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The Jade Arenas of Heaven: Shock the Monkey [IC]

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Dawn rose on Tian, and the Extended Net caught every single ray of light. Cannonade woke to the dancing array of morning sunshine long before the gong had rung. The mansion, large enough to make San Simeon look like a quaint cottage, had certainly lived up to its namesake; while it sprawled out across the grounds, it certainly felt like everything in the building converged, drawing towards a certain center. Cannonade had been surprised the night before to make his way through the halls, which seemed familiar enough that he could probably find his way there blindfolded. And now that he woke, his quarters seemed familiar enough that they could almost be his apartment back in Freedom.

Don't get too attached, he thought as he got up from bed. You're only here for a few more days. Ain't like this is gonna be a permanent fixture. After showering and shaving, he spent some time working on his form. Back in Freedom, he'd been content to let his strength and resilience speak for themselves, but up here, he was going to be up against people with similar strengths and -- more than likely -- greater experience. He was practicing his boxing moves when the gong rang out. Almost immediately after, someone knocked on the door.

"Mister Cannonade," a woman's voice said, "breakfast is being served in fifteen minutes. Once all the competitors are fed, we shall be entering initial rounds of the tournament."

"Thanks," he said. "Be down soon."

After getting into his costume, he left his quarters and walked through the halls, quickly coming up to the dining room. Three long tables were set out with everything from dim sum to fried eggs to croissants to unripened bananas to things Cannonade couldn't have placed if you put a gun to his head. After filling his plate, he took a seat next to a man in IDF gear with a hypertech gauntlet attached to one arm. "This your first time here?" he said.

The man said something in Hebrew that he couldn't translate.

"...yeah, me too." He scanned the room, keeping his eyes open for a familiar face.

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Victoria lounged in the over sized bed in the bedroom of the quarters she'd been given, sleep had been deliciously restful. Her inviting Morgan in hadn't helped though, they'd stayed up an extra hour or so making out, as well as letting their hands wander a little more given the lack of authority figures. The morning sun's light streaming into her room dragged her from dreamland. After dragging herself out of bed, she shuffled to the shower and luxuriated under the steaming water for most of half an hour, the first shower she'd had in months where she didn't have to worry about holding up the line.

After drying and changing into a fresh version of her costume, a knock came from the door informing her breakfast was about to be served. Making her way towards the dining room. Grabbing her own plate she piled it high with eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, fruits, and a small carafe of orange juice. Looking for a seat she saw a spot next to a Cannonade. Since the rest of the Claremont crew hadn't come down yet, and preferred sitting with someone she'd met before, she headed over. "Hey Cannon, good to see you again," she said with a smile, "Mind if I sit here?"

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Ironclad had spent most of the night examining the small palace and talking up the various other superhumanly-powerful beings that were there. The bedroom which had been provided for her was bigger than her house back home, and she had a black, dreamless sleep. When she awoke, she luxuriated in its wide space and softness, unlike anything she'd ever experienced before. After a bit she forced herself to get up and go through her usual morning routine. Coming out of the shower she was whistling, but her good mood petered out when she realized that she had literally nothing besides her armor to wear. Gotta speak to Mara about that dimensional suitcase idea.

Undeterred, she walked over to the gilded wardrobe and opened it up, revealing a black and red outfit that looked for all the world like silk pajamas. Jessica pulled it off and tried it on, somehow not surprised that it fit perfectly. So attired, she padded down the hallways, following her nose to a communal eating area. She grabbed a plate and piled it high with various kinda of potatoes and meats, then found a seat at one of the long tables, across from Cannonade and a petite girl with red eyes and long, white hair. She offered them a sunny "Good morning!" before plowing into her breakfast.

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Wisp returned the smile, her mood brighter than usual in the morning, "Good morning." Eying the other girl's plate she added, "Impressive buffet, isn't it? I can't help but wonder if they do catering."

As she finished a pile of pancakes that would qualify as a competitive eating challenge by themselves, she kept her eyes peeled for any of the other Claremonters, especially her boyfriend. Returning her attention to the newcomer, Vicky gave a friendly smile, "I don't think we've met, my name's Wisp. And you are?"

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Jessica bit down half a hash brown, chewing quickly and swallowing even as she reached across the table to offer Wisp her hand. "Hey. The name's Jessica Parker, but since we're all here to do the super-thing, I guess you should call me Ironclad? I'm not really sure how all that goes." She flashed a smile, then sat back down and turned to Cannonade. "Good to see you here, Cannonade. Not really surprised, though. How's life treating you? AEGIS sending anymore work your way?"

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"Not really," Cannonade said. "There's been talk of doing some check-ups, but they don't want me busting any more equipment until they get their security system restructured. Make sure that Doc Otaku can't hack it again." He turned to face the others. "And as long as we're being open here..."

He scanned the room, as if checking to see if he recognized any notable criminals. When he was sure the coast was clear, he tugged off his helmet, revealing a young, if hard-edged, face with very close-cropped black hair. "Joe Macayle. Nice to finally meet you." He set the helmet down next to his plate. "First time I've ever been in a proper match. Well, unless you count boxing lessons in middle school."

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Vicky lifted the mask around her eyes, "Doubt I really need to remove the mask, I mean how common can white haired teenage girls with red irises and black sclera be in Freedom? But anyway, my real name's Victoria Knight," she said keeping her voice low enough only the two sitting with her could hear.

Vicky took a swig of orange juice before replacing her mask. "Well, I did some martial arts training as a kid. Little karate, little savate. Thinking of picking up some Krav Maga instruction too. This isn't my first tournament, just the first one involving metahumans and a freakin' monkey god," she said.

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Sleep was always a fickle mistress for John. He didn't know if his genetic donor was a light sleeper or if it was something the SHADOW geneticists had purposefully integrated, but it caused him no small amount of consternation, snapping awake to full alertness due to random noises. Sleeping in an unusual place only compounds the issue as well, John noted glumly to himself as he scanned the small room yet again. The darkness of the room only magnified the other sounds, his breathing and heartbeat almost thundering in his ears amongst the quietness.

John glanced at his watch, the digital readout glowing a faint 4:15 AM. Might as well stay awake. He went to the bathroom, looking at the mirror and realizing that he had slept in his mask. Frowning at he reflection through the mask, he took it off after making sure the door to his room was secured. John then started his daily routine, creating a straight razor and shaving the last day's worth of stubble off after a fast shower. He dressed silently and quickly in his combat uniform, sliding his balaclava on again as he was about to go outside and start training. Can't do that. That could give away a potential advantage to anyone fighting him today if they saw him.

He opened the door and started walking, still thinking about what to do if he couldn't do his normal training when he almost bowled over one of the tournament attendants. "My apologies." he said quickly stabilizing her. "I was not watching where I was going." "It is quite alright, Mister Myrmidon. What are you doing up this early? Breakfast is not for another two and a half hours." she said, straightening her robes. "To be honest, I cannot sleep and due to the tournament I cannot engage in my normal routine." "I see. If I may suggest something, one of the attendants here would more than happy to enjoy your company his morning Taijiquan training. "Thank you kindly. I would be honored to participate."

It had been most enjoyable practicing as the sun rose majestically over the structured splendor of Tian as he was shown various forms, the two hours passing quickly before he met the others in the common room for breakfast. John arrived mid conversation, more relaxed now than when he woke up.

"Well, I did some martial arts training as a kid. Little karate, little savate. Thinking of picking up some Krav Maga instruction too.

"If I may Miss Wisp, that is one of the forms that I am well versed in. I would be more than happy to assist you." John stated as he sat down next to her, a plate decently full of fresh fruit and a rather large glass of water in hand. "That invitation goes to the both of you as well, if you would like." He shifted his gaze to Cannonade and then Ironclad, nodding at the both of them in greeting.

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Morgan Crowe had already been up for a few hours, as was his usual routine. Drove Brian nuts, of course; when your roommate keeps waking up at 5 or 6 o'clock to work out by doing sit-ups hanging from a ceiling bar, pushups, and footwork practice before heading out for the gym, it does cause a little irritation. Then again, there was Brian's sneaking of the occasional girl into their room, causing him to have to vanish for a few hours, did provide Morgan with an adequate rejoinder when his roomie complained.

"Man...rgh...really...wish...he...was...gah...here..."

The teen pulled himself up for the hundredth time, his legs locked around a beam in the rafters, then let himself simply drop and hang for a bit. He crossed his arms, running over the arena layout in his head again (he figured a bit of recconaissance after he left Wisp's room wouldn't have gone amiss, and hopefully he'd been stealthy enough that nobody had spotted him perched on one of the upper towers surveying the area and planning).

Arena's 100-120 feet long, maybe 80-90 feet wide. Pretty big, solid surface, concrete, maybe marble. Probably marble, reflective enough to see the...moon? Eh. Seems to be malleable too, guys at the sidelines kept tweaking it every few minutes; ice landscape, forest, little pools...shift for combatants or just choose one at the start?

He rubbed the back of his head, the wind-walking rune on the back of his coat smoking for a sec as he reappeared on the floor and stretched. Not much sleep last night, but hey; young and mighty, who needs sleep? A few stretches and a few minutes later, and the teen walked into the dining hall with his hands in his pockets, hood and bandanna down but otherwise in full costume. A few seconds after that, and he had a platter of food piled high enough to obscure his head. Morgan spotted his girlfriend sitting at one chair and appeared out of thin air behind her, giving Victoria a kiss on the cheek before sitting down with the group.

"Morning. So, who couldn't sleep last night?"

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Jessica was startled that the young heroes had given up their identities so quickly to someone they had just met. Sure, Cannonade had fought beside her before, but she'd never laid eyes on Wisp before. She was torn between wanting to respect their decision, and wanting to remind them that there could very well be villains around. Even if no one in the breakfast hall actively wished them ill, there was no telling what sort of tales they would tell.

"If I may Miss Wisp, that is one of the forms that I am well versed in. I would be more than happy to assist you." John stated as he sat down next to her, a plate decently full of fresh fruit and a rather large glass of water in hand. "That invitation goes to the both of you as well, if you would like." He shifted his gaze to Cannonade and then Ironclad, nodding at the both of them in greeting.

She turned down the young man's offer of training with a tight smile. She preferred to let her suit handle the combat part; maybe that was foolish of her, but that's how she was.

"Morning. So, who couldn't sleep last night?"

The young inventor raised an eyebrow at the remark. "I slept like a baby," she remarked. "They even provided me with clothes," she added, gesturing to her black and red outfit.

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When Myr sat down with the group Vicky nodded towards her friend, "Cannon, 'Clad, don't know if you've met Myrmidon around town. And thanks for the offer. We'll have to set up some training time. And maybe I'll finally be able to drag you over to the gaming console, Crow and I keep meaning to get you hooked on the wonderful world of Halo."

She finished this last sentence just in time for her boyfriend's lips to land on her cheek. "Speak of the devil," she said leaning over to return the kiss. "I for one slept like a log. The bed was huge too, not like the dorm bed back home. Maybe you should have stayed last night..."

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"I slept just fine," Joe said, extending his hands to Crow and Myrmidon. "Nice to meet you two. Joe Macayle, a.k.a. Cannonade." He turned to Myrmidon. "And I think I may take you up on that offer one day. Boxing's working just fine for me, but I could always learn a few new tricks. Super-strength ain't everything, I guess." He picked at a steamed pork bun he'd thrown onto his plate. "Wonder who we're up against. Doesn't look like we're fighting each other -- at least, in the first rounds -- but I don't think I ever heard of any of the other names on the bracket."

"Guan Yu goes far and wide for his champions." Joe turned around to find the vagrant with the monkey tail standing behind him at the table. "Obscurity and renown are somewhere around the level of fashion sense when it comes to his opinion of a fighter. His eye for picking out combatants is renowned, and he always knows how to play two sets of talents off of one another." He cracked a wry smile. "Well. Almost always."

"So we're up against whoever's gonna generate a challenge."

"Or a spectacle." The man cleared his throat. "My apologies; I have yet to introduce myself. I am Sun Wukong, the Great Sage Equal to Heaven. I am acting at the... request of Guan Yu in this tournament. Is there anything I can aid you with before your match?"

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Crow poked his head up above the mound of food, shaking Cannonade's hand in return with a decent grip, and cracked a wide grin when Joe mentioned boxing.

"Morgan Crowe, just call me Crow. So, you're a fan of the sweet science too?"

Sun Wukong's arrival caused the teen's eyebrows to shoot straight up, especially when the vagrant mentioned adequate challenge. Crow's reaction to that assertion was an anticipatory smile, and he looked at Wukong straight in the eye when he followed that up with an offer of aid.

"Humm...nothing I can think of right off the bat, but how about a friendly spar later on? Man, it'd be awesome to go three rounds with the one and only Magnificent Monkey King!"

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Wisp glanced aside at her boyfriend, "Last time he and one of our friends had a boxing match, if I'm recalling the story correctly, a troll busted into the gym."

At Crow's request, her eyebrows shot up under her mask. "Sun Wukong, before you agree or decline, if you accept can you send somebody back to Red Hand's place and bring my bag back? My iPhone's in there and I'd really, really like to record that and post it on YouTube."

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He returned Cannonades' handshake with a firm grip. "John Smith, but my alias is Myrmidon. Learning various complementary styles goes a long way for survivability. While boxing is excellent at footwork and powerful blows, it tends to not do so well against weapon using opponents." He was about give some other examples when Sun Wukong made his entrance.

John greeted the Monkey King as he had seen the crimson-robed guards do. He held left hand opened in with the palm vertically against the right hand in a fist, with a short bow. It would be best to not offend one of the tournament hosts...it was at that point that Crow decided he could spar a mythological figure. Myr brought his right hand up to face in exasperation. Did Mr. Morgan have any clue how powerful this being was? Maybe it was some sort of quirk of possessing a spark of divinity...having a leave of common sense at times did seem to be a recurring theme across the various pantheons. Still, he had offered his help and expertise.

"Mr. Sun Wukong, I do indeed possess a question that you might be able to answer. Do you know anything about our opponents and fights? Your viewpoint on the matter would be most enlightening." Myrmidon asked completely honest.

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"Yeah, I'm a fan," Cannonade said to Crow. "You see the match between Pacquiao and --" He was interrupted by the presence of the Monkey King. "So you're overseeing things today? Where's Guan Yu, then?"

"He will be at the match. I am merely here to make sure that no trickery occurs. It's something I know a fair deal about."

"Humm...nothing I can think of right off the bat, but how about a friendly spar later on? Man, it'd be awesome to go three rounds with the one and only Magnificent Monkey King!"

The Monkey King laughed warmly at Crow's offer. "Perhaps," he said. "I am not here as an official entrant, only an overseer. Still, there are arenas open for training bouts between the formal matches. Perhaps we could make use of one of them."

At Crow's request, her eyebrows shot up under her mask. "Sun Wukong, before you agree or decline, if you accept can you send somebody back to Red Hand's place and bring my bag back? My iPhone's in there and I'd really, really like to record that and post it on YouTube."

"As much as I would like to honor the wish, child, it is the request of Guan Yu that what happens in Tian, stays in Tian." Sun Wukong smiled as his tail flicked behind his back. Wisp could suddenly feel a duffel bag sitting next to her feet. "Then again... what he doesn't know won't hurt him."

"Mr. Sun Wukong, I do indeed possess a question that you might be able to answer. Do you know anything about our opponents and fights? Your viewpoint on the matter would be most enlightening." Myrmidon asked completely honest.

"Likewise, Guan Yu requests that knowledge of competitors be limited to name, place of residence, and fighting style." There was another flick of the tail. "But as one of you has shown some measure of curiosity thus far, I suppose a few more crumbs might help. Your fighters shall be: a man whose mind is more treacherous than his sword; a woman with the storm in her steps; a man who seeks knowledge and fights with strength; a knight with armor that is tricky to remove; and one who bears a grudge of blood, though he does not know it yet."

"I don't suppose you could tell us which of us is gonna fight which of those, huh?"

"Why, where's the fun in that?"

A gong rung out over the dining hall, and at the far end, Cannonade could see workers beginning to clear away the breakfast dishes. "It appears that the time has come," said Sun Wukong. "I shall see you again from the stands of the arena. May strength be with you -- and if it fails, may cunning be close behind."

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Wisp ducked into her duffel bag, looking for her phone, moving a sketchbook and notebook out of the way, until she pulled her phone out. She quickly zipped the bag back up before Morgan could peek inside and see a present she'd planned to give him during their little trip to Boston. "Thank you," she said, imitating almost perfectly John's own bow before shoving the bag under the table.

As the gong sounded, a feeling of dread and thrill of excitement coursed through Vicky as she awaited the first matches.

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"But as one of you has shown some measure of curiosity thus far, I suppose a few more crumbs might help."

Johns' eyes narrowed at that statement fom Sun Wukong, recalling when he met the others this morning. Mister Macayle, Miss Ironclad, and Miss Victoria had said that they slept well. Reconaissance takes time and opportunity. They had neither. John himself thought of doing so, but was concerned that the tournament would take a narrow view of his intelligence gathering. That meant that...Johns' eyes flicked over to Mister Morgan and back to Sun Wukong who gave him a ghost of a smile.

"Your fighters shall be: a man whose mind is more treacherous than his sword; a woman with the storm in her steps; a man who seeks knowledge and fights with strength; a knight with armor that is tricky to remove; and one who bears a grudge of blood, though he does not know it yet."

"Thank you for you time and insight." John said while directing another bow towards the Monkey King as the gong sounded.

John made his way over to be beside Crow, and leaned over to him making sure their conversation was indeed private and not overheard. "Mister Morgan, it would be most helpful if you share the data of your morning reconnaissance with me on the participants that were mentioned so that we can potentially develop a strategy for all of our upcoming bouts."

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Jessica pursed her lips at the Monkey King's cryptic 'advice.' It seemed that magical beings -- a supercategory she put most gods into -- could not give a straight answer. Either that or they found it far too fun to cloak everything in allusion and metaphor. In either case, it quickly grated on her nerves.

The young hero's sullen thoughts were interrupted by the sudden gong. She started and gulped down the glass of OJ at her elbow. Breakfast devoured, she stood and brushed crumbs off her silk shirt. Once she was clean, she touched the slim, silver bracelet on one arm and was covered in a white flash of energy. A second later it dissipated, revealing her armor. She ran through the extended start-up sequence, figuring that she might as well be as prepared as possible.

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Morgan, to his credit, managed to keep a straight face after Sun Wukong gave that rather pointed comment, and even moreso after Myrmidon murmured to him. Finishing his breakfast in record time, he stood and executed a right polite bow to the monkey god, before righting himself and giving a mischevious wink.

"Thanks for the heads-up, we'll make sure you get a heckuva show."

The teen turned to walk towards Wisp, coincidentally passing right by Myrmidon. A quick murmur to him; "We'll talk outside before the bout.", and he was at his girlfriend's side, offering an arm and a grin.

"Too bad we didn't bring a 'Go Team Freedom City' sign. Let's go knock their socks off."

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]The group made its way through the halls of the Extended Net to the main courtyard. The arena rose high, its walls made of jade and white marble. Murmuring could be heard from inside the arena; it seemed the audience had arrived early, and was trading speculation before the match. The other competitors streamed out of the mansion, converging with the group. Time had been allotted for preparation, and now all stood in their costumes and armor, ready for the match.

Guards in crimson held banners pointing the way to a chamber underneath the arena. At the center of the chamber stood one of the boards from yesterday, the one with the names of the 32 competitors. Guan Yu stood before the board, studying it, and turned when all had arrived. "Greetings," he said. "Today begins the first heat of your tournament. 16 matches, back to back to back. The rules are simple -- if you remain down for more than ten seconds, you're out. By decree of the Jade Emperor, all techniques used in the arena shall be non-lethal, and up here, his word is more than law -- it is manifest. You could drive a sword into your competitor's heart and it would merely bruise. But such things aren't sporting, so try to show some restraint. Permanent harm to a competitor is not allowed - no crippling, maiming, or transmutation that lasts longer than a day - and if it is used, you will receive a sanction from the Jade Emperor himself. These things... are not taken lightly. Assuming one of you is stupid enough to try it, our medics will be there to heal any damage to your target." He paused. "If there are no questions, then I believe we shall begin. Take your places when I call off your name, and we shall get you prepared..."

----

Some time later

The individual heroes made their way up through the halls when their name came up. The murmurs of before had become a deafening roar as they emerged into sunlight, greeted by the audience. In the stands they could see heroes, villains, gods, aliens, and stranger beings still. As they took their place, Guan Yu's voice rang out through the arena...

----

"In the eastern quadrant, skilled in the ways of the Iron Drum Beat school... Cannonade, of Freedom City!"

Cannonade stepped forward as cheers went up. Feeling those cries go up bolstered him, even as he wondered what was going to come his way.

"And in the western quadrant, skilled in the ways of the Serpent's Thoughts school... Genardine, of Avalon!"

Cannonade's opponent was an elven woman, clad in red silk accentuated by black leather armguards, chestpiece, and boots. She held a thin rapier in her hand that seemed to catch the sunlight perfectly... but as Cannonade studied it, it seemed the sword blended into the light, like it wasn't even there. An illusion? What's she going to do with that?

The sword became almost manifest again as the fae knight pointed its tip towards Cannonade. "Shall we dance?" she called.

"Any day."

----

"In the eastern quadrant, skilled in the way of the Harnessed Lodestone's Strength school... Ironclad, of Freedom City! And in the western quadrant, skilled in the way of Gatekeeper's Vigilant Armor... Sentinel, of Vancouver!"

A man in black and red Kevlar coupled with combat boots emerged from the other end, his face covered by a black cowl with red across the upper face. He didn't walk, but floated a foot above the ground. He studied Ironclad, as if sizing her up. "Interesting design," he said. "Your own creation, I take it -- the personalized notes add to it. I promise I won't scratch it too badly."

----

"In the eastern quadrant, skilled in the way of the Many Within One school... Myrmidon, of Freedom City! And in the western quadrant, skilled in the way of the Lightning To Tallest Tree school... Windtracer, of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara!

A massive wind cut through the stadium as a blur emerged from the other side of the arena. It came to a standstill a good 50 yards from Myrmidon, an Aborigine woman in a brown and orange bodysuit that covered all but her jaw and her hair. She glanced over to him. "Hope you can keep up," she said in a lilting Australian accent. "Sometimes I don't know my own pace."

----

"In the eastern quadrant, skilled in the way of the Dancing Squadron school... Wisp, of Freedom City! And in the western quadrant, skilled in the way of the Mercy Within Steel school... Silent Vigil, of Seoul!"

A man dressed in a camouflage bodysuit emerged, his sleeves rolled up and his pistol drawn. Wisp could see, even at this distance, that his arms were made of steel -- they looked human enough, and they moved and responded like normal limbs, but they were segmented steel none the less. He looked to her, and cracked a smile. "May the best fighter win."

----

As Crow emerged, his eyes quickly turned to the audience. He was somewhat entranced by the many who'd come out to see him fight... and as he scanned the crowds, his eyes fell on three women sitting close to one another, clad in the same black robe. Could it be...?

"In the eastern quadrant, skilled in the ways of the Words Like Knives school... Crow, of Freedom City! And in the western quadrant, skilled in the way of the Harnessed Maelstrom school... Bres the Beautiful, of Annwn!"

A handsome, red-haired man, clad in tunic and kilt, emerged on the other side. In his hands, he held a red orb that seemed to glow with some sinister flame. He looked on Crow with shock, before his eyes ran up to the audience. "You... I heard the name, and I thought it might be, but I never expected... and I see she's here as well." A malicious smile danced across his face. "Oh, I am going to enjoy this..."

----

"FIGHT!"

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Ironclad stood proud, inadvertently matching Sentinel's pose: back straight, hovering just off the ground, arms loose at her side. In her case though, she didn't need to move her head to observe the entire arena at once. She did give the other superhuman a small nod. "It'll be interesting to see how you fight," she said, "but I hope you won't take too much offense from losing to a junior." She spread her arms and levitated a bit higher into the air, combat program spinning up and offering her options.

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Crow cracked his knuckles, staying on the balls of his feet and eyeing Bres the same way you'd eye a tiger that you'd been flung into a cage with. He then ran through the plan he and Myrmidon had come up with in his head; say what you want about the other student's attitude, he knew his buisness when it came to combat.

Bres the Beautiful. Leader of the Fomorians. Several thousand...make that several hundred thousand years old. Knows more magic and dirty tricks than I ever will. And my dad was going to go up against this guy?! What are my odds here...

Morgan threw out pretty much everything he had planned for dealing with an opponent on par with himself. In hindsight, that had been pretty dumb to do in the first place; he'd taken his own father's spot, and Red Hand was a famous superhero. Figures whoever he'd be thrown up against would be equal to that.

Ok, basics. Like they said in class, always stick to basics. He's got power, and lots of it. Probably'll be overconfident, lots of Fomorians are. Probably'll hit like a freight train too, besides the big magic. So...what are my options?

It would be charitable to say Crow was trying to mentally dissect his opponent, but truth be told it was a mix of that, geeking out over the fact that he'd be fighting a legend, and knee-vibrating terror (although he kept that locked down hard), and thanks to that, he neglected to note the three figures in black on the sidelines. Ok, first job, keep him off-balance. Don't let him think you're afraid. Even though I'm way outmatched. And going to look bad in front of Wisp. And probably get myself killed before I hit eighteen. Yeah, my priorities need work. Focus.

"Sorry, Red Hand's busy; sends his best wishes tho'. And a present, too." Crow indicated his fist. "Come and get it!"

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Myr stood at relaxed attention in his arena, scanning the crowd when the female speedster made her grand entrance.

"Hope you can keep up," she said in a lilting Australian accent. "Sometimes I don't know my own pace."

Thank you for that admission Miss Windtracer, as I hope to exceed your expectations. He said while bowing politely in the Tian style directed towards Guan Yu and the crowd then bowing again towards her.

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With a flash of light, Genardine raced across the marble floor of the arena, her feet barely touching the ground. "You stand tall, soldier," she said. "I would like to see you kneel, if you please."

Cannonade realized in the split second before her word left her mouth that she was attempting to screw with his head. He tried thrusting his hands to his ears, but it was already in his mind. The command tried to bring him to his knees, but it wasn't strong enough. He stared down the approaching fae, who tried bringing herself up to a halt when she saw her words had not had the desired effect. Cannonade closed the distance, however, driving his fist into her stomach. "Sorry, lady," he said, "but I don't take well to orders."

"Then this should be fun," said Genardine.

---

Sentinel levitated above the ground, almost matching Ironclad's altitude. "I've fought younger, I've fought older," he said dispassionately. There was a sound like thunder, and he raced towards Ironclad, almost splitting the air behind him. His fist struck her armor with a sound like a giant bell. "Hubris seems to be a common factor among them."

---

Windtracer was gone in the flash of an eye, and by the time Myrmidon's eyes had adjusted, she was right in his face. "You're not bad," she said... and up close, Myrmidon could see that she was a teenager herself. "I wouldn't be surprised if you got all the ladies." Suddenly, there was an explosion right in his face, as the roar from Windtracer's sudden departure cut through his body. "But you won't get this one!" she called from the other end of the stadium.

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