PREVIOUSLY: As it turns out, the Physical Challenge is a face-off between the teams! Who will come out swinging? Find out now.
Banality Man: What’s this? Who are you? You don’t look like a princess… or a dragon for that matter.
[Banality Man raises his fists.]
Banality Man: Tell me, stranger, are you a defender of justice or an agent of the evil bureaucracy?
Cecil: Um…! I’m a defender of justice! I guess; I don’t like evil, so, um, I wouldn’t be an agent for it.
[Cecil gets the prickling feeling that he should raise his fists, too. He puts his guard up.]
Cecil: …A-and you, sir?
Banality Man: I am a defender of justice! Obviously!
[Banality Man lowers his fists.]
Banality Man: Hmm… If I’m not evil and you’re not evil, then that must mean that the “dragon” in that riddle is… the door! It seems to me like the best way to unlock the door is to punch it. I will slay you, you evil dragon door!
[Banality Man begins punching the door furiously.]
[Princess Charming stormed into the room. Sensing movement from ahead of her, she clasped the handle of the chain whip with her free hand and swung back her arms in the direction of her opposite shoulder. But the strength in her arms vanished as she looked around and realized the dragon was nowhere to be found. Her arms folded down awkwardly, unsure where they were meant to go.
Barring the landscape of the room itself, all Princess Charming could see was the back of a long-haired being — a human? — dressed in an attire that screamed excess wealth. Her eyes widened in realization. Could the person in front of her be the princess? She nodded to herself, growing more and more certain with each passing second. But if so, were there really no dragons, no guards? Not even traps? Really, why had the judges prepared weapons for them, then? Perhaps ironically, the quest’s everlasting peace was yet again what unnerved her the most. She clenched her teeth and clutched her whip once more, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.]
Princess Charming: Princess of the tower! I am Princess Charming of a land far, far away, and I have come to rescue you.
[Hearing someone else walk up the stairs, he tensed up ever so slightly — even though the footsteps were far too light to be that of a dragon’s. He turned around at the sound of their voice, trying his best to wear a nonthreatening expression on his face, though his hands remained firmly on his weapon.]
Prince Shun: “Princess of the tower”? I am afraid you may be mistaken… I may be royalty, but I am no princess.
[He surveyed the individual before him, recognizing her as one of the other participants in this ridiculous “game show” — whatever that was — that Zheng had dragged him along to. He quickly glanced at the weapon she held in her hand. It was certainly an unconventional choice, but perhaps she had other things hidden up her sleeve. Raising his gaze to meet her eyes, he offered her a small smile.]
Prince Shun: Ah, you are a contestant from one of the other teams, are you not? It is a pleasure to formally make your acquaintance. I am Prince Shun, of Nantu. Considering that I have no idea what land we are in at the moment, I suppose that also qualifies as a land far, far, away.
[Princess Charming’s eyes widened as the person before her turned and spoke. Yes, he certainly looked familiar now that she knew whom he was. Her eyes had only landed on him briefly during the game show, and even that had been from a fair distance. Her gait relaxed, but she did not let go of her weapon, noticing that the man before her hadn’t, either. This event had grown even more ridiculous, and Princess Charming hadn’t thought such a thing even possible.]
Princess Charming: Oh, Prince Shun. I sincerely apologize for my failure to recognize you. I am charmed to find you here — we must be on the same team. The dragon must be quite a fearsome creature indeed if the judges thought two of us would be necessary to handle him.
[Although she returned the prince’s smile with her own, disappointment tinged her voice. She had felt eager to tame the dragon and make him her pet, but that was nigh impossible now. Certainly, her wish was… unconventional, to say the least, and it only made sense her new partner would want to swiftly kill the dragon rather than befriend him. She exhaled, deciding it didn’t matter. The dragon was only an illusion, in any case, and it wasn’t like she could take him back home. As Princess Charming continued to mope, she was struck by a realization.]
Princess Charming: Oh, you defeated all the foes, didn’t you? I was wondering why the tower had been left so unguarded.
[He furrowed his brow in confusion.]
Prince Shun: Foes? I encountered no one on the way up. It was a little unsettling, to tell the truth. There has been too little in this challenge thus far.
[He had briefly contemplated lying and saying that he did, but he saw little benefit in doing so, save for perhaps leaving a more intimidating impression on the princess. It wasn’t as though he needed to fight her, so it was largely useless — especially when the truth would be easily revealed, considering there were no bodies cluttering the tower. Waving the untold lie away in his mind, he considered her suggestion that they were to work together.]
Prince Shun: Yes, I would agree with your assumption that we are to fight this dragon as a team. It is the most logical conclusion, unless… Hm, I wonder if this would mean that we would be scored against the other contestants? …But there were an uneven number of teams. I suppose one of them could be on their own against a weaker dragon, and the other two in a team. Or perhaps the three of them will be facing an even more powerful dragon?
[He trailed off, thinking out loud to himself. Through his rambling, however, he did notice the disappearance of her smile as she spoke of the dragon, taking it as a sign of reluctance to face the dragon. Whether it was due to fear or something else, however, he was uncertain.]
Prince Shun: If it is not too much to ask, might you tell me a little of what dragons are like in your world? I realise neither of us are all too familiar with this world, but I think it would be best if we could put together what we both know of dragons, to better formulate a battle plan.
[Princess Charming bit her lower lip at his words in confusion, then disappointment. She sighed before managing an eager grin towards the prince. Well, if the dragon’s defeat was inevitable, she might as well enjoy the fight itself… and ensure that their victory be unparallelled in its swiftness and glory.
She tapped her right foot while she pondered about the dragons in her homeland. She’d certainly heard more than enough stories about dragons to spend the next week talking about them nonstop, but the one dragon she’d met in person was so different from the prototype that she couldn’t help but doubt the accuracy of some of the tales. She considered recounting all the stories she’d ever heard and witnessed to be safe, but she soon shook her head, reminding herself that she had to be quick in telling her story. Their foe was waiting for them, after all. She continued to think, cherry-picking the details from the tales that seemed the most accurate and relevant.]
Princess Charming: The dragons in my world can puff balls of flame, although it’s likely that most aren’t very good at it. They’re certainly very big, although their size varies wildly based on their age. They have sharp claws and incredible force on their side. Their skin is smooth and often a bit sheer, but it’s surprisingly hard to puncture. Many of them do have a heart of gold, although it may not seem like it at first. They’re also very… excitable. We might be able to use that against them. Well, what about you? What are the dragons in your home like?
[He listened to her description of her home world’s dragons intently, mulling the new information over carefully. As he had speculated, it didn’t seem as though dragons were regarded as highly in her home world as they were in his own — though she seemed to be quite fond of them personally. Perhaps it would be no different to slaying a regular run-of-the-mill beast in this world, then.]
Prince Shun: I see. Thank you for enlightening me. As for the dragons in my home world…
[He paused, wondering whether it wise to divulge this information. It wasn’t the best plan to admit to her that he had never slayed a dragon before, but… He quickly weighed the pros and cons of lying. If he just vaguely said they were the same in Nantu, he’d be left quite unprepared in the fight, and easily caught out in a lie. The only real drawback to admitting the truth would be that it would be like admitting weakness, or unfamiliarity. If her assumption that they were to work as a team was true, then there was really no drawback at all — it wasn’t as though she could just drop him from the team. Truth it was.]
Prince Shun: Their appearance is, simply put, like a large, clawed snake. They have no wings, but they are able to fly. Physical attributes aside, I would say that they are akin to gods — creatures of great power that mere mortals usually do not get the chance to encounter. Dragons are often used to represent royalty, as when they do deign to speak to humans, it is usually to a worthy ruler.
Prince Shun: I am afraid my information is largely useless in this world, however. As unconventional as our hosts are, I do not expect that they will be asking us to fight a god. Perhaps the dragon we are to face will be more similar to the ones you know?
[Belatedly noticing the red door, Princess Charming made a gesture towards it with her fingers.]
Princess Charming: Is the dragon behind that door? Have you checked? I wonder if we’re allowed to take a peak to gauge what it’s like before we face it head-on.
Prince Shun: I do not think that is the case. It seems as though this door will only open in the event that the dragon is defeated. …Could the dragon be elsewhere? Back in the forest, perhaps?
Princess Charming: The forest? Why, I suppose that’s possible… I wonder if the judges waited until we met to release the dragon.
[She frowned the think, then shrugged.]
Princess Charming: Going back to the forest feels somewhat counterintuitive, though. Why didn’t they simplify things by giving us weapons and grouping us up before we trekked through the forest? That’s all we’ve done, and I hate to think walking is what the audience came here to see.
Prince Shun: Ah, you must be right. I had forgotten about the audience.
[He frowned at the thought of this peculiar “game show” and the need to please an audience. It was certainly an ostentatious means of entertainment, but considering some of the weaponry available in the armoury, perhaps this world’s technology was so advanced that they required more from their entertainment. They must have too little menial tasks to busy themselves with, he supposed — something Zheng often accused him of.
It became all too clear to him what this audience might consider entertaining now, and just exactly what the “dragon” was meant to be. Not wasting a second, he swung his polearm at Charming, trying to catch her off guard. He hoped to use the weight of the weapon and the momentum of the swing to compensate for his lack in raw strength as he aimed to cleave right through her. It was not the cleanest way to fight, certainly, but he had to play to his strengths — or weaknesses, rather.]
[Princess Charming’s breath caught in her throat as she managed a sloppy hop backwards and leaned back at her hip, barely evading the swing. Her dress tore slightly at the front; she was too unnerved to care. She pivoted and darted to the left, never letting her eyes leave the prince, forcing as much room as possible between them. Her eyes darting, she reached for her whip again and stretched it out, never once stopping her feet in a helter-skelter attempt to gain as much distance as possible with each passing second.]
Princess Charming: Whoa there, Prince Shun! What in the world —
[The realization struck her all at once. He thought she was the dragon, and to him, perhaps she was. In a twisted sense, it made sense that the judges wanted them to fight each other. While Princess Charming was unsure whether their guesses were true, she had only one option, no choice. If she wanted peace and time to find proof, there was none to be had. Words wouldn’t placate the prince; defeating him would.
Caught up in her thoughts, she stumbled on her last step and nose-dived. Her eyes widening, she smacked the ground with the palm of her hand, barely keeping herself up. Pain shot up into her shoulder. She winced and grunted, but she quickly jumped back into standing position and scampered back some more. She had no time to waste.]
Princess Charming: How rude. You could have warned me.
[Her voice came out spirited but ragged, and she gasped for air as she spoke.]
Prince Shun: …
[He didn’t want to waste time talking in battle. There were no more formalities to be exchanged, anyway, and he had little else to say.]
Paige: If you don’t mind me asking, what weapons would each of you be using? And…
[She glances up at the sharp blade of the scythe in her hands and then back to her potential opponents.]
Paige: What kind of fight are we talking about here? What does uh… ‘defeat’ entail?
[Bo-Peep slices her hand across the front of her neck before devolving into laughter. Paige’s eyes widen a bit, unsure if she’d be able to muster the will to kill either of them.]
Viktor: She isn’t being serious – or so I hope. I’m very fond my head, so I would prefer to keep it, if you wouldn’t mind. Naturally, I will show you the same consideration. Treat it as a mock fight. When you have rendered your foe unconscious or trapped them in a position where they normally would have died, victory is yours.
[Bo-Peep nods a few times in hearty agreement.]
Paige: Ok, I think I can handle that.
Bo-Peep: Just don’t touch my face, you hear? I’ll be really mad if you do.
Viktor: You could also try to negotiate a surrender, if you’re confident in the skill of your tongue. But if you choose me, this is what I’ll be using.
[He draws back the folds of his cloak, revealing the hilt of a sword sheathed at his side.]
Viktor: Truth be told, I’m not typically a swordsman, but I’ve been told that you have no experience on a battlefield? This should suffice as a handicap.
Paige: No, no experience here outside some self defense training, and I don’t think this is what they were preparing me for in those classes.
[As Viktor chuckles, Paige scratches her cheek, a bit embarrassed to tell them that her only experience in sword fighting involved video games.]
Bo-Peep: As for me, that’s a secret.
Viktor: Come now, take it easy on her.
Bo-Peep: It’s not like I’ve ever been on the battlefield either. Besides, who doesn’t like surprises?
Paige: Heh, well, as curious as I am to find out what weapon an eccentric woman like yourself would use, Bo-Peep, I think I’m going to go with the more familiar option. Viktor, I’d like to face you, if that’s ok.
Viktor: Of course, Miss Paige. It would be my absolute pleasure.
[With the way his eyes light up, it’s clear that his words are more than mere pleasantries.
Paige steps forward and turns the scythe so the blade is facing away from her opponent. She does her best to summon the determination to fight without holding back.]
Paige: Could you just confirm it with me one more time? If I lose, I can’t go through that door, and I won’t be able to get to Blake, right?
Viktor: Yes, that’s correct.
[She instantly became more focused, her fingers tightening around the staff of her weapon in anticipation.]
Paige: Good, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear.
Viktor: Of course –
Bo-Peep: Nuh-uh-uh, Viktor. You can’t tell her more than that!
Viktor: It seems I’ve been silenced. Very well. I shall simply tell you after our battle – contingent upon whether you’ve won or lost. However, I admit I have very high hopes for you.
[As Bo-Peep moves to stand on the sidelines, Viktor reaches into his cloak for a black strip of silk.]
Viktor: Just one moment if you will, Miss Paige.
Paige: Uh, sure.
[He raises the cloth and laces it around his eyes, his fingers moving to tie a knot at the back of his head.]
Viktor: I promised I wouldn’t use any of my special talents, unique to myself, and so, I will not. This is the only convenient way I can think to prevent it during our encounter. I’m not much accustomed to battle without sight, but that will be my second handicap.
Bo-Peep: That’s too bad. You’re missing out on Paige making a really sexy pose right now.
[At her words, Viktor’s hands falter and heat floods his face.]
Viktor: What? She – why – eh?!
Bo-Peep: Ehehe, I’m joking! Psyche. You’re so easy to tease. Take note, Paige.
[She leans forward and speaks in a stage whisper.]
Bo-Peep: That could be his weakness!
[Paige smirks at the thought. She was certainly used to easily flustered males after playing with Colt.]
Paige: Duly noted.
[Viktor gives a cough.]
Viktor: As I was saying, we should be much more on par like this. I hope you will take no offense with these measures, Miss Paige, given our backgrounds.
Paige: Well, it honestly doesn’t seem very fair to you, but it’s your choice.
Bo-Peep: Careful, Paige. He’s a Hulder, after all.
Ooh, the versus battles have begun! Get excited for them.