The sounds of steel and wood echoed throughout the compound; the music of a man fixated on the battle to come.
Hidetaka Ito had been woken at the peak of the moon by the teeth grinding sounds of something deep within the manor, with the marble and stone partially amplifying the echoes. It had been a rough few weeks, with the CWF Champion being tormented repeatedly by the man he dethroned, and the irritating pseudo-gaijin who didn’t get the message the first time. He wanted to eliminate two birds with one stone, but it meant he needed to deal with them in the interim weeks and not just the match. The situation was further complicated by the last-minute decision by management to change the stipulation to a “Deep Freeze Deathmatch”.
Silas had told Ito after their encounter last Tuesday that he had “a plan,” but he didn’t elaborate further. With an ice-cold look on his face, Silas just took the next flight back to Toronto. After that, he kept to himself, barely making his presence known, and rarely set foot into the training ring. The days were long and repetitive, until this lone night when Ito followed the source of the unholy screeching throughout the halls of the Artoria manor.
The main hall of white stone and marble laid in the path towards the source, and from the lack of light and dust-covered apparatus, it was clear that the training props were undisturbed. Ito would’ve seen this as the end of the journey, as he had never gone further into the manor since it was impossible. There was a glass door to the gardens but that too remained undisturbed.
There was a faint glow coming from one of the back doors, the one that gave passage to a cupboard. During the compound’s peak days of the joyous aristocracy and lavish spectacles, this fairly large cupboard was home to tables, chairs, clothes, buffet surfaces, and everything needed when an event was scheduled. The reign of Silas saw that these were disposed of, as the young Canadian had little connection with the elite other than a distant title. The profession he chose only cemented that. The noise was coming from that doorway, and it didn’t take long for Ito to arrive and widen the door slightly.
A peep through finally signaled the source. There were several wooden shipping boxes scattered throughout this room, mostly bolted shut and ready for delivery. They varied in size, though they were mostly no larger than someone’s leg. Some maybe a little larger, but it was hard to tell unless someone was standing right next to them. A lone light above lit the room, poorly since the bulb had arguably not been changed for years.
Just two figures were in the room; Ito looking through the small opening, and the other was sat in the middle of the room, a hammer in one hand and a painful wire in the other. He used the claw of the tool as an assist, keeping the wire tight and in place as he wrapped his hand around the standing wooden structure. The tightness was enough for a single pluck to elicit a light tone. As Ito watched in and observed his student, Silas worked in silence as he used whatever strength he had to keep building this strange...contraption? It was hard to tell what it was with the single, dim light.
Silas finally started hammering the barbed wire in place, ensuring that it wouldn’t sag or freely move around, and it was during the loud bangs of the hammer that Ito finally noticed that his arm was still bandaged, but his hand was in the open air. It suffered many cuts from handling the wire without any safety gloves, but even though it was bleeding, it didn’t seem to bother the champion. He didn’t even flinch as a slight jolt of the barbed wire formed a new cut on his hand.
The hand was covered in the black primordial texture that characterized what lied within Silas, all the while several vein-like lines crawled over the fingers, emitting a light colour that was indescribable.
One could only describe it as ‘The Colour of Restless Violence.’
Silas stopped hammering, and the wire did not give way. Slowly, the uncovered hand lightly touched the temple, softly stroking it as if Silas was cushioning a headache. Few moments pass, before the patriarch of the compound lightly turned his head towards the door.
Gravely, he spoke.
SILAS ARTORIA: Did I wake you?
Ito was taken aback. He was as silent as the grave, but it didn’t stop Silas from noticing him. They weren’t one to disapprove Ito finding him in unusual or secretive situations, but it didn’t stop the Japanese manager from feeling like he was unwelcome. The two looked at each other for a few moments, before Silas started to wrap his hand up with the bandages still on his arm.
SILAS ARTORIA: No use protesting. Come on in.
Ito didn’t hesitate and entered the cupboard, flanked by a brief draft that breezed debris from the floor. A brief look showed it was a combination of saw chippings and dust, unpleasant in feel and smell. Considering the amount on the floor, it showed that Silas had been working for some time. Ito-san spoke softly, as Silas finished bandaging up his hand.
HIDETAKA ITO: You should really find somewhere to put those chippings…
Without another word, Silas started to pack various tools into a metal box. The hammer, some nails, screwdriver, and a saw, with the loud bangs of metal flooding the relatively small room.
HIDETAKA ITO: ...and your tools...
A brief look at two of the boxes, both destined for Quebec City, practically down the road.
HIDETAKA ITO: ...and maybe get yourself a workshop separate from the rest of the building.
SILAS ARTORIA: Rest assured, I consulted with every construction company in the city and none of them were able to build one in the desired timeframe.
Silas closed the toolbox with a comparatively soft force and fastened the lid. The Canadian looked at the red metal box for a few moments and sighed to himself; his frustration faintly coming through.
SILAS ARTORIA: The soonest quote I got was four weeks.
He straightened his back before standing up. It was clear that he had been stationary for the good part of several hours, hunched over as he continuously worked on the contraption he shadowed over. If Ito listened very carefully, he might’ve been able to hear the bones crack. Silas set his eyes upon his mentor.
SILAS ARTORIA: I’m going to make some tea--
HIDETAKA ITO: What are you doing, Silas?
Almost immediately, Silas’s look turned to confusion. There wasn’t any time to react further, as Ito-san continued.
HIDETAKA ITO: Constructing in the middle of the night, boxes bound for the Colisée, barbed wire. What are your plans?
It was something Silas didn’t want him to see or at least keep it a surprise from everyone until he could reveal it at Frozen Over. It was an ugly thing to get to work on, but he couldn’t stop now since most of his cards were completed and boxed up. Whatever was in those boxes, only Silas knew, but from Ito’s expression, he could gather that the Japanese legend had a decent idea of what was sealed.
Silas might as well come clean, and there was additional work to be done. He turned around towards another crate, the final one and whose size dwarfed a queen-sized bed. A controlled kick slid the lid off the top, and revealed that were was nothing but a few wooden chippings to cover the bottom.
SILAS ARTORIA: In medieval times, when a king would ascend the throne, multiple pretenders would rise up and start to try and gather support. They range from family members, distant relatives from across the sea, former friends who have become popular, dukes, counts, earls--you name it, they’ll want the throne. So the first year of their reign consists of squashing these pretenders, or convincing them that it would end very poorly for them.
Beat. Silas sighed within deep thought and continued.
SILAS ARTORIA: The same goes for competitions like wrestling. Once you gain the crown, you have to deal with those who would want to pry it from your head, but you already know that.
Silas turned his head towards Ito, and a sly smile escaped him, much to Ito’s surprise.
SILAS ARTORIA: “Beware of the old man in a profession in which men usually die young.”
Silas turned his attention back to the empty box, resting his hand across the open edge, and gazed into the large space of which his work would soon fill. He gripped it tightly as if he was holding onto someone he didn’t want to leave. Lord knows how many times he did that to Viscountess Artoria during his childhood.
SILAS ARTORIA: The key difference is that uprisings are predictable, and thus the counter-attack can be planned years in advance, whereas this profession puts you at the mercy of the man in charge.
SILAS ARTORIA: Becoming the CWF Champion, the one at the top of the pyramid, is the greatest achievement of my life but I succeeded at the worst possible time. I thought a simple triple threat would’ve been enough to satisfy management’s desire for a stipulation, but they blindsided us with this. A goddamn deathmatch of all things.
He turned back towards Ito, leaning against the open box as he fixed his eyes on his mentor.
SILAS ARTORIA: Conventional thinking was thrown out of the window, and so I need to figure out how to keep two irritating but determined dogs down. No ropes, barely any steady footing on the outside, and opponents potentially bringing in their own weapons. I can’t let risks get in the way, and so I need to prepare like a hateful craftsman. I am preparing my own tools...
A tense pause.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...and I am going to ensure that at least one of them won’t come after me again. Six months is enough!
HIDETAKA ITO: You’re taking the term “deathmatch” literally are you?
SILAS ARTORIA: For a stipulation as unusual as this, it’s warranted, and expected.
He pointed towards his contraption, as Ito looked at it with a sense of unease. It was shrouded in the dark, but the thin reflections of the barbed wire were enough to make his stomach turn.
SILAS ARTORIA: I’ll have that thing finished and sent tomorrow.
The darkness gives way to four bright lights behind a seated silhouette. The sources are four televisions, only a metre wide and three tall. They were normally used for events such as conferences, but today they play in a symphony that includes a disgruntled and unsatisfied Canadian champion. It wasn’t difficult to see him, the screens formed a semicircle that eliminated any sharp shadows, but even without the layout, the facial expression and posture painted the picture.
Silas’s cold, slow breathing could be heard, and it was enough to make a cactus dry out and die. His speech was deliberate.
SILAS ARTORIA: I’m not happy, not at all.
He stands up, illuminated by the tall screens that closely surround him.
SILAS ARTORIA: Throughout my time in the CWF, from show opener to world champion, there was only one stone that was left to be turned. I have faced every single athlete that has passed through this company. Most of them eventually left, but there are a few who have remained within the CWF for the two years that I have been here.
The screens behind him switch to images of the event that transpired. The match would’ve begun, but Mr Rolash opted to kick his opponent out of the company before it could get going. Silas was robbed, Duce was robbed, and closure didn’t come.
SILAS ARTORIA: Duce Jones was the last man standing in a long list of opponents that I’ve faced. I’ve taken on The Shadow, I’ve taken on Amber Ryan, I’ve taken on MJ Flair, but Duce Jones has always alluded me. We agreed that we would collide in the ring together and finally settle who was the true king of the mountain. For two years, I waited for the chance to take him on again, and I nearly did in the Alpha and Omega tournament. Finally, the two of us just agreed to face each other, no animosity, may the best man win.
Stills of the interruption follow, with a displeased Silas mirroring the images of him on the screen, although a slight glitch occurs when the champion was shown. The ire increases with time, with the left eye twitching. Anger lies in his voice.
SILAS ARTORIA: You took that away from me. You damaged your standing with the public.
Beat. The glitches intensify alongside his breathing.
SILAS ARTORIA: And you’ve made somebody very, very irate, and you know very well that all the security in the world won’t stop me from breaking down your doors, Rolash.
Silas pauses for a brief moment. Deep breathes with his eyes closed, the glitched static starts to calm down, before finally returning to the starting image quality, still showing the irate face of Silas.
The man himself opens his eyes.
SILAS ARTORIA: We will meet again, come hell or high water.
He snaps his fingers, and the images start to fast forward, progressively getting faster and faster to the point that it’s impossible to make out what’s being skipped.
SILAS ARTORIA: In the meantime, I have a title to defend, and I’ve been forced into a corner.
SILAS ARTORIA: The original plan I filed was to have a simple triple threat match for the CWF Championship. Unremarkable, given that Frozen Over is famed for having every match given a stipulation, but a triple threat match technically is a stipulation. I figured with the ladder match and the ambulance match that it would’ve been refreshing to see something more… ordinary.
A small smile appears on his face.
SILAS ARTORIA: It’s called “pacing”, and careful use allows the matches to become more memorable, rather than a string of increasingly ridiculous stipulations. It’s why, say, The Lord of the Rings has more memorable moments than a Transformers film.
The screens finally stop on a ring within the Quebec City-based arena. Just a few shots of where the business will be conducted, complete with the CWF branded apron skirts.
SILAS ARTORIA: It would’ve been a nice breath of fresh air, but Mr. Rolash and his circle had...other ideas.
Slowly, the screens start to transform the ring.
SILAS ARTORIA: They wanted to have the biggest, brightest explosion to close the show, creating even more noise and causing more headaches.
The screen continues the ring transformation, whilst Silas laughs with sheer bafflement.
SILAS ARTORIA: I don’t even know why I bother sending requests when they are discarded almost immediately. It’s like there’s a firepit labeled “Insert Mr. Artoria’s requests here”. I’m tempted to break into the CWF offices just to check!
Finally, the screen finishes the transformation. A preview of the ring, ropes replaced with barbed wire, the mat frosted over, and the ice floor completely exposed. It was a stark contrast to what the CWF audience had seen before.
SILAS ARTORIA: A “Deep Freeze Deathmatch” they call it, so I am going to take liberties with that stipulation, and there is nothing they can do about it.
SILAS ARTORIA: So, let us line up our candidate, starting with Freddie Styles.
Half the screens show images of Styles, both in the ring and watching from the sidelines.
SILAS ARTORIA: I must say, you are a terrible friend, not jumping in to protect Duce Jones’ honor when Rolash canceled his dream match. I understand that you did attack Kyuseishu when Duce was felled, but by then anything you did would amount to nothing. I have Ito right beside me, and the two of you could’ve taken Rolash straight to hell and keep security off us. The fans paid to see this main event, and you subsequently contributed to the show’s ruination.
Silas leans forward.
SILAS ARTORIA: You are very lucky that I am allowing you another chance for the CWF Championship, let alone increase your chances to take it because you and I both know that you cannot beat me. You went through nearly every athlete in the company, but you cannot knock me down. You learned that in Genesis, and I will ensure that you stay down come Frozen Over.
SILAS ARTORIA: This is your last chance. Lose this, and you’ll have to wait until the Golden Intentions Rumble to get even a quick sniff of the belt again.
The second half of the screens starts to produce static, but it doesn’t turn off the Styles archive footage.
SILAS ARTORIA: Alas, I’ll admit that I respect you more than…
Kyuseishu, the social justice samurai, the man who cannot let it go.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...this yapping terrier that we’ve been dealing with for the past six months.
He straightens his back a little, just to prepare himself for the...polite words he has for the samurai.
SILAS ARTORIA: Kyuseishu is the ultimate cockroach in the sense that he has this near platinum will to persevere and survive, but in this case, it’s become a complete annoyance.
He points to a hypothetical lockerroom.
SILAS ARTORIA: I have heard people in the lockerroom complain that you do not know your place and that your head is in the clouds, demanding title shots on the flimsiest of pretenses, before going to twitter to complain about how you’re some chosen one. You think you’re this holy emperor, whereas your record tells me you’re someone not good enough to hold any kind of belt.
He starts to count.
SILAS ARTORIA: You had your chance at the Paramount Championship at Genesis, and you lost. That means you’re not good enough, and instead of refocusing yourself or maybe try your luck with the Impact Championship, you instead cling on in desperation in the vain hopes that I will retaliate. You say that you’re responsible for my success…
The screens begin their light glitching again as his tone gets angrier and angrier.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...but I have held the most wins long before you came into the picture. I wasn’t given my chances, I had to continuously reflect and implement, the things you seem allergic to.
Beat, his teeth start to grit.
SILAS ARTORIA: You’re a parasite that needs to be cured, and I intend to make sure that once the event is over, your blood will stain the icy surfaces. I will walk over your cold corpse with the belt in my hand, closing the ragged book of Kyuseishu indefinitely.
Both screens are now going crazy with their images, as a glint appears in his eye. He speaks gravely.
SILAS ARTORIA: I warned you not to poke the bear, and you did it anyway.
SILAS ARTORIA: So come…
Slowly, his bandaged hand enters the frame, covered in barbed wire with glimpses of the changing congeries underneath the covers. Blood stained the arm, with fresh drawings dripping down the golden plate that is the CWF Championship. The man was gripping onto the crown he took from Styles with such conviction, that there was a real danger of the gold and leather breaking apart.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...try and take my precious championship...
SILAS ARTORIA: ...and I’ll make sure even the best health insurance doesn’t cover all your injuries.
Silence, before an unworldly and discomforting grin appears on his face. The man might be hurting, but he was ready, and with mania in his eyes, he saw the frame fade to black.
A haunting and croaking chuckle crept in.
???: Suffer for your audacity.