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Dashing Tiger, Rainbow Dragon

By LmonE6
Created: 30th December 2021 06:33:24 AM
15th January 2022 01:04:00 PM

  1. ‘Shit, shit, SHIT!’
  2. >A certain rainbow-haired college student thought to herself as she dashed to-and-fro around her bedroom.
  3. >Hands slick with nervous sweat haphazardly tore through the layers of accumulated junk that obscured the carpet from view, grasping around in vain for something very important.
  4. >Old laundry, crusty instant meal packages, and disused novelties flew around in a maelstrom, rearranging the geography of the humble little apartment bedroom.
  5. >And still, nothing.
  6. >She bit her fist in frustration, glancing quickly at the cheap digital watch dangling from her wrist.
  7. 5:17 PM
  8. >The undercard would be starting in about 15 minutes.
  9. >Who was lined up for that tonight?
  10. >She swiped the crumpled promotional flyer off her bed and read it over again, ignoring her own name listed at the top in large bold letters.
  11. “’Flim and Flam’… ‘Riverside’… ‘No-Holds-Barred’… ‘Manehattan U vs Fillydelphia Tech’…‘Flash Sentry’?”
  12. >Flash Sentry…
  13. >They were seriously having that palooka idiot head her up? What in the world were the promoters thinking?
  14. >Lame.
  15. >That aside, though, there was no way he was getting a quick KO against anyone, and he could at least take a punch or two.
  16. >Which gave her, maybe…
  17. >30-ish minutes total?
  18. ‘God DAMMIT!’
  19. >Practically ripping her closet door off its hinges, she narrowly avoided getting crushed by the avalanche of boxes and still more old laundry that came tumbling out.
  20. >A small mushroom cloud of dust and cobwebs rose into the air in its wake.
  21. >Yeah, nah.
  22. >She’d last worn the damn thing two weeks ago, not ten years ago.
  23. >Coughing and waving some of the offending particles away with the flyer, she re-appraised her search, trying instead to forcibly remember where she’d last left the thing she was looking for.
  24. >Nothing was forthcoming no matter how hard she thought, however, and after a couple minutes of mulling her memory was still no more cooperative.
  25. >Past a certain point, she was just standing in the middle of her own little pigsty, fuming.
  26. >Arms crossed, foot tapping, and face screwed up in a frustrated little pout.
  27. >A pathetic look, as martial artists went.
  28. “Of all the friggin’ times…”
  29. >She mumbled to herself in a huff, glaring impotently at various sections of her room as if to make her missing garment suddenly appear out of thin air.
  30. >Did she actually NEED it?
  31. >No.
  32. >Really, as long as she was bound up nice and tight, any old t-shirt or tanktop would work perfectly fine.
  33. >But the top she was looking for was more than just concealment, it was part of her image.
  34. >Part of her legacy.
  35. >Without it, she was…
  36. >Well, she was just another punk getting into street fights.
  37. >Setting aside the fact that it looked totally awesome on her, of course.
  38. >Eventually, her glare fell onto the small duffel bag sitting on her bed, and she bit her lip.
  39. >...
  40. >There was no way.
  41. >Surely, she’d already checked it over at least three or so times, right?
  42. >She would unzip it, take everything she’d already packed out without finding what she was looking for, and then waste valuable time repacking.
  43. >She was almost certain of it.
  44. >And yet…
  45. >With a resigned sigh and a roll of her eyes, she waded through the sea of junk between her and the bag.
  46. >The crisp rip of the zipper had barely subsided as she started pulling out various items that she already knew she’d find.
  47. >Soft-soled cloth shoes (dark blue), check.
  48. >Close-fitting nylon pants (white), check.
  49. >Compression shorts (women’s medium), check.
  50. >Cotton undershirt (men’s XS), check.
  51. >Hand wraps (two count, four feet), check.
  52. >Roll of shrink wrap (12” X 1500’), check.
  53. >Water bottle (24oz, BPA-free), check.
  54. >Playfilly Magazine (October ‘85, Starswirl centerf-
  55. >Her cheeks turned a light shade of pink as she sighted the old softcore porn mag she’d lifted from a corner store ages ago.
  56. ‘How in the hell did THAT get there?’
  57. >Tossing the racy rag over her shoulder, she peered back into the bag, absolutely certain that she’d emptied it entirely.
  58. >In doing so, she caught a glimpse of something that very nearly made her faint – either out of relief or incredulousness.
  59. >A sliver of recognizably-colored fabric.
  60. >She couldn’t believe it.
  61. >The entire evening, almost ruined by a girly magazine blocking her view.
  62. >Slowly, with an uncharacteristically gentle touch, she reached in and pulled the garment from where it lay at the bottom of the bag, holding it at arm’s length and letting it unfurl.
  63. >Yep, that was it.
  64. >From the teen’s hands hung a light blue changshan with orangish-red lining.
  65. >The edges of the oriental jacket were lined with red piping, which on the front gave the impression of a bolt of crimson ripping through a clear, cloudless sky.
  66. >In stark contrast to the rest of her wardrobe, the garment was immaculately-kempt and of obviously high-quality make.
  67. >To the point where one might assume a humble inner city urchin like her had stolen it.
  68. >Flipping it over to view the back, the girl reveled for a moment in the real pièce de resistance of the garment.
  69. >Intricate line art of an eastern dragon, inlaid with an iridescent material to reflect all colors of the rainbow depending on perspective.
  70. >A bit flashy and glamorous for underground fighting?
  71. >Maybe.
  72. >But, again, that was the point.
  73. >As far as the youth was concerned, the simple urban brawls she was so fond of were elevated into something more every time she donned the ancestral garment.
  74. >They moved beyond simple spectacles of brutality and became epic struggles between the inheritors of centuries-old martial traditions.
  75. >On a more practical level, though, she’d built a pretty sick ring presence out of it.
  76. >A lot of fans would be disappointed if she showed up without it.
  77. >Glad to finally have everything in order, the girl checked her watch again.
  78. 5:27 PM
  79. >Renewed panic briefly gripped her chest.
  80. >Even if she had everything she needed, she still had to actually GET to the venue and get changed.
  81. >She sent up a (extremely optimistic) prayer that AJ would be able to stall the officials for a few minutes as she hastily threw all of her equipment back into the bag.
  82. >Except, of course, the changshan
  83. >She folded that particular item with a certain amount of reverence before gently laying it on top of everything else.
  84. >From where it rested, she could clearly read the phrase embroidered into the inside of its collar
  85. >Three words spelt out in thin golden thread - in Latin, oddly enough - followed by a set of initials.
  86.  
  87. Pugnamus Ergo Sumus - WW
  88.  
  89. >We fight, therefore we are.
  90. >A sad smile touched her face while she worked the zipper closed once more and slung the bag over her shoulder.
  91. ‘Yeah, that’s right.’
  92. >She thought, smile rapidly developing into a predatory grin.
  93. ‘I’m still fighting.’
  94. >Some pep worked its way into the girl’s stride as she stepped confidently out of her room and into the hallway.
  95. >She quickly stretched her quads and did a few hops on the way to the stairs, pulling on a hat and flipping up her hood as she did so.
  96. >2.3 miles to the Lower Manehattan Bridge. So, for her, about 12 minutes.
  97. >No problem, it would make for a good warmup.
  98. >Though considering the pre-fight nerves getting her heart pumping, one she probably wouldn’t need.
  99. >She rode the railing down to the first floor and dismounted without missing a beat, sighting a worn pair of boxing gloves hanging from the bannister.
  100. >Shit. A sign that Bow was home.
  101. >Had she really been absorbed enough in her search to not hear him come in?
  102. >Any hope that he’d simply forgotten the gloves at home was dashed by the periodic sounds of clanging dishes and running water coming from the kitchen.
  103. >She made a beeline for the front door, consciously keeping her face turned away from the apartment’s interior.
  104. >The low-visibility ploy was, of course, pointless; a booming midwestern-accented voice called to her from out of sight.
  105. >”Hey, champ. You goin’ somewhere? Dinner’s almost ready, y’know.”
  106. >How in the hell did he always know where she was when she was home? Did he have some kind of psychic connection with the place?
  107. “Uh, yeah, sorry, soccer practice. Forgot to tell you about it.”
  108. >A lame and easily-exposed lie, but Bow had never needed much convincing.
  109. >Her father’s head popped out from around a corner, and his sunken-but-energetic eyes looked her up and down.
  110. >”Pretty thick tracksuit for soccer practice. You guys’re really training outdoors in this weather?”
  111. >So curious, so annoying.
  112. “Yep, marching band has the gym tonight and we’re just an intramural team, so y’know. Yeah.”
  113. >He nodded his sympathy, his shock of washed-out rainbow-patterned hair bobbing along with the movement.
  114. >”Well, don’t let me keep ya then. Stay warm and have fun. Also, uh, one more thing…”
  115. >His eyes suddenly narrowed with suspicion, making the nape of the girl’s neck involuntarily break out in sweat.
  116. >”… This IS a co-ed team, right?”
  117. >Silence held between the two for a moment, before her dad broke into good-natured chuckling.
  118. >Her own laugh that followed cracked suspiciously high, but Bow didn’t seem to notice.
  119. >”Ah, I’m just givin you a hard time, kid. I know you haven’t pulled that stunt since high school.”
  120. >A bright, beaming smile stretched across his face.
  121. >“Seeya in a few hours.”
  122. “Heh, yeah, later.”
  123. >His head retreated back into the kitchen, prompting the girl to turn rapidly on her heel and wrench the door open as quickly as she could.
  124. >The brisk air of northeastern winter slammed into her like a punch to the solar plexus, driving the air from her lungs.
  125. >As always, it was incredibly refreshing.
  126. >Breaking into an even jog towards the “venue”, she couldn’t help but crack up a bit at her father’s naivete.
  127. “‘This IS a co-ed team, right?’ Hah!”
  128. >She barked in between breaths, finding the thought a little more than amusing.
  129. “He’s gotta know I was too good for the MEN’S team.”
  130. ---
  131. “Give it to me straight, Scoots.”
  132. >The young man spoke in a dejected voice, a forearm draped over his eyes.
  133. “I’m a big boy, I can take it.”
  134. >’Flash Sentry’, real name Anonymous.
  135. >Manehattan University sophomore, major undeclared.
  136. >Also a registered University Combat Circuit fighter, one of only two such people in the entirety of MU.
  137. >Win-loss record in official UCC-sanctioned events: 1-3 (0-3 not counting no-show forfeits).
  138. >Yeah, suffice to say he wasn’t the best.
  139. >His body feeling like a lead brick in the moment was a more immediate testament to that.
  140. >Bruises and cuts all over his upper body, face swollen to all hell, and definitely a mild concussion.
  141. >All in a day’s work.
  142. >Noting with irritation that it’d been a minute or so since he’d given his request, the man chanced a peek out from under his comfortable arm shroud.
  143. >Even the dim lighting of the Lower Manehattan Bridge auxiliary room was uncomfortably bright to him, but he was nonetheless able to shoot a glare at his second.
  144. >A younger girl with coiffed purple hair and an orange hoodie, hypnotically absorbed in a video game.
  145. “Oi, Earth to Scootaloo.”
  146. >He grunted, snapping his fingers in an optimistic effort to get her attention.
  147. >No dice, the youth’s eyes stayed completely fixated on the flashing screen.
  148. >Kids these days.
  149. “I don’t know what’s worse,”
  150. >He started, covering his eyes in soothing darkness once more.
  151. “That you’re playing 3rd Strike with those shitty joycons, that you’re doing it on a public Wi-Fi network, or that you’re doing both while trying to play fucking Twelve.”
  152. >Her response was, in contrast to her prior zombielike appearance, immediate and snappy.
  153. >”Don’t knock Twelve, man. He’s sleeper OP, I’m telling y-SHIT!”
  154. >The clatter of a handheld tossed in frustration echoed around the room, prompting a smug chuckle from the sophomore.
  155. “So OP he gets your opponents wins, huh?”
  156. >While he couldn’t see it, he could certainly feel the ocular daggers boring into him.
  157. >”Just following your example.”
  158. “Ouch, hurtful.”
  159. >Silence hung between the two for a moment, before they both broke it simultaneously with a laugh.
  160. >”Yeah right, you jerk. You know how awful you are.”
  161. “Right. But I think it’d help if you, y’know, did your job and told me *exactly*.”
  162. >She clicked her tongue and the man heard some muttered protests regarding her payment and the lack thereof.
  163. >The rustling sound of her rooting through her backpack, however, told him that she intended to oblige.
  164. >Rapid clacks of keyboard keys being worked over soon filled the space.
  165. >”Let’s see… Canterlot Academy VPN… UCC Portal…Ah, looks like they just updated it.”
  166. >She let out a low whistle, and Anonymous steeled his pride, trying to preempt the teen’s habit.
  167. “Look, you don’t need to read off the match resul-”
  168. >”’Flim & Flam’s Rumble at the Riverside (Undercard) Result: Flash Sentry (Manehattan University, 1-3) loses to Thunderlane (Fillydelphia Tech, 4-2). KO by Russian hook to the jaw, 3:46.’”
  169. >A resigned sigh left him.
  170. >Had he really only lasted that long?
  171. “I know the match results, Scoots, I was there. YOU were there.”
  172. >He sat up, head swimming and pain behind his eyes increasing dramatically, in order to level with the girl better.
  173. “I wanna hear YOUR assessment.”
  174. >She bit her lip and scratched the back of her head for a couple seconds before meeting his eyes.
  175. >”You got lucky. Lucky that Thunderlane is a pure sambist, I mean.”
  176. >The man nodded, possessing a rough idea of why that was.
  177. >”Sambo is a grappling art first and foremost, and your wrestling background matches up pretty well with it. You sorta kept up with him on the ground, and his blows weren’t good enough to completely run you over in the stand-up.”
  178. >Scootaloo yawned and stretched her arms up over her head, then closed her laptop with finality.
  179. >”If he was, like, a boxer or nak muay or something, I imagine he would’ve laid you out in half… nah, make that the first minute of the match. You’ve really gotta learn some striking or something, man.”
  180. >As brutally honest as ever.
  181. >He liked to think he kept her around for that very reason.
  182. “So aside from that ever-so-helpful ‘just learn to punch bro’, any tips?”
  183. >It was her turn to sigh resignedly.
  184. >”You already know what I’m gonna say.”
  185. >He did indeed, and he successfully headed her off.
  186. “I’m not quitting.”
  187. >She groaned.
  188. >”Why not?”
  189. >Anon’s brow furrowed in concern.
  190. >Usually, she just dropped the subject when he said he had no intention to give it up.
  191. >He raised an inquisitive eyebrow, and the girl crossed her arms in frustration, shaking her head.
  192. >”Look, nobody’s denying that you’ve got some talent. You can take a punch, and those eyes of yours especially are something a career martial artist would kill for.”
  193. >High praise coming from one who was usually so negative.
  194. >”What I don’t get is why you decided the best way to develop that talent was through illegal underground fights! If you just trained up for a couple of years you could easily go legit, y’know?”
  195. >So THAT was her hangup.
  196. >Frankly, he’d given the issue some thought himself.
  197. >Why was he putting his body through the wringer so clearly before he was ready?
  198. “I… can’t get experience like this anywhere else, is all.”
  199. >She audibly scoffed.
  200. “I’m dead serious, man. Competitive success isn’t important to me here. I wanna build the skills to survive a real, genuine fight to the death, and there isn’t a public promotion on the planet as good for that as the UCC. ”
  201. >”Oh gimme a BREAK, that’s something a seasoned old guy in a martial arts manga would say. You’re a twenty year old college student.”
  202. “Guess I’m just mature for my age, then.”
  203. >With that, Anon closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall, partially to assuage his aching head and partially to give his following statement some finality.
  204. “Not like my reasoning matters to you, anyway. You just tag along as my second to avoid paying for the headliner fights.”
  205. >”As if. YOU drag ME along cuz I’m your only friend and the UCC requires at least one person in your corner.”
  206. >Another short silence quickly broken up by lighthearted giggling from both sides.
  207. >Ultimately, no matter what the high schooler's motives, he was glad to have her with him at these events.
  208. >Winning might not be his primary concern, but it was a nice feeling that at least one person was rooting for him.
  209. >From both his and Scootaloo’s phones came a light buzz, which only the girl bothered to check.
  210. >”Oh hey, speaking of which.”
  211. >More rustling as she rifled around her little bag of treasures again.
  212. >An isolated shaking noise caught the man’s attention, and he opened his eyes just in time to catch the bottle of painkillers sailing towards him.
  213. >His partner stood up, hopping on her toes a few times as she zipped up her pack.
  214. >”Pop some of those and follow me back up to the ring. The main event’s about to start.”
  215. >Suspiciously, he turned over the bottle and read the dosages.
  216. >Whoah, HOW much ibuprofen per tab?
  217. >He shook his head and popped the lid off regardless, carefully dumping four little pink ovals into his palm.
  218. “Not that I doubt the effectiveness of these things, but is it REALLY a good idea for a recently-concussed person to go to such a noisy place so soon?”
  219. >”So what if it isn’t?”
  220. >She broke into a wide grin as she cracked open the rusty, disused door.
  221. >Through the gap spilled muffled electronic music mixed with a faint din of clapping, cheering, and stomping.
  222. >”You wouldn’t let a little headache stop you from watching your fellow Manehattan U fighter go to work, would you? Where’s your sense of camaraderie?”
  223. >He matched her expression before tossing the pills to the back of his throat and swallowing.
  224. >College affiliation didn’t mean shit in this instance, and Scoots knew it.
  225. >The reality was that nobody but nobody would miss THE Rainbow Dash taking the stage if they could help it.
  226. ---
  227. >The blindingly bright beams from the portable floodlights.
  228. >The piercing spikes of audio equipment being tested.
  229. >The constant droning thrum of the gathered crowd that numbered in the hundreds.
  230. >The sickening smell of booze mixed with tobacco and marijuana smoke wafting lazily through the brisk air.
  231. >All of these factors contributed to the intense sensation of needles being driven into Anon’s optic nerves.
  232. >It was amazing that, even near the very top of the drainage slope and far away from the makeshift ring, the pain was still so intense.
  233. >Maybe he was a little more concussed than he thought.
  234. >”Hey man, you good?”
  235. >Scootaloo asked, shaking his shoulder.
  236. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just a little exhausted, is all.”
  237. >He shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to forcibly abate the worsening headache.
  238. >Cerebral hemorrhaging or no, he still wanted to watch this upcoming match.
  239. >”Hey, ‘Fag Sentry’!”
  240. >Oh, great, his most adoring fan.
  241. >Lovely.
  242. >An empty beer can bounced off his forehead.
  243. >He supposed he should consider himself fortunate that she wasn’t pounding bottles tonight.
  244. >”I’m out $300 because of you, you fucking jerk!”
  245. “The odds were 4.5:1 for a reason, Gilda.”
  246. >Fuck sports movies, man.
  247. >People believed in the dark horse WAY too much these days.
  248. >An indignant scoff came from the delinquent as she made her way to his side and sat down in a huff.
  249. >”Yeah right, like I’d be retarded enough to bet on you winning.”
  250. >The hiss and crack of another can being opened.
  251. >”Nah, I wagered on you getting KO’d in the first minute, but your happy rockheaded ass decided to stay up for another two and a half. Asshole.”
  252. >She jabbed him roughly in the shoulder, prompting him to finally open his eyes and look her way.
  253. >She still sported her unchanging bomber jacket + jeans + combat boots ensemble, coupled with lavender eyeshadow to accentuate her bright yellow irises.
  254. >If she wasn’t such an abrasive bitch inside and out, she might be his type.
  255. >Well actually, she was almost exactly his type, abrasiveness and all, but he wasn’t about to let her know that.
  256. >A grin without a hint of sincerity worked its way onto his face.
  257. “Sorry to disappoint. You should ask Dash to take a fall to make up for it.”
  258. >She jabbed him again while chugging down half of another Maredelo in a single pull.
  259. >They both knew that Rainbow Dash, as tight with Gilda as he was, would never agree to throw a fight for any amount of cash.
  260. >”If you wanna make some money, it might not be a bad idea to bet against him this time, actually.”
  261. >Scootaloo chimed in, scrolling through her phone absentmindedly.
  262. >This caught Gilda’s attention, and she leaned forward to look past Anon at the high schooler.
  263. >”Yeah, squirt? Why’s that?”
  264. >”Well, the odds are ALWAYS for Dash, but this guy he’s up against has a pretty solid rep.”
  265. >She scrolled up a couple more times on her phone.
  266. >”D1 wrestling national runner-up in the heavyweight class and olympic hopeful, undefeated heavyweight boxer with 10 wins under his belt, and 5-win streak in the UCC itself.”
  267. >She looked up from her phone and at the man next to her.
  268. >”He’s sorta like you if you were, y’know, actually good at this stuff.”
  269. >Gilda barked a laugh and slapped him on the back, which jostled his brain around a little more than was comfortable.
  270. >”I believe in ya, dweeb! You’ll definitely make it there in the next century or so!”
  271. >That insult fielded, she let out a very unladylike belch before standing and cracking her neck in both directions.
  272. >”Anyway, I think I’ll go hit the bookies right now. Thanks for the tip, squirt.”
  273. >In a rare show of gratitude, she fished another can of beer out of her case and tossed it to Scootaloo, who bobbled it a few times before dropping it.
  274. >Anon was there to catch it, and promptly cracked it open and took a sip to the high schooler’s chagrin.
  275. >Sorry, them’s the breaks.
  276. >’Catchers, keepers’ is the oldest rule in the history of booze distribution.
  277. >She was about to voice a complaint, but found that Gilda was suddenly in her face and prodding at her nose with a finger.
  278. >”If I lose any more money on that recommendation, I’m gonna kick your ass. Just an FYI.”
  279. >The girl’s eyes went wide as she gulped involuntarily and vigorously nodded her understanding.
  280. >This prompted one more obnoxious laugh from the delinquent before she finally broke away and wandered in the general direction of the designated gambling addicts’ corner.
  281. >Scoots looked a little frazzled at the threat, so her older compatriot took it upon himself to reassure her a bit.
  282. “Don’t worry about it. If she loses any more she’ll drown herself in grain liquor and probably forget you exist.”
  283. >That wrung a relieved smile and short laugh out of the youth, which the man followed suit.
  284. >”Heh, yeah. Knowing Gilda, she’s probably already th-”
  285. >An ear-splitting feedback screech crackling through the air cut her off.
  286. >To everyone else in earshot, it was a surprising and mildly irritating call to bring their attention towards the ring.
  287. >To Anon, it was like an icepick being driven directly into his brain stem.
  288. >Hence, why he covered his ears and shut his eyes tight, ducking down in a rather infantile attempt to escape the brief-but-painful noise.
  289. >The chaotic noise quickly filtered into tinny speech blaring from a set of vintage speakers located down by the riverside.
  290. >At a folding table with a shoddy homemade UCC banner hanging from it - a fixture that could generously be called a “commentator’s booth” - sat a pair of identical twins with peppermint-striped hair.
  291. >The only outward difference between the two was the presence of a comically old-fashioned handlebar mustache on the one seated on the left.
  292. >They spoke in perfect alternation with horrifyingly genuine Mid-Atlantic radio cast accents, like a pair of carnies attempting to corral a crowd.
  293. >Had to give it to them, it was reasonably effective.
  294. >”Good evening, good evening, ladies and gentlemen!”
  295. >One started.
  296. >”To our new viewers and listeners, welcome one and all to the 2nd annual ‘Flim & Flam’s Rumble at the Riverside’!”
  297. >The other finished.
  298. >”I’m Flim and he’s Flam, your dashing color commentator and eloquent MC respectively!”
  299. >”And tonight, hot off the heels of a riveting undercard match in which Filly Tech’s iron hammer of sambo, Thunderlane, smashed Manehattan U’s Flash Sentry against the anvil, we have a real doozy of a main event for you!”
  300. >Anon’s cheeks flushed as the pain in his head was instantly replaced by a different kind of internal pain, bearing with no comfort the kinda-sympathetic but mostly-sarcastic pats on the back that Scootaloo provided.
  301. >He didn’t mind losing, but he was by no means proud of being a loser.
  302. >”Right you are, Flam! Tonight’s fight will go well beyond a simple tussle between a pair of rival colleges!”
  303. >The eccentric color commentator leaned in, lowering his voice into an overly-dramatic tone.
  304. >”Why, this very night, we may see an age-old martial debate laid to rest right before our eyes!”
  305. >Flam let out an exaggerated whistle.
  306. >”Quite a lofty expectation there, brother, but looking at these contestants, I do see where you’re coming from! Let’s bring out our gallant competitors and see if it comes to pass!”
  307. >The pair gestured simultaneously to the arena (”arena” being yet another generous term) arrayed in front of them.
  308. >It was, truthfully, nothing more than a sloppy circle of waist-height fence segments arranged in the flat bank between the drainage slopes and the river itself, illuminated from sporadic directions by several temporary light fixtures.
  309. >A thin corridor formed of said fences branched from one side of the circle, leading directly under the shadowy overhang of the Lower Manehattan Bridge.
  310. >”Now please, ladies and gentlemen, let’s bring out the first combatant of this UCC event!”
  311. >Parallel strings of LEDs lit up beneath the path, and one of the most bizarre walk-out performances Anon had ever witnessed commenced.
  312. >No fewer than ten humongous bodybuilders, each clad in nothing but a pair of black trunks that left far too little to the imagination, strutted out from under the bridge.
  313. >They arranged themselves evenly along the path, five to a side, and stood at attention with military discipline, still as the marble statues they resembled.
  314. >At a more upscale venue, it might’ve been an intriguing display and garnered a respectable amount of hype from the audience.
  315. >At a low-budget open-air event where most of the attendees were aloof punks and college students, it attracted only lukewarm gawking at best.
  316. >Regardless, the duo of announcers began talking up the incoming fighter with gusto.
  317. >”After racking up no less than five victories on the Circuit in the space of a month, the mightiest muscles on the east coast are finally brought to bear against Manehattan U!”
  318. >”And it’s about time too, Flam! This veritable god of the bodybuilding scene has been carving a path through the worlds of wrestling and boxing for so long, it’s a miracle he hasn’t come knocking until now!!”
  319. >’Mightiest muscles’? ‘God of bodybuilding’?
  320. >Sounded like Scoots’ little fighter profile left out a fairly important factor.
  321. >”Yes, his muscles may be his pride, but in this setting, victory is his goal! Representing Fillydelphia Tech as well as the rising hope of Western martial arts as a whole, introducing…”
  322. >The twins delivered the name in unison.
  323. >”Buuuuuuuuuuuulk BICEEEEEEEEPS!”
  324. >The bodybuilders all suddenly struck various competition poses in perfect sync as what appeared to be a titanic wall of flesh emerged from the shadowy underside of the bridge.
  325. >Members of the audience closest to the overhang instinctively stepped back, taking a moment to register the pulsating tower of muscle as an actual human being.
  326. >Dressed in a stark white tank top and matching trunks, crew-cut mohawk seeming to nearly graze the bridge as he stepped out, the intimidating behemoth broke into an extremely unfitting nervous grin and waved meekly to no one in particular.
  327. >Anon let out a low whistle.
  328. ”’Sorta like me’, huh?”
  329. >His friend gave an amused snort in reply.
  330. >“Hey, hit the gym some more and you never know.”
  331. >The two snickered to themselves as the crowd was finally spurred into a reaction, the hulking man’s walk-out music finally kicking on from the tinny speakers.
  332. >Cursory cheers and applause broke out and accompanied the sinewy giant on his short trek to the ring, during which Anon was able to engage in the one martial area where he was legitimately skilled.
  333. >’Reading’.
  334. >Possessing astounding natural kinetic vision and a good visual sense of balance, he was able to (generally) suss out almost any given fighter’s strong and weak points just by observing their gait and posture.
  335. >Of course, as valuable a skill as it was, Anon was simply too technically (and according to some, physically) inept to actually make proper use of it in a fight.
  336. >As it was, he could only observe.
  337. >Bulk Biceps, as far as he could figure from the walk-out, was a man who relied mostly on his strength.
  338. >Not a particularly insightful conclusion given the guy’s appearance, but his general flat-footedness and passively clenched fists all but confirmed it.
  339. >His strangely subdued demeanor also suggested that he was less-than-confident in his actual skills, further suggesting he was an all-power type.
  340. >And yet, there was something deeper there, a strange quirk to his weight distribution that suggested he was more than just a meatheaded brawler.
  341. “He’s hiding something.”
  342. >His second cocked her head at him.
  343. >”That so?”
  344. “Yeah, he’s putting way too much weight on his back foot. Either he’s a southpaw, or he knows more than just boxing and wrestling.”
  345. >Scootaloo just shook her head, well aware of the man’s talent and no longer questioning his conclusions.
  346. >”If that’s the case, it’s just another reason to bet against Rainbow Dash for once.”
  347. >It sounded more like she was trying to convince herself than reaffirming a fact, but he didn’t press it.
  348. >Biceps completed a few circles around the perimeter of the arena, flexing to the crowd and appearing to have gained a bit of confidence from the reception.
  349. >His music eventually petered off and the crowd simmered down, he stopped at one side of the ring and began talking to a small gaggle of the bodybuilder ensemble who’d stuck behind as his seconds.
  350. >Taking it as a cue, Flam quickly hopped onto the mic , to talk up the next entrant.
  351. >”And now, his opponent!”
  352. >Suddenly, the LEDs lining the path out to the ring switched from solid white to a flowing rainbow spectrum pattern.
  353. >Just this change alone produced a noticeable din from the audience, enough to partially drown out Flim’s following hype-up.
  354. >”You all know him! You all love him! In fact, no ill will towards Mr. Biceps, but he’s probably the reason you’re even here tonight!”
  355. >An affirmative cheer that both Anon and Scootaloo added their voices to rolled through the audience.
  356. >A dejected frown crossed Biceps’ face, and whether it was genuine or a played-up bit was anyone’s guess.
  357. >”We understand entirely! After all, what upstanding fan of combat sports would EVER miss the most renowned veteran of the UCC going to work? Not me, I tell ya!”
  358. >”Remember Flim, he’s not just the UCC’s most accomplished combatant of all time, sporting a staggering 37 wins and ZERO losses, but he’s also the self-proclaimed ‘greatest living prodigy of the Chinese martial arts sphere’! What a repertoire!”
  359. >”Very true, brother, very true! But that’s enough beating around the bush! Representing Manehattan University as well as the very essence of Eastern martial arts, introducing…”
  360. >The entire assembly fell quiet, waiting with baited breath for the name they already knew all too well.
  361. >”RAINBOW DAAAAAAAAAAAAASH!”
  362. >From the top of the bridge, a sequence of red, yellow, and blue fireworks shot off and detonated in a wondrous spectral display, inciting an intense roar of excitement from the crowd.
  363. >Simple, flashy, and bombastic - a perfect fit for the fighter they heralded, and one that he’d never enter without.
  364. >As the crowd fixated on the show, however, Anon gazed unwaveringly at the shadows from which the fighter would emerge.
  365. >And between the flashes of the fireworks, emerge he did.
  366. >White pants, a light blue changshan, long rainbow-patterned hair tied into a low-hanging ponytail.
  367. >Hands folded behind his back, head held unflinchingly high, and piercing scarlet eyes fixed straight ahead like royalty wading through a sea of commoners.
  368. >Despite the staunch posture, his lips bore a playful smile - the smile of a man absolutely giddy at the prospect of a fight.
  369. >The man watching him let a similar expression play onto his face, for a somewhat similar reason.
  370. ‘So, you gonna let me ‘read’ you this time?’
  371. ---

"Enter" the Dragon

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