The gong sounded ominous as all guests started to hurry to their seats.
"Come on, Murakami-san." April12 shepherded the blind man to their box at the top tier. Following the excited girl were Pete the Pigeon, Casey12 and Leatherhead12.
Leatherhead12 was carrying a glass cannister containing all that remained of The Pulveriser. The mutated blob was watching everyone with intense eyes. "It's all right, Timothy. There is every chance you will be a whole being by the end of this contest. There is a lot of accumulated knowledge between many dimensions, and I'm sure we'll find the answer to your current ... dilemma." Leatherhead promised as he gently tapped the glass and Timothy's eyes shot up to glare at the gigantic croc.
Behind the little group, a disgruntled teenager followed. He didn't look especially happy to be a guest at the tournament.
"Casey! Hurry up!" April12 admonished the teenager with a roll of her eyes. "We have to get to our box. The competition is starting any moment!"
Casey12 watched beings from various dimensions shuffle past him. He sighed deeply and followed his guide as she led her little group to their seating area. He wasn't happy to be here at all. Neither was he happy that Raph12 had charged him with the ridiculous task of looking after his pet turtle, Spike. The little monster was in a bag and chewing some lettuce, completely oblivious to the contest.
Finally, April 12 arrived at their pre-determined box. She lifted a curtain aside which revealed seating for the little gang.
"Casey - you and Leatherhead have the box next door." April12 ushered them to their own box and took the satchel with the pet turtle from Casey12. "I'll take care of Spike and Timothy. Enjoy the show!"
Casey12 wasn't amused at being left alone with the unpredictable croc. He shuffled into his seat, grumbling to himself.
April12, meanwhile, was in her element as she settled in her seat and heard the second gong sound. "It's Donny first. I think he'll beat the other one no problem."
Mr Murakami stifled a secret smile at the obvious adoration in her words.
"Are you two, like, together?" Pete asked, spreading his wings for comfort. A few feathers fell off and landed on a velvet carpet. The whole place was lush - much more extravagant than the giant pigeon was used to.
"What - me and Donny?" April12 feigned shock. "We're friends. Just good friends."
Pete grinned and cooed with a big smile. "Young love. Aint it grand!"
"Look, there's Donny!" April12 leant forward with a grin. "I mean, our Donny."
Pete cooed in appreciation. "It's starting! How exciting!"
Mr Murakami patted April12 on the shoulder. "Keep me informed of what is happening. Be my eyes."
"Of course Murakami-san." April replied respectfully.
They settled back and waited as the two Donatello's faced each other in the arena.
Don12 turned to see his sensei rushing towards him with a proud smile on his face. Behind him, his dimensional brothers were also closing in. "Sensei. Guys. I've been called. I have to go."
"Good luck, bro." Raph12 shook his brother's hand. "Show that turtle what you're made of."
"Will do." Don12 replied with a grin.
"Good luck, Donny. You'll do great." Leo12 grinned with a wide smile.
Don12's eyes shone with excitement. "Don't worry guys, I'm going to be fine!"
"Donatello. I am so proud of you. Do your best and have fun." Splinter12 pushed the other turtles aside and allowed Don12 to access the ring. "Remember your training, my son. Have faith that your skills have prepared you for this battle."
Don12 turned and saw his brothers and sensei smiling at him. He grinned back, bowing deeply to his entire family. "Hai, sensei." Then, he was gone - disappearing beyond the holding area and into the main arena.
"Good luck, Donny. Stay loose, bro." Mike12 muttered.
Splinter87 watched his student carefully as he made his way into the arena. The rat's heart felt close to bursting with pride for his son. He was silently massaging Leo87's shoulders and a tear of joy ran down his furry cheek as he realised his sons were now men.
It was a sobering moment for the ancient master. He had always seen his student's as children - his responsibility to nurture and raise. Now, they were masters of their own fates, their own destinies. It was fitting that he realise at this very moment that his student's were now Masters themselves - they had proven themselves and earned the right to the title which would give them an automatic right to train others.
No matter how this contest progressed - whether they should win or lose - it made no difference to Splinter87.
In his eyes, they were now Masters of Ninjutsu. No longer children, they had become the art they had practiced for so long. Under his tutelage they had grown into adults - self-aware and focused.
They were complete.
The two versions of Donatello stepped into the arena - and immediately the younger of the two - Don12 - stepped back in shock. There were flashing lights from multiple camera's, whooping, cheering and applauding from hundreds of people. The faces blurred into one gigantic mass of excitement and tension.
"What the ...?" Don12 covered his face with his arm, shyly.
"It's okay. Don't worry about it. Enjoy it." Don87 blew a kiss to the adoring crowd.
"I don't think I can move." Don12 looked around himself, wide-eyed. He had paled at the sight of so many people and the staff shook in his grip.
"Sure you can. Try and ignore them. Focus on me." Don87 lay a reassuring hand on the young turtles shoulder. "Just breath ... it's stage-fright. You're trembling."
Don12 felt nausea descend over him in waves. He leant forward and rested his hands on his knees. "I don't feel well ..."
"Easy, Donatello. Easy." Don87 ushered his dimensional duplicate back to the holding area.
"My son, you must breathe slowly." Splinter12 hurried to his pale student and the youngster breathed deeply, trying to regain his equilibrium.
"Easy, Donny. Just take it easy." Leo12 advised.
"There are so many people out there ..." Don12 felt the panic descend and his eyes widened in terror. "I can't move."
"Can you postpone the fight for a little while? Do the rules allow that?" Raph12 asked.
RaphPrime turned to Raph07 and they nodded at each other, communicating a silent message.
"I don't ... think ... I can do ... this ..." Don12 wheezed.
Gyoji appeared, his expression full of concern. "Fighters, what is happening here?"
"Donny's having a full-blown panic attack!" Mike12 screamed. "Is it that scary out there? I don't know if I can go out there ..."
"Easy. We'll go first. Me and the Prime." Raph07 decided and turned to Gyoji. "That okay? For me and the Prime to get it on? That version of Donny needs time to recover."
"Of course. I will inform the arena immediately." Gyoji vanished and Raph07 walked over to the stricken version of Donatello. He lay an arm soothingly on the trembling turtles arm and gave him a reassuring smile. "Try and relax a little. This is meant to be a fun contest."
Don12 gave Raph07 a weak smile. "I keep telling myself that!"
Gyoji's disembodied voice rang over the entire stadium, announcing the new line-up.
"Let's get this on." Raph07 bravely walked out into the main arena, followed closely by RaphPrime.