It's late and the road was doing that thing where it feels like it does nothing but stretch out into the infinite distance. Darkness awaited those that travelled down those roads and decided that it was something worth doing. Some decide it is better to find a place to call it quits for the evening, get some sleep, and by the time the sun came up in the morning, the destination is clear and there was nothing scary about it, no challenge, no turning back, plain, simple, nice.
So why not blast the music, crack a window for some fresh air, sing until your heart's content, and have faith that no matter what, you would come out on the other end. Bruised and scarred? Perhaps. But better for it at the end. Lessons learned and you just... Move on. Twists and turns of course come with this methodology in life, bumps along the way, and of course you get tossed for a rocker or two. You take a bump, the horse bucks and you're tossed worse than a salad. Injuries occur and in the absolute worse case, you're forced to take a step back and reevaluate things.
But that will all be discussed at a later time. For now, the story revolves around a dark and woodsy road, one where any "normal" and "rational" thinking member of society would decide that it is better to err on the side of safety and spend the night in a cheap hotel somewhere. If you find one before an appeasing rest stop comes along where you pull into and hope you don't get a bum knocking on your slightly cracked window at 3 o'clock in the morning. Wouldn't know about that at all through experience. Nope.
Again though, the cheap motel fallacy of a choice is one made for the people who want to play it safe. Who want to stay away from the things that go bump in the night. The choice doesn't apply to some people. Namely the ones that live in poverty, and one Mia Rayne. As she drives through the night time breeze, her phone plugged in and tossed on the seat beside her, and "Cutie Mark Crusaders - Heavygrinder Remix" comes on. She smiles coyly and takes a hit from her vape pen, driving had never been something she was fond of, especially at night; and cracks the window before cranking the volume up as high it can go. Mia's taste in music varied depending upon the day and the mood. Her one playlist is the nightmare of a person afflicted with OCD, no rhyme or reason to it, just random song she happens to enjoy after another of her favorites.
The road itself twists around a bend and this is where Mia slows the car down, absentmindedly turning the volume down on the music to help her see at night. She wasn't sure how it worked, but it did. Finally she sees the turn off that she passed by the first time several times, and realized that unless someone knew that it was there specifically, they wouldn't even realize there was a path barely big enough for a car. Driving the car up to the familiar gates, she comes to a stop, almost to the exact place that she stopped almost a year before when she started down this road. A single and solitary word escapes her lips.
Holy CRAP on a hat! Did you miss us?!
We'd be willing to bet that you didn't. We'd be willing to bet that you were hoping to keep what you and Freddie, as well as the rest of The Glass Ceiling under the carpet.
We'd also be willing to bet that you had hopped we would have forgotten about it all. Some sort of former memory of a forgotten time. It happened last year right, why does it matter now? Injuries like this happen to athletes all the time, this was just another casualty of some kind of a war you're fighting. The catch that you're failing to see in this scenario Duce, is that everything that you thought you did? It was all predicated on getting yourself further. It was all meant to further a rather ambitious goal, who cares who you FUCK over on the way to the top, amirite?
You sir, if this is your feeling, are the lowest form of crap that this federation holds. You talk a big game, you talk all about being "loyal," being what is it, "The Kid That Never Dies?" Please. Child, you need to take a step back before you get yourself injured. Nicknames like that are given to the people that have earned them through respect with the fans. You can talk about respect all you want, but when it comes to you and us? Duce....
You hear that Duce? It's time you head back to class, because you're about to get schooled. Your teacher? The bitch that you took out last year and thought you put a permanent end to her career, Mia fuckin' Rayne, back, in the oh so desirable flesh, and... More pissed off than you could ever imagine. You've cost us a lot, and while it isn't unrepairable, you do have a lot to answer for. The question is, are you going to be adult enough to answer for your crimes, or are you going to keep playing the role of "Kid?"
The grass is wet with dew as Mia drives up onto the dirt path and comes to a stop in front of a familiar ornate entrance gate. "The Manor" of lore lies beyond. And for some odd reason, Mia didn't really believe that her old membership card would still work. Just for the heck of it though, why not give it a try? With mind made up she gets out of her car and exhales a puff of smoke, another vapor cloud exiting the car upon the door opening. She skips lightly toward the comm panel, and is forcibly reminded of all the old security procedure demonstrations the druids always felt to put on. For their sake, she humored them, and in doing so she learned some things. Like override codes should the need arise, but something told her...
???: You don't have to worry, it still works.
Mia yelps and leaps into the air, turning around one hundred and eighty degrees, to come face to face with the one man she will ever allow to get away with something like this. He knows it too. The smile on Shadow's face tells the entire story and Mia can't help but grin back, taking note of the lines that had never been on his face before. The man is tired and it was about time he got some help.
Mia Rayne: We figured as much. Before we go back though, back... Home... We need to talk. We're back as an active competitor, but we're behind on what has been going on. Where is everyone? Things look so... Dark, in more ways than...
She stops and takes another step closer to Shadow, trying to actually see the man. It's been a while after all. He backs away into the, not to sound repetitive, shadows masking his face from Mia.
Mia Rayne: Shadow, what... What happened?
Her question is met with silence. Of course she knows what has happened. The Forsaken Family torn apart. The youngest doing what the youngest does and rebelling against whatever dark forces tempt the lad. The person in front of Mia is exhausted, the fire still there, but diminished from what it once was. The walls are up sure, but that's the thing about walls. You let someone in once, and they figure their own way around pretty quick. Put in a maze and invite Mia in? Well, this is the result. She squints her eyes and her voice grows hard.
Mia Rayne: Sha....
Shadow: They took her... They took Myfanwy...
Mia stops and drops her arms to her side, her eyes instantly softening.
Mia Rayne: Let's get you inside. You still drink tea right? You seem more like a tea drinker than anything...
With only a little pushback from Shadow she pushes him into her car, punches in her all too familiar code, and relishes the clicking and clacking of the fence opening. The sound never got old to her and she powers off her music and cranks her window down all the way to listen to the unique symphony being home brought her.
It's not about the belt Duce. You need to be well aware of that right here and now.
We could give two shits about who has that curse of an accessory. Hold it and all glory shall be yours, but the cost? The cost is severe. You should know this because you are a second time champion, a second time champion that attained that particular accolade before yours truly, and ya know, you're, "The Kid That Never Dies."
But are you a kid that will ever learn their lessons?
There's going to be a lot to happen in that match Duce and we're not entirely sure how it will all play out in the end. Sure, we could walk right in there and rip you to shreds and let Stewart figure out what to do with the belt. Probably some tournament of some sort. We're over due for one aren't we? We have one every other month it seems... But enough about them Duce! We're here to talk about you.
Once upon a time, you were regarded as someone we were proud to share that ring with. Someone that we thought we could respect, someone who was above attacking people from behind, in a mask. Not only did you rub your own name through the muds of disgusting desecration, you brought Freddie along with you for the ride. Bros before hoes? Is that how the saying goes?
The thing that always kept me laughing, always kept the smile on my face, and your name on my lips; was why Duce? Why me? Was it jealousy of... Something? My "meteoric rise?" My rise to what? You and Freddie had JUST taken the tag belts back from Shadow and I the week before, so you don't get the cop out answer of blaming the gold. This is gut check time Duce, this is where the kid grows up and learns to take his lickings like the man he claims to be.
You claim to stand in that ring, proud to be a champion, THE champion. Are you though Duce? Are you ok with all the blood spilled to get that belt in your hands a second time? Now that you have that belt, now what? Are you going to make bold claims to be a fighting champion, take on all comers, and knock them out with that good ol' knee?
Or are you going to sneak up behind them and bash their brains out onto the ring with a chair with a buddy? Oh look, we think we see some Mia brain stain on the mat right there by your proverbial foot.
The drive was silent, cool thanks to Mia having the window open. They both knew there is a time and place and the crowded confines of the car prevented any long plans from being formulated. Mia had already been cooped up long enough inside that tin death trap, she'd just as much get out and stretch her legs some. She pulls her car to a spot that has been overgrown with non-use throughout the last couple of months. Something Mia noticed right away.
Shadow: We can have this trimmed up in no time. Tomorrow even.
His voice sounds deflated. Mia has certainly heard Shadow tired before, but never like this. She could see the difference as well. Not just the small differences that Myfanwy brought with her that were suddenly gone, but the aura of the entire place felt completely and totally off.
Mia Rayne: One thing at a time. There are more important things to attend to. We need to have a pow wow and if there was a better time Shadow, you know we'd be here then, but there isn't. We can't sit and watch you get dismantled like this. This isn't... This isn't what she...
Mia stops and Shadow understands.
Shadow: Loki is starting to see the error in her ways?
Mia tries to meet his steely gaze and is successful for a couple moments before she takes sudden interest in the ground beneath. Shadow nods and Mia follows him into the kitchen through the glass door. The familiar smells assault her and suddenly she remembers the night that they all shared cheesecake over that same table. Mia, Shadow, Dorian, Chloe, and Ataxia. Before things got... Dark. She sighs and plops down in the booth.
Mia Rayne: You've been through the ringer Shadow and it all started with us. We won't ever be able to apologize enough, but what we CAN do, is help try and make things better. We... We... We've decided that we're going to give up everything, have a mutiny, and overthrow the CWF. Afterward, we're going to get a pirate ship and ride it off into the sunset, because why not, amirite?
She stops and smiles as she watches Shadow try to avoid nodding off. The exhaustion is evident on his face, and Mia can only imagine the hours he's poured into finding Myfanwy, fending off Ataxia on all points, mind, body, and soul; and keep tabs on the angsty ball of teenage angst and hormones set to explode that is Zach. If Mia had a mental breakdown every time something bad happened to her...
Oh wait... HA!
Shadow comes to join Mia, opposite her at the table, a slice of cheesecake on a plate for both of them.
Mia Rayne: It's like you know me or something...
Shadow smiles and nods, taking a small bite for himself and savoring it.
The Shadow: It's those small pleasures in life one really and truly learns to appreciate during times of strife. Eat the cheesecake Mia. You'll feel better afterward. Our problems won't be solved should you abstain, so why not enjoy something we both know you like?
Mia considers and a Cheshire-grin washes over her face.
Mia Rayne: Always the master, for good reason.
They both enjoy their cheesecake in content silence. Both with a lot on their minds, neither of which willing to break the silence or the fact that what they were enjoying is, and always will be, a gift from the heavens above.
So if this isn't about the belt to us Duce, and we don't need to put a boot to your ass, no matter how deserved, to make a name for ourselves, what's this about?
Sure, you're a multi time tag champion, a multi time World champion... La dee da. All that tells me is that you know how to accessorize yourself with the color gold. Might be a good look, but it's awfully tacky. Want to compare yourself with me? Get into a proverbial pissing contest with me? Alright, we'll bite.
We've been here a little more than a year. We have been a tag team champion, a World champion, member of one of the most dominant stables in The Forsaken, where your Glass Ceiling? It cracked and shattered. You also have the privilege of talking to the only person alive to have pinned Caledonia. Check the record books Duce, you've been around for a bit, that has to count for something in your little world where bit things matter, doesn't it?
You talk a big game and you say all the right things when the moment comes and the time is right. You are World friggin Champion for a reason Duce and me? I'm the one that beat not one, but two other people some on this roster only DREAM of competing against, let along winning. But let's all bow down to the False King who sits on a throne bathed in my FUCKING BLOOD!
We called you a friend before! Do you remember that?! We used the term "respect" like we actually knew what it MEANT! We said we respect what you and Freddie do and then... Then you decide to attack me for some unknown reason. Because you wanted to be angry, or you were just afraid, that deep down, you didn't want this day to come. Oooo... That's it isn't it? You're afraid of the big bad boogie person that we represent? Do you not like getting dragged down holes where you can't see where you're going, where you have to let the Madness overtake you, consume you, and if you're lucky guide you to safety unscathed? Hello, my name is Mia and we will be your guide on this journey.
Do you know what we just realized Duce? You dear sir, could be considered Loki's mommy. Or Freddie, you guys will have to flip for it. All the devastation she caused? All the blood on her hands? All the destruction, fear, angst, anxiety, dread, all that negative SHIT that accumulated while we were asleep, put there BY YOUR FUCKING HAND! Where were we going with that? Oh yes...
Loki wants to know if you're going to be the mommy, or the daddy. Either way, but the end of Evo 51? We'll be the ones that are calling the shots, your title, your belt, your... "Respect" or no.
Let's be honest. When there is cheesecake involved and two adults that have been through crazy times are indulging themselves, more than one piece a piece will be consumed. Fair point? The plates lie forgotten to Mia and Shadow's respective sides and they take turns dipping forks into a pie tin that is losing its contents rather quickly.
Mia Rayne: So, we have as close of a plan as ever?
Shadow: Mia... I can't in good conscience let you insert yourself like that. Regardless of your intentions, it's dangerous.
He falls silent, images of the past couple of months coming back all at once. The weight on Shadow's shoulders is visible to Mia, Shadow being weighed down. He needed this, there was no question and unfortunately, if it came down to it, he wasn't going to have a say regardless.
Mia Rayne: That's not on you though Shadow. That's all us. We've learned a lot and we get the distinct impression that you need to focus on other things rather than this particular battle. We urge you to trust us to do this. We have a plan, we don't plan to fail. We plan to succeed and we will bring The Forsaken back as one. We aren't a group Shadow. We're family and this is how we prove what family actually is. Words are one thing, actions are another, and we vow to anything that happens to be listening, that that is our intent. To heal. To seek reconciliation for the past and work to a better future. WE can do this Shadow. WE. You concentrate on Myfanwy. Let me help by being the fire to fight fire with.
They fall silent, a ringing pulse going through the air as they each slowly come to a stop on the poor remains of the cheesecake. They share a long meaningful gaze and this time, Mia holds it. A lot of myths and mysteries surround the power a person's eyes hold. If anyone were to witness this moment, they wouldn't have to take a vow to secrecy because what is seen can not be explained by ordinary words. Mia and Shadow though? They were both on the same page once again. They are once again mentor and student, family...
Do you see the answer yet Duce "Da Kid?"
Or do you need a remedial class in the logistics of my rabbit holes, my trains of thought going every which way but loose?!
Cause we can totes do that, just because we... "Respect" you. Funny how someone's definition of that word can change depending on the situation and friends isn't it Duce? So... Are you going to guess or do we have to spell it all out for you?
We aren't after your title. Beating you for the hell of it won't do anything for our name, because we've beaten you before Duce, and we're going to do it again. No... You have made a very BIG tactical error in your tactics this run around.
You see, we aren't playing for any of those things Duce, because you went ahead and made this REALLY personal. A chair shot is just that, but it's the message that you delivered unto us with each and every blow. We don't belong, you don't want us, you don't respect us, you lied to our faces. You left us for dead, let us rot, didn't care, because in the end what did you really end up having to pay for the sins you committed? A match here or there against The Forsaken at the time? That dear Child That Never Dies, isn't going to fly. So here we come to my answer as to why we are willing to have a match against the World Champion, a man who clearly lies through his gold plated teeth when it comes to the word "respect."
We're going to be honest with you Duce. We want your blood. Plain and simple. We want you at our feet and we want to smile as you realize that we came back, and we got our revenge. But don't think that your nightmare is over. We will haunt your dreams, the very corners of your mind and make sure that you live to regret the day that you crossed us. Just think of this as our journey home Duce, a way to get back to where we were. We're sure that on some level, you want to magically come up with the words to make all this right, then you and us can have fisticuffs just because. People will cheer, everyone will be happy. But...
You're also a guy that doesn't like to admit when he did a dirty. We wonder how you'll respond when we look you in the eyes when we go face to face and we ask you the one question that you are afraid of... Spoiler alert, ready?
"How could you Duce? Why?"
Are you going to be able to stand toe to toe to me, "Child That Never Dies" and act like the adult you claim to be? Are you going to hide behind that title belt and try to shove it in our face? We warn you Duce, that would end badly for you, so if you want us to start thinking of creative things to do with said belt, well... Just try us. The thing that seems crazy, even to us, which is saying something... Is that you have all these awful moments in one of the most hated factions to date, The Glass Ceiling. No remorse, you're proud because at the end of the day, it's just business. You go through some times and you come out as World Champ, talking about how you earned everything you have, how you have respect for the belt, respect for the legacies, and you want to defend the belt against the greats. MJ Flair! Whoo!
We're sure there were other name drops, but we find it weird that you didn't mention us. There is fear in omission Duce. Did you not think that we would come looking for a blood debt paid? Did you think you would be able to hide behind a set of good morels you dusted off from a closet somewhere? We're out for blood, YOUR blood Duce. Two time world champ?
Now lets see what you do with it. See you real soon Duce. Ya know, if the adult that wants to learn to live until the next day wants to show up. We have no time for kid games. Limited time engagement Duce, we might not have more juice than you, but we can certainly tell when it's worth the squeeze. You? You're questionable.
The dishes were cleaned and currently drying in a small rack that Mia had found put away in a cabinet. She had since sent Shadow to bed, he had been kind enough to give her back her room that she once held. It was too much, but then again, that was Shadow. He knew who is important, who his allies are...
Mia stops what she's doing. The laugh is obvious, she knew who this was, and she hated the fact that they had chosen now to be here. Turning away from her now clean dishes, Mia narrows her eyes at the glass door her and Shadow had used to get in, an eerie fog creeping in from wherever it is that fog comes from.
Mia Rayne: Of course. Don't you have a library to haunt or something? We've banished you, you're no good.
A form appears in front of Mia. In another world and to put it easiest, the two of them were almost identical, but polar opposites. Mia takes the extreme, newcomer is plain and boring. Mia has makeup, newcomer doesn't. Everything else is the exact same. Any "normal" person would have screamed and run by now, but again it serves well to remember it is Mia we're talking about.
Mia Rayne: Peyton. We are about to banish you again, you had best be quick to explain yourself.
The figure only returns a ghostly smile and flickers out of sight, appearing right in front of Mia instead. Mia... Doesn't really care.
Mia Rayne: Parlor tricks. You know the game Peyton, this place is protected from you and your... Shenanigans.
The form known as Peyton glances down at Mia's left arm. The Psychotic one finds herself rolling up her sleeve, staring at the form as she does so.
Mia Rayne: Is this what you want? My scars? You did this, you were the one that didn't turn to alternate methods in the past. You can't pin this on us Peyton. We've made you into something... More.
The last word only angers Peyton and Mia takes a step back over the threshold of the house. She takes out her vape pen and takes a couple quick puffs, considering her options. Smoke swirls in through the open kitchen window as Mia blows the vapor out in Peyton's direction.
Mia Rayne: Look, we're sorry. We know that without you, nothing we have accomplished so far would be possible. You were the strong one to take that first step, but you have to understand Peyton. Evolving with the times is essential. Our existence is due in part, because of your sacrifice. Your time has come and it is gone, we will miss you, but you poison and toxify.
Mia smiles sadly at her reflection in the door, Peyton now gone from view.
Mia Rayne: Banished. From our home...