FINAL ROUND

- - -

The air of the mall was so thick the inhabitants had to breath in gulps, choking down the tension and anxiety that permeated into every molecule of the air. Blood and sweat had long been a staple there, the scent had reached a level constancy that few noticed it any more, but the scent that infected the air now held more gravity, more poignancy, a promise of grimmer fates. Anxiety and fear clotted in knots of tension between passers-by, as they walked in trickles into the main hub. None were leaving. Those that still remained had stuck it out for so long and seen so much gore already that they wouldn't dream of denying themselves the joy of witnessing the grand finale. All who had not lost stomach for the sport by now had found a sick sort of enjoyment in the competition and had had a bloodlust implanted in them. Though most, if not all, of them were to be cheering on the Avatar—the man that promised safety and balance to continue—and although none of them would admit it, many of them had found a perverted fascination in the sheer rage and inhumanity that Kyuubi represented. They murmured and shouted and their dim roaring fluctuated in waves as they predicted and prayed and wondered about the outcome of this final, overwhelming round.

Reveling in the anticipation, standing in the conference room high above them was the ring-leader of the competition, the edible entity that had found himself slipping further and further out of control of this damn tournament as the days slid past. He stood looking out the massive picture window with his back to a large round conference table, at which sat the makeshift council he had accumulated and abused to warp the tournament in the way he chose. But even with their less-than-legitimate influence, still Kyuubi held a place in this—the final round. He ground his teeth against each other, shavings of chocolate curling off and accumulating until he finally swallowed them and turned to face the table.

"Kyuubi can not win. It's as simple as that." He aid softly. "It's up to you all to make sure that it doesn't happen."

"Yes…I have a question about that, what exactly do we gain from aiding you in stopping him?" Magneto asked, leaning forward on the table, his old face furrowed with wrinkles deepened by concentration.

Magneto makes a good point. Mewtwo echoed in. Kyuubi is deadly to all of us, why should we risk our lives to preserve yours?

Death raised one bittersweet eyebrow, and took a step forward, placing one hand on the table, drumming the fingers sharply. "What are you implying?"

"No one I particularly care about has a chance of winning any longer anyway." Axel murmured. "I'd just as soon skip out of here before the whole place goes to hell."

"I've allowed you free reign of this tournament in the interest of whatsoever contestant you chose, and now you think to simply run out on this tournament?" Death growled. "Is that what you're saying?"

"Well…" Magneto cleared his throat awkwardly. "The thing is—"

"I don't think so." Death hissed. "You are all staying, and you will assure that Kyuubi does not win. I'm bound by the rules not to interfere, but it's perfectly legal for any of you to step in, and that is what I expect of you."

"Death by Chocolate I'm afraid you—"

Without the faintest warning Death sprung across the table, grabbing Magneto by the face and pinning him to the floor, holding him still with terrifying ease. His hand softened and a slow waterfall of chocolate began oozing down his arm, falling from his palm and filling Magneto forcefully and unstoppably. Magneto was trying to pull away desperately, his legs and arm flailing, but Death had him well pinned.

"Now, gentlemen, I think you've all forgotten something very important." Death said, as Magneto's nostrils flared in search of breath, his eyes bulging. "I am still in control here. Just because Kyuubi is stronger than me does not mean you are. You'd do well to act accordingly."

The others were silent, blanching as Magneto's veins bulged in repulsion to the invasion in his body, his limbs growing stiff as thicker stuff flowed forcefully into his veins. Just as Magneto was about to pass out Death pulled back, extracting his chocolate in a gruesome wave and the mutant began gagging and coughing, spitting up bile and shaking from relief and repulsion.

"Any questions?" Death asked, standing, his mouth spreading in a wicked grin at the sight of so many horrified faces. Their expressions went paler, and for a moment Death reveled in the sheer horror he was inflicting in them—and then a wave of heat washed over him and he realized the door his back now faced was open and their deepening fear had little to do with him. He slowly turned, as his skin waxed and beads of chocolate-y sweat dripped down his face. The sight of Kyuubi in all his fiery grandeur made him go rigid, still melting ever so lightly under the intensity of the demon fox's presence.

With a gulp he forced the words out; "This…this is a private meeting…" He began, but then Kyuubi locked eyes with him, and he froze again.

Kyuubi walked past Death by Chocolate and slowly around the right side of the table, his eyes scanning over the small assembly with an unsettling calm. He had been so full of utter rage in the last rounds his abrupt change was far more terrifying than any fireball could be, as they had no way of knowing what it could mean. Uncertainty as far as Kyuubi was concerned had a certain taste of fatality to it. He slid across the floor, his singed black trench coat snapping behind him with a threatening sharpness, his modern ensemble clashing strangely with his ancient aura. He reached the window and turned on his heel to face the group.

"Kyuubi, what business do you have here?" Death demanded, un-sticking is throat again.

Kyuubi raised his eyebrows. "I'm here to make a statement."

As his teeth snapped on the last syllable he grabbed Axel by the neck and threw him through the window. It shattered and with a shriek from the man and several more rising from the crowd, he fell the several stories to the ground. Just before he hit the floor and his head cracked open, however, a massive gust of wind suddenly shot beneath him and stopped his descent like a hand catching him and gently set him down. Kyuubi bared his teeth in a grin as he searched out the savior in the throng, and found Avatar Roku staring up at him with all the ancient sovereignty and dignity that he was so dying to break.

The crowd below was roaring in shock and horror, wondering who this innocent bystander was and what he had done. Before it could go on for long, Kyuubi's voice rose above the crowd.

"That is a message to all of you!" He growled, and the crowd instantly hushed. "Whatever the rules may be, whatever delusion of grandeur and heroism you may have, do NOT interfere in this fight. None of you." He glanced over his shoulder on the last statement, glaring at the assembly, and they all shrunk in their chairs.

"KYUUBI!"

Kyuubi looked back at the crowd and saw them parting to create a pocket around Roku, making sure Kyuubi had a clear sight on who was speaking out against him. "I agree." The crowd murmured, and swarmed with uncertain movement. "None shall put themselves in this battle, I alone can vanquish you and I will not have excess blood spilt in the process."

Kyuubi laughed, the sound, dark and deep in his throat, reverberating over the crowd and bringing a chill like a shadow in front of the sun. Then he turned to fix his gaze on Death once more. "Call it." He growled.

Death snorted, and then fell into a liquid puddle that oozed through the cracks and then instantly re-pooled on the stage amid the spectators below, and reformed into the demon's normal shape. Once he was gone the council lost what little nerve they had kept and the assorted trouble makers bolted for the door instantly, getting as far from Kyuubi as they possibly could.

"My good lords and ladies, guys and dolls, boys and girls, welcome to the last round!" Death by Chocolate cried and the crowd roared. "Are you ready for more blood and gore than you can stomach?" They got louder, still brainwashed in the blood lust this tournament had instilled of them. "Hell, I'm willing to bet some of you don't survive!" Death cackled, and the crowd was so enthralled and enthused they only cheered louder, pumping their fists in the air and chanting for blood. "Well then, just in case some of you have been hiding under rocks these past few days let me refresh your memory of our contestants! In that corner over there, standing among you with humility and grace, I present the Master of Nature, Commander of the Elements and Defender of the Balance," Every title dripped with more sarcasm and irony, Death's sheer lack of respect for either of the contestants was quite plain. "AVATAR ROKU!" The cheers were deafening, reaching a crescendo so high Death had to wait several moments for it to subside before he continued. "And in the window of the fourth floor conference room, I present, the Prince of the Nine Tails, Lord of Chaos and Flame, Nature's Abomination, KYUUBI!" A wave of silence fell, as even the new bloodlust did not overwhelm the fear that everyone felt in their core towards Kyuubi. None could predict what reaction would garner them less favor, what cry might spell their doom, and so they stood like stunned sheep, uncertain and petrified.

Then from the back a slow, steady, sharp clapping rang out from one pair of hands, and the heads turned to see Orochimaru sitting on the window sill of a shop display, clapping his hands with a wry smirk on his face. Slowly he dropped his hands, and, staring evenly up at Kyuubi, stood and addressed the crowd.

"Let's see some death." He hissed.

With that half the crowd exploded once more, with thunderous applause and cheering that fell into the steady chant of 'kill' over and over. The other half of the crowd stood blanched and appalled, as they realized how far the other half had fallen in their desire for the extreme. It didn't matter who they cheered for now, so long as they would see blood. Kyuubi narrowed his eyes as he glared back at Orochimaru, and the ninja only smirked and sat once more as the death-wishers continued the uproar.

"Well then!" Death by Chocolate cried over the racket. "Let the round begin!"

Kyuubi was ready to pounce, but at the very start of his lunge, just as his feet left the ground, a massive buffer of wind hit him solidly in the chest and caught that moment of imbalance to push him back and clear across the conference room, soon followed by Roku himself. Kyuubi knew immediately why Roku had made such a move, foolishly barreling into him instead of gaining some space, and chuckled at the selflessness of it. The selfless always died first—he was reminded of a ninja some time ago, a man as equally altruistic and foolish in thinking he could defeat Kyuubi. That man was the only one who could claim victory over Kyuubi, and even he had died in the process. The bruise on Kyuubi's pride at that defeat still lingered now, and somewhere in this fight he saw the opportunity to rectify that—oh, how he would enjoy this.

He shot back to his feet, his aura aflame and ready to destroy, but Roku was already making his next move, and he had foregone any small steps. Suddenly from all the halls there was a great roaring, the foundations shook and the sound of tumbling rushing power was deafening, and came from so many places Kyuubi could find no route to safety. It hit him suddenly and he was overwhelmed.

Water. Everywhere water. It came from the plumbing, the fish tank, the swimming pool, the fountains, all of it rushing to the avatar's call to collect around and crush Kyuubi. It created an orb of liquid, trapping Kyuubi, dousing his fire, swirling him into disorientation and pressing in on him to crush his lungs and blur his vision. Roku had wasted no time on build up or priming, he knew he had to take Kyuubi hard and fast or risk losing any chance he held of victory. Kyuubi flailed for a way out, pumping his limbs desperately to break out of the sphere, but every way he turned a new torrent pushed him back, the pressure holding him down. Avatar stood not meters away, slowly rotating his arms in pace with the swirling water, empowering the whirlpool with his aura and slowly his hand drew closer, as the water compacted, pressing on Kyuubi's bones, squeezing his innards, shrinking his lungs.

But he had fought this battle before. Roku was wise in choosing water to pit against him, in times not so long ago it would have posed a struggle indeed, but now he had the memory of his rage fresh in his mind. That after-image of pure ferocity and lack of control he had faced while fighting Ororchimaru burned his spirit to a new awakening. He had been taught his limits, and in that teaching, he now knew how to push them. For a moment he was still, floating amidst the liquid like an aimless piece of debris, gathering his power within himself to preserve him. Taking advantage of the opening, Roku clapped his hands together and the water collapsed in, condensing, tightening, enough to pop any natural body—but Kyuubi had long surpassed nature. As the water collided with him, he let out a sigh, and the bundle of chakra within him was no longer restrained and it exploded out of him with such counter-acting rage that it unbalanced the water's compression and spiked through it in sharp lines that carved slices in the orb, breaking the seams, and shuddering its foundations. Water was a weakness to both of them, and Roku felt his old struggles coming back to him as he fought to maintain control, to hold the shape of the sphere—but Kyuubi was too much. One of the whips of chakra broke from the orb and lashed towards the Avatar, and with a cry he dove aside. In that moment, he lost all control and the water broke apart and rushed in a cascade out the window and fell down to the crowd below, pummeling many bystanders in the initial torrent and sending the rest fleeing in screeching droves towards higher ground.

Avatar and Kyuubi lay on the floor of the wrecked conference room, sputtering and coughing as water slowly drained, both only momentarily knocked off balance. Roku was the first to regain his footing, and he raised a hand to summon a new force to pit against Kyuubi, but the demon found his breath, and with a mighty spring tackled Roku against the wall, and pinned him by the wrists. His chakra burned in its unholy way, the crisping of skin barely noticeable against the fouling of the spirit it brought with it. Roku found his concentration shaken, his mind momentarily disconnected from the planet and its forces, which jarred him to the core and made him gag and recoil—but he had nowhere to go.

"Tell me old man, why do you fight?" Kyuubi growled, his tails flicking in amusement.

"To stop you." Roku rasped back, still struggling to find that connection once more, his mind fuzzy and segmented.

"I am born of nature, have I not a right to life?"

"You upset the balance, it is my duty to rectify that."

Kyuubi paused, his blaze lowering itself to a simmer as he considered the Avatar, his tails still flicking slowly, his burning gold eyes roamed over the old man before him and he smiled.

"Still a stupid human after all." He chuckled and bent to rip out Roku's throat.

But Kyuubi had let his power falter too long and Avatar raged back to life, and a bubble of angry wind rose around him and exploded outwards, pushing Kyuubi back and allowing Roku to slip into the hallways. Kyuubi followed him instantly lips curled back so far that his blood red gums were bared. His features were melding into the fox-like form subtly, his maw had become unmistakably longer, his teeth sharpening and gnashing in the desire to rip and tear at flesh.

Roku led him down one of the eastern corridors, and Kyuubi gave no mind to where the path led, his eyes were trained only on the Avatar as the man dashed ahead, which left him completely unprepared when a new wave of water broke through one of the windows he dashed past. The aquariums of the pet store drained quickly, pummeling Kyuubi with a torrential swarm. This time Roku made no play for imprisonment, instead he swept waves under Kyuubi's feet and pummeled him from above in erratic violent patterns without a foreseeable method, effectively keeping Kyuubi from gaining any ground. But he knew he could not rely on that long, and instantly fell into his next stage. Part of the water broke off from the torrent to seep into the seems of the walkway, moistening the concrete, and then swelling and expanding, making the walkway crack and bow downwards. The rest of the water gathered into one massive wall of water and crashed down onto Kyuubi once more, smashing through the floor and sending him careening down to the arboretum below.

The water collapsed into the ground of the crater created upon Kyuubi's impact, and the heavy, moistened soil immediately rose to life. Great walls of rock and earth reached up and folded down upon the demon to press him down. It continued folding up, layer upon layer closing in on him, sealing him into a firm grave. But then Kyuubi shook off the impact shock, and managed to claw one hand out from the trap, slashing and burning a path through the soil and rock until his right arm and shoulder were un-sealed and from there he ripped two more trenches in the cocoon, leaving flames licking the edges of the wounds and holding off repair long enough for Kyuubi to heave the rest of his torso out. From there it became a tug of war, Kyuubi breaking a leg free just to have his arm caught in a new swell of stone, and once he had freed that his legs would be secure again. The ground cracked and crumbled in contact with his fiery skin, but the slabs of stone were thick enough to withstand it and hold him back. But still, Kyuubi's anger was growing, empowering him further, while the earth only had its same relentless path, and sooner or later Kyuubi would pull ahead.

From his perch a floor above, Roku saw his small window of opportunity closing quickly as Kyuubi made another lunge forward, gaining impressive ground before a new rise of stone compressed around his legs and pulled him back again. Roku rode a draft down to the ground, across the garden from where Kyuubi's struggle was taking place. He landed lightly, but his feet melded to the earth as they touched, digging in, rooting themselves among the grass and soil, and his energies began rippling out from the connection, seeping into the earth, and past the mall foundations below that, to the skin of the planet, his entire soul draining into the slabs of rock, and then with a massive shout he slapped his palm to the ground and the very plates shifted to his will.

Kyuubi stopped dead as the ground beneath him began shaking so violently the walls around them groaned and cracked, were he not digging in the claws of his feet and hands he would have toppled over himself. He looked up at the Avatar, but was barely able to focus on him for the shuddering of the planet made everything in his vision blur and his head rock. It grew in ferocity, tossing him back and forth, making the walls fall in chunks, windows shattering, and still Roku stood firm. Kyuubi dug his claws in further, and shouldered a piece of the ceiling as it tumbled towards him, knocking it out of the way of his head and barely grimacing as the concrete slab glanced against his shoulder bone. He could hold out, if Roku planned to collapse the mall on top of him he would be sorely disappointed to find out how very little that would do to the demon. He smiled to think of the Avatar's distress when he realized the futility of his attempts at victory. Roku had no hope; it was just a matter of time until he realized it.

But then the tables turned, and the earth split. Kyuubi's eyes bulged in shock as he saw the ground begin to rip apart, strings of roots webbing the gap at first, but soon breaking and falling to the side as the ground yawned open like a great maw, the creaking and grinding of the crumbling mall, it's roar. The jaws opened wider, the crevasse deepening to terrifying, infinite depths as it ripped longer, the ground between his feet splitting and widening alarmingly—but should he release his grip he doubted he would stay upright long enough to make a breakaway.

He didn't have any other choice. Snarling, he dug in deeply for one moment more, and just as the ground he clutched began to crumble he leapt up, aiming for the ledge far above—what was left of the walkways. But the earth was not done with him, and from the side of the gaping wound a thick root whipped up, lashed his ankle and instantly reversed his momentum. As he crashed downward, he watched Roku, still standing as he had before, tall and stable, the crack stopping just before his feet and not even the grass where he stood disrupted by the quake. Just before Kyuubi fell beneath the lip of the gully he smiled, and the howl of his laughter echoed until the earth abruptly swelled and crashed together, melding together and sealing the grave.

Once it had fused the shaking subsided, and Roku finally breathed again, collapsing his strong stance to double over and rest his hands on his knees, gasping. Death slipped in and stood over the scar of missing grass and cracked stone, scowling, his arms folded so his tapping index finger rapped his bicep.

"Have I not won?" Roku asked as his breath control returned to him and he straightened his back again.

"Not…technically…" Death replied, the words snapping out with clear frustration. "It seems the pressure alone has not been enough to kill Kyuubi and…" He sighed deeply, a soft growl following the exhale. "The mall required several basement levels during construction for storage and other purposes, so the owners also possess the ground bellow it for…quite some distance."

"How much distance?" Roku asked, calmly.

"…A lot." Death replied, almost condescendingly.

"How much?" Roku asked again, unfazed.

Death dropped his arms and gave one of his famous indecipherable eye-rolls. "Several hundred miles." He finally replied.

Roku paused for a moment and then nodded and sat in lotus position. "Then I will push him down."

Then he shut his eyes and went to work, as Death muttered and cursed as he looked around at the mall, already half-gone after that tremendous tremor.

- - -

Roku fell into a trance easily, deep meditation came as second nature to him now, with the life of the planet constantly coursing through him and connecting him to the infinity of its power. He let his consciousness fall into a state of abstraction, detaching from the physical world to drift among the ley lines of the higher level where the essence of the elements resided. He flowed into the current gently, and followed it into the earth beneath him. The tides and waves of the forces of the planet were like a pulsing, flowing web, and Roku travelled the threads like a master spider. He felt out his physical position by reading the signatures of the forces specific to the mall, the way all the crashing essences sent angry ripples along the flow.

Kyuubi was easy to pick out, the knot of chaos and corruption that was his soul stood out as a dark scar on the weave, and pulsed angrily, shaking the very fabric of the web. Roku found it hard to come near the demon; the flow around him was corrupted, falling back on itself and twisting into knots that cut and re-routed the forces painfully. But still it flowed into and out of him, supporting him, and the current that came from him made the flow stronger, he was more a part of the world than any human could ever hope to be, and even as he warped the weave he strengthened it in some perverse way.

A wave of something else brushed him then, a gust of the strange power that had first brought him here, but as it touched him in this place Roku was suddenly afraid. As it went by it shattered and burst the lines Roku now rode. They were reconstituted instantly, but still the feeling of utter violation and for that one searing moment destruction, was undeniable and left Roku momentarily no more than a quivering blot along the threads. But then it passed, and Roku refocused himself; Kyuubi was the task at hand, and he had to be dealt with before Roku could hope to unravel any more of the dark dealings behind this tournament.

And so he went to work. The twisted state of the lines around Kyuubi made them nigh impossible to travel, but Roku did not need to draw that close. He spread himself, widening and breaking himself into pieces to circle the twisting mass of the entrapped Kyuubi, and then he began to press. The earth fluxed and waves of its signature coursed through the threads, and though he had no physical representation in this plane, Roku could feel and knew that the rock had begun to push downward on Kyuubi's body, slowly but surely—as was earth's way—bringing Kyuubi into its bowels. The tangle of energies that was Kyuubi began to slip along the web, moving towards the bundle of tighter threads that was the planet's core, a small hot dot from here, but still an anchor to push towards, the beacon of victory.

(((No.)))

It was not the word, this was a place like a dream where words never really happened, but it was the emotion, a pulsating statement of pure denial that sent every thread into violent tremors with the ferocity of it. Kyuubi would go no further. Kyuubi would stand for no more cages, no more tombs, he had been trapped too long; he would not stand for it any longer. Kyuubi would be free.

His will was like an explosion in the place Roku travelled, and not a brief wave like the force before, this was continuous and intensifying, and so angry it was tearing Roku into pieces he could never recollect. He had no choice, the lines were thrashing, twisting and snapping and reforming as Kyuubi's essence warped them into a reflection of his image, and that was as poison to Roku and the Avatar had no option but to fall back.

- - -

Roku awoke in the physical world with a seizure. His body thrashed and expelled foul liquids in the aftermath of the twisted force of Kyuubi's will. The balance within him was rocketed back and forth, his mind flared with repulsion of the touch of that pure refusal. But it was a brief state, and with a deep gasp Roku found himself again, rising to his knees and wiping blood and bile from his chin, and stared wide-eyed at the place where Kyuubi had fallen.

It was still. Strangely, almost with surreal lifelessness the space around him was motionless, inert, all silent and…anticipating. It was the calm, and the storm that followed shook the sky.

A rumble rolled through the air, growing in intensity as the ground once more began to shake, rattling the debris of the mall and making still more of the building tumble down and break apart. Roku dug in his feet once more, grounding himself as he prepared for the worst—he had no idea just how terrible the worst would be.

The earth swelled where Kyuubi had fallen, a large mound pushing upwards and cracking to shine red hot with inner fire. Flame seeped out of the cracks, lashing out and destroying what was left of the vegetation in the garden, falling around the still growing mound in thick pools of fire. Roku brushed the flames away from him with blades of wind, but that could not stop the rage with which it burned around him, and still the scab grew and bulged upwards in some grotesque and unholy birthing of the demon-fire. Roku could not feel the energy of the earth within that mound any longer, the flames had contaminated it too greatly, and so he could do nothing but watch and wait. He did not wait long, but every moment stretched into an aching eternity or uncertainty and fear until finally the top of the mound burst open as one large claw punched its way out. The rest of Kyuubi soon followed, as he broke aside the rest of the heap with several swipes and then his great shoulders followed and he forced his way out of the earth, dripping chakra-fire with every step.

He was warping even as Roku watched him, making a surreal, unfocused transformation as the body swelled and mutated in surreal and terrifying ways. His body was shifting into fox form unevenly, making him seem lopsided and festering as the wounds from his journey up sealed and his body grew. He was growing at horrible speed, to sizes none would have imagined as the massive body began breaking through what was left of the mall, his shoulders shattering the walls that remained in this wing, his head clearing the ceiling easily as his expanding flank sent the rest of the hall into rubble. Roku was forced to dodge around Kyuubi's growing feet, flames and the falling debris, but he had underestimated the maneuverability of Kyuubi's tails, and as he was looking up to avoid the path of a falling slab of concrete one of the whip-like tails lashed upwards and caught him in the chest, sending him careening through the air, the breath knocked from his lungs.

He had no idea how far he flew, but he hit the ground hard, barely able to throw up a cushioning pocket of air in time to keep his bones from cracking. He bounced several times before finally skidding to a halt amid the broken concrete and uprooted trees. He shook his head as he got to his knees, one hand on his temple as he moaned and looked up—to see that he was on the curb of the highway outside the mall. Out of bounds.

For a moment panic locked his limbs and his stomach dropped, but then he saw Kyuubi, fully grown now, his aura rolling in waves off of him as his every movement made more of the mall crumble. Kyuubi seemed disoriented, his eyes unfocussed and his stance uneven as he came back to terms with himself after so long in a constrained body and pressed inside the earth. From this distance Roku could see that the Mall now was half-leveled. The area where the earthquake had split the ground was now entirely flattened, and everything outward from there was either lying in piles of rubble or standing very shakily, ready to tumble over at the next breeze. The remains of the roller coaster was a crushed ball of metal, the Ferris wheel somehow twisted within it. Only the far end from where they had been still stood in anyway stable, and Roku could see the uncertain and panicky waves of movement through the crowd assembled there. But most importantly, Kyuubi stood amid all the rubble, easily the full height the mall's hub had once been, his legs splayed wide—wider than the hall. The left side of his body was off the mall grounds.

Death by Chocolate bounded over, examining the marks where Roku had hit the grounds with a scowl on his face as in the background Kyuubi started to stabilize, his aura withdrawing to him once more, his eyes sharpening.

"You gotta be fucking kidding me." Death breathed, and then he stood and shouted, his voice magically amplified with the chocolate microphone he shaped out of the palm of his hand; "Kyuubi and Roku have rung out at the exact same time! It's a draw!"

The boos and hisses were so loud and overwhelming they carried the entire distance to where Death and Roku now stood, and Kyuubi slowly turned his head to stare down at Death by Chocolate, his gold eyes sharp and blazing. Death met his gaze firmly, but his hands shook, and chocolate dripped off his knuckles as he melted ever so slightly under the intensity of that stare. Kyuubi said nothing, and was unmoving but for the gentle swaying of his tails, as the continued cries of out-rage settled into a steady rhythm, and swelled into a fresh chant for blood that carried past Kyuubi and to the demon and avatar standing so much further away.

"Death by Chocolate, this battle needs an ending…" Roku said softly. "You and I know this, Kyuubi and that crowd will allow nothing less."

Death by Chocolate scowled, and then, still looking at Kyuubi, raised his voice once more. "Instead of looking at this as draw, the battle will continue without boundaries!" And then to appease the mob, he cried; "TO THE DEATH!"

The crowd cheered, and Roku frowned at their willingness to continue risking their lives for the sake of being near to this level of carnage. Many of that crowd had already been crushed but still they wanted to see more blood, the blood of those greater than them, so they could feel as though they had been a part of something bigger than themselves—but they would never have any idea just how big a thing this was.

Kyuubi turned his gaze on Roku, neither of them caring whose name or how loud the crowd was cheering, only seeing their opponent. Kyuubi was the epitome of everything Roku had fought all his life to keep down, and Roku was the only thing standing between Kyuubi and all he had ever wanted. They let that fester in the air between them, as a hot wind rushed by them, stirring clothing and fur, and tumbling the static between them in its gusts. It was sundown by now, and the red blaze that bloomed at the horizon and limned the dark clouds overhead seemed as angry and volatile as the hatred between the contestants. Then, slowly, Kyuubi's lips curled back from his long rows of teeth in a grotesque grin and he raised his head and howled.

The sound made many in the crowd fall over screaming, clutching their ears and turning away in terror. Those that remained on their feet shook in terror and fell silent, and soon began looking for a safer vantage point, feeling suddenly exposed and mortal on the ledges of the destroyed mall. Only Roku stood unwavering.

Kyuubi let cry subside and then looked down once more, showing no sign of frustration at the sight of Roku standing just as he had been, his face stony and undaunted. A deep chuckle slipped from Kyuubi's throat, the vibrations of it sending tremors through the ground.

"Roku, do you look so calmly at your death?" Kyuubi grumbled, his voice like a roll of thunder with a grating undercurrent that burned the ears and shook the heart.

"You will not be my death, demon." Roku replied.

"Perhaps, from a certain standpoint your own convictions are your un-doing." Kyuubi returned, humoring him condescendingly. "But it will still be my claws that rake out your heart."

As he snapped his teeth on the last syllable a mass of scales and claws slammed into the side of his head, twisting his neck with the impact as claws raked his neck and shoulder. He sprung backwards, dodging the next pass as it swooped in again. Fang roared and then went to float threateningly behind the Avatar, growling and smoldering as he glared at Kyuubi. Kyuubi's wounds sealed instantly but the damage to his ego had been dealt—and was far more dangerous. Fang lowered his head and Roku patted his jaw appreciatively, how he loved his dragon.

Then Kyuubi sprang, and in one nail-biting moment Roku swung onto Fang's back and they raced out of the way with only molecules separating them from Kyuubi's jaws. Kyuubi gave chase instantly, taking massive bounds that easily filled the gap of speed that flying gave the other two. Fang wove circles that kept Kyuubi awkwardly rebounding on himself to give them an extra edge, but the fox demon kept far too close for comfort, and finally Fang had no choice but to go up. He made an abrupt shift and rocketed upwards, streaking up several hundred feet until he was confident Kyuubi had no way of reaching them, and then he stopped, looked down and with a roar unleashed a massive wave of flame from his mouth.

The pillar of fire hit Kyuubi dead-on, and stopped him in his tracks, as it rushed down on him relentlessly. Roku stirred it into greater life with hot winds, but he knew by the cold rock settling in his gut that this would do no good. No sooner had he come to that revelation then Kyuubi ripped himself out of the fire and sent a return bolt of chakra-fire, issued as a wave from his aura and exploding out from him in all directions, causing fresh panic from the crowd as the wave hit them and left many of them with terrible burns and lacerations. A few medics gave weak attempts to help those hit by the blast, but most knew there was little to be done, and merely went back to watching the fight as the victims writhed and moaned.

When the chakra hit Fang and Roku it sent them rocking violently, and Fang's flight path was sent careening off course, making him fly dangerously low to correct it. Just as he had straightened and began to rise again, Kyuubi was upon them, and with one massive slash of his claws they were sent tumbling again. Fang's wing clipped the ground, and he tried desperately to straighten his flight afterward, but he overcompensated and his leg hit a protruding stump and he finally hit the ground hard and skidded to a stop. Roku was knocked off and landed several feet away, groaning and pained but miraculously unbroken.

Kyuubi leapt atop Fang, his paws crushing his neck and wings, and he watched patiently as Roku stood once more, as strong and determined as he had been in the beginning, even with his clothing tattered and his body bruised.

"Roku, it's pointless for you continue." Kyuubi boomed. "You don't understand what I am, or what you must do."

Roku straightened his shoulders. "I know all I need to. Do not underestimate me."

"I could give you the same advice. You are still human, and I far outstrip you in age, experience and instinct. We can chase each other in circles for days, until you run out of stamina, or you can give it what we all want—a real fight."

"If you are implying that I am not completely devoted to defeating y—"

"Of course you are. You just don't actually understand how. You think of me as your opposite, a counterpoint to your existence. But that's not it, Roku, I am not the contradiction to balance, I am merely one half of it. Half of you."

Roku stiffened, his eyes tightening to glare at the demon fox, who looked back smugly, his stance relaxed and confident. Fang growled beneath his feet, struggling and writhing to no avail.

"To harm me you must choose a half and overwhelm me, but if you're still trying to balance it within yourself well…it just wont ever be strong enough." Kyuubi sobered greatly, and he leaned forward so his face was closer to Roku's. "Let yourself go, Roku, walk the other path."

"No." Roku said, without the slightest hesitation. "You are mistaken, my control will overcome your rage. I will not become you, I will not lose who I am."

Kyuubi narrowed his eyes, leering down at Roku as a soft growl formed at the back of his throat, and Roku felt a chill settle over him as he realized he had made a grave mistake. Kyuubi had spoken little to any of his other opponents, certainly not to advise them, this was some sort of higher challenge, and Roku had just severely offended him with his refusal. Kyuubi's terrible rage was bubbling to the surface again, and he had long been on the edge of his breaking point. He turned away from Roku, and looked down at Fang again.

"Think you so little of me, Roku?" Kyuubi grumbled, soft menace lacing through his words. "You could never become me, do not fear that, but I will make you see the other side, I will make you lose that control, and throw you into the desperation for victory that I have always known."

With that he bent down and closed his jaws on Fang's neck. Roku's eyes widened in horror, and his body froze as he watched the blood fall in dark ribbons from Fang's neck as the dragon thrashed and screeched in pain. Kyuubi tore his teeth out, and then lunged in again, his claws ripping Fang's wings to shreds, as he pulled skin entirely off Fang's spine.

Roku cried out and buffeted Kyuubi with slices of wind so hard and angry they carved trenches in the ground as the whistled past, but they dissolved harmlessly against Kyuubi's aura as it pulsed into great life, blood dripping down the fox's chin and neck. Roku charged in, hurling wind blades, fireballs and waves of stone at Kyuubi ahead of him, none of which made the demon falter as he continued to shred Fang. It was taking too long to get there, it was such a short distance but Roku's feet felt so heavy, his heart was having trouble working, his breathing rasped against his throat. Kyuubi brought his fangs down around the dragon's skull, cracking bones and sending blood down his face in great and terrible streams.

Roku finally drew close enough, he grabbed a stone in his hand and flew at Kyuubi's face, cracking the rock down on his snout and then landing there. He held on and hit him with the stone over and over, the elements raging erratically around them in response to Roku's furor. Kyuubi shook his head violently and Roku fell onto the blood-sodden ground by Fang's head, and then Kyuubi loped away several meters, crouching and watching Roku curiously as he rose to his knees and placed his hands on Fang's neck, blood running over them and down his arms until his skin was stained completely with the foul liquid. Fang looked down at Roku affectionately through one large, foggy eye and then with an apologetic groan he collapsed and breathed out his life.

Roku was numb, the waves of emotion rolled through him with such intensity he did not know how to register them, and merely sat beside the dragon, quivering slightly and cold to the world. The next wave nearly broke him, as he began to grasp what had happened, and the pain that raced through his veins made him want to shriek and moan in tribute to the fallen beast. But what came in the wake of that wave made him rediscover his resolve, as he felt anger and hatred the likes of which he had never touched, and that was the part he held on to, and that allowed him to find his feet once more.

Kyuubi grinned and lowered himself near the ground, ready to pounce; ready to face Roku at a level he had been waiting for this whole damn tournament. Roku looked up at him, and for the first time Kyuubi faltered.

Never on a human had he seen eyes so hard. Never had he felt an aura from their breed that had threatened him or made him feel that he was challenged, and now—now it was so overbearing he could hardly breath. It washed over him and sunk into his skin, Roku hated him with such passion it physically exuded itself into his aura and attacked Kyuubi even as they merely stood facing each other, both stained by Fang's blood, and both of them finally, completely ready to rip the other apart.

Kyuubi dove in eagerly, lunging at Roku with a howl that split the air. Roku leapt aside and sent a gust of wind slicing at Kyuubi's flank. It hit, and it hurt. Kyuubi hissed as the wind cut open his skin, and he had to force his body to seal the wound as it sizzled with the continuous, biting energy of Roku's will. The earth began to shake and swell under his feet, shaking him off balance, refusing to support him, stones burst up to stab at his feet and legs, the wind buffeted him constantly, ripping his skin open as it passed, leaving him constantly covered in long, stinging cuts that were reopened as soon as he could heal them. Then the ground burst up once more and gripped him by the feet, holding him firmly as Roku charged in, leaping up to Kyuubi's muzzle. Once there, he held on with his left hand and his right, engulfed in flame, he plunged into Kyuubi's eye.

The fox howled in agony, breaking a foot free and knocking Roku off with a flail of his head, and then he shambled off, howling and raging as he sent his healing energy in desperate waves to his eye. And then he stopped and realized with fresh shock and horror that he had pushed Roku too far, and he had warped him into something that was beyond human but not like anything that had yet existed. Kyuubi's eye would not heal. Roku's essence still burned there, and refused his chakra, denying it the right to mend his wound, and though he could force it to congeal and stitch, the eye would not return and a grotesque, mottled scar remained. There were few things in the planes of existence that could cause a demon to scar, and the demons had long learned that they should fear all of them. Kyuubi doubted Roku was any different.

For the first time, Kyuubi knew fear. Like a cancer, it grew in his gut and spread to his muscles and bones, petrifying his body and making his insides beat and cramp erratically, as his instincts and pride struggled against each other for the next move. Roku's body became engulfed in flame, and as Kyuubi watched in frozen horror he took several slow steps forward. Kyuubi crouched and growled, but Roku was as unshaken as ever, and the passionate hatred in his eyes continued to bore under Kyuubi's skin and snagged his muscles angrily, making the great fox tremble. Roku roared and then with a great sweep of his arm Kyuubi was buffeted with wind and fire, and he jumped to the side in a desperate attempt to avoid the sting of a pain that would not heal. Roku was relentless, and as his rage continued to bombard Kyuubi the near-dark sky became heavily overcast and the rumble of the earth was echoed by one from the sky as the planet mirrored the Avatar's rage. He chased Kyuubi restlessly, sending endless waves of pure elemental fury after him, roars of anger falling constantly from his lips.

A flame burst from the earth, striking Kyuubi under the jaw and making him yelp shrilly. He stopped abruptly and slowly processed the sound of his own pain. He felt another new emotion then, as the shrill sound of his distress grated on his ears and settled into his mind with deep, deep shame. This was not him, he could not let this fear define him, as Roku rose to greater levels of power through his rage. Roku was pitting Kyuubi's own power against him; never had flame burned him, never had rage matched his own—nor would it now. Roku was channeling his anger, his hatred, but that was Kyuubi's playing field, the demon could not allow this human to overwhelm him at his own game, his pride would not allow it. But his eye was still gone, and still the wound stung, and he focused on that, and let the pain seep into his chest, the disgrace at receiving an injury that wouldn't heal from a human burrowed into his heart and deepened his wound. The overwhelming disgust and anger that wound bred shredded through the fear and replaced it with a fresh, ever stronger rage that burned through Kyuubi's spirit and reawakened him. This was who he was, fire and hatred was his essence and his heart, Roku could not stand up to that, and he would not let Roku best him at it.

His aura exploded, raging like a nova and exuding such destructive force it blasted through the attacks Roku had been pitching, and dissolved them into nothing. Kyuubi roared, and it sounded over the rumbling earth and sky and silenced them, as the world grew deathly still at the rebirth of Kyuubi's rage. Only Roku did not waver, with his lust for vengeance still fresh he felt no fear and charged in to attack once more. Kyuubi met him with another blast of his chakra, but the Avatar cut through it with burst of wind and continued his rampage. Kyuubi tried to buffet him twice more, and twice Roku split the wave of flame and continued on. What attacks he launched at Kyuubi dissolved on contact with his burning aura, and so they exchanged blows that did nothing but tear apart the world around them as the overwhelming destructive force was transferred away from their targets, carving deep gashes in the earth, mangling the streets into uselessness, flattening trees and telephone poles and still more of the mall. Even as their battle took them far from the building the shockwaves of their clash continued to make it crack and crumble.

All fear and hesitancy was gone from the contestants, all restrictions were abolished as they pummeled each other with a pure, desperate desire to win. Every breath was a curse, every move a strike, every slightest thing was focused on and created from that one, core yearning for their opponent to fall. The difference between them, was that Roku had only just found this side of himself, and Kyuubi was made of it, and he had one more level to play.

He pounced, and Roku did not try to evade, but instead sent still more of his wind and fire at the demon, refusing to back down, trying to force Kyuubi to be the first to pull back. The demon had reached a level of desperation he had not felt before and it fueled him into his most glorious wrath, and though Roku's attacks hit solidly, he was not deterred. He landed just before the Avatar and pinned him between his paws, encircling him so his face glared at him, huge and grotesque. Then they subsided once more, their auras raging, but their bodies still and Kyuubi's hot breath rustling over Roku pungently.

"I accept now, Kyuubi, this is what you wanted, is it not?" Roku growled, his voice low and shaking with hatred and sorrow. "I have taken on your ways, and I will overwhelm you with them!"

Kyuubi's lips curled as he growled softly. "You can take on my attributes for a moment, Roku, but you will never know the true depths of them." Kyuubi rumbled. "However, as a tribute to what you have accomplished, I will let you feel it upon your death."

And then Kyuubi ripped into his soul. Kyuubi's demon fire took on its more ethereal shape and blasted through Roku's skin and into his inner weave. The threads and chains he had ridden within the planet coursed through the body also and Kyuubi's flame rushed into them and made them burn. Roku collapsed to his knees, his mind overwhelmed as the fire continued coursing through his body, snagging at the memories of pain and suffering and throwing them up to the surface, uncovering every sin, every shame, and always it was burning; feeding on the things in his soul he had long locked away and feeding off of them to eat away at the Avatar's heart. The ripping of his inner-self translated to his body with violent shakes and bleeding within his organs, as a feeling as if his heart were endlessly breaking continued pounding him mercilessly and every millisecond felt like years of torment.

Roku looked up at the demon fox, and tears sprung from his eyes, his trembling hands reaching forward hopelessly.

"Do you cry now, avatar? Can you not face yourself?" Kyuubi chuckled, reveling in the torment. "This is the extent of human strength, and you can go no further."

"No," Roku rasped softly, still more tears trickling down his face. "Not for me…for you."

"What?" Kyuubi recoiled, growling.

"Your mind…it's so…sad…" Roku shuddered. "Your birth…all that suffering…"

Kyuubi then felt the invading trickle of Roku's consciousness, riding the web he knew so well to get back into Kyuubi's brain and rebound the attack. Kyuubi was eternal, and with eternity memories had faded, and he had not for many millennia recalled a time before he had become what he was now. But now Roku, clumsily playing the strings of the soul, had stumbled upon that part of him; the icy darkness he had come from and that had once scared and hurt him. A time when the loneliness had been confusing and painful, when he had not understood what he was or why there was so much destruction and death around him, when his every breath had scratched his throat and made him spit blood. He had forgotten how long and biting his path to becoming the warped and raging beast he was now had been. Kyuubi threw his head back and howled, his voice broke and hit a rasping shrillness that carried for miles, and those that heard it were overwhelmed with disgust and pity and pain, as Kyuubi sought to break free of those memories once more.

He cut off the cry and sunk into himself, ignoring his physical body, and collapsing inwards to purge his spirit of Roku's presence. His web was a twisted maze, over-lapping and knotting itself into tangles that were near impassable, and only he could traverse them easily. Roku's smooth, straight threads meshed with his, and in the realm beyond the physical the two of them had become dangerously entangled, hardly separate any longer but for the miniscule pockets of defense between them. They knew each other totally, facing off in this plane, every motive, every memory, every passion, was open to the other as they became locked together.

(((Kyuubi, I never would have known.))) Avatar whispered, the essence of pity and forgiveness washing through the web softly.

(((You were never supposed to.))) Bitterness, refusal—the sting of pain and withdrawal from the new awareness that kept pulsing through Kyuubi's threads, making them shudder and go cold.

(((You never had a choice, you became this through no fault of your own…all you want is the right to your life…))) Understanding, and an apology. (((I see now…you are the balance for the rest of the world. You exist in chaos so we can have order, in that sense, you serve the planet more than I ever could.)))

(((I serve no one.))) A fresh wave of anger, and Roku shrunk back from it, uncertain. (((You seem to think this has somehow changed me Roku, somehow altered the circumstances between us.)))

(((It is different, you are not what I had perceived. I accept you. I forgive you.)))

The weave shook with pride and hatred. (((I am what I have always been. My past created me, but it does not define me. You forgive me? I do not apologize.))) It calmed, but the undercurrents of scorn and simmering hatred still coursed through the web. (((I will not change or harbor a new regret because I recall a single moment of pain. You are a fool to continue putting me up to your human standards, I do not pity anyone, myself least of all, nor do I regret or feel contempt over any moment in my past. If anything, what you have shown me fires me further, and gives my existence more volition. I am rage, and I am flame, I am destruction and I am pain. Come Roku, face me and all that I am.)))

The lines of Kyuubi's weave exploded into massive blooms of fire, rushing along their path with overwhelming, shattering force. Roku could not retreat this time, Kyuubi's web was too far entangled with his own, holding him there, trapping him, and he could do nothing but wait in pained confusion until it collided with and obliterated him. As Roku's spirit was destroyed Kyuubi fell back into the physical world, and felt with satisfaction the charred cinders of Roku's soul leave his mind and indeed, the world entirely. Roku's body hemorrhaged massively, and fell in a wretched, bloody mass to the ground, and he was no more.

Kyuubi gave him no thought, and walked away from the body as if it were no more than another piece of dirt. He had won, and it mattered not who he had defeated to do so, he gave Roku no acknowledgement and would forget him soon enough. He was only a human, after all.

- - -

He walked back to the mall, what amount of it was left standing—little more than a few walls with the linking floors crumbling pitifully under the crowds that were packed there, watching Kyuubi with wide-eyed horror. He surveyed them sternly, his remaining eye still aflame with the heat of battle. The other eye was beginning to heal with Roku's will gone from the world, but it was still no more than a mass of puss and tendons.

"Where is Death by Chocolate? I am the victor." Kyuubi growled.

None moved, they all just stared and trembled. Kyuubi growled, and they shrunk away still more, one of them fainted and fell to the ground, cracking his head on a piece of rubble as he did.

"OROCHIMARU!" Kyuubi bellowed, and the crowd squirmed and shifted to try and locate the snake demon. Soon he sauntered to the front of the crowd, his grin wide and sly.

"Yes, Kyuubi-chan?" He asked, chuckling.

"Where is Death by Chocolate?"

"Kyuubi-chan, I was so enthralled by your battle I didn't have time to keep tabs on a lowly demon like him." Kyuubi's growl deepened, and Orochimaru only chuckled again, continuing: "Of course, once I get my prize, I'm sure I'd recall…"

Kyuubi gnashed his teeth, and then exhaled an angry sigh and then lowered his muzzle to the snake ninja. With a chuckle Orochimaru pulled a vial from his pouch and kusanagi from his throat. He touched the blade to Kyuubi's snout and pressed down firmly, created a deep cut from which dark blood oozed and travelled down the blade to drip off the tip and into the vial until it had filled. Orochimaru then removed the blade and corked the bottle, smirking up at Kyuubi as he replaced the sword down his gullet and tossed the bottle to Kabuto, standing ever obedient at his side.

"He went below, through there." Orochimaru said, nodding towards a deep crag in the ground. "Enjoy."

Kyuubi scoffed and then shook himself, and in a burst of flame he shrunk back down to his human shape, naked now, pure in his fiery rage, and then went to the gash in the earth and slipped inside. Orochimaru chuckled and then turned to Kabuto.

"Come, let's get out of here before Kyuubi kills everyone."

Kabuto nodded and followed Orochimaru as he walked through the crowd easily as they broke apart to make a path for him.

"Orochimaru-sama…if you had lost…what would you have given him?" Kabuto asked, out of morbid curiosity.

"Hnn? Oh. You." Orochimaru snickered. "Maybe that's why he didn't try too hard to win…"

Kabuto gaped, going slightly pale at the horror of the idea of what hell he might have ended up in. Then he snapped out of it and followed his master once more.

- - -

Death by Chocolate stood in the basement of the mall, standing at the control panel of the massive inter-dimensional chaos-sphere that had been the controlling core of this whole tournament. It was the thing that allowed all of these people to exist in the same space, and keep the worlds stable. The energy was a strange thing, constantly changing and coming in and out of focus, like sunspots, or an afterimage, but never seeming to be entirely there. And it was huge—easily the size of what the mall had once been, and constantly humming at a pitch that was almost imperceptible to human ears but still made them tingle and buzz as if they had just popped. It was disconcertingly surreal, and most humans would have been driven insane by only a few hours of exposure, and certainly its mere nearness had lent to the frenzy of the last few rounds.

Death needed to find the off button. He swore and grumbled as he tried to figure out his way around the panel, but the damn thing was so jumbled he couldn't even figure out which end he was supposed to stand at. It seemed he wouldn't have any choice—he would just have to hot-wire it. He punched a hole in the base of it, and pulled the sheet of metal aside, looking into the mess of wires beyond. He had to shut this thing down and send everyone back quickly, before Kyuubi had a chance to—

He registered the flame too late, and it smacked into the left side of his face dead-on, and sent him reeling to the ground, half his face melted off. Kyuubi then pinned his legs, melting them as well, and leaving Death lying hopelessly on the ground while he stood over him, glowering.

"Oh Death, you foolish little thing." He sighed. "Did you think to get rid of me, even after you were already bound to your duty? I've won, and you owe me."

"What? What do you want!" Death gasped through half his mouth, fighting to retain what solidity he still had under Kyuubi's roaring aura.

Kyuubi went stonily sober, and leaned down so he was looking death squarely in the eyes. "My freedom." He growled.

Death by Chocolate almost melted further as relief washed over him. Of course. Kyuubi was only able to be here because of the portal, but in his world he was still tied to the human cage. If Death by Chocolate killed off that boy while Kyuubi was here, then the fox demon would go free once more. He was more than capable to do that. All this time Kyuubi had been letting him panic over what he would request and all along it was something so simple. Almost laughing, Death nodded and Kyuubi quieted his aura so the chocolate-y demon could reconstitute his body and then fade away into the other world.

Kyuubi waited, looking up into the swirling, endless orb of nothing and everything and trembling with anticipation. Too long he had been restrained, too long he had been gasping for breath while drowning in a pit of torment, sealed away and contained within someone else's body and lending that boy his power for his only source of amusement. They would pay. They would all pay. Everyone that had ever held him back, angered him or hurt him, they would all fall down before his rage, and realize what fools they were to ever hope to survive him.

A pulse came from the orb, and hit him with an overwhelming wave of warmth that stuck in his gut and spread out to his extremities. For a moment his heart stopped, as everything within him constricted and stalled. Several seconds passed in absolute stillness but for the constant shifting of the sphere, while Kyuubi stood with his insides raging and convulsing as outside he could not so much as blink.

Then it broke, and a low, guttural sound trembled through the cavern, and then it rose, until the shrill, barking mirth seeped up through the cracks in the earth and spread over the still-assembled crowd. As they watched in abject fear the ground convulsed, and the cracks deepened and spider-webbed into wider, longer patterns, covering massive amounts of ground as it shook and crumbled, the very earth falling apart as Kyuubi returned to power.

The demon fox raised his voice once more, this time as a great howl, and in that sound the world heard its doom. It was a threat, a sentence, a promise. Kyuubi had returned to full power, the great demon had been reborn, and none would escape his wrath. Beneath the earth Kyuubi felt a great weight lifted from him, and even as strong as he had been he felt it multiply as his will and furor gained the freedom it always craved. Above him the night settled in, and the people who had witnessed its fall knew that dawn would never break again.

Well, there it is. My final-round submission. I really did put everything I had into it and I hope it showed. I would just like to say that I have absolutely loved participating in this tournament and feel that it has tremendously helped improve my abilities in writing fighting action. Best of luck and much props to the other finalist Alius111, and it was an honor facing you and all my other opponents. I am sooo happy just to be in the final round, everyone was a real challenge and I credit all of you (as well as Avatarjk137, who organized this whole amazing thing) with my vast improvement over this relatively short period of time.

thank you and much love

Angel Lucifel