Leonardo wished that there was more time to show the others around the Nexus. There were so many wondrous things to see and this was their only chance to see it. But, the tournament would not wait. Gyoji appeared, announcing that the final stage of the Battle Nexus Tournament was about to begin and teleported Leo and Usagi to the base of the arena.
They drew kunai from an orb of water, that had colored ribbon attached to them to determine who they would fight next. Leonardo’s ribbon was yellow and matched with a short and stocky fighter. They had just enough time to acknowledge each other before they were teleported into the arena to battle.
During their tour of the Nexus, Leah had told them about the remaining combatants, including the stout creature Leo now faced. He was difficult to knock down due to his low center of gravity, and knew how to take a blow.
He won his matches by grabbing hold of his opponent. He would either hurl them against the wall with such force that they were teleported away before they made contact or he crushed the appendage, leaving them unable to fight. Staying out of the creature’s reach was Leo’s top priority.
Though his opponent was slow, he was solid and strong. Rough skin covered the stout creature that rendered the edge on Leo’s blades useless. He would dull the edge before scratching the creature. Sheathing his swords, Leo knew he would have to take a different approach.
Leonardo first tried to go for a pressure point. As he moved in close to hit one, his opponent grabbed for him. Leo had to pull his strike short in order to get out of harm’s way. The rough fingers grazed his wrist and it took all of Leo’s control not to panic. A broken wrist could be crippling.
His opponent smirked, knowing he almost had Leo. “You’re fast. But, I’ll get you.”
“No, you won’t.” Removing his belt, Leo lowered his swords to the ground but kept the leather strap in his hand. His opponent chuckled as they continued to circle one another.
Leo ran forward and, as predicted, his opponent took a defensive stance. With both ends of his belt twisted around his hands, Leo leapt into the air, flipping over his opponent. As he passed, Leo drew the belt around the creature’s neck.
Twisting around, Leo crossed the ends of the belt and then planted his feet in the middle of his opponent’s back. Once in position, Leo pulled with all his might in hopes that it would do the trick.
Thrown off balance, the stout creature fell forward. Judging by the way his opponent was gasping, Leo had managed to apply enough pressure to choke him, if only a little. All he had to do now was maintain his hold.
His position on his opponent’s back, made it impossible for the creature to reach back and grab hold of him. His fingers grazed Leo’s ankles but that was as far as they could go. It was the biggest disadvantage of his short and broad build.
After a while, his opponent gave up on trying to grab him and decided to shake Leo off instead. He stood and started shaking, but Leo and impeccable balance and managed to stay in the center of his back while maintaining tension on the strap.
Changing tactics, his opponent tried falling back, in an attempt to crush him. Leo caught them, placing one foot back while the other stayed planted in the middle of the creature’s back. This put his opponent at a complete disadvantage. He couldn’t stand back up due to Leo pulling down on his neck. If he twisted to the side, Leo would follow, staying in the center of his back while continuing to choke him.
Whatever he did, however he turned, Leo would compensate for it.
His opponent started to thrash and claw at his neck. Leo knew that he had to hold on just a little while longer. The safety spells over the arena would not let him harm his opponent but it also had to determine that there was no way for his opponent to get out of it.
The creature’s movements began to slow, a sign that he was beginning to lose consciousness. Just as Leo started to think that they were going to let his opponent pass out, Gyoji showed up.
He looked at the creature. “Would you like to forfeit?”
The creature gave a quick nod and he was teleported away.
The sudden loss of his opponent had Leo falling back. Relieved that the strategy had worked, he stayed sitting on the ground for a moment to allow feeling to return to his arms. He could hear the clash of weapons coming from the other sections of the arena. As long as those battles continued, he would have time to rest.
Returning to the center of the arena, Leo collected his swords and put them on. He wondered how Raph was holding up. He looked up at the observation deck to see his family looking down at another section of the arena. Judging by the looks on their faces, they were all watching Raph.
When the crowd and his family erupted in cheers, Leo knew that Raphael had succeeded in his match.
With the final match completed, the walls came down to reveal the remaining combatants. Raphael, Usagi, and a tall female had also made it to the final four.
Leo smiled at his brother but it quickly faded when he realized how beat Raph looked. Walking up to him, Leo placed his hand on Raph’s shoulder. “How you holding up?”
Raph shook his head. “I’m done. I barely managed to finish that one.”
“I honestly did not expect you to make it to this far,” Leo said, giving Raph’s shoulder a squeeze. “You’re an inspiration for us all. I am proud of you, Raph.”
Thought there was pain in his eyes, Raph flashed Leo a lopsided smile. “Just remember this moment the next time I do something stupid.”
A portal made of water opened and Gyoji gestured for them to enter. “Step through the portal. You will be paired as you exit.”
The four combatants passed through the portal and emerged in a large, open arena. Raph and Leo appeared on one end while Usagi and the female appeared on the other.
“Looks like you get to be the one to take me out,” Raph said as they turned to face one another. “Don’t go easy on me.”
“I don’t plan on it,” Leo replied. “I wanna get this over with as quickly as possible. That way I get a longer rest before the final battle.”
“As much as I would love to see you win the whole thing, I ain’t forfeiting,” Raph said. “I’m not gonna make this too easy for you.”
Leo smiled while drawing his swords. “I wasn’t expecting you to.” Raph’s pride was on the line. If he was going to go out, he was going to go out fighting. Leo was going to make sure it was a fight he could be proud of. Leo beckoned Raph to attack. “I’ll let you lead this dance.”
The two clashed, both giving it all that they had. Even though Raph was exhausted, he knew how to fight through it and he knew Leo’s fighting stile well enough to anticipate his moves. If Leo did let up, Raph would strike the advantage.
Eventually, Raphael’s exhaustion caught up with him and his body became sluggish. He wasn’t able to get a block up in time. As Leo brought his sword down there was a moment of panic before his brother was teleported safely away.
With a sigh of relief, Leo allowed himself a moment of reflection. He had made it to the final round.
He looked up towards his family. Splinter, Donny, Tello, and Donna were nowhere to be seen, most likely off to check on Raph. He smiled as he pictured them fussing over Raph. The others smiled and waved, Mikey and Michelle the most enthusiastic.
Leo then turned his attention to Usagi’s fight. The tall female was skilled, using a weapon that resembled a pair of katar and gauntlets that blocked Usagi’s swords. He decided to study her movements, just in case she bested Usagi.
In the end, Usagi proved to be the more skillful warrior. He spotted an opening and arched his sword towards her midsection. She teleported away a split second before the blade made contact.
No matter how many times he has seen it happen, Leo still felt a slight surge of panic in the moments before they were teleported.
Now that the final match was about to begin, Leonardo couldn’t help but smile. He had spared against and fought alongside Usagi several times. He was his best friend. He couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome. If he was going to lose to anyone, he would prefer it to be Usagi. But, then again, he had no intention of losing.
“I’ll give you a moment to catch your breath,” Leo said as the two met in the center of the arena. “You can let me know when you are ready.”
“Thank you,” Usagi said with a smile. “I am glad that you are my final opponent.”
“As am I,” Leo replied.
Usagi took several deep breaths but he knew that resting for too long could do more harm than good. He would give himself enough time to recover his strength without losing his adrenaline rush from the last fight and allowing fatigue to set in.
“I’m ready,” he said as he moved into a fighting stance.
Leonardo readied himself for the fight, facing Usagi with both swords drawn. The two started to circle one another, each waiting for the other to make the first strike while deciding on their own methods of attack.
Eager to get the fighting started, Leo went on the offensive. With a fire in his eyes, Usagi shifted his stance accordingly and their swords crashed together.
Now that the battle had begun, the two swordsmen were in constant motion. They simultaneously defended and attacked while looking for an opening for a final strike. Neither one ever gained control of the battle. Neither one faltered.
Spurred on by the rush of the fight and the drive to win, nether let up in his attack. The two skilled warriors fought with such speed and accuracy that the crowd fell into an awed hush.
It wouldn’t have mattered if they continued cheering or not, Leo’s mind was in a trance like state. Its only focus was on Usagi, the rest of the world faded away.
A sudden force pulled the two apart. In their confusion, they both looked up towards the Daimyo.
“This has gone on long enough,” the Daimyo declared. “Never has a battle lasted so long. Never has two combatants been so equally matched. I could allow you to continue to fight until one of you tires enough to falter but I don’t see that happening any time soon. So, for the first time in Battle Nexus history, I declare a draw.”
Leo’s mind barely processed the Daimyo’s words. Now that he had been pulled from the fight and allowed to slow down, fatigue caught up to him. Looking over at Usagi, he could see that his Samurai friend was in no better shape.
Leo’s legs gave out and he collapsed to the ground as Usagi sat down hard. Every tendon in his hand screamed in pain when Leo tried to loosen his grip on his hilts. There was a deep indention in the palm of his hand and his fingers were bleeding.
They were teleported away and swarmed by healers the moment they materialized. Leo was guided to a tatami. As he lay back a damp cloth was placed over his eyes.
“How long?” he rasped.
“Five hours,” one of the healers replied. “The two of you would have fought until you dropped dead from exhaustion if the Daimyo hadn’t stopped you. Never in my life have I seen such a pigheaded display of determination.”
“Rest,” another said. “We will take care of you.”
The room felt as if it was spinning and every inch of his body felt like it was on fire. Despite it all, Leonardo was asleep before the healer finished speaking.