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The sounds of chanting can be heard echoing off steel walls. Flashing neon lights and glow sticks glimmer off the face of a stern and silent man. He stands pretty tall with a lean build, with a black coat slung over his shoulder. Next to him, two women of slim stature accompany him on his right and left. They’re twins, and both clad in white t-shirts and jean shorts. Spiky hair stands atop their heads, and strips of hair cover their left eyes. Arms crossed, they stare down an opposing team.

“They’re on their last legs, Jacky.” Says the one twin.

“We win this, and it's to the first floor of the Warpath. Unfortunately for our opposition here, if they lose, it’s sudden death,” The other twin says with a sly smirk.

“We fight as planned. Lulu, you and Syphon will battle first. Test them and study their strategy. Lala, if Lulu is beat, you and whisper will fight second. Eliminate that team as quickly as possible. If you both fail, I’ll do the cleanup.” Jacky lights up a smoke. Lulu cracks her knuckles.

“Alrighty! Let's get this match on!”

Lulu enters a part of the stage formed to present participants. She stands freakishly still; her eyes roll back into her head, revealing a strained white gaze. A tall slim blue horror emerges from a cloud of black smoke. A monitor lights up above the arena. An info card with a picture of the horror appears for the audience.

“Nine feet and five-hundred pounds of terror!”

A man dressed in formal attire wearing a mask with various designs enters the middle of the arena.

“Keep your eyes wide open! You don’t wanna miss this horror’s movements! It’s fast as lightning, folks, hahaha! Introducing Syphoooooon!!!”

The horror slowly widens its arms as far out as horizontally possible and leans forward.

“Syphon from deep below the river of nightmares here to wreak carnage!” The horror says, chuckling methodically.

Another info card flashes onto the screen in an arcade-like fashion. A man from the opposing team takes his spot on the front stage. His mouth opens wide, and fireflies pour down his neck. White scales align the torso of a thick exoskeleton. A rift opens up on the arena floor. Fireflies escape from the opening and light up the rift; the black claws of a horror clasp the edge and drags itself out of the ground. The horror hisses and flutters its wings, revealing a sac of light underneath a pair of wings.

“Ladies and gentlemen! Witness light fly! Though slightly shorter than Syphon, Light Fly has taken the names of a handful of horrors. For those in the splash zone, please ensure you're wearing your eye protection! We are not responsible for any audience deaths!

“Ssssssyphon.... I’ll rip your insidessss out and paint this arena floor with your guck!”

Says the insect-like horror.

Syphon slowly walks closer to the center of the arena bellowing a deep laugh, his voice rough and grating.

“I’m going to slice you in half and drink from your body like sipping from the holy grail itself!”

Both horrors prepare for combat.

The announcer raises his hand as high as possible as his dress shoes click together in excitement. “Let's not waste another second without bloodshed! Fight!”

The announcer backs his way into a dark arena corner and disappears. Light Fly begins to hover using its wings. Syphon’s body begins to vibrate violently and vanishes! The ground below he was standing cracks, and dirt kicks up into the air. Appearing just off to the side of Light Fly, he slices off one of Light Fly’s wings with its long blue claws, landing a crucial blow.

“You thought I’d allow you to take the sky?” Syphon says, his voice cracking fiercely.

Light Fly hisses and backs away from Syphon. Syphon lunges at Light Fly, the tips of his claws grazing against the horror’s chest. Light Fly surges forward, opening its mouth. Like bullets, fireflies pelt the chitinous armor of Syphon. The fireflies crack Syphon’s thick natural armor but do not spill blood. Syphon gives out an evil laugh and continues his assault. A shockwave hits the barrier protecting the audience as he vanishes again. Syphon appears behind Light Fly, gasping its head, Syphon shoves his claws into its many eyes! Light Fly wails in pain. Syphon pulls the head in half, tearing all the way down to the horror’s thorax. Syphon reveals his long tongue and begins to drink the dark, oily blood spilling from the still twitching corpse.

“Warm and sweet.” Says Syphon.

Syphon tosses the body of the horror aside and turns to the former master of Light Fly, Syphon snickers. Lulu begins to chuckle.

“Awww, looks like somebody just lost for the last time!” Says Lulu, her eyes still a blank white.

The man’s face fills with rage. A bracelet on his left wrist lights up with a red X. His flesh begins to rot, and his body falls apart into puffs of black smoke. Syphon takes in the dark cloud of soot through his nostrils emanating from the former contestant. His smooth backplate of armor sprouts a few sharp spikes, and his height grows ever so slightly. Syphon makes his way back over to his side of the arena. Lala nods her head in approval.

“Sucks to be him. Once you reach two strikes, your third comes separately from the whole team. Sudden death.” Lala says, turning to look at Jacky.

“Right. If you lose the entire match, the whole team walks away with a strike. Once your whole team has two strikes, the third strike comes from your next fight. Even if your team manages to pick up a win, you’ll already be dead, and they’ll continue to move on until they either make it to the top...or perish on the Warpath.”

The announcer steps back into the arena floor.

“Ladies and gentlemen! That concludes our first match! We will now take a ten-minute intermission.”

Many from the audience stand up to stretch and leave through doors leading into a hallway full of vendors selling all kinds of junk, recreational drugs, and food. Lulu takes a seat right where she is standing. Syphon collapses down onto his knees.

“How many more vanishes can you pull off, Syphon?” Lulu says concerningly.

“I’ll be lucky to pull off one more. Though easy as it was, I'm almost completely exhausted. It might be best to tag out with Lala. We can’t risk a loss, and if I were to die, you’d be quite sad, my little Lulu.”

“It would only be your first of a few Syphon. You're not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Syphon slowly stands back up and slashes his claws into the space in front of him. Black smoke appears before him, and he enters through, disappearing from the arena floor. Ten minutes go by, and the announcer addresses the audience with his typical ear-catching announcement.

“I'm tagging out!” Hollers Lulu.

The announcer turns his head and nods towards Lulu. He points to a large viewscreen; on it, a picture of Lulu fizzles out, the words “Tag Out!” appear on the screen, and a new picture takes its place.

“Well, well, well, ladies and gentlemen, it seems Lulu is tagging out! A switch I did not expect. Entering the front stage now appears to be Lala, her twin sister!”

Lala sits criss-cross and covers her ears with the palms of her hands. She begins to whisper unintelligibly. A shade in a dark gray cloak rises from behind her. Hovering without legs or arms, the horror takes to the center of the stage. Its face is a white reflective surface with dark blue wavy lines decorating its featureless face. The lights from all around glisten off its surface. Lala’s opponent, a heavyset man, takes his position. His nose begins to bleed, and the blood pools on the arena floor. A sizeable meaty hand splashes through the lake of blood, and a horror resembling a fleshless gorilla comes into sight. With its skin missing, the veins and muscles touch the air around it. The horror stands tall and beats its chest, blood splattering everywhere. The two info cards appear on the viewscreen.

“Blood Beast, ladies, and gentlemen! A hulking mass of muscle, what a spectacle! On the other side, here we have Whisper! A matchup of power vs. agility! How interesting!”

The announcer whips his cane signaling the start of the match. Whisper whines up to make the first move. It twirls in the air and flies towards the beast. Whisper smashes its face against the beast’s jaw, sending the horror back on its rear. Blood Beast rolls and jumps to its feet and pounds on its chest, letting out a howl. Whisper redirects after the impact and charges for another attack; however, it fails to connect with its headbutt this time. Whisper is grabbed by their garb and thrown to the ground viciously! Pieces of Whisper’s face splinter and crack off; the shards fly like shrapnel at the audience. Blood Beast tramples over Whisper’s body, crushing him even further. Beaten and battered, Whisper looks like a broken vase. Blood beast turns its back towards it and pounds its chest at the audience, giving out a huge growl. Whisper takes the opportunity to reposition, but he can hardly stand up. Lulu can tell he’s on his last legs.

 

“Tag out, Tag out!” Screamed Lulu.

“Ok, ok! Lulu! I’m tagging you in!”

As soon as Lala releases her hands from her ears, Whisper is unsummoned, fading into a blueish mist. The two twins sprint to switch places on the front stage; sliding to a halt, Lulu’s eyes roll back into her head, that strained white gaze showing intensity. Syphon dashes out of his summoning portal, his target not prepared for the hellfire he is about to bring upon his opponent.

“I’ll give it one good shot, Lulu, but I’m still quite drained from my last match!” Syphon roars.

Blood Beast turns and raises his arm, but he isn’t quick enough; Syphon slashes Blood Beast accross the face. Continuing down, Syphon drags his claws through the horror’s chest. The beastly atrocity grabs both Syphon’s wrists and throws him to the ground. Syphon hits the arena floor hard but mitigates the damage with a roll and uses the momentum to pull Blood Beast down with him. They both tumble on the floor. Syphon breaks free from the hold; quickly attacking again, Syphon unleashes a barrage of strikes into the beast. Blood Beast takes hold of Syphons left arm and pulls his shoulder out of place. Syphon falls forward into the fist of the beast, landing a solid blow on Syphon’s elongated jawline.

Syphon growls. “You disrespectful overgrown chimp! I’ll tear you apart!”

Syphon staggers back from the horror. Blood Beast stands up, holding its chest, the beast wails in pain, blood pooling around his feet. Syphon’s arm dangles at his side. Blood dripping from Syphon’s mouth, he looks over to Lulu.

“Syphon! Can you vanish?” Lulu cries desperately.

“I’m afraid not, little Lulu. I’m too taxed. I already tried to vanish once when he took hold of me, but I could not break free at the time. It appears we’re both beat up down here. One of us will die; however, if it is I who shall perish, you’ll be seeing me again soon.”

Syphon charges at the beastly horror raising his still working arm, spearing it towards the horror. Blood Beast shakes its head, dizzy from the blood loss. Syphon lunges his claws into the beast’s shoulder. Blood Beast takes hold of Syphon and pulls him into a nasty headbutt. Syphon rakes his claws closer to the center of the beast. The horror lets out a yell. They both sink to their knees and pass out. The large man on the opposing side grits his teeth.

“Dammit! I can’t go out like this! No!”

The large man evaporates into the air and crumbles to black dust. Syphon’s body begins to dissolve as a rift of black smoke consumes him. Lulu’s eyes return to normal.

“It seems that they killed each other. Unfortunately for our opponents, that makes three strikes. Lulu, Lala. You both did well. I was hoping not to fight today, but things haven’t gone as smoothly as I would have liked. Ok, let's evaluate our situation. Syphon has died in this match, so we won’t have you fight Lulu. Lala, Whisper should still have a little fight in 'em, yeah?”

“He can still fight; however, he’s pretty beat up. I’m unsure how well he can hold out right now.”

Jacky nods his head. “Alright. That means I just need to win the next match. If I lose, Whisper and yourself will be our last hope.”

Jacky walks towards the front stage, stops, tosses his coat behind him, then leaps into the arena. The audience grows silent.

“Hahaha! If you have a death wish go ahead and try to fight a horror with that frail human body of yours!” The last member of the opposing team says, taking his position on the front stage.

The washed-up-looking opponent begins to slap his hands rhythmically on the stage floor. Suddenly out of thin air, a horror lands in the center of the arena. A massive animal takes a battle stance. Three long viper heads make up the upper half of the horror, while the rest of its figure comprises a lion's body and the tail of a scorpion. An info card appears for the horror but nothing for Jacky; his side is blank.

“What is your horror then? Come on, show us already! According to the blank info card, you’ve never fought before.” Says Jacky’s opponent.

“I haven’t needed to fight yet. The twins clean up very well. They just met their match today. My horror has warned me about this day to come. He’s here alright but not like how you would expect. I am the horror!”

Jacky’s clothes rip from his body. He begins a transformation growing taller, expanding larger than the opposing horror. Standing fourteen feet high, Jacky’s body appears ripped and lean, hairless. His head changed from human to that of a saber tooth tiger. Claws sprout from his still human-like hands. His sabers shimmer from the stage lights. The bright white canines curl into a sharp point. His eyes were painted entirely black, with tiny yellow-like dots taking the place of his pupils. Jacky’s horror cracks his neck and ambles towards the abomination.

“You all know where horrors come from. You wonder in the chambers of oblivion wasting away until a horror latches onto you.” Jacky's voice has deepened into a smooth growl. “What many do not know is where these horrors truly originate. Your Warpath is an elevator going up, while our oblivion is a flight of stairs spiraling down and down and down. The lower you go, the more powerful the horror and the higher their potential for evolution when partnered with a human. I’m using Jacky as a vessel in this form. I am the horror known as the Sabered Prince. Once ruling over the Icelands of deep Oblivion, I now am conjoined with this human until the day he dies.”

The Sabered Prince lets out a roar.

“Now, let us commence this battle. I haven't soaked my hands red with blood for some time now, and my predator instincts are viciously intoxicating!”

The legs and feet of the Sabered Prince are designed for short bursts of speed. Though appearing still human-like anatomically, the shins of the horror are slightly curved and muscly. The Sabered Prince dashes left, right, then left again, avoiding the viper heads as they strike with failed precision. The Prince kicks the side of the horror’s body, sending it sliding across the arena floor.

“You may be a Prince, but this here is my king! My king of Chrimereia! King Viperick!” Spitting as he yells. The disgusting man slams his fist on the stage floor.

 

“Foolish Chimera! I will slay you!” The Sabered Prince rushes at Viperick.

 

The Prince grabs a viper head as it lunges for a fatal bite to the neck. He throws the entire horror down to the ground and plants his foot down onto the other two viper heads. The Prince pulls hard and rips the head from the body. The scorpion tail strikes but hits the head of the now decapitated viper skull as the Prince uses it to shield himself. Viperick’s other two heads hiss in pain, with its body flailing on the ground.

“Complete domination is nothing short of satisfying young horror.” The Sabered Prince growls.

The Prince dashes back, avoiding another strike from the horrors tail. Viperick brings itself up off the arena floor, having recovered from the death of one of its three heads. The Sabered Prince sprints in for another assault. The scorpion tail misses another strike aimed at the Prince’s heart. He grabs the tail, rips off the stinger, and crushes it in his hand. Viperick hisses in agony and rushes at the Prince. The Sabered Prince doesn’t even move. Standing his ground, he throws a backhand at the two viper heads, catching them both. The force of the strike sends the horror off track and tumbling to the side of the Prince. The Prince slowly turns his gaze towards the horror.

“You need more discipline. So rash and impatient. You call yourself a king?” The Prince taunts the horror.

The Sabered Prince turns and walks to the discombobulated Viperick. He grabs both necks of the viper heads and begins to backhand them over and over again.

“When ferocity meets barbarism, you don’t get a king; you get a scared, wild animal. When ferocity meets discipline, that is when you get real royalty. That is I, and I will generously hand you some discipline.”

The fangs from both heads splinter and break off, flying all around the bloodied floor of the arena. The Prince continues to hit harder and harder until the viper heads become limp and motionless. He drops the heads to the ground and stomps on them both; snake brains paint his foot. The man on stage wilts and decays rapidly into black dust and smoke as expected next. Jacky begins the transformation back to his usual self and leaves the arena floor. The announcer arrives back on the scene to announce the contest's winners. Both Jacky and the twins’ faces appear on the viewscreen.

“What a wonderful show! Marvelous!” The announcer yells.

Jacky and the twins step into a dilapidated locker room, where Jacky dawns a new outfit and his coat. The twins stared at him concerningly.

“Are you okay? That looked painful out there. I knew you told us your horror would be more like a possession, but I wasn’t expecting that!” Said, Lulu.

“Me neither! I wonder how that can be. I’ve never really heard of a horror that takes over the body of its master before.” Said Lala.

“I’m fine.” Jacky opens a water bottle and splashes water onto his face. “It can be exhausting, but the rush I felt was also amazing. I never felt so powerful. We will make it to the top girls. We’re in this till the end.”

The locker room door opens. A woman dressed in a worn suit and skirt enters the locker room. She looks up and down at Jacky and the girls and nods approvingly. She extends her hand out to Jacky. Jacky doesn’t acknowledge the gesture. The lady puts her hand down at her side and takes in a deep breath.

“Hi, I'm Claire. I’ll be your supervising manager from now on as you make your way up the Warpath. Things get a little different once you begin your journey. I will do my best to ensure you understand everything and are fully prepared for the exciting adventure set out before you. If you would follow me, I’ll be taking you to the first floor right away, and I’ll explain everything once we get to our office.”

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