Meet Faytana at the town square of Ito, The Capitol Planet’s capitol city around noon. It shouldn’t be too far to travel since you live in one of the surrounding towns. And bring a bag with some of your clothing, and hygiene products because you’ll be put up room and board at the gym. You’ll be living in the city for a while. Noah read Trisxel’s message then started getting ready. He packed a few pairs of shirts, pants, underwear, and socks. Also his toothbrush. And as he packed he felt this incredible sense of determination. He wasn’t too thrilled to see Faytana just yet, but he was still excited.
He didn’t know what it was. Faytana didn’t do anything wrong perse by wanting to meet him before he was trapped on a bus and held to the ground against his will. If anything all the questionable stuff came after the fact. But there was just something about it that made it seem like she never genuinely wanted to meet him. After all if Trisxel hadn’t seen him fighting those Maltraxians he’d never have even been a thought in her mind. And the fact that she could so easily dismantle his attack and thrust him to the ground.
He’d never thought of himself as the sexist type but there was something different when this cute girl he would have never imagined to have such strength was able to bring him down so easily. He still felt embarrassed about it but the more he thought about it maybe he shouldn’t be. After all Trisxel still trusts him of all people with such an important job. On top of that he knew something must be off about her. After all Greshit seemed to make the biggest deal out of the fact that Faytana was a Nierdesh.
Maybe I’m going too hard on myself he thought. Before Noah had left his apartment he had all of his utilities turned off. After all it was going to be a bare minimum of a few months before he comes back. And Trisxel had even offered to both pay him a minimum wage salary, and to cover his rent as he was gone since he was now technically unemployed. And since he was going to be living at the gym with free meals, this was going to be an opportunity for him to save up some money.
After Noah had gotten on the bus he’d looked around for the Torvakian woman he’d met prior, but she wasn’t there. That wasn’t much of a surprise to him considering this bus was going in a different direction at a different time than the one he took to work. He had wanted to strike up a conversation with her because she was the first one that had wanted to talk to him for no reason. He sat there riding that bus all the way to the town square of Ito. As he got off the bus he looked around the crowded area for Faytana.
After a while, finally as he searched he saw a small figure surrounded by a sea of massive species. One lone Nierdesh was waving her hand amidst Domins, Torvaks, and Wrapthians. All of which stood several feet taller than her. Noah sighed a little bit, and then walked bookbag slung over his shoulder over to her.
“You actually came.” Faytana said to him.
“Surprised by that?” Noah asked.
“Well I thought you were upset with me.” She said.
“Honestly I was. But life’s too short to spend it angry. At least over something so petty.”
“Noah… we kidnapped you. Honestly I can’t believe you agreed to do this after such a stunt. I told Trisxel that might be going a little too far.” Fay told him.
“Yeah but after you twisted my arm a little I guess I came around.” He said. “Regardless though, why?” Noah asked.
“Why sequester a bus, and hold me down while driving nonstop just to talk to me?”
“Hmm. Well I think it was a two Vitas, one stone sort of plan. He was able to speak with you without risking public association with you. And at the same time he was able to test your mettle a little bit. After all if you couldn’t emotionally handle that situation then maybe you weren’t a good fit for the job.” She told him.
“I suppose that makes sense. Besides I’m just honored I was chosen for the job.” Noah said as this loud disgusting squeal happened with a couple gurgles following. “What the hell was that noise?” He asked as Faytana held her stomach with a blush of embarrassment.
“Hey… before we head to the gym. Food?”
“Well I already had breakfast. Do you think it’s a good idea to eat again before my training?” Noah asked and despite the fact that his logic was sound, she still had one card up her sleeve. The guilt card.
“I’ve been waiting here for you to arrive though. Are you seriously not going to let me get anything to eat?” She said as her stomach rumbled again.
“Really…” Her black and white eyes had a sheen to them as she looked at him. Noah could feel them piercing his heart until they reached his soul. “Okay.” He said as he sighed.
“Yes!” Faytana cheered as she then grabbed his arm and ran towards the nearest restaurant she fancied. Him blushing the whole way.
As they reached a small hole in the wall of this massive city Noah looked at the décor and design of it and he was shocked. A white cloth banner with bold black letters. A decal of a bowl of noodles on the front door. This looks just like a Japanese ramen shop! He thought as he got really excited. He’d never had the opportunity to go to Japan and visit an honest to God ramen shop before and here one seemingly was, in a far away world. At what looked like a ramen shop.
And when they entered as the sliding door fwooshed open, the comparisons greatened. There was a bar surrounded by stools where customers would sit and wait as the cook would make and boil the pasta before their very eyes. And the smells. The spices and smell of what kind smelled like egg drop was overwhelming Noah’s senses in the best way possible.
“What is this place?” Noah asked as his eyes glistened and his nose was in heaven.
“It’s a noodle shop. They were all the rage back on my planet.” Faytana said as her sharp nose took a deep sniff.
“Wow it even translates into noodle shop.” Noah said to himself in English as Faytana looked at him intently.
“Welcome! Please have a seat- uh… oh Fay! Welcome! Are you getting the usual today?” An old man in a red robe asked as Noah observed him.
The man who’d walk out of the back looked just like Faytana in a lot of ways. His eyes, his fingernails and his sharp ears and nose. This man has to be a Nierdesh! Noah thought. Is this a restaurant a Nierdesh establishment?
“Yes. Thank you.” Faytana said as she bowed.
“Okay! And what about your dish, young man?” The olde cook asked.
“Oh. Uh… I’ll have what Fay’s having.” Noah said not yet familiar with the menu.
“Alright! Two Blam Bowls coming right up!” He said as he began preparing their meals with lightning speed and incredible agility. His speed and accuracy while prepping their food was insane too, especially when juxtaposed against his age and the lull during the slow boiling of the noodles. Then while they sat there the cook yelled “Blam!” as he set their noodles down before them.
“Thank you.” The two of them said at the same time as they were then handed forks.
A Fork? Noah then thought. I guess it’s not as Japanese as I thought… he pondered. As he looked at the food before he him he took a big whiff of it. The broth was beet red. Almost as red as the robe the cook was wearing. And at first Noah’s eyes watered and widened. He almost coughed from the spice but held it in. Not wanting to be rude. Blam indeed! He thought as he held in his chokes. He looked over at Faytana as she had already slurped down ¼ of her noodles.
He was actually surprised by his surprise. After all she was clearly a regular, but this just didn’t smell edible. But then something amazing happened. The after taste of that smell or the after smell if you prefer. It was nirvana, divinity incarnate. The swelling of herbs and veggies that he’d never experienced even when compared with the weird and whacky ingredients that Vishta already had due to Vishtian culture and agriculture.
It was then that Noah had decided to slurp his first noodle. As the noodle found itself vised between his two lips and pulled in with a slurp the reaction was largely the same as before. His eyes watered and mouth drooled from the immediate heat. But then he couldn’t help but fall in love with the flavor that came afterwards. This whole time Faytana watching to see if he liked it.
“It’s incredible!” Noah had as Faytana reacted with a slight smile.
“Really?” She said a bit bashfully and unsure.
“Yeah! This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten since I got here!” He said as he couldn’t help but eat more of it.
“Oh come on. Aren’t you being a little bit dramatic?” Faytana said, incapable at first to believe his claim was genuine.
“Not at all! This just… it just reminds me of my home so much.” Noah said with a couple tears and sniffles of emotion being camouflaged by the ones elicited by the spice.
Faytana’s somewhat cold demeanor changed to one of soft shock and a dash of joy as she realized he was telling the truth. They then both began slurping the rest of the noodles down with great enthusiasm. Noah going so fast he’d almost caught if Faytana despite her massive head start. After they finished they both leaned back as their stomachs popped out, both them sighing at the same time. And it was then as Noah was picking his teeth that he looked around and saw something he found strange.
And that something was actually nothing. Nothing and no one. He was confused. The food he had eaten was nothing short of amazing. And from what he could tell the food wasn’t too pricey. Only five VEN for a decent portion of noodles. It just seemed off.
“Where is everybody?” He then asked.
“Well anywhere but here boy.” The cook told him with a smile.
“Fay, your friend must be new around here huh?” the cook said.
“Relatively speaking, yeah.” She said with a real downer look on her face. Which was odd considering the smile being worn by the old man cook behind the counter.
“You never answered the question.”
“Well… this is a Nierdesh establishment. Your average Vishtian citizen wouldn’t dare set foot in a place like this.” Faytana told him.
“But the food is so good. Why would they care if this place is Nierdesh owned and operated?” Noah asked as started drinking the broth from his Blam Bowl.
“Well probably for the same reason a lot of high-class Ito city establishments make their doorways too narrow for Torvaks to enter or charge an upfront premium for any “lesser” species looking to eat there. Because they’re unwanted by the greater Vishtian population.” The old Nierdesh man informed him.
“Yeah I get that. The new species are still a hard sell for society. But the Nierdesh? I’ve never even heard of you guys until recently. And you guys aren’t listed anywhere in the Foreign Species Rights Bill.” Noah pointed out.
“Noah… that’s because we’re nothing new to Vishta. We’re not foreign in the same since that the Torvaks, Blizvains, or even you are. We’ve almost always been here.” She said.
“Then why the discrimination?!” Noah asked passionately.
“Because boy” The cook said as he pointed a fork in his direction. “We’re the Vishtian Governments worst kept little secret.” He then said.
“That’s a little too much information already, don’t you think?” Faytana said, almost as if she was trying to keep him from saying too much.
“Oh… I suppose so…” He said. “Let me get your bill…” The old man said as he drew up the receipts.
“Secret… what do you mean?” Noah said as the man put the bill down in front of them.
“Now whose paying the bill?” He asked changing the subject.
“He is.” Faytana said while pointing at Noah, before drinking her broth.
“What!?” Noah said in shock as he reluctantly grabbed his wallet.
Out on the streets of Ito Faytana and Noah walked alongside the pristine streets of the otherworldly city on another world. The roads in Ito were much different than that of the surrounding town. The roads were made out of laid bricks, that were 8x8x16 in size. The brick was thick like bedrock and didn’t break down as easily as red brick. Not that it mattered as much considering how much travel was done by air, considering the flying automobiles and sky trams. Trams that were on tracks interweaving through the city skyline.
They were on their way to the gym for Noah to begin his months of good old fashioned, rigorous training. As they walked Noah glanced off to the side at Faytana who was looking straight ahead with empty eyes. He couldn’t shake this feeling that she was thinking about earlier.
The Vishtian Governments worst kept little secret.
Noah had thought on what that might mean. He started putting the pieces together. The worst kept little secret. The fact that nobody was at that Nierdesh owned and operated establishment. Greshit’s reaction to Noah meeting a Nierdesh, and the relation she had made drawing that to Noah’s violent outburst. The fact that Noah is a strong and capable young man but was thwarted so easily by her. Then lastly there was what Trisxel had said in regards to the ONE’S VANITY tournament when Noah suggested Faytana. Well… that was the plan. But if I can get you into the semi-finals, that’ll allow her to participate in a far more important job.
He had all these pieces. But he didn’t have nearly enough context. Clearly the Nierdesh were great fighters. But what were their purpose? Were they used for war? Espionage? Perhaps even all of the above? There was just no way of knowing without hearing directly from the horse’s mouth. Or if not Faytana’s, A horse’s mouth if not THE.
“So… about what happened back at the restaurant.” Noah said to Faytana starting that conversation off awkwardly.
“If you’re asking me if I’ll tell you more about the Nierdesh. Then over my dead body.” Faytana said, shooting Noah down immediately. Noah walking for a moment with his foot in his mouth.
“Well that might actually make it harder to get that info…” Noah retorted awkwardly.
“Look, I know you’re curious. But remember I read your file from Greshit’s office. I read her reaction to the news me being Nierdesh, and if we’re going to be working together I’d really rather you not see me similarly. It’s better this way.”
After Faytana told him that, Noah’s head started to spin a little. He couldn’t believe the hypocrisy. She had access to some of his deepest darkest and he wasn’t even allowed the cliff notes story of her species. It was infuriating. So much so that he could help but reply angrily.
“Are you kidding me?” He said. “You read my file! Between that, and all the info on the human race you might as well know everything about me. And I can’t even know the basics about where you came from?” he asked.
“That’s the idea.” She said with a deadpan look.
Noah started boiling. He was a thumbs placement from an index finger away from exploding when he had an idea. It was like a lightbulb when off over his head, and as such a smirk lit up on his face.
“Over my dead body. That’s what you said…”
“What’s your point Noah?”
“My point is you, and me. If I beat you in a fight. Then you tell me about the Nierdesh.”
“You aren’t serious are you?”
“Well how is it that you’d put it? I’m dead serious.” Noah said as Faytana smiled.
Well Fay… what do you say?”
“What I say is… it’s exhilarating. Nobody has challenged me so directly like that in a long time. If you could ever defeat me… I might consider telling you a little bit about us.”
“Alright!” Noah yelled, pumping his fist in celebration.
“But!” Faytana interjected. “I warn you that the odds of you ever beating me are one in a billion lightyears.” She said confidently.
“I don’t know Fay. Trisxel saw something in me when he gave me this task. That gives me good reason to feel pretty confident. I mean if you trusts me alone to get us through this fighting tournament. The I like my odds.”
“Umm yeah, about that…” She said.
Once they had arrived at the gym it was filled wall to wall with “lesser” species. Blizvains, Torvaks and more. All training. Pumping iron and doing training exercises. The speed and ferocity at which the Gwetzels punched their punching bags was intense. And the popping veins from the Torvaks crimson hot biceps and rock-solid abs was astonishing. Noah stood in the doorway with his jaw dropped. Dropped so far and so cartoonishly that he felt it may be near centimeters away from the floor. And although they weren’t all there to compete in the ONE’S VANITY tournament for Trisxel. It still kind of stung Noah.
“I can’t believe it.” Noah whispered to Fay with defeat in his voice. “He didn’t trust me as much as I thought.” Noah said with a small hint of disappointment in his voice.
“Don’t be like that. Trisxel’s cause is important. You have to think of the bigger picture here. If he put all his eggs in one basket and it didn’t pan out then that’s a whole year he’ll have to wait to help the species still ensnared in this business.”
“Yeah that’s true…” Noah said, finding it hard to shake his insecurities.
“Good, you get it. Now let’s go find your new sensei.”
“Sensei. How do you know that phrase?” Noah asked but was ignored.
“There he is. Let’s go.” Faytana said. Grabbing Noah’s arm to go introduce them.
As Noah was dragged along he couldn’t help but blush from the contact. And as they strolled past the hard-working warriors it didn’t go unnoticed. He then blushed harder as he noticed this. Hearing the laughter was quite embarrassing but Faytana lacked any and all self-awareness in the situation. Focused only on the current objective.
“Hey Grod! Put your back into it! Sulu, you better be doing full reps. You think I can’t always see you. But you’re wrong!” Jax commanded while pointing and shouting.
Jax. He was the head trainer of this Gym. Which is probably why the sign right out the gym said JAX’S SOLDIERS. Jax was a well-respected trainer in Vishta and renowned in Ito. He was a born and raised Vishtian who used to be a fighter himself. His body and face was covered head to toe with scars and calluses. Of course despite his pedigree he had slowly started losing business over the years. He had been a supporter of the Foreign Species Rights Bill which caused a lot of his clients to want to disassociate.
The time leading up to the bills passing was tough on him. He was struggling financially and ridiculed by the fighting community, but he never shook faith. And thanks to his pro stance on the integration of other species it eventually paid off. Because when “lesser” species started flooding in by the hundreds of thousands business started booming.
Suddenly it was the one-stop shop for any would be fighter of the new Vishtian society. And even though he had lowered his rates for the less fortunate and struggling species his profits were still at an all-time high. This basically meant when it came to training fighters to help take down the corrupt operation in the fighting community from the inside he was the guy.
“Fayyy!” Jax said enthusiastically as he picked her up and spun her around. “How have you been my little space flower!?” He asked with passion.
“O-okay okay! It’s nice t-to see yo-” Faytana yelled with a frog in her throat. “Al…right please put me dow-” Faytana asked as she was being squeezed like a soda can in a crusher.
“Wow… you two do seem close…” Noah said with surprise.
“Haha! You know it!” Jax enthusiastically boasts. “Fay;Fay is one of the best fighters to ever grace these mats!” Jax boasts further.
“Just Fay is fine Jax!” Faytana said while flustered.
“Well if that’s the case then why isn’t she teaching me to fight?”
Noah had said that jokingly, but Jax took it personally. His smile disappeared like words in the sand during a high tide. His stare turned to a glare and then the lightning was on.
“So you’re the newbie huh?! I didn’t know that Trisxel was sending me a slobbery Zorfak with blubbery arms and legs like a Glum!”
“What was that!?” Noah yelled angrily.
Fists clenched and with a fire in his eyes Noah leapt into action. He went in low with his right hook wound like a torsion spring, and his legs ready to springboard. He was prepping for an uppercut and as his fist shot forth like a vertical bullet train Jax tilted his head up and his spine back avoiding the hit completely. Jax then grabbed Noah’s arm and spun him around. Now with Jax behind Noah. He had the upper hand, both metaphorically and literally.
“Feisty!” Jax yelled as he swiftly chopped Noah’s neck. This made Noah’s legs and body shake as he fell to the ground. “Good! Good!” Jax yelled.
“Good?! Are you joking you beat me so easily!” Noah was frustrated.
“Well I wasn’t expecting world championship material from a human. But I also wasn’t expecting you to leap into action like that. It was refreshing!”
“What so you’ll train me then?” Noah asked as Jax smacked the back of his head.
“I was always going to train you idiot! I didn’t have a choice. But at least with this I know it won’t be a waste of my time!” Jax said as he handed another fighter Noah’s bag. “Take this to the new guy’s bunk for me won’t ya!?”
“Yes sir!” A Torvak fighter said as he ran off.
“Fine then Just Fay. Take Noah out for some road work! Get him warmed up while I find somebody here suitable to test his mettle.” Jax said.
“Ha! Somebody suitable huh? Afraid I’ll beat em too bad?”
“Not quite Norah.”
“I’m more afraid of them killing you by accident.” Jax said as Noah slid into his jacket. “But don’t get discouraged. We’ll make a fighter out of you yet!” Noah then headed toward the door.
“Wait Noah where are you going?” Faytana asked.
“I’m going to do roadwork.” He told her.
“You know what that is?”
“Well yeah of course. I used to do boxing and karate in high school I know what road work is…” he then said, slightly offended by the assumption he wouldn’t know.
Out on the sidewalk Noah ran like the wind. Almost as he were running like the wind the same way bullseye did. Although they’d only been running for twenty minutes, and Noah was sweating like a cow in heat. Faytana running alongside him wasn’t even breaking a sweat. Does she even get tired? Noah thought as he looked at her.
The two kept running. They ran for twenty more minutes and that’s when it became clear to Noah. Faytana was far superior to him. And he had challenged her to a fight. A fight to learn more about her. A fight that it had become pretty clear to him that he was going to lose.
He thought about why he even wanted to fight her. So that he could learn more about her? He was conflicted on whether or not even liked her. Why would he want to learn more about her if he didn’t like her? He thought really hard about this as they ran alongside each other. Maybe he wanted to learn about her to determine whether or not he did like her. But one things for sure, he did feel inferior to her.
As they continued doing their roadwork they were surrounded by all the wonders Ito had to offer. Industrial parks for citizens to walk their Zorfaks. Smoke boxes that some slimy, globby Glums vaped their tweazle sticks. And every once in a while a shadow would swiftly dart over the two from up above. A flying automobile.
“It still amazes me.”
“What does?” Faytana asked him.
“Flying cars you know… You always saw articles on the internet about them and in fiction back home, but I never could have imagined they were real.” Noah said.
“Yeah I suppose they’re pretty neat. I prefer to keep my feet on the ground though.” Faytana said.
“Really? You afraid of heights?”
“Not particularly heights… more like flying.”
“Oh yeah. Why’s that?”
Faytana ignored him.
“Did something happen?” He said as she ignored him again. “Oh come on Fay… you can’t keep everything from me.” He said as she sighed.
“Okay fine. I was involved in a ship crash.”
“What really?! But I heard that there hasn’t been a crash in 300 years. You’re not over 300 years old are you!?” Noah jokingly asked, yet still hoping she wasn’t. “Because if I found out I got my ass kicked by a 300-year-old woman I’ll faint right here.”
“What? No.” she said giggling a little under her breath. “I was working on an underdeveloped planet. Flight technology there wasn’t up to the same standards and after some technical issues we crashed.”
“Wait really? I’m so sorry…”
“It’s fine. Its just… there’s something about being trapped on a metal moving box on its way to the ground that just doesn’t sit right. Everything’s just so out of your hands when that happens. I just don’t want it to ever happen again if I can help it.” Faytana said.
“So you’re afraid of flying then.” Noah said.
“Well at least airplanes.” Faytana said as they both laughed. But then Noah stopped dead in his tracks as Faytana breezed passed him. Wait a second… Airplane? They don’t have airplanes on Vishta. They have ships. He shrugged it off and then kept running.
“Alright now Noah are you ready!?” Jax asked with spirit.
Noah stood on the mat with a pair of Vishtian fighting gloves and protective headgear on. He was wearing shorts but had no shirt. His muscles were toned, and his six pack wasn’t half bad. Faytana looked at right at his abs as she drooled a little in her mind. But when he glanced over at her she swiftly looked in a different direction.
She doesn’t even care about my fight! He thought. Which made him angry. He then pumped his fists together as his opponent entered the mat as well. He was fighting a lightweight Blizvain. The Blizvains are a race of cat people who have sharp claws, cat ears, and cat eyes for superior hearing and eyesight. They’ve got a layer of fur in a variety of colors like red, blue, yellow, green, and white on their arms and on their feet.
This one however had white fur and his claws were sharp as needles. They were like fangs on his fingers. The kind that would turn Freddy Krueger’s nightmares into wet dreams. His name was Toki. And had almost won gold at ONE’S VANITY on two occasions. He was a whole weight class under Noah which technically gave Noah an advantage. But as a professional fighter, Toki had more experience.
“Alright ladies! I want a good fight!” Jax said as he threw up his hand.
“This may only be an exhibition! But it’ll have the same rules as a professional fight! There’ll be five 3-minute rounds! Win by K.O. or having a higher knock down count. No spitting, no biting. And no crotch shots! That means when fighting a Domin, careful not to hit them where your stomach would be!” Jax informed.
What!? Noah thought as his mind went back to when his previous handler would scratch his stomach in front of him. The thought of which then made Noah’s skin crawl.
“Now shake hands.” Jax said.
Then as they leaned in to shake hands Noah felt Toki’s claws pierce the first layer of skin. “Hey! What gives!?” Noah asked as Toki pulled him close as Toki itched his whiskers.
“I can’t wait to tear into you!” Toki said with a grin.
“Yeah we’ll see!” Noah said as he ripped his hand away and they each backed up.
“Alright… fight!” Jax yelled as he swung his hand forward.
The two of them went at like a wolf facing off against a cheetah. Both taking jabs at each other and both dodging them in turn. Noah then got the first light jab in hitting Toki’s wrists as he blocked. Toki then let out a hiss like a cat and swung at Noah, hands unclenched and claws front and center. The first grazed Noah’s chest as the next sliced a bit of hair from his bangs.
“Coach! What was that!?” He asked as Jax shrugged.
“As long as he doesn’t kill you its legal.”
“Claws are a natural part of a Blizvains anatomy. It’s legal!”
“What’s wrong? Afraid of drawing a little blood?” Toki said as he licked his paw.
Noah stood there eyes wide and a little nervous. He could feel his legs shaking as Toki stood before him. He on top of that Toki wasn’t even sweating yet despite that thick coat of fur. His slightly smaller size on top of his genetics made him naturally faster than Noah. And Noah had to work even harder just keep up. The two started going at it again.
“Why Toki? I mean he’s been fighting since it was legal for managers to own and use fighters of a so called “lesser” species, and on top of that he’s almost won gold multiple times in the past. This is like throwing Noah into the deep end.” Faytana pointed out.
“I wouldn’t be so sure Fay…” Jax told her.
“Yeah, really. You see I saw something when Noah threw that uppercut.” Jax said.
“What a fist?”
“Ha! Yes I saw that! But what I also saw was a fire.”
“Yeah. One I haven’t seen in a long time. It was smoldered. Like someone had tried to stomp it out of him. But it was still there. And on the moment right before near impact… it had intensified.”
“A fire huh?” Fay said as she began playing with her hair.
“Besides Toki may be good. But he’s too cocky. He has been fighting for a long time yet he’s never one a championship. Not even bronze. He’s experienced but he tends not to take his opponents seriously. And Noah… well I figure he’s taking Noah even less seriously than anyone. So if Noah wins it could be good for both of them. Noah will gain experience and confidence. And Toki will get a nice humble cup of zellos to sip on for a while.”
“Yeah…” Faytana said as she continued twirling.
The jabs had all but stopped on Toki’s part as his claw swipes had started coming at all directions. Vertically, up and down, horizontally side to side. Diagonally as well. And as they swings kept coming Noah was losing his breath. And just as Noah let his guard down to the possibility Toki hit him right in the face with a quick jab. As his clenched fist his Noah’s face, drool fell from Noah’s trembling lips, shocked.
It was in that moment that Toki had swiped his claws yet again as Noah threw up both of his in a block to cover his face and chest. Toki’s sharp claws then sliced into Noah’s arms. It stung and Noah gritted his teeth as he felt warm liquid running down his arm. He then peeled his raised arms ever so slightly away from each other to get a peek at the opposition.
What Noah saw was Toki now standing at the other side of the mat licking his paw and then scratching his ear. His tail dangling from behind his back. A little bit of Noah’s blood staining the white fur near his sharp fingertips. Noah’s veins then started popping out of his forehead.
“He’s toying with me!” he whispered to himself. “And I’m so out of breath! But that doesn’t matter… I’m going to win this!” Noah then gave out a yell like a roar as the Jax intervened.
“That’s round one! Return to your corners!” Jax said as Toki walked back over to his gym mates. That was already 3 minutes! Noah thought as he made his way back to his corner.
“You’re doing good all things considered.” Faytana said as she handed him some water.
“Are those close really okay?”
“Well naturally they’d have to be. After all it’s not like they could make a Blizvainian cut his claws.” Faytana said. “So they’d naturally be allowed to use them.”
“Well how am I supposed to beat somebody with such a clear advantage?”
“Well that’s simple.” Faytana said as she lifted the hair away from her ears. “Maybe you just need to find your advantage.” She said as he looked at her ear.
“Okay, I’ll try…”
“Round 2!” Jax yelled.
The two of them, both Toki and Noah made their way back to the center of the mat. Maybe you just need to find your advantage. Those words of Faytana’s echoed in Noah’s thoughts. He wasn’t sure what that was, but he knew there must be one. He just had to find it.
Toki then jumped back into the thick of things. But before he could start slicing and dicing Noah jumped in even further. After all he still had the size advantage so if he could get in and start hitting right away maybe that’d be the key. He started off with some jabs and got Toki to start thinking on his feet. As Noah got in a few good jabs he then went in for the gamble. A strong right hook. But as he thrust, Toki ducked.
“Too slow!” Toki yelled as he kicked Noah’s leg.
That’s right! We can kick! Noah remembered.
As Noah was brought down to one knee he began to pant. But he knew he couldn’t stay down, or else Toki would topple him and attack while he’s on his back and vulnerable. So as knelt he anticipated Toki’s next claw swipe, and he kicked off from the ground with all his might. Avoiding the swipe and gaining some distance.
It was in that moment when the tide of the match had settled in the middle. No clear winner in sight. Originally it was Toki but now… Noah burst in with a barrage of jabs that Toki managed to avoid due to his speed and reflex advantage as a Blizvainian. Every now and again Noah would throw in a low kick to keep Toki on his paws that he calls toes.
Noah knew that he had to keep up a steady flow of attacks or else Toki would begin a relentless string of swipes again. It had felt like they’d been duking it out for an hour, but it had barely been over 2 minutes. And then, just as Noah had felt as if he was starting to tire Toki out it had happened…
Noah backed away, and after that first big slice Toki darted in low like lightning for another strike. Noah was trembling. And before he could process the massive gash in his chest he was reeling from Toki was about to perform a cross up. But finally “That’s Round 2!” Jax had yelled as both had scurried back to their corners. Toki giving him the stink eye along with an ill fading grin to boot.
“That looks bad. Here’s a towel.” Faytana said worryingly as she handed it to Noah.
“Man…” Noah panted. “I-I’m bleeding pretty bad… they’d stop a fight over this back on earth.” Noah then said still panting and still tired.
“Look just don’t get discouraged. You still have three rounds left to figure this thing out. And if you get too tired they can fix you up at the hospital no problem.” Faytana said as she took the towel slightly stained by blood and covered in sweat from him.
“Thank you Fay…”
“Round 3 start!” Jax said as he slashed his arm forward.
“Alright! Get out there!” Faytana yelled with encouragement.
As the two met back in the middle of the mat Noah could feel his legs trembling again. He couldn’t tell if the cause of the trembling was physical or mental. But as his eyes made contact with the catlike eyes with slivered pupils of Toki, he felt conflicted. He didn’t know what he’d felt. Until Toki jumped back in for another slash. And in that moment Noah’s body had gotten completely still.
“Aww, he’s calm.” Jax said.
“Is he preparing a counterattack?” Faytana asked.
And then just as Toki was about to make contact. Noah, Noah he did. Noah did absolutely nothing. The claws made contact. Slicing Noah’s chest in almost the exact same spot. Tearing his skin even further. And as Noah looked down at his bleeding chest his trembling stopped.
“You… are… GONNA PAY FOR THAT!” Noah yelled as he ran at Toki. And as he did Toki’s ear twitched and it threw him off. Noah then got in a good hit on Toki’s chest, staggering him.
Noah noticed this little detail and he thought to himself. Could this be it? Could that be my ticket to beating a Blizvainian? He brushed that aside until it would come in handy, and Noah began his assault. A jab here and then a jab there. Occasionally Toki would swipe or would jab back. But suddenly halfway through the third round Noah found himself with the advantage.
An advantage that shifted the attitude of the fight. Even down to the cocky one. Because suddenly Noah had this burst of confidence. Confidence that might have made him blind to the still looming threat. Noah then bent in low as swiftly as possible. Looking to end the fight with the same uppercut he’d tried on Jax just a couple of hours earlier.
As he wound it up he thought he could feel the victory within his reach. And then he went for it. Striking in an upward motion with incredible speed and power. But Toki saw it coming… after all his speed and reflexes still far outclassed Noah’s. As Noah’s swing had missed he felt as if he were moving in slow motion. And he could see every pain staking detail of Toki’s moves as he countered.
Toki then tackled Noah to the ground. His biggest fear in this match had come true. He was on his back. And as he lay there, Toki had changed his tactics slightly. Now throwing straight up, old fashioned punches. The beating that followed was pretty tame. Toki lacked the raw power of other species to really do much. Despite that the few unblocked hits to Noah’s face did do some damage. Mostly to his nose.
But as the hits kept coming, and as Noah began guarding more often something happened. He felt less pain and more… more anger. And then it hit him. When he yelled, Toki’s ear twitched, and it threw him off. And that’s when he learned one new advantage. Noah took in a deep breath. And then…
“AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!” Noah screamed.
And the screams of his battle cry echoed throughout the gym hurting the ears of those whose hearing was fairly average. And that was at a distance. Toki was right on top of him and in his face. And as for his hearing… well he had super hearing, which essentially to Toki meant that Noah had a super scream. He covered his ears.
Noah saw his opening and went in for the metaphorical “kill” if you would. Reversing the roles and putting Toki on his back. This caught Toki off guard and suddenly he was the one trembling. But as Noah pulled his fist back to begin the one-way trip to pound town, Toki blocked his face with his arms. Noah took another deep breath.
“AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!” Noah screamed again.
As Noah’s relentless assault on the ears began again Toki’s hands moved almost against his will to cover from the audible assault on his sensitive eardrums he’d realized that he’d messed up. Because now Noah had not only the advantage of power and position. But he also had a major opening. He thrust his fist down on Toki’s face like a judge bringing down the gavel. And the shockwave from the hit could be felt not only by the heavy weights at the gym but the super heavy weights as well.
And just like that Noah sat over Toki. Toki’s face beaten in like a ball of clay an eighth grader pounded on in art class. Nose shifted slightly and eyes closed due to a knockout.
“K.O. by Noah!” Jax yelled as the room clapped.
“I… I actually won?” Noah said in a state of disbelief as Faytana ran up to him.
“You did it!” She said as he scrunched and grabbed his chest in pain. “Owe it might be getting worse… let’s get you cleaned up and bandaged.”
“What about Toki?” Noah asked.
“He’ll be fine kid. Me and the guys will take it from here. We’ll splash a little water on his sorry little butt that he currently calls his face and he’ll be fine. Besides you’re bleeding pretty badly. Let Fay;Fay clean you up.” Jax told him.
“Yes sir…” Noah said, while pretty badly damaged.
“Oh and Noah!”
“It’s going to be a pleasure training you. Welcome to JAX’S SOLDIERS!”
“Yes sir!” Noah replied with as much of a salute as his body would allow. So a half one.
That same day Trisxel sat in his boss’ office. He was looking sharp, wearing a bode of confidence as he did his nearly patented fixing of his tie, paired with a shark-like smirk. As he sat there he watched as a cleaning bot rolled around his chair, picking up dust. The bot then rolled around to his feet and stopped in place. Trisxel took notice and just stared at it for a moment.
“What, miss a spot?” Trisxel said as it sat there at the base of his feet.
*beep* The robot ushered as it then moved forward, hitting Trisxel’s feet.
“Uh… fine.” Trisxel said as he awkwardly lifted his feet off the ground so the cleaning robot could make a pass.
As Trisxel sat there waiting his boss Morpheus had finally arrived. Morpheus was a Wrapthian, and though they’re naturally tall and slender his boss was especially so. Standing 8 feet and 4 inches in height and had long skinny arms about 4 feet in length. He also had pure white skin, flawless and almost as clean as the room they were in.
“Ah Trisxel, my old friend. I’m sorry I’m late, I was conducting interviews for a docuseries covering the events of the Foreign Species Rights Bill’s passing.”
“What? They haven’t asked to interview me?” Trisxel pointed out, deflated.
“Yeah… sorry. I actually asked about that myself and apparently that has something to do with the Purple Night Lights interview you did.” Morpheus informed him.
“It always comes back to that. You know most of that wasn’t my fault.”
“True, but if your little speech hadn’t been aired we may not have passed that bill in the first place. So… good job. Anyway, what did you want to speak with me about?”
“It’s about ONE’S VANITY sir.”
“I’d like you to try and get the authorities to open up an investigation on the use of illegal fighters again.” Trisxel asked of him as he crossed his left leg over the other.
“Trisxel, old buddy we’ve been through this. They’ve already told us they’re not going to open up a case without reasonable suspicion.” Morpheus pointed out.
“What more reasonable suspicion do they need? After the bill was passed there were several well-known owned fighters who had not retired and gave no press release claiming such. I mean what’s the likelihood that those men and women are free?”
“Well not very, but my hands are tied.”
“Yeah… they seemed to be tied a lot lately Morph…”
“Come on don’t be like that. You’ve got those fighters you’re prepping right? Get one of them in the tournament and then get the proof, and then the authorities will play ball.” Morpheus said as Trisxel stood up and walked over to the window looking out over Ito city.
“Yeah… It’s just. If we don’t get it this year then that’s another year those species will be exploited.” Trisxel said.
“Do you not trust any of your fighters to be capable of placing in the tournament?”
“I… I don’t know.” Trisxel said as he looked out into the city. In the same direction as the JAX’S SOLDIERS gym.
A few days later, back at the gym Jax’s disciples were working hard. Hitting the mat and the weights. Sparring with each other with sweat and intensity. The gym as usual had this thickness in the air. A thickness that may have been from the lack of oxygen due to all the heavy breathing done by it’s enormous members. In the corner Faytana and Jax coached Noah as he practiced his jabs and forward strikes. With each strike he took in the air while shadow boxing the sweat would fly off his arm.
“Good, good!” Jax said as Noah worked. “I think it’s time we get you back in the ring!”
“Yeah…” Noah said while out of breath from overexertion. “I’m ready!”
“Okay then! So you’ve gone toe to toe with someone of superior speed. So next we need to prepare you with someone of superior strength and power!”
“Bring em on!” Noah shouts with confidence.
Moments later as Noah stood on the mat he threw some quick jabs, kicks, and uppercuts. As he stood there his next training partner in his second exhibition match walked onto the mat as well. A large Torvakian man named Grod. His muscles were so far off the charts, they’d make a young Arnold Schwarzenegger look like an ever so slightly smaller body builder.
“Grod!” Jax commanded with a presence.
“Get in there and tear that human apart!”
Whose side is he on!? Noah thought as Faytana consoled the clearly nervous Noah.
“Just give it your all okay?”
As the two got squared up on the mat Noah observed the physique of his opponent. Grod stood two feet taller than him and though Noah was in no way in bad shape his muscle definition didn’t begin to compare. Noah looked at Grod with anger. He saw the smug look on Grod’s face. Despite not appearing nearly as cocky as Toki it seemed to piss Noah off even more.
“Round 1, start!” Jax yelled.
Let’s Go! Noah’s mind roared as he burst forward with comparatively lightning speed to Grod, looking to get the first hit in quick. As Grod threw a punch in retaliation Noah ducked in deeper. Grod’s hit missed as Noah’s fist blurred and whizzed through the air before making a deep impact into Grod’s stomach. Grod staggered for a moment in surprise as Noah’s confidence grew into cockiness.
Noah then went in throwing a few jabs here and there to get some quick and easy damage. During this light flurry of fists Noah had begun to let his guard down. As Noah backed off for a moment to catch his breath, Grod prepped his fist. Noah leapt in, guard down for another powerful strike looking to stagger. And as he threw a punch he was met with shock as it was blocked and deflected. With his deflected arm in the air, Noah then watched as the distance between Grod’s fist, and his face closed until bam. Noah was laid out on the mat, Grod having knocked him unconscious.
Later at his cot in the adjourning room, Noah sat with a gelled ice pack pressed up against his swollen cheekbone. He sat there for almost twenty minutes reflecting on his exhibition match, which ended in the first round. As he sat Jax, and Faytana came in to check on him.
“Well that was fast.” Jax pointed out as the old Vishtian stood over Noah.
Noah looked up at him with a feeling of loathing and a sense of defeat. “Well I did have the speed advantage.” Noah said jokingly.
“That’s true but you also had one big disadvantage as well.” Faytana said.
“What? My size and strength?” Noah asked, seemingly rhetorically.
“No!” Jax loudly proclaimed getting Noah’s attention. “It was rage.” He said.
“What?! How can you say that? I was completely calm the whole fight!”
“Are you trying to tell me I could see it and you couldn’t!?” Jax yelled as Noah fell silent. “What about you Fay;Fay? Did you see it?”
“Just Fay, and… yeah I saw it.” She said.
“Good! Then maybe you can explain to him how his bigoted, angry feelings towards those around cost him that exhibition. I’ve got other prospects I need to invest in right now.” Coach Jax said as he exited the room. Not denying his anger as he did.
“Was it really obvious?”
“And even if I were, is that really the reason I lost that fight?”
“Noah this is Vishta. And now more than ever it’s a microcosm of the entire universe with the diverse number of species that live here and contribute to it’s culture.” Faytana said as Noah thought back to the Nierdesh owned noodle joint.
“But the power advantage!” Noah said as Faytana cut him off.
“Forget the power advantage Noah! Do you think the Blizvainian fighters like Toki have the power advantage over say… the Torvaks? No but they still win fights against them. Or even Toki over you? He had the upper hand for a good portion of your guys’ match despite you having the “power” advantage.” Faytana said as she sat down next to him.
“Then what did I do wrong?”
“Noah. You fought against your own feelings in the heat of battle. Anger can be a useful tool in battle. But if you don’t use it then you’re just fighting yourself. And how can you fight your opponent and yourself at the same time?”
“Wait then I should be angry is what you’re saying?”
“No… what I’m saying is if you’re angry, then fight with anger. If you’re calm then use that calm to think out your next move. But don’t fight against the flow of battle or you may end up dead.” Faytana said.
“…beaten. I meant beaten.” Faytana said as she stood up. “Just think about what I said and get some rest.” Faytana said as she also left the adjourning room.
Noah took her advice as he lay back in his cot. He thought about what she said. He thought about how his anger was affecting his performance as a fighter. Or moreover, how he was letting it affect him. And he had also thought about that other thing that had slipped Faytana’s tongue. But don’t fight against the flow of battle or you may end up dead.
“End up dead huh?” Noah said alone in his cot as he’d turned in early. “Just another mysterious line from a mysterious woman.” He’d said.
Noah then turned on his side as he laid there. He closed his eyes and took three deep breaths. Anger was a tool. But Noah didn’t necessarily want to be angry. Despite that he knew the time would inevitably come when he would be again. But he decided as he lay defeated, that when he did that it wouldn’t be because he hated the strange creatures around him. And that it wouldn’t be because of his own inferiorities.
So he decided that for now… he was letting it all go. And just like that his mother’s yellow sundress had been unveiled in his mind. As an oil painting in all its splendor. Along with it her blonde flowing locks of her hair matched it in vibrance. Their powerful, colorful presence complimenting each other. He smiled as he drifted off to sleep.
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