With that, I threw off my coat.
‘Shit, it is frigid.’
‘You not used to a little February chill, are ya?’
‘Please. I’m from the North. A little chill’s nothing for me.’
‘Good, cause you’re not gonna wanna be at any sort of disadvantage here.’
With that, he lunged towards me. For a man of his stature, he was quite nimble – the additional bonus of his extensive wingspan and reach made the attack quite threatening. I sidestepped to the right, evading the punch slightly, and repositioning myself with my left arm out at my front.
‘I’m impressed. You can dodge that quickly?’
Before I could even respond, he lunged at me again, this time with his right leg, kicking directly towards my abdomen. Without a moments notice, I strengthened my left arm and pushed outward, dropping his leg to the ground.
‘That’s a pretty solid kick you’ve got there.’
No response. Instead, he levelled himself out and raced towards me once again, extending his right arm for an overhead connection. Realizing this, I ducked underneath him, with my head barely grazing underneath his right triceps. With his body off-balance from the failed connection, in conjunction with my positioning being altered – I was behind him rather than in front of him – I roundhouse struck his right ribcage with my right leg, connecting solidly.
‘Ah, ya fuckin’ piece of shit!’
He turned around and jumped backwards almost instantaneously, but the damage was clearly visible. For me, I knew that a ribcage shot was a necessary means to easily overcome the four-inch height difference – I just didn’t think it would come so early.
‘You really just wanna hand me victory on a silver platter, don’t ya?’
He closed the gap between us once again, and unleashed a flurry of punches – the first four alternating hooks were easily warded off; the uppercut attempt that directly followed couldn’t connect either – as he reached in for another set of hooks, I seized my own opportunity.
Maybe it wasn’t even for a second, but I saw it – an opening, directly to the bridge of his nose. Without a thought, I moved my left arm from its defensive posture, raising it directly toward the center of his face. The issue, as I’d mentioned before, was the fact that his reach was longer than mine – theoretically, any offensive stride that I took would be negated by his armlength; he’d reach me before I reached him.
That would be true – if I was just a regular fighter.
My punch connected almost instantaneously, and well before his hook could ever reach my cheekbones. In his slight daze, whilst falling backward ever-so-slightly, I lunged at him and blitzed his middle chest with body shots. As he came to, he immediately flexed his chest, and pushed himself away from me, landing badly on the already bruised right ribcage.
I looked at him once again, and feeling a bit more energetic, beckoned at him:
His eyes immediately lit up with rage, which I’d assumed would be the case. As a very technical fighter, enraging an opponent meant very little to me – sure, he’d likely increase his power, but it would come at a loss of coordination and technique. When a fighter begins seeing red, that’s when I know my victory’s all but assured. Still, this guy was a tough customer. Blitzing is my specialty – rapid and notoriously powerful shots to either the head or the body, which would leave anyone staggering to move at all. My hallmark has always been the speed of my punches, being able to overcome even the most ridiculous of reach differences – that, in conjunction with my power, is what made me what I am today, the unparalleled Tsuyoshi Yokoyama.
As I was thinking to myself, he spat out what appeared to be a tooth drenched in blood – seemed as though my punch to the nose-bridge was slightly off its mark. He stood up, planted himself squarely, and the red mist that covered his eyes was easily apparent. He was heated.
‘You sure you don’t wanna take some time and get into your senses – I mean, look at –’
‘Shut it, bastard.’
I smirked, and then shook off my hands.
‘Sure thing boss.’
With that, he lunged at me again, this time with his left instead of his right. I dodged rather easily, but what I didn’t suspect was the attack being a feint – his right foot was coming at my ribcage at an incredible speed, and there wasn’t anywhere that I could pivot myself to, considering I’d exasperated my energy dodging to the left already. With less than a second to calculate my move, I arrived at a conclusion that would ensure his demise if I was able to pull it off properly.
I’d grab his foot mid-roundhouse, stopping the kick fully. The biggest issue – which I was already aware of – was the fact that stopping a roundhouse at maximal power is an incredibly difficult task; this was compounded by the fact that he was nearly 6’5, 220. Still, it was my only chance to avoid contact – I could front the contact and keep fighting, but personally, I’d rather not do that. I’d rather live a little riskier.
The kick was much stronger than I’d anticipated, but I had put all of my energy into my left arm – if the foot connected with my ribcage, I’d likely be winded beyond belief. This was an all-or-nothing bet, and it was paying off – fully flexing my left arm, I stopped the kick in its entirety. Holding his foot tightly, I knew exactly what to do next.
Lifting upwards with all of my force, I dragged him upwards, with him losing his footing on his other leg and essentially laying at my mercy. Within a second, I lifted my arm upward, until my fist was at a similar height to my shoulder, and then drove my arm downward, releasing my grip on his leg and allowing him to catapult into the concrete. His scream was agonizing to listen to, but I knew my job wasn’t done yet.
I knelt down in front of him, while he lay there, twitching his eyes and trying to regain composure. I jumped on top of him, impaling his chest with my right knee, causing him to scream in pain again. I raised my right arm up, and barreled it into his nose bridge, connecting dead center.
I raised my arm again, and once again, dropped my fist directly into his face, although this time, into his mouth, right above his lower jaw. He wasn’t knocked unconscious as yet, but I was certain a third blow would do him in. As I’d said before, he was a tough customer – most of the bastards I’d faced would bail out here if – by some miracle – they weren’t unconscious; they’d be waving the white flag and begging for forgiveness from me. Hell, most people probably would’ve been knocked unconscious after being drilled into the concrete the way he was – this guy was still looking me dead in the eyes – almost egging me on – after taking that and two punches directly into his face. Regardless of his valiance, I squared up for what I assumed would be the final hit – I leaned my shoulders back, cocked my fist up and readied my position. Just as I was about to drop my fist, I heard a shout:
‘Alright Tsu… you’ve had your fun, haven’t ya?’
I looked behind me, and saw Asahi leaning over my shoulder.
‘Surprised it took you this long, fuckhead.’
Satou, who looked extremely dazed, managed to open his mouth:
‘You’re fucking strong… I’ll give ya that. But you can’t take all of these guys out, can ya?’
I turned back to him and chuckled.
‘Buddy. You were a strong fighter. I’ll say that much.’
I jumped off of him, cracked my neck and knuckles and dusted my hands off.
‘But do I really look tired to ya?’
The smug look in Satou’s eyes faded – he’d certainly believed that what he had done was enough to wear me down significantly. But for me, I felt like I could keep going all night. Sure he was strong – stronger than the vast majority of the bastards who I’ve fought – but that didn’t mean anything when I knew how to pick him apart and cut him down with ease. This was the first time all night that his eyes went from an abrasive cockiness, to a clear admission of defeat and respect – he didn’t say another word to me, but it was beyond obvious the fear that I’d put into his heart.
He did speak to Asahi though:
‘So now, which of you is up first? I assume my offers off the table, but I did do my part. If you guys do pull through, I’m hoping I’ll still have a seat at the table in some capacity.’
He coughed loudly, and spat out a tinge of blood. To his surprise, his question was met with silence, followed by a slight chuckle from Asahi.
‘Ah man yeah. Lemme get a piece of ya, Tsu.’
‘Seriously, you’re not gonna drop the act, you annoying ass? It’s clearly worked.’
Satou piped up, lifting his head up slightly:
Asahi shrugged his shoulders and then walked towards Satou.
‘Well… this was all his idea, to start off with.’
He gestured at me.
Asahi shook his head at me:
‘You don’t play with me too. Come on now.’
‘You moron, when’d I agree to fight today? All I said was I wanted to see what this Yoshihisa guy’s all about.’
‘Yeah, but didn’t you agree that we’d have to make a substantial offer to him? And besides, isn’t it a good test of merit to have him fight you, one-on-one?’
‘I did say that, yeah. But I thought I’d at least have notice on when this would happen – we discussed this shit YESTERDAY. Tosh, did you really give him the go-ahead for this nonsense?’
Tosh piped up from behind me:
‘Well, yeah. To be fair, we didn’t even inform Val about what we were doing. He probably thought we were actually overthrowing you.’
To that, Valentin retorted:
‘No, I actually knew exactly what was happening. I just don’t really care – I’ll get my rematch one day Tsuyo, don’t think that’s lost on me. But like I said, if you were overthrown, don’t think I won’t just line up to beat the brakes off the new guy.’
‘Yeah, that sums you up, you’re not that much of an idiot. You’re shrewd enough.’
Suddenly, Satou tried to sit up, but he caught his right abdomen and fell backwards, clutching it. Asahi looked at him and smirked:
‘Woah there partner, you alright?’
He squeezed his eyes shut, before opening them and shaking his head.
‘Hell no. The hell are y’all talking about?’
Asahi pointed to me.
‘Don’t point to me, moron. You brought him here, you explain this.’
‘Fine, fine. Basically Sat… we weren’t trying to overthrow Tsu. In fact, it was Tsu’s idea to bring you in – we had an executive meeting yesterday evening; he and Tosh pinpointed you as someone intriguing – someone who’d be of use to x54. Now, for me, I keep tabs on everyone. I know the ins and outs of everyone, so obviously I –’
I smacked him.
‘Can you shut up and just explain? No one cares to hear you praise yourself.’
‘Fine, fine. Basically, I had some idea of who you were, but I knew that your prices were exorbitant, and there wasn’t a chance in hell that you’d agree to meet – especially on such short notice – unless a ridiculous offer was tabled. And so, that’s what we tabled.’
Tosh piped in once again:
‘I’d also like to clarify that the offer was 100% on the table. It was wholly legitimate – if you’d beaten Tsuyo, we would’ve given you the captaincy here and now. Anyone who’s able to beat Tsuyo in a clean fistfight is worthy of the title of x54’s leader.’
‘Essentially, what Tosh is saying, and what I’d been saying, is that we were willing to offer such a ridiculous sum because we fully believed that the result would be as we have it right here and now, an overwhelmingly decisive victory for Tsu. Still, I didn’t want to give him any form of advantage, and that’s why I didn’t tell him anything, or explain anything, and why he’s only hearing about all of this for what’s essentially a first time.’
‘You’re so damn annoying man. I do get it, but it's so roundabout. Whatever.’
Asahi wasn’t wrong, to be fair. I believed that in order to escalate our activity level, and truly become an unstoppable force, we needed another elite-level fighter, and someone notorious in our vicinity. Someone whose brilliance and strength would push x54 past many of the other crews we’d been fighting tooth and nail with. I’d wanted this bastard to be a part of the crew for a long time, but I knew one thing – he’d only ever align himself with someone with otherworldly fiscal compensation, or, in a much rarer case, someone who’d earned his respect.
‘So, Yoshihisa. Whadya say to work with me and x54, huh? Executive, of course.’