I carefully wrapped a mass of eggs, bacon, ham, melted cheese and scattered herbs with a warm tortilla, folding it slowly while glancing at Raising Heart's display of directions. Once done, I looked at the breakfast burrito with pride for only a few moments until it burst open and unfolded. My device tried to comfort my failed attempt and instantly swapped to another screen, showing me how to use a toothpick to keep it together. Although I had tried extra hard for Vivio's sake, I had simply cooked too much again. Oh well, better to pin it together than to have her make a mess of herself while trying to eat on the way to the fairgrounds where the tournament would take place.
Of Mothers and Daughters IV
"Vivio," Nanoha knocked on her daughter's slightly cracked door and peeked her head in. The teen was still in bed but stirred at the sound. Rolling over, she looked at her mother sleepily. "Time to wake up," the older one told her with a smile.
"What time is it?" Vivio sat up in bed and wiped her eyes.
"Eh!" Vivio looked at her clock in shock. "I should have woken up half an hour ago!"
"I let you sleep in," Nanoha told her as Vivio stumbled to get out of bed. "I made breakfast to go so we could eat on the way, so you have time."
Vivio paused her frantic attempts at pulling on clothes and looked over her shoulder at her mother, feeling the uneasy atmosphere around them. "Thanks," She told her in an awkward voice. "I'll be down in a bit."
"We have about half an hour so take your time." Nanoha moved out of the room, closing the door with a soft click. As she went back downstairs, she gave Fate's sleepy figure a smile. "I was just about to come get you up."
"Coffee first, talk later." Fate laid her head down on the table. Her hair was uncombed and had several stray pieces jutting around at odd angles. "I didn't sleep well last night."
"I'm sorry," Nanoha opened a cabinet to take a mug down. Moments later she had it full of the requested black liquid and placed in front of the blonde. "Here you go."
"Thank you," Fate lifted her head and brought the mug to her mouth so she could inhale the scent. Feeling a bit awakened by it, she met her wife's eyes and smiled. "It wasn't your fault that I didn't sleep."
"After I dropped that bomb on you?" Nanoha sat down next to Fate and tried to return the smile. "I'm sorry for being selfish."
"You were selfish with Vivio, this is different. I know I'm away a lot; it's crossed my mind as well... Wondering how you can put up with me being away more than at home..."
"I know it's what you love to do. Helping others has always made you happy, and I know you chose the enforcer job because it would allow you to travel all over and help a large amount of people... But I just thought... that maybe you could make people happy here, where we are."
"It's not that simple."
"Of course it isn't," Nanoha agreed readily."And if you can't, then I fully understand."
"...Thank you." Fate leaned over and gave Nanoha a light kiss, complete with the blue eyed girl scrunching her nose at the coffee breath she inhaled. "Sorry," the blonde giggled out a half meant apology.
Vivio chose that moment to come down the stairs, ignoring her parent's close proximity. "Fate-mama, have you seen my purse?"
"I put it by the door, like always," Fate answered back simply. "You should remember where you place it so you don't always have to ask."
"I don't really use it much..." Vivio mused while getting the accessory and rooting through it, "I have my backpack at school and don't really need it when training."
Fate turned to Nanoha and spoke her sudden realization. "Vivio's kind of a tomboy isn't she?"
"I am not!" Vivio countered at once, cheeks red. "Nanoha-mama, are you ready?" She tried to change the topic as soon as possible, being more than a little sensitive about that topic.
"Yes, but we still have time. Fate-chan?"
Fate took another sip of her coffee. "I just need to comb my hair." Standing, she made sure Nanoha wouldn't get any ideas. "And I would prefer to stay awake, so I will go do it myself."
Vivio looked around at the massive amount of people running around her at the fairgrounds. Although she had been to the area many times, it always looked different as it housed many events. Currently the main area, which had been a carnival ground last time she came, was now a large flat stone stage. The square field that would be used for fighting was so large that she wondered just why they made it so big. "It's a little over the top, isn't it?" She had to voice her question aloud, her eyes now taking in the large stadium style seating that had been erected around the slab at an alarming rate.
"They will also have barriers around it," Nanoha revealed while guiding her over to the place she needed to go. "That will allow people who fight with ranged spells to not be at a disadvantage." Her eyes caught sight of Yuuno and she jogged over to him, allowing Vivio and Fate to catch up at their own pace. "Yuuno-kun! You decided to do the barrier work after all?" She beamed at him. "I was hoping I'd get a chance to see you, it's been a while."
"It has." The two smiled at each other happily. "And yes, I am doing the work for it. I heard that you and Vivio would both be participating so I thought it would be best for me to ensure the safety of the audience." Before Nanoha could voice her restraining ability, Yuuno continued. "Remember what happened last time you had a demonstration?"
"That wasn't really my fault, you know." Nanoha could tell her cheeks were tinged a little red from that statement. "Anyway, Yuuno-kun, do you know who I am going to be doing the demonstration with?"
"Yes, the man who won the last tournament is over at the registry right now. There seems to be some sort of complication with his student who entered as well." He pointed to a shaded area underneath a large canopy. Several desks were lined up with people behind them in chairs. A line was in front of each of them, full of a mixture of people. Some of the contestants were large and muscular while others were short and slender. There were different brackets divided off by ranking and power and signs above each receptionist stating which class they represented. On the far left there stood a man with brown hair and a black Barrier Jacket that resembled a karate gi. He was yelling at the woman in front of him rather loudly, drawing attention by those nearby. "Unfortunately," Yuuno picked back up. "That guy is who you will be fighting against in the opening ceremony."
Nanoha let out a sigh and put a hand on her hip. "I was hoping for some nice person to have a friendly spar with. He seems a little hot-headed." With that, she motioned for Fate and Vivio to join her and walked with her family to the line. "Vivio, looks like your section is in the middle." She pointed to one of the medium sized lines. "I'm over on the side." She looked at the shortest line there, as only two people were there. She was sure it would be empty, but the man arguing was making the poor person behind himself wait with an annoyed expression. "We'll meet up later, okay?"
"Sure," Vivio pulled her paper from her pocket and went to wait. Luckily for her, she saw Rio a few people in front of her and called out happily. "Rio!"
"Vivio?" Rio looked behind herself, her violet hair swishing as she did so. "Thank goodness, I was getting bored!" She turned to the people behind her and grinned. "You guys go ahead," she let them move in front of her so she could stand with her friend. "I'd have to wait on you anyway," she grinned, one fang showing over her bottom lip.
Fate stood with Nanoha and observed the man yelling at the receptionist about how his student had just ranked up and should be allowed in that class instead of the one beneath it. "I'm sorry sir," the receptionist stated while trying to stay professional. "His records show that he is not powerful enough to be in this division, so I cannot allow it."
"He is; the people at the mage ranking association just took their damn time transferring the papers!" The man shouted at her, throwing out one arm in annoyance and almost hitting the man behind him. "Now let my student fight at his full potential!"
The blonde felt a chill run down her spine when she heard the voice and the face made it click in her mind at once. "Lexus," she said the name with a bit of anger laced in it. The man turned to look at her and Fate suddenly felt the urge to cover her chest.
"I know you?" he asked, voice angry.
"No," Fate shook her head. "Your reputation precedes you is all."
Lexus stepped to Fate and glared at her. "You always jump to conclusions?"
"No," Fate glared at the man in front of herself. "I'm just a frighteningly good judge of character."
Nanoha nudged Fate, giving her a confused look while getting in front of her. "Hello, I'm Nanoha, I'm going to be with you in the demonstration round." She saluted him and tried her best to smile despite what Fate just did.
"I know who you are," he countered. The receptionist motioned for the man waiting to step forward but Lexus turned and yelled at her. "We're not finished!"
The Flight Instructor felt her eyebrow twitch at the rude act. "Now now, why don't we go ahead and let him go? There aren't any people behind us and it will only take a moment. We can talk in the meantime?"
"I don't want to talk with you," Lexus turned back around. "I'm just going to beat you up later anyway."
Nanoha took a step forward. "Now see here, this behavior-"
"Is there a problem?" A new voice came in the form of Hayate, in full battle garb. Although she was only there as a sponsor, she had to be in her jacket to show her position and rank, as well as who she supported.
"Ma'am," the receptionist tried to explain the situation but Lexus interrupted her.
"This idiot won't let my student enter," Lexus snarled at Hayate.
Hayate reached for the slip of paper and the receptionist handed it to her. Glancing over, she raised an eyebrow. "This says he isn't in this class."
"That's what we've been-"
Hayate cut the man off. "This paper is a receipt from the original turn in. He is registered in two classes lower. Either fight there, or I will remove you from the premises." She handed the slip back and glared. "After Nanoha-chan beats you, that is."
Lexus took a step forward but found his student placing a hand on his shoulder. The younger male looked in his early twenties and had short black hair spiked back with red tips. "Master," he whispered into his ear. "I see Takamachi's daughter in the other class… Let me join it. After you beat Takamachi and I crush her daughter, everyone will know the Cobra Kai dojo's name."
The older man stayed silent a moment before smirking. "Good call… All right then, I'll go with that." Turning to Hayate, he scoffed at her, put his hand on his student's back and lead him to the other line.
Nanoha gave a foul look at the man's back as he walked away. "What's his problem?"
"He's just a jerk," Fate told her instantly. "I'm more worried about why he suddenly gave up after his student whispered to him…"
Hayate put her hands onto her hips. "You know him?"
Fate nodded and allowed Nanoha to stand behind the man there before her and make conversation with him. "Remember a while back, when I was away for a bit?" Her tone made Hayate realize what she was talking about. "I met that man there… It may have been a different situation but his character is the same."
Nodding, Hayate accepted this. "He tried to get a battalion at the same time I did, back then. I had the support from the famous generals, as well as you and Nanoha-chan to give me more favor from the higher ups… After that, he left the military to pursue his own goals." She looked at Nanoha and then over to the line where Vivio was waiting, Lexus' student a few people behind her. "He formed the Cobra Kai dojo and began training people with the promise of making them more powerful than the T.S.A.B ever could. For that reason, they go to every tournament they can."
"Do they win a lot?" Fate had to ask.
"Yes, almost every one. I heard the students that fail to take first place get kicked from the dojo." Hayate sighed. "Nanoha-chan will have a rough fight ahead of her… but maybe after she wins, Lexus will cool his head a bit… We all know how good Nanoha-chan is at that."
"I heard that," Nanoha called over her shoulder. The two girls chuckled lightly behind her, trying to cover their smiles.
Vivio sipped on her cherry coke and looked out over the table she was sitting at. An umbrella was in the middle of the surface where she was sitting, going up and unfolding to cast a shadow over their bodies to keep the sun off of them. To her left, Rio was sitting, holding a hot dog in one hand and a half empty sweet tea in the other. The girl was completely relaxed, chatting away at Corona across from her and Einhart to Vivio's right. After a few moments, Vivio couldn't hold it in anymore and looked over at her purple haired friend. "Are you not nervous at all?"
"Hm?" Rio smiled, showing her fangs. "Not really, I'm excited!" Vivio propped her cheek up on her palm and sucked up more soda through her straw, slightly annoyed by the girl's easy-going attitude. "How about you?" Rio moved the question back onto her friend. "Nervous?"
"Of course I'm nervous, what if I get beat before the finals? I'm hoping to have the final fights between us four."
Einhart hummed lightly. "That would be nice but at the same time, I think that if one of us got beaten then besting that person would be the same as being able to overcome our friend."
Corona gave a small, nervous laugh when Vivio groaned at the words. "I think what she is trying to say is, she wants to win against us in an official match."
Einhart seemed a little confused. "But what's the difference in an official match and a sparring match?"
Rio nudged a blushing Vivio, who glared at her. "I think," Rio began, ignoring the death glare she was getting. "Vivio just wants to beat Einhart-san when it really counts."
Einhart looked over at Vivio, who was trying to decide if she should be upset or embarrassed, leaving an amusing expression on the girl's face. "Either way," Einhart spoke up, getting attention again. "None of us will lose before the final round."
"Here's to the final rounds," Corona held up her drink with a smile, tapping it to the other plastic cups and Vivio's glass bottle complete with straw.
Across the field and near the stage, Nanoha adjusted her Barrier Jacket so she could fan down her shirt. Sweat covered her neck already and she felt as if she were suffocating in the room that the female fighters would rest in between the rounds. "It's hoooot," she complained loudly.
Hayate snorted at her. "Try wearing it since seven this morning when I had to get here." The short woman was sitting on a wooden bench in the room, fanning herself with her white cap. "I don't see why I couldn't just wear a name tag that said 'sponsor' on it, you know?"
Before Nanoha could reply, a woman peeked her head into the room with a smile. "Ten minutes!" she spoke cheerfully while putting a poster up.
"Thank you," Nanoha replied back politely. When the person left the room, she looked over at Fate, who seemed interested at the lineup just placed next to the door. "Oh, is that the first round?"
"Yes," Fate mused. "Seems like Vivio and Corona are in the same bracket. Einhart and Rio are in the other one, so they will be able to fight each other if they all make it to the semi-finals and then the finals will be between friends... I hope Vivio does well."
"She will," Hayate cheered her favorite and only, niece on. "Having Nove teach her along with Nanoha, she will surely have the upper hand."
"Then again," Nanoha mused, thinking about it, "Nove also teaches Rio-chan and Corona-chan. I teach Einhart-chan randomly, as well."
"And they know each other's moves," Fate added in, her soft voice making her friends look over at her. "It will be for a very spectacular fight. By the way, are they using the hit point system? I don't recall seeing that on the rules."
"Standard tournament system," Hayate replied simply. "Ten seconds on the ground, knock out or getting tossed out of the ring."
Fate leaned back against a wall and crossed her arms over her stomach. "I really don't like that, people could get hurt."
Nanoha shrugged. "It is fair, though. Stronger magic takes more damage but some people can call it quickly. It wouldn't be right for me to be able to form fifty or so energy balls that do twenty-five points damage each and just pelt them constantly at someone to win the battle. In a real spar, the same attack would be used just t distract them so I could get in a real attack. Besides, Strike Arts has become pretty popular lately and this style suits their moves better."
"You're biased," Hayate teased her friend. "Since Vivio is in Strike Arts." When Nanoha didn't laugh at her joke, Hayate tilted her head to the side. "Did I say something wrong?"
"No," Nanoha shook her head, "just not in the mood to joke about Vivio."
Hayate hummed but left it at that. "At any rate, it should be about time for your demonstration, Nanoha-chan."
"Anything to get out of this room," Nanoha agreed, still fanning herself. "Even if it is a battle waiting, at least there is wind out there."
Fate smiled at her wife fondly. "But no flying, remember. Yuuno has the AMF set up to avoid that."
The blue eyed girl sighed. "Yes, I know. Talk about a disadvantage but at least I have ranged abilities while Lexus is hand-to-hand from what I know." With that, the door to the room opened and one of the helpers of the event smiled at them.
"Hello, it is time to start the opening demonstration. Are you ready, Takamachi-san?"
"Yes ma'am," Nanoha replied politely while walking over to her. "My friends can come watch right?"
The woman nodded. "Fighters aren't allowed to watch other battles since it might give away their opponent's moves but since you are just the opening battle and not part of it, they are allowed to watch." At that moment, the small crowd behind the assistant made it to the door. Shifting to let them in, she turned back to the three Aces. "The participants will wait in here now, please come with me up to the ringside."
Hayate waved at her friend with an expression torn between annoyance and apologetic. "I can't go; I have to explain the rules and regulations to the fighters here. Do me a favor and win please, Nanoha."
"Sure thing," Nanoha bumped her friend's fist and turned to the door to see her daughter and friends. "Hello everyone, please do your best okay?" She got a collected cheer from Rio and Corona along with a more reserved nod from Einhart. "Vivio, be sure to bring home first place." She smiled at her nervously.
"A-ah. Okay." Vivio nodded and moved past her mother, something that her friends didn't miss.
"What was that about?" Rio asked at once. "Are you two not getting along right now?"
"Rio!" Corona hissed at her friend. "Show some tact." To that, she got a tongue stuck out at her.
"It's nothing," Vivio told her friend with a slightly depressed tone.
"Doesn't sound like nothing," Corona came to Rio's aid, despite what she just said. "When you get quiet, something is normally wrong... Did you and Nanoha-san have an argument or something?"
Einhart looked down, a motion that Rio didn't miss. "Oh, this is about you and Einhart?" The group made their way to a bench to sit down, waving at Hayate discreetly as they passed her. The purple haired girl leaned forward a bit and looked over at her friend. "What happened?"
"We just had a blow up is all." Vivio sighed. "It... ended well and we're not fighting anymore, but... There's still this really awkward feeling between us. Like, I'm not sure if she really understands me and I think I don't understand her completely yet either... It's complicated."
Einhart put her hand on top of Vivio's and offered her a small smile. "We can talk with her later, if you want?"
"Maybe...I guess I'll just have to see if Nanoha-mama can really let me go or not." Vivio looked up towards the front of the room when Hayate called for everyone's attention to go over the tournament rules.
Nanoha held Raising Heart's staff firmly while looking out over the empty fighting field. Yuuno was next to her, offering his silent support while an announcer made his way onto the large slab. To her other side, Lexus was standing with his hands on his hips and shoulders square. His gi was fluttering in the wind, his belt wavering to show off the several gold markings on it. "Good afternoon everyone!" The announcer greeted the screaming audience by yelling into a microphone. "Thank you for coming to the fourteenth annual Mixed Style Tournament!"
Yuuno looked over at Nanoha and offered some last words of encouragement before she went out on the stage. "Lexus teaches a strict style of Strike Arts, so he'll probably want to come in close. If you can keep him at a distance, you'll probably beat him down rather quickly."
Nodding, Nanoha agreed. "That's what I thought, since I'm a long distance mage and the field is so large, I think I should be able to get by with a few bind spells and some beam spam... The barriers will prevent any from getting out, right?"
"Of course, you won't be able to break through it unless you do a seriously heavy attack. There are a few others that are going to work with me to reinforce any area that's being hit or if two people get a little crazy with ranged attacks... don't worry about that, just win. It'll look really good on Hayate if you can beat last year's champion."
"And we know how good Hayate looks to you," Nanoha teased, making Yuuno cough. "But I got you, I'll settle this fast." Her name was called and the announcer motioned over to her overly dramatically. Taking the cue, she began to walk forward and up the few steps leading onto the stage. At once she felt the more intense heat of the sun blaring down on her and resisted the urge to cover her eyes.
Lexus was introduced when the girl made it to the center of the stage and she looked over at him with a mix of appreciation at his abilities and annoyance for all the trouble he's caused. When he made it to her, she held out her fist for a bump and smiled at him. "Here's to a good demonstration."
The man chose to ignore the offered gesture and instead met her eyes fiercely. "It won't be a demonstration," he assured her, "it will be a massacre."
Nanoha frowned and took her fist back to place on raising Heart. The announcer spoke a few words about them both and then faced the fighters. "Winner will be decided by knock out, ten seconds on the ground, or being knocked from the ring. Let's have a good clean match!"
The three figures walked away from each other at the same time, getting a little distance between the fighters and giving the one calling the actions enough time to get off the stage. 'I need to finish this quickly,' Nanoha reminded herself mentally. 'If I let him get too close, I may have a struggle.' Nodding lightly, she showed that she was ready and saw Lexus do the same. A loud chime was heard and she immediately took action.
Several binds were placed between herself and her opponent as Nanoha jumped backwards several times. To her surprise, he nimbly dodged each of them while running at her at full speed. Realizing that he would get to her before she could do an effective defensive move, Nanoha pulled some of her magic together to form energy balls around her person. The magic circled her quickly, leaving Lexus with no choice but to dash to the side as the orbs shot forward in their attack.
"Not good enough!" he snarled at her, sweeping his foot out, only to be jumped. Wasting no time, he lashed out into a roundhouse that made Nanoha bend over backwards. The girl tried to turn it into a flip-kick but the counter-attack was dodged easily. "I expected better!"
Nanoha stayed quiet, eyes taking in her opponent carefully. 'He's good but he seems to turn to his right whenever he needs to move.' With this information, she purposely shot several weaker bullets at him to judge his reaction. While most were dodged, the last few were taken against his barrier when he tried for another attack. Her staff blocked a kick and she twisted to avoid a follow-up. After righting herself she saw him reach to his side and form a ball of energy in it before launching it at her.
Lexus moved forward when Nanoha dodged his attack. A fast, hard jump launched him into the air to give several swift kicks at her body while spinning around. He landed close and uppercutted the girl at once, reinforcing his attack with energy around his fist.
Nanoha smirked and leaned to the side to avoid the fist, only to grunt as a swift kick landed into her stomach. The missed uppercut turned into a dropping elbow and she saw black lightning shoot across her vision as the back of her head was hit. Before a knee could come up and connect with her face, she managed to get away and sling a handful of magic into the man's chest, blasting him several feet away. 'He's good...' Nanoha panted out as she stumbled back. Her vision swam before her from the blow and she had to shake her head to clear her mind. 'It's like he knew exactly where to hit me...'
Lexus shot forward at her, spinning around several times as his feet whipped out to barely graze his opponent's face. His body twisted and moved fluently to avoid blasts shot at him. A searing flash of pain ran through his side as he was clipped by a blast from the girl's staff but he managed to grab the twin pigtails on the girl and pull on them, ramming his knee into her face and busting her nose after clipping through the barrier.
"Gwah!" Nanoha reared back and threw out her hands to throw several small dots of magic. Blood poured from her nose and she spat it out of her mouth when it flooded in. She knew the flow wouldn't stop as long as she was actively moving and realized that if she had to go for another five minutes or so she would start to feel light headed from the loss. 'Got to end it!'
"Give up!" Lexus taunted, getting in close again, despite Nanoha's constant leaps backwards. A well timed kick broke her barrier yet again and she found her right arm go completely limp.
'He knows pressure points!' Nanoha realized in shock, eyes wide when she could no longer move that arm. Dancing backwards more, she circled around the ring, eyes locked on him as he moved as well. 'Almost...' Nanoha got to where she wanted to be and smiled again. "Ready to give up?" She cooed at him while pointing raising Heart at the man and gathering energy.
'Can't let her power up!' Lexus ran forward with his right arm held back to strike. 'I'll break her with this blow!' Halfway to the girl, he saw small beads on the ground start to glow rapidly. 'Delayed bind?' The ropes of magic shot around him and held him in place in front of the girl charging. "Raaaaaaaaaaah!" His scream came paired with his muscles flexing and breaking through the holds so he could once again run forward. After only two steps, however, more binds shot out and grabbed him. 'Crap!' He brought up a shield in front of himself and put all his energy into it, doubling the reinforcements to block the attack.
Nanoha grinned, eyes seeing the chance. Her attack blasted forward, hitting the shield and breaking apart in countless smaller strands. The magic didn't explode, instead it wrapped around him completely, forming a bubble shield around his body. The girl solidified the magic strands into one beam and slung her one working arm to the side, launching the bubble to the side and slinging it off the stage. When it hit the wall separating the field and the observers, it shattered and dropped the surprised man onto the grass.
"Ring out!" The announcer shouted into his microphone with an astonished voice. "Nanoha, the Top Flight Ace, has shown mercy and won by a ring out!" running up the stairs, he made his way to Nanoha as she held her nose for a moment, only to let go when she felt blood back up and go into her mouth. "Nanoha-san! Care to share your thoughts on the battle!"
Nanoha groaned but tried her best to smile, wiping her mouth on her sleeve and inwardly gasping at the amount of blood on her. "Well," her voice as a little raspy. "I knew I couldn't hit him with one of my signature spells without hurting him, so I decided to go easy and simply toss him out of the ring." With that, she simply nodded at him, patted his shoulder and walked off the stage.
"Nanoha!" Fate ran forward at once, holding a towel out to press onto her face.
"Fate-chan, you're smothering me," Nanoha panted out, moving Fate's hand away and placing it against her own face. "Is Shamal here yet?"
"Yes, this way," Fate took Nanoha's hand and quickly pulled her along. "Does it hurt?"
"It's broken for sure," Nanoha admitted. Moving the towel away from her face, she felt a little woozy at the amount of red stained on it. "Oh man, I'm going to have to wear one of those stupid looking strips over my nose, aren't I?"
Fate felt a bit of relief fly through her when that was the worst Nanoha was worrying about. "Thank goodness you aren't hurt... He looked like he was really strong."
"He was," Nanoha admitted as they got into the cool, makeshift infantry section. "Oh it feels nice in here!"
Shamal looked over at them in shock. "Nanoha-chan?" When her friend moved the towel away from her face, the blonde instantly went to gather things. "What happened?"
"Broke my nose, the jerk," Nanoha coughed. "I also can't move my right arm but it doesn't feel dislocated."
"Nanoha!" Fate gasped in alarm. "You could have told me!"
"Nya haha..." The woman tried to sit still so Shamal could mess with her. "Ow! Hey, ow! That hurts!"
"Cry me a river," Shamal replied, meaning the rude words in an affectionate way. "Yeah, it's broken..."
"Fate-chan," Nanoha managed out. "Tell Vivio that they know pressure points. If she loses the ability to use an arm or leg, her Strike Arts will be worthless."
Fate looked at Nanoha sadly. "Well, the thing is, that would be cheating... They aren't allowed to watch the fights for a reason, remember? And besides... That would upset Vivio."
Nanoha sighed. "I know, but..."
The injured girl held her breath as Shamal smacked her arm to make it regain feeling. "Ugh...I know, Fate-chan. If she battles with an advantage, she won't feel as if it were a clean fight... I just don't want her hurt."
"Mama!" Vivio's voice came paired with her bursting into the room, eyes wide with fear. Instantly she looked at the blood on the towel and ran the rest of the way over to her. "They told me you got busted up! Are you okay!"
"I'm okay," Nanoha smiled at her sweetly, thankful for the cotton swabs in her nose and the healing magic running over it. "Just broke my nose is all."
Vivio looked skeptical but still sank back just enough to give Shamal room to work. "Are you sure...?"
"Very." Nanoha reached out and pet the girl's head, smiling when she didn't move away. "His student is going to fight in your bracket... beat him for me, okay?"
"Sure..." Vivio looked at Nanoha once more when Fate started guiding her away and back to the door. "I'll beat him for you."
"I'll watch." Nanoha promised. When the door closed, Nanoha felt a small smile come to her face. "Amazing how a little injury can make you forget the small arguments."
"Oh?" Shamal looked curious.
"Long story," Nanoha grinned at her. 'But I think I'm finally starting to understand...' She looked at the closed door and smiled at it. 'She's still my daughter, even if she does love someone else as well...'
Vivio made her way back into the waiting area for the fighters and gave her aunt a status update on Nanoha. With that done, she walked back over to her friends and sat down with a soft sigh. "She's okay," the blonde revealed at once. "Nanoha-mama just got hit in the nose. You know how face cuts bleed a lot."
Rio let out a relieved breath of air and visibly relaxed. "Thank goodness. I was so worried when they told us that after the fight ended..."
Einhart nodded as well. "I wonder why Nanoha-san won by a ring out instead of a knock out?"
Hayate chose that moment to come over to them. "Nanoha-chan knows how Lexus does things at his dojo. She was probably thinking that making him lose by being thrown from the ring would be a lot more humiliating than knocking him out. If the instructor loses in such a way, he won't be able to chastise any of his students if they lose."
Corona smiled at hearing that. "Wow, that's Nanoha-san for you; always thinking about others."
"Yeah," Vivio agreed lightly. A hand was put on her head and she looked up at her aunt.
"Cheer up, Vivio," Hayate told her with a smile. "She will be out and watching the matches within twenty minutes. There is a special spot reserved for her and all of her friends as well. Subaru and the others are already there waiting."
"Ah, thank you." Vivio's spirits lifted noticeably at hearing that.
The first two people were called at that moment, each one walking to the doorway where an official was waiting on them. The two men nodded at each other and then turned serious while walking out the door.
"The air suddenly got uneasy," Einhart noticed. "The tournament has officially begun."
Vivio leaned back against the wall their bench was pushed up against. "I wish we could at least watch the fights, this is boring..."
Over the course of an hour, several people left the room in pairs of two, only to return as one. Rio got her chance first and came back after only ten minutes while giving a peace sign. Corona went next, returning with a scuffed up barrier jacket but otherwise unhurt. Einhart left the room and returned faster than anyone else had, only having been gone a few minutes before winning by submission.
Vivio felt herself grow tense when her name was called and she looked up at a large man easily twice her size. His biceps were as thick as her thighs and he looked at her with a rugged frown before turning up into a smile. "Let's have a nice match, okay sugar?" A shockingly high pitched and sweet tone coming from the man almost made Vivio fall over in shock.
The match lasted only a few minutes before Vivio gave a hard kick to the stomach, which made the man double over and fall to his knees. The blonde turned around and lashed out her foot, stopping it just before it made contact with the man. "Give?" She asked curiously, grinning at his wide eyes looking at the foot that could have knocked his head off.
"Give." The man confirmed, nodding nervously.
Vivio smiled and looked to the side, feeling her cheeks color a bit when she saw her family and friends all cheering at her loudly from the side. As she walked back to the room, she gave a thumbs-up to her friends.
The second round of matches began and the girls all watched the figures leave once again. Einhart was called again and once more, she came back in just a few minutes. Smiling at them, she sat back down on the bench and ignored the scared looks that the others were now casting at the group of seemingly weak girls.
Corona went next, taking a deep breath as she stood. Rio popped her friend on the rear when she was taking too long and beamed up at the blushing face when she was looked down at. Several long minutes passed before the brown haired girl came back into the room. Her jacket was now torn in a few places and her left pigtail was free-flowing due to the hair clip being damaged.
Vivio heard her name being called and she hopped up cheerfully, waving at her opponent who suddenly looked very ill to see who he was going against.
The new battle only lasted a few minutes, won by a clean punch to the man's face when he got too close to the girl. As he fell back, Vivio's eyes went wide in realization that she had scored a knockout. 'I must be used to fighting people above my bracket... normally that would be absorbed by a barrier...' Again she looked at her friends and felt her face warm up with pride when Nove was leaning over the rails yelling how she had taught her that move.
Back in the waiting room, Vivio bumped Rio's fist on the way to her seat and almost fell over when someone rammed into her. "Watch it," the man growled at her in annoyance.
Rio caught her friend before she fell and glared at the man before her. "Hey, don't be rude, you were the one who ran into her!"
"I'm fine," Vivio assured her but still gave the man in the black gi a stern look while walking back to her seat. When she fell onto the area, she watched Rio walk away with the man and out to the stage. "Am I bad for hoping she knocks him one good time for me?" She pondered aloud, making Einhart and Corona giggle to themselves.
After only a few moments, the door opened again. This time Rio wasn't standing there with a smile, instead replaced by the man who had walked out with her. As he walked into the room he gave Vivio a death glare on his way past.
Einhart looked at the man's back in shock. "He beat Rio? That fast?"
Vivio felt her heart sink at the news, now seriously wondering who the man was. "Rio barely fit into the bracket! The only reason she wasn't allowed in the one above us was because she hasn't been officially ranked that high yet..."
Corona gripped her dress in her fists, feeling a mix between anger and sadness flow through her all at once. "Rio..."
The next round began shortly, immediately starting with Einhart going out onto the field. This time the match lasted much longer before the green haired girl returned. Her jacket was dirty but besides looking tired, she seemed alright. Another group went next giving Corona just enough time to rest a bit more before her name was called. Her opponent was revealed and the girls caught the name of the man in the black gi for the first time. Alex stood and glared at Corona hard, ignoring her meek attempt at tapping their fists before going out on the field.
The door closed and Vivio looked at Einhart sadly. "Corona is weaker than all of us... If Alex can beat Rio, then she won't have much of a chance if he gets past her golems..."
"Have faith," Einhart scolded her friend. "There is more than just power involved. Corona is the smartest person I know when it comes to strategy... She will find a way to win."
Despite the pep talk, when the doors opened only minutes later, both girls were let down when Alex walked back into the room, seemingly untouched.
"Semi-finals," Einhart breathed out as she stood for her match. Although she was disappointed that Rio wasn't next to her, the girl still met her opponent's eyes and nodded at him respectfully. He had, after all, won his matches as well.
Vivio sat in the almost completely empty room by herself now, leaning forward and occasionally glancing over at Alex, who was glaring at her so hard she could almost feel it. 'What does he have against me?' She asked herself mentally. 'I've never even met him before and I feel as if he is here just to fight me... Maybe one of Nanoha-mama's old students...? No, I would know him... Who is he!'
Silence rang out in the room as if it were louder than actual noise. The air was thick and heavy, making the blonde feel suffocated almost. 'I wish Nanoha-mama was here to talk to...' she found herself suddenly wishing. Moving her hands over each other, she tried her best to calm herself down and managed to do so just before the door opened again. Einhart walked in the room, covering an exposed part of her stomach through her ripped clothing. Her hair had lost its braids and was hanging freely behind her and several cuts and scrapes were along her body. "Einhart-san!"
"He was strong," she admitted with a pleased voice. "It was an honor to best him in combat."
"He must have been strong then, if Einhart-san says that." Vivio acknowledged the praise and then looked over at Alex, who was standing. "I guess it's my turn to win over a stronger opponent then..."
"Be careful, he is fighting in the semi-finals for a reason and seemed to take out his opponents quickly so he wouldn't become fatigued... Watch out for his attacks, we don't know what he is capable of."
"Right," Vivio took a breath to steady herself and then leaned forward to peck Einhart's lips. "For good luck," she revealed to the stunned girl. "Back soon." With that, she ran past the still shocked girl and to the door.
Alex shot Vivio a dirty look and held it a moment before smirking down at her. "The daughter of Takamachi Nanoha... I will enjoy this." Vivio frowned but didn't say anything back. With a sharp turn, she let her hair fly out behind her and began to walk ahead of him down the hallway leading to the battle field. After making it halfway there, she felt a strange itch at the back of her neck and a sudden desire to slow down so he could walk next to her instead. The reason came when Alex's voice came back up. "You got a real nice looking ass. I bet guys love holding onto it when fucking you."
Vivio turned sharply and glared at him "Excuse me!"
"You heard me," Alex walked past her. "I know how girls are who have protective mothers. I bet you've swallowed more loads than you can count." He glanced back over his shoulder and smirked. "Or do you prefer snowballing the slut in the waiting room?"
The blonde ran forward, fist raised but found her arm grabbed from behind. Turning, she glared up at Hayate angrily but calmed down when she was spoken to. "Don't get riled up," the older woman warned. "Wait until you are on the field."
Vivio took a long, deep breath and pulled her arm back, walking the rest of the way down the hallway silently. Once she went out into the sun, the announcer was done introducing Alex and then pointed at Vivio. "And again, I present to you the daughter of the Flight Ace herself, Takamachi Vivio!"
Walking steadily, the teen glanced over to the side and saw the small section of her friends. Both Corona and Rio were there now, standing and cheering louder than any other around. Taking comfort in their cheers of support, she faced off against the man in the center of the stone field. Alex was smirking at her, which only made her even more pissed at him. 'Perverted freak,' she accused him mentally. 'I'll make you regret beating my friends.' The announcer told them to bow or touch their fists if they wanted to and each of them turned their backs to walk a few feet away before the match started.
Vivio set her eyes on the man before her and sprinted forward the moment that the match started. Rearing back her fist, she threw a hard right punch reinforced with her magic. Her attack clipped off of a barrier as Alex stepped to the side quickly. At once he hand lashed and clicked Vivio's shoulder, making her arm fall limp at her side. Jumping away, Vivio struggled to move her arm, gripping it with her good one. '-the hell!'
Alex smirked at her, holding up his hand and flexing his fingers. Yellow energy crackled along his skin and he spoke to her with a voice full of arrogance. "Letting your emotions take you over in battle... What are they teaching you?"
Vivio bit her tongue before she spoke, clearly remembering Hayate trying to calm her down after she was stirred up. 'He's right... I need to calm down.' A long inhale through her nose did wonders to sooth her mind and she got into a fighting stance again, despite her arm hanging limply by her side. 'My right arm is completely numb...I can't let him touch me again or I won't have a chance at winning.'
Alex ran at her this time, jumping at the last moment to throw out three kicks while in the air. The girl ducked under him and spun around to make her own moves. Her foot managed to glide against his back but her follow up was canceled by a well placed arm. The two glared at each other and exchanged blows while slowly moving across the ring.
Vivio grit her teeth together and dodged yet again, feeling the dead weight of her arm start to seriously hinder her motions. Alex gave a high kick, which was ducked under and returned with a solid sweep kick that knocked him onto his back. Taking the chance, Vivio jumped on him at once only to have her eyes go wide when she realized that she couldn't pin him in her situation.
Alex smirked at her, just barely managing to land his attack on the blonde, making Vivio's left side falter. When the girl rolled off of him, he took his time in standing. "Well now... this will be fun."
Vivio grunted, her left side tingling but still sluggishly moving to her call. 'I'll have to rely on magic...' The words went through her head as she judged her moves. 'Have to remember what Nanoha-mama taught me... When I can't use my Strike Arts'. Taking a deep breath, she brought her arm in front of herself and formed a ball of multi-colored energy there.
"Going to try and fight the inevitable?" Alex moved forward with a smirk. Two attacks were dodged and the third was grabbed by a binding spell. "What!"
Vivio pushed her hand forward, placing it against the man's stomach and blasting her gathered energy all around him. Immediately, she kicked his side and tugged on her bind to make him fall into the blow. Following it up, she danced to the side of a furious lunge and released her third blast into his back, making a large flash of light erupt from the dispersion.
Alex yelled angrily and turned around at once, moving forward and grabbing Vivio's face when he got past her defenses. Using his momentum, he made the girl topple over and mounted her, slugging the girl with magic laced fists.
Vivio felt her face rip to the side each time she was punched and she had to force herself to think clearly enough to make another bind spell to grab his arm. The man looked to the side in shock when his arm stopped and then whipped down to see a small hand in front of his face just before magic ripped him into the air and several feet back.
Slowly, Vivio stood up and weakly rubbed her eyes to make them focus again. Her right hand was slowly starting to flinch at her command and she panted out slowly, looking at where the man was laying. 'His magic is too strong... There's no way he can be in this bracket of the tournament... He should be fighting above us.' Turning, she tried to find her opponent when his body suddenly blurred away. A hard kick in the back made her stumble forward but she still managed to avoid the kick aimed at her legs.
Twirling around, Vivio saw the bloodied face of Alex and moved her hand out again, forming a barrier to make his attack go astray and then release her own power into his body. When the power cleared she felt her throat go dry when he was still in front of her, glaring hard. "Like mother, like daughter," he told her while grabbing her ponytail and slamming her face down against his knee.
Vivio felt her nose crush and then cringed as she was pulled away from his knee by a jerk of her hair. She could taste the blood in her throat but her hand still had collected magic in it and she glared up at Alex. "Go to hell," she told him just before she moved her now functional right arm and slamming it against his face again.
"Bitch!" Alex screamed out, having been hit in the face yet again. He felt the magical burns linger over his skin and the warmth of blood from small cuts drizzle down his neck. Grabbing her, he rammed his fist into her stomach, making her double over and cough. When her back was exposed, he formed two small energy daggers with his magic and stabbed them into her shoulder blades, making the teen under him scream out in agony when the auto defensive barriers gave way to the penetrating magic.
Vivio's vision swam in pain; both her arms completely limp from the attack. A fist connected with her face, sending her reeling upwards with a small arc of blood following her. Unable to block the next blow, she stumbled to the side as she was kicked and then fell onto her back when another punch hit her square in the chest, followed by a magical blast that ripped through her body.
Coughing, the girl struggled to stand as she was kicked. Her sides protested her motions and Vivio felt as if her ribs were cracked from a hard blow that actually raised her off the ground a few inches. 'I can't...' She thought bitterly when she realized she could no longer fight. 'I'm sorry, everyone...' She looked over at where her friends were watching and saw their concerned faces just before another blast of magic made her fly through the air and roll twice on the ground after landing. Staying down, the girl struggled to breathe properly as the announcer started counting up the seconds to her disqualification one at a time.
When the count reached eight, pain came to the girl lying down as her opponent grabbed a fistful of her hair and lifted her upwards. Being held by only the grasp on the blonde strands, Vivio opened her eyes weakly, mouth hanging to suck in air since her nose was blocked. "Not yet," he told her darkly. Her feet were off the ground, stopping the count and making some of the onlookers cheer while the rest booed.
Vivio felt all of the air in her lungs rush out with a single punch. The hand holding her up didn't let go to allow her to fall. The first gripped harder as Alex reared back to hit her again, only losing a quarter of his power to Vivio's desperate shield. A knee came next, striking her chest hard and making her cry again before being silenced by another two blows to the face. "G-...give..." The word was spoken too lightly to be heard and the man concentrated his attack again, making the girl black out after it landed.
Alex focused his magic and threw Vivio up into the air. When the blonde didn't move at all, the announcer calling the fight yelled for the match to end by declaring a knockout. The man ignored him and smirked up at the falling girl, moving up his hand to make sure his dojo was known for putting the top flight ace's daughter in the hospital.
The attack hit and magic shot out around the people, even forcing the man running to them to fall back and put up his own shield to keep from getting the backlash of it. When the power faded, Nanoha stood in the middle of the ring, holding her daughter against herself with one arm while her other was outstretched to grip Alex's fist. "That's enough," she spoke coldly.
"Cheater!" Alex accused at once, pointing.
"The match was called," Nanoha spoke fiercely, tone so dark that the man closed his mouth. "You won." Turning, she began walking away from them and to the small group of people who were running to the stage. Behind her, the announcer was declaring the victor again, making the people watching scream and cheer.
"Is she okay!" Fate asked at once.
"I think so," Nanoha answered softly, moving faster once she got inside of the building. "She took some hard hits." As they walked, she saw Einhart come running from the waiting room.
"Nanoha-san!" She yelled, stopping when she saw Vivio in her arms. "Hayate-san just told me..."
"Einhart-chan," Nanoha spoke to her softly. "He is really strong, and I could tell it when I blocked his attack... I really wanted to punish him for this..." She looked down at her daughter sadly. "But... that would be overstepping my boundaries... I'm leaving this in your hands, understand?"
Einhart looked at her in shock, swallowing softly at the words. 'She's... letting me protect her, even when she had the chance to get him back for what he did...?' A moment passed and she nodded firmly. "Yes ma'am."
"Good." With that, Nanoha walked past the younger girl and made her way to the area where Shamal was stationed. "Shamal!" Her voice was now fully revealing her worry when she no longer had to hold back for her daughter's pride. "Vivio is hurt!"
The blonde turned towards the commotion and stood up at once when she saw the sleeping girl cradled against Nanoha. "Oh my, she really fought hard, didn't she?"
"Yeah…" Nanoha laid the girl down on the bed and held her hand.
Shamal looked at the mass of people in the room for a few moments before frowning at them. "Okay, you know the drill, scoot!" The words made everyone sink back at once, giving the woman room to work. "Nanoha-san, you too."
"Scoot!" Shamal scolded her firmly, making Nanoha reluctantly let go of Vivio's hand. "Let's see…" A quick scan was made on the girl and the short haired woman gave a low grimace. "She's pretty beat up…"
"Will she be okay?" Nanoha asked softly.
"Yes, but she won't be very happy for a few days." Shamal began her work, weaving spells that left a faint green glow over the teen. "I can treat her here but I don't have everything I really need to do everything for her. I want you to bring her to my office tomorrow for a thorough check up and so I can prescribe some pain killers for her."
"Her ribs are cracked; she won't be able to move normally for a week or so. I know she will have some internal bruises as well but I can't pinpoint exactly where until tomorrow. When that time comes, I can give some treated bandages to keep the swelling down and to speed up the healing."
The mother gripped her fists hard. "That bastard… This wasn't called for…" Taking the hint, Shamal finished up what she could and then drew a white curtain around the bed Vivio was resting on to give them some privacy. "Vivio…"
"…Mama?" Vivio slowly opened her eyes and looked up at the ceiling. "…I lost, didn't I?"
"…Yes." Nanoha moved closer and took Vivio's hand. "How do you feel?"
"It hurts," Vivio closed her eyes again. "I remember being thrown… and a flash of light… then I blanked out." She weakly turned her head to look at her mother. "You came to save me, didn't you?"
Nanoha could feel the hidden question in the words and shook her head softly. "I didn't do anything until the match was called. When he was going to strike you after that, I came."
Vivio looked away. "I suppose you blasted him good, huh?"
"No." Nanoha shook her head again, getting Vivio to painfully look her way again. "I blocked the attack… I left the rest to Einhart-chan."
The girl stayed silent a moment before asking a doubtful question. "Really?"
"Really," Nanoha stroked Vivio's hand, unsure if the girl could even feel it or not. "This is your tournament and I believe in you. I wanted to jump in earlier; I really, really did… But I couldn't. It was your battle and you are an adult after all…"
Vivio stayed silent for a moment before speaking again. "Actually… I think I lost because I'm still a child." Taking a breath through her mouth, she winced slightly at the feeling of her chest expanding. "I lost my temper… even though Aunt Hayate warned me mere seconds before I got onto the field. I… let my ego and pride get in the way of what Nove taught me. When I lost my arms, the only thing I could think of was to use the ranged magic that you taught me… even though it didn't work that well."
"You did just fine," Nanoha tried to sooth her.
"No, I didn't." Vivio shook her head gently. "If I hadn't let his words effect me, if I had been more mature, if I… hadn't rushed things…" Her eyes closed slowly. "I'm sorry, Nanoha-mama."
Vivio had to open her mouth again to take a deep breath when she tried to breathe through her clogged nose again. "For breaking my promise to you… I said I would grow up normally, even if I had an adult mode… But when I got with Einhart-san, I… forgot that I was still growing."
"I didn't help things," Nanoha told her gently. "I should have been there with support and advice instead of fear and doubt… It's my fault too. Forgive me?"
"For being my mama?" Vivio shook her head carefully. "Never."
"Vivio…" Nanoha moved over the teen and hugged her as gently as she could. "You're the best daughter anyone could ever ask for…"
"Thank you…" Vivio tried to smile weakly.
"Rest," the older woman sat down again, smiling.
"But I want to know how Einhart-san is doing." At that moment there was a loud explosion and a slight tremble in the ground followed closely by a loud scream of agony.
Nanoha smiled. "I think she's doing just fine."