgehands Technique between two of Hwoarang's ribs with sickening accuracy. Finally, crackling with adrenaline inflamed energy, Engar reappeared above Hwoarang's stunned form to slam both feet down upon his back and send him careening into the stands.

Then his aura was gone, Engar landed unsteadily on the broken floor and began shuddering again. The source of his discomfort was undoubtedly Pride, his broken form a testament to how much Engar had lost control. The creatures surrounding him only added to the tension; while their outer forms were plain enough they created such disturbances in the Force that even being near them was a headache. He did not doubt that soon Pride would be up again, fighting with a vengeance and seeking revenge over the battering Engar had delivered.. The whole thing made him feel unwell, he had come within a hairs-breadth of killing and merely at the mention of his master's ancient name. He turned and sought out his teacher's eyes.

How strong is your grip on me..?

-------------------------------------------------------------- ---------------------------------------------

Engar stood to attention in a darkened room, the centre of a circle of white emanating from the room's only light source. From inside the circle he could see nothing, but his own figure - a profile of light and shadow - was obvious to anyone standing outside of it. Turning, Rouge Sabre held with only one deep purple blade activated, Engar stretched out the fingers of the Force and sought his opponent.

"Have you ever heard the saying, "First know yourself, second know your enemy..?" Cucumba's deep voice echoed through the room and, glimmering faintly in the darkness, he could pick out the 'Bane of Spam''s Ban Sabre weaving through the air. "The idea is that understanding your enemy - his abilities and his limits - comes second to understanding yourself."

Leather duster flapping slightly as he stepped forwards, the jade behemoth brought his Sabre down in a powerful slash that Engar easily sidestepped; the figure twirled - blindfold swishing through the air like the tail of a kite - and brought his own Sabre around at Cucumba's neck only to have his attack blocked.

"If you attain a perfect understanding of who you are, you become an undeniable force."

The monster twisted his blade upwards, knocking Engar back slightly as the green warrior slashed low at his legs. Engar, linked directly to the Force, kicked off the ground into a backwards somersault, then landed gently and strode back.

"To gain perfect understanding; to become as water."

There and then, in that moment, Engar did feel a pure understanding of himself and, in that moment, was as water.

Cucumba brought his Ban Sabre around but met nothing but air, he twisted and flicked the Sabre back around only to miss Engar by inches. Then, with no scream of rage or blast of emotion, Engar stepped forwards and brought his Rogue Sabre around in a clean horizontal swipe.

The head of Cucumba struck the ground with a solid thump.

"Very good, my apprentice." Engar removed the blindfold and stepped over the now useless clone, sparks dancing out through the circuitry that sprouted from it's neck, then turned to coolly meet his Master's gaze.

"Like water.."

--------------------------------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------------------

Engar looked away from his Master, he had no understanding of himself now. The hate and anger brewing inside of him stemmed from the fact that he had lost himself, since entering the battle he had acted without any of the morals that he had held so dear in his life. If Fight Club was turning him into someone concerned purely with winning at any cost wouldn't it be better to quit now?

"How the hell did this guy last, he starts dreaming every five minutes!"

He turned, far too slowly, and met Brim's ****y grin.

"Look who's all wide awake and ready for a new day!"

Brim shifted his weight and swept his foot around, catching Engar solidly on the face and sending him reeling backwards. The street-fighter wasn't, however, so easily satisfied; kicking off the ground he somersaulted over Engar's head and landed crouched before the dazed warrior, his powerful fists pounding dents into Engar's stomach with three successive blows. Engar leaned forwards, his breath desperate and rasping, just as Brim drew back his right hand. Before Engar's very eyes Brim tightened his hand into a fist, sparks of absolute power crackling between his knuckles; though he was looking right at him, Engar couldn't even follow the blow as it caught him under the chin and sent him firing into the air.

There Engar believed he could find momentary respite from his pummelling but it wasn't to be - before he had even reached the climax of his phenomenal ascension one powerful hand caught him by his head. Hanging limply, like some battered rag-doll, Engar was powerless as Hwoarang blurred across the arena and slammed Engar face first into one of the solid walls that had so far survived all that had come up against them..

"This is for my faction!"

Hwoarang drew him back and hammered him once more into the wall, cracks spider-webbing their way from where he hit.

"This is for my friend!"

Bright red light surrounded the two as Hwoarang pulled him back again and forced Engar's face deeper into the battered wall, the cracks widening as shards of rock fell away.

"And this is for me!"

White aura winking in and out of life before him, a helpless Engar could only watch as the wall rushed towards him..
------------------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

One terrified former audience member was trying to escape as the energy climbed and climbed. He had paid for a show, he hadn't paid for an execution - especially not his own. There wasn't a power on Forumscant that could stop him from getting the hell out of dodge.. but..

"Let go of me!"

A lanky young man was gripping his arm, unsuccessfully trying to prevent as many members of the audience from leaving as he could. His eyes, reflecting the bright red light of Hwoarang's energy, were every bit as desperate as the man's, if not more.

"You can't leave now, they're still fighting!"

The man tried to pull himself from the teenager's grip, the boy certainly didn't look strong..

"You're crazy, Hwoarang's gonna destroy the arena and anyone stupid enough to stay!"

"What about Engar?!"

"Dead mea-"

The man never saw it coming, before his very eyes the boy's features tightened and suddenly he was pushing him backwards. The man felt one of his legs hooked out from under him and, before he knew what was happening, the boy was sitting astride him with his bony fist drawn back.

"Iain!"

The boy's determination faded and, face paling, he turned to the imposing figure approaching him.

"Fighting? This is how you're supporting your big brother?"

The boy was half guided, half dragged away from the confused man who promptly fled the scene.

Meanwhile the pair rejoined their family, no more said about the encounter as worry over their relation took centre stage. All around them people were fleeing, terror over the incredible power that Hwoarang was generating controlling them. Engar's family were just as scared but held their ground with grim determination, they'd be there for him just as he had for them so many years ago.

"At this rate we'll be the only ones left," muttered Iain cynically, casting a despairing glance towards the cowards around them.

"What good does this even do?" asked a slightly shorter black haired teenager, "for all Engar knows we aren't even here!"

No one said anything for a moment, there wasn't anything to say really.

Then Engar's pain enriched screaming filled the air, part of the far off arena wall spiralling through the air as Engar's head smashed right through it. The scream was full of terrible pain, every syllable echoing with the indescribable agony of his battered body, and his family were party to every bit.

"That's quite about enough.." Engar's father stepped forwards and glanced around them, the crowd had hesitated at the sound of the screaming. This was their chance. "You boys get out there amidst the crowd, when it starts you'll know what to do."

The man turned and stared towards the arena, his arm wrapped securely around his wife's shoulders just as much for his comfort as for hers. He searched the walls but Engar was no longer anywhere to be seen.

"Don't give up now.." he whispered, gruff voice betraying his worry, "We're all here for you.."

----------------------------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------------------

He wasn't even aware that Hwoarang had dropped him before he hit the ground, all feeling was so much dull noise in the middle of a hurricane. His body was battered, as weary hands struggled to lift himself off the ground blood was coughed into a pattern on the concrete that had cushioned his fall. Grunting in pain he tried to unhook his Rogue Sabre, determination driving him to activate it and stand for one last fight.. but the Sabre fell from his clumsy fingers and clattered out of reach. Disgusted with himself, Engar collapsed back onto the blood and felt it smear across his cheek as he awaited death.

Steps echoed through the silent arena, the whole place seemed so dead without the crowd..

[SIZE=-3]THUD, THUD, CLAP![/SIZE]

Engar blinked, something almost catching his attention, then he could feel a shadow pass across his face. There was a crunch as the dust and debris covering the floor shifted, the figure above him bending down and picking up his Rogue Sabre.

[SIZE=-2]THUD, THUD, CLAP![/Size]

"I must admit the weapon impresses me," he could hear the blade twirling between Hwoarang's fingers, then the hum as the Rouge Sabre was activated, "I may just keep it after I defeat you.."

[Size=-1]THUD, THUD, CLAP![/Size]

What was that noise? It was too distinct now to be his imagination, yet it hung just outside of comprehension. So familiar, his dazed mind struggled to bring its identity to mind.

THUD, THUD, CLAP!

"How ironic, dying by your own blade.."

THUD, THUD, CLAP!

Engar forced himself to roll over and strained his ears, the sound the only thing of any importance any more. Hwoarang hesitated for a moment, unsure as to whether Engar was planning a final assault, then gripped the hilt of the blade between both hands and plunged the Sabre deep inside Engar's chest.

THUD, THUD, CLAP!

His eyes snapped wide open and he heard the beat..

----------------------------------------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------------

His anger at Cucumba was unwarranted. He had not lost control because of Cucumba's influence on him, rather he had fallen into anger because he had lost himself. In his eagerness to win he had forgotten who he was and where he had come from; he had lost his understanding of himself and succumbed to rage. It was time to remember..

Engar didn't have the dark past of Pride or Hwoarang, in fact compared to the troubles they had faced he had had a relatively sheltered time. When the depression had hit the whole family had been forced to take up the slack; Engar's part of it had merely been more dangerous than the rest. He could still remember their reaction when he had stumbled home, bruised and bleeding. He could barely feel the bruises at the time, everything had been numb.

The first thing he heard was a terrible shrieking, then his mother had been hugging him so tight he could barely breathe. Then his little brothers and sisters were all around him saying a hundred different things; that which stuck was Iain and Chris, second and third oldest, swearing blindly that they'd go with him next time. His father was the last to enter, he could still remember how old the man had looked when he first saw his battered son.

It was corny to say, but he could literally feel the love they felt for him. That, more than anything, was why he had gone out the next day and the next day. It had been the rock he anchored himself to in the darkest of times and it was there, in that room surrounded by those people, that his part in the history of Fight Club had truly begun. Not with Scruffie. Not with Cucumba.

Here; with his family; in his home.

That place and time was the perfect expression of the people he cared for most and so that was all he needed to remember. No dark past, no remorseless murder; just a room full of people he loved. That was the key to understanding himself.

It was time to wake up.

---------------------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------------------------------

Hwoarang had been all but sure Engar was dead, the Sabre was buried deep inside his torso and his eyes were staring right through him - as though into the next world. Then the focus changed and he found Engar's gaze locked with his.

Engar's aura snapped to life, purple sparks exploding outwards from where the Sabre had been staked into him and criss-crossing his shuddering body. Clenching and unclenching his hands, Engar kept his gaze fixed on Hwoarang as the ground beneath him cracked and fell away under the pressure of his energy. Then, slowly but surely, Engar began to rise.

He merely rose up off the ground, not a word spoken as his aura fluctuated between the two warriors; Hwoarang backing away ever so slightly as it became clear that the Sabre had indeed passed right through Engar's body. Everything he knew told him that it was a trick, something that could not possibly be.. and yet..

He could see it sticking out of his back!

Engar smiled at him, the most emotion he had shown since he woke up, and slowly outstretched his arms from his body.

"My own blade. Formed of my energy."

His body jerked and his aura exploded outwards, tearing chunks of stone and concrete away while shards of light flew from where the Rogue Sabre's blade shattered. Hwoarang was forced to leap backwards, the Sabre slipping out of his grip and floating slowly towards a calm Engar.

"Forgot about me?!"

One hand swirled around and, in mid-air, the two blades of the Dual Rogue Sabre came alive. Both hands were raised then swept around each other, causing the Sabre to blur in mid-air; deflecting two super sonic blasts of energy. Engar turned and grinned at Brim with the same infuriating calm.

"Want me to wipe that grin off your face?!"

Two hands came together, palms pressed up against each other, and the Sabre disappeared; dismissed. The ripples of the Force and repercussions of Ki filled the air before him, causing the light of the energy beam searing its way through the air towards him to distort oddly and paint him with a yellow glow. Then, holding the same slow calm, he opened his hands out like a flower before him - the beam froze a foot from his hands and the serene warrior smiled.

Brim and Hwoarang watched in horror as the beam splintered first, then shattered into a thousand little beams - shooting off into the ceiling where they barely created a shower of dust. It wasn't that Engar was any stronger than he had been, he merely seemed to be utilising the energy he had in a far more advanced way.

"I have behaved dishonourably.." Engar glanced over his shoulder towards his teacher, "And for that I apologise. However, don't think that will hold me back in the fight to come." Emotion flickered in his eyes, but this was nothing more than the thrill of competition. Whatever hate Engar had possessed had been extinguished.. thanks to the support of his family.

Engar set his feet and crouched, his smile once again taking on the calm air of one who understands just who he is. His hands raised and mind clear, Engar called upon the Force..

Below Hwoarang's feet dust moved, as he side-stepped to where Brim stood it hovered knee-thick like some pitch black mist. Standing before them with his eyes closed, Engar looked completely defenceless; even his energy level had dropped as he descended into some sort of meditation. Still Hwoarang was unwilling to plunge head first into an opponent who was proving far too unpredictable, he leaned towards his Faction partner and asked what he thought was going on.

"Who knows," Brim shrugged indifferently, "He's still got a couple of tricks, but that doesn't mean I wanna leave him to it. I say we attack now, before he finishes whatever he's started.."

Brim hesitated, then trailed off as he realised that Engar was standing straight once again with his eyes wide open.

"What the hell?"

Hwoarang shook off the feeling that things had just gotten a lot worse, as Brim said they had no time to waste! Without waiting for his companion Hwoarang brought his bright red aura to life and made his move - the stone of the arena floor cracked and shattered as he kicked off and launched himself at his opponent.

"Hwoarang! Where the hell did the dust go?!"

He put whatever inane thing Brim had thought of far from his mind and drew his fist back, in his own league now that he was moving in for the kill. He would win the fight with one blow, Engar wasn't even looking at him. He was looking past him.

Above him.

"Hwoarang!"

Too late he turned, abandoning his assault, to look upon the monstrosity baring down upon him. All the dust that had layered floor swirled above him, the ever moving clouds brought together to form something vaguely human. The very nature of the creature made it haunting; its dark, surreal presence almost as impressive as its daunting size - it appeared four times his own height.

It's movements were odd, from a distance they could pass for physical but in the close proximity that Hwoarang was at he could pick out how the limbs flowed. As it drew back its right arm, casting a shadow so huge that it enveloped him completely, then bringing it back around at an unmatchable pace.

"Nice try Engar, but I'm not afraid of clouds!"

Hwoarang, ever confident, dropped his hands by his sides and, aura sparking around him, awaited the cloud.

As it became more defined.

As the very dust particles slotted together.

As it formed into a fist made of pure, flawless, perfect stone.

As sand is to the mountain, dust was to the fist that shattered Hwoarang's red aura and hit his entire body simultaneously; the stunned warrior blurring past the unmoved Engar and making an imprint two feet thick in the arena wall.

From Brim's perspective the dust-figure didn't turn - it instantly reordered itself, features flowing into place, so that it was facing Brim rather than away from him. Then it drew back its head and gave a mute roar before beginning to move, cloud feet hammering silently upon the ground as it charged him like some nightmare from a silent-movie.

Brim faired better than Hwoarang, as the fist drove down upon him he summoned his energy and launched himself from the ground. While the fist exploded harmlessly, leaving the arena floor untouched, Brim rose over the monster and fired three energy bolts down upon it. Each hit their mark - the chest, the neck, the head - and each blast passed straight through the figure to no discernible affect. He landed running, speeding towards then actually running up the arena wall before kicking himself off and raining a majestic beam of pure energy down upon the monster. The beam sloughed the top half of the creature away in amazing display of power.. then the top half reformed completely.

Before Brim could move again the monster was stretching out its arms, the rest of its body becoming less distinct as the two arms came together to form one titanium strength fist - cracking into Brim and smacking him hard off the arena wall before letting him drop. Towards the ground.

Before he hit he found himself gripped in a powerful and, most reassuringly, human hand. Dangling there, stunned from the blow he had suffered, Brim could only watch as Hwoarang brought his muscled hand around and started drawing up energy for an incredible blast.

"Don't you learn..?" he asked groggily, "blasts don't work on that thing.."

"Who says I'm aiming for the monster?"

Hwoarang's hand ricochetted upwards as he released an awe-inspiring sphere of energy; a work of bright red light that sped right past the dust-figure and on towards it's silent master.

Vrrroooommm

The Rogue Sabre sang in the hands of it's creator, an arc of brilliant purple that bore down and through the energy blast. Two separate streams of red energy burned past both sides of the silent warrior, the severed blast fading away as the beast of dust disintegrated. Then, ever silent, he deactivated his Sabre and clipped it to his belt.

Engar smiled.

"Like water.."
 

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Now entering the arena . . . . GPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS!
 
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"Gpas has failed to arrive," shouted Cucumba, "I wonder what's going on?"

"Probably afraid and running with the refugee audience," Blurted Hibiki.

Optimus shook his head, "Some people won't be on time for their own funeral . . ."

"And what the hell happened to Engar!?! He certainly picked up the pace again," Shouted Hibiki. "It's almost like he just pulled the winning pace out of thin air. I thought Hwoarang had him."

"Engar? He's beginning to believe in himself . . ," Cucumba smiled. Grow strong my dark apprentice, for soon you will come for me, and I wish to savor that battle.

"Cuc, about Pride . . . What do you think will happen," asked Optimus.

Cucumba's smile died on his face, not unlike the unfortunate victim of an embolism, "the conclusion of the inevitable."








<HR>




GPas recieves the loss token this round for not entering the tourney on his turn.

Brim will be eliminated this round.

Order: Engar, SaiyanPrideXIX, Hwoarang, Gpas, and . . . OMG . . . :devil: the new guy . . .

Am I a mute now or something -Deverz

:x sorry Dev, I forgot you were announcing!
 
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The world below was insignificant to the storm. It billowed and tore through its lesser brothers, a formation of natures rage and power. The storm was power in it's purest form and, as cloud hammered against cloud, it grew stronger. It knew nothing of the warriors, the arena, the power that was being created. All was immaterial when compared with its own. And it was preparing to strike.

At first all Engar felt was the slight patter of the raindrops. Soon, however, gigantic blobs of water were hammering down upon him with all the speed that the wind could muster. Water gathered on the roof and within moments was pouring down onto the arena, making the floor slick and brown as dust and dirt was mixed together. Standing right underneath one of the smaller holes in the ceiling, Engar was surrounded by waterfalls on each side. His vision of his opponents was distorted, but then sight had long since ceased to be his main sense.

He smiled, one finger tracing a semi-circle through the wall of water, and stepped forwards; the waterfall parting just above his head and allowing him through.

“Don't think tricks like that will keep you alive, Engar,” muttered Brim as he circled to his left, fists raised in case of an attack.

“Your games do little to hide the fact that you're substantially weaker,” added Hwoarang, moving around to his right.

Pride, who lay unnoticed in front of him, was silent. In spite of this something, some kindling of energy, implied that this unsteady peace would not last for long.

Engar didn't need words to retort, he merely stared straight ahead with his arms folded and a faint smile playing across his lips. He made no effort to goad them and that in itself was insulting; as though he didn't even care.

..then the drops weren't falling any more..

He turned, the ragged remnants of his cloak flapping slowly through the air, and allowed Hwoarang's fist to blur past his cheek – the punch a feint to distract him as he brought his knee up at stomach level. Engar caught the blow with both hands – he still couldn't match Hwoarang for speed – and used his knee as a springboard, launching himself backwards into a somersault that carried him over Brim and landed skidding through the mud.

.. then they landed..

Time reasserting its grip, both warriors blurred through the air as he concentrated and brought one hand around in front of his face. Ki guided by the force focussed before him, his aura solidifying into a curved shield no bigger than an envelope – Brim's steel-capped
boots hammering upon the energy with little to no affect. Engar brought his other hand down and the shield faded, his aura of white energy crystallizing at stomach level this time and intercepting Hwoarang's uppercut.

Bringing both hands up and forwards together, Engar caught the water around him an invisible net and – strain showing up for the first time – forced it into a wave of brown that came crashing down on his two opponents, lifting the two off their feet without inflicting any real damage. The water lost all form a moment later, leaving two irate and mud-soaked warriors.

“So much for rushing him..” Hwoarang kept by the side of his partner for the moment, unsure of how to attack someone with control over the Force.

“He's just buying time,” Brim was staring Engar in cool appraisal, “he's lost a lot of Ki in this fight, he's trying to regain it by relying purely on the Force for the moment.. Watch!”

Brim raised one hand and concentrated, already becoming more familiar with his control of fighting energies. Sparks danced between his fingertips then focussed into a small sphere that immediately burst forth, coming within a couple of feet of it's target before being torn apart through the invisible fingers of the Force. Engar shot the two a bemused look but Brim ignored it, turning to Hwoarang instead.

“He could have deflected that easily but it would have drained Ki, if we can strain his control of the Force we can take him down!”

“Guys?”

“Assuming that's even possible..”

“Gentlemen?!”

“I know the Force, OK? I might not be on Engar's level but I know how it works!”

“Attention!”

Both warriors snapped around in unison, scowls dropping away as they saw Engar raise the as yet deactivated Rogue Sabre. He brought it around silently, raindrops pattering around his feet, and held it horizontally towards them with a smile.

“I believe it is my turn..”

He released his hold on the Sabre and let it fall..

“Hwoarang, he's-” Brim never finished the sentence, drowned out by the roar of the Rogue Sabre as it's twin purple beams lit up. Its fall ceased just above the water and it hung there for a moment - peaceful – before beginning to spin. Engar, eyes closed, drew his right hand back and furrowed his brow – the blades' spinning tripled in speed, becoming a lethal circle. His hand was thrust forwards, hand opening into a clawed shape as the sabre vanished!

As Hwoarang kicked off the ground, the Sabre burning through a space mere inches below the tips of his feet, Brim dropped back into the mucky water and allowed the Sabre to buzz overhead. He blinked, the water washing over his face then receding, before reaching up to brush where the sabre had sliced the very tips of his hair - then he was moving again.

With Hwoarang close behind, Brim brought his hands around together as he ran and began pumping blast after blast of energy into the air. The water that had surrounded his boots moments before was knocked back, his aura swelling with new life as he poured Ki into Engar who was already beginning to look weary. From behind he heard an angered yell, then was almost blinded as an incandescent red beam burned past him and hammered against the shield Engar had brought to bare in a continuous stream. Brim was just about to add his own beam to the mix when Hwoarang's cut out altogether.

Brim turned, confused, only to see some vague dark shape suddenly appear through the rain – shattering as it caught him full in the face. Turning again, dazed now, Brim felt blow after blow hammering down upon him from all sides. Unable to see his attacker he fired off shots into the dark, fighting off unconsciousness as well as his unseen opponent now, but hit nothing. Bouncing from blow to blow – light though they were, the continuous stream of them was wearing him down – until he found himself standing by Hwoarang who was in little better condition.

“What the hell is this?!”

Brim managed to spot a shape swooping down on them and brought his hand around, the shard of rock crumbling under the power of his fist.

“Rocks? Rocks are attacking us?!”

*** *** *** ***

Cucumba and his fellow commentators leaned back against the arena wall, their table long since abandoned and crushed by falling debris. Hibiki, keeping up a time honoured tradition, had done a quick run through what had been left behind by the audience and was now making his way through his stole- rescued copy of 'Metroid Hunter' on the DS.

“I'm trusting that you will return that once the Rumble is over, Hibiki.”

“Mmm.”

The Jade Behemoth rolled his eyes and returned his attention to the fight, keeping half an eye on the 'Phenomenon.' It wouldn't be long now..

“What a turn around, they thought they had Engar on the ropes but he pulled one hell of a maelstrom out on them!”

“.. Deverz, I thought you were Anti-Engar?”

“If someone kicks me out its because that person is going to win the Rumble. There isn't an alternative.”

“Oh.. well Engar's doing well all things considered, but I'm not sure if that'll last much longer.” Optimus shot a glance towards Cucumba, “Brim and Hwoarang are turning out to be quite the team, perhaps NOA do have reason to fear Catalyst.”

Cucumba's deep laugh cut through the noise of battle for a moment.

“You're forgetting the other factor in this fight; Pride. When he wakes up all things will change.”

He took a moment to search out his apprentice.

“I only hope the others can weather the approaching storm..”

*** *** *** ***

The storm grew. Cloud after cloud was being drawn from all across the skyline, irresistible to the urge that they felt. It was the exertion of mere mortals that drew them, dragging them from their peaceful hovering to become a part of the one. They hammered into the dark outer edges and forced themselves inside, causing the monstrosity to bulge and swell. The storm, in it's own schizophrenic way, knew what was approaching. It was almost time.

Hwoarang's image blurred, now that he knew what he was facing he could just manage to keep ahead. Just. The first attack had shaken him - both mentally and physically - to the extent that he was blinking away blood from a gash above his eye and trying to see through dazed vision. Added to that the fact that the attacks were coming from objects generating absolutely no discernible Ki-Field in the middle of the night made it quite hard to dodge.

“Where..” he ducked, “the hell..” he weaved, “ are the lights?!” His fist shot out like a piston and shattered another projectile. Brim didn't even answer, when Hwoarang turned to repeat the question he caught his partner mumbling to himself. The Prodigy chose to look away; he didn't know what Brim was saying but he really didn't want to know if that meant hearing his partner giving himself his 'Last Rights.'

“Keep the hell away from me!” a series of severely unlucky rocks were disintegrated, a wave of eye-searing red ploughing right through them. The wave was unbelievably bright, even Hwoarang was shocked by it. However he was far more shocked by what it revealed.

Hovering just beyond their normal vision, lurking in the shadows, hung an army. Waves upon waves upon waves of rocks, battalions wide enough to fill the arena and towering up over ten feet high. The first wave had been a distraction, just the Sabre had been a distraction. This was the real attack. They were going to be buried!

“To hell with that!” Hwoarang threw his head back and plunged his mind into the anger and rage, that which fuelled his transformation. His aura crackled anew, energy sending ripples and cracks through the floor around his feet. Ki pooled between his palms, ready to fight his way to the end.

“..no..”

It was hard to think through the anger, but Hwoarang forced himself to try. He turned towards Brim whose eyes were closed tight, whose brow was furrowed in pain, whose hands were shaking in fists by his side. Had he been hit? Was he just scared?

“I believe you deserve, after such an impressive battle, to see your end.” Engar's voice held no taunt or contempt, he was just as calm and measured as he had been since reaching whatever resolution that had brought him back into the fight. The lights which still clung to the roof of the arena suddenly flickered, the Force crackling through its wiring, and bathed the arena in sweet light.

Illuminating the pillars of concrete ammunition.

“Wake up, Brim! I'm going to need you if we're to survive this!”

Still he didn't open his eyes, he just stood there shaking.

“..no..”

He gave up on Brim and turned once again to the wall, trying to pick out Engar's profile.

“It has been an honour. Goodbye.”

The rocks rose up, line after line of them subtly shifting from dormant to active, then began launching themselves towards the duo with all the lethal determination of a spread of seeker missiles. Hwoarang lifted both hands together, his aura sharpening and thickening as he prepared for his last stand.

And then Brim opened his eyes, smiled and brought one hand around. His palm opened out, fingers uncurling effortlessly, and spoke only one word:

“No.”

The first rock bore down on the two, a gigantic affair about the size of a pool table – then it skipped off the ground and swerved away; missing them by bare inches. Three smaller chunks buzzed through the air closing in on Hwoarang's head with unbelievable accuracy – then knocking off each other and spinning into the air; his very hair ruffling as one rock swept through the tips of it.

Torrents of them swept across the arena, a modern day equivalent of the biblical plague of locusts, but the area surrounding the two warriors was empty. Rocks crashed against each other, shattered in mid-air, caught in the cracks in the ground – a million little accidents that continued to keep the two warriors from harm. Turning in amazement, looking upon the swirling walls of death that surrounded them, Hwoarang finally dropped his gaze on Brim. His eyes were bright but he looked exhausted, drawing deep rasping breaths, sweat beading on his forehead and pouring down his face, arms shaking as he extended them outwards towards the rocks.

The safety zone was, though Hwoarang took a moment to realise it, shrinking. Slowly but surely the rocks were winning, the area they skimmed out of their intended path getting closer and closer. Soon Hwoarang found himself standing directly behind Brim, watching with resignation as metres turned to feet, and feet into inches.

“Hwoarang..” Brim spoke through gritted teeth, making him hard to understand. It took him a moment to realise that it was his own name being spoken. “Now..”

Hwoarang blinked, “now?”

“Now!”

Now.

It was his part now and their lives depended on it. Rising slowly off the ground, pure Ki swirling around his body in red sparks, Hwoarang drew on the rage that empowered his every move. Every dark memory, every bitter moment, every time he made a mistake in a fight – he brought it all to his disposal. He was screaming without even realising he had opened his mouth.

A wave of red energy, matching the wall of concrete and rock for power and size, exploded from his body. Impressive though he was, his energy dwarfed him – it expanded outwards in a sphere that sliced through the waves, tearing through rock after rock, boulder after boulder, hammering its way through until it touched fresh air.

And it did.

He landed with a muted click on the concrete; for a moment silence reigned. Brim shot him a relieved grin and he met it easily, after all they had survived death right? Speaking of which..

The two turned and locked their gaze on Engar, who was visibly stunned. With good reason, even Hwoarang hadn't realised that Brim could use the Force.

“Bastard.. lets teach him a lesson.”

“Thought you weren't a team player, Brim..”

“Let's just say I'm open to the idea that it has good sides..”

He forced himself to straighten, shaking the weariness that employing the Force at such an advanced level had brought upon him. Brim didn't think he would be using the Force again through the fight, but he could do just fine with Ki.

His fists glowed with energy.

Hwoarang caught his expression and smirked, adding his red energy to Brims glowing fists.

He could do pretty damn fine with Ki.

*** *** *** ***

“Sweet Jesus-Eating-Panda, what the hell was that?!” For once Hibiki had been drawn away from his newly discovered game – he shared the stunned expression of his companions as they reassessed the street-fighter.

“That was Brim, an infinitely adaptable warrior.” Optimus wasn't exactly smug, but he was pretty close to it. Cucumba suffered it in silence, he wasn't quite as surprised as the others but it had still been a disquieting turn. He had hoped that his apprentice would fare better, possibly knocking one of the warriors out. As it stood, Cucumba considered it a possibility that Engar would soon be facing three warriors.

He glanced at Deverz who shared his expression. Not worry exactly, more like moderate concern.

Not worry at all.

Really.

*** *** *** ***

There were no more clouds. For miles on all sides the sky was completely calm, completely serene. And yet, were the observer to turn to look towards the arena, they would be horrified. The storm rose over the Rumble like the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb; a mass of blackness with sparks rolling across and under the surface. Tension was paramount within the storm, tension over what what soon happen. The rain wasn't the storm, the wind wasn't the storm. The storm hadn't even begun yet.. but it soon would.

Engar had been planning the rock technique for weeks. He hadn't been exactly sure when he would employ it, but had been practising with it for quite some time. The Sabre, the first wave of rocks; he had successfully distracted them until he was ready to attack. And yet, against all reason, it hadn't worked.

It hadn't worked and now they were going to kill him!

Engar sought to maintain his calm and for the most part succeeded: his features, his breathing, his heart-rate - none of it appeared stressed. However on the inside his mind was running in circles, he could feel the mounting energies of Brim and Hwoarang as they prepared to take him down and what he felt worried him. He couldn't use Ki until he had restored the majority of it; that would waste all the effort he had put into recharging himself.

The entire arena began to shake; only slightly at first and then gradually becoming stronger until the very walls blurred. Having long since abandoned the lights, he had lost sight of his opponents. Now however they were obvious even to the naked eye – surrounded by the twin glow of two swelling aura's that were mounting in energy.

“Engar!” Brim's voice echoed through the rumbling.

“It has been an honour..” Hwoarang's joined his, bouncing around the entire structure.

“Goodbye.”

Two beams erupted in the distance, searing side by side towards him, their target. The two fought each other for a moment, violent sparks dancing between the two, then actually fused together to form one all powerful wave of energy. Unstoppable power.

Engar swept both arms out and, through the rows on both sides, the metal chairs strained against the legs that bonded them to the floor and – CRACK – tore themselves free. Moving quickly now, the wave filling his vision like something out of a nightmare, he brought hundreds and hundreds of chairs zipping through the air. Pressing his hands together – just as much in prayer as in communication with the Force – Engar slotted them together to form an actual wall of metal.

When the wave first hit, a whole layer of chairs immediately shattered. And another. And another. The beam tore into the shield, burrowing its way through the metal. But, by all that was good, it's progress slowed. Even as the shield began to shunt backwards, forcing Engar to reinforce it with another two layers of chairs, it slowed the beam. He kept it up, pain filling his already strained mind, mounting chair after chair in a desperate attempt to protect himself.

The very metal of the shield bubbled and dripped, beads of metal rolling down across it and sizzling as they landed on the floor. More joined the first drops and, to Engar's horror, began to expand over the arena floor. The floor under the make-shift shield was soon a bubbling pool of liquid metal and the actual shield was bulging in the back; even as Engar's mind fought against the very physics of the universe he could see the first glimmers of the blinding light peek through.

“Must..” his feet faltered, “Hold..” his arms shuddered, “On-“ his hold fell.

One minute it was a failing barrier of melting metal, the next it was just junk exploding backwards in the face of the torrent of energy that Brim and Hwoarang were putting forth. For one brief, idyllic moment the beam just hung in mid-air – filling Engar’s mind to the brim with light.. then it hit.

There was no sound. There was no sensation. There was only movement, his inner senses telling him that he was moving backwards at an incredible rate.

When Engar hit the wall it was though he was reconnecting with reality; the pain, the anguish, the blood spurting from his mouth – his head cracked off the concrete and filled his vision with black and purple spots. Somehow he managed to keep from falling and, with the smell of his own burnt flesh fix in his nostrils, he stumbled towards where he imagined his opponents to be.

The Force rippled before him but Engar was, for the moment at least, far beyond mounting any kind of defence. When Hwoarangs foot appeared before him he only just managed to turn, avoiding a broken nose but still taking the kick and the subsequent follow-up in the cheek – both kicks smacking him back against the wall with wet thuds.

Next out of the darkness came Brim, spinning as he arrived to drive his elbow deep into Engar’s guy. For a moment he believed the onslaught to be over and began to fall forwards.. then Brim’s ‘Nut-Kicking’ boot swept upwards and fulfilled its purpose in life.

Engar hit the concrete in a dull thump, all thoughts suddenly centred on a world of hurt around his groin area. He was, in a distant way, aware that Hwoarang and Brim were considering what to do with him but it seemed unimportant by comparison. What was death to the anguish he was feeling?!

“Quick.. ainless.. est.. wa..” Engar blinked on the verge of unconsciousness, fighting to stay with Hwoarangs voice. He had to force his mind away from the pain his body was suffering from and concentrate – they were actually going to kill him!

Above his head and out of sight Hwoarang was drawing his hand back, kneeling by Engar’s side.

“You were a valiant opponent Engar, we honour you’re defeat..”

His fist blurred downwards, intent on crushing Engar’s skull, only to freeze less than an inch from his forehead. His aura was sparking and crackling sporadically and, gripping his forearm, a grey hand took hold of his attention. A hand that was undoubtedly flowing with some sort of liquid. A hand that was undoubtedly burning hot. A hand that was undoubtedly squeezing his arm!

Hwoarang tore his arm free with a yell then ducked as another burning hot limb – this time a leg – narrowly missed his head. Bringing his forearms up he blocked another blow, his crackling aura alone protecting him from the incredible heat his opponent was putting out. In that moment Hwoarang had a chance to look the monster in the face and, to his shock and horror, he saw his own features smirking back.

Two fists blurred down upon the monstrosities face, leaving visible dents, then he rose spinning off the ground to hammer both feet against the right side of the metallic creatures face. When he landed its head was twisted at an impossible angle, as though it no bones – and of course it didn’t – then it knocked its head back into place.

“This is worse than the dust monster somehow,” Brims voice was calm, but there was worry on the edge of the tone, “more personal or something..”

The Tae Kwon Doe Prodigy hopped backwards and tuned – his left foot lashing out as the creature once again stepped forward. This time he hit its chest dead on.. then passed through it up to the knee. Before his very eyes the creature changed again, altering its shape so that it held Hwoarangs leg securely between its hands. And no matter how powerful his aura was, it still burnt!

He turned to Brim and glowered at his indecision:

“Get Engar, he’s the one behind all this!”

And Engar certainly was in some measure of control now; he was slowly forcing himself up onto all fours. The blast had left tender marks on his palms and a burn on his chest that was almost black, but not too debilitating. His face felt like a giant bruise but he could still see, and the blood that had once clouded his vision seemed to have clotted – or he had just ran out of blood. But he was still standing – crawling – and that was the main thing.

“Alright Engar, time to end th-“

A third arm shot out of the metal Hwoarangs chest, hooking around Brims waist and dragging him backwards away from its master. This gave Engar a chance to fight his body into a standing position and, once there, he managed to look up.

At the silent sky.

And the storm looked down, level after level of angry cloud and darkness looked down on the mortal that dared to look upon it. It was the storm; it knew no fear – fear is in the future which a storm doesn’t have – and it had no regrets – regret is in the past which a storm doesn’t have. The storm only knew ‘Now’ and Now was the time to strike. And so it did.

“I shall take no more of this disgrace!”

Hwoarangs aura trebled in size, forcing back the knock-off that had held him with all the anger at his command. And considering he was fighting a clone of himself - a mockery – anger was in no short supply. He drew on it even as it approached..

“Jinsoko..”

Getting closer, its steps sending smoke flying from the melting rock..

“Iron..”

Running now, metal feet clanging as it brought one fist around..

“FIST!”

The two fists met – metal upon flesh – and the energy tore free. Beams of light shattered entire chunks of the arena wall and continued onwards, stretching into the night sky even as the Metal Hwoarang froze, and then shattered.

As one Brim and Hwoarang turned to look upon Engar who was standing a couple of metres apart, smiling in spite of the his battered appearance. Slowly, gracefully, Engar lifted one hand to the heavens.

And the storm struck!

Faster than even Brim and Hwoarang could follow, a bolt of pure blue light ploughed its way through the clouds, born of all the energy of the storm, and grounded itself directly on Engar – bathing him in a pure blue light that even they had to turn away from.

When the light faded Engar wasn’t quite.. Engar anymore. His eyes, his fingers, his mouth – parts of him just glowed with the energy of the storm. Wreathing his body like snakes, sparks crawled across him and wrapped around his arm even as he raised it.

The metal that had formed Metal Hwoarang began to bubble again, and then rose up off the ground and flowed through the air towards Engar. It covered his entire body; some rippling away from the shoulder to form a cloak; some becoming new boots; some trousers; some a loose t-shirt. The pattern was simple; the entire thing was a light grey and the entire thing was made out of some re-designed metal. It flowed like clothes but something about its shimmer implied that it had lost none of its strength.

Quite the opposite.

Thus rejuvenated, Engar turned on his opponents and, in an after thought, let all the remaining energy go. Two thin beams burst from his fingertips and, moving faster than even Hwoarang and Brim could follow, caught both warriors simultaneously in the stomach and carried them backwards across the arena. The landed ungainly, the sparks sending odd messages to their nervous system – Hwoarang smacked his head off the ground with a crack, Brim spasmed his own knee into the ground with a crack.

The glow faded, leaving plain old tired Engar – breathing deeply with a weary grin. Slowly, very slowly, he managed to bring himself back to the calm that he had discovered and, as the other two approached, folded his arms.

“The storm..” his gaze flitted towards Pride, “has come.”

Thunder filled the arena, and then the rain really began.
 
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A sound is the result when a wave of force ripples through molecules of air, thus vibrating the human ear drum and becoming interpreted as audio. What disturbed Hwoarang and the others about they sound they now heard, outside of the subtle patting of the rainfall, was that it did not seem physical in the least. Certainly, they were hearing it...but it seemed to rattle ki and force essences alike in it's final, ringing certainty.

It was the sound of an extraordinarily deep bell. It tolled once and snapped the others' attention immediately towards the only possible source. Far away from the ring itself was Pride, kneeling on one bent knee and clutching a hand toward his chest. He was looking downward, but there was no heaving of breath.

The rain drops were hitting him, washing the bloody copper from his face and body. His hair had gone wet and stringy, his bandana lost in the violence that Engar had laid upon him. It now showed just how long his hair was; not extraordinarily noteworthy in the least, but long enough to hang limply over his face, obscuring his features.

The bell tolled again. Their auras rippled with its deafening certaintly.

This bell sound was both plain and horrifying. As if it were not a sound at all, but instead the embodiment of some indiscernable dread exceeding far beyond the physical limitations of the Earth realm. What was scarier to Engar was Pride himself.

When a Force user feels a disturbance in the Force, it is in the form of a ripple, emitting from a source of great power or great disruption. Engar felt no disturbance at Pride, however. Instead, when he sought to feel the Force around the presumably fallen warrior, he was met with an unprecedented realization: there was none.

No, there were no ripples from Pride's Force aura. And now he realized: it was because there was a literal hole in the Force where he stood, within his body. The body that Engar had broken in a fit of uncontrollable sadism.

The bell tolled a third time. The druids had surrouned the kneeling Pride, and it seemed as though they were bowing to him with their hands raised high. And now they could all see the druids plain as day--beings that existed on the other side of the spectrum of life, now phasing in and out of physical reality.

Around the ring, the fighters observed other things becoming visible--orbs of light, swirling about the ring in a miserable circle. They had faces of a generic nature. Faces that screamed at the heights of their spiritual capacity but yet sounded little different than a passing strangled whisper.

Engar and the others were equally mortified. The fourth time the bell tolled, the room began to get notably colder. Hwoarang could see his breath in front of him.

Just as there was no force essence, there was also no ki that any of the fighters could detect. He simply was. He appeared no different from any man of his stature, save for his injuries and the fact that every living being must possess ki within its essence.

The only men without ki that Hwoarang had ever seen were dead ones. Yet, he lives.

Slowly, a smoky black discharge rose from the openings of all of the Druids' robes. Their chant died off at last, but their was that horrible whispering/screaming sound from the smoke energy itself. It made Engar want to cover his ears.

The bell tolled again, and the smoke finished absorbing into Pride's hand. When the bell tolled the final time, he thrusted his hand upward and outward--in some horrid pose of homage to doom and suffering--and through his hair backward. His eyes had rolled far back into his head. But still he saw them.

Without a sound, Pride stood up straight as an arrow. He stood more still than any opponent Engar had ever witnessed. And then, the bell tolled one more time--as Pride took his first steps toward the ring.

The fighters could detect no power from this stalking entity. Even normal men and women had energies to feel, feeble though they might be. None of them could feel Pride, though--yet here he was, stalking forward in pouring rain which was no longer illusory. And no longer of Engar's will.

The storm seemed to react to his very presence. Bolts of lightning lit up the arena, and Engar saw in the flashes an image which would remain forever etched in his mind.

A cloaked figure in tatters, holding a monstrous scythe. Only visible in the flashes from the lightning, but nonetheless Engar could somehow sense that the creature was there. Inside Pride.

The Last Rider. Walking Death.

"What have you done to him?!" Hwoarang demanded of Engar. "For all things sacred, let him be in peace!!"

"I have done nothing!" Engar screamed back. He looked at Pride, then over at his mighty master. He could see something new in his eyes. A fascination, perhaps?

So easily mistaken. Easily mistaken because, more than anything else, what Engar saw in Cucumba's face was utterly alien. It was a fear. Cucumba--Cucatoth--knew this being. And he had apparently hoped to have seen the last of it.

I suggest that you make yourself scarce, my student.

But Master, what sort of--

He will destroy you completely and utterly.

"No..." Engar said out loud in response. He was defiant. "I will fight him! I will make you proud of me, Master--"

"You will do no such thing," Cucumba interrupted. "You will die, if you are not careful, Engar. He is unlike any opponent you will ever face. Including myself."

His words were true. Engar knew this; he sensed a caution in his master that he had not ever sensed before.

Slowly the Last Rider stalked to the ring. The rain seemed to be going through him (though it wasn't). He moved like the dead; unnatural, like an empty body still animated and mobile.

"Pride!!" Hwoarang called out. "What have they done to--"

Engar had siezed the opportunity, seizing three rings of steel from the shredded chair-shield he had used earlier, and manipulating them with ease, wrapped them around Hwoarang's body, dropping him to the floor. Brim was ready to retaliate but Engar glared at him and he held fast instead. They were both thinking the same thing--we're about to have a bigger problem.

Engar began to hover, gathering ki. The colored blobs with the faces huddled towards him, tasting the essence of life he was gathering. They appeared unable to get past his aura, now flaring wildly, but their howling screech/whispering nearly drove him mad with revulsion.

Engar was mortified at the entire situation. He felt a maddening urge, killitkillitkillithurrykillitnow, the kind of feeling a child might get when faced with an overly impressive insect. His skin crawled as the

[breath]

of the energy-based creatures around him connected with his aura and skin.

Using the force and ki together, Engar was actually super-concentrating his attack. More power gathered as Engar felt that furious repulsion with harrowing intensity.

The Last Rider stalked forward, shadow over his brow, the rainfall lightly dripping down his hair and face. He was undaunted. Engar grew excited, tasting victory--the fool appeared utterly unaware. Engar was opportunistic when he lost his focus, and certainly the maddening screams of the

[souls]

around him had driven any manner of focus from him.

"DIE, ABOMINATION!!!"

He let loose with a beam of intense power. Huge and bright, it counteracted the seeming darkness of the rainclouds. Blasting out from the very center of the ring, the beam roared--the screaming soul-entities chasing after the head.

A furious roar of energy filled the arena. The beam itself was so large that it could have easily engulfed half a dozen men in it's wake.

It impacted directly into the Last Rider, exploding vibrantly and sending debris from the arena in all directions. The explosion was deafening in a familiar way, and it made Engar satisfied and glad that he had made a noise powerful enough to drown out those damned bells.

There was smoke and rock strewn about the impact site. There was no sign of Pride, and Engar could not feel any signs that he was still alive. Not that he felt him when the Phenom had been walking, either, but that realization had slipped his mind at the moment.

Then the bell tolled once again.

From out of the smoldering wreckage, the battered body of Pride continued it's stalking, deliberately paced stride. The clothing on his chest had been annihilated to tatters. Unceremoniously, Pride's right hand came up and tore the last remants of his shirt and tank top off.

He was now just 12 feet or so outside the ring.

Feeling the same dread, Brim rose up and opened fire with little dedication to precision. Ki blast after ki blast left his flurrying hands as the frantic repulsion came upon him like a wave of nausea. Not as focused as Engar, Brim gave into this dread entirely, and only held one thought as he screamed and fired:

--killitkillititsnotalivemakeitdeadkillitdontletittouchmepleasegoddontletittouchmekillit--

Each blast impacted with Pride's bare chest but did not break his stride. The six druid entities took their places around the ring now, staring inward intently.

Engar looked around at them and then at Pride, who was taking blast after blast from Brim and not even reacting. He made no effort to block.

Engar siezed the opportunity once more, and howled as he charged up a concentrated beam at the tips of two of his fingers. Using the force to manipulate his ki--a technique that is largely considered impossibly difficult--Engar formed the beam into a sharp, bladed shard. A burst came forth and the shard of energy struck its target dead-center, impaling the Phenom through his heart.

Instead of blood, a black and billowing smoke came from the wound. Pride looked down at the golden shard of light in his heart and watched it slowly dissipate. Engar was prepared for a celebration when the black bloodsmoke had ceased, showing the unthinkable: the wound was healing. Layer after layer of gray matted flesh was intertwining itself back together. Before long, the Phenom's tattooed skin sealed over the wound--surely fatal to an average fighter, but inconsequential to the Last Rider.

Lightning struck again as the rainfall finally let up completely. The bell tolled in the flash, and Engar (along with the others) saw the horrific outline of a being much more intimidating.

Pride suddenly leapt upward, landing the in the center of the ring with cat-like reflexes. Engar fought with his every fiber to not run. But he could not halt his jaw from dropping in awe.

Brim screamed. "What ARE YOU?!!?" He threw a punch at full-blast towards the Phenom, but the fist was caught effortlessly and indefinitely.

"Sooner or later," Pride said in a voice that was not his own, "I come for every man."

Brim was mortified. Pride's fingertips were frigid. He had to look the being right in the face. It was absolutely horrifying for some reason, even though it was a face which he had seen many times throughout the rumble. It was different, somehow.

--killitkillitnow(Animatedbydeathnotbylife)ohgoditstouchingme--

Pride slowly and effortlessly crushed Brim's hand, bringing him quickly to his knees in pain.

Engar had sensed somehow that Pride would return to the battle, and return fiercely. Of all the warriors thus far, Pride's attacks were the most impacting, the most brutal. The metallic shielding that Engar had forcibly grafted onto himself was an attempt at getting an edge. But seeing the monstrous strength that Pride now possessed, he wondered if it would make a difference at all.

When Brim was sufficiently subdued, Pride released him. The smoky, colored entities circled the ring like a tornado of souls; their cries were a chorus of the damned.

Engar remained back, prepared but wisely waiting to observe the new opponent. He was shocked when Hwoarang broke free and attacked Pride.

"Pride, stop! Brim is on our side!!"

The kick landed squarely in the side of Pride's head, tilting his neck painfully but not knocking the entity away in any other manner. Hwoarang looked down his leg to see gritting teeth and rolling eyes. Pride erupted at him, and they were flash-fighting.

Hwoarang's power up a few rounds back had helped immensely with his speed. Flashing from place to place almost instantly, dodging blows with the fleece of a light breeze. He managed to avoid contact with what were certain to be incredibly forceful blows, and he landed plenty of his own.

But before long, the new Phenom seemed to adapt to Hwoarang's techniques. He was performing martial arts kicks and counters that the Tae Kwon Do prodigiy had taken years to develop and master. He was distraught not only by that fact, but by the obvious truth--Pride did not seem to recognize him.

The blows flew with fury and fervor, all the while Pride's fighting adapting to Hwoarang's style and technique.

"Pride, it's me! Hwoarang!!"

The Phenom said nothing and continued to trade blows with the swift martial artist.

Hwo's suspicions that Pride was learning his techniques as he performed them was finally confirmed when Hwoarang kicked through an afterimage of Pride. It dissipated in a billow of smoky nothingness, and shortly thereafter, he caught a furious right hand that sent him straight downward.

Mightily, Hwoarang landed, somersaulted, and vaulted back upward at monstrous speed, catching Pride in the jaw. Undaunted, relentlessly, they continued the flash brawling, unaware that above them Metallic Engar was readying a furious bomb of ki energy.

Brim cried out from below, clutching his injured hand. "Hwoarang!! Watch out!!"

Hwoarang looked up for a second and the flurry of afterimages and smoky discharge suddenly ceased.

He had only a moment to realize what Engar's plan was before he felt his throat clutched in an iron, icy death grip.

"Pride--" Hwoarang yelped out. That was the only word that escaped his slowly contracting windpipe.

"I have no name." Pride responded.

Hwoarang struggled with all of his might against the strangling horror. "You...do...Pride..."

Pride appeared to shake off some cobwebs. "H...Hwo...Hwoarang...?"

The grip loosened but still held. "Yes! Pride, I don't know what's happened to you--"

[us]

"--but we've got to stop fighting before Engar destroys us all!"

The voice changed again...and Pride was not Pride. He looked up, saw the energy bomb, and gritted his teeth furiously. But then he looked back at Hwoarang. "...Hwoarang..." he said, and together a chorus of souls swirling around the arena said the word in a disjointed chorus.

"...friend." The voice still wasn't Pride's but some form of humanity returned to the face. "Not your time yet."

Engar's energy bomb had reached a furious size. It was now surrounded completely by the disembodied entities in the arena, thirsting for a drop of the life essence contained within it. The reddish hue gleamed off of Engar's powerful armor. "Let us see if you can withstand this, Abomination--for even if you can, the others most certainly cannot!"

Engar launched the bomb with the force giving it extra thrust, so it flew much faster than it might have unassisted. Pride's eyes were still locked on Hwoarang, and he could almost see a struggle in that gritting, gnashing face. Hwoarang knew that whatever gave Pride these amazing powers was partially out of his control, and he was witnessing the consciences of both entities wrestling for control.

Finally, Pride used his free hand and launched a quick green energy blast of his own into Hwoarang's torso, sending him flying away at amazing speeds. Hwoarang saw in the moments before impact a face, and heard a screaming--he fired the energy of the very souls which followed him!

The smoky green discharge sent Hwoarang flying violently and helplessly, but most importantly, out of harm's way.

The bomb hit Pride and he caught it in both hands, the accompanying souls flying into his body to give him added strength. He stopped the bomb and watched as Pride poured more of the green smoky energies from each of his hands into the blast. He somehow had converted it into his own soul energy, turning the entire red ki bomb into a green soul sphere instead. And then, the entirety of the attack was ABSORBED INTO HIS ARMS.

When this furious display of power was over, there was once again a horrid silence. The bells tolled once more.

A blast flew upward and Pride turned mightily. Using one open palm, he'd stopped Brim's blast short.

"Those who try to outwit death pay the price," he intoned over the swirling sounds of the beam in his hand. "Rest..."

"...in peace."

From Pride's own hand came a blast of green soul energy, effortlessly shoving Brim's beam downward toward him. Like a ball of snow rolling downhill, the united blast gathered size and intensity as it travelled.

The explosion far exceeded the capacity of the ring itself. It was a direct hit on Brim. When the smoke cleared, his body lay there, limp, in the center of the indestructible ring.

The green light slowly dissipated, and Pride looked up to his new target--Engar.

Biting back a shock of fear, Engar stood steadfast as Pride zoomed upward. Now the test of my armor technique really begins, he thought.

Pride took the first blow, catching Engar directly in the face and sending him flying into the roof of the arena. But within a moment, Engar had peeled himself free with minimal effort. He had felt little of the impact, and less of the pain.

"It's working..." he said aloud. The armor had protected him. Certainly, the blow was painful, but not NEARLY as much as it would have been unarmored. With Engar nearly impervious to damage, and Pride totally indifferent to it, the two engaged in a melee that could only be described as furious.

Punch for punch, kick for kick, blow for blow, and blast for blast, they went at it. Pride's blows clanged against Engar's metal epidermis, while Engar's blows landed in the soft, chilled flesh of the Last Rider. The thing that bothered Engar was that there were no signs of exertion from the Phenom. He HAD to be hurting him, HAD to be doing damage, but the Last Rider showed no signs. He had no aura, he had little facial expression, and his movements gave no clue to the physical toll the combat was taking on him.

He made an effort to dodge, so Engar assumed that the entity must be beatable. But each blast that Engar had connected resulted only in the billowing bloodsmoke, that which seemed only a momentary placeholder for sealing wounds. The Phenom didn't miss a beat.

Subsequent to Engar's armor, he was doing quite well on the end of physical pain and exhaustion. He was not weary or tired, and was taking significantly less damage from the blows of the Phenom. Unfortunately, he was also being ragdolled--each of Pride's monstrous blows sent him flying helplessly, ricocheting off of walls, pillars, and debris.

Engar became agitated at the stalemate, and more agitated at the fact that every blow Pride landed was getting him frequent flyer miles. He formulated a plan.

From far below, the three metal panels that he had used to imprison Hwoarang rose up to meet him. "Well, Pride, I have to say--you've certainly grown to be quite the adversary. Even my master is wary of your power."

"The bell will toll and your master will die," Pride said matter-of-factly. "As will you."

"So you say." Then the metallic panels--now molded into bladed shards--shot forward. They stabbed through Pride's torso, one through his heart and another through his lower left abdomen; the third jutted through his upper thigh in what certainly must have been a bone-skewering direct hit.

While Pride could not be manhandled by the Force, these objects embedded within him COULD be. Engar smashed Pride against wall after wall, obstacle after obstacle, until finally holding him steady. Bloodsmoke billowed out of the wounds; the Phenom gritted his teeth as he struggled to remove the blades.

Good, Engar thought. If it were invincible, it wouldn't be so desperate to escape.

Pride fired a dilluted soul blast at Engar, but he effortlessly batted it away with a metal forearm. Slowly, he charged a mighty counter attack. As he did, the blades twisted inside of Pride's body, wriggling their way out of the exit wounds and back into him at new places. When all was said and done, Pride was engulfed in bloodsmoke and had over a dozen puncture wounds in his torso. The shards wrapped around both of his wrists and his feet respectively, holding him in an ironic crucifixion pose.

Engar raised his hand and fired his charged ki attack. Pride was helpless to dodge it.

Engar held the beam for several minutes, letting it engulf and wrend Pride before finally unshackling the battered body and letting it drop to the arena floor.

Such ruthlessness, Engar thought. He felt uncivilized, crude even. As if he had once again lost focus and given in to a part of himself he had better wished hadn't been there.

Sometimes, his master's voice echoed, ruthless aggression is the only way to defeat an opponent.

He no longer felt like he was fighting a true opponent, and so he didn't feel much in the way of dishonor. He felt more like a frantic camper trying to slay a pack of wolves that would not be sated until they feasted on bloody meat.

He had felt desperate. But he'd gotten things under control. Pride was down and out. A calmness swept over him for a brief moment. Then it ended abruptly and coldly.

In the ring, Pride sat up. The bell tolled and his wounds sealed. His eyes rolled far back into his head.

There was only one thing on his mind, now.

Destroy Engar.

Destroy the Nation of Administration.

Just plain destroy.
 
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Hwoarang jumped up, recently set free from his metallic prison. He quickly looked for a sign of Engar and or Pride, wondering how he should handle the current situation. The Tae Kwon Do prodigy noticed Engar almost directly above him, panting heavily as if he had just launched a large beam. The arena ceiling was heavily scattered with craters, allowing the waves of pouring rain to beat down on almost every inch of the arena floor. Hwoarang turned to Pride, noticing the paranormal ressonance he slightly felt before had grown to a tremendous pulse.

Pride struggles between two realities... can I trust him?

Hwoarang disappeared, reappearing next to Brim. "Not... again!"

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy dropped to his knees, staring at what little energy Brim still was radiating from his very soul. He leaned over, picking up Brim as he slowly got to his feet. Disappearing, he reappeared next to the judges. Cucumba and the others turned to Hwoarang, traces of bewilderment ran wild in their sudden expressions. Hwoarang slowly laid Brim down next to them, turning to Cucumba and motioning the words, "You'll pay... "

The judges watched as Hwoarang disappeared, reappearing next to SaiyanPride. Cucumba began to level with the messages both Pride and now Hwoarang had confronted him with.

Hwoarang still seems to blame me for the unforgiving and extremely violent tone this rumble has become... and I could care less...

OptiPrime stared at the stiff and heavily damaged Brim, laying so still, that one could question if he was still even alive. Deverz walked over to Brim, grabbing his wrist and checking for a pulse. "He's still with us... "

OptiPrime, Cucumba, and Hibiki turned to Deverz, fascination controlling the moment. Deverz cleared his throat, breaking the silence. "He took a hell of a blast... it's amazing Pride didn't kill him.

OptiPrime shook his head, "I'll call the medical staff."

Hwoarang turned to Pride, witnessing the internal struggle that his friend had become. Souls of enemies he must have obviously defeated and coherently slain, continued to wander aimlessly, rotating as if Pride was the sun and they satellites of a tragic creation.

He stuck his hand out, deluding Pride from an evil stare of solitude with a gesture of help. Pride turned to Hwoarang, his eyes convincing the Tae Kwon Do prodigy that someone else must have control.

He almost killed Brim... but Brim was asking for it when he attacked him first. I only hope Pride actually does recognize me.

Pride reached up, grasping Hwoarang's hand and pulling himself up as Hwoarang leaned back and almost tossed the phenomenon into the air. Pride let go, stepping forward to gain total balance. The Tae Kwon Do prodigy stretched by rotating each arm clockwise then counter-clockwise. "You've changed. I can't believe some of the abuse you've taken... it seems like nothing hurts you anymore."

Pride turned to Hwoarang... smiling, yet his eyes still suggested another force was guiding the phenomenon along this troubled path also known as life. "Pain is an excuse... smallfry. You've gotten a lot stronger since the last time I saw you. Engar could be the only thing that still stands in our way."

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy smiled, celebrating an internal victory. Pride's transformation had bothered him, fear developing into questions that had to be answered, conversation that had to be developed.

No Pride... it's not our time yet.

Hwoarang turned his face to Engar, extending his right hand and pointing at the modiwan with a tensed rage. "But it is your time! I should have sucked every little bit of energy out of you when I had the chance!"

Engar was train-wrecked with flashbacks of Hwoarang's death grip. He remembered the amazing shot of pain that was soon followed by excruciating paralyzation.

Who is doing this? The celestials?.... I can't move!

Hwoarang's cynical voice had came next...

You asked me earlier.... if I was a machine?

The next thing Engar knew... the Tae Kwon Do prodigy had him pinned on the ground. Fear turned into denial, denial turned into acceptance.

Why don't you stop wasting time and kill me?! You freak experiment from a lab!

The modiwan rested his palm against the back of his neck, finding it still very sensitive to the touch.

He could have killed me... I was so numb... I was so close to death I could feel it.

Engar jumped from his daydream, startled by the echoing words of Hwoarang. "Still hurts eh?!!"

The modiwan shook his head, mental illustrations of him killing both Pride and Hwoarang flashed randomly through his mind.

I didn't come here to lose... I didn't come here to fail...

Engar watched as Hwoarang and Pride, synchronized in speed, headed straight towards him. They spread out, attempting to flank the modiwan from either side. Engar reacted instinctively and summersaulted back to within arms distance of the arena wall, watching as Pride and Hwoarang continued to head straight for him.

They're going to corner me!

Hwoarang watched as Engar began to move forward, increasing his speed as he became a bullet that shot between him and Pride, heading in the opposite direction that they were previously delegated. Engar continued to gain distance from the other two fighters, mentally focusing on the chairs that still sat connected to the arena. One by one, shaking with amazing force as they began to elevate and surround the modiwan who had now finally stopped. Engar closed his eyes, balling up and spinning as the remaining chairs in the arena formed a giant ball of metal around him. The modiwan sat in darkness, creating an air hole at the top of the ball. Light poured in, helping him notice, even in the extreme dimness, that there was a good 20 feet in every direction. He sighed and began to meditate.

Let's see how strong the Last Rider and the Iron Fist really are...

Cucumba, OptiPrime, Hibiki, and Deverz were all on their feet, staring at the large sphere of shiny metal that levitated on one of the end the arena. Turning their heads simultaneously, the noticed Pride and Hwoarang floating in mid-air on the other.

Cucumba broke the silence, his words filled with amazement. "My... my... it appears Engar has Hwoarang and Pride contemplating their next move. What a unique strategy to keep the two to one ratio from over-powering him."

He continues to prove that he so much stronger than me... if he does win the tournament... will he take the bait and come after me?

Cucumba turned to the rest of the judges, noticing their facial expression were no different from his.

Of course he will...

Hwoarang and Pride approached each other in mid-air, wondering if the other was as confused and amazed as they were. The Tae Kwon Do prodigy turned to the large metal ball that stuck out like an eye sore, allowing a smirk of fear and confoundment to appear. "Engar seems to surprise me more and more... I wonder what he has up his sleeve his this time."

Pride showed no emotion, "Let's skip all that and crack this pathetic line of defense to peices... "

Hwoarang turned back to Pride, smiling, "I like your enthusiasm... "

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy engulfed in red aura, leaning towards the large metallic ball that withheld Engar and rocketed towards it. Throwing his fist arm back, suggesting his first attempt would be to crack it with just his natural strength.

Cucumba and the others watched as Hwoarang became a blur, eventally too fast for them to keep up with visually. Suddenly, a shockwave erupted from the metallic ball, creating a small crack that was immediately sealed back up. Hwoarang appeared only for a second, it seeming like he had only teleported back to give himself enough room to build momentum. Disappearing again, Hwoarang created another shockwave and another shockwave. Shockwave after shockwave, shaking the arena just like he was so used to doing. Each time, appearing only for a second as he entered his assault. Soon, the cracks were multiplying faster than they could be healed, but the ball still eventually remained unscathed. Hwoarang could hear Engar laughing inside the ball, the laughter driving him mad, driving him insane. He teleported back, preparing to prolong the process this time.

"That ball has to be at least 3 feet thick... "

Hwoarang turned, startled to find Pride was standing right beside him. "I didn't even feel or hear you approach me."

Pride turned to the metallic ball, using his rapidly leaning head to motion Hwoarang to move behind him. The Tae Kwon Do prodigy took notice, retreating behind the phenomenon. Pride stuck both his hands forward, creating twin charges that gleamed a dark green. He screamed as rapid trails of energy were launched from his hands, blanketing the metallic ball in constant and ear ringing battering.

Hwoarang and Pride could hear Engar screaming inside the ball, figuring the sound waves of energy crashing into the metallic ball echoed very easily inside. Pride dropped his arms, slightly breathing heavy as he turned to Hwoarang, "Your turn.. "

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy wasted no time, engufling in aura and suggesting he would rely on his natural strength again by stretching his shoulders. But, this time would be different. Channelling energy rapidly into his now outstretched and tensed hand, Hwoarang screamed as they began to glow brighter than they had ever before. His voice echoed to amazing extent, accompaning the loud pulse that ambiently radiated from his energy concentration technique. "I will crack this pathetic attempt to stop us Engar... I will crack you... I will crack every foundation this Nation of Administration thinks it can create!"

Lightning flashed, using thunder's distant and atmospheric eruption to make itself known to the blind.

Cucumba was filled with enlightment, witnessing the rumble he created, the rumble he envisioned, become more than he ever expected.

He makes the Earth cry for mercy on a whim...

The green one watched as Hwoarang created another off-beat symphony of shockwaves, a nightmare for any seismologist.

Yet... he's just another monster that I've let run free in this arena.

Hwoarang teleported back, staring at the even larger cracks that only momentarily made a difference.

Damn... I can't... I can't even dent this thing!

Hwoarang had lost all hope, flying up till he was right beside the metallic ball. He had noticed earlier that it was practicly a mirror and began to make faces at it.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you.. "

Hwoarang turned to Pride, "Why?...

Pride pointed, but it was too late. A hand erupted from the metallic ball, mind boggling in it's design. It grabbed Hwoarang by the throat before he could react, squeezing tightly as it gained it's length and bent like a bungee cord, slamming the Tae Kwon Do prodigy into the arena floor with a violent thud. The arm retracted upwards, cracking like a whip as it jettisoned Hwoarang back down to almost the previous the place where his earlier impact had created a crater. Over and over, it repeated the process, literally trying to beat Hwoarang to death. Pride could hear Engar laugh each time the Tae Kwon Do prodigy made an impact, littering the general area with numerous indentations.

Pride had seen enough, concentrating all the souls he had at his disposal into a small charge, that went from barely visible to giving the area he faced a nice green tint. Soon the arena was filled with a nice green light, as the phenomenon began to increase the size of the charge, both his tensing hands were grasping. The charge grew and grew, resembling a face, a screaming soul that didn't look glad to be in it's current state. The face grew, over-shadowing the metallic ball that it was obviously aimed for.

Engar had momentarily dropped his focus on the relentless abuse of the Tae Kwon Do prodigy, captivated by the large green face that was approaching him at a rapid pace.

It's too late...

The green face engulfed the metallic ball, covering any kind of visual spectrum of what the blast was actually doing. The judges covered their eyes, wind piercing ambiently as they tried to withstand the amazing gust that accompanied the attack.

Cucumba tried to scream over the ear-wrenching humming, "THE ARENA CAN'T TAKE MUCH MORE OF THIS!!"

Standing the closest, and the only one who actually heard Cucumba, OptiPrime screamed, "IT WILL HAVE TO!"

Engar was screaming as well, pulling all his energy and focus into keeping the green beam from burning him alive. Struggling to keep the metallic ball solid, as he begin to sweat from the heat that Pride's attack was generating.

I'm going to suffocate... I won't... I won't TAKE THIS ANYMOOORE!

Pride gasped, witnessing his beam being pushed back by an invisible force, as the metallic ball was being molded into a large wall. The phenomenon increased the amount of soul powered energy that poured from his hands, only to watch as it was spread into every direction, but where he wanted it to. He was mentally bombarded with an expression of disbelief, quickly losing interest in continuing the current manuever. He dropped his hands, watching as the last bit of green energy bounced off the metallic wall.

Engar stood up straight, but was breathing heavily on the other side of the wall, his right arm extended forward and his out-stetched fingers randomly sparking with energy.

Like I said earlier, I decide fates around here...

The metallic wall began to spin, flinging small blobs in every direction. Soon, the wall as no more and Pride, noticing the modiwan, stared at Enger through the clusters of metallic and liquified fragments. Watching Engar form a smile, he gasped as the fragments began to rotate. They stretched and molded into clones of Engar, every single one of them constantly sparking with new found energy. Engar made a displaying gesture, his eyes sweeping over the numerous metallic clones that awaited his command.

"Don't plan on winning this tournament... "

Pride's face barely grew an expression of digust, as he threw his arms forward again. A green charge growing faster and brighter than the previous one.

"I don't think so!"

Engar's eyes flashed, and Pride watched as every single metallic clone disappeared. Cucumba and the rest of the judges gasped, dumbfounded as they witnessed the young modiwan continue to give them an amazing display of focus.

Pride heard something appear behind him, but he contined to poor all his intuition into...

Engar is their source..

The phenomon launched his beam...

SMACK!!!

...only to be sent rapidly to his left, losing grasp as his ki attack fizzled into nothing. Pride flipped in mid-air, breaking his previously negative momentum and hoping to gain enough distance to take a breather.

CRACK!!!

The phenomenon felt a sharp pain in the back of his head, figuring a metallic clone had timed his maneuver perfectly. He spiraled out of control, only to watch as another metallic clone appread from his right side, tensing it's fist. Pride knew he had to dodge, he couldn't become the object in this game of pinball the metallic clones were beginning to play.

But, it was too late...

CHING!!!

The metallic clone's fist had nearly impaled his stomach, laughing as it spun away, rotating a rapidly extended right kick that connected with Pride's jaw.

CHING!!!

The phenomenon squinted, unable to prevent the momentum the attack had created. Cucumba and the rest of the judges watched as the phenemenon was sent reeling in almost every direction, with each kick or punch, the pace gaining tremendously.

Cucumba focused on Pride's unique energy, noticing the phenomenon showed no sign of weakness.

His resolve is astounding... a fight with him would take immeasurable means...

Pride was just about to meet another metallic clone's rising right leg, when it shattered into a million pieces. The phenomenon rocketed towards the arena floor, yet he seemed just fine, rotating his body as he prepared for landing. He slid across the arena floor, leaning lower and and lower till he placed his hand on the arena floor, immediately breaking his momentum. He looked up, staring at the metallic clones... who were now in defensive mode. Another clone shattered, the cause was still currently unknown.

A light snapped in Cucumba's head, the green one eye's searching for Hwoarang, who was no where to be found.

Interesting...

Another metallic clone shattered into countless fragments, forcing Engar into a denial fed rage. Engar tried to focus even more, barely noticing a familiar red and blue trail.

Don't tell me that machine is doing this!

Engar's eyes flashed again, enfluencing the metallic clones to do something besides stand there and look around franticly. They all began to simultaneously disappear, but another was mysteriously dealt with. Engar quickly made a decision, his eyes flashing yet again. A single metallic clone appeared, quite larger than anyone he had previously made.

OptiPrime gasped, "It seems Engar has decided to combine his clones into one single entity."

Engar's face was completely serious, wondering if Hwoarang would easily destroy even this kind of creation, and the whereabouts of Pride. He rotated his head to the right, looking up and down. Quickly spinning his head to the left, he rotated his body as well, scanning the entire arena for a sigh of the phenomenon.

"I'm right here beautiful.... "

Engar jolted with fear and turned in the direction of the voice, only to watch as Pride's fist rapidly approached his face.

CRACK!!!

The modiwan staggered back, barely regaining enough focus to view the phenomenon's fist meet his face again.

CHING!!!

Engar was sent reeling, bouncing off the arena before he even knew what had happened. He shook with pain as he begin to stand, his mouth dropping as his rising eye's met Pride's boots...

No...

SMACK!!!

Engar was jettisoned to his right, ricocheting futher up on the arena wall. He seemed to float in mid-air for a second, his back wrenching with pain. Hearing rapid foot steps and then nothing, he knew Pride was coming for him.

CRACK!!!

The modiwan's half-opened eyes watched the arena floor come closer and closer, pain controlling every other mental function he had left. He closed his eyes, squinting in hopes that he might be able to tune out the impact.

SMACK!!!

A bright light flashed within Engar's closed vision, his head ringing with insurmountable affliction. Pride landed beside him, his scrutiny noticing the modiwan had coughed up blood.

Hwoarang trailed back, staring at the ginormous metallic clone that was staring him down. It quickly looked towards the modiwan, speculating the current state of his creator. Turning back to Hwoarang, the metallic clone slammed it's right fist into it's left open palm. Twitching it's face with anger, it charged at Hwoarang. Not as fast as the others were, but it's size forcing the Tae Kwon Do prodigy to look up.

You'll only join the rest of your brothers... debris on the floor

The metallic clone approached Hwoarang and swung for his head, the Tae Kwon Do prodigy easily leaned under it and grabbed Engar's creation by the arm, spinning as he tossed it towards the arena floor. Landing on it's shoulder, the metallic clone cratered and bounced back up in the air. Hwoarang disappeared and appeared next to it, laughing as it watched the modiwan's creation flail it's limbs in the air. Coming down to Earth again, it rolled over, landing on it's knees and open palms. Looking up, it gritted it's teeth, jumping up and preparing for another assault. Hwoarang shook his head and became a blur, a shockwave erupting from the metallic creature as small and scattered fragments exploded from it's chest. The metallic clone rocketed back, it's head exploding off the side the arena. Hwoarang appeared again, it still seeming as if he had just teleported back. He smiled, disappearing yet again, shockwaves erupting all over what was left of the metallic clone. Fragments were spread everywhere, raining down before they reached half-way up to the arena's ceiling.


Cucumba and the judges faces contorted with fear and speculation, wondering if Engar was out of options. OptiPrime gasped as he began to speak, "Engar is down, Hwoarang has destroyed all the chairs in the arena... suprisingly turned into clones of the modiwan... yet still dealt with no mercy. It is still only a question of who can stop the Catalysts at this point."

Deverz crossed his arms, "Brim has recieved medical attention, stabalized in critical condition."

Hibiki slammed his gameboy advance down, "STUPID OMEGA PIRATE... KEEPS GOING INVISIBLE!!!"

All the other judges turned to Hibiki, again wondering if he ever payed attention to anything that was going on. OptiPrime cleared his throat, "You know we have this on speakers outside the arena? The crowd just heard that moronic rant... "

Hibiki turned red, shaking his fist at OptiPrime, "And I bet anyone of them knows just how hard the Omega Pirate is!"

Cucumba, Deverz, and OptiPrime placed their right hand on their forehead, each muttering anti-jocular remarks.


Hwoarang landed beside Pride, noticing he was waiting for Engar to stand up. The modiwan rolled on his back, covering his face with his arms. The Tae Kwon Do prodigy laughed, "Look like he has a headache... "

Pride turned to Hwoarang, then back to the modiwon. He noticed Engar's eyes flash, fear developing into constant messages of a battle-continued intuition. Suddenly, metallic arms wrapped around both the phenomenon and the Tae Kwon Do prodigy, pulling them away from the prone Engar. The modiwan jumped to his feet, holding the side of his head where a bruise seemed to have grown.

"You guys should focus on your surroundings.. instead of me."

Hwoarang smirked, screaming as his aura engufled him and made the metallic clone that struggled to hold
him explode.

"You were saying?"

The metallic clone that held on to Pride, dropped it's left arm and turned to Hwoarang. Pride laughed, "First mistake... "

The phenomon rotated an elbow, catching the metallic clone in the jaw and eventually shattering it's head. Pride rotated again, bringing a stiff boot to Engar's creation's abdomen, the rest of it falling to the ground in fragments.

Pride smiled, "You know.. your remind me of something."

Hwoarang felt a lightning bolt charge through his soul, memories running rampant through is mind...

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy was standing upright, yet his arms and legs were still strapped down. He blinked rapidly, trying to focus on his new-found surroundings. A room that resembled a doctor's office met his his quickly wandering eyes, his heart-rate escalating to sporadic extents.

What just happen?

Where am I?


He began to try to shake free, finding it next to impossible to get beyond just moving his shoulders.

I can't remember anything!

A voice erupted from his left, "You look confused... "

Hwoarang turned his head and watched as a middle-aged man, wearing a cliché white coat, approached him.

"You woke up a lot faster than the last few... "

Hwoarang's face was littered with confusion, "The last few?"

"Yes... I guess an explanation would seem appropriate at this point. You
see... your what we like to call an enhancement."

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy shook his head, "What did you exactly enhance?"

The doctor smiled, "Everything... we even enhanced your memories."

He looked down, "Your probably wondering how you got here in the first place."

"Yeah, that was something that crossed my mind... ," Hwoarang replied quickly and arrogantly.

"Heh... your still as boastful as ever... I guess we couldn't change that about you."

Hwoarang paused, "Well, how did I get here exactly?

"Your last mission was a rather difficult one on the surface... numerous terrorist agencies were encamped at a disclosed area. Let's just say you were the only one who made it out alive."

He still couldn't remember anything.

"Was I injured?"

"No... "

"Then why I am strapped to this thing like I just went through 10 hours of surgery or something!?"

The scientist sighed, "The mission... it was a test."

Hwoarang smirked, "A test?"

"Yes... the mission required you to deal with concept androids much like what you've become. You displayed in-human characteristics." He smiled, "You out-ran machine for christ sake!"

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy disposition had gone from confusion to anger, "You sent us on a suicide mission, just to see... just to see if we would survive?!"

"Yes... you should be thrilled and honored." The scientist waved his fist, " The world is breaking into a new age... where bio-technology is king and humans are literally reborn. You're not the first of your kind... but you're probably one of our best results though."

Hwoarang had grown tired of this figurative speech, "Best result? You treat people as if their just weapons that you can use at your disposal!"

He began to try to shake free, tensing his arms to extents he couldn't even imagine. The scientiest began to shake with fear, "Calm down, there is no reason for you to be upset.. "

"Upset? UPSET?"

"I am far from upset, you brainwashed war monger... I am furious!"

The office began to shake, Hwoarang feeling a strange power arise all through his body.

"Your eyes! NOO!!!"

The scientist ran to the nearest phone, which was on the corner of his desk, "He's trying to break free, I need subdued E.M.P equipment NOW!!!"

Turning to see if Hwoarang was still struggling get free, he gasped, "Where did he go?!?!"

"Right here.. "

CRACK!!!

The scientist flew into the side of the office, bouncing off and landing on the floor with an ear-wrenching thud. Hwoarang heard a door open, realizing he might have to fight his way to freedom. He looked around the room, noticing a window. Running up to it, his eyes widened at the 30 stories that seperated him from the street below.

He shrugged, "Let's just see how enhanced I really am... "

The window shattered as Hwoarang jumped through, wind whistling around him as he the ground became closer and closer.

BOOM!!!

He landed in a squating position, his right hand placed down for balance. The crowd around him seemed to pause, dropping their items and their mouths, and staring at what looked like a hospital patient who just survived a death-defying leap. Hwoarang looked down, noticing he had not only cratered the cement, but had created a nice spider-web of faults that went in almost every direction. The Tae Kwon Do prodigy stood up, random sparks of energy erupting all over him.

Looks like that scientist wasn't lying...

Hwoarang was still mentally controlled with progressions of angst, something in him was changed, something that he didn't want changed in the first place. He slowly came back to reality...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Engar was staring at Pride, taking random glances at Hwoarang. Each of them had already realized that they were three fighters in a tournament with only one prize. The Tae Kwon Do prodigy had also realized something else...

I've got a certain military installation to visit, when I'm done with this tournament.
 

Mephit74

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Cucumba stared at the arena silently, more alarming than the monsters in the arena, were the monsters yet to arrive. Cucumba sighed deeply as he saw which entrant graced the list next.

<HR>

Now making his way to ringside, at six feet and one inch, . . . SA Gooooooooooooohaaaaaan!

<HR>

Cucumba couldn't help but chuckle to himself . . . Now lets see what Faction: Catalyst can do against my pupil, and one who nearly defeated me himself.
 
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Innocent spar to friendly competition, and then from friendly competition to total war. The Fight Club had changed radically from when it had first began. The hope and exuberance that had been displayed by many of the fighters was now replaced with cold resolve, or lust for blood and destruction. Gone was the true fun, the primary reason for entering the Rumble for many of the competitors; there was now only left a burning desire to win at all costs, to destroy everyone else and gain the much coveted title of Fight Club Champion.

As SA_Gohan strode down the hall leading from the lounge to the arena, doubt, and wonder flickered across the surface of his thoughts, mixing with the courage and fire that he held within him that was as yet undimmed by hurt, and untarnished by hatred and anger.

Can I really do this?

He could feel the surging energies of his to be adversaries, rising and falling and then rising again, over and over shifting in the arena. Large powers, monstrous even. That by itself was not what gave him doubt in his own ability however; he had watched the matches, from when Hwoarang had first stepped into the Arena, to Pride's incredible recovery and horrifying new abilities and beyond. He had seen the primary reason he'd come to the competition stripped away as the matches continued, as powers grew and anger was transmuted into hatred. He had witnessed the cruelty everyone had inflicted upon their fellow contestee's.

Fighting was one thing; but the emotions coupled with what had taken place so far surpassed any battle he had ever experienced. And he had to ask himself, when the time came, would he be able to shed his soul, do away with his humanity and take up the terrible weight of the warrior once again?

A bright light came from up ahead, a flare the intensity of a star's birth, blinding any foolish enough to look into it directly. It cast back the darkness within the corridor, giving everything hard lines and black shadows.

Could I do that? Can I toss back the shadows that have been shed upon this competition . . . or will I be consumed by them?"

He climbed over a pile of wreckage from the partially collapsed entrance into the arena, looking upwards to take in what would be his home for the next few hours. Bare rows of stone stands encircling a large, arena comprised of an unknown substance. And above it all flickered three forms, fighting with speed and intensity born of incredible skill; His competitors. His adversaries. But not his enemies.

"I will keep my promise," he murmured to himself.

And then it was time.

***

When he'd first signed up, he'd done it with many preconcieved notions; That the fights would be little different than the few rumbles he'd already engaged in; that the competition while plentiful, would not be invincible.

And that it was all in the name of having a good time.

He should have known better. The actions and plans of the Mad Old One always belied something greater.

***

Dust arose at SA's footsteps as he walked towards the arena, ki and another as yet unknown power causing his hair rise and his loose gi to stir. His head was down, his eyes were closed, almost as though he were in prayer, but he was fully aware of his environment.

Should I? Should I do this? There is still time to end this, to quit and leave them to their own devices.

But if I did, then what would happen? One of them might survive to the end, and in doing so being born anew,forged from the flames of this tournament. But these flames are imperfect; what if they do not produce a person of the strength needed?

The answer is clear. All will perish, and standing over the ruin of all will be Cucatoth.


Gohan's eye's cracked open, and he shot a hooded glance at the Rumble's creator. The Ancient One didn't shift a muscle or nod his head in acknowledgement, but his eyes followed the other warrior's, holding the gaze until SA turned away upon reaching the steps.

I come for you, Cucumba. And when this over we will finish I left unfinished.

Stepping upon the arena, SA silently breath in, and then let it go, banishing the problems and worries of the outside world for the moment. Now, it was time to fight.

A slow smile spread across his face.

***

His three competitor's set down upon the ring, Engar and Hwoarang measuring him up, and silently feeling him out, trying to ascertain what kind of strength he might have. SaiyanPride gazed at him silently, and the young man suddenly felt like he was being weighed and judged before some higher power.

He frowned then focused his attention on Engar.

The abnormality; that which should not be.
He'd heard of Engar, had hoped that such a being could not exist in this reality. And yet here he was, a person who had allied himself with an evil such as Cucumba, one who had most likely sold his soul for the power the Mad old one could bestow upon him.

Engar was something that could not be; primarily because he was an extension of Cucumba's will.

He could feel the other man probing him through the ki and Force, trying to hain his measure without letting on as to what he was doing.
He was good at it, very good; his skillfullness with the Force was reflected in the subtle way he sneaked past SA's defenses, and his ki was only the faintest brush. But still SA detected the attempt, and couldn't help smiling at the subterfuge.

Let him have that. He can probe all he wants, but he will never feel the true depths of my power.

SA raised a hand, the smile fading from his face as he began siphon ki into his muscles.

"Engar . . . We've never met, but I've always had a strong desire to kill you."

***

[Flicker. Flicker flicker. Flickerflickerflickerflickerflicker]

A blurring and smearing . . .

At this level.

Pulling at the edges . . .

It will be necessary.

Distorting and contorting . . .

To do this.

Ki blasted from SA's pores, washing over his skin in a searing heat, rippling the air away from him in waves, and stirring the dust at his feet into a tornade that surrounded him.
He pulled from his center more and more ki, channeling it through his veins in a flow of energy that threatened to boil his life blood out into the air, and still he pulled more, pulled until his body glowed bright white, until the arena was alight with his power, until there was nothing left to pull.

And then he travelled forward.

The new comer's vision blurred magnificnently upon the edges, turning into a hundred dozen smears of bright reds and yellows and blue's as he released his weight from the bonds of this dimension. In the center of his sight, everything moved in slow motion, unshifting, and unmoving, held still by the bonds of physics and reality. Almost too easy.

He appeared at Engar's side in the length of a thought, an eternity for him, less than a millisecond for his victim, and let himself drop to the ground slam a perfectly formed sidekick into Engar's metal coated jaw, sending him shooting upwards at a speed that finally was beyond's a snail's crawl in his perception. No time for defense, no time to even react to the presence of a threat, and while that metal skin might stop the physical part of the blow, it wouldn't be able to halt everything. Efficient.

After a moment SA let his energy die down, felt the heat upon his skin diminish drastically as he pulled back in the ki. Not too long. Thank god.
His breath escaped his lips in quick gasps, his muscles felt lit with exertion, and the weight of his body he'd previously been without but a moment earlier suddenly returned, nearly bearing him to the ground.

With some effort he straightened to a crouch, ignoring the looks of surprise upon the Catalyst member's faces, for from there point of view it had seemed as if he'd simply stopped existing in one place and started existing in another.

Engar continued to sail upwards, stunned by the kick to the extent that he did not catch himself when he fell to the ground.

The arena floor did not yield to his impact.

"Did you like that?" Gohan murmured.

***

He didn't know how long he knelt there; it could very well have been forever, or at least he wished it was. Old injuries and long forgotten aches had started making new complaints to him, and sudden fatigue seemed to be pulling him ever downwards into sleep- or perhaps death's- embrace. He resisted, forcing myself to a standing position and gritting his teeth as the muscles he'd abused protested the movement.

Perhaps I should have saved Supiidoappu for later on . . .

The technique had eaten away a good portion of his spiritual energy, and left his body in a weakened state for sometime, but it had accomplished what was needed. Engar wouldn't be feeling nearly so confident about engaging the new comer.

Of course Cucumba's student wasn't dead . . . not yet at least, but the power behind that blow would long make him wished he was.

Even now the man moan on the ground before rising to a sitting position and climbing to his feet, holding his jaw tenderly. Blood leaked from his ears and nose, and he spat out a mouthful, but that was only a part of the damage the technique had caused.

Supiidoappu allowed one to place the mass of his body outside dimensions, freeing him from reality's constraint's on movement; and when a blow was struck, the power of the non-dimension went behind the blow, delivering devasting physical damage, but also disrupting whatever types of energy were in place within the target.
Quite simply, for several moments, Engar was bereft of the ki and the Force within his head. That energy had been replaced with the energies of non-existence's, and while they could not destroy matter, it was horrifyingly painful to the touch.

***

Engar felt the ki returning to his head; the Force had come back some moments ago; a permeating power in everything, it had quickly filled him back up from what he'd lost in that moment of sheer, tearing pain, but the ki was generated from within him, and the amount lost was slow in being replaced.

He levelled his gaze at the newcomer, anger beyond words at the effectiveness of SA's attack, and yet on some level impressed as well.

The way he is gasping though, I don't think he'll be able to do that again anytime soon.

***

SA breathed in deeply, and then set himself, channeling his energy once again to augment his body.

"I'll try and let you keep up this time, Engar, if you can that is," he taunted.

In response an aura of energy erupted around the Force adepts form, and the two warriors leapt at each other.

If this had happened moments before, prior to when SA had used that attack, he would have had the distinct advantage of being fresh and full of ki, but depleted as he felt now he and Engar were roughly even with each other.

They flickered through the air, arms and legs blurring and then meeting in explosions of energy as they tried their best to bash in each others brains, even as below the battle had resumed between Hwo and Pride against the now reformed metallic monsters.

SA's leg lashed out in a powerful sweep at Engar's head, coming up short as it was blocked. He spun off the arm, using the added moment to shoot a back kick toward's his opponent's sternum. Engar twisted to the side, sucking in his stomach to avoid the blow, and then planted a boot in SA's defenseless rear, kicking him hard.

Taken by surprise, the new comer hurtled towards the ground, only just managing to stop short with a flaring of his aura. Which was all the time Engar needed. The arena seemed to tremble as Cucumba's student tapped into the deepest wells of the Force, pulling free boulder's from the ground and sending them hurtling towards SA.

The young man's eyes widened at the display in power, (He shouldn't still be capable of this!) before the monolithic stones impacted against his lean frame, bearing him down to the arena's floor. There was a sickening crunch from underneath the boulders as they split apart from the impact.

The boulder's raised themselves from the stone floor, and then came down again harder than the last time.

***

"HE IS DEAD!" Optimus shouted as SA was flattened beneath the giant stones. "I think even this new Pride would have a hard time getting up after that!"

Hibiki glanced up at stone's that sat in the middle of the arena, his eyes momentarily pulled away from Metroid by Opti's sudden declaration.

"Hwo got flattened?" He asked, before turning his attention back to his game.

Optimus Prime shook, somewhat irritated. "Of course not Hwo! Did you even hear the announcement of Gohan's entry into the ring? And don't sound so cavalier about it, that's disgusting! Imagine how the clean up will be!"

"It's not like I'll be the guy to do that. Besides, this is Gohan we're talking about. We all saw his fight against Cucumba, so I doubt he's done yet. Now stop that damn yelling so I can concentrate! The boss is just through these guys . . ."

As Hibiki trailed off, his attention once again absorbed by the Metroid, the Jaded One looked at the boulders piled atop what was apparently SA's shattered body. Maybe Hibiki is more perceptive that we would give him credit for.

***

Breathing hard, Engar set down atop the boulder's.

That had been fairly quick. He didn't know why his master had even told him about this guy; save for that one attack, he didn't . . . hadn't been all that great.

He could still feel the man's life force through the Force though, which he'd been careful to sustain. His intentions had been to disable, not kill.

Someways off the metal that the Force user had formed into his avatar was one again split apart by the blows of Hwo and Pride, and his body still recovering from number of things he couldn't find the focus to remold it.
Instead he reached down for his Rogue Saber, preparing to mount a defense of ki and pure cutting force.

Warning flashed through his senses, and there was the sound of something exploding behind him. Engar whirled, saber in hand, but not yet activated; he turned right into the fist directed at the side of his face.

The man flew off the boulder, flying towards Hwo and Pride who obliging caught the man in the sternum with their knee's.
Engar gurgled and fell to the ground, propping himself up on two hands as the Catalyst members loomed over him. He gritted his teeth then leapt to his feet, his hands extending towards's his adversaries as he let out a blast of unadulterated Force.

Pride skidded backwards, his arms coming up in an attempt to block the invisible pressure against him, while Hwoarang leapt upwards intuitively, dodging the wave. He'd been subjected to that far to many times not to be able to guess a bit as to when it might come at him now.

From far off behind, standing atop the stones rent from the ground, SA stood, absently rubbing his fist as he watched.

His gi had been ripped apart in several places, his face was adorned with shallow cuts on the cheeks and forehead, and his nose was bent at an odd angle. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth, and a swelling was beginning to rise over one of his eyes, but he was alive.

"Vicious guy, that one. Even being in this for so long, he's still powerful."

To accomplish my goals, I'm going to have to output a whole lot more.
 
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"Gpas has definately fled, a modiwan spotted him at a checkpoint," said Optimus Prime, checking his screen prompter. "I'm at a loss . . . if you're going to compete, stick it through win or loose."

"Your assuming that the gutless coward had any chance."

Deverz leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms and kicking his feet up on the commentators desk. "He probably couldn't get near the ring, his knees kept giving."

"I don't blame him," said Hibiki. "He obviously didn't want to die."

"I can't believe the power amassed here," said Cucumba. "This is thrilling unlike what I've dared imagine. Soon these powers will break one another, and that survivor will be the champion of this fight club."

Deverz and Opty exchanged looks while Hibiki busied himself with another handheld game.

I can only imagine what your reason for bringing them here is Cuc, Opty thought. but I'm scared of it anyway.

<HR>

Gpas is eliminated this round, and is completely out of competition.

The posting order is thus:

Hwoarang, SA Gohan, Engar, SaiyanPrideXIX, and the newcomer.
 
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Arrogance is only a weapon of demise... arrogance is only a weapon of demise

Hwoarang turned to his right, noticing SA was mentally preparing for his second round. Quickly looking in the other direction, keeping his senses alert on the currently prone newcomer, he watched as Engar began to charge at Pride. He had chosen the advisary who didn't completely dodge his previous attack, momentary momentum in this opportunity based game of chess, compelling the young modiwan.

I must strike... while he's stunned!

Pride watched as Engar came closer and closer, in full gallop, tensing his muscles in preperation. The modiwan rose up, lifting off the ground, his rogue blade erupting with previously withheld light. Engar landed infront of Pride, his weapon crashing down with lightning speed. Pride barely dodged the death blow, rotating to his right, extending a swift right boot towards the modiwan's chin as he came around. Engar ducked, skipping to his left, flinging his rogue blade upwards as he went. Pride reacted instantly, summersaulting backwards, the rising beam of light that the modiwan controlled, barely missing Pride's boot. The Last Rider landed in a ready to sprint position, quickly rising and engaging his currently awkard opponent.

OOF!!!

Pride speared Engar, causing the modiwan to drop his rogue blade, lifting his opponent completely off the ground. The Last Rider began to run faster and faster, becoming a blur. Suddenly, he stopped, watching as Engar became a victim to inertia. Pride reached out, grabbing Engar's left foot with both of his hands before it became an option that was out of reach. Beginning to rotate in place, Pride laughed as Engar flailed his arms in misery, powerless.

This is still too much fun...

Believing he could no longer gain any speed in his rotation, he launched Engar, aiming high enough for him to have room to do more work. The modiwan was jettisoned, moving so fast he didn't have time to think before...

CRACK!!!

Engar was sent to Earth, a familar shaped fist impacting against the back of his head, the light that flashed within his squinted eyes, and the numbness that soon followed, all becoming a systematic deja vu.
-

Hwoarang stared at SA, noticing there was also more than what just met the eye. "Your different from anyone I've faced so far... I can sense numerous energies within you."

SA smiled, "I see... your not only a viscious fighter, but an intelligent one. You may sense the ki, chakra, and force, but you do not sense what I could and will do to you with each. So, was your shared assessment an act of intimidation... or is fear even spreading into your lungs?"

Hwoarang began to smile as well, "Fear... something I also sense in you. And with Pride keeping Engar busy, your going to have to deal with everything I have!"

SA dropped into a combat ready stance, perched on top of the boulder, as if he was initiating king of the mountain. Hwoarang immediately recognized the style, a slight interpretation of his own. "I see you believe in Tae Kwon Do as well, but does it believe in you?"

SA shook his head, "Whether anyone believes anything anymore these days, believe this... the more you clap your pretentious little gums... the more I'll make this hurt."

Hwoarang noticed that SA remained calm, instilling that this opponent was actually focused, and would take extreme focus on his own part. The Tae Kwon Do prodigy disappeared, reappearing next to SA almost instantly. He smiled as he floated in mid-air, launching a rising right leg towards the side of SA's head. Gohan's facial expression never changed, blocking Hwoarang's attack with his left arm effortlessy. The Tae Kwon Do Prodigy's leg bounced of SA's forearm, creating momentum that only added to the rotation that Hwoarang entered, bringing a stiff left jab towards SA's face as he came back around.

Clever... but no cigar.

SA ducked, watching Hwoarang extend over him. Tensing his right fist, his knuckles sparked, flowing with battle ready ki that intensified as he extended his hungry knuckles toward 's the Tae Kwon Do Prodigy's open chest. Hwoarang reacted swiftly, his fingers quickly grasping Gohan's right arm by the wrist. He shook his head...

"Your going to have to be faster than that... "

The Tae Kwon Do Prodigy tightened his grip, throwing his shoulder in the opposite direction, hurling SA towards the arena's ceiling. Gohan felt as if he was only recreating Pride's earlier manuever on Engar, filling in the the modiwan's part. But this kind of situation played no favorites, captivating SA as he gritted his teeth and realized that with each moment, he was only moving faster and faster. Gohan noticed he was heading straight for a nice opening in the arena's blatently abused ceiling, preparing for the inevitable orbit of a chaotic soul into the peaceful atmosphere that surrounded an arena, that had become a planet of self-destruction in it's own right.

Suddenly, SA felt familiar fingers grasping his right ankle...

"Don't tell me your leaving already?"

Gohan gasped, his eyes shooting wide as inertia shot through every inch of his body, and escaped though the very top of his head. Hwoarang still wasn't entertained, as usual, and flung SA back towards the arena's boulder and metallic fragment littered floor. Gravity seemed more than pleased with this direction, as Gohan reached the cement gaurded Earth within half the time he had left it. SA covered his head with his arms, hoping that the impact would be forgiving. But, just as soon as he figured his immediate destiny would be to become a nice little crater to add to this grunge mural of battle's cause and effect, the same skin pinching fingers grasped his right ankle once again.

Gohan was tired of playing this game, this twisted display for everyone to remember... for everyone to laugh at, "You are simply sadistic! Why do you torture me like this? Why don't you just give me the 1-2 knockout and let me be!?"

Hwoarang shook his head, "I do this because I'm letting you know where you stand. Your holding back... "

SA tried to wiggle free, but Hwoarang only increased his coercive intensity, dangling Gohan as if he was simply a store bought rat, feet away from the curled up snake that was known to many, as defeat.

This should confuse him even more...

SA felt Hwoarang let go, making the newcomer feel as if he had completed a journey to that seemed as if it would never end. His open hands met the arena floor, balancing Gohan till his feet were planted as well. He spun around, exiting his crouched position, his eyes meeting Hwoarang's as he dropped back into his fighting stance.

Hwoarang slowly descended to the ground, closing his eyes in a mocking fasion. "Now... I want you to impress me this time."

Gohan watched as Hwoarang dropped into his stance, his eyes remarkably staying closed.

This guy doesn't know when to quit... how does he expect to block anything, with his vision impaired?

Hwoarang motioned for SA to approach him, the roar of Engar's rogue blade suddenly crashing in the near distance. But, Gohan dare not turn his attention away, mentally rambling through what the Tae Kwon Prodigy could possibly be planning. He shruged, leaning forward as he blurred towards Hwoarang, sparks of ki randomly dancing across him. Entering no man's land and leaning into a right cross, SA gasped as Hwoarang reclined back, his closed eyes and overall facial expression never changing. Gohan wasn't done, throwing his shoulder's back as he extended a stiff right leg toward the Tae Kwon Do Prodigy's stomach, gritting his teeth even more as he watched Hwoarang spin to the left. SA still noticed that Hwoarang's hadn't opened his eyes, not even once. Gohan leaped into the air, spinning as he extended a left drop kick towards Hwoarang's head, screaming, "Damn!", fustration amounting as he witnessed the Tae Kwon Do Prodigy lean under it with ease. Hwoarang rotated slightly, giving SA plenty of room to land.

Gohan was getting more and more excited, anger and entertainment molding until goosebumps seemed to appear on his arms. He could no longer deny that he enjoyed every single second of this, temptation of actually hitting Hwoarang, feeding his emotions. SA continued to attempt basic melee techniques, wondering how the submissively blinded Tae Kwon Prodigy continued to dodge them effortlessly. There skirmish soon became a flash fight, with only one competitor actually being aggressive.

Hwoarang may have seemed calm on the outside, but on the inside he was teeming with happiness as well...

He thinks of me as a weaker advisary with my eyes closed... little does he know... the Earth's only true consistancy... shines even more brightly in the darkness.

The Tae Kwon Do Prodigy ducked under a rapidly extended right leg, finally reacting with a open right palm, that erupted a small shockwave from Gohan's chest. SA was sent reeling, his back smacking off a nearby boulder. Landing on his knees and hands, he gasped for air, wrenching with pain.

Do I even stand a chance?

Gohan heard rapid foot steps, figuring Hwoarang was getting tired of messing with him, planning to end this more quickly then the blow that had him in this belittling and humbling position in the first place. He jumped and looked up, surprised by the vibrant and attention grabbing rogue blade that Engar wasn't afraid to share murderously. Hwoarang turned to his right, quickly noticing a beam of light that headed straight for his neck. He disappeared, appearing on the opposite side of the charging Engar, who was smiling more audaciously than Hwoarang and Gohan ever had. The modiwan quickly leaned back towards Hwoarang, his momentum displacing footing, stopping him instantly at least twenty feet from Hwoarang.

"I hope you didn't think you had got rid of me!"

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy glanced over to where he felt Pride's presence, noticing that Engar would rather have his horde of metallic clones deal with the Last Rider.

"Like I said earlier... it's wise keep your eyes on me!!!"

Engar held his rogue blade in a ready-to-attack position, lunging himself at Hwoarang. Noticing the Tae Kwon Do Prodigy had dropped his focus on Pride, and was concentrating on something else, the modiwan knew he had to increase his reflexes as he approached.

"This time... you shall feel more than just a scrape on your arm!"

Hwoarang turned to the incoming Engar, quickly extending his arms. Engar felt a huge gust of wind push against him, but he wasn't going to stop, he wasn't going to let the constant messages of intuition, make him turn back.

I have no ally to count on... I have only myself, and it's about time I had less enemies to choose from!

The modiwan's rogue blade was less than inches from the Tae Kwon Do Prodigy, when he felt the intimidating force, the wall of pure energy that burned his mind, his soul, and his resolve to ashes. A red mist soon surrounded Hwoarang, forming a sphere, and spreading more rapidly than the mind could immediately interpret. Engar bounced off it, richoting and landing behind the same cluster of boulders that Gohan was currently kneeling in front of.

"I just want to let you know Engar, Gohan... the longer this rumble goes, the less chance you have of winning! so end it now... END IT NOW!!!"

The entire arena was fixedly absorbed on the demanding and intimidating Tae Kwon Do Prodigy, staring at the huge sphere of pure energy that had become an inpenetrable defense, an inpermeable barricade.

Even the clones had stopped their out-numbering assault on Pride, completely prone, as if they were just statues all along. But Pride had better things to do then stare at the ambiently self-assuring Hwoarang, quickly taking advantage of the situation, using two quick kicks to shatter a couple of Engar's persistant creations, before they knew what happen. The rest of the metallic duplicates soon realized that they had a bigger problem to worry about, their short attention span coming into coherence with their creator, the momentarily stunned Engar. Pride was swoon swarmed as he had been before, dodging and blocking kicks and punches from every direction possible. He needed help... he needed Hwoarang.
-

Cucumba and the rest of the judges all sat at their table, too focused on the action to even speak to each other. OptiPrime broke the usual silence with his commentary for the audience that still stood outside the arena, their radio's tuned in. "It seems we still don't have a clear-cut favorite at this point, each fighter still displaying professional intensity in the areas they succeed at. But, Hwoarang currently has Gohan and
Engar down for the count... Pride dealing with the metallic clones, as you already know, them once being the seats that filled this arena , the clones only molding back into shape faster than they can be destroyed."

Cucumba was focused intently on the boulder that hid Engar visually from him...

Get up my apprentice... get up!
-

Engar's eyes shot open with anger, his left arm reaching for the boulder to help himself up. He scrambled to his feet, still feeling a little crispy from his encounter with Hwoaragn's energy barrier. The modiwan peered around the large piece of the arena ceiling, noticing that the Gohan was beginning to charge a beam, and that Hwoarang still held up his shield.

It's not as visible as used to be... but I know it's still there.

Suddenly, Gohan jumped up into the air...

"Take this, you sadistic fool!!!"

Energy poured from SA's cupped hands, shaking the arena as it homed in on the Tae Kwon Do Prodigy. But, Hwoarang didn't even flinch, smiling as it came it closer and closer.

KABOOM!!!

The beam of energy crashed into the arena floor, dust and particles flying in every direction, engulfing Hwoarang.

The Tae Kwon Prodigy had become the center of attention once again, everyone waiting to see if that kind of survival was even feasable. Gohan was still feeding his heart and soul into the beam when he heard the laugh, over the incessive rumbling his blast created, that he'd never forget...

"BWHAHAHAHAH... you have to be joking, RIGHT?!!"

SA quickly discontinued his attack, waiting for the miniscule fragments of Earth that he has obligingly disturbed, to reveal a sign of his opponent's condition. Soon, the cloud cleared, and everone experienced a moment of tranquility...

...Hwoarang had not even been touched and Gohan soon became obviously furious.

How does this guy survive something like that?

The Tae Kwon Do prodigy continued to subsequently surprise everyone, but this particular mental victory was short lived. He began to sway, as if he had lost touch with reality, his energy shield flashing rapidly and fading. Resisting such a shockingly powerful and menacing beam had drained him, provoking everyone into a path of bewilderment, especially Gohan. It wasn't long before the Tae Kwon Do Prodigy had fallen to his knees, barely keeping himself from tipping completely over.
-

OptiPrime jumped up, "Hwoarang is down! What a sudden turn of events! Could this fighter, who has been in here for so long, finally run out of gas?"

Cucumba couldn't help but smile...

Destroy every foundation we create... right?
-

Gohan had entered the tournament and already made a name for himself, yet he couldn't believe how quickly everything had progressed...

I didn't feel like I'd last long, nor was I keeping even keel with the competition... but look at me, I think I just eliminated someone already.

Engar appeared below Gohan, basically a blur, heading straight for Hwoarang.

Yes... I love striking them when their down... makes it so much easier!

The modiwan ignited his rogue blade, preparing to strike the incopacitated Tae Kwon Do Prodigy. He loomed closer and closer, the possibility of finally ending Hwoarang's streak, constantly hammering in his head.

I've been waiting to do this every since you tried to absorb all my energy... weakling, you simply let go on a mindless insult!

Engar raised his rogue blade, planning to end it all... in one efficient swipe.

CRACK!!!

The modiwan's eyes closed, startled, the impact creating a flash that temporarily blinded him, letting him know that he just been stunned.

"Like I'd give someone like you the honor! This one is mine.... I started his demise, I'll finish it!"

Engar was too busy stumbling in the other direction, to take what SA had said serious, he was going to take it personal. The modiwan finally came to his bearings, turned around and pointed his rogue blade directly at Gohan.

"Wanna bet?"

Gohan laughed, no longer having any doubts about what he could accomplish. The sound of metallic fragments being shattered broke the following silence, Pride obviously still holding his ground. Engar stared at SA, with death probably the least cynical thing on his mind. Gohan had become tired of this spontaneous and almost immature game of exrpessive gawking, and charged towards Engar. There fight was instantly too fast for most of the judges to keep up....
---

Hwoarang looked around, noticing that he had an entire block, questioning the theory behind gravity. He also knew that if he was truly "enhanced", that the company, who spent plenty of government funds, wouldn't want there "product" to go to waste or come up missing.

It's time to get the hell out of here... I haven't had this many people staring at me since I was prom king.

Hwoarang began to walk down the street, possibilities off what he could now achieve, scrolling through his mind. He knew that his extensive training and practice with Tai Chi only went so far, he knew that he was the baddest motha to enter a street fighting tournament in a long time, but he didn't know how that would effect what was "enhanced", if anything.

Suddenly, he felt a nice cool gust of wind, go right up the crack of his ass. He stuck his right hand down there and realized something that he probably should have realized before... but was to caught up in the moment, with the adrenaline pumping, to realize.

Oh ****... this hospital dress isn't covering my... EVERYONE CAN SEE MY ASS!

He looked around again, seeing random people pointing and laughing, one guy even having the audacity to whistle.

This is not happening...

Hwoarang tried to his best cover his embarassment, his face almost as red as his hair. He began to walk down the street, still hearing the giggles, and seeing people stop in their tracks, overwhelmed with surprise and disbelief, as they watched a half naked man walk right by them. The Tae Kwon Do Prodigy constantly looked up at each the sign he came across, hoping for some kind of clothing department store.

Maybe I shouldn't have been so hasty in jumping out that window... this is a nightmare.

Two blocks from where he had left his mark, Hwoarang finally entered a store named "Dillards." He didn't hesitate or say hello to the lady who met him at the door, scurrying through each and every aisle till he find what he desperately needed, then heading straight to the changing room.

He sighed, "I don't know what I was thinking earlier... this day didn't start very simple either, though"

Getting dressed, he heard the lady, that tried to greet him at the door, voice. "Sir, are you okay?"

Hwoarang replied, "Yes, and these pants fit perfectly... I'm definately gonna buy them."

The girl soon followed, "Alright, let me know if you need anything... I'll be waiting right here."

The Tae Kwon Do Prodigy knew that his earlier statement could be no further from the truth, realizing that he just had just walked into another mess.

I gotta run... I gotta run so fast, people are gonna think that the devil himself, is chasing me.

Fully dressed, he swung the door open, peering around the edge of it. The woman stood there, her back to him, waiting to hear him approach, he guessed. Having grabbed a pair of boxers, some nice cargo jeans, an under-shirt and a blue dress shirt, the total probably settled around eighty dollars.

This should be fun..

Hwoarang began his sprint, pushing the lady aside and round the corner, only to find, what to be at least a 7 foot security guard, grabbing him and pushing him back. The Tae Kwon Do Prodigy tried to run around the gaurd, but he was basically a wall. The lady walked up beside, "I knew you didn't have any money... walking in here with your butt cheeks saying "Hello" to me as you ran by."

She reached into her pocket, pulling out a walky talky, "Code 1, we got a 488 at the Dillards on 108 and Smith. 10-12"

A voice soon echoed, "10-4, 10-49"

The lady smiled, "Looks like your going to spend a few weeks, or whatever the judge feels you deserve, in jail. I hope that nice little ass of yours doesn't get too abused."

Hwoarang gritted his teeth, his eyes barely flashing red.

The lady soon became very afraid, "Get this creep outta here... OUTTA MY SIGHT!"

The giant security guard took the Tae Kwon Do Prodigy to the back of the store, sitting him down in what seemed to be the lounge for employees. About twenty minutes later, another cop arrived, followed by another. He was hand-cuffed and taken to jail. After he was read his rights, finger printed, and indentified, they threw him in a cell with a scruff looking old man. Hwoarang sat down on the bottom bunk, sighing and covering his face with hands.

The old man broke the following silence, "Don't worry... I don't bite. Ya know, I think I recognize you from somewhere. You ever hang out on Moreland Avenue?"

Hwoarang was raised an eyebrow, "I have... "

The old man laughed, "I knew I recognized ya... your that street fighter who knocked out Uccisore, the Italian Nightmare, with one kick. Man, you got a mean drop kick. The name is James, and I definately don't bite, if you didn't hear me the first time."

Hwoarang smiled, he always loved the fans. "Thanks man... that was awhile back though, I am surprised anyone remembers that. Like my teacher said, arrogance is only a weapon of demise."

James contorted, "Forget that kick? A guy I used to work with down at the tire shop, said he heard the sound of your foot hitting his forehead, a half a mile away."
---

Hwoarang awoke from his daydream, hearing the nerve wrenching humming of Engar's rogue blade. He slowly gathered himself, rising up to his feet.
-

OptiPrime, who was the only judge standing, exploded, "Hwoarang is up, that's right.... Hwoarang is on his feet. Fate seems to be on his side at the moment, the fighter that almost killed him, saving him from what looked like the end. But, is he only prolonging his exit?"

Cucumba formed a menacing smile...

The foundation has got a long way to go, before it's even cracked.
-

The Tae Kwon Do Prodigy turned to see that Engar and Gohan were too busy with each other, to notice that the basis of their earlier argument, had become a moot point. Hwoarang aimed his visual direction to where he sensed the Last Rider, noticing that he was still basically overwhelmed with Engar's metallic clones...

On my way Pride... on my way.
 
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Am I good or am I evil?

Trained warriors rarely used all their attention during a fight. At the speeds they moved thought became a difficult activity - 90% of all action was instinct. This also meant that while fighting they could think on completely separate issues until they truly needed to concentrate. So it was with little difficulty that, as Gohan sped towards him, Engar considered a problem that just wouldn't be solved.

Duck. Weave. Block.

Some of his actions could be seen as evil - his assault on Pride had been damn near inhumane - but he clung to his own goodness like a sailor to a plank of driftwood. He couldn't be evil. To accept that would shake the very deepest of the beliefs he had of himself.

Block. Parry. Counter-Attack.

Was he evil?

Block. Block. Block.

Am I?

"Don't play around with me!"

And in came the real world.

* * *

Lunging from the broken concrete of the arena floor, Gohan summersaulted over Engar's head and shot his foot out as he landed - coming within inches of cracking off the back of Engar's skull. Even as Engar blocked, however, Gohan continued in his barrage of attacks; he caught himself by his hands then lunged backwards again with both feet together. Engar blocked again - barely - and back-peddled out of his range in order to catch his breath.

"You're good," he muttered between gasps, "I think I see how you came so close to defeating him."

He didn't, of course, have to say who.

"Keep the compliment," Gohan shot back bitterly, "You think so little of me that you can't give me your all! That sort of dishonor is intolerable!"

Engar balked and - for one sweet moment - forgot that he was even competing.

"You think I'm holding back?!" He cast a hand towards where Pride and Hwoarang were turning the tide against his metal clones, "Do you have any idea how hard it is to hold the form of so many separate creatures and fight at the same time?!"

The two eyed each other silently for a moment and Engar could sense Gohan trying to measure how honest Engar was being in much the same way that he had probed Gohan to discover how strong he was. He didn't mind - wasn't it said that turn about was fair play?

"I don't like you, Engar." Gohan said finally, "you serve something far more sinister than whatever that dark warrior is. Don't expect any sympathy from me when the time comes; it was you and your master who pushed the level up from mere competition to this monstrosity. However.. maybe.. I can acknowledge you as a warrior. As you shall acknowledge me."

Smirking, Engar inclined his head slightly.

"So perhaps we can finish this fight with some semblance of honor."

"I think we shall," and an honest, open grin lit up his face, "but if you'll forgive me I have a prior engagement!"

And then Engar was gone - his image shimmering in the dark, misty air as Gohan turned to follow the true Engar on his path towards Pride, Hwoarang and the remains of the metal clones.

* * *

You serve something far more sinister...

The moment the words were spoken something that had never even occurred to Engar rose to the surface. Everyone considered Cucumba, his master, evil. And could they truly be blamed? Hadn't he once been known by the ancient name of Cucatoth, hadn't he torn through the spamites with a jade fist, didn't he rule Forumcant like a king?!

That was why he had been thrown into a fury at Pride daring to mention Cucumba's true name - beneath the anger and bile hadn't there been a lurking fear that to speak the name would bring back the monster it referred to?

But Cucumba protects Forumscant! Cucumba is good!

There is all the difference in the world - in all the worlds that exist - between good and nice. A benevolent dictator is still, at the core, a dictator.

This was that which Engar hadn't been willing to admit to himself; even after weeks of tutelage he couldn't let the truth seep through. The lesson which could not be taught, only learnt. In order to protect the people of Forumscant one must abandon the very basics of 'right and wrong'. To be all he could be, Engar would have to step past a line he had hoped he would never have to cross.

The Dark Side.

* * *

The clones were falling apart around them - before Pride and Hwoarang's very eyes they were turning liquid and losing their form. Hwoarang prodded one of the last shapes with a toe, only to have it disolve from his touch.

"Hwoarang," Pride's voice was a ceaseless monotone, his warning no more energetic than if he were reading out the 'Sunday Special', but Hwoarang got the message and - bare seconds later - was rising away from the ground and out of harms way. Pride however was incapable of movement, as he had spoken the pools of bubbling metal had risen up around his boots and began to squeeze ineffectually on his feet.

Pride looked up with eyes that awaited the end of time - "The bell tolls against you.." - then Engar was upon him.

The very act of touching Pride was revolting - his cold, spongy skin felt like unto a creature weeks dead - but he was past caring about that. Past, in fact, caring about anything. While he doubted his master was evil, he did not doubt that the man's soul was tainted enough to make little difference. And if Cucumba could risk damnation to get the job done, so could Engar.

I hope you don't think you've seen me at my worst, Pride, for I have one hell of a surprise for you!

Engar's form blurred into existence inches from Pride's torso, hands swirling around with a literal light show of energy crackling between the fingers. No thought - no time - passed through his mind as his aura thickend and grew, even as his Ki was concentrated into an inferno of purple energy that coursed through his very veins. Through that one millisecond there was nothing but absolute silence reigning in Engar's mind.

And then he crossed the line.

ohmygodpleasegodmygodohgoddon'tletittouchmeeeeee..

He took that mental anguish and changed it, used his fears to fuel a hatred that was almost mind-boggling. In that instant the signal of the Force that flowed from his being changed - deep blue flickered, then glowed red hot.

"Here comes the pain!"

Both hands came down at such speeds that likened lightning to the movements of a sloth; there was a moment of pure blackness, then Engar burst back into the light and landed crouched in the puddle of iron and steel.

"Bastard!"

Engar turned, his lips twisted into a smile of pure malignance, and concentrated. He had just enough time to catch a glimpse of Pride pawing at the gaping hole in his chest - as though trying to scoop the jet black clouds that spilled from the massive wound - then the metal around him rose up to meet Hwoarang as he dropped like a comet. The puddles merged together and shot into the air like some kind of silvery energy attack.

Amongst it all, buried in the liquid metal, Engar's voice leaked out in the form of terrible, unhinged laughter. The very liquid glowed bright purple and, as Hwoarang brought both fists around in a display of energy that shook the very foundations of the arena, opened like a flower.

"Hehehehe.."

And swallowed Hwoarang whole.

"Hahahaha.."

Blood red light burst through gaps in the metal then - save for the ringing laughter - the arena was silent.

"Muahahaha!"

The 'snake' of metal appeared to glance around, it's 'gaze' dropping to the apathetic figure of Pride. It's form snaked around the grey warrior's torso with lightning speed, squeezing down hard, but Pride took no notice. He merely stared at the creature's head as that inky black substance ringed his body and flowed back into the hole.

"Time. Is. Up."

Three words without tone or inflection, but they cut right through Engar's laughter and silenced him nicely. The snake seemed to shudder from the statement, it's mouth swelling as though it were about to strike again. Then, below the purple sheen of the metal, the colour red began to grow. It ran under the skin of the snake, like a disease passing through it's veins at lightning speed, until it had no choice but to release Pride.

It's entire body began convulsing, splotches of liquid dropping away at random to sizzle through the rock of the floor, and growing as the red spread. At the finish the creature as swelling to three times it's previous size - the red having completely overridden the purple - and as it's mouth finally opened it was red energy that spilled out.

Out of the back rose an indistinct figure, coated in silver and steaming as it reentered the rain.

Then the snake's consistency completely gave out - red light and boiling metal exploding outwards in an expanding spherical blast wave. Gohan, standing at the sidelines, traced his fingers through the air and mumbled under his breath - the rain around him freezing and forming a shield of ice. Engar, still steaming, brought one haggard hand around and cloaked himself in the Force - the wave parting around him.

Pride merely folded his arms and took the blow without comment - there wasn't a scratch on his dead skin.

At the epicenter Hwoarang drew a deep breath and checked himself, absentmindedly picking out the scratches and bruises the metal snake and added to his list of aches. Nothing important - not compared with what Pride had suffered.

"End of the road, Engar" Hwoarang tightened one hand into a fist, "Evil such as you can't be permitted to exist!"

Engar, for himself, was still reeling from his own experience with the 'Dark Side.'

God, is that what Cucumba feels like all the time?!

Hwoarang cut off any further introspection swiftly, red aura sparking a trail around his limbs as he bore down on his opponent. This time Engar didn't have enough metal to call on, this time he could only rely on his flagging Ki and waning armor.

Arms crossed before his head and feet set behind him, Engar blocked Hwoarang's first kick and once again praised the metal that coated his figure. Then, moving on intuition, rolled sideways out of the path of the energy blast that had been Hwoarang's real attack. Even as the ground behind him disappeared in a wave of red Engar launched himself from the ground and twisted to avoid one streaking fist - his forearm coming down to block Hwoarang's enterprising knee.

Can't keep up with this, Hwoarang's got one hell of a speed advantage!

Bringing both hands up and flexing is fingers, Engar warped his aura before him with the aid of the Force and managed to whether a further two blows from Hwoarang's fists before the shield shattered and the ragged Modiwan was forced to backpeddle once again.

"Hyaaaa!"

Hwoarang pistoned his hands back and forth like two pneumatic drills - releasing bolt after of bolt of energy upon Engar too fast to be dodged.

Ksh-Kshuuuuuu.

Both blades of the Rogue Sabre burst into brilliant life, Engar's hands blurring as he spun around and around - the purple beams slicing through blast after blast, destroying and deflecting them far from his person. His very being ached by that point, arms feeling as though they could leave their sockets at any time, but he could not stop!

Why?

For one moment his closed off thinking failed - the very idea shook him far harder than the idea of his moral standing - and in that brief period of weakness Pride struck.

Two huge, grey arms - ohgodpleasenoooo.. - clamped around his form and sent revulsion shaking through his very being. The Rogue Sabre died in his hands; Engar had just enough rational thought left to reattach it to his belt before Pride's grip tightened on his already pained shoulders and sent white hot pain through his arms.

"It is time, Engar, son of Michael. The Reaping is upon you."

Not by this monster, please god don't let my die at the hands of this abomination.. I can't.. I WON'T!

With iron will, Engar drew himself deep within his mind - beyond even Pride's capability to horrify - and brought back the anger. How dare this creature touch him? This abomination - this thing that should not be - had no right. Death was a servant, not a lord, and it would learn it's place!

And the laughter started once again - Engar's figure shuddering against his captor as his polluted voice filled the arena. He flickered once, twice, three times as he drew more and more energy into himself, focusing it through the red hot power of the Force, then threw himself into a technique which he had thought forever out of his reach.

Suddenly, the transition too quick for even the warriors and judges to follow, Pride held not Engar but a collection of purple creatures. They rose from him in a swarm - a flock - and the dark creatures crossed the arena together. Ravens, the dark purple of congealed blood, soared around each other at a safe distance in a whirlwind of feathers and cawing - then there was only Engar panting and laughing when he could.

"Didn't.. ha.. see.. he... that one coming!"

Then, and only then, did he feel the ki rising behind him.

"Time for that fight you promised me," murmured Gohan - giving Engar precisely enough time to swear before bringing both hands together and sending a massive wave of energy directly into Engar's back.

He shot forwards, far too off balance to catch himself in mid-air, with a bruise already forming under his armour, and managed to catch a glimpse of Gohan speeding into his path before the fighter's knee filled his vision and smashed into his cheek. Engar's neck snapped back and he recoiled in the opposite direction. Below him, though he couldn't see, Gohan was muttering something under his breath and tracing his fingers through the air - leaving dark energy trails where his hands swept.

When the sigil was complete the lightning of the storm crackled anew and shot for Gohan, crackling into his body only to be redirected through the power of Chakra - straight towards the plummeting form of Engar.

The bolt of electricty ran ravage through Engar's system, spasming his arms back and forth at random, and dropped him smoking towards the mercifully wet floor.

"I told you, time is up."

Which he never reached.

One titanic fist caught him in the gut, pain spiraling through his system in spite of his armor, and the other wrapped around Engar's skull and began to squeeze like a vice. The metal layered on his skin tried to revolt, spiking up through Pride's hand in the form of needles, but he took no notice. Eventually the metal fell away, leaving Engar's face naked save for bruises and blood.

The spirits that clung to Pride like beggar in desperate need of help swarmed closer - tasting the impeding death. They drew ever closer, their whispery moans filling Engar's ears and their odd auras freezing his breath as it struggled to leave his lips. Pride drew the spirits in like breath and silently guided them down his arms, burying them in Engar's head like injections of agonizing pain.

..godohgodpleaseithurtsmepleasemakeit..STOP!

"Aaaaaah!"

For a moment Engar's aura swelled with bright white energy - ki in it's purest form, Spirit Energy..
The wave of white light spread out from his body and cut through the specters, driving them back with his own particular form of their energy. It passed them by and kept going - leaving the arena behind and taking his call across Forumscant itself.

Pride let him drop - stunned insofar as it was possible for him to be stunned - and his pain would have ended there save for Hwoarang who also had his own score to settle. The Tae-Kwon-Doe Android caught him with one hand - pain shooting through Engar's right arm as he clenched on it - and brought Engar up until their eyes were level.

"You are a monster, Engar, and it's a pleasure to rid the world of your kind.."

In spite of everything, Engar managed a tired grin.

"You think I'm a monster?" He laughed, this one tired rather than mad, "Take a look at your best friend some time.."

Hwoarang's mouth twisted in revulsion.

"Pride is what you made him, Engar," Hwoarang opened his free hand against Engar's chest and concentrated red sparks between his fingers, "and now you pay."

In one liquid motion he whipped Engar around and let him go - releasing the bolt of energy after him to pound him deep into the arena floor, sending cracks spider-webbing through the thick floor and leaving Engar face down in the muck.

* * *

Gohan watched it all and shuddered. He had just wanted Engar down and out before he really went over the edge, which he certainly had appeared to be doing. That last attack, the lightning, could have knocked him unconscious and ended the Rumble for him.. but the others didn't just want him down. They wanted him dead.

I don't care who you are or serve, Engar. In spite of what I may have said, I'm not going to let this massacre continue.

Setting his feet just so and weaving his hands in a delicate ballet, Gohan pulled out another of his more complex tricks. Weaving together the arts of Chakra and Alchemy - he warped the stones that surrounded Engar to his will.

* * *

Engar rolled onto his feet and drew in a gasp of sweet, hot oxygen - crouched with one hand placed deep in a puddle of freezing mud, he had barely enough spare thought to glance around. If he hadn't the history of the Rumble could have been very different.

For the cold of the mud was spreading slowly up his arm, only it was no longer mud. The rock below his feet was coiling together and seeping up across his right arm. The flesh halfway down his forearm was already coated with thick, solid rock. And, as he sent energy down the arm and tried to pull away, he realized with paralyzing horror that he couldn't pull it away. And it was still growing.

"Engar!"

He pulled his gaze from his arm reluctantly and caught sight of Gohan, tracing his fingers through the air.

"Stay where you are, I'm taking you out of the match! The spell will end within a few hours, please don't resist!"

Compassion?

Engar opened his mouth to reply but it was perhaps for the best that he was cut off - he had no idea what to say.

"Good work, Gohan! We shall take it from here!"

Both Engar and Gohan looked around and saw the dark silhouettes of Pride and Hwoarang - both drawing on their own peculiar energies. The glow they cast on each other made them seem ghostly and hellish, their intentions made them seem inhuman.

"You've done far too much to get out easily, servant of Cucumba!" called Hwoarang.

"The bell has tolled against NOA, surrender to the inevitable," spoke Pride.

The rock was slowly climbing past his elbow, pinning him to the arena, and one look at Gohan told him that the spell couldn't be stopped half-way through. Still the warrior tried, holding still to his own honour.

"He's already beaten, let him go! You must!"

Pride was impassive and Hwoarang only smiled, as though pitying a confused child.

"The time for forgiveness is over, too much has happened."

Their auras, one ghostly and near impossible to detect, the other earth shattering and vibrant, swelled and as one drew ki and the other summoned spirits, Engar considered letting himself go.

It would be so easy.. so peaceful after all this pain.. What would it matter?

Do you really have to ask yourself that?

Cucumba's voice, though whether it was telepathy or the work of a torn mind was impossible to tell.

So what if someone else-

Stop whining! You know the consequences!

A winner at Fight Club gained some of the power of the loser, though the loser gained a little himself. But in the Rumble? In the Rumble all that energy would pour into one vessel. In the right hands that power could be an incredible tool for good.. but in the wrong hands? In Pride's hands?!

Cucumba plunged himself into sin and pain to protect Forumscant. Engar knew not only that he could do the same - he knew he had to do the same. He would not fail in his duty.

One hand gripped the hilt of his Rouge Sabre and brought it above to head, a single purple blade humming to life as he began to sing in a surprising pained tenor.

"Administration is a part of me,"

Hwoarang and Pride focused their two conflicting energies together, forming one massive sphere between their hands.

"Full of rules that no one sees,"

Gohan stood in the sidelines, sweat pouring down his brow as he struggled to break the spell. It was too powerful even for him, to leave it unfinished would unleash the powers of the rock in far too unpredictable ways.

"Trying to rewrite history. . ."

The black rock continued it's slow ascent, past the elbow and steadily approaching his shoulder.

"It doesn't matter what you know to be,"

The duo above it all unleashed their attack - a burning ball of fire trailing angry spirits.

"You have to go with the flow you see,"

The attack painted the area around Engar like the dying sun of the end of the day. It was, he considered as the Rogue Sabre shuddered above him like the sword of a knight declaring victory, fitting.

"Administration becomes a thing to heed. . ."

Gohan cried out as the light grew hotter, turning his eyes away.

"I see the line in the sand,"

In the distance Hwoarang watched, expression set with the simmering hate that powered him.

"Trying to dictate who I am,"

Pride was without emotion but, deep within his eyes, triumph glittered like a diamond in the rough.

"Looking up to see where I stand,"

Purple light swept around in one clean stroke.

"ADMINISTRATION!"

* * *

The judges brought their respective hands up and blocked the piercing red light from their eyes, waiting for a couple of seconds before dropping their arms and peeking towards what had become 'No Mans Land.'

A gaping crater ten feet in diameter had been punched into the sturdy rock of the arena - had it been natural rock rather than the reinforced creation of Cucumba's own devising it probably would have been twenty or even thirty feet wide. There was no sign of Engar amidst the rubble.

Gohan, Hwoarang and Pride were all gathering at the edge of the hole - Gohan horrified, Hwoarang grimly satisfied and Pride just managing a fake-looking smirk.

"I really thought he was going to make it," muttered Deverz, leaning back against the arena wall with a sigh. Cucumba didn't make any kind of reply - his face was expressionless but mentally he was calling out his apprentices name.

Engar?! Engar?! Are you th-

Don't worry.. I'm alive..

A grin lightened Cucumba's features and he prodded his old friend,

"Don't count Engar out just.. just.. yet.." For possibly the first time in his life, Cucumba found himself unable to speak.

Deverz followed his gaze and let his mouth flop open.

Optimus Prime glanced at the two judges then glanced in the direction they were looking and took a step back, horrified.

Hibiki was the last to look yet the first to comment, DS falling loose from his hands as he uttered one word that said it all.

"****.."

Engar was alive, stepping slowly from the shadows, but far from okay. The metal of his armor was blackened from the blast wave of the attack, his cloak torn and ragged. And, as he turned from looking at Cucumba without emotion, the remainder of the cloak shifted for a moment to reveal his right arm.

The remains of his right arm.

A blackened stump that ceased just below the shoulder, blood seeping through in spite of the wound being cauterized by his blade.

* * *

"You bastards, look what you've done!" Gohan voice cracked like a whip, disgust dripping from every syllable as he looked towards Engar. Even at it's worst Fight Club had never permanently damaged a warrior, death in Forumscant being an odd thing. Even Pride had been allowed the full function of his body.

--plop--

Some of the satisfaction was leaving Hwoarang in the face of the opponent approaching him. Ki attacks had a clean way of erasing the evidence - looking upon an opponent with such physical damage was much harder to deal with.

--plop--

Pride turned to face Engar fully, head ****ed to the side in a pantomime of curiosity. It was debatable as to whether that which Pride had become could feel emotions.

--plop--

The one-armed warrior stopped ten feet short of his would-be murderers, bringing the Rogue Sabre up and pointing towards Pride in a cold act of defiance. For a moment the world balanced on the actions of one man - not as impressive as Hwoarang but just as devastating.

--plop--

"You should not be." Engar's voice was tired but still held it's own kind of power. "Death does not judge when people die, Death is merely there at the end. Your duty, your responsibility was to send spirits off to whatever lies beyond." Without warning Engar's voice rose to a bellow, "The surface of Forumscant is saturated with the suffering dead! You have failed in your duty!"

--plop--

He brought the hilt of the Rogue Sabre up to his forehead and pressed the cool metal against his flushed skin. Engar sighed and closed his eyes, embracing the merciful darkness beneath his eyelids.

--plop--

I can still feel it.. oh god, I can still flex my right hand! Is it there or isn't it?!

--plop--

No, it wasn't there. It would never be there again - it remained in spirit alone.

--plop--

Engar smiled painfully through bruised lips and opened his eyes, concentrating the Force into reorganizing the veins of his right arm - the bleeding ceased instantly. He directed his gaze upon Pride and Hwoarang.

"I am Modiwan. I am apprentice of Cucumba. I am Engar. And I am going to beat you both."

And, Rogue Sabre trailing behind him, Engar charged them both.

* * *

Gohan!

The aforementioned warrior blinked as he watched Engar make his hopeless approach, he could have sworn he heard Engar's voice speaking in-

You aren't crazy! This round is between me and them, stay out of it! Please!

He didn't like Engar.. but he could acknowledge him as a warrior. And a warrior had the right to settle his own affairs.

Gohan leapt backwards and landed a good distance away, gathering energy for the next time he pushed himself into the battle.

* * *

Engar rose spinning like a whirlwind, the blade of the Rogue Sabre scything around at such a speed that even Pride and Hwoarang were caught off guard. He tucked his body into a summersault and landed behind the ducking Hwoarang - sweeping the Sabre down diagonally this time and driving Hwoarang back against Pride. As the two hesitated, trying to push each other away without causing damage, Engar dropped down with the purple energy of the Rogue Sabre crackling like a demonic fire and drove them apart.

He dropped the Sabre as he landed, the Force carrying it to his belt, and launched himself at Hwoarang - he appeared above the stunned warrior and brought his left fist down with a crackle of energy that sent cracks running deep through the floor as Hwoarang rolled to the right.

Engar was half-way through drawing his right back when he remembered that he didn't have a right.

"Got you!" Hwoarang smirked and brought a foot up with dizzying speed - had Engar's knees not clanked together seconds before he would have been dizzy for completely different reasons. He used Hwoarang's foot as a springboard and soared up into the air, twirling over Pride and sweeping up rocks from the surrounding area before firing them at his undead opponent.

The rocks shattered off of his body but made no actual impact.

Landing crouched, Engar pressed his one remaining hand against the cold stone of the floor and shuddered before launching himself back into the fight. Even as he approached he flexed the fingers of his left hand - luckily, in fighting at least, he had trained himself to be as good with either hand - tightening them into the Bridgehands formation, then pushed more ki into his movements and leapt towards Pride.

Now, at last, Pride began to show his true capabilities - he dodged the blow neatly and hooked a foot around in an unbelievably graceful reproduction of the Tae-Kwon-Doe stance. Engar rolled under the foot and, balancing on his one hand, swept a foot around to knock Pride off balance but he leapt backwards from the blow in an insane display of agility.

Then, as though to put insult to injury, Engar looked up to see Pride flexing his fingers into a replication of the Bridgehands Technique.

"Not possible.."

He dodged backwards as Pride brought one hand down, cracks spreading where the fingertips came into contact with the rock, then shuffled sideways on his back as Pride brought the other spear-hand around. Engar's hand slipped on the wet stone as he moved and he dropped against the floor with a cry - Pride appearing above him with lightning flaring behind him, every bit the monster Engar knew he was.

And, without thinking, he reached out with an arm that didn't exist and closed around a bony throat.

Pride's dead eyes lit up in horror as, for the first time in eons, Death felt the touch of a truly vengeful spirit. He wasn't the only shocked one, Engar kept thinking about something he had said to himself only a few minutes before.

My hand is here.. in spirit alone..

The two stumbled away from each other and, as Hwoarang tried to discover what was wrong with his partner, Engar tried to look at a hand that wasn't there. And, in an inexplicable impulse, he raised the non-existent hand and tried to force energy through it.

All at once he found himself surrounded by spirits, orbiting closer and closer to where he imagined his hand to be. He couldn't form the same kind of attacks that Pride could then, it was completely useless..

He dropped his 'hand' but the spirits didn't fade, in fact they came closer and closer as if looking for a taste of his life. And, with the same intuition that had caused him to raise his spirit hand, Engar reached to the nearest spirit with his true hand and brushed his fingers against -

..sterile hospital bed.. old man fading away.. tall figures everywhere..... We're..a warm room.. fire crackling.. warm, wrinkled hands.. card tricks.. Here!

- the insubstantial substance, only to have it flicker into the shape of a man he hadn't seen since he was eight years old. Grand-dad?

Engar rubbed his numb hand and looked to the spirits that were orbiting them, probing them in the same way he sensed the energy of warriors. They did all have a similar energy.. was it possible that this was the remains of his family? Then and there, as Hwoarang and Pride looked on, Engar realized on a personal level what Pride's actions implied. His family for generations back were roaming Forumscant in spirit form, only in the presence of Death Incarnate could they become even close to substantial.

They surrounded him like children desperate for help, seeking an end to purgatory.

And he used them for his attacks!

"Monster.." he looked upon Pride with new loathing, "I shall dig your grave!"

His left hand came around with all the military precision of a bullet clicking into place - his aura swelling up until the hairs on his head crackled with the intensity. The Ki solidified in purple sparks that crisscrossed his arms so frequently he appeared to have a purple armour as apose to silver. Waves of energy centred in the palm of his hand; energy being concentrated into the size of a marble then layered with more and more energy until it was as large as a bowling ball.

Pride was no slouch, he swept one hand around to indicate that he would handle Engar alone and drew spirits in from the surrounding area. He sought to compress them in much the same way that Engar did but, just as Hwoarang left Pride alone, Engar closed his eyes and pointed with his dead hand.

New spirits hammered into the area surrounding Pride but didn't flood into the palm of his hand as he expected. Instead the spirits turned on those present and drove them back with peculiar intensity - preventing them from approaching the pale warrior who was looking around with true confusion. Engar took that look of perplexity and made sure, no matter what, that he would never forget it.

And then he fired.

The blast was so powerful that the very act of releasing it knocked Engar off his feet. He landed hard and looked up just in time to see Pride catch the blast, wrestle against it for a moment, then be torn from his footing and slammed mercilessly against the harsh arena wall. The ensuing explosion knocked out half of the wall, dropping epic boulders down on Pride's head and burying him deep into the rock.

Engar forced himself back onto his feet - in no way an easy task - and drew another deep, shuddering breath. Then he glanced towards his master and flashed him a brief, exhausted smile.

It's his move now, master..

Indeed it is.. You know your duty, apprentice.. I only hope you have the power to carry it out.

He turned back to the rubble that surrounded Pride - ever aware of the spirits that surrounded him like a halo - and sighed before unclipping his Rogue Sabre and bringing it back to life.

"Whether I have the power or not, whether I am light or dark, I must defeat him. Death is going to learn how to die tonight, and I shall be his tutor."

And in the shadows of the rubble, a pale fist rose out of the muck.
 
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Life Vs. Death

There was a deep rumbling from beneath the collapsed rubble. Without a sound from its source, a shockwave erupted, sending boulders of intense mass flying as though they were particles of dust. Alone in the center of what was moments earlier a massive pile of stone debris, the Phenom stood, apparently unphased.

The phantom bell sounded--tolled--once more, and Engar began to feel the tinge of paranoia returning. Though he had inflicted literally several mortal wounds on this creature, it had yet to show signs that it was actually being physically damaged.

Pride's more humane half certainly suffered grievously. Part of the combined entity knew that Engar could sense this living consciousness, and the two sharing the Phenom's body reached an unwitting strategic compromise.

The Reaper himself came forward. Pride's voice changed again; it was now a strong bellow from deep within his throat. The voice of the body's more hostile occupant. The bell tolled again as he began to speak, and in a flash Engar saw the horrid shade with the sickle that lay beneath Pride's conventional exterior.

"Abomination," Pride said aloud. Engar knew that the voice was not Pride's own...not entirely, at least. "You apparently know little of whom you serve."

Engar's contempt for Pride grew. He did not know if he was light or dark, but he truly and sincerely believed that Pride was a creature of neverending malevolence. He did not do as he was meant to; the dead were left collected above the atmosphere of the waking world like hapless baggage while he made sport of becoming a living dead oxymoron of creation itself. He was not alive but was not dead, yet both simultaneously seemed to radiate from him. The impossibility of him made Engar's stomach twist.

"You spoke my master's true name."

"Cucatoth," Pride said again. It was when he spoke this word that he sounded least human. "Cucatoth is more an abomination than any of us."

Engar gnashed his teeth angrily. "How can you say such things? He is a benevolent being above all else! Protector to the people of Forumscant! A protector who defends them against ungodly creatures like you!"

Pride remained undaunted. He looked at Cucumba--Cucatoth--and grinned a smirk that looked animatronic. That grin haunted Engar; it was the sinister emotion of the Reaper within Pride trying it's best to manifest itself in a painfully lacking gesture. A gesture that was a human shell trying to reflect what was so much more than a human being could know or understand. It looked disturbing, unnatural, and wrong.

Cucumba spoke, much to Engar's dismay. "A story for another day, my apprentice."

Engar was confused. "What? Master I--"

"Enough, Engar." Cucumba's voice rivaled Pride's easily, even with his horrible undertone of malevolence. The Green Horror stood down and watched attentively.

"I am no ferryman," the voice in Pride's throat replied. "You think I am made to bring these balls of sorrow to some final destination? Look around, Engar...this IS their final destination."

Engar was undaunted. "If you are who you seem to be, then Heaven and Hell are just likely."

"Hell is real," Pride intoned. "Too real. Hell was born of the Lord. This much is true. Hell was born of the Lord not to punish the wicked of men. It was to be the container of their negative karma...a place where they could be imprisoned and sealed away. The tortures are of their own creation. Mental manifestations of what they suffer." He looked somehow disgusted and in turn somehow human again. "It is disgusting."

In the distance, Engar caught an earful of the Riders' chant--"Ominos Eiiiiiidolos, Ominous Eiiiiiidolos"--and his stomach sickened.

"The Last Rider does not agree with me fully," the reaper's voice bellowed. "He believes that the Lord has a plan. I know he does not. Slowly, he realizes this. But vengeance clouds his judgement."

Pride turned to Engar and rolled his eyes far back into his head. The exposed whites pulsed as he pushed them deeper inward; somehow Engar knew that he could see him just the same, however, and chose to remain attentive.

"How dare you, mighty apprentice," Pride intoned through gritted teeth. The spirits swept around him in what Engar slowly realized was a swirling display of loyalty. "My 'duty' was never to bring them to the clearing at the end of the path. There isn't one. There is only...this miserable limbo, a shade beneath life and existence, an open-air prison of unspeakable torment."

The spirits swirled violently around Pride now, generating a wind, as he raised his voice. "No, I am not their chaperone. I am the one who was given the grievous task of harrowing the dead into the container of negative everything beneath your existence. It was there in the miserable dark that I dwelled...powerless to help them ascend to the side of their creator, as all children should. No, Engar...I am not their chaperone--"

Pride's eyes snapped back from deep in his skull, bleary and cold and straight at Engar. Instantly, the spirits rose away, back into their wandering orbits in the arena.

"--I am their sole caretaker."

"This cannot be true!" Engar begged. He turned towards Cucumba, his mighty and benevolent master. He observed his newfound spirit arm, and was awestruck at the thought. "What of God? What of Heaven?"

"God cares not for the spirits of his toys," Cucumba said. "There is no ascension."

Engar now looked at his hand with a twisted scowl of horror. "You...you leave them to float blind in the darkness?!"

"HE leaves them," Pride corrected. "Both Rider and Reaper have one commonality; we were both expended from the Realm of God for protesting the humans' behalf."

Pride looked at the ghosts around the arena with a pitiful expression, again looking human and ordinary. "I was sentenced many eons before Pride. I was to roam with them. Their shepherd in the dark. Each of these spirits is alone, blind and deaf to the cries of those around them..."

He looked back at Engar. "...I have listened to their agony for all time and existence. He has not. So he lets it remain. It is of no consequence to him."

Pride's fists gritted tight, and for a moment, his voice was his own again.

"Bastard," he muttered, before his face become dead and expressionless once more.

"The Last Rider believes He can be reasoned with, and so wishes to return, in hopes of perhaps restoring his angelic brethren to the Heavenly Realm and reaching some ambivalent compromise." A brief pause. "I do not agree."

He looked at Cucumba with those cold eyes. "The Last Rider seeks you out

"Does he? I wasn't aware." The snide remark garnered no reaction from the pale, topless behemoth.

"You were to be their master task."

"They failed," Cucumba shot back.

"I am aware. They have dwelled with me since you destroyed them." The monster grinned. "He believes destroying you will bring them full circle. He does not want to see the truth--that they were merely tools, used by the Lord on High to eradicate all that he would not have to taint his Existence."

"Seven have tried. Seven have died."

"Six and a half," corrected the macabre phenom with a grin. At this remark, Hwoarang grew warm. This being, though housing two ancient and powerful entities, still was Pride in many ways. It was the beginning of Hwoarang's rapid suspicion that the consciousness of the dual entities was becoming unified into one great soul of souls.

Engar cried out. "Enough talk, Abomination!! How dare you threaten my master, leader and protector of the innocent and the meek! By your god's word he has done nothing but the proper will!! And yet he sends these heavenly assassins to eradicate this proud protector of man!?"

"We are not assassins," both voices said at the same time. "We are outcasts." The voices were so similar in timbre that they were nearly undetectable as one another. "And we tire of this philosophy."

"As do I!" Engar screamed, firing a blast.

With minimal effort, the Phenom swatted away the shot, sending it flying harmlessly into the far arena wall.

Then the grin came back. And this time, Hwoarang could see that it was Pride's and Pride's only.

Engar become frustrated. Shooting forward, he swung his phantom arm and his rogue saber downward, but Pride managed to block the beam of the saber with his forearms. Engar had brought it down hard but the Phenom had used his otherworldly will to staunch the weapon's otherwise superior slash. The furious blade dug into the cold flesh of Pride's forearms, leaking that mortifying black smoke out from the wound. Engar realized with disgust why the simple smoke had been so disheartening; it was not smoke at all. It was some viscous black blood that floated, indifferent to the physical laws of gravity and physics.

The blade dug in deeper, and Pride become more forceful in his resistance. Slowly, the blade was cutting through both of his forearms, and the pain was beginning to reach a boiling point.

Pride screamed out at the ravaged Engar standing not four feet away, and Engar's efforts at forcing the blade down strengthened in the same manner. Both were letting out long, steady cries of exertion, and both auras now swirled violently as Engar could feel the blade being pushed OUT of the wound he'd inflicted.

NO! he thought. This cannot be!! The wound isn't even finished being inflicted yet and his very regenerating flesh retaliates!!

Slowly it was becoming apparent that Engar's rogue saber was losing the battle. The wound in front of both combatants' faces was nearly entirely sealed, and the blade was now only an inch deep in the flesh of one arm. Fortunately, the apprentice warrior was already developing a new plan--the source of the huge grin that appeared on his face.

He suddenly reversed his momentum, pulling the rogue saber back out of Pride's block. With a quick spin move, he brought the blade upward and carved a huge gash out of Pride's bare, tattooed torso. The wound went grievously from waist to shoulderblade, and poured out that horrible inky blackness in droves. Almost as immediately as the wound had been inflicted, it had begun to seal.

Engar unleashed a flurry of attacks with the saber, but Pride thought nothing of using his regenerating body to stave off the blows. Before Engar finally jumped back, Pride's forearms had been hacked literally dozens of times, but they again began to seal.

Engar was moments from a tantrum of frustration when he realized something. The amount of wounds that had been inflicted on Pride had been directly proportional to how quickly he healed. With dozens of injuries on his arms and chest, he appeared weaker, and the wounds took a notably longer time to heal. During the process, there was no offense.

The Apprentice put away his rogue saber as the last of the Rider's wounds began their final sealing. "It is clear to me that there is only one way to defeat you, Phenom."

"En...lighten...me." Pride was out of breath. Though he'd exerted himself fairly little to dodge the blows, the wounds and the healing must have taken a decent amount of stamina out of him. This furthered Engar's theory.

"Total and utter annihilation." Engar was filled with new life since his arm had taken pseudo-physical form again. The vengeful spirits of his family fueled him, and it was their contempt and malice--as well as their protectiveness--that gave him new life.

"You think you can get up a charge that huge?" the ailing warrior shot back. It was Pride's voice now, and only Pride's.

He looked down at his powerful new arm, remembering the mighty blast he'd unleashed, and how little an effort it took. "I have no doubt."

Pride charged violently forward, the souls of the dead trailing behind him faithfully. It confused Engar. Were they his slaves or did they serve him willingly? It mattered not. He had the aide of his own spirits, now.

The two clashed in a blast of auras, purple and green wrestling violently. Pride blocked blows but was especially careful about the attacks coming from Engar's phantom arm. Conversely, Engar did more dodging, avoiding the behemoth's attacks with newfound grace.

A quick swing by Pride missed and Engar capitalized, kicking upward with one hand against the floor for momentum. His boot crashed violently into the monster's jaw, sending his head backward and a spray of the black 'bloodsmoke' out from between clenched teeth.

A series of powerful blows to Pride's bare, unprotected chest followed. A high knee sent the Phenom flying backward, but he quickly righted himself in midair and bolted back at the Apprentice. With a quick charge, Engar focused his energy through his new phantom arm. The power of the vagrant dead coursed through him, and with a speed and ease he was not used to, he managed to fire off a hellacious blast of purple karma head-strong into the approaching enemy.

The blast snapped Engar's arm back hard, but this time he'd braced it with his other hand, keeping his footing. The blast--a large projectile with a big radius, considering it was fired in mere seconds--barreled forward without consideration for things such as gravity or time.

It impacted head-on with the Last Rider and detonated in an explosion whose grandeur had so far been unmatched. The violet ball of energy that expanded from the impact remained for a long time, burning and decimating anything it touched. When the blinding light had finally dissipated, Engar saw the Phenom as he'd yet to see him: stilled, and weary.

Pride's body had been mercilessly assaulted by the impact of the blast. Though he rose to one knee, his skin had been lacerated and charred sporadically all over. He looked down, one elbow on his propped-up knee, his body heaving with exertion. The inky bloodsmoke billowed off of his body and out of ragged wounds torn clean through him.

The bell tolled once more, but it seemed to have a degree of effort this time. When Pride looked up, the left half of his face was nothing but an outpouring of the billowing black death that he used as blood. The right side that remained was twisted in a scowl of horrendous anger, the teeth gritted and gnashing. The eye rolled deep into the back of the Phenom's head, as he rose to his feet once again.

The Great Stalker. The Unwavering Harbinger. The Last Rider.

As the wounds began to seal, Pride stepped forward in a slow, deliberate pace.

Engar grew fearful--that irrational horror that this opponent carried like an aura--but he did not lose sight of the fact that he was still ahead in the battle. He was exhausted from firing the blast and he wasn't certain why, since he had manifested the attack so easily. It slowly became clear in his clouded mind: the spirits of his ancestry which had taken form as his new limb, drew the power for the attack from his very life force. The precise inverse of Pride's attacks, which were fueled by the death and angst of the souls he manipulated.

Engar knew that he would have to be wary to not abuse this mighty new energy, for fear of exhaustion...possibly even death. But for now, the opportunity was too great to ignore.

Pride stalked forward, his wounds healing and his angry gaze fixed on Engar. He put both hands behind him on the right side, and began to gather ki.

Elsewhere, Hwoarang and Gohan clashed in their own epic struggle. While Engar and Pride's confrontation below was slow and deliberate, Hwoarang and Gohan fired away at each other without mercy or reprieve. High above the arena floor, they darted at one another like two amazing fireflies, their auras leaving long trails and sparking at their contact.

A swift martial kick sent Gohan hurtling backward for all of a moment before he righted himself. "You're both skilled and strong, Prodigy," he commented through ragged breaths.

"I can say no less for you," Hwo replied.

You would do well to distract him, Gohan heard in his head. The voice was Engar's. This one is more dangerous to us both.

That is debatable, Gohan silently thought back.

I will need your help with Pride. Leave Hwoarang to me.

Hwoarang did not sense the movement behind him; slowly, all of the rubble in the arena was gathering and forming a mighty cocoon behind him. It was a great coffin of rock and stone, and it was open like some organic wound just meters behind him.

Gohan smiled. Hwo's eyes lit up at that, and he spun around to see the great stone orifice as it lunged forward and closed upon him. The Tae Kwon Do Prodigy was encapsulated in darkness, the dank air his only company. The rock molded itself around him and made certain that he had no space to move. He could gain no momentum to break through the artificial rock grave, a container of rubble that was literally meters thick on all sides. Gohan smirked, and looked down upon the confrontation on the arena floor, while Hwoarang tried helplessly to escape from his floating mineral prison.

Below, Pride's wounds were healing but he was still not fully recovered. Not more then 10 meters away from the stalking predator, Engar had built a significant ki beam charge.

"This..."

Purple lightning bolted out from the ball of violet light he held in his hands. Static energy sparked and jumped from him, lighting his surroundings with a furious, strobing hue of violet.

"...is for my family!!!"

Pride's eyes finally rolled back to the front of his head when his face had finished sealing, just in time to grimace in reaction to the massive purple tornado of power being fired at him. The exhausted and embittered Phenom threw his hands up, with both palms out, and caught the furious blast.

Engar had concentrated the beam. Rather than one of massive size, it was a smaller, super-dense wave of violent energy. It spiraled viciously at its origin, and when the head of the blast impacted with Pride's hands, there was a surge in the Phenom's body which he'd yet to feel.

The beam impacted and sprayed violently around Pride as he struggled to hold it. It was like water, being sprayed at a supremely high velocity--it was splashing around him as though he were a huge boulder in a violent river, trying to continue on its path despite the inherent obstacles.

Pride could feel the beam grinding away at him in his weakened state. Before long his hands went numb, then his forearms. Around him there was nothing but the splitting energies of the blast, the furious sound of rushing ki. He gritted his teeth and focused his strength on resisting the beam as best he could manage, and slowly, the wave began to shrink and subside.

When it was over, an exhausted Engar looked at his enemy and saw something that made him awestruck. The beam had not eradicated Pride as he'd hoped, but had instead grinded the warrior's arms down to the elbow. Bloodsmoke poured out of the grievous wounds in billows as Pride looked from one useless stump to another. And then he did something the weary apprentice could not believe: he actually resumed his approach.

Pride continued to stalk forward, the vicious gnashing grin omnipresent. Even with two arms barely more than biceps, and the grimace of fury and pain on his face, he continued to step forward.

The Phenom's expression was a grunting, painful strain. Though this satisfied Engar greatly--

--it feels pain, it can be destroyed--

--the apprentice himself was exhausted from the attack and could not set off another blast of similar magnitude before Pride had regenerated. But someone else could.

When there was no less than ten feet between them, Pride stopped. His wounds had almost entirely healed, save for the fresh amputation of his arms. He appeared to be in great pain but also greatly angered.

Engar was defenseless as he looked on, watching Pride's arms slowly returning. The right arm had most of its upper forearm already regenerated--tattoos and all.

Suddenly, SA appeared between them, wrestling a ball of light of his own. Pride's face contorted into a mask of shock and anger. SA was literally not four feet in front of Pride.

"Rule number one!!" shouted SA over the surge of his own energy blast. "Never lose sight of an opponent!"

He unleashed a powerful wave of light at an upward angle into Pride's face, catching the defenseless Phenom square. A furious blue-white hue lit up the two as Engar watched through squinting, tearing eyes.

The beam was so bright...so intensely concentrated...that Engar could barely look at it. The only one who still retained his full vision was Cucumba, and he was pleased with what he saw: the Last Rider's face dissolved much more quickly than his arms had. In his weakened state and sans his trademark forearm blocking, he was completely defenseless. A full-power energy blast into the face at literally point-blank distance.

When the white light subsided, SA looked proudly at his accomplishment. Pride's body stood, but the head--face-- of the Phenom had been almost completely dissolved off. What remained--only the back half of his head--was engulfed in furious black smoke.

The mess that stood before them was regenerating even now; slowly, yes, but still trying. Still exerting himself to do it as well, Engar noted. The battle was coming to a head. Engar began to charge that mighty life force energy through his hand, knowing there was no time to waste.

SA looked at the Phenom and thought the sight bordering on pitiful. The remnants of the mighty warrior looked to one long-lost arm, then to the other (which had reformed down to the wrist, already, though he hadn't noticed). As if it had a face to look at the wounds with. Then it reached upward to what once was its menacing scowl and felt for nothing with his inexistent hands. It was almost as if the entity had gone into some kind of confused shock.

He turned and saw Engar, powering up a mighty blast of an energy which he was unfamiliar with. "Get out of the way, you fool!"

SA had not underestimated Pride's powers, but he was also unaware of the full extent of them. So when Pride's partially reformed arm had shot out and clasped around his throat, he was caught completely offguard.

My god, Engar thought. Master...he struggles with might even despite his injuries! How am I to defeat him!? Even my newfound life force energy may not be enough!

SA struggled and easily escaped thanks to Pride's lack of a hand. Immediately diving to the side, he was awash with the irrational horror that Pride's touch brought to his opponents--

--killitmakeitdiecanitdieihavetomakeitdiemakeitdeadmakeitdead--

He tried helplessly to shed the grotesque aura of death from his body, swatting his hands against himself as if he'd been covered by some kind of invisible slime. When he looked up at the creature, he met the steely gaze of a single reformed eye, holding place in the smoky nothingness by will alone. There was only one thing he could decide to do.

--witheverythingyoucanYOUMUSTKILLITMUSTDIEMUSTDIEMUSTDIEMUSTDIE--

He began to fire up a mighty energy wave, combining the most of his powers. The irrational horror had stolen his judgment for the moment. His alchemic abilities might have been able to better deal with this horrid abomination if he'd given it some thought, but at that point there was little other need in his mind save to eradicate the monster. Coupling all of the energies he could muster, he began to mold a furious wave of multi-colored light in his hands.

Engar, the Apprentice heard in his head. He was using all of the life force he could spare for this mighty attack--any more and it would kill him--and yet he feared with great certainty that it would not be enough for what was needed. He was fearful that it would not be enough to completely eradicate every last cell, every last atom, of the Last Rider.

Pride's single eye, not attacked to a piece of forehead, turned and looked at Engar. Amazingly, the creature started forward, undaunted by the immense damages it had suffered.

Engar briefly flashed back to when Pride had absorbed powerful energy waves in the beginnings of his Reaper transformation. The life energy blast which he'd hit him with must have weakened him enough that these other injuries were more substantial.

The eye now had an eyebrow and Engar could make out one corner of Pride's bitter, dooming grimace.

Engar, a voice intoned again. It was Cucumba, his stoic and fearless master.

It will not be enough, Master!

The broken body of the Reaper stalked forward, Engar now less than 15 feet away.

I know it will not, Cucumba's voice intoned. There is only one way.

Cucumba raised his right hand towards his Apprentice, who had far outshined his every expectation on this night. This spirit arm of his was using his life force as a weapon, and life was the inverse of death, which was Pride's source of power at this point. His apprentice's reasoning was sound, the Mad Old One thought. But he was right; even the furious violet storm that he now gripped with all of his might would not be enough to completely destroy the Phenom as he intended.

The energy storm Engar held was literally 80% of his own life force. After the attack, he would be exhausted beyond belief. Cucumba knew his mighty apprentice would recover with haste. He looked on with pride as he observed Engar, who was using the force and ki manipulation to wrestle the wild storm of purple light in his hands.

You have made me proud, my apprentice. But I will not see you throw your life away on an attack that may be unsuccessful.

Cucumba closed his eyes and opened his right hand. A subtle green glow appeared around the mighty emerald warrior. In his hands, Engar felt a mighty surge; looking within the furious violet, a tint of green had begun to appear.

There was now furious lightning and a violet aura blazing from Engar. Cucumba's life force was so massive, so strong...it was being channeled through Engar's new arm and into the storm which was his own. Merging their life forces could not be safe, could it? Who was to say what kind of consequences such an act could have?

Engar wrestled with his blast as the green hue grew in intensity. Pride stepped forward and his one reformed eye--now with a few inches of cheek below it--saw the color change. Engar screamed as he tried with all of his might to hold onto the raging forces in his very hands.

Suddenly, SA let his own mighty energy wave fly. The spectrum of light impacted on Pride's body as he turned toward the beam's owner.

SA's fearfulness only enhanced his determination to eradicate the horror before him. It was strange...before SA had felt the Damned Rider's touch against his own face and skin, he looked at him as any other opponent, despite his grandeur. But it had become clear to SA, even after all he'd seen in his time and his own seemingly impossible abilities...this was no ordinary enemy, by any stretch of the imagination.

When his seemingly endless scream had subsided, SA's beam also trailed away. He'd put a massive amount of force into the attack; the normally calm Ronin had been racked with a mortifying sense of wrong from this entity, and he could barely control his desire to erase it from his side of existence.

The damage was severe. Pride's body was now completely engulfed in the bloodsmoke substance, surging out of him like a four-alarm fire. From the knees up, one could not discern the Phenom's body any longer. The sight of it was appalling, and if SA hadn't winded himself firing off a blast of such furious magnitude, he'd have fired a second just the same.

The Phenom stumbled weakly, and what remained of him turned toward Engar. Cucumba was now glowing bright green. The tint was different than that of the Reaper's soul attacks; Pride's energies were a miserable shade of vomitous pestilence, while Cucumba's represented blades of grass and rich sea waters.

The swirling energy of the monstrous attack engulfed and dwarfed Engar's body now, intermingling with his aura. Something was changing within him while he wrestled with this mighty attack. The mingling of he and his master's life energies was strengthening him somehow. The fatigue of his injuries was fading, and the ease with which he was able to hold the mighty life wave was rapidly growing.

The entire arena shook with the fury of the tornado of life that Engar had amassed. Cucumba's life force had more than doubled the strength of the attack.

Now, my Apprentice.

The scream Engar released as he let the mighty attack fly was loud enough to make a normal man's eardrums burst. Unfortunately, it was drowned out completely by the fiery fury of the energy wave itself, which screamed a mighty scream that sounded almost like an angel's chorus.

The wave was massive. Easily dwarfing any attack that had been used in the rumble thus far, the spiraling horizontal tornado of purple and green fury blasted forward, carving a thirty-foot-wide trench in the ground as it flew. Engulfed in light, Engar strengthened the blast with all of his might, using force and ki to increase its velocity.

Cucumba, beyond lending his life energies, did not interfere. He saw that there was no need; the blast impacted Pride's broken body and continued around it undaunted, surging like a firestorm. Amazingly, the broken Phenom stood his ground as the power of the wave slowly ate away at him.

The bell tolled once. Pride's voice could be heard, in that same maddening way that the bell echoed in reality. It said only a single word:

"ENNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRR...!!"

The arena and everything in it was bathed in white light as the beam head finally expelled its power. The white dome of the shockwave sent all flying away, excluding the Mad Old One. The light was blinding to all but Cucumba, who stood unwavering in the aftermath and watched with interest. When the light finally faded, Cucumba looked around, as did Engar and the others.

Though exhausted, Engar had managed one knee on curiosity alone. Where Pride had once stood, there was only a massive crater, at least fifty feet in diameter and depth. Engar looked around at the spirits that had roamed the arena since Pride's awakening and delighted to see them fading. They appeared to be randomly scrambling, like some bad digital effect. Around the massive crater stood the six druids, slowly fading. They chanted their chant one final time--"Ominos Eiiidolossssssssss..."--and died away, fading back into their own reality.

Engar expected his hand to have faded as well, but it did not; the spirits there fed off of his life force and had become a part of it. Amazed, the exhausted Engar collapsed, the exertion catching up with him.

A shadow was cast over him, and for one horrified moment he felt the irrational fear that the Rider remained and would step on his back and crush his heart without mercy. Turning his aching, pounding head upward, he saw the green pace of his master. Ironically, the only discernable emotion on his brow was pride.

"Master..." Engar intoned weakly. "Is it...over...?"

Cucumba stood tall and strong in the arena, which had only just then returned to its normal level of light. He turned towards the crater and heard the bell toll like a broken audio cassette--one final, dying time.

"Yes," the Mad Old One said with certainty. Looking around, there was not even a cellular trace left of any of the things that had come with Pride's change. The bloodsmoke, the spirits, the bells, the druids...even Pride himself and the impending dread he'd carried. It was all gone.

In fact, Engar's mighty attack had set itself off so furiously that it had knocked everyone but the Green Machine into intensive oblivion. Engar was exhausted and couldn't even sit up. SA's proximity to the blast had sent him flying indiscriminately into the far wall. Hwoarang's stone coffin had been shattered against the ceiling, and his body was mercilessly slammed by the shockwave in the process.

Cucumba knew that, given time, they would all rise again and continue the rumble in kind. And they'd earned the rest, for the most part. These warriors were some of the strongest the universe had to offer; they would lay it all out to win, of that there was no question. He would meditate until they returned to consciousness; an hour or two wait was of little consequence to a being as old as he.

Surveying the arena, Cuc flew over to the edge of the smoldering crater. A fitting tribute to the might of the Reaper. As he gazed into the nothingness that was Pride's final tomb, certainty came to the being once called Cucatoth.

"Yes, my apprentice," he said softly. "The Last Rider is no more."
 
Live free or die by the sword
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Brim, you may make your return now, set it after the 2 hour respite.
 

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