Eyes closed Tello, with his bo held tight, followed the others through the portal. It felt like stepping through a pool of cold water. The fluid rush and swirled around him but he was still able to breathe. There was a moment of weightlessness and then the sensation of falling. His eyes shot open as he landed hard on his shell in what appeared to be a wooded area.
“Forgot to warn you about the drop,” Mikey said, offering to help Tello to his feet.
“Thanks,” Tello replied dryly as he accepted Mikey’s outstretched hand.
“You alright?” Raph asked.
Tello waved him off. “I’m fine.” Looking around, Tello took in the scenery. He could tell that they weren’t on Earth, the flora was unlike anything he had ever seen. Rocks and what appeared to be fallen statues littered the dry ground.
One thing he did not see was an arena. “Should we get going?”
“We wait here,” Leo answered, looking both relaxed and ready to strike at any moment. “This is where our first fight will take place and we prove our worth. Our opponents will appear soon enough. Until then, study our surroundings.”
As if on cue, a portal opened and four creatures emerged. They would have been a shocking sight if Tello hadn’t been to Dimension X. These creatures were tame compared to the things he had seen there.
The Turtles jumped into action without hesitation, meeting their adversaries head on.
Trusting that the others would keep the other three opponents occupied, Tello focused on the one in front of him. Their opponents were long, thin, and limber, making them hard to hit. He parried with the creature at first so that he could get a feel for its fighting style.
Leonardo had told Tello that the Battle Nexus had the best fighters from across the multiverse. So, Tello trained vigorously in preparation. He didn’t want his passing on to the next stage to be on their merit. Refusing to be their weakest link, he was determined to earn it himself.
Once he had the creature figured out, he decided to go on the offensive. Tello struck out with his blade, anticipating the creature’s move to avoid it. He had mapped out in his mind several different ways the creature could avoid his strike and had a follow up attack for each one.
When the creature moved in one of the predicted paths, Tello was ready for it. Pulling his initial strike short, Tello shifted his grip, pivoted in time with the creature’s movements and jabbed with the blunt end of his bo.
The blow hit home, striking the creature between the eyes. With a cry of pain, the creature staggered back. Before it had time to recover, Tello brought his staff around in a sweeping arch and knocked the legs out from under his opponent. It landed hard and didn’t get back up.
Satisfied that his opponent was out, Tello turned to see how the others were faring. Raphael and Leonardo’s opponents were already down.
Their attention was on Michelangelo who was running up a tree. He flipped over his opponent, twisting in air and kicked him square in the back before landing. There was enough force in the blow that the creature hit the tree.
With the final opponent down, a spirit like creature appeared and declared them the winner. Judging by his appearance, Tello felt it safe to assume that the creature was Gyoji, the Battle Nexus referee.
“Way to earn your stripes,” Raph said, clapping Tello on the back. “I knew you would be able to hold your own.”
“That was my first real fight in years,” Tello said as a grin split his face. “Man, it felt good.”
“I shall teleport you to the next arena,” Gyoji said, lifting his war paddle.
They were surrounded by a blue light followed by a shifting sensation. The sensation left Tello feeling a little queasy but after a few steading breaths, he was able to maintain composure.
They had gone from a wooded area to standing in front of a fortress. It had been built in front of a waterfall with a statue carved into the rocky outcrop. Oddly enough, the crashing sounds of the surrounding water could not be heard.
Instead, there was the roar of the crowd and more cheers rang out as more and more combatants appeared. After spending his life hidden away, it was a bit overwhelming to be in the center of an arena. He was amazed at all the different kinds of people.
“Stop scanning the crowd,” Raph said after nudging Tello. “They’re up there.”
Raph pointed to the fortress where their loved ones stood on a platform balcony next to a rather large, masked man in a kimono. Undoubtedly, the man was the Daimyo. Michelle enthusiastically waved at them. Whatever she was shouting was drowned out by the crowd.
“Trax!” Raph replied cheerfully. “It’s good to see you made it again this year.” Tello turned to see a large orange triceratops in what looked like gladiator gear.
“You look a little worse for wear, my friend,” Trax said to Raph. There was a detectable level of concern in his voice.
“You can buy me a drink later and I’ll fill you in on what happened,” Raph said, trying his best to hide the pain in his.
Trax’s attention shifted to Tello. “Donatello, you… look different.”
“Another long story,” Raph said with a light chuckle. “This Donnie is from another dimension. The Donny you know is up there.” He pointed to the balcony and, as if he knew they were talking about him, Donny waved. “We call this Donnie, Tello, to avoid confusion.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you,” Trax said to Tello. “I look forward to hearing your story over a few drinks, once we get the chance.”
“It’s not a happy one,” Tello warned him.
Traximus smiled down at Tello. “With those kinds of stories, the more you share them the easier it is to deal with their pain.”
How many people did they know here, Tello thought to himself as he turned. A white rabbit dressed as a Japanese samurai approached them. His eyes fell on Raph and Tello and his smile faded to a look of confusion and concern.
Before he had the chance to ask his questions, the Daimyo began to speak. “Welcome, combatants.”
“I’ll fill you in on everything later,” Leo quickly said to the rabbit. “It’s good to see you again, Usagi.”
“Likewise,” Usagi replied before turning his attention to the Daimyo.
“My congratulations to those of you who have made it past the preliminary round.” The Daimyo’s voice boomed over the quieting crowd. “I commend the valiant efforts of those who had not.” Raising his hands high, the staff in the Daimyo’s hand began to glow. “Now that all who have passed are gathered, tier one will begin.”
Energy shot from the Daimyo’s staff and surrounded them. Tello looked up amazed at the beauty and was a little fearful at the same time. The ground lowered as the energy swirled around them. Without realizing it, Tello had been moved and was no longer near the other Turtles. The power the Daimyo possessed was phenomenal.
Walls formed and Tello found himself in a triangular shaped enclosure with another person. His tan colored opponent appeared to be female. Tall and slender, she looked lithe and had a spear for a weapon.
Tello readied himself for her attack. Like with the preliminary match, Tello stayed on the defensive and read her fighting style. She was tough but age or injuries from her preliminary match seemed to be slowing her down and she was favoring her left leg.
Once he had her figured out, Tello decided move in a way that forced her to pivot on her left leg. The brief moment of hesitation was all Tello needed. Dropping down, he swept her legs while bringing his bo up to connect with her as she fell. His bo met air as she was teleported away.
“I made it past the first round,” Tello said to himself as a wave of relief washed over him. It was a rush to be out in the open, fighting with a crowd of people cheering him on. “Not bad for someone on the ‘B’ team.”
The jubilation came to an end as he was overcome with guilt and regret. His brothers would have loved this; the chance to fight and prove their skills without the fear of being injured or judged for what they were. He missed them so much it hurt. Falling to his knees, Tello began to cry.
The walls fell, signaling the end of the first round. The Daimyo’s voice once again rang out but Tello could not focus his mind on the words. He was enveloped in cold and it felt as if he was being shifted through space.
When he emerged, he was once again in an enclosure with another person. He didn’t know if he could bring himself to fight.
Tello looked up to see Raph and shook his head. “I can’t do this.”
“Alright.” Raph knelt down next to Tello and began to rub his back. “It’s alright.”
Gyoji appeared. “Do you wish to forfeit?” When Tello nodded, Gyoji turned to Raph. “You must deal a final blow.”
“Go sit with the others,” Raph soothed as he got to his feet. “You did good.” All it took was a gentle punch on the shoulder and Tello was teleported away.
As soon as he materialized again, Leah was kneeling by his side. “Tello, what’s wrong? Were you hurt?”
Tello shook his head. “I started thinking about my brothers. I’m sorry. I wasn’t ready.”
“Don’t apologize,” Leah said as she caressed Tello’s cheek. “It’s okay to miss them.”
“You have come a long way in handling your grief, Donatello,” Splinter said, the only one who still referred to him by his full name. “Do not view this as a setback. It is simply part of the process.”
“Thank you,” Tello replied, shifting his position so that he was sitting comfortably on the floor. The grief was already starting to ebb. Glancing over he saw Mikey sitting on the floor and pouting, not too far away. “Mikey?”
Mikey looked up and forced a smile. “I got knocked out by Usagi.”
“This round is over,” Rachael stated from the balcony. “Leo and Raph are still in it.”
“The remaining combatants will be given a break before having to fight in the final rounds,” Splinter said. “Why don’t we head down and meet with them.”
“They’re gonna rub it in my face,” Mikey complained.
“You can show me your statue instead,” Michelle said, nuzzling Mikey’s cheek. “Then you can take me around town, just the two of us. Would that make you feel better?”
“A little,” Mikey said and turned his head to give her a kiss.
As they gathered themselves to leave, a portal opened. Surprised by its appearance, they turned to see who would come through. Even the Daimyo stood, ready to fight, unsure of who it could be. It had to have been someone of great power to open a portal inside the fortress.
A woman carrying a staff stepped through followed by a short old man. “Hey, guys,” the woman said sheepishly. “Long time no see.”
“Renet!” Donny replied, relieved but obviously surprised to see her. “What are you and Lord Simultaneous doing here?”
“We’re here because you and your brothers can’t seem to stop messing with the multiverse,” Lord Simultaneous answered, glaring a Donny. “Do you have any idea the trouble you’ve caused me?”