The Parks Mall was always exceptionally quiet this time of year. With the children still in school and parents busy preparing for the holidays, the only people with time to hangout in the food court were losers and unemployed hacks who have nothing better to do with their time except to blow it off loitering.
“Metal, not that I mind you treating us all to lunch and all, but what is the occasion?”
“Oh god no!!!” Buck screamed as The Metal walked up wearing his custom dogi with their chicken strips in hand.
“The Metal is wearing his gi… in acceptable jacket weather.”
“Wait, what month is it?”
Sentri pulled out his phone and opened the page for The Metal’s shared calendar. His eyes grew wide and white like the ghoulish remains of an obese baker who fell in the flour as his heart finally gave while working. He, The Kidd, and Buck jumped up as the epiphanic awareness of the situation at hand hit them, but it was to no avail as they could see all the exits to the building were securely chained off.
“We aren’t going anywhere are we?”
“Nope, the festivities are about to begin shortly, so just find a safe corner, sit back, and enjoy the chicken.”
“Why even invite us if today is -the- day!?”
“Well, I need someone to show off to.”
And before the guys could run off, The Metal gripped the table and swung it at a young man flying foot first in their direction. Slamming directly in the center of his stomach, The Metal sent the young man flying onto a hibachi grill. canning the scene they could see many other fighters of various ages, races, and even gender, crowded around with eager looks toward the self proclaimed martial artist.
“I suggest you guys run before this heats up.”
Buck, Sentri, and The Kidd made a sprint for Santa’s Workshop and hid amongst the construction. Crouching where they presumed was a safe spot, they could only hear what was going on. Tables and chairs crashed and banged throughout the food court. Glass shattered and railing collapsed. They felt pity on the few normal people who decided to occupy the mall that very day, but you never really know when these things will happen anyway. That is, unless you are the cause of them.
“What the hell is going on Sentri?”
“Well, every year there is an underground fighting tournament that The Metal participates in that starts around this time in the late fall.”
“He knows that dumbass. He meant to ask why are they all attacking him at once.”
“Oh yes. See, apparently during the preliminary round there are no rules over how many combatants can participate in a battle at once, so I guess this year a grand majority of them decided to gang up on The Metal since he is the five time running champ.”
“What kind of jackass would allow that!?”
“I do believe The Metal is chief of the committee.”
“Uh…” Buck opened his mouth to comment, but he dismissed the notion knowing that he should have seen this all coming. In all the years he has been alive, Buck has concluded that The Metal is the only person he’ll ever meet crazy enough to set up a circumstance years in the waiting just so he could have more people than he could count on his hands and feet attack him at once. Whether is was part of the guy’s charm or not was debatable, but regardless it was still very much who he was.
“Woohoo!” sounded off by their friend in the distance closely followed by the echoes of crashing clothes racks and shoe stands breaking throughout the stores. Despite their normally greater desire to avoid pain, the three of them peaked out of their stronghold out of curiosity of many of the sounds. One most in particular were the grinding of the rails along the second story catwalks.
“When the heck did he learn to skateboard!?”
“My guess: just now. Heads up!”
The Metal came flying in to the ill constructed safe haven, ditching the board on entry. He carried that same smug look of being both serious and not all at once he always had on.
“So, how is everyone enjoying the show?”
“You lunatic, why would you agree to all this!?”
“Actually, this wasn’t their idea. They each sent me individual challenges the other week and I set out a group email scheduling it all today at the same place.”
“You’re officially insane…”
“And you act like this is news Buck.”
The rear wall came down as they were conversing with a large and mostly naked man walking through. Judging by his knotted hair, rolled loin cloth, and the near four hundred pounds on his person, it was assumed this man was a professional sumo wrestler. The Metal ran up and punched him directly in the sternum, which pushed him back but insignificantly.
“Hmm, that usually does it.”
Mister Sumo gripped The Metal by his shoulders and through him twenty feet through the air. He scanned the other boys, but quickly noticed that none of them were registered targets and began walking to The Metal again. As he walked away a young woman strolled in through the entrance the heavy wrestler created. She was freckled with bright green hair up in curled pigtails and dressed in abnormally trendy clothes from brands and designers almost no one has even heard of.
“Well hello Sable, it sure has been a while.”
“Sentri, who is that?”
“Milana Collins, one of The Metal’s many unrequiteds.”
“He means stalkers, Buck.”
“Yeah, she never really took well to him turning her down fifteen times.”
“He stomped on the flowers I gave him!”
“So, you’d have to be just as psycho as him to be interested in the first place. Anyway, we -thought- we lucked out a couple months back when I was able to drop the package off to her agent instead of her, but I guess that was hoping for too much.”
“Wait… a couple months back? You mean that this is pop rock idle Laney Lin?”
“If she has a thing for my brother then I guess it is true that insanity is a requirement of being a celebrity.”
“Sadly enough this isn’t the first time she’s tried kill him off either.”
“Kill him? These matches are to K.O.”
“Actually, the rules state that it goes until someone can no longer battle. K.O., T.K.O., death; all are viable ways to win even if some are less desirable than others.”
“It scares me that you are a serious competitor in these competitions Laney.”
While they were yammering on uselessly about the numerous times she had tried to end The Metal’s life and her irrational reason behind them, the man everyone was talking about was having problems of his own. Grinding across the catwalk railings and running up and down the walls, he was finding it increasingly difficult to avoid the goliath while dealing with all the stragglers he was still supposed to be fighting. It wasn’t like many of them actually posed a threat. Most of them were either thugs and hooligans looking to cash in on the grand prize or just those that spent most their lives to this point in a commercialized studio and think they have grasp of a martial art. Regardless, enough ants could bring down tarantula given the numbers and time, especially with a giant bull frog chasing it down. Using his environment as tool to defeat his foes, The Metal darted into the sporting goods store and flipped over the jumbo bin of basketballs. They bounced everywhere in an airtight madness causing people stumble left and right. The sumo, unafflicted by the chaos due to his sturdy legs and low center of gravity cause by his massive posterior, followed the free dribbling herd of inflated rubber and plastic back to the basketball area in search for his mark, but found not what he sought.
“Heads up. fatso!”
Mr. Sumo looked up to the top of the goals for sale and realized that the young man had cut the wiring propping them up so that punks couldn’t do exactly what he was about to do. He leapt off kicking the furthest one and knocking it over on his way down. The rest toppled like dominoes onto the overweight athlete and The Metal began walking away sure of himself. Not but four steps away he heard a mighty crash and the wrestler bursted out of the pile of titanium and netting.
“You know this whole plan is just going to backfire on you Laney.”
“I hired the 2006 Chinese Freestyle World Open to kill the boy that refused to go out with me, how could this go wrong?”
“Because you hired him to kill the most stubborn psychopath on the planet.”
At that moment The Metal came crashing in riding the sumo wrestler’s face like the skateboard he had earlier.
“Hey, I thought I heard someone talking about me.”
“How did you knock him out!?”
“Oh, well I find kicking most people in the face at forty miles per hour off the second story would lead to the same result.”
“Or, you know, kill them!”
“Hmm… guys, what is Looney Lin doing here?”
“She’s apparently registered in your stupid competition and was the one that hired the dude to kill you.”
“Kill? Laney, we talked about this.”
“You talked about this, I just nodded my head from the train seat you tied me to.”
“You tied her to a train!?”
“Trust me Buck, if you ever get stalkers you’ll understand.”
While he was busy rationalizing his actions to his friend, Laney pulled a microphone from her hip that was circled up like a bull whip. In one motion it uncoiled as she snapped it toward The Metal’s face. It made a loud crack, but failed as he caught it with his hands, the jack barely an inch from his eye.
“Well, it seems you are the last combatant standing. I don’t have to fight you. Win or lose I’ve gained enough points today that I could go on vacation until the semifinals. Though, regardless of how much fun it was to fight Mr. Sumo, I don’t take kindly to hits on my life.”
He yanked the cord fiercely, jolting Laney all the way to him whom he gripped upon arrival. She blushed from how close they were her only to be thrown clear out of Santa’s Village by the irate martial artist as her guard was lowered. Breaking a heel from the fall, Laney removed her shoes and jacket, untied her pigtails to fasten her hair back into a more practical ponytail, and gripped a guitar that was on display for one of those mall giveaways.
“Fine, you wanted a real fight today, did you not?”
As Miss Collins grasped the neck of the guitar it shone brightly and mystically changed forms to become a fancy zweihander of the same fashion and style.
“Woah, how the hell did she do that!?”
“Duh, everyone knows descendants of Baldor can use musical instruments as weapons.”
“But Baldor didn’t exist!”
“Hahahahahaha,” The Metal chuckled almost uncontrollably as he turned to the side as if speaking to someone who wasn’t there, “He really thinks Baldor wasn’t a real person.”
During his laughing fit, Laney ran up on him and nearly cleaved off The Metal’s right arm if he didn’t slide out of the way in time. She too reacted fast enough and kicked him in a spin, catching him in his own movement. The strike knocked him back quite a bit putting a small crater in the wall he planted on. This brought a smile to his face for The Metal was all too used to fighting off normal humans without any real force or power. He relished any chance at a fight that actually could endanger his life, especially an opponent whose ancestor was likely an Æesir. He considered heading up to the local knife store to even the playing field, but he knew that they were all replicas and would never last more than a few seconds against a real blade let alone a mystically created one. Instead he decided to take the head on approach and ran at her the same as she did before. Laney took an awfully wide swing that would be difficult to avoid without retreating backward. Then the blade was stopped with a clinking sound upon The Metal’s arm. It had caught the training weight on his left forearm and cracked the two handed sword on impact.
“Oh, a week ago I could feel the resistance of my weights losing its effect on me, so I increased the amount I wear for training. Couldn’t really find any when shopping, so I had hollow out an old set and fill it with this really dense cast iron I had a buddy whip up for me.”
“Wow… are you sure you won’t consider courting me?”
“Yeah, pretty positive on that one.”
The Metal knocked the sword out of her hand, reverting back to a guitar but not with a broken neck, and knocked the wind out of the adoration struck popstar. When you are grasping for air because it has all left you from a single strike, everything seems so sudden and blurry that it is hard to follow what goes on until your breathing stabilizes once again. By the time Laney’s equilibrium was regained she found that the boys had left the building and that she was tied to the still unconscious, quarter ton sumo she hired by the microphone cable she carried around. Barely reaching her phone, Milana started texting her people and got as comfortable as she could being strapped to a smelly wrestler of more than healthy proportions until they arrived to get them.
“So Metal, you said you gained enough points to coast until near the end, right? Can we maybe actually take a break now?”
“Nope, no can do. Today put me back and I’m sort of tight on cash.”
“Well, he did kind of buy us a total of forty chicken strips.”
“Yep, and unless you guys want to cover that right now, I’ll be in deep if certain people find out how much I spent.”
“So what are you gonna do?”
“Same thing I do every week. Tomorrow, I look for another gig and I’m dragging the lot of you with me.”
“Awwwwww, man…” the other three said in unison, slouching in their walk back to the vehicle.