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                The sun was setting over the horizon when Chris arrived back home at his apartment. The wolf groaned quietly while loosening his body, evidently having sat for quite a while. He entered the apartment and joined Bailey, Shojira, Lei-Mei, Jaden, and Christie in his spacious living room. They had been there since Chris first came home from the chaos of the Terra Festival and left to meet with Blaze. Chris took a seat next to his brother on the couch and sighed heavily, rubbing his eyes in apparent exhaustion.

                Jaden, after fixing his glasses, leaned towards Chris. “So. How bad is it?”

                His brother’s head slowly turned and dully glared at Jaden.

                “Safe to say that we are in the middle of a national scare. It was just the king that got kidnapped, no big deal.” Chris pressed his hands over his face and rubbed it from top to bottom, trying to calm down. “I’m sorry. Just that if you heard a single thing that was said while I was there, you’d be feeling like I do.”

                “Which is why you’re going to tell us what happened, right?” Bailey interjected.

                “That’s the hard part,” Chris said, rubbing his left temple.

                “What, did you take some oath of silence?” joked Christie.

                Chris took a glance at his friends and siblings, shaking his head and getting up from the couch. He made his way to his bedroom when Shojira stopped him.

                “Chris! Hey, what are you doing? You’re not going to tell us what happened? At all?”

                He didn’t offer an answer but Chris walked back into the living room, standing against the wall.

                “Chris? Are you okay?” asked Lei-Mei.

                The wolf’s tail dangled limply and his ears folded back. “I don’t know how to say this without making me look like the following: a crazy nutjob, someone who got hit in the head too much, or a kid with a way too big imagination.”

                Bailey couldn’t resist. “I thought you were all three of those things.”

                Chris’ gloomy reaction immediately made Bailey regret her mouth. She got up and immediately went up to Chris, putting her hands on his shoulders. It did remind Chris just how much bigger Bailey is compared to him. She looked at him intently with her chestnut eyes. “I’m sorry. Whatever you tell us, we’ll believe you. No matter how crazy.”

                After looking once again at everyone at attendance, who were all giving him their full attention, Chris breathed to calm himself. “Okay…”

                Pulling himself off of the wall and taking a seat besides Jaden again, Chris raised his right hand and ignited his purple flames. “So I assume you already know about this power I have, as far as my memory goes.”

                With nods all around, Chris continued, snuffing the fire out. “What I learned was that I could possibly be given power by the gods that is able to stand up to demonic forces.”

                Several eyebrows were raised, eyes were widened, and glances were shared. Shojira was the first to ask a question. “Is that what that giant freaky monster was? A demon?”

                “Yes and no. It wasn’t exactly a demon but it was created through dark magic. The princess’ powers were no match for it. Which is weird because they’re about the same as mine.”

                “So, is that why you’re so down? Because you can defend yourself from monsters?” Jaden asked with confusion.

                “No. That can be chalked up to being the main person who’s going to get the king back,” Chris replied.

                “WHAT?!” Lei-Mei blurted, frightening Shojira, who almost fell out of his chair. “You’re actually going to have to save the king?!”

                Chris rolled his eyes, taking a moment to fix his bangs and compose himself a bit. “On the plus side, I’m not going to have to do this single-handedly. I’ll have some help. But…yeah, this is definitely a lot riding on my back…”

                Bailey gave a small huff, leaning back in her seat with her arms behind her head. “I think that is about…23 million people depending on you. Yeah, I would say that’s bad.”

                 “Depending on me, the princess, and the people she employs to try and find the king,” Chris corrected. “The kidnappers sent a video message if you haven’t seen it on TV already. As long as we follow their directions, they won’t hurt the king.”

                Shojira folded his arms and frowned, his brow furrowing. “I saw that video and I don’t like it one bit. Why can’t they just say what they want?”

                Chris massaged the back of his neck and rolled it clockwise. “Blaze guessed that it was to keep it as low-key as possible so the king can be returned and their demands are met. As much as I would love to put these creeps to justice, the safety of the king is more important than money or whatever they’ll come up with.”

                Bailey injected herself into the conversation again with, “What if it’s not money they want? Think about it, why go through the struggle and effort to kidnap a KING just to get rich? Either there’s something more valuable that they want or this is something that’s not as it seems.”

                Chris stopped his neck and observed Bailey intently. “You’re…not saying that King Ferno staged this, are you?”

                The badger shook her head and rested her face on her left hand. “No, of course not. One, that would be one of the biggest slaps in the face to a country’s people in history. Two, his family would never forgive him and I doubt he can be that level of irrational. And three, what would he gain out of faking his own kidnapping?”

                Chris gave an exhale that sounded like a low groan. “Sorry, I should’ve known what you meant. Just…I didn’t expect my day to go from ‘martial arts sparring’ to ‘save our king, please.’”

                Jaden looked at his wristwatch and whistled. “I wish I could stick around but I gotta get going. Work tomorrow morning at Bulls-eye Market…oh. Yeah, I’ll tell our boss what’s going on, Chris.”

                Chris raised his right hand and waved it dismissively. “Nah, that’s not necessary. Blaze said she already has it handled.”

                His brother chuckled while he stood up. “At least that’s an upside to all this. You have almost everything at your disposal.”

                Shortly after Jaden departed, Christie followed suit. She gave her brother a hug and told him that their parents would stay in touch with what was going on. As it was just the Soaring Dragon students, conversation slipped to the exhibition matches, or the matches that went on.

                Lei-Mei appeared the meekest she could possibly be when Shojira’s match was brought up.
“I-I’m sorry for distracting you and making you lose, Shojira. I thought you were going to go too far.”

                Shojira offered his sister a small smile. “It’s okay, I’m just more surprised that I was able to hear you over the crowd.”

                Lei-Mei fixed her skirt and turned her head away from her brother, looking guilty. Shojira approached Lei-Mei and patted her shoulder. “Hey, don’t let it get to you…I at least gave everyone a good show, didn’t I?”

                Bailey snickered a bit, “Yeah, getting hit with an extra-large soccer ball.”

                Chris smiled, joining in the ribbing. “That really looked like it hurt like hell.”

                Lei-Mei giggled and added, “I doubt that protection did much of anything.”

    Just then, a knock came at the front door. Chris went to answer it and it was Jirokai. He was still wearing the same floral shirt and shorts he had earlier that day from the exhibitions.

                “Oh! Master!” Chris hastily bowed in respect, garnering a bit of a laugh from Jirokai. He joined his students in the living room, seating across from Bailey.

    Jirokai scratched his beard stubble before he spoke. “So, I heard you met the princess today after what happened to the king.”

    Bailey frowned. “Wait a minute. Where were you after that giant freak crashed everything?”

    The human lazily shrugged and replied, “I sorta fell asleep in the dressing room.”

    His students all gaped at him. Could he really have slept through all that? But then Jirokai guffawed. Though his joke was met with an empty water bottle hurled at his head courtesy of Lei-Mei.

    “Okay, I’m sorry. I got whisked into the crowd backstage and ended up having to protect the other world leaders. It was tough to get away because Ms. Zei Yen wanted me to stay next to her as a bodyguard.”

    After Chris told Jirokai what had happened with the king, the blood monster, and his meeting with Blaze, the teacher asked, “Are you sure you’re ready for such a responsibility?”

    Taking more than enough time to think about it, Chris managed an answer. “No, but I’m going to have to be ready whether I like it or not. It’s either that or risk a tragedy of global proportions.”

    Jirokai studied his pupil, taking notes of Chris’ hesitation and lack of confidence. The human rubbed his stubble covered chin and quietly sighed. “Do you have any plans for tomorrow, Chris?”

    “Yeah, I have to go see Princess Blaze tomorrow night to carry out the plan,” Chris answered.

    “I want you to show up at the dojo tomorrow morning. I want you to be prepared for trouble at the very least,” said Jirokai sternly.

    Chris nodded, stretching his fingers.

    Jirokai smiled and gave Chris a pat on the shoulder. Prior to the exit of Shojira and Lei-Mei, as Jirokai was taking them home, Bailey proclaimed, “I think I’m going to stay here tonight.” To answer the reactions of the young tigers and Jirokai, she added in a hushed whisper, “Someone has to keep an eye on him. It’s obvious he’s stressing out and I don’t want to leave him alone.” Meanwhile, Chris was only surprised at the idea of Bailey spending the night and he was wondering what was going to happen.

                Once it was only Chris and Bailey in the apartment, he went to the kitchen and looked around in his upper cabinets. “So…do you want any snacks or something? Since this is a sleepover now.”

                Grinning, Bailey entered the kitchen and stood over him, peeking into his cabinets with her chin resting on his head. “For a guy in the shape you’re in, you sure have a lot of junk food.”

                “Hey, I can’t help having a sweet tooth. Especially for chocolate.”

                “You better share those Coraeo cookies with me, then.” Bailey reached with her long arms and grabbed the package from right in front of Chris. She giddily sashayed into the living room and dropped onto the couch with the cookies. Laughing, Chris took possession of a bag of potato chips before sitting in front of the couch. The sun was now extinguished from the evening sky and the full moon was visibly shining from their position.

                The pair found a channel on the television that was showing animated movies. To the surprise of Chris and Bailey, they were all very low-budget and received mediocre dubbing. The films received sarcastic and silly commentary from the two, both unable to restrain themselves from immaturity. At the 3rd movie’s opening credits, Chris displayed genuine outrage at one of the actors the movie listed.

                “IGGY?!! IGGY SOLIANO?!”

                Bailey raised an eyebrow and stared at Chris. It took a moment before he realized she was eyeballing him. Chris chuckled nervously and rubbed the nape of his neck. “He’s…a favorite comedian of mine. I thought he’d be above these crappy movies.”

                Bailey’s stony expression cracked as she laughed and shook her head. “You are such a dork, Chris.”

                Chris sheepishly sat back down in front of the couch, giving Bailey a chance to rest an elbow on the top of his head. “Maybe he felt like doing a role that gave him a chance to not try,” she guessed. “I know I would love to act and not act at the same time. You think anyone would take THAT seriously?”

                An image of a low-quality animated mouse flailing around at a doughnut spoke a thousand words. Chris shook his head and Bailey patted it who then craned her neck to grin directly in Chris’ face. Brushing her face away, Chris sat back and gradually resumed his mocking of the movies with Bailey.

                After a couple more hours of movie watching and going through different snacks and drinks, Chris fell face first onto his bed, groaning into the bedspread. His body limp, he forced himself to turn onto his back and lay his head on the pillow. He heard footsteps shuffling on the carpet, spotting Bailey coming into his bedroom.

                “Bailey? You’re…sleeping in my bed?”

                “Well duh. I’m not going to fit on your couch,” Bailey stated, starting to take off her shoes.

 Chris’ cheeks began to burn, facing away from the badger.

                “Better scoot over, Chris. Gotta be able to stretch and I don’t know how much room I’ll have with you here,” she giggled. Bailey removed her shirt and pants, wearing only a red bra and boxer shorts before she got under the bed sheets. Chris made a low moaning sound while rolling off the side of his bed to the floor. When Bailey peeked over the side, Chris was already in his boxers when he climbed back onto the bed.

                “Can you turn off the light, please, Bailey?” Chris muttered. Bailey exhaled at Chris’ laziness, getting up to flip the switch as fast as possible. Once back in bed, Bailey stretched her limbs, her right hand suddenly appearing in front of Chris’ face.  The wolf gave a whine, fidgeting to get Bailey off of him. The badger snickered before poking his nose and then his cheeks.

                “Bailey!” Chris exclaimed, stifling his cackling once Bailey began to tickle his face and neck.

                “Hey, we always did this when we were kids!” She beamed, deciding to cease on the assault to spare Chris.

                The wolf coughed from the stifling making his throat dry and wiped his eyes from the tears that came to his eyes from the laughter. Bailey was still smiling like a court jester before she curled her body to give Chris more room to stretch.

                “Sorry about that, Chris. That was just always fun when we were so hopped up on soda and candy. Shojira was a lightweight about that as a kid, wasn’t he?”

                Chris uttered a little laugh at the memory of Shojira passed out like a ragdoll after 5 cans of soda. That snicker allowed a yawn to sneak past and make itself known in a mighty fashion.

                “Wow, I think it’s time for you to get some shut-eye, little man,” Bailey insisted.

                Muttering that he’s trying, the room slowly grew silent. Chris laid on his right side, staring at his dresser that was slightly illuminated by the milky white beam of the moon. He heard Bailey whisper to him, making the fur on the back of his neck stand on end.

                “Hey Chris?”

                “Yeah?”

                “Be careful with what you’re gonna do tomorrow.”

                “I will. This will all be simple as long as I follow the instructions.”

                “Still. You never know what might go on.”

                “Right…”

                After several minutes, Chris’ ears perked to the sound of Bailey’s gentle breathing. He sneakily spun his head to watch Bailey sleep. She looked so peaceful while she dozed, with her layered hair hanging partially over her eyes. Bailey usually wore baggy clothes that didn’t reveal much of anything, so being able reading the contours of her shoulders and biceps made Chris’ heart race. He tucked his tail in between his legs to keep it from brushing against Bailey. The wolf closed his eyes, a smile slowly stretched across his face.

 

                Chris found himself once again in the pitch black abyss that he had been clumsily stumbling around in for the past few months. His lucid dream allowed him to have clothes this time though it was moot to his progress. The wolf looked around for that familiar azure glow he’s been becoming acquainted with. There was no trace of it so far. A soft, hushed voice squirmed into his ear.

                “Run. Charge towards your victory and firmly grasp it in your hands,” it lulled.

                Chris tried to figure out if this voice was male or female but it was too emotionless to really tell. Chris wasn’t going to get anywhere just standing there so he opted to follow the voice’s advice. With a clear goal in mind, Chris noticed his heavy legs were now airless once he started to run in a single direction. He didn’t know why this single direction called out to him the most but he felt his heart was being pulled that way. After a few minutes of running, Chris spotted the glow again, not feeling the slightest bit exhausted.

                The wolf tilted his body forward to make more headway to the glowing, burning sphere. The closer he was, the hotter his body became. Once he was within arm’s reach, Chris could feel his being reach extreme levels of heat. The voice that whispered to him returned.

                “There it is. Control it. Do so and you will be worthy to fight for the heavens.”

                Chris, groaning with an immense amount of effort, punched through the air to come within a hair of a fingertip away from making contact. Suddenly, Chris felt his body yank backwards, hurtling back towards the cold darkness. Once he plunged back into the void, his eyes shot open. He was back in his bed, though now he felt something thick wrapped around his body.

    Chris tried to move his head and found that Bailey was holding onto him, her arms around her waist. She was still sleeping with her soft snores and with her softer arms against him, Chris was unable to move and risk waking her up. He attempted to resume his sleep multiple times but Bailey continued to hold her new toy like a comfort blanket.

    The hours dragged along as Chris faded in and out of consciousness. When the sun crept through his window blinds, he had just come out of another fleeting attempt at sleep. Though this time, he didn’t feel Bailey using him as a stuffed animal. In fact, she wasn’t even in bed. Chris fumbled out of bed and looked outside the bedroom. Bailey was in the kitchen, fixing herself some breakfast. She was back in the jeans and t-shirt she had on yesterday, pouring a bowl of cereal.

                Her ears perked from the sound of Chris’ clumsy exit from the bedroom. Bailey chuckled and asked, “What, did you think that I left you in the middle of the night?”

                Chris rubbed his cheek and looked away sheepishly.

                The badger added, “Listen, I was thinking about something last night before I went to sleep.” Chris faced Bailey again when she elucidated, “Maybe I should stay here for as long as you have to do this. Hopefully, a few days but just in case.”

                Chris was about to speak but self-consciousness settled in, prompting the wolf to dress himself. Once in a long-sleeved shirt, jacket, and his own pair of jeans, he rejoined Bailey in the kitchen, now responding, “You don’t really need to do that for me. I’ll be fine.”

                Bailey huffed and rubbed her chin. “I hoped I didn’t have to say this…Chris, you were talking in your sleep. You were whispering something about ‘victory’ and some weird junk like that. And I know this has to do with those weird dreams you’ve been telling me about. You were sweating when you woke me up.”

                Chris’ brow furrowed, trying to remember when he was awake from his dream. He didn’t remember sweating at all. But Chris did realize that Bailey was snuggling him so maybe…eww. The disgust was evident on his face.

                Bailey rolled her eyes at Chris’ priorities. “Are you going to enlighten me on what happened this time?”

                The young wolf elaborated on his strange dream in microscopic detail, down to the point of him being flung back into the darkness. Bailey, having assembled her cereal, folded her arms and closed her eyes. After a moment, she said, “I can’t tell if it’s good or bad that you almost touched that thing…I…I really don’t want to leave you alone with these kinds of dreams going on inside your head.”

    The two were silent before Bailey remarked, “You should go see Jirokai now. He’s probably waiting for you.”

     

    With a nod, Chris headed out of the apartment. Once he arrived at the familiar red and gold dojo, Chris walked up the steps and opened the sliding doors to find Jirokai waiting for him on the main floor of the dojo. The master was in a meditating position, eyes closed and head bowed, dressed in a different colored floral shirt but the same kind of shorts from yesterday. Chris knew the procedure all too well. He took off his shoes and joined Jirokai, placing himself in the same pose and waiting for his teacher to speak.

                Several moments of silence passed by prior to Jirokai finally speaking. “I came into contact with the princess earlier and informed her of our session. I’m going to help you achieve higher ground in your pyrokinetic training. I’ve been working on something for the past couple of months but now seems like the best time to put it to good use.”

                Jirokai rose to his feet and walked further back into the dojo. Chris followed him, hearing the frenzied yells of Shojira and Lei-Mei as he passed by one of their rooms. They might have been playing a game or watching television. Whatever it was, they didn’t notice Chris passing by. Chris and Jirokai reached a room at the end of the hallway that adorned a very fresh door. Jirokai led Chris in and it was an empty room covered in white panels.

                “What…is this?” Chris asked.

                “You’ll see. Show me your best, Chris,” Jirokai commanded.

                Chris slowly closed his eyes, allowing his mind to clear and take focus of his aura. In what felt like slow motion, Chris extended his arms forward, his hands open as if they were holding a basketball. He shifted his arms to his side. A surge of power broke out like a shockwave as Chris created his own sphere of azure flames. He growled, focusing his energy on powering up the fireball until he thrust his hands forward, launching it. The fireball roared through the air, thudding against the wall before it broke apart. Minute flickers of the violet inferno remained before they were snuffed out. Aside from the mark on the wall that told of the impact, it was mostly unharmed.

                “A place for you to practice your techniques. Should prove useful, I would say,” Jirokai grinned.

                Chris returned his smile and bowed in respect. “Thank you, Master.”

                “I don’t know everything about pyrokinetic abilities so you could maybe experiment on your own whenever you need it,” he added.

                Chris nodded before a knock came at the door. He opened it to find Shojira looking confused and glancing behind him while in pajamas. “Chris…uh…your dad’s here.”

                The wolf turned to Jirokai and then back to Shojira. “Hey, uh, what’s my dad doing…?”

                “I asked him to come here, Chris. It’s nothing bad but I feel like you’ll thank me later,” Jirokai answered.

                Damien Hayabusa entered the white-paneled room, dressed in blue coveralls and a pair of boots, the same eager smile on his face that Chris had been so used to seeing for as long as he could remember. He patted his son on the shoulder before Chris asked, “Dad, I thought you were working right now. What are-“

                “I have about half an hour before I have to clock in. Figured I’d take a bit to help out my buddy and my boy,” Damien explained, sitting against the wall, still grinning.

                Chris took a seat beside him while Shojira and Jirokai left them alone and closed the door.

                “Dad, what is this about?”

                In what seemed to be the first time in a while, Damien faced his son with a serious expression. He sighed and ran his hand backwards through his hair.

                “Your mother and I received word of what exactly the plan is you’re going to carry out later. And…I know you’re my son. You’re 22, you can make your own decisions, I just want to know that you’re willing to do this.”

                “I’m willing. Though that doesn’t mean I’m not scared…” said Chris.

                “Psh, you’re not the only one. I definitely would be scared if someone told me ‘Could you help us out and save the ruler of our country and someone who holds major influence in the world’s affairs.’”

                Uttering a low groan, Chris hid his face in his hands. Damien winced, patting Chris’ right shoulder to try and remedy his mistake. “Chris, all you have to do is just follow the directions of those kidnappers, right?”

                “Yeah…but I don’t feel right about just giving them whatever they want and letting them get off scot free,” Chris muttered.

                “Chris, not everybody ends up being punished for their crimes. It’s a fact of life.”

                “I know. I’m just saying it doesn’t make me feel like I’m doing the right thing. I’ll still do it for the greater good.”

                Damien looked in front of him at the mark that Chris made with his fireball. He could have sworn he felt some strange vibe emanating from his son but chalked it up to his mind playing tricks. “I’m not going to go gung-ho and tell you to be a superhero…but if you CAN, then try to make things right for everyone.”

                Before Chris could say anything more, Damien patted Chris on the knee and stood up. “I gotta get going, we’re working on that new building for Arbor Co. Mr. Wei Zhao wants to set up a division here in Sol.”

                “I’ll make sure he’ll have the king to talk plans over with, Dad,” Chris said before getting back on his feet as well.

                Damien was once again smiling in that happy-go-lucky manner before he looked like he just remembered something. “Oh! Right, your mother wanted me to give you this…it’s from the both of us.” Damien dug into his right coverall pocket, spinning a bit in place as he tried to get it out. Then, he pulled out a necklace, with a pendant in the shape of a cross. Handing it off to his son, Damien beamed proudly as Chris studied it. Chris held the cross in his hand, running his hand across the jet black metal. He felt bumps along it and held it up to the light, realizing it was an insignia of a wolf.

                Damien nudged him and his eyes glanced down at a latch on the cross. Chris raised an eyebrow, unlatching the cross to find a picture of himself when he was about 7 years old along with Damien (sporting much shorter hair) and Suzanne. It felt like it was only yesterday when Chris was coming home from school and hugging his mother’s legs to try and cheer himself up. Then his father would arrive back from work and play “Superheroes” where Chris would always save the day from the variety of villains Damien would portray.

                Chris laughed a little and wiped his eyes. He hugged his father and patted him on the back. “C’mon, Dad, you’re gonna be late.”

    Damien nodded and was still beaming when he left the dojo. Jirokai re-entered the room. “So how did it go?”

                “Eh, he just gave me a pep talk. I do feel better about this whole thing, at least just a little,” Chris explained, putting his necklace on. He looked back into the open room and back at Jirokai. “Now, this room is supposed to handle my power, right?” After the teacher nodded, Chris motioned for Jirokai to stand behind him.

                Chris raised his right hand and the smallest spark of flame appeared on his pointer finger. Waving his arm to the side, the spark left his finger and in the half-second that it took the flame to leave its wielder, it erupted into a grand pillar of roaring flames. The surge of power burst against Chris and Jirokai, both experiencing the brunt of the heat and force generated from the pillar’s creation. Though while Jirokai looked on in awe, Chris remained focused. He closed his hand and in a flash, the pillar extinguished.

                Jirokai walked over to where the pillar was and there was another mark like Chris’ fireball. “Chris...have you been working on that?”

                “No. It just came to me and I wanted to see if I could do it,” Chris replied, in all seriousness.

                The human looked at his student with a look of…concern. He tried to process what he just witnessed while rubbing his beard stubble. “I’ve never realized you were capable of that kind of power at this point, Chris.”

                “Me neither,” Chris whispered to himself.

 

                Several hours passed into the evening while Chris drove to downtown Doragon Machi. As part of his mission, he was stuck with his sedan to maintain a conspicuous appearance but instead he wore an earpiece that camouflaged into his lupine ear. Blaze’s voice fizzled out of the earpiece before it became clearer.

                “Chris? Chris! Can you hear me?”

                “Loud and clear, Captain Princess,” Chris snickered.

                Blaze was sitting in a van surrounded by camera operators with screens displaying the footage being recorded inside of Chris’ destination. “You should be approaching Club 41 by now. Find a spot to park and head inside.” Following her directions, Chris stopped on the building’s right side. It was a rather impressive size with Technicolor lights shining through the windows. A neon sign named after the club glowed in aqua blue and pink on all sides and it seemed to come off as a renovated warehouse. Chris adjusted his jacket’s collar prior to entering, the booming bass thumping in his ears.

                “All right, Chris, our informant is going to be at the bar. You should be able to find him. He has a large frame, black coat, beard, and…afro? Um…if you find him, ask him ‘How are the chrysanthemums?’ If he’s our guy then he’ll talk,” Blaze informed, watching the cameras to find the informant.

                Chris walked past the dance floor towards the bar and it wasn’t difficult at all to find the informant. Even with the neon lighting only illuminating the patrons, the man’s frame was eerily similar to his father’s. Shaking the thought from his head that his father was involved in this fiasco, he headed towards the empty seat besides the man. Chris occupied it and snuck a glance at the informant. He was a human with dark skin, a steely gaze as well as twirling a cigarette around with his right hand’s fingers.

                “Found you on the cameras, Chris. We’ll keep an eye on you,” Blaze said, leaning against one of the van’s chairs.

                Taking a breath, Chris said, loud enough to be heard over the pounding music, “How are the chrysanthemums?”

                The man looked at Chris, chuckled to himself and got up. He patted Chris on the shoulder, slightly tugging the wolf towards him before he left the bar. Chris took it as a cue to stand up as well and followed the man towards a dimly lit hallway at the back of the club.

                Blaze grimaced as the two were falling out of the sight of all the main cameras. “C’mon, do you have any cameras for that hallway? Switch to those! Chris, where are you going?”

                Chris whispered, “I don’t know. I think this is part of the meeting though.” The earpiece’s microphone picked up his words and blocked out most of the background noise. Chris and the man stood in the hallway on opposite walls. The music was now faint to not interfere with the conversation and Chris was able to take a better look at the man. The man’s eyes were still tough but he did not appear to be hostile.

                “Kid, I’m going to have to ask you to remove that earpiece you have. I’ll take mine out to be fair, okay?” The man did as he said, removing an earpiece from his right ear. He turned it off and he showed his free ear to prove he wasn’t hiding another one.

                Blaze sighed, afraid that this would happen. Nevertheless, she instructed, “Do as he says. We need their trust if we want to save my father. We’ll still try to find you on the cameras.”

                Chris nodded and took out his earpiece and did the same to prove he wasn’t hiding another earpiece either.

                The man grunted and pulled out a lighter, igniting his cigarette. “The name’s Syrus, just to let you know. I saw you that day when my boss got a hold of the king. And before you say anything, he’s safe and sound. Not a single hair has been harmed on him.”

                Chris folded his arms and glared at Syrus. “May I dare ask what the whole point of this mess is?”

                “Sorry, I can’t give you an answer. Not yet, at least. Rather…I’d like to talk about you.”

                The wolf’s ears perked up. “Me? What about me? I’m just the messenger for the royal family.”

                “I watched your fight.  Or rather, what you could call a match that was starting to get good. And I was able to see the damage you caused to the boss’ blood beast. Interesting, to say the least.”

                Chris growled and began to bare his fangs. “Are you going to get to the point or just waste everyone’s time?”

                “The fact you have pyro powers is nothing new. But being able to hurt a blood beast is something that caught the boss’ attention. He’s considering talking to you personally.”

                “Talking to me personally to help release the king or to try and pull some ‘Join me and we’ll rule together’ nonsense?” Chris sneered.

                “I don’t think you understand the implications that are present due to your powers being heightened above most others,” Syrus replied.

                Chris’ ears perked again and he studiously eyed Syrus. “Implications? Wait…you mean I actually have…?” The wolf’s mind trailed to when Blaze offered the idea and his brain started to stall.

    “You’ll have to meet Tobias first before we can be sure. Though you have to get through a test first,” Syrus got off the wall and started to walk off back into the bustling of the club.

                Chris started to pursue Syrus when a group of punks cut him off. The fashion rejects were all grinning and closing in on Chris when one of them keeled over after the shattering of a bottle. The gang spun on their feet and there stood Antonio de la Vega, in a dress shirt and slacks, stumbling past the group and towards Chris.

                “Ay, muchacho! Que estas haciendo?!

                Chris stammered and pointed from Antonio to the punks and back again. The pace of the situation was so breakneck that one of the punks yelled, “Ahhh come on, this guy’s just drunk off his ass! Let’s get ‘em!”

                The outspoken punk hustled towards Chris and Antonio, the latter knocking him out with a well-timed right uppercut. The Barostian grinned and prompted the rest of the gang to take their shot. Chris readied himself to fight while Antonio laughed at what he saw was sloppy movement from the punks. The first one to try and take a swing at Chris was fed a jab and a left backfist for his efforts. The next was greeted and dismissed with Chris’ own uppercut and a thunderous roundhouse kick.

                Antonio roared with laughter, disabling his opponents with mighty punches, headbutts, and knee strikes. It was a strange blend of recklessness and discipline as more thugs buckled to the ground. Sidestepping a knife stab, Antonio clutched the punk’s head and tossed him in Chris’ direction. The wolf naturally clotheslined the hapless loser. The floor was strewn with defeated dunces, except for two attempting to flee. Syrus caught them both and smashed their heads together like coconuts. It was amazing that the brawl caught the attention of no one. Everyone seemed to be absorbed in their own party to care (maybe they didn’t care about the punks.)

                Antonio picked up one of the groggy goons. “If this was your best help, man, you gotta rethink your job interviews!” He shoved the punk towards Syrus though the unconscious henchman’s sleeping legs gave out halfway through the stumble.

                Syrus was still smoking his cigarette nonchalantly before puffing. “I had nothing to do with those guys. But you can say hi to my flying friend.” He smirked before slowly striding out of the club when a powerful screech echoed in the club, shattering the sound systems. Chris and Antonio covered their ears while a primitive pterodactyl zoomed into their line of vision. It was completely red much like the behemoth that kidnapped the king though the gust its powerful wings generated could be felt from far down below. The screams of frightened clubbers filled the room and slowly faded as they escaped.

                “You got those flames, man, you got any ideas?” Antonio asked.

                Chris’ mind came up with something but he didn’t want to risk harming the club’s interior or the bartenders and staff that were still present. He looked at the walls of the club which were made of brick and had different pieces of architecture and windows that scaled up to the ceiling. The wolf’s heart raced at the plan but it was either stop the monster or let it wreak havoc. Chris sprinted towards the wall and jumped towards it. He kicked himself upward and grabbed onto a window ledge. He climbed onto it when the pterodactyl was now in front of him, arching back to strike. Chris waited for his moment and then leapt as the creature charged. He landed on its back and gripped onto its neck, trying to either knock it out or control it.

                The beast, looking for a means to knock its nuisance off, flew straight for the windows at a speed too quick for Chris to brace for. They smashed through to the outside, some of the glass cutting up Chris’ head. Feeling blood trickle down his face ignited an inner fury. But at the bottom of his newfound rage, there was confusion. Chris felt his eyesight blur and everything around him fade. He wasn’t able to perceive what was going on.

    In reality, Chris arched his right fist back and violently punched the pterodactyl’s face. It yelled in pain and started flying in circles above the streets. Whether it had bones to break or not, the wolf preyed upon the monster until it started crashing to the ground. With the wind whipping in his face, Chris continued his relentless assault while more civilians started to scream out in terror when the pterodactyl crashed landed on an abandoned car near an intersection.

                The wounded beast slowly slumped off of the car with Chris untouched by the crash. Growling, he dragged the monster behind him into the club’s parking lot, where most of the patrons have left. Chris raised his right pointer finger, emitting a spark on top of it before flicking it at the pterodactyl. It screeched and bellowed in agony before Chris waved his hand, summoning the same pillar of flames as before. This particular pillar actually appeared bigger and more energetic in comparison but it still worked as Chris intended. After snuffing out the fire, there was no visible trace of the monster to be seen though Chris’ shoulders still heaved.

                Antonio sprinted up to Chris, having followed him outside after witnessing the wolf crash through the window. The Barostian heard footsteps behind him, turning to find that Blaze had now joined the scene, looking very distraught. Antonio approached Chris slowly, whose back was still turned.

                “Ay…you okay there, hombre? That was some crazy flying you did there,” Antonio muttered, unsure of the situation.

                “Chris? Are you okay? Do you need to lie down?” Blaze feebly uttered, also confused about why Chris was fuming.

                “Lie down…?” Chris questioned, his voice sounding very different. It was rough, teetering on the edge of primitively wild. He turned and faced Antonio and Blaze, his eyes dilated and his irises a dark shade of red. He raised his hands and they began to roar with his azure flames. Chris laughed and clenched his fists.

                “Not when I’m just starting to enjoy myself! Come on! Fight me! Let’s have some fun!!”

                The Terra Festival crowd was in full force the next day. Attendees began to swarm the Haleigh city square early that morning, some wearing eccentric costumes. At the same time, the festival’s market business was beginning to pick up exponentially. The purchases of foreign delicacies as well as other items was helping support the vendors in attendance. On the far end of the market, rows of chairs were set up and were already being filled by the young and the old.

                Away from the mingling of Terrans, the participants in the exhibition fights were snuck in thanks to added security. There were dressing rooms behind the stage for each group to make themselves comfortable in. The Soaring Dragon Dojo members were all dressed in white gis, though their black belts were to fit the ensemble. Their teacher, Jirokai, was also in attendance. He was sitting in one of the chairs with Shojira and Bailey. Chris was performing warm-ups on the floor.

                Jirokai was a human male with fair skin, sporting a wiry build that did not seem to say ‘sagacious master’. In fact, he looked like he was only in his late 30’s, with messy blond hair, a short beard stubble, and soft blue eyes. Clad in a red shirt adorned with flowers and cargo shorts, onlookers would have assumed Jirokai to be a friend of the three who engaged in illicit recreational activities.

                The master was busy educating with Shojira on what strategies to use on his potential opponent. “Now, you do want to use your strikes to control the distance. Something like wrestling or Jiu-Jitsu relies heavily on being on the ground and wearing you down. You shouldn’t give them the chance to do so. But if you find yourself caught, you’re gonna have to think fast to get out of their holds.”

                Bailey patted Shojira on the shoulder from behind. “Don’t worry too much about it. If that happens, pretend you’re wrestling me, except I’m not gonna be so gentle.”

                “But you’re not even gentle when sparring with Chris, let alone me,” Shojira corrected her.

                “Exactly. So don’t let them get you!” Bailey winked and patted Shojira on the cheek, to his chagrin.

    Chris spoke up, warming up his legs on the floor. “Shojira, just remember.” In a sing-song tone, he chanted, “Rope of Doom. Rope of Doom. Never let it touch you, or you’re screwed.”

    Shojira tossed an empty water bottle at Chris’ head, missing him. A knock came at the dressing room door. Chris got up and opened it, taking a few steps back after realizing it was Blaze, wearing a rather casual t-shirt and pants. To answer Chris’ puzzled look, the princess answered, in the same snooty voice she used last night. “Well, this is certainly not one gathering that is worth putting on my best dress for!” Blaze declared, punctuated with a noble laugh.

    Chuckling himself, Chris invited the princess inside. She occupied one of the empty chairs while Chris resumed his warm-ups. Blaze beamed at Bailey and Shojira. “So how are the two of you today?” she asked.

    Bailey smirked and answered, “Same as I always do. Feeling good.” Shojira rubbed his right cheek and looked down. Sneaking a glance at the tiger, Blaze continued, “I just thought to drop on by and let you all know about the fight schedule and just some ‘need-to-know’ details. So first things first, all of the fights are going to be on global TV.”

                Shojira was quick to become visibly pale, or as pale as one could be with fur. “Oh sweet Helios…” the tiger mumbled.

                Bailey placed her hand on Shojira’s shoulder, rubbing it. “Easy there. No worries, right?”

                Before Blaze could ask, Bailey maintained her coaxing. “Remember, this is not 3rd grade. You will be the best damn tree in the play.”

                Shojira nodded and slapped his face to pep himself up. “I AM THE TREE!”

                The princess paused and raised her pointer finger to say something but chose not to. Chris, who was now standing, asked, “So where are your folks?”

                Closing an eye and pondering, she recalled, “I think they’re already sitting with the other leaders. They really haven’t had any time to relax at all because of the festival.” Blaze suddenly perked up. “Oh right! Your schedule! Let’s see…” The tigress pulled out a paper slip that looked like it was torn out of a notebook. “Shojira, you’re in the 2nd fight. Chris, you’re 5th, and Bailey, you’ll be in the last fight. And your opponents…Rocio Garcia, Song Yoon, and Yuri Andropov respectively.”

                Bailey cracked her knuckles. “Oh, this is gonna be fun.”

                Shojira injected, “Speak for yourself, Chris gets a kickboxing champ.”

                The wolf scratched the back of his head. “Isn’t Song Yoon that monkey guy that Bailey got in front of at the dinner?”

                Blaze closed her eye again. “Ah…yeah. And I don’t think he looked too happy about it.”

                Chris jokingly frowned at Bailey. “Way to go.”

                The badger huffed and folded her arms. “If he wants to take it personally, then I’ll trade you.” Chris graciously patted her on the shoulder. “It’s okay,” he said. “I’ll just explain the situation calmly before I kick him in the face.”

                Blaze groaned, stroking her forehead. Nevertheless, she offered her support before leaving, leaving master and students by themselves once again. Jirokai was the first to talk. “I can’t speak for Mr. Andropov or Miss Garcia, but I have definitely seen Song Yoon in battle. Certainly a cocky fellow but he can back it up.”

                Chris stroked his chin confidently. “Yeah, but he’s just fighting other kickboxers. I would like to think I could offer up something new. I just wonder if his ego is gonna get in the way.”

                Suddenly, a booming, gruff voice broke through the walls of the dressing room as it seemed to be coming from the stage’s sound system. “Yo, what’s up my Zaibatsu, welcome to the first day of the Terra Festival! How’s everybody doing today?!” The thunderous cheers and applause was just as loud as the sound system as the announcer continued. “We have the world’s best fighters gathered here, ready to put on a show for all of you! Broadcasting worldwide, with big thanks to my crew, Shattered Dreams Productions, are you all ready to get this started?!”

                With the continued energetic urging of the crowd, a rock song began to play over the sound system. Chris perked up and frantically looked from his friends to the source of the sound. “Wait, we get theme songs? Nobody told me we were gonna have theme songs.”

                Bailey snickered. “Don’t worry, I picked yours out for you.”

                The wolf immediately grimaced and squinted at Bailey. “I swear, if you’re gonna embarrass me in front of my family…”

                “I thought about it. But then I thought, ‘Nah, this is the closest he’ll ever get to wrestling.’ So I opted to spare you of that.” Bailey’s jokester smile became more sincere and she winked.

                Chris sighed. “You are way too convincing sometimes, you know that?”

                After the song currently playing kicked in with foreign lyrics, the announcer was on the microphone again. “Introducing first, hailing from Southtown, Helcomb, he weighs in at 218 pounds! Specializing in boxing, please welcome…Henry! Bogard!”

                Chris frowned and asked, “Can’t we go watch these? We’re just about ready, right?” Shojira shrugged before seeing Bailey get up. “Sure, let’s go see how good they really are,” she said, leaving the dressing room with Chris and Shojira close behind. Jirokai shrugged and yawned, lounging on the floor of the dressing room and closing his eyes.

                The three headed closer towards the entrance to the stage, noticing a gaggle of various staff in matching shirts coordinating the music and lights, among other things. They were near the path to the ring when they were stopped by a staff member.

                “Whoa, where do you think you’re going? None of you are up yet,” he hissed.

                Chris could hear the name “Zarifa Udoka” over the speakers. Bailey growled. “Oh, we just want to do a run-in and ruin this match before it even starts. We don’t want people to have fun.” Bailey slapped her hand against her face when the staff member actually believed her. “We just want to watch the fights before we have to go up!”

                Frowning, the staff member pointed behind him. There was a huddle of fighters around a television, which seemed to be playing the broadcast that Blaze mentioned. The Eastern Dragon Hanzo was there to greet Shojira while Chris and Bailey occupied empty chairs. The television was busy showing Henry and Dante trading blows in their protective gear when Chris looked to his right.

                A tan human male lounged in his seat, appearing to be drinking from a glass bottle. Sporting a trimmed beard and very messy dark disheveled hair, he wasn’t really dressed to fight with leather pants and boots. The human seemed more like he was ready to party, if he wasn’t already. He faced Chris, grinning a bit and held up his bottle. The wolf shook his head and the human shrugged, taking another swig of it.

                “Antonio!! Come on!”

                Chris jumped in his seat as a woman’s voice popped up from behind. A brown female armadillo, dressed in a gi like Chris, stormed up and grabbed “Antonio’s” bottle, yanking it out of his hands.

                “Are you seriously drinking at a time like this?!” She reproached. If there was something the man had mastered, it was shrugging and the armadillo wasn’t having of any of that. She took a whiff of the bottle’s contents, quickly switching from anger to confusion. “Wait a minute, is this soda?” She asked.

                Antonio began to snicker and then roar with laughter, clapping his hands. “Ay Rocio, mama, ‘ou are too easy to trick!” Rocio looked ready to smack him with the bottle but settled with an open hand smack to the back of his head. She shook her head and looked at Chris, who looked on in bemusement.

                “I’m sorry, I don’t usually yell like this but this pendejo had been drowning in booze for the past couple days and blowing me and my partner off for parties...” Rocio shook her head and sat by Chris. Bailey was too attached to the action on the television to care about what just happened.

                “That’s…bad?” Chris managed to say.

                “Bad? It’s horrible. I really hope he gets taught a lesson out there,” Rocio scowled, glaring at Antonio. “Do you know who his opponent is?”

                Chris shook his head no. Bailey suddenly blurted out, “You couldn’t have hit the broad side of a barn with that kick!” Rocio eyed the badger then looked back at Antonio, who was lounging in his chair. “If only she was facing him. Then she could suplex him out of the ring. Maybe use a steel chair.”

                Chris rubbed his eyes, with his ears folded back. “Yeah, that would be great for public relations…”

                The roar of the crowd suddenly rose to a higher decibel when the TV displayed one of the fighters, a male lion with a wild, bushy mane, raising his hands in triumph, his defeated opponent laying on the ground, clutching his left side.

                The announcer got back on the microphone and declared Zarifa Udoka the winner of the bout by technical knockout. Rocio hopped onto her feet and quickly strode to the entrance to the stage, ready to head out. Shojira was still deep in conversation with Hanzo, but before the tiger could expand on the topic of his recipes for dumplings, his new friend easily spun him in place. Nudged to the entrance and towards Rocio, Shojira realized he was up next. He joined Rocio, standing right beside her.

                After Zarifa proudly entered the backstage area with Henry stumbling in afterwards. The announcer chimed in, “All right, our next fight features a representative of Barostiano against one of our own Aldwynne heroes!” A distinctive increase of applause for the “Aldwynne hero” broke out. Rocio smiled in amusement while Shojira breathed to himself.

               

                The thumping of a perky mambo song burst from the speakers as one of the backstage personnel patted Rocio on her back, giving her the cue to head to the ring. She jogged out of the curtain and was out of sight after the curtains closed. Shojira bowed his head in silence. He heard Rocio’s introduction but it was hazy to him right now. The next thing he heard, the music faded out and a new song began to play. He heard faded horns that were building him up. As soon as he felt the pat to his back, he quickly emerged from the curtains.

                Shojira looked out into the crowd, many of whom who were actually on their feet, cheering wildly. His song’s rap lyrics kicked in, the tiger’s adrenaline actually leading him to yell out the verses to the crowd. His new fans were now chanting for him to jump as per the chorus. Shojira complied. The energy that was pulsing throughout his body was intoxicating. He hopped over the ring’s ropes into the squared circle. It was hard to hear the announcer call out the tiger’s name as he continued to put on a show. He went to his designated corner, turning to look behind him.

                Shojira saw Lei-Mei sitting next to Chris and Bailey’s families, on her feet and clapping for her brother. He nodded in acknowledgement, catching his breath. The tiger felt his body get turned back around. An official was putting Shojira’s protective gear for him, explaining the rules while she did so. He only made out that any strikes were worth points and whoever won either had the most points or made their opponent quit. A helmet was fastened over his head with a chest guard attached. His hands became gloved and shin guards became attached as well.

                Shojira loosened his wrists and raised his arms. Rocio, standing directly across from him in the same equipment, was more crouched. The bell rang. Shojira and Rocio approached each other and touched gloves. The tiger’s stare was aimed directly at Rocio, waiting to see if she would make the first move. As he saw her inch forward, he whipped out a quick kick to keep her back. Shojira kept his feet in motion, starting to circle around the armadillo. Deciding to take the initiative, Shojira aimed his right hand at Rocio’s body.

                Unfortunately, she anticipated it, using her forearms to block his strike and then she caught him by the wrist. She used his momentum to pull him forward, taking him off his feet. She used her own foot to throw him over her head, and then got on top of him in a full mount position. Rocio began to rain down punches upon Shojira, who did his best to keep his guard up. But Rocio’s body was deceptive to her strength and he could feel her begin to break through.

                The tiger did notice a rhythm that Rocio allowed herself to fall into. Counting the seconds in his head, it was his turn to reverse the assault. He deflected a left haymaker and pushed the armadillo off of him with a right palm strike. Even with the chest guard, it was clear the hit knocked some wind out of Rocio. Shojira hopped back up to his feet and took advantage. He attacked with a basic one-two punch combination first, then launched a kick to her right side. It found its mark and the equipment seemed to not be proficient enough to cushion the tiger’s blows.

                Rocio dropped her guard and left herself wide open. Shojira closed the distance and aimed for an uppercut. His hand rose from below Rocio at a high speed. It was so fast that she…disappeared. The tiger felt his fist make contact with the armadillo but she was now nowhere to be seen. Unless...

                Shojira looked down and saw a ball on the canvas. In his stupor, Shojira didn’t realize that the ball had uncurled and a leg soon swept him off his feet. Shojira yelped in surprise as Rocio was back on the attack. She grabbed the prone tiger’s left arm and was trying to yank it towards her. Shojira used his right hand to hold onto his arm and struggled to keep it under his control. However, Rocio pulled his arm free and was now cranking on the force into her armbar. Yelling out in pain, Shojira refused to give up when he heard someone ask him. It had to be an official but he had just been too occupied to notice.

                Shojira’s resiliency awoke his instincts, allowing him to move his compromised arm into a better position. He managed to get off the ground to alleviate the pressure but Rocio then wrapped her legs around his neck, back still on the canvas. Shojira growled and slowly lifted Rocio off of the mat, to her surprise. She attempted to place him in another submission, but with a bellowing roar, Shojira slammed Rocio as hard as he could.

                Even with her protective shell, the impact made Rocio weaken her grip. But the tiger wasn’t finished, raising Rocio up once again to throw her down. This time, she lost her grasp completely, with her body now laid out spread-eagle. At her side, Shojira jumped and dropped his body onto the ground, his left elbow leading the way.

                Rocio suddenly grinned as she leapt up to grab Shojira’s arm again, but he was ready. Shifting his weight in mid-air, he threw Rocio towards one of the corners of the ring. Rocio realized where she was about to go and curled back into her ball again, bouncing off the corner and back towards Shojira. The speed that she was going caught the tiger off guard and he received one speeding armadillo to his gut.

                While hunched over, Shojira managed to grasp onto the curled up Rocio. Clutching her like she was a beach ball, he began to spin in place. Shojira snapped his eyes shut to keep from dizzying himself as he rotated faster and faster. Even with Rocio wriggling to try and free herself, Shojira was able to toss her up and catch her with his foot during her descent. The crowd gasped in shock before he actually kicked up Rocio and bounced her around on his feet and knees. Now the crowd was roaring with overflowing approval with just what this fight was bringing. Lei-Mei, however, was yelling, “NO! HOLD BACK, SHOJIRA!”

                Somehow, Shojira was actually able to hear his sister, turning his head to see what was wrong. Rocio took advantage of his distraction and uncurled, snatching onto the left arm that she worked over earlier and bringing Shojira down with her. Even though she had the upper hand, Rocio looked exhausted and cranked back on Shojira’s arm again. This time, he had no choice but to tap out. As soon as Shojira submitted, Rocio released him and gasped for breath on the ground. The audience got up on their feet and cheered for both fighters. The announcer was back on the microphone, declaring Rocio the winner by an armbar submission.

                Shojira slowly rose to his feet, cursing himself for being easily side-tracked. Hunched over with hands on his knees, he could only shake his head until he saw an open hand. He looked up, realizing it was Rocio’s, who offered a small smile. Without hesitation, he shook her hand and gave her a quick hug of respect. Shojira heard her whisper in his ear, “You had me beat. I just got lucky.”

 

                The two left the ring and headed backstage together, where Chris and Bailey were waiting. Rocio went past the two and was going in the direction of the dressing rooms. Shojira went back to the waiting area with his friends, all taking seats together in front of the television.

                Chris noticed Shojira was gingerly touching his arm and grimacing. “You all right there, bud?”

                The tiger frowned, appearing mellow compared to his energy during the fight. “Rocio has a pretty mean armbar, if you couldn’t tell.”

                Bailey peeked behind her, arms outstretched. “She looks like you did a number on her too.”

                “Yeah. Though I strayed far from the game plan, didn’t I?” Shojira muttered.

                “I wouldn’t say so. You were giving a good show, at least. Better than making everyone bored out of their skulls,” Bailey remarked.

                Shojira smiled and patted Chris on the shoulder. “At least our golden boy will have better luck.”

                Bailey laughed and tussled Chris’ hair. “Yeah, ‘golden boy.’”

                The wolf smiled and rolled his shoulders, breathing quietly to himself. “I’m more than ready. The anticipation is starting to make me impatient though.”

                The three continued to sit and watch as the other matches before Chris’ to play out. They all winced at the end of Hanzo’s match, which saw him effortlessly toss around his opponent without much movement. A few fights later and Rocio was back, eyeing the TV in keen interest of Antonio’s match. She scowled when Antonio was triumphant by having a lead on points. Bailey noticed a graphic on the television displaying the next match. Before she could make a remark, Chris was already at the entrance tunnel.

               

                “I can do this…I can do this…” Chris thought to himself as he waited for his cue. He kept looking around him for any sign of Song Yoon but there appeared to be none yet. Antonio shuffled past Chris with a pleased smile on his face while the announcer once again took the microphone.

                “All right, everybody, it’s time for another hometown favorite to take on the #1 kickboxer in the world today! I think it’s only fair to give our local hero the welcome he deserves! C’mon, make some noise!”

                The crowd began to applaud and cheer at the same volume they did for Shojira when he made his entrance. The energy was infecting Chris, cleansing him of any butterflies he might have had. After getting the okay, he went through the curtain, to the roar of the audience in attendance. Chris’ heart began to race as the excitement was becoming contagious. He hopped over the ropes and, while in his corner, looked out into the audience. He was able to easily spot his family, in no small thanks to his father standing up and waving his arms frantically.

                Damien Hayabusa, who was about the same size and had the same muscular build as Bailey, was showing his age with a gray stripe in his long black locks. However, his youthful energy oozed through his yells of support for his son. Beside him was Chris’ mother, Suzanne, looking very fair with her soft, snow-white fur. Next to her were Chris’ younger siblings, Jaden and Christie, both gray and white as their older brother, though Jaden shared Damien and Chris’ black hair.

                Chuckling to himself, Chris then breathed slowly and knelt in his corner. He looked down and closed his eyes, waiting for his opponent to enter the ring. He heard his name announced to the crowd but still kept his cool composure. Chris opened his eyes and looked up, seeing Blaze seated with her parents along with the other world leaders. They both shared a smile when the music changed to one of a looming orchestral score. Both cheers and boos showered upon Song Yoon once he appeared from backstage.

                The langur grinned widely as he mocked his detractors while walking down the ramp, wearing a golden championship belt around his waist and a pair of baggy kickboxing pants. The wild white fur covering almost of his body clashed with his jet black face. The only distinguishable features on Song Yoon’s face were his eyes and mouth. To his credit, the kickboxer was being very expressive with his dismissal of his critics.

                After he entered the ring, Song Yoon removed his belt and gave it to an official. The two fighters were fitted with the protective gear and the referee motioned for the match to begin.

                Chris cautiously approached Song Yoon and extended his right fist as an offer of sportsmanship. Song Yoon looked down at Chris’ hand and raised his eyebrows. If Chris wasn’t already expecting the kickboxer’s ego to run wild, he would have taken the full brunt of a wild roundhouse kick. Instead, Chris ducked the swinging leg and pushed Song Yoon away with a front kick to his chest. With some distance between each other, Chris suddenly stepped in with a kick aimed at Song Yoon’s right shin. The strike was not defended in any way since the kickboxer attacked in the same manner. Both seemed to be gauging their reach against one another.

                That was, until Song Yoon charged head-on at Chris and started to furiously throw unrefined punches and kicks. The wolf was taken a bit off guard from the sudden strategy but he soon fell back into the muscle memory of his sparring. Chris was disappointed by how Song Yoon was relying on overwhelming offense. Following his instincts, the wolf swayed to his left and drilled a thunderous right backfist that seemed to penetrate Song Yoon’s chest armor. The langur was knocked into his corner, much to the roar of the crowd.

                The exclamation of the public appeared to be a trigger for the kickboxer. Growling loudly, baring his fangs, Song Yoon started yanking off the protective gear. The referee stood in his way, being shoved aside to the ground. The referee then called for the bell to be rung but Song Yoon was already charging at Chris. Chris still kept his cool, ready to defend himself, until…

                WRYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!

                The spine-chilling screech silenced everyone in the area. Chris looked around for where the yell came from. He realized that Bailey and Shojira were standing on the entrance ramp, both now searching for the source of the scream. Chris’s heart started to beat rapidly, his head automatically turning and peering at the top of a nearby 25 story building. His eyes widened and he felt his body run cold.

                There stood a grotesque, crimson red monster that was looking down from its perch. With a hulking frame, it bellowed another cry of fury out of a mouth that was framed with razor sharp fangs. The creature crouched down and leapt into the air, heading towards the city square. Immediately, the crowd tried to disperse. Chris saw the other fighters join the crowd to help them leave safely. Song Yoon had already hightailed from the ring and the monster landed in his spot, almost collapsing the ring. Standing directly in front of the beast, Chris realized the substantial size difference, with his entire body being as big as the monster’s leg. Bailey was ready to join Chris but he held his arm up to stop her.

                “NO! Bailey, you have to get our families out of here! Shojira, you need to look after Lei-Mei!” he commanded, taking off the protective equipment.

                “We’re not letting you fight this thing on your own!” Shojira snapped.

                “I’ll distract it! Just get them away from here!” Chris screamed, turning to them.

                “FATHER!!”

                Chris spun his body to the sound, finding that the monster had grabbed King Ferno in its hand. Blaze and Queen Charrie were knocked over with the other leaders nowhere in sight. Ferno yelled in anger as he tried to fight his way free but the beast’s grip was too strong. With a howl, Chris’ right hand ignited with his purple flame and charged at the monster. The burning flame made contact with the monster’s free arm, actually dissolving it. It was now that Chris realized that the monster was actually made out of blood. The blood beast took advantage of Chris’ stupor, smacking him with the hand that held Ferno in a vice grip. The wolf was sent flying into the ropes, bouncing off of them and onto the ring mat.

                In no time at all, the beast regenerated its missing arm. As fast as it appeared, the monster leapt away with the king in tow. Blaze, standing with pure vengeance in her eyes, took out a phone from her pocket and dialed a number. After a few seconds, she began to roar, “CAPTAIN, MOBILIZE ALL OF THE UNITS AVAILABLE TO SAVE THE KING!! HE’S BEEN KIDNAPPED AND HIS ABDUCTOR IS HEADING EAST!!” After a couple more seconds, Blaze’s anger subsided just slightly, “It’s…a hulking blood monster. No, don’t question me on this. Be careful with how you subdue it…all right. I want reports as soon as possible.”

                Meanwhile, Chris was picking himself off of the ring’s mat when he was yanked onto his feet by another broad figure. Damien dusted off his son and held his head in his hands. “Chris, are you awake?! How many fingers am I holding up?!” Chris pulled his father’s hands away. “D-Dad, I’m fine! Let go of me!” he sputtered.

                “You didn’t tell me how many fingers I held up,” said Damien.

                “Because you were holding my face, you dingus.” Chris whispered to himself.

                Stepping in between the two, Suzanne hugged her eldest son. “Chris…what in the world were you thinking?!” She gave him a slap on the back of the head.

                Chris winced and looked at his siblings for any guidance. Both of them shook their heads, Christie mouthing the words “You’re on your own.”

                It was then that Bailey and Shojira reappeared with Lei-Mei and were in the ring with the Hayabusa family. “I think we have bigger things to worry about,” Bailey said. She nodded her head at Blaze and Queen Charrie, both approaching Chris. Blaze ran her hand over her face, sighing. “Chris…I need you to come with me.”

                “What? Why?”

                “Your family and friends can come with you if you want, just…I need you to come to my home,” Blaze shakily replied.

 

                About an hour later, Chris was in the living room of the Shirazi mansion. Chris, out of his gi and dressed in more suitable clothes to be at the royal mansion, was seated straight across from Blaze on separate couches. She was still trying to grasp what had happened. Chris decided to speak up and try to receive some clarity himself.

                “Blaze…do you have any idea just what the hell that was?”

                The princess looked up at Chris before rubbing her eyes and sighing. “I…I think I do. I need to wait for a report before I go farther, though.”

                The two sat in silence for a moment before Chris spoke again. “Do you know what happened to the other world leaders?”

                “As far as I’ve been told, they were accompanied out by their representatives. And the monster didn’t try to grab them or anything. It seemed to be fixated on my father. I tried to stop it but my flames were useless,” Blaze explained.

                “Wait…you tried to attack it with your powers?”

                After Blaze confirmed with a nod, Chris placed his hand on his chin and closed his eyes. “Because when I attacked it with my fire, the monster’s arm dissolved. It regenerated but I still harmed it.”

                Blaze practically stomped her feet when she stood up, startling Chris. “Your powers effected it?! M-Maybe you-!”

                A loud knock came outside of the room before an out of breath young raccoon in a police uniform entered. He saluted Blaze. “Officer Travis Kennedy reporting! Last known location of Our Majesty, King Ferno, was on the eastern exit of Haleigh! The king was placed inside a black van with tinted windows and no license plate! Officer intended to intercept but mysterious creature thwarted him!”

                Chris noticed, upon further inspection, the scratches and bruises on the young officer.

                “Did you notice any suspects around or inside the vehicle, officer?” Blaze inquired.

                Officer Kennedy grimaced and shook his head no. That was, until his eyes lit up with a memory. “Wait, I did see somebody! After I gathered my bearings from being knocked down, I saw a human girl in the van, with white hair. I think she might have been captured by the kidnappers.”

                “Did you only see her hair?”

                With a confirming nod from the officer, Blaze sighed. Suddenly, Queen Charrie entered the room with Chris’ parents in tow.

                “Blaze, turn on the television and put on the news! Immediately!” Charrie commanded.

                The newscast seemed to be coming back from commercial, which was already covering Ferno’s kidnapping. The news-anchor on camera reported that the studio had just received a videotape from the kidnappers and that it would be played live. Chris and Blaze moved closer to the television as a silhouette appeared. There was really nothing distinguishable about it and once the figure began to speak, the voice was obviously edited to be distorted.

                “Hello, world. If you are seeing this video, then you already know. If not, then I will enlighten you. King Ferno Shirazi has been taken from his throne. I have demands that, if met, will ensure his safe return. But I will not express them in the public mainstream. These demands are to be given to the royal family and they will be tasked with following my instructions to the letter. Again, if my instructions are followed clearly, no harm will come to King Ferno whatsoever. I only ask of the public to not panic and let their emotions get the better of them. My demands are reasonable and I do not wish to complicate things any more than they are. Thank you.”

                Everyone was still staring at the television long after the ransom message was read. There was an uneasy air in the room. Chris looked at Blaze and saw that her hands were clenched into fists and they were trembling. He was unsure if he should console her at all. Before he had a chance to decide, she stood up, her eyes piercing a hole into Officer Kennedy.

                “If the police receive that tape meant for my mother and I, you will hand it over immediately. Are we clear?” She said coldly.

                The young officer shivered under Blaze’s glare, saluting her and responding with a quivering, “Yes, Your Highness!”

                After he departed, Blaze sat back on the couch she occupied earlier. Her mother sat besides her, petting her shoulder while Chris and his parents sat across again.

                “Do you know what you’re going to do, Your Highness?” Chris asked.

                Queen Charrie replied simply, “I will be working with the other world leaders to try and figure out the best course of action.”

                “Mother…I need to ask them,” said Blaze.

                With a hesitant nod to proceed, Blaze clasped her hands together and sighed, looking at Damien and Suzanne Hayabusa. “Mr. and Mrs. Hayabusa, I asked for the both of you to come so you’d be present for this question. I know your son is an adult but it would only be fair to…” She paused, shaking her head. “I would like to have Chris help ensure the safe return of the king.”

                Damien and Suzanne both looked at one another and then at their son, who could not believe what he was hearing.

                Suzanne spoke up, “You’re serious about this? You…want my son to single-handedly save the king?”

                Blaze replied, “He wouldn’t be doing this alone, oh no. You do know about his powers?”

                Nodding, Damien continued his wife’s line of thinking. “Does his powers have anything to do with that big monster from earlier?”

                “Yes. My flames were unable to harm it but Chris’ actually damaged it. I think…I think your son has been blessed by the gods.”

Me! My niece was just born today and oh my God, I'm so excited! More details to come when they do but yay!

Journal History

deviantID

OrochiPhoenix19
Christian Serrano
United States
Name: Chris Hayabusa

Age: 22

Gender: Male

Height: 6’1"

Weight: 195 lbs

Species: Wolf

Hair color: Gray

Eye color: Blue

Family: Damien Hayabusa (father), Susan Hayabusa (mother), Christie Hayabusa (sister),
Jaden Hayabusa (brother)

Powers/Abilities: Chris is extremely proficient in martial arts, having trained in the Soaring Dragon Dojo since he was 7 years old. He came up with an original style of combat based in Wing Chun, Capoeira, and wrestling. He also has an interest in parkour, which he uses as a part of his daily training regimen. Chris comes from a long line of pyrokinetics, and even though his parents found no use for such powers, Chris’ power is just as strong as the rest of his heritage.

Weaknesses: Chris has a very serious fear of being weak, not being able to carry out his goals as he envisions them or protect others. His sense of justice is noble, but it is prone to being manipulated for others. He also seems to be prone to some inner turmoil he might not be aware of. Chris also has a problem with being carried away by being a showman.

Biography: As a child, Chris was just as bullied as other kids, and he couldn’t stand seeing
them every day at school. Even though he was mostly quiet and was generally well-behaved, Chris always wanted to find a way to help others but wasn’t sure how. Then one day, when Chris was a 2nd grader, one of the bullies decided to target Chris, to get a reaction out of him, the young wolf didn’t pay too much attention to him until the bully started to insult Chris’ parents, a surefire way to anger him at that age. Out of nowhere, Chris’ right hand ignited with burning violet flames and the bully quickly backed off, not mentioning the event to anybody in order to protect his reputation. Chris looked at his quickly diminishing fire. He had power. He found a way to protect others.
But even though Chris realized he was special, he didn’t think things through on how to use it. The following day, Chris witnessed the same bully from yesterday picking on a much smaller student. This was it. This was Chris’ chance to be a hero. From the blue, Chris charged at the 5th grader and jumped on him, wildly using his pyro abilities, causing 1st degree burns towards the “villain”. This power possessed him, as he proceeded to attack the bully while he was still on the ground.
As no surprise, Chris was suspended from school indefinitely, but his parents took him out of school for his own safety from the other kids. Following the suspension, Chris’ younger siblings, Jaden and Christie, looked upon their older brother with a sense of fear over what he could do to them. Wishing to defuse the paranoia occurring among his children, Damien Hayabusa talked to his oldest son about how he appreciated the fact that Chris was trying to help others but was at the same time disappointed that he didn’t handle the situation differently. After talking it over, Damien and Susan enrolled Chris into the Soaring Dragon Dojo, a martial arts school owned and ran by a family friend of theirs named Jirokai, in order to help Chris better grasp his abilities and learn to use them responsibly. Strangely, only two other children were taught at the same time that Chris was, and yet, the dojo was very clean and modern, as if Jirokai taught that many students to afford it. These two new classmates of Chris’ were Shojira Hyujimoto, a tiger who was taking care of his younger sister after their parents succumbed to a disease, and Bailey Rosworth, a female badger who was about twice as tall as Chris as well as a tomboy.
As years passed and Jirokai taught the trio in ways that not only improved their bodies but their minds beyond the limits of their bodies, Chris not only learned how to control his pyrokinesis but to think through situations where he would have jumped the gun if not for his training. Now much more social and energetic thanks to his friendships with Bailey and Shojira, he was able to finish school at a proficient level. Chris has been taking several odd jobs around his hometown as a means to get by living on his own. He technically graduated from the dojo but is still involved to help new recruits. Lately, an announcement was made for a festival in the royal city of Aldwynne that would feature a martial arts tournament. But little did everyone involved know that their lives would change on that day.
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:iconshirleyvaga:
ShirleyVaga Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2015
happy bd
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:iconthemrcagdl:
THEMRCAGDL Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2015
Happy Birthday!
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:iconsonicgal390:
SonicGal390 Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
:icondjpon-3plz::iconpinkiepieplz: HAPPY BIRTHDAY! :party::iconcookiecakeplz::iconcakecookieplz::cake::cookie::milk::party::iconpinkiepartyplz::iconcarameldansenplz::iconcheerplz::iconvictorydanceplz::iconhappybirthdayplz::iconballoonsplz::iconskyepartyplz::iconomgcakeplz::iconfuncakeplz::iconcumple1plz::iconcumple2plz::iconcaekglompplz::iconcaekplz::icongiftplz::iconbummyballoonplz::iconcake3dplz::iconhappybirthdaysignplz::iconpresentplz::iconrainbowbummiecakeplz::iconheartballoonplz::iconforyouplz::icondjpon3plz::iconrainbowcakeplz::iconplaywithfireplz::iconbonklers::iconpineappletardplz::iconhappybirthday2plz::iconbummiesplz::iconlaplayplz::iconlabeatplz::iconballoonplz:
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:iconshadowblazerx:
ShadowBlazerX Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2015
Hello there :P
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2015
Yooooooo. :V
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:iconshadowblazerx:
ShadowBlazerX Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2015
whats up man :p
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2015
Ah, just been up to school and stuff. Selling kitchen cutlery. Going to go see :iconhyperchaotix: next month for my birthday.
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(2 Replies)
:iconjinzoki:
JINZOKI Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014   Digital Artist
Thanks for the llama and Merry Christmas! :D
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014
Hey, I want to commission you again. I already sent a note on FA to try and establish it. :V
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:iconjinzoki:
JINZOKI Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2014   Digital Artist
Oh can you send it here actually I'm not as active on FA as I am here :XD: I'll get on in a while I'm answering everyone as fast as I could.
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:iconnafyo:
Nafyo Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Commission :: Chris and Bailey by Nafyo  
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:iconnafyo:
Nafyo Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
  Isabella from AC: Thanks for the Fav by Nafyo  
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:iconnafyo:
Nafyo Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Commission :: Chris and Logan by Nafyo  
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:iconwinterfox51:
WinterFox51 Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2014
Hey! I've seen you on KYM a few times.
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2014
*slowly walks into my bunker shelter* You ain't seen nothin'. >:T
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:iconwinterfox51:
WinterFox51 Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2014
I am simply omniscient, there is no hiding! 
I used to see you alot back when Cringeworthy wasn't locked xD those were the days.
But yeah, I'm Jesse, my KYM name is UACmarine208, nice to meet you finally.
How's it going? :) 
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2014
Trying to help fix :iconhyperchaotix:'s Saxxies 2014 entry by putting it in the right category.
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(1 Reply)
:iconalexandricswartzwind:
oAo
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:iconshadowblazerx:
ShadowBlazerX Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2014
Long time no see buddy
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2014
Yep.
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:iconshadowblazerx:
ShadowBlazerX Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014
How have ya been?
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:iconorochiphoenix19:
OrochiPhoenix19 Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014
Pretty fine on my end.
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(1 Reply)
:icondanguy96:
DanGuy96 Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2014
Thanks for the watch.
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:icontixielix:
TixieLix Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the fave on my Street Fighter work!
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