This is pretty much straight up ripped from the 2003 show's "Big Brawl part 2 and 3 episodes," so I own nothing.

Usagi had wanted this fight … in a way. When he'd told the young kame his "feeling was mutual" about not "going up against you if I can help it," he'd meant during this competition. If he would lose, it was likely to be to this kame. Usagi did not wish to lose. Yet, he "did" wish to test himself against Leonardo, just outside the competition, when neither of them would end the other's hopes of winning the Battle Nexus Championship.

He also would have preferred meeting Leonardo at the competition's end. To have entered the final circle of battle, here, together, would have been a great honor for them both. Instead, they'd ended up pitted against each other after just one battle with another opponent.

No matter. In another three years, there would be another Battle Nexus Championship. Hopefully, he and this kame would not be pitted against each other again so soon then too. Let this test against "Leonardo" be all he'd hoped for now.

Usagi smiled. Their match was turning into just that. He was seeing not only how skilled "Leonardo san" truly was, but how skilled "he" himself was.

He had seen during their encounter with the dishonorable assassins that the kame could fight off a few of them by himself, for a few moments at least. Leonardo had grabbed the first weapon he could to fight back with. The kame's obvious discomfort handling the quandoa had disturbed Usagi.

Wielding one's weapon in battle must feel as natural as moving one's own fingers. It was a matter of life and death. Usagi knew that well.

Seeing Leonardo fight with his own, returned swords, caused the Ronin to worry far less for him. Indeed, he worried for himself now. Who knew he'd meet a kame so fast of feet, so swift of sword, so honorable in battle, this fine day? The rabbit smiled to himself again. The Battle Nexus is full of surprises.

They were in close, striking their swords against each other's. The kame was looking fine, barely warming up. Usagi was impressed. He'd be tired for other bouts, if he even won this one. Theirs had gone on longer than any of the other's around them if his ears heard right. Still ... Usagi almost wished theirs could continue far longer.

While Leonardo had his focus on his blades to see who would overpower the other in their cross of and press into them, or who would maneuver cleverly out of the lock (Usagi was watching for the same thing), the kame's head jerked up. Usagi saw Leonardo's eyes widen. The kame pulled away. He turned from Usagi, exposing his weak spots to him, his side, and then his back. Even if the latter was covered by a shell, this was inexcusable behavior for one so well trained!

Yet … his opponent's face. Leonardo was grimacing in pain. He shook his head like he was trying to clear it, scowled over his shoulder.

Usagi's own eyes widened. This was not a lapse in judgement on his opponent's part. This was trust! Another, more pressing enemy attacked the kame. A wound?

Usagi froze. Had he caused this? Fear coursed through him. His memory raced to catch up with it. He relaxed only a hair when it did so.

No ... No. He had not cut Leonardo. He was sure of it! Nor had he delivered a hard enough blow for this reaction. And the rules, the safety guards … Yet, still the kame staggered before him even now! Usagi's mouth fell open.

Like an arrow, a thought cut through his mind. The assassins … Somehow, they have struck again, and succeeded! No ...

Then it happened. Leonardo dropped his swords, the ones he'd been fighting so well with, the ones he had smiled so wide at seeing again in the Pavilion of Past Champions. This was serious indeed. His opponent then turned to him. "Usagi!"

The rabbit's mouth fell open. The kame he'd met such a little while ago called out to him like a trusted friend. He supposed he was. He had just saved his life most likely, and they had talked, and been enjoying this bout together, but he didn't expect to be called to for more help so soon. And, in truth, this seemed the worse situation.

At least before, he could see the weapons coming at, and block or destroy them for, Leonardo. He now saw a change happening in his new friend, but not its cause. How could he help him?

Yet, perhaps because the walls around them blocked out all others save the crowd in the stands, Leonardo now called to his opponent, him. "I ... I ..." The kame reached up his three-fingered hand to reach over his own shoulder as his other hand hung lax at his side, then he stumbled toward him, and collapsed.

Usagi's large ears heard the gasps of the crowd and a clearer and nearer shout of "My son!" His heart clenched at the latter sound. He leaned over the prone body and spoke gently, "Leonardo san ..."

Usagi knew some proud warriors did not like to be aided without their permission given first. There was no response from Leonardo at all. The Samurai moved forward anyway. He could no longer afford to wait.

Usagi knelt and began to turn the shelled body over. The Gyoji appeared as he did so. The rule stater addressed him. "Warrior, what has happened here?"

Usagi looked up briefly to answer. "Something is terribly wrong!" He then went back to turning over and then checking Leonardo. He bent his head over the shell-covered chest. He curved his ears to cup around any sound coming from it.

He hadn't heard any breathing from Leonardo since he'd spoken, but surely the shell over his chest might be ... Yes, he could hear it now, but it did little to comfort him. "Hmmm … his breathing is shallow."

The Gyoji's voice sounded harsh to the rabbit. "This warrior will require a healer at once."

Usagi could not agree more if the Gyoji had told him "Samurai should always live with honor."

The Gyoji went on in an even harsher, louder voice, "The match will be nullified pending a thorough investigation into this incident."

The Gyoji was scowling at him. Usagi carefully lifted his head to meet the rule-keepers gaze. He even more carefully lifted Leonardo's form to hang over his shoulder. He took the Gyoji's nullifying the match and suspicion in stride. He couldn't concentrate on another match anyway, not with Leonard's life ending or being saved in the healer's pavilion nearby. He did not wish to be declared winner when their bout had ended like this either. An assassin had tried to kill Leonardo, not give "him" an honorable victory. Even if this had been their aim, he would not have accepted going further in the competition under those circumstances.

What scared him the most was the possibility the Gyoji would concentrate on "him" as the main suspect in his investigation. This concerned him for two reasons. 1. It could allow the true assassins to escape. 2. It could prevent him from doing what his honor bid him do.

As he lifted the large kame up, he made his position known. "Very well, but I insist you let me accompany him to the healer's pavilion."

If the Goyji's suspicion had been obvious, it was little compared to that of the next to join them. The landing was loud for a ninja's, the voice too. "And I insist you get your paws off my brother!"

Usagi looked up with widened eyes. Here indeed was another kame. This one wore purple, carried a boe staff, and was a different shade of green than Leonardo, but the snarl on his face made it even more obvious to Usagi this kame "was" family to Leonardo san. It also told him this brother of his friend blamed him for Leonardo's condition.

Usagi was careful to keep his eyes meeting those behind the purple mask. He stepped forward carefully while aiding the bigger creature he supported in moving forward too. In doing so, he left his soft belly and head exposed to the newcomer's weapon. He spoke softly to him also. "Please, I only wish to help Leonardo."

Leonardo rallied. Perhaps the voice of his brother had given him the strength to do so. He tried to disentangle himself from Usagi.

The Ronin was afraid this meant Leonardo had changed his mind about wanting his assistance. This concerned him. He was still closest to the ailing warrior and Leonardo was still weak, but he stepped back in respect. After all, Leonardo's brother was here. He could not fault the warrior for preferring hands of family over the hands of a new friend.

Leonard lifted his head just enough to look his brother's direction. His voice came out surprisingly strong for his earlier shallow breathing. Still, his movements were so slow and ungraceful it made Usagi wince. Leonardo had been so perfect in movement during their bout and their fight with the assassins, when he wasn't awkwardly using a weapon not his own. His new friend's words startled him now. "Don, it's alright."

Usagi's eyes widened slightly. Leonardo was defending him? Any fight between them would delay his care and possibly catch him in the middle. Still, it was another sign of trust in him. It also took strength to fight through whatever pain and weakness Leonardo might be feeling to deliver those words. As if to prove his point, Leonardo slumped over again. Usagi moved forward to catch him. So, did his brother ... this ... "Don." They were assisted to the healer's pavilion. And Usagi was glad.

This was not the way he'd expected his time in the Battle Nexus Championship to go. He'd expected many honorable fights, maybe not so honorable ones too considering what Draco had done some years before. The chance to see old acquaintances and relive old memories had also drawn him. Making a new friend "had" been a possibility. He admitted to himself, though, "winning" had seemed more likely. Old contestants returned far more often than new ones were added. His skills had strengthened since the last Battle Nexus Championship. Not to mention, not everyone Usagi met became his friend.

His duty, though, now, was clear. He must abandon any idea of further competition this year, let alone winning. Not only did his honor demand he protect and aid Leonardo san now, his heart, mind, and spirit demanded he do the same. This warrior's life was worth more than a thousand Battle Nexus championships.

If Leonardo "had" to fall this day, even forever (and Usagi's heart was bitter at the thought) the Samurai would not have wanted his own day to have turned out any other way. He counted himself lucky to have met, fought with, and fought against Leonardo san. Though it would be the briefest friendship he'd ever had, it would also have been one of the best.

I just discovered there are far, far too few pieces honoring Leonardo and Usagi's great friendship in the 2003 series. I'm trying to remedy that in my own small way. :)

God Bless

ScribeofHeroes