The End

Leon's Roar

"Kaaha haha ha!" Hogg's cackling ruined the mood that had fallen over the Grand Hall, reminding any who may have forgotten that they were in the middle of something. "You may not be fighting them, but you have no chance of defeating me. Bow down now and I may spare some of your worthless lives. Kahahaha; see, I'm such a merciful ruler."

Alexander scoffed at Hogg's 'show of mercy' and retorted, "I told you before that your arrogance would be your downfall. Your plan has already failed; give up now and your punishment may be lightened." Alexander withdrew his rapier and pointed it towards Hogg as he finished his statement.

"My plan has failed; whatever do you mean?"

"Don't play stupid. You tried to stop us before we reached the walls, but once we got inside, you left a clear path guiding us here. Having the King's personal soldiers attack was merely a ploy to tire me out, before you struck like the opportunistic vulture that you are. All that's left is what trick you have up your sleeve." Alexander gave a confident smirk as he recalled the events. "You know you can't beat me in a battle. Let's not waste our time."

Hogg's initial reaction was a smug grin. "Very astute, my young Prince," the title sounded with a mixture of mockery and spitefulness. "You're right; I still don't know how your little group got through the front gate and Hunter's men, but I figured it as a possibility, nonetheless. However, there is no trick. I have gained power; the Devil's power."

"So that's what it is, a Devil's Fruit. No matter, no Devil Fruit could grant you enough power to beat me."

"We'll see about that dear Prince," Hogg spat as he brought up two meaty, ringed fingers. Bringing them together, a loud snap rang through the room before slight metallic creaks could be heard coming from the perimeter.

Leon looked down to where the sword had pierced his stomach. He'd only managed to slow his momentum to the point that the sword didn't pierce him all the way through. But, combined with the fact that he was able to shift his body up and to the side ever so slightly, Leon avoided significant injury and bleeding because it meant he only had one medium-sized wound as opposed to two gaping wounds; that was all he needed to be able to fully enjoy the rest of this fight.

Reaching down with his left hand, Leon took a firm grip of the portion of cold steel just outside of his stomach and with a psychotic look in his eyes, gave Hunter a malicious smirk that briefly unnerved the combatant since he was sure he was winning. "You made three mistakes." Leon began speaking as he carefully pulled the blade from his own stomach, not even taking note of the pain. "First, you overestimated your own abilities." he grunted as he finished withdrawing the large sword from his abdomen. "Second, you mistook a predator for prey; a fatal mistake for any hunter. And third," he pulled the sword and its wielder toward himself with a forceful tug. "You. Thought. Of me. As only. A SWORDSMAN!" He emphasized almost every word with a strong punch directly to Hunter's face and finished with a hard elbow that sent Hunter tumbling backwards as Leon flung the sword away as well.

Crunch. Hunter could tell by the sound, that his nose was not just broken, but shattered. He'd have to be careful not to take another hit like those from here on out or the fragments could go into his brain. Hunter stood up with an enraged expression on his face as he wiped the blood from his face and picked up his sword lying on the ground next to him. He brandished the sword in front of him, preparing to attack. He wasn't going to be caught off guard, but he also was going to finish this right now. Who did Leon think he was; some youngster preaching to him about how to fight?

Hunter moved forward and attacked with swift, deliberate two-handed strikes. Leon grinned as Hunter approached and continued to do so as he attacked. Hunter's moves were too precise for Leon to counter. He'd tightened up his form and flowed from one move to the next quickly enough that he left no openings, and each swing was so powerful that if just one hit, Leon would be helpless against a follow-up, finishing blow.

But, Leon could see the frustration mounting on Hunter's face and with each missed swing it grew to new heights. Leon hated passive fighting like this, but without a sword or any other form of defense, he had no choice. He'd just have to wait for Hunter to make a mistake. To that end, Leon moved in every direction possible to avoid the powerful swings while keeping from being cornered. The slashes came at him with gradually increasing frequency as a result of Hunter's rage, but his grin didn't falter as the strikes grew closer.

The raise in the barrage's tempo was just what Leon had been waiting for. Hunter sacrificed some of his form for a slight increase in speed and power, and though the openings were brief and closed within milliseconds, that would be all Leon required if he timed his counter perfectly.

Leon continued evading the attacks, intently eyeing each slash that whizzed by him. As the attacks got as close they could get without eviscerating him, Leon was finally ready to counter and create distance so he could finish this. He narrowly avoided having his eye taken out by a diagonal downwards swing, and only managed to keep from being gutted by mere centimeters as he could feel the cold, sharp tip of Hunter's broadsword skim across his a abs without drawing blood followed by a determined thrusts forward.

Leon's ever-taunting smirk angered Hunter even more now that his attacks were falling just short of ending this. He recovered from his thrust and angrily brought up his broadsword to cleave Leon in two. A triumphant grin flashed on his face as he saw that Leon wasn't jumping back to avoid the attack, but that quickly vanished as he realized Leon was making the most minute of movements with each part of his body in the sword's path to dodge the strike by the narrowest of margins, a feat that shouldn't be possible for someone his size.

Leon's step back pulled him out of harm's way, though the sword did cut into his pant leg and draw blood. He ignored the new wound as he rebounded from his dodge and stepped forward to deliver a devastating uppercut to Hunter's midsection.

The punch lifted him up and sent him stumbling back, but Hunter refused to yield in this late juncture of the fight; he couldn't let himself fall. This fight was no longer about him being a hired mercenary, but instead he would finish this in the name of his pride as a warrior and a swordsman. Judging by Leon's lack of an attempt at a follow up, he agreed: this fight would end here and now. Any more prolonging of the fight would be pointless for both sides as they'd each suffered injuries.

Just as Hunter steadied his footing, Leon had already began rushing him. The scratch on his leg was slight and thus did little to hamper Leon's speed. He was also too preoccupied with the fight to register the stomach wound he'd suffered as he started throwing punch after punch at the air, building up speed until it looked as if he was throwing a barrage of punches all at once.

Hunter couldn't keep up with the punches visually and knew he'd be unable to avoid them physically as a result. He refused to back down, though. He'd been at sea for years, fought and defeated countless opponents, and was easily one of the strongest people in any of the Blue Seas. Yet some no name kid was beating him; he couldn't let that happen. He wouldn't let that happen. Retreat was not an option and dodging wasn't a possibility; he was left with only one choice. But, none of that mattered; he still had the advantage: Leon was throwing a barrage of punches, but Hunter's broadsword was stronger and sharper than any flesh.

Hunter resolved himself to the action he was about to take and gripped his sword with both hands, bringing it up so that the tip was pointing towards Leon. As Leon's fists closed in, he thrusts the blade forward, aimed at Leon's center of mass, with all the strength he had, and he could feel the slight, unmistakable resistance of flesh being skewered.

Leon wouldn't be denied though. He'd stopped his left fist and dropped his body down and to the side so that Hunter's strike only pierced his shoulder. The thrust tore through flesh and muscle, and chipped the underside of Leon's collarbone, but missed everything major as Leon landed a solid right hook to the side of Hunter's face.

The blow forced Hunter to release his blade as he was sent flying towards the spot on the palace walls where he was standing when the trio first entered.

Leon twisted his body around and used his left arm to grab Hunter by the throat and slam him into the stone wall. Struggling to breathe, Hunter lifted his hands to the sword's grip and pushed it in deeper in an attempt to discourage Leon from choking him further. Leon, though, retaliated with an elbow to the face, pushing Hunter's already broken nose dangerously close to his brain. Hunter had little time to worry about that, though, as Leon reached over and withdrew the sword from his own left shoulder before turning it around and plunging it into Hunter and pinning him to the side of the wall. Leon released his vice-like hold on Hunter's neck allowing the defeated fighter to release a deafening howl of pain as he futilely attempted to withdraw the sword from his chest.

As the screaming subsided due to Hunter running out of air in his lungs, Leon spoke to him: "If I'm right, that thrust shoulda sent pieces o' yer ribs into yer lungs and the sword shoulda nicked your heart." Leon had torn off scraps of Hunter's clothes to use as bandages and wrap his wounds. He had just finished tying up the strip around his midsection as he turned to Hunter again. "You'll definitely die, but ya'll have plenty o' time ta lament and ponder that it's betta to treat a mouse like a tiger than a lion like common house cat." Leon entered into the palace through the nearby doors as those words sunk in with the dying Hunter.

Everyone in the Grand Hall could hear creaking coming from around the room. Alexander and the soldiers shared similar confused glances while Hogg sat haughtily in the throne chuckling lightly to himself. Alexander was scanning the room too quickly to notice, and he didn't think of it anyway. It wasn't until he followed the shocked gazes of a couple of the soldiers did he see it. The suits of armor that adorned the perimeter were creaking as they... moved.

Alexander, while peeking over his shoulder, spotted a suit of armor approaching from behind him, holding a heavy, double-sided axe ready to strike. The Prince swiftly spun around and pierced his rapier through the weak point of the armor below the chin and through the neck of whoever was inside the armor. The lethal attack did nothing to deter the attacker as the axe was still being brought down on Alexander's skull. He performed a side step and brought his sword out with a swipe that caused the helmet to fly off and land on the ground with a thud. The sound resounded throughout the sparsely furnished room as everyone, except Hogg, stood shocked and speechless by the sight before them: a suit of armor moving around without a head or a wearer.

Hogg's laughter was permeating throughout the entire room, but even his cackling wasn't enough to immediately break the Prince's trance. It took the combined volume of Hogg's howls and the Royal soldiers screams to bring Alexander back to the moment at hand, and just in time as the axe-wielding armor brought the double-sided axe careening for his head from the side followed shortly thereafter by the downward swing of a two-handed longsword and the thrust of a halberd. Alexander gracefully dodged every strike, though the halberd's blade cut into his jacket, missing him by a hair's width.

"Now do you see; do you understand? This is my power. The Ani Ani no Mi gave me the power to animate otherwise inanimate objects. As you can see I've already used it on these suits of armor, though it takes some time to get them moving. You may as well give up now; these soldiers of mine will not betray me or hesitate in killing you, and on top of that, they don't feel pain." bellowed Hogg as the suits of armor encircled Alexander and the Royal soldiers.

Alexander didn't look unnerved, though, at this new revelation. Instead he dropped into an unorthodox fencing stance with his off-hand out behind him. As the soldiers with him also prepared to engage the animated armors, he ordered all of them to go secure and protect his father who was still chained at Hogg's feet and not interfere.

They made it through a rather large gap in the encirclement and retrieved the King from his captive position with abnormal ease. They were unable to escape though as Hogg's powers sealed the doors shut leaving them trapped in the room and the Prince surrounded by well-armed, unmanned suits of armor.

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