Chapter 18:


Midnight King

12 AM.

Honey taps the toe of her skates on the gritty floor, she’ll have to clean the wheels later since they’re covered in cigarette ash and spit from The Midnight Fight arena. Its charm point, Honey supposes.


Honey gets to keep her phone this time, thanks to her new #6 Ranking.

Vulture got himself a new job bouncing for The Midnight Fights, Ben the Boulder nowhere to be seen. Although he knows about their little covert camouflages, he says nothing. Honey burns holes into his forehead from just one glare.

Misha and Elias are back in their depressing wigs, at least better styled this time to look less like something you pull out of the shower drain and more like natural hair. The three of them wait on the sidelines, tucked around a rusted barrel as if it were a table.

Trying to blend in, except Honey’s not trying to blend in.

How could she? Even without the gaudy roller derby jersey, that’s of course doused in all pink, and the golden crown of hair upon her head, her whole attitude begs for attention.

These filthy cretins that dare to cross her path would soon be her subordinates. Not much to be proud of, she thinks as she watches one teenager nastily down a bottle of mystery alcohol, but they’d be underfoot before they could even register a girl had become their King.

Her eyes wander back to the throne, empty at the moment, but still looming above everyone in the room like an omniscient presence.

The idea of a ruler.

Honey’s ready to do anything for it.

She grinds her molars together. “When’s the CapeCom nerd getting here?”

Elias is just about to answer her, drinking the same 100% black coffee from last time (the vile drink), but a murmur erupts from the crowd.

Honey’s curls fall over her shoulder as she turns to get a good look.

The crowd seems to part in the middle, students stepping out of the way to reveal someone Honey would have deemed nothing more than a cockroach before The Midnight Fights.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,”

Honey faces a large teenager with the cleanest bowl cut she’d ever seen, the fringe was straight enough to be a ruler, it measures the line of his eyes almost perfectly. He’s wearing some cheap cosplay karate uniform with a tasteless polyester headband and cape.

Ah, Honey gets it.


It’s not even clever.

“CapeCom lives to fight and his life is the fight!”

This idiotic student performs a sorry excuse of a dancing ritual in front of all the spectators that includes him flourishing his cape and striking poses Honey vaguely remembers from ‘Street Brawlers’.

Ugh, she’s sick of that game.

Every frame of animation, every combination, every kick, punch, or strange magical attack was burned on the backside of her brain.

She visited that awful arcade every day after school until this prick finally showed up at the warehouse. Elias was some sort of master at collecting information and eventually found out through what Honey only assumes is a network of lovestruck students wanting to get on Elias’ good side, that The Rook would appear tonight.

And there he was.

In all his shameless glory, intently focused on perfecting each pose like he were a piece in a museum. A crowd surrounds him. Cheering like their lives depended on it or like they were trying to save themselves from the secondhand embarrassment.

It’s even starting to get to Honey. Honey and her impenetrable confidence.

She’s ready to get this over with, before Misha and Elias can give her some useless game plan (she knows what she’s doing and doesn’t need someone to tell her), Honey takes off towards the applauding cluster of imbeciles.

They’re wasting their cheers on the wrong person.




“You think you can defeat me, the greatest fighter of all time, who possesses the secret dragon sense that increases my attack speed and power to-”

He stops only to dodge Honey’s elbow, which she throws full force at his jaw to get him to shut up.

That is her goal for this fight. To make him stop talking because he seems to be doing more of it than actually fighting. Every attack she tries to make berates nothing but empty air. Despite the fact he’s heavier than most people, Honey can’t quite seem to land a hit on him.

“I trained long and hard in the ways of the mystical beast. Day in and day out, I would meditate in the sunset and strengthen my mind so that every fist becomes a rampaging beast-”

Honey throws herself at him, arms poised to grab him, “Just choke on your damn tongue already!”

He spins rather gracefully around her lunge although she’s fast on her skates. The wheels underneath her feet seem to grumble in frustration.

When will she ever fight someone who gets to the point? Was that so hard to ask?

This game obsessed fanboy kept jumping on his feet like a spring and she could never predict which direction his little hop would take him.

It’s annoying. Not infuriating, no not enough to make anger seep through her nerves and unleash unbridled chaos, but enough to make her flare up. If she could just land a hit.

He dives to her right.

If she could just land a hit.

He swivels under her arm.

If she could just land a hit.

He jumps a couple of hops away from her.

If she could-

“Flaming Dragon Fist!”

It happens too fast. Her eyes are already on the ceiling as her chin snaps up and her teeth rattle from the blow. She doesn’t even have the time to block the foot that sweeps into her side.

“Tornado Kick!”

She flies towards the surrounding crowd. They begin to disperse to get out of her way, but she'd rather be gutted than go down to some idiot screaming out attack names like it’s a goddamn video game.

Almost out of sheer spite, Honey catches herself on her feet, coming to a screeching stop right at the border of the ring. Her skates creak under the strain.

“I’ve witnessed the ancient techniques of-”

“Shut up!”

Ah, and there it is, the familiar heat of anger coursing down her spine and crackling in the joints of her fingers. It’s not the rage she feels when she thinks of the demonic witch Charlotte or when someone doesn’t give her what she wants.

It’s the anger that came with losing ‘Street Brawlers’ against Gray many, many times.

So the cringy dumbass wanted to play games?

Honey can do that.

Misha would surely grant her that irritating smug of ‘I told you so’, but that’s a distant worry. When she becomes King, she won’t have to deal with that awful smirk and eyes that wait for her to thank him somehow.

She won’t have to deal with Misha at all really.

Or Elias.

Or Gray.

Honey’s not sure how she feels about that last one.

A kick comes at her feet.

With a small twist of her body and a little skip, she’s over the sweeping foot and a comfortable distance away from CapeCom. His move was a counter, to stop any of her oncoming attacks with a simple trick to make her trip.

Misha drilled her on it multiple times while she consistently kept losing to Gray, enough at least to drive her crazy. Gray would kick at her character’s ankles and leave a few frames of opening to which her avatar would be immediately knocked out.

That is until she found a way around their seemingly unyielding defense.

CapeCom had to drop his body low to achieve the infamous counter assault, almost hugging the floor as he slides his foot underneath his opponent. Driving them off their center of balance and forcing them to retreat or fall victim to the kick.

But Honey’s seen it a thousand times, she knows when and where he’ll use it since ‘Street Brawlers’ was all about winning. Abuse this move against the preprogrammed attacks and you’ll be sure to come out the victor.

Abuse this move against Honey, you’ll be sure to wish you were never born.

Honey builds up momentum skating in circles around CapeCom. He’s once again committed to doing ridiculous poses as she flies past him. None of her elbows or her kicks or her lunges ever come close to grabbing him.

It’s not her intention.

The more attacks he dodges, the more speed she gains. Wheels burning on cement floors, screeching around the bend of the rings, Honey’s hair flies wildly behind her like an open flame.

“See, a noob like you has no chance beating me, the most experienced fighter and the most powerful Rook The Midnight Fights have ever seen!”

Arrogance. Something Honey knows better than anyone.

How to build up such a pretentious attitude and how to best reduce it to nothing but debris.

Honey pivots on her skates and heads directly at CapeCom with no intention of slowing down. A frontal attack that with the factor of skates, means no bailing out of. She sees the counter kick all too easily.

Of course, one little bump in the floor could knock her off her skates, but a move like CapeCom’s would send her planting into the ground, face first.

He drops to a crouch, leg readily poised.


“The Dragon’s Trap!” He yells, throwing his leg out just before she gets too close.

So focused on keeping his kick as close to the original, CapeCom doesn’t see Honey’s knee, which slides under the barrier made by his forearms and catches him right in the chin.

She did in fact fall. Forward that is and with both polished hands clenched into the fabric of CapeCom’s cosplay, her knee drives upward in an arc aimed at his thick jawline.

His teeth close around a part of his tongue.

Blood dribbles from his mouth and stains spots onto his costume. If Honey knew a thing or two about blood on white polyester, it was that it didn’t come out easily.

He lets out a hoarse groan.

“You’re boring and predictable,” Honey allows herself to finally come to a stop, “stick to your games or get up and finish this.”

“Youff iftch hoth I thotha thay mah appac moothes!”

Honey doesn’t know what the hell he’s saying anymore and the cheers have stopped. All eyes are now on this girl with the haughty upturned nose and dazzling looks. She’s surprised them yet again with just a flash of a smirk.

At least she’s got him to shut up, somewhat.

Just for good measure, while he’s trying to form words in what she thinks are more attack names in ‘Street Brawlers’, Honey sends the bottom of her foot right into his cheek.

His head whips to the side.

CapeCom, regaining his senses from two direct hits to his face, swings around and gets away from Honey. He spits out blood.

Tougher than Ben the Boulder that’s for sure, but what did she expect from the top Ranker, The Rook. For this, she’s not afraid to get her hands a little dirty and sacrifice a few blemishes for a victory.

“Forthando thip!”

Before she has time to mull over anything else, CapeCom’s already infiltrated her space and another powerful foot aimed at her side. This move again.

She’ll end this here. Now.

She feels the toe of his shoe in her ribs. Her whole body shudders at the impact, but she has just enough control of her arms to grab hold of his leg before her skates glide with the force of the kick. He’s stunned for a moment.

Just what she needs.

Finding her balance and stability on the tip of her toes, she uses one arm to take hold of the cheap costume’s collar and one foot to pull out one of his supporting legs. With a single movement, he crashes to the ground on his back, knocking the wind out of him, with Honey over his pathetic body.

Expression baring the teeth of a satisfied smile.

Her fist is pulled taut above him. It would be a merciless strike. It’s aimed for right between his legs.

“Give me The Rook,”

Without hesitation, CapeCom, ranked 5th in The Midnight Fights, relinquishes his chess piece to Honey.

She looks at Misha and Elias. They give her a thumbs up.


In the midst of their short-lived celebration before they part ways for the night, Honey spots a figure lingering behind the crowds like some sort of angsty ghost.

Dressed all in black they watch her for a moment, face almost completely covered by the hood of their sweatshirt, before slinking out of the commotion and disappearing into the mass of teenagers.

Honey feels a strange bit of dread tugging at her nerves.

Or maybe it was distaste.

If you had to sacrifice covering your face for fashion, you must not be that pretty in the first place.

The feeling dissipates.

Joe Gold