There was tension in the air at the Basin City Arena that afternoon. It was a little more than a month after the start of school and the Battle Network had announced a very special event, Kazumi Exhibition Day. Two Back-to-Back exhibitions that people were looking forward to: Daisuke Takahata vs. Hitomi Arakida, followed by Renka Kazumi vs. Kisara Kazumi. Tickets sold out almost immediately and there was quite the buzz inside the arena.
Kit and Ayano, along with Perrin, Renka, and Kisara were all waiting in the back room, Daisuke and Hitomi were due to fight first and they had gone off to their own rooms to prepare. “Why are there so many people here?” Kit asked the others after a few minutes.
“These things always draw lots of fans, not all of them even care who’s here, I mean some people just want to see a good fight, and with the card they have lined up today a good fight is almost guaranteed,” Kisara shrugged. She was getting psyched up herself Kit could tell, she was quieter than usual, and so was Renka.
“I hate it when they give us time to prepare for these fights, that’s the hardest part. I mean I can beat people up in a challenge just fine because I don’t have any thoughts of it in advance,” Renka chimed in nervously.
“Don’t worry Sis, I’ll have you suckin’ on the mat in no time, then you can spend a few seconds in dreamland,” Kisara old her.
“Just like you have the last 20-some times already?” Renka threw back at her.
“Girls,” Perrin interjected. “Save it for the ring.”
“Where do we sit?” Ayano asked him after a moment.
“They’ll have a special bullpen for us on the ground level, you’ll be able to see the whole thing up close, nobody closer, except of course for the ref,” Perrin explained to her.
“I thought you said they use mechanical refs?” Kit asked him.
“They do most of the time, but in special events or sanctioned tournaments they call in both a technical ref and a live ref, the tech team can call the fight at any time, as can the visible ref we have, in this case the camera will be floating around to get all the action, but it won’t serve as the only official in the bout,” Perrin answered him. “Jaxon is going to have a hell of a time covering this today, if I had to wager they’ll have multiple cameras circling the action.”
“We should get ready to take our seats, I’m sure everybody is hyped enough by now, and the announcer is going to call us out soon enough,” Kisara declared as she stood up. Both her and her sister were especially tense as they started to head out. They walked down a large tunnel and waited behind a curtain, that lead out to the arena floor.
“When we get out there it’ll be pretty bright, but it’ll be loud. Since we’re all sitting in a place of honor they’ll probably cheer for us. Kisara and Renka have done this a thousand times, they just have to smile and wave, but since nobody will know who you are Kit, I don’t recommend you do the same, it’ll come across as conceited. I’ll of course take part in the pomp of this whole charade as is expected of me. While people will be cheering for us, Kit, I had you dress in the uniform today for a reason, I want people to know that you’re one of our fighters, they’re going to have to get used to seeing you, and you’re going to have to get used to being seen. Don’t do the whole smile and wave thing, but don’t put your head down either, this is people’s first look at you and if you show to overtly how afraid you are then the sharks will begin to circle... just try to relax. Walk with your head up, maybe survey the arena for yourself so you can get your first taste of how it’s all done. Ayano, you can act however you want, but remember, once we are out in front of the crowd that all eyes are going to be on us,” Perrin instructed the newcomers as they waited.
“How exactly am I supposed to relax knowing all that?” Kit asked him nervously.
“Well... try not to faint on me, that’s both embarrassing and rather difficult to come back from,” Perrin laughed after a moment. “Oh, that’s right, girl’s you’re supposed to wear a preview of your merchandise during this fight, so just slide those on and unzip your jackets at least until we get down to our seats,” Perrin reminded the girl’s at the last minute. “They’ll call us down one at a time, just wait here until they say your name, except for you Ayano, you can go with Kit since you’re not going to be a fighter, odds are they’ll announce you both at the same time anyway,” Perrin seemed to remember at the very end.
Knowing that he wouldn’t have anybody to hide behind made Kit nervous, he could hear the babble of thousands of voices on the other side of the curtain, it was so loud he wondered how they could all hear their own conversations. Then it happened, most of the lights went dark on the other side of the curtain, he could see a small column of light.
“If we could have your attention,” a small man said into a microphone as he stood in the ring, right beneath that bright light then he cleared his voice. “Welcome to this Battle Network Special Event, the Kazumi Dojo Exhibition Day. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for coming out to see us, or for tuning in to your local Battle Network station. Now, allow me introduce to you our guests of honor for this evening.” he said in a very grandiose voice.
At the same time another person came around the corner and spoke to just the four of them, Kit could see her lips moving but it was so loud outside the curtain that he couldn’t hear what she said.
“What’d she say?” Kit asked as he cupped his hand up to Kisara’s ear.
“Perrin is going first, then Renka, then me, and you’ll be brought out last, she’ll give you the signal when it’s time for you to head out,” Kisara answered in the same way. Then the other three lined up in the same order, after a second Kit figured out what they were doing and took his place in line. The young lady waited a few moments for the announcer to finish his opening greeting before she pointed one finger at Perrin and then swept it in an arc so it pointed through the curtain.
She held the left hand of the curtain back so that they could watch. Perrin entered out to a Ukelele strumming out a carefree tune, he put one of his thick arms up in the air and waved casually as he put one hand in his pocket, he kept one hand up at all times as he waved on his way down the ramp. A slew of camera flashes could be seen going off as Perrin took to the stage, it looked almost like the cameras were doing the wave, with a few going off from time to time in between. When he reached the end of the tunnel the woman signaled to Renka to head on out.
A different song came on just as Renka made the stage. She did waved with both hands and blew kisses enthusiastically as she headed down to the ring, her song was mostly acoustic with some classical instruments to it, but it had a pop sound, and while he could hear there were words, he couldn’t make them out, it had a female singer using a soft voice. Again the string of flashes went off to greet Renka. Then came Kisara’s song was a little different from her sisters, it was a piano accompanying a female voice, her couldn’t understand the words, but then there came an electric guitar as well. She too was met by a barrage of flashes in the crowd. As the first three went out he could hear the chants of “PER-RIN”, “REN-KA”, or “KI-SA-RA” respectively as each stepped out, but underlying all if it was an equally impressive buzz of “KA-ZU-MI”. Then Kisara was at the bottom of the ramp.
All of a sudden Kit had this sense of vertigo, like the floor was pitching between his feet. He saw the attendant point to him and then to the curtain, but he couldn’t make sense of it, he didn’t understand. Then the ground stopped pitching, he felt like he was frozen in place. The attendant looked out to the announcer and rubbed her thumb, index, and middle fingers together, followed by tapping with her forefinger on her wrist. She hadn’t done that with the others, Kit heard a low drone of words coming from the loudspeaker, but he couldn’t make them out. The attendant placed one hand on his upper arm and started to pull him forward. His addled mind couldn’t understand what was happening, he looked down at Ayano with this befuddled look. She took him by the hand and pulled him forward. “Head up, walk proud,” his sister told him. With that it was like the floor rushed out from under his feet and he was floating with only his little sister tethering him to the floor. He walked out into the light and had to put a hand up to keep the spotlight from blinding him. He didn’t see the same string of flashes the others had, though there were a few that went off.
After his eyes adjusted to the spotlight he looked around at the crowd, some of them were just looking at him with stunned looks, others looked to be jeering him, but he couldn’t hear, and others still were chanting something with three syllables. After scanning a bit of the crowd he saw a giant screen with his slack-jawed face on it, one hand up to block out the spotlight, Ayano was striding beside him waving and smiling happily. Kit shook his head and suddenly he understood what was happening, all the sounds came crashing down on him at once. He was drowned in a wave of strange music and booing and people shouting. He kept moving, the general feeling his return from befuddlement lent to him was that he was not particularly popular with this crowd. He tried to hide his fear by looking straight ahead and keeping his head up as best he could.
After what felt like ages he finally reached the end of the ramp and the spotlight was off of him. He felt exhausted as he sat in the special seating area just for the members of the dojo, it was a large box with a glass wall and door in front under the bottom row of seating, Kit looked around and saw several similar boxes circling the ring below where the public seating was located. “Are you going to be ok?” Perrin asked him cautiously. He noticed that the drone of the crowd was substantially dampened by the walls. There was a small bathroom, and in the back of the room there was a little buffet table set out with food and drinks for them to eat.
“That was surreal!” Kit answered him emphatically.
“Are you hungry? Feel free to eat, I remember my first time doing that I felt exhausted when I finally got to the end of it, but my first time was in a tournament. Kit took his advice and took a roll off of the buffet table. As Kit looked around the ring at the occupants of the other boxes like his he found that most of them were wearing suits or fancy clothes and sat with others in their box, some had ladies wearing fancy dresses.
“Why did all those people boo me... did I do something wrong?” Kit asked them. After a second he understood why, even if he had been introduced as a fighter he was still a hybrid.
“Their words were unbecoming, and insult them as much as you,” Perrin told him.
“But they really like you guys,” Kit told them as he tried to act positive.
“We’ve been fighting for years, if you’d been announced any place else you would have been met with a good deal of uncertainty, but they would have welcomed you, as they should have here. Fighters who have been outside of Basin City are usually better about that sort of thing, and the fans from those places will cheer for you the same as any other,” Perrin continued, he had this rather frustrated look to his face.
“Don’t worry elder, they’ll see soon enough,” Renka told him softly.
“Once Kit takes to the ring they won’t have any choice but to take notice,” Kisara added in.
“It will take time to make them understand, many have tried in the past,” Perrin answered dismissively as he kept his eyes ahead. After a moment he saw the announcer retake the stage in the center.
“Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls, Children of all ages, joining us tonight, both here live in the Battle Network Arena in Basin City and in living rooms around the world, it is time for our MAIN EVENT. At this time it is my pleasure to introduce to you our contenders. First, hailing from the Badlands, he is a FIVE TIME master’s division WORLD CHAMPION, DAISUKEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE TAKAHAAAAATAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” the announcer called out over the stereo speakers in their box. He added as much pomp as he could to it all, but to Kit he just looked like he was making a fool of himself. As he was announced Daisuke took to the top of the ramp, there was the sound of what sounded like a drill squad sounding off and a chorus saying the word “Bum” rhythmically.
As his first master came out Kit could tell he was fired up on the inside, like Kit had never seen him before, there was this visceral energy to the air that he charged it with, he held his right hand up over his head proudly, with only his index finger extended, then he jumped into the air and made like he was throwing it down as there was a series of deafening roars as a vast pyrotechnic display announced his arrival. Daisuke flexed once or twice on the way down, when he did he would stop walking, flex, and then give this big beaming smile like he was more and more impressed with himself each time, oddly Kit thought he just might be. He could feel all of the Megalomania going straight to Daisuke’s head, and in effect out into the atmosphere, as far as Daisuke cared, he was the most important thing in the universe. It showed in his crowd too, people cheered loudly for him, the men were all rowdy, but there were enough women that seemed smitten with Daisuke here.
Daisuke shadow boxed for a few seconds in the center of the ring as people cheered his name, but then he backed out of the spotlight as the announcer was once again ready to get started. After a few moments the crowd died down in expectation.
“And his opponent, She is the REIGNING master’s division WORLD CHAMPION, fighting out of the Ice Fields of the western continent, HITOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMIIIIIIIIIIIIII ARAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDAAAAAAA!” the announcer introduced his second master.
In stark contrast to the high energy entrance of Daisuke, Hitomi seemed almost understated, she was every bit as intense and focused as Daisuke had been, but he didn’t get this feeling of energy, her music was soothing to listen to. Her face was as unreadable as ever, she stopped at the top of the ramp to survey the crowd, but it was an almost dismissive gesture for her, then she gracefully loped down to the ring before bowing respectfully in each direction.
With that the introductions were over, the referee now stood in the ring with the combatants as they faced each other. To Kit it looked like they were staring each other down, they were so focused on what was to come that he couldn’t find any trace of familiarity between them, he realized that once they stepped into the ring they stopped being friends and became competitors.
When the ref approached the two of them walked to the center of the floor. “They don’t have an outline for the ring,” Kit pointed out to Perrin, he just laughed.
“The ring is everything inside the ring of booths, they can even use the glass walls, it used to be the Network encouraged it because they were having trouble selling these boxes, and by using the wall they could get the high dollar fans up close to the competitors. The glass is like... 3 inches thick so they don’t have to worry too much about it shattering,” Perrin explained.
“Alright, I want a clean fight, no biting, no eye gouging, no hitting embarrassing places.
When it’s over it’s over. Black, understood?” the ref’s voice could be heard over the speakers as he looked over to Daisuke. Daisuke nodded surely. “White and black, understood?” he asked as he turned to Hitomi. She nodded once. “Alright, if there are no questions, shakes hands,” he instructed. The two clenched each other and shook once as the ref took a step back, both of his hands in front of him. “Both of you back up,” he commanded them as he stepped forward again, they both followed his instructions. He put his left hand out in front of him with his right held behind his back. “Get it on!” he told them as his right hand shot forward to clap his left and then instantly jerked back to where it was.
Surprisingly Hitomi went on the offense almost as soon as the fight started, she took one big step toward Daisuke as he did the same, instead of closing in more she lashed out with a high kick using her right foot, Daisuke had just enough time to duck under it as he advanced, however she snapped her foot back with a heel kick forcing him to back off of his advance. Daisuke backed off a step to reconsider his strategy.
Hitomi advanced after him, but he made her check her speed by snapping off a quick low kick that hit with a loud slap, no real damage. Perrin just snorted humorously off to one side. “This is going to be interesting,” he said as he shook his head.
“What?” Kit asked him after a moment.
“They’ve both chosen their strategies for now. Hitomi is going to try and keep him out of his arm’s reach, because it’s harder to grapple using your legs in a standing position, and since he has longer arms she has to use her legs, while at the same time Daisuke is going to try and wear her down and punish her as he goes. Hitomi will have the advantage if Daisuke isn’t patient or she switches her plan, but Daisuke will take the advantage if she waits too long or he changes,” Perrin pointed out.
As he spoke Daisuke was taking a step forward, and this time Hitomi let him, as he came forward she also stepped forward, when he tried to strike she did this weird arcing move and flung an elbow toward the back of his head, Daisuke ducked it at the last second, he slid his leg behind one of hers, brought one of his arms out to crook around her chest and then rotated so that he forced her onto the ground with her back to him. It took Kit a second to process all that had happened. Hitomi had her in-stepping foot had been sideways or slanted, so when Daisuke had tried to strike she lifted her rear foot and snapped her body into alignment with her foot, trying to score an elbow in the process, but Daisuke had followed through with the stance change of his punch yet recoiled his arm, he then used his extended leg as a fulcrum behind her knee and his arm as a lever to force her over it, since her leg couldn’t bend she was taken down and then he simply reeled her in so that her back was to him.
Hitomi reacted quickly, pulling her other foot in and immediately returning to a standing position. “Close, if she’d stayed on the ground for a second longer it’d be all but over. Daisuke’s going for a rear naked choke, on the ground he’d have wrapped his legs around her abdomen, rolled them onto their backs and waited for her to either tap out or pass out unless she came up with something big. Instead Hitomi both stood up and tucked her chin down so he couldn’t get the crook of his elbow around her neck, now she has a chance to counter, a standing choke is harder for him, especially since she’s leaning him forward, she has control over him in that way,” Perrin explained. As he said it Hitomi turned Daisuke’s crooked arm, she snapped her elbow up into his midsection 2-3 times before Daisuke let go and backed off.
Daisuke seemed a little frustrated that he’d come so close, but he didn’t hold onto it for long, and Hitomi didn’t seem to notice how close she’d come to losing, or maybe she just didn’t care. Kit looked up at the clock, they were playing it cautiously, so two whole minutes had already passed. They continued like that for a time, Hitomi trying to keep Daisuke outside of an optimal grappling distance by staying either out of reach or too close to grapple effectively, Daisuke always trying to take the fight to the ground.
Once or twice he had succeeded and at one point it looked like he was going to knock her out with a flying triangle choke, Hitomi had tried to him, but Daisuke had pushed her arm down so she was bent then lept into the hold. For a moment it looked like a done fight, but Hitomi had been focusing on his left ribs and when he put it in her right arm just struck him solidly two more times and Daisuke was forced to release the hold out of pain. When Daisuke got back to his feet he was cautious for a few moments, but the next time he went in with his left arm as a strike Hitomi crossed her arms in a weird way, when her hands flew out she grasped Daisuke by the wrist and at the same time her right arm bit back, her elbow slashing above his eye. Blood came streaming out of the wound.
“The fight’s over,” Perrin announced suddenly.
“I thought the fight only ended when one side was knocked out or submitted?” Kit asked him.
“He means that decided the winner, Daisuke will fight on, but it’s a lost cause. He can’t see out of his left eye, he’s going to drop his left arm a bit to cover for his damaged ribs, which means he’ll take a lot of hits to the left side of his face if he doesn’t cover them properly,” Kisara explained. Daisuke was squinting out of his left eye, like he was trying to clear it, but he didn’t follow her advice. Instead he held his hand in the same place, but he turned slightly never showing her the left side of his face.
“He’s smarter than that, he’s trying to buy time, but Hitomi learned something since the last time they fought that she’s going to use,” Perrin corrected her.
Hitomi feinted with her left and Daisuke flinched. She struck with her right, but Daisuke threw his hand in her way. Feinted with her left, he flinched, so she struck right again. Each time she hit him on his left side Daisuke turned to hide his weaker side more. Then it happened, Hitomi threw a feint with her left that Daisuke didn’t flinch from, then she wound up and let him have it with a quick strike, Daisuke didn’t even try to dodge or block it, it caught him on the right side of his jaw. Daisuke went down hard, he was on his knees with the front of his body propped up between his head and his right shoulder, and he was knocked out.
The fight was called instantly, the entire arena broke out in cheers. Even the people who had been for Daisuke seemed to be elated with the result. “His fans turned on him?” Kit asked Perrin.
“Then why do they cheer for his defeat?”
“It was a splendid move, and a good fight, they’re showing respect to both the winner, and also their support for their idol, even if he lost,” Perrin explained with a laugh.
“Why...” Kisara began in a befuddled voice.
“Why didn’t he block it?” Renka finished for a moment.
“It was on his strong side, but he didn’t even try to stop it,” Kisara clarified.
“I KNOW THIS ONE! I get why you could call the fight now,” Kit blurted out excitedly, almost astonished that he knew something the girl’s didn’t.
“Then I’ll let you explain it,” Perrin laughed.
“When Hitomi cut his eye she cut Daisuke’s field of vision, if he’d dropped his arm like Kisara suggested then she’d have just kept hammering the left side of his head, and if he didn’t she’d have nailed his ribs, when he turned his face she did as she did. she do as she did. The trick is in his eyes. We need both of our eyes for more than just depth perception, the eyes cover holes for each other. When one eye is closed it not only lowers our field of vision, but due to the way they’re constructed we have a small blind spot in each eye, in this case it is on the same side as the eye. The feints with her left were to see if he could see them. See in this case the mind just fills the incomplete information using reasoning and what it has available, each time she struck him on his left side Daisuke turned more to the left to hide his weak side, so she used those strikes to align him so that her left arm were in his blind spot. He didn’t block or dodge because he couldn’t see it... he didn’t know he needed to,” Kit explained to the girls.
Perrin demonstrated it for them by poking two small holes in one of the plaster walls, he then had them cover one eye, focus the other eye on the dot across their nose and move back and forth, eventually one dot would disappear from their vision, replaced by a complete wall. The girls were astonished.
After the lesson was over and the crowd had died down the announcer informed the crowd of a 30 minute intermission between fights.
“Go get ready for your fight, and good luck to both of you,” Perrin dismissed his two girls. After the girls left he turned to Kit. “Were you excited by the fight?” he asked.
“Of course I was, did you see it?” Kit asked him.
“I saw you clench your fists at the start of their fight, and they never unclenched. Believe it or not that’s a sign that you’ve taken the first steps to being like the rest of us. That sweat in your palms, that marks you as a martial artist,” Perrin told him.
“I... I didn’t know,” Kit answered him unsurely.
“Of course you didn’t, if you’d known that was a marker then that would have changed the test. Even though you knew that they were both far stronger than you were, you still wanted to fight, to test yourself against them, to show them your worth. Hold onto that and you’ll go far in the world of fighting,” Perrin told him solemnly. “What about you Ayano? Did you enjoy the fight? You were so still and quiet the whole time I almost forgot you were here,” Perrin said as he turned to her, but she was still sitting at the buffet table in back grabbing food.
“The fight’s over?” she asked in a surprised tone as she turned around. Half of the food in front of her was gone now. “I MISSED IT!” she said as her eyes closed in disappointment and she began flailing her arms in frustration.
“I’m sure they’ll have highlights of the fight later, eat as much as you like,” Perrin said as he shook his head in mock disappointment, Kit just stared at her in astonishment.
“HOW DID YOU EAT SO MUCH ALREADY? THE FIGHT ONLY TOOK FIFTEEN MINUTES!” he asked her in a shout, at first he seemed angry, but after she just shrugged her shoulders he couldn’t help but laugh.