The calming notes of the Shakuhachi, a Japanese flute, carried through the thick clouds of steam that rose from the natural hot spring. As fall waned through the trees surrounding the baths it left in its wake a fire of red, orange and yellow leaves. The setting was still, relaxed and vacant it appeared of any other people save for a lone figure who sat in the warm waters soaking in it’s Earth born warmth.
The muscular frame of the Chosen One of the Little Tokyo District of Maxopotamia glistened in the dying light of the afternoon sun, his eyes closed, his face relaxed though still retained that stern sense of seriousness. Occasionally his hands would rise and waft away the water around him disrupting the stillness for just a moment. He would sigh, offer a disapproving grunt and fall back into his meditative state.
“[The great battle nears.. All attuned to their purest. Hollow victories.]”
His eyes open slowly as he stares off into the distance, his voice deep guttural voice. Lines of sweat slowly slither down the sides of his face as he takes in a slow, steady breath welcoming in the warmth of the springs.
“[High Octane Wrestling was not the battle I was promised. I have a boy-child who speaks on my behalf and on behalf of my Master, Maximillian Kael. Duplicity and dishonor walk hand in hand. For this week, however, this I can say.. I have my chance at Revenge..]”
Taking in another deep breath an angry grunt rumbles up through his throat and is expelled through his nose. It was the kind of noise one would expect when pushing out a particularly defiant nugget of butt fudge but in the case of MAXXXXKAEL Jr. it was simply an outward display of hateful appreciation.
[“Since my arrival I have sought my true enemy.. Dan Ryan, the man who attacked and brutalized my Master and namesake. The Boy-Child has stirred my course into Jack Harmen and Flair, two opponents I care little for nor draw any sense of joy from facing. My focus drawn from my true goal.. But here, finally, I can begin my revenge, take control of my destiny, even if for a moment. However..”]
If possible, and in the case of this narrative it’s going to have to be possible, MAXXXXKAEL Jr.’s expression darkness into a more serious and stern appearance. Indeed, his face is pushed to the limit of it’s expression creating capacity as a deep scowl curls his lips into an angle that can only be described as a Beaker-esque upside down U.
[“..I am unbalanced…”] grumbled MAXXXXKAEL Jr. while continuing his consistent use of the ellipsis. [“.. this LSD Title that I am to battle for loans on the horizon. The Boy-Child tells me my destiny leads there, ending in the carnage of a prison fight. And Dan Ryan’s fate leads him to battle Halitosis for the World Title. This may be the only time to face this Warrior and defeat him. This may be the last opportunity to fulfill the Destiny that I have chosen before I must follow the Destiny that has been chosen for me…”]
His expression eased as he lets a low sigh out and for a moment he looked saddened. Not afraid or worried but a very regretful sadness. He then rises from the bath water, the sound of rushing off his scarred hide falling into a certain harmony with the long, mournful sounds of the flute.
[“But I must not be disrespectful to the World Champion and his own desire to prove himself. To defeat the man he will face at Rumble at the Rock.I must keep my eyes on the woman, Flair, for she has proven herself to be.. difficult. Skilled though in a way that almost seems implausible for her age, she with either continue to improve or she has reached her plateau. Even if the latter is the case she has skill, tenacity and unseen strength, while my attention turns to Dan Ryan I can not allow myself to dismiss her.’]
He let another low grunt out as he climbed out of the pool and onto the stone surrounding it. For a man in his forties MAXXXXKAEL Jr. was in remarkable shape. Though not as toned as he had been in his youth his body was still certainly bulky. He reaches down and pulls a black bathing robe over himself in order to preserve his modesty before slipping his feet into a pair of wooden sandals. His face still seemed troubled, dark clouds of doubt and uncertainty roiling behind his stern eyes.
[“I am at war with who I desire to be.. And what I have sworn to be. They had been one and the same once but… no longer it would seem. I must rediscover that balance.”] The words grumble from his barrel chest as he makes a slow trudge toward an ornately carved wooden door.
He pauses at the door for a moment, his eyes closed as he muttered a prayer beneath his voice. Finishing he pushed his way through the doors.
A single strange blue eye glared out over the deck of the Cruise Ship that had been host to the Max Kael Presents the End of HOW World Tour Cruise. In the distance, running against a red burning sun was a helicopter inbound. Max Kael’s face was clean shaven, his usually unruly hair was combed to the side, crackles of singular white hairs that appear now and again added to his villainous appearance.
“So we are clear, Maximillian Wilhelm Kael, you have agreed to everything?” A nasally voice cut through Max’s thoughts. To Max’s left a man wearing a North Korean officer’s uniform spoke with an unpleasant glee in his voice which caused Max’s single working eyelid to twitch.
“As long as the stipulations I demanded are all met I’m tickled pink to have signed on.” Max snorted, sarcasm dripping dribbling down his lips. The helicopter drew closer causes Max to turn and makes his way toward the ship’s helipad. The officer was joined by what appeared to be a phalanx of about six armed guards as he joined Max heading toward the stern of the ship.
“The first has already been done, the rest will be taken care of as you requested in the order in which you requested. The Supreme Leader does not break promises, you more than any must know that.” the Officer spoke in a harsh, aggressive tone, his accent surprisingly minimal. “I would have had you killed, flayed and displayed for all of Korea to see for your treachery.. However.. It seems luck favors you, Maximillian Wihelm Kael, as does our Supreme Commander.”
“Yup, that’s me, hashtag Blessed.” Max snarled over his shoulder. “If I was lucky HOW would have DIED when it was supposed to and I’d be happily retired. Instead I’m making deals with North Korea to ensure I finish whatever the fuck Michael wasn’t able to do. Kill High Octane Wrestling already!”
Max’s pace quickened as his face flushed red, his sharpened teeth gnashing together as they emanate a sound like a knife across porcelain. The shorter NK Officer had to quicken his steps into a near jog as he struggled to keep up with the wide gait of Max Kael, a fact which seemed to infuriate him.
“Slow down, you dog!” he barked causing Max to stop suddenly which in turn nearly resulted in the officer running into him. Max turned, his blue eye darting in the direction of the smaller man, his brow furrowed as his lips pressed tightly together. “You! You belong to the Supreme Leader now! You obey your Master now and he has vested his power in ME when it comes to you! Do you understand!”
As he finished screaming the sound of the helicopter rushing above overshadowed whatever Max Kael said in reply. Not interested in knowing if he was heard and certainly unwilling to repeat himself Max simply turned and marched in the direction of the helicopter though his pace was considerably slower. The two quickly arrived at the ships helicopter pad, great torrents of wind kicked up from the copter’s slow descent.
“Who is this anyway?!” The officer screamed, his hand holding firmly to the peak cap he worn upon his head. He peared curiously toward the doors of the chopper opened.
“That, Colonel Pahk Pawng Joo..” Max leaned close to the Colonel, one spindly hand creeping over their shoulder. He paused for dramatic effect as an awkward looking young man in a colorful tunic and bell bedazzled cape fell out of the helicopter onto the landing pad with as much grace as a baby armed with a fork. “..is my Herald… heh-heh.”
The cool night air of the mountainside filled his lungs and made him feel at peace. He had hated cities his entire life and now, as a part of HOW, he found himself spending far too many nights trapped under their skylines. The break away from the travel had been a blessing he had taken full advantage of. He had returned home, returned to the country far, far from the desperate, frantic landscape of America.
Since his baths earlier in the day he had hit the gym hard, had eaten and now decided to hike the nearby mountain to enjoy the view of the sky at night. Even in this peaceful place though he found little relief from the war in his mind.
Dan Ryan, a veteran warrior much like himself though the paths were very different. MAXXXXKAEL Jr. wasn’t a wrestler first but it was what he eventually fell into. He was by far the most physically imposing man in the upcoming match, he had the weight advantage and most likely the experience advantage. He also seemed to enjoy and glorify the act of insulting an opponent before battle, a not uncommon practice among warriors.
It was not one that MAXXXXKAEL Jr. cared much for. He wasn’t terribly good at it and he never discovered much value for it. He focused on the fight, not the dialogue but he understood its purpose. Among others their pride might feel the pain of it or perhaps it might leave one disheartened, beaten before the match even began. A sound tactic but not one that MAXXXXKAEL Jr. felt he needed to employ.
Though the sun had vanished he more a small light on his belt that illuminated trail ahead. A soft breeze rattled the dried leaves around the Worthiest Chosen; the forest’s green splendor robbed by Autumn’s embrace. As the climbed higher he felt the weight of the world he left behind wash away, his mind becoming clearer. It’s possible the altitude is also affecting his oxygen intake but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth.
[“The birds have vanished down the sky.”] MAXXXXKAEL Jr. spoke, his voice not harsh or cold but soft in tone, thoughtful. [“Now the last cloud drains away.”]
Turning a corner of the path ahead he was greeted with a break in the woodline which provided a view over the valley beyond. He had come here often, both during the day and at night, and he had found it breathtaking each time. He paused a moment as he took in the distant light of the nearby village juxtaposed against the sea of darkness above where a billion stars glittered like a unclaimable treasure.
A small collection of rocks had been collected nearby to provide a sort of chair for anyone with a mind to stay awhile could enjoy. MAXXXXKAEL Jr. planned to do just that as he eased himself down with a satisfied groan. Another breeze rustled the leaves and created a beautiful cacophagy of noises that rippled across the mountainside.
[“We sit together, the mountain and me.”] He closed his eyes and let his mind wander back to the imbalance he had found himself in. His second opponent, MJF, someone he had faced before, someone who had managed to pin his Master, Maximillian Kael. Once again they were pitted against each other, this their second encounter in a string of three that they were destined to face each other in. She was the other side of his imbalance.. While Dan Ryan might have been who he wanted, MJF was the one his duty told him he must defeat. [“..until only the mountain remains.”]
He drew in a deep breath as his arms folded slowly across his chest. “Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain” by Li Po had always been a favorite of his and he had often spoke it when he reached this point. It grounded him, connected him with this place of peace and allowed him to see the world more clearly. Gently he exhaled, his chess lowering as he felt a wave of relaxing oxygen swell into his brain.
The world melted away and he saw in his mind’s eye Dan Ryan and MJF, two paths that crossed for one night. No matter how he examined it he could not decide which path to take. He could not see a victory that would appease him, he saw defeat as a real possibility because he could not reconcile within himself who he should be. He sat there, alone, with the mountain.
[“..which path do I take, maintain?”]
He pleaded at last to the night air, his head hanging low.
Then something drew him out of his contemplation. A small, a strange and unpleasant smell that wafted through the air and assaulted his nostrils. His eyes snapped open as he turned and checked his surroundings only to find a snow monkey a few feet away, it’s small eyes peering at with a deep intensity.
And there they stood for what felt like an eternity, the red face of the Japanese Macaque unflinching, MAXXXXKAEL Jr.’s stern face like a statue caught between horrified and concerned, that terrible smell only increasing in intensity.
Then, without a single chirp, call or yelp the monkey turned and scuttled away leaving behind a rather impressive pile of steaming shit. MAXXXXKAEL Jr.’s eyes widened as he understood now the nature of the smell as his expression loosened into bewildered shock that melted into understanding.
[“..Thank you, mountain. Thank you, my friend, I understand.”]
He bowed his head to the mountain before turning back, his eyes staring down at the valley below as his arms lay at his side. Taking another putrid breath he closed his eyes and let it all wash over him.
In his mind he saw his opponents and the paths that lay before them. He saw Dan Ryan, his massive frame overshadowing even MAXXXXKAEL Jr. He saw MJF, her LSD Championship testimony not only to her talent but capacity to defeat opponents many times her size.
But a new path opened up as MAXXXKAEL Jr. envisioned Halitosis joining him at his side. He didn’t need to pick one or the other, victory over one was victory over both. He didn’t need to prove himself against either warrior, he simply had to prove he had the better team and in that regard he had forgotten Halitosis, forgotten that they were no enemies but in this instance allies.
As he remembered he also felt a pang of shame, that he had been so selfish, that he had been so single minded. He had gotten lost in his own ego and trap that far to many warriors found themselves in.
He had been away for too long. He had to leave this paradise and be seen on the battlefield once again.
He would stand with Halitosis and together, when they were finished, there wouldn’t be Halitosis and MAXXXXKAEL Jr…
There would be only Victory.