(At night in an old, sparsely-populated arcade, two nights after the first round of ULTRATITLE Bracket 2. Leyenda de Ocho, unmasked, sits in a stool near several oldschool arcade games. On a nearby TV, a replay of the Round 1 matches is showing. Ocho places a handful of quarters into a Galaga machine.)
Ocho: “You know, I have a lot of history with this old thing.”
(Ocho selects the High Score screen; the top ten numbers all have the initials LDO next to them.)
Ocho: “It's a game that really resonates with me...it's a constant, never-ending struggle where even the best players in the world eventually succumb to an inevitable defeat. The goal is simple on its surface; survive, advance, take out everyone you can...but no matter what, at some point, your imperfect humanity shines through, a mistake gets made, and you're left with nothing but a score and a GAME OVER. It teaches focus, it teaches mental fortitude; it's a game that says no matter how good you are, you can always get better.
And it's a game, Orphan, that reveals an even bigger truth; even the great will fall. And that includes you.”
(Ocho watches as Orphan's match against Space God begins. He reaches into a black duffle bag at his feet, removing a pitch black mask featuring a pixelated space ship on the back. He puts it on just as Orphan rams his foot through Space God's brain.)
Ocho: "I must have watched this match a dozen times by now. I've heard that punt over and over again, and it makes me smile at the parallels this old arcade game has to ULTRATITLE."
(Ocho begins playing Galaga as subsequent matches begin to unfold on the TV in the background, mostly one-sided and uninteresting to Ocho.)
Ocho: "One of the strangest things I've ever seen. Clearly, a Space God in name only.
Space God didn’t know what I know. You can NEVER. STOP. GOING. You take your eye off the prize for a second, and you're done. This game is too hard to waste that kind of time.
(A few minutes pass as Ocho plays through several early levels of Galaga. Eventually, the TV begins its replay of his first round match against "The Canadian Wolf" Alex LeBlanc. Ocho pauses the machine for a moment as he watches the match.)
Ocho: "Listen to that crowd. LeBlanc and I fought a war, and it was one of the closest, most hard-fought matches of the tournament.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Orphan: All I do is go. Once that bell rings you won't EVER catch me staring at the lights, leaving that massive opening to get taken out.
(As Ocho's first round match continues on the TV, he resumes playing Galaga. Several levels in, the sound of a "Boss Galaga" resonates from the machine. Ocho allows the Boss Galaga to capture his ship.)
Ocho: "Have you seen this trick? Watch:"
(Using his next life, he quickly frees the captured ship with two well-placed shots to the boss. As a result, he wields twice the firepower.)
Ocho: "Do you get it? Just when people think I'm down and out, I come back twice as hard. I get that focus, I get that momentum on my side. Before you know it, I'm scoring point after point on you.
I know EXACTLY what I need to do to beat you.
One mistake, and I’ll end your game. I did it to LeBlanc, and I tore the house down doing it. It's a feeling even better than the one I get when I put up high score after high score on a game I dominate.
I'm more than happy to make sure the same thing happens to you.
You think you fought a Space God before? Get ready to fight something better - a man who isn't afraid, a man who won't get distracted, a man who knows that beating the first level is meaningless.
(Ocho nods towards the Galaga machine.)
Ocho: "This game never stops, Orphan. And neither do I."
Welcome to the Almasy Estate, Orphan/Seymour Almasy’s overly fancy and tongue-in-cheek name for his New York City apartment. With All-Star Championship Wrestling being a company that hadn’t run an American show in several years, the apartment hadn’t seen a whole lot of use since Almasy’s return to the promotion at Legends V.
The ULTRATITLE Tournament, though, changed that. Centered in America as it was, the Spirit of ACW was forced to fly from Tokyo, Japan, to the States to compete, and now was but a day or two away from a trans-Pacific flight back to Singapore to compete on the next edition of ACW’s Courage.
Hey, no one said winning the ULTRATITLE would be simple, did they?
Sprawled out on what could only be the bed of the master bedroom of the Estate were the three members of the Party, Orphan’s erstwhile fanclub. Chihiro, Julia, and Jennifer’s attention were focused on the fifty-two inch television on the far end of the room, set, of course, to ESEN.
Having just finished watching the Galaga stylings of one Leyenda de Ocho, the three wrestling fans were left somewhat conflicted as to their thoughts.
“Does he really think he can beat our Seymour by playing that really old shoot-em-up?”
That question, though, sort of seemed to sum up the Party’s reaction to Ocho’s arcade jam session.
“I don’t know, Julia,” Chihiro replied, face scrunching up in concentration, “but considering our Seymour basically based his entire wrestling career up until 2011 on being an RPG hero, it can’t be that silly, can it?”
“I guess not,” Jennifer offered, sounding more than a bit skeptical. “I don’t think the metaphor’s apt, though. Especially because you can’t pull off the trick where you connect your two ships in a wrestling tournament. Once you lose your first life, you’re done.”
“Unless your name is Sean Stevens,” Julia chimed in, proudly, and Chihiro couldn’t stifle the chuckle that followed. “But I think you’re right, overall. You only get one shot.”
“He’s still sort of right anyway, you know,” a voice said, firmly, as the door open, revealing the man known to the wrestling world as Orphan. Without the red facepaint and the “CHOOSE HATE” hoodie that he wore to combat on so many occasions, he looked a Hell of a lot less like the overbearing, arrogant fal’Cie that ACW knew and hated and a Hell of a lot more like a guy in his early thirties enjoying the company of his closest confidants.
“Anyone can lose if they make one single, damning mistake, so it’s all about minimizing those mistakes. That’s what tournaments are all about. That’s why I’m drawn to them, and always have been.”
The memories filled his mind unbidden, thoughts and moments in time that jumped to the fore when the word “tournament” was said. His first ever major victory over Kayna “Roulette” Trielle, all the way back in 2003. His subsequent victory in the PTC Cruiserweight Tournament over Karina Wolfenden.
Not all of them were pleasant, though. He just as emotionally recalled being squished flat by Kimbusa in GTT6, and being nearly retired at the hands of Terrence Kingsley the following year. Tournaments had given him more highs and lows than he could count, but such things made him feel…alive.
Considering All-Star Championship Wrestling had nearly killed him, he would take even negative memories as confirmation that he was still here, still competing.
“I have competed in tournaments practically since I started wrestling, way back in 2003. I’ve been in tournaments for titles within a company, inter-promotional titles, bragging rights…you name it, I’ve likely competed for it, over the years. I’ve won some and lost some, but no one can deny that I’m good at this whole tournament thing…no matter what I choose to call myself.”
The three young women nodded. They knew the score, of course; being stark raving fangirls meant that the trio had a nearly encyclopedic (and frightening, even Seymour had to admit sometimes) memory of his career.
“So you heard what Leyenda had to say,” Julia asked, to which the fal’Cie nodded firmly.
“Of course I did. You think I’d miss it?” Orphan clucked his tongue at her in mock reproach. “One learns much from the words of their opponent. Their frame of mind. What they think about the contest. How confident they are. It tells things that no scouting tape can ever reveal.”
“And what did you learn about our old-school luchador,” Jennifer asked, leaning a bit closer. As the only member of the Party being actively trained for the ring by Orphan, she had a more vested interest than the other two girls in the tricks of the trade.
“A lot of things,” the Spirit of ACW said, a trace of sadness creeping into his voice. “He’s fearless, for one. My reputation means nothing to him – as well it shouldn’t. All it takes is three seconds, and Dan Ryan and Sean Stevens falling in the first round proves that point. Anything and everything can happen under the bright lights, particularly in a tournament against a guy you’ve never wrestled before.”
“He’s focused. He says he won’t make a mistake – it’s not that easy, of course, but it’s hard not to believe that HE believes he won’t, if that makes any sense. He’s not going to be nervous. He’s not going to be in awe. He’s going to come for my scalp. 110% percent.”
The Spirit of ACW cracked his knuckles, and nodded his head, a small smile playing at the corner of his mouth.
“Not that I’d have it any other way, of course. Though his line of thinking about me is a bit flawed, but that’s to be expected.”
“Flawed,” Julia asked, as she draped an arm across the former Final Fantasy’s shoulder. Of the group, she was easily the most prone to public (and private) displays of affection that sometimes drove the fal’Cie (and the others, to be fair) nuts.
“His theory is that he can end me if I make a single mistake. It’s not an awful theory, because, Hell, sometimes it works. He planted LeBlanc in the middle of the ring with that knee to the head and the corkscrew Asai moonsault. Pretty as a picture. One, two, three. All well and good. One problem, though?”
The smile on the face of the Spirit of ACW deepened, to creepy proportions. Even in private, it seemed, the Orphan was never too far away from the surface, just waiting to come out given half of a chance.
“What happens when I kick out of it? What does he do then, when he realizes that the killblow that felled Alex LeBlanc just wasn’t good enough to get the job done?”
Seymour Almasy or Orphan, regardless of identity, loved to kick out of an opponent’s best shot. His tenacity had been his calling card in the sport for years, even moreso than his aerial stylings, or even his former wacky RPG oriented gimmick.
“That, my dear Party, is when mistakes get made. And that’s not a slight against him – I have kicked out of the most devastating weapons this sport has to offer, over the years. Khristain Keller’s painKILLA. Alias’ A-Bomb. Rook Black’s Gauntlet Backhand. The list goes on and on, with names and moves you may or may not have heard of, but the bottom line is simple: whatever you call me, I am a triple-tough hard-headed son of a submariner who is too Yevon-damned stupid to stay down.”
The fal'Cie had the injury list to prove it, too.
“That’s what you can’t prepare for in the ring, Jennifer, because I’ve been there. I’ve been there when I hit my move of the moment on someone and they kicked out at the last second. I know what that feels like. It is a sinking feeling that takes over your whole body until you snap out of it. But that’s just it – I KNOW what it feels like. If Leyenda survives Merciless Judgment, he will be the third man to do so. And I know how to deal with that problem. I back up, and I punt him in the skull again.”
Closing his eyes, it was easy for Orphan to envision it. Leyenda de Ocho, on the canvas, trying to pull himself back up one more time, to pull off the upset of a lifetime…
…and then snuffing it out with a sprinting punt to the temple. The sort of blow that no man came back from. The sort of thing that sent you to a physician for a brain scan and concussion testing.
“And again, and again, until he does not stand up anymore. That is how you win in tournaments.”
No sooner had the words left his mouth than Orphan winced, his face contorting in horror. He could see the image clearly – almost too clearly. Could see himself punting Leyenda’s head damn near off his shoulders.
One thing was readily clear – the Spirit of ACW didn’t like what he saw.
“No,” he groaned. “He doesn’t deserve this, damnit. Not like me! NOT THAT!”
The Orphan’s eyes opened, to find three very confused and very concerned looking Party members staring at him. His cheeks flushed pink from embarrassment, as he struggled to find a way to explain what the Hell was going on in his head.
As was becoming more and more common these days, as he fought to destroy ACW to save its competitors, he found himself unable to explain his thoughts in a logical manner.
“I’m sorry, everyone,” he forced out, clearly wanting to get away from the situation as soon as possible. “I’m getting carried away again. I just…I need a few moments. I’ll be back soon.”
Orphan retreated, shaking his head back and forth, as if a mental image was trapped there that he couldn’t quite erase. The three girls looked at one another, concern written all over their faces, and silently, they came to their usual conclusion.
Jennifer rose to follow him. Of the three women, she was the closest to Seymour, if only simply because she was being trained for the squared circle by him. They spent the most time together.
Orphan heard her following, the soft sounds of her footsteps impossibly loud in his ears. Stifling a sigh, he slowed, allowing her to catch up and walk alongside him.
“Should’ve known better than to think I’d get away that easy,” he offered, with a wry shake of his head.
“Damn right,” she replied, following a half-step behind as Orphan made his way through the small apartment, in the direction of the kitchen. “Now spill. What’s up? Why’d you freak out like that?”
He said nothing at first as he watched, clutching at his head, and continuing to shake it back and forth.
“My head hurts,” Orphan said, quietly, before forging ahead. “I look at that kid, and I can’t help but see a young guy who started out over a decade ago. Fresh-faced. Enthusiastic. Confident. Ready to take the world by storm.”
As the former two-time ACW World Champion rummaged through one of the kitchen’s cabinets to find a bottle of Advil, Jennifer looked at him, and asked the obvious question.
“You see yourself, don’t you?”
“It’s like looking in a mirror, Jen,” Orphan replied, almost instantly. “Not exactly, of course – he plays a lot more platformers and shooters than I ever did, but let’s look at it objectively. He’s about my size and height. He likes to fly around the ring. His sense of morality was dictated to him by video games. I can’t help it. We come from the same background. I feel a kinship with him.”
If this fact pleased the Spirit of ACW, though, the expression on his face didn’t betray that fact one single iota.
“That’s wonderful, then,” Jennifer beamed. “It’s so nice to see that you’ll be able to have a nice, honorable battle away from all of the craziness in ACW.”
Were it possible, he looked even more uncomfortable at that proclamation than he already did. Orphan shook his head firmly from side to side as he stooped to pick up the bottle of extra-strength Advil, poured four out into his hand, and downed them with no liquid to chase.
And as Seym—no, Orphan turned back to face her, there was a wicked gleam in his eye that she’d seen more times in the past four horrible months than she cared to remember.
“Actually, no, Jennifer,” he whispered, a sorrow in his voice that penetrated her to the marrow, “it means I’m going to have to cripple the poor kid.”
(Very late at night. Leyenda de Ocho spent the entire evening playing the same Galaga machine in the same oldschool arcade, eventually closing out the establishment. It was far from the first time Ocho had done this.
The cool night revealed a clear sky full of stars. Ocho soaked in the majestic evening as he walked the empty moonlit streets back to his standard-issue low-budget motel. Entering his mostly-bare dark room, he locked the door and turned on his television; Ocho was not done gaming.
It was at this point that Ocho decided to unpack his old SNES system; hardware that most people wouldn't bother packing, but one of several pieces of machinery Ocho rarely travels without. When Ocho travels, an entire suitcase is routinely filled with his SNES, NES, Game Boy, and stacks of game cartridges. Heavy, yes. Practical, no, but a constant source of comfort and guidance when Ocho finds himself in new parts of the country, alone.
Flipping through the stack of games he brought with him on this trip, he pauses and selects a game he hadn't played in years - the 90's cult classic, Earthbound. Cracking open a Sprite bottle, he begins to play in the dark.
Earthbound was different than most other games, in that it was a game Ocho didn't routinely dominate. He started up a save file that had been preserved on the cartridge in the many years since he last played Earthbound, which was roughly 3/4 of the way through the game.
Earthbound is a game that takes a long time to complete; despite being mostly done, the ending chapters were a multi-hour adventure. Ocho felt his eyes grow heavy; by now it had to be past 4am. He didn't quite complete the game; in fact, he had just reached the beginning of the final boss battle, when exhaustion overwhelmed him and he fell asleep. The screen remained on all night, frozen on this image:
It haunted his dreams. The horrifying reverberation of emptiness in the music, the ghastly sight.
Morning. As the sun pierced through his window and flashed across his masked eyes, he was startled to see the television screen.
Ocho stared at it for what seemed like a mild eternity. The lightbulb clicked in his brain. Epiphany.)
Ocho: "All along, I had viewed ULTRATITLE as a single-minded quest...a mission that could be accomplished simply by pushing forward and never giving up. I never once thought that I would face a crossroads moment like this.
(A long pause. Ocho looks over at the mostly-full Sprite bottle that spent the night next to him; his plan for pulling an all-nighter foiled by a lack of soda consumption. He points to the screen.)
Ocho: "Orphan, you...you are this. You are Giygas in the flesh. In this moment, a reflection of myself...
...but only one possible reflection.
I've taken the same path to start my career, my journey into this career where men and women put their lives on the line on a nightly basis, as you did. Just like you back then, these games are my dojo. Our road to enlightenment, in 8 or 16 bits.
And then...you changed. Something happened to you along the way, and you became the man you are today; no longer Seymour Almasy, now only Orphan.
You've accomplished so much...the titles, the iconic moments in wrestling history...there is no question, your accolades are truly impressive.
But at what cost? The joy I find every day in these games, the joy I know you used to find...you've replaced it with something dark. Something...unwholesome.
I have a decision to make, right here and right now."
(Ocho pauses, a stoic expression across his usually-cheerful face.)
Ocho: "I see you standing before me. The path you've forged has bestowed upon you undeniable success...and yet, you have become a distortion. A bastardized caricature of a man that has completely unplugged itself from true humanity.
Is it better to end up like you?"
(Ocho closes his eyes. He sees a vision of himself facing a nameless, faceless opponent in a wrestling ring, surrounded by pitch black. He rams Shining Wizard knees through the man's skull; 6, 8, 12 times. He opens his eyes and shakes his head vigorously as his heart fills with a righteous fury.)
The man you are will never define the man I will become."
(Ocho picks up the controller and begins Earthbound's final battle. He unloads literally everything he has; first, at Giygas's puppet, Pokey, until Giygas' true form is revealed; an open chasm of bestial hatred and unfathomable sadness. Ocho's face betrays a look of concern and empathy.)
Ocho: "It must be so hard to be you, Orphan. To feel that emptiness...that poison that courses your veins, which forces you to surround yourself with a harem of slave-like women who bow to your every whim as your mind has lost all control. The validation you're forced to manufacture, the vacant hole where your heart once was...
You may feel pity for me, and it may be genuine. But the truth is, Orphan...I feel even more pity for you. I cannot fathom the pain and the hurt you must have gone through to become...you."
(Orphan's face continues to show concern as he defeats the second portion of Giygas, done by throwing everything AND the kitchen sink at him. He now faces the final stage of the boss battle.
The third form of Giygas...which can only be defeated by prayer.)
Ocho: "Maybe this doesn't have to be the end for you, Orphan.
I hope to all that is holy that you can find the unrequited joy of games that you once had, that I feel now. The lessons are still there - your heart just needs to be truly open.
But until then..."
(The prayer-fest in Earthbound continues, round after round after round. The damage stacks heavier and heavier as the people of the world unite in their desire to banish this evil from their world.)
Ocho: "I will do what I have to do. I must. For ULTRATITLE...for me. I will strike you down where you stand with the unquenchable fire in my heart.
And I can only hope...after that bell rings, your shoulders pinned to the mat...you'll find yourself in me once again. Find that shred of goodness you once had. Become the hero you used to be.
Because you need to realize..."
(Ocho presses A on his controller one last time, unleashing the final overwhelming prayer that utterly destroys Giygas, removing all traces of his wretched presence from the earth.)
Ocho: "In the end...good always triumphs over evil."
(Ocho, still wearing his Galaga mask, reaches for his overstuffed black duffel bag. Sifting through dozens of pairs of wrestling tights, he decides upon the pair he will wear in his match; silver, with the visages of Ness, Paula, Jeff and Poo down the outside. He turns off the SNES and television as he walks out the door, resolute, making his way to the arena for his epic confrontation.)
As the camera fades in, the only thing that is visible on the television screens of ESEN viewers the world over is the painted face of the Spirit of ACW, one Orphan. With a black background behind him, the fal’Cie appears not from the Almasy Estate, but rather from a television studio in Greensboro, North Carolina.
ORPHAN: Welcome, Leyenda. You are a man enthralled by the eight and sixteen bit adventures that dotted our childhood, but when it comes to “old school” in what we do, THIS is Atari 2600. Just you, me, and a camera, Leyenda. I will not lie, I hate doing this. I never liked it, I never have, but this is important to me, so I’m going to kick it old school for a little bit, because there is a lot I need to say to you before my conscience is clear with what’s going to happen in a few days as we do battle in Round Two.
His eyes are bloodshot, a clear sign that he hasn’t slept well for several days. His posture is threatening and aggressive. Though Leyenda de Ocho is thousands of miles away, it feels to the fal’Cie as if he is right next to him.
ORPHAN: First and foremost, I am more than willing to stand here and treat you with respect, and I still will, but you have pushed a button that you have no business pushing. You want to call my Party slaves, Leyenda?
His eyes flash with rage, with the sort of hatred that it takes most men effort to summon up.
For Orphan, that hatred is the reality of his everyday life.
ORPHAN: Those three women are my FANS. MY BEST FRIENDS, YOU SON OF A *****! When the entire world abandoned me, they alone stayed. I would do ANYTHING for them! And if they willed it, for the slight you have committed against them, I would rend you limb from limb in the middle of that ring. I would stretch you in ways that your young mind cannot comprehend. But I will not, because they understand, Leyenda.
His voice almost cracks on the word “understand,” pain in his words that only he can comprehend.
ORPHAN: They know what it is like to be you, my diminutive luchador, because they understand what it is like to be me, or rather, what it WAS like to be me, back when my name was Seymour Almasy and I was considered Primetime Central’s franchise player. ACW’s World Champion. One of the best wrestlers in the world.
He shakes his head, letting it fall into his hands as if trying to deny the memories as being pleasant in the slightest.
ORPHAN: …a hero. A good guy.
It’s almost impossible for even the man himself to imagine, in spite of spending almost a decade as Almasy and a scant few months as Orphan.
ORPHAN: My legal name is Seymour Almasy. I had it changed from Jason Seymour Wilson back in aught five. My nickname was “The Final Fantasy” – you might have played the first few games in the series, given that it was on Nintendo and Super Nintendo until Sony snapped SquareSoft up, but as usual, I digress. My inspiration was the heroes of roleplaying lore. Men like Cloud Strife, Squall Leonhart, Crono…there’s one you might know. Link, though I wasn’t a huge Nintendo fanboy. White Mage? That’s old school enough for you, right?
Love of the game has never left the Spirit of ACW. Even today, Orphan spends a good deal of his time playing the games he loves, but the man who stands outside the arena has been irrevocably blackened by that which occurred to him inside of it.
ORPHAN: We’re the same size roughly. Similar height. Similar weight. Were this a few years back, we’d have a similar penchant for flippy moves. It’s funny. It feels almost like I’m fighting an alternate universe of myself, back when I started on this long, crazy adventure to become a professional wrestler in 2003 as a dropout of Penn State University. In a different world, you and I could well be partners, fighting our way to the top of a promotion together as sworn brothers.
Just the thought of that is enough to make the tears begin to flow. In that moment, Orphan imagines a universe in which his hand had not been forced. A world in which he still fought the fight millions around the world wanted him to.
If only for a moment, it is a truly pleasant fantasy.
ORPHAN: The truth is, my luchador friend? I’m a little jealous of you. Because we can both walk to that ring and put on a clinic, but only one of us, win or lose, can go back to the locker-room and be completely comfortable with who they are. I am Orphaned because All-Star Championship Wrestling decided to cast me aside as a relic of a bygone era. I look into the eyes of my Party every single week as I commit yet another atrocity, yet another sin, yet another action that I should not, and I see the pain there. The frustration. The sorrow, Leyenda. I know that I’m causing them pain, and it tears me up inside! But there is no other way. Seymour Almasy cannot exist in professional wrestling, because Seymour Almasy got taken advantage of, time and time again.
The fal’Cie’s red face paint streaks from tears streaming down his face. The memories are still there, still fresh, and in truth, they define Orphan far more than his Party, an alliance with Keith Scott Zimmerman, or a penchant for punting people in the skull.
ORPHAN: I was you, Leyenda, and like you, I thought that good would always triumph over evil. It seemed true; after all, I defeated virtually everyone in my path. I slayed villains, vanquished giants, and did whatever I could to fight the good fight. And I’ll give you credit; it worked for a good long while. And then, Leyenda, I met Khristain Keller. I met SilverHAWK, the owner of ACW. And then, my masked friend, I knew true evil.
He can see the faces of both men. He will see them until the day he dies, and if things continue as they are, he might well see them while burning in the fires of Hell.
ORPHAN: True evil isn’t the caricatures that you see in the video games we play so much. Very, VERY few people are utterly irredeemable. No, many of those we consider evil have simply been wronged so much that they decide to take matters into their own hands. Khristain Keller left me for dead in a straitjacket the night I was scheduled to make the biggest title defense of my life. He was sponsored in that action by the man in charge of ACW. THE MAN IN CHARGE! And yet, when I was gone, ACW prospered. ACW grew. ACW rose to its formerly lofty pedestal. And to many, Leyenda de Ocho, that justified their actions.
The Orphan breaks up utterly, sobbing as if at a funeral – appropriate, as this feels like nothing short of a eulogy of the man who he once was, delivered by the man who he has become.
Once, he thought Seymour Almasy and Orphan two sides of the same coin.
Now, he doubts the Final Fantasy will ever return.
And for that, he will never forgive the sport he loves.
ORPHAN: But that isn’t how it works. Good people can still do bad things. SilverHAWK made a bad choice that day. He’s dead now, and quite frankly? I’ll never forgive him for taking two years of my career. But he wasn’t otherwise a bad man, just a man turned evil by his desire to make ACW the biggest professional wrestling company on Earth.
The message is clear. There is no good. There is no evil. There is naught but a world of grey.
ORPHAN: So too is it with me, Leyenda de Ocho. I make no apologies for what I am, a twisted, fallen hero who wants to save this profession from itself. I am a man who wants to ensure that no other professional wrestler is broken as I am, injured and beaten and spat upon with actions that do not belong in our noble profession. That’s why punting Khristain Keller in the head isn’t enough. That’s why I can’t just excise one evil, because two more rise up in their place. I walk to the ring every night with three blaring red buttons at ringside in the form of my Party. I will allow NO HARM to come to them. And if that means that I have to prove night in and night out that to **** with them is to court horrific, nuclear retaliation? So be it.
The Party flashes in his mind’s eye, and just the thought of harm befalling them is enough to make the sobs that soak through his words cause more hitches.
ORPHAN: You can claim good always triumphs over evil, but all you have to do is look out the window to see that to be an utter fallacy. Dozens of oligarchs of industry make billions of dollars, while hundreds of thousands starve on the streets of every city in America, to say nothing of the rest of the world! The only place where good wins is fiction, and even THERE today people want to read bad endings, because good winning is just ever so passé. And believe me, Leyenda, I know your pain. I know how much that hurts, because I fought that my entire career. I fought my heart out as my opponents were cheered because they looked cooler than me, or had a tougher name, or said the word “f---“ more times than I did. And I accepted their scorn. I looked the other way. I did the good and just thing to do, and I felt like a...failure.
By the time Orphan has wiped the freshest tears from his eyes, his face paint is virtually gone; Orphan blended into Seymour Almasy and back again. Seymorphan, whatever one wishes to call him, is all that remains, an undeniably talented competitor driven to extremes by the depths of despair.
ORPHAN: I am not an evil man, Leyenda. I do evil things, maybe, but my goals are pure. I want to make this sport safe for people like you. I want to win the ULTRATITLE and use it to bring about true change in this profession. I don’t want people like Castor Strife taking up bounties to break people’s necks and end their livelihoods. I WILL BURN IN THE FIRES OF HADES IF I RETIRE BEFORE I MAKE THIS BUSINESS SAFE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF DREAMERS! EVERY TIME I LOOK IN A LOCKER ROOM AND SEE A NEW KID, I KNOW IT’S ONLY A FEW YEARS BEFORE WRESTLING SKULLF---S HIM INTO SUBMISSION!
His friends, to a man, all fell to the dark side at some point or another. Andy Sharp. Christopher Sheffield. Keith Scott Zimmerman. All of them. Not a single one spared.
ORPHAN: And it’s not your fault, Leyenda, I know. You’re one of the few good ones. One of the few genuinely compassionate souls who calls this lunacy a profession. But you stand here in the way of my noble dream. You stand in the way of me annihilating the cancerous tumors from what we do for a living. I need the ULTRATITLE, and you are coming to the ring to do everything in your power to prevent me from getting it to achieve your own dream. For that, I will not hesitate: I will cut you down with everything in my power. I will ensure that Goliath beats David. I will have achieved one more victory on my grim march to the ULTRATITLE. And then, when it is all over? I will shake your hand, because I UNDERSTAND YOU. It is not a luxury I extend to many these days, my respect, but you deserve it.
A small smile crosses his face, as if proud that he’s still capable of such sentiments in spite of his horrific suffering.
ORPHAN: You said that you pitied me, Leyenda. I appreciate the sentiment, but I do not need your pity. Instead, it is you who needs my pity, because you blindly wander on towards the abyss with pluck and a slingshot, ready to take on anything and everything with your “aw shucks” and “Oh Gosh, I just know I can win this!” attitude. I have a flash of reality for you, and it is one that I wish to Yevon someone had shown me years ago.
The mocking in his voice fades away, because he knows that Ocho believes it. Believes every word, and in the end, the Orphan cannot bring himself to truly mock a man after his own former heart.
ORPHAN: Because I know how this story goes, Leyenda! I know the beginning, the middle, and the end! I know what it means to be a noble man in the most ignoble business that there is, how it feels to suffer week in and week out because you bind yourself to a morality that the rest of this sadistic bloodsport pisses on. I know what it is to stand utterly alone because EVERYTHING ELSE IS GONE! I would not wish that fate upon my worst enemy, let alone a man in whom I see myself.
Not even Khristain Keller, the man whom he hates more than any left alive on this Earth, would he damn to such a fate.
ORPHAN: You are Leyenda de Ocho, yes, but under that mask, you have a face. You have a name. You have a family, a mother and a father who love you. Perhaps you have a girlfriend, a fiancée, or a wife. Perhaps you even have children. You have a life, Leyenda. You have an OPTION! You have a CHOICE! I have no options and no choices. All I have remaining in this world is professional wrestling and my Party, because I have had every single other thing in this world that I have ever loved ripped from my bloodied, helpless hands.
His lips move, but no words are audible. Careful lip readers can make out “Grandfather” and “Laura” amidst what otherwise appears to be borderline psychotic babble.
ORPHAN: I don’t want to hurt you, but I have to. Because I owe it to you, to an Orphan who still has his family, to prevent the fate that befell me from befalling you. Don’t worry; I won’t cripple you too badly. I’ll break an arm, maybe. Or a leg. Or give you one of those concussions that forces you to re-evaluate your choice of livelihood. There’s a lot of scary research out there these days, after all.
Madness reigns in his eyes to some, but to others, there is but a frightening lucidity, a pureness of intent (if not of means) that has plagued All-Star Championship Wrestling’s fan base since the rebirth of one of the few genuinely good people in the company’s star-crossed history as one of its most hated yet justifiable villains.
ORPHAN: There’s still time, Leyenda. Still time for you to leave this tournament and this sport. Time for you to flee back to your loved ones, as I wish I’d done a hundred-thousand times over the past five years. Get out of the ULTRATITLE Tournament. Get out of the so-called sport of kings.
The last three words were tinged with such venom that one might have imagined them to be hateful curses or ethnic slurs.
ORPHAN: But if you must insist on doing battle…I’m right here, Ocho. I will not shrink from your honorable challenge. If you want to be the ULTRATITLE’s hero, if you want to be the man who saves that belt from being held by a pariah of one of the largest wrestling companies in the world, if you want to save it from being held hostage for and used for my own selfish ambitions…all you have to do is beat me. Pin my shoulders to the mat for three seconds. Make me submit. Beat me so badly that I cannot return to the ring within a ten count. Get me disqualified. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?
Through tear-blurry eyes and a face covered in streaked makeup, the Orphan looks confident. Ready. Focused on the terrible mission that is “saving” a man by destroying his livelihood.
ORPHAN: Considering your penchant for the eight-bit classics, though, I’m sure you’re well aware that it is the simplest challenges in concept that prove the most exasperatingly difficult. Your dreams are on a road to Heaven, but I assure you, after our battle, you will wish I was an enemy beatable by something as flimsy and foolish as human prayer. Though the multitudes in attendance will cheer you, their prayers will count for nothing, I PROMISE you that. And when it’s all said and done, and your dreams, your hopes, your silly prayers all are for naught, don’t blame me, Leyenda. Blame yourself.
The final words of the fal’Cie were calm, softly-spoken, yet delivered with an intensity that made them seem a solemn vow.
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