The Losing Score
Inside the healing pavilion, Usagi, Donny, and Leo were doing all that they could to try and cure Hisako’s affliction. Unfortunately, her condition just continued to worsen. As Donnie wiped sweat from her brow for the hundredth time that hour, the four guards carrying the Daimyo entered the pavilion.
“Master Healer!” one shouted. “The Daimyo is in need of your gifts!”
The master healer, who had been overseeing Hisako’s treatments, immediately ushered the guards towards a private chamber near the back of the pavilion. As the doors closed, Usagi turned to them in confusion and worry.
“The Daimyo did not look well.” he remarked. “Perhaps he was attacked.”
“Maybe by the same person that attacked Hisako.” Leo deduced.
“But who? And why?” Donny questioned.
“We have to trust that the Daimyo’s son will handle those questions.” Usagi insisted, looking down at Hisako sadly. “I fear what will happen if we leave your sister unattended for long.”
Out in the arena, the remaining fighters were called together once again. Raph and Mikey looked at the other five contestants, seeing a distinct lack of their siblings.
“Oh man, both Leo and Donny failed to make the cut.” Mikey realized.
“Hisako too.” Raph pointed out. “They must be kicking themselves so hard right now.”
“Yeah, but I would never be so unsportsmanlike as to rub it in their faces.” Mikey insisted.
“I would.” Raph retorted without missing a beat.
“Yeah, me too.” he admitted. “Once this is over, we’ll go find them.”
As he said this, Gyoji appeared alongside Ue-Sama, who was now wielding his father’s staff.
“Champions!” He proclaimed. “My father has been forced to turn over his duties as Master of the Tournament in order to deal with a delicate issue that has arisen. However, I am pleased to announce that the matches will continue this day!”
The crowd cheered happily and the champions all grinned.
“However, because of a withdrawal from the competition, we have been left with an uneven number of contestants.” Ue-Sama continued. “Some time will be needed to figure out how to handle this issue. Thus, I dismiss the remaining champions for one mega-quargon, after which the matches will continue as planned.”
“How long is a mega-quargon?” Raph asked.
“Long enough for us to hunt down some food, and our wayward siblings.” Mikey announced. “I want them to be there when I wipe the floor with the competition, starting with your sorry shell.”
“Yeah, keep dreaming Mikey.” Raph remarked.
“What, you don’t think I can do it?” Mikey retorted, his face somewhat serious. “You don’t think I’m a contender? You don’t think I’m good enough to go all the way?”
“In a word… yes.” Raph responded. “Come on, let’s go find the others.”
He walked out as Mikey took in what his brother said. After a moment, he chased after Raph.
“I’m gonna make you eat those words, Raph!” he shouted. “You hear me?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Raph waved off.
Up on the Daimyo’s observation deck, Gyoji looked over at Ue-Sama.
“My lord, are you sure it is wise to keep your father’s condition a secret?” he questioned.
“Revealing the truth would only cause unwanted panic.” Ue-Sama rationalized. “Besides, we have the assassin in custody, and we do not wish to alarm his students. We do not yet know if they pose a threat. So, for now, we will continue as if nothing has happened.”
“Of course, my lord.” he said before disappearing once again.
Down in the palace dungeons, Splinter sat in a small cell, trying his best to remain calm. His thoughts continued to drift to his children, praying that they would be alright and that he would be able to see the again. As he sat there in a meditative position, a voice from the shadows suddenly spoke up.
“How can one stay so calm in the face of such hardship?” the voice questioned.
Splinter perked up, recognizing the voice immediately. It was the Daimyo’s true assassin, who calmly stepped out of the darkness to sneer at the captive rat.
“I stay calm for I know your ambitions will be thwarted.” Splinter replied. “The truth will shine through your deception.”
Tigerclaw let out a laugh, approaching the bars as he did. Splinter stepped back as the tiger closed in.
“I highly doubt that, rat.” He smirked. “Especially since you’re going to confess to the assassination attempt.”
“Why would I do that?” Splinter asked.
“Because the Daimyo isn’t the only one who’s life hangs in the balance.”
Splinter’s eyes went wide.
“Hisako…” he whispered.
“The poison used on her was native to my home dimension.” He explained. “a deadly concoction that will leave her in unimaginable agony before she finally begs for death’s embrace.”
He reached under a scarf he wore around his neck, pulling out a small vial with a cork in it.
“This is the only antidote.” He explained. “And if you admit to your crimes, I’ll be merciful enough to save your daughter.”
Splinter glared at the tiger with contempt. Tigerclaw tucked the vial back under his scarf, then turned and made his way out of the prison.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a tournament to win.” He announced as the doors slammed shut behind him.
Meanwhile, Mikey, Raph, and the rest of the champions were milling about the plaza, waiting for the next round. As they walked, Mikey continued to pester his brother about his skills.
“C’mon Raph, how many times have I held my own in a fight?” He pressed.
“You’re good little brother, but you ain’t that good.” Raph responded.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mikey questioned. “I’m just as good as the rest of you guys!”
“Mikey, you spend more time trying to get out of training then you do actually trying to hone your skills.” Raph countered.
“That’s not true!” Mikey argued.
Raph just stopped walking for a moment, turning and giving his orange brother an incredulous look.
“...Okay, maybe it is.” Mikey relented. “But I still have just as much a shot at winning this as you.”
Raph rolled his eyes.
“You got lucky last round and Sensei bowed out.” Raph pointed out. “but next round decides the Final Four, and if you make it that far, it’ll be a miracle.”
“Then just call me the miracle turtle.” Mikey responded.
As he was walking, he failed to watch where he was going, and ended up running right into Tigerclaw. The tiger growled at him, his eyes narrowing.
“Watch where you’re going, terrapin.” He snarled.
“Oh, uh, sorry dude.” Mikey apologized. “Didn’t see you there.”
Tigerclaw let out a sniff, turning away from Mikey with a look of disdain.
“Your manners are worse than your stench.” He growled.
“Hey!” Mikey responded. “I said I was sorry, what more do you want from me?”
Tigerclaw just snorted.
“What I want, a cub like you could never provide.” Tigerclaw retorted. “Why you were allowed into these games is a mystery to me.”
“Hey!” Mikey said again. “You know, I’m getting a little sick of hearing that. I can take it from my bros, but you don’t get to badmouth me.”
Tigerclaw leaned in close, growling at the orange turtle.
“And what are you gonna do about it?” He asked, extending his claws.
Mikey took a step back and gulped slightly. Thankfully, he was saved from his impending doom by the timely arrival of Gyoji.
“Champions!” he declared. “The next round of the Battle Nexus Tournament is about to begin!”
“Whew.” Mikey let out.
Tigerclaw sheathed his claws, straightening up.
“See you in the tournament, cub.” He sneered before walking away.
Mikey watched him go, then seemed to sag.
“Dude, I think I just saw my life flash before my eyes.” He informed Raph.
Raph just shook his head, pushing Mikey forward.
“C’mon bozo, let’s get to the arena.” The red turtle insisted.
The crowd had returned in full force as the seven remaining combatants emerged out into the arena. Ue-Sama walked out onto the Daimyo’s booth, lifting his father’s staff high.
“Welcome to the next round of the Battle Nexus Tournament!” He declared. “Before we begin, the matchups will be determined by random lottery!”
Gyoji appeared in the center of the arena at that. With a wave of his war paddle, a large watery sphere appeared out of thin air.
“As there are uneven number of combatants, the unpaired champion will automatically move on to the Final Four.” Gyoji explained.
All seven warriors reached into the ball. A purple and blue warrior and a female looking alien pulled out kunai knives with matching purple tassels. They bowed to one another, then disappeared into shimmering light. Gen reached in and pulled out a red kunai knife. Immediately, Gyoji appeared beside him.
“Gennosuke of Dimension Earth 2.5, you shall advance to the next stage of combat.”
“Excellent!” Gen exclaimed before turning to Raph and Mikey. “You all should have bet on me when you had the chance.”
He then disappeared into shimmering light as Mikey looked down at his own Kunai knife. It had a yellow tassel, identical to the one Tigerclaw held. Gulping fast, Mikey turned to the combatant nearest to him, shaking his hand vigorously.
“Good luck, my friend!” he announced.
He then released the combatant, leaving the unfortunate alien holding the yellow kunai knife. He locked eyes with Tigerclaw, then they vanished.
“Ha!” Mikey let out, holding up his newly acquired green kunai knife. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee! Who be the turtle? The turtle be-”
“Me.” Raph finished, showing him his matching kunai knife. “The turtle who’s gonna enjoy this so hard. We’re talking a lifetime’s worth of get backs, here.”
Mikey flinched, then he and Raph disappeared as well. The entire arena then shimmered and shifted, dividing into equal thirds. The purple guy and his opponent faced off, as did Tigerclaw and his. Mikey just kinda looked at his brother nervously, chucking quietly.
“I guess it’s too much to hope you’ll forfeit like Splinter did.” He said quietly.
“You got that right, bro.” Raph confirmed, drawing his sai.
“Eh, thought as much.” Mikey replied.
Raph then leapt towards Mikey, sai poised to strike. Mikey rolled out of the way at the last second, the sai missing him by scant inches.
In one of the other slices, Tigerclaw faced off against his opponent, a creature resembling a greyish-blue ogre with orange hair. The creature charged at Tigerclaw, a spear-like weapon poised to strike. Tigerclaw deftly caught it, wrenching it from his hands before tossing it aside. Tigerclaw then took a swipe at the ogre, his claws raking his chest before he disintegrated into light. The warrior was then transported up to the loser’s box, where he promptly threw a childish fit.
The purple and blue warrior faced off against the female alien, both masters of tridents. Their weapons clashed as they tried to force the other one back. The female seemed to have the advantage, until the purple and blue guy literally began to grow. His muscles filled out as he began pushing her back. Soon, he was towering over her as her small mouth dropped in shock.
Before she could properly adjust to her opponent’s increased size, he twisted the trident from her hand and stabbed at her stomach. She disappeared in light as he raised his weapon above his head, bellowing out a victory cry.
Raph and Mikey continued to circle each other continuously before Raph charged at him. Mikey quickly jumped over him and kicked him in the butt, irritating him even more. The crowd loved the antics, cheering loudly.
“Would you listen to that, Raphie-boy.” Mikey taunted. “Seems the crowd is loving me kicking your butt. Can’t say I blame them.”
In a frustrated frenzy, Raph leapt at Mikey, only for Mikey to duck under him. This caused him to tumble to the ground, bouncing slightly before sliding across the dirt on his stomach.
“Ok, now you’re just getting sloppy.” Mikey commented.
Raph saw red as he got to his feet, swiping at Mikey repeatedly. The orange turtle merely backed up, keeping his hands behind his back as he dodged and weaved around his brother’s attacks.
“Will! You! Shut! Your! Trap!” Raph yelled with each strike.
“Why? Is my talking bothering you?” Mikey asked, still dodging the attacks. “Are you being distracted somehow? Losing focus? Messing up your concentration? Finally getting on your nerves, perhaps?”
Raph then dropped to his hands and knees, feeling exhausted from the fight.
“Or maybe you’re just a teeny tiny itty-bitty smidge worried,” Mikey continued. “That I might actually… beat you.”
Raph saw red. He got to his feet and charged blindly at Mikey. The orange turtle deftly jumped into the air, sending his brother crashing into the wall of their slice. He rebounded hard, his vision fuzzy as he disappeared into light. As he shook his head to clear it, he found himself in the loser’s box, much to his horror.
“I… I don’t believe it.” He let out in shock. “Mikey beat me? He’s in the final four? And I’m out. What if... What if… what if Mikey actually wins?!”
He turned on the ogre that Tigerclaw had beaten, grabbing him and shaking him hard while slamming him into the wall.
“What if he actually becomes the Battle Nexus champion?” He continued. “He’ll never let me live it down, and I’ll never be able to live with myself!”
A familiar orange hand came down on his shoulder, pulling him off the ogre and allowing the poor guy to sink to the ground. Raph turned to see Traximus smiling slightly.
“Defeat is a harsh Mistress, my friend.” The Triceraton told him.
“Traximus.” Raph recognized.
“Care to drown your sorrows in a serozian protein liquid supplement?” He offered.
“I have no idea what that is, but why the shell not.” Raph answered.
Not long after that, Raph and Traximus sat in one of the few restaurants in the Nexus. Traximus downed a large mug of something Raph couldn’t recognize (and part of him didn’t want to). Raph helped himself to the Nexus equivalent of a root beer float, eating the foam with a strange spoon.
“Thanks for the drink, Traximus.” Raph told the Triceraton. “But I coulda bought my own drink. Ya didn’t have to pay for mine.”
“Call it repaying you for helping me and my colleagues on the Triceraton Home world.” he replied.
“Yeah, I was wondering about that.” Raph admitted, twirling his spoon in his mug. “Last time we saw you, you were riding that giant slug thingy and causing a riot after it ate your Prime Leader.”
“Much has happened since then.” Traximus informed. “My fellow gladiators and I made our escape in the wake of your own. Unfortunately, once we escaped from the Arena, Zanramon’s loyal followers freed him from the belly of the Kraathatrogon.”
Raph’s eyes went wide.
“He survived getting eaten?!” Raph exclaimed.
“So it would seem.” Traximus replied. “My fellow gladiators and I have been doing what we can to fight back against his oppression, but the need for more warriors grows with each passing day. It is for that reason that I came to these games, hoping to recruit honorable warriors for a worthy cause.”
Raph nodded, then a small blush came to his face.
“Speaking of warriors, did uh… did Mona Lisa stay with you guys?” he asked.
“The Salamandarian female?” Traximus questioned. “Yes. She and her brother have been a great asset to our cause. I owe those two my life.”
“How’s she doing?” Raph continued.”
“Quite well.” Traximus assured him. “The last I heard, she was with her brother and the former Triceraton All-Stars performing a raid on some supply ships destined for the Home world. She speaks fondly of you, by the way.”
“That’s great to hear.” Raph replied, lifting his glass.
“Indeed.” Traximus agreed. “Though it seems corruption is an incurable force, even here in the Battle Nexus.”
“What do you mean?” Raph questioned.
“I thought you knew.” Traximus replied. “Surely you are not ignorant of your own kin being poisoned.”
Raph choked on his drink, spewing it out before coughing violently. He composed himself quickly, turning to Traximus in utter confusion.
“What?!” he exclaimed.
“During the second round, your sister was poisoned.” Traximus replied. “I was there when she collapsed. The Daimyo did his best to handle the matter discreetly, but rumors still found their way to my ears.”
“What have you heard?!” Raph demanded, desperation in his eyes.
“Only that the assassin that poisoned your sister also attempted to take the life of the Daimyo, and nearly succeeded.” Traximus continued. “They arrested the rat, and are no doubt attempting to glean the antidote from him.”
“Wait, did you say rat?” Raph asked.
“I believe he called himself…” he hesitated, trying to remember the name. “Sliver? Spinster?”
“Splinter?” Raph let out in disbelief. “That’s mine and Hisako’s Sensei! And he sure as shell ain’t no assassin! What else have you heard?”
“I’m afraid that’s all I know.” Traximus lamented.
“This is insane!” Raph exclaimed. “It’s gotta be a set-up. I’m gonna find Splinter and bust him out right now!”
Traximus quickly grabbed his arm, stopping him before he could go anywhere.
“Raphael, that is an incredibly foolhardy and potentially dangerous course of action.” He told the red turtle before smirking. “If you think I’m letting you do it alone, then you’re sorely mistaken.”
The Head Healer knelt over the Daimyo’s body, performing the same ritual he attempted to do to Hisako. Two guards stood watch over the room, their eyes occasionally glancing over to the cot Hisako occupied. Leo and Donnie had been forced to remove her thick armor for a thinner kimono, her temperature rising rapidly. Her hair was matted with sweat and she groaned as if in constant pain.
“I have never seen such a horrible malady.” Usagi whispered, applying a fresh batch of salve to her wound.
“Leo, her temperature is getting close to deadly levels.” Donny let out. “At the rate it’s climbing, she has a day… maybe even less.”
Leo just looked at his sister in dread, feeling completely helpless. As he gently pushed her hair from her face and placed a cool washcloth on her forehead, Ue-Sama walked in. Donny saw him and was on his feet in an instant.
“Tell me you found something!” he begged.
“I believe we found the assassin responsible for what happened to your sister, as well as my father.”
“Really?” Donny responded. “Well do you think he’ll cure Hisako?”
“He has not spoken a word since his arrest.” Ue-Sama lamented.
“I could get him to talk.” Leo muttered darkly.
“Absolutely not.” Ue-Sama snapped. “Your mind is clouded by thoughts of revenge. You would kill him before he had a chance to give you the antidote.”
Leo let out a sigh before turning back to Ue-Sama.
“You’re right.” Leo relented. “Just do what you can, please. Our sister is running out of time.”
“I assure you, I am doing all that I can.” Ue-Sama replied. “He will talk. You have my word.”
Leo bowed to Ue-Sama as the latter peeked in on his father. The Daimyo’s condition did not appear to be changing at all, and his son allowed a small smile to grow under his mask.
“How is he, Master Healer?” He asked as he stepped into the room.
“Not well, I’m afraid.” The healer admitted mournfully. “His will is strong, but his wounds are great. His chances of survival… are not good.”
“Do what you can.” Ue-Sama told him. “That is all I can ask.”
“My lord, perhaps now would be the time to admit to your subjects what has befallen their beloved Daimyo.” The healer offered up. “If the worst comes to pass, they have the right to know the truth.”
“There is wisdom to your words.” he admitted. “Very well. The semi-finals are about to begin, and I can think of no better time to break the news.”
“Then go, my lord.” The healer told him. “I will make sure to inform you of your father’s progress.”
Ue-Sama then turned and walked out of the healer’s pavilion, intent to return to his duties.