Last week, I made a post
asking for suggestions on which hypothetical fight to write. Here's the result; if y'all like it, I'll do it again sometime.
"AND IT'S GAOLANG!"
Long-dead Mt. Godslayer seemed fit to erupt. Katahara Sayaka's bellow, bolstered by the Dome's truly monstrous sound system, struggled vainly against the thousands-strong roar as Thailand's most lethal export strode towards the ring. Spotlights and camera flashes danced across narrow creeks of sweat as they rolled down his ever-placid face, countless screens blaring highlights of his storied career in the ring.
And, as his teammates chattered about who should serve as their vanguard, Yumigahama Hikaru asked himself whether spiting his former co-workers was worth trading hands with the greatest boxer on Earth.
He laughed to himself. Yes
Hands in his pockets, he stepped towards his team's stairs, only for a skeletal hand to clack against his chest. His brow furrowed as he turned to his smallest teammate.
"What's the big idea, Carlo-"
His nose exploded before he could finish his sentence. A hand instinctively shot up to staunch the bleeding, and Carlos Medel took the opportunity to saunter towards the ring in his place.
Part of Yumigahama insisted that it wasn't worth causing a scene, that he'd have other opportunities to further insult Dainippon Bank. Another, much louder part wanted to crush that little fucker.
As Carlos opened his mouth to make some snappy quip of his own, Yumigahama clamped down on his shoulder and spun him around. "El Dorado's" sunken eyes met "The Traitor Fang's" furious glare.
"Tenemos un problema, Yumigahama?" said Carlos, his bantamweight frame exuding heavyweight malice.
"No sé, amigo
," Yumigahama hissed through his customary rictus; he'd taken a short online course in Spanish for the express purpose of torquing Jose before their rematch. "Que piensas?"
None of their teammates seemed inclined to get between them, though Nicolas Le Banner had pulled out his phone at some point and was gleefully recording. Naidan Monkhbat sighed, turning to Toa Mudo.
"And it looks like Purgatory's taking their time in choosing their fighter!" came Sayaka's voice before he could even ask the Maori giant to pull them apart.
"Not surprising," Jerry Tyson chimed in. "The first fight can easily set the tone for the whole tournament. You pick wrong, and you might never recover."
Carlos and Yumigahama opened their mouths for a fresh burst of invective, only to freeze at the sound of "Enough" from the back of the room. Every fighter present, save an apathetic Alan Wu, turned to the figure seated against the wall.
"If you're going to act like children," Lolong Donaire began with the air of a disappointed schoolmarm, "do it on your own time. Not when you're representing Purgatory."
The feuding pair snapped their gazes back towards one another, banishing the momentary fear in their features in favor of their previous expressions. Carlos raised a fist, smiled at Yumigahama's flinch, and brought his other hand beneath it palm-up.
Yumigahama snorted. "Against you and your foresight bullshit? Not a chance."
"Then what do you suggest?"
"I'm thinking of a number between one and 100," Nicolas chirped. They turned to him, bewildered. "Whoever guesses closest gets to fight."
"43," said Carlos.
"44," Yumigahama replied.
"And Yumigahama wins! It was 64." Nicolas clapped his hands, a patronizing smile shining beneath his sunglasses. "Go get 'em, champ~"
With a short bark of laughter, Yumigahama shoved Carlos aside. The spotlights latched onto him as he emerged to a chaotic chorus of cheers and boos, and as he climbed the stairs, Naidan looked at Nicolas.
"What was the actual
Nicolas declined to answer in favor of chasing an enterprising butterfly.
Shiina Alisa, undaunted by the expressionless Gaolang or the leering Yumigahama, rattled off her customary pre-fight instructions. She was loud enough, and the Kengan room close enough, that the team heard her in stereo.
"Man," said Okubo Naoya, leaning on the railing. "It didn't really hit me 'til I saw him next to Gaolang, but that's one big boy."
"Shouldn't be anything new for Gaolang," Hayami Masaki replied, not looking up from his book. "He unified the heavyweight titles as a natural cruiserweight."
"Yeah, true enough." Okubo rested his chin on his clown-sleeved arms, watching Yumigahama refuse to touch 'em up, then looked back at Kanoh Agito. "I know you and Misasa wanted a piece o' that guy. You fine with Gaolang fighting him instead?"
The Fifth Fang pondered quietly for a moment. The sight of Yumigahama mockingly winking at him drowned beneath memories of fists as hard as stone, of an eight-limbed auger boring into him to unearth long-forgotten motes of fear. Then his lips quirked up in a slight smile.
"I trust Gaolang Wongsawat to avenge The Master."
"No complaints here, either," said Misasa, smoothing an imperceptible wrinkle from his suit. "Means I get to pick on someone my own size instead. Or close enough to it."
"A'ight then." Okubo blew out a breath. "Public martial arts versus Fangs of Metsudo, take three."
Shiina extended her arms palms-out, eyes flicking from one fighter to the other. Gaolang had lowered his left arm into his customary "Hitman" stance, letting it swing idly from side to side as he stared at his opponent from above a cocked right fist. Yumigahama held a more neutral stance, his hips low and his hands high.
"Ready..." she began.
"Think I could have one of your belts once you wake back up?" Yumigahama said with faux sincerity. "Maybe the WBA one? You know that one's not worth shit."
"I much preferred your predecessor," Gaolang replied. "At least his talk wasn't empty." "FIGHT!"
Yumigahama barreled forward with shocking speed, sending a wild right hand lashing at the his opponent. Gaolang caught it on his shoulder and turned it aside, only for Yumigahama to crash into hips, the big man's hands scrabbling for purchase on his shorts.
"Yumigahama's already looking to grapple!" Sayaka shouted.
"Not even Kanoh Agito could overpower Gaolang on the feet," Jerry added. "Time to see what kinda ground game the Sixth Fang's got."
He was too close for a knee, but not deep enough to stop a sprawl. Gaolang launched his feet back and dropped every ounce of weight onto the back of Yumigahama's head, forcing his face into the concrete as underhooks denied him a proper grip.
They remained in that awkward position for several seconds. Gaolang, knowing any opponent worth their salt would do everything in their power to avoid a pure striking match, was more than seasoned in defensive grappling. He knew better than to rush things and leave himself open. Instead, he thumped at Yumigahama's midsection as he waited for the man to turn the corner, pull guard, hunt for a new grip, any sort of transition.
His toes skidded on concrete, and he realized with a start that Yumigahama had no intention of completing a traditional takedown. Yumigahama's massive legs strained until the musculature was visible through his baggy pants, forcing Gaolang back foot by foot.
"Incredible! He's actually pushing Gaolang from that position!"
Yumigahama picked up speed with every step, bulldozing through 91 kilograms of resistance as the edge of the ring fast approached. Gaolang attempted to turn him with his underhooks, but found Yumigahama's white-knuckle grip too tight to dislodge. From that angle, Gaolang could just make out the edges of his foe's smile.
"You know," Yumigahama gritted out, "at first I figured I'd just knock you out. Then I thought to myself, 'wouldn't it be hilarious if I just shoved his ass out of the ring?'"
Gaolang was running out of ground to give. Yumigahama had picked up an unstoppable head of steam, and the man's strength seemed insurmountable. The world seemed to slow as Gaolang scoured his arsenal for something, anything to stand between him and the pending humiliation.
Sweeping aside years of ingrained boxing habits, he found it. CRACK
The crowd's rumble, previously growing in inverse proportion to the fighters' remaining real estate, stuttered. The building cacophony gave way to a indistinct jumble of noise before returning twofold.
"DOWN! HE'S DOWN IN THE FIRST 30 SECONDS OF THE MATCH!"
Straightening his shorts, rolling his shoulders, Gaolang Wongsawat walked away from Yumigahama Hikaru's unmoving body without a glance. Shiina's count pierced the omnipresent roar as blood dripped ponderously from the Sixth Fang's unkempt mane.
"He got him already?!" Yamashita Kazuo yelled, jaw slack.
"Shit," Okubo said with a whistle. "If those were allowed in Ultimate Fight, I'd never shoot another takedown."
"That can't be it, can it?" Rihito's eyes rapidly bounced between his teammate in the ring and his teammate beside him. "One elbow to the back of the head and it's over?"
"One elbow to the back of the head from the strongest Nak Muay of all time? That he didn't see coming?" Okubo replied. "You should be more surprised that he's still breathin'."
"Why didn't he use that earlier?" Rihito asked.
"Guy's spent the last chunk of his life gettin' told over and over that he can't hit people in the back of the head. Hell, I almost pulled back when I soccer kicked Kanoh at the tournament."
"Still, isn't this kinda anticlimactic?"
"What, would you prefer he got back-"
"AND HE'S UP! Yumigahama beats the count!"
Every head in the locker room, even Hayami's, snapped to the previously prone figure shakily rising to its feet. Bloodshot eyes glared daggers at Gaolang, who seemed only mildly surprised that his job wasn't finished.
"Jesus fuckin' Christ," Okubo breathed, "what's he made of?"
"Now you're sounding like Adam," Yamashita deadpanned.
Yumigahama Hikaru was angry.
This was not a new sensation. Anger at everyone and everything that had ever or would ever potentially wrong him always bubbled just beneath his surface-level arrogance. This, however, had transcended standard-issue retributive fury, becoming a fiery pillar that nearly propelled his desire to murder Gaolang beyond his desire to keep his fight purse.
He desperately, desperately
wanted to charge in and start breaking digits one-by-one. Self-preservation, a reasonably accurate assessment of his own abilities, and a need to pay back the humiliation, however, offered a different suggestion.
Gaolang quirked an eyebrow as Yumigahama turned side-on, lowering himself into something almost resembling Karate's kokutsu-dachi stance. Then he went lower, open palms closing as though around the haft of an invisible weapon.
"You appear to have forgotten something," Gaolang said as he retook his stance. "Perhaps I hit you too hard."
"You really think I need a weapon to kick your ass?"
Gaolang looked pointedly at the splotches of blood slowly dripping from his right elbow.
Yumigahama's hairless brow twitched in profoundly unpleasant fashion. Without a word, he surged forward, leading with the bent knuckle of his lead thumb. Gaolang once more set his shoulder to intercept. Yumigahama's spearpoint slammed into the meat of his lead arm and skidded off.
Taking a teaspoon-sized chunk of flesh with it.
Gaolang missed a step, giving Yumigahama room to hop back and reset his feet. As Gaolang assessed the damage, sending out half-hearted Flashes, Yumigahama brought his blood-spattered thumb to his lips and took a lick.
"Big surprise, the piece of shit tastes like shit." He sank even lower, giving the air of a sprinter at the starting line. "Betcha the next one takes an eye."
His eyes widened a fraction as Gaolang took the initiative, slipping inside the reactive spear thrust and unleashing a ferocious series of jabs. That immovable grin swayed back just out of reach, and a stabbing pain above his right eyebrow left Gaolang unable to press the advantage.
Yumigahama held up his own crimson fingertips, prompting a frown from Gaolang. From a minimalist spear to a discount Devil Lance in one motion. He was no stranger to cuts, so the rivulets running from his head failed to bother him, but this new development looked troubling.
No matter. Cutting, stabbing, crushing, it was all striking in the end. And he, Rama's sword, stood at the apex of striking.
Team Purgatory watched in silence as mixed martial arts turned into fencing. Gaolang pressed forward, searching for angles that would carry him around the snakelike edge of Yumigahama's spear, while the latter took full advantage of the ring's considerable real estate to keep him at bay. Only the occasional kick to Yumigahama's trailing lead leg managed to answer the steadily growing collection of cuts marring the world champion's sweat-streaked face and chiseled frame.
The crowd, meanwhile, offered its opinion on the match freely.
"STOP BEING A PUSSY AND FIGHT!"
"YOU'RE MAKING THE GLADIATORS LOOK BAD!"
Liu Dongcheng sighed. "We're off to a great start."
"It's working, though, isn't it?" Fei Wangfeng chimed in. "Gaolang hasn't landed a clean hit on him since the knockdown."
"I'm not saying it doesn't work
, just that it sucks
"A win's a win," said Arashiyama Jurota. "Yuko, waza-azari, ippon, all that matters is what's on the scoreboard."
"We're still going to give him shit for it, though, right?" Liu asked.
"It's not gonna work," Carlos suddenly chimed in from his spot against the railing. "Keep watching."
Watch, they did. Slowly, imperceptibly to the untrained eye, Gaolang was closing the distance. Clean thrusts became glancing blows as he seemingly nailed down Yumigahama's bizarre timing, and the mounting leg kicks were adding critical milliseconds to Yumigahama's side- and backsteps.
What team members were actually invested in the outcome drew a collective breath as Yumigahama bit on a feint, giving Gaolang a clean shot at his head, then let it out as the big man's rear hand carved a divot out of Gaolang's forehead.
Before Gaolang could react to the sudden shift in style, a spear thrust to the solar plexus knocked him back, once more giving Yumigahama room to operate.
"Kamijo-style spearmanship at long range, Kokuji dual-sword style at medium range, constant movement to keep him out of short range," Lolong said by way of explanation. "More strategic than I'd expected out of you, Yumigahama."
"He's gotten faster at switching between styles, too. And he's targeting Gaolang's face to speed up the bleeding and affect his vision," Terashi said with a nod.
"Still not gonna work," Carlos insisted. "You should've stopped him from going out."
"Why isn't it..." Liu began as Lolong gave the slightest nod. His face curled into a pout. "...you're just going to tell me to keep watching, aren't you?"
Carlos' face matched the calavera on his shorts.
As he watched his bloodied foe wipe a fresh stream of blood from his eye, Yumigahama snuck a glance at Kanoh Agito, hoping to savor the inevitable frustration on the robotic bastard's face. Instead, he found the ghost of a grin.
Before he could puzzle that out, Gaolang's face filled his field of vision, having slipped past the initial spear thrust. Yumigahama brought his knuckles up for another gouge and prepared to backstep.
His subconscious mind kept his feet where they were, and as Gaolang loaded up his right hand, Yumigahama realized he'd run out of room.
Pure instinct allowed him to partially slip the incoming cross, and even the glancing impact felt less like a human punch and more like a sledgehammer. Up came his swords, only to crash harmlessly against Gaolang's guard as the Thai champion stepped past their minimum effective range.
Yumigahama had failed to properly understand that punches weren't the true treasure of Gaolang's boxing experience.
Blending traditional Muay Thai with boxing was nothing new; Dutch kickboxers had turned it into an art form years ago. What made Gaolang's Muay Thai such a unique and fearsome hybrid was his incorporation of boxing footwork into the traditionally static Thai style.
The massive ring was far more difficult to cut off than the traditional squared circle, but with the damage Gaolang had inflicted to Yumigahama's lead leg, he'd managed it.
Just as Yumigahama had planned.
His grin grew feral as he wrapped his massive arms around the oncoming destroyer's upper body. The first elbow had instilled a deep disinterest in lower-body takedowns, but he didn't need them. Instead, he went for a recently purloined technique: a bokh throw. With Naidan's shout of "YOU PIECE OF SHIT
" ringing in his ears, he turned to heave Gaolang out of the ring.
The Thai God of War didn't budge.
"You didn't forget that Muay Thai isn't just strikes, did you?" he said with utter disdain.
Gaolang's hands snapped around the back of Yumigahama's head, his forearms resting on his collarbones. With a jerk and a foot sweep, he forced Yumigahama to stumble, then drove a tamping iron of a knee into his midsection.
Yumigahama retched, tasting blood. The second knee caught him in the face. Something cracked loud enough to drown out the announcers' explanations of Thai clinch fighting.
Yumigahama's back muscles showed through his loose shirt as he desperately straightened up, only for an elbow to catch him on the jaw. He instinctively ducked back down, where another knee was waiting.
On one side: a rock. On the other: a hard place. Everything in between: on fire. Yumigahama was spiraling.
It takes a certain amount of self-deception to maintain one's confidence in the aftermath of defeat, and Yumigahama's five losses under Purgatory's banner had turned him into an expert. A small part of his mind flailed for an excuse, any excuse, to explain away the ongoing mauling.
A bigger part smashed those thoughts into the dirt, driven to a frenzy by the desperate circumstances. His hands, previously trying and failing to prevent the onslaught of bony meteors, grabbed Gaolang's head in return. He reared back, over 130 kilograms of feral colossus preparing to drive his forehead into Gaolang's shredded mess of a face.
Afterwards, spectators compared the sound to a gunshot.
Gaolang Wongsawat lowered his knee from the grotesque indentation it had left in Yumigahama's face, driven by both his own strength and the diverted momentum of the Traitor Fang's desperate headbutt. He released his grip and let the limp mountain of muscle crash to the ground.
was your final move? Do you even know who my rival is?"
The world exploded into noise, louder than any three of his title defenses put together. Even then, he could hear Saw Paing's distinctive howl rise above it. Shiina Alisa's unnecessary count was lost in the cacophony.
"I'll admit," said Gaolang, mentally acknowledging the absurdity of speaking to an unconscious man, "I was angry on Kanoh's and Misasa's behalf at first, but I am glad you decided to face me. It would have been terrible to waste a Fang on the likes of you."
"AND IT'S OVER! YOUR WINNER IS GAOLANG WONGSAWAT!"