*Chapter Twenty Five - Qualifying*
*Tournament Complex, Munich, Germany*
Organised, controlled chaos. That was how Issei would describe the atmosphere he had appeared within. German's were famed for their ability to manage details down to the finest of points and those in charge of this tournament had not shirked away from that in any regard. New groups of combatants, spectators and supporting staff arrived every five minutes via a multitude of methods. People commuted in, others were collected, and those of supernatural origins arrived through teleportation or flight. Yet despite the complexity of it all, staff collected each group and shuttled them through a string of booths to have their identity verified, bookings and accommodation sorted and luggage processed.
The party led by Sirzechs Gremory arrived within a white washed reception hall alongside other groups. Issei's parents seemed baffled and almost nauseated by the sudden shift in environment but the focus of everyone present was brought to a blonde haired man standing before them all in a black suit typical of airport staff.
"Party of Lord Sirzechs Lucifer." The German man spoke in perfect Japanese.
Issei realized that all the devils would have been able to understand the man in any language he spoke but this staff member had the courtesy to use the language native to the members who weren't devils to be polite and efficient.
Sirzechs stepped forward with his trademark confident smile and outstretched hand. The man took the Satan's in a firm handshake and Issei pondered briefly if this man realized whose hand he was shaking. The man's face had remained with a friendly and welcoming customer service smile, was he seeking freaking out inside, it would be impossible to know.
Being led from the room, each member of the group was taken systematically through a series of stations. Issei complied with all requests for documentation, standing to be scanned and photographed. Having his biographical information confirmed by the fighter registration team as the last step.
"Species?" The middle aged woman queried while continuing to look at her monitor.
"Saiyan." Issei replied and watched as the woman's forehead frowned.
The pause in this final registration took place as she searched through her file.
"Is there a problem with that?" Issei followed up.
"No. I found it. You and one other are the only pair listed as Saiyan's. A mister Bikou Wukong."
At the confirmation of his rival's name, a wide excited and almost sinister grin split across Issei's face. He was here, Issei had been unable to feel his Ki within the city radius, and although a large collection of powerful Ki was present with all the combatants of the tournament gathering, Issei still felt that he should be able to feel Bikou's. He knew the specific feel of his Rival's Ki and also that his power was significantly higher then those around him. He was also aware that he hadn't felt Bikou's Ki approach in Russia until they fought, then he also hadn't felt it for the past few months despite looking for it and that led Issei to believe Bikou possessed a level of proficiency with his control so as to hide his signature. If he was, that would be a useful technique that Issei would be interested in utilizing.
Every moment spent being escorted through the intake process, Issei found his focus on the fighters around him. He had expected Humans, Devils and Angels, but the multitude of other races was astounding. He had been told about the other planes of existence by Rias and even spoken with Sirzechs and Grayfia a few times about them but didn't expect so many warriors to enter the tournament. It really did seem like the whole supernatural world was coming together with the human for this event. There was a group of warriors with crystalline wings and thick leather armour, a tall warrior with a bulls head and long horns that Issei recognized as a Minotaur, a figure who appeared to be made of nothing but electrical currents that Rias said were called Genasi and many others. The sheer range and scope of beings was almost mind boggling and Issei felt his blood boiling with excitement at the prospect of facing them in combat. What strengths they could have, what abilities they could use and most importantly, what he could learn from defeating them.
With the entry process complete, the group was split in half, competitors led toward a holding area and spectators shown to their accommodation prior to the opening show of the tournament. Sirzechs and Grayfia remained with the spectators and Issei felt himself slightly disappointed that the two powerful devils weren't competing in the tournament themselves but he understood that a known Lord of Hell competing might cause some sort of political issue.
The combatant waiting area consisted of a series of large halls with televisions, drink machines and comfortable seating as well as adjacent dorm rooms and a shower facility. At a quick glance, Issei knew that close to the full six hundred and forty fighters were present with only a few remaining to enter. He looked around at those who would soon be his competition, a twinge of hatred flared in his being as his gaze crossed over a trio of angels with black wings. He had never met these particular fallen angels before but experience from all his previous encounters with their kind said he wasn't going to like them.
The six friends moved down the short steps at the doorway and into the room. Issei found himself drawn directly to the bain marie with food available and began to help himself to a stack of sandwiches while still looking around at all the different fighters when a voice he vaguely recognized spoke out from behind.
"Well if it isn't the Gremory and her pet."
Issei turned with Rias beside him to see Vali a few metres from him. The boy wore a mocking expression as he sat at a table with a group that Issei didn't recognize. Before he could respond, Rias replied.
"Oh, it's the weak dragon's host. What's your name again?" Rias held a tone of utter dismissiveness as she spoke.
Issei enjoyed the flash of frustration and annoyance on Vali's face as he began devouring the sandwiches he had claimed already.
"It's Vali." The boy spat back while seeming to build with anger and also conscious that the Saiyan before him had easily defeated him in their last encounter.
"You will have to forgive my forgetting you," Rias continued, "You were rather pitiful when we last met."
"As pitiful as your boyfriend was, being almost dead at your feet." The outcast devil spat back.
Rias felt a stab of anger at his remark but before she could act, Issei placed his hand on her shoulder and stepped past her with a care free expression, the last of the food swallowed into the vortex of his stomach. The group with Vali eyed the Saiyan suspiciously, preparing themselves in case he was to act aggressively.
"Speaking of him, where is he?" Issei asked in a manner that seemed almost too friendly for the tension that was in the air.
Vali stared at him for a moment without response, he had expected Issei to be aggressive or argumentative instead he appeared excited and almost giddy. Vali twisted and pointed to a far wall adjacent to his position. Issei followed the direction and his eyes fell upon a figure sat cross legged on the ground with a thick long grey hoodie pulled over his head. Without a further comment to the group, Issei strode toward the figure who in response as if feeling the eyes on him rose to a standing position, his tail releasing from his waist and hood falling back to reveal his face. Bikou met Issei's gaze and approached him to meet close to central within the hall. Fighters nearby watched as the two whose initial fight had exposed the supernatural world came face to face once more.
As Rias watched, Koneko and Kiba moved to her side.
"That's Bikou?" her knight half questioned while knowing the answer.
Rias had no need to verbally respond and simply nodded. She felt both trepidation and caution at the meeting of the two Saiyans. In all, she just wanted the pair to not come to blows at this moment. Both warriors' tails swung through the air as they maintained a firm lock with their eyes held on the other and no words uttered. After a long moment, both turned, Bikou returning to his previous position against the adjacent wall and Issei returning to his friends.
As Issei returned, Rias noted the broad almost child like smile across his face. Neither Saiyan had said a word and their stare down had lasted only a few seconds. What could he possibly be so happy about? Her expression relayed her thoughts to her boyfriend without words.
"He is even stronger then last time." Issei's words containing no traces of fear but filled with unbridled excitement.
Rias felt like internally groaning, of course he would be excited by the prospect of the fighter who almost killed him so thoroughly being even stronger for their second meeting. All the Gremory group knew that Issei would be like this, but they also knew that now that he was also a Super Saiyan, the gap between Bikou and himself had sharply declined as well.
As the clock struck ten in the morning, the last of the combatants had arrived in the assembly hall and an entourage of tournament officials arrived to speak to the large audience.
A middle aged women in a fine business suit, dark hair pulled back into a tight bun and a no nonsense expression spoke into a microphone. She spoke in English, and while Issei understood English to a degree, Rias still translated to smooth out any translation difficulties he may encounter.
"Good morning everyone and welcome to Munich. Now that you have all arrived, I would like to formally introduce myself. I am Lina Schwarz and I have the honour of being the senior coordinator of this ground breaking tournament. My team and I have had the privilege of organizing every detail of the event to which you will be competing in. Shortly staff members will shuttle all of you to your accommodation for tonight and will collect you all at six this evening after dinner to move to the opening ceremony."
She paused for a moment before continuing in a brisk professional manner,
"Tomorrow the qualifier matches will be conducted. Each match will be a ten combatant battle royal for fifteen minutes each. Matches will begin at six in the morning with the final match concluding at ten in the evening. Alternating between both our two stadiums will allow for smooth transition. Time tables will be provided tonight so that each of you will be aware of when and where your fights will be conducted. Each qualifier will only have one winner and the sixty four who win will move onto the separation matches being fought on Monday. Each separation will consist of four combatants for sixteen matches of half an hour duration each. Only a single arena will be utilized and a fifteen minute reset between each bout. Once more only a single combatant may claim victory from each bout."
She took yet another pause to bring her vision across the faces of those before her. Each combatant gave her their attention regardless of species or class.
"Matches from that point on will be single fighter against fighter bouts. Eight one hour bouts on Tuesday. Four ninety minute quarter final fights for Wednesday. Two three hour semi-final bouts on Thursday and the finale set for nine in the morning on Friday with a conclusion time of no longer then three in the afternoon. Saturday will conclude the tournament with a formal dinner to which you will all be invited regardless of your placement in the days to come."
With her brief explanation of the broad plan covered, a small army of service personnel moved up beside the chief coordinator.
"Now, please allow us to show you to your individual quarters for your stay with us and once again I bid you all a warm welcome to Munich."
Each of the staff members herded their assigned group of combatants along as they conducted a quick roll call and set about taking them to their individual chalets. Each chalet would house ten combatants however it was stressed that this ten was unlikely to be the group that fought together in the qualifier. The Gremory group were kept together while Sebastian and Irina had been assigned to other chalets. Issei looked at the other six combatants with him and was pleasantly surprised to note that he recognized one well and could swear he had seen another. Genshirou Saji and a shorter girl with dark almost midnight black hair in twin tails with pink ribbons wearing an overly frilly pink dress. He couldn't place a name for the strangely dressed girl but by Rias', Koneko and Kiba's reaction, they all knew her.
Despite the presence of the remainder of the small group waiting for their guide to begin escorting them, the three Gremory devils bowed to the small girl, earning a quizzical expression from Issei. The Saiyan remained perplexed for a moment before he felt his girlfriend tugging at the sleeve of his shirt to pull him down. Issei resisted and gave her a questioning look similar to that of the other members of their group while Genshirou gave a smug smirk and then small girls face showed amusement.
Rias gave up after a few futile tugs and addressed the small girl,
"My apologies lady Serafall, Issei can be extremely stubborn but I promise he means no disrespect."
Issei knew he had heard the name Serafall before and was going to respond to Rias' odd behaviour but the small girl beat him to it.
"That's fine Rias. All of you can stop bowing, you know I am not a formal person. It's nice to meet you Issei. I'm Serafall Leviathan, one of the four great Satans"
Instantly the pieces clicked into place and Issei realized who she was and returned the greeting with a broad smile of his own.
"Nice to meet ya, I'm Issei." His hand extended to shake hers as if she were anyone else.
Serafall took his hand in a dainty shake while amusement continued to fill her voice.
"Sirzechs has mention often how relaxed and approachable you are despite your power."
The mention of power caught Issei's attention fully.
"Speaking of power, you will be competing? I was disappointed that Sirzechs and Ajuka aren't but having a Satan to compete against will be fun."
"You don't seem worried about facing me." Serafall responded directly.
Issei simply shrugged, he had handled Sirzechs and Ajuka easily enough. How hard could another Satan be? With this he looked up at the four remaining members of their group. Three appeared clearly human and the passive reading of their Ki that Issei conducted marked them as such. He was more then happy to face a skilled combatant from any race to further his knowledge of combat but he couldn't help but think that humanity had a distinct and overwhelming disadvantage attempting to compete against those of supernatural origin in this tournament. One man had fair skin, blonde hair and and green eyes. Issei put his hand out to him and the man returned the handshake.
"Issei," "Jack". Each introduced. The man's accent placed him from the United States. Probably a northern state but he really couldn't pick the different accents all that well.
The next man had very dark skin, brown hair and eyes and very handsome features on a muscular frame. Issei took his hand next and they introduced themselves.
"Issei," "Tibor". Issei took his accent and figured he would place in Africa, probably around Liberia or Burkina Faso but again he couldn't be certain.
The woman beside him had very traditional Chinese features and she spoke he confirmed that she was definitely from China. As with the other humans he shook her hand and introduced himself.
All three humans Issei would place in their twenties or early thirties. Each seemed rather uncomfortable around the supernatural beings and he couldn't say that he really blamed them. They had to know who he was and would have seen what he was capable of. He then turned to the final member that he had yet to greet, she was clearly of supernatural origin. Large crystalline wings and heightened volume of Shoki far above that of a human and on par with a devil. Like all the other supernatural beings Issei had met, her age was indeterminable but her features spoke strongly of Scandinavian heritage with very fair skin, white blonde hair and pale blue eyes.
Issei extended his hand, the woman merely looked at it before turning away. She made no effort to introduce herself or interact with any other member's of the group. An awkwardness filled the air as the rest of the group introduced themselves with the silver winged girl continuing to ignore everyone. Issei looked to Rias for clarification, his girlfriend considered being discreet but figured that if she was going to be rude then she didn't deserve such a measure.
"She's a Valkyrie. They come from Asgard and are representatives of the Norse pantheon."
At the mention of potential gods, Issei's eyes lit up which Rias quickly stopped.
"No, I don't think any of the Norse gods will be here or competing. They are highly reclusive."
Issei grumbled mildly at having his excitement shot down so quickly but still noticed that the girl had stiffened slightly at Rias' explanation of her and her home but remained quiet and cold.
Before long the ten were shown to chalet number fifty five and began exploring inside. The chalet was spacious with ten simple bedrooms, their belongings already located inside each, a kitchen, dinning area, large bathroom, living area and laundry. It was a comfortable and inviting housing arrangement that he was happy to be involved in. He briefly pondered how much setting all this up must have cost the German government but the investment that they were making was sure to be well worth it by setting themselves up as the human nation of choice for supernatural activity and commerce.
Shortly before dusk a notification flashed on both Issei and Rias' phones along with the remainder of the occupants in the chalet. Swiping the notification open, Issei found that it was the roster for the next days fights posted for each to see. He immediately scrolled through for his name. Bout thirty nine, starting at half past three in arena one. Instructions dictated that all competitors were to be in the waiting area forty five minutes prior to their bouts but were free to watch other bouts outside of that. Looking over at Rias' phone beside him, he saw that her match was bout twenty four in arena two at eleven forty five. He would be able to watch her match.
Examining both rosters, each found that they didn't know any of the other nine fighters in either of their fights. Issei then checked for each of his friends' names to find them. Koneko was the first of them to be up at seven in the morning in bout five at arena one. Irina had bout seven in the same arena half an hour later. Kiba was bout sixteen in arena two at nine forty five. Lastly Sebastian would have to wait all day for his turn being in arena two at eight fifteen at night in bout fifty eight.
Begrudgingly Issei changed into a well fitting dark suit that Grayfia had purchased for him while Rias and the rest of the peerage got dressed for the opening ceremony. This would be the official start of the tournament and was set to last two hours. At seven that evening, all the combatants of the tournament found themselves seated in a very large auditorium along with all the formal guests and presiding staff members. Close to fifty thousand people in a giant auditorium for the opening ceremony. The pressure of various elements of Ki and so many people together mixed around in the air and tickled Issei's senses as he watched the three announcers for the event move out to an elaborate stage in the centre of the stadium. The giant space containing two large square combat arenas that would be utilized for the qualifiers the next day. Each arena consisted of a two thousand five hundred stone squares each a perfect metre wide. This resulted in both fighting spaces being fifty square metres and the stage for the night's event filled the space between them. Large holographic screens floated in the air allowing the entire crowd to have perfect view of both arenas and the stage.
The announcers introduced themselves to the crowd and identified themselves as a Human, Devil and Angel. After introductions and welcoming all the guests, a procession of formal delegates began entering the stadium with the announcers formally introducing them to the crowd. Issei didn't have much interest in this formality but still clapped politely and took note of interesting groups such as the British royal family and the King of Thailand who arrived in a military style uniform comprised almost entirely of gold and a very expensive looking white fabric. For others however, seeing these people was obviously a great point of interest as the crowd became enamored by the arrivals. The announcement of Lord Michael, Arch Angel of Heaven and Lord Sirzechs, Satan of Hell caused loud ripples of speculation through the crowd. Participation in Christian religious institutes had increased over the last few months with various churches using the clear proof of Angels and Devils to enhance their membership, this however had the unfortunate issue of causing a lot of humans to misinterpret Devils with Demons and that had caused some issues that Grayfia had spend quite a long amount of effort trying to fix.
After close to forty minutes the procession of dignitaries and world leaders finally ended and the announcers once again bid everyone welcome as wording appeared on the holographic screens rotating through languages. The rules for the event.
"Allow us to briefly go through the rules of this first inter-dimensional tournaments. Firstly, all bouts are to be strictly non lethal, a combatant is considered eliminated if they touch the ground outside of their arena, are rendered unconscious or chose to forfeit. Each match will have a specified time limit and each will only have one victor. If multiple combatants are conscious at the conclusion of the bout, our judges will award the victory based on prowess and technique displayed. Weapons may be utilized however may not be brought into the arena meaning they must be conjured once the match has begun."
A pause was given as five individuals moved out onto the stage beside the announcers.
"Judging this tournament we have five highly qualified and esteemed members. First, from the United States of America, long time mixed martial arts judge, John McCarthy."
A man stepped forward with a strong build, short beard and dark hair. Stepping back to his position beside the other judges during the applause, the announcers continued.
"Secondly, from the Peoples Republic of China, Sanda style master, Xu Xiaodong."
Another man in traditional Chinese Gi stepped forward and waved to further applause.
"Thirdly from the realm of Hell, Satan of Invention, Ajuka Beelzebub."
Ajuka stepped forward happily waving to the crowd and releasing a flair of Shoki into the air in the form of a green and blue serpent that spiraled skyward before popping harmlessly like a firework. Many of the humans in the crowd cheered and clapped, impressed by the open display of magic.
"Fourthly from Brazil, eight times world Brazillian Jui Jitsu champion, Leticia Ribeiro."
A shorter slender woman stepped forward and waved to the crowd before returning back to her position beside Ajuka.
"Lastly, representing the realm of Heaven, Angel of Solitude, Cassiel."
A tall woman with blonde hair, white feathery wings and sparkling white armour stepped forward releasing a show of birds made from water around her that floated gracefully into the air before popping into rainbows joining together between each other. Issei had the feeling that she only made a display of magic, to the applause of the crowd because Ajuka had done so and she did not want to be outdone by a Devil.
With the judges introduced, they left the stage to move to seating provided for them. Already Issei could see Ajuka talking animatedly with the Chinese judge who appeared to be doing his best to appear polite before the eccentric Devil in his presence. The lights in the stadium shut off dropping the area into darkness with strobes and neon lights beginning to flash before the stage became bathed in light and the announcers were no longer present allowing music and light to fill the stadium as multiple acts followed each other forming the entertainment component of the evening. The mood changed into more of a party atmosphere as the crowd enjoyed the big name acts that formed the line up however while Issei liked music as much as anyone else, he couldn't bring himself to concentrate on such a thing when he was so excited for the tournament to come and instead focused on analyzing the Ki of those around him.
He swept his gaze around the crowd he could see and honed his senses in on each person that caught his interest, analyzing their Ki and considering what form of combat they would use upon analysis. Angels and Devils had greatly elevated Shoki which he knew generally translated into a favouring of magic. A person whose body seemed to comprise of just energy that Issei believed to be a Genasi had greatly elevated Genki rather then Shoki and he suspected that the result would be vastly enhanced close quarter potential.
His analysis continued and Issei found himself in his own enjoyable world until he finally felt a hand shaking his shoulder. He turned to Rias who was looking at him with an expression that read she clearly expected an answer. He had not heard a word of what she had said and knowing that she would see right through him anyway, answered so.
"Sorry, I was zoned out. What did you say?" he tried to keep his tone apologetic but could see the annoyance on his girlfriend's face.
"You paid no attention to the show and spent the whole time thinking about fighting, didn't you." She accused in a way that only she could.
Issei now noticed that the event had concluded and the audience was for the large part making their way out while the excited sound of their conversations filled the air. He sheepishly scratched the back of his head in the way that he knew she found irresistible as he replied.
"Well sort of. I wasn't thinking about fighting though."
"Oh and what were you so intently focusing on." Rias asked with a quirked eyebrow of skepticism.
"I was analyzing the Ki of all those around to try and see where their strengths and weaknesses may lay."
Rias gave him a flat expression before flicking him on the forehead playfully.
"That's the same thing dummy."
"It really is." Ddraig interjected on the side of his girlfriend to which Issei just shrugged and smirked.
"What can I say, I'm a Saiyan and proud of it."
With that declaration, he stood, floating slightly upward before scooping Rias up into his arms and floating out of the grandstand seating and high into the air above the open topped stadium. His lips met hers as she wrapped her arms around him, allowing her wings to remain tucked comfortably as she basked in the warmth of his body and arms.
"Am I forgiven?" He asked slyly.
"Of course." Her eyes on his as a playful edge that she had seen many times came to his face.
Before she could react, Issei's tail had flicked around and was tickling across her soft skin causing her to convulse and squirm in fits laughter.
"Good, or I would have to have done this until you forgave me."
As Rias began to escape his embrace and away from the offending appendage, Issei sought to prevent this by pivoting backward and spinning as he sped the pair of them toward the buildings below and directed his flight toward their chalet.
Stopping his rapid descent almost instantaneously, Issei landed softly beside the door to their chalet, Rias prying herself from his grasp to escape his tail before the pair entered the residence still giggling. Rias made her way to Issei's room while the Saiyan himself stopped off at the kitchen for a light snack, which anyone watching would consider a meal and then made to join her. At this point in their relationship, they weren't even going to put up a facade of Rias staying in her own room. There was just no point to such actions.
Issei awoke early, his body wrapped up with Rias'. He hadn't trained the night before and was happy to simply sleep with her after the pair had finally untangled themselves from each other. It was rare that he would wake up before her recently however he was content to let her sleep, if she had been coming down with a stomach bug, he wanted to let her body recover. Floating silently through the room he withdrew his new Gi from the duffel bag that he had brought and left the room as quietly as he could.
Emerging from the bathroom in the form fitting fighting outfit, currently without enhanced weight, Issei was met by Koneko, Genshirou and Serafall. Koneko was preparing herself for her match, while Genshirou and Serafall chatted casually about the matches of the day. As far as Issei knew, both of them had their fights later that afternoon around the same time as his own. Serafall noticed the Saiyan's emergence and greeted him.
'Good morning Issei, you look ready for the day." She then paused as if expecting someone or something. "Rias isn't with you."
Issei simply nodded while returning the girl's smile with one of his own. "Nah, she has been a bit nauseous the past few mornings so I let her sleep. She will be up soon to see your match though." He directed the last sentence at Koneko who nodded at the confirmation of her audience.
Issei proceeded to consume as much food as he could from the kitchen which he noted had been restocked since his raid the previous night. He wouldn't have been surprised if Sirzechs, or more likely Grayfia, had informed the staff to ensure that the Saiyans had access to an abundance of food. He ate with his usual voracity and was amused to note the both Serafall and Genshirou managed to consume their own breakfast without to much disgust at his vortex like ability to devour food. Serafall continued to chat with him but quickly brought the conversation over to his relationship with the Gremory heiress. It took Issei only a few minutes to realize that despite being a Satan, Serafall was also an avid gossip. Shifting the tact of the conversation, Issei began answering her questions with abundant honesty and bluntness.
The sudden crimson to her face when he admitted blatantly that he had been sleeping with Rias for months caused him to almost burst with laughter. He always found the strong conservative streak through Devil society to be amusing considering their lives longevity and martial nature.
A door opened behind the chatting group and Issei saw Rias emerge from his room, dressed and ready for the day in her own battle outfit of her modified uniform however looking a little uncomfortable before moving to the bathroom. Concern read plainly on his face.
"I guess she is still feeling a bit nauseous." He commented in an offhand manner.
"I would never have taken Rias to be someone to get nervous before an event." Serafall replied to him.
Issei shook his head in reply. "No, it's not that. For the past week, she has been nauseous every morning. Seems to pass quickly enough though and not affect her for the rest of the day."
Serafall's expression changed momentarily and Issei pondered to what it meant before she returned to smiling at him.
"Well I am sure good things will come of it. Now if you will excuse me."
With that odd remark, she left the table and Issei simply shrugged off the interaction, he was no expert on the female psyche, especially not that of a Satan and therefore wasn't going to worry about it further.
Rias joined him and the pair chatted as his girlfriend ate a light breakfast before making their way to the stadium. Issei had every intention of watching as many fights as possible. The pair settled in their seats close to arena one and were shortly joined by Sebastian, Ravel, Asia, Kiba, Genshirou and Sona. Sona and Rias began chatting to catch up after the turbulent months that had passed. Shortly before the first match was set to begin at six sharp, the announcers greeted the stadiums audience that was mostly full. Some seats were empty and Issei expected that was due to the early hour but for the most part, those who attended the event wanted to bare witness to as much as they could.
"Let's welcome our first competitors." The announcers called sharply.
In a bright flash, ten figures appeared around the fighting arena, spaced out evenly. Immediately Issei ignored the conversation around him and focused intently on each fighter below. An angel, two devils, five people that he believed to be human, another that he couldn't identify and the last he recognized. It was the Valkyrie from his chalet that refused to speak with them all.
Each person was introduced and an image of them with a quick summary of biographical data flashed across each holographic screen as they did. Issei noted that the Valkrie's name was Yrsa. Rias snorted at the name and he looked to her.
"It translates to female bear." His girlfriend replied to his silent question.
Issei couldn't help but agree that her amusement at the cold girl being known by the name bear was accurate.
A loud gong filled the air and the match began. Instantly both the Angel and both Devils fired into the air, wings flared and beating, swords forming in their hands before clashing against each other above the ground bound fighters. The ring and scrape of their weapons clashing rapidly against the other filled the air. Below them the human fighters engaged each other in a mixed melee of combatants striking at and evading others, seeking to gain an advantage while at the same time avoiding others. The combatant that Issei had been unsure of melted into the stone flooring like a liquid in the hot sun before moments later rapidly firing back out in the centre of the melee and causing multiple combatants to stumble back. Their surprise was capitalized upon and two were rapidly struck with heavy hits that threw them out of the ring. The first two defeated in this tournament.
Through out this all, the Valkyrie stood stock still and merely observed the actions of those around her. Crystalline wings folded in and arms crossed. Two of the human combatants seemed to decide on an impromptu alliance against the supernatural being engaging them and each struck against the less then soluble man. Their limbs appeared to become stuck within his flesh and panic crossed their faces as the being began rotating quickly, spinning on the spot at an increasingly fast rotation like a dreidel before coming to a prompt stop and using the built momentum to rocket both its captive opponents from the arena.
With both the other humans caught in the spinning clutches of the spinning adversary, the remaining woman slipped back, attempting to stalk toward the Valkyrie from where she believed to be a blind spot. Her fist lashed out from an obscure position to her seemingly disinterested opponent. Without acknowledging her attacker, the Valkyrie's head shifted slightly and her fist struck the face of the woman in a back hand manner. The strike resulted in the human attacker tumbling back from the stage with a rather nasty flow of blood running from her nose.
The match had been underway for less then two minutes and yet already the combatants were dropped to half and humanity was no longer represented in this first bout. Issei felt a tug on his sleeve and pulled his gaze from the combat to where Rias pointed, the holographic screens showed close ups of the combat, with time dilated down to allow the human audience to see each blow of the actions. His attention returned to the fight but he found himself switching between watching it live and the screen as need be for the best view.
A heavy overhand swing from the larger devil drilled into the shoulder of the smaller devil resulting in him crashing to the arena below. The larger devil twisted to avoid the blade of the angel in time to counter attack yet was met with a blast of compressed air unleashed by the humanoid fighter having dealt with the combatants he had entrapped. The blast took the devil off guard and that cost him dearly as he was quickly overwhelmed by a series of blows from the angel that resulted in a particularly brutal pommel strike to his jaw. The crunch of bone breaking was heard as his eyes rolled up and his unconscious form fell to the ground.
Pulling himself upright the struck devil was forced to rapidly back peddle as the ground borne fighter assaulted him with multiple jabs and strikes of his knees and fists, the man's less then solid flesh caught the younger devil's blade and stuck it in place forcing the young fighter to relinquish it. The young man thought fast and ducked under the strike, dropped his centre of mass and unleashed a bolt of fire into the body of the warrior that had ensnared his weapon.. The force of the sudden mass of super heated Shoki drove the male fighter back.
Unfortunately for the off balance combatant, his trajectory was toward the as to yet barely moved Valkyrie. Before he could end his momentum, she dropped into a sweeping kick that generated a blade of air to take him off balance further into an uncontrolled tumble. Cognizant of the effect of touching his flesh, she grabbed forward to take hold of the pommel of the devil's blade still entrenched within the strange fighters form. Her hands wrapped around the hand guard as she twisted and used her momentum to toss the fighter with force into the hard ground outside of the arena. The man struck down firmly into the grass below and disappointment registered on his face.
Her gaze snapped to the remaining devil and angel engaged in melee before her. The devil fought unarmed while utilizing blast of magic to even the field where as the angel continued to engage with her blade. The crystalline wings of the Valkyrie flared and she shot forward toward them while weapons of her own formed in her hands. An axe in her right hand and a long sword in her left. Nordic runes adorned the blades of her weapons. With finesse, power and skill she swiftly took command of the melee that began to tangle and flow higher into the air. Once inside the guard of her opponents, her sword caught the blade of the angel, the blades sliding down until her pommel prevented the angel from withdrawing the blade and their bodies closed together. The flat face of her axe struck down into her opponents head, driving the consciousness from her body.
As the body of her defeated foe fell away, the Valkyrie pressed her feet into the spiraling form and used her body as a spring board to propel herself at the last foe. The devil fought valiantly but his lack of experience showed through in engaging her. Within the minute her sword and axe began striking hard into his armoured torso, dazing him heavily, before she delivered a snap kick that rocketed him down from the sky toward the grass below. As his body met the ground the gong sounded and the first match of the tournament had ended in just over eight minutes from beginning.
The next match was fought with only human combatants. The action was slower and confined to the ground but no less entertaining for Issei. Each fighter fought with skill and tenacity that he appreciated. Furthermore as there was no use of enhanced abilities, the technique of each combatant was firmly on display and Issei analysed each blow, counter, break and hold for future reference and possible incorporation into his style. After the conclusion of their match with a Krav Maga specialist taking the victory, the next was won by a fire Genasi known simply as Rall. The man had appeared as a humanoid with red skin but upon the commencement of the fight had erupted into flames and overwhelmed his opponents with the heat of his body and bursts of flame. After that a devil named Daichi won the fourth match without so much as a single melee engagement by relying upon powerful combinations of spell craft and maneuvering himself successfully around the arena.
The fifth bout was now ready to begin. As with all four previous fights, the combatants arrived in a flash of light. Issei took stock of those below. First stood Koneko. The small girl wore a white martial arts Gi that was of a similar style to his own. This caused him to smirk with pride at their rivalry. Her black folded wings clashed with the Gi but in a manner that created an imposing image of the nekomata devil. Four humans, two angels, another devil made up more of the roster. The last two opponents were beings that Issei had never seen before, a large humanoid with a bulls head and furred upper body, if he wasn't mistaken this being was known as a Minotaur and lastly a very tall lithe female figure, almost too slender to be practical with pointed ears and four almost translucent wings that beat extremely fast as the person floated in place.
Looking to Rias, his girlfriend answered the question before he could even ask,
"She's a Pixie."
Issei wasn't expecting that, he thought Pixies were small little creatures almost the size of his hand. Well that was definitely not the case, this woman would have been easily seven feet tall.
The gong rung and the fight was on. Swiftly, Koneko darted forward, her wings kept tucked into her back and firmly held in place to minimize any chance of being grabbed. All combatants with wings had previously been taking to the air to fight, the four other airborne combatants did yet she had a plan. Clear the ground opponents and then the sky.
She darted within the guard of her first adversary and delivered a sweeping kick to the man. Her body flowed naturally into a follow on palm strike that connected with his temple before he collapsed into the ground, completely sprawled out. Less then fifteen seconds in and she had already rendered her first opponent unconscious. Never one to waste an opportunity, Koneko pulled his unconscious body up and tossed it like a sack of potatoes at the two men charging toward her. They were unprepared for the incoming body. The first haphazardly pivoting to the right around it while the second took the weight of the unconscious man full force and was knocked backward to the ground himself. With the space gained from this action, Koneko twisted to the sound of rapid and heavy feet. The Minotaur had its head down and was charging toward her. She smirked and prepared to take the charge head on. As the powerful beast man came in for the strike, she dropped to her back and drove both her feet upward into the exposed belly of the towering foe. With a roar of fury her folly was launched skyward.
Rolling back to her feet she blocked a kick from a woman to her right with her forearm and drove her fist into the woman's cross armed guard. Noting that her opponent was human, Koneko lowered her strength accordingly yet still felt the crack of bones breaking as her attack landed, the flash of pain across her opponents face acknowledged this fact. The woman attempted to remain stoic but her bravado was for nothing as Koneko's fist buried itself into her stomach and the followup strike rendered her unconscious. She would have felt bad for inflicting such injuries on a human but knew that the advanced medical teams would have all injuries fixed within a few hours.
The two remaining human fighters eyed her cautiously as the Minotaur crashed back to the arena with a loud roar. A further bang announced the other devil's elimination via a coordinated pair of holy spears fired from the two airborne angels. The man had avoided being pierced but not being driven to the ground beyond the arena flooring.
The air shifted behind Koneko and she dove forward and twisted on reflex as fists of compressed force passed through the space she had occupied. The attacks continued and drove into one of remaining human fighters, launching him from the arena while the other dove to the side and found himself beside the recovering Minotaur. The beast man began stomping toward the downed human who twisted and rolled in an attempt to avoid the heavy footfalls of his foe. Koneko ignored their scuffle to focus on her attacker. The Pixie floated before her and readied another volley of magic. Koneko wasn't about to accept getting pummeled by magic and shot forward to engage her in combat. It was clear that the Pixie was not a melee fighter.
Closing the distance a shrill sound filled the air, emitted from the Pixie that caused Koneko to find her vision swimming and senses addled. Suddenly she felt as if she was in a tumble dryer being spun around and having her reality distorted. The momentum of her assault ground to a stop as a wave of nausea threatened to cause her to lose her breakfast. She tried to focus on the Pixie and saw the lanky girl's mouth moving to the pitch of the verbal assault. It was some form of sound attack. Dropping to all fours Koneko grasped onto the ground in an attempt to stabilize herself. She swept her vision around and saw that the other combatants including the two sky borne angels in their own duel were also affected by the Pixie's wail.
As her vision passed over the battle around her, she smirked as she saw the man take the opportunity afforded by the Pixie's attack to albeit less gracefully throw himself forward in a shoulder charge toward the temporarily stunned beast man's abdomen. The area tender from Koneko's double kick caused the moving mountain of muscle that was his foe to fold forward and stumble back, his left foot slipping on the rim of the arena stones with his body following to the grass below.
Watching all this from the grandstand, Issei felt another tug on his sleeve and Rias indicated for him to look to his left. Looking over at where she had indicated, Genshirou was intensely watching the match with such concentration that he appeared almost to be oblivious to the world. Issei looked to Rias with a puzzled expression, silently asking about what was so interesting about that. His girlfriend leaned in,
"He is only that interested because it is Koneko."
Issei took a moment to catch on but then the implications of Rias' comment sunk in and he returned her smirk. Now that he thought about it, the pair had been whispering to each other this morning while he spoke with Serafall, he just hadn't paid it any mind at the time.
With a soft chuckle, Issei returned his vision to the match in time to see the follow on action. The Pixie pushed her arms out to the side to collect energy before ending her cacophony as she threw both of her arms forward. That was the moment Koneko had been waiting for and the Gremory rook acted in unison by firing herself forward from her crouched position like a cannonball. She sailed over the startled Pixie's attack and crashed with both her knee's leading into the tall woman's chest. The air driven from the Pixie's lungs, the pair toppled backward and over the arena's edge. Koneko's wings flared and she swooped low before spiraling upward without touching the ground. The same could not be said for her attacker who sprawled out onto the ground whilst clutching her chest.
In the air now, Koneko turned to see a single angel rushing toward her with powerful beats of his wings, his opponent having been driven out of the fight during the Pixie's sonic assault. Koneko fired toward the angel and soon broke through his guard with a rapid fire set of combination hooks, strikes and crosses. The heavenly entity wasn't prepared for the rate and accuracy to which she could strike. Her final strike causing him to twist back and exposed. She drove a knee into his chest, pivoted around him and clutched him in a bear hug from behind that pinned his wings firmly to his back. With her prey immobilized, Koneko dove toward the arena, before twisting and firing the angel in a powerful toss at the ground outside the safety of the stone stage. Her feet touched down firmly on the tiles as the angel struck the grass and was eliminated.
The sole remaining human rushed at her as she took stock of her position. Her wings folded neatly into her back as his fist shot out at her. With a quick grab and flip, Koneko was over his head, his arm twisted and rotated in an unnatural manner behind his back into a lock and bar hold.
"Well fought." She whispered before driving forward and tossing the struggling man from the ring. The gong sounded and Koneko was the fifth qualifier.
Rias and Issei joined in cheering loudly for their friend's victory before she and the other combatants vanished in another flash of light.
The next fight was the first to involve no humans and consisted almost entirely of aerial combat, after a close bout, an angel by the name of Ramuel took the victory.
The flash of competitors took to arena one again and Issei was happy to see that Irina looked calm and prepared to fight. The Templar stood in her heavenly uniform without her long robe. Joining her for the seventh bout were seven other humans, two men and five women. A humanoid figure that appeared to be almost entirely made of raw energy that Issei realized was a Genasi. The Genasi had light blue flesh with a strong current of energy flowing constantly over it that made the underlying flesh difficult to discern. Long strands of thick energy flowed instead of hair from the beings head and the eyes were a solid white without any visible iris. Lastly a Grigori took to the stage, black feathery wings folded across his back. Issei tried to keep the sneer from his face at the sight of the fallen angel, who was the first of his kind to appear in a match.
The match began and the fallen angel surged forward to engage the male combatant opposite himself however had his momentum brought to an immediate halt with Irina intercepting him with a powerful slash of Durandel, the holy blade creating a small shock wave as it traveled over the figure who barely managed to dodge the strike. Forming a long dark blade in his own hand, the Grigori met the next strike of the relentless Templar head on. The sound of metal striking metal filled the air as the pair continued to engage each other with further furious strikes, only forced to break apart as other combatants attempted to strike them in moments of opportunity. Irina felt a heavy blow crash into her back and stumbled forward momentarily before flipping herself high, briefly into the air to avoid a further strike and landing behind the woman who struck at her. With a body slam she knocked the person forward toward the Grigori while thrusting forward with her blade over the girl's shoulder to create a conundrum for the fallen angel.
The dark winged angel stopped the woman's body with a brutal frontal kick while parrying Irina's strike aside. The maneuver prevented those attacks from harming him but left him open to the follow on bolt unleashed on his back from the Genasi. The Grigori yelped and fell forward where he was met by Irina's knee slamming into his face. She readied her blade to slam down on his back but was knocked off guard by a heavy jab to her ribs from the woman she had previously used as an involuntary battering ram.
Issei watched excitedly as the battle raged on, two of the human combatants were eliminated and then another. A fourth finally caught a bolt from the Genasi to the chest and was dropped to the ground spasming and unable to continue, thus being eliminated.
"It is amazing that Shoki and blade attacks haven't killed someone so far." He commented in an offhand manner.
"You really didn't pay much attention to the opening addresses did you?" Rias stated in a rhetorical manner as Issei looked over to her as if trying to remember something he should have known.
Rias simply shook her head and reiterated what had been informed to them all, "The Stadium is enhanced with Shoki and Genki fields. Any damage that would impale or harm internal organs is instead redistributed against the target as sensory damage that can cause a lack of consciousness. That's why weapons won't impale or stab through targets and humans can fight against other species with dying."
Issei thought on what she said and remembered the information briefly, he remembered that the tournament was non-lethal but forgot about the specifics. It wasn't that important in the grand scheme of things.
Returning to the match at hand, Issei watched as Irina charged toward a woman who readied herself to engage the blade wielding Templar. Adjacent to them, the Grigori lunged forward continuously attempting to close the space between himself and the Genasi that refused to relent in unleashing bolt after bolt of refined Shoki. Irina led with a lunge that the woman dodged under and rewarded her with a snap kick to the ribs. Irina felt the blow drive her to the right. Her elbow dropped and locked the leg in place as the woman went to strike her again. Irina raised her weapon and began repeatedly pommel striking into her foe, welts and bruises forming almost instantly from the harsh attacks. The woman grimaced while seeking to flick herself up so as to deliver another kick to the holy maiden.
This was the moment Irina had been waiting for and she dropped the woman's leg while driving forward with her elbow into her opponent's head. Blood spurt as the cartledge of her foe's nose broke while the pair tumbled down to finish sprawled out on the firm concrete tiles. An instant later Irina had delivered multiple punches to the woman, rendering her unconscious. Pulling herself to her feet she looked over to see the Grigori breach the Genasi's guard and strike his electrified cranium multiple times with a series of light spears until he was forced out of the arena and down to the ground below.
Panting the remaining two warriors faced off against one another, Durandel raised in a defensive posture while the long black blade of the Grigori formed once more and the two shot at each other. Strike after strike Irina and the fallen angel delivered to the other and she was thankful for the training she received in the gravity chamber. It had allowed her to close the physical gap between her and the fallen divine entity against her. Parrying a vicious overhead strike, she pivoted to slice at her foe's ribs but was blocked by a further clash with the dark blade as the adversary moved himself to gain a better stance.
Sweat dripped from her forehead into her eyes as she struck again and again at the dark winged angel who returned every strike with one of his own. The pair had been engaged in this single duel for at least five minutes now and Irina knew that she would have to finish it soon lest the time expire and it go to judges arbitration. With a dangerous gambit she shot herself forward allowing her foe's blade to knock Durandel from her hands but placing her far closer within his guard and began unleashing a series of jabs, strikes and harsh elbows into the man's stomach and torso. The Grigori grimaced at the pain being inflicted on him by the human girl. He raised his blade to strike the firm heavy pommel of his weapon down onto her head and knock her unconscious. The act of raising his arms allowed Irina more space to act and the girl shot out a quick three strike combo of a left jab, left elbow and right cross into his exposed jaw. The angel's eyes unfocused and she used this to sweep his legs out from under him. With her foe crashing to the ground, Irina mounted his body in a dominant position and prepared to finish him when a long gong sounded.
Instantly she halted her fist and lifted herself from the fallen opponent. The announcers declared the match over and the judges' deliberation was awaited. Hearing a groan Irina looked down and felt conflicted at helping the Grigori to get up. Her chivalrous morals conflicting with her harsh feelings at the death of Xenovia. It only took a moment for her vows to the Church to win out and she offered him a hand to stand up. The fallen angel accepted her offer. As he rose he spoke,
"I would never have expected a human to pack so much power."
Irina replied dryly while lifting Durandel back up and dismissing the holy weapon,
"You're not the first Grigori I've fought."
Realization seemed to dawn on the angel's face but before he could respond the judges' decision was announced. Victory for Irina. With that the pair vanished in a flash of light.
With her departure the crowd cheered immensely and it only took Issei a moment to work out why. Irina was the first human to win a match against supernatural opponents. Not only that but she had driven angel to ground and clearly dominated him. It showed that humanity wasn't out of the running for glory in this tournament. Although he had to think, how would any human go against himself or Bikou, time would tell.
Bouts continued and Issei enjoyed watching the various combat styles and implementations. Other supernatural beings possessed skills he would be unable to replicate and seeing how they employed them would allow him to form a strategy should he find himself against them in the tournament or in the future. Shortly after Irina's match, Koneko arrived in the stands and Rias subtly jabbed Issei to point out that she sat beside Genshirou. The Gremory heiress began whispering about how cute their budding relationship was and the Saiyan could only roll his eyes. This was definitely something that was of far more interest to Rias then to himself.
The twelfth match showed a familiar face in the form of the American from Issei's chalet, Jack. The match consisted of seven humans including jack and three beast men, another Minotaur, and two men with strong hog or pig like features. The fight proceeded with Jack striking two other competitors out before engaging the Minotaur. Through a series or hit and run tactics, he was able to maneourve the large opponent into a disadvantageous position before another competitor struck the foe out. The two pig men engaged each other consistently and Issei got the firm impression that these two both knew each other and had a bit of a grudge. This didn't go well for them as they were unprepared for the intervention of other combatants that struck them out through opportunities created by their lack of awareness. Issei couldn't really say anything against their targeted duel as he got the impression that the exact same situation would occur should himself and Bikou face each other with other warriors in the arena. Issei cheered loudly when Jack took the victory for the bout with a fantastic knockout punch against the final opponent.
Two bouts later in the fourteenth fight, Issei was surprised to see a human with elevated Shoki and Genki levels take to the stage. He thought briefly that this man could be a Saiyan descendant however his Yuki was no different from that of a human. What Issei wasn't prepared for was that as the gong sounded to begin the match, the man's body shook and later out a guttural roar before expanding and sprouting fur. Within moments, the six foot tall man had been replaced by a seven foot tall bipedal wolf. Thick black fur covering his muscular and powerful body. A werewolf.
As he watched the werewolf quickly take victory in the match through raw power and speed he turned to Rias,
"I really shouldn't be surprised by this but I never knew so many different supernatural species and races existed."
She looked to him with an amused grin.
'That's because you never pay attention to anything that isn't food or fighting but yes, since the barriers between our worlds were so abruptly shattered, a lot of more reclusive races have began to come forward. This event has done a lot to let them introduce themselves to the world so to speak."
Issei nodded at her response before commenting with a fake pout,
"I don't only think of fighting and food. I also think of you."
Rias blushed and smiled at him before leaning into catch his lips with hers. Breaking the kiss she curled her head into his shoulder, getting more comfortable before watching the next bout.
The sixteenth bout began shortly after and Issei watched happily as Kiba took to the stage. The knight looked straight to Asia who cheered loudly for her boyfriend's arrival. Opposing him were only supernatural opponents, Issei considered this a boon as Kiba would be able to showcase more power and skill in defeating them. Three angels, four fallen angels and two other devils. A match consisting entirely of combatants from the great factions.
The gong sounded and immediately Kiba conducted his sword summoning, swiftly creating thirty six powerful blades. He caught two while the other thirty four split up and began assaulting each foe. Issei knew that Kiba fully intended to be the first combatant to defeat each and every one of his fellow combatants in a qualifying round himself. Within the first minute, four opponents had already been driven to the ground by the sheer volume of strikes they were receiving from the abyssal blades. Kiba himself leapt forward and engaged two foes singly with his two blades dancing elegantly as he parried and struck repeatedly against them. A gruesome cut across one angel was transferred into neurological input and caused the winged foe to crash down unconscious allowing Kiba to focus entirely on the single opponent. With each defeat of a foe, the blades converged on other opponents adding to the volume of powerful attacks that they had to handle. This created a trickle on effect of the battle becoming more and more sided toward victory for the Gremory knight as the fight progressed.
Less then five minutes in Kiba stood as the first solo victor to personally knock out all nine other components in a lightning fast victory. The crowd cheered raucously as the announcers and judges stated their amazement at the speed to which the seemingly young devil had claimed his win and the murmurs through the crowd quickly eluded to Kiba being a crowd favourite for tournament victory.
The Gremory knight returned to the stands two bouts later to the excited congratulations of his girlfriend and friends, he couldn't help but give a confident smirk to his Saiyan compatriot. The implication was clear, Kiba had thrown down the proverbial gauntlet of rivalry by the outstanding success of his match. Issei simply returned the smirk and knew that he would have to achieve total victory even faster to prove his superiority.
The eighteenth bout was the first to be won by a member of the Grigori with a tall female fallen angel taking the victory. Two matches later, Rias stood up, kissed Issei and left to attend the waiting room as requested for combatants forty five minutes before their bout. As she departed Serafall caught her hand and squeezed it with aan oddly serious expression,
Issei simply watched the unexpected display as his girlfriend replied with a smile and a statement not to worry. When Rias returned he would have to ask her what that was all about, surely Serafall knew that Rias was exponentially more powerful then she had been six months ago through the combination of the trials they had faced and the training she had put herself through alongside him.
Deciding that this once again was something not worth worrying about at the moment, Issei watched the twenty second match with increasing interest, the girl who won moved in a manner very similar to Koneko and possessed attributes very similar to his friend and sparring rival. He looked to the girl who noticed his inquisitive gaze.
"Yes, she is also a Nekomata."
"Do you know her?" Issei shot off, hopeful to potentially find another skilled sparring partner.
Koneko replied with a deadpan expression that read that she thought his question was idiotic.
"Do you know every Saiyan?"
Her question was designed to show him how stupid it was to assume she would know every Nekomata but Issei also noticed a chance to put it back on her.
"Of course, myself and Bikou. It is a fairly exclusive list."
Koneko had to admit his point there and couldn't help a small snort of laughter while shaking her head.
"Right, but no, I don't know her."
The twenty third round was won by a human Judo specialist and then came a match Issei was very excited for. The flash of competitors arriving showed Rias standing on the far side of the arena. Opposing her was a line up of three humans, another devil, two Genasi with light green skin and three fallen angels. The match began and Rias floated into the air with her wings making rhythmic beats, unlike both Koneko and Kiba, she wouldn't be rushing in to engage her foes but assessing the fight and acting accordingly.
Two of the humans below her charged toward a Genasi who responded with a burst of wind magic creating a tunnel of compressed air in a fashion similar to Asia's. This was responded to by a spear of light crashing into the distracted magic wielder from a nearby Grigori. Rias' observation of the arena was cut short by her being forced to pivot away from a light blade swung at her. A fallen angel girl of similar age to herself continued to lunge forward and strike at Rias with the crackling purple blade. The Gremory heiress put her attention on the girl while maintaining knowledge of the battle around her to avoid being blindsided.
As the girl brought both her arms to her right side so as to direct a powerful two handed swing at the Gremory heiress, Rias formed a mass of destruction energy in her hand intercepted the swing. The small magic orb erupted and destroyed the light construct. Surprised at having her weapon destroyed, she was completely unprepared for Rias shooting forward and crashing her knee into the girl's face. Without even watching her body fall from the sky, Rias knew she was unconscious.
The air tightened around her and Rias felt pressure as air buffeted her from each direction. Grimacing and pushing destructive energy out from her body to counteract the force on her, she found the culprit, the other Genasi floating a short distance away from herself and directing compressed air onto her from all around. She grunted and unleashed a volley of destructive orbs at the Genasi forcing her foe to release the magic so as to evade her attack. Before either could continue, Rias was forced to twist away from a strike thrown at her from the other devil. The man had struck out from below, having incapacitated the other Genasi and human competitors. The devil continued to attack her with strikes and jabs, clearly intent on keeping her engaged in melee combat. She looked into his face as she met a right jab with a block of her left forearm and vaguely recognized the man. He had conducted business with her family and probably knew her to be more proficient at ranged combat then close quarter battle. His assumption would prove wrong.
With a series of parries, blocks and strikes, Rias inflicted a myriad of heavy blows to the other devil including a vicious right cross that she was sure broke his jaw. The man appeared dazed and bewildered. As she went to knock him out, she felt the pressure of wind cracking at her again and chose to drop suddenly. The wind buffeted into her heavily wounded opponent, finally rendering him from consciousness. Rias wasn't going to lose an advantage though and grabbed a firm hold of the defeated devil's shin before spinning in the air and launching the man like a javelin at the startled Genasi who was very much not prepared for a body to be rocketed at her like a javelin.
The body of the defeated devil crashed into the Genasi who shoved him away roughly but was not fast enough as to then dodge the follow on barrage of destructive orbs that crashed into her. Moments later Rias watched both competitors hit the ground. She hadn't defeated the most competitors in this match but she had won and that was good enough for her.
Issei cheered loudly at Rias' victory. He had never had a doubt that she would win, previously martial combat had been her weakness but through their almost constant sparring over the past months, Rias could very much hold her own against most foes.
The next two bouts had human victors, then an angel and promptly followed by a fire Genasi who seemed intent of unleashing great bursts of flame at anything that dared approach. By the time the thirtieth match began, Issei was starting to get a bit excited to have his own fight. Only nine fights until it was to be his turn in the arena. Those thoughts were driven from him as the flash of light revealed the competitors of the next fight. Standing adjacent to where he sat was none other the Bikou. His fellow Saiyan and rival stood in his Chinese style Gi with a confident and unimpressed expression. Immediately his eyes locked with Issei in the crowd and he sneered at the Gremory Saiyan. Once again Issei came to the conclusion that Bikou must be able to suppress and hide his Ki, he knew exactly where Issei was in the crowd, yet Issei hadn't been able to locate him in the stadium. That led him to come to the conclusion that Bikou had kept his Ki suppressed while watching the proceeding fights.
The gong sounded once more and Bikou shot at his opponent adjacent to him. A beast man with thick almost leather like skin and strong limbs. The Saiyan's fist connected with the armoured foe and shot him out of the arena across the expanse separating the two stages to crash into the side wall of the other arena. Without losing momentum, Bikou flipped up into the air and crashed his foot so harshly onto his next opponent that the man's body bounced multiple time across the ground while already unconscious. Within minutes he had shot from competitor to competitor like a pinball and defeated them all in a series of precise strikes. He had now taken the title of quickest victory from Kiba as he stood in the arena alone still locking eyes with Issei before vanishing in the signature flash of light.
Issei felt excited at his fellow Saiyan's display, the power, speed and precision, all without his aura erupting showed just what Bikou had to offer. Their fight would be a monstrous bout and Issei could hardly wait.
Over the next matches, another Minotaur was the first beast man to claim a win along with another Pixie. In the final match he watched before departing for the waiting area, a Valkyrie took the win for the thirty sixth match.
The waiting area was a large room adjacent to the stadium without any view of the matches. Red carpet with chairs and a white ring in the centre. Issei arrived to the room just in time to witness the competitors for the next bout move into the ring and wait for a moment before vanishing to their arena to compete in their match. Another group seemed to be in the midst of warming up as others were arriving and Issei knew they were the ten to fight before him. He looked at the other nine who would be joining him as they trickled in. Two angels, a Valkyrie, four humans, and two Grigori. He assessed them and noting their levels of Shoki, Genki and Yuki came up with a plan for how he himself could take the fastest victory in a qualifying match away from Bikou.
The group before his entered the ring and vanished as he got up and conducted a few light stretches, his body felt pumped up and ready to go. The excitement of the tournament causing his Saiyan blood to almost burn with eager anticipation. He looked to the large digital clock counting down the time and informing the combatants to prepare. The digits changed from white to red and a timer showed sixty seconds until his turn in the arena. He stood in the white ring as his fellow competitors did the same. His Ki already flowing through himself and pooling for use. The dams opening within him and releasing their pent up power under a disciplined control.
The world flashed once in a single blink and Issei found himself in the arena with his opponents. The gong sounded, announcing the beginning of his match and he acted instantly. He shot forward into the centre of his arena and released the flow of his Ki within himself. The dams broke fully and power flooded his body like hundreds of raging tsunami. With a bellow to the heavens Issei's aura flared around him and rose to the sky above, reaching above the roof of the stadium as powerful winds erupted from his body. The aura only a blinding white as he refrained from tapping into the legendary power that he had access to, it wouldn't be necessary. Even without transforming, the energy he unleashed cascaded into his opponents. Within seconds of the match beginning, the others were already hitting the ground outside of the arena and the spectators in the stadium grandstand were being hit by the overwhelming presence of energy as well. His winged opponents were caught too off guard to take flight or deploy their wings to prevent the force acting upon themselves, not that spreading their surface area would have helped overly much. Twenty nine seconds after the match had begun it had ended, Issei now held the title of quickest victory.
His aura dropped away as he vanished from the stage to be standing in a different room alongside those he had just defeated. Many appeared bewildered and he could hear grumbling at having lost so fast without the ability to act or fight back. This room was similar to the waiting room except with blue carpet and a large digital board with the names of each fighter for each round listed along with who had won each bout. He was happy to see 'Victor' against his name.
He made his way back to his seat in the stands with many people looking at him in amazement as he made his way through the crowds and rows of seating. He caught snippets of conversation from people that felt the power of his unleashing aura, to devils comparing his display in the rating game. He sat next to Rias, receiving congratulations from everyone including a hearty slap on the back from his father. Rias leaned in to kiss him with a soft "show off" accompanying her lips and smile. He couldn't argue, he had showed off, and cemented himself as a contender for overall victory.
The rounds all moved forward with Issei excited about the fights in the days to come and almost giddy with anticipation to engage Bikou in combat again. Loud cheering erupted from the usually quiet Koneko when Genshirou won the forty sixth round just as Issei's stomach startled to really growl at him. He realized that in the excitement of the day he had neglected eating. Something that seemed almost blasphemous to the ever hungry Saiyan. Catching a food vendor's attention, Issei proceeded to take every piece of food the man had and soon was the one responsible for a small mountain of hot dog, burger and other fast food wrappers building in the areas in front of his seat.
Moving into the evening, Vali won his match with what Issei had to admit was some rather skillful moves. While it was clear that Albion's host fell far short of himself in terms of raw power, the outcast devil had a fighting style that belied a high degree of skill and prowess. An hour after his victory, Sebastian took to the stage and proceeded to show the talent of the le Barton style of fighting, his blade vortices allowing him to move seamlessly throughout the stage and confound his opponents and claim what could only be described as a very clean victory.
On the second to last match, Serafall finally took to the field. The rather eccentric and outgoing Satan fought with two blades, one of fire and another of ice. Her strikes as she carved her way through her foes demonstrated everything Issei expected, power, control, precision, speed and finesse. Engaging her in combat would be an exciting endeavor and he found himself hoping to be able to face her one on one in a future match. The final match was won by an angel and with the qualifiers complete, the large screens began scrolling through the images and names of each victor from the day. The announcers and judges discussed the highlights of the day's matches as well as speculating what they could expect in the days to come.
Before he could even rise from his seat, his phone buzzed with a notification, as did Rias', Koneko's, Kiba and the other sixty three qualifiers. The roster was up for the next day. Issei searched eagerly for himself, bout ten at twelve forty five. Rias was again before him in the sixth round.
He stretched as he stood up and was feeling both content and excited. Today had been an excellent day over all. Both he and Rias had won their matches, his friends had claimed victory too and he was one step closer to getting his rematch with Bikou. Exiting the stadium with Rias, his family and friends to have a late dinner before bed, Issei couldn't help but think that the days to come would be even more exhilarating.
Uploaded on 31 March 2021