Kokoro sits in the waiting room, her cheetah angel in her lap. She watches the large flatscreen monitors of the fights going on as she waits for her turn to come up again. Katashi and she had lost two hard battles so far, but that wasn't going to stop them from giving it their all in this up coming match. Her attention was fixed on the screen, not really paying attention to her opponents in the waiting room, only on the layer; not rudely ignoring, just following her Ojiisan's advice and studying the way her opponents fight.

Nazo, ironically, happens to be sitting right next to Kokoro. Growing weary of just sitting (she didn't know if her opponent was here or not; she forgot to check the roster), she decides to strike up a conversation with whoever happened to be next to her. "They're pretty good, aren't they?" she asks, looking up at the monitor. She hadn't had much interest for matches other than her own, but she paid attention to the ones that people she vaguely knew were in. At least enough to know there was a high level of competition around, so not doing research was probably a bad idea... But Nazo's Nazo, and she likes letting things just come as they will. Fate liked messing up whatever plans she made, anyway.

Kokoro smiles a bit and nods. "Yes they are, the opponents have been tough, but this is my first time at the games so I expect it to be," she says softly. She turns and bows a little. "I am Fukauchi Kokoro," she says warmly. "And this is my angel Katashikun." The girl holds up her cheetah morph in his home made and historically accurate hakama.

"Tsukikage Nazo," she introduces. "My Angel's name is Mukuro," she continues, shifting so Kokoro could see the Angel cradled in her arms. "Your Angel is very interesting. Haven't seen one like that before. Do you like cheetahs?" she asks, simply trying to keep conversation going for a change. There was a somewhat creepy guy who'd been staring at her, anyway, and it was starting to make her feel uncomfortable.

Kokoro laughs a little and nods. "Well, my Ojiisan liked them... and he taught me everything I know about being a warrior," she says with a warm smile. "So I made Katashikun in his image... kind of, I mean, if he were a cheetah... and from old pictures of him when he was young and just starting the dojo."

Nodding a little, Nazo shifts her eyes (if you could tell; her bangs are in the way again) to the monitor. "Well, would you look at that. I have the weirdest luck..." she mutters, not quite talking to Kokoro. The board read the list of upcoming matches, and right at the top was Tsukikage Nazo vs. Fukauchi Kokoro.

Kokoro laughs a little. "So we have," she says, looking at the board. "It looks like we're next, too," she says with a smile. "We wish you the best of luck, but Katashi and I are still going to try our hardest to beat you," she says, standing up since it looked like the time was about to come due; the angels on the screen were very close to a decision being final between them.

Standing up herself, Nazo admits, "And Mukuro and I will try our hardest to defeat you. Best of luck." Just as she finished saying that, the lady to escort them to the arena arrived, asking them to follow her. Nazo subconsciously obliged, and simply nodded when she was told to take the right turn.

Kokoro pads after Nazo, Katashi held to her chest, looking a bit nervous as she walks along the hallway following the lady. She goes quiet though; she's offered her best wishes to the opponent and now it's getting close to when they will be rivals, and not just two girls who are watching someone else’s match.

Nodding to Kokoro before she takes her turn, Nazo walks slowly down the hall, trying to make the trip to the door as long as possible. The longer the trip, the less time she had to spend out in front of that crowd she had nightmares of. By now people watching probably thought holding Mukuro in her left arm was symbolic, but really it was just so she could shove her right hand into her pocket and clutch its contents, warding off the anxiety to some degree. No one ever asked her about it, because no one realized what she was doing. She was quite good at acting, after all, it seems.

Kokoro pads along, slowly but surely as they approach the arena floor that same calm comes over her, the calm a warrior must have before battle. She holds Katashi close to her chest, but the closer they get to the match floor the looser she holds him until she's carrying him in her hands ready for the fall in.

On the wall monitor,
Another intermission between matches was about to come to an end. It was long enough to give people time to do whatever they needed to between the matches, and hopefully short enough to make sure no one got too bored. It was a necessary evil though, as people needed to do things like use the restroom and whatnot; it couldn't be helped.

The arena was currently dim, allowing a good view of the overhead screens which were playing highlights of the matches that had gone on so far. There was also some nice relaxing music pumping through the PA system of the arena as well. Soon, though, the darkness is cut by the blinding lights above, and the music cuts to something more dramatic. After a moment or two, the lights shift to aim at the now familiar announcer, in his purple suit with giant red bow tie and awesome indoor sunglasses.

It was time to call out for the next match, so the Announcer begins by lifting his microphone to his mouth. "Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please! Are you all ready for another ANGELIC FAIT-O?!" The crowd roars their approval in a deafening manner, giving the announcer good reason to grin. It seemed the people were ready for some more entertainment.

"Then without further ado, I bring you the next match in the third round! In the West corner, the deus is Fukauchi Kokoro with her angel, Katashi! They've had a run of bad luck so far, but let’s see if they can turn it around!" He lets the crowd give their cheers, pausing briefly before moving on. "And in the East corner, the deus is Tsukikage Nazo with her angel, Mukuro! We'll see how well they do, too! Come on out and take your places!" With the beckon call given, he slumps down into his seat for a quick breather, since all the attention was now turned towards the tunnel exit onto the arena floor.

Taking a deep breath, Nazo pushes open the door, allowing the deafening roar of the crowd to hit her full force. "It was the roar of the crowd that gave me heartache to sing..." Nazo sings softly; people, at most, probably only noticed her mouth moving. Probably not even that. The lyric helped calm her down, though, and she was able to put on that apathetic face she'd become known for. Her scorecard was 2 losses so far, but it was hard to tell exactly how this match would go. Nazo would worry about that when she saw the layer scenery, though, whatever that happened to be. Managing the walk to the deus's chair without incident, she sits, and eats a few sugar disks while getting herself comfortable.

Kokoro makes her way slowly along the arena floor, not looking up at the crowd, but instead to her eggshell. Katashi held partly in front of her she moves like a martial artist on her way to the tatami for a bout. When the girl reaches her eggshell the ritual that people are surely becoming use to seeing starts, Katashi pulled to her chest Kokoro bows first to the layer, then to her opponent and lastly to the announcer. Having fulfilled the requirements of honoring the battleground, her opponent and the one overseeing the duel, she climbs into the chair, settling the cheetah in her lap and the visor on her head.

After the deuses settle into the assigned seats, a click is heard beneath them and with a little whirring sound a smooth motion carries the chairs up high above the layer. The tournament seating was always good for a nice broad view of the layer, which was good because the tournament layer was much larger than the ones in the Piffle Princess!

The Announcer takes to his feet once more, arms crossed over his chest as he peers down to the layer below. He offers an approving nod and then brings the microphone up to his mouth once more. "The deuses are now in place, how about we set the stage so the angels can, too! Where will this battle take place, I wonder?" His arm flicks out in a flourish before pointing down at the layer below.

The glowy white layer flickers away and a vast array of different sceneries begin passing one by one, almost too swift to see. First a giant hamster wheel can be seen, a pirate ship on the open seas, then the tall thick trees of a jungle, and finally it settles. The skies are clear and the layer seems to be dominated by a sea of sand and nothing else. While it may seem harmless enough now, once the clock starts the angels will find that it will be rather difficult to move around!

"A desert battle on a sea of sand! Is it that simple? Hm, you never know what sort of surprises one could find once the clock starts running, though," the announcer calls out, grinning wide. "And now, ENTRY ANGELS!"

Kokoro holds Katashi out. "Gi! Yu! Jin! Rei! Makoto! Meiyo! Chugi!" she chants out the virtues of Bushido as she throws Katashi onto the layer. The angel’s golden eyes snap open, the layer edge rippling and picking up the silver and tawny highlights of his fur. The cheetah tucks, his shoulder hitting ground first and kicking up a bit of sand before he rolls to his feet to drop into a somewhat loose stance. The footing is firm enough now, but once that bell sounds this will become... interesting.

Nazo thinks, 'You have /got/ to be kidding me,' her eyebrow twitching slightly in annoyance. The deus knew the look of quicksand when she saw it. Focusing on /not/ focusing on how high she was, she tried (in vain) to remember how heavy Mukuro was. Too heavy was the answer. "Ah well," she sighs, "Show them what you can do anyway, Mukuro!" she shouts not nearly loud enough as she throws her Angel down towards the layer. No fancy maneuvers before the layer this time; Nazo was too annoyed with the scenery. Why couldn't they have that nice pillow she'd seen someone fighting on? Sure, you sank down on it, and it was hard to move, but at least you didn't run the risk of getting sucked under the surface. Nazo could tell, this battle was already going to be a pain. Even though her opponent’s angel was supposedly a cheetah, she had a feeling that didn't necessarily mean it was a speed type. Well, only time on the layer would tell.

After the angels are settled on the arena and everything seems to be ready, the Announcer grins a bit and throws both his hands out to either side as the crowd cheers. He then brings the microphone up to his mouth once more, "It's finally time to begin this battle, so ANGELI~C FAIT~O~!" That was the cue and the timer begins to tick away. It is only now that the layer reveals its true nature; the sands begin shifting and churning and the angels find their feet slowly sinking into it. It appears that this fight would be taking place on quicksand, best to not be caught in it for too long.

Though she knew about the quicksand, Nazo was powerless to stop it from catching Mukuro as soon as the match started. Getting her feet free as soon as possible, Mukuro quickly (as she can on quicksand) runs up to the cheetah-like Angel and swings, aiming a punch straight for his face. No messing around this time around; no throwing frozen stalks of rye, no hiding behind trees, just straight fight. There were no means of a longrange attack, so shortrange it had to be.

His first time on this layer, the speed the sand let him sink at took him by surprise, his hand coming up to block the attack from the other angel, the damage minimal he simply skips back, well he would skip, slog is a better term in this mire. The cheetah's lips curl back in a smile that shows plenty of teeth. He stands there watching how the other angel handles the sinking sands.

Standing there wasn't a good idea. It really wasn't. It gave the deus-Angel pair ideas. Jumping up as high as possible (which wasn't quite as high as she could normally go, but it was still well over the cheetah's head), the angel flips, attempts to land one foot on one of Katashi's shoulders and kick him in the back of the head with the other, then intends to flip back onto the grou... er, quicksand... behind him. That all depends on how Katashi handles the attack, of course. Nazo seems to be trying her best to try out new strategies; possibly because she thinks the audience would get bored if she just did the same old things. Who knows?

The cheetah simply bends his knees a bit; he may as well use the terrain, what little there is, to his advantage. Between the sinking sands and the partial crouch, he reduces the impact of the foot on his shoulder, though the kick to the back of the head gets his attention. He grabs for the smaller angel’s ankle in search of a good grip, with every intention of simply slamming the lighter fighter to the 'ground' by her foot.

Twisting out of the way of his reach, Mukuro lands gracefully on the ground, crouched low with one hand on the ground. That was the first real attempt at an attack the cheetah Angel had made. Pausing to watch the Angel, Mukuro continues to shift her weight between the three limbs propping her up so that she wouldn't sink too far down into the layer, like the other Angel seemed to be doing. Curious thing, letting himself be sucked in like that. Perhaps he simply hadn't noticed how far he'd sunk? Mukuro looks ready to spring up at him at any moment, but doesn't move to strike quite yet.

Katashi smiles at the other angel; certainly he's noticed how deep he's gone, but then he's heavy and has been expecting it. There is, however, in any mired situation a good side, his strength gives him the ability to power through some of the muck while the lighter angel has to keep trying to dance across the surface. The cheetah, never the fastest of angels lifts one foot, braces his knee out wide to take more weight, then lifts the other foot and in a flash dives forward, tucking his shoulder to roll across the sticky surface and at the end of the roll, straitens one leg to bring his heel crashing down upon the hopefully unaware Mukuro.

It was close; it almost caught her off guard. But Mukuro was already in a stance that allowed her to jump away at will in one of three directions. Bursting in the direction that allows her to narrowly pass Katashi, Mukuro stops right behind him and swirls, aiming a kick first at his upper back, then bringing her other leg around with an attempted kick to the side. The move was a small variation of the move Mukuro liked to use when she thought the odds were against her and heavy damage needed to be dealt. It didn't always work, though, but hopefully the cheetah was too busy with his own plots to have anticipated hers.

As the cheetah rolls to his feet, he turns and lifting his arm takes the kick directly in the ribs, though he doesn't seem moved by it. His arm closes down over the smaller angel’s ankle and up goes his own leg to wrap around Mukuro's. Well this is the plan anyway, following the flow of the wrap-up he'll drop to the wet, sandy layer and apply a torquing pressure on the faster angel's knee.

Mukuro had no idea of the attack, but Nazo knew it was coming. That attack never seemed to go off without a hitch, so she'd learned to be wary when she used it. The Angel did manage to grab the red-orange-haired Angel's ankle - quite hard, mind you - but before he could force unwelcome pressure on her knee she managed to slip out of his grasp. It took some effort (she probably messed up her ankle a bit; it didn't function quite as it should once she was free), and certainly knocked her off balance. There wasn't enough time to recover enough for an attack, so she settled on defense for now. This Angel was obviously not to be taken lightly, especially when dodging was no longer an option.

Katashi smiles, at least part of the reason for a good grapple is that unless the other fighter knows how to take it to the ground, it leaves time for a setup. His weight too much to allow him to move quickly without preparation in this morass, he settles in for the long haul. The cheetah watches the other angel slip away and takes advantage of the time to keep the quicksand from taking too much of his legs; he rolls forward and when his feet touch sand he dives forward attempting to wrestle the smaller angel to the sand. This drag out kind of fight where no one is very free to move is just his cup of tea.

Mukuro was prepared for the attack, but underestimated the cheetah's strength. She prevented most of the damage by bracing herself and protecting her face with her arms, but she still slipped backwards, one of her feet caught in the sand. This is a /bad/ position for the Angel to be in, and Nazo knows it. Bringing her knee of the leg not caught in the sand up, Mukuro tries to kick Katashi in the stomach, preferably getting him off of her so she can move somewhat freely again. She needs to move before the sand drags her under; then there would be no hope.

The cheetah takes the kick to the stomach with almost no reaction, his hands going again for the smaller angel’s ankle. He falls backwards trying to hang onto the wiry Mukuro’s foot so that he can lift his own leg and bring his foot smashing down onto her exposed midsection. This kind of ground fight has been what Katashi has been looking for since Kokoro first set him onto the layer, and now he finally has it with someone who isn't three times his size or made of stone.

She tried to move, but with her foot still stuck in the sand and the rest of her body starting to join it, she couldn't dodge the attack to save her life, literally. The sand below her took down some of the force of the impact, but it still did a lot of damage. Nazo looked away just before the Angel was hit; it reminded her all too much of her match with Rin. She couldn't cry; not in front of all these people. She had to do her best to seem like she was all right with the outcome of the match, even if she wasn't. That's just being polite to the other player. She shouldn't make people feel bad because they won; it wasn't sportsmanlike. She shakily ate a few more sugar disks, trying to keep her composure together.

On the layer, Mukuro was having trouble moving anymore. Every time she tried to get up, the sand pulled her back in. She'd managed to sit up, but that foot just kept sinking lower, and the other was starting to join it. This was going to be very, very bad...

Katashi, noting the troubles the lighter angel was having, takes advantage of it; he tries to roll atop the other angel and do what is probably the single least elegant thing judo teaches, a simple punch to the face of a downed opponent.

Kokoro couldn't believe her luck, the layer played to all of Katashi's strengths while hampering the one thing that seemed to get him in more trouble with light angels, speed. She flinched a little when Katashi went in for the kill with brutal efficiency, though she really didn't expect anything else from the cheetah. Defeating an opponent is not dishonorable, however she was learning that perhaps it could feel as bad to win as it did to loose when things turned out to be so heavily stacked in your favor.

Mukuro was growing weary from her fight with the sand, so her reaction time wasn't what it used to (or should) be. She managed to turn her head and bring her arm up to somewhat deflect the punch, but it did massive damage nonetheless. Knowing the end was near, Mukuro focused all her remaining power and energy into one final attack, bringing her right fist up to connect with Katashi's face; a return gift, it seemed. Nazo no longer had a say in the match; she looked anywhere but where the match was taking place. She had to hold it together at least long enough to get out of the arena... It wouldn't be long now before it was all over.

Katashi rocks back to let the punch graze along the bottom of his muzzle, his hands reaching out to take the other angels arm and give it a sharp twist at the shoulder, certainly the smaller angel will submit soon to this kind of assault.

Kokoro doesn't want to watch much either; when the layer puts you so far ahead at the beginning it isn't a sweet victory, but a bitter one where you wish that it would just end so that you could talk the match over. Parfait or maybe a sundae was in order, the girl was likeable and she didn't want a victory handed to her by the layer. Perhaps the girl would like a rematch later, on an equal footing to really test the angel’s abilities.

Twist it did, and a small, sharp crack was heard before the Angel's body fell limp. Nazo didn't have to look to know it was all over. The announcer would soon reveal to the part of the audience that wasn't taking frequent peeks at the overhead monitors that Mukuro had, once again, been defeated, and Nazo along with her. Clutching her right pocket's contents and finishing off the pack of sugar disks she was eating, she did her best not to cry or show sadness of any sort. She plastered a Drama smile to her face as the chair came down, half because of the match, half because she was terrified of the mechanics holding the chair up breaking and her hurtling towards the ground. As soon as it hit sweet old solid ground again, she would be free to take Mukuro and head home, or wherever she was going to go, where she could cry in peace. She just hoped Fukauchi-san didn't desperately want to talk to her (which she probably did, but that was a bridge to cross when she got to it).

After the last blow is landed, the buzzer sounds to indicate the end of the match. This of course gets the Announcer's attention; as a result he rises to his feet and calls out, "Katashi, WIN!" The peasants rejoice in the wondrous victory and the end of Kokoro's losing streak! Huzzah!

Kokoro sighs as she slides her visor off, Katashi going limp on the layer. She plucks him from the fighting surface as soon as she is close enough. She resists the urge to clutch him to her chest, though it is quite strong she has things that simply must be done, after a win even more so than a loss. She stops once she has Katashi, bowing first to the announcer, then to Nazo and lastly to the layer. Her hand gently slides under Mukuro and she walks over, bowing to Nazo again. She holds the small figure out, her own Katashi close to her chest. She doesn't speak, but her eyes say worlds about loses and victory. She knows that it hurts to see your angel injured, and she just hopes that Nazo's isn't hurt too badly.

"Thank you," she says softly and without a hint of sobbing in her voice, taking her Angel from her ex-opponent gently. "You played a good match. You're very talented," she congratulates, not saying anything more before she turns to leave. She's not sure how much conversation with the girl she could have without revealing her sadness; if she had actually looked into Kokoro's eyes, she'd be sobbing now. Of course, since Kokoro can't actually /see/ Nazo's eyes through her bangs (not that most people could. Rin was probably one of the only ones), the shorter girl probably has no idea. Best to keep it that way, then. It was unsportsmanlike to throw a fit from a loss, and Nazo wasn't about to throw one for multiple reasons, including embarrassing herself. No one wanted to see a sore loser in a tournament, and she wasn't going to give them one.

Kokoro waits until they've left the arena floor to speak. "Tsukikage-san," her voice is soft and not what you'd expect from someone who's won. "I know what it is to loose when the layer is against you... Katashi-kun and I... we... we would like a rematch... and maybe some ice cream," she says softly. "I hope that Mukuro-kun is okay... The machine does a very good job repairing angels... We're sorry if she's been hurt." She sounds sincere about that, and everything else. "I've seen you at school, we're in the same grade," she says. "I, hope that you aren't mad at us."

She doesn't turn around when she says, "I'm not mad at you. It's true, the layer was against me, but there's always a way to overcome what's thrown at you. It's a game; there's a way to win. I just didn't figure it out last match. I appreciate your offers, both of them, but I'm afraid I have to go home. Mukuro needs some work before my next match, and then I have a novel to write. Maybe some other time. Good day." With that, Nazo leaves the room, and then the stadium, clutching the battered doll close to her chest and letting as few tears as possible leak out on her way to the old clubhouse. She just needed to be alone for a while. If the two really were in the same grade, they'd see each other around some other time.

Kokoro nods her head and understands the need to be alone. She will find Tsukikage-san later, perhaps at school and then they can go to Piffle and have a rematch on an even terrain, then maybe she'd stop feeling so bad about winning.