Dante's Little Apple Surprise

by Tatsurou

The First Spardan Tournament: The Welcome

Applejack looked around at the gathered teams as they filed into the main dining hall. Some looked rather surprised to see a pony at the head of the massive table. Others had heard of her and were torn between nervousness and squealing. Her smile found its way to those who knew her and waved happily. She stepped up to the podium as everyone settled down.

"Welcome, everyone, to the first annual Great Spardan Tournament!" she calls out. "We happily welcome demons, hunters, monsters, and others from every mythology across the world...and beyond." She glances around at all the many teams. "I'm sure many of you are wondering what the purpose of this tournament is. In fact, some of you are probably here specifically with that purpose in mind." Her eyes glanced towards Team Urameshi before turning back to the crowd. "So I figured I'd lay the purpose right out in front of you all today.

"The goal of the Tournament is peace."

As many of those present began rumbling in confusion, or discontent, Applejack raised her hoof. "I've been on quite a few adventures, fighting the forces of the underworld in its many manifestations throughout the various mythologies. One thing I've discovered from all that...by and large, the Underworld ain't a very nice place to live. Those that try ta leave the Underworld for Earth are trying to live their own lives, for the most part, the only way they know how. So I set up my restaurant, right outside an active hell gate I built myself. From what I hear, one of the biggest draws for demons and the like coming to Earth is the food."

As that statement brought a laugh from many gathered, Applejack continued. "In addition to selling my food to demons - who tell me it's amongst the best they've ever had, which is good for my ego as a chef - I exact an oath from them that they haven't caused problems on Earth for the past year before letting them eat. That's not too much of a trouble for most of ya. Of course, most of the races of the Underworld have inbuilt urges towards violence just ta prove themselves. Heck, so do most other races. That's what the Tournament is for.

"Once a year, a tournament's gonna be held where everyone can vent their aggression, and duke it out full force with other fighters. The best healers in both worlds are on staff, and the battles will take place in a dimensional space that is keyed to prevent death. If a strike would cause a fatal blow, the target will be pulled out before it hits, qualifying it as a knock out. They'll also be pulled out if they're 'down' or outside the ring for a count of ten. However, if both fighters request it, the ring out rule can be voided for a match. This means ya can all go all out and not have ta worry about killing anyone." When a few grumbles greeted this statement, she brought her hoof down on the podium. "Now hang on! What'd be the point o' killing? If ya kill someone, ya never get ta fight them again!"

She saw several of the stronger combatants smirking in response to this statement. As that brought silence back to the room, she went on. "And that's what that fighting instinct is about. Not killing, but in finding a real challenge to push yourself against. And that's the reason for this tournament...giving everyone a chance to prove themselves against each other.

"With an easy place to get great food without having to worry about someone taking it away or going after 'em, and this tournament to strut their stuff in battle against all comers...these become the first steps towards peaceful integration of Earth and the Underworld."

She wasn't surprised that that caused a huge uproar. "That's right!" she proclaimed loudly. "Because if this works out and humans and demons can learn to coexist peacefully...then someday, the boundary between the two realms can come down!" That statement was greeted with absolute silence. "You heard me right," she said firmly. "That boundary my grandpa Sparda put up to keep the worlds separate so Earth didn't get overrun by demons? My goal is to bring both worlds to the point where I can bring it down."

Dead silence greeted this statement. "You've all had ta live in secret when on Earth, afraid of what'd happen to you or those you cared about if word about what you really are got out. Now imagine a world where you didn't have to worry about that. Where you all could walk alongside each other in public without fear, or anger, or hate...where you could get a job as who and what ya really are , and the whole world was just fine with that.

"I ain't saying this'll be accomplished in my lifetime. It probably won't. And most of us probably won't live to see it happen. But our children will...and their children...and their children..." She smiled softly. "Imagine that world. Believe in that world. Strive for that world...with me."

The room was nearly completely silent, though here and there quiet murmuring - or even the occasional sniffle - was plainly audible.

Then Urameshi Yusuke started to clap. It wasn't the polite applause of one who feels it is expected. It was the energetic applause of one who has been moved. His teammates quickly joined him, Kazuma Kuwabara even whistling and shouting, "You tell 'em, pony girl!"

The applause quickly spread, as more and more of the contestants began to cheer. Though only there to support his team, Hyoudou Issei was loud in his applause alongside the other members of House Gremory. Those who had been afraid of showing support for such a radical idea soon joined in, strengthened in their own resolve by the growing tide of support.

Applejack smiled widely at so much support. "Well, now that the speech is outta the way..." Holding up a pot lid, she banged a ladle against it. "Soup's on everybody!"

To be continued when The Spardan Tournament is addressed again.