Ito was on the couch facing the television in their hotel room, in a dressing gown and shrivelled in cold. It was the time of the year, and Ito was hit hard with it. He had been watching the television, the Evolution show, with the closest of eyes. Mora wasn’t an issue, but Ito had seen the attempted sabotage by Kyuseishu, and nearly walked out of the door to demolish the youngster.
He was still watching when the door opened up, and in came Silas with a small carrier bag. His rain jacket was wet, as the rain got progressively heavier.
SILAS ARTORIA: I managed to get some egg fried rice, something relatively bland for you.
HIDETAKA ITO: Bland!?
SILAS ARTORIA: You’re sick, Ito. [[Flavour will just make it worse]].
There was an uncomfortable aura in the air as Silas took out some plates. It didn’t take long for the rice to make contact with one, in one smooth notion of a fork, before Silas got to work pouring his own meal onto the other. Some egg fried rice, too, alongside Hong Kong style sweet and sour king prawns. Silas looked a bit stiff in his movements, not in pain but in terms of behavior. It was in stark contrast to previous weeks, were Silas was beginning to feel much more relaxed, confident, and more jubilant.
With two plates in hand, he walked to the thickly coated Hidetaka and gently gave him his meal. Without taking a single mouthful, Hidetaka looked at his student concernedly.
HIDETAKA ITO: How are you feeling?
A deep breath from Silas accompanied a slight eye-roll in irritation, not towards Ito, but towards the subject matter that followed. He gently sat down next to them, one fork almost immediately in one of the sauce covered prawns.
A small pause preluded his answer, which didn’t have an ounce of antagonism, but instead reflected an annoyed athlete.
SILAS ARTORIA: On edge.
HIDETAKA ITO: Oh?
SILAS ARTORIA: Well, I know I’m supposed to be jubilant. I heard on the way back that Kyuseishu was continuously on the upper hand, so I could be in provisional first place. But…
He took a bite out of the sweet prawn. Surprisingly for Las Vegas, the chinese food turned out to be quite pleasant. The brief widening of his eyes certainly reflected this, before swallowing the food and returning to the subject. He points to Kyuseishu on the screen. He’s facing JC to essentially decide what title Silas can contend for.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...whilst I’ve not been completely relaxed, I’ve not been anxious. Stressed, certainly, moreso now since I’m one win away from finally main eventing a PPV after two long years, but I’ve got this guy nipping at my heels! Now I’ve got to fear that Kyuseishu is going to sneak into the ring and batter Ataxia with a chair for the DQ win! One loss and I’m back to square one Ito!
He has a right to be worried. Kyuseishu just managed to hit Deed of the Saints as Silas finished his point, and knowing that it was all over only added more gravitas to the situation. Silas holds the tiebreaker over Kyuseishu, and so long as he as the faux samurai are tied for points, he’ll be in contention to the world title. JC being two points behind was certainly a lifeline, but the next match was going to be the ultimate decider. If Kyuseishu wins, all he needs to do is either wait and see if Silas will end the tournament disappointed, or take a more proactive approach to ensure the loss.
Regardless, Silas is going to continuously be looking over his shoulder to see if the samurai will charge to the ring. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t, and Silas will be less than comfortable regardless.
Well, unless Ito has anything to do with it.
HIDETAKA ITO: Do you think my presence will help?
SILAS ARTORIA: Personally, yes, but not while you’re sick.
Even though he hasn’t had to meet Dr Leggett for a long time, it doesn’t mean that the core lesson he learned from the good doctor hasn’t stuck in his head. ‘You do not go out there if you are not cleared,’ they once said, and looking at the state of Ito suggested that the Japanese tutor can barely walk. Frankly, it was more surprising that it took this long for Ito to get sick.
A couple of more mouthfuls of prawn, onions, pineapple, and peppers dominated Silas’ focus, as Kyuseishu’s hand is raised in victory. He looked at Kyuseishu’s eyes as they return a glance at the camera lens, almost as if he’s looking into Silas’ own, as if to deliver a message. One more day, one more opportunity to ensure Silas’ failure.
SILAS ARTORIA: Just as when I got my energy back, someone had to come along and cut it off at the heels.
He silently sighed to himself, completely dejected, and just continued eating his food and drinking some of the bottled water kindly provided by the hotel. Ito glances at the troubled man.
HIDETAKA ITO: Silas, I know it’s hard. It was hard for me too at times, to stay motivated. We’re at the end of the tournament now, and it’s extremely exhausting. Fatigue has certainly settled in and it strangles your psyche. You were lucky at Crescendo; when I faced you on that final night, I had accumulated at least two hours of ring time, and you had done maybe under half of that. The more you work, the more long and short term damage it will do to your body, but you need to fight on! You’ve proven you’re better than your block, and let that fuel yo—
Ito stopped himself when he finally realised that Silas had stopped paying attention to him, and was fixated on the television screen. Kyuseishu had won, and Silas was in provisional first place, but what happened after the faux samurai retreated behind the curtain was what got his attention.
HIDETAKA ITO: Silas?
One by one, the ghosts of his past crawl out of the woodwork, donned in black hoods and targeting management. Silas had little love for management, considering the string it pulled in order to drag him out of matches that were contractually agreed upon, but the sheer audacity of the people appearing on screen was enough for the clothes Silas was wearing to catch fire.
Instead, seething exhales was all he produced.
Jimmy Allen, the man who ran away when Silas took the Paramount Championship away from him.
Dorian and Chloe Hawkhurst, the lemmings who blindly follow their master into the shadows.
Zach van Owen, the illiterate child whom had little understanding of responsibilities.
The Shadow, the man who walked away when the fight to the top got tougher.
And Mia Rayne, the woman who attempted to burn down the company and piss on the ashes.
Yet, the audience loved them all the same, like they never left…
...like they never left.
HIDETAKA ITO: Sila--
Silas gripped his glass and prepared the throw, but his hand is caught by Ito! The two looked at each other's eyes, one with blood and hatred within, and the other with pure concern and a desire for calm. The water itself had been thrown onto the wall behind, and left a mark.
HIDETAKA ITO: Let’s not give the employees here anything more to clean.
The calmness of Ito was enough to cool Silas, if only momentarily, and allowed him to take the glass and place it back on the table. Silas’ face was still stiff as a cheap steak, but at least he wasn’t hot enough to cook one. There was still some food left, three prawns or so, but Silas only stabbed his fork into one of them before he stopped himself. That image, the ghosts of both he and the CWF’s past, had crawled its way back, and regardless of if it’s some twisted illusion of Ataxia, the sight of them burned into his eyes.
Ito turned the television off, but it was too late. Silas spoke slowly, but with glowing fire.
SILAS ARTORIA: This tournament, this gruelling path I’ve undertaken…
HIDETAKA ITO: Go on?
Silas turned his head to look upon Ito. The Japanese man was still in his dressing gown with maybe three more layers underneath, but it didn’t deter his concentration. He was listening carefully to his works, and Silas knew it. They put the fork on the plate and placed it in the table, allowing the competing athlete the opportunity to be more animated. He needed more movement, as the sight of the Forsaken had justified it. Silas pointed towards the black screen, as if it was still broadcasting Evolution’s final moments.
SILAS ARTORIA: In a way, it was their doing. Them walking away and gutting the whole federation to the bone, and yet they have the sheer nerve to appear in front of the crowd and demand respect?
Ito spoke, with a tone akin to a psychologist hearing their client’s problems.
HIDETAKA ITO: They are beloved, Silas. People love a good return.
SILAS ARTORIA: What sort of competitor tries to put a bullet in a promotion’s head on the way out? Someone looking to burn bridges, of course! The difference is that those guys never come back!
SILAS ARTORIA: And yet, look at them. You saw the state of the company when Alpha and Omega got hastily announced. A roster gutted to the core to the point that it would’ve collapsed if even one more decided to leave. We were on the brink of extinction, Ito-san.
Silas blinked, but Ataxia’s damage had taken its toll. The careful and minimal lighting, and Silas staring in sheer seething hatred had burned their figures and faces into his eyes. Every blink, he saw them, almost mocking him and the audience subliminally. He would’ve called the audience fickle and blasted them for accepting them back, but him leaving the arena quickly was, in retrospect, better long term.
He would’ve burned the whole building to the ground if it meant that the deserters that crippled the company would remain buried in the sands of time.
SILAS ARTORIA: Ataxia is a fool if he’s acting as their bridge back into the company.
A growling sigh exhaled from him, and his head fell. It looked like he had given up, but the reignited energy was too much of a stark contrast to draw that conclusion.
SILAS ARTORIA: Do you remember the Coalition--were you watching when myself, Autumn, Sean, and Dean where a unit?
HIDETAKA ITO: I remember some of the infighting.
SILAS ARTORIA: One of the core parts of that group was that we didn’t leave anyone behind. We’d talk together, we’d train together, and in tough situations we’d stick together.
A brief chuckle escaped Silas, as memories of a more unified group flashed before his eyes. It was the first smile he cracked in hours. It was a simple time, when the mission was to simply engrain himself into the roster, but his stock in the company rose to the point that now there was more work and more weight on his shoulders than he imagined. Memories of his defeats flashed before him, memories of opponents who gave him a hard time but whom would fall against this new, more educated and determined Silas.
SILAS ARTORIA: I remember being in a match with Scourge, I believe. He was a huge man, able to break you into two. It was like going up against a fully built but starving lion with only a toothpick. The rest of the Coalition was at ringside, not interfering with the match but they were my feet when my own legs could not support the weight.
He glanced Ito and continued.
SILAS ARTORIA: That is the sign of a unified team. We may have crumped, but we did not leave each other behind.
He stood up and took his own plate. There was still some prawns left, but escalation was enough to fill his hunger.
SILAS ARTORIA: You finished?
Ito was so focused on Silas that he completely forgot about his egg fried rice. A quick glance and a conclusion; Ito picked up the order his student had ever so kindly ordered and paid form.
HIDETAKA ITO: Barely touched it. I’ll stick with it.
A smirk for Silas was satisfying enough for both men, and Silas took strides towards the nearby sink. Ito turned the television back on and tuned into the news. The headlines were unremarkable, although it was comically highlighted with a story about Ford drivers being the worst based on a study, all the while Silas binned his scraps and washed his plate.
It seems our foothold is being threatened once again.
SILAS ARTORIA: In more ways that one.
Silas was hushed as to not let Ito hear his words to the Passenger. Aware or not, he wasn’t comfortable with Ito chiming in on their discussions.
Finally, the news topped off with news regarding Evolution, and before it kicked into the cutaway footage of the event, Ito quickly changed the channel. Still, Silas overheard the broadcaster say the words ‘Surprise appearance’, and it was enough for him to tick. He placed the plate on the drying rack and turned off the tap, with only Silas, Ito, and the dimmed volume of the television filling the room.
SILAS ARTORIA: I cannot let them return to prominence, not after the stunts they pulled.
Ito swallowed his rice and turned to Silas, whom had quickly rotated to look at the sick man.
HIDETAKA ITO: And how are you going to fight off seven people at the same time?
SILAS ARTORIA: By winning.
There was sharpness to his voice, enough to cut through steel like butter. It was hushed, but hostile.
SILAS ARTORIA: Whomever can claim the crown, can control who can get close to it.
SILAS ARTORIA: Mark my words, Ito. They’re not going to get a fast pass to throne.
A longer, more uncomfortable pause, as though his teeth Silas made his declaration.
SILAS ARTORIA: Treacherous leeches.
Lesson number eight: observe your opponent carefully.
Silas may have finally cracked it. For the past twenty or so days he had the ever living life taken out of him, but piece by piece he was building himself up. He was merely a boy when he first arrived at the JWA Crescendo tournament, and the journey was nothing more than enlightening. He built up his arsenal, he built up his resolve, and he built up his character. He may have lost the tournament at the earliest possible time, but the battles with the athletes was something he was going to remember for the rest of their days.
And it was his fight with Kuroki Toshiharu that practically solidified his journey.
The battle was hard fought, with the smaller Silas able to go toe to toe with the larger and bulkier Kuroki. The match was surprisingly even, as Silas didn’t get too egotistical, treated his opponent as if they were better than him, and didn’t get carried away with his strikes and his attacks. It was a sharp contrast to his earlier matches.
The problem was that he had been so focused on himself and his mindset, that he didn’t take into account the abilities of his opponent. Sure, he knew not to go overboard, but as the match went on it became clear that he didn’t know anything about his opponent.
One misplaced strike later, and Kuroki completely wiped the floor with him in a short amount of time. By the end of it, Silas had gained one more loss, but also gained some sort of admiration from Kuroki.
After all, it wasn’t common for anyone to withstand twenty whole minutes of punishment, yet alone one whom was fresh meat.
A pure wasteland of dry mud and slow moving sand. Little life exists from here to the horizon, not even a building to give the sense that someone must’ve travelled or resided here in the past. The sky was harsh brown with the unforgiving sun shining down upon the landscape, and through the slight haze a figure can be seen. Familiar clothing to those who have turned into these addresses before, complete with the same hat he’s been wearing for the past two years.
The dust settled, and he finally spoke with a deliberate, almost melancholic tone.
SILAS ARTORIA: I should be elated.
The Canadian shot a look to the camera lens with a slow, but deliberate pace.
SILAS ARTORIA: At the start of this tournament I was merely someone with little direction. I had just lost the Paramount Championship to an outsider, and the general direction of the roster indicated that I was going to return to obscurity, especially after my match at Paradise. It’s hard to be motivated in your career when you’ve completely lost your momentum to a bunch of people who, as it turned out, had little to no desire to stick around.
Deep breath, as his voice remained surprisingly calm despite the poisonous contents.
SILAS ARTORIA: “Loyalty is punished,” was the message I received, when the likes of Lindsay Troy and Mia Rayne spat on the foundation of which blood, sweat, and tears built and maintained, before rubbing it with dog filth on their way out.
Before he goes further with the attack, he stops himself, not getting carried away. Closed eyes, and a depressing sigh escapes him, as he looks towards the horizon, unshadowed by the sun.
SILAS ARTORIA: There was a huge amount of weight on my shoulders, as the stakes got higher and higher.
He glances back, with a face full of hope and a soft smile on his face.
SILAS ARTORIA: But as the victories rolled in, some of my confidence came back to me, bit by bit. Sure, JC defeated me, but by the time we all got to this day, the final day of Omega block, I was on top of the world. Irritated, thanks to a certain Kyuseishu making an attempt to sabotage my standings, but far more elated thanks to some...certain changes to my style.
There was some happiness that had not been seen for some time. At this point--this moment--there was some light at the end of the long, arduous tunnel. New faces came and successfully swam to prosperity, whilst others sank quicker than a stone. One more victory would’ve been enough to solidify this state of mind…
...but his happiness was eviscerated within an instant.
SILAS ARTORIA: Of course, how could I be so blind…
Deep breath, pure, unshackled hatred.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...as the GODDAMN FORSAKEN IS WELCOMED BACK WITH OPEN ARMS!
Despite there being no walls or surfaces, the bellow from the Canadian was enough to echo throughout the land like a shockwave. There was an aura of discomfort that came with it, to the point that even the frame experienced minor interference when he called out what upset him.
Sharply, he turns to the camera, so fast that the heels of his shoes drag some of the mud with them. Soon, he starts to walk towards the camera, as the frame itself starts to move backwards to maintain the same distance between it and it’s subject.
SILAS ARTORIA: Ataxia, it wasn’t enough for you to completely fumble your tournament, but your final gasp of breath was to bring back your band of chokers and quitters whom left when even the slightest bit of difficulty entered the equation?
An insultingly dismissive smirk spat out, as he continues to speak with a hushed and sarcastic -tone.
SILAS ARTORIA: Still, theatrics or not, if you wanted interest to return to you, then congratulations. Your pathetic score doesn’t matter any more. Despite you no longer being skilled enough nor accomplished enough to challenge for any title, you managed to get the crowd and the people at home to rise out of their seats and cheer you on...
SILAS ARTORIA: ...and it took a collection of deserting cowards to accomplish that.
He took his jacket off, the high class and likely expensive jacket he had been wearing since his arrival and what had become a core part of his image, and throws it to the ground. No sense of carefulness, just discarded like a piece of trash.
SILAS ARTORIA: They don’t care about you, Ataxia. They left you while they locked the door behind them. That’s not what friends do, they don’t abandon you to the wolves, and they haven’t mentioned you even in passing since they walked out.
He starts unbuttoning the waist coat, the second layer.
SILAS ARTORIA: Are you seriously that dense? Did something happen early in the tournament that turned your brains into mashed potatoes?
Again, he throws this piece of clothing over his shoulder, just like his jacket moments ago. His sarcastic and dismissive tone hadn’t changed.
SILAS ARTORIA: I suppose I’ll find out for myself. It’s the perfect climax in a way. You may not gain anything regardless of the result, but this match, the one, lone match is the most important thirty minutes of my entire life. I may only need to achieve a tie in order to gain a title match, but you can bet that I am not aiming for a mere second place finish.
He holds up two fingers with pure conviction in his message.
SILAS ARTORIA: Two...damn...years I’ve been in this company, and despite having the most wins throughout the entire roster, I have not once main evented a PPV. Title or no title, that honor has eluded me since the peak days of the Coalition.
The next layer, the white shirt. He starts loosening the cuffs, surprisingly resilient.
SILAS ARTORIA: Come hell or high water, this match will be the start of a brand new era of the CWF with me at the helm, and I will not allow an uneducated, narcissistic child to snatch away what is rightfully mine, and throw it into the void! Why should you win, Ataxia, over the man whom has been in week after week after week, dragging his heels over the hot coals just so he could get some sort of recognition? Why should you, Ataxia, currently in the bottom half come the final week, overshadow the man whom has demonstrated that he deserves to helm the whole...damn...brand?
He stops moving, just as the second cufflink becomes loose.
SILAS ARTORIA: You don’t.
Simplicity speaks loudly. Seconds pass.
SILAS ARTORIA: Do I have a chip on my shoulder?
Silas stands still for a few moments, before his face finally moves to something more positive. A smile, one damn smile to solidify his intentions and his justifications. A dark chuckle accompanies it, and an eye glows with blood within.
SILAS ARTORIA: You’re goddamn right I do.
Now, onto the main buttons of his shirt, as his final declaration of the group stage begins.
SILAS ARTORIA: I, Silas Artoria, citizen of Toronto, competitor of the Championship Wrestling Federation, and participant of the Alpha and Omega tournament of 2019…
One loosening of his shoulders, and his clean white shirt falls to the dry mud.
SILAS ARTORIA: ...am the Omega.
Only a vest, a single glove, and the sealed arm that has become familiar throughout the tournament is left of his outfit.
He finally takes off his hat...
SILAS ARTORIA: Regardless of whether you like it or not.
...and drops it to the floor. Not a shred or care.
SILAS ARTORIA: Destiny shuffles the cards...and we play.
He walks away, with his foot squashing the hat on his way. Dust begins to cover the discarded clothing, as the feed cuts out.