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  • 📅 May and June 2024 are YE 46.4 in the RP.

RP: YSS Kaiyō Post Mission 20: Ebumna N'gha

Within the chamber they had woken up in before, they had no door open for them, only the closing of the one they had come from. A small amount of light came from some wall lights and after a few minutes of waiting, it was obvious they were not going to be transported to their cells immediately.

William cast a scornful glare up towards the announcer. He had half a mind to tear off his own limp arm, just so he could throw it at him. But, he controlled himself and followed Aiko out of the arena and into the holding area they were in before.

As the last of the adrenaline left his body, William's body became heavy and the pain grew in intensity. He leaned against the nearest wall and let himself slump down to the ground. "What I wouldn't give for some food right now." He joked half heartedly.

"Oh, I am sure they'll treat us to quite the victor's feast," Aiko shot back, sounding a little too serious for the reciprocated banter she intended. After all, that's how these situations were supposed to work, right? Of course, she knew that was only in the history books and tall tales. "Maybe we'll get to eat that poison rat you just killed."

William frowned in disgust. "No thanks. I'd rather starve to death." He said simply. "That was one of the most ugliest things I think I have ever, or will ever see." he added dryly.

"Really?" Aiko wondered more than asked, deciding eventually to agree — and mostly because the Mishhuvurthyar's image was so prevalent back home in the Kikyo Sector that she was desensitized to their kind of nastiness. "Yes," she paused for a moment. "Yes, you're right. Maybe they spliced in some Kuvexian DNA. I'd hate to think that it was a natural abomination."

He chuckled. "There was no way that thing was natural. It looked like they spliced like 5 or 6 different animal together and then made it 10 x bigger than it was supposed to be." He replied looking back at her. Even slumped against the wall, he was still taller than her.

He chuckled again. "You were almost as tall as me before. Now I am sure I have at least a few feet on you." He teased.

"Hmph!" Aiko snorted, turning her back toward him and crossing her arms. The tatty cloak their captors had given her fluttered and settled behind her in the grimy chamber they waited in. "I do not think you're in any condition to make light of my stature," she said, standing tall and with as much majesty she could muster in a place like this. Soon, though, she turned back, knowing that their amused exchange only hid his injury.

She stepped over to him against the wall and nudged her way under his bad shoulder, putting the nape of her neck in his armpit so that he could ease up on himself.

"Here," she said. "I'll stay beside you so that the guards won't push you along too much when they come."

He tried to move his arm away, but the limp appendage would not budge. "You will get your nice hair all bloody..." He tried to remark, but relented. He knew she didn't care. So instead he rested his head against hers for a moment as a way of thanks, too tired to do much else.

The sound of the crowd and the matches in the arena died down and soon another sound came, that of stone grinding on stone. A part of the wall behind them had moved to reveal a slotted window.

“You performed wonderfully!” The Kuvexian man’s voice came through it. “Really, I am impressed. Between your injuries and the way you two worked as a team… Did you do this type of thing in Yahmootay?”

"Not in the way your kind does, scum," Aiko told the Kuvexian, not bothering to move or look up to address him. "Perhaps the Empress will permit me to feed your people to some Mishhu when we're released, though. Why don't you come in here and educate us on the sport further?"

"No matter, you’re exceptional at this. We really had low expectations. The food we planned for you to be for our beast can be made out of other prisoners. Shame, I really did want to see what you could become as one of us…” His voice had been wistful, but became forceful again quickly, “What we expect now from you is not only more of the same, but better. With today’s bids for your lives set, you have made enough to be trained in even Colluctance! For now, we’ll start small. Tomorrow you’ll begin training in superior fighting techniques than what you showed today. Oh, and remind your nurse to do what she does best and fix you two up. I don’t care if she has to reach through the bars to do so for your shoulder. We can’t have you half dead on us now.”

His voice continued, “See you at your next fight, please do show us all something exciting again.” With that, his voice was gone and so was he.

William looked up and spat a glob of bloody spit directly at the window the voice had come from. "Oh I will show you more than exciting. It will take your breath away. Quite literally..." He growled. "I can't wait to eviscerate that thing."

A small door opened and an orange force field glittered as a smoke entered the room. The pair soon lost consciousness.
Back in their own cells, they rested and William was worked on as well as Saya could manage through the sewage grate. Their victor’s meal came in the form of a mealy porridge which had the crunchy half-mashed bodies of crickets within its soupy contents. The night’s noises subsided for the trio to sleep only for a loud screaming and gnashing of vocal chords to interrupt them every few hours. Eventually, morning broke through soft shimmers of light from the sewage grates and their next guest couldn’t come soon enough.

Walking with two Elefirn at their side, an imposing Kuvexian stopped in front of their doors.

“I am Aurinda. I’ll be your trainer,” is all she said in a softer, more feminine voice than the man that had approached yesterday. Her white hair was in a high top knot while the rest of it fell in a long half-mullet down to her butt. She had glowing teal markings on her blue skin and golden nails on her large hands.

“Will you be coming to train peaceably?”

William had slept like a deadman. He was exhausted from the fight the day before, and was difficult to arouse. His eyes parted slightly, before blinking. Once, twice, three times.

He barely registered the words of the newcomer, but showed no attempt to figure out what exactly she said. He rolled over in his cell, showing his bare ass to the group in way of defiance. "Still sleepy. 10 more minutes..." He mumbled.

Aiko had been sleeping on her side, and shuffled up to balance on her right elbow when Aurinda and her retainers made their entrance. Even with her digital computer-like brain that could compartmentalize information and thoughts, sleep had been anything but comfortable given the situation and all of the factors she had to keep up with to survive.

"We are trained," the Ketsurui girl responded after William had made his defiant statement. "And far more expertly than any Kuvexian could dream to match. I am doubtful you will give us any choice, though, so what task do you intend to force upon us?"

The Kuvexian outside their cells placidly watched William before turning her attention to Aiko while she spoke.

"No doubt you have fighting expertise and physical prowess." Aurinda's voice was slow and restrained. "I was not present at your debut yesterday, but I have watched the recordings. What you lack is not skill in fighting but expertise in this style of arena fighting." Turning towards William, she asked, "Rousing yourself now may mean you do not find yourself taking an endless sleep during your next fight."

William groaned, sitting up and looking past Aurinda and over to Aiko. He raised an eyebrow in response as if to ask 'How do you want to play this?'

The princess just tipped her head toward the Kuvexian and rolled her eyes in reply to William. It's not like they had any sort of choice in the matter barring a desire for death. The thought crossed her mind for a moment, because for all Aiko knew, they'd already been resurrected from their most recent ST backups aboard the Kaiyo or back on Yamatai and were as good as dead here, anyway.

"I will not fight if you harm him or the one like me," Aiko told Aurinda, not wanting to give up Saya or William's name to their captors in conversation. "So your threats are empty to us, unless you believe your crowd will accept our deaths anywhere but before them in the arena."

Admittedly, Aiko knew little about the arena or Kuvexian society. But she hoped her small bluff would ensure some iota of safety for her comrades. "Take us, then, and dispense with your teasing."

The Nepleslian slowly rose to his feet and rolled his injured shoulder. His bones popped and cracked as he straightened out. He was touched by Aiko's concern, and felt exactly the same.

"Fine, let's get this over with already." He replied, stepping back from the door.

Aurinda made no motion as she watched the two wake more fully, then spoke. "You'll know if I am threatening you, Yamataians. I am only here to teach you to avoid having your life taken." She jutted her deep blue jaw with its bright teal arrowhead pattern towards the cells and both Elefirn stepped forward, unlocking the doors. "Maybe I will really give killing you a try, but only after my work is done." She stood waiting, willing to lead the way through the dark tunnel. Her eyes lowered towards Saya, looking her over with silent judgement.

William's lip turned up in a wolf-like snarl. "Try it Aurinda, and I will mount that disgusting head of yours on the wall." He said sidling past her.

Aiko rose to her feet and followed the Kuvexian's directions and William, breathing a quiet chuckle when the ID-SOL kept jeering. Her hair still managed to cover up her chest when she stood in spite of how it stuck together in stringy clumps, but that wasn't nearly enough for a lady of Yamatai's imperial family, so Aiko projected a plain Star Army bodysuit over her skin again. Whenever she could help it — which she certainly could not during the arena fight — onlookers would be denied the privilege to gaze upon her perfection.

The Kuvexian let William's anger flourish with no intention of stifling or prompting its growth, but she did note the change of attire on Aiko.

"There is a costume room. If you do well training and I don't expect you to die immediately upon entering your next fight, we can stop by it and let you choose your apparel for your next fight." The near darkness of the corridor they walked in was made relevant when she added, "Though I don't remember if there are any lights in there by which you'll be able to pick anything out."

With Aurinda leading the way, their route to the arena was simpler than how they had entered the last time. Though sober walk is usually simpler than a drugged and caged entrance. Their next few hours of practice seemed to merge into the next few weeks of practice.

Aurinda at first focused their attention on the course, making them run and jump the platforms to become used to their presence and feel, as well as chain-only days in which their tasks were to treat the stadium floor as if it was lava and to keep themselves aloft on only the hanging chains. Other days the training seemed more inane, full of tests of strength and skill. She questioned Aiko's and William's abilities, learning they were not the same species at all through her experiences with them. Aiko's ability to fly within the misty upper regions of the arena was something she was surprised by. Apparently no winged species were able to do so and it gave the Nekovalkryja the advantage of reading the plaques that were on the outside of the cages that monsters were lowered down into.

"Though I don't think your next fight will be against any monsters, use this to your advantage in the future," Aurinda said with a gilded fingernail on her lips.

There were few days of breaks for the two. Their first day of rest, they could hear the rattle of a crowd and the thudding of their chants and cheers reverberated alongside the screams of monsters and fighters, like them, alike. A few hours in, when the crowd was at its loudest, Aurinda was at their door, dressed finer than she had ever appeared to them before.

"I would like you to see the best warrior of this death pit, maybe even better than you two, die." Her inky eyes seemed to narrow.

"As part of our training, I'm sure," Aiko said, pacing over to the cell's threshold so that Aurinda could lead them away. By now, the Neko had found some strips of linen to wrap around her chest and hips so that she didn't need to maintain a volumetric uniform all the time. "He must be your most prized student if his death warrants being seen by lowly pit fighters such as us."

William rolled up onto his feet, the monotony of their new schedule weighing on him. He had also scrounged up some fabric that he had made into a loin cloth. "Oh joy..." He muttered as he too moved over to the door. Looking over to Aiko, he snorted. "Let's go see how this 'master fighter' works his magic."

A glint of the little ambient light flickered in Aurinda's eyes as she turned sharply to Aiko. "He is not my student. Only you two are my students here. The students that I normally train would be obliged to agree with you, Yamataian. I think those betting on his success today would not, though."

She led them through new passageways until they were looking through a grate at the arena floor. There was a crowd and a man, hulking and humanoid. He could have been a Nepleslian ID-SOL in stature if not for his third and fourth arm. Minutes passed, in which Aurinda told them bets were being placed, while the man taunted the crowd, the Kuvexians above him, and even did push-ups.

Like the Snog had descended on them, a lively creature descended on him. It was multi-limbed, like a centipede, and began shooting fire from two horns on its head upon entering 100 yards of the fighter. He leapt and rolled, brandishing a steely sword and shield that kept him alive for a good while. The fight in all was slow and his actions deliberate. He made stealthy attacks on limbs, taking off dozens. The carapace of the monster wouldn't take his hits and the scorch marks it had left on him in the beginning were nothing compared to the mottled burns that it was leaving on him in the end game of their fight.

In a moment of righteous glory, he was on its back and had his raised sword perpendicular to the creature's head. It looked as if the creature would be seeing defeat. Then, the creature disjointed itself, breaking into two- its head and the body he had been riding. Using just the four legs attached to its head, the creature turned on him and gave a final splattering of fire to end his life before falling limp beside him. Aurinda's black eyes glinted gold behind the bars as the bright orange force field between each column that separated the crowd from the arena flashed. A slew of shapes whizzed in the air, landing on or near the defeated warrior and the monster's body. As they impacted the ground, it became apparent that the crowd was throwing rotten produce onto the bodies.

Aiko watched the fight with attentive eyes, taking in each moment and detail as she'd first been trained to do by her samurai bodyguard, Rei, and subsequently by others including, unfortunately to think, Aurinda. She neither cheered nor gasped, jumped nor reeled at the action. But she did learn from it, as she did from any form of combat, and already stood contemplating it even as they waited for whatever Aurinda had in store next.

"I already knew your arena lacked honorable chances," Aiko said after a time as the fighter's body smoldered and cracked in death.

William too watched on stoically as the combatant fought the centipede like creature. He recorded the fight as he watched so he could analyze the fight in greater detail. But from viewing the fight the first time, these monsters were all made to be killing machines. "You guys sure now how to make quite the vomit inducing creature." He added to Aiko's statement, as the charred corpse was pelted with rotten food stuffs.

Aurinda's bright blue forehead patterns shifted upwards as she looked over to Aiko, "There is no honor in a second chance." When William spoke, the creature had just begun to retreat from the arena, up the chains and into the smoky mist above. "The creatures live in cells like yours, though theirs are rotated around within a large mechanism. Up there are more monstrosities than I have ever seen, even in war. That one will be enjoying the reward of a feast like the one you received upon your first winning match."

William bit back his retort regarding their "feast." The maggot filled sludge they were served still didn't sit right with the Nepleslian. The thought made him sick.

"The only worthwhile 'reward' your kind provides is continued life," Aiko scoffed, her haughty voice undiminished by their weeks of gladiatorial enslavement. "At least all of your captives are treated equally. The Interstellar Kingdom remains an enlightened example to us all."

Placidity returned to Aurinda's face as she looked between the two to ask, "And what does your Kingdom exemplify well?"

"Enduring peace and dignity for its subjects," Aiko said without hesitation. Her perspective, of course, was that of a Ketsurui princess whose clan ruled over Yamatai's subjects in effective perpetuity, but it still rang true by any measure when compared to Kuvexia's barbarism. "The Empire's values will stand strong and always last, regardless of what your pitiable king throws at it."

William replied shortly after. "We embody Freedom, tenacity, and an impenetrable spirit. You may knock us down, but we will get back up and we will hit you twice as hard." He said. Not that Aurinda would know, but William was speaking of the Nepleslians. "The strength of our resolve is infinite compared to yours."

"That strength you both spoke of may be your Kingdom's downfall," Aurinda speculated. Orange force fields glittered to life as they turned back on between the pillars surrounding the arena. The crowd seemed to be filtering out and she turned, facing the Elefirn guards that parted for her. "There have been plenty of other species and empires like yours, but never have I seen one become such a nuisance." Her last word seemed to drag along her tongue like a sickness she couldn't rid from her mouth. She lifted an arm and her robed sleeve fell slightly as she stepped towards her guard. She put her hand on their shoulder and the pressure she had placed there was obvious as the Elefirn's digitigrade legs buckled and bent. She took a knee with the Kuvexian's dark hand on her shoulder.

"If you fail to fall when pressed to, like they have," Aurinda said, "when you are brought down, it will be much more painful." She lifted a hand, looking back to the pair as her guard rose.

Aiko could find no answer for such foolishness, nor did she have any desire to verbally spar with Aruinda on the finer points of applied politics. Instead, she regarded William silently and then looked toward their captor. Continuing to survive here was still her priority, which meant following Aurinda around like some sort of disheartened pet.

Luckily for Aiko's priorities and pride, Aurinda did not have a full night planned, but did have additional words at their empty cells.

"It sounds like you haven't had a meal worth celebration yet. I'll be sure something substantial is sent to you tonight. Tomorrow you will fight again." Her inky eyes blinked at the empty cell. "Where is their medic?" she turned towards her guards, who were answerless. "I would wager you should avoid getting hurt tomorrow. I'll be watching." One final testament to her care was said before she had left: "Try not to die."

Once the Kuvexian and her Elefirn guards had faded from view and their heavy footsteps stopped echoing amidst the low din of screaming and sobbing and grunting, Aiko plopped down onto her favorite spot near her cell's rear wall and the rusty bars that separated it from William's. She still wasn't used to the indignity of the place, but no longer squirmed when her flesh joined with the prison's cold, damp, gritty surfaces.

"Do you think we will be pitted against that fiery thing?" she wondered to William. "I am doubtful that our mistress has taken enough of a liking to us for such a preview.

"Imagine that," she added, casting her gaze downward away from William and sounding as cheerful as she had since they'd arrived in this coliseum.

William was quiet as they walked back to the cells. He moved into his own room, across the hall from Saya and Aiko. Sliding down the wall and onto his backside, he replied "No I'm sure she doesn't like us enough for us to be fighting the same monster."

He too was becoming accustomed to the wretched cells. Resting his head against the wall he added. "Would be a hell of a fight if it was though,..."

"At least both of us would be there to tear it apart piece-by-piece," the Nekovalkyrja girl said back, saying no more for a few moments as she imagined a future fight against the flaming centipede.

"I am most glad they have continued to allow us to fight side-by-side, whatever their reasons for doing so are," she said at last, once her dreams of survival in the arena faded to the back of her mind. "That Aurinda knows where they took Saya. Kuvexians are little more than a pile of deceit and greed. Perhaps it is to weaken our resolve before the next bout. 'Avoid getting hurt'? Pah!" she scoffed. "As if that is not the sum of our lives here."

William nodded. He was worried for the pregnant neko, but he couldn't let his mind dwell on it. He had to survive his own fight to come. "Agreed... nothing more than cheap entertainment..."

With not much left to say but voiced frustrations, Aiko laid down and commanded her mind to quiet. "Good night, Will-kun," she murmured at the edge of consciousness, unaware if she'd spoken loud enough for him to hear but unable to rouse herself enough to try again.

William smiled softly in the darkness, turning to look at his friend. "Goodnight Aiko-chan..." he replied just as softly.
The pair of Kaiyo crewmen were awoken in an earlier light than they had been before.

“Why,” shouted the Kuvexian man who had spoken to them before their debut, “did you not tell us who you were before? I’ve had a bit of intelligence tell me you are someone of some importance in your Sector!” His face was in shadow, straddling the two cells as he spoke.

William growled angrily as the man's shouting woke him from his sleep. "Lower your voice shrimp dick... I'm trying to sleep." He replied. William had the wherewithal to not admit to which one of them was an important dignitary. They both were after all.

Aiko's eyes shot open when the Kuvexian warden interrupted their slumber with his barking demands. After these weeks living in his veritable hell, she'd learned not to wake screaming from whatever comfort her dreams could afford. His question did startle her at first but she had no question as to what he'd discovered. She got up from her sleeping spot with no delay and stood at ease, feet shoulder width apart, and grasped one wrist in the opposite palm at the small of her back.

"Nekowarukyūre taipu sanjusan-A," Aiko began, reciting her designation as a Type 33A soldier. "Zero-ichi-C; infantry, starship, armored. Rank: taii." She made sure to leave both "Ketsurui" and "Aiko" out of it and, not ever having lied about her name on the fly, decided not to risk it on a moment's notice.

"Your soldier's rank means little to me, it's your family name I'd like to hear from your own lips," the warden's face was hit by the stray light from the grates below and his half smile showed his pointed front teeth as they slotted neatly against one another. "In front of everyone, that is. You have a fight to the death, remember. Both of you..." His body turned sharply to William, allowing those with him entrance into Aiko's cell. "Not much of a royal guard, are you?"

The warden had touched upon a sore subject. The ID-SOL's fists clenched and unclenched. He wasn't much of a guard. He had failed so many times. Not just this time. He couldn't bear the thought of his failure and snapped.

As the guards entered her cell, William threw himself against the bars, hand grasping towards the Kuvexian's neck. "You touch one hair on her head, and I will rip off your head and shit down your neck!" He roared.

The warden's amused smile grew and he said coolly, "You should save that fighting spirit for where you'll need it." He turned to some of those not yet taking Aiko, "You'll have to drug this one."

This Kuvexian was wise enough not to ask Aiko again. And so, not needing to repeat herself, she remained still and waited to be taken away for the fight. Her eyes grew cold and sorrowful, and remained locked with the Kuvexian's as he taunted them with his plans. She could only assume what he had in store for them at this point and, for all of her outward calm now, her consciousness raged alongside William's for what was still to come.

Led down several passages, Aiko was shown to the room she had awoken in before her first fight. On one of the stone slabs sat the fighting outfits they had picked out days before with Aurinda and on another stone slab, William's body was placed.

"I do hate that trainer," the warden said through slitted teeth. "Who lets a fighter choose like this? I want her back on the rogue planet with all those other Colluctance nuts the minute she dies," he seethed, speaking more to the Kuvexian behind him than Aiko, though he had pointed at the Ketsurui princess upon his last words about death. "You," he said, attention fully turned to Aiko. "Get dressed and have him get dressed when he awakes. You shouldn't have to wait long after he does until it's your fight. Put on a show, this one is going to be televised far beyond the reaches of our little arena." He had looked happy, but there was an air of concern edged to his voice. "Losing is not an option for who you face; I don't expect to speak to you again." With no goodbye, he had left the room.

Once the warden and his strongmen had departed the arena's antechamber, Aiko gasped for air as her nerve crumbled under the realization that she wouldn't have to fight her lifelong comrade head-on. She could swear that's what the Kuvexian had promised them back in the cells, but the thought must have been her mind running wild as she came to grips with her identity being known to them. As she knelt down over William and pressed her forehead onto his, the little stips of leather Aiko covered her chest and groin with squeezed into her still-supple flesh. Whatever the Kuvexians fed them kept her strength up despite how revolting it was. She'd only stay there with him for a moment, though, knowing nothing she could do would speed up William coming back to life from his drug-induced rest.

The costume she'd picked out earlier laid in a heap over near the threshold they'd come in through. It was much like what she'd worn during the first fight: a simple cloak, but made of thick red wool this time and lined with some sort of black-and-white fur that resembled ermine. Paired with a collection of red jewels for her hair, she'd chosen a simple crown of faux-pearl loops above a crimson band; she hadn't known at the time how fitting the ensemble would be for today, and only picked it at Aurinda's insistence that she choose something new rather than continue refusing. A gorget of bronze scales and more red jewels fell over the leather wrapped around breasts, and was secured up at her neck with a thin red ribbon choker. More scales fell down between her legs from under her belly that were attached to a matching ribbon-and-bronze chain belt that she wore high over her hips.

Once she'd put it all on, Aiko grasped a big studded hexagonal wooden club that had been laid under the pile — the preferred weapon she'd trained with over the past days and weeks, and almost as tall as she was — and waited for William to wake up and their bout to begin. By the time she was dressed to arena specifications, she'd calmed down substantially. Still, she'd never faced a crowd who knew who she was, not even back on Yamatai, and gritted her teeth at the prospect.

As the drugs began to wear off, William felt stupid for throwing himself at the warden... He knew it would do nothing, but he was so angry he needed to do something. His eyes squinted open then closed again. He did that a few more times before he forced himself to sit up. "I need to learn when to shut up..." he muttered softly as he looked around. He saw Aiko in her costume and was still struck by how she looked. He'd seen it before when they both were picking out what they would wear. Yet his eyes were still drawn to her. The moment passed quickly enough and his gaze panned to his own costume.

He had chosen a thick animal pelt that was draped across his shoulders, held in place by two leather straps that crossed his chest. He also wore his black combat pants but had a fur belt with onyx stones holding them up.

Standing, he grabbed the bastard longsword he had been practicing with and looked to Aiko once more.

The crowd above their area was getting riled. They could hear chanting and feel the rumble of the group's stomping from their small area. Soon thereafter, their own door opened for them to enter the arena.

Their introduction was more boisterous and outlandish than their first. The warden had apparently learned how to properly pronounce “Yamataian” but misspoke about Yamataian culture a few times, referring to Aiko as the heir to the throne and William as one of many such loyal male samurai bodyguards that was hellbent on proving his worth to the future Queen at his side. The cameras that had been in the stands primarily were tenfold today, buzzing about in all directions of the two.

“Despite their past, their present holds only one thing today,” said the warden in a grand manner as the cameras circled close to the two, “DEATH!” The crowd, understandably, went wild.

If the pair had been hoping for the fiery centipede to be their match today, they would be let down. Though the chains were still intact along with the platforms, no beast came down to greet them. Instead, two large doors opened simultaneously, just as theirs had opened for William and Aiko.

From one came a slew of a dozen Kuvexians, draped in loincloths and wielding short swords and axes. Another grate released a torrent of Rixxikor, too many to count quickly. Then with an abruptness, another two giant doors opened, releasing a similar two groups as the previous grates had released.

Within seconds, the Kuvexians and Rixxikor were launching themselves at the pair. Some were faster and more hasty than their brethren, forcing themselves across the arena at great speed in order to bring their weapons down towards the two. Kuvexians seemed to have concentrated their efforts towards Aiko while William was being swarmed by the more bug-like Rixxikor.

Before William could speak once more to Aiko the pair were thrust into battle. The Rixxikor were an enemy that William knew all too well. He died to them before. He refused to let himself die again here. His massive bastard longsword cut swathes across their lines.

The weapon was not as elegant as his katana but it got the job done. Plus he hit more of them per swing.

Looking like a true Berserker, he launched himself into the bugs with bloodlust in his eyes.

Aiko took a few steps forward while her foes charged, dragging the tip of her weapon along in the sand behind her for two or three paces as she picked up speed. It wasn't that the club was too heavy for any Nekovalkyrja to handle, as she soon hefted it up onto her shoulder, but she wanted to keep its momentum fluid as she broke out into her own rush toward the Kuvexians coming at her.

When her battle was met, she ducked under a Kuvexian sword and shoulder checked another attacker's shield. As that one went flying back, Aiko dropped the weighty mace from her shoulder and extended her arm out to crush it down against a third Kuvexian's skull. Through all of her spinning maneuvers, she tried her best to stay close to William and cover his back as they'd always learned. But the sheer population of the arena's floor made that a difficult prospect to keep up.

The Nepleslian's pure bulk made him an easy target to avoid and an even easier target to be felled by for the Rixxikor. Though a cluster of them had managed to die, another wave of them came to take the killed place. Their weapons were hard to ascertain by feel alone, but it was obvious to the sensations of pricking and prodding on William that some of them were managing to land blows, non-lethal as they were.

Aiko's foes were not downed in quite the same complete fashion, though the skull she landed her studded club on sprayed a gloopy mess of purple blood and grey matter. With a turn and a shifting stance, the shield-wielding Kuvexian she had ducked under jettisoned their sword towards her. Some of the Rixxikor that had been attacking William with their needle-like claws let their focus turn to her as she defended William's back, prodding her with the same bodily weaponry. Likewise, some Kuvexians had taken their axes and swords towards William, pushing towards him with their bladed weapons.

When the thrown sword came at her, Aiko unfurled her great crimson cape as she tried to dodge out of their trajectory in hopes that the weight of its fabric would drop the blade out of the air. The face full of Rixxikor that she walked into, however, certainly landed their blows. Their myriad of gross little claws ripped at her exposed skin and slid over the parts covered by sparse scale armor, only to nonetheless dig deep into her flesh where the protection stopped.

In a rage, the Ketsurui girl kicked the Rixxikor most directly in front of her away and raised her club high above that chintzy costume crown she wore. She bellowed a warcry with her Nekovalkyrjan canines fully bared and brought the weapon down upon the insectoid alien as it staggered back into its gaggle of comrades.

The Rixxikor claws dug into his exposed flesh, though Willi barely felt it. In turn he would swat at the bugs like he would a fly. Except his fly swatter had an edge to it.

The fight was devolving into pure carnage. He attempted to spare a glance at Aiko behind him, but noticed the Kuvexians charging him instead. He kicked out with his leg, much faster than to be expected for his size, aiming for the chest of the closest one.

Aiko's warcry spurned him on. He was punching with his off hand and swinging the great sword in the other like a mad man. In truth he was. His sole objective was to kill as many of his opponents as he could and to keep Aiko safe. When one enemy would attempt to peel off from him to face Aiko, he made them pay for that decision in blood and viscera.

Where one Rixxikor sank into death or injury, another three seemed to take their place. When one Kuvexian stumbled, seemingly ready to fall, they doubled their efforts to fight further. How the fight would end wasn't easy to decide as the odds against the two grew overwhelming. William and Aiko's efforts were great, but there was too great a pressure of enemies for this to be a quick fight, let alone a fair one.

"Will!" Aiko shouted, using her club to catch a Kuvexian's axe against its studs as a broken-kneed Rixxikor clawed at her ankles. She kicked the bug off and put her foot back down over its spindly neck with a crunch while remaining locked with the Kuvexian gladiator. "We must go up!"

Tiring of her current foe, Aiko stepped into him while angling her weapon's hilt into his flat blue face. This allowed her to stun him and break their stalemate, sending him staggering past her with just enough time for Aiko to recover control of her club and spin it all the way around into his throat as he tripped behind his loosed axe.

"Right!" William breathed out as he attempted to kill a few dozen more Rixxikor. He swung in a wide arc again. He knew the bugs would all jump back and he used it to his advantage. Springing forward like a viper, he bull rushed into the backpedaling Rixxikor and cleared a path.

His weapon cleaved through enemy after enemy as they fought their way to the platforms. Drawing the attention of the horde, he bellowed in defiance and began attacking again. Making them focus on him while giving Aiko time to get up onto the platforms.

Aiko followed as William tore a path through their foes, only advancing when she could see that he'd made it up another level. Although her Neko body could levitate to safety, she only used the power to gain an advantage rather than skip ahead of her Nepleslian friend. Still, she'd give herself a little push off the ground now and then, leaping up a few inhuman feet onto a Rixxikor or Kuvexian's head only to slam down onto the floor and sweep away what enemies she could. The going was tough and she'd taken more than a few deep gashes, but it was nothing she couldn't handle just yet.

Finally, both William and Aiko made their way to the tallest platform. Taking a few seconds to assess their injuries Aiko had taken multiple slashes across her skin. Some a bit deeper than others. William's back was torn to ribbons. It was so covered in blood there was no way of knowing just how many cuts and stab wounds there actually were.

Yet there was no time to dwell on it. They still had more enemies coming.

As the Kuvexian's and Rixxikor began to climb the platform to reach them, William would cleave their arms from the body. Sending the bodies tumbling into their comrades below. It was rinse and repeat like that for some time. Several would make it onto the platform with them, only to be quickly and brutally dispatched by the pair. Soon some of the Kuvexians gained the bright idea to throw their knives and spears at the duo. The first of which caught William's arm. He cursed as he pulled the blade from his arm and dropped it to the ground.

From then on they had to simultaneously fight them off the platform while dodging thrown weapons.

It seemed to go on like that for hours, but it felt like the pair had been fighting for days. Sustaining losses and having lost any high ground, the enemies that were once fighting a battle of attrition found within the long span of combat that the supposed duo of Yamataian enemies they were pitted against would be the last battles their bodies fought. The crowd enjoyed the spectacle for what it was, a background element to their socializing and the entertainment of winning and losing bets placed was enough to keep all of them content for the hours-long fight. Rixxikor were the first to fall in their whole number, but the Kuvexians had tactics and some semblance of proficiency with their blades to keep them alive much longer. Eventually, though, the last of the Kuvexians fell, each at the guts and gore stained weapons of Aiko and William. There was a brief moment of trepidatious applause as the crowd reconciled with the force they had seen versus the force they had expected from the pair.

As the last Kuvexian fell William panted, desperate to catch his breath. Every bone in his body ached and every cut across his skin burned. He closed his eyes, unconsciously dropping his weapon to the ground.

He turned and opened an eye through the blood and sweat that marred his face to check on Aiko. "You okay?" He asked, his voice barely above a whisper as he breathed the words.

Rivulets of sweat and her own blood cut through the purple Kuvexian ichor that stained Aiko's flesh, falling faster each time her chest heaved as she inhaled through her nose. The big studded bat bounced once or twice in her hand, still prepared to swing again, before she gently rested its tip on the platform beneath them. Her eyes snapped over to William when he asked his question, and she nodded just as sharply and kept her lips sealed. Looking up into the stands, the Neko warrior surveyed their lot with a defiant gaze and waited for what came next. She wondered if they would choose her fate again, as they had after their first fight, or if the Kuvexian overlords planned to follow through with an execution now that she and William had found victory again.

Within moments the crowd's riotous excitement made the clods of sand on the turf below them bounce from their dirt moorings. The voice of the warden rattled the crowd and the jubilant crowd listened. Their votes had been cast without any preemptive discussion and again, Aiko and William were cast in with the living. There was no small debate over it and the warden was sure to emphasize the prize the crowd had chosen to keep alive, a royal of an Empire the Kuvexians fought for the home sector of.
William and Aiko were escorted to their cells, still covered in the viscera of their downed combatants. Waiting for them was a Nekovalkyrja, though a very different one from Saya, particularly in stature.

Barely half a foot tall, palish skin that resembled a familiar neko, and a strange pink to orange blending of hair that was messy and disheveled, Deep blue eyes that looked like a river stared at the two who were brought back to their cells with apprehension and oddly... a look of almost sizing them up, to see if the youngling neko could take them on in a fight. She was silent though as she stood there, stone faced and simply watching.

Having been stripped of her arena gear by the undiscerning hands of Elefirn attendants and back down to her meager coverings, Aiko approached her prison where the newcomer waited in Saya's place. Another captured soldier, perhaps? No; this one was too small. When she was finally shoved into the cell by the guards in escort, Aiko sighed out her last bit of battle adrenaline and regarded the girl with some shame. That this was a Neko's first taste of existence did not sit well with the Ketsurui warrior, but she would say nothing of it now.

The Nepleslian, covered in blood and sweat, trudged towards his cell but stopped as the little Neko stood there. To William's exhausted mind he couldn't puzzle out why there was a small Neko child in this place...

... a child.

Then it hit William like a ton of bricks, and he had to catch himself before he smacked into the bars of another cell.

He then lowered himself to his knees, attempting to get down to her level but still failing, as the 8 foot ID-SOL could not possibly get that low without laying flat.

"Tsu...Tsubame?" He asked, his voice soft.

"Is that what she is going to call me?" The little Neko asked as first the right eye, then the left eye blinked in slightly off timed blinks. She stared up at William, neck craned back and seemingly nonplussed by the situation before she slowly floated up to be eye level with the taller man.

William nodded slowly. "Yes, that's what your parents wanted to name you. Tsubame." He affirmed. William let out a soft laugh and smiled. "You are like your dad. Unfazed by anything."

"Unphased? Isn't this normal?" She asked, a hint of confusion in her tone as she watched the man before her. She began to circle him slowly as she waited for him to respond.

William's heart sank when she responded. To be born here... in this hell. "No sweet heart. This isn't normal. It also isn't our home. But we will go home soon I'm sure of it. Where is your mom?" He asked.

Aiko listened with interest, herself wondering what their captors had done with Saya. She went and sat in her comfortable spot near the wall, her eyes remaining locked on Tsubame as William and the newborn talked. Although Aiko was only a few years old now herself and could still vividly remember her first days in the palaces on Yamatai, she was at a loss as to what could be said to Saya's new daughter. Not even Yui and Irim had to endure such hells so soon after their creations, Aiko imagined.

"I am not sure. The last I saw her, She was crying and they were drugging her." Little Tsubame shrugged somewhat before river blue eyes fell on the other Neko in the area. She studied her for a moment, but declined to speak until spoken to. "I am Fujiwara Tsubame. Who are you?" She asked William. She seemed to push past the comments about not being home. To her, this was home for now.

"He is William," Aiko said abruptly, struck by how the youngling had examined her in kind. She wondered if any of Saya's knowledge and training had been imparted to Tsubame, or if it'd been kept from her. "And I am Aiko. We are, ah," she paused, struggling to find the best words for the situation before settling with, "friends of your mother. We are from somewhere less dark than here, as are you."

"The lab was less dark than here... But this seems dark here." She replied in kind to Aiko as her eyes drifted back to her. "Aiko..." She said aloud, then looked back to the ID-SOL and spoke. "William... She did not give me anything on you two." She explained and again, the miss timed blink of one eye then the next.

The princess's gaze darted up to William's face for a moment as she opened her mouth to speak while no words came, before settling back on Tsubame. How does one describe a starship, much less space and the sky above a planet to someone who was not free to observe these things themself? Someone whose entire universe was — in effect, indefinitely — the prison attached to this Kuvexian coliseum.

"Your mother has many friends, and better ones than me," Aiko told her after a moment, not wanting to speak for how William and Saya conducted themselves. "As Will-kun said, we will go home soon," she added, placing a hand on the cold concrete beside her. It felt like a lie, but putting perspective on words was perhaps what public relations officers, as Aiko had been partly trained to be, did best. "All of them are looking for us from beyond these walls, where they are free to float through the air like you can but with infinite space to fly through."

The tiny Neko drifted past William and came as close as she could to the fellow sister in race. Blue eyes drifted across her face a few times before she simply raised her brows a little, the rest of her face blank and impassive. "I see. It sounds nice." Another weird blink, and Tsubame eventually lowered herself to the floor to walk. She was still young and it took a lot of energy for her to float, much less maintain it for to long. "So, these friends we are waiting on... How long have we been waiting?" She asked.

"Only a little while," Aiko said, knowing exactly how long it'd been down to the second thanks to her computerized brain. "For you, it will seem like a long time yet until they arrive. But for every moment you spend living, future moments will come in shorter measure."

"Typical Soul transfer resurrections take place after a week or two typically don't they? Who says they are coming?" It seemed cold and calculated, far more than a child her age should be thinking, especially from one that had the bundle of positivity that was Saya... But the words were out there now as Tsubame looked back and forth between the two.

Tsubame's knowledge of soul transfers didn't strike Aiko as too in-depth, having herself been created with selections of Yui's military expertise, though the child's tone was disheartening enough to flush her with shame at the situation again. Aiko had considered such matters more than once since she and William had been captured all those weeks ago; was there a new Ketsurui Aiko back in Yamatai or aboard the Kaiyo II already?

"They know we are not dead," Aiko said, sounding convincing enough even though she was fully lying this time. "And they are duty-bound to the Empire to retrieve us."

William was silent for some time. He wasn't sure how to process any of this. It was all so messed up. This was supposed to be a joyous occasion. Everyone celebrating Tsubame's birth. And yet here they were. In a prison. Where Aiko and William kept fighting to the death and Saya forced to heal them each time.

And now her child was born into the cold unending stench of this place. William stayed like that for a minute while Aiko and Tsubame talked, until they turned to move on.

It was then William realized he shouldn't have tried to kneel down...

With great effort, he forced himself to stand, however he nearly toppled over several times while standing. He looked like death warmed over. Probably from the blood loss.

"They will come." He reaffirmed as he followed behind them.

Tsubame looked back and forth again, though the expression was hard to read on her face. It didn't seem like she believed their words too much... But she never voiced her concerns. Again the creepy lizard person blink, the youngling turned to begin exploring her cell to see if there was any way to escape or cause havoc...

The grates between the two cells were far enough apart that she could slip between the bars for now, though in a few weeks she likely couldn't. The grate towards the hallway had on it a force field, though, and she wouldn't be able to slip through that as easily. Otherwise there was little fun to be had for a Nekovalkyrja girl such as herself.

Aiko shifted uncomfortably as William faltered from his wounds. As powerful as ID-SOL were, they lacked the Nekovalkyrja blood with which her body was already using to mend itself. With the bars between them, though, she could offer no comfort or help right now.

"You've got to rest, Will-kun," Aiko said in what was probably an overly-demanding way. She was most angry at her powerlessness, and obviously held no animosity for her Nepleslian comrade. "Pick somewhere and remain still until Saya returns or you feel strong enough to bandage yourself," she paused, flashing a glance back to Tsubame with her eyes and remembering to keep appearances. "Please."

William nodded softly. He turned to Tsubame, smiling sadly. "Sorry that this was how we ended up meeting. I had planned on giving you a gift, but that went out the window... I had the best gift picked out for my niece." He added as he slumped against wall, gritting his teeth as the cuts and gashes caught on pieces of stone. "I'm not starting out as a very good Uncle..." He said closing his eyes.

Small plaps of flesh on stone could be heard as the six inch youngling passed through the bars and moved back to William's cell. She was silent as she walked and moved closer, and eventually William would feel something small step up into his lap, then something wet press against some of his worse wounds. Aiko would have seen the diminutive Neko tear into the soft flesh of her thumb and press the tiny digit to William's body in hopes that what little blood she had to spare could help him.

"We can not count on her to return, just as we can not count on a rescue. We must count on ourselves." Pragmatic and cold, the tiny neko peered up to William's face with her big blue eyes. She hadn't seen the look from Aiko thankfully, and had ignored the talk of uncles and nieces and presents, all things foreign to the small girl for the time being.

William felt the little neko press her thumb into the deepest of his stabwounds, stinging at first before the wound stopped hurting. It still bled slightly but was better than it had been before. He opened his eyes and looked down, his own blue eyes looking into her's. "Thank you. And you're right. You are quite smart for being so little." He said, a tinge of pride in his voice.

"Your size may offer you an advantage for now," Aiko said with a touch of intrigue catching her voice, agreeing with the young Neko's desire to escape. At least in part. Her own SAINT training from during the Kaiyo II's time traversing across alternate dimensions motivated Aiko to search for an escape, too, but all possibilities for her and William's freedom had eluded them thus far. "Just as you slipped through those bars, you may be able to find a way out that we could not."

Tsubame nodded a little to William before she turned to look at Aiko again. Her hand removed from his chest as she felt a little woozy from what little blood she had to give, she blinked and walked through the bars and looked back and forth between the cells and everything else. "What would you have me do? I have only the basic training Saya gave me." The youngling had used Saya's name rather than mother.

William noticed her use of word choice, but decided against saying anything for now. This whole mess was a giant can of worms that future William could deal with. For now William was tired, bloody, and desperate for one of Saya's sleeping cocktails. Looking from Tsubame to Aiko, he raised an eyebrow to Aiko. He didn't have the mental bandwidth at the moment to figure out what the next move should be. It was hard enough that he hadn't let himself pass out and sleep yet.

"I could not have you do anything, Tsubame-chan," Aiko replied, unwilling to order even the most eager soldier around in a place like this. She shifted on her butt into a more reclined position and put her interlocked fingers behind her head as a pillow. "You are Saya's daughter, and that means more in this moment than my rank in the Star Army or the war we are fighting against those who currently hold us captive. Still, in her absence, I cannot forbid you from doing what you must to survive this place. Explore getting out of here if that is what you feel is right, just be sure to stay out of sight and return here if your freedom remains unattainable. Perhaps you may even find a way to help Saya.

"I can assist you in acclimating to your body's abilities once I've healed from the fight," Aiko added, wincing as her body's new position stressed her wounds in a new way. "That is, of course, if Saya did not impart knowledge of her own experiences to you."

Tsubame shook her head a bit in response to the other two and paced back and forth between the cells. "Medical knowledge, basic training, and basic knowledge. She imparted what she could, but not much more than that." She admitted as she walked closer to the protected bars that had the force field over them.

William watched the pacing child walk back and forth as she spoke. It made sense somewhat that Saya wouldn't have time to impart all she wanted to... They did drug her after all.

The thought made William's blood boil. He hated this place. He hated the things these creatures had done. He hated how his friends were being treated.

After taking several deep breaths to calm himself, he looked back to his niece. "Tsubame, I can teach you how to be stealthy. I used to be myself before I became... well as big as I am."

"Stealthy? I guess it can help." The piercing gaze of the youngling watched the much older and much larger man before her, eyes locked and intent on studying him for the time being as she awaited the start of her training. She had no idea their condition, only her own and her desire to do something to learn and grow. If they were to rely on themselves, she would be ready.

The rest of the time spent in the cells went much the same way, with the exception that an extra period of bathing after training was allotted for William and Aiko wherein Aurinda questioned the young Nekovalkryja on what she knew of the SAoY and the military knowledge she was born with.

The tiny Neko played dumb as she wasn't sure how much she should say. Just a blank, impassive stare and simple shrugs and "I don't knows" were about the extent of what she would give. It wasn't necessarily expanded on at birth by Saya to their captors, and she had never told them since, so the youngling would have been safe day in and day out.

Aurinda never got far and she never went further than orally questioning the youngling, eventually giving up the conquest and rescinding the bathing time that William and Aiko had gotten.


Characters in this thread were written by:
@Ametheliana as the Kuvexians and their arena minions
@Gunhand4171 as William
@raz as Ketsurui Aiko
@SageShooter as Fujiwara Saya and Fujiwara Tsubame