It’s been a long day.
The weather had been atrocious, confining Silas indoors in his compound, with little interest in anything other than throwing a small ball against the wall of his grand hall. The echo from the marble and the stone walls emanated throughout what would be a spectacular room, if it wasn’t littered with equipment. Mats covered the floor, dummies are scattered in dramatically different places, a punching bag hanging from a portable mount, and a wrestling ring at the dead centre. Nearby, the Paramount Championship is leaning against the wall, almost as if the belt was watching Silas on the floor, legs stretched forward, throwing and catching the ball like a prisoner passing time.
The card for Twilight of the Gods had been released to the athletes and to the audience, and the office thought that the show that would signal the start of WrestleFest season should kick off with a bang. It was something that was understandable, but the fact that the match was a gauntlet match match, and that it would be Silas defending his title against four other competitors, sent Silas in a state of frustration.
He had hoped someone would step up to become the credible challenger that he wanted, giving the Paramount title a prestige that would wash away the disservice unmemorable reigns had stained it with. No one stepped up, and the result was that while he was presenting himself as someone who fights whoever challenges him, inside he felt withdrawn and empty. The season gave him very little, and the after match was that management would throw every athlete that wasn’t scheduled for the PPV into the match.
He fought for the belt. He bled to gain the belt. And management are already treating it like a belt rewarded from a repetitive multiman scramble. It was hard to stay motivated.
He didn’t turn. He knew the voice.
SILAS ARTORIA: Ito-san.
Footsteps from the guest and the sounds of the thrown ball clashed against each other, in a small skirmish of echos.
SILAS ARTORIA: Unable to sleep?
HIDETAKA ITO: I don’t think anyone could with the noise you’re making.
Silas catched the ball, but didn’t throw it again, instead turning his attention to his mentor without looking at him.
SILAS ARTORIA: This woke you up?
HIDETAKA ITO: Your halls broadcast your activities.
Silas things for a minute, before rolling the small ball towards the wall. It taps the stone wall, before eventually coming to a stop, leaving Silas and Hidetaka alone as the sole animated figures.
SILAS ARTORIA: [[Apologies.]]
HIDETAKA ITO: What’s bothering you, Silas?
Finally, Silas turned his head towards his mentor. A blank, hollow expression greets the older man, a stark contrast to his more carefree and determined attitude.
HIDETAKA ITO: The card?
Silas stands up and walks towards the ring, opting to lean against one of the four corners without entering it. A deep sigh escapes him.
HIDETAKA ITO: Not happy with how things turn out. Correct?
A pause fills the grand hall, before SIlas finally opens his mouth.
SILAS ARTORIA: I fought against some of the toughest opponents thrown at me to get even a small chance at the title. I endured one of the most difficult matches against an extremely determined opponent to get this belt, and my reward is being stuck in limbo with no light at the end of the tunnel. Blood, sweat, and tears to complete my ascension from the abyss, only to be met with greenhorns that management want to raise the hopes for.
He looked up at the ceiling lights, looking upset at the prospect of his match being simplistic despite the stipulation.
SILAS ARTORIA: There’s a term in MMA called “cans”, shortened from trash can. It’s an opponent whose record is less than stellar, being brought in to go against a more built opponent, essentially a mouse going against a ferocious cat. That’s what this match feels like. I’ve got two greenhorns with their number of total matches counted on one hand, I’ve got Scourge whom I now know from the back of my hand, and a feral dog whose only quality is that they are backed by an army.
He closed his eyes, but couldn’t help but chuckle.
SILAS ARTORIA: Funny really. This time last year The Coalition was breaking apart, and now we hold all but one of the titles. Could ask the Lost Boys if they mind doing some protection work, though I think the two of us has established that the past is the past and that we are currently better off as we are.
HIDETAKA ITO: Better off?
Silas turned the look at Ito.
SILAS ARTORIA: We’re no longer tearing each other apart and trying to kill each other. I’d say that’s a remarkable improvement.
A statement that was hard to argue, but didn’t wipe away the core of the problem. Hidetaka had been in the compound for little more than two weeks and the culture shock he expected wasn’t as grand. It was a remarkably larger residence, compared to the more simplistic and minimalistic apartment he was used to, but aside from the hallways and the few rooms that harken back to a time of constant activity, his room was essentially a canvas that could be painted upon with any amount he desired. A bed and desk were enough, and Silas was very accommodating, but Ito saw a man gradually getting worn down.
His observation of the Canadian aristocrat concluded that the drive that had pushed him to the top of the ladder had been expended, in addition to the CWF providing him with no one truly viable. There was an opening, but it was quickly closed without further statement, and the thrown together nature of the match didn’t help the emotional state.
Ito looked behind him, and saw on the floor and looking upon them the Paramount Championship, free of dust and scratches; well taken care of, but it’s presence certainly diminished. It was on the floor after all.
He turned back to Silas.
HIDETAKA ITO: Get in the ring.
Silas shook awake in mild confusion, turning his body towards his mentor as they were rolling into the ring.
SILAS ARTORIA: Excuse me?
HIDETAKA ITO: You heard.
There wasn’t any movement but those of Ito, as he stood tall above his host. Silas simply looked on, before they finally snapped out of the surprised daze. They rolled into the ring and stood up to the elder man.
HIDETAKA ITO: Wrestle me.
SILAS ARTORIA: Wh--what?
HIDETAKA ITO: Wrestle me.
There was a paradox or responses running through Silas’ head. On one hand, he would willingly follow his mentor’s word, but on the other, he didn’t want to hurt Ito, even accidently. They were retired for a reason, it’s because age and wear and tear have caught up to them, as it does to everyone eventually. They were intelligent enough to go out on a high.
They lock up.
HIDETAKA ITO: Tell me about your opponents.
Silas pushed Ito towards the turnbuckle.
SILAS ARTORIA: They were randomly plucked from a pool--
The force of Ito’s shove sent Silas halfway across the ring, to the shock of the Canadian. Its extends his hand to him.
HIDETAKA ITO: Try again.
Hardened lips, Silas accepts the hand and is back on his feet. The two quickly locked up.
HIDETAKA ITO: Tell me about your opponents, but properly this time.
Silas didn’t answer, and the pause gave Ito the energy to swing Silas around hard enough to get him on his knees. He pushes himself back to his feet, still locked with Ito.
SILAS ARTORIA: Thomas Roll…
HIDETAKA ITO: Yes?
Silas is quick, successfully locking Ito into a head lock and controlling his position.
SILAS ARTORIA: His debut match against Flair was surprising. I was expecting a squash but he held his own. Got her off her feet, which is more than I can say for most people.
Ito’s successfully clutches Silas’ back, and with his full weight is able to force him towards the ropes. Bounce.
SILAS ARTORIA: Still, he was foolish for trying to low blow her, and his music taste is rotten--
Ito suddenly stepped forward and lifts Silas in the air, forcing him to crash onto the ring on his back with a loud bang. If there was anyone else within the compound, no matter how far away from the grand hall they were, the impact may still be heard.
HIDETAKA ITO: Again.
Silas spins around on his knees, eyeing a smirk Ito whom summoned him. Curled lips, he charged towards them.
SILAS ARTORIA: Tom Marrow…
Clothesline, dodged. Ito swings for a discus lariat, but nobody's home. Silas tries a superkick, but Ito grabs his foot, before pushing his student back. He impacts the ropes and bounces towards his mentor, and they try a big boot. Silas dodges, and clutches the still risen leg.
HIDETAKA ITO: Well?
SILAS ARTORIA: Athletic, tactical, can hold his own against an opponent whom battered me to the hospital. Surrounds himself with people who add to his arsenal, and open to anything. But his match with Jarvis shows he can’t last long--
Ito kicked his knee up to impact the chin, forcing Silas to let go of the leg. Silas tries a roundhouse kick, but Ito dodges. A quick jab to the shin to get Silas to his knee, and a roundhouse kick of their own to knock him flat on the mat. Silas struggled to get back onto his knees, his hand covering a high-pitched ear while his tutor paced themselves around their protege. Through his teeth, a frazzled Silas spoke.
SILAS ARTORIA: Is this how we’re going to spar?
HIDETAKA ITO: Scourge?
SILAS ARTORIA: Is it?
HIDETAKA ITO: Scourge, tell me about him. Nothing else.
Without another work, Silas launched himself towards Ito, and what followed was a series of exchanged that were either quickly countered or dodged. Chops were blocked, superkicks were caught, and any attempt to get either of them off their feet was quickly thwarted.
SILAS ARTORIA: Imposing, dedicated…
HIDETAKA ITO: Yes
SILAS ARTORIA: ...fixated to his goal, the unstoppable object who could easily break concrete walls. He threw me around like a ragdoll when we fought against each other, to the point that I’ve not had any form of true victory over him. He’s the most uncertain out of all of them.
Beat, Silas is whipped towards the ropes.
SILAS ARTORIA: But all giants fall!
Back turned to bounce, but a charging big boot knocks him over the ropes. Silas crashed to the floor, but through gritted teeth smoothly slid back into the ring. Ito went for another big boot but Silas slid under, and a hard chop to Ito’s chest!
SILAS ARTORIA: Mad Dog Murphy. The lackey...
SILAS ARTORIA: ...feral…
SILAS ARTORIA: ...undisciplined…
SILAS ARTORIA: ...over reliant of outside factors…
...with thunderous cracks...
SILAS ARTORIA: ...undisciplined
...and one more to stagger Ito, before quickly sprinting to the ropes. Bounce, slide under Ito’s legs. For a quick knockout, but Ito steps aside and Silas crashed into the ropes. He staggers back, and is put into the argentinian torture rack.
Ito stops. Silas stops. The latter was beaten with a checkmate. Any fighting would’ve ended in a burning hammer and it’s undesirable consequences. Ito lifted Silas’ legs hard, allowing them to complete the rotation and land on their feet. Without another word, Ito turns to a visibly frustrated Silas.
HIDETAKA ITO: What are they successful at?
SILAS ARTORIA: Excuse me?
HIDETAKA ITO: What qualities do they have?
Gritted teeth, no answer, just a man with a belt whom has just been made away just how far away from the peak they are.
SILAS ARTORIA: What is the point of this, Ito-san!?
HIDETAKA ITO: To humble you.
SILAS ARTORIA: With opponents whom are out of my skill range!?
HIDETAKA ITO: You want to know how people lose titles? It’s because they underestimate their opponents. They place themselves on a higher pedestal and think nothing of them, and that leaves them vulnerable to disaster.
He placed his palms around Silas and pressed his forehead against theirs.
HIDETAKA ITO: If you compliment them on their skills, you are openly admitting that they have qualities, and more importantly, that you can sidestep them to counter their arsenal. You’re entering a gauntlet match against four other people, and that leaves you open to exhaustion. You’re going to be at a significant disadvantage. You can’t afford to let your guard down. Even if you don’t want to fight for your opponents, then fight for your title!
He hadn’t been in the compound or the country for a full month, and already the amount he imparted was already enough for Silas to progress to the next level, but they weren’t using the knowledge practically. He may have changed on the inside, but old habits die hard. Deep inside, there was a part of the old Silas Artoria, the one who would gladly throw people to the side in pursuit of his goals, was still lingering.
Ito was holding him back on that front, and thank the lord he was, otherwise he would’ve been jeered out of the company and never accepted anywhere else.
Silas closed his eyes, and nodded in agreement. Ito smiled, and gently tapped his cheek twice.
HIDETAKA ITO: You’ve got black on you.
Ito left the ring, just as Silas’ eyes opened wide and his expression changed to one of concern. Ito didn’t notice, and simply left the room with reassurance and collective calmness.
He didn’t know.
SILAS ARTORIA: I told you to stay sleeping.
PASSENGER: Try me.
A warm, dimly lit bedroom with a king size bed. The quilts are light purple, and resting on top is the Paramount Championship, perched upright with the straps holding it up. Under the quilt is it’s holder, Silas Artoria, reading an old green book that he got from his library, or the nearby bookshelf that can be faintly seen at the side of the lens. He was indulging deeply, with the camera and championship currently of little concern.
SILAS ARTORIA: When not a single bullet hits the mark, the solution is to scatter it and hope one hits the mark.
He puts his book to one side, and looks towards the camera, giving it and the audience his full attention.
SILAS ARTORIA: Such a shame. I earnestly wanted a match that would solidify this title as a shining beacon for the CWF, and the last season has been nothing more than tiresome. Started well, with the announcement that I was looking for a challenger, and soon enough, one potential opponent stepped up, albeit in more...undesirable circumstances.
His chuckle echoes deeply within the room, despite it being padded with quilts, curtains, shelves, and books.
SILAS ARTORIA: He was fortunate that his disorganised posse took Ito-san from behind.
Back to the main address, and the smile quickly fades to something nondescript.
SILAS ARTORIA: Unfortunately that possible challenger never followed up on their attack, and as a result I was going into Twilight of the Gods without an opponent.
Deep breath, closed eyes, deep sigh before reopening.
SILAS ARTORIA: But a match needs to be made and the people upstairs have opted for an opening spectacle by answering the question I sure everyone was begging for an answer to. “Can the Paramount Championship be defended in a gauntlet match?” And the answer to that is, of course, yes. It’s what’s been scheduled.
SILAS ARTORIA: But then you take a look at that question again and find a different avenue within those words. “Can the Paramount Championship be defended in a gauntlet match?” as in “can it go through the endurance test without it changing hands once?” and that’s a question that has no easy answer.
He sits up.
SILAS ARTORIA: Let’s break it down. The two Tom’s to start off. Tom Marrow and Thomas Roll. It’s not in intentional disrespect that I lump the two of you together, it’s just that neither of you have had any form of impact yet. Two bright eyed newcomers with a bountiful of talent and a pocket full of dreams. It’s good to aspire to be successful, but the path there isn’t one so easily handed to the rigorous.
He picks up the Paramount Championship, and points to the centerpiece of the belt; it glistened under the minimalist lighting the bedroom was emitting.
SILAS ARTORIA: This is the Paramount Championship. Do you know how long it took for me to achieve this goal, to hold the ivory belt in my hands? Over a year of blood, sweat, tears, and forced knowledge. I grew and adapted from the lowest of lows and indulged what needed to be learned when on cloud nine.
He lowers the belt.
SILAS ARTORIA: The two of you are nowhere near educated enough to hold a belt, and you should be lucky that you have been granted the opportunity to be educated.
He sits up, having slightly slid down the bed whilst holding the surprisingly weighty belt.
SILAS ARTORIA: Scourge. He’s a man I’ve faced a few times before, and the one thing that hasn’t been emphasised enough is that I haven’t beaten him. I may have won a match against him, but I’ve not pinned or submitted him. The match that made me the number one contender was a count-out win, and there’s a real possibility of that happening again. After all, I maybe agile and quick, but the power and determination of Scourge cannot be underestimated. He is a human foot, and we are an ant when comparing his strength and size. He is unrivalled in that aspect!
SILAS ARTORIA: But he isn’t undefeatable, and gauntlet match or not, like Jimmy Allen before him, I intend to bring this lingering fact to a definitive end. One, two, three, Scourge has been eliminated.
Beat, Silas coughs to himself, not even raising his hands.
SILAS ARTORIA: My greatest concern is Mad Dog Murphy, the unchained feral animal of the CWF. Don’t get me wrong, his unrelenting attitude in the ring should not be underestimated, and he isn't completely dangerous in the ring. He could easily tear the arms off an individual without effort, and survivors would be scarred for life.
He leans closer to the camera.
SILAS ARTORIA: But am I facing CWF’s Mad Dog Murphy, or disOrder’s Mad Dog Murphy? Are you facing me as yourself or on the command of your master? Because if it’s the latter, then your credibility is already in the dirt. I expect your army to invade the ring during your time in the ring, and I intend to make sure their efforts go to waste.
SILAS ARTORIA: So...individually, it could be a fair challenge for the belt; maybe break a sweat a little but nothing I couldn’t recover from. The concern is within the match type.
He holds four fingers up.
SILAS ARTORIA: I have to face four men, back to back, simply to show you all that I have earned the right to be called Paramount Champion. There’s going to be factors that are a bigger concern if it were in a regular match. Fatigue, energy, muscle aches; go on a treadmill of 45 minutes at a consistent speed and the after effects from that would be nothing compared to the after effects of a complete gauntlet run. I am going to be more vulnerable then I have before, and I doubt I am going to be able to stand once the night is done.
Deep sigh, and he looks down at the quilt covers.
SILAS ARTORIA: I have come too far to lose what the long climb have me, and I will fight tooth and nail to ensure that I walk out as the Paramount Champion, and the greatest Paramount Champion of all time.
Long pause, a small smile escapes him.
SILAS ARTORIA: Bring everything. I want a good fight.
He points a finger-gun to the camera.
SILAS ARTORIA: Goodnight...bang!
Cut to black.