A Midsummer Night's Beauty, Part II: Queen of Extreme
by rkOujirou

Author's note: This story is a continuation on the Ranma 1/2 anime, including the OVA's and movies. Therefore, keep in mind that anything exclusive to the manga hasn't happened in this story.

Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 is not my idea, it was created by a very talented manga artist named Rumiko Takahashi. The only characters I'll claim are my own original characters that I've added into this story. Just so you know.


Chapter 8

On a tree-covered mountainside of Japan, a red-haired girl with a pigtail felt beads of sweat running down her face as she swung her limbs against the air, warming herself up for a critical task she'd decided to undertake.

"I guess I ain't been a girl much lately, have I?" she said to herself.

It had been seven long days of scrounging together meals. Seven days of training only with her father. Seven days of trying to make amends with her girlfriend while avoiding the one subject the girlfriend in question wanted to address. Seven days of the girlfriend in question ignoring her as a result. And that, the girl felt, was seven days too many. It was time to step things up a notch.

*rustle rustle*

Hearing sounds coming from a nearby bush, the pigtailed girl noticed a large panda staring in her direction.

"Are you going, Ranma?" a sign the panda held up read.

"I got to, Pop," he said. "I can't let things keep goin' like this with me and Shampoo."

Genma flipped the sign over. "You might die."

"Yeah," Ranma agreed, jumping around as he continued to get used to the lighter body of his girl form, "...but a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do."

Seemingly touched, the panda walked over to Ranma and put its paw on his shoulder, holding up a sign that read, "You make your father proud."

Ranma shot his father a skeptical look. "What is it ya want?"

Genma flipped his sign over, displaying the request, "Bring me some of her food."

The pigtailed girl grabbed the sign and chucked it against the panda's face hard enough that it stuck there.

"It's always about food with you, ain't it? Just remember, this is your fault too, so you gotta help me," Ranma cracked his knuckles, re-focusing himself on the task at hand. "Alright, Shampoo. Let's do this."

Meanwhile, over at the campsite, Shampoo was seated on a log with a plate of assorted food items including some rice, vegetables, and fish she'd caught in the stream. It was a simple meal, but she hadn't felt much motivation to cook anything elaborate over the past week. She'd come here to train with the man she loved, and yet she'd spent the whole time training on her own. Normally she'd be elated to prepare and enjoy a meal during her breaks, but she hadn't even cracked a smile since her first day out here. At the moment, much like during her other meals throughout the week, the melancholy martial artist was spending much of her time randomly poking her chopsticks down onto her plate without eating much.

Shampoo's mind was obviously elsewhere. She missed being close to Ranma. Badly. There was an issue between them that needed to be clarified though, and Ranma was the one who needed to clarify it.

The young Amazon girl may have been upset with her pigtailed boyfriend, but not once over the course of the week did she consider leaving and going back to the restaurant by herself. She was going to wait for him no matter how long it took.

"Stupid Ranma," Shampoo grumbled to herself. "Why you no can just talk to Shampoo?"

The lavender-haired girl's eyes went wide with surprise as she suddenly felt her plate full of food and chopsticks disappear from her hands. Hearing something land in a nearby tree, she looked up and was less than enthused to see girl-type Ranma standing on a branch with her food in-hand.

"Yo," Ranma rudely greeted her, stuffing a piece of fish in his mouth.

"Ranma..." Shampoo stood up and leered at the red-haired girl. "You give Shampoo food back."

"Nah, don't think so," Ranma brazenly refused, eating another bite.

This was definitely not the sort of exchange Shampoo wanted to have with Ranma, and the shaking of her fists in anger was a telling sign of that.

"Shampoo say you give that back!"

The Amazon warrior would have none of this behavior as she leaped up into the tree to go after him. Ranma had no intention of waiting around, though. Still keeping hold of the plate, the pigtailed martial artist began hopping from tree to tree in the opposite direction to get away.

"Whoa, now she's mad!" Ranma joked.

Unlike the fleeing redhead, Shampoo found none of this amusing and pulled out a pair of throwing knives from the pack on her waist.

Ranma glanced back at his pursuer and quickly became aware of the imminent threat.

"Crap, she's serious!"

Holding nothing back, Shampoo took aim and threw one of the knives right toward the back of Ranma's head.

Ranma landed safely on a large tree branch and veered his head to the side to avoid the dangerous object. It was a short-lived relief, however, as the branch he was standing on was hit with the other knife, breaking it away from the tree and sending it and Ranma plummeting to the ground. The first knife Shampoo threw turned out to only be a distraction while she used the second one to sever the branch below his feet.

Luckily, Ranma managed to land safely on the ground, and without spilling any food from the plate. "Whadya know? Guess all that work at the restaurant helped after all."

There was little time to celebrate before the pigtailed girl's danger sensors began going off. Very reminiscent of their training a week ago, she turned around with barely enough time to see Shampoo soaring downward from the trees above.

With his nimble girl form, Ranma parried Shampoo's fist and hopped to the side. Shampoo had no intention of following through with her attack, though. Retracting her arm, the cunning warrior sprung off the ground and launched herself at her boyfriend.

Ranma hadn't seen Shampoo this serious in a long time. She came at him relentlessly with fierce kicks and heavy punches, appearing set on teaching him a lesson for stealing her food. Having to hold onto the plate was limiting Ranma's ability to counter, but as it turned out he really didn't need it. His girl form's speed was as impressive as ever. No matter what Shampoo threw at him, Ranma was avoiding it, albeit not by a lot.

"That girl body too fast!" an increasingly frustrated Shampoo thought.

And that wasn't her only problem. She was getting more and more upset with Ranma, and the more she lost her cool, the more likely she was to get careless.

"That's right," Ranma thought to himself, "...just a little more..."

Shampoo could see that her current pattern wasn't working and opted to make an adjustment. Taking Ranma's lack of a free hand into consideration, she began moving in closer before attacking.

The agile pigtailed girl was nearly slammed into oblivion by the first wave of Shampoo's tweaked offense. The young woman's fists were now catching some strands of her hair as they flew by.

"Pretty good!" Ranma grinned. If he continued to face forward and try to avoid her attacks at this range, he was going to get caught eventually, he realized. Thankfully, his pursuer was almost right where he wanted her.

Not too flattered by the compliment, to say the least, Shampoo was practically growling as she continued her assault. "Why Ranma do this?"

Flashing her a smile, Ranma took to the air again and landed on one of the tree branches above.

"Ranma!" Shampoo snarled, following him without a second thought.

This time, however, Ranma wasn't planning on running away. Grabbing the plate with his teeth, he instead used the branch to spring downward and directly at his incoming girlfriend.

Shampoo had gotten sloppy. She'd chased the red-haired girl into the air without preparing for any sort of attack. With her being caught off-guard and Ranma's mid-air combat prowess being one of his greatest strengths, this situation was simply not in her favor. She was only able to begin getting a counter ready by the time Ranma had reached her, leaving her completely vulnerable.

It was lucky for Shampoo that Ranma wasn't an enemy. Rather than attack her, he grabbed her out of the air and took her into his arms. Then, once he touched ground, he took the stunned Amazon girl and hopped up into the air again, bouncing off of a large branch and over several other trees before finally landing in a spot next to the stream running through the mountain.

Ranma stood up with Shampoo in his arms, smiling down at her with the plate still clenched in his teeth, but that smile wouldn't last long as the once more agitated girl wrapped her hands around his throat and began squeezing.

"RANMA~~!"

*yawn*

Picking up on the sound of someone yawning next to them, Shampoo spun her head around and found something quite unexpected.

Next to the stream was a large beach umbrella and a white lounge chair that would usually be seen at a pool. And there standing beside the chair stood Genma in his panda form, unenthusiastically flapping an over-sized leaf up and down to emulate a fan.

Batting her eyes at the puzzling sight, Shampoo loosened the grip on Ranma's ailing windpipe.

"What this?" she asked.

His face still showing the effects of Shampoo's death grip, Ranma laid her down on the chair and took the plate out of his mouth, gasping for air.

"Jeez, did ya have to choke me like that?" he coughed, taking a few moments to gather himself. "This is to make up for me bein' an idiot this week, alright?"

Digging the chopsticks into the food dish, Ranma grabbed a piece of fish and held it out near Shampoo's mouth.

"Here."

While Shampoo could see that Ranma was trying to make amends with her, she felt that this wasn't enough to erase everything that had happened. Folding her arms, she ate the food from the chopsticks and then defiantly looked away from the pigtailed girl.

"Ranma think you treat Shampoo nice and all better?" she asked him accusingly.

"Nah, this probably ain't enough," he admitted, offering her another bite from the dish. "So tell me what it's gonna take, Shampoo. I'm listenin'."

Genma decided to take the opportunity to stop and give his arms a rest since his son's girlfriend didn't seem overjoyed by the gesture. The look she gave him as soon as he stopped made him think otherwise, though.

"Shampoo no say you stop fan," she told him. With a sad groan, the panda resumed its leaf-waving duties.

The lavender-haired girl, who seemed to be making herself comfortable despite her protests, ate the next bite Ranma was offering and laid back in the chair.

"Shampoo want same thing as before," she said to him. "You tell Shampoo why you no want do couple thing."

The request didn't surprise Ranma in the least. It was going to be embarrassing, but he was going to have to give her an answer.

"Fine, you really wanna know?" he asked, taking a seat next to her on the chair. "It ain't 'cause I don't like ya, Shampoo. It's the exact opposite."

Shampoo raised an eyebrow at him. "What you talking?"

Ranma's embarrassment was starting to show as his cheeks took on a reddish color. For a tough guy like him, talking about this sort of thing wasn't easy.

"It's 'cause I really like ya, okay?" the pigtailed girl told her. "It ain't like I don't wanna do...that kinda stuff with you, I just wanna wait 'til it feels like the right time 'cause...well...I want it to be special."

There was a clear look of surprise on Shampoo's face. She wasn't expecting something so genuine from him.

"Ranma no want do those thing yet because...Ranma love Shampoo?"

"Yeah, that's right. Jeez, I can't believe you made me say that..."

Starting to tear up, Shampoo wrapped the redhead in a tight hug. Those words from Ranma were so touching that she was already forgetting all of the negativity from this trip.

"Silly Ranma, why you no tell Shampoo that before?"

"'Cause guys don't say touchy feely stuff like that. It ain't manly," Ranma explained to her. "Whatever, it's fine so long as ya understand. Can we stop fightin' now?"

Happily nodding her head, Shampoo planted a kiss on the pigtailed girl's lips and laid back in the chair.

"Hey, I'm in my girl form!" Ranma complained, feeling awkward about the kiss.

"Shampoo like boy Ranma more, but girl Ranma still Ranma," she giggled. "Shampoo ready for more now."

"More?" Ranma asked.

Shampoo gestured to the plate in the pigtailed girl's hands.

"You still want me to feed ya?" Ranma blinked.

An affirming nod from his girlfriend made the heir to the Saotome School of Anything-Goes Martial Arts chuckle with amusement.

"Fine, I get it. Just this once, though."

With everything cleared up between the two of them, Shampoo was able to thoroughly enjoy the royal treatment. Afterward, they both agreed that this trip had turned out to be a mess and that they should probably head home tomorrow to check up on things. But they also agreed to go on another trip the next time they were able to, and next time it really would be by themselves.


Several years after the inception of the Extreme Gymnastics Federation, owner Hiroyuki Tanaka implemented an idea where the quarter-final and semi-final matches of the organization's annual Queen of Extreme Tournament would be held at the place of choosing of the higher-ranked seed in each match. By holding matches at various places around Japan, he hoped to increase the already growing popularity of martial arts rhythmic gymnastics. The move would turn out to be a success, and it also encouraged the gymnasts to aim for the top seeds in the tournament so that they could have their matches where it would benefit them the most.

This initiative put in place years ago was the reason why Kodachi "The Black Rose" Kuno and her second, Ringo Saotome, were currently standing in a gymnastics ring outside Joudai High School in the northern part of Tokyo's Suginami Ward, the school attended by the 3rd Seed at this year's tournament and arguably the most popular gymnast in the EGF today, Sakura "Heavy Metal" Okazaki.

"Boys and girls of Joudai High, the following is a quarter-final match in the Extreme Gymnastics Federation's Queen of Extreme Tournament!"

The sea of Sakura's fans, all dressed in pink and black attire, roared their approval from around the outdoor ring as the match neared its start. There was some confusion from Kodachi upon her arrival as to why the ring was outdoors rather than inside the gymnasium, but it turned out that it was done at Sakura's request as she liked the outdoor atmosphere better. It was an unusual request of the school, but the pink-haired gymnast's proud representation of them left the school's officials with very little reason not to accommodate her.

"Introducing first, the visitor," the announcer said, immediately rousing a chorus of boos from the hostile crowd. "Hailing from St. Hebereke School for Girls, she is the 11th Seed in this year's tournament, Kodachi 'The Black Rose' Kuno!"

"BOOOOOOOOOOO!"

The younger Kuno sibling had entered the ring with little fanfare, once again wearing her plain green school leotard and declining to use entrance music so as to continue with her plan to make her opponents underestimate her. She'd heard her nemesis, Kiriko, insinuate that the fans here would be rowdy, but she was still surprised at just how passionate they turned out to be.

"Heavy Metal's gonna rip you apart, you hear me? Rip you apart!" one of the fans shouted.

"Better call the ambulance now! You're gonna need it!" another taunted her.

The fans didn't stop at verbal taunts. Kodachi and Ringo had to watch themselves as the Joudai High fans began tossing rolls of toilet paper at them.

"How dare you barbarians throw objects at me?" Kodachi snarled at the crowd, smacking one of the rolls back at them.

Practically hiding behind the dark-haired gymnast, Ringo was feeling incredibly nervous about the unfriendly atmosphere. "Kodachi, are you sure we're safe here?"

In the opposite corner of the ring, Sakura and her second couldn't hide their amusement as their home field advantage worked its magic. Sakura's eyes were lined with silver face paint to compliment her black leotard that had pink slashes up by the shoulders, metal spikes surrounding the collar area, and a large, silver crossbones design on her abdomen. She and her second, a girl nicknamed Ruby who had light brown hair with blonde streaks and was dressed like she was ready for a rock concert, kept waving their arms to the fans to urge them on.

"You there!" Kodachi snapped at her opponent. "You and that greasy-looking girl had better get these mongrels under control! I shall not stand for this behavior!"

"Awww, are they being mean?" Sakura mocked her, sharing a laugh with her second. "Deal with it, Princess! You're in my world now!"

Kodachi bit her bottom lip, quietly seething in her corner. These were part of the stipulations of the tournament and she had no grounds to protest it. She would just have to stick it to the rowdy crowd by defeating their representative, she thought.

"And her opponent," the announcer continued, drawing an explosive cheer from the fans. "From right here at Joudai High School, she is the 3rd Seed at this year's tournament, Sakura 'Heavy Metal' Okazaki!"

Sakura climbed the ring ropes and threw her arms into the air to acknowledge her loving people, who all began chanting her name in unison to get her pumped up.

"Are you ready, Joudai?" she screamed at them, grinning wildly with excitement.

Although they'd seen her before at the qualifying event, what immediately struck both Kodachi and Ringo about the pink-haired gymnast that they hadn't noticed back then was how well-defined her muscles were. They hadn't seen her up-close before, but Sakura's body was in impressive shape and Kodachi was beginning to understand how she was able to knock her opponents clear into the crowd with the mere swing of a club.

The main concern of the Black Rose wasn't Sakura's strength, though. Rather, it was not knowing what sort of modifications the girl from Joudai High had made to her set of tools. Kodachi could make a plan once that knowledge was attained, but she would have to be somewhat careful in the meantime.

"Alright, seconds to the outside! It's about time to begin!" the referee said, directing Ringo and Ruby to leave the ring. "Here are the rules, girls. You can win if you knock your opponent out, if your opponent lands anywhere that isn't part of this ring, or if your opponent is disqualified or gives up. Grounds for disqualification are using anything but the tools to attack, using a forbidden tool that is too dangerous for this match, or if your second gets physically involved in the match. Once a significant hit is delivered and someone is knocked down, say the word and I will count to ten. If you cannot stand up by the count of ten, you will be considered unable to battle any longer and your opponent will be victorious. Do you understand the rules?"

Kodachi and Sakura both nodded in response. Sakura still had an enthusiastic smile on her face that looked like she was about to have the time of her life. The referee then sent both of them to their corners to get their starting tools and readied to begin the match.

Outside of Sakura's corner, Ruby dumped out the contents of two large garbage cans onto the ground. A large variety of tools, both common and unorthodox, spilled out onto the grass at her feet. Kodachi and Ringo weren't sure what all was there, but whatever it was made a lot of clanking and jingling noises on the way out.

"Ringo, a normal club and one of the blue ribbons," Kodachi ordered from her second.

"Here!" the redhead handed her the tools. "Are you still using that plan?"

"Yes," the confident Kuno girl answered. "Just do as we practiced and make sure you keep up with me."

Ringo had seen a noticeable improvement in Kodachi's body after she'd eaten properly for the last couple of weeks, but her conditioning definitely hadn't had enough time to improve to the same point as someone like Sakura. The longer the match went on, the more it favored Kodachi's opponent. She could only hope that Sakura would make a mistake that would give Kodachi an early win.

"Wait, wait, wait!"

Everyone in and outside the ring turned around as the sudden blaring sound of a megaphone interrupted things. From one side of the school, four strapping men walked toward the back of the crowd with a throne resting on their shoulders. And sitting atop that throne, protected from the sun by an umbrella positioned over her head, was none other than Kiriko Nakajima. With a red megaphone in her hand, Kiriko, who was wearing a polka-dot bikini with black sunglasses and her white feather boa around her neck, sipped a cold drink from her other hand as though she were relaxing on a beach somewhere.

"Since I already won my quarter-final match, I thought I'd come see my pathetic competition for the next round," the brown-haired diva said into the megaphone as her servants of sorts stopped at the back of the crowd. "Oh, and Sakura...I don't like you, but please do our organization a favor and show that piece of garbage you're facing that she doesn't belong here."

"Kiriko..." Kodachi hissed at her brazen nemesis. The fans had similar sentiments, booing the outsider and hurling insults her way.

Sakura seemed more amused than anything, nodding her head and mockingly blowing a kiss in Kiriko's direction. "I'll be in the semi-finals in a few minutes, sweetheart! Wait for me!"

The rowdy crowd was bad enough, but this was the distraction of all distractions for Kodachi. She couldn't believe Kiriko had invaded this place to watch the match, and it made her furious. But on the other hand, it may have been good motivation. Beating Sakura meant Kodachi could wrap her ribbon around Kiriko's neck in the next round.

"Just one victory. Then that witch is mine," Kodachi said, taking a deep breath to settle herself down. It was time to re-focus on the match at hand.

Unlike Kodachi's previous opponent, Sakura was tossed a pair of clubs to start the match. After one final check from the referee, the signal was given for the bell to ring and the match to begin.

*ding ding ding!*

Sakura appeared ready to tangle right from the get-go, excitedly hopping up and down a couple times before starting to move toward her opponent, but the Black Rose of St. Hebereke had other ideas. To the immense disapproval of the Joudai High crowd, Kodachi held out her hand in an offer of sportsmanship just as she had before her last match.

"Hah! As if that rubbish would work again," Kiriko scoffed at the move from the crowd.

"H-hey, Kodachi! You promised!" Ringo warned her, referring to her questionable tactics of last time.

"I am not planning anything," Kodachi defended herself. Whether she could be trusted or not, however, was still up in the air.

Regardless of the true nature of her intentions, Sakura appeared nothing short of entertained by the gesture, pointing and sharing another laugh with her second.

"Are you kidding me? You think I don't remember what you did to Mizuki? Forget that crap!" she adamantly declined the handshake. "Tell ya what! You give me a good fight and then maybe, MAYBE, I'll shake your hand!"

With a slight smirk, Kodachi rescinded her handshake offer and held her ribbon out in front of her.

"I accept those terms."

Sakura was nearly knocked off her feet as Kodachi began twirling her ribbon forward, sending some intense wind pressure and a storm of black rose petals in her direction. Having a hard time seeing, Sakura crossed her arms in front of her face to protect herself from the stinging petals.

"It's gonna take more than a little wind gust and some flowers to stop me!" Sakura shouted.

There was more to Kodachi's attack than just wind and flowers, though. With her vision still impaired, Sakura was unable to see a weighted metal chain coming at her. The chain wrapped itself around her arms and upper back several times, effectively restricting her upper body movement.

"What the hell?" she yelled.

With her opponent bound and unable to defend herself, Kodachi was ready to put the second part of her attack into motion. She raised her ribbon above her head and allowed it to twirl around herself rapidly, creating a shield of sorts.

"Ringo, now!"

The crowd watched with growing concern as Ringo began tossing countless clubs into the ribbon swirling around her partner. One by one, the clubs bounced off the ribbon and were sent flying across the ring.

"Like that'll work!" Sakura growled.

Sakura tried charging at Kodachi to stop her, but she quickly found herself overwhelmed with the barrage of projectiles. A club smashed into her forehead like a rocket, knocking her back into the ropes. Several others careened off her arms and ribs. Another smashed into her thigh, and then another directly into her kneecap.

"Ringo, time for the finale!" Kodachi called out to her second.

The girl with the red ponytail wasted no time grabbing an open sack from her bag of tools and tossing it into the ring. When the sack hit Kodachi's ribbon, hundreds of marbles that had been contained within exploded outward. While most of them went out into the crowd, enough of them pelted Sakura all over her body that she let out a cry of pain and dropped to a knee.

"You can't be serious...!" Kiriko said in disbelief of how well her rival was doing.

Kodachi could see that now was her chance to put an end to the match. Letting her ribbon drop to the mat, she stormed ahead with her single club to put Sakura away.

"How perfect. She cannot even fight back," the confident Kodachi thought to herself. "Now all I must do is pummel her into submission."

Sakura wasn't done just yet, though. Gritting her teeth, the wild-looking girl let out a primal roar as she tried to muscle her way out of Kodachi's chain. Unbelievably, the chain's links actually started to bend and come undone.

"What?" Kodachi's eyes widened.

Then, with one last burst of energy, Sakura let out another deafening scream and amazingly caused the chain to break in several places, freeing herself from her confinement. With the chain falling to the ring mat in pieces, Sakura glared up at her opponent like an animal that had just been let out of its cage. Needless to say, Kodachi hadn't been expecting her chain to break. She could have retreated, but with victory so close she made the quick decision to stay the course and try to end the match here.

Kodachi reached back, as did Sakura, and the two gymnasts smashed their clubs into each other. It wasn't long before Kodachi realized the error in judgment she'd made. Sakura's raw power knocked Kodachi's club back into her face and sent her flying backward until she slammed into her corner of the ring. With a dazed look on her face, the dark-haired girl wearily slumped down into a sitting position.

"Kodachi!" Ringo cried.

"There you go!" one of the fans shouted.

"Don't scare us like that, Metal!" another called out.

Much like the fans, Kiriko let out a sigh of relief and relaxed a bit after witnessing Sakura's resurrection. "I can't believe that hyena even let herself take a hit from a nobody like Kodachi."

In what was a huge break for the Black Rose, Sakura didn't go on the attack while she was stunned, choosing instead to pose for the crowd and wait for her opponent to stand.

"Kodachi, get up!" Ringo yelled again as she pounded on the mat.

The sound of the audience and Ringo's shouting finally snapped Kodachi out of her daze. Looking down at the club in her hand, she noticed a large chunk missing from it thanks to the impact of Sakura's attack. "Those clubs...they are made of steel?"

Sakura licked her lips, clanking her clubs together in response. "You got it!"

Getting back to her feet, Kodachi threw her damaged club away and asked Ringo for another ribbon.

"Alright! Let's go!" Sakura finally charged at her.

Kodachi immediately began twirling her ribbon, sending another vortex of wind at her opponent and stopping her in her tracks. Sakura planted her feet on the mat and stood firm despite the gale force threatening to knock her back.

"Same thing won't work on me twice! Hoop!" Sakura called out to her second.

The higher-seeded gymnast snatched the hoop that was thrown to her and held it over her head with both hands. Kodachi knew a mere hoop would simply be blown into the crowd by her ribbon's wind, but she assumed that Sakura knew this too. There had to be something more to it.

Before Kodachi could think ahead any further, Sakura heaved the hoop straight at her. Kodachi barely had time to move as she saw the hoop ripping through her wind attack and gunning for her face. She quickly raised her arm to deflect it, but paid a price in the process, letting out a yelp as the hoop slammed into her wrist and then fell to the ground with a thud. The hoop, as it turned out, had been made of steel, as well.

"Ooh, that looked like it hurt," Sakura taunted her opponent, grinning with delight. "You didn't think they called me 'Heavy Metal' just 'cause I like loud music, did ya?"

Kodachi grimaced, rubbing her wrist. "So that is how it is, is it? Ringo, toss me another ribbon!"

Starting to become concerned for her partner's chances, Ringo did as instructed and tossed Kodachi a second ribbon. The Black Rose stood with a ribbon in each hand, painfully gripping the one being held by her sore wrist. She would have to put the pain in the back of her mind for now, though. It was time to go back on the attack.

Kodachi flicked one of her ribbons forward and watched as it wrapped around Sakura's forearm before she could even pick up on it. As Sakura glanced at her wrapped arm, Kodachi flicked her other ribbon forward and wrapped it around the pink-haired girl's other arm.

"Oh, what's this?" Sakura gave her opponent a curious look.

Kodachi wrapped the ends of the ribbons she was holding around her own wrists until they were connected tightly to Sakura.

"Just letting you get better acquainted with your noisy fans," Kodachi smiled deviously.

With all her might, Kodachi then yanked on the ribbons and pulled them over her head, sending Sakura flying upward and headed for the crowd outside of the ring.

"W-wow! I didn't think Kodachi was that strong!" Ringo said in amazement.

Sakura realized that she had underestimated Kodachi's strength, but she remained unconcerned as she soared through the air. Seeing that the ribbons were still wrapped around Kodachi's forearms, Sakura yanked back on them and put herself on a downward path back toward the ring. Gracefully landing on the top ring rope, she then sprang off of it and went flying toward Kodachi. The attack was too quick for the Black Rose of St. Hebereke to counter as Sakura slammed one of her steel clubs directly into her opponent's forehead. The crowd roared in approval as Kodachi slammed back onto the mat and their beloved gymnast rolled to a stop.

"Kodachi!" Ringo immediately called out to her partner.

Sitting atop her throne, Kiriko applauded the vicious hit and now seemed to be thoroughly enjoying herself. "Ooh, ouch! Hahaha!"

"Start the count, ref!" Sakura ordered the official.

"Right!" the referee answered her. "One...!"

While Ringo was frantic over in the visitor's corner, Sakura went over to her own and got a high five from Ruby. The pink-haired gymnast then played to the crowd as the referee's count continued.

"...two, three, four...!"

Now starting to stir after the heavy blow, Kodachi flopped over onto her stomach and pushed herself up with her arms. Outside the ring, Ringo was horrified to see that drops of blood were now falling from Kodachi's forehead as she rose from the mat.

"...five, six, seven...!"

Wobbly but alert, Kodachi finally got to her feet at the count of seven. She was well enough to continue, but her current state was anything but encouraging. The club shot from Sakura had opened a cut above Kodachi's left eye that was dripping blood down her face and onto her leotard.

"Kodachi, that's enough! Stop this! You're bleeding!" Ringo pleaded with her.

The wounded gymnast shot her second a sharp look. "Surely you must be joking. I am going to win this match! Now toss me two clubs!"

Hesitant but respectful of her partner's decision, Ringo tossed Kodachi the clubs, and Sakura seemed oddly pleased that she had.

"Now that's new!" Sakura beamed. "Most girls I face would quit after a hit like that."

"Quit? Never!" Kodachi glared at her. "You will pay dearly for bloodying the face of a Kuno!"

Seeing that their arms were still bound by the ribbons, Sakura felt like doing an encore performance of her last attack. Hopping up onto the top rope, she sprung off of it and gunned for Kodachi's head again. This time, however, Kodachi had the sense to duck and avoid the attack. Noticing that Kodachi was about to stand up again, Sakura spun herself around and sprung off of the rope on the opposite side of the ring.

Kodachi didn't have time to think up a proper counter before she saw Sakura coming back at her. In a move of desperation, she threw one of her clubs up into the air and drop kicked it into the incoming girl's face. The crowd gasped as Sakura's body spun around in the air and crashed down to the mat.

"No!" Kiriko fumed, squeezing the drink in her hand in anger.

"Count!" Kodachi immediately told the referee.

"Hey, you can't attack with your body! Why isn't she disqualified?" Ruby yelled from the outside.

"She kicked the club! It's legal!" the referee told her, promptly starting her ten count. "One...!"

Kodachi couldn't believe that she'd landed the kick that solidly as she stumbled back to her corner.

"...two, three...!"

"Kodachi, that was amazing!" the red-haired second praised her partner.

"Of course it was," Kodachi replied, acting as though it were no big deal. "Now don't get back up, you brute..."

"...four, five, six, seven...!"

With the count at seven, Sakura suddenly did a kip up to a standing position, much to the chagrin of her opponent. After shaking off the cobwebs, she stared over at Kodachi with a wild look of satisfaction on her face.

"Now we're talking!" she smiled sadistically. "How 'bout we make things a little more fun?"

Sakura pointed to her corner, signaling her second to bring out a different arsenal of tools. Ruby tossed Sakura a pair of ribbons, and then, to the delight of the crowd, a pair of trash cans and a golf club.

"What kind of tools are those?" Ringo complained, worrying for Kodachi's safety.

Not wanting to give her opponent a chance to use her new tools, Kodachi hurried to the middle of the ring with her club in hand to initiate an attack, but Sakura beat her to the punch. Unraveling her ribbons, she sent them both at the Black Rose, who didn't realize until it was too late that these ribbons were different than usual. With a little extra weight added to them, Kodachi mistimed their arrival and didn't react quickly enough. The ribbons wrapped around her arms and chest, binding her completely and generating clanking sounds in the process.

"There are chains in these ribbons?" Kodachi shouted.

"Bingo!" Sakura smirked.

Her opponent now in the same position she was in earlier, Sakura grabbed one of the metal trash cans and slammed the side of it into the defenseless Kodachi's head.

The fans, including Kiriko, applauded the stiff blow and urged Sakura on.

"Hit her again!" Kiriko joyously laughed from her throne.

Kodachi fell to one knee and then stood back up again, stumbling around as she tried to shake off the impact. Seemingly enjoying herself, Sakura dumped the trash can over Kodachi's head and grabbed her golf club.

"Kodachi, look out!" Ringo yelled from outside the ring.

Unfortunately, Kodachi couldn't see what was coming with the trash can covering her entire upper body.

"Fore!" Sakura yelled, slamming the golf club into the trash can, severely denting it and sending her opponent to the mat in a daze. Absolutely loving this, her fans roared their approval. "Count, ref!"

"One...!" the referee began.

Sakura retracted her chain-laced ribbons from her fallen opponent and untied Kodachi's earlier used ones from her forearms as she strolled back to her corner.

"...two, three, four...!"

Her head spinning, Kodachi managed to throw the trash can off of herself as she tried to get back to her feet.

"...five, six, seven, eight...!"

At the count of eight, the weary Kuno successfully made it to her feet to stop the count.

"Kodachi! Are you okay?" Ringo called out to her.

Her partner didn't answer her. Being put in a trash can was a gesture so demeaning that it had her absolutely enraged. While Sakura was still playing to the crowd, Kodachi angrily grabbed the dented trash can and ran over to her.

"Metal, look out!" Ruby yelled.

Turning around as soon as her second warned her, Sakura was met with the side of her own trash can to her face, knocking her back into the ring ropes. Her opponent stunned and unable to fall due to the ropes, Kodachi slammed her with the trash can a second time, then a third, then a fourth.

"Put me in a trash can, will you?" the irate Kuno let loose on her.

Over and over again Kodachi wailed on Sakura, slamming her with the trash can several more times before tossing the mangled hunk of metal outside of the ring. The crowd reacted nervously with the resounding noise from each shot. They weren't happy to see Sakura being hit, but they were strangely intrigued by the violence shown by Kodachi.

"Come on, Sakura! What are you doing?" Kiriko yelled toward the ring with displeasure.

Still not finished, Kodachi grabbed the golf club that had been used just moments ago. The hometown gymnast looked out of it as she was propped up against the ropes, but as Kodachi took a swing at her with the golf club, Sakura rolled under the attack and grabbed the unused trash can that was in the ring in one swift motion. Kodachi spun around to take another swing, but ended up being smacked in the face by the trash can after Sakura threw it at her.

"Way to rebound, Metal! Now finish her!" Ruby shouted.

Kodachi managed to keep the golf club in her hand as she fell to a knee again, but depending on her opponent's next move, there may not have been any use for it.

"Time to go bye-bye!" Sakura grinned.

Taking her second's advice, Sakura grabbed the ends of the ribbons that were still tied to Kodachi's forearms and used her strength to heave her opponent way over the ring's ropes, throwing her out toward the crowd.

"No!" Ringo yelled.

"Yes!" Kiriko jumped up from her throne, elated at the thought of Kodachi being eliminated.

Sakura turned around and raised her hands in victory to her fans as the Black Rose soared through the air.

Kodachi was in trouble, and she knew it. She couldn't touch anything outside the ring or she would lose. Ironically, her only hope lied in the very ribbons that Sakura had tossed her out of the ring with.

"I must find something to wrap these around!" she thought frantically.

Looking for something to latch onto, Kodachi soon noticed a crane which had been used for school construction recently extending high above the crowd. Hurrying to throw the other end of one of her ribbons around part of the crane, she felt extremely relieved as she managed to hook onto it. Once her movement away from the ring had stopped, Kodachi then used the momentum of her swing to launch herself back toward the ring, quickly unhooking the ribbon from the crane as she took off. Still with the golf club in hand, she could see that landing inside the ring was a long shot, but she felt much better about her chances of making it to the top rope.

"Woohoo! Yeah!" Sakura continued to pose for the crowd. She was starting to notice that something was amiss though, and soon glanced over at the referee. "Hey, why hasn't the bell rung yet?"

"Because the match isn't over," the referee told her.

The crowd watched in awe as Kodachi gripped the golf club with both hands and managed to spring off of the top rope as she landed from high above.

"Metal, behind you!" Ruby tried to warn her partner.

Unsure what was going on, Sakura curiously turned around and was immediately blasted in the forehead by Kodachi's golf club. Sakura's body did a complete 360 degree turn in the air from the incredible impact and then fell flat against the ring mat as Kodachi rolled into the ropes on the other side of the ring and came to a stop.

"Oh my god! Sakura!" one of her fans cried.

"Oh man! That was one crazy hit!" another added.

At the back of the crowd, Kiriko slumped back down into her throne in stunned silence after her rival may have just snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Still trying to regain her composure after her own attack, Kodachi at least had enough sense to get the referee to do her job. "Count!"

"One...!" the official began.

"Kodachi! I can't believe you just did that!" Ringo said excitedly. "That has to be it!"

"...two, three, four...!"

Sakura didn't budge as Kodachi pulled herself up to her feet using the ring ropes and wobbled over to her corner.

"...five, six, seven, eight...!"

"I...I've won..." Kodachi's voice shook.

"...nine, t-!"

Then, to the disbelief of both Kodachi and Ringo, Sakura did a kip up to her feet once again just before the count of ten, drawing an enormous roar from her relieved fans. The pink-haired gymnast was breathing heavily after taking the huge hit, but she was standing.

Her body shaking, Sakura slowly turned toward Kodachi's corner of the ring, and her appearance nearly gave Ringo a heart attack. The golf club had opened up a large gash on Sakura's forehead that was already covering the right side of her face and her leotard with blood. Perhaps more disturbing than that, though, was the wickedly pleased look on her face that breached the limits of sanity.

"That..." she started to say, "...that...was exactly what I'd expect from Cat Five's protege!"

The surprised expression on Kodachi's face showed that the mention of "Cat Five" clearly registered with her.

"What? Cat...Five?" Ringo blinked, looking up at her partner in confusion.

Sakura wasn't going to hold back any longer. Feeling fired up more than ever, she pointed over to her second once more.

"RUBY! Gimme the special stuff!"

As commanded, Sakura's second began pulling objects out from underneath the ring. She first placed in the corner of the ring a cotton bag sealed by its drawstring, the contents of which were a mystery to her opponent. There was no mystery to the next "tool" though, as Ruby slid Sakura a 10-foot fiberglass ladder.

Kiriko had seen those tools before. While she didn't enjoy being in the ring at the same time as them, nothing made her happier than the thought of Kodachi having to deal with them. "Good! Do something useful for once and make her squeal, Sakura!"

"A ladder? How is that legal?" Ringo protested from Kodachi's corner.

Somehow the ladder wasn't as much of a concern for the red-haired girl once she saw the next item to enter the ring. The fans gave their classmate a rousing ovation as Ruby pulled out a large wooden board that was completely covered in loops of barbed wire on one side.

"Barbed wire?" Kodachi shrieked. "This has gone too far! Referee, admonish her this instant!"

"It's legal, Miss Kuno," the official told her.

"What?" Kodachi glared at her.

After her second slid it into the ring, the bloodied gymnast moved the bed of barbed wire out of the way for the time being and picked up the folded ladder.

"Oh yeah! Now it's time for some real fun!" Sakura licked her lips.

Kodachi had to quickly dive out of the corner as the crazed Sakura charged at her with ladder in hand and rammed it into the ring post.

"Kodachi!" Ringo called out to get her partner's attention.

Glancing over to her corner, the Black Rose saw that Ringo had rolled a ball over to her. As Sakura charged at her with the ladder again, Kodachi grabbed the ball and tossed it at her opponent's feet. Unable to avoid the round object, Sakura ended up stepping on it and lost her balance.

"Whoa!" she gasped as she fell over.

Heavy Metal hit the ring mat hard, and the folded ladder fell right on top of her. Not one to waste such an opportunity, Kodachi leaped up into the air and stomped down on the ladder.

"Augh!" Sakura cried out, the ladder smashing into her ribcage.

"I will teach you to bring these barbaric things into a match against the Black Rose of St. Hebereke!" Kodachi taunted her.

Again and again, Kodachi Kuno jumped up and stomped the ladder down into Joudai High's heroine, leaving Sakura clutching at her ribs.

"Holy crap! This chick's got a mean streak!" one of the fans marveled at Kodachi's brutality.

The Black Rose was out of her element, but she was feeling a strange sense of euphoria from inflicting so much pain on her opponent. Looking around the ring for another weapon, Kodachi picked up one of her ribbons from earlier and turned her attention to the sealed bag that Ruby had placed in the corner.

Noticing the dark-haired gymnast's intentions, Ruby tried to take the bag out of the ring, but she wasn't quick enough as Kodachi whipped her ribbon over into the corner and snagged it.

"Well now, what do we have here?" Kodachi smirked, shaking the bag a few times. The jingling noise from within piqued her curiosity.

Eager to see what was inside, Kodachi undid the bag's drawstring and dumped its contents out onto the ring mat. The crowd, as well as Kodachi and Ringo, were in awe as thousands of thumbtacks spilled out into the ring.

"K-Kodachi...those are thumbtacks..." Ringo's voice shook.

"Thumbtacks..." the Kuno girl tried to hide her smile. "My goodness, you truly are sadisti-"

"Kodachi, look out!" Ringo yelled at her.

Kodachi's attention was so drawn to the thumbtacks that she took her eyes off of Sakura for too long. On her feet again, Sakura slammed Kodachi in the face with the tip of her ladder, knocking her straight back to the ring mat and right on top of the mess of thumbtacks.

The audience erupted in cheers and Kodachi let out a horrific scream as the thumbtacks pierced through her leotard and into her skin.

"Kodachi!" Ringo cried out to her partner.

"Ahahahahaah!" Kiriko laughed from her throne. "Yes! Now put her away!"

The Black Rose slowly sat up, her entire body trembling from the immense pain. There were tacks stuck in her back, her arms, her hands, even her fingers. Spots of blood could be seen soaking through her leotard where she had been pierced.

Behind her, Sakura was on all fours and smiling like a wild animal that had her prey cornered. The crowd chanting her name in the background, she turned her blood-stained face toward the referee.

"Count! Count, count, count!"

Even the referee was having a tough time looking at the mess Kodachi had become, but she started her merciful ten count as was her job.

"One...!"

While Sakura laughed maniacally and stumbled back to her corner, Ringo was absolutely hysterical outside the ring.

"...two, three, four...!"

"Please, just stay down, Kodachi! This is too much!" Ringo cried out again, almost feeling ill at the hellish sight in the ring. She may have had her differences with the pushy Kuno girl as of late, but she didn't want to see her like this at all.

Kodachi didn't listen to her second as she pushed herself to her knees, struggling to put the pain out of her mind and stand up.

"...five, six, seven, eight...!"

"Kodachi, stay down!" Ringo yelled, pounding the mat with her palms.

"...nine...!"

Then, to the shock of everyone, Kodachi actually made it to her feet. Her body a bloody, shaking mess, she sluggishly wobbled over to her corner.

"God, this is enough! I don't want to see you get hurt anymore, Kodachi!" her second gave her an extremely concerned look.

Not liking what Ringo was saying, Kodachi grabbed her by the collar of her shirt and yanked her closer. "I...will...win! Kiriko must pay! Do you hear me?"

Ringo nervously nodded her head, feeling somewhat frightened by her partner's ironclad determination.

"Good!" Kodachi cringed, feeling the sharp pieces of metal sticking into her body. "Now...give me..."

Over in the opposite corner, Sakura grabbed a pair of clubs from Ruby and wore a look of pleased surprise on her face as she stared across the ring.

"You're full of tacks and you still wanna fight, huh?" she grinned. "I love it! Let's go!"

Sakura charged at her weakened opponent, ready to batter her with the steel clubs again, but Kodachi still had some surprises for her. The Black Rose suddenly spun around and kicked a ball in her direction. Sakura reached back and smashed the ball with one of her clubs, intending to knock it aside and plow on forward, but the ball exploded into a cloud of baby powder that covered the upper half of her body and got into her eyes.

"What the-?" Sakura staggered back, blinded by the powder.

Ready to capitalize on the opportunity, Kodachi pushed herself out of the corner and launched her counterattack.

"Now you will feel...the Attack of a Thousand Clubs!"

With her hands full of a dozen miniature clubs apiece, Kodachi rapidly crushed them into her blinded opponent's body.

"Metal!" Ruby shouted with concern.

Taking heavy blows to her face and chest, Sakura was knocked back again and again until finally she was at the foot of the barbed wire bed that was brought into the ring earlier.

Still wracked with pain, Kodachi grit her teeth as she put all she had into one last blow. "Be torn apart by your own barbaric tool!"

Kodachi swung her clubs at Sakura's powder-covered face, but shockingly, the dazed gymnast spun and avoided it. The Black Rose, already wobbly and starting to feel her exhaustion building, stumbled forward to the foot of the barbed wire contraption after missing. What she didn't realize was that Sakura's spinning motion had continued, and her club was now coming back around.

"Kodachi, look out!" Ringo screamed.

The dark-haired girl could only watch as Sakura's club crashed into the side of her head, easily knocking her down into the loops of barbed wire. With sharpened barbs piercing her already wounded back, Kodachi let out a cry of agony and the fans erupted into a fervor once more.

"NOOO!" Ringo cried, holding her hands over her mouth in horror of what she was seeing.

At the back of the crowd, Kiriko Nakajima jumped up and down with joy. "Ohhh, how much does it hurt, Kodachi? How much does it hurt?"

Sakura cackled like a mad woman as she rubbed the powder out of her eyes. She could barely see when Kodachi came at her the last time, but her opponent's slowed movements gave her enough time to avoid the attack and turn it to her own advantage.

"Ahahahahahaaah!" Joudai High's gymnast laughed, practically drooling as she stared down at her fallen victim. "Come on, Kodachi! Get up again! COME ON!"

Screaming in pain, Kodachi managed to roll off of the barbed wire bed, her skin and leotard being torn apart by the hideous weapon of destruction. Once she was finally free, her body looked as though it had been through a human demolition derby.

"Kodachi, no more! Just stay down! Please!" Ringo cried, tears streaming down her face.

She didn't want to stay down, but Kodachi was in so much pain that she couldn't even think straight. And unfortunately for her, Sakura's sadistic side had completely taken over. An evil smile crossing her face again, the pink-haired girl walked over and picked up the bed of barbed wire.

"We're not finished yet!" she grinned.

"No! Stop!" Ringo pleaded, but it was all in vain.

Sakura dumped the barbed wire bed directly onto the front of Kodachi's body, drawing another scream from the Kuno girl as the barbs pierced her chest and abdomen.

The bloodthirsty crowd loved it, chanting Sakura's name with rapture. Not yet satisfied, Sakura stomped on the back of the wooden board several times, driving the barbed wire deeper down into Kodachi's skin just as her fallen opponent had done to her with the ladder earlier.

"Are we ready to give up yet?" Sakura screamed at her, seemingly changing her mind afterward as she started to shake her head. "No, no, no. No...you can't give up. I won't let the ref count you down yet either. I'm gonna put you away with my best shot!"

Sakura's fans watched intently as she unfolded the ladder introduced earlier and set it up in one corner of the ring. Weakened and battered, Kodachi had one arm that wasn't pinned down by the barbed wire bed, but she simply didn't have the strength to push it off as her opponent scaled the rungs of the ladder. The damage inflicted upon her and her lack of proper conditioning had taken their toll.

"Kodachi, do something!" Ringo cried out. She frantically rummaged through her bag of tools to try to find something her partner could use, tossing clubs and other objects into the ring left and right.

With the tools Ringo was throwing landing on top of and all around her, a single strand of rope landed in the open palm of Kodachi's free hand. An idea starting to light up in her mind, the bloodied Black Rose looked down at the rope, and then over at the base of the ladder.

"This...maybe I can..."

Sakura made it to the top of the ladder and raised her arms into the air, trying to pump the crowd up as she appeared ready to dive down and smash her fallen opponent into defeat. Not yet willing to give in, Kodachi quickly flung the short piece of rope and wrapped it around one of the legs of the ladder. Then, using all of the strength that she had left in her aching body, Kodachi yanked on it with all her might, drawing energy from the mental image of the person she despised more than any other in this world.

"KIRIKO~!" the Black Rose screamed at the top of her lungs.

Suddenly, the leg of the ladder lifted up off the mat. With the weight of the human body on top of it, the ladder quickly became unstable and tipped over, dumping Sakura off of it.

"Wha-? NO!" the pink-haired girl cried out.

The Joudai high fans went silent with shock as Sakura crashed down through the wooden table outside the ring that the announcer was sitting at, splitting the piece of furniture in half from the impact. At the back of the crowd, Kiriko let her drink slip from her hand and fall to the ground, not believing what she was seeing.

Looking down from the ring, the referee surveyed the situation outside and came to a conclusion.

"Ring out! Ring the bell!"

With the sound of the bell signaling the end of the match, the announcer grabbed her microphone to announce the official result.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you winner via ring out, and moving on to the semifinals of the Queen of Extreme Tournament, Kodachi 'The Black Rose' Kuno!"

The fans couldn't believe what had just happened. With another victory apparently in the palm of her hand, their heroine had somehow lost.

"Nooo! Sakura!"

"How could she have lost? How?"

"She...she did it..." Ringo mouthed in amazement. "Oh, Kodachi!"

The red-haired girl quickly climbed into the ring and pulled the barbed wire bed off of her bloodied partner. "Kodachi, are you okay?"

Though she'd won, Kodachi Kuno looked nothing like a winner. Her leotard was torn and stained with blood, as was much of the skin on her back, chest, and arms. Her forehead was also still bleeding from the cut she'd gotten earlier. The Black Rose of St. Hebereke felt as though she'd just gone through hell and back.

Still trembling from the pain running through her body, Kodachi wearily sat up and looked at her second. "Ringo...did I...did I win?"

Torn up by the sight of her ailing partner, Ringo wrapped her arms around Kodachi to try to ease some of her pain.

"You did. You did win, Kodachi..."

After being knocked silly for about a minute, Sakura was finally starting to stir outside the ring. Clearly upset, she kicked the pieces of the table away from her while she tried to get her bearings straight again. Shoving away some of the people checking if she was okay, the pink-haired gymnast angrily crawled her way back into the ring. The fans watched closely as Sakura pulled herself up with the help of the ropes before staring down at the girl who'd defeated her.

"Ruby! Ball!" she shouted at her second.

Though the match was over, Ruby didn't question her partner's order, tossing her a ball as was asked of her. Much like Sakura's other tools, the ball was made of metal and was capable of doing some serious damage to anyone it hit.

"Ringo..." Kodachi's voice shook, "...help me stand."

Ringo did as she was asked, helping the Black Rose of St. Hebereke get back to her feet. Kodachi needed to put her arm around her second's shoulder and lean up against her just to stay upright.

At the back of the crowd, Kiriko, who'd been quietly seething since the end of the match, angrily grabbed her megaphone and voiced her displeasure from her throne.

"Sakura, you worthless hyena!" the brown-haired diva vented into the megaphone. "You had her beat! You could have just let the referee count her down, but NO! You had to be a showoff and try another move! I hope you're happy!"

Her eye twitching with annoyance, Sakura turned and heaved the metal ball straight in the direction of Kiriko.

"Wahh!" Kiriko shrieked, scurrying to avoid it.

While Kiriko managed to avoid the ball by ducking, it ended up smashing into the back of her throne, splitting the top half of it off and the umbrella along with it.

"You...!" the brown-haired girl clenched her teeth, glaring back at the ring.

After taking care of Kiriko's loud mouth, Sakura wasted no time strolling over to Kodachi and stood right in front of her face. The disappointed fans started to make some noise again, chanting for their school's representative as she and Kodachi looked into each other's eyes, both of their bodies covered in blood from the war they'd just gone through. Sakura then grabbed Kodachi's wrist, drawing some concern from her red-haired second.

"Please, she's hurt!" Ringo pleaded with the other gymnast.

As it turned out, however, inflicting more damage wasn't what Sakura had in mind. A satisfied smile crossing the wild girl's face, she clasped Kodachi's hand with her free one and shook it.

"I'm a woman of my word," Sakura nodded. "That was the most fun I've had in a long time, Kodachi."

To the surprise of Ringo and Kodachi, the crowd actually applauded the handshake, showing respect for the gymnast being acknowledged by Sakura. Still with something to say, Sakura leaned in close to Kodachi's ear and whispered a message to her.

"I'm pretty pissed off that I lost, but I'm gonna be even more pissed off if you don't win this tournament," she told her. "You beat me, so you're obligated now, got it?"

Kodachi didn't get the chance to respond as Sakura slipped under the ropes and out of the ring. While she headed to the infirmary along with Ruby to get her injuries taken care of, Kodachi stared out into the audience at Kiriko.

The girl atop the throne looked back into the ring with disgust.

"Kodachi," she spoke into her megaphone, "I don't know how you did it, but I'm going to make you regret that you ever came back! You hear me? You'll regret it!"

Undeterred by the threat, Kodachi pointed her trembling finger at her nemesis and managed a smile through her blood-stained face.

"No, Kiriko. I will make you regret that I ever came back!"


End of Chapter 8