The Prize Fighter Inferno-Mach Two: The Blaze
Links to previous chapters:
Mach Zero: The Pit
Mach One: The Kindling
Author's note: Part two of the introduction is ready! I spent a bit of time editing this time, so hopefully there aren't a ton of mistakes here. Another long chapter, and that makes me personally happy. Please leave any comments, critiques, or suggestions you have. (And above all, please read!) Rambling aside, enjoy!
The Prize Fighter Inferno
Mach Two: The Blaze.
The two stood there, motionless, statues in memoriam to the remains of what they had already lost. Damian kept his hand clutched tightly on his father’s shoulder, while the older man merely stared at the spot of blood that had fallen from Domino’s face onto the ring. The spot was crimson and fresh, still not dry, yet already beginning to show signs of losing the rich shade of red it had held mere moments before. After a moment, Darin’s eyes moved up towards the door Domino had stormed from, and his eyes ceased to tear, a transformation beginning to wrought itself into his form; his body stiffened, and he straightened his back, bearing himself erect. His eyes became cold and dark, seemingly clouding over in an emotionless blaze, as though a black smoke had began to emit from within his skull. He stood, not minding the glancing blow Domino had placed upon his lip minutes before. He turned back to Damian, and the younger boy stepped back in a vision of unfamiliarity. He had witnessed his father’s rage before, but he had never seen a look this…void of all passion. Void of any kind of remorse. A cold fire biting and enveloping those whom it witnessed.
“Get back in your corner, boy. Sitting there moping isn’t training.” His voice was rigid and tense, all semblance of family affection absent from his words. Damian began to take another step back, but halted as he considered what his father must be feeling at the moment. He began walking forward, his own face calm and etched with concern for the man who had raised him since day one. “Dad…we don’t have to keep going today…I know watching Domino go must be…”
Damian barely brought his arms up to block the punch his father sent flying straight at his chest. Even while managing the block, Damian felt the wind rush from his lungs as he glided four feet back on his feet. He gazed up, a look of internal and emotional pain crossing his face for a moment. His father’s expression hadn't changed. The same dull eyes, the same lack luster face…complete and utter apathy for his son’s attempts to console him.
Darin cocked his head to the side, as if trying to convey a since of bafflement at his boy’s actions. “Don’t argue with me. Ever. I told you to get back in your corner. My next punch will be the Fire Fist. The real Fire Fist. Not that pathetic excuse you or the other brat used.”
His eyebrows reeled up at the title he substituted for his other son’s name. Rage? Denial? Damian wasn't sure. He was sure of, however, the fact that his father would act upon his threat. A Fire Fist from Darin Ward could blow your head straight from your shoulders. That had happened before.
He dashed frantically back into his corner, barely missing a small missile of fire which bombarded the space his body had occupied moments before. Bracing himself quickly against the ropes, he saw his father winding up his right, as his left was still turned at an angle towards the first spot. “Here comes the dominant hand, kiddo.”
The blaze which erupted from his right fist was larger, faster, and superior in every other fashion to the first attack Darin had committed beforehand. Damian lunged to the side, barely escaping the onslaught with a singed shoulder, and grunted as he skidded across the floor of the ring. Before he could stand, Darin flashed next to him with inhuman speed and latched the boy’s right arm into a lock from above. The elder fighter gave a sharp twist and Damian let out a sharp cry of pain as he felt bones cracking. Darin looked down, with a blank gaze filled with what might be described as shame, and he delivered a sharp kick to Damian’s side, rolling him over to the other edge of the ring.
“You’re too damn slow. This isn't war. You can’t beat the enemy by outsmarting them in the ring. There aren't enough openings in a professional fighter’s stance. You have to win by either being faster or stronger. Or both. And right now…you’re neither.”
He wound back both his fists, embers and sparks cracking from them, every fiber of his body brimming with all of the power and ability of an unparalleled champion. Darin’s husky, monotonous voice continued to drone, even as the sound of the inferno growing behind him grew in sound and fury. “Your choice boy. Learn to overpower as the blaze or learn to evade as the smoke…or learn nothing, and die.”
That attack…it’s so…it’s too strong…I can’t possibly…I can’t be stronger than that…I can’t even dodge that…
The thoughts came automatically, an instinctive fear creeping through Damian’s body, as he struggled to stand. He held his right arm tightly, wincing at the pain he felt there. The bone was probably fractured, though he didn't think it was broken. He flickered his eyes forward, taking in every detail of his father’s stance and the form of the attack Darin was readying. He squinted as the old champ began bringing his fists together. Time seemed to slow for a moment, and he felt his senses heightening, as though an adrenaline filled impulse had taken charge of his battered body. The way his feet were postured…the place he was bringing his fists to send the attack forward, back bent over and body arched with his fists level with his face…right in the epicenter of activity…
“You can’t beat the enemy by outsmarting them in the ring. There aren't enough openings in a professional fighter’s stance.”
The words of his father, the knowledge of a man who had one so many matches he couldn't properly remember all of them….they were wrong.
There is an opening…it’s minuscule and suicidal to attempt, but if I hit it…right down the center…
His body and mind coordinated perfectly as he saw the attack pulse towards him, the fire loosing from the old man’s clenched hands. “Eruption Ejection.” His father would normally have shouted that with pride, but he merely stated the name as cold fact it was in this fight. Damian grimaced with widening eyes, bringing his left fist up, his small spark of a Fire Fist kindling into existence. He shook his head; to overcome this, even in the right spot, he needed more power. He growled, the small flame flickering weakly, as though trying to extend a life already on the brink of being extinguished.
He snarled, frustrated, but brought his fist forward regardless. It was burn or be burned now. His growl let loose to a roar which curdled his own blood, the tone of his voice deeper and more barbaric than he was used to. “Fire…FIRE FIST!!
Right down the center!
The smaller blast spiraled towards the volcanic force of destruction already set on a path before it, and, right as they connected, the flame on Damian’s hand blazed higher, dancing brilliantly as it encompassed the length of his entire arm. Damian watched as his father’s inferno seemed to encompass his own blast, but grinned as he danced back to the ropes. The center of the inferno was weak, the foundation of the attack sacrificed for a broader and impossible to dodge path of carnage. That left an opening for a concentrated attack to break through the attack down the middle.
Darin gasped as the spurt of fire, which had seemed so inconsequential compared to his own display of raw power, lanced towards him and slammed into his chest, tossing him back against the ropes with a painful thud on the ground. The fires of the attacks slowly subsided into smoke and embers, and then into nothingness, as the two stood across from each other panting and perspiring heavily. After a moment, Darin stood and stared at his son with a puzzled sort of bewilderment, trying to figure in his head where exactly his son had bested him. The emotion, the passionate fire which usually lay lit in his eyes, was resurgent in his face as he realized the incredible skill the young man had discovered. He walked over to Damian and propped him up, clasping his arms on his son’s back. His eyes were closed as before him he envisioned the fantastic future of Damian Ward.
“Yes…that’s how it’s done son…” his voice was low pitched and filled with fervor, as though Darin was experiencing a remarkable fever dream in which nothing could possibly go wrong. “…yes…yes! You’ll be untouchable from here on out! Unstoppable! A majestic and almighty god of the ring! Far better than the brat!” He spat the last word out as though it were the deepest curse imaginable. Damian frowned, realizing what exactly was happening. What he had thought was his father bringing his sanity back and accepting the day’s transgressions was merely Darin slipping further into denial. Damian shut his eye lids and shook his head as his father’s ravings became more clamorous and wild.
“The best we've ever seen! The Champion to succeed the Champion! A living legend in the making! WARD! DAMIAN WARD!!”
Three weeks later, the ‘Darkside’ District of the Plebeian grotto…
Feeling his stomach heaving again, Domino took a leap for a filthy dumpster and dove his head inside, spewing a sickly green vomit over the inside of the large metallic bin. His energy fading once more, he slowly slid inside on top of the messy pile he had created, barely rasping out a slow, agonizing breath. His hair had lost its ebony luster, and was now a faded and decrepit black, and the rest of his body hadn't fared much better. He curled himself into a fetal ball, and whimpered softly at his foul luck. He had barely been gone three weeks, and he had already spent most of his money on booze in that time. A single decent meal hadn't passed his lips, and he had gone unwashed and untended to for days. He whimpered more; cursed father! Black-heart bastard! It was all Darin’s fault he was in this mess. If not for his unforgivable sins of favoritism, Domino might still have a home, might still be living as opposed to this state of degrading existence. His life had devolved into a meaningless perpetuation of alcohol and illness, and he convinced himself that he would die right there, within the dumpster. “That…” he muttered hoarsely, feeling his consciousness black out, “…would be for the best…”
He awoke to an icy splash of water cascading across his face, and he shot up with a panicked start. Being murdered for pocket change in the Darkside District was all too common in recent memory. Yet, as he stirred from his daze, he looked about curiously and found himself in some kind of club. The lights, while dim, brightened up the room with a rustic kind of atmosphere, while antique furniture from the last century dotted the space. Woman, harlots and servers of all sizes (and attire, Domino noted while greedily licking his thin, pale lips) were scattered about. Many gazed over his way before shooting their eyes off demurely, giggling amongst themselves in overly high pitched, staged tones.
“Well now, good kiddo! You’re finally awake, I was getting worried.”
Domino brought his eyes forward to identify the speaker. Reclining in a luxurious leather arm chair sat a rotund, chipper, middle aged gentleman with a shaved head and a white suit, grinning at him eagerly over a mahogany table. Flanking him were two gargantuan brutes of men, both wearing dark glasses despite being indoors, cracking their knuckles and watching him suspiciously. The bald gentleman relaxing before him thumbed a cigar, taking a quick puff, and letting loose a deep cloud of black smoke from his lips. Leaving it there as he cracked his mouth in an even wider smile, he extended his hand to Domino. “Mr. Ward, I take it? I’m Lenny Kalrino. Charmed to meet you.” The man’s voice was high pitched and spoken with a thick northerner accent, clearly marking him as a city boy from around these parts.
Domino gazed suspiciously at the man, before venturing his hand out and grasping it firmly in a very manly hand shake. Lenny looked down and chuckled at that, his cigar waggling about the corners of his mouth as he did. “Strong…just like they said. I like strength, kid, especially in fighters like you.”
The young fighter sneered at that, flicking his hand dismissively. “Bah, screw that. I’m done with that biz. Too much pomp and bull shit!” He spat the last words out, ripping an unattended bottle of brandy from a nearby table and swigging deeply. Lenny looked at the young man askance, as though hurt. He waved his arms about grandly, a sad, mocking grin playing across his face.
“Aww, that’s too bad kiddo. I had heard that maybe you were a bit more bite than bark, but I guess your old man was right about you being ‘Domino the Destitute’ after all. Nothing but a frail body with a weak mind…”
Domino had to be held back by the two guards, who struggled to keep the fighter from ripping their boss’s head off. The sudden charge had caught them by surprise, and they panted as the snarling Domino attempted to throw punches. “Don’t ever…! Never call me that name!”
Kalrino grinned slyly at that, clicking his tongue admonishingly. “But that’s what they call ya, down at the Pit, ain’t it? Domino the Destitute, knock em down, he’ll get right back up…”
Kalrino brought his face close to Domino’s, his eyes malicious and taunting. “…and you can have the fun of doing that all night till the final bell rings. Cause he’ll never hit ya with a single decent punch.” Removing the cigar from his mouth and snubbing it casually on an ash tray, he turned away from Domino. Snapping his fingers, one of his men brought him a small brief case which Lenny proceeded to dig through and come out with a syringe, filled with a foul smelling, clear liquid. His taunting voice went a falsetto higher and began ringing with a honeyed sympathy, sincerity layered on every drop of his words. “Listen, Dom, I like you. Ya got good heart kid. But it takes more than that. You need the body for victory, too. And if you feel like jumping back in the ring…I can offer you that.”
Domino gazed quizzically at the needle in Kalrino’s hand, then at the man himself, and frowned. “You want me…to cheat?”
Kalrino barked a laugh, his face contorted in merriment as he slapped his free hand on his knee. “Cheat?!” The white suited gent guffawed once more at the thought, pretending to wipe a tear from his eye. “All is fare in love and war. Win the war, take all the love you want. And that’s exactly what I’m offering you!” Lenny brought his eyes directly level with Domino’s, Kalrino’s golden spheres of vision locking into the fighter’s skull. “Love. Money. Power. This is just the gist of what a winner gets. And I think you’re a winner. Are you…? Are you a winner, Domino? Or are you just a destitute little boy who couldn't step off his pap’s shadow?”
Domino stared hungrily at the syringe, his eyes moving in and out of focus. He felt in a trance, as though his body were not his own. After a moment of deliberation, he violently snatched the needle from Kalrino’s hands and jammed it into his wrist, pumping every drop of the clear, foul liquid into his system. He stood motionless for a moment, nothing happening. Suddenly, he looked down as his body began to tremble, his muscles pulsing underneath his flesh. His body began to swell, and he could literally feel the rapid increase being wrought in his physical strength. He grinned, a primal, savage impulse slipping over him. He casually dropped his fist in a blow against a table, smashing it into tiny, mangled pieces. He chuckled at the feat; it had taken no effort whatsoever.
Lenny’s bodyguards took that as a threat. Both giant men leaped towards him, silent and menacing. He brought his fist across the face of the first, an audible snap echoing sickly across the room. His knee crushed the second man’s ribs, and the guard fell to his knees coughing up blood before Domino rammed his foot into the man’s face. In a flash, Domino had incapacitated two men that were at least three feet taller than he was. (Standing at six feet tall himself, Domino had found that impressive.)
Domino uttered an carnivorous growl in triumph, and Kalrino let loose a chilling, subdued laugh. The ‘gentleman’ walked casually over the body of his former guards of ten years and firmly grasped Domino on the shoulder. His voice was cold and calculating, a sadistic pleasure apparent in his words.
“Heh, that’s my boy…”
Two months later, the Pit.
A guttural shriek was heard from the Plebeian Quarter’s largest venue of entertainment, the blood bath from hell known only as the Pit. Damian brought his head up in anticipation as he followed his father through the spectator’s entrance. Upon winning the Amateur League Championship last month (the fastest turn around and victory in the history of the Plebian Quarter, he had been told) his father had suggested they go to view the professional fights, and give Damian some quick insight on what he would soon be looking forward to. Darin Ward bounced ahead of him ecstatic, moving swiftly on the balls of his feet as though in a merry dance. “Hurry boy, or we’ll miss the fight! The guys brawling today are supposed to be two of the best. The current champion, Ragnar Skullcrusher, and some new guy. Rising star, never caught his name. It oughta be a good view for you, so you shouldn't waste this opportunity.”
The hand he put on Damian’s shoulder was comforting, but overly firm, and Damian gulped, knowing he had better be ready to be drilled on the strengths and weaknesses of both fighters at the conclusion of the match. Suddenly, his thought process was interrupted by an uproar which poured from the inner confines of the stadium. Glancing at each other, wondering what was occurring, the two stumbled quickly into the inner spectator’s area. And what they saw was unbelievable.
The match was already over, only five seconds ticked off the clock, and the larger of the two combatants was sobbing on the ground, his head bent around a full one hundred and eighty degrees backwards, several teeth missing from bloody stumps within his mouth. Darin gazed on with disgust, and he quickly tapped the nearest onlooker on the shoulder. “What the devil happened to Ragnar?”
The man, dressed his best in a work suit and a top hat, gazed back worriedly, having to shout to make himself heard over the convulsing roar of the crowd. “It was over like that! First thing Ragnar charges, and next ya know, bam! That kid Domino just bashed his head around with one punch!”
Damian recoiled, and saw his father grow pail at the mention of the name. His father did his best to croak out a reply, as his eyes slowly drifted to the showboating figure waving his hands in pompous victory on the floor below. “D-Dom-Domino…?”
The figure standing in the ring below them looked up; his head was shaved bald, the remnants of dark hair barely visible in the light. His face was cocky, his mouth drawn back in an arrogant sneer, and his eyes whisked about cruelly. When they landed on his father, they lit up full of malicious intent, easily recognizing the man he had scorned for some time now. His muscles flexed grotesquely as he brought his fist up towards his father in a sign of victory.
Looking over to where the spot on the ground where Ragnar was struggling to move, he slowly ambled over to the beaten fighter’s side. Still holding his fist up, a burst of fire began dancing upon his hand. Darin’s eyes widened in horror, as Damian ran towards the edge of the pit screaming shrilly. “It’s over! Domino! What the hell are you doing!?”
The blazing fist slammed down on the man’s head, and the pile of blood and brains which lay amidst shattered bones brought the entire crowd to a standstill as the arena went silent in sheer horror.
And Domino the Destitute laughed maniacally over the body of his fallen foe.