Elijah and Zach, before he would even don the mantle of Impakt, stand a few feet apart. Face-to-face.
“Force out all extraneous thought Zach. Focus only on the here and now, Cleanse your thoughts for the task at hand.”
There is the sound of a bell starting bell and before Zach can even think about acting he is blindsided by an almighty chair shot to the back.
Omega now stands above the young pupil
“Oops.” She says coyly, giggling with a steel chair in hand.
“That’s not fair! How would I even know Omega was sneaking up on me if I’m focusing on you!” Zach proclaims accusingly.
“To fully prepare for battle you must focus on more than just your opponent. Use all your senses to be completely aware of your surroundings.”
“Like a Byakugan?”
“…If that helps you to understand the lesson, then so be it.”
Even back then Zach had a rather unique way of viewing the world, but Elijah would not let that compromise the moral of the lesson. It is one of the reasons why the training regime of the Academy is so highly sought after.
“Be grounded in your surroundings. Focus not just on the obvious, but the obfuscated as well…” Elijah offers his hand.
As the memory fades, Zach returns to the present, staring up at the ceiling of the Champion’s Creed Martial Arts training gym in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Taunts and laughter surround the young Champion. History it seems has a way of repeating itself.
He can’t recall exactly how he ended up on his back. In one moment he was facing off against Leona for a bout of training, and the next…BAM…Instant takedown. Not an uncommon occurrence where Leona is concerned. The Impact Champions’ girlfriend fills his view. There isn’t the usual look of victory on her face, nor is she joining in with the laughter. Instead she looks down at Zach with quizzical concern.
“Zach? Are you alright?” She asks, offering a hand.
“Huh?” Zach replies sheepishly. To which Leona shakes her head in response.
“Where’s your head at? You usually put up SOME form of resistance before I take you down. Is everything alright?”
Zach happily accepts the assistance and returns to his feet, ignoring the jeers and taunts of the assorted on-lookers. Mostly because he knows that Leona could make short way of most of them before they could get another word of toxic masculinity in.
“Yeah, I’m fine babe. Just…”
If there is one unspoken truth of the life of a professional wrestler that Zach is particularly dismayed by (and there’s a few), it is the fact that things within the squared circle are never a simple as he believes they should be.
Someone or something will invariably complicate matters.
The likes of Loki Synn, Hostile Takeover and The Glass Ceiling being primed examples.
Zooming in however, to matters more personal and closer to home for the Game-Changer, no one is looking to complicate matters more for the current Impact Champion then the former Champ himself, Freddie Styles. Apparently, Mr. Ballgame feels hard done by, having lost the title to Zach in recent weeks and wishes to reclaim the title. In of itself not an unreasonable desire, however it is the means in which Freddie goes about it that Zach van Owen takes exception to. He considers himself a Paragon of a Champion and would’ve gladly accepted a rematch against Styles. Instead the former Champ chooses the way of the Renegade and last Evolution had ambushed Zach…
With his head so jumbled, there is no better time for Zach and Leona to take a brief break from their sparring. They find themselves a convenient bench off in the corner. Zach slumps down in defeat. One undeniable reality for Leona is that since joining the CWF, she has seen more of a downcast and insecure Zach. Someone she didn’t think existed growing up.
“Don’t let him get into your head.” Leona states, clearly reading the Game-Changers distress. Not that he’s trying to hide it.
The events of the previous Evolution, of Freddie Styles’ attack play through Zach’s head like a bad, 8-Bit rerun. Day in and day out.
“Probably a bit late for that.” He wasn’t biting back at Leona. It was more a statement of fact.
“He’s won if you can’t focus. You’ve got to defend your title against Azrael this week before you can even think about retribution against that douche. Regardless of who it is, with that belt around your waist you are a target, and most opponents will capitalise on any lapse of judgement, on even the slightest hint of weakness.”
“Sounds like commentary for a fighting game…”
Zach adopts the token strategy pf using humour to try and obfuscate his worry, but Leona is having none of it. Shooting him a look of disapproval. A universal look everyone would have experienced at least once…
“Am I wrong though?”
Of course Leona isn’t.
It may not be the mysteriously deep and sage lessons Elijah would share back in the days of Zach’s training at the academy but they were no less poignant.
“You want to get at Freddie. That’s understandable, but your most pressing concern is the Level against Azrael. If you lose to him, you lose the title, and therefore the chance to get back at Freddie. He wants you to fail, to prove you are not suited to be Champ. You gotta prove him wrong before you can beat him down.”
Zach breathes a deep sigh.
The sniggers of the on-lookers still linger around the pair, tough none seem willing to step forward and test their luck themselves.
“You’re right. I get it. And I’m not angry. Not really. In truth I’m disappointed in Freddie. He was once a proud and upright competitor. One the CWF universe could get behind and see to the top of the ladder. But then…well who knows. The dark-side won out I suppose…It’s those darned cookies!”
“And you’ll deal with Freddie eventually. But Zach. Focus! Your stepping up against an Avenging Angel! From what I’ve seen and heard, Azrael has quite literally risen again, a Phoenix from the ashes, to prove himself a Force of Righteousness to be reckoned with and aiming for nothing short of the Heavens.”
“He ain’t no One-Winged Angel, but your right. He seems a man burdened with a most divine purpose. A purpose which has embodied him with some incredible power. Like he’s hit Super Saiyan or something. If we get down to the nitty-gritty, he and I are fighting for the same thing. He just does it more…theologically…and because of that it’s sad that he and I have to face-off against each other for the symbol that is the Impact Championship. It’s a symbol I carry, not because I feel I sjould. Or want to. But because I must. The Impact Championship is the beacon of hope for the roster and the CWF Universe. Proof that all is not lost. And that in of itself gives me confidence…but I am no Superman. I am still prone to doubt. And that is the poison that Styles has injected into my veins. I thought I was done with doubt when I defeated Xander. The day I recreated my character, achieved Ultra Instinct, and truly became Zach van Owen…But I clearly failed the Will Save.”
“Zach…” Leona takes his hand into hers. “It was never going to easy, and no one is expecting you to be anything superhuman. You just need to be you and they will come support you. They already do. Azrael claims to be a Harbinger of the Light, but he ain’t you. He doesn’t play the game like you do. And if I could I’d step right into the ring with you…”
There is a hint of impatience ringing her voice with that last comment.
“The CWF would be lucky to have you compete, and it isn’t fair for me to expect you to stand behind me all this time and no see any in-ring action.”
“My time will come one day Zach. But now…now is your time. So, forget Freddie for now. But don’t turn a blind-eye. He is the Boss waiting for you at the end of the Stage. Focus on the task at hand. Hit that Save Point and run into the Scotiabank Saddledome powered up by all the Chaos Emeralds. And I’ll be there with the Senzu Beans on hand, never far.”
Zach smiles meekly and the two share a kiss, breaking out into intimate laughter.
“When did you get to be so smart.” Zach jokes.
“Someone has to have a decent Intelligence Score to catch your mistakes.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Zach may not have the power to forsee the future, but he can influence it. All he must do is walk out of Calgary victorious over Azrael, still carrying the Impact Championship, and then the opportunity to dish out payback that would put Mortal Kombat to shame.
Focus on the task at hand…and the task at hand was…To win!
Come Evolution the CWF Universe would see a risen angel fall once more. Only because it was for the good of the federation...