Cascore's Note: Hey everyone, welcome to another new story of mine. Having completed Cherry a bit sooner than I expected, and recently obtaining Mario Strikers Charged, I decided to give myself another challenging fanfiction to work on. This one will test my skills as far as describing constant, fast-paced action scenes (since this is based off of Mario Strikers Charged, and anyone who's played that game would likely agree it's very action-oriented). I've also never tried writing a story about a sport before, though this isn't so much a sport as it is a battleground...which only makes it all the more fun. I'm going to try to have a healthy mix of action from the matches as well as behind-the-scenes parts that go on outside of a match. Anyway, I should probably let you go ahead and read on. I'll go ahead and tell you one thing before I let you go though: this first scene actually happened to me in the game. Just thought I'd share that with you. Now, read, and I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 1: "The Invitation"

To think he'd make it this far with only one loss under his belt, twenty wins, and not a single sudden death match to be seen. Luigi was having an excellent streak as his Strikers career set off to a fantastic start.

He pulled stunts and trumped the competition in the Fire Cup, making his fans rock the stadium with cheers and chants. He made near-wins and come-from-behind victories in the Crystal Cup that caused supporters to storm the streets, shouting out his name as they wore their green "2" jerseys with "Luigi, The Green Giant" written on the back. He managed to breeze by the elimination rounds, stomping Bowser Jr. and Waluigi into the ground with shutout games.

But now was the big moment. All of that hard work his team went through would mean absolutely nothing if he couldn't win this one, fateful game. He was up against Diddy Kong, the defending champion of the Crystal cup. And not only did the field on which they played perform odd tricks on the team, eliminating certain members from both sides before the game even began, but Diddy was also quite a formidable opponent, far superior in skill than anyone Luigi faced so far.

The first game of the best-of-three battle was an utter mess. Having never played on the field before, Luigi didn't expect to lose certain teammates after every goal that was made, and he was even more surprised to find himself be ejected from the game at one point. He tried to put up with the odd field, but only managed to score a single goal as the game progressed, not enough to overcome Diddy's three. The first game of the battle was lost, meaning Luigi had to win the next two if he hoped to win the Crystal Cup for his team.

Fortunately, the very next game, he dominated the field. Coming out of the game with a four to nothing win, Luigi's spirits were rising once again. But he wasn't out of the woods just yet. This was the determining game right here. The best-of-three was gridlocked at one-one. Whoever won this was going home either the defending champion, or the new victor.

Luigi had everything planned out. If he could keep up his assault as he did in the previous game and land a Mega Strike or two, he could hopefully trump Diddy out of his position as champion. However, this game all depended on who was ejected for this match.

Luigi and Diddy stared each other down, their teeth gritted as they waited for the judgment light to pick the team members out of the field to sit out the match. Who would it be this time? Toad maybe? It would be okay if Toad was gone, Hammer Bro could fill in his spot with his superb passing abilities, though his running wasn't quite so great.

Losing Dry Bones would be bad though, for he was the best line of defense on Luigi's team, never failing to take down anyone who got too close to Kritter the goalkeeper. And if Hammer Bro was taken out, that made Luigi the only one who could deliver a decent shot. There were different cons with every possible loss, but all Luigi could do was wait.

The moment of truth finally came, and Birdo from Diddy's team was selected, while Hammer Bro from Luigi's was taken away. Luigi grumbled as he saw this, but, soon enough, he could feel himself being lifted into the air and watched Diddy get picked out as well.

"This isn't good," Luigi muttered as the light only left behind Toad and Dry Bones. They could easily defend the goal with their quick feet, but only Toad could pass very well, and neither of them had very impressive shooting skills.

As he looked on the field however, he noticed that a Toad and a Dry Bones were the only two left on Diddy's team too, making both sides truly evenly matched. Neither team could shoot worth a grain of dirt and both had two quick runners, one good defender, and one good passer. In short, this was going to be an interesting match. If not rather long and unnerving.

And thus, the final game began. Both Toads sprinted forward at the ball resting in the center of the field at full speed while the Dry Bones kept their eyes on each other closely. Before either Toad could completely reach the ball, the one from Diddy's team delivered a painful body check to the one from Luigi's, leaving the ball wide open for Diddy's nearby Dry Bones to run up and snatch it away.

Granted with a Green Shell from the unnecessary tackle, Luigi's Dry Bones sent the weapon hurtling at the current ball holder, who lobbed a quick pass over to his Toad partner just before being smacked with the giant Koopa shell. Diddy's Toad jumped to receive the ball, only to be tackled by Luigi's Toad as he came down to land, leaving the ball rolling as Luigi's Dry Bones rushed forward and claimed it.

The Dry Bones went straight for Diddy's Kritter and brought his foot back, concentrating his power to charge up his Skillshot. The ball transformed into an orb of electricity as Dry Bones finally kicked it, sending it flying directly into Kritter, who became instantly stunned by the move. The ball rolled back toward Dry Bones, who was still wide open as his opponents recovered from their attacks, and he delivered another swift kick, only to have it smack right into the stunned Kritter and roll right back toward him.

"Well that was pointless..." Dry Bones muttered as he went in for a third kick, hoping to have more luck this time. However, before he could make the move, Diddy's Dry Bones dashed his way over and body slammed Luigi's into the surrounding electrical fence, frying him as Toad was left to fend for himself against Diddy's two teammates.

As if playing a game of keep-away, Diddy's Dry Bones and Toad passed the ball back and forth as they move towards Luigi's side of the field, charging it up to its yellow state rather quickly, one step below its strongest charge, white. The Toad passed the ball to the Dry Bones, who readied himself for a quick shot, only to be cut off by a tackle from Luigi's Toad, resulting in a stolen charged up ball that Toad hastily transported to Diddy's side of the field.

He lobbed a pass over to Dry Bones, just narrowly sending it above Diddy's Toad who didn't jump in time to snatch it. Dry Bones jumped up and delivered a powerful corkscrew spin kick, straightening out his body horizontally and launching the ball with all his might. Unfortunately, he was rather far from the goalie, actually sending the kick from near the center of the field. This resulted in the ball simply falling to the ground as it came to a roll before Kritter, who merely knelt down to pick up the ball and roll it out to Diddy's Toad, who quickly passed the ball to his Dry Bones teammate. The Dry Bones sent his own shot, only to be defended from the goal by Luigi's Kritter.

The back and forth went on for quite some time. The event was stressful for Luigi. For four long, grueling minutes, and well into sudden death, the two opposing teams struggled, remaining gridlocked at a solid zero-zero score. By now, if either team scored just one point, that team would win the cup. It was truly all-or-nothing at this point.

Then it happened.

A well-timed shot of three Blue Shells and the unfortunate misstep of both of Luigi's teammates right into the line of fire sealed their fate. Both of Luigi's partners were frozen on the spot, leaving Diddy's team to assault Kritter completely unguarded.

And Kritter didn't last long at all.

Faced with a powerful, fully charged, close-range kick from Diddy's Toad, the ball flew at the net, curving ever so slightly as it traveled along. Kritter dived, extending his arms as he reached for the ball. Missing by just a finger's length, the ball flew right past, scoring the one point Diddy needed to successfully defend his title as champion.

The crowd cheered, along with Diddy's team, but, at the same time, an aggravated Luigi stood up from his seat, nearly throwing his Wii remote and accompanying Nunchuck attachment to the floor in anger.

"Are you SERIOUS!? That was so CHEAP!! How did Kritter not block that!? I was so close!!" Luigi erupted as he took in a very deep breath to calm himself down. He dropped the remote on the couch behind him before walking into the next room over, where Mario was having a cup of coffee with a robot that sported a thin frame, but a rather large, egg shaped head. "Hey Eggman, your game's pretty rockin'. I give it two thumbs up."

"Affirmative," the robot responded, standing from his seat at the dining table. "Next Level Games will be pleased you approve." With that, Eggman ignited the jets installed within his feet. He launched himself out of the house through the roof, blasting off towards Next Level Games Headquarters. A few seconds of silence passed as Luigi observed the new hole in the roof he would have to patch up later and Mario frowned at the debris in his coffee.

"Can you believe it bro!!??" Luigi shouted at the top of his lungs, conjuring his rage as Mario looked over at him confusedly. "Throughout all of the Fire Cup and all of the Crystal Cup, I only had one loss!! Then I get up to the final match and I lose to a Toad! Because of one goal! And now I have to start the whole Crystal Cup over again!! This is insanity!!"

Mario simply tilted his head in response, causing Luigi to shrug.

"Yeah, it's just a game after all," Luigi muttered, instantly coming out of his anger. "Wanna play a few Domination matches?"

"Oh yeah!" Mario nodded eagerly, rising from his seat to join Luigi in the other room.

As the brothers readied themselves for their oncoming game, they heard two knocks at the front door, accompanied by a third that sent it flying off it hinges and rocketing through the room in which they were starting their match. They simply blinked for several moments as the door implanted itself into the wall nearby.

"MAIL CALL, SUCKAS!!" Parakarry yelled as an envelope sliced through the air like a ninja star, sticking itself into the newly relocated door. Parakarry soon flew off, leaving Luigi to sigh as he stood from the couch.

"I can tell this is gonna be something stupid," he muttered, yanking the letter out of the door, making a mental note that he would have to fix that too, and the wall. Mario got up as well and read the letter along with Luigi, who held it at arm's length so his brother could see too.

"Masters Mario and Luigi, this letter is your official invitation to partake in the upcoming Striker League, a series of three round-robin style tournaments that each yield their own trophies and titles as Champions. These Tournaments are called the Fire, Crystal, and Striker Tournaments, and each holds a different amount of total games that must be played in order to win. If you think you are interested and would like to learn more, please send a response to the return address of this letter with any questions you may have. If you wish to partake in the tournament, then please visit the Mushroom Castle located in the Mushroom Kingdom's capitol, Toad Town, with this letter in hand. Toadsworth will add your name to the roster and answer any questions you may have. The event begins on the first of next month, exactly twenty-eight days from the date this letter was sent. We hope to see you there.

- Striker League Committee"

"That wasn't stupid at all," Luigi admitted without a hint of sarcasm in his voice whatsoever. "It sounds a lot like the game actually."

Mario nodded in agreement as they both glanced over at their game on the television they'd completely forgotten about. Currently, one of Mario's teammates was being tackled by one of Luigi's, who stole the ball and proceeded to stand idly, waiting for someone else to come tackle him. Since the game was ending in a mere ten seconds, Luigi decided he would have his Boo teammate take a random shot. Surprisingly enough, without the ball being charged up at all or the kick itself being powered, the Boo actually made the shot from halfway across the field. Mario's Kritter couldn't catch up to it as the ball rolled by him slowly. Mario and Luigi simply stared at the screen as Boo did a victory animation.

"...Now, why couldn't I do that during Sudden Death against Diddy...?" Luigi asked, prompting a shrug from Mario. "Well whatever, we can actually be doing this for real now," Luigi said, looking back at the letter with a smile. "Wanna go for it bro? Sounds like it'd be fun."

Mario nodded in response, causing Luigi to begin wondering about several things. However, after a while, he figured he may as well reserve his questions for Toadsworth once they arrived at the castle.

"Come on Peach!" Daisy taunted as she dribbled circles around her best friend. "You can't be afraid to get down and dirty if you want to play in the League!"

Daisy and Peach were practicing in a cleared patch of grass in the castle's garden, using their lightweight playing gear: Peach in a pink crop top, exposing her midriff, and pink shorts, with streaks of blue accenting the sides, and Daisy in a similar outfit, but orange with teal accents. Both of them also wore cleats displaying their accommodating colors. Peach refrained from partaking in the practice however, feeling that the act was rather brutish.

"I doubt I'd have to do this sort of thing during an actual game," Peach commented with a smile as she watched Daisy dribbled around her energetically.

"Doubt all ya want, taking people down is a big part of being a Striker," Daisy informed, stopping in front of Peach and balancing the ball on one foot, beginning to kick it up into the air as she started to perform a few legwork tricks. "Sure, if you wanna be 'civilized' about it, you can try slide tackling all the time. But believe me, people aren't gonna go easy on you out there just because you're the princess. And when they bite you, you're gonna want to bite back."

"You know I couldn't do something like that Daisy," Peach said, looking at the ground as she clasped her hands behind her back. "Even if it is a part of the game."

"Ah, Peach..." Daisy muttered with a smile, now bouncing the ball off her head. "With an attitude like that, you're not gonna make it very far in this competition. When you want to be a Striker, you have to get yourself lost in the game ya know? Just forget about everything else. Your only focus is winning, not 'Oh my, I hope I didn't hurt them' or something like that. Worry about injuries after the game's over."

Peach simply sighed as she dropped down to the grass, sitting with her legs fully extended before her in a "V" shape and holding herself up with her arms.

"I wish I could be like you Daisy," Peach admitted, causing Daisy to cease balancing the ball and catch it. She looked down at Peach with a slightly raised eyebrow. "You're so competitive, and you're not afraid to do whatever it takes to win. I'm just the total opposite. I'm not sure I'd be able to participate in this really. It just seems like such a physical, violent sport."

"Well...yeah, it kinda is," Daisy agreed with a shrug. "But that doesn't mean people are actually gonna be getting hurt that much. You do remember what Toadsworth told us don't you?" she asked, sitting next to Peach cross-legged, holding the ball in her lap. "To counter all the physicality of the game, everyone's getting that special protective gear. It's supposed to nullify the pain of possible attacks almost completely."

"Oh yeah," Peach mumbled, cocking her head slightly, recalling the talk. " that case, maybe I can get into it just a little." Daisy smiled at this, standing up once again.

"You sure you don't want to practice your big hits then?" Daisy asked, dropping the ball onto the ground and holding it down with her foot. Peach looked up at her, beginning to give an excuse not to, but Daisy quickly stopped her. "Don't say that you don't want to hurt me. Believe me Peach, you won't."

"And what makes you think I won't?" Peach asked defensively with a smile as she stood up, placing her hands on her hips. Daisy snickered, playfully turning a cheek to her falsely offended friend.

"Please, with a noodle body like yours, I don't think you'd even be able to knock me down," Daisy commented with a smug smile, causing Peach to scoff, her eyes wide.

"Is that so?" Peach said, beginning to step toward Daisy, evidently taking up the challenge. Daisy caught on quickly, dribbling the ball backwards at an equal pace to Peach's advancement. "I think I can."

"Bring it," Daisy challenged with a chuckle as Peach dashed forward at her, causing her to turn and run through the grass as she dribbled the ball.

As Peach gave chase to Daisy, Mario and Luigi appeared on the scene, dressed up in their own red and green jerseys with accommodating shorts and cleats. They also appeared to be carrying some rather bulky pieces of armor that matched their jersey colors: chest plates, shin guards, shoulder pads, metal gloves, and a pair of special cleats. Feeling slightly overwhelmed by such protective armor, neither of them bothered to try them on yet. However, they did feel incredibly lightweight, despite their size.

Dropping the pieces of equipment on the ground unceremoniously, the brothers silently observed as Peach continued her struggle to tackle Daisy. It appeared Peach was beginning to lose her patience, as Daisy could make hairpin turns with the ball on a whim and could deke out of the way just as Peach went in to tackle her. Until now though, Peach was holding back. She would simply try to elbow Daisy instead of put her full body behind the attack.

"Come on Peach, put your weight into it!" Daisy called back as she outran Peach in a straight line. "You can't expect to just nudge people to make them lose the ball!"

Peach grumbled as she gave chase to Daisy, who was now running in a line that would take her just past Mario and Luigi along the way. As she approached Luigi, she yelled out "Hey Sweetie!" and continued to run past him, closely followed by a groaning Peach. After finally getting within striking distant, Peach stopped holding back and put everything she had behind a tackling lunge.

She flew forward, only to narrowly miss Daisy as she made another turn, falling flat on the ground and skidding on the grass a short distance.

"Almost had me that time!" Daisy shouted behind her back happily as she ran off with the ball, leaving Peach behind to gather herself back up and grumble once more. She felt that she was finally becoming annoyed and soon, Daisy was the center of her attention, everything else seeming to disappear as she focused on her annoyingly agile opponent. Soon Peach began to run after her once more, but approaching at a quicker speed than she was previously pulling off.

Before she knew it, she did it. She finally caught Daisy and tackled her with all her might, sending her stumbling into Luigi as they both fell to the ground, Peach claimed the ball, and Mario applauded.

"Whoa, good job!" Daisy complimented as she pressed down on Luigi's face with her hand to sit herself up on top of his stomach. "I didn't think you had it in you!" Peach smiled sheepishly as a light blush came to her cheeks. Mario stepped forward and shared a high five with her as well as a proud smile.

"Hey, uh, Daisy?" Luigi spoke up, causing Daisy to look over her shoulder at him. "Mind moving your hand from my face?"

"Oh, sorry Sweetie," Daisy apologized, moving her hand as he asked. Instead, she settled for interlocking her fingers with his and moving his arms out spread eagle, leaning back on his hands and still sitting on his stomach. Luigi didn't particularly mind this, as long as she wasn't using his face. Daisy then observed the pieces of red and green armor piled up on the ground and smiled. "You guys going for the League too?" she asked brightly. Mario nodded in response.

"We just talked to Toadsworth about the rules and everything," Luigi informed, prompting a giggle from Peach.

"There are rules?" she asked, making Daisy laugh as well.

"I know about having to put the ball in the opponent's net," Daisy said, "But I thought everything that went on between those points was all-out war."

"That's how we took it too," Luigi imparted, causing Mario to nod once more. "What we got from it was 'Survive the game' and 'Try to get the most points'. Toadsworth just rambled on and on about ways for the teams to kill each other. I'm pretty surprised he's even going along with this whole thing."

"We pestered him until he agreed," Peach said with a smile. "We've held all kinds of sporting events before, and the people wanted to see a Striker League, so we figured we should give it to them."

"Can't say I'm not excited about it," Luigi said, making Daisy look over her shoulder at him skeptically.

"Really?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. "You know this is a full contact sport right?"

"Of course, why would they give us all this ridiculous armor if it wasn't?" Luigi answered, looking over at the small mound of gear. "I like stuff like tennis and go kart racing too, but being a part of a Striker League is a lot more exciting. And I'm pretty good at it if I may say so myself."

"Is that true Mario?" Peach asked, prompting a shrug as Mario closed his eyes and tilted his head to the side.

"You know I'm good bro," Luigi insisted as Mario smiled at him. "I've even beat you a few times."

"Hmm," Daisy mused, continuing to look at Luigi below her. "Wanna play a match or two then?" she suggested. Luigi shook his head immediately.

"No way, I can't let you see my super secret strategies before the League begins," Luigi refused. Upon hearing this, Daisy removed her hands from Luigi's and stood up, turning to help him to his feet as well.

"Come on Luigi, just a quick game," she asked as sweetly as she could. "Just show me one of your super secret strategies."

Mario chuckled and simply shook his head, making Luigi frown immediately and Peach giggle.

"Of course I have super secret strategies bro," Luigi muttered. "But you wouldn't know about them because they're super secret." Mario simply waved his hand as if he were throwing something over his shoulder before grabbing his equipment. Everyone seemed to agree with him that it would probably be best if they started recruiting for their own teams. They only had four weeks to prepare after all, and they had to get the best of the best and teach them the tactics of the Strikers field before then.

With that, the four captains departed the garden in search of their teams for the League. And at the same time, eight other captains around the world that accepted the letter's invitation were doing the same thing. Everyone was readying themselves for the oncoming uphill battle to successfully make it through the Striker League, and, in the end, hopefully win the coveted Striker Cup. However, only one team could claim victory over the rest. Of these twelves teams, which one would be skillful, lucky, or conniving enough to win the ultimate prize? The world would observe this battle royale from the very beginning exactly one month from this day.