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QtE 24, Round 3

The third round of fights from QtE 24, which results in only one fighter left alive…but the story is far from over!

Originally, this section was split up somewhat differently due to the way I did updates. I feel like it reads slightly better in this version though.

Part 1: Last Man Standing

The final four fighters reappeared in the now-familiar waiting room. Only this time, the thinly-disguised prison looked slightly…different.

One patch of the darkness covering a wall now had four names with a checkbox next to each; KIERA and THE BLACK HAT were both missing a check, while SAYQ and DOPPLE both had a large, green checkmark in theirs.

“So,” came the Creator's voice, possibly sounding a little more raspy and tired than the last time it spoke, “It seems only two of you accomplished your intended goals and eliminated your target.”

A pair of hands with elongated fingers formed out of the darkness, grabbing Kiera and The Black Hat. “Kiera. You failed in pitched combat against Dopple, the competitor you were ordered to eliminate. The Black Hat. You attempted to trick me, and for that alone I should strip the flesh from your bones and incinerate your organs while you let live. But I am in a merciful mood and shall merely give you both this penalty…”

Pulsing tendrils of dark energy rushed through the arms' veins, shocking both fighters with corrosive black lightning. Kiera's world swims, dark spots popping up in her vision. As the hands put them down, both she and The Black Hat are forced to sit, struggling furiously against unconsciousness. “What…in the name of Hell…just happened?” pants The Black Hat weakly.

“You have been weakened,” came the austere reply. “You will find that your signature powers and abilities will be far more difficult to use in the next fight, or that they may even not work at all. Such is your penalty for failing your task.”

The dark hands moved over, picking up Sayq and Dopple in his old man form. “On the other hand, you two shall be rewarded. Dopple, you cleverly killed William while his back was turned, taking advantage of a perfect situation. Sayq, by knocking over the wall and trapping the one known as 'Bad Luck', you left him vulnerable to William's final desperate attack.”

“Wait. When did you do that?” said Dopple, fairly sure he had been following Sayq for most of the brawl.

Sayq shrugged. “Kid with the gloves shot up a wall near Bad Luck, weakened it up quite a bit. Lets just say I helped it along,” he said as he watched the hands uncomfortably.

“Indeed,” spoke the Creator again, “And for these actions, you will be rewarded…”

Dark energy again rushed into the two brave warriors. Only this time, infusing them with power and sloughing off the tiredness from marching around the ruined city. The hands put them down gently as the Creator said, “Unlike the other two, you will find your abilities easier to use. You will also find that you have been relieved of your earlier tiredness and pain. And so, with the odds tipped like these, we enter round 3…”

An enormous cage fell from somewhere up in the darkness, crashing to the floor with an enormous thud. Sayq gulped as he realized the cage with its sides down took up nearly half the small circular stage, wondering what monstrous horror could be lurking inside.

“For this round, the four of you must kill this beast by whatever means necessary,” rasped the Creator's ever present voice. “Depending on how many of you survive, this may even be the final round. Use your tactics well and remember that your allies may yet be your enemies…”

The sides of the cage lifted, revealing the beast within.

* * *

Kiera awoke slowly, rubbing her neck as she wondered what happened. One minute, the cage doors opened. The next…

She shuddered. Must have been a bad dream from blacking out, she thought. Better get back into the fight before…uh…before…

Looking around, she noticed she was most definitely not in the waiting room. Well…maybe not anyways. There were clouds instead of the constant darkness surrounding the floor. A revealed portion of one wall displayed The Black Hat firing ferociously at some unseen foe, deepening her confusion.

Then she realized, as she looked around, that 8 previously deceased fighters and 1 giant were staring at her. A large portal closes with a soft “ziiiip” noise as Walrus shuffles his way out, monocle and top hat tilted just so to indicate confusion.

The giant smiled. “Glad to have you here, Kiera. I was unsure you would make it in one piece. My name is Ieovus and now I shall explain everything to you all…”

The fighters took a seat near the still groggy Kiera. “What's going on?” she muttered to Valhallen. “You died babe; monster on the tube lopped your head off. Now that god over there's gonna tell us some heavy stuff,” he shrugged casually, confusion evident even under his golden locks. Kiera blinked a few times, absorbing the information, then turned her attention to Ieovus.

The diety stood there for a moment, in all his glory and grace. Then he spoke with the sound of a thousand harps singing: “Friends, warriors, valiant champions all…I call you here today for the purposes of a crusade, a most pious undertaking to rid the universe of the blight who has made your recent life a misery. Who had you plucked from your lives, taken to some nowhere plane on the edge of reality, and placed you in constant mortal peril for the sake of its own amusement. I speak, of course, of a being you may refer to as 'The Creator'; no mortal can pronounce its true name safely and I would regret to lose a brave warrior to so trivial a death.”

Ieovus paused for dramatic effect. “Upon this day, the time is right to wage war upon this Creator, to put a stop to its madness for good and rid the multiverse of this taint once and for all. I had tried once in the past, but I was too weak to finish the job alone…but with the help of nine warriors such as yourself, coupled with the strain of creating this tournament, I am sure we shall triumph upon this day!” he boomed, pumping one fist in the air. William immediately burst into applause, prompting several others to do the same.

On the screen behind Ieovus, a lashing claw darted from off the screen, impaling The Black Hat. As he screamed in agony, a second claw neatly sliced him in half, cutting the scream horribly short. As he fell to the ground, Kiera raised her hand in question. “You said you tried to destroy him once before. What happened?”

“An excellent question, miss,” rumbled the god. “I was concerned about The Creator and his world, concerned for their lifestyle and their immortal souls. So I summoned forth a most holy warp storm to liberate them from their mortal shucks and show them the error of their ways.”

Ieovus shrugged. “It did not have the desired effect and it left me weak. Though the creations had been purged, the Creator continued its downhill spiral, turning into the state you now see it in.”

“Warp…storm?” said Kiera, confused. “Is that what caused the devastation in the city we fought in?”

The other fighters, excluding William, looked at one another in mute horror; had they just changed from one maddened god to another? Metaphorically “out of the frying-pan and into the fire”?

On the screen behind the diety, Dopple shapeshifted into a horrendous beast with too many spikes, vicious claws, and a gaping jaw filled with dagger teeth. It charged into a similar beast as Sayq made leaping attacks from the shadows, steadily wearing both creatures down with dozens of small injuries.

William remained resolute. “They had sinned. They deserved punishment. There was no alternative,” he said simply.

The mysterious Lawyer - now called the Judge for reasons unknown - glanced at him. “It seems to me that, had its creations not have been so suddenly and violently destroyed, the Creator would be in a far more stable condition than it is now. You are wrong to judge them; such power is reserved for a man of the law, such as myself.”

Treacher snarled at him, “Very well sir judge, shall we take the creator to a court of law and argue this case till we are blue in the face?!”

The fighters all leapt to their feet (or, in the Walrus' case, flippers) in argument; some siding with William, most with Kiera and the Judge.

”ENOUGH!” roared Ieovus, bringing the debate to an abrupt halt. “There will be no discussion. You all will fight for me. You all shall carry my banners at my side. And, should you die, you will have died in the name of a great Crusade. Your name shall be eternal as you rest alongside me in Paradise…” and so on and so forth, spouting forth a series of persuasions to go to war.

And all the fighters steadily found themselves nodding along, mental defenses breaking down.

The Judge knew what was going on; Ieovus was invading their minds, twisting their wills to his own desires. They would have no say in the matter and would have to go along with the diety's sick plans of vengance, or conquest, or whatever this was.

He sighed inwardly. Just one of those days I guess…

“The time has come!” thundered Ieovus, pointing at the screen. Sayq alone remained, fighting a single monstrous beast in pitched one-sided combat; though the creature was tired and wounded from the earlier fighting, Sayq moved like greased lightning. Off to one side, a second beast, disemboweled and spouting blue ichor, reverted form first into Kiera…then Sayq…then an old man…then finally a small blob of dark matter which pooled and rested on the floor.

“We ride now to war, crusaders. For glory and for Ieovus, we shall sieze this day!” he roared as he tore open a portal in one wall, charging in. The others followed him without hesitation, ushered on by his mighty war cry and William's goading cheers.

On the screen, the mighty beast toppled, leaving Sayq alone standing in the blood-drenched arena, both him and the Creator totally unaware of the events unfolding in Ieovus' domain…

Part 2: The Crusaders

Sayq moved like a demon.

The Creator's energy boost certainly helped turn the tide in the battle, allowing him to leap between shadows so quickly that the beast's arms tangled themselves up while trying to catch him. The nimble warrior suffered no damage himself while dealing dozens of light cuts to the monster; though far from lethal, the many injuries slowed the horror and continually tipped the scales in Sayq's advantage.

The broken bodies in the waiting room told of the monster's earlier rampage.The Black Hat's right half had fallen near where he once stood, while his left had been eaten by the nightmarish creature. The demonic cowboy's demonic bullets had finally failed him, unable to damage a creature far more unholy than his own weapons. Dopple's shapeshifting strategy had, evidently, failed; the beast had overpowered the dark matter copycat, somehow able to strike faster than the mysterious fighter could block. A now-lifeless puddle of dark matter decorated a crack in the tiled floor, providing a change in coloration besides the deep red of Kiera's blood.

Though, if her blood was on the floor…where was the body? Surely the monster hadn't eaten it, not while dealing with the other 3. Then where had it vanished to? How curious.

Sayq's plan was finally starting to pay off. The beast, tired and injured, stopped flailing around and panted heavily. Resting its head on the ground, it growled weakly as Sayq moved forward. Drawing on the last of the Creator's gifted power, he melted into the shadows followed by reappearing right behind the monster's weak spot – the chink in its carapace at the back of its neck. Delivering a single powerful blow, the agile fighter sent the beast into its death throes as the nerve endings slowly died, cut off from the beast's feral brain.

And then, as the giant horror's spasms stopped, silence one again dominated the waiting room.

The Creator's voice spoke, sounding tired, “Well done, Sayq. It appears you have overcome all challenges and outlived the other competitors. However, before you may be crowned champion and receive your reward, you must complete your final task: I require you to d-”

Whatever the Creator wanted, no one will ever know. At that exact moment, a loud “RIIIIIIIIIIIP” interrupted its speech as a massive portal opened on the far end of the waiting room. Ieovus, in his divine wisdom and grace stepped forth. “You who call yourself 'The Creator',” he boomed. “Eons ago, I wiped your heretical creations from the face of this universe. Upon this day, myself and my Champions shall finish this Crusade once and for all by exterminating you as well!”

”Champions”? What champions? thought Sayq, confused by the god's speech. Then, blinking a few times in case his eyes were deceiving him, he saw them. The once-dead fighters had returned, though they all looked a little…different. Taller. More muscular. And, for each, there were far more unique differences to be seen.

Kiera, who just minutes earlier had been decapitated and killed, was surrounded by a swirling, shifting mist. The watery cloud stayed tightly around her, evidently providing her with yet more ammunition for her attacks. Tears streamed down her face, not from sadness but from surplus; water now flowed through her veins, bringing her even further into contact with her preferred element.

Bad Luck carried a large, ornate shield as a mirror. It looked all too fragile, as though it had been designed to break upon the slightest impact. Knowing the fighter's unique traits and style, it probably had. A small cadre of black kittens followed him, mewling softly and deceptively as they hid their true powers from the casual observer.

Victor's blue garments had turned instead into a suit of blue powered armor, boosting his strength and speed tenfold. His broken gloves had been fixed and upgraded; now coated in a strange blue metal and glowing with an inner light, they looked even more dangerous than before. Who knew what powers he could now unleash?

James' spear had been repaired and strengthened since its effective death; the bone shaft now carried intricate runes carved along the surface, ancient magicks to make it still stronger and more powerful than ever before. The blades of his other weapons glowed from the white light covering them; clearly they had been blessed by Ieovus to be all the more lethal in the upcoming fight.

Merry's bladder-on-a-stick now reeked something awful, as though someone had stuffed it full of cow dung for added hilarity when attacking. The sharpened end of the stick had been coated in some foul-looking red slime, indicating whoever got stabbed by the weapon would die of poison from the slightest scratch. Finally, a copy of the “Ye Olde Joke Booke” was stuffed in his back pocket; clearly the fool had been working on some new material.

Valhallen, the other god in the waiting room, had a brand new axe. With 29 strings, 4 necks, a multitude of effects knobs, and a wicked-looking axe blade welded onto one end, it was truly a weapon for the god of rock. His long, flowing locks had been done up in a vicious mohawk; spiked long and sharp enough to impale someone, it had the words “total badassery” written all over it (metaphorically, of course).

Walrus' blubber had been jammed into a well-tailored XXXXXX-L 3-piece suit, further enhancing his gentlemanly air. The gold rim of his monocle sparkled, showing off his expensive tastes. His tusks, while still impeccably groomed, had been coated in adamantium and filed down to extremely sharp points. Obvious ripoff aside, they were both dazzling and deadly, clearly able to knock a hole through just about anything. Or anyone.

Little seemed different about the mysterious Judge. Strange, flowing letters had been written along the length and width of his scarf. A blue glow encased his weapon – a trusty plasma wrench. No one had seen him fight before and no one knew his true potential; what would this totally unknown fighter do in the battle ahead?

And finally, leading them all onward with prayers of reverence, was William. A halo covered his head in the same way that golden plate mail covered his body. In both hands, he clutched a flagpole bearing Ieovus' standard…and a sharpened spear point on one end. To fully show his devotion, he had the name “Ieovus” tattooed across his forehead, truly dedicating himself to the diety.

Ieovus himself was clad in golden plate mail as well, a far more massive and intricate version of William's. In one hand he clutched a ferocious-looking war helm. In the other, he held the pommel of a massive claymore, twice the height of a mortal man. The shining blade looked razor sharp and unspeakably ancient, as though it had been destroying entire empires millennia before the other fighters had been born.

All this, Sayq saw. He watched, confused, as they advanced.

* * *

“Show yourself!” roared Ieovus to the sky. “Come out from hiding and face your fate!”

The crusaders stood a short way from one end of the waiting room, eagerly watching their surroundings. Sayq stood in the middle, still beside the dead monster's already-fading corpse.

On the wall opposite the crusaders, a pinpoint of light opened up. It swiftly grew in size until it was nearly 15 feet tall. And then…a figure clad in a black-hooded robe walked forth, tip of its head just barely passing under the newly-made opening…

Sayq and the other once-mortal fighters all gasp as the newcomer pulled back its hood. Ieovus merely nodded once and said, “That is her. That is the taint we are here to destroy.”

It was a little girl. A 15-foot tall “little” girl, but a young female regardless. “Do not let her appearance fool you,” said Ieovus. “She is more ancient than any of you could begin to imagine, and with no remorse for the likes of you.”

“Funny, Ieovus,” said the little girl, aka the Creator, in a raspy old voice. “I would have described you the same way. Attempting to annihilate myself and my poor, poor people with no real cause or reason? You truly are merciless. And now you have dragged this unfortunate mortals along in your so-called 'Crusade' to destroy me? Have you even given them a solid reason for all this bloodshed?”

Doubt began to cross the minds of some of the crusaders. They looked to Ieovus, confused. Gritting his teeth, the diety boomed, “Don't be foolish! You trapped these mortals here against their will and forced them to destroy one another. This madness will end before you have a chance to preform such actions again. Rally crusaders! We strike now!”

Ieovus clamped the helmet on his head and raised the claymore threateningly. The crusaders responded with their own war shouts and rallies, evidently back under the sway of the diety. “So be it,” said the Creator simply. As the crusaders began marching towards the middle, she drew a long-handled bone scythe from the folds of her robe. Focusing on her nigh-limitless power, she said a single word to summon aid to her side from the folds of space and time…

“Come…”

Part 3: Call of the Creator

Somewhere in a world of endless deserts stretching through an equally endless church, he heard the summons. Breaking free of the sun-bleached cloth that still pinned him down, Shin rose unsteadily to his feet. Then screamed as fire engulfed him…then laughed as the fire stopped hurting and began to obey his every will. He ordered it into his veins, feeling the heat burn away all the tiredness, all the pain, all the humanity left in his soul. Through his burning eyes, he saw a dark portal open with a loud “RIIIIIIP” noise. “I will annihilate them all,” he said with a malicious smile. He stepped through the portal, which closed with a “ZIIIIIIP” noise.

* * *

Come…

In a long-abandoned Oktoberfest parade ground, Jack Cuervo woke up with a hangover. “Ah good. Back in business…*hic*,” he grunted. He then discovered the keg strapped to his back and the strange rubber-hose-and-plastic-mask contraption strapped to his face. Curious, he inhaled deeply through his mouth, hoping it was what he thought it was.

He smiled as the alcohol burned down his throat. [i]Looks like this is going to be a good day after all…[/i] he thought as he walked into the glowing portal.

ZIIIIIIP

* * *

Come…

“Welcome back to Channel 7 Newsline. Top story tonight: Strange portals have been reported appearing all across the country. Is it fact or fiction? Is it an attempt by UFOs to vaporize your brains? Is the government hiding something? We're going to find that out tonight with one of our reknow- OH JESUS CHRIST, WHAT THE [blip] IS THA-?!”

The news anchor screamed as the giant frost-coated giant crushed him under one icy foot. Oblivious to the gore under its feet, the behemoth turned to face the stunned studio audience and cameramen, watching on in mute horror as yet another freak occurrence happened on the set. The giant snorted dismissively, apparently having a greater cause than further bloodshed.

With one massive fist, the beast Summit had become punched down the backdrop and vanished into the strange portal behind it, effectively rendering the evening's program useless.

ZIIIIIIP

* * *

Come…

A high school hallway. A stereotypical jock-type pulled a few notebooks from his locker into his bag as a bell rang. Someone tapped his shoulder. “Gimme a sec,” he grunted, not bothering to look.

Harder this time. To the point that the boy's shoulder broke.

Turning around with pain and rage in his eyes, he turned sharply to confront the attacker…and found himself face-to-face with a pair of massive pecs. Looking up, he slowly realized it was that little dork kid he used to pick on; Darren whatshisname. Only now he was ripped. And smiling evilly…

Five minutes of sweet revenge later, Darren calmly walked to the bathroom, washed the blood off his hands, and stepped into the portal in one of the stalls.

*flush*

ZIIIIIIP

* * *

The Viking warriors slumbered, at peace for once. They were full of food and wine, and tired after a long day of pillaging. In the long loghouse, they slept contentedly…

Come…

As one, they all started vomiting uncontrollably while the unheard word echoed around the wide room. Through the groans and moans, one noticed something strange as he wiped his mouth with the back of one hand; his spew seemed to be travelling towards the center of the room. And, stranger still, the other piles of mess seemed to be joining it…

Within scant moments, the pile reached almost 8 feet high. Then it grew arms, legs, the semblance of a head. The Spambot, metal casing gone and now covered in gastric juices, had been reborn nastier than ever before.

In a final act of malevolence, it ate the Vikings where they stood, adding their meat to its own bulk. After picking their bones clean, it stepped into a dark portal just outside the log hut.

ZIIIIIIP

* * *

Come…

The word bounced along the inside of the mirrored globe, heard only by the rotting dragon's corpse there. Morph opened his eyes as life once more flickered into his veins.

Then he opened his eyes again. And again.

To replace the severed head, three new ones had grown, much akin to the ancient Hydra of Greek myth. Shifting through a few shapes experimentally, Morph discovered that they too had all been altered to mythic porportions. His bear form was now colossal, with claws close to a foot in length and hair dense enough to ward off any clod. The turtle's shell had become nigh impenetrable and laced with spikes. His hawk form's talons were tipped with razors and he was able to fly at double his previous speed.

Switching back to his improved dragon form (which felt all the more natural), she shapeshifter vanished into an infinite number of portals as reflected on the walls of the mirrored room.

ZIIIIIIP

* * *

Come…

The word completely demolished the brightly-lit waffles/pancakes/french toast backgrounds. As though the world had been hit with a ferocious tornado, the whole plane became a swirling maelstrom and the unseen singers screamed in fear at the sudden change. But in the center of the storm, something began to take shape…

A hideous creation, the Frankenstein's monster of breakfast pastries, slowly pieced itself together. A waffle for a head with one syrup-covered eye, a large pancake for a body, pieces of french toast for limbs. All were mutated by trans-dimensional energies, fusing the patchwork monstrosity together and warping its features into some semblance of humanity.

The storm converged into a single dark, malevolent portal. The hideous creation once known as Steve the Waffle was flung forcefully inside.

ZIIIIIIP

* * *

Come…

The word echoed in the waiting room, causing Ieovus to take a sudden step back as though slapped. No one noticed, however, as the effect it had on the dead fighters was all the more dramatic.

The remaining half of The Black Hat stood up, balancing on one leg. The other half was suddenly filled by a strange darkness which slowly took form; the burning red eyes, soot-blackened skin, and pointy horn clearly indicated that this was a demon, come to aid the hellish cowboy in his time of need. Focusing hard, a third arm popped out of the human side's back…but instead of an arm, it had a small cannon attached to it. A tail popped out of the demon side, twirling another revolver. “Showdown time I guess, eh?” he grunted in a voice no longer fully human.

Dopple's transformation was the most horrific of them all. Whatever control the shapeshifter once had to stay in one form had vanished; it was now a freakish mess of body parts and faces…some of them all to familiar. Sayq's face laughed atop Valhallen's broad shoulders. Spambot's arms twirled a twisted copy of Ieovus' greatsword like a cheerleader's baton. The whole array was perched upon the slain beast's powerful legs, making Dopple appear still more intimidating. As everyone watched, the face changed to Kiera's, the arms to the Creator's…everything but the legs continually changed, never pausing with the same set for more than a few seconds. Sayq shook his head to clear it of dizziness as he watched too closely.

A second, loud RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIP rang through the waiting room. The other 7 of the Creator's champions stepped forth, eager for battle with Ieovus and his crusaders.

Part 4: Sayq's Big Decision

After a long silence, the girl spoke, “It seems we are evenly matched. However, we have a potential tiebreaker in here who has not yet picked a side…” as the nodded at Sayq. “Join us, Sayq. Put an end to Ieovus' wholesale injustice and I shall reward you. You will not have to complete my earlier planned task if you kill him with your own hands.”

“NAY!” roared the armor-clad god. “Fight by my side, young mortal. Slay the temptress and her foul minions. For the glory of Ieovus shall then be eternal and you shall bask in it at my side! Would you trust a serpent so foul and to lure you to this pit of Hell in the first place?”

Sayq heard both their arguments, knowing each had elements of truths and lies. He wondered silently if he should chose to fight for no one, relying as he always had on his own skills and abilities instead.

He looked first to his left, at Ieovus and his shining crusaders. He looked to his right, staring hard at the Creator and her minions. Then he took a knife out of its sheath and tossed in the air a few times, catching it by the handle perfectly on each throw, as he thought hard about the situation. Some of the reborn fighters looked at one another, clearly aware of the tension in the room.

Finally, Sayq put the knife on the floor and gave it a spin on the tiled flood. As everyone watched, the knife slowly spun to a stop, grinding to a halt as it pointed straight down the middle of the room. Nodding twice, he picked up the knife and, putting it back into its sheath, declared bodly, “I choose…as I have always chosen. Myself and myself alone.”

Noticing the hostile glares in his direction, he elaborated, “Frankly, Ieovus, I have no idea who in the hells you are, so I see no reason I should risk my own hide for your so-called 'Crusade'. As to you,” he continued, nodding at the Creator and her minions, “That mysterious 'reward' of yours could be anything - even a swift death, as far as I'm concerned. Plus you've been throwing me into pitched combat and now suddenly expect me to turn around and help you? I don't think so. Damn the consequences, I'll stand on my own two feet here.”

The Creator didn't flinch. She merely pointed her scythe straight at Ieovus and said, “Forwards.” The mutated fighters began a slow advance towards the center of the waiting room.

Ieovus, on the other hand, let out an angry war yell, proclaiming, “Slaughter them all! The heretic mortal and the tainted one shall fall! CHAAAAAAARGE!” as the crusaders rushed forwards behind him. The Creator and her warriors picked up the pace in response, starting their own charge towards the center of the arena. Sayq gulped and readied himself, thinking of the best place to teleport to at the last second…

“Duck. Then teleport right,” rang a sudden voice in his head.

Not bothering to think, Sayq followed the mysterious instructions, avoiding a thrust of James' mighty spear and vanishing in time to avoid incineration from Shin's newfound fire powers. Reappearing on the far side of the skirmish, he scratched his head. Great. More voices in my head. At least I'm alive… he thought to himself.

“I heard that,” came the new voice again. “This is the Judge. There's no time to explain. There's a way you can make it out of this alive, but you need to do exactly as I say. If we both live through this, everything will become clear.

And how do I know I can trust you?

“Duck to your left…now.”

Sayq followed the mental order. He felt a rush of air over the back of his neck and heard Valhallen cursing as only a god of Rock could. Swiftly turning around, Sayq faced the spiky-haired rocker and yanked his knives into his hands. “Parry the next attack, then kick him backwards,” came the Judge's voice again.

Using both knives, Sayq deflected the upgraded axe, causing it to be lodged in the ground from the force of Valhallen's swing. He then delivered a savage kick to Valhallen's midsection, causing him to stagger backwards and slip on an sheet of ice created by Kiera. As he toppled, he collided with Darren's massive bulk. Both turned around, snarling at one another as they locked in mortal combat.

The Judge, who had previously been engaged with Darren, rushed over to Sayq. Taking his scarf, he traced a pattern over the strange markings while muttering something under his breath. Sayq saw the world flash through varying shades of black and white before it settled into regular colors again. Noting the fighter's confusion, the Judge said, “We are now in our own pocket dimension. We can see the fight going on, but they cannot see us. Don't ask any questions. Be ready to move on my signal.”

Sayq shrugged at the mysterious man's sharp instructions. Seeing nothing better to do, he sat back and watched the fight unfold…


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