Round 1. Battle 7.
"Raph… you there, bud?" Mike12 called. He had been searching the entire Battle Nexus without much success. His brother was missing, no doubt, because of his being beaten in the last battle. Mike12 knew more than any of his brothers how miserable Raph12 must be feeling right now.
"You okay there, Mikey?" Leo07 had snuck silently behind the turtle and was standing by a wall with his arms crossed. "What's up?"
"I can't find Raph!" Mike12 wailed, rushing up to the older turtle and hopping from foot to foot in consternation. "He got beaten and now he's nowhere to be found!"
"Maybe he needs a little alone time, Mikey?" Leo07 patted the smaller turtle's head with a smile. "You know, he was always very vocal about his dislike of that little Raphael."
"You don't know Raph!" Mike12 cried, indignantly.
"It's okay. He's not in any trouble," Leo07 held Mike12 firmly by the shoulders. "He's on a mountain on the other side of the compound."
"How'd you know he's there?" Mike12 asked, wide-eyed.
"I followed him after the battle ended," Leo07 confessed. "I wanted to make sure he was all right. He didn't stick around much and he seemed out of sorts. Your sensei came with me to check on him."
"Can I see him? Please?" Mike12 begged. "I need to see Raph!"
"Calm down, okay. I'll take you up there." Leo07 smiled at the display of concern. Mike12 was bouncing on the balls of his feet, desperate to make a move.
Mike12 looked up at the turtle's encouraging face and nodded. He allowed Leo07 to swing an arm around his shoulders as they both walked out of the Battle Nexus and into the wilderness beyond.
There were several mountains Mike12 could see before them. "There are so many!" Mike12 gasped with awe. The cragged, jutting monstrosities surrounded the Nexus like giant white-capped soldiers guarding the dimensional hub.
"I know where he is," Leo07 led Mike12 to a mountain smaller than the others. "Just follow me."
The path was rough and Mike12 stumbled a little as he followed behind the master turtle. Leo07 reached back and pulled Mike12 in front of him, grabbing hold of his shell and pushing him onward. With the older turtle guiding him they soon reached the peak of the mountain.
Raph12 was sitting with his back to them, holding a single blue flower in his right hand. The petals were glowing slightly as he gazed at the bloom as if in a trance, his body hunched over and seemingly defeated.
"Raph! Raph! It's me!" Mike12 bounded over to his brother with arms wide open. "Why are you up here? I've been looking for you!"
Raph12 growled as he was suddenly enveloped in his brother's warm embrace. "Came up here for quiet, Mikey! Needed some time out."
"That's a pretty flower, Raph." Mike12 hugged on relentlessly whilst Raph12 tried in vain to push him away.
"Found it growing out here. Alone." Raph12 gazed at the flower. "Thought I'd take it back with me. You know, find a vase or something."
"I'll help!" Mike12 was jubilant. "I'll find the vase! We can give it to the Daimyo as a thank you for letting us come here."
Raph12 huffed and pushed Mike12 away. "I wanna stay here. Leave me be."
Mike12 rolled his eyes at his brother's brash comment and turned to Leo07. "It's okay, I'll stay here. You can go."
"You sure? He doesn't seem in the mood to have company," Leo07 advised, watching Raph12 huffing angrily.
"I'll be okay!" Mike12 sat behind his irate brother without saying a word. He just sat there, waiting.
Leo07 shrugged and left the two of them alone.
"Why don't you go see the next battle, Mikey?" Raph12 groaned, realising that his little brother was sitting directly behind him.
"It doesn't feel right," Mike12 confessed, folding his arms. "That little Leo shouldn't be fighting anyone. Not after he was hurt."
"It's his choice, bro. He wanted to fight." Raph12 was still looking at the blue flower thoughtfully. "He made the decision, said he'd fight with one arm if he had to. 'Sides, our Leo will look after him."
"He's still in a sling, though," Mike12 mused. "Guess he'll be fighting one handed, then."
"I'm sure he'll be fine," Raph12 said. "Go on. Support our big bro in his fight."
"Naw," Mike12 stated bluntly. "The Mikester's staying right here."
"Didn't think I was gonna lose," Raph12 grumbled. He looked at his younger brother and sighed, his shoulders sinking in defeat. "Guess I needed to be taught a lesson, right?"
"Or maybe it was just bad luck?" Mike12 shrugged. "You can't win all the time, Raph."
"Thought you'd gone to watch a movie," Raph12 looked at Mike12 ruefully.
"I thought you'd win," Mike12 confessed. "It doesn't matter though."
"It matters to me," Raph12 admitted. "I got beat and everyone saw it happen."
"And?" Mike12 inched forward and sat right beside his older brother. "Does it really matter?"
Raph12 smiled as Mike12 nudged him playfully with his shoulder. "Guess not, little brother."
Mike12 laughed and the two of them remained on the mountain in relative silence. Raph12 was still gazing at the blue flower, Mike12 a comforting presence by his side.
"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Leo12 asked.
Leo87 was struggling to wield his sword in his right hand. The handle kept slipping as his reattached hand kept seizing up. "This isn't going to work. I'm going to have to use one sword, after all."
"No-one can heal that quick. Not even you, tough guy." Leo12 smiled and put an arm around the smaller turtle's shoulder. "I'll use just one katana too."
"You don't have to do that!" Leo87 shook his head as Leo12 stooped to reposition the sling to the turtle's wounded right arm. "Use one katana, I mean. I'll be fine."
"It wouldn't be very honourable for me to use two." Leo12 shook his head firmly. "I'm using one."
The arm had been secured against Leo87's plastron. The smaller turtle swung his one katana around bravely, a clapping resounding around the holding area.
"Go, lil man!" Mike97 cheered.
Mike87, Don87 and Raph87 had just returned from watching the movie. They were raving about wanting to go sledging on their shells. They watched their older brother nervously, not wanting to stop him, but worried about how he'd cope in the ring.
Leo87 smiled widely, letting Leo12 lead him into the main arena.
There was a hush as the wounded turtle headed out onto the main stage. A silence that accompanied the sight of Leo87 wounded with his right arm held securely in a sling. Even though he was healing nicely, he was still in a lot of pain. It took a lot of courage and endurance for the little turtle to be on the stage. He was still pale from the vibrations that hurt his wounds and inflamed the injuries on his right arm.
Lotus Blossom had risen to her feet and was looking at the arena angrily. Pushing past the spectators, she made her way to the foot of the stage and looked up at Leo87.
"Leonardo. It is unwise for you to partake in this fight. Let me take your place."
Leo87 smiled down at the Kunoichi, radiant to see her once more. "I'm okay, Lotus. I'll be fine."
"I will stand here and await the outcome," Lotus folded her arms firmly. "If anything should happen to Leonardo, I will make you my most hunted enemy."
Leo12 gulped. "Hey! Easy there! Karai-like woman! I'm not going to hurt him!"
"We shall see," Lotus remained like a statue, eyes narrowed angrily as she watched both Leonardos' face each other in the arena.
"Maybe we should call this off?" Leo12 laughed nervously. "She looks serious."
"It'll be fine. Fight me." Leo87 drew his single katana with his left hand and spun it.
The arena, once uncomfortably silent, roared to life with support for the injured turtle. Cheers and claps accompanied Leo87's return to combat. A chant began to form in the lower tiers as Leo87 smiled towards the crowd. Leo87 put his opponent on-point and prepared himself mentally for the battle ahead.
Leo12 drew his own katana. He had purposely only brought the one into the arena. Although he was more highly skilled with two blades, he was still effective with the one sword. He pointed it towards his smaller adversary with uncertainty and waited for the wounded turtle to make the first move.
Both swords met as a clang of metal erupted with a shrill shriek. The arena exploded with applause and the chants for Leo87 became almost deafening.
A sharp thrust from Leo87 had Leo12 spinning backwards to create more space between them and he parried effectively with his own blade. Leo87 moved forward after his opponent, spinning the sword in circles around his body with fluid grace. The injured arm was well protected and had remained firmly in place throughout the first assault.
The clinking of two swords filled the arena as the audience collectively held their breath during the fight. Tension was apparent, radiating out from all the spectators as they winced each time a blow landed too close to the injured limb.
Leo87 was tiring already, his arm throbbing from the exertion. His movements were slowing considerably as he blocked, ducked and weaved away from his opponent's sword. For such a pudgy little turtle, Leo87 was surprisingly spry, he moved gracefully around the arena, Keeping his adversary at a distance.
Calling all his reserves of energy to the fore, Leo87 charged forward with renewed vigour, the sword moving so fast it was merely a blur to the avid audience in raptured silence.
Leo12 blocked another sword thrust, pushing past his adversary and slashing him from behind. Leo87 dodged the attack and suddenly stopped. His face paled even further.
"Leonardo? You all right?" Leo12 sheathed his sword and approached the warrior who was clutching at his arm, his expression contorted in pain.
"Arms playing up," Leo87 gasped as Splinter87 hobbled into the main arena.
"Leonardo! Are you able to continue?" Splinter87 felt Leo87's brow. He was hot and clammy, his breath escaping with slight gasps.
"I… I don't think so … Master," Leo87 was close to passing out. His arm was throbbing and he was in agony. "I'm … not feeling so good. I think I hit it with the handle of my sword earlier. Didn't think it would be so painful."
Mike87 jumped into the arena. He looked as pale as his wounded brother. "Leonardo! You all right, dude?"
"Think I need to sit down before I throw up," Leo87 confessed, allowing his brother to assist him. As Gyoji appeared before the warriors, Leo87 shook his head at the spirit miserably.
"This fight is declared a tie due to the unusual circumstances regarding this battle!" Gyoji shouted out. The crowd roared in response, applauding the smaller turtle. "Leo12 will advance to the later tiers but Leo87 has lost no honour in his valiant efforts. He will be rewarded with the knowledge that he fought bravely and that, even wounded, he still conducted himself as a skilled warrior."
"He won, really," Leo12 watched Lotus warily. "He could have beaten me easily."
Lotus joined Leo87 and Mike87 as Leo87 was led off the arena stage. Leo12 followed silently behind them.
"Although Leo87 will be retiring from the competition from this moment hence, his bravery will be remembered in every tournament forthcoming. Our congratulations to his opponent for progressing further in the competition! " Gyoji disappeared as the crowd reached a deafening level.
"They're chanting your name, bud!" Mike87 lay his brother on a couch. "Listen to them! You really made an impression."
"It was an honour to cross swords with you," Leo12 bowed before Leo87. "Once you are completely healed, it would be an honour to spar with you in the dojo."
Leo87 nodded, trembling. Don87 gave him some pain relief and his brothers and sensei crowded him protectively as the next fight was called.