The mere sound of a heartbeat completely occupied his head.
It was difficult to summarize what was going to happen. On one hand, Silas was a big fan of round robin tournaments. It accurately judges skill and performance to paint a more concrete picture of how talented and versatile the roster was. It was also an opportunity to see or be paired up with an opponent who haven’t competed against each other before. Tag team members facing each other, ex-comrades battling, and champions being in constant danger from being challenged for the top stop. No one is safe, and the strengths and weaknesses will be revealed.
On the other hand, he knew how difficult a round robin can be; he’s been through two. Alpha and Omega. He has seen the brackets, he has seen the matches to come, and he knows how much of a toll it can put on an athlete’s body. Chops, slams, blood, bruises, are not going to be likely. It’s expected.
But over the course of the show, with Silas beating Paradine and all but the tag titles being vacated due to their champions and one challenger walking out, the stakes were raised to levels he wasn’t expecting.
There is no easy match, when the prize is the company’s crown.
He gazed into the abyss as one by one, the CWF reaffirmed whom was in what block. Autumn, Mora, Kyuseishu, and Ataxia, alongside others he had never heard of before. A few from different promotions; Carnage decided to make their presence known again, albeit he was relieved he didn’t have to deal with Jack Michaels again, especially after last time. Gunt, Rolash, Church, and State talked about what might happen, and whom they are placing their money on, matches, brackets, and the whole road.
Scenarios ran through Silas’ head that it was hurting. What could he do? What can he do? He had lost and gained opportunities before, but the Alpha and Omega was paradigm shifting. This was a pure reset; to determine once and for all who truly is the king of the mountain.
And yet, he wasn’t excited.
Nor was he nervous.
He was frightened.
Was he truly one of the best in the company as he was told and claimed? Did he deserve the status he worked so hard for?
Or was he an imposter?
Should he fight?
Can he fight?
Does he deserve to fight?
What if he was wrong, about everything?
HIDETAKA ITO: Silas?
Silas gazed upon the television screen for several more seconds to the point that the familiar sounds of the CWF announcer and interview team pierced through the perpetual heartbeat. Twice, he blinked, then realised that Hidetaka was calling.
He turned towards his mentor; his expression was blank and pale, as if he saw through the Gates of Hell. Ito, understandably, gave a look of pure concern and worry.
SILAS ARTORIA: Yes?
His voice was weak.
HIDETAKA ITO: You’re panicking.
SILAS ARTORIA: I’m not.
HIDETAKA ITO: You look worried and you’re talking at a million miles an hour.
He was. He couldn’t hide behind the pretenses. Ito saw right through him.
He stared upon them for several seconds, before he finally felt his forehead. Damp with sweat, his face was too warm, and his breathing was noticeably sharp. He stared at his faint reflection within to foul liquid for several seconds, gazing upon what he saw was a hollow man, unsure of how to overcome great fear.
SILAS ARTORIA: Ito-san…
His voice was quaking. He looked up to them.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...why am--
HIDETAKA ITO: Imposter syndrome.
There was silence following the blunt answer. Silas’ expression didn’t change, whilst Ito’s switched more or less to fatherly concern. The underlying tone of their mood was the same, but at least there was some form of footing he could start at. At least there was something.
SILAS ARTORIA: The hell is happening to me? Normally, these things can be swallowed like pills and water or steak and fine wine, but since my address I’ve...I’ve…
He barely spat it out, with the fear creeping over him.
SILAS ARTORIA: --it feels like someone has dumped a load of bricks on me and now I have to make a stable house in a short amount of time. How can an unqualified builder do that!? Yet alone an athlete with only modest success!? Some random schmuck would swallow this series of news better than I! How is that possible!?
His hands were shaking as he stopped himself from getting carried away, but Ito remained calm and grabbed some water and passed it to Silas.
HIDETAKA ITO: They ran out of orange juice, sorry.
Silas quickly grabbed the water and quickly drinks it down like a thirsty animal, all the while Ito sits down beside him.
A deep sigh. Somber memories.
HIDETAKA ITO: When I was still in active competition, I used to have these...moments. Every Crescendo tournament I would think that my time was finally up. ‘Hang up my tights,’ I would say to myself. ‘The company and the future is theirs now’, and so on, and so on. Take the pension, retire somewhere in Hokkaido and live in relative quietness. I’d be quite nice. The feelings were exacerbated by the few losses and the times I was sidelined due to fatigue or injury.
Silas kept to himself, just as Ito rests his hand on his students shoulder, still keeping his head forward.
HIDETAKA ITO: Eventually, I did lose more Crescendo matches, and my titles, and fatigue finally got the better of me, and my career eventually ended...
HIDETAKA ITO: ...but that was nearly ten or fifteen years after those thoughts started to surface.
He looked at Silas, just finishing the water. Clean cup.
HIDETAKA ITO: You will know when you don’t belong in a few decades, it normally starts with a neck ache…
Silas finally looks at Ito, colour having returned to his face.
HIDETAKA ITO: ...but right now, your place is here.
Silas looked at the empty cup, clearly contemplating the situation. He was listening, and he was taking Ito’s words to heart, but from his expression and posture no one could really tell. He was still slouched and staring into a void that wasn’t there.
Ito couldn’t do much more than find a decent diner to eat at. Maybe that’ll snap Silas into a more...energised state, but all Ito can do right now is start hunting. He stood up, and with a comforting smile, he pats Silas’ back.
HIDETAKA ITO: I’ll see if I can find some tapes. Watch a few matches from the past, see how we can cope with the long road, and adapt it to suit you. Sound good?
Silas didn’t say anything, much to Ito’s disappointment. Not even a nod of acknowledgement. They simply grabbed their small bag in the corner and headed towards the door to the outside world.
HIDETAKA ITO: Food first. I’ll get the car ready.
The door opens, Ito looks back at the Canadian.
HIDETAKA ITO: And...don’t be so hard on yourself.
Seconds pass, and Silas was left alone with the sound of a closing door briefly accompanying him. The words and the drink certainly made him feel better, but the lingering thought stayed. Did he deserve to be here, in a tournament to decide the best in the whole company?
The voice, that damn voice.
Lesson number one, be unafraid in unfamiliar territory.
The venue was sizable enough to kick off an annual tradition, and it sold extremely well if word-of-mouth is to be believed, not that he understood the language.
Most of them weren’t sat down yet, as they were buying condiments, as the first match of the tournament begins the introductory phase. Generic biddle music started to play, and an unsure gaijin no one has heard of stumbles onto the stage to the sound of nothing.
It was to be expected. Silas was to open the show with a match against another athlete in the lower-midcard. Seto Matabe was more or less semi-retired but was still fairly popular amongst the Japanese audience; once a high flyer, decades of wear and tear eventually caught up to him and was forced to adopt a slower style.
Silas was certainly intimidated by the contrast of responses, just as he took his jacket off and threw it on the side. The bell rang, and his welcome was instantaneous.
A dropkick threw him back against the corner, hard, and the momentum caused him to bounce back towards Seto in a dizzy haze. Seto lifted him on his shoulders and executed his patented Death Valley Driver, and with the count of three, it was all over.
Welcome to Japan.
At least the party finished quickly.
Column by column, a gigantic white screen flipped on in an endless metallic room. At the front, a silhouette facing the screen as it tuned from a dead static channel to a rolling clip.
A decorated, computer generated background, particle fire effects separating each section from each other, as the voice of Church and State mention the date, location, and the two main events. Preliminary matches appeared on the lower third, but the final matches received the most attention. Makes sense, considering the talent involved.
"October 29th, Ataxia vs Bryan Ford, Freddie Styles vs Danny B. November 5th, Danny B vs Konrad Raab, Duce Jones vs Nathan Paradine. November 12th, Ariel Shadows vs Bryan Ford, Silas Artoria vs Jay Mora."
A shepards drone covered the soundscape as the rolling video went on, and on. Week by week, main event match by main event match.
"November 19th, Danny B vs Amy Jo Smyth, Freddie Styles vs Duce Jones. November 26th, Jay Mora vs Autumn Raven, Silas Artoria vs Ataxia. WrestleFest, runners-up of A block and B block will compete for the Paramount Championship, winners of A block and B block will main event for the CWF Championship."
It took a few seconds for the entire video to start again, as Silas gazed upon the giant graphic presentation without blinking.
"August 20th, Bryan Ford vs Jay Mora, Danny B vs--"
Silas raised his hand and snapped his fingers, pausing the video when Duce Jone was halfway through being assembled.
His speech echoes in the room without walls.
SILAS ARTORIA: Welcome...to Alpha and Omega!
Heel out, and he starts to rotate as his arm is still in the air. His face has a small smirk upon it.
SILAS ARTORIA: The tournament were the kings will be crowned, and those unable to fight will be put in their place.
The rotation is complete, and the front of Silas is shrouded in darkness. The sheer size and brightness of the screen behind him, made it so that there was at least some dim lighting on his face.
The smirk left his face, and mere seconds later his arm finally lowers. His breathing was controlled, and from seeing the light gloss of light from his eyes, anyone could tell they narrowed with loathness.
SILAS ARTORIA: I’m not a fan of what transpired.
He folds his arms, calmly. His voice is deep and hushed.
SILAS ARTORIA: Just...seeing those people take their ball and walk away when we were at the cusp of the greatest show of the year…
SILAS ARTORIA: ...disgraceful. Completely, and utterly, disgraceful.
Sharp turn, arm extended with a flat palm to point towards the half finished Duce. Their face was barely in the large frame, but anyone with passing knowledge could tell it was the Kid That Never Dies. His tone was rising with agitation.
SILAS ARTORIA: And then management has the complete gall to publicly endorse an individual to carry the company, out of complete nowhere! An individual, whom has proven to be a liability multiple times, given the crown-incumbent just because he happened to have a direct relationship with management!?
He stops. He can’t get carried away. His voice returns to a more hushed expression, but doesn’t move a single muscle.
SILAS ARTORIA: It’s so easy to climb the ladder when you have a voice in their ear.
Arm lowers, and his head turns to face the frame with a somber look in his eyes. There was something sinking in within him, something that became apparent as he spoke.
SILAS ARTORIA: You ever feel like you’re running, then all of a sudden your legs give in and you can’t run no more?
He turns to look at the entire card. Bottom left to the top centre, everyone involved in the tournament was being displayed with their first day matchups. Jackson, Raab, Shadows, Starlight, Ataxia, Love, Paradine, Zolton, Raven, JC, Styles, Marrow, Smuth, Pandalike, Ford, Mora, Danny, and Jones. He’ll be facing at least eight of these athletes, and one of the rest of them will be potential opponents.
Such a tall ladder to climb.
SILAS ARTORIA: If you’re not sensing that dread, then you are completely unprepared for the road ahead.
He starts to walk towards a side, towards a matchup he had yet to mention or gaze closely upon. Tucked next to the Amy Jo Smyth/Pandalike and on the row below the semi-main event, was a match he had partook in barely a month prior. He still felt the bruises, yet the minor ache and light pain subsided when he gazed upon the face that inflicted them.
SILAS ARTORIA: Last time I was in the ring with you, I was in the wrong mindset.
Kyuseishu, the pompous brat whom had beaten him to a pulp.
SILAS ARTORIA: I agreed to be on his level, one where his experience in his particular style ended up making a fool out of me. I thought the mere adoption of strong style would be able to present the appropriate welcoming gift to them. But one week of intensive training will never, ever, make up for years of training hundreds of matches under the belt. One, two, three, my journey to WrestleFest became a steeper climb.
He glances at the rest of the card on the screen, if only to stop his eyes from stinging from gazing upon it. He half heartedly raises his arm to present the rest of the card.
SILAS ARTORIA: And then I see the draws for Alpha and Omega, and whom am I matched with? Kyuseishu!
SILAS ARTORIA: Not even a decent amount of time to prepare. The first match--the first match!? The first impressions that’ll determine how the tournament may play out for you?
There was finally some energy within him, even though it was still one muddled in complaining and self loathing. He quickly spins around to face the frame again.
SILAS ARTORIA: Here’s the difference between you and I, Kyu--can I call you Kyu? It’s getting tiring.
He starts to walk towards the frame, as the light from his face grew dimmer, and dimmer, and descended further into darkness as his face hardens. His voice grows sharper and more affirmative. Kyuseishu will listen.
SILAS ARTORIA: The difference between you and I, is that you already laid out your cards on the first draw. That match, the one you won, had you deliver your entire arsenal to ensure that I would be pummelled to the ground.
Thumbs point towards himself and his tone of voice got louder and sharper.
SILAS ARTORIA: Meanwhile, a great portion of my arsenal, the type that would crumble citadels in a matter of seconds, had to be locked away to ensure that the two of us would comply to the strong style stipulation. Sure, you can watch and maybe simulate being hit by my weapons of mass destruction, but as anyone whom has been to a firing range can attest, watching someone firing a gun isn’t the same as pulling the trigger yourself. I have adopted some strong style moves into my set, but have you added anything new that’ll be different to the Kyuseishu I faced at Paradise? Have you done anything knowing that I am aware of all your moves and you’re not aware of all of mine!?
He finally stops walking, and only his outline can be seen. His face, is within pure darkness as not even faint reflection catches his front. A long pause, and his hands drop in pure apathy. He was almost upset!
SILAS ARTORIA: You haven’t, have you?
A quick click of his fingers as the screen tunes into something else. Static is briefly seen, as it finally lands on an address that was delivered to the CWF and it’s audience earlier. Kyuseishu was present.
KYUSEISHU: "--Silas Artoria, unlike the others, doesn’t understand the pressure he is facing--"
SILAS ARTORIA: Don’t I?
KYUSEISHU: "--I beat him once already--"
SILAS ARTORIA: Here is the problem with your attitude, Kyu. You have already presumed a victory purely on the basis of having defeated me in a match of your choosing, and if your statements are to be taken at face value…
KYUSEISHU: "--I think he will win Alpha. I think he will raise to the occasion and prove he belongs in my tournament. I have faith in him--"
Shout it all out.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...then you have absolutely no idea what is heading towards you, you blind, foolish, presumptuous imbecile!
He pauses for a moment as the heavy breathing enters and escapes through his teeth. He steadily slows down, and slowly lowers his arm again, completely tired from commanding the screen behind him. His voice is more quiet, a much needed break after the frustration he displayed.
SILAS ARTORIA: Reality is going to hit you hard, Kyuseishu.
Eyes closed, controlled breathing, a hushed voice to begin the end.
SILAS ARTORIA: You’re so fixated on the finish line that you forgot about the hurdles.
Beat, and one that lasts for longer than it should normally do. It was difficult to make out how Silas was feeling, but given the change of outline around the jaw area, it was safe to assume he might be finding some glee in something.
Quietly, he spoke.
SILAS ARTORIA: Ataxia is going to have so...much...fun with you.
SILAS ARTORIA: But you’re mine for the time being, and there is a jaw I would love to split in half.
One finger up, shoulders relaxed.
SILAS ARTORIA: If you’re going to kick my head in…
Eyes open. One of them glowing red.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...you better not miss!
Quick turn, and he walks with a brisk pace back towards the giant screen without as much as a further acknowledgement to the frame.
SILAS ARTORIA: Sayonara, false idol.
A dead channel covers the frame.