(Or, Paving the Way for a New Chapter, limestone.)
Seated at one of the booths inside the Good Company restaurant is some rather bad company in the form of the Eternal Circle: Thomas Crowne, Vagn Dahl, Mysti, and the Fighter (and budding artist) Xander Azula, the latter engrossed in chowing down his burger, appropriately named the Good One…though the leader of this group quickly notices the stares he’s receiving from his followers, causing him to set the burger down.
“What? I’m starving,” Xander states, his words muffled somewhat by the food still in his cheeks as he casts aside table manners to deal with the apparent elephant in the room.
“It’s an awful lot of eating this close to a match, Xander,” replies Thomas, his tone less snarky than expected but certainly a mix of sarcasm and actual confusion. This prompts Xander to set his burger on his plate entirely, wagging his finger in dismissal.
“Oh no, we’re not going there Thom. I spent all last year trying to train hard and follow a strict diet, and you know what that got me?”
The inquiry garners a look of uncertainty from his followers, until Thomas chimes in again.
“A string of wins in HOFC?”
“A win over Bobbinette Carey?” asks Mysti, reminding the Fighter of a big victory outside the unsanctioned path.
“That time you and Hollywood beat Stronk and, by proxy, the HOW World Champion?”
That last question coming from Vagn draws a smirk from their head disciple, pointing to each of them with a nod as Xander responds in kind.
“True, true, and double true…but my point is, I stressed myself out over and over again, trying to make sure I was in tip-top shape to make the best use of what I was told would help me succeed…and aside from those few exceptions, I got fuck and all out of the whole deal. So…”
Xander is interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their throat, drawing the attention and ire of the Fighter as he turns around to see an older gentleman glaring at him, making a slight motion toward what appears to be his family, complete with a couple children that appear to be in their preteens. Xander looks at the kids, back at the older man, and powers through with a sarcastic retort.
“Oh, chill. I’m sure they’ll be playing Halo when they get back, they’ve heard worse.”
Xander rolls his eyes before turning his attention back to his crew, an annoyed sigh escaping his mouth as he goes back to eating his burger. Thomas, still looking to get into the heart of the matter, speaks up once more, even as Xander starts to glare at him from behind his meal.
“So what are you doing about the Lethal Lottery?”
Xander stops mid-bite, taking a big gulp of his food before setting it back on his place with a sigh, wiping his face as he speaks.
“It’s plain and simple what I’m doing, isn’t it? Like everyone else looking to compete that night, I’m hoping to get the luck of the draw. Personally, I hope I get Joe.”
“And what if you get one of the other champions?”
Maybe my intentions going into the Lethal Lottery haven’t been all that clear by now. Maybe, just maybe, I’ve been too eloquent in my speech to make it where my mind is at. Here, let me spell it out for you, a little louder for those in the back:
I am now at war, the first shots being fired this weekend.
I realize the poetry and prose I give may be a little much for some, but if you’re not picking up what I’m putting down, allow this artist to give a caption to the work in progress. Lethal Lottery marks the first step toward taking respect back from those who deemed it necessary to try and take it from me in the first place.
And would you look at that…three champions, all guilty of that very charge.
I’ve already made my feelings abundantly clear on the HOTv Champion, Joe Bergman. I have plans for the first chance I get my hands on him, title match or otherwise…this just seems like the perfect opportunity to knock the old Coach down a few pegs.
But hey, at least he’s getting one more moment in the sun. Hope he doesn’t catch on fire again…oh, hi Jace. Mr. “Let’s Sit on the Throne and Hope It Still Flushes” himself. The reigning, defending, LSD Champion since last July. You and I have been at a crossroads before with the title on the line. Don’t think I haven’t forgotten what went down at Chaos 17, the way you tried to embarrass me in our little excursion.
An artist draws inspiration from both his successes and failures, and the more I fail the more motivated I become to use my boiling rage to drive me to victory…and without the “guidance” of the Coach to drag me down, I can focus on what I can do to you at Chaos 22.
It’s what I should’ve done in the first place. Rained hellfire and brimstone upon the almighty King of Everything, burning him and his kingdom down in the process. Finally making the man that can talk for seemingly hours…speechless.
After all the torture I went through to take you down for the sake of ol’ Bergman, taking you down for my own glory is gonna be all the sweeter. Somewhere at the crossroads of “taking down the man that crossed your coach” and “beating the hell out of the man keeping you from moving on with your life” is where I currently reside, Jace…and the end result of this contemplation is gonna be awful ugly at Chaos 22.
Long live the King…until I decide otherwise.
A chance to go after one of three champions awaits me, if I should be so lucky…but luckiest of all is a chance to finally go toe to toe with the HOW World Champion himself, Christopher America. O Captain, my captain…how the mighty have fallen.
Beating all of the Highwaymen to retain your title hasn’t been enough to dissuade the paranoia, has it? I’ve been watching closely the way you look over your shoulder at times, as if expecting a scare of the red variety to come your way…and not even #97RED.
Don’t worry, comrade, the revolution that awaits you has no promise of equal distribution. I want you, and the prize that comes with putting you down, all to my damn self.
Thank you for continuing to talk your shit from atop the ivory tower, Chris…because this artist has his trusty chisel, and I can start chipping away whenever I damn well please.
I look at this champ’s row and I think to myself…wow, what a trio of cowards.
Last year, when the challenge to step into the gilded cage to go against this ol’ Fighter was out in the open, not a single damn one of you would so much as bat an eye at it.
Joe was too busy leading me down a rocky road of nonsense that saw me spinning my wheels in other endeavors. Jace was having too much fun claiming I was “just a fighter and nothing more”…and America? He had the audacity to defend his World Championship against Steve Solex in HOFC. The war they had that night was a spectacle, for sure…but he never so much as looked in my direction the rest of the year.
You can call it “not being worthy” if you want, Chris…I see it as being afraid of the outcome.
But we’ll never know, will we? Because any intention I had of putting any of you champs to the test inside that gilded cage was already shot down…so I will simply have to chip away harder, and take one of those belts from you in whatever manner the Lottery allows.
And if I’m left as one of many sat in the back all night, with nothing to do?
I will not be twiddling my damn thumbs. I will be paying damn close attention to every move you three make. Every dumb mistake. Every smile you fake, like a pesky snake.
I’ll be watching you.
“You good, Xander?”
The question from Thomas snaps the Fighter out of an apparent trance, shaking his head before finally responding verbally.
The trio of followers just look at each other, confused by what has transpired.
“Was weird,” replies Vagn with a raised eyebrow. “You started muttering to yourself for a bit…and I think we caught you humming a Police song at the end.”
Xander’s cheeks puff out before he exhales, looking down in embarrassment as he takes a moment to compose himself.
“Right, let’s talk turkey about the Lethal Lottery,” he finally responds, taking a swig of water that’s just been brought to him by one of the servers. “The reality is, with the nature of the night my plan will be to simply wait and see where the luck of the draw goes. If luck favors ol’ Xander, I will have one of three opportunities to take what’s rightfully mine…with two of them securing my place at March to Glory. That’s the end game, true believers.”
Xander turns around again, glaring at the source of the exclamation: those damn kids from earlier. Xander keeps his gaze fixed on them, to the point of the family leaving the table as he turns his attention to the nearest server.