ogan didn't even bother replying to A'nake's taunt before the semifinal match. He figured he was going to let his fists - or rather, his palms - do the talking for him.
The horn sounded, signifying the start of the match.
Just like before, A'nake started right away by charging at Hogan, and as he had done the last time, Hogan responded by dodging out of the way before the collision. Before A'nake could recover, he unleashed a spin kick that landed square in the middle of A'nake's back. The force of the blow sent A'nake nearly to the edge of the ring. As the body got up, Hogan could tell that A'nake was obviously affected by his attack.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Did that hurt?" Hogan asked sarcastically.
A'nake remained silent. It pounced back toward Hogan, and they began to spar for a short while until Hogan noticed an opening. A backhanded clothesline followed by a jumping smack in the head sent A'nake tumbling almost the entire length of the ring. Undaunted, it came right back at Hogan with another assault. Every time A'nake tried to hit Hogan, though, he defended himself with crossed arms, deflecting almost all of the energy packed within those punches. When Hogan got tired of defending, he retailated with a straight-arm, open-handed punch at A'nake's vulnerable midsection, which came close to sending the hulking body airborne. It crashed down onto the floor of the ring, almost making the ground shake.
A'nake slowly got up onto its feet again, visibly angered. "I don't know how you became so powerful all of a sudden, but mark my words..." A'nake stared irately at Hogan, who had barely broken a sweat thus far. "You shall not get the better of me!"
A'nake then got into a crouching position. Hogn instantly recognized it: it was the same position he had let A'nake remain in for several minutes, enabling it to teleport across the ring, surprise Hogan with a punch, and send him out of bounds, losing the match.
"Hey, A'nake!" Hogan shouted. "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
A'nake remained silent, concentrating on its technique.
"I'm telling you, if you want any chance of winning this fight, I'd suggest not sitting there like a big target."
A'nake still didn't move.
Hogan sighed. "OK, your choice." Hogan then began to charge up his own energy. Moments later, he began to make his charge at A'nake. But knowing that A'nake would teleport as soon as he made his move, he jumped up in the air at the same time. When A'nake flashed in front of him, he managed to evade the punch that would have landed precisely under his chin. As he came down, he brought his arms and legs close together like a spear, coming down fast and hard on top of A'nake. The excess spirit energy sent a shockwave across the floor of the ring.
Hogan jumped back off and landed nearby. "I guess you'd better get started to losing to me as a human, too."
"SILENCE!!" A'nake bellowed. Sluggishly, it managed to pick itself up off the ground. "I have had enough!"
"So you give up, then?" Hogan asked. "Just say the word and it's all over."
"You fool. I'm not giving up. I have no idea what happened to you since I saw you before, but I know that it's going to take a little more effort to take you down." A'nake reached into the side of his pants and pulled out a small pouch. "Luckily I have one last ace up my sleeve."
A'nake opened the pouch and reached into it. He pulled up a small bit of dust and sprinkled it back into the bag. "Look familiar, Ki'rath?"
Hogan knew what it was right away: it was the same powder that it had drugged Hogan with before. "Too bad that stuff takes a few hours to work into your system, huh?"
"Oh, that's only it comes through the skin. It works a lot more quickly when ingested." With that, he picked up the pouch and poured the entire contents - what looked to be an entire cup of the powder - into his mouth. It wiped its lips, staring back at Hogan with an evil glint in its eyes. "It's about time I started resorting to a few tricks of my own," it said as it started to chuckle. That chuckle swiftly opened into an all-out laugh.
Hogan watched as the opiate took hold in the body. A'nake's laugh started to grow deeper and more guttural, until it finally became a crazed snarl. He could see the eyes turning red and bloodshot, and the veins in A'nake's arms raised against the skin as the drug was carried into every muscle fiber in its body, expanding them to an almost grotesque proportion.
Almost immediately, A'nake made a bum rush at Hogan. Hogan tried to deflect the attack with his arms, but his opponent collided with him so fiercely that even with perfect technique, Hogan was knocked on his back several feet away. He quickly got up, only for A'nake to send a crushing right fist across his jaw. He flew back again, landing with a thud in the center of the ring.
He knew that he wouldn't be able to withstand too much of this onslaught, but he barely had a chance to think before A'nake was charging at him once again. With another dashing punch to the stomach, Hogan had the wind knocked out of him, and he lay sprawled out on the floor. He choked for breath as he struggled to get back on his feet.
Still, the look of sheer rage remained stuck on A'nake's face. Hogan wasn't even sure if A'nake was in enough control of itself to enjoy what it was doing to Hogan. As A'nake stood still for a moment, Hogan knew that it was ready to put the finishing moves on him.
It was only a split second before A'nake resumed its all-out attack on Hogan. Hogan steeled himself, waiting for the right moment to act. Closer and closer A'nake came, until the massive body was nearly upon him. Then, with one quick move, Hogan dodged to the side, letting A'nake run right by him. As it came beside Hogan, he whipped around, connecting with a spin kick to A'nake's back. A'nake tumbled to the ground, skidding a couple of feet before finally stopping.
Before A'nake could get up, Hogan vaulted high into the air, knowing just what he would need to end this match. He charged up his entire body with spirit energy, then sent himself into a freefall, his outstretched body aiming for directly on top of A'nake. A second later, he landed on his opponent, and the energy released from the force of his body slam was almost like a tidal wave across the ring and towards the stands. He then jumped off of A'nake's body, now unconscious.
"I don't believe it!" The announcer shouted. His excitement seemed to be sincere this time. "That has to be the most intense match we've had in tournament history! And the winner is... Number 839!!"
The crowd erupted in uproarious cheers. Not only for the outcome, but for the most entertaining way it had been reached.
As this went on, Hogan could only stand in silence, taking in the significance of this bout. For the first time, he had managed to get the better of A'nake, even without having transformed. And he knew it wasn't a fluke. He could almost sense the balance of power beginning to shift in his direction.
As he walked out of the arena, Hogan could only think about the events that had just transpired in the ring earlier. Before his time in the realm of the ancients, Hogan would have been giddy with himself for the way he had beaten A'nake without needing any help for once. But now, he was more focused on his goal; even with A'nake eliminated there was one more match to go before he could relax.
"Hogan!" He heard a voice behind him.
Hogan turned around to see Balatin, beaming proudly. He smiled back, returning to the gate to meet his Draconian friend. "How'd you like that?" he asked.
"That was amazing," Balatin replied. "I've never seen anything like it - it was almost like you were holding back in all of the earlier rounds. I mean, I knew you were powerful, but even I thought it was going to be close. How did you get so much stronger all of a sudden?"
Hogan smirked. "Long story. Let's just say I'm going to be very hungry when I get back to the hotel."
Balatin chuckled in response. "I wish I could be here to see the finals tomorrow, but I've gotta get back. My synchronizer's battery is running low, so I've gotta leave before I slow down any."
"I know," Hogan responded. "I think I'll be OK from here on out."
"You sure?" Balatin asked. "Toma's a strong fighter. You two are probably pretty close to the same level of power."
"Maybe we were before..." Hogan thought back to his training in the realm of the ancients. "But not anymore."
The two of them shook hands. "Good luck, Hogan. I hope to see you again later on."
Hogan smiled. "Same here. Goodbye, Balatin."
Balatin flew away as Hogan started back for the hotel.