We both stepped into the fighter's circle. Warriors. Gladiators, bred for a new era of bloodshed. Carnage fueled by an inhuman lust for money and prestige. At our most basic level...how can we dare to think that we're any better than the savages who gave birth to such a barbaric form of entertainment in the first place?
Krush angrily stared down at me from his six inch advantage in height. His massive frame could practically cast a shadow large enough to completely conceal me from the rest of the spectators. I was so scrawny and thin in comparison, but I knew that I was quick. Much quicker than he could ever hope to be, lugging all of that heavy 'meat' around with him with every step. Wearing him down with evasive tactics was definitely going to be my best strategy here. Jump in...take a few well placed shots whenever I could...and quickly jump back out again before he could retaliate. He's got size, muscle, and power, over me. I'd have to keep moving. If he slams a hard one down on me with one of those 'beddy bye' haymaker punches of his, I'll be seeing stars for the next three weeks.
His breath fell, hot, on my face. I heard all sorts of various snaps and pops as he flexed his muscles...cracking his knuckles in his palm right in front of my face. Stay cool, Jacob. Focus. Show no weakness. You can do this. Jason is counting on you.
There was a pause...then the loud ring of a buzzer as fiery explosions were set off in every corner of the arena! The ref dropped his hand, and quickly tried to find an immediate escape from the ring so he could stay out of our way and not get hurt.
Krush Groove didn't waste any time at all...
Thank God for my reflexes, because as that first punch shot out from his shoulder at full power...the wind of it blowing my sandy blond hair up as it breezed past my face...it might have taken my head clear OFF!!!
I swiftly spun around to get behind the big behemoth, but as soon as I got my footing, I saw him swinging back with an elbow that I didn't have time to duck under. So I thrust both of my forearms up to block the blow, and immediately felt the sting of the impact as he knocked me back a few steps in the circle. JESUS, he's strong! I had to fight the urge to grimace in pain and shake my arms loose again. He didn't let up, not even for a second. He came at me with a powerful series of attacks, and I began to find my balance again. I was soon expertly dodging everything that he had to throw at me. Like I said...speed is my only advantage in this match. And I was praying that he'd keep expending energy the way he was. Because there was no way in HELL that I was going to be able to battle him one on one without wearing him down first.
I moved my head back and forth, side to side, to avoid his massive head shots. But he soon grabbed the back of my head with both hands and pulled me downward. My instincts reacted all on their own, folding my arms together to block the brutal knee butt that was heading towards my face. Once, twice, three times...then he tried another way...dropping his elbow hard on my back, nearly separating my shoulder blades from the impact. Acting as fast as I could, I lowered my head further, and brought my leg way up behind me to smash the flat of my foot into his ugly mug! The few seconds that he spent reeling from the surprise blow was enough to give me time to deliver a few power punches to his iron gut, and then reach down to grab his ankle to pull it up to flip him onto his back.
The audience went WILD after this unexpected move!!!
I should have take advantage and pounded him into the mat while he was disoriented...but his intimidating size and strength caused me to hesitate. You've gotta clear your head, Jacob. Just FIGHT already! Stop thinking so much! Losing is not an option, you hear me? You've got to go HARD on this guy! Or you'll be going home with your spine shattered and your head swelled up big enough to weigh you down to the street!
Krush was back on his feet in no time, and he rushed toward me at top speed! I had a momentary panic, as I imagine that being hit by a runaway TRAIN would hurt less than the impact of this monster sharply ramming his shoulder up under my ribs. But my legs reacted, and I hopped up high enough to roll right over his back and shoulders before he could tackle me, full force, into the audience. I spun back around, my leg swinging low in an attempt to sweep him off of his feet...
I might as well have swung my leg into a petrified tree stump! He didn't budge an inch. And he turned around to grab me by the throat. His grip squashed my windpipe, and cut off my air supply as easily as pinching a water hose on a weekend afternoon. I gasped, crashing my eyes closed as the pain rushed through me like a bolt of lightning. I felt my body being lifted off of the floor, with me helpless to keep my footing.
Again...the crowd went crazy. Investments well spent as far as they were concerned.
Open your eyes, Jacob! Keep you head in the game!
I forced my eyes open as my vision began to blur from the lack of oxygen. And the first thing that I saw when my gaze regained some stability, was Krush's smiling face looking up at me with a smirk. Readying his other fist for a punch that was sure to knock me unconscious the second he let it go. So I reached up to grab the hand holding me up by the neck, and dug my nails in to the softest part of his wrist. Just in the tender places where his wrist bones connected to the rest of his arm. I was hoping that he'd loosen his grip just long enough for me to catch a quick breath...but no such luck. I balled my other hand into a fist, and lunged out to punch him repeatedly in the face! Once in the cheek, once in the eye, once on the bridge of his nose. All useless. He only squeezed tighter...and that's when I felt my throat beginning to collapse from the intense pressure of it all. I kept punching away, and then kicked out at his abs and his sides. But his body was layered so thick with rock hard muscle, that it was hard to make much of a dent in him at all.
I kicked and punched and kicked and punched...flailing helplessly in the air, raising my knee up to smash it into his chin. Nothing worked. So I grabbed onto his wrist with both hands, and lifted my lower body up to wrap my legs around the solid thickness of his arm, locking my ankles up around what little neck he had, and I tried to use my leverage to flip him over onto the ground. Unfortunately...supporting my body weight with one arm didn't seem to be much of a challenge for Krush Groove to pull off. He held me in mid air as I tried repeatedly to roll him over. And after a bit of a chuckle, he swung his arm forward, and literally threw me to the other side of the ring like a rag doll.
I crashed down to the mat with a thud and rolled to a stop. It hurt, sure. But I was definitely thankful to be breathing again.
Aggravated, I pounded the mat with my fist and tried to use my frustration as motivation for me to fight harder. Fuck this! I'm NOT losing! I'm NOT going to let this son of a bitch make a fool out of me! A match like this can really take me over the top and make a difference in how much I start earning per match from here on out. I HAVE to win! I *HAVE*to!
I got up on my feet, rubbing my throat for a few seconds as my lungs inflated again with precious oxygen, and I tried to soothe the previous agony with a slight massage. Ok...you wanna do this? Let's do this. Screw the fighter image, the betting pool, and the score cards. I wanted easy wins with a big pay off...but this asshole is asking me to show off now. I couldn't use my extra, or I'd be booed out of the ring and would lose all of my winnings for the night. But that wasn't theonly secret that I was keeping under wraps in my usual bag of tricks.
I had been holding back on using the hidden skills that I had secretly been learning in the silence of night, because I wasn't sure that I was good enough to make them work for me in a place like this. Still...even though I've never actually used them in an arena setting before...I'm hoping that they will work wonders for me now.
It couldn't hurt to try, right?
I changed my stance. Instead of keeping my fists tightly balled up like before, I loosened my arms and legs, opened my palms, and took a deep breath to try to fully relax myself as I pictured the movements of the shadowed figure in the graveyard. That seemed to be a huge part of the style that I had witnessed from afar. Comfort. Tranquility. Focus. Flexibility. Peace. It hardly seemed like much of a defense against this merciless brute, but from what I had seen...the style wasn't about physical strength at all. There seemed to be something deeper about its movements. Its entire structure of fighting applications seemed to be held together more by NOT moving rather than making any advances against an opponent. It was something that I took a great interest in. I had never seen anything like it before. Already, I could feel the tension leaving me. And the fighting style itself seemed to come alive all on its own once I gave in to the practiced stance that I had been observing over the last few weeks...
It was as if I could feel a surge of energy coming up through the floor, through my feet, and flooding into every part of my body. I could only get it to work when I was relaxed, when the stance was right and my mind was clear, but it worked, nonetheless. And that's a good thing, because Krush was looking to make this a quick knock out tonight.
As Krush's gargantuan fists came rushing towards me again at what looked like the speed of light, I felt my body swiftly and easily roll to the side with a step or two, not only stepping out of the way of his punch, but positioning myself behind him simultaneously. I had studied the movements, and I had been practicing in secret on a nightly basis for weeks, but never would I have assumed that it would be so effective. So...'automatic'. I was so taken by surprise that I didn't even launch with a beneficial strike when I had the chance. Krush shot back with a back kick that nearly knocked my intestines out of alignment! I flew backwards nearly fifteen feet, my back skidding across the ring as I gasped for breath. Nice, Jacob. Why don't I just bend over for him and let him just kick my ass out into the cheap seats next time?
I got up, and tried to get my fighting stance back in order. It took a few wobbles to get my knees under me and have my source of energy flowing into me the right away again, but once I had it, it almost seemed to instantly heal me from the inside out. What is it about this particular style that keeps me so invigorated? If only I knew more about it. If only I could understand it. I'd be invincible tonight.
Krush played to the audience for a bit, laughing at my screw ups as he prepared to make his crowd pleasing finisher so that he could get paid and go home happy. I don't plan to let that happen.
I loosened my arms a bit more, and tried to force myself forward to attack. It was harder than I thought, trying to use this style as an offensive technique. The energies flowing within me were almost cut off entirely once I made a move towards him in anger. I landed a few punches, connected with a few kicks...and the angrier Krush got, the easier it was to anticipate and dodge his aggressive blows. But it felt forced. Like my mind and my body weren’t really working in sync with one another like they should. I was dancing around Krush so fast that he barely knew what he was swinging at. And yet, still, the fighting system that I was using before refused to...'power up' like it was doing before. I NEEDED that extra edge! I NEEDED that advantage! Come on! What the fuck is the MATTER with this thing???
I was seriously worried that the feeling wasn't going to come back when I suddenly felt a slight tingle coming from the very center of my stomach at just the right moment. Everything seemed to move into slow motion. Everything began to make a weird kind of sense. More so than ever before. I wish I could explain it, but it was just this whole other level of awareness that seemed to feed me all the knowledge I would ever need to win this particular match. It's like it came out of nowhere. My body reacted on its own, and my head drastically leaned to the right side to avoid a punch that I'm sure would have broken my nose, and probably cracked parts of both of my cheekbones on top of it. My legs relaxed themselves, and bent slightly, and I was alerted to all of the access and open strikes that I had to the most vulnerable parts of his body. The punch Krush delivered hit nothing but air...and my legs sprang upwards to crash into the inside of his ribs, followed by a vicious butt into the center of his chest with my shoulder. Krush yanked his hand back, his fingers shaking with pain. And he was too stunned to block the front kick that I blasted into his stomach. What the hell did I just do?
A weak spot! MANY weak spots! All visible to me at once! The tender veins on the insides of his wrists, the inner tendons in his thighs, the sides and front of his neck, the tender spots in his underarms, behind his knees...he had vulnerabilities all over him! This big OAF was just a virtual house of cards, just waiting to come crumbling down at my feet. Sure, the muscle on him was packed solid, and it might as well be titanium armor. But all the places I saw in my mind's eye, the places where his muscles came together to provide him with the ability to move? All as soft as an over ripened Georgia peach. And whatever this new fighting style of mine was...it could already detect it from a mile away. JUST by exploiting the movements of his body alone.
I wanted to keep my mind focused on what I was doing! But all I could think was, "Omigod...it's WORKING!"
Krush Groove shook his hand back into working order, and lashed out at me again with a vengeance. He was moving fast! I mean, every swing could have done some major damage, had I been foolish enough to let any of those blows connect with the force he intended. But I didn't. It was like I could predict and sidestep each and every attack that Krush launched at me, sliding between his every punch and kick to safety while analyzing the best ways to strike back. Actually gettinginside of his defenses with every movement. I had gone through so many different martial arts lessons, and none of them ever gave me such a close proximity and instant access to an enemy as this one had. I could evade everything he threw my way effortlessly, and as soon as I was safe, I was given a free ticket to all of the exposed areas on his giant body that I could use to bring him down. All I had to do was memorize the right sequence of movements. They were almost flawless in their display. Perhaps that guy was really on to something.
I dug my thumbs into the soft spots on the sides of Krush's abdomen, I flicked the front of his throat, I struck the inside folds of his elbows, I jammed the side of my palm into his groin...every strike deeply bruising his skin with the slightest of taps, causing the blood to rush forward and clot in dark purple wounds that continued to burn with misery and pain long after the strike had been delivered. It was more about precision than power. More about balance than speed. By the time I was finished with him, Krush had fallen over, twitching in agony. He was laying on his side, his eyes clenched tight from his suffering....shaking with agony. His body simply couldn't take anymore of my abuse. He was sore at every joint, and the crowd gasped as the ref ran in to see if he would be able to continue the fight. I had surprised quite a few gamblers that night. Hell, I think I even surprised myself, to be honest.
A hush fell over the crowd.
And then, the ref heard a childish whisper from the monstrous frame of my fallen opponent. Everyone held their breath for the verdict. And it was then that the ref stood up, and took my hand to raise up over my head, declaring me as the winner.
He shouted the name 'Bandit' in victory! And once again...
...The crowd went WILD!
I had easily broken the gambling spread for those betting on me, and that was going to mean a little extra money in the pocket. Always helpful. For those betting against me, too bad. They'd better wise up, and FAST! Because I'm going to keep kicking ass like this until they do!
I don't know what the hell this fighting style is or who invented it, but if it works this well...I'm definitely going to make it a personal part of my daily training from now on. Imagine how much faster I can gather the money I need! I'll have Jason feeling like a brand new boy in NO time.
People shouted congratulations at me as I grabbed a towel for my face and proudly stepped out of the arena.
"Helluva fight, kid!!!"
"You fuckin' ROCK, man!!!"
"Money well invested, boy! You were a BEAST out there!"
Compliments, sure, but only because I just made them a boatload of money. If I had lost tonight, these same people would be just as likely to spit in my face and toss garbage at me as I took the long walk of 'shame' back to the locker room. Industry gamblers are not my friends. It was one of the first things I learned when I got into this business. But I guess that's Krush Groove's problem now.
However, as I walked down the aisle, I saw Jody smiling at me...and that made it all worthwhile. It instantly made me feel 50 pounds lighter, my senses getting dizzy as his charm penetrated my every emotional defense. His stunning beauty was a knockout punch that I'd never be prepared for. Not ever.
I bashfully walked past him with my head down...but it's not like he didn't know where to find me if he really wanted to.
I was hoping that he wanted to...
I went back into the locker room, and I wiped myself down with a towel. I could feel a few sore spots on me, still pulsing with a heartbeat of their own from the pain, but I had pretty much avoided the kind of beating that MOST fighters would have taken from a guy like Krush in the ring. I was EXTREMELY lucky to not have any broken bones. I doubt any of his last ten to twenty opponents could have made such a boast.
I had some spare clothes inside of my locker, and a little cash for the train ride home in case I lost, and an extra pair of gym shoes. Once I’ve collected my winnings from the promoters tonight, I'll be sure to pay my temporary hotel fees a couple of weeks in advance. It'll keep me out of the danger of daylight for a while. And once Jason is taken care of, maybe I can invest in a small apartment home of my own. A place where I can rest my head and relax for as long as the fact that I never age holds out with the neighbors around me.
Only time will tell, right?
Jody rushed into the locker room shortly after I had gotten myself settled, and he was overwhelmed with excitement. He smiled openly at me, his sexy blue eyes wide with admiration. He pushed his longish, blond, bangs back just to let his untouched beauty come into view. "Omigod, Jacob! That was AMAZING, what you did tonight! I have never seen you move like that before!" He said with a joyous grin. "What the heck WAS that anyway??? Your technique. I've never seen strikes like that! Like...anywhere."
"Honestly? I thought you had seen everything." I said.
"Not like that! It goes beyond anything that I've ever studied before. I can tell you that." He said. "What do you call it? Where did you learn it?" He said, anxious to add it to his collection of passionate practice.
I looked right at him, and I said, "You know what, Jody? I honestly don't know what it’s called."
"You don't know? What the heck does THAT mean?" He giggled sweetly.
"It means...I don't know. Hehehe!"
"Well, where did you pick it up from?"
I looked around the area to make sure that it was totally empty, and then I pulled Jody to the side to speak more privately about it.
Just touching his arm sent a pulse of infatuated sweetness shooting up the length of my spine, but I attempted to keep myself calm regardless. "Listen...this is just between us, ok?" He nodded, and I told him, "There's this...this vampire, right? I don't know him personally. I mean, I don't even know his NAME. But I was coming home from a fight one night, and I passed by this old graveyard on the North side. And that's where I...I saw him."
"You saw him, who? And doing what?"
"I don't KNOW who. But he was...phenomenal. He was...truly involved in these varied positions and strikes that I had never seen before, but his whole body was covered in this swirling mist of dark shadows. I couldn't see his face, but I knew that he was one of us. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it all." I said. "I swear to you, Jody, I had never seen a fighting style this fluid. This...'precise'. I didn't let him see me watching, but I took out my cell phone and started recording everything so I could watch it and study him later. That was a few months ago, and I've been trying to imitate the fighting style ever since."
"Does he know that you were watching him?" Jody asked.
"I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that I found it interesting. And once I tried to use it on my own...it just activated the most incredible fighting stances...all by itself.
Jody seemed perplexed, but he never lost his cheeky grin. So he said, "...Well, it looks like you might be the number one guy to bet on after all."
And with that, he turned to leave me alone to clean up and prepare for my next match. I wasn't really sure what it is that I had stumbled upon...but that dark figure in the shadows had certainly tapped into something that I had never experienced before. And I was curious to learn more. Because if this was my ticket to getting Jason all better and healthy, then I might need to find out as much as I can about this fighting style before I lose my opportunity to make use of it.
I guess I'll just...have to find him again...