The echoing of hurrying footsteps rang out in the darkness, but with no visible owner of the noise. The sound trailed all around the void, resonating endlessly. A young man’s gasps slowly began to make itself more audible with each additional pulse of energy he gave. He started to realize the sensations of touch at his feet as he awkwardly groped the air for anything that could tell him where he was. He didn’t feel any clothing on his person but his body still felt warm. The young man’s vision was about as black as his surroundings, with no source of light of any sort even cracking through a window or gap in a door.
Suddenly, a very faint azure glow illuminated his body and he was able to see his hands and what was in front of him. It was still nothing at all, but the young man turned around to face what had brought a bit more clarity than before. His eyes squinted as he laid his sight upon a small fireball of energy. The energy crackled in the air, calling out to its sole onlooker. Going as fast as his legs could take him, the young man ran towards the floating purple spirit. It shined brighter and brighter the closer he got to it. He reached his hands out, desperately craving anything to hold onto, to give him a semblance of location. As he felt a burning impression on the tip of his right pointer finger…
BZZT! BZZT! BZZT!
The young man rubbed his eyes to break out of his slumber for good. “The same damn dream again…as always…” he sighed while he took a glance at the finger that almost grasped that fireball. No burns, just his gray furred hand and the arm it belonged to. He also had his tank top and pajama pants on, instead of feeling bare. The young man sat up in his bed, groaning while rubbing a tight knot that stiffened his back.
Gingerly getting out of bed on his right, he walked to his drawer. Taking out clean clothes for the day, he headed into his adjoined bathroom to take a shower. Afterwards, as he was dressing himself amid the warm steam from his shower, he took a look at the bathroom mirror above his sink and the reflection that greeted him. He fixed his black hair, mainly his bangs so that they appeared swept. He splashed some cold water onto his muzzle, his pointed ears flicking from stray water hitting them. His slender body shook from the water along with his tail.
Dressing himself in a red t-shirt emblazoned with a mythical Eastern dragon, the wolf left his bathroom and made his way out of his house. Breakfast would have to wait as Chris Hayabusa got into his white sedan, turned on the ignition, and backed out of his driveway. He lived in a bit of a quiet area away from the hustle and bustle of his hometown of Doragon Machi. He drove to downtown, where there were a respectable amount of pedestrians walking the streets even though it was still rather early in the morning.
After turning a corner, Chris’s car motor purred to a stop as he pulled up alongside the curb in front of a large dojo. The exterior was painted red, gold, and black with black shingles on the roof, complete with sliding doors at the main entrance. Chris headed up the steps, where he approached the sliding doors and quietly opened them. He scanned the room, which was lit by the sunlight coming from the window. Stepping inside, the wolf removed his shoes and kicked them aside from the walkway.
The training area was empty yet Chris slowly tiptoed his way around. His ears twitched as he could faintly hear a creaking sound, his body instinctively back-flipping away from a blur of a kick. He had no time to look at his attacker, he was too busy bobbing and weaving away from a flurry of punches from his left from another enemy. When the first assailant decided to join their ally, Chris was now forced to deflect and parry away the almost overwhelming combination of punches and kicks. The onslaught was beginning to graze Chris’ body as he did his best to keep his pace.
The wolf noticed that one of his opponents was slowing down. He took a chance and suddenly ducked his entire body, making the second fighter whiff the air and tumble forward fist-first with all of their momentum. While still ducking, Chris grabbed the legs of the still-standing ambusher and took them off balance by lifting their legs. He crawled backwards away and rose from the ground, in a fighting stance. He felt his lungs and muscles burn with that short sequence, but he didn’t dare show that. Upon focusing his vision, he instantly recognized who started the fight and gave a breath of excitement. Chris watched as a tall, muscular badger woman pick herself up off the ground and a male tiger that was Chris’ size lay dazed, appearing to have bonked his head.
The badger was quick to get back in the fight, thrusting herself forward while keeping her arms close to her chin and chest. Chris' first reaction was to throw a kick to her right side, and unfortunately, she was ready. She hooked Chris' leg under her arm and used her left leg to sweep him off balance. The badger displayed a sadistic smirk to Chris as she picked his free leg and hooked it as well. She started twisting her body in place, spinning like a top while taking Chris along for the ride. Chris hooked his arms behind his head, doing his best to keep himself from getting dizzy.
Chris concentrated his mind for a brief moment, and after doing so, he shifted his torso to fight against the swinging momentum. He lifted himself enough to grab the badger by her shoulders and tip her over. She gave a yell of surprise and toppled onto the ground, letting Chris go as she caught her breath. Chris landed on his left side with a thud, feeling the room still spin all around him before he was able to recover. He looked straight at the badger and began to break out in laughter through gasps of air. It was only a millisecond before she did as well. She stood up and offered her hand to lift Chris up from the ground, which he graciously accepted.
“Jeez, Bailey, you could have been a bit more merciful with that falling kick. I’d like to keep my brain in my head,” Chris joked to the badger. Fixing her black t-shirt, Bailey chuckled and patted Chris’ hair. “Not much of it to lose anyway. Shojira’s got so much brains, though, he wouldn’t know what to do with them.” Shojira, the brainiac in question, showed his amusement as he fixed his own clothing, his white shirt pulled over his head and the legs of his jeans in disarray thanks to the momentum of his punch. He rubbed his forehead, wincing from the bruise.
“So, you have the letter, Bailey?” Chris asked, feeling his body become loose after his adrenaline subsided. Nodding in response, the badger walked to her backpack that rested against the west wall and retrieved a pristine white piece of paper and gave it to Chris. The paper was adorned with very fancy handwriting and was neatly folded into thirds. Attached to one end of the letter was a red seal with an insignia of the country’s flag in the center with Bailey's name and address on the back.
“I received that last night after the show. Figured you’d want to read it before we headed to the mansion this Wednesday,” Bailey said. Chris did not answer, as he was already absorbed into the letter:
Hello Miss Rosworth,
I greatly appreciate your accepting of my offer to play a substantial part in the Terra Festival this Thursday, September 14th. As noted through your agent, I am more than willing to allow your friends from your dojo to be alongside you as well as participate in the exhibitions. Both Mr. Hayabusa and Mr. Hyujimoto have gathered their own reputations in your hometown and so it would only be fair to allow them to showcase their talents. It comes as no surprise that an appearance by someone such as yourself has already caught the attention of the media. It has also caught the attention of a certain princess, who is very excited to meet you though she will not tell me outright. Regardless, I am glad that you will help garner attention to the festival and “bring the crowd”, so to speak. I am certain I will meet you before the Terra Festival, so until then, take care and may the heavens watch over you. I look forward to having a conversation with you face to face.
Chris beamed as he handed the letter to Shojira. “So the princess likes her pro wrestling. Not that I’d put it past her but it’s funny to hear her mom say that.”
Bailey could only shrug and smile. “I can’t complain about it. At least it helps secure my job.”
Shojira was holding the letter in one hand and glancing up from it every so often to look at Chris and Bailey. “The Queen has very nice handwriting…and I wonder how she could guess that the princess was so excited to see you, Bailey.”
Chris’ mind gave him the mental image of the princess’ bedroom being the stereotypical 18 year old teenage girl’s room filled with posters of boy bands and handsome young guys, but with all those posters replaced with Bailey. He didn't notice the looks Bailey and Shojira were giving him for the rather goofy expression he had at this thought.
“I couldn't harbor a guess. But it’s nothing to really dwell on. We just need to look our best when we head over to their house,” Bailey said, pausing when she heard a creak. Her own ears twitched this time as she heard a door shut from the back of the room. Standing in front of it was a young tigress with jet black disheveled hair, still in her pink PJs, letting out a big yawn.
“About time you woke up, Lei-Mei,” Shojira chuckled.
Lei-Mei rubbed her eyes and yawned again, stretching as she lazily waved to Bailey and Chris. “It's 7:30, it's still early...I wanna read that letter, please…”
Shojira grinned and patted Lei-Mei on the head, tussling her hair. “You sure? You can’t even keep your eyes open, sis.”
Lei-Mei frowned, though it looked more like she was going to fall back asleep and hide those emerald green eyes that she shared with her brother. “Gimme some breakfast and coffee then I will be.” Her striped tail weakly swished.
Chris laughed and shook his head. “I thought it was your turn to make breakfast for you and Shojira.”
“And Jirokai,” Bailey added.
Lei-Mei fussily folded her arms. “I was going to but now I don’t want to. I got kept up all night by your snoring again, Shoji.”
Shojira’s smile faded as he looked a bit embarrassed. “Hey, come on, I don’t snore THAT loud.”
Lei-Mei’s annoyance with her brother’s sleeping habits seemed to kickstart her energy. “Are you kiddin’ me, Shoji? Your snoring sounds like jackhammers right in my ear. And our bedrooms are two rooms apart. It’s amazing Jirokai doesn’t wake up with bags under his eyes!”
Chris and Bailey both shared teasing snickers as Shojira looked on with an awkward grimace. Lei-Mei pouted and turned on her heel, heading back through the door that she just entered. “Fine, I’ll go make breakfast. But you’re not getting an omelet! And you're gonna have to wake Sensei this time!”
After she left, the trio had a few seconds of quiet before Chris broke it. “Wow, man. I’ve never lost a good breakfast thanks to snoring. Have you considered getting one of those nasal strips? Maybe we could get one that fits that big honker of yours.”
Shojira gave Chris a “oh shut up” look although the tiger was not really sour at all. He simply jabbed Chris on the shoulder before handing the letter back to Bailey. “Looks like Lei-Mei didn’t want to read the letter that badly,” the tiger said.
Bailey raised an eyebrow before putting the letter back in the safety of her backpack. “I think you ticked her off before she could get her hands on it. Though I could go for some breakfast myself, actually. But I don’t think Lei-Mei would want to cook enough food to fill me up.”
Chris interjected, “Actually, I was gonna head out to do some shopping and probably grab something to eat, if you want to join me, Bailey.”
The badger beamed at the idea of being treated to a free meal, and possibly talking Chris into buying something for her. “Sure, why not? I’ll even let you drive my car.”
Chris’ eyes almost bugged out of his head. “You sure? Your sportscar? You’ll let me drive it?”
Bailey cocked her head to her right side. “Well, my car’s worth more than yours so your car is less likely to get stolen if we just left it here.”
Chris stifled a snicker. “Oh, so my car’s not good enough just because it’s not worth a lot of money like yours?”
“Not really. It’s just that if you’re traveling with me, people are gonna give you discounts and maybe some things people don’t know about. Maybe even some real good food that only folks like me could know about?”
Pausing for only a brief moment to breathe, Chris grabbed Bailey by the wrist and dragged her to the entrance of the dojo, picking up her backpack along the way. “You better show me, and you better show me now!”
“I guess we’ll be back, Shojira! Make sure Chris’ car doesn’t get keyed or something so he’d have an excuse to keep driving mine!” Bailey called as she hurried to put her shoes back on before leaving with Chris, who was carrying his own pair in his free hand.
Shojira sighed as he made his way to the kitchen, muttering, “Maybe it’d be nice if you could use some of your money to help me a car with seat-warmers and amazing A/C…”
Chris and Bailey were already in the latter's sleek vehicle, adorned in shining white with vertical stripes on the trunk, roof, and hood. Chris was getting a feel for the steering wheel and the pedals before he turned to Bailey, his earlier eagerness having faded with what was on his mind.
"Hey, Bailey? I...had the dream again."
"Yeah?" Bailey appeared to be more curious than worried. She adjusted her seat back and lounged but still kept eye contact with Chris. The wolf noticed how well Bailey's brown eyes stood out from the black vertical stripes that adorned those same eyes. "How far did you get this time?" Chris could feel his tension escape his body while watching Bailey lay back.
"I was very close to touching the light this time. A fingertip away."
Bailey made a light-hearted "hmm" sound, though it had touches of "I wish I could help you". "You don't feel...intimidated by it, do you?" she added.
Chris shook his head no, but he wasn't going to tell Bailey how good he felt whenever he saw the light. Not right now anyway. He didn't want their morning to be dragged down by theories and mysteries that had no chance of being solved right now. "So, shall we get going, Bailey?"
"Sure. Be careful backing up though, the acceleration on this thing would knock you on your ass if you were standing up."
Sharing a small laugh together, Chris cleanly backed up from her parking spot and began traveling to the closest store that caught their interest. Hopefully, his wallet will still have some weight in it before they were done shopping.