Drowning in a sea of eyes, and as he sank deeper and deeper they followed his every movement. The eyes were dark black, or catlike, or pale slimy and fishy. And they weren’t alone. There were faces to go along with them, feet, legs, arms, and body connecting all of them. No, NO! Noah called out in desperation, but his words were not heard. And as the eyes continued to follow so didn’t the hands. And they were all heading to one destination… Noah.
“No!” Noah yelled as he awoke in the dead of night.
As he awoke he sat up in his cot, surrounded by other fighters. Blizvainians, Torvaks, and Gwetzels. A few Vishtians as well. They were all fast asleep, and cotted up around him. Surrounding him like in his dream. As Noah sat up he could feel his jaw was still in pain. He rubbed it and could tell it was getting better.
“I gotta get out of here for a moment.” He whispered as he got up and got dressed.
Out on the streets of Ito in the dead of night the city was still lively. Noah ran as automobiles and pedestrians passed him by. The cityscape was tall and was a technologic majesty. Noah had only seen this side of the city in Vishtian shows and Wrapthian soap operas. There was holographic ads, and there were neon signs. Adverts for medication and movies. One ad featured a Torvak and a Vishtian back-to-back with each other holding plasma pistols which Noah took notice of. The title of the film being Both Lesser & Greater Together a buddy cop propaganda film.
Noah kept running and taking in the sights of the Ito night life. The liveliest night life on all of Vishta. And there were plenty of restaurants, cafes, and offices still open. All with varying architectures and styles to them. The bright and silvery exterior of Wrapthian and Vishtian office buildings and news stations. The neon sing clad Domin businesses utilizing posters with big bold letters for the sake of advertising. And the sharp, dark, and gothic Maltraxian abodes, looking as if they were ripped out of a horror film.
But one place that caught Noah’s attention was a small little zellos and INFOSCAPE café. Noah could never afford an INFOSCAPE service during his time at the meat packing plant. But here in the city he could just use it for free along with a cup of zellos that costs him a few VEN at best. He stood at the face of the door and contemplated walking in.
If he did he could find out all about Faytana and the Nierdesh at the click of a few buttons. It was tempting. He lifted his hand slightly, wanting so badly to open that door and go inside. But then he thought about Faytana. He thought about the challenge. He knew he could never realistically defeat her. But for whatever reason he wanted to respect her wishes.
Even more than that he wanted her to tell him on her own accord. He wanted to earn that information. And if he looked it up on the INFOSCAPE that may be the last bit of information he learns about her. So he swallowed his curiosity and continued his run. Off in the distance and eavesdropping Faytana could help but wear a faint smile.
A few days later, Noah and the rest of the guys and gals in JAX’S SOLDIERS were working hard. Noah was off in the corner lifting weights when Grod walked up on him. Noah sweating and straining looked up at the brutish man. He set the weights down and sat up.
“Hey.” Grod extended his reach to help Noah up.
“Hey.” Noah replied, reluctantly accepting his generous offer.
“Can we talk?”
“What is there to talk about?” Noah said, standing tall but not as tall as Grod.
“Well I hoping we could talk about what you’re doing here?”
“Not here. Too many sharp ears around. Especially those Blizvainians.” Grod laughed.
A little later while doing roadwork together, Noah was eventually led to a little INFOSCAPE café serving zellos and other assorted Vishtian treats, candies, and pastries. Primarily because it was the exact same café as from a few nights prior. The one Noah narrowly avoided entering and potentially screwing up his budding friendship with Faytana.
“What do you want?” Grod asked Noah as they stood in line.
“Oh you really don’t have to pay…”
“Hey man, it is fine. It’s just a drink.”
“Oh okay. A water then.”
“Great. Hey one water, and one decaf zellos please.” Grod said to the cashier.
As they sat and received their beverages they drank as Noah looked at the holographic monitors. He then took notice of a single Nierdesh citizen amongst all the others. He thought on what he may be researching. As his mind wandered he eventually snapped out of it. But only after he noticed Grod appearing ready to talk.
“So tell me, Noah. Do you hate me?” Grod bluntly asked, face straight as an arrow.
“Oh come on. Do you hate me?”
“I… I don’t know.” Noah answered. Grod then grinned.
“That answer seems honest enough.” He said as he sipped his zellos.
“Why ask me that? I mean why would you want to know?” Noah was puzzled. He was genuinely unsure of the benefit of knowing.
“Because of something I noticed during your exhibition with me.”
Grod paused for a moment as he went to take another drink of zellos. Noah used this opportunity of pause to reflect on what he’d been told in the locker room afterwards. That he was angry. He was curious as to whether or not Grod had noticed this.
“You seemed like you were holding back this hatred that you had for me during the fight. I know why you’re here Noah. You’re here to help Trisxel with his little crusade. It’s quite noble really.” Grod said as he slurped up the rest of his zellos.
“Wow you knew. I assumed it was a secret.”
“Well it is… but as a lesser species myself. I get it. And that’s why I was asked to compete under the same circumstances.” Grod said as he sit smugly.
“Wait so you’re trying to achieve the same goal!?” Noah cried.
“Who me? No, not at all.” Grod said, confusing Noah immensely.
“Wait… why not I thought you said you understood.”
“Oh I definitely do. But I’m a fighter through and through. If my manager got caught rummaging through other fighter’s personal files and records I’d get blacklisted so fast and then I wouldn’t be able to put food on the table. Even if I didn’t get a criminal charge, what organization would take me on?” Grod said ashamedly. “I’d be working in some factory for the rest of my life.”
“That’s a little selfish isn’t it. I mean you were oppressed. Why wouldn’t you want to do something for those yet to be freed and reintegrated into society?” Noah pointed out.
“I know…” Grod said with a look of despair. “But honestly I just can’t throw my career away. Besides don’t try to sound so noble yourself.” Grod mentioned, calling Noah’s unintentional bluff.
“What are you trying to say?” Noah asked somewhat offended.
“Well… what did you really have to lose. Last I heard you were just a laborer before this. A job I assume you could probably go back to if this whole thing goes awry. Is that right?”
“Er… uh I mean yeah, I suppose.”
“And you don’t have the kindest feelings towards all the participants. Lesser or Greater is that right?” Grod said, hammering in that final nail.
“Ah, the sweet sound of nothing left to say. So it’s true. You can’t act so high and mighty after all. But don’t let it get you down.” Grod told him with a bit of a cocky chagrin.
“It’s hard not to.”
“Look I get it. Fresh off the spaceship with little option and suddenly you’re met with all the judgmental glares of Vishta and all it’s holier than thou citizens. Trust me I hated them all too.”
“How’d you stop?” Noah asked with a genuine curiosity.
“What? Really?” He asked.
“I learned to summon and suppress that hatred at will. But only when I needed it. As fighter it’s really my greatest tool.” Grod told him. “And I noticed that when you were fighting me you started to suppress it. But only after one hell of a punch that you dealt. Honestly a few more of those and I’d have been in trouble.”
“So what are you saying?”
“I’m saying that the one action that you took with your full intent behind it was incredible. And that everything else was a half-hearted mess. And that if you could learn to change your intent at will. If you could summon and erase your anger for the purpose of a fluid offense and defense then you’d be a lot hell of a better fighter.”
“Why are you telling me all this? Do you want me to become better?”
“Well considering why you’re fighting of course I do. I want to help you get to ONE’S VANITY. But I need to know it’s worth my time. So if you can beat me during our next exhibition then I’ll become your dedicated sparring partner.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. As a fighter why would you breed your competition?” Noah asked. Unsure as to why Grod would gain anything from this.
“Well I’ve kind of already answered that question haven’t I?”
“Trisxel’s hope to free the unfree…”
“Precisely. Besides it’ll help quell my conscious. And on top of that it’s probably only for one season.” Grod said which logically was likely to be the case. Noah didn’t have any intention of creating a career out of fighting.
“That’s true… but hey wait! Why me? There’s gotta be some professional fighters who agreed to Trisxel’s proposal. Why focus on me instead of them?”
“While I’m sure you probably guessed that some of the other fighters at JAX’S SOLDIERS are likely now fighting under the same circumstances as you. Odds are that they really need the mentoring as much. Plus on top of that you have one ace up your sleeve that the others don’t.”
“An ace huh? I don’t get it. Something to do with me being a human?” Noah pondered.
“Well… maybe indirectly. It’s because of your manager, Faytana.”
“Faytana?” Noah thought about it for a moment, he thought about what Trisxel had said to him about her being perfect for extracting the information successfully. He thought about he easily she dismantled his own offense. Despite the fact that Noah was able to handle those Maltraxian thugs so easily. “Is it because she’s a Nierdesh? And if that’s the case then why not just pair her up with a fighter more likely to place at the tournament?!”
“Well it looks like you’re right on the VEN for that one. But you see it’s not that simple. Trisxel desperately tried to get other fighters to use Faytana as their manager after they agreed to his other terms. But because… because of her race they all absolutely refused. And they did so with extreme prejudice.”
“I don’t get why. Faytana seems like such a normal girl.” Noah said as Grod laughed.
“Wow that’s rich! You’ve been silently judging every single creature that comes your way since you’ve gotten here and yet somehow the Nierdesh are okay! Is because they look a little more “human” to you?” Grod asked as his laughter slowly faded.
Noah was suddenly trapped in an egregious error of his ability to process that. Do I keep overlooking all these red flags because she looks decidedly more human than others? He wondered. The more he thought about it the less he knew about Faytana than all the other species, yet he always shrugged it off.
That’s when it all started to make sense. The reason Faytana doesn’t seem to want Noah to know anything about the Nierdesh or herself. And why Trisxel chose someone who was only a modestly decent fighter at best. Not because he knew how to fight. Because of what he didn’t know about Faytana.
“I don’t believe this. Was that why she talked to me before the proposal was made by Trisxel? Was Faytana trying to create a good first impression so I wouldn’t mind working with her?” Noah buried his head and into his hands, unsure of her intent that day yet again.
“Well I wouldn’t rule that out but it’s possible.” Grod said with a distance in his eyes. His ogrelike appearance paired with the suspicion that even he wore on his face selling the reason to doubt Faytana. A doubt that Noah held for a moment before shaking it off.
“It doesn’t matter.” Noah said as he stood from his seat.
“Oh?” Grod was surprised. But all in all that reaction was what he’d hoped for. After all if Noah had gotten cold feet from that revelation then Trisxel and Faytana would be out in the wind again. And the issue wouldn’t get solved.
“If Faytana is the necessary piece to this puzzle and nobody else is willing to pick this piece up then I’ll do what I have to. The goal is too important to let something so petty affect it. So I’ll do what I must. Which means right now all I have to do is focus on becoming a better fighter. And not sweat all this stuff about the Nierdesh and their reputation.” He said.
“That’s great! So then we’re partners!?” Grod said as he stood up with him.
“Partners!” Noah affirmed as they locked arms in agreement.
Noah was still in the dark about the Nierdesh. He really rather know all things considered but if Faytana’s involvement was really that important then he’d have to shelve it for now. On top of that he’d be lying if learning this info wasn’t a great motivator for him. He knew that this meant his role as a fighter was all the more important than all the others. After all even if all these other mystery fighters made it into the tournament. It was all in vein if they couldn’t obtain the necessary information.
Though there was still the issue of Noah placing in the tournament. Fighters often train their whole lives to become good enough to fight professionally, and though Noah had a little bit of experience back on Earth with boxing and karate it didn’t guarantee him victory. But now with this newfound info and a new partner who can potentially teach him how to utilize both the calm/rage that Jax had put so much emphasis on a few days prior, then all might not be lost. Just how ironic that he’d discover all this at the INFOSCAPE café that he’d so narrowly avoided earlier. And all without even touching a keyboard.
Later after there talk and a little bit of roadwork both Noah and Grog returned to the gym. The front doorbell rang as they entered the room and the whole cavalcade of trainees looked onward in mild surprise to see the two together. Probably none more shocked then Faytana who hadn’t been there earlier. She ran to the two of them as Jax slowly followed from behind, knowing he’d catch up in due time.
“You’re here!” Faytana yelled with a look of relief spread over her face. Her white pupils trembling at the sight of Noah. “I thought you gave up. I called you maybe a few times…”
Noah pulled out his Comms Device. 13 missed calls, 4 messages from Fay. “I see…” Noah said in surprise himself.
“The human and I just went out for a little bit of roadwork together.” Grog said as both Faytana and Jax had a surprised look on their face.
“Yeah it’s really no big deal.”
“Really? You doing a little bit of roadwork with a Torvak. That’ve been a sight.” Jax said.
“Well back on Earth we have a little saying that I must’ve forgotten along the way.” Noah said as he then made eye contact with Faytana. “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
“You really can’t can you?” Faytana said with a smile.
“Anyways isn’t it time to lace up? Me and Grog have a rematch after all.”
“Ah yes Noah! Of course. Sulu and Toki are having an exhibition right now so let’s get on the mat right after them then.” Jax declared.
After a long fight between Sulu, a Gwetzel, and Toki a pro Blizvainian opponent it was eventually given to Sulu via points. Toki out of breath stood in his corner pissed. Sweat and fur scattered across the mat. He breathed heavily as he then took a drink of protein shake, looking to bulk up a bit before the ONE’S VANITY pre-qualifiers.
“Toki! Come on you know better than that! When facing an opponent of superior strength you need to use your speed to your advantage! And to get out there and get those points. I don’t ever see you lose by points to a bigger fighter ever again.”
“Oh come on you know that’s BS right!? What am I supposed to do go in there and get knocked out!” Toki yelled.
“No go in there and win! If you do get knocked out though then at least I know you gave it your best shot!” Jax loudly proclaimed as the rest of the gym laughed at him.
“Oh please that’s easy to say when you have the strength and size advantage!”
“Oh okay…” Jax said. “So if you had a strength advantage that’d make all the difference huh?” Jax smirked.
“Well obviously!” Toki proclaimed. “If I ever had that advantage then I could easily wipe the floor with my opponent!” He confidently claimed. “Sulu, Grod, hell even that Noah amateur all have a strength advantage over me!” Toki claimed making excuses for his previously lost matches.
“Fine then. Grod! Jiren! Clean up the mat. Toki take a 5-minute recess. Fay! Lace up!”
“Yes sir!” Faytana replied.
“Faytana! That’s not fair!”
“Oh yeah. Why not? You have the strength advantage.”
“Do I?” Toki replied. “Faytana is a Nierdesh. She’s got the advantage over everybody in this room!” Toki proclaimed with anger and frustration in his voice. Faytana looking rather ashamed as she entered the restroom to change.
“Oh come quit making excuses and just do the bout!” Noah yelled.
“Fine…” Toki said as he sat to rest for a moment.
A few minutes later after the mat had been cleaned off Faytana was wearing something a bit different from her usual get up. She was wearing shorts and a tight black tank top. Her silky black hair was up in a bun, really showing off her pointed ears, and her naturally black fingernails almost looked like an accessory to her exercise get up. She had a pair of black and red fighting gloves on. Her white eyes glowing under the fluorescent light.
Noah was awestruck. He already thought she was beautiful but wearing something that showed off her curvy female figure was a different matter. Even under the harsh sterile fluorescent lights of the gym she was shining, almost glossy. Toki on the other end looked tattered and nervous. But still he stood ready to face her.
“Round 1!” Yelled Jax as the two went at it.
But in a somewhat shocking turn Noah had noticed that Toki was going in claws first. And his eyes were different from not only when they fought but even when he had been fighting Sulu moments later. Is that because of Jax’s criticism? Noah thought. Or is it because of Faytana?
Toki got in close and started slashing with an incredible fury. But he wasn’t just slashing to win or to psyche his opponent out. He wanted to draw blood. He wanted to hurt Faytana. He’d moved with a fury that kept Faytana on her toes as she dodged each swipe. Toki then gritted his teeth and went for a stab. His sharp claws pierced the air with a whistle. Noah was a little worried. If that strike made contact it could do some serious damage.
“Have this!” Toki said with an almost evil smile.
It was right before the strike would have hit that Faytana dove deep. More than dove, she sled right underneath Toki and he could barely do so much as watch dumbfounded as she went right between his legs and stood faster than he could reasonably turn around. She then did a jab. One singular jab to his spine. Toki felt an electric shock like never before. His fur frizzed up from the blow and his legs gave out as he fell to his knees.
“W-why y-youuu…” Toki said as his knees vibrated on the mat.
Noah’s worry had shifted at the sight of it. It was such a terrifying maneuver to watch that he couldn’t fathom what it might feel like to be on the receiving end of it. And if was the type of maneuver that Faytana was capable of then know wondered how in this world or any other that she could possibly defeat her. He bit his lip. Not wanting to root against his friend. But he also knew that if Toki could beat her then so could he. He was definitely conflicted.
Toki struggled to stand back up. He bit his hand to take the focus away from the pain in his back. His legs then trembled more and more as he stood. He bit down harder, and it seemed to work. The trembling had stopped. Faytana stood still as a concrete embedded post. Right hand forward with the left only a couple inches behind it.
“You’ll pay for that.” Toki vowed with a quiet anger in his words. His naturally high pitched yet gravely voice even more high pitched than usual.
“…” Faytana stood silent and ready.
Toki ran at her again as Faytana’s legs bent slightly in reaction. He began swiping again and impressively without even taking her feet off the ground once managed to dodge every sing swipe. Toki’s breathing was getting heavy, but he didn’t let up. And though she’d had plenty of opportunity she figured she would let him tire himself out.
“That’s Round 1!” Jax yelled as Toki kept slashing.
“Hey! Toki did you hear me?!” Jax angrily yelled.
Toki had in fact heard him but ignored the metaphorical bell that was Jax’s voice. And as he continued to attack Faytana she suddenly glared at him. Frightening him but he didn’t let up. He’s out for blood! Noah thought, considering stepping in. But there was no need. Because just for an instant Faytana’s bright white eyes turned to a harsh neon red. Noah catching only a glimpse of it.
She then started using her hands. She deflected both Toki’s right and left before committing to a powerful forward punch to his chest. The shockwave of the hit blew Toki’s cat hair around as if it had been blown by a gust of wind. He then began choking as he hit the floor again. But this time it wasn’t just to his knees. He was in a full-blown fetal position. Chocking and hacking as Faytana’s red eyes returned to white, a sense of melancholy in them now.
“Well… this didn’t go well.” Jax said. “Jiren. Get Toki out of here… I can’t stand to look at him after he blatantly ignored the end of the round like that. If he got anything out of this, hopefully it was that he shouldn’t assume he does or doesn’t have the advantage just because of stats.” Jax said as he motioned Noah and Grod onto the mat.
They were both still a little in shock from that display, but both answered with a resounding “Yes sir!” as they entered and Faytana exited.
“Fay…?” Noah said to Faytana as she ignored him and walked over to his corner.
I suppose she doesn’t want to talk…
Noah and Grod then went to face each other on the mat. Noah still had that last bout nestled deeply in the back of his mind. But he knew that he didn’t have time to dwell on it. Because now was the time for his rematch with Grod. The two shook locked arms and then backed off a bit. Locking arms being a form of handshake on Vishta.
“Are you ready.”
“Do you remember what I told you?” Grod asked.
“My emotions need to fluid. Angry when it calls for it and calm when it calls for it.”
Grod smirked. “Exactly.” He said as Jax and Faytana looked at the two conversing with confusion.
“Um… Round 1!” Jax said as the two darted forward, fists up.
Grod took the first swing as Noah took a quick, deep breath. He leaned out of the way as the punch came in, narrowly avoiding it. Grod then went in for a couple of jabs. Noah threw his arms up to block as a left and then a right jab, and then a left again his arms. He could feel the power behind each hit. He knew he was outclassed by power. But he knew that he had the ability to dish out damage as well. He saw in the corner of his eye Grod’s fist going in for a hit to his side.
Noah held his breath out and by sheer willpower popped out the veins in his forehead of his own free will. He leapt into clinch with Grod. Clinching being a long-known boxing technique used gain a brief moment of brevity by grappling your opponent. Keeping his hit from landing. He used this time to get angry, but it wasn’t working.
At least it hadn’t been working until Grod gave Noah a little push. Both metaphorically and literally as he pushed Noah away from him to gain distance before going back to the offensive. As Noah staggered backward he got really steamed. Using that push as the mechanism to flip over to angry. As Grod started throwing punches. Haphazardly dodged them as he began throwing punches as well.
Thanks to Noah’s speed advantage he was able to get in the first real blow of the match just like before. Hitting Grod in his side with much power like Grod had tried to do before. This was when Noah saw it in him. Grod despite his beat red skin got even redder in the face. He then pulled back and thrust a powerful punch forward. But Noah was still angry and still on the offensive. He threw up a halfhearted block and was knocked square on his ass. Avoiding serious damage but losing just as serious leverage.
Grod then met him on the floor. Throwing punch after punch, really utilizing his anger in that moment. Noah shifting his arms to block as many as he could but not blocking them all. Oh no! At this rate I’ve already lost! Noah desperately thought as he began to get bruised and beaten. He then started taking deep breaths and paying attention to Grod’s posture. He then grabbed each of Grod’s wrists and then wrapped his left leg over Grod’s right.
Gaining momentary momentum Noah was able to fling Grod over to his back. Noah now sitting over him. Noah then summoned forth his rage again. Fists began to fly as Noah kept striking Grod, as Grod blocked each hit. But just as Noah did before Grod could feel the power behind each of those hits. And just as Noah was beginning to chip away at Grod’s guard, that was the round.
“END OF ROUND!” Jax yelled, perhaps louder than needed. But after what happened during Faytana Vs. Toki one could hardly blame him.
Noah stopped his attack and backed off. Grod stood up and backed away back to his corner. Noah then did the same, Faytana waiting there for him with a bottle of water. He sat for a moment to catch his breath and then began to ferociously chug the water she’d handed him.
“Noah… you’re doing great. What changed?”
“Grod gave me a little bit of advice earlier. It’s helping a lot.”
“Why would he do that?” Faytana asked.
“He understands how important what we’re doing is. He wants me to succeed. He wants you to succeed.” Noah said as he looked her in the eyes.
“He does?” Faytana said with surprise.
“Yeah well not just him. I want you to succeed as well. And not just with this. But with everything.” Noah said with a certain sincerity in his voice.
Faytana looked away bashfully, not wanting Noah to see her blushing. She was growing rather fond of the human. And not just because of the physical attraction that she felt for him. But because of his words and his actions. Him encouraging her like this. Challenging her like he had before. And then reinforcing the honor of that action by refusing to enter that INFOSCAPE café. This fondness wasn’t something she’d felt before. Not with anyone.
“Round 2! Get ready!” Jax yelled as Noah and Grod jumped back into the fight. Faytana cheering him on. The rest of the gym cheering for Grod. But in a twist, Toki in the corner silently cheering for Noah.
Come on Noah… the wounded Blizvain thought. Prove to me power isn’t everything!
Noah and Grod then bumped fists out of respect before backing off. “Round 2 start!” Jax yelled as he did his signature forward hand thrust. The two then went at it again. Back in each other’s hit zones with near record pace. And just like that they were trading body blows. Both of them somewhere between calm and rage. It was like a pendulum flowing back and forth.
Though Noah was feeling the pressure from the hits he didn’t let it affect him too much. He knew that he was dealing damage as well. He just had to wait for his opportunity for a good strike, but it never came. Even when he felt like he had an opening Grod clinched. Grabbing onto Noah, not letting go. Noah struggled as he was being squeezed. Feeling himself give way to anger exclusively.
He somehow managed to break free but he was winded, and his anger blinded him. He went for a superman punch but wasn’t quite close enough to land a good one. And as he was off balance from his swing, Grod went in for and underhand jab, hitting Noah’s stomach. Noah coughed and grasped his gut as Grod went for a knee. And due to Grod’s size and Noah hunched over in pain it was quite easy for him to land.
Noah’s face almost looked as if it had caved in from the blow as he flew backwards and hit the ground on his side. His nose was bleeding, but the match wasn’t over. He took a breath to regain his calm when his saw Grod running in for a stomp. But just as Grod’s weighty foot struck the ground Noah had already rolled out of the way. Using his low position to his advantage he tackled Grod. The first, and then the second… Noah got in two good jabs to Grod’s face. Grod’s smirk growing more after each hit had struck.
Grod then used his arms to push Noah back. The two both grounded fought to regain their footing. As the two stood they both took a moment to look at each other. Both smiling. They were eating this battle up. Savoring it like a nice warm cup of zellos. Look at him… he seems a little more manageable now that I know his secret. Noah thought looking at the Torvak. His breath is shortening. That doesn’t mean I can get too careless. Grod thought in tandem.
Not long after they’d both gotten back on their feet round 2 had ended. The after another heated stalemate so too did round 3. Noah and Grod now thrust into round 4 were in the heat of battle. Both swinging and dodging. That pendulum of calm in rage still in full swing. But still it seemed as if one was gaining advantage over the other. Grod wasn’t sweating or breathing nearly as hard.
Look at him. He’s tired. Grod thought. Come on kid… don’t lose this fight. I need you to prove to me that you can win. That you can make it to ONE’S VANITY and get Faytana backstage… Grod stood hoping Noah would show signs of a second wind but nothing. Noah kept his distance, presumably trying to catch his breath.
“It looks like you’re spent.” Grod said as he threw up his fists. “Oh well kid. You may not have won today but you showed some real growth. Perhaps Jax can still whip you into shape throughout the coming months.” Grod whispered to himself.
Grod now confident that he’d won the match ran at Noah with the intent and expectation to blow right through him. Noah appeared to be barely standing and gasping for air. Grod stepped in and planted his feet. Swinging his fist in low expecting one heck of a blow to connect. Noah’s eyes which had been glossed over suddenly sparkled. His stance suddenly steadied. Noah then threw himself backwards like a gymnast, Grod’s massive punch missing in the process. Noah pushed himself off the ground with his hand as he straightened out his legs. His feet flew through the air like a bullet as Grod now how the glossed look in his eyes.
Grod was suspended in place. Not able to recover in time from the throwing of his fist. And as he looked onward Noah’s feet could be seen in the reflection of this glossy expression as they eventually made contact. Spit flew out of Grod’s mouth, him being unable to shut it. He took a few reactionary steps backward but didn’t get far before Noah came in with the full force of his anger.
Everyone’s eyes were now glued to Noah and the vein popping teeth grinding expression on his face. Faytana, Jax, Toki, and of course Grod were all just absolutely caught off guard. Noah’s fist made contact with Grod’s jawline as his whole face shook like there had just been an earthquake. And just like that Grod had fallen like a goliath just bested by David. The room fell silent for a moment.
“Er uh… that’s match!” Jax yelled as he went onto the mat to throw Noah’s hand up into the air. “Noah is the victor!” Jax yelled as the rest of the fighters couldn’t believe that they found themselves cheering out of both respect and excitement.
A few minutes later the group had gone back to training as Noah sat at a bench next to Faytana as she tended to his wounds and to his bloodied nose. Faytana was absolutely stunned by his victory.
“Where’d you think to do that incredible kick?!” Faytana asked with excitement.
“Why it was you Fay!” Noah said back to her.
“Me? How so?”
“It was the maneuver you did against Toki. Of course I couldn’t pull off something that skillful. But geez Louise Fay, you’re incredible!” Noah yelled with a genuine sincerity.
Faytana blushed as she continued to “lick” Noah’s wounds. A few moments later Grod soon found himself walking over to him after having regained consciousness. They both had a smile on their faces as he walked up. Both faces looking more than a little mangled.
“I guess this means we’re sparring partners.”
“Partners?” Faytana questioned.
“That’s right Fay. Grod’s going to help me prepare for ONE’S VANITY from now here on out” Noah said with a big ol grin on his face.
“That’s right partner.” Grod said back to him.
The Two then bumped elbows as Faytana watched. She was amazed. It seemed in such a short amount after one heated match they were actually a little more than partners. Almost friends it would seem. The Noah that she’d read about didn’t seem capable. But this almost didn’t seem like the same Noah that she’d read about. This Noah was a Noah with a purpose. A Noah with an understanding of connection between the species of Vishta. What changed? she thought. C-can I… tell him about me?
“But it would only stand to reason that Noah isn’t the only new partner I’ve made today.” Grod said as he looked at Faytana.
“M-me!?” Faytana said flattered yet surprised. “A-are you sure?”
“Well of course.” The two then likewise bumped elbows out of respect.
“I imagine this means that Noah should have two great sparring buddies now.” Grod jested as the two of them laughed.
“Oh please better than those muscles. As if!” Faytana said.
The two continued to joke and laugh as Noah noticed a message on his comms device. It was from Greshit. That’s when it hit him. He hadn’t been to either of his previous two therapy sessions. He picked it up and looked at the message.
Are you okay? You’ve missed two of your weekend sessions… Greshit wrote.
*VIBRATE* I heard that you quit your job!? Is that really true? I think you should come in to talk to me. Greshit then wrote back as she sat in her office with a sad expression. The type of expression that screams “I failed…” rested on her face.
Noah began messaging back. I’m sorry to have worried you. I’m really alright. I’m in Ito right now. I won’t be coming back to my therapy sessions for a while. He wrote as Greshit’s pitch black eyes somehow grew darker, colder and were filled with sadness.
I really think you should come back. You’re not ready… She messaged, remembering Noah’s outburst during the last session.
It wasn’t that Noah didn’t want to see Greshit, and it’s not like he thought she couldn’t help but he felt that his newfound goal and friendships might be doing him so good. Better actually. He replied with Actually I don’t think I’ll be coming back at all Greshit. Sorry, and Goodbye. Noah said as he went back to laughing and joking.
This reply made Greshit’s heart sink even further. Filled with sorrow unsure of whether or not she had failed Noah or was no longer needed by him. Both destroyed her. She packed up her supplies since Noah was supposed to be her last client for that day. She went home in her flying car. Looking out into the city at all the people as she drove. Knowing that if what Noah wrote was true and he was in Ito that she unfortunately would not catch a glimpse of him below as she sometimes had done.
The next few months were both rewarding and grueling for Noah. Being taught new wisdoms by Jax. New moves by Faytana. And testing his newfound might and strategies on Grod. The two of them having matches often. The victor going back and forth. Sometimes being Noah, and sometimes Grod. Even Toki would spar with him and even managed to sneak in a few wins which were good for both of them.
It had been a crazy few months filled laughs, zellos, weightlifting and roadwork. But one night after some intense training Noah stood shirtless in front the mirror in the bathroom he could see the changes in his physique. He had been by no means out of shape before but now he was quite impressive, and he knew it. Man I’m swole now he thought as he looked at his abs and thick muscles. Flexing at the same time. That wasn’t the only change he endured. He picked at and groomed his beard with his fingers. A beard that was a dirty blonde as opposed to his bright blonde hair.
Noah exited the bathroom and to his surprise he saw Faytana. Standing before him. Once again not wearing her usual clothing with the white printed flower on them. But instead she had on her tank top and shorts. This caught him off guard. It was nighttime and all the other fighters had either gone to their cots or gone home. Even Jax had already retired to his apartment right above the gym.
“Faytana? What are you doing here?”
“I’m here for our challenge. The pre-qualifying fights for ONE’S VANITY are only a couple days away now so I figured there may be no other time.” She said.
“What? That’s not true, what about after?” Noah asked.
Noah was nervous to have a real One Vs. One fight with Faytana. Even though he was curious to learn more about her and her people he still didn’t feel as though he could even win. He saw the fight between her and Toki. It was no contest. There’s no way I can win…
“Noah…” Faytana grew quiet and reserved. Looking almost nervous herself which allowed Noah to ease up on his own nerves a bit. Replacing those nerves with concern. “If you make it into ONE’S VANITY we may not get a chance to fight after. If I get caught looking for the proof we need I and I alone will be convicted of criminal charges…”
“Wh-what!?” Noah said in shock. That’s right… she’s got the most to lose here. Not me, and not Trisxel but her! Noah had thought with compassion.
“…” Faytana stood cold and silent as Noah looked at her. Sad to see her so vulnerable.
“Alrighty then!” Noah yelled as he pumped his fist. “Let’s get this slaughter over with!” He said with a smile as she giggled a bit.
“Yes… let’s” As she put her hand forth for a handshake.
A handshake again? Who is this woman? Noah thought as he shook her hand. I suppose I might find out soon…
The two then took their corners of the mat. Noah’s hand was shaking again until he saw what Faytana had done next. She bowed to him. A very eastern thing to do back on Earth. It eased his tension just a little as he bowed back. The after a few moments of deliberation they both took a fighting stance. Noah’s fists clenched and raised. Her hands open and steady, ready to counter.
“Start!” She yelled.
The two of them thrust themselves into hand-to-hand combat with one another. Noah throwing the first few punches as Faytana blocked and deflected each one. Noah then went for a low underhanded punch to the gut but much like on the bus all those months ago his wrist had been grabbed. Her fingers wrapped around it. She then threw him on his side. But instead remain at the disadvantage Noah jumped back up and went in for the clinch.
As he clinched the two found themselves in a momentary embrace. The both of them blushing as their faces rest neat to each other. Faytana broke his arms up from around herself and grabbed his wrist again. Spinning behind him this time and pushing him away. He turned around and she was back in her fighting stance. Still blushing from their embrace and so was he.
Is she blushing? Noah then smacked each of the cheeks on his face with both palms. No, no! She’s just flustered from the fight. Get it together! He chanted within his mind. He then raised his fists and rushed her.
Throwing one punch after the other but all of them missing. Even though he was letting the pendulum between calm and rage sway naturally he couldn’t seem to gain any sort of upper hand. And before he knew it she had been fighting back. Swift jabs started flurrying in. Faytana hitting him with her palm as she jabbed. Each hit throwing Noah off his balance, and every counter punch he threw was simply brushed aside. He then threw a powerful kick as she caught his foot. She then raised his leg until his already thrown off balance became the balance of nonexistence.
He fell to the ground. Noah was really feeling it to. He fell on his back pretty hard. But he didn’t let that stop him from getting back up. After all his stamina and endurance was much better now. He the rolled backward and stood up swiftly, throwing his arms up for a block as soon as he stood. His assertion was correct because Faytana was already back in close. Throwing more jabs with her palms. Each one stinging as they hit Noah’s skin.
Noah began to anticipate these jabs however and even began to see that she had been throwing them in a pattern. He separated both arms knocking her hands off course as he went then threw a powerful punch. Powerful being an understatement. After all the punch he threw if connected would easily knock Grod out. Though he wasn’t expecting to land it. At best he was hoping it would force Faytana to gain some distance.
*BAM* Noah’s jaw dropped to the floor. His punch had actually connected. Hitting Faytana right in the cheekbone. She flew back and Noah was actually kind of nervous but now for a different reason. That punch should’ve more than knocked someone of Faytana’s stature out by Noah’s estimate. And the way her body made a thud as it hit the floor was worrisome.
“Faytana are you okay!” Noah yelled but then he had a different reaction. “Oh no…”
Faytana was not only back on her feet, but her face appeared to only be scuffed. As she stood back up slightly staggered she wiped the scuff and drool from her face. Her bun suspending her hair had come undone and she had a look of near killer intent. Her eyes had flared and were now a beat red. Glowing like neon and piercing Noah’s defenses by glance alone.
“Fay-Faytana your eyes?!” Noah heeded in desperation and confusion.
“Get ready human…” Faytana said with demonic sound buzzing from behind her tongue when she did. Resting back in her throat.
Faytana leapt in like a blur. Thick black lines seemingly tracing behind her has she swayed back and forth from one side of Noah to the next. Her fists now clenched like a boxer’s as opposed to the softer openhand method she used before. Her neon red eyes tracing back and forth leaving momentary track as their sights lay locked on Noah.
The punches then started coming in at lighting speed, Noah unable to keep up. First he was hit in the side and then the gut followed by several powerful jabs to his face. What the hell is happening? He thought he began trying to dodge and block the hits, more or less unsuccessfully. Sh… she’s going to kill me!
Faytana then punched Noah fairly quickly in throat. Only managing to regain her senses for long enough to ease up a bit. Noah still coughed and choked from the blow and suddenly he got lightheaded. He then gritted his teeth and got angry. He darted at her throwing a string of powerful jabs himself. Faytana was caught off guard by this. The mere fact that Noah could see her at her most terrifying and be angry rather than scared.
She was ashamed she’d let herself get to that point again. If she hadn’t caught herself Noah could have ended up dead. Or maybe not she began to feel as Noah came in with some ferocious punches and kicks. She could tell from the sting they left even as she blocked them. Maybe it’s time that I end this? She thought.
She then got down to the ground and spun in a 360-degree motion. Kicking him and floor swiping him to the ground as he fell to the ground on his back. She then climbed on top of him with her fist raised and arm holding him down. Their bodies were so close. They both blushed as the blood started rushing through their bodies. His anger had all but disappeared and so did hers. Their bodies were pressed so closely together, and he could feel her chest on his. So close… they both thought in tandem.
“Well… It’s safe to say that I’ve pinned you. It’s over.” Faytana said as she quickly stood up and brushed herself off.
“Yeah I guess it is pretty…” Noah awkwardly said before embarrassingly catching and correcting himself. “Pretty safe I mean! You’re right.” He said, cheeks still red from the interaction.
“Well then. I did go a little overboard so it’s only fair that I tell you a little bit about myself and my people.” Faytana said as she reached down to help Noah out.
“But I lost…”
“Yeah that may be true but. I did put you through hell. It’s the least I could do to make it up to you.” She said as Noah grabbed her.
“What a good friend you are.” He said as she blushed further and looked away.
But then she looked back, and he was still staring at her with a smile. And suddenly she felt happy and smiled back at him. She was so ecstatic to hear those words that she only had one thing to say to him.“Well I guess now I have to tell you… since we’re friends and all.” Faytana said.