Foreword: Music selection is below. Do note that you don't have to listen to the songs, but they're what I listened to as I was writing it.
Before The Fight: Rurouni Kenshin - The Wars of the Last Wolves
Overall: The Matrix - Battle Scene Music or Clubbed to Death
Flashback 1/2: Trigun - Not An Angel
Flashback 3/Afterward: Papa Roach - Take Me
Towards the end: Rocky - Eye of the Tiger
Prologue: Past Dealings IV
"Now arriving, our first competitor, the man with 49 first round knock-outs to his name, the man whose name singlehandedly dominated the Eastern half of this tournament... He's a son of the South, raised up in New York, bred from the Heartland and wilder than anything out West..."
"Ya can say my name now..."
The crowds roared on all sides, the robe came off and his shell went with it, just as exactly half of the arena lit up. Ever the smooth entertainer with the heart of gold, the purple-and-pink haired boxer raised one gloved fist and gave a slick, almost flirty little smirk to the crowd, at least half of them being women, and the other half not caring either way. Janet, ever the one most obsessed with clothing, took the robe and hurried down off the apron, blowing a quick kiss to the audience as she did so.
"And his opponent..."
Slowly, with a charisma that could only be defined as sloppy and appealing all at once, Chibodee turned back around to face his still-shadowed opponent, idly chewing on one of the countless thinly grown reeds that were a part of his trademark.
"Knock 'em dead, champ," Cath whispered into his ear as the crowds started to die down in anticipation, almost seeming to forget Chibodee as if he hadn't even entered the ring yet. With that, the Spanish woman turned to the crowd, sauntered off by a step or three and repeated the actions of Janet, blowing a kiss to everything in sight. With that, she simply jumped down to the floor, landing on high-heeled feet with a grace that would've made a professional dancer weep.
"Another true symbol of the American dream - reborn as it is now..."
"Good luck out there," Bunny whispered into his other ear, then spun around with one hand clinging to the top rope for balance, then doing the same as Cath and Janet by blowing a kiss to the crowd before hopping down from the apron. She didn't have Cath's balance and grace, but she managed well enough.
"Born and bred in Mexico, moved to the States at an early age, he started training as a martial artist and never looked back. He's considered the fastest fighter of the tournament so far, and one of the toughest, with grappling techniques that no man ever managed to escape. He is a symbol! Of our great nation's heritage, and came out of nowhere to be the favorite for this year's finals..."
There were a few tense seconds as Shirley waltzed up behind him, standing next to the turnbuckle and placing both hands onto his shoulders. From there, she just squeezed.
"Give it up, for Nicolas HERNANDEZ!"
The arena went black for less than a second, and then the lights started patterning on and off in a line over the crowds, almost like a visual whirlwind, closing in rapidly until the lights over the remaining half of the ring came on. The man standing there held none of Chibodee's charisma and charm, but instead held the appearance of some kind of finely chiselled god. He was easily close to a head taller than Chibodee, putting him over the roof of 6'7" that almost all of his previous opponents had been, wearing the fist and ankle wraps of a kickboxer with a pair of black gi pants of a typical karate practitioner. His hair was short but messy, with a black shine to it that complimented the naturally dark tone of his skin, every muscle seeming to stand at full, taut attention.
And then there were the eyes.
Those dark brown eyes, narrowed with an air of menace that had probably done more damage to his previous opponents than his fists or feet combined. They were complimented by a face so perfect that it almost made Chibodee's own support crew swoon, every single line and angle perfectly defined by the one after it.
"This ain't gonna be a cakewalk," he thought to himself, putting on the air of nonchalance that had saved him at least once through this tournament.
"Just remember that any giant can be chopped down," Shirley commented, then stepped down from the apron without the showgirl attitude of the other members of Chibodee's crew. Her words hadn't even fully registered in his ears by the time the announcer finished his spiel about how the only rules were to stop when the other guy went down for the count and to avoid taking things outside, along with the use of 'foriegn objects,' like knives, guns, sledge hammers...
Everything else was pretty much up in the air. This tournament wasn't for amateurs.
"Ready..." The announcer waited to continue, making it a point to get the hell out of the ring as the referee climbed in. Almost at the same time, Chibodee and Nicolas left their respective corners, meeting halfway at the center of the ring for a time honored tradition that had played itself out all over the world and in every colony before any professional bout - trash talk.
"I'm going to break you, redneck," Nicolas stated about as bluntly as a baseball bat, with a look to match. He ignored how Chibodee was already starting to bounce up and down in the traditional boxer's strut.
"Can't break the dream, greasebag," Crocket shot back with a smirk.
Hernandez slid back one step and arched down into a conventional kickboxing stance, middle of the road and utterly unreadable. Chibodee replied in kind, seeming to hover back by a single step and then coming to an absolute stop, his gloved hands coming up defensively and the reed between his lips dropping down to the floor. The crowds went silent, the announcer waited, and kept waiting until the moment was just right, and their anxiety for the start had hit its peak.
The bell rang and the lights over the crowd and around the ring went completely dim. The eyes of both a nation and the colony that ruled it were watching as the fight began.
"Here we go!" Chibodee shouted, but Nicolas was all business.
Cold sweat blew into the air as the kickboxer threw the first blow of the match, Chibodee sidestepped on a fluke and used one arm to keep the punch at bay and stop it short of turning into a hook. His other fist went into an opening round cross. Nicolas took the blow in kind, but only barely. Like a dancer, he twisted out of the way on impact, the skin of his cheek threatening to go numb from the near-miss as he pulled a complete 360, his closest foot slinging up towards Chibodee's head.
The world rattled in slow motion, the purple headed boxer's teeth felt loosened from the blow and his feet lost their place in a stumble. Nicolas slipped back into an upright stance like water, promptly lunging forward again with a loud yell, one fist drawn back...
"You look so handsome!" She stated with all the enthusiasm of a young single mother, a smile as big and bright as the sun flashing across her face as she fixed the collar of his suit.
"I think I look dumb," her son, a boy around the age of five or six, with dark blue hair and big green eyes replied. Considering that he was wearing loafers, shin-high socks, green shorts and a matching jacket with a red bow tie at his throat, one could easily see why he thought as much.
"Oh, you do not," she countered. A few more seconds went by as she smoothed out his hair, though a few errant locks still curved upward despite her best effort. "I'll bet money that all the little girls there will just be fawning over you."
"You know that's embarrassing to me..."
"Alright, alright," she soothed, standing up straight at the door.
"I still don't get why you made dress up like this," he complained, reaching out to take his mother's hand as she opened the door.
"You'll see, now come on or we might be late!"
"Late for what?" Chibodee sputtered as the two of them began to half walk, half jog their way down to the barely functioning elevator of the worn down apartment building they called home.
"It's a surprise," she answered with a smile as they came to a stop inside. The button for the bottom floor was pressed, and the old steel doors began to slide shut.
A punch whistled through the air and hit nothing, the sweat literally flying off of Hernandez' fist as Chibodee's instincts kicked in. Without even seeing the attack coming, he ducked under it, stepped back and to the side and straightened up. Nicolas recovered again without even seeming to miss a beat, planting one foot onto the mat and slinging the other in a roundhouse kick, the momentum from his punch only adding to his speed and balance.
An ankle crashed into a gloved backhand and Nicolas stumbled forward, catching himself on the ropes and straightening up while Chibodee lowered his hands to his sides and began to regain his rhythm.
"I definately underestimated you," the boxer commented mockingly, using his steady floating motions to get some distance between himself and Hernandez. "I won't make that mistake again," he pointed out, slinging his fists up and gritting his teeth. Nicolas simply sneered and backed away along the ropes, both men starting to circle each other in a bid to gain some sort of upper hand.
Lights flashed all around them, the announcers glorified their first clash and the crowds cheered, yet even under the watchful eyes of an entire nation and the colony that ruled it, neither man paid anything else the slightest bit of attention.
"We're here," she announced with no small amount of pride as she finally loosened her grip on his hand. It was a sunny day out, brighter than it had been in months, and hot too, with only an occasional breeze to lessen it all...
But the moment he realized what she had meant, young Chibodee Crocket's eyes widened to the size of silver dollars. All of the sudden, it really didn't matter if it was hot, nor did it matter that they had walked for almost a half an hour to get here either. As if in slow motion, his mother could see his lips widening and opening into a curled smile that threatened to breach the sides of his face and poke right into his ears.
It was probably the happiest she had ever seen him, since his father had left.
"The circus! This is the surprise?!" He shouted out in awe, all but bouncing as his grip on her hand tightened to the brink of bruising her.
"Yes, it is. We're gonna buy all-day passes, get some hot dogs and icecream-"
"I wanna see the elephants!" Chibodee blurted out. "And the clowns and the acrobats and the magicians and the lions and the tigers and the Farris Wheel and-and-and-and-" The boy stumbled and trailed off as he set his eyes onto a balloon stand. Fidgeting briefly, he glanced up to his mother and waited, chewing on his bottom lip in the meantime.
"And get balloons," she finished with another radiant smile.
With that, Chibodee finally let go, running off towards the stand with his mother in tow...
There was a blur of movement, twice at once, and Hernandez stumbled back in shock with a fresh bruise across his right cheek while Chibodee juked over to the right. It had been a classic feint - left jab, right hook - done at speeds that would make an ordinary boxer's head spin, but it had only been the start.
Without even waiting for Nicolas to recover or mount a counter-attack, even as cameras across the arena belatedly flickered in an all too late bid to catch what had just happened, Chibodee went back on the attack. Floating in like one of the professionals of old, he ducked down and narrowly ended up avoiding a spinning elbow-into-a-backhand combination, only to lash out in kind and score a solid uppercut into Nicolas' chin.
The Mexican-American man stumbled back again, bleeding from the mouth before hitting his back into the ropes. Chibodee again closed and-
Promptly got a facefull of both feet when Nicolas wrapped his arms in the ropes and jumped back, using them for leverage into a standing dropkick. In an instant, momentum shifted and it was Chibodee's turn to stumble back and away, but by the time he finished recovering, Hernandez had done the same. Both men didn't even bother giving each other the once over or setting up any kind of defense as they charged in - Chibodee still all but floating and Hernandez doing what looked like a cross between dancing and speed walking.
Another clash followed. Chibodee threw the first punches once again, but Nicolas countered, swatting most of them aside with such speed that it left Crocket's hands sore even through his gloves, while Hernandez' arms started turning a rather sickly shade of purple about half-way. Finally though, Nicolas slipped in a fast-one, dropping down beneath one of Chibodee's punches and using a sidekick to sweep out the shorter man's legs near the knee. Chibodee didn't even have time to blink before he was flat on his back, but with the skills of a boxer and a wrestler at once, he was already starting to roll away-
But Hernandez still caught him.
All but diving onto Chibodee's upper body as the man was rolling onto his side to try and spring back up, Nicolas quickly managed to grapple the shorter man's left arm before twisting it around behind his back. Chibodee let out a grunt and went to try and free himself, but before he could finish slinging out an elbow into the nearest part of Nicolas' body, Hernandez had caught it and put it in the same position as his left.
"Crap," Chibodee managed to think while both of his arms were being wrenched this way and that. He might have known a bit of wrestling, but this level of grappling was completely beyond him and-
And Nicolas was standing up, his arms almost positioned so that his hands were clutching Chibodee's wrists, but leveraged against his shoulder blades from beneath either of Crocket's arms. It was a confusing hold, and one that became infinitely more painful in the seconds that it took for Nicolas to literally fling Chibodee up into the air, holding him in place so that he was not only upside down, but promptly left to drop back down on Hernandez' shoulder.
Five rows back, they could still hear Chibodee's spine cracking.
"Give up!" Nicolas ordered, lifting Chibodee's upper body a bit. "Give up now, or I'll break your neck!"
His legs were starting to go numb. It was a triumph that he wasn't screaming his lungs out, as opposed to the way he was grinding his teeth and biting back teeths from what felt like a career ending injury waiting to happen.
"Give up, Crocket!"
Two balloons later, the boy was all but running frantically for the three ringed circus tent, cackling jubilantly with his mother in tow. He had lost his own balloon by now, children have a tendency to have slippery fingers at times, but his mother's had been an adequate replacement... Barring the fact that it was pink, of course.
Soon enough though, Chibodee and his mother had made it into the tent and claimed some of the very best seats inside, literally racing another family to it in the process. With balloon in hand, he had watched the clown car - the start of the performance - pull up near. One by one, the performers filed out into view, literally popping out of windows, from the roof, even the hood and trunk, and with each one, Chibodee was left laughing his head off without ever noticing the seemingly fake machine guns that each clown had in hand.
It was going to be a show he would never forget...
And the crowd and announcer were audible. His had focus shattered in the instant it took for him to actually register them again.
"... Looks like Crocket is on the receiving end of what Nicolas calls the Butterfly Breaker! The same move he used to end the careers-"
"Shut 'em out," he ordered himself, trying to literally pull himself free as his legs started kicking again.
"... To do... Can he escape it?!" The announcer asked, while half the crowd started booing and the other started cheering themselves into a frenzy.
"Have it your way," Hernandez whispered while Chibodee tried to blindly kick him or hook his feet into something.
The balloon popped.
With that, Nicolas took a few steps forward, heading for the center of the ring in spite of the flailing, kicking mass on his shoulder. Even so, he was lifting Chibodee a bit higher, putting ever more stress on the boxer's shoulders and arms, not to mention giving him a better chance of delivering that one kick to the spine that he knew would make Hernandez drop him...
After all, nothing was inescapable.
Chaos followed. Somewhere along the way, someone had shoved him and Chibodee went flying over the edge of the stands. For a good ten feet, he tumbled and finally crashed, luckily avoiding a broken neck by the merit of flipping onto his backsomewhere along the way. Without even opening his eyes, the boy had hurled himself up to his feet, almost unphased by the fall and the push before it...
Something whistled overhead, he heard his mother screaming and felt something warm splatter into his hair from behind and-
And something thumped into the dirt just a few feet away.
Without even looking to see what had just happened, Chibodee broke into a blind run - away from the stands, and away from the chaos they were consumed by as bullets continued whistling overhead.
An arm came flying out of nowhere, and Chibodee was blindly swept up from the ground before being brought to someone's chest. Flailing, kicking and screaming, he refused to open his eyes, even as the deafening roar of gunfire continued blaring through his ears.
Nicolas' Breaker was close enough.
"MOMMY! MOMMY, HELP!" Chibodee screamed out, worming one arm free and reaching out for... Something.
The only response he got when he opened his eyes was the point blank view of a cackling clown's malignant face, followed with an even louder scream than the gunfire.
Chibodee's view of the world shifted so rapidly that it all became nothing but a lightning quick blur of color and an inaudible drum of sound. Nicolas had yanked him down from his shoulder so swiftly that he didn't even have the chance to steel himself for what he knew was coming, and then-
Chibodee came to a bone shattering halt as Nicolas dropped into a kneel and pulled him straight down to the point that the taller man's knee slammed into Crocket's spine like a solid steel hammer. As the world went into slow motion, Chibodee felt the way his shoulderblades and spine all bent for several hundredths of a second around Hernandez' knee. It was all so violent that the announcer instantly ran out of words and several people in the crowd fainted, while the sound of the blow all but rang out through the air as if it were the bell being rung.
The last thing he saw as Nicolas let his arms go was the view of the girls.
Gunfire and laughter continued, and in the middle of it all, a puny little boy with dark blue hair was left to do nothing more than burst into tears as all Hell broke loose.
Cath and Janet were crying hysterically, Bunny had fainted and Shirley looked on the verge of throwing up.
After that, the world might as well have gone pitch black as Chibodee Crocket was dropped down, first onto his head, then onto his stomach. A second later, his legs finally hit the floor, and all he could see was the mat beneath him.
Nicolas, on the other hand, guiltlessly stood up and walked back to his corner to await the ten count.
Some time later, maybe a few days or a few weeks, he had been sitting in a waiting room while his new foster parent signed a set of documents to verify things. A normal child would've undoubtedly been thrilled at the prospect of a new home, but Chibodee Crocket, the boy who'd lived through a massacre where even his hostage takers had been shot to death by a police SWAT team, wasn't thrilled at all. A psychologist had diagnosed him as having some sort of post traumatic stress syndrome, triggered almost instantly to varying degrees by contact with clowns, and it was probably going to stay with him for the rest of his life...
And that was one of the lesser traumas he'd gone through.
His mother was dead, his father had never shown himself to claim custody, he had no grandparents, aunts or uncles and no godparents that he actually knew of. No-one to take him in but the faceless state and the sickeningly sweet foster parent who'd offered him a new home. One that promised to be so sterile that he'd likely be better off in a mental institute.
Staring at the floor in a pair of jeans and an old t-shirt that had been uncovered in his mother's belongings, Chibodee knew that he had been deprived of a better life. His mother, according to what he'd heard slip from the news, had managed to buy tickets to the Colony, even a small apartment waiting for them to move into. He would have finally been able to live in a better off neighborhood, with nice people for a change...
People who weren't urban terrorists waiting to happen.
The men in clown suits had stolen it all from him, and now his new foster parent was going to do even worse by keeping him here...
"I'd... I'd rather live in the streets," he muttered out, only to have a realization dawn upon him as he did so...
"... Is he... Is he dead?"
He knew that he would have to run away, if he ever wanted to be free of the memories of what had happened. It wasn't a realization out of maturity or immaturity either, merely a base instinct manifesting itself as the simplest choice he would ever make.
"... God, is he dead?"
Without a word, without a second thought or even the slightest of doubts that he would succeed, Chibodee flung himself down from the hard plastic chair and walked over to the door. No-one was there to stop him as he reached up to the knob on tip-toes and gave it a turn before making his way out into the hallway.
From there, he turned to the nearest door marked exit, started running and never looked back.
Every jaw in the entire arena may as well have dropped down and shattered on the floor at the very instant that he began to twitch and spasm his way into rolling over, breathing so hard that his lungs felt as though they were on fire. His eyes opened to a blurred view of the ceiling before he managed to shift his gaze over to where he knew Hernandez was standing. The taller man was leaned back against the turnbuckles, arms hanging limply across the ropes, jaw sagging open and face screwed into a look that closely resembled a deer caught in the headlights of a speeding truck.
After a few seconds though, he spoke, and for the first time, Chibodee realized something.
Nicolas Hernandez was utterly terrified of him.
"I broke you..."
That realization alone made him laugh, even though it hurt just to breathe anymore. Almost as bitterly as a pair of age old rivals, the two locked eyes, and that was when Chibodee spoke right back to him.
"Can't break the dream, pal," he rasped out with a smile before bringing his hands up to either side of his head.
The pain simply ceased to matter anymore from there, as his entire body curled inward towards his chest. Knees threatened to hit his shoulders, and in all of a split second, Chibodee Crocket sprang back up from the mat so quickly that one could almost hear a whistle in the air. When it was all over, his boots smacked down onto the floor so forcefully that the entire arena might as well have shaken, and bit by bit, he could feel the momentum shifting.
Even if he couldn't feel his legs in the process.
"This one's for you, ma," an older Chibodee, around thirteen or fourteen, muttered to himself as he dipped a bit of pink hair dye into his bangs before his first professional fight.
His feet knew what to do, even if he didn't know whether or not he could tell them to do it. With a numb sting through his bones, he registered himself starting to jive up and down, the rhythm all but flooding back into his body in the process.
"... HE ACTUALLY GOT UP! HE'S ON HIS FEET!" The announcer belatedly shrieked out, causing virtually every single person in the crowd, regardless of who they had initially supported, to burst into a cheer that borderlined fanaticism.
"Wanna try that again?" Chibodee asked, drawing his arms up as Nicolas stared at him.
For several seconds, bar Chibodee's juking and jiving, neither man moved even an inch from where they stood.
"... You're a madman," Nicolas sputtered out before finally drawing himself out of his corner and approaching - more hesitantly this time than ever before.
Fifteen seconds later, there was a crack like a baseball bat scoring the winning home run. A gust of wind shot through the arena and it was all over. It had started when Hernandez threw a single punch. Chibodee had sidestepped so quickly that he had almost blurred out of sight all together, and then, he'd delivered a haymaker so fierce that his glove had actually exploded on contact with Nicolas' already bruised right cheek. The blow had sent the latino man flying back several inches off the ground, crashing back-first into the same corner he'd just been standing in so forcefully that it bent outwairds and finally leaving him to slump down onto his knees against the ropes before falling over, completely unconscious and bleeding severely all over the right side of his face.
The ensuing roar of the crowd was more deafening than any gunshot he had ever heard, and as his rhythm slowly died away, his legs began to feel more and more like jelly because of it.
"I... I think it's safe... To say that this one's over with..." The announcer sputtered out as the girls flooded into the ring and all but propped Chibodee up a split second before his legs gave out completely. Half of them looked ready to kill him where he was hanging, the other half looked ready to have his children on the spot, but none of them said anything. Even Shirley was smiling from ear to ear with a grin that could've blinded a man in broad daylight.
"The winner of the Thirteenth Gundam Qualification Tournament, as a result of one of the single most dramatic comebacks I think we'll ever see..."
"This one's for you, ma..."
Author's Note: Sweet Baby Jesus did this one ever take me a long-ass time to pound out o.O;;; A few days over a YEAR... That's the single longest it's ever taken me to update anything. Ever x.x;
That said, a few things. First off, I know Chibodee apparently had the pink in his hair long before he turned thirteen, but to me, it seemed more probable for him to dye it the way he did. Secondly, sorry if anything seemed rushed at all(even if it took a year to write all of this -.-; ). This chapter alone went through two-dozen rewrites, half as many deletes and probably even more minor edits before Nicolas finally showed up and beat me into finding a proper way to write it...
And speaking of Nicolas: He's a one-shot character, unfortunately. The sad part is that I enjoyed writing him pretty well, especially since it was nice to really present a straight-up, no-holds-barred CHALLENGE to one of these guys... One that didn't exist in a 55 foot tall war machine.
That all out the way, assuming anyone is even paying attention still, I'll try to be quicker about the updates from now on, but no promises.
Sh33p out, folks.