Desert Steel Chapter 15

-The Fight Part 3 (Raijin)

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There was a hushed silence as Tanaka entered the ring. In part it was because of the impressive but disturbing display the last fight had been. It was also, however, because of Tanaka’s demeanour. The cheery and confident delinquent with the sunny smile was gone. A wrathful god, marked with blood and spit, had emerged. Hadrian felt a terrible unease in his stomach. He knew instinctively that this man was different. His men had sensed it too. They stood around, unsure whether to start the round. He nodded to the Dwayne, the announcer. Dwayne hesitantly raised the megaphone up.

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! IT’S THE FINAL ROUND!! GIVE IT UP FOR LORD SHIVA AND RAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIJINNNNNN!!!!!”

Adil rang the bell.

Tanaka had had a whole plan laid out for his fight. He was going to announce to the crowd that he was the holy lance of justice. He was going to give Hadrian one minute to attack him, before he would take him down in one hit. He was going to tell Hadrian this on the stage for the whole crowd to hear. His final move would have had a grand declaration, and been as showy as possible. He discarded that plan.

He was on Hadrian in an instant with a flurry of blows. His fists were blurs, spamming Hadrian’s defences until they broke through. He varied the attacks and their angles. His body jived and twisted, dodging any attempted counters. Hadrian tried to strike but he was beaten back under the cumulative weight of the blows. He couldn’t tell how many times he was being punched. It was like trying to punch a cloud while dodging lightning strikes.

He gave up on punches, and went for a kick instead. Tanaka leapt over the leg and delivered a spinning jump kick of his own. It nearly unscrewed Hadrian’s head. He went down and Tanaka straddled him. Tanaka began pounding Hadrian’s head ferociously, alternating between fist and elbow strikes. Hadrian tried struggle at first, but his strength was waning.

Adil rang the bell without being prompted by Hadrian. Tanaka disengaged immediately. He wasn’t out for vengeance. He was out to win, and he needed to stay inside the rules.

Hadrian got up and strode over to Adil. His face was a mess, but his displeasure shone through.

“The crowd will notice that round wasn’t as long as the others,” he said. He could feel Tanaka’s red-rimmed eyes burning into the back of his head.

Adil looked worried. “But the fight!”

“The fight is lost, no matter how you delay it. We’ve unleashed a demon.”

“Should we forfeit?”

“No. This is the climax. I’ll just have to face him.”

Adil nodded, and rang the bell once Hadrian was back in position. Tanaka didn’t charge in this time. He waited, his arms raised in a unorthodox guard. Sebastian’s spit was smeared across his face like war paint. Hadrian charged in, swinging a big haymaker.

Tanaka caught the outstretched arm, locked it, and brought his elbow down. Hadrian’s arm cracked and bent the wrong way. The crunch was sickening. He howled and collapsed, clutching the broken arm. Tanaka let him fall, and walked over to his corner.

Jax nudged Sebastian with his foot.

“Hey,” he said.

Sebastian groaned but stayed unconscious. Jax shook him.

“Hey,” he said, louder.

Sebastian’s eyes fluttered open.

“My head hurts,” he groaned, his eyes misty. Then they focussed sharply, and scanned the area. He managed to see Jax looking down on him, not unkindly, and Pauly, who was smiling with unfettered relief, before a hot spike of pain seared his brain. He squeezed his eyes shut until the pain passed.

“I think you need to see this,” Jax said.

Sebastian allowed himself to be helped up into a sitting position. Tanaka was approaching to their corner of the ring. Hadrian… Hadrian was lying on the ground, his arm clearly broken and his face a pulpy mess. Relief washed over Sebastian, followed by surprise. Tanaka’s appearance was shocking. His fists were red with blood. His orange-blonde hair with the black roots was slicked back, looking like a flame with a black heart. His eyes were red-rimmed from crying, and were now ferocious and stern. Blood and phlegm was smeared on his forehead, nose and cheeks in an inverted Y. Most shocking of all was his face. The ever-cheery, open, friendly expression was gone. In its place was a cold and dead mask.

Without a word, Tanaka prostrated himself to them, first kneeling and then bending forward until his forehead touched the ground. He held the position while speaking to them, his head still lowered. Hadrian’s men, who’d been entering the ring, hung back confused.

“I, Tanaka Daisuke, beg your forgiveness! I treated things like a game and did not consider the consequences!” he shouted.

Sebastian smiled wryly, or at least thought he did under his injuries. Tanaka was earnest, at least.

“Why are you talking so weird,” Jax asked. “Just say sorry like a normal person.”

Tanaka stayed down, his face hidden.

“And yeah, you were a complete fucking idiot. You ran into an ambush, shouting your head off. You tried shoot someone with a pistol that was too far away. You thought a fight to the death was some kind of silly fucking joke.”

Sebastian smiled and let Jax blow off his steam. The rant grew in colourful curses before he cut Jax off with a wave of his hand. It was all he could manage but Jax went silent.

“Anything you’ve got to say?” he asked Pauly.

Pauly scratched his head. “Nah. I think Jax covered it and then some.”

Sebastian felt sleepy. He quelled the sensation. He had to get this right.

“Tanaka, wipe the stain off your face… But never forget why you got it.” He then realised Tanaka was second-language English and probably didn’t understand the symbolism. “You’re forgiven.”

Tanaka’s head shot up, grinning ear to ear. “I beat the shit out of him, didn’t I?”

“Hell yeah you did!” Pauly whooped.

Tanaka jumped up onto his corner pole and raised one finger to the sky. “I, Tanaka Daisuke, am Raijin, the holy lance of justice! I will be a hero one day!”

The announcer took his cue.

“THE NEW CHAMPION BY DECISIVE KO… THE RAGIN’ RAIJIN, THE HOLY LANCE OF JUSTICE…. TANAKAAAAAAAA DAISUUUKEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”

The crowd cheered.

Sebastian gave up, and let sleep envelop him.

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