The Art of Being Human

"BEGINNING CARNIVAL IN 3…"

"2…"

"1… "

"BEGIN!"

As this year's blood bath began, there were exactly 2 noteworthy differences from this one than there were from any of the carnivals in the past.

Pandoras armed with bows and arrows, hammers, spears, swords, lasers, knives, and all manner of weapons began to enter combat with each other. The battle was a complete free for all where the only objective was to be the last one standing.

It was an admittedly flawed system.

Someone could easily stay out of combat for the majority of the event and then jump into action once most of the fighting has died down, or someone could be ambushed by a weaker opponent, or two weaker opponents could agree to ally and fight a stronger opponent on the spot. However, it worked well enough at its job of getting Pandora accustomed to being in the thick of a chaotic battle. And the superficial numerical rankings and titles did a good enough job to motivate them to fight hard.

What made this carnival special, however, was the fact that precisely 2 males were actively participating in this carnival. Neither one of them were limiters. Neither one of them carried any weapons, volt-based or otherwise. Neither one of them had any kind of military training to speak of, whatsoever.

None of that mattered though, when they were expert-class martial artists, and the disciples of some of the strongest masters in the world.

A short Caucasian man with black hair was fighting on equal footing with not 1, but 3 separate Pandora, wearing green boxing trunks, a black tank top, and green boxing gloves.

His coordination and skill was terrifyingly sharp. Despite the fact that he was only using his fists, whose impacts were being slightly blunted by 10 ounce boxing gloves, none of the Pandora were able to endure his punches.

His strikes were so fast and compact that when he threw straight punches, it didn't look like he was swinging his fist from the perspective of the one being struck. Rather, it simply looked like his glove was just expanding and then shrinking back to normal size once it struck.

For the first 30 seconds of the fight, the boxer had simply opted to dodge and maneuver around his opponents. His eyes were wide and focused, reading into each of his opponent's movements. He silently committed each individual's timing to memory, occasionally punishing them with sharp jabs and stiff lefts when they started attacking too recklessly.

An axe swing came from his left, but met only air as he hoped back. When she charged forward to make another swing, he interrupted her by throwing a slightly telegraphed jab. It came just slow enough for her to react against it by halting her forward momentum.

Tap.

But she didn't slow down enough for it to not make light contact with her forehead.

POP!

The boxer immediately followed with a hard right cross to her nose, sending her sprawling backward.

Now that he had a solid sense of all their movements and habits, it was time for him to go to work.

One Pandora came at the boxer while thrusting a pole arm forward to stab him. He sidestepped to the left of the blade, stepped in deep with his left foot, and threw a stiff jab to counter her own attack. The padded glove made a satisfying 'POP' upon impact with her face. She stumbled backwards with a feeling of vertigo, having stepped into a hard counter left to the chin.

Swish!

Pivoting around on his planted left foot in a full 360 motion, he came back into his stance just in time to rock back from a sword swing that was aimed at his neck.

They were trying to gang up on him all at once, but he was preventing it by staying mobile and keeping them from entering his blind spots.

His short left jab was launched right as the sword passed his face. His jab did little more than tap the woman's forehead and cover her field of vision with nothing but his left glove. It was only for a fraction of a second, but that was more than enough, as the right cross immediately followed the jab and nailed her across the chin.

POP!

The feedback of his punch was all that he needed in order to know that his opponent was out cold before she even hit the ground. She fell on her side, back arched, and arms locked in a swinging motion, as if her arms hadn't realized that she herself was unconscious. Her eyes and mouth were still open.

The old 1-2 never failed.

When it came to fighting weapons users with bare-hands, the general rule was to end the fight as quick as possible. Wounds from weapons, even if not deadly, inflicted much more debilitating and messy wounds than unarmed strikes did. In a battle between 2 equally skilled fighters, one using bare hand techniques and the other using weapons, the pressure was more on the bare handed fighter to avoid getting struck while still striking back. Aches and bruises could be somewhat ignored while adrenaline was pumping. Deep cuts and bleeding wounds couldn't be ignored for long.

Seeing how the philosophy of boxing has always been to hit your opponent without getting hit, boxers are surprisingly some of the best suited weaponless martial artists to fight wars of attrition with weapon users.

And these Pandora were learning this fact, much to their dread.

His fighting instincts immediately sensing danger from his blind spot, the boxer hopped forward, landed, and pivoted on the ball of his lead foot to see a third Pandora had very nearly taken his arm away with an axe. He cursed under his breath, knowing his master would admonish him for not keeping vigilant of his surroundings while in the midst of combat.

He immediately stepped in and launched a gazelle punch to her face before she could pull her axe free from the ground, knocking her head back. She had managed to put her arm in between her face and his fist, but some of the force from the blow still managed to get through.

In an act of desperation, she crossed both of her arms over her face. He fired off another step-in hook to the part of the arm guarding her cheek. Then a right cross to the arm covering her chin. Since her guard was high, her body was left open for the boxer to abuse.

A sharp left hook to her unprotected liver forced her to drop her arms to cover her stomach. Before she could fully bend over from the body hook, a left upper cut to the now unguarded head followed. She staggered backward drunkenly, nearly unconscious on her feet, her axe still imbedded in the ground and out of her reach. It took all of her might to stay on 2 feet.

Before the boxer could finish her, he heard approaching footsteps from behind.

Swoosh!

Keeping his head on the swivel, he pivoted and rolled under a swing from the polearm wielding Pandora. From where it was aimed, she was trying to carve into his back, rather than take his head off.

He made a quick step-in and she immediately guarded her face with her arm, having caught on to his usual attack pattern. Unperturbed, he threw a modified 1-2 combo, using the jab as a feint to grab and force down the arm she had brought up to protect herself with. Then his right cross followed, nailing her across the face, since her chin was tucked in. She dropped to her knees, her volt weapon disappearing in a flash of light as it hit the ground. Her eyes were unfocused as her hands fumbled around the ground to regain her sense of balance.

All the while, the boxer patiently stood above her.

Since his master had hammered into him the gentlemanly aspect of boxing, he didn't strike her when she was down. A proper boxer only attacked opponents when they were able to stand and fight back. Plus, since she wasn't swinging to kill, she deserved at least a little mercy from him.

Keeping vigilant of checking his peripheral and blind spots, he saw the axe-wielder recover enough to go and retrieve her axe. She was trying to be discreet since she saw his back was turned away from her. He pretended not to notice her approach so she would open herself up.

Even though boxers didn't use any sort of particular kii manipulation aside from what they picked up on their own, all martial artists eventually learned how to sense their opponents after reaching a certain level.

Right as she got behind him and raised her axe with murderous intent, he pivoted to face her and stepped to the side as the axe wielder made a punch-drunk overhead swing to try and split him down the middle. Her eyes widened in shock as she realized she had been seen through. Mid-step, he threw a sharp left hook counter to blast her head to the side, punishing her reckless swing with merciless precision. She staggered to the left, dizzy enough for a feather to knock her over.

He took a quick glance to the other Pandora and decided to not finish the axe-wielder just yet, since she was only holding on by a thread anyway. The Pandora he had just floored was back up and shaking the last few stars out of her vision.

Right when polearm user got her wits together, she swung at him again but he bobbed underneath the blade with practiced ease, and pushed off his back foot to deliver an overhand right that she tried and failed to dodge. Her head was again snapped back and her hands were high from trying to keep his fist away from her face, leaving her body exposed. The punch only landed at a fraction of his full power however, making the Pandora momentarily question the weakness of the punch. Her question was answered when the boxer lowered his stance and extended his left arm to the side. He then followed up the overhand right with one of his finishing techniques.

Twisting his whole body and gaining traction from the ground, the boxer put the entire weight of his body behind his left fist and plowed it into where her bottom 2 ribs were located.

["LIVER SHOT!"]

The polearm using Pandora's eyes dilated as she felt the sudden and painful urges to loosen her bowls. The liver was undoubtedly one of the most painful organs to be struck in, because it disrupted bowel movements and could even lead to one losing conscious if struck hard enough. It sapped all the strength from a person's body and left their stomach doing backflips. It was the singular punch guaranteed to bring anyone to their knees, no matter how big or tough they were. All it took was decent power and solid precision to the location of the organ.

It also helped that he felt her lower 2 ribs break.

The axe wielder regained her wits just in time, to see her friend crumpled to the ground, her unconscious face locked in agony. She passed out on the ground, spared from further suffering of excruciating stomach pain. Right before her eyes, a regular guy had just knocked two strong 2nd year Pandora unconscious.

He now stood and faced her, beckoning her to come forward with his glove, wearing a false smile that didn't match the intensive glare in his eyes.

"Wha-.. what the hell are you!?" She yelled frantically, having to take a wide stance just to stay balanced. Her eyes were filled with vicious fear. The type of fear that drove a person to attack out of terror and blind survival instinct, rather than a legitimate fighting spirit.

It didn't make sense to her. She had heard that a bunch of guys who thought they were tough would be joining this year's carnival. She had heard stories of superhuman martial artists and what not, but this was simply unreal! They couldn't touch him! Every move he made was sharp and deliberate. He was never off balance. He was fast enough that his punches were often felt before they were seen. Once he got within punching range, it felt like you were being attacked by several different people at once. His attacks flowed into each other so well that it seemed as if he wasn't even consciously thinking about his actions, and his body was simply acting on its own accord. Every attack she attempted, even while he was being attacked by 1 or 2 other Pandora, ended in her being ruthlessly punished with his heavy punches.

The boxer began to shuffle toward her when he realized that she wouldn't move first, maintaining his stance and focusing on her intensely.

"I'm just a boxer." He stated simply, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

The woman growled at him and lunged forward. Once she came into range, he lunged in and threw an overhand right to meet the downward chop she was using for the 3rd time in a row. She had been aiming to chop him down right at where he was standing. By rushing in to meet her, he placed himself far closer than where she was aiming. All she ended up doing was running right into his fist and being lifted off her feet by a heavy counter punch. She blacked out before she even fully came off the ground.

Before she even came to a stop on the ground, the boxer had already begun walking off to fight more opponents.

-xxXxx—

In the control room, there were a rather large number of individuals watching the carnival. The first was Sister Margaret, the acting principle of West Genetics Academy. 3 of the others were all army generals of chevalier, who normally carried an imposing and authoritative air. However, with these other 2…. Guests…. present, none of them felt important. It was as if they were all but meaningless existences in the presence of these 2 mountains who called themselves men.

"Ho ho! Your disciple shows promise Dudley!" A tall and bulky Thai man with a tattooed face said, stroking his chin with hands that were wrapped in ropes.

"Of course he does, Agaard. Under my tutelage, he became the American lightweight champion in a little over 2 years. By the time I'm done with him, he'll be the world champion." A black English man said in a thick British accent, sporting a spotless white blouse and a pair of blue 12oz boxing gloves over his fists.

Both of these men towered over everyone in the room, and had muscles so well-defined that they bulged through their dressy clothing. Despite their casual conversation and laid back demeanor, both of them exuded an oppressive aura. As if they would crush any who were bold enough to address them in a reckless fashion.

"It's rare these days that you see a martial artist who is just as proficient in ring sport as they are in death matches. That's part of the reason I don't want Kokin getting involved too deeply in sanctioned Muay Thai competitions. He may end up developing techniques and habits which would work within the ring but not in a bare-handed death match." The massive thai said, saying the phrase 'bare-handed death match' as if he were talking about today's weather. And the equally massive brit he was addressing seemed to regard the topic of life or death combat with just as much causality.

The men and women manning the computer monitors quietly shuddered in their seats. For some reason, regular humans fighting each other with the intent to kill purely for the sake of fighting held a much deeper level of savagery than Pandora carnivals did.

"The combat experience will help him. So long as he consistently fights opponents outside the ring to keep him grounded in the reality of bare-handed combat, fighting ring matches are just as good as death matches in terms of growing your disciple's fighting ability. I occasionally take my disciple to the underground boxing leagues in Liverpool. Of course, being katsujinken, killing for us is unnecessary."

"Don't they fight bareknuckle in the underground leagues?"

"Of course."

"Yet you and your disciple are both wearing gloves now."

"Gloves have added benefits and uses that most don't realize. They make your hands heavier and makes the force of punches penetrate deeper into your opponent's body than a bare fist would."

"At the expense of making your punches slower."

"While improving your defense and giving your punches a wider surface area."

"And if you ever get attacked without your gloves handy?"

"Then we'll revert to the gutter-trash roots of true boxing. It's simply more gentlemanly to fight with our gloves on."

Agaard and Dudley continued to cordially bicker, occasionally commenting on the events of the carnival here and there.

Though it was considered rude to be disrupting a meeting with the chevalier with such casual talk, no one was so bold as to ask that they quiet down. Not unless they wished to incur the undivided attention of a master of Yami and a master class boxer. The British boxer paused mid-sentence, however, after noticing something a bit more attention grabbing on the screen.

"-But your disciple seems to also show excellent progress. I don't think I've seen his facial expression change even once so far. I never thought of Muay Thai as much more than another form of kickboxing and yet he still hasn't lost his composure once against weapon users."

"Of course. Muay Thai was made to fight armed opponents. He won't lose."

-xxXxx—

A younger and tattooed Thai man, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and ropes around his fists and ankles, was making long and confident strides through the carnival grounds. He was bearing down upon a group of combating Pandora, numbering at 12 and dwindling. He began to analyze each of them. Knowing what he knew about volt weapons, each weapon was a physical representation of the favored fighting style and mindset of that particular Pandora. Taking this into account, he also made note of how skilled the Pandora actually were with their given weapons. From what he gathered, most of them were barely a step above regular people as far as actual skill and technique went. It was only due to the fact that each volt weapon was perfectly shaped and proportioned to the desire of each individual Pandora that they seemed capable of even properly using their weapons.

Only a small handful of them were even skilled enough with their volt weapons that he couldn't simply catch their weapons with his bare hands. At least not when they didn't have their more esoteric Pandora powers engaged that is. Even if their Pandora powers made them faster and stronger than regular people, he still had precision and skill that only the lifestyle of a martial artist could grant.

Analyses complete.

Chaos ensued amongst the women as Kokin suddenly barreled through their ranks, launching his fists, elbows, knees, and feet in every direction. While to the Pandora, he was aimlessly attacking every woman in sight, he was actually being very methodical.

First, he had targeted and taken out all the Pandora with long ranged weapons that could possibly take him out before he got within striking range. Since there were only two Pandora with ranged weapons and they both happened to be within a few meters of each other, he counted himself as lucky. A single punch to the jaw and an upward elbow to the chin took them both out of the competition immediately.

It was by this point that the other Pandora had noticed his arrival, but they dared not give each other the chance to capitalize on an opening in order to all fully turn their attention to him. They were each other's enemies just as much as his.

After the ranged opponents were removed, he started targeting the Pandora in order of strongest to weakest.

Unlike fighting multiple enemy martial artists, identifying the strongest Pandora of a group was fairly easy and immediate. Whoever was abusing their Pandora powers the most, and gave off the most inhuman kii signature of them all, could safely be assumed to be the strongest of the group. And indeed they were dangerous. Their Pandora powers gave them improved speed, strength, heightened senses, and even made their weapons more durable.

But in the face of a trained Muay Thai specialist, these were all only minor issues.

They reacted quickly, but their fighting intuition was barely above that of a regular person. They had absolutely no muscle memory ingrained from consistent technique training, making all of their attacks telegraphed and easily countered. They lacked the precision and decisiveness to capitalize off of the same minor missteps and miscalculations that high level martial artists preyed upon mercilessly.

None of the Pandora understood this however. To them, it simply seemed as if the well-built thai had some sort of 6th sense for knowing what they would do and when they would do it. He had no sorts of armor or weapons, but descended into an armed melee without hesitation. Yet despite the whirlwind of sharp objects being swung around him, no one could touch him.

Compared to the armed disciples of Yami, the volt weapons the Pandora were swinging at him may as well have been toys for all the good they did.

Setting them up was easy. He'd throw a fast lunging knee, and once they committed to blocking the knee to the mid-section, swung over the top of their guard with a downward elbow. Most martial artists simply at disciple level would've been able to at least react to the high elbow, but Pandora were so panicked at the knee that they barely had the time to realize the knee was a feint before the high blow came. He could see it in their eyes; the brief realizations, shock, and horror they experienced milliseconds before his blows struck and sent them into the dream world. Same with faking a hard and easy to dodge punch, only to dig deep into his opponents leg muscles with powerful low-kicks when they stepped to the side to dodge.

He actually felt a few femur bones fracture from his low kicks. Pandora healed quickly, but they weren't any sturdier than a normal person in terms of how easily they broke. Judging by the handful of women laying still on the ground, with faces warped by complete agony, he definitely assumed that some of his kicks had done more than just bruised their thigh muscles.

He was a killing-fist user, however. He was accustomed to fighting his opponents to the death. Inflicting non-lethal amounts of damage wasn't his way of fighting, yet they still placed such a limitation on him. It was an honest miracle that he was able to hold back so well from accidentally striking killing blows on pure reflex.

Side-stepping an attempted stab to the back, the thai boxer drove his fist into the pandora's gut. He held back enough to not completely crush any internal organs. He definitely felt a few of her ribs give away beneath his fist, however.

Yes, these Pandora definitely weren't any sturdier than a regular person. He could've punched completely through her chest if he put his full power behind it.

Once again, Kokin found himself comparing them to those of the armed division and distastefully appreciating the extent of their skill.

Armed disciples fought as if they were using weapon-shaped limbs rather than foreign objects. They were conscious of all the openings they made, how much they should or shouldn't commit to an attack, and what kind of combinations to use that would either overwhelm their opponent or cover the gaps in their defense. They didn't just swing. Their attacks flowed in intricate patterns and had a definite purpose behind each strike and movement.

To fight an armed martial artist was a full test of your skill and decisiveness as an unarmed warrior.

The Pandora on the other hand, mostly relied on pure speed and power. They swung hard and wide. Even if they were fast, they had very little technique. Even if they could react incredibly well, they were very predictable. He didn't dare try to catch their weapons mid swing. His timing was more than good enough to manage it, but he knew better than to underestimate an opponent too much. Muay Thai fighters fought weapon users by getting too close for swords and spears to be effective, and then striking hard with their knees and elbows to kill. Even if he could clearly see the attack trails of the swinging weapons, he dare not enter them without absolute confidence in his timing and with the full intent to kill. To attempt to catch a weapon with anything less may forfeit his life.

His fighter's intuition and a sensation of slight killing intent immediately screamed at him that he was being attacked from behind yet again. Pandora in general seemed to have a rather large habit of attacking from behind when they were able to.

He cursed inwardly as a new opponent suddenly ambushed him, just as he had dispatched of the last Pandora. Chains that moved more like tentacles then projectiles came rocketing down on his position. Using the surrounding scenery of a fake city to his advantage, he cart-wheeled in the air and landed behind a car, opposite of the direction where those chains had come from. The car would do nothing to protect him from the volt chains, but the initial impact of the chains against the car would give him precious mili-seconds of warning to figure out when and from where his opponent was striking.

She leaped to the ground, with 4 chain like appendages coming out of her back. Kokin was vaguely reminded of an old comic book villain that he had once seen on TV. She straightened up and began strutting toward the car he was hiding behind. Her chain weapons began swinging around behind her back as if she were trying to imitate some kind of tentacled movie monster.

She would've been better off staying where she was and having those chains of hers locked on target in case he rushed at her. Then again, Kokin had to keep reminding himself that most of these women didn't possess much in the way of actual martial arts training to begin with, much less any actual battle experience. At best, they mostly did scaled down fitness courses that were mostly pointless, due to Pandora not using much of their actual physical ability in combat anyway. It was only the really advanced Pandora that had any kind of martial arts background to speak of.

"Hah! You think you're some tough guy, just because you beat up a bunch of losers. But then when I show up, you run and hide! Ha! Typica-"

Kokin wasn't really concerned with the content of what she was saying. Instead, he busied himself analyzing her body language, the way she dramatized the movements of her weapons, and her choices of words. Taking all these into account, he concluded that she was a false egotistic. Her heart held maybe a little steel in it, but if he pushed her hard enough then her spirit would break. She was one who actually had low self-esteem and hid this fact in her audacity, by being loud and arrogant. Those who were truly egotistic actually based their egos on something they were good at, and would use any opportunity to show it off. She would've pressed her attacked by now if that was the case.

Even now, he could see that her eyes lacked the iron will of a warrior preparing to fight for their life. Ganeesa was continuing to advance on the martial artist very carefully, fronting her strength to remain confident.

In reality, she was extremely intimidated of him. The one occasion they had crossed paths before the carnival, he had been roaming the campus and heard her make a flippant remark under her breath. He had barely heard it, but he made out enough of it to decide he didn't like it. He made eye-contact with her from nearly 30 meters away, and held it while emitting heavy killing intent. He felt her fighting spirit only briefly rise up in response before she broke eye-contact and turned her head away with a haughty huff. She had backed down, while trying to salvage her pride as best she could.

And she had apparently still been salvaging her pride since then, if her tirade was anything to go by.

Ganeesa for her part, was a little shaken from watching Kokin in action, but she was building confidence in herself. As long as he couldn't get close, then she'd be fine. However, it still unsettled her deeply to see that a human with absolutely no nova tissue or enhancements of any kind was able to not only match, but easily defeat a dozen second year Pandora bare-handed.

Behind her, Pandora laid across the ground. Some were unconscious. Some were nursing broken bones. Others simply laid quietly on the ground, having been struck so hard that the pain and psychological damage had destroyed any strength they had left in their hearts to keep fighting. A helicopter landed nearby to begin picking them up, and the medics were surprised to see so many defeated Pandora in one place, without having been cut up or completely maimed.

Even if they hadn't yet reached the ability to use advanced skills and such, a normal human shouldn't be any issue for a Pandora to deal with. Yet, there were nearly a dozen bodies behind her that told another story. She'd have no choice but to attack with the intent to kill. With other Pandora, they had healing powers, and thus 90% of things that would be mortal wounds to humans were simply minor injuries to a Pandora that wouldn't need much more than a week to heal. But because these people were just humans, a direct hit with one of her chains could kill him.

However, Sister Margaret had been quite adamant about fighting them with absolutely nothing less than the intent to kill. And failure to do so would result in them possibly being killed in turn, if they didn't fight their hardest. With those words, the Pandora steeled themselves for possibly having to commit murder for the sake of training if it was unavoidable. Ganeesa was no exception.

"Well if you're not gonna come out, then I'll-"

"Die…" Kokin stated darkly, with all the killing intent in his voice that he could muster. Temporarily freezing her in surprise and shock, he took a step back from the car and gave it the hardest front kick that he could, sending it rocketing toward her as a projectile.

Immediately, all four of her chains lunged forward to stop the car in its tracks, only a few feet from where she was. She relaxed in relief once she stopped the car, only to realize that with the car directly in front of her and occupying her attention for that brief moment, now she had no idea of knowing where Kokin was. Undoubtedly, this was just a set up for another attack.

The thai boxer ran up behind the car and front kicked it again. The vehicle only drove forward through the chains for a few feet, but it was more than enough for the vehicle to bump Ganeesa and knock her on her butt. Kokin then hopped, not to the greatest height that he could reach, but just high enough to get over the car and bare down on the now floored Ganeesa. Twisting his body upside down and extending his knee while in mid-air, Kokin came down on the stunned Pandora with his finishing technique.

["SUNBUN YAN ERAWAN!"]

In the nick of time before the impact, the Pandora had managed to cocoon herself in chains.

-xxXxx—

"It's a good thing that these Pandora's weapons are so durable. Even with that defense, a flying knee of that altitude would've smashed through virtually any defense head-on." Dudley commented offhandedly, which disturbed the men and women around him rather deeply at how casually he could comment on watching a man do a flying knee-drop on a woman less than half his size.

The journey to becoming a master martial artist was full of eye-opening experiences.

Agaard seemed to only recently notice that he and Dudley were the only masters who were present within the room. There were four masters in West Genetics academy, each responsible for keeping the Pandora on campus disciplined and overseeing their growth as fighters. In addition, they were raising their own personal disciples to be the masters of the next generation who would aid in the fight against the Nova. Hongo "God Hand" Akira and his two disciples, Seta and Hayami, couldn't be here due to some personal business they had to deal with elsewhere in Japan. If Agaard had to wager a guess, he was probably out trying to settle his dispute with Sakaki Shiou and his disciple Kenichi Shirahama once more. Unlike him and Apachai, they weren't satisfied to say that their lifelong rivalry had ended in a magnificent tie. Not that he could necessarily blame them. Few martial artists were content to end a deep rooted rivalry without a victor ultimately being declared.

But there was a fourth master

His name was Hanya, a master who, like Dudley, was completely uninvolved with the battle of the second eternal sunset. He was supposed to still be on campus and overseeing the carnival with them. However, his lack of having a disciple made him mostly uninvolved in simply watching. He had been sitting near the doorway, and watching the carnival with only casual interest the entire time. However, the old man had a rather annoying habit of sub-consciously suppressing his kii when he felt boredom. Even now, the thai boxer could still faintly sense that his kii signature was somewhere nearby. However, he hadn't the slightest clue where he actually was.

"What the deuce does that madman think he's doing?" Dudley dryly commented, staring at one of the screens.

"Oh, so that's where he went."

Hanya had apparently decided to personally jump into the carnival grounds and personally sort out the remaining survivors in order of strongest to weakest with his own hands. And it seemed that the eggheads, generals, and Sister Margaret didn't appreciate what he was doing in the least bit.

Most especially the false nun.

"Agaard! Dudley! Why is Hanya entering the carnival grounds! This is supposed to be a training exercise for the Pandora. The fact that two of your disciples are involved is bad enough!" The false nun barked at the Muay Thai and Boxing masters, filled with confusion and anger.

The 2 masters regarded her with little more than raised eyebrows and intensive stares.

From day one, Sister Margaret had never gotten along with any of the masters on campus. In fact, she disliked martial artists in general. She was filled with the conviction that Pandora would be the salvation of mankind. Martial artists however, generally looked down on Pandora as weaklings who used scientific shortcuts to attain strength, without ever truly becoming strong by toughening their own minds, bodies, and souls through training. She took special exception to that opinion.

The Muay Thai master's eyes narrowed and his cheerful smile turned into an amused snarl. The room temperature dropped several degrees as his displeasure made itself known.

"Watch your tone nun. That's my disciple you're referring to."

Everyone in the room made sure to stare at their screens and appear as if they were looking elsewhere, but the room was dead silent. Margaret's grew a tick mark on her forehead but didn't say anything back.

"As for Hanya, no one knows for sure what goes on in the mind of that crazy old man." Agaard continued, glancing at the screen to see if he could spot Hanya.

Dudley perked up towards the screen as Hanya finally tracked down all the remaining contestants in the carnival, and then made his intentions known.

"He's radiating a rather large amount of killing intent. It appears he's going to fight all of the remaining fighters all at once." He casually stated, as if he was watching a weather forecast.

"WHAT!?" Sister Margaret bellowed, running up behind the well-muscled boxer to stare at the screen.

"He's apparently decided that the best way to pick out the strongest fighter is to have them all come at him. He's nominated himself as something of a 'final boss', so to speak." Agaard commentated.

There were few problems that master Hanya didn't think could be solved with the correct application of violence, which was a sentiment that the master boxer and Muay Thai master could both say that they didn't entirely hate. However, it took a special kind of personality to have a reputation as a fighting enthusiast amongst people who lived a lifestyle centered on mortal combat.

"Dudley! Agaard! Go stop him! He's going to ruin this year's carnival!" Sister Margaret yelled at the two. The Boxer and Thai Boxer glanced at one another, both coming to the same conclusion rather quickly.

"Do you think 2 or more master class fighters having a battle in the middle of the carnival is going to make things any better? Knowing Hanya, having him fight a strong opponent would make him even more likely to kill someone on accident, rather than do any kind of actual regulating." Dudley commented.

The boxer's first time meeting Hanya, the man had attacked him with a flurry of heavy punches and kicks. Not out of malice, but simply because he could sense the boxers strength and wanted to test it. Though the master boxer had blocked, countered, parried, and slipped all of the blows, the pure force and pressure behind the attacks crumbled one of the campus building's walls behind him. Had there been someone standing in one of their attack trails that had escaped either of their notice, it would've been disastrous. It was only because they both noted the infrastructure damage they caused that they declined to continue with a proper battle.

"Damn it all, do something! The chevalier are observing this year's candidates!" Sister Margaret demanded, shaking a fist at both Dudley and Agaard, amusing the both of them enough to actually crack a smile.

"We are doing something. We're observing! Ganging up on Hanya will be good training for our disciples. And a good learning experience for your Pandora as well. That's why we have these events, correct?" Agaard questioned, wearing an amused smile as the false nun's face reddened in aggravation.

The 3 chevalier officials made themselves as small and inconspicuous as possible. They didn't want any part of this argument.

"If it makes you feel better, we'll have choice words for the man if either of our disciples come back to us in a condition that is displeasing to our eyes." Dudley stated, both of the masters emitting an even stronger aura than usual while sporting cheerful smiles that lacked any warmth.

One of the women in the operation room nervously asked the woman sitting next to her if their eyes were really glowing, or was she just going crazy from staring at computer screens too long.

Sister Margaret sincerely wished that all martial artists would just disappear. Things would be so much simpler and easier without them mucking about.

-xxXxx—

Satellizer El Bridget was sweating.

When she had come upon the boxer, she was originally aiming to just knock him out or lightly injure him enough to be eliminated. She realized that he couldn't regenerate like a Pandora could, and was in real mortal danger fighting in this Carnival. Far more so than any Pandora would be. It was her idea of mercy.

["GAZELLE PUNCH!"]

She immediately tossed that mindset aside when her enhanced reflexes were the singular thing that prevented her from getting her head blasted to the side. She had to throw herself backward and rolled to her feet. By the time she had gotten to her feet, the boxer dashed in and shoulder charged her with his weight, further knocking her backward. She swung her blade sharply in front of her to make him halt his momentum from coming into another attack. What he did instead of stopping completely, was taking a hard step to the left and pivoting to the side to glide around to her right side while peppering her with a flurry of left jabs. She shielded herself with the flat side of her blade, to which he took a deep step forward and squatted low to try and punch her feet out from under her. She hoped in the air the second she saw him drop low, while swinging downward to try and hit him as he came in.

His eyes widened as he realized she was countering him.

Recognizing her intent, he shifted his weight to his back leg and rocked back far enough to avoid her swing. Deciding that his position wasn't favorable, he hopped backward and assumed a conventional stance, staying light on his feet.

'He's fast' Satellizer thought. She actually didn't know how to describe it, but fast was the first word that came to her mind. It wasn't so much that he was faster than her. He simply happened to always be in the right place, at the right time. She knew that her powers made her stronger and faster than he was, but he always seemed to know exactly what to do and where to be in order to render her advantages mute. He never wasted any of his movements.

As they continued to fight, neither of them could get the upper hand on the other. Save for a few paper thin cuts and a few grazes from jabs, neither of them were making progress.

Normally Satellizer would've put everything on the line and simply charged at him, but something about his aura made her instincts tell her not to. Even though he didn't have a weapon to block her swings and she was faster, she didn't dare charge him blindly. Something about his eyes and his body language made her feel as if he was waiting and hoping for her to give him such an opportunity. What exactly he planned to do, she didn't know, but she'd rather not find out. He was constantly using that expert footwork of his to circle around her and probe her defense with fast and light punches. And every time he found an opening, he changed up his method of attack. Sometimes he'd go straight for the openings in her guard. Other times, he'd feint toward the opening so that she'd cover it, and would then attack where a new opening had been created. She managed to cover this up by going on the offensive with her fast and deadly slashes, eventually forcing him to retreat.

And as the fight continued on, he began to look more and more confident.

She realized that at this current rate, he'd win. Already, he had figured out her basic rhythm and was starting to layer his attacks to catch her when she was off guard. She narrowly managed to avoid a well set-up overhand right because in an act of desperation, she completely twisted her head in the other direction to avoid a direct blow, which threw him slightly off balance when his punch grazed her cheek rather than blowing her head back. However, like always, he immediately realized how and where she was likely gonna attack, based on his positioning and her own. By the time she turned back and slashed at him, he had already stepped far out of range, and lunged back in to fire back with a triple jab. Clearly, he had only thrown those jabs out there to make her dodge and back up, as he made no attempt to follow after her when she retreated backward.

She cursed. Before, he kept the fight evenly matched by trying to move into her blind spots and nail her with punches she couldn't see very well. Now he was starting to attack more directly.

It was frustrating to Satellizer. This boxer seemed to have some kind of a psychic ability to read into their exchanges and subtly guide himself out of harm's way. At first, she had thought he was just really lucky and had good reflexes. But when she made eye contact, she felt as if he were staring into her very soul. She felt as if she was a book, and he was studying every secret she held.

This feeling of being analyzed and mercilessly hunted reminded her eerily of her brother.

Now that they had distance, they squared off again. El Bridgette didn't realize it, but she was now engaged in a shockwave orbit battle with the boxer. Even though she felt that her moves were being read, she was also able to get a semi-decent read on him. She knew it was hard for her to angle her blade to hit him when he came in low, so she held her blade lower to the ground, which made it difficult to attack from below without risking a close call with her blade. She knew he liked to circle to her right, but also knew that if she put too much attention on defending her right side, he'd then motion more to her left and attack from just outside her field of vision. It was only because she had gotten used to his pattern of attack that she was able to even react to some of his punches.

A single deep cut, preferably to his legs, was all that she needed to turn the battle in her favor. So Satellizer resolved to immobilize him, rather than take him head on. She wasn't the only one planning however, and she knew it.

Mac, for his part, was trying to figure out how to force an opening in her guard. Right now, he had gotten her so focused on his possible attacks and angles that she was no longer thinking about ways to actively attack him, but counter and react to his attacks. The flow of the battle was moving in his direction. All he needed to do was dissect her defense, connect to her with his jabs, and start digging into her body with liver blows and gut punches. Once she slowed down and her inner strength was sapped away by his body punches, he'd end it with his signature rear hand upper cut. No opponent had ever taken one of his KO punches and still stayed standing. Not even his master would allow himself to be hit with it. And he could see it in her eyes. She had nearly the same kind of relentless determination for winning that only a committed ring fighter possessed. Or rather in her case, she simply refused to be defeated. She was willing to accept being evenly matched to an opponent, but defeat was the same as death in her eyes. His mentality as a fighter was different however. It wasn't enough to simply match an opponent. He was out to completely dissect and destroy his opponents. Nothing short of complete victory would satisfy him.

He was going to end this fight.

The shift in her foot let him know that she was planning on moving and he immediately dashed in, catching her off-guard. She brought her blade around to intercept his movement. They locked eyes, their expressions hard and unwavering, looking for the slightest sign of weakness so that they could crush each other in mind, body, and soul.

They had an exchange of jabs and quick slashes, mixing in feints with real attacks, circling around each other to find blind spots and better positioning. He briefly surprised her by stutter-stepping in place before weaving around to her back, leaving a brief and hazy afterimage of himself and making her eyes widen. While circling, his jab fired off so that she was forced to block, and thus temporarily lost sight of him. Just as she heard his foot plant behind her, no doubt to strike her from behind, she unveiled a surprise of her own.

He was surprised when she suddenly accelerated forward, leaving a neon blue trail in her wake. Suddenly, she made a U-turn, her blade trailing behind her to attack. He stuttered stepped again before weaving to the side, making her miss her swing. However, her charge was too fast for him to touch her with his jab this time. She wheeled around again to make another pass, to which he again maneuvered again, this time feinting forward before stepping back. He swung a wide hook aimed for her body, while she swung her blade at where his after-image's mid-section would've been. Both missed, on account of having been seen through and avoiding one another at the last second.

Finding no satisfactory openings and predicting no progress, they settled just a few steps away from each other, eyes locked in intense focus. Both took another step forward, deciding to see if they could overwhelm the other with a sheer volume of attacks.

"RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!"

An oppressive aura settled over both the boxer and Pandora, causing them to completely forget about their battle and turn their attention to the source of such a powerful presence. The wall of the nearest building exploded outward, flinging two figures backward and directly in front of Mac and Satellizer. Their battle completely forgotten, the boxer and sword wielding Pandora turned and faced the two new arrivals in their respective fighting stances.

Kokin flew backward and twisted into a backflip, landing on his hands and feet with a very concerned and focused expression on his face. To his left, Ganessa tumbled across the ground and settled into a heap. She tiredly pulled herself off the ground, clearly having taken the most punishment out of the entire group. Her eyes were filled with fear as she tried to slowly back away from the opening in the wall. Kokin stood and assumed the traditional Tan Garde Muay stance. Ganessa brought her volt weapons to bear, bringing the points of her chains to aim directly in front of her. Mac settled into the peek-a-boo boxing stance, and Satellizer holding her blade out in front of her.

All eyes were facing the hole in the wall, which was obscured by shadows and dust, prioritizing this new opponent over each other. Taking the moment of silence as an opportunity, Kokin quickly relayed information to his fellow disciple.

"Mac, our opponent is-"

"One of the masters." The boxer cut him off, already having a well-developed ability for sensing an opponent's kii level without having to be in their direct presence. He couldn't make out individuals on kii signatures alone, but he felt proud that he was able to discern the martial arts level of an opponent without direct sight.

"Yes, but it's the worst one of them all for us to be fighting." Kokin stated grimly, as if preparing for a battle to the death. The Pandora were utterly clueless which master they meant. The martial artists had only appeared on campus at the beginning of this semester. And with the school year having only just begun, there wasn't much of a chance for the Pandora to get to know about any of the martial artists on their campus, much less their individual skill levels.

Mac's eyes dilated as he instantly realized who the Muay Thai specialist was referring to. And his response was simple.

"Shit. Hanya of all people."

"Well that's not a very nice way to speak of your elders, little disciples." A deep and sage-like voice bellowed.

A large figure came striding through the whole in the wall. He wore a blue and sleeveless karate gii with a pair of leather black belts around his waist. His arms were covered in orange and blue stripped sleeves that ended in blue gloves. And most noticeable of all, was the bone white hanya mask with empty eyes, horns, and outwardly extending teeth. His muscles, developed from a lifetime of martial arts training, were bulging underneath even the thickest parts of his clothes.

And for reasons that the two Pandora couldn't explain, it felt as if he was literally radiating with power and bad intentions.

"I had thought that we were fighting in this event to demonstrate our might against the Pandora of this school." Kokin stated coldly, never breaking eye contact and being extra cautious of any possible openings in his stance. The Hanya mask shifted to face the young Thai boxer.

"It was. And now I've decided that your might is in need of further testing." He then turned his head to regard the two Pandoras, making sure they weren't left out. "All of you." Killing intent now laced his voice.

Ganessa stumbled backward. "His eyes are glowing? Why are his eyes glowing!? I'm not the only one seeing that, right!?" She turned and regarded the others.

Kokin and Mac never removed their focus from the master before them. Satellizer hadn't lost her composure as well, but Ganessa had stepped back and a brief look of panic washed over her face before she quickly hardened her expression and bared her weapon at this new enemy. Deciding that her pride wouldn't allow the "Untouchable Queen" to compose herself while she trembled in fear, she prepared herself to fight.

"Oh good, you all have some spine. Let's see if you have any skills to go along with it!" Hanya menaced, his voice quickly taking a guttural pitch.

The master lunged forward, his fists launching outward in a barrage of bone shattering punches. The four combatants were blasted backward. Despite their best efforts to block, dodge, and evade the punches, a few still slipped past their defenses and struck true. The two expert level martial artists and two single digit ranked Pandora were flung backward, and once again reassumed their stances. Despite each of them being powerful fighters who were on their guards, they were completely overwhelmed and driven backwards in an instant.

This was what it meant to fight a master.

Satellizer couldn't understand why, but despite the power she felt from being struck being greater than any other punch she's ever felt, she could've sworn that he was holding back his full punching power. She realized she couldn't allow herself to be defensive if she had a prayer of winning against this man. She wouldn't be able to take any more of those devestating punches.

Ganessa's chains lunged forward like snakes towards Hanya, who skillfully sidestepped to the left of the easily visible attack. Mac dashed in and came with an overhand right and followed with a liver shot. Hanya blocked the overhand with his right hand and tucked his arm against his side to block the liver punch. Taking advantage of the boxer's proximity, the masked master planted his feet and twisted the force of his entire body into his shoulder as he smashed into him and sent him reeling backward. Kokin and Satellizer were bearing down upon him from both sides just as Ganeesa's chains came lunging for him again.

Kokin attacked from the master's blind spot, aiming to punch him in the base of his skull. Striking to kill was necessary to have any hope against a master.

"Take this!" Satellizer cried as she tried to split the man in half at the waist from a frontal assault. Meanwhile, two of Ganessa's chains were coming in from straight ahead, just below the arc of her fellow Pandora's jump.

"You runts are 10 years too early!" Hanya cried, his eyes glowing even brighter from behind his mask as he really started getting into it.

Simultaneously, a right leg kick shot backwards into Kokin's exposed stomach and drove into his abs, Hanya's right hand caught Satellizer's blade between his fingers and thumb, and his left hand caught both chains just behind the points. The Pandora were shocked to find that the strength in his hands and fingers had completely stopped their volt weapons cold.

There's was a brief moment of pause as the three young fighters slowly processed that he had stopped all of their attacks simultaneously, and came to understand just how much of a world of hurt they were in for.

"Is that all you have to offer?"

["RISING UPPER-CUT!"]

Mac reintroduced himself to the fight as he dashed forward and stepped in deep, just beneath Hanya while avoiding Satellizer's trapped blade, his right fist shooting upward to take the master's head off.

And suddenly the boxer felt his fist cut through nothing but air.

In a move of supreme focus and reflex, Hanya pulled down on both the volt weapons with his hands, retracted his right leg from Kokin's gut, and curled in on himself. In doing this, he pulled Ganeesa and Satellizer within close range, moved himself out of the path of Mac's punch, and allowed Kokin to come down off his foot that was suspending him in mid-air. All of his opponents were forcefully drawn into a circle around him, in a split second. Every single one of them were off balance and out of position for what he was going to do next.

Every muscle beneath the man's clothing bulged as his kii seemed to have ignited. Kokin and Mac only had a fraction of second to feel terror at the powerful kii buildup of Hanya just before he made it explode outward.

["BAKUHATSU KEN!"] ("Exploding fist")

It was as if a grenade had been detonated beneath the four of them, but the grenade shrapnel was instead replaced with master level punches, flying in every direction outward. Even though all logic dictated that the man they were fighting only had 2 hands, they each must've felt dozens of powerful punches in that instant. Somehow, each punch navigated around Satellizer's blade and Ganessa's chains, only to strike their vulnerable bodies. Being less strongly constituted than their male counterparts, they were sent flying several meters before landing. And they did not rise to get up. Mac, having just been able to look down and face the master before his attack, was able to shield his face from the barrage with his arms… and nothing else. Kokin, having already charged into a powerful body kick, was just able to bring his arms up as Hanya's punches found their mark around his arms and into his body and head. He lost all strength in his body before he even hit the ground.

Surrounding master Hanya on all sides were the moaning, battered, and bruised bodies of 2 Pandoras and 2 expert class martial artists. They were all breathing normally, if a bit haggardly. He purposefully left them conscious so he could give them a proper evaluation. The blue clad master, hands on his hips, was looking back and forth in satisfaction. He then settled his gaze on the motionless form of Satellizer, who was simply staring into the sky with a shell-shocked gaze.

"Satellizer is ranked first amongst her class. You don't have much in the way of technique, but you have the spirit of a martial artist for certain." A tired groan was his response and something that sounded like cannot… lose. Shrugging it off, he turned his attention elsewhere.

He looked at Ganessa.

"Ganessa is ranked second. You have no close combat ability whatsoever, so make sure to never let your opponents in close range in the future. Your martial arts spirit is weak, but at least it's there." From her facedown position in the ground, whatever she managed to get out was muffled. So he paid it no mind.

He then looked at Kokin.

"Tell Agaard to train your core muscles more, Kokin. Your fighting style requires you to have an iron mid-section, and I held back from giving you the full force of my kick." An almost inaudible 'noted' was all that left Kokin's lips as he focused on steadying his breathing.

He then looked at Mac.

"Tell Dudley to drill your reaction skills more, Mac. You should've been able to dodge at least a few of those punches at your current level." Little mac raised his head up off the ground just enough to spit out some blood and saliva before he rolled over to his back and let out a large breath.

Master Hanya then turned and walked off, humming a cheerful tune. Ganeesa managed to raise a single hand and held her middle finger in the direction of the departing master.

The helicopters flew overhead, as the intercoms announced the end of this year's carnival.

-xxXxx-

Much has happened in the past few years. With the foiling of Yami's eternal sunset, the martial arts underground has quieted to but a whisper of its former glory. Ryozanpaku, with no more major killing fist users and megalomaniacs left to actively endanger all goodness of the world, resided to a life peace and harmony. With the lack of on-going conflict, it was proven that Yami's logic indeed was correct, in a sense. With any stagnation or lack of warfare, martial arts would begin to stagnate and its practice would begin to lessen. Without enemies to battle or any world in dire need of saving, humanity began to move away from any arts and practices involving violence.

Martial arts was currently little more than a form of entertainment and way of staying in shape as far the public was concerned. It was a sport and a source of income for overly-testosterone filled men and women who liked to get punched in the face for fun. Martial arts was just a gimmick for fast talkers to get money out easily tricked families who wanted to make their kids full of confidence. Stories of singular men cutting down entire armies with their bare hands, dodging bullets, catching swords between their fingers, and running fast enough to outpace a car were all just fictional stories of the past. Cultures who had pride in their marital arts were willing to tell any number of lies to sell their little gimmicks. And because of Yami's decline in activity, no one sought to correct them, admonish them, or prove them wrong for boldly making such claims.

And then the first Nova appeared.

Otherworldly beings appeared, with no rhyme or reason to their existence. As soon as they landed, they began to slaughter all humans they could find. With their armor, bullets and bombs did nothing. With their freezing fields, all caught within it were rendered immobile, and abruptly slaughtered like lambs. Against this threat, humanity gave birth to pandora and limiters. Volunteer boys and girls with varying degrees of compatibility to nova tissue that gave them anti-Nova powers. They were seen as humanity's only hope against the Nova.

Or so we once thought.

Though it was not previously known before, the freezing field was more than a simple immobilization power used by the Nova. It was the ability to use the strength of one's very own soul to lock a soul of equal or lesser strength into place while the two souls linked together in a struggle of will. And if the one who won that battle casted the freezing field, they'd immobilize their opponent. When the first Nova appeared, its freezing field immobilized all the normal humans. To them, it felt as if they couldn't move a single inch of their bodies without going against the will of a higher authority that they couldn't resist.

For those of the city who were expert or master class martial artists, they simply felt as if their fighting spirit was being challenged. And when they raised their kii in response to this challenge, the freezing fields had no effect on them. Still, these martial artists being few and far between, most of them tended to flee for cover after having spotted the Nova. The few who stood and fought, even if they were capable of stalling the creature's advance, rarely were able to do much in the way of damage. The armor of a Nova, no matter how hard it was struck, was impenetrable. To shatter steel and iron with one's bare hands was considered an impressive feat, even by master level standards. Nova armor was a league all on its own above iron and steel.

However, there were exceptions. Before humanity had started developing technology meant to track Nova appearances, another Nova had crossed into the earth. This one was an R-type who had appeared at the top of one of China's mountains. At the bottom of the mountain was an entire city of people who were completely unaware of the creature's appearance. And the Nova was prepared to go and rain death and destruction down upon these people.

And it had just so happened that a single master class warrior was meditating upon the mountains, and found himself directly in the path of an inhuman creature that reeked of pure blood lust and killing intent. The Nova may have felt a tiny bit of fear well up in its core when this strange human's dou kii and killing intent suddenly rose up. On reflex, the Nova attempted to emit a freezing field. In response, the master's kii had completely overtook the freezing field and left the R-class Nova overwhelmed by the presence of an existence far greater than its own.

And in that moment, a pure human without any augmentations or Nova tissue managed to slay a Nova with his bare hands. In a single finishing technique. He had perfected a punch were he struck an opponent directly in the heart with a hammer fist, crushing the heart completely. He wasn't the first to master the "death punch" technique or modify it, but he was one of the few to base an entire fighting style around it.

Using his signature technique on the R-type managed to completely bypass its Nova armor and have the force of his blow shatter the Nova's core from the inside. To an outside observer, it would've simply appeared that a man had ran up and banged the bottom of his fist against the Nova in its chest in an exaggerated motion. And the Nova simply tipped over and fell face forward.

That man had decided to continue his meditation on top of the back of the now slain Nova. And it just so happened that this man went by none other than the name "Hanya".

After having caught wind of the sudden appearance and death of the Nova, a new interest in martial arts emerged amongst humanity. The Chevalier especially. An outreach was made to the organization of Yami, but they were no longer the boogeymen they used to be after the eternal sunset's failure. They hardly made any sort of organized movements anymore outside of the occasional mercenary missions that killing fist users were offered.

Chevalier had wished to integrate Yami into their own organization, but immediately released any such notions after having met the "one shadow, nine fists" leadership. One of the chevalier's board members had suffered a heart attack in their presence.

Though the Chevalier had always known about martial artists and the immense strength they possessed, it was generally thought they'd be useless in fighting the Nova. After all, these were men and women who had devoted their entire life to training for the purpose of fighting other human beings. It was considered laughable that martial arts would work against the Nova. Even if masters were able to push themselves to the point that they were considered to have developed legitimate super powers, they were still humans who fought other humans.

That was before a human of master class fought and killed a Nova with a single strike.

Now they sought out to find as many high-level master class martial artists as they could find, outside of those who already held ties to Yami that is. Quickly filling the void of Yami's weakening, Chevalier managed to track down many master class fighters, and were especially eager to track down and recruit the enemies of the One Shadow Nine Fists scattered about the globe. They even recruited the help of Ryouzanpaku when they were able to. Though the vast majority of masters throughout the world just didn't have any techniques that made them effective at killing armored Nova, they still made excellent trainers, teachers, and enforcers among the Pandora. Even with high end skills, most of the elite chevalier Pandora were able to count themselves as lucky if they could pull out an even fight with a master class fighter. They were no replacements for the Pandora and their Nova slaying weapons, but they were still extremely valuable assets in the war against the Nova.

The elite of the masters however, after having learned of how Hanya killed a Nova, realized that putting master class power behind a blunt strike against the nova's chest was more than enough to damage a Nova core. So while there were masters who could indeed hurt and kill Nova, they were extremely few in numbers. In addition to world class mastery, they had to have mastered a style that included heavy and blunt strikes, which left out most weapon-users, grapplers, and pressure point users. So while masters could participate in anti-nova operations, most of them couldn't do much else but be distractions, guides, and protectors of the Pandora.

The handful who were powerful enough to damage or kill Nova with their attacks all just so happened to be remarkably stubborn about going wherever they pleased, whenever they pleased. Martial artists in general didn't respond well to attempts of imposing authority, as it turned out.

This defined mankind's existence. Warriors who chose to fight the Nova had one of two paths available. They could dedicate their entire beings to walking the path of the martial artist, seeking to gradually grow their skills and strengthen their soul every day, until decades of training turned them into existences who could force their way through freezing fields on pure willpower alone and their naturally developed bodies could be considered superhuman. Or, a woman who was compatible enough with Nova tissue could turn themselves into a Pandora, and take a male partner to be her limiter. These were the options mankind were left with, in there war with the Nova.

Of course, because of all the ideological differences between choosing to be a dedicated martial artist and choosing to be a stigmata user, there were bound to be a few bumps in the road.