There is something profoundly and satisfyingly cathartic about striking a kick pad. The sound resonating through one’s bones as limb lashes out against the material.
Replacing the material’s surface with the imagined visage of an enemy.
Or in this case an overly altruistic boyfriend who runs off to some destabilised region of the world at the drop of a hat because of his over-inflated sense of justice and heroism. Leaving behind his childhood friend-turned girlfriend to grow more and more anxious with each passing day…
The voice of Dorian Hawkhurst pulls the Lioness of Philly back into the present moment. It takes Leona a moment to regain her sense of time and place. She notices a rather red-faced Dorian, bracing a kick-pad up against his body. A look of worry is on his face, with beads of sweat beginning to form.
“I-ah-I think Chloe gets the idea.” He quickly adds. “How ‘bout we take a break?”
Leona nods her assent in embarrassment. She was going through a series of kicking combinations for Chloe, who already possessed several years of martial arts training, and obviously let the situation with Zach get to her.
"So… uh… I’m supposed to try and kick her intestines right out of her body?” Chloe asks. Leona gives her a wink. “Got it.”
Chloe practices while Dorian and Leona step to the side.
Originally, she and Zach van Owen had agreed to work with Dorian training up his daughter. As Loki Synn, everybody’s least favourite Chaotic Clown had seen to drag the young hawkhurst into the limelight as part of her machinations to royally fuck with the lives of the Forsaken. Her reasons still unclear. Unfortunately Zach had been recruited into a group travelling to Pierreia to investigate the remnants of Elisha and Ouroboros. It appears as if the young Game-Changer is still haunted by the Moonchild…
“He’ll be back before you know it.” The Forsaken Demon exclaims reassuringly.
“I guess this is how the partners and families of Superheroes feel…Trying to keep it together, waiting for them to come back from saving the day. On one hand, I’m so proud of him, trying to make a difference, always willing to jump in to help and find the Best Ending possible for everyone. My Romance meter certainly sky-rockets. But on the other-”
“What about you?”
Again, Leona nods her wordless agreement.
“Leona…the kid loves you.”
“No. I mean it.” Dorian urges Leona to look up and meet him in the eye. “Behind all that energy, naivety and gaming references, it’s crystal clear how much he cares for you. How much you mean to him. He wouldn’t let anything stop him from coming back. He’s a bit clueless at times sure, but he ain’t THAT stupid. The only reason he’s going is cause of his sense of duty, he feels he has to. He probably didn’t want you along for protection.”
“I am capable of protecting myself...probably better than he can.”
“That’s not what I meant. Ourboros did a real number on him, they could’ve ended his career before it even started. This threat is more than real. But I reckon it was more to protect himself. So you wouldn’t see that.”
“You know, you’re pretty clever for a supposed high-school dropout.”
“I guess I just have my moments..." Mirth gives way to grave severity. "I do have one massive favour…”
“Name it Dorian.”
Dorian pauses to consider his words.
“You’re the best person to try and get through to Zach...We all like the kid. Maybe even love him. He may not know it but he’s an inspiration to so many. I couldn’t think of a better Impact Champion. But uh...he keeps pushing, keeps challenging and by winning that title he told the rest of the CWF that he is ready to raise the stakes, ready for a higher form of competition. And let's be honest here, the kid ain’t Superman.
“He was always more of a Marvel fan.”
A token Zach response, try to use humour to deflect the seriousness of the conversation.
“Alright. Captain America then. Point still stands though Leona. He’s gonna attract the attention of bigger and badder threats and one day he may find himself hopelessly outmatched.”
“Like with Elisha and Ourboros?”
“Exactly...and no one wants to see that happen to him again”
Leona is clearly rocked by Dorian’s revelation, her expression is a combo of worry and agreement.
“I’ll talk to him…”
“After you’ve kicked his arse for disappearing on you like that of course.”
Chloe Hawkhurst breaks up the tense and profound moment, sitting between Leona and her father. He ruffles her hair.
“How bout we call it a day and get a bite to eat?”
With no argument forthcoming the trio pack up all their gear and make an exit. Unanmiously deciding to grab a good ole fashioned burger and fries, a reward for al the hard work, but also a moment in time to remember, before everything inevitably goes to hell.
It’s erring on the side of late into the evening when Zach returns to his and Leona’s room in the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver. He attempts the classic shameful sneak through the room, with a rose held in his hand. If only he had ranks in the Stealth skill. He is a few paces into the darkened hotel room, when the lights are suddenly switched on, revealing Leona leaning against the wall, her arms crossed and her face expressing her considerable disapproval.
“Oh...you’re awake…” It’s all Zach could think to say, caught, like a deer in headlights. He gingerly offers the rose as a token of peace and conciliation. Leona accepts it. There is a drawn out moment of tense and awkward silence. Until Leona breaks the facade and her stern expression is replaced by one of happiness.
“You can at least kiss me like you missed me you dolt.”
She pulls him in close and they share an impassioned kiss. Eventually Zach pulls himself away.
She cuts him off with a gentle finger tip on the lips, the old romantic cliche.
“It’s ok Zach. I was angry and annoyed to start with, and I wanted to kick your butt. But I understand. You just need to remember that I’m just as much a playable character as you are. I came here to get involved. And if what Dorian said is true, you, the Forsaken and the CWF may need my help.”
That gives Zach cause for concern. The couple separate and sit beside each other at the foot of the bed.
“What did Dorian say?”
“Things are just gonna get worse and worse. The difficult spike is expontential. There’s a poison running through the CWF, and I’m not just meaning V.E.N.O.M. But that’s not my real concern. My real concern is you Zach.”
“Me? Why? I’m fine.”
“Amongst all the shit with the CWF, I think you might need to slow down a bit. Stop trying to fight so many battles. I understand why you went with Elijah and the Academy to Pierreia, what happened to you is gonna haunt a person. But Loki, Freddie, the Tournament...You gotta stop and focus on the smaller picture first, cause if you’re not careful you may not be able to do anything about the bigger picture.”
Zach is taken aback by the increasing level of vulnerability he’s being seeing in his partner ever since she came with him back to the CWF. It causes his skin to crawl, a shiver to run down his spine. It’s not something he is used to or comfortable with. That’s why he knows she is serious, and starts to realise that there is more at stake now then just his wellbeing.
“Alright. I’ll try not to solo run everything and keep my feet on the ground a bit more.”
“Not just for my sake, but for your Forsaken friends as well. Especially Dorian. Since you know, he’s your partner in the tag tournament and all.”
“You’re right...Ok, so focusing...Funnily enough you said it right, there IS a poison running through the fed, and this time I am referencing the stable of Vince Espinoza, Nina and Omar Martinez, and just like the Symbiotic Entity of the same name, they are leeching of the federation I have sworn to protect.So you’d think the first match of the tournament is a foregone conclusion. The Northern Crown Tournament is a perfect opportunity for Dorian and I, representing the Forsaken, to show the rest of the CWF that we ain’t about to let anyone bring the federation to ruin and in the doing show them that we mean business! And we’re gonna start the game with the likes of V.E.N.O.M. And from there it doesn’t really matter which teams we face, though I reckon Dorian is eager to set foot into the ring with the so-called Hostile Takeover. And I must admit a similar inclination. Bunch of outsiders trying to destroy everything we’ve worked hard to build...But if I am honest. I am more eager to step into the ring with my old teachers, Elijah and Omega. I want to show them first-hand how far I have come from those days, how I have taken their lessons and forged my own path through the levels. But with so many different options to choose from, and no Quick-Save option, it’s gonna be hard to prepare. But you want to know a little secret Babe?”
Hearing Zach speak, Leona fully understand why Dorian would say how much of an inspiration the young champion is to all manner of people. She suddenly realises that he has paused and looking to Leona. Rather sheepishly she recollects herself.
“Sorry, you just rolled really high on an Inspiration Check. I got the Swooned condition.”
“I was saying that Dorian and I have got ourselves a Secret Weapon, a new Super Ultra Special Move. And if anything luck we’ll bring it out, and if we do. Boom. It’s Game-Over Man, for whomever is in the ring with us. The only thing that will affect how we reach this outcome, is the intentions of the teams we face. Are they here for the competition, then we’ll bring it and take things to a whole new, Epic, level. Or do they intent to bring harm and ruin to the roster and the fed? Then you better believe we’re gonna put an end to that Chaotic-Evil nonsense. So be it V.E.N.O.M, Elijah and Omega, the Highwaymen, or whomever. The Forsaken aren’t playing around. The stage has been selected, the Rogers Arena and there can be only one true ending. Dorian and I, the winners standing atop this ladder. But now to focus on a more important matter at hand…”
Leona looks at Zach quizzically, as a mischievous grin creeps across the Impact champion’s face. In the blink of an eye he lunges at her, tackling her down to the bed. This is one occassion she allows him to have the upperhand.
Clearly he’s not finished making up for his abrupt departure.