The Prize Fighter Inferno- Mach Three: The Inferno (Original Fic)
Previous Chapters: Mach Zero- The Pit
Mach One: The Kindling
Mach Two: The Blaze
Author's Note: Well, I had thought that I was done posting my work on the Base, for reasons I shall not be inclined to mention. However, I have an inkling, therefore I'll go ahead and post the finale of my original fiction's introduction. I liked how this turned out (for once) and I just wanna keep spreading it around. Take a read if you have time. Any critiques or comments you may have would be greatly welcomed.
Thank you for a time, have an excellent day, and I hope you enjoy the story.
The Prize Fighter Inferno
Mach Three: The Inferno
The crowd’s deafening silence was broken by the shrill, piercing shriek of an elderly woman in the crowd. Unable to contain her sobs at the brutal murder that had just taken place in the ring, she cradled her head in her hands and softly wept, shaking her wizened head back and forth in disbelief. The hysteria she displayed soon spread like a fever through the throngs of shocked spectators, and soon a tidal wave of resentful jeers echoed from the stand. Though the people of the Plebian Quarter were notorious for reveling in the massive bloodshed which had a habit of taking place in the Pit, stamping out the life of a defenseless, defeated opponent was far too much for all but the most bitter of the crowd.
Damian Ward stood next to the ring, mouth hanging ajar, gazing at the grim spectacle of his brother. Domino smirked in horrible triumph, his face etched with contempt and arrogance. He stamped his boots on top of the limp body of the Pit’s now ex champion and cackled deeply, his deep voice resounding throughout the arena. His eyes twitched unnaturally, his body pulsated as though his muscles were their own morbid entity living with the fighter, and his mouth curved in a deranged, callous smile. He gazed over at his little brother and cocked his head to side, as though questioning what Damian saw wrong with the picture before him.
“You see that, daddy’s boy? A token number of old school parlor tricks isn’t how you fight. That’s not power. THIS is power!”
He beat his chest primitively, his toned arms thudding loudly against his drug enriched body. He continued to berate Damian, while his gaze shifted up to his father. Though the devilish grin remained, his eyes became cold and his gaze venomous.
“What good is all of that posturing and training anyway? What can a trivial set of techniques do against an overwhelming force who is the epitome of a man who has become a legend…no…I am a god! And I won’t need you pitiful maggots to justify my greatness any longer. I AM GREATNESS!”
Damian couldn’t help but choke, his face paling and his mind trying to wrap itself around what had overtaken his brother. Domino had been aggressive before…but this was on a scale he had never seen, had never believed could have existed.
Standing farther back from the ring, eyes blank and horrified, Darin Ward let breaths escape from his lungs in ragged bursts, his mind unable to accept the monster his son had become, along with the culprit who had machinated this fell transformation.
The elder fighter’s gaze carried over to the opposite side of the ring where, standing in Domino’s corner, white blazer inconspicuous as ever, thin cigar hanging loosely from his thin mouth, Lenny Kalrino stared victoriously back. Walking over nonchalantly, hands held loosely in his pockets, the Darkside businessman cast a pseudo sympathetic look at Darin.
“Ward, my good man, so glad you could join us!”
The man’s falsetto tone dripped like honey too sweet for its own container, and the bland lack of sincerity caused Darin Ward’s face to contort in rage. The ex champion walked over to his antagonist, cracking his knuckles as though he intended to break Kalrino’s body right there and then.
“You…after all of these years…you haven’t changed a bit have you, scumbag?”
Lenny’s face reeked of pure ecstasy, his sadistic grin widening as he saw Ward’s temperament losing out to frustration.
“Hehe…c’mon Darin, give me some credit? At least I don’t go berserk every time a member of my family realizes I’m an arrogant deadbeat…oh, maybe because that’s just you.”
Darin grabbed the suave businessman by the collar and hoisted him by the neck, the former fighter’s face lighting up with a hint of murder written across his brow. “I’m warning you Kalrino…I warned you the same, years ago…if you so much as touch a member of my family ever again…I swear you will be no more than a wretched pile of ash at the end of the day."
The would-be victim merely shrugged his shoulders indifferently, his eyes slanting in a frosty glance at his assailant.
“I apologize with every fiber of my being that I was able to provide more adequately for your late wife and your eldest son then their drunken, prideful man of the house ever was.”
The venomous words were thrown like daggers at Darin Ward. A miniscule twitch slowly impressed itself into his left eye, and barely audible grunts began resounded from his mouth by instinct as opposed to design. His grip inadvertently tightened, and his hands trembled in unspeakable rage. Lenny’s grin returned once more, pleasure wrought across his expression. Not simply because the words had stung Darin’s pride, for that was too easy by itself.
Lenny took supreme satisfaction in the fact that both men knew the words were completely true.
They were interrupted by a boisterous slamming sound, and the two whirled about to see Domino impatiently stomping about crudely on top of his old foe’s body. Darin, forgetting Kalrino completely, tossed him aside as he would a trash bag. Lenny landed on his bum, cackling lightly to himself, piercing golden eyes glimmering in anticipation of what he had calculated would happen next. The real show has yet to begin, he thought mischievously, licking his lips and rubbing his grubby hands together greedily.
Domino spat at his own feet, glaring holes at the man whom he no longer regarded as a father. He called out, his voice deep and resentful, tinged with a tone indicating a fervent belief of superiority.
“Bah! You’re tough when you wail on someone smaller than you, as always. Figures that a washed up old man still feels the need to pretend he has strength.”
Darin Ward’s face flashed with pain, bearing the brunt of his son’s jibes layered on top of Kalrino’s assaults, before the emotion fled his appearance. Damian, watching his father, swallowed hard as he watched the familiar expression materialize before him. The face was almost exactly the same as it had been directly after Domino and his father had last confronted each other. The void, lacking all emotion and passion, had engulfed his father once more.
Silently, Darin dropped his jacket and removed his over shirt, allowing his toned chest to go bare. He took a small pair of fighter’s gloves from his pockets and strapped them onto his hands before cracking his knuckles and ducking under the ropes of the ring. Damian looked on with astonishment for a moment before running towards the ropes. As he called out, the panic was prevalent in his voice, fear mingled with confusion at his father’s actions.
“Father! What are you doing? Don’t tell me you intend to…”
Damian bit his tongue, holding back the flood of concerns and objections he could possibly make. Nothing could stop his father now. Not even his favorite son.
Domino grinned like a demon, his face lighting up maniacally as his father went through his initial routine of stretching and throwing light practice jabs while bouncing on the balls of his feet. Domino smashed his fists together eagerly, his voice rumbling out tauntingly. “You have no idea how long I’ve desired this. You have no idea how much the thought of smashing your head on the floor of this ring makes my blood boil in anticipation. You’re going to suffer, now; I’m going to make you feel the pain I felt all of these years while you played the favorite with little Damian. I’m going to beat you, savagely and maliciously, to make up for every mistake I’ve ever made, just as you would do to me. Today, you’re going to bleed, and scream, and feel anguish. And when you lie broken in the flame of error, I shall strangle the miserable life out of you and mark an end to this cursed suffering you’ve caused with your worthlessness. You and I both went hungry to make sure Damian had food in the darker days of our past. I’m going to make sure you never make anyone go hungry ever again.”
Darin’s blank stare remained unperturbed as he continued to bounce back and forth, his jabs only changing in frequency in strength as they would as part of his normal routine. His eyes cast pensively over Domino; the young man’s now shaved head held few blemishes. He wore similar boxers shorts to what Darin himself wore, and his chest was bare as well, though his body continued it’s sickening display of muscular activity, the rippling of his body increasing if anything. Domino’s eyes were lit with the blood lust of a beast, craving its next meal and next kill, the two being one and the same.
“…I will not allow a member of my family to deface this honorable sport with the atrocities of relying on liquid strength to commit traitor’s victory on this sacred ground. You want to be champion? I will never allow you to so much as think of being called that so long as I still draw breath.”
The two became mute, and intently glared each other down. The heat flying between their locked glances made it seem as though the fight had been raging for countless hours already. Outside of the ring, Lenny had finished whispering impishly into the arena referee’s ear, slipping into the man’s pocket a large wad of cash. Nodding without another word, the referee entered the ring he had just stepped out of, bringing a rustic microphone down to his mouth, earning his keep with a booming, powerful voice which cried to the rafters as he explained the situation.
“Ahem, ladies and gentleman! Your attention, please! In unforeseen circumstances, our new champion, Domino, has been issued a challenge! And this gauntlet has been thrown down by none other than former champion prize fighter, Darin Ward! With respect to both fighters’ wishes, we will be adding the fight to tonight’s bracket. The match will begin momentarily! Prepare for a battle of champions folks! You’re bout to see the most jaw-dropping, gut wrenching, death defying display of professional fighting you’ve ever witnessed!”
Damian felt his gut wrench alright; the sight of his father and brother approaching each other with such a blatant intent to induce pain gave him the need to physically hold himself back in order to keep from jumping in between the two. The aching desire of his heart, however, gave into the blatant rhetoric of his mind. If he stepped onto that ring, either one was liable to kill him as a side show.
A stark moment of silence lingered hauntingly through the Pit; every man, woman, and child in the building could foresee the sinister outcome of the match, regardless of who won. Battles waged in ill blood seldom turn out a true winner.
The harsh clatter of the bell broke the tension, and all hell broke loose as the two combatants, father and bastardized son, drove madly forward with the full brunt of their furies directed at each other.
Domino lashed out with his right immediately, his body blurring in an already inhumane display of speed…only to meet empty space as Darin appeared like a wraith outside the punch’s range. Snarling, Domino brought his left forward as well, while winding his right back once more. Soon, his fists became a furious storm of blows, raining down upon the spots his father occupied. Each time, however, the vicious assault made no contact, Darin Ward disappearing and returning just a breath away from his opponent’s blows.
This continued for several minutes, a fatal yet elegant dance of beautiful savagery waltzing about the floor of the ring. Domino’s brow, after a while, became drenched with sweat, a flood of perspiration pouring from his body. The crowd watched mesmerized as the newly crowned champion began to pant and howl in frustration, watched him fail miserably no matter how swiftly his blows fell or how intricately he executed his combinations. Darin was a ghost, occupying nowhere and yet everywhere at the same time. He took no space and yet his presence was all encompassing.
Damian watched his father play Domino like a fool in awe from outside the ring. He finally understood the famous battle strategy he had been imparted years ago. A professional fighter usually held one of two battle capabilities: strength or speed. Therefore, Darin Ward, who was outstanding in neither, had created a hybrid strategy encompassing both. By overpowering speedy yet physically weaker fighters, and dancing about brawny but slow battlers, he was able to cement himself as a champion versed in pure combat technique. His ‘Blaze and Smoke’ stratagem was widely regarded as more dominating then any simple fighting maneuver. Damian realized at this very moment that by perfectly analyzing his opponent’s competence and flaws in the first handful of moments, Darin was allowed to perfectly allocate his energy between the two skills, and thus completely dominate each fight. Domino had bulked up so much that his speed had suffered greatly, as the naïve fighter had never been so heavily weighed down before.
Genius tactics to compensate for a marginal body…the strength of the true champion…
Domino’s fist ignited into a feral blaze, the flame biting and licking its environment, a wild animal devouring all in which foolishly crossed the fire’s path. Letting loose a roar of triumph, the young fighter let loose the blast, watching the fire erupt into a swathing path of destruction, encompassing the entire width of the arena and scything low at Darin’s belly. The crowd released shallow shrieks of anguish and dramatic yelps of disbelief, expecting the match to end in a one swift killing stroke…
…and they found themselves stupefied once more as Darin Ward vaulted into the air, soaring above the flames, a mere inch from a scorching demise. A slim flare emerged in his own hands, but Damian gasped as he saw the small amount of fire in his father’s grasp blink from the usual crimson blaze to a brilliant, shining white. Light flooded from his hands, bathing people nearby in the pristine glow of the attack as the pure blaze ripped towards the dumbfounded Domino, slamming into his chest and sending him flying headfirst into his corner just as the bell signaling the end of the round broke the silence with its shrill cry. Pure power wasn’t enough to match what he had just seen. Only the most skilled users of the Fire Fist could command the power of White Blaze.
The crowd sat stunned for a short moment before bursting into implacable fits of applause and boisterous cheering. The noise was carried deafeningly to the rafters, each person unable to hear their own ear splitting shouts of encouragement. Bets were being made under the table as shady and dirty men met to wager fortunes on what many were dubbing as the ‘fight of the century’ before the battle was a round over. Riots were beginning over which fighter was the superior one as the worst sort of people began to reach a drunken stupor and become irritable at others for sharing their pleasure. Lenny Kalrino reveled with a crooked grin and wide eyes as his ears in the stands reported on the money which was flowing into the ring’s pocket, and therefore by default, his pocket. Everything was working as planned! The night and the events leading from it had occurred exactly as he had predicted. That cursed family which had been a thorn in his side was finally paying, in hard, monetary form, for their mistakes. He tilted his head back and cackled once more, his pleasure unable to appear more obvious.
Darin remained obstinate through the tumultuous chaos, his dead eyes bored like spears on his bleeding and burned son, who in turn sat on the stool in his corner and glared back. The anticipation in the young man’s face was now missing, replaced with an unforgiving determination in its place. The elder fighter, stolid as ever, merely bobbed on his feet, keeping warm until the bell chimed forth the second round and all eyes returned to observe the resuming carnage.
Emerging almost lethargically from his corner, Domino, surprisingly, kept his distance from his enemy, merely keeping a guard up. The two edged about, circling each other as though wolves sizing the enemy up to properly skin him later. Darin’s eyes slimmed, a glint of frustration crossing his face. After another moment, the elder man growled, the first sign of emotion he had displayed in the fight, and let fly several blasts of fire from his fists. Domino barked out a laugh, slamming his fists forward and piercing each one straight down the center, unfazed by the sudden change of tactics. Soon, Domino began countering with his own barrage of fire blasts, the two crimson bursts slamming into each other, the clashes causing embers to fly sporadically from the ring and pepper the building with a char filled air. The stench of ash soon entrenched the ring, and the heat of the place had many taking off coats and sweating profusely even in the stands. The battle of infernos had transformed the Pit into a veritable active volcano.
As the two blasted and bombarded each other, Darin felt a sing run through his hair, and grimaced; in his old age, he had trained every bit as much, hell, harder than he had while he had been in his prime. The effects of time, however, had inevitably worked its curse upon his already denied body. He felt his muscles quake feebly, his breaths came in frenzied rasps from his throat, his cold eyes blinked through an exhausted haze, and he felt his reactions become sluggish and forced as his muscles broke down. A thought, memories from his past blew uncalled through his mind; a voice, feminine and haunting, from the past echoing his doubts.
You can’t do this forever Darin! And you would sell each and every one of us to the Devil himself just to preserve your damned fights for as long as you possibly can!
The concentration of the former champion lost its iron hold on Darin’s brain for but a single moment.
That was all it took for Domino to crash through Darin’s last shot and smash his fist with all of his might into his father’s head.
The elder fighter hit the ring’s floor with a sickening thud. As his head cracked upon the ground, Domino screamed in ecstasy as he landed on top of his father, and began raining punch after punch upon the fallen fighter. The crack of bones was heard with each passing second as the son took a vile joy in creating a world of pain for his father. Damian, unable to turn away, watched with tears flooding his eyes as his elder brother slowly beat the vitality from his father. As the bell signaling the end of the second round sounded, the refs had to struggle to drag Domino from the slaughter he had initiated, the new champ’s fanatical eyes burning with self satisfaction.
Darin, after playing at being a corpse for a full minute, forced himself to crawl back towards his corner. Somehow leveling his broken body onto his stool, he beckoned raggedly for his youngest son to join him by the ring’s edge. As Damian rushed to his father’s side, the older man, light fleeing his eyes, coughed hoarsely and looked up at his son. The freezing rage which had dominated him moments before was fleeting his face, along with the traces of time he had left to remain on this earth. He tried to smile, though the attempt was halted in vain by a wince of agony resulting from several broken bones.
As his son began to cry out, he hushed him, and he began to recite, in deliberate, forced words, the very tale he had been avoiding since the day his son had learned how to walk.
“Huff…huff…Damian, my…my son. I just…I’m sorry, this is…this is my fault.”
He coughed once more, blood spattering out from his paling mouth, blending with the crimson ropes upon which they fell, as if the life which poured from him ceased to be with each pass.
“You…you always…wanted to know how I…how I got the belt, right…? Well…now is as good a time as any…”
As he spoke, the feminine voice returned to him once more, echoing through his head. As he had long dreaded, he would relive this moment once more as the truth was told, in all aspects.
"We had a chance to give them a home, Darin! A chance to give our family a real chance at having a life without fear!"
“Damian…we were in money trouble, you know. That’s why we lived…in this hell hole! We didn’t…didn’t have the money. But then I started winning…then I became strong. We improved our lives, bit by bit…but it wasn’t enough Damian! We were ru…huggh!”
Blood spurted once more, his vision blanked, but Darin shook his head and continued on, determined to finish.
“We were running out of time Damian. You’ve seen what happens to people in the Plebian Quarter…people die here! You, or Domino, or Ariana could have died here!
“I love you Darin…but…but you scare me too much now. I’m afraid someday all of that anger you throw into fighting will consume everything you are. No…it already has!”
“I…I couldn’t let that happen…so I made a deal…with a mobster down in the Darkside…named Kalrino. Lenny Kalrino, to be precise. I would throw the title bout…in exchange, we would get half of the money the mob pulled in after most people lost their bets on me…we could’ve moved up in the world, moved to the Artisan’s block! We could’ve lived…like real people, Dami…but I…I…”
“You traded your whole family for a strap of iron!”
“…I couldn’t do it…I had to win…the fight…it was everything I had dreamed of. The mob, they were…upset. Very upset. Lenny told us to come up with the money. Even after we emptied all of my winnings and all of our savings, we didn’t have it. One night…Ari came home late. She smelled like cheap cologne and had the look of…pleasure…****ing pleasure, Damian.”
“I had to do it Darin! It was either that or have them come to our house! Can’t you see them drag the boys, wailing and screaming, while they put guns to their heads!? Are you that much of a monster!?”
The thoughts of his wife’s voice left his mind. He felt his consciousness receding, and he grasped his son’s hand, clinging to him as though he were a life preserver.
“…Kalrino…was furious when I kicked her out…furious I couldn’t be hurt with her any longer…so he put a bullet in her skull. That was probably worth more to him then giving her money for sleeping with him. And now…now he pulls this shit with Domino…he’s been planning, for this very moment, Damian. But that doesn’t matter…I saw something in you…you could get us out…you could fight us out of all of this…you could do…what I never could. I gave up fighting…cause I had hurt too many people already with my fists…but I didn’t realize, that I…wasn’t quite done causing pain…I caused…so much suffering. Damian…tell Domino, that I’m…I’m…”
His grasp became limp. Though Damian could still feel a heartbeat, the warmth was fading from his father’s hands. Damian felt a lump form in his throat; he gagged, pitiful whimpers echoing from his mouth as he tried to convince himself his dad would be alright. He could be saved, but it would be a long shot.
His thoughts were interrupted by the clang of the third bell, and the howling approach of Domino.
Moving almost automatically, Damian dropped his sweats and, though much skinnier and with a full head of raven hair, appeared an almost carbon copy of Domino. Leaping in front of his father’s still form, he intercepted Domino’s wild fist before feeling his hands ignite in a blaze. On instinct, he bombarded Domino’s face with as many blows he could in a span of three seconds.
Flying back several feet, Domino snarled in disgust. He held his hands back, both arched with palms open in an all too familiar stance; the crowning family technique, their father’s Eruption Ejection. As the wild inferno crackled and roared into life behind him, incinerating the entirety of Domino’s side of the ring, he called out contemptuously to his brother, voice becoming an almost demonic drone as his body morphed and oozed further. The drugs, it appeared, seemed to be literally transforming him into some kind of fell creature not like any human.
“Bah! Weak! That’s all you are, that’s all you ever will be! You want to protect that maggot from his inevitable passage into oblivion? Fine then, daddy’s boy! BURN IN HELL WITH THE REST OF THIS WORTHLESS FAMILY!”
With that, the hellfire flew forth from Domino’s fingertips. The force created a searing gale which encompassed the arena. Folks near the ring yelped in discomfort, and several small children began to weep loudly. Damian watched the blaze approach, aware that it was incinerating the entire ring before him, and would decimate both he and his father should it strike its target. An icy realization of grievance entered his mind, and with that, his fist burst into a steady flame. The world entered a freeze frame; every second took hours to pass before Damian’s eyes. He could see every possibility and outcome flicker before his eyes in a matter of milliseconds. He witnessed himself error and die countless times, before finally visualizing the single path which led to both him and his father surviving.
The same method he had used on his father in the training session not long ago.
Domino lacked a strong foundation to any of his attacks, and they would crumple upon pressure from the center. Darin Ward had single handedly predicted the one lesson Damian would need to learn in order to win the most important battle of his life.
The blaze on his hand, feeling the power of his composure, seemed to resonate with his very soul, and he felt the fire intensify, the heat crackling more fiercely than it had before. He felt no satisfaction as the shot he fired dead center into the belly of Domino’s flaming beast blazed pure white.
Domino raved manically, craving the moment when he would see his relatives as charred corpses upon the ground. He would dance atop their flesh, feast upon their burned bones, drink their…
He felt a light wince of pain in his right shoulder, and gazed over curiously. Soon, the entire shoulder throbbed wildly and erupted in pain. He yowled in disbelief, but was not perturbed…until he saw the center of blast caving in and witnessed the immaculate white fire flying towards him.
Lenny Kalrino, who was standing close to Domino’s corner, laughing loudly as he vainly counted stacks of money, whirled about in shock at the noise of the crowd, and felt his eyes widen in horror. He was only positioned about two feet off, for he had been sure he would be safe. No attack would make it past Domino…
…but one had. And he was standing too close. He would be engulfed in the blast. He threw the money down in panic, golden eyes frantically whisking about, as he began to scramble away, far too late.
The white ball of fire planted itself in Domino’s gut, but didn’t vanish. Rather, he felt it vibrate about in his gut as it began to grow. He gazed up in horror to see the gritted, determined face of his younger brother. Damian Ward’s glaze was frosted over, a cold fire visibly burning in his eyes. He mouthed words that no one but himself could possibly hear; words not spoken confidently, in pride in triumph, but words spoken as a matter of fact.
“Heaven Scar, Inferno.”
The ball erupted into a bursting firestorm of pure white light. Domino lay at the epicenter, howling in excruciating shrieks of pure pain. Lenny Kalrino’s confident face became blank and lost as the inferno quietly engulfed him, his consciousness fading immediately as he blacked out. The crowd went silent in sheer awe; never had such a celestial technique been used in a venue as poor in comparison as this one before. Many gentlemen in the crowd actually removed their caps in sheer wonderment, as though witnessing something holy in their presence. The children who had begun to cry grew quiet and gazed on in innocence, babbling happily at the bright light show they saw before them.
Domino felt his body warp and disfigure as the fires encompassed him. He shook his head violently, the thought of ‘I am a god! I can endure anything with a body like this!’ echoing throughout his addled brain. He felt the pain in his right shoulder spread throughout his body, and once more looked towards his right shoulder. A thick blot of red had grown visible inside his body. Inside. And the muscles, the well developed tanks of power which had been created, were deflating like balloons, his body becoming tiny and frail, more so than they had been before, as the symptoms spread throughout the new, and now ex, champion’s body.
Domino screamed, finally realizing he was burning within the flames of his own error. Darin Ward, not Damian, had defeated him. The drug which had made his body so strong was made for performance, not endurance. By tiring him out in the first round, making his body exert itself in an unnatural way, Darin had taken away Domino’s ability to receive damage. The damaged right shoulder, where the process had began, was the exact spot upon which Domino had been struck by Darin’s last assault in the first round.
Damian felt himself shaking from exhaustion outside the roaring inferno. He trembled, limbs growing weak, felt his consciousness fading. He had never used so much energy in a fight before. As he went unconscious, he felt himself reach out towards the pitiful figure falling slowly before him. The bright lights and violent crash of the crowd’s roar carried him from alertness into the dead thickness of dreams.
The short, consistent beeping of a heart monitor was pulsing next to Darin Ward’s bedside. He stared up weakly, gazing about the hospital room. Numerous complex instruments were ringing and flashing next to him, and he blinked his eyes feebly as the bright lights in the bland room blinded him for a moment. Staring over to the opposite side of the space, he witnessed a doctor shaking his head, marking on a chart, before leaving the room glumly. As the doctor left, Darin’s eyes bugged out; the young man in the bed was emaciated, sickly thin, body unbelievably ravaged and scarred by flames. But the eyes, still their same dirty color, were undoubtedly Domino’s. Forcing himself to look on, a strange thing happened. Darin Ward began to weep, softly, feeling the iron ambivalence he had taken towards his eldest son. All of the accusations Kalrino and Domino had made, of course, had been accurate; Darin had used his eldest as a tool to prepare his youngest. He began to sob uncontrollably now, every held back sentiment of remorse and regret now slamming into him like a tidal wave.
“I…I always was a horrible father…wasn’t I, Dom?”
He gazed down by the foot of his bed. The bag he had brought with him was there, exactly as he had left it. They were in the Pit’s infirmary, then. Of course. Hospitals in the Plebian Quarter would kill you faster than a robber would.
Reaching into the small, plain knapsack, he pulled out a small, black object. Gazing over with tears still flooding his eyes, he lifted it slowly up to his mouth. His voice was hoarse, filled with more emotion than he had felt in years.
“For all of the times…I chose Damian over you…for all the times…I hurt your mother and you…beat you both because I couldn’t take my own failure…made you bleed because I was so sick of being at the bottom of the totem pole…
I’m so sorry Domino.”
Darin Ward cocked his ebony revolver and fit the barrel snuggly in his mouth, still weeping as he did so, unable to remove his gaze from the son he never loved right.
Daddy’s not leaving anymore, Dom.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Damian. Your brother faced too much withdrawal from the drug. The Raging Nostrum ruined his body’s ability to recuperate. As for Darin…your father’s dead, he passed in his sleep.”
“…you damned liar.”
The Pit, five years later. Present Day.
Baldwin sat back, stunned at the unbelievable tale he had just heard. He shook his head, dipping his head back to guzzle the last bit of wine which lay in his glass. After a moment of silence, he shook his head once more, scratching his narrow, clean chin in curiosity.
“So…Lenny…they let you keep the Pit?”
The corpse like figure of Lenny Kalrino nodded, almost appearing remorseful at the moment. “Yeah…it took all of the money I made from that stunt to fix the ring, plus interest. You could say I payed for my sins, in a way. Though nowhere as much as Darin Ward did.”
“Does your condition ever…pain you?”
“Nah, not really. Sure, my skin is usually pretty dry, and even if I wanted to grow my hair back it would be quite impossible. I don’t meditate on it often, though. This body is worthless, as always. It just needs to continue to shelter the mind within.”
Another awkward moment of silence ruled the air. As Baldwin gazed over at his associate, his face became troubled.
“And the kid…he knows?”
The response made by the mobster turned arena owner seemed woefully inadequate. Luckily, Kalrino continued without urging, cracking his skeletal fingers as he did so.
“What more does he have left? What family is there left? Sure, he could have killed me out of some dry, boasting spirit of vengeance, took out his pain and frustration on an indirect cause of it all…but he knows, in the end, that Darin Ward precipitated every bit of it. The kid saw what blind passion can do, how it can crush what’s good and just in this world just as much as any cold and calculating villain. He’s burning cold now; a frosty fire who lives only to battle, who has the power to perfectly analyze each opponent and only grows satisfied when he’s beaten them, one hundred percent. He’s always right. He always wins. He’s perfection, a true champion in every sense of the word. But he takes no pleasure from it. It’s just the life for him, cause that’s all he knows.”
Baldwin thought over Lenny’s words, gazing down at the fighter already exiting without heeding the voracious cheers following him into his locker room. After a moment, the businessman from the Noble’s Mount grinned in satisfaction and nodded.
“In that case, please allow me to extend my congratulations. And allow me to invite Damian Ward, the Prize Fighter Inferno, to the Imperium Grand Prix.”