Chapter 1: Warming Up
"Okayyyy! As per Merak's demands and my preferences, here's our setup! Three stocks, no items, all Battlefield style stages--"
"That means they have extra platforms," Merak cuts in to explain before letting Teseo continue.
"--yup, and FS meters are on so, like, forget about that and get your ass kicked, lmao. Everyone's characters are picked and they should have all the right colors, and if you didn't specify a palette I just gave you the ugliest one, tbh."
"If you made Samus ugly, I'm gonna kill you," Merak says, "I like her default colors."
"I gave you the black and gold one, see?" Teseo starts the game to display the brackets and finds Merak's character to point to her. "Super sleek, lol."
"... That's fine. Wait, two of you picked Rosalina?" Merak points out while the characters are all on screen, already sounding exasperated.
"Um... I just picked the cutest one..."
"Seriously, Elise..? You couldn't pick someone easier to play?"
"It's alright, Elise," Nova steps in to assure her before she gets too nervous. "It'll be pretty interesting if you two end up facing each other."
"That's not gonna happen. They're on complete opposite sides of the bracket, so both me and Teseo would have to lose."
"Everyone already knows the final battle is gonna be you assholes, why even include yourselves?" Viper says, and Nova can't help but think he has a point. The skill levels of the players are all over the place, but it would be at least a little more even if Merak and Teseo sat the tournament out or perhaps both fought the winner.
"It's already set up, quit complaining."
"That coming from the king of complaining?"
"Oh, shut up. Are we starting or not?"
"Have we discussed any terms such as a punishment for the losing team?" Tenjian asks.
"I don't think that's necessary," Nova figures, "whichever of these two wins will be able to lord it over the other. That's punishment enough."
"I'm gonna be doing some mad lording, lmao."
Merak ignores that.
"For the first fight, we paired the two players who don't know what video games are," he announces flatly as he hands out both of the controllers. Teseo laughs.
"I know what they are, I've simply always preferred real hobbies," Asroc corrects.
"Oui oui, video games are fake news, boys! Lol!"
"We couldn't get Stratos to practice beforehand. What kind of luck did you guys have with your noob?" Merak asks, squinting and shaking his head as he watches Stratos examine the controller, taking careful note of each button.
"I picked random when I made him play before and it landed on Zelda and now he's, like, got a crush on her."
"It is not a crush."
"Then whyyy do you refuse to play as anyone else? Lol."
"This is the character I practiced with."
"Yeah, but you could have--"
"Silence, the match is starting," Asroc interrupts, having started it himself to avoid having to explain his apparent affinity for Zelda. Nova figures he's embarrassed to like a video game character, based on his earlier comment.
Stratos somehow manages to stay alive for a full minute while he figures out how to control his character and even gets the first kill in. It proves to be a brief spurt of beginner's luck, though, because Asroc quickly starts annihilating him.
"So... why Isabelle?" Nova asks, finding it an odd choice for Stratos.
"Like I said, I couldn't get him to practice. I told Teseo to just pick random for him."
On his last stock and sitting at a red hot 133% damage, Stratos is able to hit Asroc with his long since charged Final Smash, which he barely recovers from.
"I like this dog," Stratos comments. Nova silently agrees that it's cute, finding it both endearing and sad that the final move it makes is a harmless accidental duck as the Phantom Knight Asroc builds launches Isabelle off the screen instantaneously.
"Congratz, Asroc!!! Now you get to fight me later, lmao. Get ready to get scrubbed, scrub!"
"... Right, I have to play more. Why did I win..?"
"Rather arrogant to automatically assume you'll win against me, Teseo," Jota speaks up, seeing as he's the one originally matched to Teseo.
"Lol, why you mad?"
"I am not "mad"--"
"Jota, don't bother. Your personality types can't possibly mix well..."
"... As you wish, Nova."
"Lol, stuck-up suck-up! Hashtag Ghauri!"
Ghauri high-fives him. Jota looks bewildered.
"You're both being dumb; Asroc would have to win against Milas first, anyway," Merak points out.
"... Hang on, now you're assuming Elise is going to lose..."
"He's... probably right..." Elise quietly agrees.
Next up is Carrera and Ghauri. Merak seems a little concerned about the controller when Carrera picks it up, but his septima should be under control.
"Why Joker? He doesn't seem like your style," Milas asks as the match loads in, and Nova sees Gibril pulling a face. He doesn't have much time to wonder what that's about before Ghauri starts spamming Joker's gun off the side of the stage and... rapping to the beat of the shots? Carrera politely waits on the other side, seeing as he's not being shot at, and eventually Gibril groans loudly and threatens to take the controllers from both of them if one of them doesn't move.
Ghauri starts jumping around and landing some stylish hits on Carrera, who struggles just to graze him for a good while. With all of Ghauri's bouncing around, he comes close to falling off the stage all on his own more than once.
"Oh my god, will you get it in gear? Quit trying to kill yourself!" Gibril scolds.
"Lookin' cool, or like a fool, it's all better than prison gruel!"
"If you do not settle, you will not have a chance to test your mettle," Carrera says. Nova's brain turns off for a hot second as the realization sets in that Carrera is now participating not only in a battle with Ghauri in a fighting game, but also a rap battle.
"Yeah, yeah!" Ghauri encourages, clearly excited. "Heating up, going up! Check it-- pow!"
He punctuates the verse with a side special followed by a quick smash attack that sends Carrera into the air, and he follows him up to get a few more hits in.
"This Joker is but a clown, intent on snatching the crown!"
Carrera dodges past him and gets his bearings before slapping Ghauri across the screen. They continue rapping at each other as the match comes down to the wire, and Nova starts to get dizzy from all their embarrassing rhyming.
Suddenly, Donkey Kong appears to stop fighting back despite Carrera clearly still using the controller. Nova glances at Teseo for a moment, automatically suspecting foul play, before he realizes the issue.
Carrera loses his last stock before either of them manages to speak up.
"It seems he got excited and a bit of his septima activated... I was hoping the glaive would prevent this," Nova sighs. It's only the second fight, though, so he's hardly concerned about it. They do need to stop temporarily to replace the broken controller, though.
"Aw man, that doesn't feel fair," Ghauri remarks despite winning. "Let's rematch sometime, with a little less flair!"
Nova guesses the "flair" would be Carrera's septima. He'll have to think of a way to mitigate his magnetism effect on electronics he holds... maybe some kind of special gloves? Oh well, that's a problem for another day.
"Next is... oh jeez," Merak sighs as he watches Rosalina and Greninja appear onscreen. He hands the new controller to Elise. "Don't be so nervous, ok? It doesn't help."
"H-how is that advice?"
Merak probably just made her even more nervous.
Within seconds of the match starting, Elise manages to launch off the platform with her up special and fail to recover while trying to get her bearings.
Milas sighs and walks his character off the other side of platform to make it even.
"Aw, you big softie!" Teseo pokes at him, amused by the show of sportsmanship.
"Hey, don't throw the match just because she sucks! Jeez, am I the only one on our team who wants to win?!"
"I won't be doing that again, alright?"
"A-alright, I'm sorry. I'll... I'll focus," Elise promises. Luckily, she does manage to get it into gear and is able to hold her own against Milas, resulting in their match taking longer than the previous two despite starting with one less stock each. Once the match starts getting close to the end, Elise actually starts panicking less and even sits up straight and looks forward with a certain confidence. Nova suspects she may have shifted, but it's difficult to tell since she's focusing too hard to talk much.
Eventually, she does manage to beat Milas, and she starts slouching again and looks around nervously. Shifted back already, then...
"Ok, wow. Color me surprised," Merak says.
"It was a great match, aside from the little mishap at the start. Now all you have to do is keep that momentum going!" Milas congratulates, and Elise seems a little overwhelmed by him having faith in her.
"N... no promises..."
"Milas, I swear..! Me and Teseo really are gonna have to carry this team, aren't we?"
"Dude, Asroc and Ghauri just won their matches. You guys are in the lead."
"They're just gonna end up having to face me, you, or Teseo anyway!"
"Oh, what have I done?" Asroc mutters beside Nova.
"You guys are acting like there's only three of you in the top tier," Viper pipes up. "I'll kick all your asses!"
"Yeah? Prove it!"
"Here comes Rosalina number 2..." Merak sighs as she appears again, this time matched against Incineroar.
"She uses, like, star magic, what else would you expect Desna to pick? Lol."
"I like her pet star creature," Desna says, and although Nova has the same amount, if not less Mario knowledge, he can feel Merak internally cringing at the term.
"Bullshit that they grouped Charizard up with those other two again, but Incineroar is cool too," Viper complains as he moves up and picks up the controller Elise set down while Milas hands his to Desna.
"They also took Robin's blue palette out," Tenjian comments. Nova had almost forgotten he was there.
"What's that got to do with anything? I'm talking about a whole character getting nerfed."
"Zonda and I used to play together in the last game as a team of blue and pink Robin. The white palette is fine as well, I suppose..."
"I remember being disappointed that only one of the Robins could be pink. The different genders have different colors. Recently, I've preferred Bayonetta," Zonda says, surprising approximately no one.
"Can this little bastard get out of the way?!"
"The stars protect me even now."
Viper seems to be having trouble hitting Desna as she keeps managing to get Luma in the way to take the hits for her. Despite them both using the same character, her play style is quite different from Elise's.
"Holding onto that explosive anger can only hurt you," Desna advises, going into fortune teller mode partway through the match. "Heightened emotions can bring mental pain, which leads invariably to physical pain."
"I'll show you physical pain!"
His FS meter is full, but he's being extra careful to make sure he can actually hit Desna with it. He chases her around for a full, tense minute before finally grazing her with it.
"Welcome to the pain station, Van Gogh!"
"Aw, Viper! I'm proud you know who that is!" Nova praises, amused.
As Incineroar finishes its Final Smash, Rosalina is promptly launched offscreen, losing Desna's last stock. She's unfazed, clearly not very invested in the game.
"Hell yes! Looks like it's gonna be me and you, Merak!"
"Don't get your hopes up. I'll kick his ass and fight you myself!" Gibril challenges, and Nova sees Merak roll his eyes.
"Are neither of you accounting for Ghauri?" Asroc asks.
"That doofus? No way."
"Heh, harsh on your own teammate."
"I regret asking."
"I'm uuuup! Prepare to get wrekt, Jot!"
Jota looks thoroughly confused already but steps up regardless.
"My name is not Jot."
"Lol, it is now. Hey, look, we're both green!"
While Marth has some green on him in this palette, Mr. Game & Watch is entirely green. He wonders if Teseo matched himself with Jota based solely on color preference. At some point, Zonda must have used their septima, because their illusory older form begins loudly cheering both of them on. Teseo takes the encouragement well, but Jota only appears to be getting more stressed out.
"Ah, ignoring me, I see... though, even this... is LOVE!"
"I'm kin with love, no doubles."
"Doubles, you say..?!"
"Zonda, don't go overboard," Tenjian interjects before Zonda can start producing more illusions. "This room is crowded enough as it is."
"It's a shame, but I must respect the wishes of my BELOVED brother!"
Nova catches Tenjian smiling. The illusory Zonda begins posing beside the television, and Ghauri hops up to join them. Nova is surprised Teseo can still play so well while laughing.
"Can you two stop being ridiculous?! It's distracting!" Jota rightfully complains. Both Zonda and Ghauri are unfazed.
Despite Jota's griping, he manages to inch into the lead right after his outburst. Seeing how Marth darts across the platform to deliver a fatal blow reminds Nova of one of Jota's moves. No wonder he tends towards Marth.
"Oh--! Looks like I have to get srs!"
"You have to get what?"
"What word are you trying to say?!"
"Translation: he's saying he's gonna get serious," Merak provides.
"Yup, and you know what that means, folks! It's Super Teseo Tiiiime!"
"What is that..?"
"Translation: he's saying he's a scrub."
"Translation: Merak is a big fat liar! Lmao."
"Translation: Teseo can't kill Marth, who isn't even a heavyweight, despite him being at like a billion damage, making him, in fact, a scrub."
"Lol, 2019, stop the bullying!"
Jota gets frazzled easily enough by normal teenagers, but Teseo is on a separate plane entirely, and his personality seems to bring something out in Merak, too. If it's affecting his gameplay, though, he's good at hiding it.
As soon as they're both on their last stocks and zero damage, either Jota finally succumbs to all the eccentric distractions around him, or Teseo really does get serious, because Teseo only takes about 15% by the time he beats Jota.
"Ya got done, son! Lol!"
"Done like a fun pun on a bun! Get stunned!"
Ghauri high fives Teseo again and Jota actually has to get up and pace the room, massaging his temples.
"Why don't you go find some Advil?" Nova offers him as an out, which Jota is more than eager to take.
When Merak steps up, he doesn't take the controller from Jota's seat, as he has his own that he plugs in.
"Wait, why are you plugging it in? Wireless is better," Viper says.
"Actually, wired is better-- wireless has more latency. I wasn't gonna use this one until my fight with Teseo, buuut... since Gibril seems so confident..."
"Yeah, I'm gonna have to plug mine in at the end, too," Teseo concurs. Nova isn't sure what they're talking about.
"So you're using a special controller 'cause you're scared of me? Ha!" Gibril taunts, fine with using the default controller from Eden's side.
"As if. I'm so gonna thrash you."
Gibril somehow seems surprised when their characters appear onscreen.
"Hey, Teseo! I said the red one! Why are you making me use pink?!"
Teseo seems to find his minor prank hilarious.
"Oh, I am so gonna kick your ass. Out of the way, Merak! I'm gonna be the one to fight Teseo!"
"Woah, are you guys fighting over me? Whoever wins inherits the other person's Teseo shrine! Lol!"
"Dude, who would build a shrine to you..?"
They keep bantering like it's nothing for the first minute or so of the match, but then both Merak and Gibril quickly fall silent out of concentration aside from the occasional taunt or frustrated noise.
"Ugh, what a pain. The more I hit you, the more damage you do. Get launched already, will you?"
"Get over here and launch me yourself, coward!"
They play chicken for a while as Merak tries not to get hit by any of Lucario's attacks with steadily enhanced range and power while he waits for his almost full meter to tick over. Hitting her with Samus's final smash once it's charged puts him in the lead as well as makes things a hell of a lot less stressful now that Lucario is back down to clean damage.
Nova looks away for a mere second to acknowledge Jota as he walks back into the room, and by the time he looks back, Gibril has evened the score again. The fact that she has a bit of damage on her would be a disadvantage to most, but she actually technically has the upper hand with how Lucario works. Nova can look past his bitterness that Lucario was once a replacement of Mewtwo to acknowledge that it has an interesting play style, at least.
Once they're down to their last stocks, even Zonda and Ghauri stop goofing around as they get invested in the tension.
"It's such a close match..." Tenjian comments, breaking a long silence.
"Um... I'm really glad I don't have to fight Merak. This is too intense."
"Well, you don't know that! You could win against both Asroc and Teseo!"
"Jeez, don't remind her, or she might throw the game," Nova only half-jokes.
Gibril gasps as she just barely fails to dodge another Final Smash, and it almost looks like she can recover, but Lucario falls just short of grabbing the ledge. Merak lets out a breath he'd apparently been holding and Viper holds Merak's arm up in celebration.
"Ugh... fine, you win this time," Gibril concedes, letting the controller fall a short distance to the floor.
"Just wait, our match is gonna be that times two," Viper says, and Merak groans and sinks further down in his chair before getting up to collect his remote.
With the first round of fights completed, most of the less skilled players (and Gibril, now) are out of contention. Nova finds himself thankful that he and Tenjian managed to sit this tournament out, or he might end up having to experience intensity like that firsthand.
Chapter 2: Semi-finals
With the first six matches out of the way, everyone has had a chance to see how each participant plays. While most of the matches were at least a little close, it was clear that Merak and Teseo's fights were on an entirely different level. Gibril and Jota were probably each side's best chances at stopping the other's best player, so Nova doesn't expect their next battles to be as intense.
Speaking of battles that may not be intense, the next is Elise versus Asroc. Asroc seems reluctant to play again, having already expressed regret at winning his last battle, but he steps up regardless. Elise is just as nervous as before.
Both of them hardly remember to use shields or dodging, so they both go all-out offensive against each other.
"You've got this, Elise!" Milas cheers. Nova tilts his head.
"Dude, she's the enemy," Teseo points out, and Asroc even turns to give him a look when he has a free moment.
"Well, she beat me, after all. I can't help wanting to see her succeed!"
"Does that mean I must cheer for Viper now that he has defeated me?"
"Yo, root for whoever with which you wanna be privy! Ghauri doesn't need your pity!"
"Alternatively, you may simply watch the matches unfold while hoping for a good show from either side!" Carrera says, and when Nova looks over at him, he notices he's been watching the screen quite intently.
"Aw man, even you're not on my side? This is all startin' to harsh my vibe!"
"Ugh, will you stop teleporting around? I can't hit you when you disappear," Elise complains, and from the way she's speaking, Nova can tell that she definitely shifted this time.
"Enough. Gain wisdom by my fire."
"If anything, I think I'm losing brain cells watching this tacky girl wave her hands around."
"Wow, ok, so mean Elise is here," Merak says, a little fazed.
"Get him, Elise! Build that confidence!"
"Milas! We want Asroc to win, remember?!"
"What, are you telling me you wouldn't like to see Merak win now that he's defeated you?"
"Hell no, I want him to get his ass kicked! I just didn't want Teseo to do it because that's too obvious!"
"That is simply poor sportsmanship," Carrera scolds, and Milas nods in agreement.
"All of these rowdy children..." Jota mumbles, still nursing a headache. Viper rolls his eyes and kicks Jota's foot.
"You're not even 20 yet, don't start with that," he says, confused since day one as to why Jota acts at least twice his actual age.
As Elise's skill level improves drastically when she shifts, Asroc doesn't stand much of a chance, resulting in the most one-sided match so far. One also might suspect that Asroc is holding back from not wanting to be matched against someone like Teseo. Either way, Elise wins after losing only one stock.
"The butter should be plenty softened by now. I'll be baking if anyone needs me," Asroc announces before making to leave the room. Milas just waves him off, busy praising Elise, and Ghauri... gives him some kind of goodbye handshake?
"Baking..?" Stratos echoes, getting up from the laying position he'd slouched to in his chair to follow Asroc out of the room. Nova thought he'd fallen asleep.
"Who's next? Is it my turn again?" Viper asks, preemptively taking the controller from Elise while she's distracted by Milas.
"Then I'm up, too! Get ready for this slew!"
Ghauri quite literally jumps into the seat Asroc just vacated, still just as energetic as when this had all started. Zonda seems to feed off of that energy and starts getting excited again.
"Go forth and show our dear Viper the power of LOVE!" they encourage, and Ghauri gives them a thumbs up.
"Hey Viper? Do me a favor and beat him so I don't have to hear him rap during our fight."
"Hey Ghauri? Do me a favor and beat both of them so we can have an epic rap battle, lol."
"Hey Viper? Beat me too so you can totally own Teseo."
"Hey Ghauri? I luv u."
"Love you too, bro!"
"Ah... I have taught them well! It makes me happy to see my family expressing such LOVE..!"
"Ugh, I think I'm gonna throw up," Gibril says, slouching in her seat as if to hide in embarrassment.
Now that Nova thinks about it, the G7 do seem more like a dysfunctional family than actual elite higher-ups in an organization, unlike the Sumeragi 7. Well, then again, some of them don't really act with the maturity one might expect from their positions...
Though Viper has already seen Ghauri play, he still can't figure out how to handle all his energetic jumping around, especially since Viper tends towards grabbing.
"I can't-- I can't hit the motherfucker!"
"Yo, I'm invincible on principle! Don't be an imbecile!"
To make matters worse, Joker has that move to drag down an enemy that is above him, which he manages to hit Viper with almost every time he lures him into the air.
"Deep breaths, Viper," Desna says, trying against all odds to calm him down. "You will hurt your teeth if you don't relax your jaw."
"The hell does that-- leave me alone, lady!"
"Look, you hit him as soon as I said that," she points out, and Viper goes silent.
"She must be a miracle worker to make Viper simmer down. Is it truly not possible to recruit her?" Jota suggests more out of exasperation than anything, as he has to deal with Viper more often than most.
"Unfortunately..." Nova says. He hasn't spoken to each individual member about it, but he is under the impression that all of them are firmly against joining Sumeragi. Zonda is an exception, but only because they were undercover. Nova still hasn't punished them for that.
"God, he still has two lives left," Viper groans, only managing to make Ghauri lose one stock over the course of several minutes.
"You employ highly interesting tactics, friend. I shall be rooting for you until the end!"
Carrera is still quite on Ghauri's side, it would appear.
"Are you still fucking rhyming?!"
"That one was unintentional."
"Unintentionally exceptional, check out this spectacle!"
"That one was a bit of a stretch, Ghauri," Tenjian notes. "How about festival instead of spectacle?"
"Ooh, when you're right, you're right! I'm a little distracted by this fight!"
Nova almost asks if Tenjian regularly provides constructive criticism for Ghauri's raps, but decides he would rather not know.
The match drags on longer than the rest, and at one point, Viper just starts yelling wordlessly, only stopping in a victorious sigh of relief when he finally wins.
"Hey, cool moves, guy! Makes me wish you were my ally!"
Ghauri is unfazed by his loss, and Viper numbly lets him shake his hand, looking a little light-headed. Once he's back in his seat next to Jota, he seems to remember Desna's advice and starts breathing deeply to calm down.
"It's me again! I'll kick both of your personalities' asses, tbh," Teseo taunts, catching the controller out of the air when Ghauri tosses it to him.
"Hey, I'd expect you of all people to be careful with electronics!" Merak scolds despite the controller belonging to Eden and not Sumeragi.
"Dude, it's Nintendo, their stuff is like, super durable."
"Yeah, but still..."
"Um... c-can I forfeit?" Elise quietly asks, which Nova saw coming a mile away.
"Nonsense, look how far you've come!" Milas says. "There's no penalty for losing, so you may as well try!"
Elise reluctantly moves up to sit next to Teseo and Milas brings his own chair over to sit at her other side.
This time, Elise doesn't shift at all, and somehow actually plays better than before. She's dodging and shielding like she's suddenly used to it despite not using the features in her previous fights, and even Teseo starts to have a bit of trouble against her. What's more, both Elises seem to have different play styles in general, which essentially makes this Elise a new player.
"Hey... is this really Elise? Did mermaid man take the controller?" Merak asks, actually getting up to look over and check who's playing.
Although Rosalina has a ton of damage on her and is liable to get launched if anything looks at her wrong, she manages to get two stocks ahead of Teseo.
"Uh... what? What?? This is bad, lmao," Teseo says, his fingers moving quicker out of slight panic.
"Maybe you should have plugged your controller in," Merak suggests too late to make a difference.
"No way... I decided not to do that until I fight Merak, but..."
"You might not even get to me at this rate... that's fine, I can totally beat Elise and win this whole thing."
"You-- you can beat her?! ... Well, now I definitely can't lose! I'll--"
"Just remember, no cheating," Merak reminds him, and Teseo sinks in his chair.
Though Elise is sweating twice as much as Teseo, his usual weird taunting is completely absent from the rest of the match. He only sits back up when he gets Elise down to one stock, finally making them somewhat even, besides Game & Watch being at 83% damage.
"This is tense. Here I thought you and tiny over there were close," Viper says to Merak, but Gibril unfortunately hears the comment about her height.
"How the hell can you sit there and call ME tiny?! Merak is like 2 centimeters tall!"
"Dude, I'm still growing. I'll be fine."
"W... well, I'm still growing too, then! How about that?!"
"Ah--" Elise almost says something as she loses, but she quickly becomes much more focused on catching her breath now that the match is over.
While Teseo celebrates, Elise places her hands on her knees and presses her quivering lips together, clearly trying not to cry.
"It's alright, Elise. You did a lot better than Merak gave you credit for; nobody expects anyone but him to be able to beat Teseo," Nova tells her, and Milas pats her on the shoulder.
"You did great, Elise. With a bit more practice, you'll really give Teseo a run for his money!"
"Dude, again, you're supposed to be on our side? I said wow."
"I'm..." She pauses to sniffle. "I'm not upset I lost. I had fun. It's just that... no one's ever encouraged me like that before..."
"Lol, is Milas your dad now?"
"Hm... I've never thought about having a daughter before!"
"I... I..." Elise stutters, at a complete loss for words.
"Move, losers, it's me and Merak next!"
"Hey, I won! And I'm gonna win again in the next fight, lol."
"Viper, whether it's me or you, one of us has to stop him. I'd rather die in real life than hear him brag."
"I hear you. Just don't think I'm gonna go easy on you just so you can be the one to kick his ass."
"Beat the hell out of him, Merak!" Gibril cheers all of a sudden.
"Wait, what? I thought you weren't rooting for me because I beat you?" Merak asks, rightfully confused.
"That bastard called me tiny! I don't care who he's fighting, of course I'm gonna cheer for the other guy!"
"'Kay. Hey Jota, wanna plug my controller in for me?"
Jota sighs and takes it to the console. Once Merak is all set up, he starts the match, and Viper is immediately on guard.
"God, why don't you have Flamethrower or something..?" Viper laments, as Samus is perfectly capable of attacking at a distance while Incineroar has no choice but to close in on her.
"That's like asking why a Chandelure doesn't have Fire Punch."
"I'm not a Pokemon nerd, Merak! I don't know what that means!"
"Then why do you main a Pokemon?"
"Because Bowser is too-- fuck--" Viper interrupts himself as he loses his first stock, leaving Merak mostly untouched so far, "he's too heavy."
"Charizard is a big fattie too though, so like, cool story," Teseo cuts in, and Nova has to take a moment to remember Viper used to play Charizard.
"Charizard can glide fast because of his wings, though! And he looks cool!"
"I wish you picked Charizard so we could watch the game force you to play as Squirtle every time you die, lol."
"That's exactly why I didn't pick him!"
Gibril must have served as an excellent warmup for Merak, because he's not struggling anywhere near as much against Viper. Viper puts up a valiant effort, but Merak beats him with two stocks remaining.
"Hah! And you were trying to say you're on the same level as us!" Gibril taunts him, quite literally adding insult to injury.
"Merak! After this, we're having a rematch!"
"No way, I wanna rest after I beat Teseo."
"After you what? After you what?? Lol."
"Oh, did I not say it loud enough? I said after I beat you."
"It's true, he did," Milas adds helpfully, still seated next to Merak, since he took Elise's place.
"I'm gonna wipe the floor with you so hard, you'll make Asroc look like a pro, lol."
"... See, normally my go-to for a joke like that would be Elise, but..."
"Hey, don't be mean to Elise," Milas scolds.
"Fine, I guess we'll just have to dogpile on your guy, then. You're the one who's gonna be Asroc."
"Lmao, did you just kin assign me?"
"I still don't know what that is."
"I believe it's a form of government-issued identification, from the way Teseo speaks of it," Tenjian tries to explain, but he quickly determines he must be wrong when Teseo starts laughing hysterically.
"You sure have a lot on your plate with this group," Nova says. He finds the energy a bit too chaotic for his liking.
"Yes... it gets to be a bit much, at times."
All that's left now is the final round, which ended up being the matchup everyone in the room was most interested to watch. Everyone but Elise, apparently, who claims that it's getting too stressful and leaves. Milas follows her out to make sure she's alright. Their thinning numbers are quickly replenished when Asroc walks back into the room with Stratos in tow, concerned that he would eat the cookies Asroc has in the oven raw if left alone in the kitchen.
Just one more match, and then they can finally determine a winner between the two factions. That is, unless...
Chapter 3: Final Round + Bonus Rounds
Once both Teseo and Merak are set up, Nova bothers to notice that both of their plugged in controllers are different from the rest. They're either older or special in some way, although Merak did specify "no cheating", so the odds of the controllers having some advantage like that must be low.
"Aw man, I was hoping we'd get Final Destination," Merak says as the match begins.
"New Pork City kicks ass with hazards on, though. People get so freaked out about the big red guy, lol."
"Well, this stage would make more sense if I were fighting Nova as opposed to you."
"Hm? Why is that, Merak?" Nova asks, since he can't see any similarity to himself in the background or the music.
"Jeez, do none of you play the source material of your mains? You're all a bunch of animals."
"I bet Asroc would pay a tetrillion French monies for all the Zelda games, lmao."
"I would pay no such absurd price." He pauses for a moment. "... Actually, how many..?"
"No, forget I asked. I have no interest whatsoever," he claims.
Teseo and Merak do an excellent job of keeping each other at bay. They both appear to be hesitant to go all out right away, hence their ability to keep chatting. As soon as their damage percentages start climbing, they talk less and less.
Even Merak versus Gibril wasn't on this level. It's impossible to tell who will win, or what either player will do at any given time. Rather, Nova finds Teseo particularly unpredictable, which is dangerous. Maybe it's because his character is two dimensional and has such rigid, sudden movements so different from every other character on the roster. It suits Teseo perfectly.
Even when their FS meters charge, they're both being too cautious to use them. Rightfully so, apparently, because they both successfully miss each other completely when they finally utilize them. Most eyes are glued to the screen, absent of commentary aside from Ghauri occasionally cheering Teseo on whenever he's in a tight spot and Gibril threatening Merak if he doesn't win. Stratos and Asroc can be heard quietly discussing something about baking and calories; Nova can't hear them too well but it sounds like Asroc is trying to come up with ideas to help suppress Stratos's eternal hunger. If only it were so simple.
"Hey Teseo? Fall off the ledge," Merak says, almost doing so himself before successfully getting over and past him.
"Hey Merak? No u."
"You guys already did this once!" Gibril cuts in.
"Once is never, twice is always," Tenjian says, a bit cryptic. Nova has noticed he has a tendency to throw out strange phrases like that. Maybe he likes to wax poetic.
The match stays close the entire time, with neither player getting further than about 30% damage ahead of the other. Whenever one of them loses a stock, the other follows soon after. It's a completely even match, so when Merak finally looks like he has the advantage, it's easy to predict that it won't last long.
Teseo actually hits him with his Final Smash this time, placing them both at one stock.
"Lolz, get octopused!" he taunts as the 2D sea creature drags Samus offscreen. Almost as soon as Samus spawns back in, her FS meter is charged.
"Oh, you are so screwed," Merak says, and Teseo gets nailed with the beam this time but manages to survive.
"Spoiler alert: I'm unkillable, lmao."
Merak keeps his distance now that Teseo is cornered, but the stage is only so big. Teseo keeps knocking him off the stage and Merak barely recovers each time, and just as Game & Watch's FS meter is finally charged again, Merak hits him with a smash attack that the game clearly indicates is the final blow, giving Teseo no opportunity to recover.
Nova expects an outburst, but Teseo appears to be in shock for a moment.
"I lost..?" he says, and again, Nova braces for him to raise his voice, whether it's to be weird as usual or to throw a fit, but it doesn't happen.
"Yup... buuuut, if we fought ten times, you'd probably win five of those fights. You already know we're evenly matched," Merak tells him. Is it an attempt to cheer him up? That would be strange for Merak.
"So Merak is the winner! Ha! How's it feel to lose, Teseo?"
"Now, now, Gibril," Zonda chides, back to child form, "don't be cruel. This tournament means a lot to him."
"It's his own fault for--!"
"Gibril." Tenjian only has to say her name once for her to huff and give it a rest.
"... Lol, whatevs. That wasn't the last match anyway, so Sumeragi still hasn't won yet," Teseo says. So Nova's hunch was correct after all.
"What? The tournament's over. We won, get over it," Viper says.
"Lol, u mad?"
"What?! There's just no rounds left in the tournament, you're making stuff up!"
"Don't get mad at me just cuz you didn't know, lol."
"Didn't know what?!"
Teseo unplugs both of their controllers and hands Eden's to Tenjian. Nova breathes a good-natured sigh and picks up Sumeragi's.
"Well, this was inevitable. What happens if you win and Sumeragi and Eden tie?"
"Hm... what indeed?" Tenjian says rather than answering directly.
Out of the corner of his eye, Nova sees Asroc check the time and quickly leave again, Stratos still on his heels. Merak switches seats with Nova, not wanting to walk as far as his original chair.
"So this final round is basically scary old big brother Tenjian avenging his dumb little bro?" Merak asks, clearly just trying to get a rise out of Teseo.
"Um, you missed the part where after this, ALL of my big siblings are gonna beat you down, lol."
"Hang on, what month were you born? That better include me, because I need another chance to kick his ass," Gibril says, clueing Nova in on the implication that Teseo's "big siblings" are, in fact, G7.
"Oui oui, li'l sis Gibril can defend my honor too! Lol!"
"Little?! If I'm younger, say younger, not little!"
Nova tunes them out as he and Tenjian quietly coordinate the rules for their match. Nova is pretty sure he set the rules to be the same as in the tournament, and he lets Tenjian pick the stage-- an icy one to suit him. Nova gravitates to Lucas and quickly reconsiders when Tenjian chooses Meta Knight, a character with no energy-based projectiles. He almost switches to Mewtwo, but he's certain Teseo at the very least will make a fuss about him switching.
"No Ice Climbers this time?" Zonda asks. Nova assumes they're disappointed, but that's impossible to hear in their voice.
"... Well, Ice Climbers are for playing around. I'm not skilled enough at using them for a competitive match..."
"I like when you choose them."
Zonda probably likes to pretend the Ice Climbers are Tenjian and Zonda themselves. Cute.
Right off the bat, Nova successfully freezes Tenjian, satisfied with the irony of it. PK Freeze is an excellent move if you can hit with it, which is definitely less difficult than Ness's PK Flash. Though not as overpowered as he used to be, Meta Knight is still quick and annoying with that sword, and Tenjian seems to be skilled at timing his shields to boot. It doesn't help that Nova can't trick Tenjian into healing him.
Whether Tenjian doesn't have much experience fighting the psychics in the game or he's quickly losing his edge when it comes to blocking and countering, he always seems to be at a loss for how to respond when Lucas launches himself towards him with PK Thunder. Tenjian loses his first stock to that trick before he gets used to it and starts dodging it. Nova, on the other hand, can't help but expect nothing but Meta Knight's sword, so he's caught off guard when Tenjian simply grabs and throws him off the stage.
"Relax, Nova. You can do this," Jota encourages.
"Yeah, it'd be kinda embarrassing if my boss lost right after I won," Merak says.
Well, at least he has a variety of people supporting him.
"Hey, don't you have bragging rights over him now?" Viper kindly reminds Merak.
"Eh, it was more a battle to prevent Teseo from having those. But it's true that he can't say stuff to me now because I can always just say "yeah, well, I beat you in the finals" and he'll have to shut up."
"Omg, ur so c00l and stronk, Mewak! I can't possibly hope to be worthy of getting pwnd by you again! Lol!"
"How... did you say that first part out loud?"
"Don't bother asking," Gibril says, waving her hand. "I've heard worse come out of his mouth."
"Yeah, Viper, try spending like five minutes stuck alone with him. I bet you can't."
"Lol, what's wrong? Are you #2scrub4me?"
"I beat you in the finals."
"If I say that, you have to shut up."
"Ur mom has to shut up."
"I beat you in the finals."
"You beat me in the finals!"
"I beat y--"
"Oh my GOD, I can't live with this! I've never been happier that we're usually enemies, because I would quit Eden if Merak and Teseo were on our side."
"Haha, maybe it's best that the rivals stay on opposing sides," Nova says, and he can sense that Tenjian is a little annoyed that he still sounds so calm. Fortunately, he always sounds like this, even in dire straits. Nova isn't the type to get worked up over a video game anyway.
When Tenjian finally loses and hands his controller to Zonda, Nova can't say he's surprised.
"It'd be nice if you guys would stay down..." he says, but it's not like he actually minds.
As mentioned earlier, Zonda immediately goes for Bayonetta. Nova sticks with Lucas since he's won once already, and nobody else got to switch characters during the tournament.
Zonda is unexpectedly skilled at the game, and their character only makes matters worse. She's quick, and... can slow down time, apparently? Nova has little experience fighting Bayonetta, so this catches him off guard.
"I might actually be in trouble here," Nova admits as he quickly loses a stock after hardly touching Bayonetta. Zonda doesn't seem to have a response for him, but Ghauri has something to say that Carrera quickly plays along with. He doesn't have the energy to comprehend their rapping right now.
Gibril starts cheering for Zonda in her own unique way and, surprisingly, Jota is the one who matches her energy. Nova would have expected Viper to rise to oppose her, but he's too busy staring bewilderedly at Jota. Advantage swings back and forth between Nova and Zonda, resulting in different sides of the room getting louder depending on who is in the lead. Merak just has his hand in the air, sort of lazily rooting for Nova without opening his mouth. Teseo mocks him by attempting to imitate him, but he can't hold back his laughter long enough to remain silent.
The second the match ends in Zonda's victory, they jump out of their chair and immediately transform through a mirror.
"Beautiful!" they shout ecstatically as if all that stoic silence was massively difficult to maintain. "This... is LOVE!"
Nova didn't realize he'd been holding his breath, but now he understands why Viper submitted to Desna's breathing exercises after his match against Ghauri.
"Hm... can I just go ahead and count this as a third victory for Sumeragi?" Nova asks since Zonda used to work for him, even if only undercover.
Tenjian chuckles at that.
"At least let us have one," he says. "This way, we can walk away with something."
All around the room, Nova sees both sides shaking hands and generally being respectful of each other, with the exception of Merak and Teseo, who continue bickering. Even the two pairs who left the room appeared to be getting along... Nova wishes this peace between Sumeragi and Eden could last.