M & S Bank Arena
“Nope, not good at all.”
Xander stares at the growing portal, but all sense of wonder and marvel is gone after what happened the last time one of these appeared. Sure enough, it does not take very long for whatever is approaching to pop out of the portal…an older gentleman, with an equally impeccable taste in fashion, but looking very concerned upon his arrival.
“Oh dear, this is troubling.”
The man looks around, surveying his surroundings…and in turn, being surveyed by the Head Disciple and his crew. After a moment, the pair lock eyes, and Xander finally recognizes the man who’s arrived in Liverpool.
“This doesn’t surprise me at all…is this your doing, Aeon?”
This gets a shake of the head from the one being questioned.
“Don’t be silly, Xander. You know I don’t do portals.”
“Then how did you get here? Why are you here? Don’t you have literally anything else to do right now?”
This gets a small chuckle from Vagn, but Xander glares at his general…for this is not nearly as funny to the Head Disciple. Aeon, however, responds to this with a shrug of the shoulders.
“Funny you should ask, I just had the strangest conversation before I wound up here…”
Aeon stops himself to look around a little more, finally realizing where he is.
“…in Liverpool. Why are you here, for that matter? I thought you had other matters to attend to?”
Xander scoffs at the inquiry.
“These are the matters I’m attending to. My mission brought me to a new battlefield, shame yours took you off to who knows where.”
Aeon glares at him for this, pointing a finger with a scowl.
“Hey! I don’t judge you for what you dabble in. My business takes me to something far larger than this world can ever comprehend.”
“Is that why there are portals opening up and popping out people like a vending machine?”
Aeon starts to respond to this, but stops to ponder the specific wording of the question.
“Portals…plural? Has this happened before?”
Xander rolls his eyes with a nod.
“Yes, it has! I just had some guy out here the other day telling me how he needs to go back to Cleveland, but then started telling me about some building that doesn’t exist. Like he was in the wrong…”
This really throws Xander off, a dumbfounded look on his face revealing the moment it starts to sink in.
“Oh, no. Don’t tell me we’re dealing with…”
Aeon nods his head, which only further disappoints Azula.
“No no no, I can’t be dealing with this right now. I have enough on my plate, because unlike you I still have business to take care of before the year is out.”
“Oh, you mean that lucrative wrestling career you still try to pursue?”
As one can imagine, this really sets Xander off.
“Listen here, you little shit. Don’t act like your little adventures didn’t call you to the ring, too…”
“…but I listened when called elsewhere. That’s the big difference between us, Xander.”
Xander raises his hands as a sign of defeat, shaking his head as he starts to walk away.
“I’m not having this conversation right now, buddy. I have a match to get ready for, a paycheck to collect, and a jackass out in Cleveland to deal with…and I’m only gonna have time to deal with two out of the three.”
Before he can get too far, Xander is stopped by an offer from the Master of Time Itself.
“Tell you what, Xander. I need to find out why this is happening, and to stop it before it gets worse. I’ll help you out there, because I’m a nice guy. Deal?”
Xander turns around, letting out a sigh before responding with a nod.
“You have a deal. Tell me more about the multiverse.”
Somewhere, beyond the limits of our understanding, there are a multitude of worlds, galaxies, universes even…and somewhere within this vast multiverse, there is a universe in which the world truly revolves around Brian Hollywood.
Unfortunately for you, Brian, we do not live in that universe.
All the inflection points in the world can’t explain just how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things, even with a career that some–namely yourself–can argue is worthy of the Hall of Fame.
Brian, I know you like to focus on the past, but let’s at least narrow it down to this year.
Oh, that’s right, if you did that you’d be even further from the goal of that recognition you crave.
Five wins doesn’t get you into the Hall of Fame, even if one of those was for a championship.
I don’t like playing the rebuttal game, but I feel I must when it comes to some of the shit you’re spewing.
You don’t get to take credit for “what happened” to me and simultaneously point the finger at Zion for somehow making me look less intimidating…but I guess that tracks, since everyone likes to lump the two of you together anyway.
You wanna talk about intimidating?
Lemme circle all the way back to the DeNucci Cup.
Who made it to the semi-finals? I did. Not you, Brian, me.
The guy that people tried to write off as being “too much of a spooky boi” ran roughshod through three rounds, far longer than people expected me to.
As someone who grew up dealing with petty insults, someone who found his beliefs challenged at every step, I proved that I could take it and dish it right back.
My goddess wouldn’t have it any other way.
People made their shitty little jokes that I breezed past my first round, they made light of how I got past the second…but then they made a crucial mistake.
They assumed I couldn’t beat someone of the caliber of Steve Solex.
And you know what they say about people who assume.
I made an ass out of a lot of people that night, most of all Steve himself.
My work was far from done after being knocked out of the tournament, though.
Because then, Steve Harrison had the balls to try to talk down to me like a damn child.
But it was I who enacted the discipline.
And my goddess smiled.
And if I wanted to take a cue from Brian Hollywood, I could take credit for the first bit of damage that sent Harrison packing the rest of the year.
But as for you, Bri-Bri?
Best thing you’ve had going for you is that we never faced off in that cage.
Hell, we managed to avoid each other all year somehow.
So go ahead, Brian, talk your shit.
Talk all the shit you want about one win you have over me.
Let it inflate your ego a little more.
Did I underestimate you last week?
Will I make that same mistake at ICONIC?
I learned my lesson.
Where I fell short, my goddess will elevate me.
You wanna see intimidating, Brian?
I’ve got an early Christmas present with your name on it, pal.
You won’t even have to split it with Darin.
This weird side competition that the two of you have is annoying as hell, and I can’t wait to shut both of you up come ICONIC.
Zion thrives on making everything about him.
It’s kind of impressive, if I’m being honest.
Darin, you sure love harassing everyone about everything all of the time.
I should’ve known the moment you bumped into me.
I tried to offer you something no one else was willing to.
I tried to be your friend, your mentor, your guiding light in the darkness.
You have all the tools at your disposal, and yet…it’s never enough.
You failed at War Games just like I did. You failed to capture gold time and time again.
When you threw me off the Guard Tower in Alcatraz, did you pat yourself on the back?
Did you enjoy the power you felt from trying to take mine?
Unfortunately for you, my goddess would not stand idly by and let her Head Disciple perish.
Certainly not by your hand.
You of all people should’ve known better than to assume I was down and out.
All you did was make me stronger.
My goddess took pity upon my plight, and carried me back into her arms.
And that rest was very necessary for what lies ahead.
Darin Zion, thorn in my side, I will finally be rid of you when I climb that ladder and ascend to my rightful place.
I will enjoy looking down on all who have mocked me and my goddess…especially you, David Noble.
Don’t think I’ve forgotten you, even if you want to brush me off.
The phrase being thrown around these days is “perception is reality,” so I can understand how you perceive the likes of me, Davey boy.
You perceive me as weak, easily dismissed, a fool, and you are entitled to your opinion…but your opinion is wrong.
And you’re gonna find out just how wrong you are at ICONIC.
Because the reality is, this warrior is ready for battle.
There is a crisis coming, gentlemen, and it is going to sweep you off your feet.
“That son of a bitch.”
Looking around at his secondary place of worship, Xander is stunned by what little is left…his pulpit, his log benches and fire pit…all gone. Xander knew immediately who was behind this, because only one man outside the Eternal Circle was ever made aware of the location…his nemesis, Darin Zion. Xander approaches a slip of paper nailed to a tree, pulling it off in anger as he reads the message left behind…some nonsense about “budget cuts” and “revenge.”
“Budget cuts? What the hell is this? If it’s a cut he wants, it’s a cut he’s gonna get.”
Xander crumples the paper, tossing it into a nearby brush as he continues to survey the damage…until his phone sounds off. With a snarl, Xander answers the call.
Xander’s angry look softens just slightly by the news from the other side.
“You found him. Good, bring him back ASAP.”
Xander ends the call, shaking his head at the situation he finds himself in before walking off. He mutters something about “that piece of shit Zion” as we fade to black.