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Fight It Out

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"Okayyyy! As per Merak's demands and my preferences, here's our setup! Three stocks, no items, all Battlefield style stages--"

"That means they have extra platforms," Merak cuts in to explain before letting Teseo continue.

"--yup, and FS meters are on so, like, forget about that and get your ass kicked, lmao. Everyone's characters are picked and they should have all the right colors, and if you didn't specify a palette I just gave you the ugliest one, tbh."

"If you made Samus ugly, I'm gonna kill you," Merak says, "I like her default colors."

"I gave you the black and gold one, see?" Teseo starts the game to display the brackets and finds Merak's character to point to her. "Super sleek, lol."

"... That's fine. Wait, two of you picked Rosalina?" Merak points out while the characters are all on screen, already sounding exasperated.

"Um... I just picked the cutest one..."

"Seriously, Elise..? You couldn't pick someone easier to play?"

"Ah... sorry..."

"It's alright, Elise," Nova steps in to assure her before she gets too nervous. "It'll be pretty interesting if you two end up facing each other."

"That's not gonna happen. They're on complete opposite sides of the bracket, so both me and Teseo would have to lose."

"Everyone already knows the final battle is gonna be you assholes, why even include yourselves?" Viper says, and Nova can't help but think he has a point. The skill levels of the players are all over the place, but it would be at least a little more even if Merak and Teseo sat the tournament out or perhaps both fought the winner.

"It's already set up, quit complaining."

"That coming from the king of complaining?"

"Hashtag pwned."

"Oh, shut up. Are we starting or not?"

"Have we discussed any terms such as a punishment for the losing team?" Tenjian asks.

"I don't think that's necessary," Nova figures, "whichever of these two wins will be able to lord it over the other. That's punishment enough."

"I'm gonna be doing some mad lording, lmao."

Merak ignores that.

"For the first fight, we paired the two players who don't know what video games are," he announces flatly as he hands out both of the controllers. Teseo laughs.

"I know what they are, I've simply always preferred real hobbies," Asroc corrects.

"Oui oui, video games are fake news, boys! Lol!"

"We couldn't get Stratos to practice beforehand. What kind of luck did you guys have with your noob?" Merak asks, squinting and shaking his head as he watches Stratos examine the controller, taking careful note of each button.

"I picked random when I made him play before and it landed on Zelda and now he's, like, got a crush on her."

"It is not a crush."

"Then whyyy do you refuse to play as anyone else? Lol."

"This is the character I practiced with."

"Yeah, but you could have--"

"Silence, the match is starting," Asroc interrupts, having started it himself to avoid having to explain his apparent affinity for Zelda. Nova figures he's embarrassed to like a video game character, based on his earlier comment.

Stratos somehow manages to stay alive for a full minute while he figures out how to control his character and even gets the first kill in. It proves to be a brief spurt of beginner's luck, though, because Asroc quickly starts annihilating him.

"So... why Isabelle?" Nova asks, finding it an odd choice for Stratos.

"Like I said, I couldn't get him to practice. I told Teseo to just pick random for him."

On his last stock and sitting at a red hot 133% damage, Stratos is able to hit Asroc with his long since charged Final Smash, which he barely recovers from.

"I like this dog," Stratos comments. Nova silently agrees that it's cute, finding it both endearing and sad that the final move it makes is a harmless accidental duck as the Phantom Knight Asroc builds launches Isabelle off the screen instantaneously.

"Congratz, Asroc!!! Now you get to fight me later, lmao. Get ready to get scrubbed, scrub!"

"... Right, I have to play more. Why did I win..?"

"Rather arrogant to automatically assume you'll win against me, Teseo," Jota speaks up, seeing as he's the one originally matched to Teseo.

"Lol, why you mad?"

"I am not "mad"--"

"Jota, don't bother. Your personality types can't possibly mix well..."

"... As you wish, Nova."

"Lol, stuck-up suck-up! Hashtag Ghauri!"

Ghauri high-fives him. Jota looks bewildered.

"You're both being dumb; Asroc would have to win against Milas first, anyway," Merak points out.

"... Hang on, now you're assuming Elise is going to lose..."

"He's... probably right..." Elise quietly agrees.

Next up is Carrera and Ghauri. Merak seems a little concerned about the controller when Carrera picks it up, but his septima should be under control.

"Why Joker? He doesn't seem like your style," Milas asks as the match loads in, and Nova sees Gibril pulling a face. He doesn't have much time to wonder what that's about before Ghauri starts spamming Joker's gun off the side of the stage and... rapping to the beat of the shots? Carrera politely waits on the other side, seeing as he's not being shot at, and eventually Gibril groans loudly and threatens to take the controllers from both of them if one of them doesn't move.

Ghauri starts jumping around and landing some stylish hits on Carrera, who struggles just to graze him for a good while. With all of Ghauri's bouncing around, he comes close to falling off the stage all on his own more than once.

"Oh my god, will you get it in gear? Quit trying to kill yourself!" Gibril scolds.

"Lookin' cool, or like a fool, it's all better than prison gruel!"

"If you do not settle, you will not have a chance to test your mettle," Carrera says. Nova's brain turns off for a hot second as the realization sets in that Carrera is now participating not only in a battle with Ghauri in a fighting game, but also a rap battle.

"Yeah, yeah!" Ghauri encourages, clearly excited. "Heating up, going up! Check it-- pow!"

He punctuates the verse with a side special followed by a quick smash attack that sends Carrera into the air, and he follows him up to get a few more hits in.

"This Joker is but a clown, intent on snatching the crown!"

Carrera dodges past him and gets his bearings before slapping Ghauri across the screen. They continue rapping at each other as the match comes down to the wire, and Nova starts to get dizzy from all their embarrassing rhyming.

"Hm..?!"

Suddenly, Donkey Kong appears to stop fighting back despite Carrera clearly still using the controller. Nova glances at Teseo for a moment, automatically suspecting foul play, before he realizes the issue.

"Ah..."

Carrera loses his last stock before either of them manages to speak up.

"It seems he got excited and a bit of his septima activated... I was hoping the glaive would prevent this," Nova sighs. It's only the second fight, though, so he's hardly concerned about it. They do need to stop temporarily to replace the broken controller, though.

"Unfortunate..!"

"Aw man, that doesn't feel fair," Ghauri remarks despite winning. "Let's rematch sometime, with a little less flair!"

Nova guesses the "flair" would be Carrera's septima. He'll have to think of a way to mitigate his magnetism effect on electronics he holds... maybe some kind of special gloves? Oh well, that's a problem for another day.

"Next is... oh jeez," Merak sighs as he watches Rosalina and Greninja appear onscreen. He hands the new controller to Elise. "Don't be so nervous, ok? It doesn't help."

"H-how is that advice?"

Merak probably just made her even more nervous.

Within seconds of the match starting, Elise manages to launch off the platform with her up special and fail to recover while trying to get her bearings.

"Um..."

Milas sighs and walks his character off the other side of platform to make it even.

"Aw, you big softie!" Teseo pokes at him, amused by the show of sportsmanship.

"Hey, don't throw the match just because she sucks! Jeez, am I the only one on our team who wants to win?!"

"I won't be doing that again, alright?"

"A-alright, I'm sorry. I'll... I'll focus," Elise promises. Luckily, she does manage to get it into gear and is able to hold her own against Milas, resulting in their match taking longer than the previous two despite starting with one less stock each. Once the match starts getting close to the end, Elise actually starts panicking less and even sits up straight and looks forward with a certain confidence. Nova suspects she may have shifted, but it's difficult to tell since she's focusing too hard to talk much.

Eventually, she does manage to beat Milas, and she starts slouching again and looks around nervously. Shifted back already, then...

"Ok, wow. Color me surprised," Merak says.

"It was a great match, aside from the little mishap at the start. Now all you have to do is keep that momentum going!" Milas congratulates, and Elise seems a little overwhelmed by him having faith in her.

"N... no promises..."

"Milas, I swear..! Me and Teseo really are gonna have to carry this team, aren't we?"

"Dude, Asroc and Ghauri just won their matches. You guys are in the lead."

"They're just gonna end up having to face me, you, or Teseo anyway!"

"Oh, what have I done?" Asroc mutters beside Nova.

"You guys are acting like there's only three of you in the top tier," Viper pipes up. "I'll kick all your asses!"

"Yeah? Prove it!"

"Here comes Rosalina number 2..." Merak sighs as she appears again, this time matched against Incineroar.

"She uses, like, star magic, what else would you expect Desna to pick? Lol."

"I like her pet star creature," Desna says, and although Nova has the same amount, if not less Mario knowledge, he can feel Merak internally cringing at the term.

"Bullshit that they grouped Charizard up with those other two again, but Incineroar is cool too," Viper complains as he moves up and picks up the controller Elise set down while Milas hands his to Desna.

"They also took Robin's blue palette out," Tenjian comments. Nova had almost forgotten he was there.

"What's that got to do with anything? I'm talking about a whole character getting nerfed."

"Zonda and I used to play together in the last game as a team of blue and pink Robin. The white palette is fine as well, I suppose..."

"I remember being disappointed that only one of the Robins could be pink. The different genders have different colors. Recently, I've preferred Bayonetta," Zonda says, surprising approximately no one.

"Can this little bastard get out of the way?!"

"The stars protect me even now."

Viper seems to be having trouble hitting Desna as she keeps managing to get Luma in the way to take the hits for her. Despite them both using the same character, her play style is quite different from Elise's.

"Holding onto that explosive anger can only hurt you," Desna advises, going into fortune teller mode partway through the match. "Heightened emotions can bring mental pain, which leads invariably to physical pain."

"I'll show you physical pain!"

His FS meter is full, but he's being extra careful to make sure he can actually hit Desna with it. He chases her around for a full, tense minute before finally grazing her with it.

"Welcome to the pain station, Van Gogh!"

"Aw, Viper! I'm proud you know who that is!" Nova praises, amused.

As Incineroar finishes its Final Smash, Rosalina is promptly launched offscreen, losing Desna's last stock. She's unfazed, clearly not very invested in the game.

"Hell yes! Looks like it's gonna be me and you, Merak!"

"Don't get your hopes up. I'll kick his ass and fight you myself!" Gibril challenges, and Nova sees Merak roll his eyes.

"Are neither of you accounting for Ghauri?" Asroc asks.

"That doofus? No way."

"Heh, harsh on your own teammate."

"I regret asking."

"I'm uuuup! Prepare to get wrekt, Jot!"

Jota looks thoroughly confused already but steps up regardless.

"My name is not Jot."

"Lol, it is now. Hey, look, we're both green!"

While Marth has some green on him in this palette, Mr. Game & Watch is entirely green. He wonders if Teseo matched himself with Jota based solely on color preference. At some point, Zonda must have used their septima, because their illusory older form begins loudly cheering both of them on. Teseo takes the encouragement well, but Jota only appears to be getting more stressed out.

"Ah, ignoring me, I see... though, even this... is LOVE!"

"I'm kin with love, no doubles."

"Doubles, you say..?!"

"Zonda, don't go overboard," Tenjian interjects before Zonda can start producing more illusions. "This room is crowded enough as it is."

"It's a shame, but I must respect the wishes of my BELOVED brother!"

Nova catches Tenjian smiling. The illusory Zonda begins posing beside the television, and Ghauri hops up to join them. Nova is surprised Teseo can still play so well while laughing.

"Can you two stop being ridiculous?! It's distracting!" Jota rightfully complains. Both Zonda and Ghauri are unfazed.

Despite Jota's griping, he manages to inch into the lead right after his outburst. Seeing how Marth darts across the platform to deliver a fatal blow reminds Nova of one of Jota's moves. No wonder he tends towards Marth.

"Oh--! Looks like I have to get srs!"

"You have to get what?"

"Srrrrrrrrs!"

"What word are you trying to say?!"

"Translation: he's saying he's gonna get serious," Merak provides.

"Yup, and you know what that means, folks! It's Super Teseo Tiiiime!"

"What is that..?"

"Translation: he's saying he's a scrub."

"Translation: Merak is a big fat liar! Lmao."

"Translation: Teseo can't kill Marth, who isn't even a heavyweight, despite him being at like a billion damage, making him, in fact, a scrub."

"Lol, 2019, stop the bullying!"

Jota gets frazzled easily enough by normal teenagers, but Teseo is on a separate plane entirely, and his personality seems to bring something out in Merak, too. If it's affecting his gameplay, though, he's good at hiding it.

As soon as they're both on their last stocks and zero damage, either Jota finally succumbs to all the eccentric distractions around him, or Teseo really does get serious, because Teseo only takes about 15% by the time he beats Jota.

"Ya got done, son! Lol!"

"Done like a fun pun on a bun! Get stunned!"

Ghauri high fives Teseo again and Jota actually has to get up and pace the room, massaging his temples.

"Why don't you go find some Advil?" Nova offers him as an out, which Jota is more than eager to take.

When Merak steps up, he doesn't take the controller from Jota's seat, as he has his own that he plugs in.

"Wait, why are you plugging it in? Wireless is better," Viper says.

"Actually, wired is better-- wireless has more latency. I wasn't gonna use this one until my fight with Teseo, buuut... since Gibril seems so confident..."

"Yeah, I'm gonna have to plug mine in at the end, too," Teseo concurs. Nova isn't sure what they're talking about.

"So you're using a special controller 'cause you're scared of me? Ha!" Gibril taunts, fine with using the default controller from Eden's side.

"As if. I'm so gonna thrash you."

Gibril somehow seems surprised when their characters appear onscreen.

"Hey, Teseo! I said the red one! Why are you making me use pink?!"

Teseo seems to find his minor prank hilarious.

"Oh, I am so gonna kick your ass. Out of the way, Merak! I'm gonna be the one to fight Teseo!"

"Woah, are you guys fighting over me? Whoever wins inherits the other person's Teseo shrine! Lol!"

"Dude, who would build a shrine to you..?"

"Seconded!"

They keep bantering like it's nothing for the first minute or so of the match, but then both Merak and Gibril quickly fall silent out of concentration aside from the occasional taunt or frustrated noise.

"Ugh, what a pain. The more I hit you, the more damage you do. Get launched already, will you?"

"Get over here and launch me yourself, coward!"

They play chicken for a while as Merak tries not to get hit by any of Lucario's attacks with steadily enhanced range and power while he waits for his almost full meter to tick over. Hitting her with Samus's final smash once it's charged puts him in the lead as well as makes things a hell of a lot less stressful now that Lucario is back down to clean damage.

Nova looks away for a mere second to acknowledge Jota as he walks back into the room, and by the time he looks back, Gibril has evened the score again. The fact that she has a bit of damage on her would be a disadvantage to most, but she actually technically has the upper hand with how Lucario works. Nova can look past his bitterness that Lucario was once a replacement of Mewtwo to acknowledge that it has an interesting play style, at least.

Once they're down to their last stocks, even Zonda and Ghauri stop goofing around as they get invested in the tension.

"It's such a close match..." Tenjian comments, breaking a long silence.

"Um... I'm really glad I don't have to fight Merak. This is too intense."

"Well, you don't know that! You could win against both Asroc and Teseo!"

"M-Milas..."

"Jeez, don't remind her, or she might throw the game," Nova only half-jokes.

Gibril gasps as she just barely fails to dodge another Final Smash, and it almost looks like she can recover, but Lucario falls just short of grabbing the ledge. Merak lets out a breath he'd apparently been holding and Viper holds Merak's arm up in celebration.

"Ugh... fine, you win this time," Gibril concedes, letting the controller fall a short distance to the floor.

"Just wait, our match is gonna be that times two," Viper says, and Merak groans and sinks further down in his chair before getting up to collect his remote.

With the first round of fights completed, most of the less skilled players (and Gibril, now) are out of contention. Nova finds himself thankful that he and Tenjian managed to sit this tournament out, or he might end up having to experience intensity like that firsthand.