Lesson number two, recognise your own weaknesses.
The first match the day before did not go as planned, but there was still some time to make up for the humiliating defeat. Silas was prepared, standing opposite to his opponent while the audience reacted towards Iwakiri Yoson with positivity.
Yoson was someone closer to Silas’ stature, wasn’t a decorated wrestler, but was well respected due to their technical prowess. If the JWA had a head teacher or a head of department, Yoson was it.
The match started well, with the two trading blows and holds, a vast improvement already.
Silas traded some chops while Yoson willfully absorbed it. The Japanese native simply took on the punishment Silas inflicted. Some kicks, some chops, some hard elbows to boot. Silas even got a two count at one point, but an attempt at a superkick was thwarted. Quick reversal and an elbow knocked Silas silly, before Yoson lifted him on their shoulders. He started to spin so fast that it felt like Silas’ soul was being sapped out of his body.
He didn’t know what happened next as his eyes closed, but he woke up in a hospital bed.
His opponent had secured the victory, and Silas wasn’t even aware that it happened.
Silas and Ito sat in two chairs back at the compound, watching as Yoson continued spinning around upon a large television screen. They were watching Silas’ second match from the Crescendo tournament, a sharp contrast to the first, before the native Japanese performed a powerslam to the limp and unconscious Silas.
Presently, the Canadian looked upon the match with a peculiar interest. There’s something fascinating about watching yourself getting beaten up without actually realising such, like fitting a sought after puzzle piece on a jigsaw. He gazed upon his unconscious body for several seconds, long enough for Hidetaka to take notice.
HIDETAKA ITO: Do you know what you did wrong?
He knew damn well that his mistake went beyond the obvious, but he had to entertain him. Silas did take a few seconds to try and come up with a deeper, more insightful answer. No success.
SILAS ARTORIA: Too brash?
HIDETAKA ITO: That too.
Silas gritted his teeth and grabbed the remote. The match started again. Blows, holds, kicks, anything in between. What was it that Silas was missing? It is staring at his face, taunting him like he was an idiot? Or was it in the makeup of the match itself? Was it the way Yoson was behaving? What was he doing that was distinct?
HIDETAKA ITO: Yoson was a curious beast. If you ever wanted someone to go on the frontlines of a war, the sight of him would’ve made battalions fly home and swear to spend every birthday, christmas, and anniversaries with their spouses for the rest of their lives. The fact you didn’t run and hide or even flinch at his presence might’ve been enough to impress him.
The scariest man in the JWA, and Silas had approached him like he was ordering fast food. But one word initially stuck out, and Silas turned to Ito to inquire.
SILAS ARTORIA: Was?
Ito frowned. Nothing else to remark. Silas returned his attention back to his past self, as the voice of Ito overlapped the sounds of strikes and slams that came from the duel on the television screen.
HIDETAKA ITO: Yoson’s very nature was akin to a predator. Stalk your prey, make sure it doesn’t notice you, then strike when they least expect it. Some wear their dinner down through exhaustion, others get it over and one with quickly and relatively painlessly. You’re just lucky he didn’t decide to tear your shoulder muscles because he woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day.
Thank Christ Silas didn’t know Yoson before the match. Might’ve been worse than first fight.
HIDETAKA ITO: There’s more to learn from this match. Brashness was certainly one.
The match went on and on until the moment came where Silas started to attack a more stationary Yoson. He fought like the world was going to end, but his opponent didn’t as much as flinch or even attempt to fight back. Yoson simply looked at Silas as chop after chop after chop turned their chest bright red.
Yoson smirked, and the tape paused.
SILAS ARTORIA: How ignorant I was.
Yoson was waiting for the perfect strike, and read the Canadian as easily as a children's book. Oh how ignorant indeed.
Ito chuckled in response.
HIDETAKA ITO: If you can take the hits, use them as a time of study.
Ito leaned over to the nearby table and picked up the remote, and brought up the menu. Through a series of menus, with the aftermath of the match still seen on a smaller screen, he navigated through the swathes of sports channels for each country and territory and sport.
HIDETAKA ITO: Your upcoming match, I’ve got a suitable comparison for you.
Three pages later, he had found it. On an obscure channel originating from Latin Europe, there were two competitors competing for supremacy. Back and forward they went in an endless dance of conflict, all the while Silas stared upon in bafflement before turning to Ito.
SILAS ARTORIA: Fencing!?
HIDETAKA ITO: Mmmhmm.
Silas leaned back into his chair, confused as to the relevance of what was on the television. He had hoped there would be something to learn from, but he was struggling to find it as the clash of swords went on. One of them finally got a point in the broadcast, but Silas could not see what Ito could, or what the Japanese mentor was trying to teach him.
SILAS ARTORIA: What am I missing here?
Hidetaka chuckled at the question.
HIDETAKA ITO: Observe their offence and defence.
The next round began, as the two combatants whose names were difficult to pronounce started their dance. Step forward and backward, three strikes from one, three successful blocks or dodges from the other. There was a strange sense of rhythm to their competition. Two athletes at the top of their game going backwards and forwards in a match that wasn’t meant to go this long, battling to claim a trophy that stood in the background.
Silas looked on, as Ito spoke softly.
HIDETAKA ITO: Observe how they complete, how they move, how prepared they are to counter whatever they throw at each other. They know the patterns down to a fault, to the point that the challenge isn’t being when they can strike, but when.
The dance went on, as attempts at riposing were countered by continuous steps back. They were nearly at the edge of the playing field.
HIDETAKA ITO: They know the moves, they know their weaknesses, they know how to capitalise, and they know how to halt such attempts. They’ve memorised the book five times over.
Finally, one blade made contact with the body, and the point was awarded. Silas turned to Ito with a more relaxed face, one of interest.
HIDETAKA ITO: Who are you facing next?
Beat. The past that haunts him.
SILAS ARTORIA: Raven.
Ito nodded and smiled.
HIDETAKA ITO: She knows you from the back of her hand and you oversaw her training in your very home. It was on friendly terms, but in hindsight it’s like you invited one of the horseman into your life. The wealth of knowledge you have on her cannot be matched, and she is aware of that.
He was right. Silas had taken Autumn under his wing long ago, and managed to elevate her into title scenes through their time sparring with each other. In a way, it was an aspect he missed, since Autumn had passion, fire, energy, and youth that he encountered and refined. Ito was more experienced and wiser, but they are retired for a reason. They can lay someone to waste, but they have very little in common with the faster, more spritely roster the CWF has.
But every second he spent with Autumn meant a second Autumn spent with Silas. Their knowledge of each other was equal, trading victories with various consequences, from Autumn needing treatment after a first blood match, or serious injuries he received in a Last Man Standing match earlier this year.
This wasn’t going to be a boxing match. It’ll be a game of chess.
HIDETAKA ITO: It’s going to be a dance of counters within counters within counters until one of you breaks the sequence.
SILAS ARTORIA: Or do so successfully.
Something hit the back of Silas, forcing him to turn and observe the object.
HIDETAKA ITO: Write down what you plan to do, write down where it can be countered, and highlight where you could strike.
A ruled pad and a blue ink pen. It was initially curious, but there is only so much memorisation can do for you. You forget a thousand things every day, but necessary research shouldn’t be one of them. Silas was initially confused, but Ito was always one to stick to more basic, yet elegant, methods of living.
Ito smiled, and indicated to the television; the fencing match was still going.
HIDETAKA ITO: Keep watching the fencing. It might...inspire you.
Silas nodded, and leaned back into his seat as Ito yawned and stood up. The room was pitch black, and it was getting late, perfect opportunity to get some much needed rest. They didn’t want to disturb Silas as he started to slowly absorb himself in writing, but there was something that needed to be pointed out, something recent.
HIDETAKA ITO: And one more thing…
SILAS ARTORIA: Hmm…?
Silas turned to Ito, whom looked at him straight in the eye with a commanding stare.
HIDETAKA ITO: Don’t consume yourself with Kyuseishu’s insults.
SILAS ARTORIA: He’s delusional!
HIDETAKA ITO: He’s trying to stoke fires. Your time with him has finished. Leave him to believe he’s coming after Duce. Focus on whom’s next.
HIDETAKA ITO: And since when did you have a Twitter account!?
Silas sighed. It wasn’t something he planned to do. In fact he despised online spats since was a cowardly way to attack an opponent. Face to face there wasn’t anything to stop the two people going to war, but on the internet, and especially social media, no one truly knows the sender is actually a dog.
SILAS ARTORIA: I got called into a meeting. They said I needed to modernise, build my brand, communicate more. So they pushed it.
Ito just looked at him.
SILAS ARTORIA: I don’t want to get fired.
HIDETAKA ITO: Just don’t overindulge.
The door shut behind him, leaving only Silas and the atmosphere of fencing within the living room.
Well...there was one more.
PASSENGER: The actor needs silencing.
Still, that damn voice.
SILAS ARTORIA: Not now.
SILAS ARTORIA: Maybe afterwards.
The haunting chords and hook of a piano welcomes you to a marble hall. Surrounding the subject in the middle were red, shut the curtains, ensuring the light or any form of interference would not interrupt the address. There was a large, wide, looming curtain at the far end, clearly visible but not prominent enough to steal the attention from the man playing the ivory piano at the centre.
Silas Artoria did not look at the audience whom were observing him. Instead, he merely plays a song from long ago, focused to the point of near obsession. His face almost somber with regret, as he plays the instrument delicately. He speaks softly.
SILAS ARTORIA: You ever feel like you’ve done something wonderful, something out of what you perceive is the ordinary, and yet for some reason it was the only wrong answer?
There were many, most of them captured on camera for the whole world to see. Tara Robinson doesn’t like to linger on that moment, and neither does the perpetrator. That was an act of recklessness, but his more welcoming side unfortunately had it’s consequences.
The Lost Boys certainly could attest to it.
SILAS ARTORIA: Life doesn’t like to play fair with the cards. You can’t fight the stops in your journey, you can’t fight the troubles that it brings, you can’t fight the gravity of realisation. You just simply...can’t.
The echoes of the piano continue, as Silas continues his soft address without drifting away from the feeling he started with.
SILAS ARTORIA: And yet, we feel as if we could do something about it. We have this false hope that we can beat Life at it’s own game sometimes. Aspiration, ambition, dreams, Life can only let you win if it wants you to.
Fate shuffles the cards, and we play. The piano falls silent, but Silas’ gaze is still aiming at the white and black keys before him, like he’s avoiding attention.
SILAS ARTORIA: Hello again, Autumn. We really need to stop encountering each other in the ring like this, but no matter what we do, we’re like...magnets...a flame next to a firework...just something compatible but not helpful.
It was going to continue, no matter how many times they wanted it to end.
SILAS ARTORIA: Part of me was worried about the Kyuseishu match being the most difficult, simply because the strain of the Paradise match could still be lingering. However, once that problem is dealt with, the curtain pulls back to reveal what it was hiding behind it.
Finally, his hand presses against the lid above the keys, and gently lowers it. The piano has finished playing for today, maybe same time tomorrow.
SILAS ARTORIA: We’ve got many opponents lined up. Outsiders who don’t know us, a man whose tenure has been tumultuous at best, and a man whose mere silhouette is enough to induce feelings of dread and unease.
At last, Silas turns towards the frame, not with conviction or with authority, but with fear.
SILAS ARTORIA: And yet, you’re probably the most terrifying opponent I’ve had to face.
Slowly, he stands, with the scratching sounds of the stool piercing through the speakers. Silas slowly steps away from the piano to position himself in front of the piano, as the ivory instrument soon becomes background noise before seemingly fading into the environment.
Silas stands for a few moments, before sighing deeply.
The curtain falls.
Behind it, nothing bus screens of memories.
SILAS ARTORIA: I’ve been in matches that have turned into bloodbaths, I’ve been in matches were I’ve had to go to hospitals to ensure I wasn’t suffering from internal bleeding. I’ve had every match stipulation thrown at me throughout my career. Falls Count Anywhere, Hell in a Cell, Ironman Match, No DQ, Ladder match, Cage match, and everything in between!
One by one, the screens start changing the channel, revealing the face of a recognisable female CWF superstar. She had faced him before, teamed with him, and won the Impact Title before the tournament.
SILAS ARTORIA: And yet, I am terrified of you the most...
Beat. The fear never escaped him, despite the comments he is going to make.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...not because you are better than me in the ring, not because the two of us went through hell and back together, not because we know each other inside and out…
SILAS ARTORIA: ...but because you’re the only one whom can legitimately kill me.
He wasn’t wrong. He remembers the fall she inflicted upon him. Three cracked ribs, a collapsed lung, and other things that poor Dr Leggett had to diagnose the aristocrat with. But finally, Silas finds his voice, and begins to gradually speak with a sense of conviction.
As time went on, his voice got stronger and more authoritative.
SILAS ARTORIA: We’re going to battle, to war, but we are going to dance simply because for every move we do, the other will know how to counter it like clockwork. It almost feels rehearsed, in a strange, tragic way. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in management or online started to call the two of us out for match fixing, simply because of our way of fighting each other.
Finger up. Finally, passion.
SILAS ARTORIA: But make no mistake.
His long linger turns into a clenched fist. Almost looks like he’s digging his fingernails into the skin with intent to draw blood. His voice changed into something more...aggressive. Not loud, just spiteful.
SILAS ARTORIA: I made you, Autumn. I’m the one who pulled you out of lower card hell and pushed you into title contention. My influence ensured that you would stay in the spotlight and steal the show away from the supposed headliners. Have I made mistakes? Of course. Do I regret them? Yes! And I am truly sorry about that.
SILAS ARTORIA: But I’ll be damned if you succeed in damaging my mind, body, and soul again.
Finally, his shoulders relax, but his attitude and approach to his speech did not change. She had haunted him throughout his career, and he craved for an avenue of escape. In the background, one of the screens had started to play the sounds of his opponent laughing, and the deep echo sounded like it was passing through his mind. He didn’t flinch. He couldn’t afford to lose his mind.
SILAS ARTORIA: I created you, Autumn. And to achieve a sense of inner peace, I have to destroy the aura I built.
He glare into the camera could’ve shattered the televisions at home. The sounds of Autumn finally started to fade, as his hands prepare to click.
SILAS ARTORIA: Autumn is just beginning, but Autumn Raven will come to an end.
The feed cuts out, tuned to a recently deceased signal.