Hera looks over at Jayleen, "You want some of this then? I ain't got no patience today."
"Bring it, bitch." as a smile forms across Jayleen's face.
"Fine, let's make it quick, I have someone to talk to now..." Says Hera as she employs the familiar spherical water around her.
"HERE IT COMES FOLKS, DON'T BLINK NOW OR YOU JUST MIGHT MISS IT!"
'Just listen for the water Jayleen... Listen for the water...'
Swoosh. In the split second Hera breaks through the water and takes out her daggers, Jayleen ducks backwards as if doing the limbo and violet energy begins centering around her. Her form begins shifting, her legs turn into a long white snake tail, her eyes into yellow slits and fangs grow from her mouth.
"A hybrid!?" yells out Hera before being constricted by Jayleen's tail.
"MY! WHAT A SURPRISE, TWO HYBRIDS FROM LYRENA PONDS, WHAT DO THEY EAT FOR BREAKFAST IN THAT TOWN?"
Meanwhile, Murph is hopping around Garu, refusing to be caught and slapping him and pushing him every chance he gets.
"Why you little... GAH" Garu has enough of this and slams his hammer to the ground, sending a seismic wave of energy around him and knocking back Murph.
Murph extends his tongue 10feet and attempts to grab his Sledgehammer. "BIG MISTAKE FREAK." Garu grabs his tongue and pulls him in. When he finally has him in striking range, he begins pummeling Murph in the ground. "NOT SO TOUGH ANYMORE ARE WE?"
As Murph is being pummeled in the ground, the crowd groans at the sight and Zero gets visibly upset.
Hera, still midair and strangled by Jayleen uses this to taunt her opponent. "Better save Murph before its too late girl, Garu's pretty upset right now."
"Hahahaha... HAHAHAHAHAHA. It's Garu you should be worried about, if you even have feelings that is."
A smile grows across Murph's bloodied face as Garu's next punch is suddenly halted midway.
"Boy you sure are a meathead... That poison should have worked a long time ago." Murph spits some blood to Garu's face. He then pushes Garu's paralyzed body to the ground and begins heading over to Hera.
"Things aren't really going as you planned are they?" retorts Jayleen towards Hera.
"Heh... You really think you have this under control don't you..? MIBUKI."
The spiritual water Frilled Shark grows larger, swimming through the air at over 10 feet long and 3 feet wide and it chomps Jayleen's tail, causing her to scream out in pain.
"... I won't... let you go."
"You won't have a choice soon enough." Hera continues to struggle to grab her blades while restrained but she doesn't show the desperation on her face.
"I'm coming Jayleen! Crack! Murph sends out his whip and cracks one of Hera's shoulder.
"Gah! Why you... AGH" Water surrounds the Frilled Shark and pulses out into a tidal wave.
"Surf's up dude!" Murph grabs a nearby wood plank from the debris and rides the wave to kick Hera's face.
"You cursed frog... You dare hit a lady in her face?"
"I don't really see gender, you're just a dude who tried to kill me not too long ago, now you lose." Murph immediately hops back as the shark lunges at him.
The momentary shift in the tidal wave caused Jayleen to loosen her grip slightly, just enough for Hera to grab her daggers. She stabs Jayleen's tail and begins grinding her blade across her scales.
"AHHH YOU BITCH!" This caused Jayleen to have to let her go and she slithers over to Murph.
"Mibuki... End this." The spiritual shark grows larger and the gaping mouth flies at breathtaking speeds towards the pair.
The rushing water enveloped their whole senses, their breath robbed from them, their eyes forcibly shut out, the taste of water drowning their lungs, the dizzying sensation of being flung inside raging waters and the smell of blood in the water.
"THERE IT IS LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FEROCITY OF THE BEAUTY FROM GEMMARE!"
As the crowd began cheering and celebrating, the water started fizzling out until the frilled shark melted away entirely.
"WHAT'S THIS? HERA SHIBUKI HAS FALLEN AS WELL! MY WORD! COULD THIS BE?"
A silence filled the arena as they waited for someone to stand up but seconds turned into minutes and then it was clear.
As all four lied unconscious on the floor, "WE GOT CONFIRMATION FOLKS, FOR THE THIRD TIME IN TENMORI'S HISTORY OF TOURNAMENTS FOR THE PAST 500 YEARS, WE HAVE A DRAW!"
The crowd begins to cheer loudly, specially for the few who believed in Murph like Zero.
"A draw? What happens now though. Aren't the finals tomorrow?" These questions begin to fill everyone's minds.
Suddenly a figure emerges into the center of the arena as the medics carry out the unconscious bodies.
The figure is a woman wearing a long brown fur coat with white spots, white shirt and comfortable brown pants. She has short brown hair, and deep brown eyes.
Murmurs around the crowd say, "Is that Kora? She was here?" "Whoa, is that the Sentinel? What's she doing here?" "Ahh she's so cute! I love her spirit Quoll."
"Hello everyone! I hope you've enjoyed this tournament as much as I have. It's clear the future of Spirit Threading lies strong with this generation. As mentioned before, this match has been declared a draw and with the state of the contestants, we will be ending the tournament today."
The sounds of complaints could be heard throughout the crowd as many people cleared out their weekend to view the tournament.
"Now now, we know how much this event means to everyone, so before we celebrate to announce the winners, we have a new event planned for tomorrow! I'll personally be here in the arena with my apprentice Barney, showing everyone what a Sentinel can really do!"
"Whoa seriously? Now that's worth my money." "We get to see her Quoll! Amazing!" "What a weekend for the ages! I'm so glad my boss gave me these vacation days."
The crowd begins cheering and after feeling like the crowd has been won over, she proceeds with the formalities.
"So that being said, let's welcome the much deserved winners of the annual tournament here in Tenmori. Glare Haoru and Zero Kurogane!"
The crowd begins cheering wildly once more as Glare and Zero are being handed the grand prize of the tournament. An endless storage bag, the cash prize of $5,000 and more importantly than that, the recognition from a Sentinel.
Kora speaks away from the microphone and to the pair, "Smile big boys, you made it!"
"It doesn't really feel like we won though, it's kind of anti-climatic." says Glare.
"Yeah... Is this really Alright?"
"You're speaking nonsense! You were undefeated and had amazing battles out there, it's not all about being flashy and defeating everyone. This tournament is also about the endurance of facing battle after battle and still persisting, it's made that way to prepare you for the real trials to come if you decided to face the ruins."
The sudden realization of who they were talking to and what this all really meant finally hit Zero and Glare as their eyes widened.
"WAIT! Does that mean we can go!?"
"Well of course! You have my word. Just make sure you're prepared before heading in, wouldn't want to have to carry out two corpses!"
In the world of Elyria, there are 7 Sacred Ruins scattered about, one in each kingdom and one in the center of the world. Spiritual energy agglomerates in these ruins causing the birth of strange spiritual creatures and other dangerous phenomenon. It's due to these exotic dangers that dozens of Spirit Threaders die young and why it's such an unpopular profession. It is the Sentinels who protect these Sacred Ruins, they are tasked with controlling the entry to these highly dangerous areas as well as the protection of their kingdom. This risk is not without its reward however. If one is to enter one of these Sacred Ruins and reach the core, one receives the blessing of Elyria herself, augmenting one's own spiritual energy. After gathering all 7 blessings, it is said Elyria herself chooses that individual as their champion, granting them immortality in exchange for the protection. This individual is known as the Sentinela.
For Glare and Zero, this meant the beginning of their adventure. Now they had to prepare both physically and mentally for such a task.
After the celebration ceremony concluded, Zero took Glare to the Tenmori Observatory, deciding to leave the others to rest for now.
The 360 degree view consisted of a nice sunset warming up the canopy and melding with the beautiful greens of the Juria Rainforest. Two birds fly high above the canopy and rest on the top of a sky-high tree.
"How high do you think we are Zero?"
"Says over here we are 1,200 meters above sea level. Come check it out, it has info on all the animals and stuff we can find in the rainforest!"
"I'll be there in a sec. Look at these birds."
"What about them?"
"Well it makes you think. We could have spent all our lives inside this forest. I could have been cooking with my Mom and you could've stayed blacksmithing with your Dad. Instead we're out here flying above the forest and into the unknown... I don't know... It's kind of exciting."
"GLAAAAAARE!" Zero cries overdramatically and hugs him. Glare just responds with a slight chuckle and a view of the sunset.
"You know... We can actually get real cooking appliances for the go now and drawing stuff for you. We can just store it all in this." Glare points over at his new bag of storage.
"OH, AND WE HAVE MONEY NOW TOO! We need to go shopping!"
"Let's try to not blow it all in one day!"
The pair have a nice shopping spree in town, buying some pots, pans, plates, paint brushes, paints, and a bunch of jerky and other long lasting foods as they prepare for their journey into the Sacred Ruin of Juria.
"Oh crap, I gotta head over to work again! Sorry bro, I'll make it up to you one day!
"Oh no worries, I actually wanted to check up on Murph so I'll head over now. I'll tell him you said hi!"
Glare heads over to Kenny's Mystery Shack where he rushes to get into his official work clothing.
"Vait vait, vhat are you doing?" asked Kenny in his foreign accent.
"I know, sorry I'm late boss!"
"Nein, nein. I saw it on the transmission! You are ze winner! Come sit, I'll cook for you today, ja?"
"Oh but, I can't possibly... If it weren't for you I wouldn't have been able to enter Kenny, let me --"
"NEIN. Sit, tonight we celebrate!"
Kenny makes an exquisite banquet for Glare filled with mysterious gamey meats, strange vegetables and delicious unidentifiable grains. "Only ze finest of ingredients for you, ja?"
Meanwhile, in the medical threading ward, Zero sits down next to Murph and Jayleen who are currently resting looking at the ceiling wide awake.
"I don't really feel like I won to be honest... You guys were amazing, I hope we can battle one day." said Zero trying his best to be supportive.
"Like I said to Glare before, nothing in life is ever definitive... Sometimes you just try your hardest but it's not enough. As long as there's a tomorrow, we'll have a chance once more." said Jayleen with a sad smile.
"Yeah dude, be happy that you won, you deserve it. We just have to try harder next time." reassured Murph.
"Me and Glare are gonna head over to the Ruins in a couple of days, did you guys get permission to go? Is that something that even interests you?"
"She came in a while back and said we could go... But I don't think we're quite ready for that yet dude. We need to train a bit more."
"I see... Well... I hope our paths cross again then bro."
"I'm sure they will dude. I'll always have this as a treasured souvenier." Murph struggles to take out the joke picture of a frog in a pond.
This prompts a chuckle out of Zero and he heads out the door. A period of silence passes in the room before Murph begins to cry.
"It hurts... It hurts to work so hard and not win..."
Jayleen begins to cry as well.
"It really hurts..."
Murph gets out of his bed and sits next to Jayleen's as they share a teary embrace.
... ... ...
Back at Kenny's Mystery Shack, a huge celebration is happening in honor of Glare and tons of customers are going crazy realizing their chef was the winner of the Spirit Tournament and are just barraging him with questions. Suddenly everyone goes quiet and Glare's head turns to see the figure who entered the room. Hera Shibuki, dressed in a long black dress and golden jewelry.
"Mind if I join the victory party?"
"Not at all. Those were some impressive fights today. I shudder of the thought of how you'd do that without a night of drinking."
"Well, I work best after a night of drinking to be honest. One beer please." says Hera as she sits down next to Glare.
"So you just never stop, huh?"
"Oh come on! It's a celebration! What kind of celebration is had without alcohol!"
"Fair enough," as Glare downs a celebratory shot.
"Ah, didn't peg you for a shots guy."
"I'm not, but whatever the hell Kenny puts in these makes them irresistible, try one." Glare gestures for two more shots his way.
"Don't mind if I do."
They both clink their glasses and drink.
"So I don't think we ever finished our game last time and since I just gave you a drink, that means I get to ask a question right?" Asked Glare.
"I don't think those were the rules... but go ahead, what do you wanna ask?"
"Where's the big old meaty guy who tried to splat me to the ground when I quote on quote flirted with you."
"Oh Garu? I don't know, I just needed him to participate in the tournament. It was a 2 v 2 after all."
"Right, didn't he call you babe though?"
"What? Are you jealous?"
"Just curious." Glare downs another shot and passes one over.
"Well don't worry about him, it was fun while it lasted but that's over now."
"Right. You do that often?"
"Enjoy life? Not be tethered to a preconception of what's colloquially correct? Sure. I live life however I want."
Glare got taken aback by her use of very eloquent speech and her free spirit, a dangerous combination. Hera noticed on this and took the initiative.
"So I get to make a question now, what's next for Glare Haoru, Champion of Tenmori?"
"Well, first things first, we'll be heading to the Sacred Ruins of Juria. After that, every other Ruin until I become the next Sentinela."
Hera laughs at this statement. "Sentinela? Really? You're more interesting than I thought."
"Laugh all you want, you weren't laughing when I knocked you out earlier."
"Ouch! Too soon love, too soon."
Two more shots are had.
"So if I were to tag along, would you be cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner for me?"
"First of all, who said you could come along? Secondly I don't eat breakfast."
"Well you could still make me some even if you don't eat it."
"Again, what makes you think you can come?"
"Do you not want me there?" Hera leans over to Glare.
Whether it be the vast amount of alcohol they had drunk, Hera's charming looks or the fact that she was actually a very impressive Spirit Threader, for some reason Glare could not say no.
"Zero calls you a witch you know."
Hera begins cackling too loudly. "Wouldn't be the first time a man intimidated by me has said that!"
"If you have permission to go to the Sacred Ruins, we could probably use the help, but after that I'm not sure. I'll have to ask --"
"ABSOLUTELY NOT, ARE YOU INSANE?" said Zero as he entered the Shack.
"Well, there you have it." exclaimed Glare.
Hera smiles and looks over at Zero. "Well... I have permission to go so who's to say I won't see you there anyways?"
"Bro, stop listening to her! She's a witch! She uses words as a weapon! She uses her looks as a weapon! Don't be tainted bro! Don't give in!" flusters out Zero, visibly worried for his friend.
"Haha calm down man, she's not as bad as you think. You two actually have a lot in common, you might like her if you get to know her."
"You're clearly drunk bro, I'm getting you home before you do anything you might regret."
"I'll be seeing you both again, until next time Glare." Says Hera with a wink.
"BEGONE WITCH. Come Glare, listen to her any longer and we might have to perform an exorcism on your soul."
"I'm literally fine, Zero. She's not what you think" says Glare as he's being pushed out forcibly by his friend.
"You're that far gone... Don't worry friend, I'm here for you."
Zero sets Glare down in a bed in their inn and he immediately falls asleep.
Zero sits out looking at the sky and clutches an amulet under his shirt.
"I didn't do too well today Frankie... I know you would have done better. I miss you friend... I'll do better next time. Zero lies down in his bed and falls asleep as well.
They both sleep and dream of all the future events still to happen. The exploration of the ruins, the interactions with new people and the new friends they've made, the fine ingredients to be found world wide, the treacherous dangers, discovering cute animals and the many adventures yet to come that go Beyond Light.