The Showbizz WCMABB

If Suzume was worried she was going to teleport directly into enemy territory and be attacked on sight, she could belay those fears. The area was a peaceful, inhabited part of Yumland Net, soft-soiled green plains with a pleasant temperature, lightly clouded sides, and hills far in the distance. A fence surrounded the area, made of a series of connected logs lifted and tethered side by side, reminiscent of the Shogun's subordinate headquarters he'd visited many times before. Many navis were moving in and around the premises. The front gate was open and beyond it, Suzume could see that beyond the gate, the area included a few vendor stalls, several large viewscreens set up around the area, audience seating, and four square-shaped, mostly featureless rings, likely intended as platforms for the aforementioned Bikini Battles to take place. On that note, many women in eye-catching swimsuits could be seen inside, but also, others dressed in more typical navi gear. The rings were empty, so presumably, nothing had started yet. Though, Suzume would presumably remember that she wasn't here primarily for the battles anyway.

At the front gate, a tall lady with long, white hair, a relatively buff but busty figure, and stern, icy blue eyes was standing guard. She was dressed in a full, camouflage blue-and-gray spysuit with lightweight, black body-armor over it. In a different locale, it might be practical, but in this climate it was so out of place it was almost comical. The navi's glare scanned the crowd suspiciously, but she'd remain quiet until Suzume approached.

A message came from Yasu next:

Quote (Yasu)

Suzume, I received another few pieces of important info from the GNA. Most importantly, I have the names of some of the navis who have gone missing: Messenger, Plastique, Wasteland, Puppet-Show... The GNA is still digging out missions supposedly submitted by our forces that have no reports in from either employers or employee. Be on the lookout for any navis matching those names, though.

Additionally, it has occurred to me that it's strange the operators of the navis in question have not been contacted, or if they have, those results have not been delivered to us yet. I will confer with the GNA on this matter and will provide new info as soon as possible.

Then one from Arch:

Quote (Arch)

Hey, DragonierMan, Suzume, Aya. I'm on standby whenever you're ready. Please call me in whenever you're ready for my support.

Escort didn't send anything, but presumably she was also on standby. For now, Suzume would want to begin her investigation, which would presumably start at the front gate unless she preferred to get out of sight and then go over the wall.
Suzume touches down in a beam of light. As she stepped out of the portal she looked very different to her normal armored self. Her attire consisted almost entirely of a white medical gown and bandaging tape, both stained and burnt to a slight degree. Her gown fit loosely and certainly didn't provide the protection her normal plate armor provided, but thankfully it wrapped entirely around her body (as opposed to having an open back like most hospital gowns). The gown had very short sleeves and only extended to just above her knees, but wrapped tape on her thighs and upper arms suggest there's an additional layer of material beneath the gown.

Since this was a beach tournament, a practical two-piece swimsuit was put on underneath the medical gown. Both parts were yellow like the NS uniforms, and Suzume's hair, but without any markings. Practical and form fitting, the upper sports bra featured an additional thick band around the rib cage for security and two back crossing straps for maximum support while playing in the sand. Her lower half was covered by a pair of small swim shorts, as a bikini might be liability when it came to sand and wedgies during competitive sports activities. When her white hospital gown would become wet, see through, covered in sand, and possibly ripped, she would still be covered.

Her skin was lined with dark stitches and medical staples, outlining various limbs and variable-sized patches of skin, each with slightly different hues as if she were assembled from a myriad of different bodies. Even her eyes were different colors, having one blue and one purple eye, instead of her normal gray eyes. She also had a pair of tarnished silver bolts with oversized hex heads screwed through her medical gown and into the midpoints of her collarbones. Said bolts were firmly secured, incapable of spinning or rocking; that's probably a good thing for Suzume's sake. It wouldn't serve her well if they couldn't stay secured and ended up tearing her clothes off, or cause her head to come undone from her body, or something similar.

Suzume walked towards the front gate and smiled at the buff, white-haired woman. "Heya there! Mullonde's the name, battl'ns my game. Do you know where I can find someones by the name of Escort and DragonierMan? I'm supposed to meet 'em for the competition." Mullonde punched her left palm with her right hand, as Suzume got more into character. Her voice sounded like a mutilated combination of at least three different vocal cords. "Are ya a part of the festival too? You look strong. Can't wait to deck ya if you face me on the field."
The white-haired woman watched Suzume approach with a raised eyebrow, but otherwise, stayed motionless as she was spoken to. "Mullonde, huh? Battling's all well and good, but ratings are what's on the line here. Showbizz only cares about ratings. You'll need to be sure to get them," she spoke in a droll voice, sounding even a little less enthusiastic about the actual content of the show than she looked. "The Neo-Shogun subordinate Escort is here, but the Neo-Shogun subordinate DragonierMan hasn't shown up yet. I can only guess where he might be. Anyway, don't worry. There are plenty of competitors anyway. He'll miss out competing against the other girls in bikinis, but that's his loss, I guess," she shrugged.

She smirked as Mullonde continued, inclining her chin upward a bit at the challenge. "Is that so? The name's Swat... I'm trained in Sharoan sambo. This kind of competition gives me serious advantages... I'm very confident in my physical strength and my training," she explained. "Unfortunately, I'm on reception for now. Maybe I'll join in the competition later, though. I mean, if you want me to, I definitely will," she suddenly shifted gears, sounding competitive, but also somehow suspiciously over-eager. "Head on in for now, if you're ready. Oh, but lose the gown. Competitors wear bikinis or swimwear, that's the rules. It's all about ratings..."

If Mullonde complied, she'd be allowed to enter. Perhaps because of the earlier challenge, Swat not-so-discretely studied her body with her eyes, still smirking. From there, the under-cover fighter could continue inside, amidst a large crowd of men and women in swimwear. She garnered a fair bit of attention, as a stitched-up zombie stood out amidst a lot of tanned, healthy bodies. It was hard to tell where she needed to go for now... Showbizz's familiar face was on the giant viewscreen, but she seemed to be prattling on and on about nothing particularly important, a lot of hyping up the show that people had already arrived to attend. Thankfully, she quickly enough found Escort amidst the competitors... even in swimwear, there was no mistaking the navi's body.

The very busty, very muscular subordinate was standing alongside several other girls in an area a little like a baseball dugout... the others didn't look familiar at all, really. Escort was wearing a black, one-piece swimsuit, not open at the chest but a little provocatively high at the leg, and fitting close enough to show off her impressive ab definition. She was barefooted, like most of the competitors, and her slick, black hair was visible, not covered by its usual hood. A tiny, black notebook, looking small in her hands, was receiving plentiful notes as she scanned the crowd and jotted down notes. She made no sign of recognizing Mullonde... It was a little embarrassing to think that particular detail hadn't been passed onto her.

From left to right, looking at the other girls: first, a blue-eyed Netopian girl with golden hair in an intricate braid, supported by a green, laurel band, with a conventionally attractive figure, if a little slight compared to the towering Escort. She was wearing a white bikini with a gold laurel print on the chest. She had a pleasant smile on her face and was conversing busily with the navi next to her.

Second, a slightly shorter navi, covered in mud for whatever reason, wore a camo-print bandana and a matching bikini with sporty boy-shorts. Her eyes were dark and serious with intense eyebrows and hair was a muddy brown color itself, done into a very short ponytail. She wore black knuckle-gloves and matching short-boots, and was mostly just nodding along with the first girl, otherwise sitting with her shoulders slumped and her hands together in fists, elbows at her knees.

The third down was the most standout of the three, perhaps, a little taller and skinnier than the others with black hair in a tall mohawk and with a black mouth-guard like a bite mask covering her lower face. She wore heavy eye-shadow and had tattoos over much of her body, depicting images like cow skulls and dead trees. Her bikini consisted of chains wrapped around her top and bottom, securing black straps over the chest and in a thong on the bottom. She seemed to be showing the most despite having the least to show. Rather than talking to any of the others, she was staring forward eerily dead-looking, gray eyes.

The final navi was brown-skinned with long, very straight, black hair and half-closed, contemplative black eyes. Her body was eye-catching, busty and shining as though either with sweat or oil, but not particularly athletic enough to be suited for whatever this competition was going to entail. Her swimsuit was a cream-orange color, with a semi-transparent frill around the bottom and forming a miniature scarf, a little like an airline attendant's ascot, at the neck. The bikini itself was a little intricate, secured around the sides by a series of thin, tied black straps. She was currently building something in her lap; right now, it consisted only of two pieces of wood forming a right angle, but there were numerous other wooden pieces sitting nearby her.

Mullonde might also spare a glance to the rings she'd seen from a distance. Given that the event wasn't at the beach, she might have realized what sort of competition it was going to be. Each of the rings was filled with goopy, pale brown mud, which had been probably been specially concocted for great, slippery viscosity, as it didn't look like the kind that'd just slide off. Most of the rings were currently occupied, with mostly women wrestling other women. One ring even seemed to feature a man wrestling a woman, however. All in swimsuits, it was hard to tell what the theme or identity of any of them were. At least one stood out heavily, however: a very tall, extremely shapely woman with shining, chromatic silver skin and super long, purple hair. She was dressed in a rather minimal, shiny purple bikini, and was alternating toying with her opponents and posing for the crowd... not sexy poses, but bizarre ones, like an eccentric fashion model might do on the runway.

Suzume, or Mullonde, would also notice that each of the dugouts had a scoreboard beside it, displaying all kinds of numbers. It looked like the scoreboard for Escort's dugout showed "3", with the other highest on the opposite side being "7", but with no other identifying features, it was hard to even name the teams to whom the scores applied. There was an awful lot for Mullonde to take in and plenty of different ways she could get started, whether she wanted to meet up with Escort, investigate the competition more closely, or perhaps report what she'd seen so far to Yasu. So far, everything seemed mostly on the up and up, but there must be something odd going on for so many navis to have failed to report. For that matter, it didn't seem like messages were blocked from going out either, so there was nothing so far that explained the phenomena.
It did not surprise Suzume that Showbizz only cared about ratings. DragonierMan had been involved twice with Showbizz events in the past, and probably will continue to do so in the future. Though this time she was the one in the spotlight and not creeping around in the shadows behind the scenes. The woman guarding the entrance, Swat, then said that Escort was there, but DragonierMan was not seen yet. Given what information was given to Suzume before, those two should be the fakes they were looking for. However, Escort hadn't called in her position yet, so it could be the real Escort. Suzume would have to keep an eye out for her.

Swat seemed to also take Mullonde's challenge to heart. Mullonde smiled a toothy grin as Swat talked about her Sharoan Sambo training. Suzume was given basic mixed martial arts training from a Netopian program installed on DragonierMan. Now, Suzume wasn't as physically imposing as Swat was, but it would be a good fight regardless. Mullonde gave Swat a thumb's up. "I think we'd give 'em quite a show," she bragged. "That's what we're here for, right?"

She patted her hospital gown as Swat told her to lose it for the competition. "Hey now, you said to give 'em a show. You gotta wait for the first match. Then ya give 'em the reveal strip," she said as she took hold of her gown and tore it off her body in a dramatic flourish, tossing it behind her. It was like flinging a cape in a bull fight. Mullonde struck a provocative pose as she flaunted her yellow swimwear for Swat. Moments later, the tattered gown vanished as it hit the ground, and reappeared in perfect order on Mullonde again, as if she never tore it off. "That was just a demonstration and doesn't count. You can only do that once for real ya know," Mullonde stated a matter-of-factly. "And as ya can see, I'm properly attired."

Mullonde then attempted to move past Swat with a single soft pat on Swat's shoulder, and a knowing grin, before entering the competition grounds. Assuming she got inside, she took a look around the area. It wasn't long until she noticed a ton of various navis, all quite distinct. The first that stood out to her was someone who looked an awful lot like Escort. She even had a small notebook/diary thing that she tended to write in. If it wasn't the real Escort, the fakes did their homework. Mullonde headed over to Escort and the dugout she was standing in and waved. "Heeeey heeeya! Names Mullonde, rhymes with blondie," she said, pointing to her blonde hair. "And I have a quand'ry," she continued with the poor rhyming convention. "I'm new here. Look'n for a brus'n. And trying to find someones named Escort and DragonierMan. Have ya seen anyone here fetch'n those descriptions?"

She looked at the other woman near her and broadened the appeal to the whole group. "Anyone here heard of them? If ya can point me in the right direction, I'd 'preciate it."
Swat nodded approvingly at Mullonde's explanation of why she was in a gown instead of a bikini (and reveal of said bikini). "Very well, I'll allow it. As long as you're prepared to give us good ratings, it shouldn't matter what you do," the gatekeeper agreed. She lowered her eyebrows and watched the zombie-ish navi enter the competition grounds past her.

Next up, the disguised Suzume would notice Escort's familiar figure and move over to introduce herself. Dee's friend would scribble a few more notes in her book, before shutting it in one hand and turning her eyes upward. "Good to meet you, Miss Mullonde. My name's Escort; I assume you're here responding to the ad posted on the GNA's mission board for recruitment into the Neo-Shogun Empire. We're only just getting started, as far as our role here," she explained. "So there is still plenty of time for you to participate and earn membership. As for 'bruis'n'... this is actually a mud-wrestling competition, as it turns out. The goal is only to throw out your competitor, not to hurt them. It's a little like sumo, if you're familiar."

Mullonde had the attention of the other girls too now. The one who was herself caked in mud, keeping her arms crossed and her expression irritable, spoke quietly. "Well, Escort's here, but that DragonierMan guy is a no-show. We're just doing our mission here without him. Escort thought she'd be able to get in contact with him, but he's not answering any of the messages," she grumbled.

The tan one chuckled, then looked up from her work with a wide smile, but continued fitting screws along the connected join as she spoke. "You'd think he'd be remiss to lose out on a chance to mud-wrestle women such as those gathered. It is inter-gender, after all," she added.

"... I want to be a dragon... I want to breathe fire and burn everything..." the mohawk girl murmured from behind her bite-mask, turning her scary eyes towards Mullonde and raising her eyebrows to a tilt. "I want to fly up so high that all the people look like ants... and then burn them like a kid with a magnifying glass would... he he he hee...."

"Hopefully he'll show up, but for now, introductions are in order," the one in the white bikini spoke up with a sympathetic smile. "My name's Messenger. To my right here is Plastique, then Wasteland, then Puppet-Show. We're all new recruits who just got our start recently. All of us hope to be of help in your recruitment mission," she continued warmly, pressing one hand to the laurel emblem at the chest of her swimsuit. This seemed to contradict Yasu's briefing earlier... according to her, the navis who were disappearing were all taking recruitment missions, but none of them had reported in, so why did all of them seem to believe they'd already been recruited? It'd be a lot easier to just ask them directly, but to do so might mean compromising her disguise. Was the disguise even important? Yasu had said to keep it on as long as there was a chance someone would be made suspicious by seeing recognizable Neo-Shogun figures here... but Escort was here already. Or was that even Escort?

There was plenty to think about, but Escort didn't understand that need for rest and spoke next. "It would be my honor and pleasure if you were to participate here and gain recruitment into the Empire, Miss Mullonde. Your recruitment today relies only on contributing to our efforts here for Miss Showbizz, for promotional purposes. That means you'll need to wrestle a few times. Signing up is as simple as getting in line at one of the rings, waiting your turn, and then compete in 'king-of-the-hill' format. That is, as long as you win, you get to keep wrestling. Some of the rings are single matches, some are two-against-two-tag matches. Your points continue to double as long as your winning streak continues, but if someone dethrones you, they get a point multiplier for that round equal to what your own winning streak would have yielded. So far, there's been few consecutive winners, which I owe to the average navi becoming fatigued after a few rounds wrestling. The exception is that silver woman over there... I'm thinking about testing my strength against her."

"I also wrestled a little earlier, but I got tossed out pretty easy by a big girl. Then she got tossed out by some kinda psychic. There's all kinds'a people here and no rules at all," Plastique complained, shaking her head, clearly in a bad mood. "What happens if somebody uses a weapon or something? It's asinine to think there's no rules against it."

"Well, from a ratings perspective, it would be bad for someone to use a weapon, wouldn't it? That discourages anyone from going that route," Messenger proposed. "Though... what does surprise me is that there haven't been any wardrobe malfunctions so far... you'd definitely think that would be a technique here, and it would be good for ratings too," she muttered to herself, blushing slightly at the thought of it.

Of course, Suzume knew that wrestling here was actually secondary to solving the mysteries Yasu had asked about... Why had none of the navis reported in? Who was posting these fake missions in the first place? Was Escort just doing a really good job of pretending not to know who Mullonde was, or did she actually not know Suzume's role in this mission? Someone was either lying to Suzume or otherwise being misled themselves, because the story here didn't seem to line up with what Yasu had suggested was happening. However, from this range, there was nothing preventing Mullonde from either asking Yasu to clear up more details or even sending a message to Escort or one of the other girls... the problem was knowing who she could trust to give her a straight answer.
Mullonde managed to get through the gate without incident. She also managed to find Escort, or at least her doppelganger. It wasn't entirely clear as Mullonde got close. Mullonde's iris's flashed briefly in her eye sockets just before Escort lifted her head off her notebook to look at Mullonde. It was a 'blink and you would miss it' moment that didn't produce any ambient light.

Escort introduced herself, a little about the assignment, and her associates. Apparently it was just a mud-wrestling, sumo-like, competition. It was not a mud-wrestling, battle-like, competition. Mullonde's face dropped a little when this was explained to her. Suzume did not have a ton of field experience grappling. Suzume was a combat weapon and hand-to-hand expert. Sure, grappling was in her programming, but it wasn't her go-to to deal with most of her enemies throughout her career.

"Oh good," Mullonde's face brightened as her guess paid off. "I thought I wouldn't find you on my first try." She furrowed her brow. "DragonierMan ain't com'n? Well, at least I found one of the someones I was supposed to report to." Suzume wondered why the fake DragonierMan wasn't there yet and what was holding him up. Patience might reward her with the answer. Until then she would have to play along.

Some of the other girls introduced themselves or made off-hand comments. Through them Suzume learned that all the missing navis were right in front of her. If someone had a magnifying glass and knew what to look for, they could see that Mullonde's dark pupils were spinning slowly behind the iris, like a camera focus turning. It was all but imperceptible from a distance as Mullonde turned her head and eyes to each in turn. Mullonde especially took focus on Messenger, as Messenger introduced the others and that they were recent full-fledged members. And that they were ready to help Mullonde in her recruitment mission.

Now, Suzume had never met any of these other navis, but something inside her suspected that there were three explainations. One, they were who they said they were and just didn't check in. Two, they were who they said they were, but were being controlled somehow. Controlled either through blackmail or mind control, similar to how Yasu was controlled by BrainMan. Or three, these were imposters like the Escort and DragonierMan in the fake message. Perhaps they were 'taken' during their previous recruitment missions and replaced by the actors before her. "So you all joined recently too? What did ya'll do to get into the Neo-Shoguns? Was it through similar competitions? What are you gett'n paid for helping out a rookie like me? Do they pay good in the NS?" Mullonde asked the group.

Escort continued the explanation of the events Mullonde would compete in. She cocked her head as she was told about how they score points and that most get fatigued easily. Escort pointed out a silver woman who was supposedly dominating the competition. Mullonde looked at the silver woman as best as she could from a distance before turning to Escort. "Do you know who she is?" Mullonde asked.

But before she could get an answer, Plastique chimed in about her run, and what followed. "No rules? That is not what I heard. Can ya explain it better to me? What are we allowed to do in the ring?"

Messenger took the first stab at it by talking about the lack of weapons and wardrobe malfunctions. Suzume grinned inwardly. "Really? No stripp'n the competition yet? How long have you all been here? That sounds like someth'n that woulda happened by now. Here of all places," Mullonde noted.

Quote (Aya to Yasu)

My sister has made contact with someone claiming to be Escort. Whoever it is, they seem to have some of Escort's mannerisms and looks down. Escort has also not reported in with Arch.

We have also confirmed the location of the missing navis, or at least copies of said navis. I am sending you pictures and video feed directly from the field. What do you make of it?

Mullonde moved down the line of women. "So anyone have any pointers for me when I go out there? Anyones else to watch out for besides the Silver and the Psychic?" she asked the group as she walked. "Is fly'n and breath'n fire allowed? Or perhaps someth'n similar." she said with a wink towards Wasteland. Eventually, she came to stand next to the tan one constructing some sort of object in her lap. "What'cha making?" she asked PuppetShow. "Will it help us in the competition?"

After her conversations with the various navis present, she walked back up to where Escort stood. "Well, if ya excuse me, I'm gonna get signed up. I can't wait to fling some bodies out." Mullonde took a moment to hang back if Escort had anything further to add, before she began walking over to the sign-in booth. "Mullonde report'n in!" she said with a smile. "I want into the competition. Where do I sign and who do I fight first?"
"I suppose we will be fine, even if Mister DragonierMan doesn't make the event. It doesn't seem terribly difficult to oversee events myself, and, for that matter, I have four qualified subordinate ranks here to assist," Escort added reassuringly, giving a nod to the other girls.

Mullonde had lots of other questions for the girls, who attempted to answer in turn in as organized a manner as possible; which is to say that they all started speaking over each other, before the one called Plastique shouted for them all to shut up. Taking a moment to glower at the others, she then turned her eyes to Mullonde and continued. "I wanted to get into the Neo-Shogun Empire as an explosives expert, figured they could use one. Though, the mission I got in by was just some weirdo oddjob task where Escort and I delivered a package, headed to a Mafia bigwig," she explained, keeping her hands folded in front of herself and sitting with poor posture. "The pay's good, though. Initial recruitment didn't come with much bonuses, but I've been making pretty good zenny ever since. Stand to make even more on this job." Something about her expression seemed like it was a poker face... but what she was hiding was hard to say. Maybe it'd become evident upon listening to others...

Messenger cleared her throat and spoke next. "I've been taking my payment mostly in zenny as well. I was recruited when they needed someone as a go-between for negotiations with the NetPolice. A pretty simple job, really, though I'm not complaining. Miss Escort was there as well, we wrapped it up rather neatly," the golden-haired girl explained, brushing at her laurels absently.

"... I was asked to deal with a virus outbreak near the camp... I killed them all... I cut them into tiny pieces so small there was nothing left to eat," Wasteland giggled through her mask, clutching her arms and looking more than a little unhinged. "I've been getting battlechips... I love battlechips..." she spoke, relatively matter of fact. It was easy to believe there were plenty of things she liked to do with battlechips.

"I was asked to help with a show the Neo-Shogun Empire was putting on for children. Puppetry, of course," the final woman spoke quietly, smiling as she focused on her work. "It's a little funny, isn't it? An operated navi operating a puppet. I always thought it was funny, anyway," Puppet-Show smirked. "I was only just recruited so my only mission, so far, has been for recruitment. This one's supposed to be for an SP core. I need a lot of them in my line of work. I was hoping the Neo-Shogun Empire could be a supply for me, and so far, they've done well at it!"

Escort's eyes lingered on Puppet-Show a moment, with an almost quizzical expression, as if she herself was suddenly confused about events. Soon enough, though, the rest were listening to Mullonde again. Plastique held up her hands in a submissive gesture, allowing Escort to answer the first question. "I don't recognize that woman at all, but she certainly appears to be both skilled and powerful. Defeating her at this point would certainly net a great deal of points; I intend to try my hand in just a moment. If you're confident, you could do so as well, but if not, you can help us get points elsewhere," Escort answered in regards to the posing, chrome-skinned lady.

Then, Plastique jumped back in. "Look, it's just as I said it. Apparently, the only thing that's important is ratings. That means we don't kill the other person, but any other way we get them out of the ring is okay. Considering that, the battles have really been extraordinarily tame... Nobody's using weapons too much, except for a few exceptions like that psychic I told you about. Nobody using dirty tricks too much either. It's weird... it's sorta like... Huh. The psychic wasn't even using her psychic powers until I thought, well, I'd cheat a little myself. Since there were no rules I was gonna, you know, use a flash bomb I'd planted and move in that way. Nothing dangerous, of course. Soon as I went to use it, bam, I was telekinesis-ed out of the ring. I guess cause she's a psychic, huh?" At any rate, you can really do just about anything, way I see it," the girl grumbled.

"A psychic and a telekinetic aren't necessarily the same thing, Plastique," Messenger corrected quietly, all smiles despite the slight up-curl of the other girl's snarl. "But she might have been both." The girl's grace faltered slightly as she kept her eyes smiling, but ended up with an awkward upward curve to the side of her grin. "Um, no, I don't believe I've seen any sort of wardrobe malfunctions yet. I guess the mud might conceal it somewhat, even if that happened. Hopefully things will stay pretty tame," she laughed; the amusement sounded a little forced. It was not hard to guess that she had no desire to see anything like that happened.

After Aya's message went through to Yasu, there was no apparent response. It could be that the First General was busy, but whatever the case, even after a moment's passing and more chattering from the girls, nothing came.

Plastique shrugged, then glowered some more. "No, I don't have any advice, other than 'if you think of something sneaky, watch out for a telekinetic psychic throwing you out before you can do anything with it.' She's got, uh, kinda white hair that looks like antennae are sticking up for it. Body's about like mine. Wears a cape even with her bikini. At any rate, she got tossed out and I don't think she's competing now. Other than her and the silver women, it's really a grab bag. Most of 'em lose stamina too quick and get thrown out, so they don't stay king or queen of the hill for very long," the sour lady reiterated.

"I haven't seen anyone fly yet... I imagine it'd count as leaving the ring, wouldn't you?" Wasteland posed, tilting her head slightly as she turned her dead eyes towards Mullonde. "Breathing fire might be okay though... Yes... I'd breathe fire if I could... I'd burn anyone I wanted to just by opening my mouth..." she agreed, again showing enthusiasm for the topic by rubbing her long hands together excitedly. She'd have to do something about that mask too, if she wanted to breathe fire on anyone, but it might be best just to let that train of thought die anyway.

Puppet-Show set down her tool for just a moment, smiled, then shook her head. "No, nothing that will help us here. I'm working on one of my puppets. If it turns out well, I can use the next SP core for it. Right now, though, it's nothing more than assembled bits of wood," she answered simply. "I wish I could be of more help here, but really, physical contests are not my forte. Hopefully, I'll still get a chance to help, though..." It looked like it'd be good ratings to see her try to wrestle, if nothing else.

Most of the group waved a goodbye to Mullonde as she left, but two decided to join her: the lanky one in the black bikini, Wasteland, and also the blonde in white, Messenger. Escort took the chance to head towards the silver-and-purple girl to try her luck there. Seeing that Mullonde was looking for a way to get started, Messenger helpfully pitched in. "You don't sign up for the contests, really; you just stand in line. Lucky, it looks like they're pretty short now!" she pointed out. Sure enough, all of the lines were weirdly short... It seemed like every ring had a number of contestants that had just been thrown out, giving a good range of high value targets with short lines. There was the silver woman in one. Another had a tall, muscular Yumlandian man with ragged hair on both his head and his snarling face, who looked plenty tough, but not supernatural, dressed in black wrestling trunks. One more had a lean, tan, blonde-haired girl who was currently raising her arms in victory, dressed in a very simple, brown bikini of tanned leather, buckled at the back of the top and sides of the bottom. A closer look revealed she was familiar... it appeared to be Alex, of the Alexis. If she had any interest in the Neo-Shogun Empire here, she wasn't making it obvious. Wrestling her might be a fun challenge, but also a dangerous one; she was known for enslaving others and dominating them, not throwing them out of rings. One more nearby option was the aforementioned psychic, notable from her oddly styled, flowing white hair with two antennae-like shapes sticking out from the top. Her eyes were almond shaped with deep blue pupils and she wore a flowing blue cape, matching an eye-catching bikini on a buxom figure, one not quite matching Plastique's. Her hands were clad in white gloves and her feet in short boots. It might be nice to try to avenge Plastique, but Suzume would need a strategy if she was going to overcome the other girl's telekinetic (and psychic?) capabilities.

"He he hee hee... which are you going to go for?" Wasteland asked, looking down at Mullonde, her inexpressive eyes not matching the smile in her voice. "I can smell blood on two of them... the Choinaman and the blonde... He he hee... When I smell blood, I want to lick it off..." she added, a statement both cryptic and gross.
Each of the apparently not missing navis gave their stories. Nothing immediately jumped out to Suzume as she listened, it all seemed pretty basic. It even sounded like some of the missions they have gone on in the past. If this was a fake Neo-Shogunate, they did their homework, and were doing a really good job of pulling off the scam. Suzume began to have some doubts about whether or not there was just a miscommunication problem. That these navis were not missing, so much as just busy. It was also possible that this was Hime's doing, trying to put together another loyal force that Yasu didn't know about. Though it was also equally as possible that there was something more sinister at work here.

While she was talking to the other navis, her eyes were scanning over every inch of their bodies, trying to see if there were any inconsistencies, odd bumps or markings/tatoos, maybe some mechanical eyeballs controlling their bodies. She was also trying to listen closely to their voices, in case there were some shifts of tone and pitch that could give someone away if they were trying to mimic a voice not their own. One thing that pricked Suzume's ears was mention of a package delivery to a 'Mafia bigwig'. Now, the navis here didn't have masks, but Boss Oni did have something odd going on with those navis in his 'employ'. Mullonde turned to Platique. "Who was the Mafia bigwig? Someone I know?"

As the conversation continued, Suzume noticed that Escort gave a questioning look to what Puppet-Show said. Mullonde smiled. "Well that sounds grand. I'm not to young for a puppet show every now and again. Perhaps I can sit in on your next one for the young'ns." Mullonde turned to both Wasteland and Puppet-Show, "Did either of you work with a Neo-Shogun? Like Escort over there," Mullonde asked. "Or did ya run solo?"

Then they started talking about the competition. It sounded like they were doing a pretty boring run so far, nothing flashy or scintillating. Mullonde would have to put a stop to that. "Nothin' fun has happened yet? Well good thing I decided to drop by and give them a show for once!" Mullonde boasted. She tried to pat Puppet-Show on the shoulder. "And anyone that can help is appreciated. You should join in, if only to show off your rock'n bod to the audience. Maybe you would score some points for us just off your looks."

With that Mullonde took off to find a place to sign up and was joined by Wasteland and Messenger. They noted that there was no signup place, she just needed to pick a ring and start wrestling. Mullonde started walking around to the various lines to scope out the competition and find a line to stand in. Several people jumped out to her in the rings. Someone that looked like Alex was there. If it was Alex, Suzume would feel the need to stay away. Alex never met Suzume, as she was disguised as a weapon at the time, but Mullonde couldn't take any chances of being unable to score some points. The silver woman and the psychic were also taking on challengers. Finally there was a muscular Yumlandian man. He seemed capable, but he was also an unknown as well.

Wasteland made some more remarks about blood and whatnot. Her talk throughout about fighting, and battlechips, and wanting to breath fire on her enemies made Suzume think she would get along with DragonierMan. "Blood huh? Well, let's try out that guy then. Even though this is an all-inclusive mud wrestling tournament, I know the crowd loves us girls more. Especially when we beat big, strong men at their own game!" Mullonde chittered as she got into line for the Yumlandian man. "Oh, but keep an eye on Escort's fight. I'll want a crack at that silver woman myself and I would love to see how she fights."

As Mullonde stood in line with Wasteland and Messenger, she spoke to them as she watched the area around her. "So I've heard a lot of things about the Neo-Shogunate. Any of it true? What's it like in the organization? What are the career prospects? Can I get to be a general if I work hard?" she asked the two in a series of rapid-fire questions. "Why did you two join? I'm in it for the thrills. Also, the other organizations didn't sound too interesting," she commented.

She then tried to talk to the people in the line. "Heya, Mullonde here, how are you doing? What can you tell me about that guy in the ring? Got a bad leg? Showboater? Hitch in the arm? Secret technique? Anything you noticed?" she asked. "And while you are all talk'n, anything you can tell me about the others, especially that silver lady over there?" she pointed towards the silver woman in one of the other rings. "I heard she's a psychic. OoOoOo," she made ghost-noises while waving her fingers, then burst into laughter.
Suzume didn't catch anything on the other navis that looked like it could be hiding a missing eye, although it was noteworthy that WasteLand's mask obscured half her face. Though, imagining that she'd open her mouth and have BrainMan's eye between her teeth was almost too frightening a thought to entertain. Plastique lowered her eyebrows again and spoke dryly. "Uh... The fat one. I'd heard he was a bad guy for a girl to be around, but he didn't try anything funny. It was a pretty easy job, truth be told," the lady explained, keeping her shoulders slumped. "I figured I'd have to blow something up, but it was really just package delivery."

"Oh, feel free to ask, any time. I can do private performances too," the puppeteer responded simply, though she didn't turn up her eyes from her work. Despite her prettiness and her responsiveness, there was something about her that seemed like she really wasn't really a people person. But what kind of person who doesn't like to stay in the public eye would oil herself and wear a bikini like that? "Escort was also there to assist with my mission," she continued, quietly.

"Mine too... She just stood back and watched... I don't need any help when it comes to murder and mayhem, hee hee hee..." Wasteland added, rubbing her hands together as though the memory excited her.

"It's true. I've been involved heavily in recruitment. It's been good to have a chance to meet all of our new recruits right off the bat like this," Escort pitched in, giving a polite smile. It seemed a little odd that she'd be chosen for that task, especially if so few of the recruitment missions called for heavy combat. Still, DragonierMan and his SPs new better than anyone that the strongest soldiers weren't always necessarily put on the front lines, from past experience. Their combat prowess could also serve them well in an unexpected tussle. That could explain why Escort had been placed with the recruits: to protect them, in light of the recent dangers facing the empire.

Puppet-Show raised an eyebrow, this time looking up to meet Mullonde's smile. "Well, I thank you for the complement. If you insist, I suppose I will aid you," she agreed, setting aside her work and moving along with the others.

"Hee hee hee... If looks could kill..." Wasteland agreed, rubbing her hands together again. Messenger smiled, though the corner of her mouth was twitching again, like she had an impolite comment she was struggling to keep in, perhaps. "Oh, hee hee... Let's have lots of fun, Mullonde... Hee hee hee..."

Mullonde made the decision to start with the one ring that was currently occupied by a man; he didn't seem like he was doing much to please the audience, which would probably mean that Showbizz would be even happier if she put on a show and dethroned him. On that note, it might be worth listening in on what Showbizz was saying; her voice had been persistent throughout all of this, but she seemed to be rambling hard, not really providing any useful information. "Look at all the sexy bikinis! Do you all have a favorite competitor? Cheer for your favorite competitor! Make some noise, everyone! Remember, concessions are available! Try out our Star Pops and Star Cream! You're gonna get hooked!" It was a little irritating just listening to it, for some reason...

The line was short, but with a little time for chat, and Mullonde used it to its fullest. Messenger, as usual, was a little quicker to respond than Wasteland was. "Oh, well, I've always been a nut for the idea of world peace. It's sort of my thing. So when I saw them reaching across the aisles and trying to get everyone to come together, and winding down with all the spears and things, I thought I'd give it a shot. I want to be a part of the change," she explained, sounding like a Miss Netopia Pageant entrant. "I hope the things I heard are true! But I haven't had a chance to meet many of them yet, just Escort. As for becoming a general... that's a good question! We'll have to ask Escort later. It might be a seniority thing."

"I don't like world peace... I like world destruction... Hee hee hee!" Wasteland retorted, with remarkable emotion that didn't match the blank look in her eyes at all. "I joined the Neo-Shogun Empire because they have an army... and a dragon... hee hee hee! Those other organizations don't even realize it, but the Neo-Shogun Empire... It's quietly becoming a force capable of setting fire to everything!" It seemed a little odd that such a person had managed to get into the Empire at all (assuming she really had), but it was true she might get along with DragonierMan uncommonly well.

"Oh my. I just joined the Neo-Shogun Empire because I thought there might be a chance to perform some more interesting shows," Puppet-Show pitched in quietly, seeming a little restless without her puppets in hand. Her attention was also drawn to the silver girl, for whatever reason. "I know I seem quiet, but... I like excitement in my life. Not enough to wrestle that muscle-man, though, ha ha... I hope you're going first?"

The man was in the middle of throwing out another competitor, a large navi that looked a bit like a sumo wrestler. If he couldn't succeed here, he might need to try a different career. That gave Mullonde just a little time to talk to the navi in front of her, a heavy-set woman in a gold-colored, one-piece swimsuit. She was still wearing her helmet as well, a full-head affair with two slits like smiling eyes and a speaker in her mouth that looked uncomfortably like a yellow ball gag, set over a black latex hood that stopped at her neck. Her skin was dark and shining with perspiration. "I'll tell you what I can, Mullonde! My name's Upside, I'm with the NetMafia! Swell to meet you!" It seemed like she was going to be a little unfortunately long-winded for the current purpose... Something about her voice might remind Mullonde a bit of Showbizz on the big screen over the rings. "The guy's name is MongolMan. He's a pretty traditional wrestler, recently! Mat-style, close to the ground. Kind of mean about it, likes to beat up others. He's actually in the Mafia too! Part of the Bloodhounds, I hear. If he's got a weakness, it's probably that besides unusual cruelty, he's a little basic compared to the other competitors."

"As for the others, you've got the silver one over there, Utopia. I don't know much about her, but she has no trouble throwing anyone out of the ring! All that strength along with that figure! Wowie, huh? Kind of makes a girl jealous! And such shiny silver! How pretty!" she cooed. "The one in blue over there is named Thaumaturge. She's sort of an unknown, but she seems to have powers like a poltergeist! Or a telekinetic? Which is the better word? Anyway, she throws people around with her mind! I don't know how you'd beat her! Ha ha ha." She nodded to Alex next. "That one's named Alex. I think she's just really strong! She's kind of sexy too, isn't she? Another nice body. Lucky girls! Oh well! It's okay, I like my body too! Yours is also pretty! You've got such nice skin, despite being a zombie! Sorry, was that racist? Whoopsie!"

The big man in the ring was impatiently motioning for Upside to come in next. "Oh, that's me! Hopefully we'll wrestle each other in a moment after I beat this guy! My strategy is to stay positive! Staying positive will win it for me!" she giggled. Messenger and Puppet-Show exchanged doubtful glances while Wasteland, watched, seemingly entranced. The fight was over before it even got started; Upside didn't even have a chance to adopt a wrestler's stance before MongolMan roared, stomped forward, and bodily shoved her across the mud and out of the ring. To her credit, she remained laughing, but it looked like a pretty hard spill over the side. It might occur to Suzume as odd that there didn't seem to be a referee around to officiate the match... or even a cameraman to record it? Perhaps that was all being done with digital magic, but considering there'd always been a camera-person at previous Showbizz events, it seemed a little strange.

Mullonde was next up and the mafioso in the ring was impatient to have her; he wet his lips with his tongue and snarled, motioning her in. The battle-lust was clearly spurring him on towards the next battle, even at the expense of resting up for it. Time would tell if keeping the momentum was worth failing to rest. Up close, Suzume had a better look at the ring. It was circular, about the size of a wrestling ring, with no walls but slightly elevated off the ground, not enough to hurt anyone taking a tumble or even to need a staircase in, although there was a ramp, as though for someone rolling up, but it was tall enough to be annoying if you tripped over it coming in. Mud was covering it like cake icing. Presumably, it ought to be missing some after so many matches, but it still looked very thick. The surface underneath the mud was also soft... it was some kind of mat or cushion, designed to be a little springy. Without proper care, any competitor here could very well bounce and slide off themselves with no need for the other competitor to lift a finger. It would take a certain amount of care to win consistently here, as simple dumb luck could lead to a loss.

The navi on the other side spoke out to Mullonde, pointing out one finger and speaking a very archaic language that Suzume would need to run through a translator to understand. Thankfully, Messenger was ringside to help out. "Ahem... He says that you remind him of someone he killed... o-or sodomized... or..."

"Or both," Wasteland suggested, stifling an evil giggle.

"He says... Actually, I don't think I'll bother from here on," Messenger muttered, becoming quiet. Across the ring, the big guy sneered and held out his arms to both sides, leaning forward slightly and preparing to run. Whatever action he took, it would occur pretty much simultaneously to Mullonde's first move. At this point, he'd been wrestling a while, whereas Mullonde had two advantages: the element of surprise, as her looks gave away none of her combat experience, and her stamina, hitherto unaffected by any previous wrestling. She might add a third to that: she'd seen the way he handled Upside just now. If she could anticipate his next maneuver, she might be able to come up with an easy way to get him out of the ring. If she did that, she'd net a nice sum of points from destroying his win streak. "You can do it! Wash his mouth out mud!" Messenger cheered from the sidelines.

"Rip him apart... Limb from limb...! And I'll eat the scraps! Hee hee hee!" Wasteland threw in next. It was hard to decide who had the worse idea for what she ought to do to her competitor. Puppet-Show watched silently, offering no suggestions for what she ought to do to MongolMan. There wasn't time to watch much, but from where she was, Mullonde could see that Escort would be in the ring with Utopia pretty soon. Plastique was still taking a breather, steepling her hands in front of her mouth and watching the action from the dugout. As for Yasu and Arch, there was still no communication from them...
Plastique did all but confirm that Boss Oni was the one she made the delivery too with the descriptor of 'The fat one'. However, apparently he didn't try anything funny, so that concern was potentially off the table. Plastique even slumped her shoulders due to the fact she didn't get to blow anything up. With her want for mass destruction Plastique would be yet another person, besides Wasteland, that would get along great with DragonierMan. It was like the mission was filled with whatever Drago wanted, but he wasn't there to experience it himself.

Mullonde continued to talk up the other girls and even got Puppet-Show to join them, setting aside her work for later. With her, the trio of attractive girls became a quartet. Wasteland even made some chuckling remarks about their new ally's physical attractiveness as they headed off to go to the rings. Showbizz was babbling on the big screens and speakers, making all sorts of obnoxious din, and forcing Mullonde to try to ignore the constant prattle in order to concentrate on the current objectives. It was standard fare when in a competition such as this, but it was still annoying.

When Mullonde got into line, she chatted with the girls about why they decided to get into the Neo-Shogunate. What their dreams and goals were. And various other things about the organization. The answers seemed pretty typical of what they had said before. At least they were consistent.

Turning to the others in the short line, Mullonde came face-to-face with a Mafia woman named Upside. Like her name, she was trying to be positive in her outlook. She was also full of information. Apparently the individuals in the ring were MongolMan (whom Mullonde was waiting to battle), Utopia (the silver woman), Thaumaturge (the psychic), and Alex (of the Alexis faction). So that was definitely a confirmation that, that was indeed Alex. They weren't making this mission easy.

Upside then went into the ring and was quickly pushed out by MongolMan. Mullonde looked over the ring before looking around to see if there were any cameras floating around or something, but she didn't see anything. How was she going to give a show if she couldn't see where to aim the magic at? She would just have to make a scene then. She turned to the dug out and waved Plastique over. She was going to need explosives.

But it would have to wait as she was about to get into the ring with MongolMan. He puffed up and began to make rude remarks toward her, that needed to be translated by Messenger. "Watch this," Mullonde said as she watched MongolMan get into the same stance he used against Upside, before she climbed up into the ring. She wouldn't even need to taunt him as he probably charged her. One thing he probably hadn't fought yet was someone who could move quickly and fly. Mullonde bent her legs slightly.

Mullonde didn't have to wait long for him to reach her, the ring was only so big, before she leaped straight up into the air. A combination of her Omnishoes and Wings of Light passive movement signature would allow her to acrobatically leap over MongolMan quickly and land safely behind him. Mullonde left a luminous trail behind her as she moved, as if a rainbow of colors followed in her wake. Do to the slippery, springy nature of the ring, and his bull-like charge, MongolMan set himself up to slip right off the ring without any help from Mullonde. Whether the scintillating colors of Mullonde's movement added anything to MongolMan's potential fall was anyone's guess.

After landing behind MongolMan, Mullonde stood on the surface of the mud. The fact that she was floating on it was almost imperceptible. She looked as if she was just really light on her feet, or had learned how to skate on mud as if it was ice. However, it wasn't long after Mullonde landed that she rushed him. A tiny red light emitted from her purple eye and illuminated a dot on MongolMan's back as she activated her passive Targeting Light aiming signature. Following the light and activating a GutImpactDamage: 160 + Impact + Knockback + Break
Accuracy: B
Description: Punch forward with large fist. Invokes knockback. Can knock objects into enemies. Breaks shields.
Duration: Until Overridden/Broken. Breaks after 3 swings.
Element: Null
Trader Rank: B
battlechip she struck at his torso, either his back or stomach if he turned around. There were no rules yet about battlechips or weapons, so she was going to be the first one to set the rest of the day's events in motion. Her fist enlarged a split-second before striking her blow, driving her meaty fist deep into MongolMan, assuming she hit. The combination of the slippery mud and the knockback of her GutImpact attack should have been enough to send him flying out of the ring.

If she succeeded in knocking MongolMan out of the ring, Mullonde raised her arms up to the cheering crowd. Her enlarged fist shrunk back to its original size. She did a little spin and tore the medical garment off of her body with a flourish, just like when she demonstrated it to Swat. Tossing it out of the ring like a cape. She activated her passive Sphere of Light signature as her yellow bikini swimsuit came into view. It shined and sparkled like gold as it reflected the aurora of light around it. She posed a few times for the crowd, trying to look as sexy as a zombie girl could in a sparkling gold bikini with short-shorts. She deactivated the barrier signature a moment later, its light fading as she had finished making her entrance onto the stage.

"How was that?" Mullonde said as she came to stand at the side of the ring and asked her three subordinate friends. "Ready to give them a real show ladies? I'll need a volunteer." Mullonde smiled before pointing her index finger at each woman in turn. She made an effort to look like she was thinking about who to pick, before settling on Puppet-Show. Mullonde's face looked like she was a cat that caught the canary. "Ready to get dirty? Remember, it is for a good cause. But first," Mullonde said before trying to wave Plastique over again. "We need more crowd pleasers." She said with more of a grin as she waited until Plastique came over.

When Plastique arrived, Mullonde continued her plan. "Showbizz loves ratings. So what I want us to do is this: you are going to set bombs around the ring, in the mud, something that will make it fountain," she said to Plastique. "Me and Puppet-Show here are going to put on a show. We aren't going to try to knock each other out of the ring, at least not initially. No, we need to make it look like a true struggle. We need to get down in the mud and flaunt it. A little hair pulling, a little arm and leg pulling, a little look like ya might accidentally be stripped down. That kind of thing. Especially when we get drenched in mud from some explosions when one looks like they might win over the other. They'll eat it up and we'll get those sweet style points."

"What do you say?"
The group of Neo-Shogun newbies watched with interest as the gown-wearing zombie took the stage to face off against the much larger NetMafia grappler. MongolMan continued growling and laughing in equal measure, obviously not taking her threat very seriously, and from step one, appeared to be adopting the very same stance she'd just seen him use. His next actions also offered nothing new: a crazy bum rush that would be very difficult to fight back against or sidestep. Fortunately, she had a trick in her arsenal that used an axis he didn't have covered, and flew straight into the air. There was an odd, audible gasp, seeming to radiate in a perfect radius around the ring, as she took to the air. Wasteland had mentioned earlier that flying might break the rules for leaving the ring, but either it looked like a jump and those were okay or otherwise, there was no rule against it, because all that it appeared to warrant were cheers for Mullonde safely beating the odds.

For his part, the mafioso seemed to demonstrate none of the cunning that one might expect from someone who makes a living off of physical fights like this one. He stared stupidly forward, wondering where his target had gone, once she was out of the way, leaving him very close to the edge of the ring. Before he could even turn around, Mullonde, smashed him in the back using a her GutsImpact battlechip, sending him hurtling out of the ring much farther than Upside had gone earlier, so much so that he slid into the crowd. Oddly, he really did "disappear" into the crowd; it was hard to tell where he ended up after the first few people he ran into fell over. Nobody appeared to be injured, but it sure seemed like he was the type of guy who'd want a second chance. Despite that, he didn't come back out of the crowd...

The crowd accepted it all at face value and began cheering as Mullonde tore her gown off, seeming more excited for her challenge than any of the other rings, just based on volume and presence around the ring. Despite that, no line seemed to be forming to challenge her yet, besides her allies. Her allies had a couple of thoughts of their own, starting with Messenger. "Wow, it's pretty rare that you see someone mud-wrestle without getting a single speck of it on them!" she remarked, sounding genuinely impressed but perhaps lending unwanted attention to the bit of trickery that had occurred.

"Hee hee hee... Zombies in the skies! Hee hee hee...!" Wasteland gleefully noted. "I was hoping your fist would go all the way through and grab a hold of his heart, though!"

"You grabbed a hold of my heart, anyway," Puppet-Show attempted to encouraged her with a playful smile on her face, a little reminiscent of Dee's, but with a little less mirth and a little more... something else. The lady looked surprised, all the same, when it was revealed she'd be the next competitor. "Oh my... I'm not much of a wrestler," she warned Mullonde, seeming hesitant to go up at all.

"Aw, go on, silly! If you lose, all that does is make Mullonde look better. It's all good!" Messenger goaded her.

"Hee hee hee hee! Don't worry, Mullonde won't kill you right now, probably!" Wasteland giggled menacingly. "I don't make any promises when it's my turn, though!"

"That would require me to win, Wasteland, and I don't think..." Puppet-Show sighed, while Messenger pushed her up into the ring from behind.

In the mean time, Plastique approached; she'd been resting up still, presumably, and was the only one in the dugout to wave over at this point. "What?" she asked simply, lowering her eyebrows and already seeming skeptical just looking at Mullonde's sneaky grin. "Am I supposed to wrestle you two on one with Puppet Girl? Cause I don't-" she began snapping, before Mullonde interjected, explaining her plan. "Bombs, huh? Putting them there and detonating them is easy, but hiding them secretly won't be. There's no space under the ring so I can't sneak in that way. I guess I could pretend to be doing maintenance or something..."

"Or we can go back to the first plan... A two on one match! If you throw Plastique to the corners of the ring, that'll give her the perfect chance to set the explosives discretely, right?" Messenger recommended, pleased to offer sneaky suggestions despite her good-girl image.

"... Why do I have to get thrown around?" Plastique complained, but she stepped inside anyway. "Fine..." she groaned, then adopted what looked like a surprisingly practiced hand-to-hand stance. "I'll be ready to place them... If you can actually toss me," the Neo-Shogun recruit challenged. She'd have a low center of gravity, due to her stature, but it looked like her style was much more defensive. As for Puppet-Show, she smiled awkwardly and raised her hands, but it was hard to say she had much of a stance at all. She was probably just imitating what she'd seen the others do so far. "It'll be pretty embarrassing if we lose two on one, Puppet Girl..."

"I think the whole thing might be pretty embarrassing regardless," Puppet-Show offered. It seemed like Plastique was going to stay in defensive stance until Mullonde came at her; it might be best to try something sneaky rather than locking hands with her in traditional wrestling style, in order to quickly toss her to at least two sides of the arena so she'd have a chance to plant explosives. Puppet-Show, on the other hand, was going to stay in a quote-unquote "defensive stance" simply by virtue of having no idea how to attack without making herself look like an idiot, exposing her lack of practical combat knowledge.

If Suzume had time to look elsewhere, she'd notice a couple of other oddities going on around. For one thing, the crowd was loud, but only around her own ring; although there were viewers everywhere, those around the other rings were standing around pretty still and quiet, while the ones surrounding Mullonde were shouting excitedly, shaking their fists, and etc. Showbizz seemed to be exclusively talking about Mullonde's ring, though it was hard to see what she was saying. Alex and the psychic were seemingly wrestling their own battles, but the silver girl wasn't even watching Escort entering the ring with her... Instead, her eyes were rooted on Mullonde's. She was posing dramatically, but with her lips tightly shut, and making no motions to leave her ring and come towards them... Yet, anyways. Across the ring from the silver lady, Escort was watching her curiously, raising one eyebrow and both hands. Suzume had seen what Escort was capable of and likely knew that few fighters had a chance against her in a battle, much less hand-to-hand combat.

Perhaps to Suzume's surprise, she received a message, not from Yasu or from Arch, but from Escort:

Quote (Suzume)

I know this isn't the best timing, I apologize, Miss Mullonde. But something strange is happening... I suddenly realized I recognized this woman, but I must confess, I cannot remember where from. Her appearance is so distinct that it is hard for me to think how that could be the case. The whole atmosphere of this event feels wrong, somehow, does it not? Ever since you began wrestling, I'm finding it even stranger. It may correspond to your showmanship, or it may be something else.

For now, please continue to try to draw attention and inform me if you see anything odd, and I will endeavor to do the same.

For now, the easiest way to draw attention was probably with the plan Suzume had already started, which would put a lot of eyes on the sporty zombie, the sexy puppeteer, and the bomber who, while grumpy, had a pretty nice butt.
Mullonde stood victorious over MongolMan, gaining the favor of the crowd, as her NS allies made their remarks. At Messenger's remark about not getting a speck of mud on her, Mullonde crouched down and dipped two fingers into the mud, smearing two streaks under her eyes like a Netopian football player. "There. Sufficiently muddy for the appetizer," Mullonde replied. She turned to Wasteland after to reply to her remark. "If we were having a net battle that might be arranged. Right now, we are trying to do non-lethal combat. We need to impress them with style over substance."

Puppet-Show expressed how impressed she was at Mullonde's win, followed by hesitance at getting into the ring with her. The others goaded and pushed her into the ring as Plastique showed up, having been waved over. Mullonde explained the plan to Puppet-Show and Plastique of how they were going to make an explosive showing. Plastique was hesitant of the plan, and how she would need to be 'thrown around', but agreed nonetheless. Both of the girls got into a defensive stance, showing their training or lack thereof. Suzume made note of the corresponding combat capabilities of her fellows, this was a mission where she was sent to assess after all.

But her eyes were also drawn off her two sparring partners to the general state of the entire tournament. Apparently her little stunt had drawn all attention to her. This was a good thing. The whole point of dressing as Mullonde was to fulfill her mission and gather ratings. If that also helped her fulfill the undercover mission and figure out who these fake NS agents were, then that would be a glorious side effect. Escort even contacted her to that effect. The way the message was framed, it made Suzume think that the real Escort was there, in the ring with the silver lady. If that was the case, what was really going on? Was this really just all miscommunication about whom was missing and whom was giving NS missions?

"Remember girls, make it flashy. We are trying to win hearts and minds, not just tossing people out," Mullonde reminded her two companions as she flexed her fists and took her own combat stance. Her hands began to glow as RageClaw2Damage: 70 + Slashing (Attack) OR 35 + Impacting (Throw)
Accuracy: B / B then B
Description: Creates an impressive bear claw. Can be used to slash or throw enemies or objects.
Duration: Until Overridden/Broken. Breaks automatically after 6 uses.
Element: Null
Special: Throw: The wielder must first grab the target to be thrown, then the target is thrown in the direction/area indicated. A second check is made if against another object/enemy. Throw deals damage to both thrown object/enemy and the second object/enemy. Damage occurs at point of collision with the ground/wall/ceiling/etc. or an object/enemy, not during initial grab attempt. Objects deal their max HP in damage (instead of the chip's damage) if they hit an object/enemy, then break. If they miss, the object just takes the chip's damage. This chip has a variety of uses.
Trader Rank: C
battlechip data began to flow into them. She reached down and scooped up a handful of mud and slung it at Plastique's face. When you mud wrestle, you wrestle dirty, and Mullonde was going to become the Heel.

As the mud missile rocketed out of her hand, Mullonde charged Plastique. Using her passive movement and floating capabilities to remain light on her feet, Mullonde quickly closed the distance just behind her attack. As she was almost on Plastique, Mullonde turned to her side and dub her foot into the mud, sliding to a stop. Just like a car striking a puddle, her speed and sliding foot attempted to kick up a mud wave to further drench Plastique. With Plastique distracted, and probably moving her arms to cover her face and eyes from all the mud flying about, Mullonde ducked down and reached for Plastique's legs.

Mullonde reached out with both arms to grab Plastique by her legs and pull them out from under her. Digging her heels into the mud, Mullonde tried to yank Plastique forward, causing her to fall onto her back. Being in the general middle of the ring, Mullonde attempted to spin while holding Plastique's legs, dragging her into the spin as well. Mullonde's surprising battle strength, mixed with the power of the battlechip and her ability to fly, caused Mullonde to attempt to lift Plastique from the ground as she spun herself like a top. Using her advanced aiming capabilities, Mullonde attempted to toss Plastique like a discus at Puppet-Show. It would be quite a bit of showmanship if she succeeded at laying both girls into the mud. Though the hope would be that they would stay in the ring.

Mullonde raised her glowing hands back into the air in triumph, assuming she succeeded. "YOU SEE THAT?!" she shouted towards the stands. "SHOUT IT OUT IF YA WANT MORE! MULLONDE IS HERE TO SHOW YOU HOW IT'S DONE!" she boasted. She waved and blew kisses and just generally tried to pander to the crowd. Trying to gather all the attention on herself. It would give Plastique a little time to place the charges while the crowd was focused on Mullonde.

As Mullonde squared off against her two partners, Aya made another call to Yasu.

Quote (Aya to Yasu)

I am under the impression that the Escort we have made contact with is the real Escort. If this is true than we have been fed misinformation. We were given the mission to find missing navis, we have found the missing navis, seemingly unharmed. We were given the mission to find any fake subordinates or generals, we have found no fakes so far. What is more, Escort acts as if she knows the missing navis. What exactly is going on? We request an explanation as to what we are doing here.
Messenger nodded with a half-smile, bemused with Mullonde's token mud application. To her side, Wasteland hunched her shoulders and nodded along. "Okaaay..." she conceded, though her voice had a smoldering tone to it; she clearly wasn't pleased with the fact that Mullonde wasn't going to be ripping anyone's heart out, but the time just wasn't ripe for it, as the wrestler had said.

Inside the ring, Mullonde had a few words with her opponents, reminding them of their goal to draw the crowd's attention. "Hm hm. Hearts and minds, yes. Like puppets," Puppet-Show chuckled dryly. When it came time to start, however, Mullonde ignored her to start with and went after Plastique, slinging a load of mud towards the enemy's face. Grunting, Plastique raised her arms and protected her face from being hit, which would have blinded her (and just been generally gross as well). It hadn't blinded her, but it might as well have; with her arms out of position, she wasn't ready to stop Mullonde's charge. The slide ended up coating her with mud over her entire front, save just her face, where her forearms remained crossed to guard. Causing Plastique to guard her face had been Mullonde's goal, and the zombie SP seized on the opportunity, grabbing hold of Plastique's legs and dragging her off her base, so she landed back-first in the mud, coating the side that hadn't already been hit. She'd probably be pretty grumpy later, considering she'd only just finished cleaning herself from her earlier battle.

"Oh dear," Puppet-Show commented from nearby, perhaps envisioning a few minutes forward into the future a few moments when she might end up rolling in the mud in a similar fashion.

Plastique grabbed at her legs angrily, trying to reach the hands on knees but failing since she basically had to do a sit-up just to reach; Mullonde might wonder if she was abandoning the plan, given that she now seemed dedicated to trying to actually break the hold, or if she was just a very convincing actor. "Oh crap, I always thought this would only work in fake pro wrestling-!" she cried out, as her somewhat lightweight body, after a brief drag in the mud, was pulled upward by the force of the swing. Of course, Mullonde had several advantages that any ordinary person attempting to use the giant swing in combat normally wouldn't: the ability to lift herself off the ground with her flight abilities, combined with a tool to increase her grip. Once she'd gotten enough speed and height built up, she released Plastique towards the girl's own ally, in a move that would likely cause significant worry to any wrestling promoter who actually valued the health and well-being of their assets.

In the mean time, Puppet-Show was standing like a deer in the headlights... Not just as though she was frightened, but as though she had something else on her mind that was preoccupying her. For that reason, it was more than a little comical when the two girls collided, Puppet-Show giving a simple "oof" while Plastique snapped out curses that were not fit for a broadcast program like this. It looked like everything had gone about as planned, other than that, even with all the mud coating her, it was a little obvious when Plastique created a bomb in one hand and hid it underneath the mud. Perhaps it only looked that way from the view on top of the stage? It might be less obvious to those on the ground. At any rate, that was one bomb down; Plastique, making a show of being dizzy and disoriented (or perhaps actually just dizzy and disoriented), crawled on her hands and knees about one quarter around the ring

Puppet-Show climbed back to her feet as well, now muddy as well as oiled. "That was a doozy... Why do I suddenly feel like this handicap isn't working for us?" she chuckled, then shook the stars out of her eyes. "Plastique, are you ready?"

Around the other side, now on the opposite side of the stage, Plastique was rising back up to her full, somewhat short height, still with one hand on the ground. Likely hidden in that hand was the other bomb she was supposed to set; when it came up from the mud, it was empty, so one could only assume she had just set it into the mud. "Yeah, I'm ready..." she murmured, spitting into the dirt to her side. For a second, it seemed like she'd just unintentionally or intentionally informed the audience of their trick, before she added: "Ready for a pincer attack! You ready to do a double lariat?!" she asked, making a fearsome, rage-filled face that seemed somehow amusing in this context.

"... Double lariat?" the puppet-maker asked, tilting her head slightly. It seemed as though the whole audience tilted their respective heads in unison with her.

"A clothesline! You know!?" the bomb-maker inquired, looking like she was at the boiling over point. Her eyes were bulging behind the mask of mud and her face was getting a little red.

"... Clothes? Oh, we're doing that? I go after her top and you go for the bottoms?" Puppet-Show continued, excruciatingly slow to catch on.

" Just hold your arm out to the side and run forward! For the love of...!" her ally groaned, then began to charge forward, dipping down slightly and revving up one arm for a clothesline attack, likely aimed at the disguised Suzume's midriff. Puppet-Show joined in after some hesitation; her height and aim would probably put it more at the neck, if the attack connected. Because of the differences in their speed, it was very likely that Plastique would collide before Puppet-Show did, despite their target's position right in the center of the ring. It looked like Plastique was holding something in the balled fist of her hand now... it could be another explosive, or perhaps a detonator?

The crowd was excited to see what was happening, but they didn't know what Suzume did: namely, that this wasn't a real competition, just a show. From the perspective of this as a competition, it was a little ludicrous, because Suzume knew that her way out of this attack was pretty obvious. Suzume also still had a discretely equipped RageClaw she could use to toss navis around as necessary. On the side, Messenger was watching Plastique, probably wondering about the bombs, while Wasteland was giving some unique suggestions on how to add some flair to the next impact. The navi known as Mullonde would probably want to ignore those, unless she relished the idea of skewering or decapitating the new allies.

Elsewhere, other matches were progressing. It looked like whatever was happening in the other rings must be pretty low-key, since the crowds had mostly moved over to Mullonde's... or at least, Alex's and Thaumaturge were low key. Escort and the silver lady appeared to be going at it hard, though for whatever reason, nobody appeared to be watching at all. Mullonde couldn't make out the silver ladies words from here, but she was constantly calling out in a loud, sing-songy voice as the two of them chased each other across the ring, punching and deflecting buffeting blows with fists and legs that could really be described more as very fast-paced mixed martial arts than wrestling. They both made occasional movements to try and get the other down, but neither had been successful so far. It was quite a spectacle to behold, and yet, nobody seemed to be doing any beholding. Unfortunately, it might be pretty hard to get any answers from Escort for a while, thus occupied.

Aya would probably not be surprised, but likely would be frustrated, as her message to Yasu again seemed to go through, but was not met with any response. As successful as Suzume had been gathering the eyes of the audience and making a spectacle, and as easy as it had been to locate the missing navis, the main mission here was to discover the reason why no one was reporting in and who was posting the phony recruitment missions... so far, the answers to those questions remained elusive.

The rest of the situation remained strange as well... Showbizz seemed to only be talking about the action in Mullonde's ring, and now with a quickening voice as if she was under heavy exertion. The audience's cries were still loud and supportive, but persisted mostly as a series of repetitive shouts. It would be hard to locate anyone in the audience who seemed to be having a conversation in the entire crowd. It didn't seem as if the other navis had noticed anything fishy, but one thing could be said for certain: the only navis not watching the show right now and projecting the same series of supportive shouts now were Showbizz, who was narrating, the Neo-Shogun recruits, who were closeby or otherwise participating, and the competitors in the other rings.
Mullonde got back into her combat stance as her two opponents scrambled back to their feet. She flashed them another toothy grin as they communicated their attempt at a double lariat. Unfortunately for them, they were not in sync and came at Mullonde in two waves. It was fortunate for Mullonde that Plastique decided to go at Mullonde's waist, instead of her neck, like Puppet-Show did. Whether that was intentional or not, Mullonde bent her legs and waited until Plastique was steps away, before attempting to jump over Plastiqe's outstretched arm, just like she did with MongolMan. Jetting into the air and dropping just as quickly with her powers of flight.

Unlike her fight with MongolMan, however, Mullonde came down on Puppet-Show. "Banzaaai!" Mullonde exclaimed as she stretched out both her arms and legs in an effort to give a full-body hug/body slam to Puppet-Show, sending both girls sprawling into the mud if she connected. Mullonde used her glowing RageClaw hands to attempt a grapple with Puppet-Show, holding on tight as Mullonde tried to roll the two around in the mud as if Puppet-Show was giving a spirited fight, regardless of whether or not Puppet-Show was actually giving a fight or not. Mullonde was trying to get them as dirty and muddy as possible while also giving Plastique enough time to set some more charges. Mullonde hooked her legs and arms around Puppet-Show's arms and legs, as if a python had curled around her, getting into every crevice and binding the two women together.

After a few flailing rolls in the muck, Mullonde tried to maneuver until she was behind Puppet-Show. Mullonde clamped down even harder when she got into position, straightening her legs and arms as she attempted to pull Puppet-Show into a stretching rack. "Bear with me," Mullonde grunted in Puppet-Show's ear as she tried to push Puppet-Show into arching her back, thrusting her chest and belly out. The effect would expose a lot of Puppet-Show's assets to the surrounding crowd. Unfortunately for Puppet-Show, it probably would hurt quite a bit. Mullonde wouldn't hold the submission for long though, just a few seconds for the fans and the cameras to get a good look, before rolling to the side and letting Puppet-Show go.

Mullonde would then roll to her feet and get back into her fighting stance for the inevitable counterattack by Plastique. "Almost ready for the explosive climax?" she asked Plastique, with an emphasis on the word 'explosive'. "One of us is going to get an explosive send off!" she repeated her emphasis on 'explosive' as she readied to move on Plastique. Clearly Mullonde was not so subtly trying to clue Plastique into her plan of detonating at the same time, or right before, one of them getting thrown from the ring. One of them was going to ride a wave of mud out of the ring, the question was: which one?
Mullonde would again have a flash of something a little peculiar during the exchange. MongolMan had been a giant of a man who appeared to have surprising force and speed, but she'd easily managed to evade him and knock him out of bounds. Plastique, on the other hand, seemed as though she was much more reactive... it could just be because she'd seen the trick earlier, but the success of the jump over her ally seemed less fully realized as Plastique instinctively corrected to stop in the center of the ring and tilt her head up to track her opponent, breathing heavily. It seemed like somehow, her instincts were a little keener than that war-like navi's.

Of course, the two of them had an agreement and Plastique couldn't fly anyway, so the plan went forward, instincts or no instincts. On Mullonde's descent, the zombie-model navi pounced upon Puppet-Show, causing the two navis together to fall into a muddy, but sexy, pile. The slick mud and oil covering the dark-skinned lady's body was making it somewhat difficult to establish any sort of hold on her, but not so much so as to prevent the hard-working Mullonde from getting the grip she needed, especially while she still had her RageClaw equipped. In contrast to Plastique earlier, Puppet-Show seemed wholly unprepared for the grappling session, both in terms of lack of experience and seeming like her mind wasn't fully on it. "Ah! That's very rough," she protested, her face mostly hidden from view as the two sputtered around in the muck.

Plastique got the hint and circled menacingly, like a sniper trying to get a clear shot, planting bombs discretely in the mean time by dragging her hand along the ground. It seemed amusingly as though putting the bombs down had put her in a good mood, compared to having to do, well, what Puppet-Show was doing.

Puppet-Show had begun to cry out rather erotically, as her soft, brown body, fairly unsuited to wrestling, was put into a compromising pose for the crowd. "Ah! You say that, but it's easier said than done! A-Aah~" the lady continued quivering in an arousing fashion, offering only token resistance. Now that Mullonde was listening for the crowd to see if the effect had gone as intended, she'd realize how truly bizarre their actual reaction was: they were all still shouting, but seemingly along with every stretch, in a rising and falling crescendo that sounded completely unnatural. It didn't even sound precisely like excitement any longer. It almost sounded like they were imitating her slightly risque cries?

On the outside, Messenger was looking to both sides awkwardly, seeming to assume that the other navis were making fun of her ally. "D-Don't worry, Puppet-Show! You're doing fine! I think everyone's enjoying the show...?" she called out, meaning to be encouraging, but sounding unsure of herself.

Mullonde let go of her captive, who pretty much face-planted into the mud as soon as the option to rest was granted to her. The crowd seemed to return to its previous disposition at roughly the same time. Plastique was still focusing on her role, watching Mullonde with sharp eyes. "Yeah? Well it ain't gonna be me!" she barked back, raising her fist and running towards her opponent, splashing up mud around her bare legs as she proceeded. Inside that fist was, presumably, a hidden detonator, judging by how her thumb was poked slightly outward from the hole formed by her curled fingers. When she'd almost reached Mullonde, she grabbed hold of the rising Puppet-Show's shoulders and leap-frogged her, causing the girl's face to go back into the mud while Plastique simultaneously pressed the trigger.

The explosions rang out on four sides simultaneously, creating less of a surge in the mud like a wave and more like a cluster of explosions that sent a rain of mud across the entire crowd as well as the competitors. "Hee hee ha ha ha! Yeah! Blow it all up!" Wasteland cheered from the sidelines, raising her fists into the air and allowing the mud to cover her. Messenger hid behind Wasteland's tall (but thin) figure, clearly hoping to stay clean. The rest of the crowd seemed entirely focused on the action, ignorant of the mud that was getting all over them. It seemed like the attention of even Alex and Thaumaturge had been drawn towards the exploding ring. And explode it had: the center points of each side of the square now had holes blown in them, where the remaining mud was leaking into craters on the ground. The small hidden fountains that had supplied mud to the ring, located beneath the surface of the ring, were spewing upward, clearly broken beyond repair, and smoke was still billowing from where the explosives had gone off.

Unfortunately, neither navi really had a wave to ride out on; they barely had a ring left to wrestle in. After the fact, it seemed more apparent to Plastique that she'd probably gone a little overboard with her explosives, which only made her grumpier. Instead, the two ended up locked up again, with Plastique trying to pull Mullonde down again with her considerable, frustrated determination. As PuppetShow stood back up, dizzy, the crowd picked back up along with her... only for her to stumble and slide out of the ring gracelessly. The crowd gave another big gasp as she did. "It's just you and me now," Plastique growled, gritting her teeth and trying harder. Without a RageClaw, however, she didn't stand much of a chance of overpowering Mullonde; much like a person trying too hard to turn a bottle lid and losing their grip on it, she slipped on the mixture of mud and oil and ended up grabbing hold of Mullonde's sporty top instead. Dragging it as she fell, but holding on hard to avoid slipping into the mud, she ended up stretching it beneath Mullonde's perky breasts, their modesty preserved only by the mud that fully coated them all. Oddly, the crowd seemed to have no reaction whatsoever this time.

Furthermore, Showbizz had more or less joined the crowd in just chanting, no longer calling the action. Literally all but three participants in the event, except for Showbizz, who was on-screen, had gathered around the ring to join in that bizarre, meaningless chant, which no longer even seemed to coincide with the action. Puppet-Show was one, now staggering just outside of the ring and holding her head with one hand, wiping her face with the other; her ears might still be ringing from the explosions. The other two were still fighting fiercely in the other ring, now moving almost too quickly to watch with the untrained eye. The only good looks were in the brief stalls in the action, such as when one of them managed to throw the other onto the ground or briefly caused the other to stagger with a hard strike. It looked like they'd both taken a lot of damage; Escort's pale flesh looked bruised in several places, while the other navi's silver body seemed to be cracked in several places, slight wisps of pink gas showing through the spots where holes appeared. A good enough look would reveal that the upper bikini of the silver woman had fallen off in the battle, but her giant breasts were only smooth where the fabric had been, like a doll's body. It was frankly amazing that nobody was watching the fight occur, or trying to, at least.

Escort was pinned to the ground for a moment and sent a quick message as she was. It was hard to tell if she'd sent a message because she was unable to move at the moment anyway, or if she was only at a disadvantage because she saw the necessity of sending the message.

Quote (Escort)

This navi has extraordinary power. She cannot be just a participant in this battle. I feel like it is not just her, though. Do any of the other combatants seem unusual to you? If you can, please subdue their movements and sight. I have seen shimmers in the air as I attack my opponent... I feel like she may be casting some kind of illusion, but I cannot tell over who or what. I believe she must have an accomplice- a failsafe- in order to be able to maintain the illusion while I am fighting her like this. If you've noticed anything strange, or any clues, please act on them-

The message cut out there, just as Utopia pulled Escort into a profoundly uncomfortable looking pose, with her head grinding into the mud beneath her by one foot on top of it. The silver lady's other knee was on Escort's back, with the arms held into a painful chicken-wing behind Escort's back. At this point, Suzume had a couple of options: she could keep playing it straight and get revenge on Plastique for disturbing her swimsuit, she could obey Escort's orders and subdue someone she judged as suspicious to try to disrupt the theoretical illusion (although there hadn't been any obvious shimmers in the air from Suzume's view), or she might even need to help Escort out, as the Neo-Shogun subordinate seemed to have her hands more than full with her powerful opponent. There might be ways to accomplish these three goals smarter as well, so that perhaps one wouldn't have to exclude the others.
As Mullonde wrestled, Suzume's ears twitched as the crowd's voice changed. It sounded like they were imitating Puppet-Show. Now that she thought of it, with her keen mind able to multi-task and helped by computer processing power much more capable than a basic human mind, the crowd seemed to have imitated Puppet-Show's state of being since Puppet-Show got thrown around. They even panted a bit as Puppet-Show was picking herself up from being struck by Plastique, mirroring Puppet-Show's heavier breathing. It didn't occur to Suzume or Aya initially that the focus on Mullonde's ring was anything other than Mullonde's showmanship, but now they began to question it. If Puppet-Show was the one behind everything, what was she after? They would need to confront her after they let the rest of the performance play out.

Mullonde turned to face Plastique, as Plastique made her move. Leapfrogging Puppet-Show she detonated the charges around the ring, causing a mudplosion! Chaos erupted from the ring, causing fountains of mud to spurt out all around from broken pipes, and reduce the size of it due to the big chunks of asphalt blown off the stage. Puppet-Show stumbled and slid out of the ring, while Plastique and Mullonde grappled in the middle. Locked together, Plastique slipped and pulled Mullonde's sporty top, causing it to stretch enough to expose Suzume's modest bust, coated in mud. The crowd, and most of the other participants, gathered to chant around Mullonde's ring now. Only three managed to not: Puppet-Show, who was already suspect, Escort, and Utopia. Bingo.

Quote (Aya to Escort)

We are fairly certain that besides Utopia, Puppet-Show is the other.

Quote (Aya to all NS personnel)

Puppet-Show and Utopia are both tangos. Engage! I repeat, we have found the perpetrators, engage!

Aya's message ringed in Suzume's ears as she was still grappling with Plastique. Mullonde looked at Plastique straight in the eye as she pulled a dagger from thin air, "You win." Mullonde reached behind her and slashed the back of her top, trying to cut it off her and letting Plastique fall back clutching the torn top. Now naked from the waist up, but still covered head to toe in mud, Mullonde leapt out of her ring and flew across the arena towards Utopia and Escort's ring. She reached out her glowing hands as she flew at Utopia in an effort to tackle the half-naked silver woman in a bear's grip. "I got your back!" Mullonde shouted out as she entered the ring from the air.

Moments later, probably after Arch had entered the battlefield, twin columns of light struck down near the arena. Out stepped Aya and DragonierMan, in full battle gear. If Wasteland was paying attention, and not an illusion, she would probably be stoked to see the dragon himself. "STAND DOWN!" DragonierMan's voice bellowed across the stands, amplified by NET magics. The two dragoniers spread their wings and made a beeline towards Puppet-Show. "Stand down and you won't be harmed."
Plastique's eyes widened as the knife came out; a combat knife appeared in her free hand as well. She probably didn't know exactly what Mullonde was doing, but it was at least clear that something about the situation had changed, and she wanted to be prepared. Rather than attacking, Mullonde simply cut loose her top so that she could escape from the wrestling match.

Suzume's flight into the next ring was so quick that Escort hadn't had time to answer yet, also perhaps owing to the fact that she was probably in distress, being in the unusual situation of finding herself physically overwhelmed by an opponent. Suzume wasn't intimidated by that fact; she grabbed hold of Utopia in a tackle, pulling her off Escort. Without the RageClaw, this effort would have been futile. Utopia's body was coated in metal and her weight felt every pound of it; trying to lift it was like trying to move a pick-up truck by hand. Utopia's eyes widened, but she didn't seem particularly upset by it. "ALERT: My plan has been figured out. DETERMINATION: 'reveal my cards' to Mullonde for her own benefit. Utopiaaa~" the huge, silver-coated girl cried out, shooting her hands out past Mullonde's back. Everything around the two of them began to shimmer, with a white light growing from the center of the four rings out towards where they now were, between the ring Escort had occupied and one of the empty dug-outs. Soon, the entire world around the two of them had vanished, although they could still feel the soft sand of Yumland beneath them.

Utopia made no move to unpin herself and stared blankly upward from the ground. There was no way that she was too weary to keep fighting, based on her vigor a moment ago, so she must have submitted to Mullonde for some reason. If Escort had received her message, nothing was coming through, and furthermore, DragonierMan and Aya would both find themselves unable to jack back in. Even the feed to Destin, DragonierMan, and the other SP had all been cut. It seemed Utopia and Mullonde were somehow alone together now, though where wasn't entirely certain. Even Puppet-Show was gone now, despite having supposedly been Puppet-Show's ally in the endeavor.

"CLARIFICATION: I'm the one who's been intercepting messages that are supposed to be sent to your comrades outside the simulation. I've also just interrupted jack-in and jack-out functions. I've accomplished this using accumulated technology from the GNA, NetMafia, and NetPolice, all whom I'd infiltrated through a GNA contact of my operator's. ADDITIONAL: I want to make you feel fully comfortable in this situation. It's all for your benefit, Mullonde," she explained, spreading her arms. "ADDITIONAL: I'll also shed my armor, to show you that I'm serious. Utopiaaa~" she cried out, spreading the fingers of both hands and opening her mouth large to sing. The rest of her silver armor cracked and broke off, leaving a pink body of roughly the same size, vaguely luminescent, and softer... terribly soft, from what Suzume could feel. It looked to be free of the specific features most women kept hidden, but also yielding, as though Suzume could penetrate it as easily as sticking her hand inside any part. "CLARIFICATION: In this state, I've abandoned my Blesser armor and can be attacked and ejected, if you so desire. If I threaten you, you can feel free to terminate me as you please."

The navi remained on the floor as she continued to talk. "APOLOGY: I know this must be alarming for you. The truth is, you are not being evaluated by the Neo-Shogun Empire for recruitment. I am not affiliated with them. The truth is, I used my GNA connections to monitor potential recruits for the Neo-Shogun Empire and, when necessary, step in to provide a scenario that they could achieve, in situations where I felt there was a near 0% chance the navi could join and become a functioning member of the original Neo-Shogun Empire. SPECIFICATION: You cannot become a member of the Neo-Shogun Empire. REASONING: You are already a member of the Neo-Shogun Empire, therefore, I created a simulated situation where you could act out your dream of joining the Neo-Shogun Empire. The other girls were the same way, except for Puppet-Show. I found my own illusion powers insufficient for creating the number of figures that I'd need to create a realistic simulation, so I hired her to assist me. I would pay her for her work. She was never intended to be a true Neo-Shogun recruit, though I had her go through a simulated recruitment missions to make it believable for the other girls I'd put into my program. Escort was also incorporated into my program, for believability's sake. I believe she's thus far been successfully deceived, like the others."

Her face remained mostly inexpressive as she spoke her bizarre reasoning, completely straight-faced. "SYMPATHY: I am sorry that it is not the true Neo-Shogun Empire you've joined. I hope that my world here can be a suitable substitute. I have a variety of- EMPATHY- fun, exciting, and sexually charged missions planned for you, using the extensive files I've gathered on the typical Neo-Shogun Empire recruitment missions. QUERY: are you interested in continuing my simulation? Or perhaps you have questions? I hope that you have also enjoyed the companionship of your fellow recruits; do you have any questions regarding the three of them? I've excluded Puppet-Show, as she is not a true recruit, only an actor I've hired to help me with the simulations. I have not revealed the nature of this program to them. QUERY- ADDITIONAL- do you believe that I should? QUERY- ADDITIONAL- Is there any other way I can grant your wishes?"

Suzume would have to make these decisions on her own, as DragonierMan could not interact here. To DragonierMan, Aya, and even Destin, it appeared that this whole area was a strange, white void, from which Suzume and the others had all disappeared. If she wanted to end this whole farce quickly, it would apparently be as simple as taking out Utopia, although she'd have to do it with her standard attacks or the last bit of the RageClaw she'd already equipped, as there was no way to transfer her chips at the moment. Alternatively, Utopia seemed to need some correction in all this, and also seemed to have a lot of valuable information that Suzume could now freely access if she was interested.
Well... Suzume certainly wasn't expecting this.

Apparently Utopia was one of the Blessers. Suzume remembered well that DragonierMan had trouble with MarriageMan in an earlier altercation. Blessers had strange, reality-altering powers. It was not just a simple task of defeating them in a straight up fight. Although, paradoxically, Utopia seemed to be giving Mullonde just that: an opening to defeat her in a straight up fight. Simultaneously, Utopia was also giving Mullonde the choice to mold reality for her benefit. To give Mullonde the ability to act out any fantasy she wanted, seemingly for no cost. Suzume wondered if there was a catch that was left unsaid, or if the Blessers were just as crazy as the rumors implied.

DragonierMan's and Aya's jack-in attempt was blocked, forcing them to stay in their PET. They looked at the white void where everyone disappeared from their big screen vid window. They called out for Mullonde, but couldn't reach her. Aya tried to send more signals on Yasu's, Escort's, and Arch's comm links, asking for their status and location. If she managed to get through to any of them, and they could relay their position, the two dragoniers would divert to that location as best they could. If not, they would continue to watch the strange anomaly.

Mullonde listened to Utopia as she explained what occurred. She was interfering with Neo-Shogunate recruitment missions in cases where she thought the people applying wouldn't be able to successfully complete the mission assigned. Mullonde's eyes zoomed and panned-out, her ears twitching, as they continued to record, even if the stream was not reaching her PET. Utopia seemed to know that Mullonde was already a member of the NS, so Suzume deactivated her .GMO and returned to her base armored form. She got off of Utopia and deactivated her RageClaw2Damage: 70 + Slashing (Attack) OR 35 + Impacting (Throw)
Accuracy: B / B then B
Description: Creates an impressive bear claw. Can be used to slash or throw enemies or objects.
Duration: Until Overridden/Broken. Breaks automatically after 6 uses.
Element: Null
Special: Throw: The wielder must first grab the target to be thrown, then the target is thrown in the direction/area indicated. A second check is made if against another object/enemy. Throw deals damage to both thrown object/enemy and the second object/enemy. Damage occurs at point of collision with the ground/wall/ceiling/etc. or an object/enemy, not during initial grab attempt. Objects deal their max HP in damage (instead of the chip's damage) if they hit an object/enemy, then break. If they miss, the object just takes the chip's damage. This chip has a variety of uses.
Trader Rank: C
battlechip. "I am not going to destroy you now. You were just doing what you thought was right. But I am actually already on a mission, so I'll need to ask you a bunch of questions if you wouldn't mind."

Suzume did feel like she was cut off from her PET, which concerned her. But it didn't seem like she was in any immediate danger, so she would use her professionalism to see her through. "First thing's first. I am looking for those people you 'put into your program', as you put it: Messenger, Plastique, Wasteland, Puppet-Show, and now Escort. They had gone missing so I was brought in to find them. I would like you to give them to me, intact and unharmed, in their entirety, no simulations. Now Puppet-Show was an independent, but a part of your simulations and considered one of the missing, so I'll need to ask her some questions as well."

Suzume continued. "My next question is why? Why go through all the trouble to make these simulations and grant wishes? And for a more specific question, how do you determine who has 'a near zero percent chance that the navi could join and become a functioning member of the Neo-Shogunate'? As you said, I am a member of the NS. And these people seem to be just like all the others who have joined and became functioning members within the faction."

Suzume took a moment to let Utopia talk as she thought up more questions. "And this all begs the question: why are you targeting the recruitment and officers of the Neo-Shogun Empire? Why not the NetMafia, or NetPolice, or even the GNA itself? Or have you already done that before?" Suzume scanned Utopia's face for clues as to her thought process. "Now, your work with Puppet-Show was pretty amazing. We could use people of your skill within the NS. Perhaps you would see fit to join us. What do you say?" Suzume asked, either granting Suzume's own wishes, or giving Utopia the chance to perhaps follow Utopia's own wishes.
DragonierMan and Aya would find that their messages were still interacting about the same: Yasu's were going through with no responses coming in return, same with Arch, but Escort appeared to be receiving and replying.

Quote (Escort)

I'm not certain what has happened. I was fighting Utopia in one of the rings, when Mullonde ambushed sprung the ambush. She tackled Utopia off of me, but as soon as I rose to my feet, a white light overtook the entire area. Now, the ring and all of the competitors have either vanished or were otherwise hidden. Is Suzume okay? My jack-out function does not appear to be activating either.


Recording Utopia's strange behavior was easy enough, though streaming it to the PET was, as expected, impossible. Hopefully, she'd get a chance to present it later; if Utopia was serious about heeding Suzume's requests, then she wasn't truly stuck here. "COMPLIANCE," the lady began, rising up to her feet to speak to Suzume more easily. "I will answer as many questions as you deem fit to ask. IDENTIFICATION: The names you listed were all-inclusive of those I've put into my program. All other actors I used, except for the viruses in Wasteland's mission, were simply illusions I created. In this specific instance, I created more numerous, in-depth illusions by casting illusions atop the puppets that Puppet-Show controls."

She latched on to the request to speak to Puppet-Show, then flashed a pose, holding one hand to her forehead with the wrist bent and extending the other towards the sky, as if reaching towards some sort of unseen diety; her hip poked to one side, distractingly. "COMPLIANCE: Utopiaaaaa!" she called out, before causing Puppet-Show to blink into existence next to her. "I have summoned Puppet-Show, to answer additional questions you may have."

"Oh my..." Puppet-Show muttered, still disoriented, though not as much so as earlier now that she'd wiped the mud from her face. If Suzume watched the mud dripping from the lady's bikini-clad body, she'd notice it disappeared as it hit the invisible floor of the net. "I suppose you were found out?"

"CLARIFICATION: I simply exposed all details of my plan. It was not beneficial to the completion of Suzume's mission, nor my mission statement as a Blesser, to engage in battle with Suzume," the fornerly silver woman explained, her voice ringing dramatically despite the expository nature of her words. "QUESTION: Should I reveal the nature of the ruse to the women as I summon them, or leave them inside the illusion? If I reveal the nature of the program to them, their behavior in response may be unpredictable. It will be impossible to resume the simulation, even with my powers, if they are informed of its nature," she suggested. "ADDENDUM: Although they could always continue to be part of this simulated Neo-Shogun Empire, despite its nature."

Suzume could figure that out herself, but for now she wanted to focus on other questions. "CLARIFICATION: My Blesser goal is to grant the wishes of navis across the net, whoever they are, whatever they may be, so long as the request is communicated verbally, in person. A navi who asked that I promise not to name them requested 18 days ago that I help navis who want to join the Neo-Shogun Empire but face entrance requirements so daunting that completing them would be 'totally gosh-darn impossible'. To that end, I set up this simulation, by which navis could join the Neo-Shogun Empire with no risk of failure, even under impossible circumstances. ADDITIONAL: Would you like me to break my promise to that navi and tell you their name? If so, please command," she explained at length, ending with a question that was probably superfluous at this time.

"CONSIDERATION: I may have made an erroneous evaluation and incorrectly identified the navis in question as having a zero-percent chance to join the Neo-Shogun Empire and integrate successfully. PROPOSAL: Please listen to my reasoning, including details you may not have been privy to before, and tell me if you agree with my original assessment. LIST: Messenger, who was instructed by Officer Bank to infiltrate the Neo-Shogun Empire under the guise of a new recruit and feed information back to the NetPolice. Plastique, a Techari Family member who decided of her own accord to attempt to infiltrate the Neo-Shogun Empire and evaluate technological progress. Wasteland, a navi who has been blacklisted from GNA-hosted missions for repeated failures, related to violent behavior, often directed towards her employers. CONCLUSION: Probability of these navis integrating properly into the Neo-Shogun Empire was low, a fraction of a percentage approaching zero." It was probably a good thing all of the navis in question weren't here yet to hear this information revealed; they really would be acting erratically if they were here now.

Luckily, Utopia had answered questions pretty thoroughly and responsively, because her face was still a bewitching pink mask of somewhat vogue, but robotic and emotionless indifference that would be impossible to draw much subtext from no matter how closely it was studied. "CONSIDERATION. APOLOGY: I am not capable of 'seeing fit' to join you or decline the offer. ADDENDUM: But I will join you if you state a request for me to do so."

"If you don't mind an ally who will join the enemy if they request she does so," Puppet-Show added with a smile that rode the line between polite and condescending. "I apologize, I assume that came off as a little rude. But I was being serious: Utopia's flaw is that she is incapable of denying any request and strives to listen to any request she can. Anyone who knew that secret would be able to turn her from an enemy to an ally instantaneously. Or that's what I think, anyways... So far she's done nothing to prove that theory wrong. It makes negotiating terms of payment with her very, very satisfying... assuming she can actually pay me."

"CONFIRMATION: That is correct. I cannot say no. CORRECTION: Puppet-Show, your specific request was to tell you I could pay you that much," the pink woman agreed, nodding quickly, before spreading her legs in a slightly lower standing pose and raising both elbows to a little under head height, then crossed both hands beneath her chin as though resting her palms upon a table. "Utopiaaaa~" she sang, waiting for further input.

"Aaah... Wait, what?" Puppet-Show asked, turning her head quickly as though the truth of her payment for her puppet-work was only now hitting her.
Aya sent a message to Escort.

Quote (Aya to Escort)

We are cut off from Suzume and don't know where she is or what is going on with her. Hopefully, Suzume will be fine and report in when she can. We aren't able to jack-in to your location either, so this Utopia must have erected some sort of barrier. If you can figure out how to remove the barrier from your end, we will be able to enter. Also did you see what happened to Arch? Did she make it in or is she still outside the anomaly?

And while we are at it, perhaps you can explain yourself. From what we heard from the so-called 'missing' individuals, you were apparently around during all of their missions. If that was the case, why did you not report this information to us? Were we sent here on a wild-goose chase?

Suzume listened to the whole spiel from Utopia and Puppet-Show before talking. "Hold off on the others for a moment. First, yes, please inform me of the individual whom requested you to help navis who wanted to join the Neo-Shogun empire. While you are at it, perhaps you can also explain how they contacted you in the first place. We have had dealings with the Blessers before, but they tended to just show up unexpectedly. I have yet to hear of someone actually looking for them."

Suzume then turned to Puppet-Show. "My question for you then is whether you would want to join the Neo-Shogunate yourself? The organization is growing and could use someone of your talents in non-combat-related roles, of which there are many. I can assure you that you would get paid well for your work. At least then you have something to show for all the work you put in while working for Utopia here."

Suzume tapped her chin with a finger. "While we are at it, what can you tell me about the other three? Since you were in their missions you would have undoubtedly learned something about each of their personalities, goals, and motivations. Do you think they deserve to be trapped in Utopia's illusions?" She then turned to Utopia with more questions. "How did you learn that Messenger was given an infiltration mission by the NetPolice, or that Plastique was going to infiltrate for the NetMafia? Did they talk about that while under your illusions, or did you just tap their communications?"

"And to switch gears for a moment, you said that you integrated Escort into your program. Did you just create an illusion of Escort, or did you wrap her up in the same illusions as the others? Did you integrate anyone else into your program from the Neo-Shoguns that wasn't Messenger, Plastique, or Wasteland? If so, please bring Escort and those other members here, and free them from your program. Again, leave Messenger, Plastique, and Wasteland trapped for the moment. They are currently safer there then if they were free."