Tsuwamono

大会の続き

Yamato - 1559年10月20-21日

The second day of the tournament dawned, but before the fights could begin, some local matters still needed to be handled. Tsukijo Hanahane had arrived early in the morning, and Hashinara Katamoto, aided by his generals, was even now meeting with him, Okuni, Prince Frederic, and the Shinsengumi to discuss what must be done.
Katamoto,who was, as usual, portraying himself as Katsusada Shishauezaemon, remained staunch in his belief that, as the new Kobayakawa Hideaki had not acted outside of the laws of the Shogunate, he had no reason to detain or otherwise act upon his character. In return, the Shinsengumi stressed the importance of maintaining the timeline, and expressed their worry on what else Frederic would choose to do should he be allowed to roam free in Tsuwamono-era Japan. Meanwhile, Hanahane fussed over Okuni, and exchanged some respectful fashion tips with the Prince in question somewhere in the corner of the room.
Finally, Katamoto countered that, because Prince Frederic had taken on the role of Kobayakawa Hideaki, perhaps it would be best to let him remain under that name rather than removing said person from history altogether. Though she still had her doubts, Kondou Isami was forced to agree that this did make sense. Eventually, the two groups agreed to allow a trial period in which neither would act upon Hideaki in order to see how he adjusted to his new role as ruler of Bungo. With that issue resolved for the moment, the Shinsengumi thanked Katamoto, and excused themselves to return to Inaba Province, where they were supposedly staying with Kaguya.
Released from the meeting, Hanahane was quick to capture both Prince Frederic and Okuni, taking them with haste to his estate in the noble quarter of Wakigami. His daughter, he exclaimed, would likely have something in Okuni’s size (with some adjustments), and he was more than eager to hear more about the fashion in whatever country it was that Hideaki hailed from.

Returning to the tournament area, Katamoto officially announced the beginning of the second day, which would encompass the fights in the first round of the losers’ bracket, giving those who had been defeated the first day another chance to move forward in the rankings.
First into the ring were Yamanka Yukimori and Tsunawara Mishiko. Both samurai of middling skill, the audience was not sure which one of them would be able to best the other. As the match began, Yukimori rushed forward and attacked, landing a solid blow that nevertheless did not pierce Mishiko’s armor. This attack painted the theme for the rest of the fight. Despite his agility and reasonable strength, Yukimori was simply not able to harm his opponent through her heavy mail. As such, Mishiko eventually wore him down, and won the match.

Second to fight each other were Tanefuji Shinryu, the acclaimed Tea Bucket Man, and Raizou the bandit. As the match began, Shinryu launched his attack with a series of arrows from his bow. Not having any way to fight at range on his own, Raizou ducked behind the rubble covering their bridge arena and began throwing rocks back as he advanced. When the two did eventually clash, with Shinryu now using his katana and Raizou his fists as usual, it quickly became apparent that the samurai was the more skilled of the two. Despite the larger man’s impressive constitution, he was being worn down by Shinryu’s adept strikes.
Not wanting to seriously injure himself, but also unwilling to give up while Joguma-donyo watched from the stands (the two had enjoyed a wonderful night in the entertainment district the day before), Raizou put everything he had into one last attempt on his opponent. Grabbing Shinryu in a huge bear hug, he brought all of his giant stature to bear to throw the samurai off the bridge and into the shallow river below. Although there was not enough water to force Shinryu to try to swim in his armor, the fall nevertheless hurt him quite a bit, though not enough to put him out of the match. Seeing that his had failed, and being close to collapse himself, Raizou ceded the match.

The third match pitted Nanami, the wandering ronin, against Prince “Kobayakawa Hideaki” Frederic, now known to be the official Daimyo of Bungo Province. Their arena saw them fight around the remains of a large, walled structure; likely the ruins of some past civilization here in Yamato. Nanami was quick to use this field to her advantage, kicking off a crumbling pillar in order to land on the top of the wall, then leaping without pause to strike at Hideaki on the other side. To his credit, Prince Frederic saw her coming, and was able to both defend himself from her attack, and prevent her from slipping behind him, despite Nanami’s best efforts.
He had not, however, been prepared for melee combat, and still had his hand crossbow out. Switching to his saber in combat was difficult, but he managed, and the two found themselves in a close-range swordfight. As before, Nanami was unable to move around Hidaki’s skilled guard, but despite her inability to attain a superior position, her strikes were landing with increasing frequency against the Daimyo. Soon, a single strike from her katana shot past Frederic’s guard, cutting a deep gash into his chest and, more importantly, in his uniform.
Not wishing to sustain any more injuries to himself or his expensive clothing, Hideaki conceded the match. He proceeded to leave the arena, dejected that he had lost against a woman with such awful fashion sense.

Muchimaro Masuyo, the Ryuuzouji Bakeneko survivor, faced Yokoji Masamitsu for the fourth match of the first round of the losers’ bracket. Despite Byouyuugan Aika’s cheers for him from the stands, Masamitsu looked less than inspired, and, indeed, was quickly overpowered by his opponent, defeated in a mere matter of seconds. He survived without any permanent wounds, which is the best that could be expected under the circumstances.

The fifth round was a battle between Umashiashikabihikoji, the warrior Kyonshi, and Tsukuda Katsuo, right hand to the leader of the Iga Ninja. The outcome seemed obvious to many observers, as they had seen what Umashiashikabihikoji was capable of upon the battlefield, but Katsuo himself was a wild card, cunning and skilled with techniques beyond the abilities of normal fighters despite his lack of raw power.
As expected, Umashiashikabihikoji began the fight by rushing Katsuo, slashing at him with her crackling claw. What she connected with, however, was no more than a piece of nondescript wood, Katsuo having used his substitution technique to teleport behind her. He proceeded to slam his own ki-infused weapon into her claws, shattering them under the pressure of the attack. Though it would be a simple thing for the Kyonshi to materialize another weapon, she lacked the ki to accomplish it now, and her follow-up attack, while powerful, was no more than a punch, and did little to harm Katsuo.
Under the assault of the ninja’s return attacks, Umashiashikabihikoji’s weakness in defense came to light. Lacking her claws, she was unable to properly block the strikes, and once again Katsuo channeled ki through his weapon, this time breaking the Kyonshi’s arms. After only a few strikes like this, Umashiashikabihikoji was defeated, returning to an inert state on the arena’s floor.

Before the sixth match, a default to Tsutsumi Houzan due to Midorikawa no Moukin-hime‘s retraction from the tournament, Todaisen Nobuhara approached Katamoto. According to the onmyouji head, another participant had appeared, and requested to take the empty slot, fully aware that it would place her in the losers’ bracket. If such a fighter was fine with handicapping herself, Katamoto reasoned, there was no reason not to allow her, and he told Nobuhara as much, indicating his approval for the new arrival to join into the tournament.

With the addition of the new participant, an elegantly-dressed, dark-haired swordswoman with a long, heavy sword on her back, the sixth match was now able to proceed. Her opponent would be Tsutsumi Houzan, self-proclaimed leader of the Yamashiro Vigilante Association and soon-to-be Tea Bucket Man.
As the battle started, with Aotsuki Tsukamoto holding up the round card, the two moved with middling speed toward each other, meeting in the center of the bridge upon which they fought. The swordswoman unsheathed her long nodachi, the gilded, and intricate hilt a stark contrast to the unimpressive, dull blade itself, and made a single strike against Houzan. For her part, the vigilante leader was able to block the majority of the attack with her own weapons, suffering only a minor wound.
Impressed, the swordswoman proclaimed that a fighter like Houzan may indeed be capable of surviving her special technique, and prepared to execute such. Black butterflies materialized and dissipated in the air around her as she swung her heavy blade, first one direction, then, in a complex maneuver, again through the air toward her opponent, the sword leaving a purplish trail of energy as it moved.
Though she tried to block, the attack proved too powerful for Houzan to resist, and there was a collective gasp as the defensive Kensei’s head separated from her shoulders, her body slumping to the ground as it rolled to a stop a short distance away. Disappointed, and chiding herself for thinking that her opponent could survive such an attack, the elegant swordswoman left the arena even as miko rushed forth to collect Houzan’s parts and deliver them to Katamoto for resurrection.
Despite her skill, Tsutsumi Houzan was thus removed from the tournament. She would go on to become a Tea Bucket Man under Baby Huey, and began wearing a scarf to hide the line cleanly encircling her neck.

Second to the last match in the losers’ bracket was Chosokabe Kanetsugu of Tosa fighting Tsuchimi Takasuke of Kawachi. As the round card was raised, Kanetsugu quickly moved up to her opponent, taking a defensive stance before him. In response, Takasuke hefted his nodachi, swinging it in a ponderous attack at the Kyonshi. Before it could land, however, Kanetsugu was already in his guard, turning the power of the strike against him as she flipped his body, slamming him into the ground with such force that his stomach ruptured brutally, a spray of blood rising in parallel with a gasp from the audience. Emergency miko rushed to the site, moving Takasuke from the ring and to the medical tent for the immediate attention required to save his life.

The last match for the day pitted Go-Shirakawa Teishi, Nekomata survivor, against Nakajo Fujikasuke, Tengu general under the Uesugi Clan. Fujikasuke was well aware that, in a match against a caster, her best chance at winning would be to defeat her opponent before she had a chance to accumulate much magic. As such, she shot forward as soon as Aotsuki brought forth the round card, using her birdlike speed to arrive directly in front of Teishi and deliver a solid strike with her quarterstaff.
Teishi’s magical shield held against the assault, but could not entirely protect her, the force of the blow wounding the fragile Nekomata. She responded by casting a spell, focusing on summoning something big and strong to protect her. As the incantation finished, there was a rush of air as a thick, gray-skinned elephant appeared next to the little magician. Though it seemed well ready for battle, the creature was disoriented by its sudden appearance, and did not yet make any move to fight.
Unwilling to battle against what she considered a ridiculous creature, with a nose that was just unacceptable, Fujikasuke returned to attacking Teishi. This time again, the Nekomata’s shields were unable to withstand the full blow of her quarterstaff, and the end slammed into the side of her head, knocking her unconscious. Fujikasuke was declared the winner, even as she stood and stared at the elephant, which began confusedly pattering about the arena.

The day’s fighting being concluded, the crowd dispersed to enjoy the rest of the festival, and the many stalls set up around Wakigami’s mercantile district. As the sounds of merriment washed over the city, the rest of the day passed uneventfully.
Ryuuzaki Sanosuke took the evening to gather several ashigaru serfs, visiting various participants of the tournament and offering their services as manservants for the duration of their stay. Most were happy to agree, and took the ashigaru with them. Okuni raised a fuss, but was soon convinced when Prince Frederic pointed out that the serf carry the shopping when the two of them went to market.
Sanosuke put extra focus, however, in assigning the servants to Minamoto no Yoshitsune, Benkei, the armored swordswoman, and Sasaki Kojiro, setting the stage for one of his many plots. Kojiro was somewhat acerbic, though she answered the questions he set about asking, confirming that she was in the tournament specifically because there was someone she felt she needed to fight. She accepted the serf somewhat begrudgingly, and apologized in advance to Sanosuke if they happened to face each other in the arena.

On the 21st of October, Hashinara Katamoto returned from his underground laboratory to a troubling missive from Todaisen Nobuhara. The most pressing matter was regarding the ships he had ordered from the Nishiuwa Clan of Iyo Province. According to Nishiuwa Matsutake, the Sakurajima Pirates had struck his main shipyards. Under the orders of a woman they called Matasaburo, they occupied and stole the majority of the vessels meant for the Hashinara clan, including the single Tekkosen. The only ships spared were three Atakebune, which were still under construction when the attack took place. These would be delivered on the 23rd as originally agreed.
In addition, the masked swordsman participating in the tournament, long known to be an agent of the Oda Clan or their allies, had requested an audience with Hashinara Yoshiyuki or Katsusada Shishauezaemon at their earliest convenience. Curious about this man’s motives, Katamoto agreed to see him that morning.

As the masked man entered, he sat himself before the Hashinara’s assembled top generals, and introduced himself as Akechi Mitsuhide, general under Oda Nobunaga. Cutting to the crux of the matter, he explained that he was here to deliver an official declaration of war to the Hashinara clan from the Oda due, in part, to their unprovoked attack and murder of Hosokawa Gracia, as well as the related capture of Sen no Rikyu.
Katamoto began by disavowing any involvement in said events, but the other was unconvinced, prompting him to justify his clan’s actions within the context of Oda Nobunaga’s slaying of the Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshikage. Mitsuhide countered that Hosokawa Gracia was merely traveling with an Oda escort, which at no time entered Hashinara territory, in order to claim holdings which legitimately belonged to her, so their actions would be egregious even if their clans were at war. In addition, he explained, Ashikaga Yoshikage was never actually Shogun, and the current holder of the position had pardoned Nobunaga’s actions as being in the best interests of the realm as a whole.
Ryuuzaki Sanosuke interjected, demanding that he explain how Nobunaga’s actions served the realm, but Mitsuhide merely said that he was under no obligation to justify his clan’s actions, nor were the Hashinara under any obligation to defend theirs. With that, he began to excuse himself, but Katamoto interrupted, asking if he had plans to attend the remainder of the tournament. When he agreed that he did indeed plan to stay in Wakigami for the rest of the festival, he was allowed to leave, but Matsumoto Ooawagaeri quickly slipped out behind him.
At first, Ooawagaeri was unable to find Mitsuhide, who had apparently rendered himself invisible just after leaving the room. After a moment, he attempted to detect the other’s ki instead, and was rewarded with a Mitsuhide-shaped silhouette moving down the corridor away from him at speed. Together with Amenotokotachi, Ooawagaeri determined the Oda general’s destination to be the eastern gate of Wakigami, and so magically teleported himself there to intercept Mitsuhide as he arrived.
A short time later, the masked man in question arrived, now visible and moving at a leisurely stroll, and made his way into a stable just outside the gate. Calling for backup over the mental link, Ooawagaeri entered the stable himself, asking Mitsuhide what his business here was. Suddenly acting suspiciously, the masked man proclaimed that he was just here to tend to his horse, to which the other bemasked individual replied that that was Goemon’s horse he was idly petting.
Feigning surprise, Mitsuhide stated that his horse must be missing, and that he would wait here for the stablemaster to ask about it. Ooawagaeri immediately stated that he, too, would wait, under the pretense of caring for Goemon‘s horse. Meanwhile, Amenotokotachi, hidden in the shadows, was scanning the area for any powerful presences, and found one large, fiery, ape-shaped aura hiding under a haystack in the back.
When he received this information, Ooawagaeri flash-froze the needles in the haystack, prompting Saru to burst forth from his hiding place. At the same time, Ishikawa Goemon arrived, brought forth by the summons, and excitedly asked where the evildoers were. Ooawageri responded cryptically, even as he watched Mitsuhide, who was engaged in explaining that the ape was merely here to deliver a message for him, and that they had no intentions of violence within Wakigami.
Soon, Ooawagaeri was engaged in conversation with Goemon about the existence or nonexistence of her horse while they waited for further orders from Katamoto. They had not spoke for more than a minute before Mitsuhide and Saru, who had been standing still and silent for a while, wavered and vanished, leaving just their ki silhouettes visible. Assuming the two to still be there, and finally receiving a message from Katamoto, Ooawagaeri genially invited Mitsuhide to a party they were about to hold at the castle, to celebrate Hosokawa Gracia’s recovery.
There was, however, no response from Mitsuhide. Goemon, in contrast, was very excited at the prospect of a party, and demanded that she be brought along as well. With their ki silhouettes unmoving, Katamoto eventually determined that he would not act on Mitsuhide at this time, and he could come to the party if he wished, and thus recalled Ooawagaeri and Goemon to join in the festivities.
Shortly after they left, Baby Huey arrived on the scene, having also been called in case a fight broke out. Not finding anyone there, and not receiving any further instructions, he grumpily stood guard at the gate, bullying travelers and searching carts passing through to keep himself entertained.

Back at the castle, Hashinara Katamoto had hatched a plan to bring Hosokawa Gracia back to his side. Inviting many of the important dignitaries and his most favored generals to the audience chamber for a party, he then retired to his laboratory with the fallen general’s body. Using the dark magics residing within him, he raised Gracia as an undead creature, restoring her memories and personality, but not her soul. The ghost of Ichinomiya Karen, who had been on standby, then cast her own illusory magic, replacing Gracia’s memories with versions more beneficial to the Hashinara clan.
In this version of her life, Hosokawa Gracia had been good friends with Hashinara Yoshiyuki since childhood. When her contingent was passing through Yamashiro Province, they had been attacked by the forces of Harizono Yoshinatsu, and then saved by the Hashinara Clan’s army. She had been badly wounded in the battle, but owed Katsusada Shishauezaemon and the Hashinara as a whole her life, and had pledged her loyalty to the clan shortly before dropping into unconsciousness. In addition, Katamoto requested that she be made to believe that this day, the 21st, was her birthday, as it was in a sense the “birth” of the new Gracia.
As she woke, Katamoto assured her that she had been healed, and also that a celebration had been arranged for her birthday in the castle. Though disoriented, Gracia seemed happy to see Shishauezaemon, whom she recognized as an old acquaintance, and went with him to the audience chamber.
There, the assembled dignitaries greeted and introduced themselves to her, including Matsumoto Ooawagaeri, who arrived shortly after with Goemon in tow. Sen no Rikyu appeared quite surprised that Gracia was now alive and moving again, and she quickly cast a spell to scan her being. Understanding immediately what Katamoto had done, she seemed willing to play along, and greeted the risen woman, congratulating her on her birthday.
Still confused, but happy to see everyone here for her, especially Yoshiyuki-hime, Gracia sat in her place of honor and enjoyed the party. The festivities were just beginning to rise when an ageing man, bearing a variety of cats on his person and with his arms full of sake bottles, burst through the door and joined in. Katamoto had had some dealings with this strange man, who seemed able to effortlessly arrive anywhere he wished, regardless of security, but he seemed harmless, and mostly interested in spreading joy and cats to those around him.
Okuni, however, immediately recognized the man, and fell backwards from her seat in surprise. The serene cat man, as it was revealed, was actually Nurarihyon, missing leader of the Hyakki Yagyo. He ignored all of the Hitotsume’s requests for him to return, however, and merely focused on enjoying the party with everyone, only stopping to ask Okuni not to tell Hitotsume-nyudo about his location or activities, as he’d be sure to get an earful later if she did.

Some time after the party had concluded, the tournament was ready to resume. First to face each other in the second round of the primary bracket were the mysterious armored swordswoman and Nakajo Kageyasu, the other Tengu general from the Uesugi. As before, Kageyasu began the fight by vanishing into the foliage about the arena, preparing for a sneak attack. Finding herself unable to track her opponent, the armored swordswoman stepped forward, drew her weapons, and closed her eyes, her breathing steady.
When Kageyasu flew from behind a rock, slamming her tonfa down onto her unaware opponent, the swordswoman’s ki reacted immediately, gathering at the site of the impact and absorbing the damage harmlessly before vanishing. She then turned and, with one, two quick slices, cut the Tengu from the air and sent her to the ground, unconscious.

The second fight pitted Baby “Babs” “Tea Bucket” “Nagatobimaru” Huey against Joguma-donyo, another Oni. Despite Huey’s size and obvious advantage in terms of resilience, the two seemed about evenly matched in strength, and, as they clashed, their blows shook the very earth when they connected. While Joguma-donyo had no problem slamming her umbrella into Huey at every opportunity, he was having a much harder time damaging his opponent. Any swings of his mighty kanabou that she did not block outright seemed to crash harmlessly off of her heavy armor. Though he managed to wound her more than her previous opponent, it became obvious that he would not be able to defeat this opponent, and so Baby Huey surrendered, giving respect to Joguma-donyo’s strength in combat.

Third in the second round of the primary bracket was Minamoto no Yoshitsune, facing Okuni of the Hyakki Yagyo. As in her previous match, Okuni began by teleporting away as Yoshitsune reached her, hiding in the nearby brush and waiting for an opportunity to strike. As the Kensei entered the foliage in an attempt to find her opponent, Okuni slammed her umbrella down forcefully on her head, inflicting a minor wound upon Yoshitsune before teleporting away once again. This time, however, upon landing lightly on the ground, her shoe came down upon a twig, cracking it and alerting her opponent to her position. Okuni was unable to move again before Yoshitsune was upon her, slashing three times with her glowing sword. Even as she held back her full strength, however, the Kensei’s strikes were too powerful, and, at the end of the barrage, Okuni lay on the ground, killed from the final blow.
Devastated by her accidental murder, Yoshitsune fell to the ground, lamenting Okuni’s death. Meanwhile, Hakutaku, well aware of what the death of Hitotsume-nyudo’s second daughter could mean for the Hashinara clan, gathered her energy and began to cast a spell reversing time in the girl’s immediate vicinity. Kobayakawa Hideaki, who had rushed out to weep over Okuni’s corpse, was the only other one affected as time reversed itself and Okuni was brought back to life mid-dodge.
She fell to the ground awkwardly and, as Ippondatara calmly explained what had happened, immediately withdrew from the fight, rattled by the knowledge that she had died moments earlier.

Before the fourth match could start, Aotsuki Tsukamoto was approached by Byouyuugan Aika, one of the upcoming fighters, who wanted to be swapped with Ryuuzaki Sanosuke so that she could fight Ooawagaeri. Finding it hard to resist such a charming and beautiful woman, Aotsuki happily agreed that he would do whatever he could, and the two sought out Todaisen Nobuhara, who arranged the tournament brackets. Nobuhara, similarly, found himself rather enchanted by the lovely Nekomata, and assented without hesitation to change the brackets.
He then made his way to Katsusada Shishauezaemon, and informed him of the change, stating that a clerical error had created a situation in which two Hashianara generals were to fight each other, and that Sanosuke should be switched with Aika in order to avoid this situation. Perplexed at this development, and perhaps more surprised that Nobuhara would make such an error, Katamoto inquired further, prompting the onmyouji head to explain in more depth. Sanosuke, also present, was staunchly against the idea of Ooawagaeri fighting Aika, as he had seen what she had done to Yokoji Masamitsu in her first match, and had presumably done to Nobuhara just moments ago.
Unable to find magic on his adviser, but doubting his motives nonetheless, Katamoto decided to uphold the current status quo against the change, under the justification that the brackets had already been announced, and it would not do to deceive the audience. Bowing, Nobuhara returned to Aika, and delivered the bad news. As enthralling as he found the woman, he was unwilling to go against a direct order from his lord for her.

Thus it was that Ippondatara and Byouyuugan Aika prepared to face each other in the fourth round. Before the fight could start, Aika began accumulating magic, in direct opposition to the rules. The illusory magic that cloaked her, however, made this impossible to observe, and indeed, caused it to appear as though Ippondatara was the one accumulating. Though Katamoto was able to see through the first illusion, and catch the Nekomata gathering magic, none of the other magically inclined individuals present were able to see anything, and he decided not to interfere.
Aika then cast a spell on Ippondatara preventing her from speaking the truth in any way. After a few false starts, the Youkai began pouting, while her golem, #12 spoke on her behalf, understanding his mistresses’ feelings through their empathic link. At this point, it was obvious that something was wrong, as Aika was eagerly and passionately accusing her opponent of cheating, while the golem denied such accusations.
Eventually, Katamoto, pretending it to be a message from Yoshiyuki-hime, ordered a halt to the fight, and stated that they would resume in an hour’s time, during which they would be carefully monitored by the greatest magical minds present at the tournament. Shortly after, he was also advised by Hakutaku that she had detected Aika changing everyone’s perceptions, and also by Sen no Rikyu, who consulted her tea leaves and came to the conclusion that Aika was skilled in Illusion magic, while Ippondatara had no such ability.
Katamoto stood by his command, despite Aika’s continued and increasingly frenzied accusations, which only stopped once #12 pointed out that such persistence in the face of a direct order from the Daimyo was itself suspicious. The tournament then went to the next round.

While the previous match had yet to be decided, the fifth fight was between Hakutaku and the pale martial artist, Jijage Koukou. As in her previous bout, Hakutaku sat calmly on her starting ring, seemingly meditating with her eyes closed, while Koukou rushed forward to attack. The martial artist probed her opponent’s defenses, each of her attacks thwarted by a magical shield which healed itself after every combination of blows.
Koukou then attempted to move behind Hakutaku and, finding no resistance, launched another flurry from there, hoping to catch the Youkai girl off guard. The shield surrounding her seemed to act independently of Hakutaku, however, and caught each blow effortlessly, preventing any harm from coming to the spellcaster, then repairing itself immediately.
After three such exchanges, Hakutaku finally turned and rose her staff, bright wisps of light shining from the head, then moving to envelop Koukou. When the flash died away, the martial artist was gone, seemingly vanished entirely.
Hakutaku went on to try to explain to the referee that Koukou had been sent several hours into the future, was unharmed, and would be back well in time for her next fight. Aotsuki, however, had some trouble with this concept. If the martial artist was several hours in the future, then where was she now? A minor debate erupted and, after a few attempts at explanation, Hakutaku eventually gave up, going back to meditating with a frown on her tiny face. After an offering from Sen no Rikyu, stating that the situation was no different from Hakutaku knocking her opponent unconscious for several hours, Katamoto agreed, and the match was decided in the Youkai girl’s favor.

Fujibayashi Nagato was next, and was scheduled to fight Akechi Mitsuhide. The masked man, however, failed to show at the venue. After some questions and a short time of waiting, the victory defaulted to Nagato.

Second to last in the original layout of the second round in the primary bracket was a much-anticipated battle between Benkei, wandering monk, and Huolian, Chinese magician. Like she had done in her match with Takasuke, Huolian began the fight by flying upward at speed. Benkei had, apparently, came prepared for this, however, and produced a huge longbow, as tall as her own self, as well as an accompanying buckler which she strapped to her arm. She then began firing arrows at an alarming rate, averaging one projectile a second up at Huolian, who was rapidly disappearing into the distance.
Each arrow hit home, but was deflected by Huolian’s shields, which she was forced to pour magic into at one point to prevent them from breaking. No matter how high the wizard ascended, it seemed that Benkei had no trouble matching her range, pulling back the bowstring of the massive weapon further than seemed humanly possible. Huolian returned the attack with a fireball of her own, but the missile splashed harmlessly off of Benkei’s buckler, raised to receive the attack.
After some time, it became a concern whether Huolian was actually still within bounds of the arena, as she had flown to almost a thousand feet in the air. One of Benkei’s arrows had caught her a significant wound, but she was still fit to continue fighting. Katamoto, once questioned, set the limit at a thousand feet upward, and both Baby Huey and Benkei made every attempt to convey this to Huolian before she ascended too far, but she proved unable to hear them from that far up.
Fortunately, she stopped just before hitting the limit, and flew above Benkei, gathering all her energy for a single massive fireball. The conflagration hit the monk’s shield, splashing around it, and singing Benkei, though not seriously wounding her. This huge spell meant, however, that Huolian had little magic left for her shield, and the third of Benkei’s next arrow barrage broke the barrier, shooting through the fragile wizard and killing her instantly.
As she saw her opponent falling, Benkei kicked off from the ground herself, flying under the power of her ki up to catch Huolian, then slowing both their descents gradually until they reached the ground. Upon finding her opponent dead, Benkei gravely set her down, held a length of prayer beads, and muttered a request to the gods for Huolian’s soul. The match was decided, and Katamoto ordered the wizard’s corpse to be recovered and prepared for transport back to China.

As soon as the match between Benkei and Huolian had been decided, Katamoto gave a surprise order for the battle between Ippondatara and Aika to begin early, Aotsuki grabbing the crowd’s attention with a flurry of round cards. #12 was quick to act, bursting forward in a surprising turn of speed to rush up to Aika. The Nekomata, meanwhile, was telling Aotsuki that Ippondatara had surrendered, a statement which he felt magically inclined to believe. The scene in front of him, however, with #12 punching Aika into unconsciousness, then holding up her body, seemed to contradict that, however, and so her refrained from giving any verdict until the confusion could be resolved.
His mistress still under Aika’s spells, #12 gave an ultimatum that, if the Hashinara could not find a way to undo them in two days, all the Youkai of the Hyakki Yagyo would descend upon the Nekomata. Katamoto was, fortunately, able to simply drain Aika of her remaining magic, leaving no fuel for her enchantments, and clearing a number of spells from the arena that no one had been aware of.
Ippondatara thanked him, now able to express herself properly again, and made a point of the fact that she had not killed the Nekomata, despite having great justification in doing so. Sen no Rikyu advocated the death of Aika nonetheless, as such an individual would be very dangerous regardless of circumstances, but Katamoto refused. He ordered the Nekomata to be taken away, and assigned a Kyonshi to keep her at very low levels of ki, forcing her to remain asleep until he had time to deal with her.

This now settled, the last fight of the round was to be between Matsumoto Ooawagaeri and Ryuuzaki Sanosuke. Not wanting Ooawagaeri to fall into the loser’s bracket, where he might still face Aika, Sanosuke moved forward, messaging his opponent mentally that he would be glad to throw the match in a spectacular way. Ooawagaeri, however, responded in the negative, desiring a true fight between the generals, an a real show for the audience. Indeed, the women in the audience, hearing part of the exchange, and admiring the men’s sweat-soaked and muscled bodies, seemed very eager to watch the match. Even Tsukijo no Yumeno, who had taken over as round girl to allow Aotsuki a break, seemed very interested in the chemistry between the two, watching them intently.
Ooawagaeri then leaped backwards, his weapons floating slowly around him, and kicked up a great wind, sending the sand before him bursting into the air in a screen that obscured vision. Sanosuke responded by bursting through the small sandstorm, rushing Ooawagaeri and grabbing the heavy ram dao sword which circled him slowly, bringing it to bear and cutting his opponent a minor wound.
Ooawagaeri teleported away from the conflict, reappearing on his enemy’s starting disk, and floating two body lengths into the air, arms crossed before him. Sanosuke, seeing that his opponent had vanished, brought forth his great strength, and ripped Ooawagaeri’s own starting disk from the ground, hurling the heavy stone plate at him. Though he attempted to block with his katana, Ooawagaeri was not prepared for such a projectile, and the leaden plate slammed into him, wounding him further and knocking him slightly off balance. He recovered quickly, however, and took a defensive stance as he accumulated more magic.
Not wasting any time, Sanosuke leaped forward, onto the rock on which the referee stood, and scooped Yumeno into his arms, calling out a challenge to Ooawagaeri to fight him while he held the girl, expertly dropping into the role of the villain for the fight.
Ooawagaeri responded by retrieving his fallen ram dao, the weapon flying across the arena to join those floating around him, and resuming his defensive stance, daring Sanosuke to attack him.
For his part, Sanosuke kicked off the rock, shifting the “fainted” Yumeno (who seemed only too pleased to go along with the flow of the match) to his shoulders while he picked up the fallen starting disk once again. As before, Ooawagaeri found his katana woefully unequipped to block the heavy circle, and the disk crashed into him, bringing him closer to the brink of defeat. Before it had hit the ground, however, he descended quickly, swinging his blade in an arc designed to hit Sanosuke’s shoulder around Yumeno, whom he had once again moved to his front like a shield.
In a sudden flash of insight, Sanosuke saw that the swing was unwieldy, and would connect with Yumeno herself if he let it continue, and so turned quickly, the attack glancing harmlessly off his back armor. Ooawagaeri followed the attack with another teleport, appearing behind a crumbling stone wall on the other side of the arena and using it as cover. As another stone disk struck it, however, hurled by Sanosuke opposite, the mortarless structure crumbled, crashing down on Ooawagaeri, who dodged out of the way of the worst of the stones, but still received a painful wound that made moving difficult.
He stood, and found that Sanosuke had vanished while he was distracted, likely hiding somewhere on the battlefield. Heavily wounded, and unable to devise a strategy to turn the fight around, Ooawagaeri lowered his head and announced his defeat.
Sanosuke appeared from behind the referee’s rock, and replaced Yumeno upon it, who miraculously woke from her faint just in time to announce the results of the match. With a declaration that they would meet again, Ooawagaeri flew backwards out of the arena, arms crossed at his front as his weapons spun around him.

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