Ruby likely had many questions what the Sword and Armor Women Devotees Society had in terms of resources available to them, that is, where they would be hosting the SAWAD-Fest the mission's poster had seemed so proud of. The truth of the matter was that Ruby would find herself wandering through first the shopping district, then through increasingly obscure areas, before finally ending up in a place cluttered with otakus, geeks, and other such social outcasts. Being predominantly male, except for those that were women in cosplay to attract such people, they all found their attention captivated by a relatively advertisement-free lady in their midst, although her armor might have just as easily been a costume, for all they knew. Ruby would probably draw some attention no matter where she went, though.

Many of the establishments Ruby would pass were small, almost claustrophobically so, nestled into alleys and all boxed up next to each other. Most were selling magazines, video games, clothing, or some combination of the three, with other interesting goods here and there. Places to eat were not uncommon either... but it was hard to think she was going to find a place that could house any sort of reputable society here. After a while of walking, she'd come to a large arena hall, which advertised a live concert, to begin later that evening... and next to that, a much smaller studio building. The building had a sign out front that simply read: "SAWAD." That would be not helpful at all for most folks, but to Ruby, it would be a signpost signaling the right direction. Also, just as helpfully, a statue of a lady knight in armor stood next to it. The mannequin was not exactly awe-inspiring, but the craftsmanship of the armor, which was white and styled after old Creamland knights, was surprisingly well-made. Someone in the society was either an adroit armor smith or else knew where to find someone who was.

A man was standing nearby the armor: a huge, intimidating man with a giant, knotted beard and brown slacks, but completely shirtless. He was exceedingly hairy, all of it black and coarse, and carried a horned, iron helmet under one burly arm. He glared at each of the passing freaks and geeks with contempt and they in turn gave him a wide berth. If he was the welcoming party, he was, at best, one of the women devotees... certainly not one of the women. Ruby might want to try to slip on in without speaking to him, as there wasn't even complete confirmation he was related to the task at hand.
ElecTown, DenCity, Electopia. It looked pretty nice...and pretty busy. Still, people were willing to give her some space as she walked along. Ruby wasn't entirely sure whether that was because they were being nice, or they didn't want to chance run into someone wearing plate armor. At least it made it easy for her to walk onward. Let's see...seemed like the place was quite a bit of distance from the station. Good thing she was well conditioned to walk with all this metal on her. Onward!

...And onward.

...And onward.

...And where was she now, even? There were a bunch of nerds around, looking at her like they hadn't even seen a girl in months, probably imagining what she looked like without her armor. It was a little creepy, to be honest. But as long as they didn't try anything funny, she'd endure and keep looking. Let's see, what was around here...nothing especially interesting, doubly so since she wasn't hungry. ...Was this really where she needed to be? It felt like she made a wrong turn or three, to end up in a place like this...well, let's see. Over there was an arena, and-ooh, armor! Ruby raced over, getting a good look. She kept her distance, though...what if she breathed on it? The polishing would get all messed up. It looked like it wasn't that old, but it was definitely well made...whoever made it knew what they were doing. She kinda wanted to touch it and mess around with it a little to see how the joints worked, but what if she accidentally scratched it with her nail? Nope, unacceptable. The armor itself was really nice, though...hmm? A sign...SAWAD. So this was the place, after all? Well, if the armor was any indication, not all hope was lost, despite the location.

Also at the location, a rather large man. There was a high chance she was the first person all day long to not even be so much as skittish towards him. She wasn't really sure why he was there...he didn't seem like the kind to be at an event like SAWAD. Oh well, she wasn't going to be rude. "Good day, sir!" After her greeting, she'd head on inside. No need to keep anyone waiting.
The great, hairy fellow turned his ominous gaze onto Ruby as she approached, but quickly changed that face to a great, toothy grin, which flashed free of the forest of his beard and moustache. "Aye, a good day indeed! I'll walk with ye," he concurred, sounding just as gruff as she'd likely expected, but not nearly as threatening as he seemed. "Ruby, were it? Yer here fer Benton!" he surmised, stroking his giant beard habitually. "I've got a good feelin' about ye, that I do. Well, no match for me daughter, but I'm sure yew'll do well enough in our SAWAD-Fest drama," he chortled. "The name's Carl Cnut. Ye can call me Carl or King Cnut! I go by both." He wasn't laughing when he said that, which ridiculously implied he actually had some folks who called him King Cnut.

The man seemed to flex every time he moved, perhaps unintentionally. Thus moving, he guided Ruby into the studio. "Should say SAWDS! The sign, I mean. Eventually we changed it t'SAWAD cause we realized that people care more about our SAWAD fest than our actual society, but that's a shame. We'll never get more members like that, just tourists." The inside of the studio was somewhat fascinating, though not spacious. Many spectacular, well-kept armors, of far higher quality and more deliberate maintenance than those outside, of a wide variety of styles as well: Netopian, Electopian, and several others that were harder to identify. The lighting was fairly bright in each room, causing each armored surface to shine. Further inside there were weapons as well... swords of all kinds, as well as a few daggers and knives, most all of them in cases but a few on racks or displays. "Ye like? Our prized possessions, all'a these! We had a lot of trouble with thieves and the like early days, till the bandits learned ol' King Cnut lives here. Aye, I live here. It's noisy, 'at's for sure, but I get to live'ere basically fer free, so I can'nae complain."

None of this seemed very relevant to what Ruby was doing here, but the man kept on chattering regardless. "Oh, look what we got 'ere... two rooms, the smithy and the art room. The smithy's where yew'll find Benton. Sounds like he's not usin' the forge right now, but yew betcha', we got a real forge! Modern-like, as modern as a forge gets... Navis can even help with forgin', did'je know? Well, I'll leave ye to it then. Oh, one more thing!" he added, spinning on his heels with lightness that also was also surprising given his form. "Er, I've got me daughter, and Miya, yew'll meet her later, she's got what ye'd call a regular hitter, so they don't have to interview... but Benton's always gotta interview and he never, ever wins. My daughter's the rainin' championess, seventeen contests! We er... we basically hold the fest every time time he manages to drum one up, and that ain't often, cause he's picky. Here's hopin' you make the interview!" He clapped her on the back of her armor, causing a metallic drumming noise.

Ruby may want to give him a question or two more, or, you know, finally have a chance to say something, before he left. He'd stick around if she wanted to or leave if she didn't. Either way, once she finished up with him, assuming she was ready to go behind the red curtain hanging over the door to the left, she'd find a swelteringly hot room. Here, a younger man with vibrant, orange-red hair was inspecting a sword, holding its grip in one hand and its tip into a narrow slot that kept it firm. With his other hand, he held a PET, running it up and down the sword; some inspection was perhaps taking place. Of note, this man was not shirtless, but his white tank top made him nearly so. His beige pants were heavy and ran into overalls, though they weren't held up at the moment. His muscles were quite impressive, but much leaner and more cut, compared to the other man's. His body wasn't as hairy, either, though not without red hair showing here and there. In truth, even being younger than the other man, he didn't look like the type that ought to be hanging around something named "SAWAD-Fest" in an otaku district. Sweat poured down his forehead, but a smile was on his face. Ruby would have to get his attention when she was ready.

True to King Cnut's word, the forge had everything needed to create weapons and armor, although the raw steel perhaps came from somewhere else... they couldn't very well keep an industrial forge in such a small place. The space seemed rather impersonal, but near the back, well away from the fires, there were a few stacks of posters and the like. One last detail... if Ruby had an especially keen eye, she'd notice that the sword he was working with didn't have a real edge to it at all. From a distance, it would look like the real deal, but to the discerning sword purveyor, it would be apparent that it must not be meant for actual wounding.
And, it was proven that, indeed, you couldn't judge a book by its cover, as it turned out the man was indeed very much related to the event in question. "Er, yes! Ruby Knighton, at your service!" She straightened up and saluted; it was borderline subconscious to her at this point. "Benton, Benton...why does that name sound familiar...ah, right, the mission requester!" She had a hunch he wasn't Benton, though, so she refrained from addressing him as such. "I think you may be a bit surprised at my skills, if you think that! ...Though, I'll admit, I've been so busy with the specifics of coming to Electopia, that I'm probably a little out of practice. I still do what I can, of course!" Speaking of which, this guy definitely was not an Electopian. That accent...Netopian? Or was it Creamlandian? Geography was never her strong suit...if it was Netopian, it wasn't from the part where she was from. "Well, good to meet you, Carl!" Cnut? Nope, she wasn't saying that out loud. Waaaaaaaaay too easy to slip that one up. ...Doubly so when people apparently called him King Cnut. That was living life dangerously close to the edge, in her book...

Huh? Sods? What did that have to do with...oh, right, SAWDS, the acronym. But Ruby's attention was quickly taken away as she entered a collection that many museums would pride themselves on happening. She didn't even listen to the man as she went around, looking at each one just long enough to get caught off guard when she noticed something else. "Ooh, mid 16th century Netopian, nice!...And that's a nice Electopian set! That's...15th century, I think? Not quite as familiar with this part of the world...oh wow, I'm not even familiar with this kind of armor! Is it Yumlandian? The design's completely unlike any I've ever seen!" Her day was officially made.

Huh? Forge? There was a forge in here? "Really? Wow, nice! I was a little worried that if something happened to my armor in Electopia, that there wouldn't be anyone that could fix it! Glad to know there is! It's...kind of a relief, actually." Hmm, so their forge could use Navis to help out? Also neat. "I wonder how well my Navi would do forging...on one hand, he's good with flames and heat, but he also doesn't have very dexterous hands. It'd be nice to know, but he's off doing something important for me, so I guess that's a mystery for another day!" Her guess was that not having fingers was too big a negative to overcome, though.

"Seventeen? Wow. How often do you have these festivals?" ...Whenever? That...worked, she guessed. "An interview, huh? No problem there!" She was adorable and had great sword skills. What wasn't to love? ...For starters, the slap on her back made her stumble forward a bit; even with her armor, it was enough force to knock her off balance. At least she didn't fall down on her way in.

Once inside, one thing immediately caught Ruby's eye. It wasn't the man working on the sword, nor the forge...but the blade he was working on. One good look, and she knew something was off. "Is that a practice sword? I'm guessing you know your stuff, so I know you didn't forget to give it edges!" At least, she assumed he wasn't a crummy swordsmith. Then again, she assumed Mr. Cu-er, Cnut, didn't have anything to do with this, either.

...He needed to change his name, before she had to say it out loud. That wasn't going to end well. At all.
"Har har har! I like yer enthusiasm, young lady! And I'm sure Benton would be pleased to fix up yer armor whenever ye have the need!" the great, hairy man reassured Ruby. After that last little exchange, Carl left Ruby to her interview, while the lady swordsman headed inside to see Benton's forge.

She wasted no time introducing herself to the room's other occupant. The man looked up with a smile, then back down to the sword, finishing his polish. "You've got a good eye for blades, it's clear, Ruby Knighton. That's a good indicator of strong SB, or sword bond, if you're yet uninitiated to my terminology. I'm sure you're familiar with working with a sharper edge, or perhaps a point, which is fine. We make quite a few of those too, here at the SAWDS headquarters, but for the purpose of the drama festival, we clearly need a gentler touch. We'll respect the competitors, their skills, and the craftsmanship of the arms and armor without asking said competitors to risk life and limb in the fashion of old gladiators," he explained, rising to his feet and turning his attention to Ruby rather than the sword.

"I don't mean to boast, Ruby, but as a career armorer and smithy, I like to think I know my way around a blade, yes. The question is, how well do you? Not to frighten you, of course... But in the early days of SAWAD-Fest, I found that I was a bit too lenient in who I chose to wield my armor and weapons. As a result, that braggart, Carl, has been given plenty to brag about. His daughter, Carly, has beaten most of this so quickly that the Festival was hardly worth the price of admission... since then, I've become as discerning with my champions as I have my arms and armor. I don't want to sully the festival or the hard work everyone puts into it; if I seem harsh, that's all the reason there is," he elaborated, already casting his eyes up and down Ruby, perhaps inspecting the armor she had on now.

"I should let you know, if you're chosen, you won't be wearing your own sword or armor into battle, but those I've crafted. We'll still take your preferences into consideration, of course. If your SB and AB, that being armor-bond, are high, I know that it may be difficult for you to part with them. Know that we'll keep them safely in storage until you're ready to leave," he added. "Now... I hope you don't mind the heat, but I find that, just as blades are best formed in heat, so too are the greatest competitors. Therefore, we'll stay in this room to conduct the interview. I have a stool you may sit on if you find it more comfortable, but I'll stand all the same." Once she'd decided, he'd wipe his hands on his apron, wipe the sweat from his brow with one arm, then wipe that again. "Pardon me. Let's start the interview..."

He brought a pair of reading glasses out from behind his apron, placed them onto the bridge of his nose, then brought a paper out from the same storage. He unfolded it, then read carefully. "First off, your swordfighting style; please describe it succinctly for my records. Next, any previous challenges you've overcome using swordfighting, including competitions, championships, duels, or practical use. Also, if you were to take a sigil or banner, what would it be? A color and a symbol... for instance, a gray fox or a green birch tree." He gave her a few moments to respond, nodding and recording her answers. "If you have any questions, we can address those after the interview. Next, I'll need to know your measurements, for the purpose of armoring you properly. I'll need hip, bust, and waist." He'd continue staring at his paper and write down her measurements if she gave them. "Your best feature, what is it? That is, from the perspective of an outsider looking in... what do you think would be the best feature you bring to those assembled to watch SAWAD-Fest? Understanding their appreciation of the women who wear the armor and wield the swords."

If she answered that as well, he'd finish his writing, fold the paper again, and place it inside his apron. After that, he'd put back up the reading glasses as well, then turn his eyes back towards Ruby. "We'll finish with hypotheticals. Say, for example, that you were surrounded by two opponents. One is nimble and fights dirty; the other is slow and fights clean. Where the first is a natural showman, the second is brutally focused upon her goal of winning. What do your instincts say; how would you likely engage the two of them? Please describe your tactics, as best you can." He'd listen intently, nodding and keeping eye contact rather than writing. "Now, another scenario... say that a giant blade... more like, er... imagine heavy machinery in a factory setting, swinging at you wide and fast. What is your natural inclination? Do you use your speed to get under it, perhaps hop back? Attack the wielder and hope to win with speed? Deflect, perhaps, with a shield or brace? Whatever you think you'd do. Your attacker wears some armor, but no so heavy that you cannot hope to penetrate if you attack."
The reason for the non-sharp blade was about what Ruby expected. She nodded, then pulled out her even less dangerous blade and presented it. "Actually, for a while, I've had to make do with this. The force wouldn't let me carry a real one when I was part of it, and customs is a royal pain when it comes to getting anything that's made of metal across international lines. I'm amazed I got my armor into Electopia, quite frankly...but yeah, I'd really like to get through this with all my limbs intact, so...thanks for thinking of that."

Benton proceeded with a warning of his stricter processing of determining his fighters, though she didn't even flinch at this. "Don't worry, I understand, and I don't scare easily. And you wouldn't have wanted me if there wasn't at least a chance I could pass, right?" Optimism never hurt. Now, let's head for wherever they held the interviews...wait, what? They were here? "Really? Well, I can take the heat well enough, so let's get started!" She didn't sit down, since it was a little awkward to sit in full armor.

Question 1. "Well, my style is basically like...this." She repositioned herself such that her more heavily armored shoulder was facing (and pointing at) Benton, with her sword behind her. "When I wear this, I use a more defensive style, using my larger spaulder as a sort of shield. On offense, I tend to thrust a bit from this position, since that's faster than swinging my sword normally, though if my opponent's catching on to that, I'll switch it up...well, that reason, and fencing is one of my pasttimes."

Question 2. "Well, I was the Netopia National Girls Fencing Champion in high school. I got some accolades in college, including Freshman Fencer of the Year, until I was ruled academically ineligible and dropped out. As a policewoman, I carried this plastic sword instead of a gun, and developed a bit of a reputation for bringing in dangerous perps despite my supposed 'inferior weapon', though we both know that's a load of garbage."

Question 3. "Banner? That's easy. I'd honor my Navi, and go with an orange dragon. Preferably bipedal with wings."

Question 4. "...Wha? A girl can't just blurt that out! Here, gimme that." She snatched the paper away, and wrote her measurements down on it before handing it back. Seemed she wasn't overly curvy in the hips, but had a nice, above average bust size. "Honestly, I get why you asked, but asking a woman to just say that? Out loud? Have a little tact!"

Question 5. "Best feature...that's an easy one, too. It's definitely my passion for the whole thing. Every duel, every battle, I always give it everything I've got...because I never know if it'll be my last. And I refuse to go down without giving my opponent the fight of their life. If I can do that, I'm happy, win or lose. Though I can't say I lose that often..."

Seemed that was it...or not. Question 6. "I've run into that exact situation while I was on the force. My answer then, and my answer now, is to go after the dirty fighter first. Above all else, ou don't want to give them the time to plot something, or else you're in a world of hurt. And if they like to show off, that tends to leave them vulnerable more often, making them the more logical first target, anyway. After you've dispatched her, you can focus on the slower, more determined fighter."

Question 7. "That...kinda depends on the angle of the attack. If it's vertical, I'd just sidestep it. If it's horizontal, I'd step back. If it's diagonal, I'd block it with whatever defenses I had. The reason I'd go defensive is that if it's something like heavy machinery, they should then need a moment before they can attack again, and that's when I'd go on the offensive, see if I could defeat them before they could fully recover."

Phew. Hope he liked those answers...
Benton was clearly surprised to see that Ruby's sword, once unsheathed, was more even less suited for combat than the one he was working on. "I suppose that makes sense. This isn't the day and age where you can walk around outside with a real blade and expect the authorities to turn a blind eye. We've had some overzealous types unwrap or unbox their purchases here and carry them out into public. Of course, with that crowd, it's hard to tell who's carrying a real weapon and who is carrying a fake one as part of a costume, but the authorities seem to have an eye for it," he admitted. After that, the two were good to start the interview.

For the most part, Benton stayed quiet and nodded thoughtfully, writing down either notes or perhaps Ruby's answers themselves in shorthand onto his pad. "A practiced fencer... just as i'd hoped," he murmured. "And an active duty officer. Even better. And here I was talking to you about the authorities," he chuckled quietly. He nodded along with the dragon comment, though he didn't ask who her navi was. Ruby wans't letting her fourth answer go so easily, though; Benton looked up from his paper(or where it would be, if Ruby hadn't swiped it) and blinked unknowingly. "Oh, pardon... but it's quite necessary. I can't provide you with fitting armor if I don't know your measurements," he answered as politely as possible. His notes were no surprise: he had indeed been simply writing down abridged versions of Ruby's answers. Once she was done, he accepted his pad back, very calmly, and read. "Ah, fine measurements you have," he commented, seemingly without embarrassment or understanding that there was anything inappropriate about saying so. "I have armor that will suit."

The two settled back down for the next few responses. Benton nodded thoughtfully, though his eyes flickered down to the exposed area between her dress and her greaves for a moment as she mentioned her best feature. "Yes, passion is very important, especially in a drama. The only way the crowd will invest is if you are invested yourself. Of course, that should be easy enough to do, given the sort of opponent you'll be facing... you're in no real danger, of course, but let's just say... well, it might not feel that way," he smiled sympathetically. "And how can I lack confidence when you are so confident yourself? Let's move on to the hypotheticals..."

After removing his glasses and placing his pad back behind his apron, he nodded silently and let Ruby talk. Once she was finished, he closed his eyes and frowned, looking not dissatisfied, but deep in thought. "These last few questions were not about right or wrong, but simply to check your instincts. The reason... is because you have likely never faced an opponent like this. I hope you won't think I'm giving you an unfair advantage by telling you about your opponents; you can be sure that the others are having similar strategy meetings now. Carl was out there to scope you out for the competition just as much as to greet you," he chuckled softly. "Don't hold that against him; the man loves his daughter, what can I say? But yes, let's discuss your answers."

He stood up for a moment, then looked at a pair of swords hanging on a single rack in the corner of the room. One was a tremendous, rough broadsword; the other, a much smaller eastern kodachi blade. "Your instincts tell you to go for the quicker, sneaky one. That makes sense, but it's also the wrong tactic here. For you see, that smaller fighter belongs to Miya and is a veteran of this battle... but one with a zero success rate against Carly. The truth is, she's sneaky, but her focus will be entirely on Carly. If you take her out, all you've done is created a tougher battle for yourself. While Carly is still standing, you're better off to consider this a handicap match... you and Miya's fighter against Carl's daughter. Once Carly is eliminated from the contest, you'll be able to focus on the other combatant, hopefully on advantageous ground."

"As for your defense methods, those are fair. I'd only ask that you consider this: Carly will not have the recovery time you expect. Her speed is superhuman, as is her strength. Even with the dulled edges, she has to reserve her strength considerably to avoid injuring our other combatants. I can't tell you how to fight... I'm not fighter. I'll only say, take whatever you're expecting and double it... exercise double the caution, or you'll regret it. If you're going to take advantage of a window to attack it, expect it to be only half what a human ought to be able to do in that span of time. If you're going to try to block an attack with a blade or armor... well, best to forget that entirely. There's no shield that will stop her weapon. And if you're going to dodge, you'll need to be a step ahead of her. However, if you don't close the distance between the two of you, especially as a fencer using a thrusting weapon, there will be nothing you can do. It's a tough fight ahead of you... You'll need to devise your own strategy. I just want you to be prepared and careful."

With this, he left the two swords and extended one hand to Ruby, to help her up from her seat. He gave a slight grin. "If my wording just now and taking the time to tell you all of that wasn't sign enough, I'll tell you that you've passed the interview with flying colors. I'm going to stake my honor upon you this time, Ruby, but remember: your goal, as with every SAWAD-FEST participant, is not to defeat opponents, but rather, to sate the thirst of the audience. They crave excitement and battle, skill and showmanship. I don't need you to win, but simply to provide a good show, as best as you can. This means, unfortunately, not being eliminated too early... but other than that element of care, I'll entrust everything to your best judgement," he encouraged her. "What remains is to fetch you your armor and weapon and then go over the rules. I know nothing can replace the gear that you're familiar with, but I do hope that your SB and AB will soon flourish."

Benton left the room for just a moment, allowing Ruby a bit of time to think, before returning with a cart. Upon the cart was a hanging curtain, over a cylinder, about his own height; he was pulling it using a long handle and navigated the doorway carefully. "Here's your armor, Ruby. I tried to take your tastes into consideration, while also thinking about what the crowd would appreciate the most. I hope you'll like it. The SAWAD-Fest can be a bit of an acquired taste, so be alarmed if it feels unusual at first..." Slowly, he pulled apart the curtain, revealing... probably not what Ruby was expecting. The sword looked fairly impressive, a fencer's sabre with a hilt fashioned after a golden dragon, including an ornate knuckled guard composed of the dragon's folded wings. "I know you wanted to thrust with an option for horizontal slashes; this sabre will be ideal for that." He ran his finger along the dulled silver edge of the blade, which still looked sharp enough to cut despite his work. "I like this weapon myself. The weight, the heft... a solid weapon, but elegant. This is what Netopian swordsmanship is all about."

What was less elegant, however, was the armor. In the center of the trolley stood what looked like a series of cardboard boxes, almost in the shape of a man. Glimmers of gold coloration could be seen about the chest beneath the boxes, possibly some kind of band, but other than that, whoever wore the suit would look like they were wearing a child's budget Halloween costume, possibly trying to imitate a robot. If it was a joke, he hadn't cracked into a laugh yet. Benton removed the armor from its stand and began carrying it to the back room, carefully. "I'll just set this down in here and, when you're ready, you can get changed. We'll need time to make sure the fit is right before the contest starts, so I'd urge you to do it quickly." He seemed to be getting excited, but it was hard to tell what about... the collection of boxes seemed like a cruel joke after all of the top notch armor and weaponry he'd shown off so far. At the back of the boxes, Ruby would spot several tabs which opened up, allowing her to step inside it... but didn't seem especially well suited for securing the boxes around herself. "You'll need to attach a few latches, you'll feel the buckles near your upper and lower back, and also near your elbows. Buckle those once you're in. Let me know once you're in and I'll come help you with the fitting. Don't worry, you'll be decent, so long as you've entered the suit. I'd ask that you enter the suit in the nude, though, if I didn't mention that yet. Don't worry... you'll be decent, so long as you're in the suit," he reiterated. "And I won't enter until you say the word."

The back room was dark at first, but when he switched on the light, it became illuminated; along with that, a fan turned on, which was blessed given the heat. The room was largely unfurnished, but did have a small sitting stool, as well as a dual printer/copier. A few more stacks of pamphlets sat about here and there: some showed swords, others armor, and a few, which seemed surprisingly large in number but also very dusty, showed a very tall, lightly tanned woman. The woman had a stern expression, short-cropped black hair falling not quite to her shoulders, and wore a heavy, brown fur cape. Perhaps more notably, under that, she wore a rough iron breastplate and bikini style lower body armor, as well as knee-guards and gauntlets, but little else. Her figure was impressive; despite her height and muscle, the size of her breasts managed to stand out. The word "CARLY" jumped out, but also the words "SAWAD-FEST 3." It would seem those were for an older iteration. Ruby might notice that the later pamphlets all seemed to show swords and armor instead.

As if sensing she'd looked, Benton threw the curtain he'd removed over the dusty stack before Ruby could read any more of the poster. "As I said, just call me in when you're done," he smiled, before walking back out and shutting the door. "Let me know when you're ready."
Okay, that was the interview done. Now he wanted to talk about the they weren't just random examples. ...Never fought an opponent like this? Entirely possible, though she'd gone up against nasty sorts in the past. "I probably haven't...but, that's part of the fun! It gets boring if you have to fight the same kind of opponent over and over. And don't worry. Intel's a vital part of any battle. In no way is it unfair, even if the others weren't doing it too!"

And her first hypothetical answer...wasn't the correct one? "I'm sure you know lots about the others, but...I'm not 100% on board with that. If this Miya is the other last woman standing, she'll have had who knows how long to think up a sneaky way to defeat me. That's as big a disadvantage as anything. And is she really, truly, going to focus entirely on Carly? Physically, perhaps...but who says the back of her mind isn't pondering how to beat me? ...I guess I can just go with the battle flow, if you adamantly think that, but I make no promises that if there's an opening, I won't go after it. The goal is to win, after all!"

She fell quiet as Benson went on, eventually telling her that he was in fact going with her. "Great! I'll do everything I can to make sure your faith in me isn't misplaced! But, if Carly's as strong and quick as you say she is...shouldn't winning cover all those things, anyway? I'll need to do all of that just to not get knocked out!" That said, she had to hold back just to avoid hurting people? Armored people? That was...actually really exciting to her. "One thing I want to ask about've emphasized that she's strong and quick like no other. But, how is she between her ears? Is she as intelligent as she is the other things? Or is that a potential weakness? I mean, I don't think she's an idiot, to make it as long as she has, but if I can't match her with my sword arm or sword legs, I'll need to find another way to win."

Once she got her answer, Ruby was left to herself for a moment. She looked over her own was simple and lightweight, but also pretty effective when needed. Plus, it had the nice effect of keeping her chest from getting in the way of her attacks. Still, Benson could probably come up with something just as good, if not better. It was pretty clear the man had talent.

Once he was back, he presented her with her weapon and armor...she immediately gravitated to the sword, immediately taking it and examining it. "Wow, this is perfect!" She lightly thrusted and slashed, getting a feel for her blade. "Yep, this'll do just fine!" Too bad he probably wouldn't trade for her plastic sword. "Cute armor, by the way! But really, what am I gonna wear?" ...But instead of revealing the actual armor she'd be using, he instead took the cardboard, and set it in a back room. She'd guess it was in there...but he didn't go back there earlier. That wasn't it...was it?

The back room's contents confirmed that he was serious about that being her armor for the festival...her mind was racing, trying to figure out in what universe was that suitable for a contest. And...wait, did he just say..."I'm going to be NAKED in there? You've gotta be kidding me!..." Wait...the dulled swords...the cardboard armor...the apparent emphasis on speed and showmanship over defense..."Oh...OHHHHHHHHH...I...think I see where this is going. Is this competition to see who can remove the others' armor with their blade?" It was the only thing that made sense at this point. "That's...definitely new...but I'm not backing down. It's just a new challenge! And another reason to come out on top! ...A really, really good reason..."

Once she was actually inside, a stack of pamphlets caught her eye, causing her to take a closer look. All the evidence pointed to it being Carly...was that what she normally wore? That was Armor Fail 101...either she didn't know how armor worked, or she was so good she had the confidence to not wear full armor. Probably the latter, based on Benson's analysis. SAWAD-FEST 3...she wondered how long ago that was. But before she could grab one and find out, the curtain literally dropped on that idea. With another assurance, the door was closed, and she was on her own. She took off her gauntlets, took a good look at them, as if thinking over what she'd gotten herself into one more time...and set them down on the floor. One by one, she took off her own, actually effective armor, until she was in nothing but her dress, and what she wore underneath.

With a sigh, she removed her arms from their sleeves, sliding them through the hole for her neck, and started sliding the dress off. She needed a moment to get her ample bosom through, though...probably because it was so much wider than the rest of her, relatively speaking. Once that was through, there was nothing left than a rather standard bra and panty set, somewhat fittingly hot pink. She reached back, and started unclasping, until it too was removed from her body. She looked down at her side, to take a look at the one garment left on her (her front would do a bit too good a job at blocking her view), and frowned. "I get losing the bra, but is it really that important to lose my panties, too? Chafing's a thing, after all..." She was only thinking out loud, however, and if those were the rules, she didn't have much choice but to comply at this pont. She reached down, grabbed them by the sides, and slid them down to her ankles before kicking them off and over to where the rest of her attire was. She then looked at her...armor. She had the feeling her idea and Benson's ideas of 'decent' were two very different things...

But, in she went. It...felt about as she would've expected something made out of cardboard to feel on her. And she just needed to buckle in...that seemed fitting; it was probably going to be quite the ride. "All right, I'm in!" At least she was pretty sure he wouldn't be able to see anything...
"Well, if Miya's champion is the last fighter standing... that would be something to see," Benton chuckled, straining to remain tactful. "I don't mean to be rude to the girl or to Miya, but that fighter has had 17 chances to defeat Carly and never succeeded. It will be a welcome underdog story if you manage to dethrone Carly. It would be an absolute miracle if Miya's champion managed to. Still, use your best judgment. If, once the match is under way, you see an opportunity to eliminate her and judge it to be your correct focus, feel free. I can only coach you so far and the rest will have to be snap decisions."

Ruby had one more question for him, which caused Benton to smile. "Ha ha ha... That would certainly be the stereotype wouldn't it? But no, Carl's a wiser man than he looks and his daughter inherited his deceptive wit. Thinking of a weakness is difficult... perhaps overconfidence? I do get the sense she hasn't treated the last few contests with the same fervor, and who can blame her? She's also a very clean fighter, though that hasn't shown as much of a weakness in the past." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Finding some weakness may be the key to victory. Keep your mind's eye open and build your SB; that will drive your blade home."

Her reaction to the sword pleased him greatly, or so it seemed... he smiled easily and often, so it was hard to tell. Even her freakout over the armor was met with an amused grin. "Don't you worry! You won't end up naked... well, completely naked," he corrected himself. "With any luck and with that right amount of skill, you'll hopefully not be disrobed at all. You've hit at the heart of our competition. I did say that this society is about appreciating not just swords and armor, but also the women who wield the swords and wear the armor. I love that enthusiasm, Ruby. That fearlessness is just what you'll need."

Benton would leave her alone for a bit while she got changed. "All in? Good," he responded when she indicated she was finished. Perhaps to Ruby's surprise, the inside of the armor didn't exactly chafe; it felt a bit like the inside was lined with more familiar material, perhaps cloth or cotton. It also didn't feel like she was connecting much with the cardboard at all... but it also didn't feel entirely secure on her. Latching the buckles helped a bit, but it still didn't feel quite tight to her. "Good, all tucked in, I see," her sponsor applauded. "Now, allow me to finish fitting you. First, we'll get rid of these..." he murmured, reaching his hands into the tabs for the boxes surrounding Ruby's shoulders. He eased them forward gently and continued down, pushing off all of the boxes, until the real armor was revealed (the cardboard boxes on her feet she'd have to step out of).

The armor was primarily gold, matching the hilt of the sword he'd given her, with ornate dragon patterns inscribed into it. As she might have guessed, it wasn't exactly practical armor. The outfit consisted of a breastplate with miniature silver plates bearing dragon's heads as pauldrons, banded across the chest of the armor to buckle in the front with a matching circular medallion. A belt fastened tassets at her waist, which covered the sides and back but not the front, with bikini-shaped armor on the lower body. Gauntlets and legs were included in a similar style, although they were very loose about her for the moment. "I'll help you tighten it up," he ensured her, beginning with the legs and arms. He tightened the belts buckling them until they made a good fit. After that, he tightened up the breastplate, which was mostly where it needed to be. She felt the sensation of something else tightening to her chest beneath the armor, though nothing painful.

Finally came perhaps the most invasive part, that being getting the bottom fitted. "Pardon me," he urged her, before placing one hand onto the butt of her armor and one onto the groin. He wouldn't be able to feel anything through the armor, of course, but it was still a bit awkward, as he pushed the two pieces inward to fit properly onto her. The inside of the armor was either lined with cotton or otherwise had another cotton garment on beneath. "There you go! And you strike a fantastic figure in that," he ensured her, again unabashedly. "I designed a helmet, but unfortunately, we can't have our champions wear them in SAWAD-Fest... trust me, you would not want Carly Cnut swinging a two-handed sword at your head," he chuckled. "Oh, and one more thing, before you get moving. The armor is brittle... it has to be crafted that way in order for the battle to proceed. This will be a counterintuitive battle on two fronts... first, rather than guarding yourself with your armor, you'll be trying to protect it. Second, you are not attacking your opponent's unarmored spots, but rather, aiming to break off or shred their armor. A contestant is eliminated once they've lost enough armor that our judges, a panel of us three SAWDS founders. That will be a state of... extreme clothing distress. Not nudity, of course. We've taken precautions."

That was as far as Benton could reassure her; for now, he opened up the door and ushered her out the room. "We'll be heading over to the arena now, if you're still firm on competing. We will have to cross through foot traffic, hopefully you don't mind. You do have a sword, after all... no one should bother you," he reminded her, his eyes moving down to the blade for a moment. Even as polite as he was, he was having a difficult time not looking down to her mostly exposed legs or her bare midriff. If the breastplate wasn't relatively modest he'd probably be having an even harder time keeping eyes up. "And if you have any further questions, please, ask them as we make our way. I'll be happy to inform you however I can. I'd imagine the others are already in their places, given the familiarity of the contest, so they are waiting only on us."

If Ruby did indeed choose to accept her mission and follow him out to the arena, she'd find that she was drawing a lot of excited gazes. Many were attempting to take photos as well. No one was getting handsy though, so that was nice. They were probably use to giving costumed characters a wide birth and appreciating in the form of voyeurism... a small sampling of what was presumably to come.
...Wait. This wasn't of cardboard. It almost felt more like regular clothes. Strange...but it was all explained when the cardboard came off, revealing...somewhat revealing armor, not unlike the flyer from earlier. It was definitely more suited for her, though, with the dragon pauldrons and all. "Well, uh...way to fake me out. Don't get me wrong, I'm pleasantly surprised, it's just-oof!" As Benton tightened her breastplate, she could feel something besides it near her bosom. Maybe there was a bra underneath or something?

Ruby had little time to think about that, though, as he went down to work on her lower armor. ...She had to admit, she wasn't expecting a guy to grab her by the crotch when she accepted this mission...though, the armor made sure he wasn't actually feeling her. Once everything was fit, she noticed something. It...didn't feel quite as sturdy as she was expecting. "Er, I know this isn't made out of cardboard, but it feels...oh, what's the word...not cheap, but it feels like one good whack could destroy it." As it turned out, there was a perfectly good reason for it, and it was explained. "Oh...I see...well, I'm not chickening out now! All I have to do is win, and I won't have to worry about that extreme clothing duress! ...Um, but even if I do, I've got nothing to be ashamed of!" Whether she was talking about losing to what might be the toughest opponent she'd ever fought, or about having a nice body, wasn't really clear.

The future Official head moved a bit gingerly at first, but as she grew more accustomed to her armor, she started walking more naturally. She took a look over at her sponsor...and it seemed he was into this event in more ways than one. It didn't bother her, though; a swimsuit would show more than this. Though, if he could just not stare at her legs quite like that, that'd be nice..."I know I'm probably a bit red in the cheeks, but..." ...Wow that didn't come out quite right at the end. ...And neither did that internal remark. "Don't worry. I'm not backing down at all. To achieve my dreams, something like engaging in the fight of my life with the risk of losing some dignity if I lose needs to be nothing!" At least she was determined. "Hmm. I've heard plenty about Carly now, but what about the other competitor? I wouldn't mind knowing some more about her, if you'd be so kind. Miya, you said her name was? I think that's all I really need to know, though...pretty soon, I'm going to be on my own. Well, maybe not all on my own. A good sword's as good a partner as anything, and this one is a beauty!" And it was probably going to get a workout pretty soon...though her fencing experience meant she knew a thing or two about evading and blocking with her own weapon, instead of relying on her armor for defense. At least she'd go in with some knowledge of how that worked.

Less so was the reaction she was getting from the audience. She was used to crowds seeing her duel, but they were usually focused more on the swordplay, and less on...her. But she had to ignore the nervousness creeping into her. If she turned back from this, how was she going to rebuild the Officials? She wasn't, that's how. So suck it up, buttercup, things are about to get crazy.
"Nothing to be ashamed of, to be sure," Benton echoed, ever supportive. "Your body is perfect for this sort of exhibition, Ruby, and I know our SAWAD-Fest faithful are going to appreciate it thoroughly." He smiled again, then shook his head. "So long as you put up a worthy fight, you will lose nothing, even in defeat. There is no dignity to be lost after a good battle. I can tell from your words that your sword-bond and armor-bond are fully sufficient," he assured her, keeping his hands inside the pockets of his apron while he walked. "Certainly, let's talk about them. Miya is not the competitor... truth be told, unlike Carl and myself, she knows little of swordplay. She appreciates the art but has never taken up the practice. No, Miya is another sponsor, and her chosen champion is a lady by the name of Chan Long. She practices the Long Fist style... do you know it? It says: 'the best defense is a strong offense.' Martial arts, very fluid, with many kinds of flips, kicks, and the like, with adept swordsmanship on top of it, utilizing a thin, straight sword."

He smiled knowingly, gauging Ruby's reaction. "You're probably thinking that she sounds like a worthy competitor, are you not? And she most certainly is. She's cunning and fast... but also very arrogant. And nothing in this world bites at her ego quite like the fact that she has been bested seventeen times by Carly, countless more if you count their contests outside of SAWAD-Fest. It's hard to say what it is, but there is some fatal flaw in her fighting style that causes her to be read before the fight even begins and she suffers a quick defeat, even when using dirty tactics like kicking sand, faking an injury, all sorts of dubious sorts of maneuvers like that. You'd think Carly's honor would mean she'd be suckered in, but she can go from tending a wound to smashing the armor of the pretender in a heartbeat. Their intense rivalry and Chan's single-minded rivalry against Carly add up to one thing: the two will occupy each other, at least for a time. You're free to choose your own strategy, but in my mind, a fight with Chan still in the picture can only benefit you, compared to taking on Carly one on one."

The way to the arena seemed longer than made sense, given it was right next door, but they ended up having to circle around through a back entrance to reach the area designated for them, rather than going through the front. "The appearance is a bit deceptive. There is a large arena inside, but also a few auditoriums. We are in the auditoriums still, unfortunately. When we moved in next door, we always anticipated making it to the big stage and filling arena seats, but... so far, we are not at that level of operating income or interest," he admitted with a slight shrug. "The audience will still be plenty, don't worry. There will be plenty of glory and renown to go around."

It appeared that they'd come up behind the stage. The area was fairly dark, save for four lights shining down in spotlights (and none of them on the sttage just yet). Curtains hung all around, presumably to keep various competitors segregated as they prepared to come out. "Here we are. Just as I thought, the others are already in place... I can tell from their voices coming beyond those curtains." They were so quiet that it was hard to tell, but at least the voice of Carl was apparent (though in a whisper). "I'll go let them know we've arrived, then make my way to the judge's table. You can await the order to step on stage; before the match starts, rules will be given. Just try to enjoy yourself and the fight... I know swordfighters such as yourself don't get a lot of chances to cut loose, hm hm hm."

Benton disappeared behind the other curtains, leaving Ruby alone for just a moment. That wouldn't last long, as soon enough the MC for the event would speak up, motioning her to go through the curtain and out front of the stage. "Let's hear it for our three contestants! First of all, the newcomer! Benton's lovely champion, the fiery and gorgeous Ruby Knighton! She's stepped straight out of the pages of your favorite fantasy book and into our SAWAD-Fest, though it's not dragons she's hunting today. Ruby fights with her pride on the line against two established SAWAD-Fest veterans!" The voice spoke with an accent that suggested an Electopian woman, but her enthusiasm sounded just as great as Benton's, if not more so. Speaking of which, as soon as she left the curtain, she'd be treated to raucous applause from the fans at the event.

Despite being just an auditorium, the audience area was packed to capacity with fans, mostly men, mostly otaku. They were dressed in various SAWAD-Fest fan memorabilia, but three colors stood out amongst their gear: orange, bright purple, and silver. It looked like the purple was dwarfed by the other colors, so it was mostly a battle of orange and silver. "Before you fight, Ruby, are there any words you'd like to say to this passionate SAWAD-Fest crowd? Any cause you'd like to champion? Before you speak, note our very important sponsors in the front row! They're from Feilong's Tail, who also sponsor the Feilong Cup, a renowned wushu tournament that frequently runs next door. Catching their eyes could mean a fortune in your future! Aiyah, was that spoken out of turn? But it's true, ho ho ho!"

Ruby would have the floor to speak a few words, then it would be time for the others to come out. After that, it was presumably just instructions, then time for the fight to begin. Ruby would also want to keep in mind that winning the audience over was important (though just the look of her seemed to be plenty for them). As far as the stage went, it was free of props and very level, to give the fighters a fair playing field. That said, the curtains and lighting on this side were nice; they seemed to light up like holograms, displaying gold and yellow, with orange dragons sliding across the surface of the fabric, to accompany Ruby's entrance. Exciting music, full of upbeat horns and drums, came from the sound system, although it was competing with audience's cheers.
"...I guess not, but I'm not big on settling for second best. Especially when it comes to swordplay!" Dignity...that was a relative term. If Carly backed up everything he was saying, then there wasn't really any shame in losing to her. On the other hand, she'd be wearing...just whatever was underneath this armor, so on that front...well, if it was too much, she always had her hair to cover herself up a little more with.

Anyway, she had more important things to think about, like this info about her opponent. "Can't say I've ever heard of the Long Fist sounds like quite a sight to behold. But if it favors offense to that extent...well, I think I can see why she keeps getting defeated." More information was shared. "Well, that does put things in a different light. But she's hardly my ally, all the same." ...Speaking of light, she wasn't out in the spotlight yet. "This might just be something a newbie would say, but this is quite the walk...ah, that'd explain it." In the back of her mind, she couldn't help but wonder if part of the reason it wasn't getting more attention was because the same woman was repeatedly winning. Maybe winning would help more than herself...fortunately, that was precisely the kind of victory she sought.

And there they were. Behind those curtains were her opponents...she was a bit eager to see them in person. "All right, I'll wait. ...Mmm, that's true. Even on the force, most of the time I had to hold back just so I wouldn't hurt anyone. But this, with people that I can go all out on...I can show this crowd why I was known in the fencing world as the Red Fang of Death!" Well, not so much the death part, that was just added for pizazz at some point.

Now, the moment of truth began. Once her name was announced, Ruby walked forward, sword in hand. Once she was near the middle, she stopped, and placed her hand on her hip. Looking around...a lot of the crowd seemed like the sort she'd passed by on her way over. And they seemed to be favoring three colors. ...Wait, orange? Well, she had mentioned that in the interview...did that mean they were rooting for her? Then she'd best not disappoint. Who the silver and purple represented was less clear...was Chan not popular for always losing? Or was Carly boring people with always winning? Either made sense to her, but she was fairly sure orange represented herself, at least.

And now she had the mike. Better not blow this chance to self-promote. "I'm not here for personal glory...I fight for the cause of giving the people a group they can trust! Yes, I dream of the day the Officials rise from the ashes, and can once more aid a world in need of assistance! Though I must say, I didn't expect so many in the audience to be pulling for me over the seems I have another reason to fight, to ensure that those supporting aren't left disappointed!" She raised her sword high as further acknowledgement of her fans...she'd been in the spotlight enough to know that a shout out to those rooting for you went a long way.
Despite his assurance that everything was fine even if Ruby didn't come in first, he seemed pleased by her competitive spirit, as he smiled and walked away. Then again, his face only seemed to have two settings: regular smile and bigger smile, so it would have been strange to see him frown, even if she'd told him she was planning to come in dead last. "The Red Fang of Death, hm? Don't get too carried away out there," he spoke from behind the curtain.

Once Ruby went out and introduced herself, the reception was as warm as she could have hoped; it appeared things were getting off on the right foot. "Ruby has her own convictions! I like that in a fighter! And it seems like she's a surprise favorite to possibly unseat our reigning champ. However, we've got another fighter to introduce first; she may not have the record, but no one can say she lacks persistence! Give a rousing applause for Chan Long!" The crowd's reaction was a bit subdued compared to when Ruby came out... either that indicated that her fan base was diminished, or it was just that Ruby had absorbed some of the applause from the event getting under way in general.

As Chan came out, soaking in the adulation with a spirited wave to the crowd, it was at least partially clear why she kept being invited back, given that she was easy on the eyes. She had a classic Electopian look, her skin a bit on the dark side, with long, straight black hair and almond-colored eyes. The smile on her face was very wide, with a slight curl to the lips on both sides, and she looked remarkably amused given past failures. Her armor was a bit lighter than Ruby's, consisting of a brown, leather breastplate and similar armor in a bikini style on the bottom; a silk wrap, purple in color, with white flower print across the surface, hung a leather belt at the waist. The breastplate was secured by a leather shoulder strap with a pauldron on one side, but a long sleeve of similar silk fabric hung from one shoulder down past the wrist. Her hands were covered with white silk gloves, elbow length, covered by brown wrist and elbow guards. Her leg had similar knee-length stockings with brown leather pads over the knees and shins, laced around the back. She didn't have Ruby's bust-size, but her figure was otherwise slender and fit.

Like Ruby, she had no scabbard, so she held her sword in her hand. Also like Ruby's, her sword was very narrow, made for quick attacks. It would do the job parrying against a sword of the same size, but it was hard to imagine she could deflect a blow with from a two-handed broadsword swung by a super-human using it. The blade was silver and straight, a bit wider than Ruby's; the hilt bound in purple leather, the plate at the base of the blade fashioned in the shape of a purple, metallic flower. Fittingly, all of the scrolling banners had changed to white flowers on purple background, while the music switched over to an eastern tune on woodwinds. "That's a nice speech, newbie, but I am here for personal glory. You don't know how hungry I am for victory, how I've scratched and clawed for even the tiniest bit of momentum in this contest! A newcomer stands no chance of defeating Carly nor myself. You'd be better off going home now, before you end up naked and embarrassed," she scoffed. "The cause I champion is none but my own satisfaction. I will revel in the title of victor! And why do I know this? Because... I have a new plan! A secret strategem that will leave both of my opponents clutching meager scraps to their bodies!"

The few left to her in the crowd cheered while others reigned boos upon her, perhaps a bit surprising given that she'd just promised them naked ladies. It was likely that this was not the first time Chan had given a lofty promise and, as history showed, she'd failed to deliver before. "That's our Chan! Now, we have one contestant remaining, but one who needs no introduction. Our seventeen-time champion, the great Carly Cnut! Will she bring home another trophy, or will someone else finally steel her shine?!" The music switched abruptly to booming war drums, accompanied by no other instruments, while the banners switched to an image of a horned helmet, black over gray.

The stage seemed to shake as a massive woman strode out from behind the right-most curtain. Ruby had seen her on the poster earlier, but the image hadn't done her justice: she seemed somehow over-sized, possibly even matching the medical definition of a giant. Even if she'd stood next to her tall father, it was likely she'd be a half a head taller. She looked perhaps a bit older than the first poster had depicted her, but not at all unattractive, unless her tremendous size was a turn-off. Another thing that didn't match the poster; she didn't seem stern at all. Her brown hair was bushy and unkempt, seeming messily sliced away at the shoulders but still full on bangs, but one calm, blue eye was visible behind the curtain of those bangs. It was a rather pretty eye, matching a rather pretty frown; her face was actually so pretty that it was a wonder she could be related to Carl. Her muscle and hair had a resemblance, though, but thankfully the hair didn't seem to erupt all over like his did.

Carly's armor was as it had been pictured: silver breastplate, bikini-bottom, gauntlets, boots. White fur lined the gloves and boots, matching a loincloth hanging from a plated belt at her waist, a detail which had been left off the image. A thick chain also hung around her neck, from which another metal plate hung; it was gold, not matching the rest of her armor. Perhaps most distinct was the tremendous, two-handed sword she carried (one-handed, presently). The steel was so long that it would run the full height of a shorter woman, if placed point to the ground. It didn't look particularly sharp... almost worn, as if it had seen a lot of use and not been maintained as meticulously as Benton would have kept it. Then again, if what Benton said earlier was true, it didn't need to be sharp to do its job. It didn't seem especially well suited to this type of contest, but her record spoke otherwise. The hilt of weapon was wrapped in plain white bandages, with curves like horns extending around the base of the blade.

"People of SAWAD-Fest... I dedicate this contest to SAWAD-Fest itself. I hope that those from Feilong's Tail will take notice of the great passion we put into our battle. Also... to my father. SAWAD-Fest would not be possible if not for his vigilance. The two of us love the festival, as much as I know all of you do. Raise your voices now, if you wish for everyone to know how much you cherish our tradition!" she encouraged all of them, hefting her sword up above her head with two hands. The crowd boomed in raucous applause, even those who had declared their devotion to the other girls.

"Carly's fired up, but will this SAWAD-Fest be her last on top?! We shall see after a brief explanation of our rules, to benefit the first-timer," the lady's voice elaborated, sounding from the speakers, but also from somewhere beyond the curtain, more quietly. "Grappling is allowed, but tearing of clothes or armor using one's hands will result in a penalty to judgment. Any striking must be performed only with one's sword. No favor will be awarded from judges for blows against the body; repeated or excessive blows against the body will result in either a penalty or disqualification. Covering one's armor with one's arms or hands may result in a penalty after repeated offenses. Deflecting an attack against the armor with one's sword is, of course, permitted. All combat must remain upon the stage to avoid harm to those in audience. When duress to one's armor is deemed sufficient for stoppage, a participant will be eliminated. Any participant disqualified or eliminated must immediately lay down arms and exit the stage. Any competitor may forfeit and quit at any time by saying the word 'forfeit.' If a competitor is disarmed, a penalty will be judged and no time-out will be given for them to retrieve their weapon. Competitors may call for a time-out when they choose by saying 'time-out'. If all judges agree unanimously, the time-out will be awarded. A penalty may be issued if the cause is afterward considered unjustified. Remember that favor is awarded for the destruction of armor and also for showmanship, as gauged by audience reaction."

"Well, I believe that covers everything! Now, it's just three lovely competitors... a free-for-all and a test of swords and sword-arms! May the best competitor win! COMBAT, BEGIN!" the voice cried. The banners surrounding the stage were currently evenly split between all three competitors, regardless of who the crowd supported. Interestingly, the voice had started the contest such that Carly was standing in the center of the stage still, with Ruby on one side and Chan on the other. Chan was smirking and holding her sword at about neck level, keeping her arm lifted, while adopting a stance keeping one leg forward. Carly hadn't adopted any stance yet, but her eyes were on Ruby; she looked curious, as if wondering how Ruby would start. Her sword was still held completely vertical, point to the floor. It seemed like a decent opportunity to make a pincer attack on Carly, if Ruby was so inclined.
"Don't worry, it's just a nickname." The only reason she was the Red Fang of Death was because she had red hair. And the death part was only because of how quickly and decisively she often won fencing matches. And the fang was just the saber/epee/foil she was using in that particular match. Really, once you examined it more closely, it wasn't nearly as scary as it sounded.

It seemed a decent amount of the crowd was indeed on her side, something that Ruby found a bit of a relief. The next fighter found herself without such an advantage, which meant she knew who she was before she even appeared. She took a moment to study her armor and weapon...not too far removed from her own, though the armor did seem a bit lighter. And...the other woman opened her mouth, and any respect she might've had going in was lost. Anyone in it solely for themselves didn't have the will of a champion. Still, she was going to be civil, even if she didn't really want to after that. "Sorry, but I don't plan on leaving here either naked OR embarrassed!" She was here to win, and doing that meant not being either of those things when she was done.

And now, for the often spoken of, but not yet seen by one Ruby Knighton, the reveal of Carly Cnut. ...And, uh, wow. That flyer wasn't 100% accurate, but not in the way she'd expected...she managed to be bigger than what she'd expected. Thankfully, she didn't look like a female version of her father, either; really, she just looked like a normal pretty girl that'd been blown up to twice the normal size, or something. Her armor was pretty consistent with the earlier image, though. The sword...looked like a claymore, from where she was standing. That she was wielding one handed. Getting hit by that in an unarmored spot would HURT...but based on her apparent skill, that wouldn't be an issue. She didn't speak to the other competitors, but she sure knew how to fire up the crowd.

After going over the rules, the announcer started the battle...even though Carly was still in the middle of the stage. An odd way to do it, but given her track record, it probably wasn't a disadvantage at all. And as the competition, the first and only New Official...did nothing for a moment, but then slowly started to move forward, sword still held to the side, and started to speak. Hey, if she wouldn't talk to her opposition, the opposition would just have to talk to her. "You know, all I've heard about you before the fight doesn't really do you justice, Carly. I can practically feel your battle aura all the way over here, and it blows away even my own. You don't even have to swing your sword, I can already tell you're the toughest opponent I've ever faced...even someone of my skill level might not be able to beat you. But, unfortunately for you, in order for my dream to come true, I can't let little things like impossibilities get in my way. Whether I can or not, doesn't matter. I will, and that's all there is to it!" She actually wasn't quite ready to go on the offensive yet...she wanted to know a little more about Carly, and getting her to talk some more would help with that.
The crowd cheered along with Ruby as she announced she was playing to win, although, one might wonder if they weren't just getting swept up in the moment; it was hard to imagine that at least some of them wouldn't prefer all three contestants naked. Chan smiled at Ruby for a moment, then stuck out her tongue to taunt her opponent, then relaxing back into a wolfish grin. Next out was Carly, then the battle was underway... Sort of. Carly was waiting and watching Ruby, while Chan entered stance, but still did not approach. Ruby broke up the monotony by addressing a few questions to Carly.

The giant swordswoman tilted her chin up, keeping a frown but showing interest in what Ruby was saying. For the first time, she smiled, then flipped her hair a bit so that it got out of the way of her other eye (temporarily). "That's excellent, Ruby. I'm sure we'll have a good fight. SAWAD-Fest needs spirited competitors such as yourself," she responded in a complementary way. "And I need worthy rivals."

At that, Chan seemed to bristle, still smiling, but with a meaner look in her eyes. "That's funny! I was just thinking the same thing. How I'm going to have to find a new rival once I best you today, Carly! You're not the slightest bit interested in the plan I have in store for you today? Let's just say... I think the audience will enjoy seeing you lose just as much as I will! A complete and devastating failure! Can even hands as big as yours cover up those big boobs once they're out of the armor?" she giggled, laughing through her teeth.

"And it's nice to see you as confident as ever," Carly responded without turning around, settling back to a frown. "But aren't you going to make the first move? You've always been so quick before."

"I don't need to this time. In fact... this pace suits me just fine!" Chan cackled, flexing her fingers in the air. She might be liking it, but the crowd wasn't so much. They'd died down considerably from earlier... it sounded like they weren't used to seeing a SAWAD-Fest start off so passively. "Three... two... one! Right about now!" she informed Carly, while looking to the crowd with a devilish grin.

Carly raised an eyebrow, along with her sword, which she held at a horizontal base, waiting to block an attack. Instead... her shoulder armor suddenly fell off, clattering onto the stage noisily. The crowd stayed silent for a moment, not understanding what had happened... then began to roar with activity, despite still not understanding. "What was that?" Carly asked, frowning harder now as she turned slightly to face her foe.

"Hehehe! I'd love to say I had something to do with that, but, dear Carly, I'm afraid you're just a slouch who doesn't properly maintain her armor!" At that joke, the small number of Chan supporters in the crowd laughed like hyenas. They sounded exhilarated; it was likely that their favored competitor rarely got this far over the past sixteen festivals. "Maybe that was just a freak coincidence! Let's wait another half a minute and see what happens!" Lowering her shoulders, Carly raised her sword in front of her, as if lowering the area of hit connection and preparing to block an attack still. At that, Chan guffawed. "Heehaha! I'm going to win without even attacking, Carly, don't you get it!? You big goof!"

"Ruby... Tell me more about yourself and your cause. I'd like to know my opponent... and you will be my opponent, after I finish off Chan," Carly spoke over her shoulder, before charging Chan like a bulldozer, causing the stage to shake. Chan's eyes widened asa she placed both feet back on the ground, then leaped into the air. She managed to leap-frog the initial attack, then burst into a big grin, thinking she'd won. Instead, while still mid-air, she found herself caught. Carly's sword shot through the air with astounding speed, seeming for a moment to have skewered Chan and held her in place. What had actually happened became clear in the next moment, as the giant fighter slung her competitor, breaking off the chest armor she'd hooked around the back as she did; the sleeve remained hanging around her arm, but a tighter, thinner bikini of black leather covered where the armor had broken. It wasn't exactly armor and didn't hide her breasts very well. It also didn't look like it would hold up against blade attacks any better than the armor had. Chan cried out in frustration as she hit the ground, then rebounded and resumed her original stance. She'd ended up close to Ruby now, but barely seemed to recognize her as she licked her lips and focused on her hated enemy.

The crowd was definitely on the upswing now, cheering loudly at the comeback. The banners which had displayed evenly before now changed mostly silver, indicating perhaps that Carly had taken the lead in points. The announcer pitched in here as well. "In the blink of an eye, the whole situation has changed! Chan has a master plan and it seems to be causing our champion to have a little wardrobe malfunction! But will Chan survive in this contest long enough to see the fruits of her treachery? And whatever it is... we'll have to make a specific ruling against it next SAWAD-Fest! But until then, we'll allow it! However, note that any of Carly's armor that just falls off on its own is not going to earn Chan, or whoever might have caused that, any points!"

"SHIMATA!" Chan cursed, perhaps not having taken that into account yet. "Well, not like it matters! Carly will eliminate herself, mostly, then I'll cut the last of it off while she struggles to cover herself!" she switched back to boasting on the turn of a dime. "Well, Ruby? We're on a timer! If you don't fight Chan quickly, you'll lose the chance to fight her altogether! I'd say you'd best jump on that quickly!" It seemed at least one competitor was perfectly happy to let the others fight while she sat back and watched. From Ruby's perspective, though, even if honor didn't enter into it, Ruby would need to start acting quickly to get points... Carly's armor was apparently on a timer now, while Chan seemed to be caught in the headlights of a monster truck with no feasible way of outrunning it.

Chan had her side turned to Ruby, perhaps not regarding her as a threat for the moment. Carly, on the other hand, had such a long weapon that if she charged again, and with the same speed, she might bowl through the two of them. Ruby would need to decide how she was going to counter that attack... or at least get out of the way of it. But perhaps most importantly, she was going to need to remind the two competitors why she wasn't to be considered an afterthought in this fight.
Well, it looked like Carly was taking a shine to her. That was probably good. She very clearly wasn't a Chan fan, though, based on her reaction to her. Ruby raised her sword, pondering ways to strike...but something about the eastern woman made her hesitate. It was almost as if she wanted to stand around doing nothing...and the reason for that became clear as Carly's shoulder armor clanged onto the floor. "What the?! ...Seriously?" ...But once she got over the initial shock, she really questioned the practicality of it. If judging was a thing, that surely wasn't going to be worth many points...

Her train of thought was immediately interrupted, however, by the sight of a giant sword being swung by a giant woman. Did she, that sword was too dull, and she was too good a swordsman. Once Chan landed near her, it was quite clear what happened...and Ruby suddenly could feel her face warming up a little as she saw the other woman without chest armor. Suddenly the whole concept of armor stripping just got a whole lot more...something. She wasn't really sure of what....

...Oh, right, Carly'd asked her about herself. She might want to answer. "My cause...well, it's pretty simple at its core. When I was a girl, my grandpa always talked about his days helping people as an Official NetBattler. It resonated with me...a group of people the public could trust, aiding in all matters, from the well-being of the world, to just giving a hand to a little kid. But since then, they've disbanded, and no one's really filled in the void. That's where my dream comes kickstart the Officials' revival, and give the world the helping hand it needs and wants!" She gripped her blade tightly, and gave a salute by pointing it straight upwards in front of her. "That is what I fight for, and why I cannot lose!"

Now, she had a problem. She needed to get some points, quick. But, she also needed to get out the way of Carly, just in case...wait a sec. Ah, the answer was actually pretty simple, for a fencer like her. "En garde...prĂȘt...allez!" As she spoke, she went into fencing form, culminating it as a technically flawless lunge. Her target was the very small space where her blade could get inside the armor covering Chan's butt, and with a good enough push, it would hopefully come apart from the force of the saber. "And, raddoppio!" She didn't want to stick around to see the fruits of her labor, and before anyone could wonder what she was talking about, performed a swift advance...though she was in fact advancing on nothingness, and was simply getting out of the way while the getting was good. There, if she did that right, that oughta help her in the standings.
"An admirable goal," Carly responded from the other side of the stage, nodding approvingly. "I only hope your conviction can survive a loss here, because I don't plan on being a stepping stone. My father and his father beside him were great warriors... and I've made this my war. No one will defeat me at SAWAD-Fest," she reasserted.

"Hee he he! Well, don't worry, Ruby! You won't be losing to Carly, at least!" Chan snickered. As if timed, the knee of one of Carly's boots began to hang from the shin... it would probably fall off after she charged.

Unperturbed, the giant woman kept her eyes on Ruby. "You cannot lose? Let's test that claim, then," she murmured, before charging forward in a rush that gained momentum at inhuman speed.

The smile was still on Chan's face; she started to bend over and place her hands upon the ground, perhaps intending a charge of her own or a sprint. Instead, her raised butt became an excellent target for Ruby, who thrust her narrow blade towards the leg opening in her armor. As it turned out, Carly's blade had probably never gone through an opening before, but rather carved away material it hit; Ruby could feel her blade cutting through the armor as though it were cloth. "Shima-" Chan started, still intending to do her original maneuver, a cartwheel backwards. The timing was off due to the distraction, however. "HOLY SHIYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-" the Electopian lady wailed, as Carly's body bowled her over. She raised both hands to guard her face, just to have Carly smash both braces with the edge of her blade. One severed in half while the other barely hung on. The smaller girl took that moment to escape, scrambling away quickly.

The wrap was still covering Chan's lower body, having survived Ruby's assault, but beneath that a tight black bikini showed, of a material matching the top. Worse, it looked like a cut might have shown up in the fabric on the back... it seemed like the fabric parts of the armor weren't any less fragile than the armor parts. A bit of skin showed through, though nothing that would titillate the crowd much at their distance. One wrist of her armor had fallen off when the arm guard was severed, but the other hung on with the elbow-down flapping. Her boots were the only part in good condition at all. "B-Baka! Ruby, you idiot, if you fight me, you're screwed once Carly really begins to target you! Right now she's angry at me, that's the only reason you survived that last charge without losing any armor! But once she changes her mind-!"

"Enough. You'll both get your turn," Carly warned, having risen back to her feet. Her charge had left her in a position not quite between the two, but at the corner of an angle a bit less than 180 degrees. Chan, however, had her back against the edge of the stage (which the crowd seemed to appreciate, given her state of armor loss), putting her in a much more precarious position. There would be no way to backflip out of another attack or even step out of the way.

"Ruby, you're letting your fans down by just stepping out of the way of all of Carly's attacks!" Chan accused her other opponent. "I-I think it's time you went on the offensive. I know it's your first time here, but you should respect our rules and give the crowd the show they want!" Chan's fans cheered in agreement, but the others were booing, making it pretty clear that was just another weak ploy. "Aw, shut up! Come on, Ruby! Excite them!"

"The crowd does need to be excited. You dodged me once, Ruby... but let's see how you hold up to a more focused attack." Rather than hold her blade horizontally, the giant swordswoman instead held it in two hands, approaching so that the blade stuck off to one side, the edge towards Ruby. "Come at me Ruby. I intend to be your terror; if you truly wish for the Officials to help folks out of trouble, let us see you solve yours first."

Carly's movement had her back to Chan; she didn't seem to be nervous about that. Ruby would see the other girl sweating, watching Carly's back nervously while edging slightly away from the stage's edge. Here, the announcers spoke back up. "Reminder, competitors! You are forbidden from harming those not involved in the contest, so fighting in the audience or purposefully entering the audience, as well as hiding in the audience, are all forbidden!" the announcer spoke up.

"I know that, dummies! I'm not going to try to use human shields this year..." Chan gulped, but the smile was returning to her face as she realized Carly had shifted focus. Above them, the banners now showed mostly silver, a slightly diminished orange, and an almost invisible purple.

Ruby- Gloves in tact, boots in tact, pauldrons in tact, breastplate in tact, bottom armor in tact, belt in tact
Carly- Gloves in tact, one knee missing on left boot, right pauldron missing, breastplate in tact, bottom armor in tact, belt in tact
Chan- Right glove damaged and left missing, boots in tact, bikini on top, bikini on bottom partially torn, pareo in tact
"Then I'm afraid your war is doomed to failure. A win here will only help my cause, and I've no intention of letting such an opportunity slide by!...And by war, I mean this specific battle, not SAWAD-Fest in general. So far this has been nothing short of a wonderful experience. As a fighter, at least." Verbal misstep aside, Ruby remained in good spirits, preparing to earn her points...

...And she did land a good strike, piercing Chan's armor without piercing Chan. The bikini bottom became visible, but...there was a tear? From that strike? She could feel her face getting a little more reddish, bringing her ever closer to truly looking like a ruby. The other woman's less-than-enthused response, while perhaps not entirely untrue, did little to press her into ignoring the other swordfighter. "Like I said, I need to be able to overcome all challenges. How can I possibly ask anyone to do that for me, if I can't do it myself?" That said, as long as Carly was mostly intact, she had little hope of even daring to win, armor sabotaging or no.

Wait, did she just say...seriously? "...'THIS year? You mean you've actually tried that before?!" She was that close to just go national fencing champion on Chan, just for seriously entertaining that sort of callous idea...but Carly made sure she put her focus on her. But not before taking a split second to scoreboard watch...still mostly Carly. She was probably the one worth the big points, not Chan. "Very well. I'll most certainly have to go through you to win this battle's as good a time as any! One thing first, though. ...I know we have dulled swords, but still, no attacking the hair! If anything happens to it, I guarantee you I'll make hell itself look like a tiny kitten!" She smiled for the comparison, but she was deadly serious. It took years to grow it out this long. If she lost even a millimeter, she was going to be...upset, to put it lightly.

But now, she needed to put her money where her mouth was. Ruby brought her saber to her side, then raised vertically in front of her, and charged. Part of the problem with approaching was that, due to Carly's height advantage, she had inferior reach compared to her. Yet, she seemed to be mostly content to give her, for lack of a better term, a free shot. She had to make sure this counted for something, or else she was in deep trouble. She neared the larger woman, and reared back, preparing to lunge straight into her chest...except nope. In a flagrant disregard of her fencing training, she simply let herself drop, and slide by Carly...and as she passed, she raised her blade, to try to do the same thing she'd done to Chan, except her target was far more aware of what she was doing. Maybe she could at least nick the belt off if she tried to dodge? A bit late at that point to worry much, though. Once her slide started to slow, she brought herself back up, and sprang forward to get out of sword range.

"That...was a notice. I may be a fencer, but this isn't a fencing match. I am beholden only to SAWAD-Fest's rules, and none other!" She knew she was outclassed, so going full head-on wasn't a great idea if it could be helped. But her precise stabs, and willingness to not adhere to fencing rules, meant that she could certainly throw in some less direct attacks to mix things up. She just needed to make sure she kept an eye on both of her competitors, and not just the really big, really dangerous one.
Carly smiled at Ruby as she approached, though her expression remained fierce and ready. "I'm glad you're enjoying yourself. SAWAD-Fest is a haven for warriors such as ourselves. Perhaps you and I will meet again, in future SAWAD-Fests. Together, we can take this event to the next level," she elaborated, sounding enthusiastic. "No matter the outcome of this match. If you should fall in this battle, simply get back up and try again next time. There's no shame in failure during your first SAWAD-Fest."

"... You're talking to the only competitor that's still got all her armor, stupid! Attack her!" Chan goaded from the sidelines, happy to let the other two take their time. "And yes, I tried that before! When I finally beat Carly, you'll all see that the ends justify the means!"

Carly continued to mostly ignore Chan, focusing on Ruby instead. "Then come at me!" she called out again, stamping her sword against the floor of the stage with a loud, thump. The next comment took her by surprise; she raised one eyebrow but kept her stance. "Your... hair? I have no intention of attacking it. Still, if you plan to fight seriously, as a warrior, you should considering cropping it short, like mine. It... could get in the way while you're righting. But I'm sure you're aware of that." She wasn't quite caught off guard enough, however, not to catch the moment when Ruby started into a charge. The crowd also started in surprise; it was pretty normal for Carly to be doing the charging, at least since Chan started resorting to increasingly hands-off tactics.

As Ruby approached, Carly lifted her sword; it came up quickly, despite its supposed weight. She saw the thrust coming at her chest and began twisting her torso to evade, reaching out one arm as if to go past Ruby's sword and catch either the pommel or perhaps Ruby's hand. At the same time, she began lifting her sword upward, blade still held downward... Thankfully, she wasn't quite so superhumanly fast that she could smash the sword down on Ruby did a baseball slide past. "What fencing...?" was all she could ask, a bit incoherent, but all in the span of a moment, there wasn't time for more. Ruby heard a huge thud behind herself; one of her dragon-headed pauldrons was not quite off, but had been severed in half so the back of her shoulder was showing.

The giant woman flourished her sword, spinning it with surprising ease before holding it to horizontally, hoisted by both hands, almost like a club. Her bottom armor fell off with a clang, making a somewhat lighter noise than it looked like it should. Beneath, she wore a fur bikini, brown with a bit of a high leg. It was rather tight but didn't reveal a lot of texture, at least. That was only visible because the belt and loincloth had also fallen off... the fact that it was mostly in tact, having neatly dropped, made it clear it was probably the latest victim of Chan's pre-game attack. She didn't seem especially perturbed, but the loud reaction from the crowd made it clear that such damage to Carly was rare. Her very wide, less well covered hips probably didn't hurt either.

"Heavy damage to Carly Cnut! Could Ruby be the favorite to win this year's SAWAD-Fest!?" the announcer cried, which really got the crowd fired up. The banners shifted such that Ruby was nearly equal to Carly. The good state of her armor and significant hits she'd scored probably accounted for that. "And Chan... what is she doing?!" That part wasn't clear just yet, but the crowd seemed to be booing about it.

And yet... Carly looked fired up now, smiling confidently. "Fantastic. A worthy competitor. Also... a fresh competitor! But perhaps not so unknown now as you were just moments ago? They say that you can come to know someone intimately in hand-to-hand combat... And I believe I'm starting to know you, Ruby," she chuckled, tilting her chin up and spinning the sword again. "Come at me again. You've been quite successful so far."

Ruby had ended up in quite a dangerous position now. Carly was on one side and still intent on attack. On the other hand, her slide had put her closer to Chan, who she hadn't had much of an eye on lately. Ruby would have to decide how she wanted to factor that in... More importantly, she saw something near her feet that hadn't been on the stage before. A clear, small bottle... the label was face down against the stage.

Ruby- Gloves in tact, boots in tact, left pauldron broken in half, right pauldron in tact, breastplate in tact, bottom armor in tact, belt in tact
Carly- Gloves in tact, one knee missing on left boot, right pauldron missing, breastplate in tact, bikini on bottom exposed
Chan- Right glove damaged and left missing, boots in tact, bikini on top, bikini on bottom partially torn, pareo in tact
Considering what she had been hearing almost constantly since arriving, Ruby was almost as surprised as everyone else when her not suitable for fencing technique managed to go off without a hitch. Even her damaged shoulder armor wasn't entirely expected; she'd expected worse. That said, the loincloth and belt came off far too cleanly to be her own doing; that was Chan sabotage all the way.

Still, she was almost winning. Almost; a quick glance at the scoreboard showed that she still wasn't leading. Bummer. And she'd done a minor flub by being in the center of a possible pincer attack...though she doubted the other two would work together like that. But, she still needed to be wary, and possibly strike again while the iron was hot.

Carly was in good spirits, at least, complimenting her skills...and apparently thinking she knew her better. Which...she did, really. But the reverse was true, as well; the other woman, while very, very good, was still very, very not invincible, and that last round proved it. But could she go head-to-head? ...There was really only one way to find out. "Just remember, the reverse is true. If you know me better now, then it's only natural that I know you better as well!" Around this point, it occurred to Ruby that a small bottle was near her. It didn't look like anything was in it, but...combined with the earlier booing, it was pretty obvious who was responsible for it being there. Still, who knew if it was rigged or something? Best to just leave it be for now.

Now, time to try and take the lead. Making sure to not step on that bottle as she started, the New Official raced towards Carly, keeping her blade horizontally ahead of her. She drew near...but slowed down just enough that it was a sure thing that the other woman would attack first. And as she did, she defended with her own sword, such that upon a successful block, it would head down and stop on her guard. It was a risk to be certain, given the propensity for the giant blade to shatter other weapons...but she had faith. Benton himself was proud of the saber when he presented her with it...she believed in his craftsmanship, and her own abilities. In that sense, it wasn't really a risk; in her eyes, it WOULD hold. And once it did, she'd deflect the larger hunk of metal off, and thrust at the breastplate for a direct strike. One handy part of having such a large opponent was that the area she could attack was quite big...she'd have her pick of where it looked weakest.