It wasn’t until after the battle that I finally got some sort of notification from Perry as to his condition. A concise: “Fine. Just blowing off some steam. Sorry about the temperamental half-time show.”
I didn’t bother to respond. It was enough for him to simply answer my question. If Jordan was being salty about his loss, then Perry had been the salt mine. A salt mine laced with low-yield explosives.
Though, I’m not sure if you could really call Jordan ‘salty’ or not. ‘Depressed’ was a surprisingly accurate term, I found. Why? Not sure. All I know is I need to have a serious conversation with somebody about who this ‘Micah’ person was. The theatrical parts of me were already combing up every type of unrealistic circumstance to answer my anticipation. Maybe it was an exiled twin brother who’d made beef with the wrong sorts of people and was excommunicated from their household…who also happened to be running undercover as one of the Anarchy Sovereign.
Man, that would be freaking sick.
“Joel, want some pizza?” Comet broke my reverie. I spun to face her. The girl’s shirt was intentionally half-tucked, and embellished with assorted black and grey webbing over white. Not a Spider-Man shirt like usual, but not too far off. It’s a wonder how she doesn’t main Arakid considering, you know, he’s a spider.
GG had cleared space on an old fold-up table in the back room and christened it with the duty of bearing the weight of our pizza. Two boxes were drawn open, insides of the lids stained with grease, fumes of cheese and calories exuding in glory.
While I’m not proud to say it, I found myself longing for them so badly it made the root of my tongue hurt.
I made my way to the table. “I’d love some. Who got it?”
“It’s on the house,” GG said, “From me to all of our Riotwing buddies.”
Pursing my lips, I leaned in closer, “Are things always this, um, emotionally-charged? I really wasn’t expecting this.”
GG shook his head and I felt relief flood through me.
“We see our share of saltiness. That’s a given. But there aren’t usually bouts of anger and sadness like what you’re seeing now.”
Perry and Jordan, respectively. I sighed.
“That being said,” Perry slipped his hand beneath a slice of pepperoni pizza, “This is not the first time and I doubt it’ll be the last.”
“Noted,” I retrieved my own pizza slice and pulled up a chair. It would be a few minutes before the next matches were underway. Only four combatants remained, and two of them were from the same crew. Jordan had been cut, so our only representing member was Merc, who would be tossing up with iso in the upcoming round. He was going to get slaughtered and he knew it.
Because he still had a showdown ahead of him, Davis had keenly decided not to indulge himself just yet, and asked us to save him a couple slices for after he got his butt handed to him. Didn’t want to make his fingers slick with grease and such. Napkins can only save you from so much trouble, so it was best to abstain altogether for the time.
While we were chowing down, Perry surprised me by returning to the tournament. It didn’t take being finely attuned to small things to notice his blatant avoidance of R3M1X, but that was probably wise. All things considered, he seemed better than when he left, his anger having given way to a general sense of disappointment. I suspected it was disappointment in himself, for having let things get so out of hand.
“Would you mind if,” Perry gestured helplessly at the pizza, “If I had some?”
GG pushed one of the boxes in Perry’s direction, “Never give up, never surrender.”
Perry snorted. “Galaxy Quest, hm? Nice.”
“Really,” GG said. “Don’t let it get to you. R3M1X situation aside, this has been a successful day of Anarchy for all of us.”
Comet promptly raised her hand and smiled ruefully. “Not all, thank you.”
Davis whacked Comet on the back, aghast. “What do you mean? You faced MiiKii with valor and vim. He’s not an easy foe. The only reason he didn’t make it farther is because he was fated to go through the iso grinder after your match.”
“Davis, you know I’m not actually upset, right?”
I chewed on my pizza, absently processing the conversation around me. It was delicious. “So,” I started, “iso is pretty much slated to win this no matter what, right?”
GG nodded with most of his body, since using just his head would have ruined the perfect bite of food he was taking.
“And there’s no hope for a freak victory from anybody else? M-80? R3M1X? Our man Merc, here? None of them?”
Davis crossed his arms on the table and rest his chin atop them. “Well, of course there’s a chance. It’s just slim. Have you ever heard of the Vanishing Law?”
“The Vanishing Law?” I said, cutting through my memories for anything related to that term. I came up short.
“The idea of being the best is an arbitrary one. It’s difficult, once you get on top, to stay there. All champions must lose eventually.”
I shrugged. “Sounds like a fancy way of saying ‘there will always be somebody better than you.’ I don’t think that’s called the Vanishing Law…or anything so cool as that.”
This time it was Davis who shrugged. “That’s just what I’ve heard it called in Anarchy circles. The point is, everybody must lose eventually.”
“Sure,” I said, “But I doubt it’ll be today.”
Davis laughed. “I doubt so, too.”
Phone in hand, Jahn, this tournament’s T.O., approached to let us know that Davis would be at station 1 to duke it out with notorious local champ, iso. Around this same time, Jordan finally decided to join us and partake in GG’s generous offering. Thankfully, whatever had been bothering him before seemed to fade into the background. He was laughing and smiling with his regular enthusiasm.
Davis and company migrated over to his station. I took the opportunity to become a conscious presence in iso’s world.
I reached out my hand to him, cutting him off in the process of unwinding his controller. “Sorry, I saw you earlier, but never really introduced myself. I’m Joel. My tag is Myth and I’m kind of new here.”
Iso looked me in the eye and smiled. He took my hand. The shake was firm. “Hello, Myth. Name’s Andrew. I watched some of your match with M-80. Not bad.”
I cringed, but didn’t make a fuss about it. “Not my best performance, but thank you, anyways.”
“We all have our days.”
Iso –Andrew– was some part Native American, but mostly your staple white male. Probably Irish. He was short and meager, but kept his back straight and held a composure that was two parts confidence, one part lazy. I studied intelligence behind his eyes and was instantly able to tell what type of player iso was in Anarchy. He did not play with his gut, but his mind. He’d spend hours breaking down the fine points of the game: how far did each attack reach, which directions would those attacks send you if they connected, how soon can I fast fall after short-hopping, after long-jumping? Every technical mechanic was his playground. He played Anarchy like most people would read a textbook.
I let iso finish his preparations alongside Merc. In the next station over, R3M1X and M-80 were preparing for what was probably a very common event between them. I mean, as I understand it, they likely played Anarchy together at least a few times a week. Both of them belong to local crew ‘Hour of Helix’, which I suspected was about to become a sort of rival team, at least for me and Perry.
Iso and Merc, selected their characters and settled on a stage. In his usual bro-ness, Merc offered a fist bump before the game. Iso took it casually and sincerely.
“Hit me with your best shot, Merc,” iso settled into the game.
“Somebody’s going to beat you someday,” Merc grinned. “I’ll try to make it sooner rather than later.”
Iso nodded with a playful smugness. “Do try.”
I stood back and watched in silence as their match unfolded. Vanishing Law or not, iso showed no signs of giving up his reign at the top of our local scene any time soon.
Still, Merc was right. Eventually, every Goliath must fall.