______________________________ "Hello? Can everybody hear me?" Batti sat with her legs crossed in the nosebleed section of an empty arena. She tugged at the hem of her skirt with one hand while twirling a blue microphone in the other. A cameraman zoomed in on her as she cleared her throat. A nervous excitement glowed from her face. "I know you're all wondering why you're watching a live stream of me here. To put it bluntly, I needed a place to clear my head. There is so much drama, so much talk going on in the locker rooms that I felt we all needed to get away from the noise, you know? So that's what I'm doing. Making this just a conversation between you guys watching and me. No flair, no filter, and no extra fluff. Just a girl with a few things to say. And hey, I heard this place had its own wrestling program too with its own championships to win. Cool, huh? So many promotions out there, with their own events like our Lethal Lottery. Something called a Royal Rumble? So weird. Anyways I'm getting off track." She gestured down in the center of the room where a ring bearing the initials WZPC in its center had just been constructed. Fastlane was painted on the ring apron. "Friends have been made over here...friendships have been lost...and the crowd still roars like they never had before. Speaking of which, I need you all to listen closely." She paused, looking to her left and then her right. The only noise came from the squeak of her heel against the gymnasium-like floor. Batti stared down at the ground where the sound came from before turning her attention back at the camera. "That, listeners, is the sound of Eve Taylor. It's the sound of our new World Heavyweight Champion, Kagura. It is the sound of the status quo once again in our great wrestling federation. Silence. Just complete and utter silence. This is guaranteed. Nothing against my opponents, mind you. They deserve every accolade that has come their way. They've had historic Eurasian and Elite Championship runs between them. They're the top stars of this company, but are they truly what we need - more silence? For the longest time, Eve Taylor was written off as a washed-up choke artist. Yeah, this was far from the truth, and for those that said this, you don't know a damn thing. She isn't a choke artist, and she's not washed up. What she is is somebody given ample opportunities to grab that brass ring while the rest of us had to work through hardships to get close to the title. You don't have to take my word for it. I had to beat my own boyfriend to get here. No one is happy to see this fashionista once again move up the ranks because this time for sure. No. You all have a right to be angry, and fair is fair. She has brought nothing to this fight but more self-reflection with her girlfriends, who, suspiciously enough, happen to be in the management's inner circle. Fancy that. Is this what you want from your World Champion? Someone who goes into business for themselves? Somebody who thinks not applying lipstick today will make us care? Eve thinks she's hitting her mark by not doing her hair this week or go without makeup last week. This magically makes her interesting. The fans see right through you and your group therapy, girl. You're about as unique as I am flat-chested." Batti took a minute to catch her breath, even giggling a little at her own expense. "I know that's mean, but I'm not here to be their friends. No problem has ever been solved by a shrug. Eve Taylor is obviously one of the greatest wrestlers of our generation. It can't be disputed, I have fought her countless times so I'd know better than anyone else. I'm not here to belittle her legacy. She has set records that are near impossible to break. But the downside to her talent is that she knows she's top tier. She's better in the ring than I am, but it has gone to her head. She's forgotten the people that helped her along the way. She has forgotten the people that rooted for her, opting to instead talk to her besties Selena Anderson and Stacey Madison whenever she needs to let loose. Meanwhile her fans sit on pins and needles waiting for her to notice them again the way she noticed them in her last Kingdom Come match. A year later, and she is met with silence. That's why I say listen to the sound of Eve Taylor. A performer is nothing without their audience. If she can't connect with them, how can she connect as our gold standard?" Her casual tone ebbed to a quiet, conspiring one. "This brings me to our new World Champion, Kagura. The woman who cashed in last week in our hometown of Tokyo, Japan. The first woman to become that gold standard. See, difference is the crowd DID go wild for that moment. It was a major surprise so who could blame them? But there's another problem here that I need to get off my chest. After the fans took the train back home...after they sat there brewing on what they had seen...do you honestly think they still felt like they watched their hometown hero triumph??? No. You and I both know better. It is ingrained in mine and Kagura's culture, this little thing called honor. What she did was dishonorable. She is the lowest of the low. History will not look kindly on her legacy, not if our people have anything to say about it. The shrine maiden should have done the proper thing and challenged Constantine directly. But it's one thing to ignore your culture - ignoring your job here is something else. Almost every company meeting she arrives late. Yeah, I've noticed, and I hate to be "that guy" but I live and breathe this job more than she ever will. What champion can't be assed to make sure she does what is asked of her, to be on time? Everybody, from the Mayhem Division onward knows professionals are to be punctual. Even I, the most side-tracked person on the planet, know when to pay attention and do right by the place that hired me. She should call her next flashy move the Sixth Dance of Perpetual Tardiness. The damnedest thing yet is that these problems aren't close to the big reason why she shouldn't be the face of WZCW. Kagura Watarai, or whatever surname you like this month, if you're watching, know that you're sitting on a throne made of glass. So caught up in your dark spiritualism that you forgot what comes with that title you carry. A curse. Think about it: Dorian Slaughter captured the gold, and an injury made him vacate. He left. Theron Daggershield is gone. Dr. Zeus vanished without a trace. Mikey Stormrage isn't here. Neither are Garth Black and Justin Cooper. It's no secret Constantine is retiring either. Why should anybody believe a shrine maiden that dabbled in the occult be any different? You know the stories. Everybody knows you're powerful. Everybody knows that if you set your mind to it, you could take the world by storm. But reality is what it is. People like you don't break curses, you make them. People like ME are the ones that speak up, that pick up their swords and fight righteously against an evil cunt like yourself! This is no fairy tale, I know, but this is wrestling and stranger things have happened as you and I personally know. I'm not Theron and I'm not Mikey Stormrage. I stick around, whether I'm working as a maid for a tag team shithead or I'm Elite Openweight Champion. No matter where I am in this company, I've always been there, learning. Doing whatever it took to be where I am now, in a World Title Match." She rolled the microphone from one hand to the other, letting the words sink in. "I don't need to speak to my managers. I am not being handled by assistants at my beck and call. I don't have girlfriends and my love for Tyrone Blades isn't some clichéd hindrance. What I am is just me, an ordinary girl who likes manga and caffeinated drinks. I swear a lot. I drink sometimes and I have sex like any other adult. Who I am is not defined by my love for cutesy things. I'm just like any other girl in this city, and for me there's power in that. What I'm not is a competitor to be taken lightly. Sure, I like putting on a show more than anything, but it's been over a year since I've been in this company and I still hear that I'm a rookie klutz. My opponents love telling me that old news. Just more of that same sound from a different speaker. Tonight I wanted to talk to each and every one of you in a place far away from that noise pollution. Far away from personal drama and goofy scenes. There is no self-reflection here. There are no distractions. I don't need a pow-wow with Aquarius and I don't need to talk Tyrone Blades's ear off about how I'm gonna respect Eve and Kagura while poking holes at their armor. You all know who they are. I don't need to remind anybody how hated they are. This is what's real. A camera. A microphone. That's all a wrestler needs. Maybe I am not breaking records like Eve Taylor or Kagura, but look me in the eyes when I say this..." Batti hesitates while the camera pans for a close up. "What I am is someone with the support of millions. I don't know why, but everytime I've stepped into the ring, you all were there, cheering me on. Doesn't matter if I'm in Sydney, Australia or Chicago, Illinois, you guys are so amped that I'm surprised I don't just bawl like a baby at the sight of ya. Thank you. What you give me can't be taught in photo shoots or dojos. When I win, I am giving this victory back to you. This is my vow. Beatrice Otaku is a woman of her word, and my word is as real as my profession!" She smiles, visibly shaking as she stands up and the cameraman zooms out. Her faint little grin is that of a woman who knows that the deck is stacked against her, but she doesn't care. Batti lets the mic clash to the floor and it rolls down the bleachers step by clattering step. She raises her fists into the sky, and yells at the top of her lungs with fierce abandon. "I'll be damned if we don't get a confetti party like the ones we wanted since we were kids. I'll be damned if we don't get the good shit, like cupcakes and balloons and a goddamn horse with a little plastic horn on his big ol' head! What this company needs is a reason to believe again. I'm not a hot runway model and I'm not some ghost whisperer. What I am is a woman who came to wrestle, and have fun doing it! The time for smiley faces and rainbows is now, you bakka bitches. Get ready for 4'11 inches of sugar'd up fury!" The contender sat back down, still shaking. Batti turned her gaze away from the camera. Raw emotion built up and was now cascading down her cheeks. She couldn't articulate how everything made her feel right then. Through the tears, she smiled.