Noah was standing with this giant before him. Several feet tall the Domin held this dominating appearance over Noah as if to say, “It’s over for you little man.” The dingy, poorly lit fighter’s hall building an atmosphere around this Domin. Noah had previously stated that he hated the Domins and didn’t fear them but perhaps that wasn’t entirely true. The cavalier and cocky attitude of this one was quite worrying. But Noah didn’t know if this “Zorfaks” was all yelp and no bark.
“The crowd may have mildly enjoyed your little battle with Fig but that’s to be expected. Two lesser species battling it out, the little one is the most endearing. But I’m a greater species. My chemistry with the crowd will undoubtedly reign supreme!” The Domin said. “Not to mention I’ve already tasted a championship belt. Not one but two Bronze titles!” He boasted.
And this was true. This Domins name was Hanjo. Holding the subtitle Hanjo: The Crusher. His body was quite large, and his arms were thick and wavy like a corrugated culvert pipe. Not unlike Noah’s previous Domin handler of the Domin Pirates, Hanjo also had a layered neck looking like several cut slabs of roast beef folded over each other. His eyes a dark muddy brown like most Domins and his skin tough like a rhinos.
“Your clout means nothing to me.” Noah plainly said. “So just save it for the ring. And in turn… I’ll save a large spot on the canvas for you!” Noah exclaimed.
“HA! HA! HA!” Hanjo laughed furiously. Looking both angry and entertained. “I’ll remember you said that when you’re laying in that spot!” He said as he walked passed Noah, unable to shoulder bump him due to his height. In a passively aggressive fashion smacking his large robust hand into Noah’s shoulder instead. An intimidation tactic.
“I can’t stand that guy! I’m gonna hit him until he throws up!” Noah claimed in anger.
“Just be careful not to punch him in the gut…” Faytana warned unable to keep eye contact after giving it.
Noah had thought about it for a moment before thinking back to his first day at JAX’S SOLDIERS and what Jax had said. And no crotch shots! That means when fighting a Domin, careful not to hit them where your stomach would be! Noah was incredibly grossed out by the thought, but he was grateful for the reminder.
“Oh yeah… thanks for that. Forget about losing, the last thing I want to do is to brush my fist up against that…” Noah said nervously.
“Would numbers 13 and 17 make their way to Ring 1. I repeat, 13 and 17 to Ring 1!” A female announced through the speaker.
“That was quicker than I thought.”
“Just do your best oaky?” Faytana said, trying to coax Noah into a feeling of comfort.
“I will. Thank you.”
The crowd had been paying close attention to the match going on in the second ring as Viperion fought a Maltraxian fighter Bull-fax. Viperion would just stand there as the lightweight Maltraxian fighter went to town. All four fists punch one after the other but Viperion stood unfazed by them. The crowd looked on with awe as Viperion backhanded the Maltraxian as he flew into the ropes and then fell to the ground. Even with the assistance of all four of his hands he was having trouble getting back on his feet.
“Oh wow…” Noah said. “She’s just making sport of him.
“Yeah well don’t worry about her. Viperion isn’t your opponent. Hanjo is. And it’s only natural. She’s practically a super heavyweight and he’s a lightweight fighter.” She noted.
“I guess that’s true. Pro fighting is a tough business for anyone below a middle weight fighter it seems.” Noah said, just as awestruck as the rest of the audience.
“Pathetic.” Viperion bluntly stated as she watched the struggling Maltraxian fighter.
She then began to slowly walk towards Bull-Fax as he took notice. He then began to try and crawl out of the way. As he struggled she grew closer and closer as the sweat on his forehead began to drip down passed his devilish eyes. Devilish in nature but ultimately irrelevant due to the desperate look that he had as Viperion was not standing over him, Bull-Fax laying in her shadow.
The Maltraxian nervous and afraid threw his hand up to tap the canvas and give up but Viperion wasn’t about to let him do that. Just as Bull-Fax’s hand was to come down it was soon forced down as her weighty foot came down on top of it, mid drop. Crushing his hand beneath her large feet as he screamed in pain. Viperion’s Maltraxian manager gulping at the implication of it as she stared at him in the process. She then dropped her knee down onto the Maltraxian fighter’s back as he coughed before eventually passing out.
“The winner is Viperion!” The referee announced as he attempted to lift her arm. Her raising her arm on her own instead, lifting the ref off the ground.
Half of the crowd was split between people booing and cheering, Viperion being a very polarizing competitor. She’d been fighting in the industry for a long time and always participated in ONE’S VANITY, one of Vishta’s biggest and most popular fighting competitions as well as its most brutal. She had won gold at ONE’S VANITY a few times and Gold and silver at other competitions as well. She had never not earned at title or a ribbon at any of her previous competitions with the exception of one or two. Only because of “accidents” that happened due to the brutality of her fighting style.
As Noah entered the ring on his part he noticed Viperion looking at him again. Faytana took note of this but relucted to use her eyes of rage amongst this large crowd in fear of drawing unwanted attention. Nevertheless she held her gaze in hopes to deter Viperion’s. Noah began to feel nervous all over again. Attempting to hold it altogether as not to show weakness to his opponent who may arrive at any moment now. But then that front became harder to put up as Viperion walked over to his corner of the ring. Faytana spurred into action.
“Don’t come any closer!” Faytana yelled.
“Calm down. You’re embarrassing yourself. I’m a professional, I don’t fight outside of the ring.” Viperion put bluntly.
“…” Noah was shocked. Why’s she coming over here? His mind raced. He wasn’t the only one to take notice of this as well. Both the cameraman and crowd grew relatively quiet as she approached him.
“You’re Noah, the human right?” Viperion said with a glare, her reptilian-like eyes seemingly piercing Noah’s heart & soul.
“I get that a lot. Would you believe me if I said no?” Noah nervously yet laughingly said.
“It was a rhetorical question.” Viperion said in Old English as Noah looked at her in shock and Faytana looked on in confusion.
“Oh my god! It must be true…” Noah squealed. “You’ve been to Earth haven’t you!?”
“Irrelevant.” Viperion said returning to the Vishtian dialect. Viperion then walked closer, coming face to face with Noah even as he stood in the ring and her on the ground floor. “I’ve just come over here to wish you luck in your next fight. Based on the current ballot you’ll be fighting me at ONE’S VANITY if you win. I would be underselling it if I said I wasn’t looking forward to it. So don’t lose.” Viperion said as she walked away. Noah almost shaking in his shoes.
Shortly after Viperion had made her exit, Hanjo: The Crusher was slowly making his way to the ring as he scratched his “tummy” insinuating that he’d been in the restroom. He wanted Noah to feel his presence as he walked so he took powerful steps that vibrated the floor and the ring. He saw that Noah had looked nervous which only boosted his confidence. He then stepped over the top rope and slammed down onto the ring shaking it.
“Ha! He’s afraid of me!” Hanjo boasted loud and proud believing it to be true.
What reason could she have for wanting to fight me? Does she hate humans? Noah had thought.
As the floating cameras rotated independently around the ring flying around, getting the best angles for the people back home as the two stood parallel, total opposites of each other. This was a pre-qualifying match to determine which of these two fighters would be going on to fight in ONE’S VANITY. Everyone was watching, including Greshit at home. She sat in her pearly white apartment as her caged vitas chirped in their cages, and multiple cleaning bots cleaned up regularly after spilt “bird” feed and the occasional dust mite.
“I believe in you Mr. Graham.” Greshit said, shiny black eyes glued to her VISOR.
“Maybe I should just quit right now…” Noah whispered as Faytana’s ears perked up.
“What? You can’t do that. Trisxel is counting on you, and I am counting on you!” She yelled at him. She then climbed the steps connected to the ring. “You can’t give up! You have to get us to ONE’S VANITY got that!? You’re afraid of her? You should be afraid of me!” Faytana yelled to give Noah a kick in the pants.
“You’re right!” Noah said. He knew she didn’t mean that last part. He also knew she was right. There were still enslaved creatures depending on him getting to ONE’S VANITY, and for all he knew Viperion was one of them.
“Fighters! Center stance!” The Pentagost referee had said.
“Okay here we go!” Noah yelled, psyching himself up. Rushing to the center of the ring.
The ring then started shaking with each step that Hanjo took. His wide feet stomping down, each one like a mini cataclysmic event. A snarky smile smeared across his face. Hanjo was a Domin through and through. Right down to his cockiness and valuable marketing skills. Marketing himself as this unbeatable giant. Leaning into his villainous character. He knew that it was going to make him infamous. Which to him made him necessary, which was good job security. People would want to tune in to see him.
Noah was the opposite. Nobody knew anything about him other than the fact that he was a human. He was ordinary and lacking in characteristics compared to other species. And as for Hanjo he was his ticket for a good crowd reaction tonight. Because he was a “lesser” species. This definitely pissed Noah off. And as he saw this giant standing before him Viperion had suddenly faded into the back of his mind. And Hanjo was sitting in the forefront.
“Alright fighters! 5 rounds! Standard rule set!” The ref said. “In this corner we Hanjo! The Crusher! Biggest and boldest around, weighing at 438 pounds!” The ref yelled as he then pointed at Noah. “In this corner we have the literal one and only. Standing at 171 pounds! NOAH GRAHAM!” The crowd had cheered for both of them, catching Hanjo by surprise. But it didn’t matter. Hanjo was going to do what he did best. Crush!
*ding* The bell rang as Noah jumped straight in there. He started punching and kicking Hanjo as his fists and feet were buried into the skin of his legs and side. The slow lumbering Hanjo blocking as many as he could. Hanjo was feeling a bit of pain here and there but for the most part it just tickled. That still didn’t keep Hanjo from blocking when he could, and every block that Noah’s hands make contact with was like hitting a brick wall.
Noah hissed from that pain but did his best not to express it too loudly. He didn’t want to show any signs of weakness. Unfortunately for him that wasn’t really possible against a foe like Hanjo. Because Hanjo saw most of his opponents that way regardless. It was after about a minute of attacks from Noah that Hanjo had gotten fed up. He placed one foot back to gain stability as he stepped forward with the other. He then thrusted the full front of his body attacking Noah without the use of his limbs.
As the front of his body first started bumping into Noah, he’d found himself almost being consumed by it. His groin area and “stomach” are wrapping Noah momentarily suffocating him. Then as the buoyancy of Hanjo’s body started taking affect it bounced forward and lunged Noah back as he fell to the ground. Hitting it so hard that the ring shook almost as badly as when Hanjo took a step.
“HA! HA! HA!” Hanjo laughed as he took these massive steps forward.
“Darn it!” Noah yelled as he jumped back onto his feet.
Albeit slow, Hanjo was still rushing towards Noah as quickly as he could. The shaking canvas from his steps were throwing Noah off balance. Oh Woah! Thought as he struggled to maintain his stance as he kept his fists clenched and raised, ready to fight. But as Noah was struggling to stay stand this large and lumbering arm started breaking wind as it barreled through the air on Noah’s left side. Noah threw his arms up to defend against it as he was knocked over. Hitting the canvas yet again.
“Get up Noah!” Faytana desperately yelled.
“What!?” Noah cried as he looked up and the wide Earth shaking stomp of Hanjo was about to come down on him.
Noah rolled out of the way. But despite his agility the stomp still shook the ground enough to bounce him into the air due to his close proximity. He yelped as he hit the ground again, falling on his stomach. As he coughed he’d noticed the foot was up again, ready to come down. And if it landed on him it could very well break a bone from the overwhelming weight. Noah successfully rolling out of the way again.
As Noah rolled he rolled again immediately after to miss the shockwave. As the foot came down onto the canvas and the Earth shook Noah was surprised the ring could even take this abuse. Clearly to designed to accommodate much larger species. As Noah looked back at Hanjo he’s noticed him staggering under the force of his own actions.
This is my chance! Noah saw as he ran in to start punching Hanjo as furiously as possible. Tipping the scale and leaning the pendulum over to the side of RAGE. As he got in there he started punching ferociously, focusing on one singular point of contact to deal as much damage as he could. The more he punched the larger the indentation in Hanjo’s skin became as now Hanjo started to wince and hiss from the pain. Employing the same strategy as Noah, trying not to let Noah know he was hurting.
As the pain started piling up Hanjo got angrier and angrier. He was shocked that this small human could do such damage. Then right when he felt his shock couldn’t be elevated any further, Noah went in for the round up. His fist was pulled back. Noah’s gaze sharpened. Focusing it on that same singular point of interest. Noah’s fist flew through the air breaking it like it was breaking the sound barrier. And to both Noah and Hanjo the whole room fell silent until point of impact. The blast then forced Hanjo to react in turn, swaying his hip and smacking Noah with it to get him off as Noah staggered back.
Breathing heavily Noah stood fists raised as he breathed heavily and sweat profusely. And despite his darker complexion the sweat on Hanjo’s brow could still be seen. Sweat also dripping like a leaky faucet from his armpits. Noah could tell that he was doing damage. And thanks to Noah’s massive speed advantage he hadn’t taken a serious blow yet. That being said though Hanjo still had several points accrued from knock downs. So if Noah couldn’t knock Hanjo out then he may use via technicality.
*ding* “That’s round 1!” The ref yelled. “Back to your corners.”
Noah satisfied walked back to his corner. As he walked Hanjo pretended to “accidently” bump Noah with his hip as Noah stumbled forward a bit. He looked back Hanjo in anger as the Domin could be seen snickering on his way back to his corner. Noah clenched his fist in anger.
“What a jerk.” Faytana said as Noah made it back to her.
“Yeah well… I get it. He thought it was going to be an easy win. It wasn’t.” Noah told her as he sat down to take a few sips of water. “That being said. He may still win.” Noah said as he gasp for air, trying to catch his breath from his own furious assault.
“How so? You’re doing great.”
“Points Fay. He’s already got a couple of knockdowns on me. I couldn’t hope to beat him in points. And if I can’t knock him down then it doesn’t matter if I can make it through all five rounds or not…” Noah said as he continued to breath heavily.
“Yeah well I was thinking about that.”
“Oh yeah, what you got?”
“Those stomps he does. They’re high reward if he can stomp you out but they’re also high risk. Remember, he may tower over you, but he’s got a large target that he leaves open every time he takes one of those steps.” Faytana said.
“What is it?”
“Well… as you know shots to the… you know, private place are forbidden.” Faytana said with an embarrassed blush. “But his forbidden zone isn’t groin level. So it’s just a tender patch of skin.” Faytana reminded him as Noah’s face lit up.
“Of course! Thanks Fay!” Noah yelled as Faytana blushed a little more.
“Thank you…” She said bashfully.
As the second round had started Noah and Hanjo got back into the ring. Noah wasn’t acting carelessly however as he was used to. He kept his distance as he waited for the stomps to start flowing in, but they never came. Come on! Noah thought as he kept his distance. But Noah knew he couldn’t wait forever. Hanjo could but Noah couldn’t or else he’d lose by points. Some in an attempt to stir the pot a little bit Noah leapt in.
As Noah approached Hanjo threw a jab. It was faster than Noah had expected considering his opponents size, but he was still ready for it. After all he’d dodged hits from Grod, Faytana and the incredibly quick and elusive Toki. Hell he’d even dodged eight fists at the same time against those Maltraxian thugs. So he wasn’t surprised at all that he could pivot and avoid this massive jab. And as he did he slid almost like a ninja behind Hanjo and ran in, jumping off the ground and doing a spin kick, something he’d improvised in his youth doing karate.
As the kick made contact with Hanjo’s back he staggered forward a little. This no doubt made Hanjo: The Crusher angry. And more importantly it made him want to crush his opponent. He then lifted his leg up high as the shadow of it covered Noah from head to toe. “Have this!” Hanjo yelled as Noah thought Finally! The Noah rolled into the underside of Hanjo, punching him right in the soft spot where most creatures reproductive organ would be. The shock and sting tingled up Hanjo’s spine as he stumbled backwards and fell flat on his ass. Shaking the ring more than any of his stomps ever could.
“Gross!” Noah uttered, that spot still being squishier than he was expecting.
“Ow! You dirty human!” Hanjo cried as he squealed in pain.
Noah had finally got a point for knock down vs the few that Hanjo already had. So he knew he couldn’t take a moment to breath or celebrate. He scurried right back in, but he was clearly a little winded. He took a good jab at Hanjo’s chest stinging him as the frustrated Domin threw his arm up hitting Noah in the face. This stung like a bee sting to the face as Noah flew backward, hanging mid-air for a moment as his legs were bent. And as he hit the floor that was another point for Hanjo.
*ding* “That’s round 2!”
Noah picked himself back up to head to his corner as Hanjo did the same. Noah sat down as Faytana observed his bruises to assess the damages. As Hanjo sat down again the ring shook gaining the pairs attention. Noah couldn’t help but notice that Hanjo was looking right at them snickering. This angered Noah, watching this Domin look at them so judgingly.
“What’s so funny!?” Noah yelled from across the ring.
“Nothing!” Hanjo said. “Because you’re nothing!” He laughed.
“And what makes you the foremost authority on me!?” Noah angrily asked.
“Noah stay calm…” Faytana said.
“Well I am a Domin after all. I heard from connections of mine that it was Domin Pirates that followed the Marauders to that… rock you call a planet. What a pathetic place. I hear the Marauders didn’t even invade. The nabbed some water then blew it up!” Hanjo laughed.
“…” Noah was furious as Faytana rubbed his shoulder to calm him down.
“Noah…” Greshit said with condolences as she watched from her VISOR screen.
“Yeah and I heard they couldn’t even sell you for pleasure or war. You got sold to a mining colony of all things! What was it V-6720? What a laugh!” He boasted.
It was in that moment that it all came flooding back to him. The Domin transport ship and his old handler. The destruction of his planet. The hot to the touch plasma shackles in the colony, and the humiliation he’d suffered from the guards on V-6720.
“Grrr!” Noah was now steaming. That balance he often held between serenity and rage had suddenly been overtaken by mostly rage and hatred. “I’m going to destroy him!”
*ding* Noah ran in fast and angry. He started him from one side and then slid to the other faster than Hanjo could react. Hitting again and again. His breathing became erratic and his knuckles sore. He was doing damage, sure but he wasn’t thinking. He wasn’t able to knock Hanjo down with the way he was attacking, just hitting, and reacting to being hit. This went on for the rest of the round as Noah failed to do anything meaningful.
*ding* “That’s round 3!”
And as the round ended Noah found himself angry and punching the canvas. Hanjo just laughing his way back to the corner. Noah stomping back to his. Upset at the rate at which the rounds were going. Not seeming to get ahead Hanjo just played that up.
“You got to do better than that!” Hanjo yelled.
“Ah! Darn it!” Noah said as he plopped down in his corner.
“Noah you need to cool it!” Faytana said forcefully.
“How! That, that th-thing is over there! It shouldn’t even exist!” Noah cried angrily.
“That… thing? Are we all just “things” to you?” Faytana somberly asked in sorrow as Noah grew from angry to guilty.
“No, Faytana that’s not-”
“Just save it okay?!” Faytana yelled, interrupting him. “You’re the same as you’ve always been. When I was on Earth everybody spoke about humanity this and humanity that! Treating with it or showing it!”
“Yes! Instead of showing your side of humanity you opt to act like a monster instead. Don’t you see here on Vishta we’re all just people good and bad!” She informed him.
Noah’s guilt turned into memories as he thought of home. He thought of the good and bad people. That chemistry teacher that hated him. His best friend sharing his CDs with him. The school bullies that treated him poorly and stole his stuff, and of course… his mother. Mom… how would you handle someone like Hanjo? He thought. Ha! You’d probably just turn the other cheek! Can’t really do that in sanctioned fight He laughed in his mind. Then you’d forgive them… Noah remembered somberly as he started taking deep breaths.
“Alright Mom. This is your match now.” Noah said to himself as he tried hard to remember Grod’s teachings. The pendulum between calm and rage.
“Fighters, take your place in the center!” The ref yelled.
“Faytana.” Noah said as he stood up. “I’m sorry.” Noah told her. And it was the darndest thing. Noah actually meant it.
“Oh?!” She said in surprise. Feeling his genuine guilt. “Good… good luck!”
*ding* The two fighters went in again and just stood there for a moment. Noah was much calmer now than last round. This for some reason angered Hanjo. Hanjo began slurring insults as Noah tuned him out. He instead to this time that Hanjo was too preoccupied with his own voice to size him up yet again. He then started looking around at the ring, taking note of the ropes, not too dissimilar to the ropes in a boxing ring back home. He smirked.
“Hey! Are you listening to me!?” Hanjo screamed. “You’re nothing! A pest!”
Noah just stood there with a stoicism that Hanjo just hated. But Hanjo decided that enough was enough. It was time to stop boasting and time to start throwing hands. Somehow forgetting that Noah was already losing by points. Hanjo jumped in and swung his fist as Noah imitated Faytana. Dodging the swipe without moving his feet even a little. Hanjo snorted and snarled in anger and took another swing. Noah dodged him again in a similar fashion. Same as Faytana had done with Toki.
“Ahhh! Darn you!” Hanjo: The Crusher yelled as he pulled his large fist back.
Then as Hanjo barreled his massive fist towards Noah, Noah having a twinkle in his eye in that moment. Noah dashed forward and slid underneath of Hanjo, once again the same as Faytana. Faytana looked on in amazement. Noah didn’t immediately turn around to face his opponent, however. He leapt from the canvas and bounced off the rope. Propelling him towards Hanjo’s backside.
As Noah mounted Hanjo he unleashed his rage for a moment. Flailing on his opponent’s head with his fist. Pounding away like a game of Whack a Mole. At the same time kneeing his spine to add dash a bit of extra damage onto this dish of a beatdown. Hanjo then tried to grab Noah as Noah slid around his neck to face his front. Holding onto those roast beef slabs that Hanjo called a neck. Noah then pulled back his fist the same way Hanjo had moments earlier and smashed his nose so hard that Hanjo began to fall.
As Hanjo was falling to the mat. Noah didn’t dare let got. Gripping his neck flaps tighter. In that moment Noah had found his calm again. As Hanjo hit that canvas floor Noah was ready. Balling both of his fists together to strike with both of them at the same time. He swung his arms up to gain the momentum for the final blow. Hanjo lay there groggy. Opening his eyes to a shocking sight right before Noah brought the hammer of humanity down right onto Hanjo’s forehead.
The force of the blow shaking the ring as Hanjo’s head bounced off the canvas, knocking him out. Even Faytana could feel the vibration. The crowd erupted into cheering that hadn’t been heard at a pre-qualifier. For long time. But at first Noah hadn’t heard it. All he could focus on was the Domin laid out before him. On a “silver platter” as they’d say.
“Wow what an upset! Our winner everybody. Noah Graham!” The Pentagost referee roared. As the crowd continued its loud chants.
“You…” Noah whispered. Drowning out the sounds around him. The rest of his surroundings in black & white but with Hanjo… he was seeing red. His glare steadied.
“…” The at first excited Faytana was now wrought with concern. As she hesitated to go congratulate Noah on their victory. On his victory.
“I thought I hated you.” Noah said to the now semi-unconscious fighter. “But that isn’t fair. I hate what my life’s become. And like it or not that’s not your fault.” Noah said plainly.
“…” The whipped Hanjo was now conscious enough to hear Noah’s words.
“I…” Noah paused for a moment. “I forgive you.” He said as the color returned to him.
Faytana’s elflike ears perked a bit as she let out a big smile. She then ran into the ring after him. As Noah’s senses had returned to normal he noticed the crowd cheering and chanting. Chanting “No-ah Graham! No-ah Graham! No-ah Graham!” over and over as they pumped their fists and twirled their towels. Noah then looked as Faytana ran over to him leaping towards him.
It was in that moment when the sight of Faytana had suddenly been replaced by that of his mother. He could see her everything. Her sundress and shoes. Her delicate hands and slender neck. The beautiful locks of flowing golden hair, and of course… her face. Complimented by eyes as blue as the ocean. The oil painting like monument to her had filled itself in his mind. In that moment tears started flowing through his eyes and down his face.
“I did it!” he cried as Faytana leapt into his arms yet again as he twirled her like before.
“You really did it!”
“Yeah we did!” Noah pointed out as she smiled.
After all it was her techniques that helped him win in that final match. She was just glad that her propensity for battle finally did a little bit of good. Especially now since Noah was going to ONE’S VANITY. This was her opportunity to that again as she extracts the necessary information. And frees the un-freed.
“See you at the tournament Noah Graham…” Viperion whispered to herself from a distance with a half-smile on her face. Then walking away in anger as her manager escorted her.
Everyone had cheered as well. Toki and Jax on the sidelines and Grog and the boys back at the Gym. Greshit smiled and poured herself some celebratory zellos. Even Noah’s old boss hadn’t expected it. Watching from a VISOR in his office water tank. Noah standing tall Faytana by his side. Soaking in a fleeting moment of glory.
Later that night Noah, Faytana, Grod, and Jax were at one of Ito’s most prestigious bars. It wasn’t only the best bar Noah had ever been to on Vishta but the best bar he’d ever been to in general. Albeit he wasn’t old enough when he was back on Earth but regardless he’d been to them before…
The layout of the bar was extraordinary. It had three stories with balconies and large VISOR screens everywhere. Tubed circular lighting shafts that were filled with strobing and interchanging red and blue lights. It was like a dance club simulation of Vishta’s purple evening sky. There was even curvy, attractive Filopod women dancing in tubes that were filled with water from floor to ceiling. And floating robots carrying platters, delivering drinks.
“Thank you!” Noah said as a robot brought him another alcoholic beverage.
“Good job man! I knew you had it in you!”
“Yeah? How’d you know that?” Noah asked.
“Because you beat me!” Grod said as he took another swig then checked out a female Wrapthian bartender. Faytana rolling her eyes at both his words and his actions.
“Alright! Alright now! Time to put our glasses down and discuss business.” Jax said right before taking another drink. “ONE’S VANITY will be taking place in just a few days so now is not only the time to rest, but also to talk about who’ll be in your corner.” Jax said finally slamming his mug containing a bright blue alcoholic beverage down on the table.
“In my corner?”
“Yeah. Per ONE’S VANITY’s rules you’re allowed up to two people in your corner. And since for some reason most of our other fighters didn’t participate…” Jax said as he slanted his eyes towards Grog. Grog smiling nervously in the process. “That means I’m free. So before your first round starts Faytana, doing her part will slip away. And I’ll be the one to guide you during the match.”
“…” Noah knew this had to happen. But he was still splashed with a dose of reality.
“Ah don’t look so depressed! I’m an ACTUAL coach you know.” Jax pointed out. “Geez some of you youngsters have no respect! Always thinking with that tool behind your toolbelt!”
“Hey!” Noah yelled as Faytana blushed. The other two just laughing.
After a bit more fun and laughter Noah had noticed he was getting a call. He stepped outside for a moment into the chilly night air as the wind stung his cuts and bruises. It was Trisxel calling.
“Hello? Trisxel?” Noah asked.
“No…” A grizzled voice said on the other end. “I know what you’re up to!”
“What!?” Noah yelled as he shivered in fear for a moment.
“HA! I’m just kidding of course it’s me!” Trisxel yelled, laughing on the other end, stinging Noah’s eardrums a bit with his sharp voice. “I was just calling you to tell you great job!”
“Oh yeah? Thank you.”
“You came a long way front boy whose privacy I invaded before trapping you on a bus!”
“Yeah thanks for that too…” Noah said sarcastically.
“Not a problem! It was good for you!” Trisxel boasted, not grasping the sarcasm.
“Well thanks for calling.”
“Well that’s not the only reason I called.”
“What else is there?” Noah asked.
“It’s about the tournament. Look your job is more or less done. All you have to do now is turn up. So just get in there and give it your best shot. And with any luck you won’t be fighting another match. We got the Police Captain, a man named Torn on board so it’s all shaping up!” Trisxel exclaimed with excitement.
“Great!” Noah said with surprise.
“Anyways, stay on your toes kid. Goodbye for now.”
“Yeah… goodbye.” Noah said as they hung up the phone.
Noah put the device back in his pocket as he prepared to go back inside. But then something caught him in the corner of his eye. A tall slender figure dressed lavishly in their casual attire. It was Greshit. Standing tall before him while holding her purse down in front of herself. She was doe eyed. Noah wasn’t really expecting to see her, and he’d never seen her outside of their sessions together.
“Greshit…” Noah sort of asked, not knowing if it was her or a different Wrapthian.
“Why are you doing here?” he asked as he rubbed his arms from the chill of the night.
“I know I’m not supposed to seek out my clients outside of work but you’re hardly my client anymore.” Greshit said as she chuckled a bit.
“Yeah I suppose not.”
“I saw your fights. You were really good. Which I guess shouldn’t be a surprise considering your stint with those Maltraxian lowlifes.” Greshit nervously jested.
“Do you disapprove?” Noah asked with a blank look in his eyes. Greshit gripped her purse rather tightly at that question. Noah prepared for a bit of lecture that never came.
“Well I don’t necessarily love it… but nonetheless I decided to support you. A fellow therapist had heard that I was interested and gave me his ticket. Since their sold out.”
“Wow really?” Noah said with shock as Faytana walked out to check on him. Greshit turned meek and white like a ghost.
“The… Nierdesh girl.” She said somewhat frightened as Faytana looked away in embarrassment. “That makes sense I suppose.”
“…” Faytana grabbed Noah’s coat sleeve as she looked down at his feet.
“Oh sorry. Where’s my manners. Greshit this is Faytana. My friend.”
“You’re friend? Ah yes of course. What a pretty name. Faytana…” Greshit nervously said as she tried to keep her eye contact on Noah.
“And Fay this is my friend Greshit.”
“Friend?” Greshit whispered before smiling.
“It is… nice to meet you.” Faytana said fearing Greshit’s judgmental eye.
Greshit was floored. This was the first introduction she’d ever had with a Nierdesh, but it was just like any other. She felt like a fool. All the advocating and preaching she’d done to Noah for seeing the species of Vishta like his fellow man she had never extended that same courtesy to the Nierdesh not once. And here Faytana stood before her, and it didn’t take Greshit’s trained eye to see how nervous she was. Greshit put on a genuine smile.
“It’s nice to meet you Faytana!” She said with a smile as Faytana smiled a little as well.
“Well I’ll see you at the fight Greshit. Thanks for supporting it.” Noah said as he got ready to reenter the bar with Faytana.
“I didn’t say I supported it Mr. Graham!” Greshit desperately uttered.
“You say that now but wait till afterwards!” Noah boasted.
“How do you mean?” She asked.
“That’s a secret.” Noah said with a sly look as he put his index finger up to his lip.
Greshit confused just smiled. Shook her head and walked away as the two of them disappeared into the bar.
(A FEW DAYS LATER…)
Noah had finished up packing his cot and his things at the JAX’S SOLDIERS. He looked at the gym and all its trainees with a sense of pride and sadness as he high fived and waved goodbye to each of them as he and Faytana left. Grog giving him a hearty “Good luck!” and Toki an accepting glance. He was going to miss this place and those guys. But alas he had no reason to stay. He didn’t want to be a fighter so staying would just be disrespectful to them. So he left that place. And entered a flying taxi car. The first one he’d ever been in.
“Welcome to the big leagues kid!” Jax had boasted as he was already sitting shotgun.
The car then floated off the ground blowing what little dust and debris was on it out of the way. Noah peaked out the windows as he looked on at the citizens below and amazing structures built above. He was awestruck. It was in that moment he truly appreciated without any resentment or anger the sights that Vishta had to offer.
The car brought them to a Wrapthian engineered platform. It was a big, flat circular saucer that held a space shuttle. In it’s center of gravity. A singular white column keeping it in the sky with a few emergency thrusters underneath on the bottom face of it. Just incase the structural integrity ever failed it.
Noah stepped out of the car as it landed. Faytana and Jax right behind him. Both Noah’s shorter hair and beard as well as Fay’s long silky hair blowing in the wind upon their exit. The three showed their paperwork to the flight attendant as she handed them their passes. Faytana looking at hers and holding onto it as if it were her life.
“Thanks.” Jax said with a grizzled voice as the trio entered the shuttle.
Noah felt the vibrations as the thrusters quietly ignited and the shuttle started raising into the air and in mere moments it was flying far above Ito city. Making it look smaller and smaller as the shuttle made its way through the atmosphere. As they entered space Noah gazed out the window and back to the planets surface. He sighed.
“What’s wrong?” Faytana asked him.
“It’s just… this is the first time I’ve left the planet since I got her. And this square angular space shuttle. It’s just like the one that picked me up from Earth.” Noah said.
“Well its got to at least be cleaner right? And look there serving zellos!” Faytana said as she motioned for the attendant to bring them some.
“Ha yeah… but there’s one other thing…” Noah said nervously as he clasped his fingers together. Faytana looked at him with concern. “I’m about to be trapped on a metal space box with Viperion. And I can’t shake this feeling that reptilian Wyvern lady wants to kill me.”
“…” Faytana didn’t immediately know what to say. Putting her hand on his shoulder to comfort him as he put his hand on hers. “It’s going to be alright… I’m going to find that evidence as quickly as I can, so they’ll stop the fight.” Faytana whispered.
“Keep it down about all that Fay;Fay!” Jax like a grumpy old whispered angrily, like a quiet yell. “Besides there’s nothing for you to worry about. You’ve got a Vishtian champ like me in your corner!” Jax cheered as he slammed his thumb into his own chest.
“Thanks you guys…” Noah said.
After the encouragement from his friends Noah was able to calm down a bit. With that and with the help of a few deep breaths. And as he took those breaths it was as if they echoed through the vacuum of space. Being heard by someone standing in the tall rotating, and gyrating space station of the ONE’S VANITY tournament. Like an echoed whisper. Viperion’s sharp reptilian gaze looked out the thick almost plexiglass encasement of one of the stations cylindrical sections at the shuttle. And as it pierced through the void, Noah could almost them watching him from a distance.