The dim candle light lit up partially a face of a woman. She was staring at a man across her desk as he squinted his eye to read something from a scroll. He asked:
- Are you sure about this, Hokage-sama?
- Positive. Your team is the most suitable one for this mission. The Daimyo wouldn't even ask for me if he can help it, but clearly this nuisance had bothered him for too long.
- I understand - the man rolled up the scroll and put it in the pocket on his vest - I will gather my team so we can depart at dawn.
- Good! Just make sure that they know nothing about this!
- I can't believe it! - Raph grunted - Can someone reminds me why do we have ta come back here again?
- To have Mikey rub the Battle Nexus trophy to our faces... again - Don sighed.
He too wasn't too thrilled participating in the tournament, especially when his baby brother could brag about how awesome he was non-stop the moment they received the invitation letter from the Daimyo. The only ones seemed happy were Leo and master Splinter, since they got to see their old friends, the Daimyo and Usagi. But even they had limited tolerance for Mikey. And Mikey, well, saying he was hyped was still an understatement.
- Why bother with the tournament, when we all know they're gonna hand me the trophy... again.
- Have you learnt nothing from the last battle you fought in the tournament? - Splinter frowned - Your overconfidence was what got you in trouble in the first place.
- No sweat master Splinter, I got it all covered. I'm not overconfident, I just feel confident enough to bring back one more trophy of the Battle... Ow!
Raph couldn't take any more of that and slapped Mikey on the back of his head, shutting him up. Master Splinter was, for once, happy for the interruption. They reached the arena of the Battle Nexus without much difficulty, but getting in was the problem. Somehow this year's tournament had increased the spectator to the arena's full capacity. Luckily the Gyoji had spotted them and took them inside with ease. Usagi and the Daimyo's son were already there to greet them:
- Konichiwa Splinter-san – The rabbit bowed respectfully – I am so glad you and your sons can take part in the tournament. I was hoping that I can finish the battle between me and Leonardo.
- The feeling is mutual, Usagi – Leo smiled – It's a shame the last time we were here it got interrupted by… uh…
He let it hang, darting his eye to the young boy. He was no longer the Ultimate Ninja, thus his memory of scheming the assassination was wiped clean. It's a good thing though, now his father could raise him properly to be a better man. The boy cocked his head:
- Your match was interrupted? By who?
- It's ok. That guy won't be doing any harm soon… uh…
- Call me Ue – The boy bowed – I remember that I haven't introduced myself to you yet. But that time we were in no convenient circumstance.
- Yes, with the Levram's grudge match against my brother, you being held hostage and all – The turtle chuckled.
- I am forever in your debt, Leonardo-san.
The Gyoji cleared his throat to draw their attention:
- In this year's tournament, the great Daimyo had changed the rules. Since much more powerful combatants will enter the match, the preliminary round will be omitted, and each fight will be presented separately to the audience.
With a wave of his fan, the Gyoji transported them all to the backstage, where they could watch other fighter compete. The sight was indeed incredible. A stone giant was pitched against a little humanoid fox. The fox moved at lightning speed, turning itself into a blur, dodging meteor-strike punches from the giant. Each punch dug holes to the arena, which fixed itself the moment the fists were lifted. Raph nudged Don:
- At least this year, some of these guys would shut Mikey up for good without chopping his head up.
- Yeah – Don concurred – I can't stand another moment of him bragging about the trophy… and the medallion.
- Uhm… sensei? – Mikey gulped – Are you going to participate too?
- No Michelangelo – the wise rat smiled – This year will be all yours to shine. Remember the training with the Tribunal. Although you no longer have the amulets, the power within you is still there. Make me proud, my sons.
Turning to the Gyoji, he nodded. The ethereal being waved his fan once more, and both of them vanished, leaving the turtles, Usagi and Ue behind. Leo asked the Daimyo's son:
- Are you going to fight too?
- I'm afraid not. My father has trained me well, but he hasn't allowed me to join the rank of warrior yet. Besides, he said something about this year's competitors.
- What is it?
- I don't know. I overheard him speaking to someone when I came to see him a few days ago, but I didn't hear all of the conversation.
Leo was about to asked more when Usagi put a hand on his shoulder and point up, showing him a large magic screen high in the air. Names were written on it, indicating the next combatants. Don gasped as his name, while Mikey let out a sigh of relief. Raph reassured him:
- Ya can do it Donny. I know we can't do any ninjutsu trick like when we have the amulet and all those mystic weapons. But hey, we can still kick ass, right?
Don strained a smile before being teleported into the ring. In front of him was a human girl, with what probably would be Asian clothing. She carried a big scroll of paper on her back. The girl lightly bowed:
- My name is Tenten. This is my first time entering this tournament.
- My name is Donatello, but you can call me Don – the genius replied with a smile, at least the girl was polite enough – Let's do our best, ok?
- I hope you will, because I go all out from the start.
The sound of the gong cut their greeting short. Time to get serious. Don drew out his bo staff and took stance. He didn't attack her, yet. The gentleman in the turtle was forcing him to let the girl make her move first. Tenten arched an eyebrow:
- A bo staff? Interesting! Then I shall respond in accordance.
Putting the scroll down, she revealed the content to be numerous scribbles and signs that Don couldn't make out. Put a hand on one, she pull out a bo staff that was almost identical to his, except it's made of metal. Kicking the scroll to the side and let it roll itself up, the girl gave it some twirls before charging at a still bewildered Donatello. The genius had only a moment to dodge. Good decision, since where he had been now had a crack as Tenten hit it with outrageous force. Blood drained from Don's face as he slowly back away, brain running at full speed on how to go up against that girl. He wasn't the only one shocked. The spectator roared with cheer, while his brother dropped their jaws:
- Impossible! – Raph yelled – Is that girl even human? No human can hit like that.
- Well… she's probably using her inner strength – Leo guessed, but he too wasn't so sure.
- I don't know bro – Mikey wiped a sweat off his temple – Shouldn't someone can use inner strength be… much older, like a rat we know?
- Do not underestimate the effort one can put into achieving one's goal, Michelangelo-san – Usagi said – That Tenten girl must have trained since she was very young.
The turtles couldn't say anything more than that. They resumed watching Don struggles to avoid the metal staff. So far he didn't even have a chance to breath, let alone counterattack. Outside the ring, a group of three shadows also observed the current match. One of them sighed:
- I told her not to use ninjutsu – The oldest one of them said.
- Well, so far she hasn't used any strong jutsu yet – The second voice, sounded younger, was calmer - She just pulled out one staff.
- But that's specifically described in the mission briefing, and Hokage-sama will surely hear about this. Let's just hope she won't pull anymore of her weapons out.
- She won't need to – The third person spoke up – Tenten is about to finish him already.
In the ring, Don was cornered to the edge. Tenten was slowly approaching him with obvious killing intent. He knew that a metal staff can be lethal, but not deadly. He knew that he'll be teleported out the moment she struck; no harm would be done to him. Yet Don couldn't shake the bad feeling he's having since witnessing Tenten's attack. Something very bad would happen if he couldn't do anything. Unless… It seemed to be a desperate act, but it's worth a shot. Don put his staff to the back, clapped his hands together, and focus. He could feel his ki gathering inside him, but it was very slow, and Tenten wouldn't give him the time he needed. She's already jumped up to ridiculous height in order to deliver the final blow… Come one… Come on… Just a little more…
The metal staff hit the ground where Don had been a split second ago. Gush of wind blew dust all around Tenten, telling the girl that he was already behind her. Spinning around, she was startled at the sight: the turtle in front of her was covered in purple stripes, and it glowed. Brought the staff up high, Tenten spun it around to gain momentum before wiping at Don. But the turtle was way faster than before he dodged it with ease. On the other hand, whatever he's done to himself started to take a toll on him. Don was sweating pretty badly, and his breath was ragged. She just had to drag this on a little longer…
Darting for the scroll, Tenten planned to take out another weapon when Don intercepted her. He more or less had some idea about what the girl could do with that scroll. It would be a bad idea for her to reach it. Swung both his fists forward, Don punched right at the staff, intended to break it, but suddenly Tenten twisted its end and pulled it apart, turning it into a chain of weight at his astonishment. Just how much tricks did this girl have up her sleeves? He's almost out of it, no time for calculating move. Don just lunged at her with everything he had left. The crowd went wild as they clashed. In one swift move, Don had brought his fist right to the girl's chin, at the same time received an end of the chain to his temple. The rest of his brother yelled Don's name, at the same time the team of the other girl also scream hers. The two seemed to be frozen for a moment before falling apart, lying unconscious. A gyoji appeared shortly after that, his voice drowned the jeering crowd:
- Both Donatello and Tenten had fallen! This match is a tie! Both…
Everyone gasped as the announcement got cut off. They all turned their gaze to the fighters, where, Don slowly got up, pulling Tenten along with him.
- No… I… I won…
With a nod, the Gyoji corrected his statement:
- Donatello won the match! He will advance to the next round! The next match will be held shortly after exactly one mega quagon!
With that, he vanished, leaving the turtle with the girl behind. Leo, Raph and Mikey jumped to the ring and rushed to him, as well as Tenten's teammates. They were both carried out, but not before Raph shot out the question:
- What the shell happened? Why didn't any of ya disappear? And what's with that girl? She was like, wanna kill ya.
- I think she did, Raph – Leo hissed – Look!
Looking over their shoulders, Raph and Mikey could see that her teammates were glaring at them. Something's not right with this tournament, but one thing was clear: these people spelled trouble for the turtles…