Road to Worlds Unite: Katsu

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Rosie

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PART ONE​

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Halloween Night, October 31st, 2023.

Osaka, Japan

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It is the evening of Halloween in Japan. The leaves around the city have begun to change colour as the evening begins to set and people begin to make their way out in costumes. Despite its usual traditions in the west around Trick-or-Treating, the day in Japan is more of a day for the adults to get into costume and go out to party. One person removed from the festivities is in her apartment. Sitting on a couch is a woman who has remained somewhat quiet from the public eye for a little over a week, at least in her usual public persona. Katsuki sits up on her couch with her right arm in a sling. Her top is off the shoulder, likely a choice to make wearing it easier. Just below her neck are some stitches, not for a costume, but surgery.

About a dozen days ago, the wrestler ended up having a fall in her own home, landing awkwardly on her shoulder. There was the sound of a crack and a sharp agonising pain, probably greater than anything she felt from a wrestling move. She would go to the hospital and would find out that her collar bone was fractured, resulting in surgery and over a week in hospital. If there is a blessing, she is able to rest her body for a few months, heal mentally and physically before making her way back into a ring. Even some of her fellow wrestlers in multiple companies have taken time to give her well wishes on a quick recovery. A large Koala plush sits on the couch, with a card from Ririko on the table. On a ledge behind her are a couple flowers, and a hand-drawn card from Trixie in FWA, suppose even with their differences as of late, something like this is just a reminder she cares. But, frustratedly, as she seemed to be within reach of multiple titles, a dumb move at home caused her career to come to a temporary halt. Taking some of her frustrations out, she squeezes a small stress ball in her hand, also a part of her rehab.

She has a bowl of popcorn in front of her, but she’s hardly touched it. Rather than watching something fitting for the time of year, like a scary movie, she’s watching through something that her mind has been stuck on, wrestling, though part of her wants to keep her mind off her main companies, with this showing footage from a company in Japan, DJPW. It is a multi-man tag as she sees two people in the ring wrestling. The first of which is someone she has heard of, Rio Kobayashi. Someone booked on an upcoming show she’s also booked on (Her recovery pending). He’s wrestling with someone from the other team, someone wearing a tiger-like mask. The announcers refer to him as ‘Tiger X’

Not alone in her apartment, there is an older woman finishing dishes in the kitchen. Her hair is greying and bears some resemblance to Katsuki. Her mother. After her daughter’s injury, the retired surgeon has taken some time to help take care of her daughter while she’s still in her early stages of recovery. She may not have initially supported her wrestling dreams, but after being distant for some time, she likely sees this as a chance to make-up for some of that lost time, to be there when her daughter needs it. She looks over to see her daughter somewhat spaced out on the couch, lost in thought. She dries the last dish and decides to walk over to the couch. She sits down on the opposite side. At first, she’s quiet, observing her daughter. The masked wrestler doesn’t even bat an eye as she sees the masked Hihoshi take a big dive to the outside, leaping over the ropes in a tope con hilo.

“Even though wrestling was never my thing, I can see why you were drawn to it.” She breaks the silence and comments. “That young man moves like a superhero.”

“That is the Jr. Heavyweight style.”
Katsuki comments plainly. “It is what The Grand Tiger did, but these days it has grown to insane levels.”

“And you do that stuff too, I suppose.”
Her mom tries to compliment her, seeing her daughter sort of monotonous. “Missing it already I see?”

“What makes you think that?”
The Kitsune Warrior doesn’t even look back at her mom. She winces as she squeezes the ball before dropping it, her arm is weak and tired.

“You fixate a lot on something when it is on your mind. I noticed that since you were a child. You’re always fixated on something when you’re upset.”

“And?”
Katsu looks at her mom. “It’s not like I was stupid and got hurt at home, putting my career with two wrestling companies on hold AND a special show which I might not even be able to make now.”

“You were not stupid. It was an accident and they happen all the time.”
Her mom corrects her.

“So, not remembering a bathmat, falling backwards and slamming my shoulder into my bathtub, snapping my collarbone in the process is not at all my fault?” Katsu glares. Her mood is somewhat foul.

“Well, maybe you just learned a lesson to replace the mat when you put the other in the laundry.” She tries to spin it another way, but it does not make it an easy pill to swallow for her daughter. “I know you are frustrated. But, being hard on yourself is not going to get you healed sooner-”

“And what does that matter?!” Katsu raises her voice. “I already had to take a few months off before in FWA due to mental health.” She looks at her mom, “You know, the thing you said to me as a kid was ‘nothing to worry about’ and was ‘all in my head’ and that I should just step away and handle it on my own? That sound familiar to you? It was that thing I was only medicated for when I had left home. The thing I got during therapy which was arranged by that wrestling thing that you thought was stupid.”

Ouch, some old wounds opening up.

“It was how I was raised, young lady. I was a product of my time.” Her mom stresses. “Forgive me if I hadn’t known better.”

“But you should have!”
Katsuki is not forgiving of her mom. “And now, I am gone for a few months again, this time due to me being stupid and getting injured. What will happen with me in FWA? Are they going to let me back? Won’t some people just take the time while I’m gone to talk ill of me, make sure that by the time I come back, everyone wishes I’d leave again.”

“There is no way that would happen.”
Her mom tries to rationalise with her.

“Well, you never know… It’s possible.” Katsuki still has some paranoia, likely anxiety. “And what if I am back? I don’t know if Cali and Ririko will be there again because I know they have told me there are some ‘opportunities’ coming their way here. Then I’ll be on my own and I’ll hit another ceiling. I will do well for a bit, then hit a brick wall again. It happened twice before, and I know it will happen again.”

Katsu’s mom looks and notices her daughter’s breathing gets heavy. Her chest rises and falls as she breathes.

“My career is-”

“Take a deep breath…”


Her mom puts her arm on her good shoulder. Katsuki grits her teeth, upset. But her mom gives her a stern look and she relents. She inhales through her mouth, holding it for five seconds, just like what her doctor tells her, before exhaling for the same length of time through her mouth. She repeats it a couple times. Her mom asks.

“Anxiety acting up again?”

Katsuki looks to the side. “No… And even if I was, I have had worse than this.”

“Maybe take your pill?”


Her mother gets up and goes over to the kitchen table where a small orange bottle sits. She takes it over and opens it, pulling out a small pill that’s a cyan colour.

“I told you. I have had worse-”

“Still, I think maybe you need it right now. Just take it.”


Reluctantly, Katsuki grabs it with her good hand and places it in her mouth under her tongue. She closes and lets the medication dissolve and do its thing. She opens her mouth after it's dissolved, leaving a slightly bitter after-taste.

“How do you feel now?”

“You do know it does not act that fast? It’s quick, but not that quick. You are meant to be the doctor here.”

“Retired surgeon, thank you very much.”
She corrects her daughter. “But you had a moment to breathe.”

“Okay, maybe it helped a little.”
Katsuki looks down. “Being a wrestler is not easy, okay? Take being an athlete like Ryo, with twice the travel, no ‘off-season’ and it being more physical. Then add the fact that you can find criticism anywhere. Other wrestlers, fans, these ‘journalists’ and more. It’s so easy to become stressed, my anxiety takes over, or I have a bad stretch and it can lead to being depressed.”

“You signed up for it.”
Her mom clarifies. “You may have been only in High school when you started, but you knew the challenges that would come.”

“I run into a brick wall metaphorically and I get dropped on my head for a living literally. And yet I think I’d still take it over what you did.”


Her mother has a small laugh. “Really now?”

“How many years did you go through schooling to be a surgeon?”


Her mom blinks. “Thirteen.”

“And how many men in your field made twice as much as you with half the experience?”


Silence from her mom.

“And how many family dinners did you leave because you got an emergency call when someone needed surgery? How many nights did your coworkers make you drink after a long shift even though you never drank? How many times did you work almost two days straight?”

“Why are you saying all this?”
She asks her daughter.

“Because I’ve seen the world and I’ve seen what people like you go through. It should not be normal to always need to do that!” Katsuki takes a deep breath. “I just never thought I’d be happy doing that, ever. I did not want to study in a school for 13 years extra to, sure, make good money, but to never enjoy life.”

She turns to her mom, asking her.

“Why did you do it? Why did you want to be a surgeon?”

“-I wanted to help people. When I was a teen, your Grandfather had an accident and if it wasn’t for the surgeons who operated on him, you would not have met him. After I thanked them, the doctor showed me his scalpel and I got to hold it. He was kind and he was a hero to me. You had your wrestlers you watched as a kid, right?”


Katsuki nods. “They were sort of the people who made me happy. They were my heroes as a kid.”

“Well, he ended up being mine. So I studied to be a surgeon. It took a long time. I maybe was not there for you because your father didn’t want me to choose between a career and family if I didn’t want to. He knew I was passionate about my career, but knew we wanted to start a family. But maybe I under-estimated how easy it would be to balance?”


Getting closer to her daughter, she puts her hand on her good shoulder. She speaks gently to her.

“And I am sorry for that. I should have been there for you a lot more. Maybe I should have been more supportive? Let you choose your own career path, and go to a few more of Ryo’s games. But that’s in the past and we can’t change it. You can’t change the fact you’re injured. You can’t change any of those mistakes you made. But we can do something now. Right now I’m trying to be at your side when you need it. I’m hoping that you can be back on the road again soon, living your dreams.”

Some tears begin to form on Katsuki’s face. She nods slightly.

“And your wrestling comes with sacrifices too. You travel a lot. You have a risk of injury in the ring all the time. Don’t get me started on the long-term effects of your health wrestling, and I don’t think you’ve had much in terms of relationships, young lady, right?”

“One which lasted maybe four months in high school in Tokyo, didn’t go well.” She has a nervous laugh.

“So, no more being sad and hard on yourself. I know you are going through a rough time, and it will not be easy in the future, but we need to take some steps forward. Being a little more forgiving to yourself can be a first one.”

“Okay.”
Katsuki sniffles. “If I couldn’t move my arm now, I’d give you a hug.”

“How about I make some tea instead?”


Her mom pats her on the shoulder as she nods in approval. Walking to the kitchen, her mom prepares the kettle. Katsuki turns to the Television as Rio Kobayashi has one of Tiger X’s partners in a pumphandle position. He scoops him up and slams him down on the mat with his finishing move. One… Two… Three! Katsuki grabs the remote and decides to turn off her TV.

She looks at her mom in the kitchen and gives her a smile.

-TO BE CONTINUED-
 

Rosie

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PArt2DepartedGhost.png

November 25th: 9:58pm Osaka, Chuo Ward

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A familiar sight to Katsuki as she waits in line at a place which led to a turbulent night beforehand, the Ghost: Ultra Lounge. The lights around the city are vibrant and come alive with it being somewhat busy around the city. Though She has a black party-dress on, a pair of flats, and her purse is slung over her left shoulder. In positive news, she is without her sling for the first time in a month, though the scar of her surgery remains just under her neck, going across to her shoulder. Her dark hair is tied up in a ponytail with her silver tips freshly dyed. Despite the creeps and unwanted flirting from her last visit, there’s hope that this night would go better. The first piece of news is that she's not alone. Behind her in line are her two best friends in and out of the ring, Ririko, and Cali Hayama, both ready in their club attire. Ririko’s hair is down, though still has her colourful dyes, and her dress has some splashes of colour on it. Cali is busting out a forest green with her dress with some black trims. Ririko smiles and stands next to Katsuki.

“I’m so happy we’re finally having a night out again!” She’s about to reach for a hug, but Katsuki stretches her arm out to stop her.

“Easy, Ririko, I’m not healed. Far from it.” Her friend frowns. “I know I got my sling off, but there’s still a lot of rehab to go.”

"Did you at least hug the koala?"
Ririko asks.

"Yes... Hehe" Katsu snickers.

"And did you name him?" Ririko asks about her gift again.

"-Yukio."

"Knew you'd give him a good home."
Ririko smiles, happy her gift has given her friend some comfort.

“How has it been healing?”
Cali asks her friend. “I was mentally shaken so much that night. I never heard you scream in pain like that, ever.”

“Don’t remind me.”
The masked wrestler sighs. “But my doctor says I’m slightly ahead of what was expected. He said a break like mine often took longer to heal, but it seems to be going well. But I still need to rest my arm and I don’t have much strength in it. I can’t move it around randomly or lift stuff with it. So if I need you to grab something for me, do it. And I don’t think I’ll be ‘dancing’ much tonight.”

“That’s disappointing, I really wanted to dance with you guys.”
Ririko sighs.

“It’s okay, but with a few screws and a rod in my collarbone, I do not want to take any chances. I’ll watch you dance, maybe I’ll rate your dance moves.”

“Are you sure you’re a good judge of that?”
Cali teases.

“You should be talking. You have the rhythm of a broken clock.”

Katsuki quips back and the friends have a laugh before Katsu admits something.

“But I just want company tonight more than anything. I have only really been around my mother and father over the past month. I need a change of scenery and to give them a break from being my ‘caretakers’ before they are the ones who go mad.” She looks at her friends, looking down. “And truthfully I missed you guys.”

“Same.”
Ririko nods and puts her hand on her friend’s left shoulder. “I missed my travel buddy.”

“And honestly I was so mentally out of it for my last match with FWA. I wrestled like I wasn’t even there.”
Cali exhales. “After your injury I just lost all interest. Kay and I even made a video for ‘hype’ for my singles debut. It was done, and Kay sent me the final version to post that weekend. But I didn’t look at it, didn’t even post it. I just felt terrible. Jon and Cal asked before the show if we wanted to just move to the tag division while you’re healing, or find another partner, or maybe try more singles matches but it just doesn’t feel right without you. So we just told them we’ll return to CJW for the time being.”

“You didn’t need to do that.”
Katsuki responds. “YDS is not ‘my team,’ it’s ours. You don’t need to wait for me.”

“But it does not feel right.” Ririko defends their decision. “You were the one who invited us there in the first place. You’re the one with a proper FWA contract. We were simply there on an exchange.”

“We’ll see how that all ends up once I’m healed.” Katsu doesn’t look her friend in the eye. She feels guilty after her injury has seemingly derailed most of the plans for her and her friends, but she can’t change it. “I think we can just have fun as friends tonight. No wrestling.”

Her trios partners nod as the bouncer opens the doors at the strike of 10pm.The potential guests begin to enter one by one, with the security scanning their IDs. With the three friends near the front of the door already, they are quickly at the front of the line. The bouncer scans each of their IDs and notices Cali’s is in English with “British Columbia” written on it.

“Canada?” He comments before Cali nods, speaking in Japanese.

“Yes. Japanese-Canadian. I am fluent in both languages and a little French. But I have friends in Japan.” She tilts her head to her friends which causes them to smile.

“I believe there is also a private booth booked for us tonight. It should be ‘Sasaki and Guests.’”

Katsuki mentions and the bouncer checks his notes along with Katsuki’s ID.

“I see. I think the owner mentioned it was an apology for a guest who had a ‘rough’ night on her last visit.”

Katsuki nods. “Yes, that. I never thought I’d use it, but long story short, I had an injury recently and I just got out of my sling, so we’re celebrating a little.”

“Wait, but what happened the last time you were here?”
Ririko turns, being the one who wasn’t there.

“Long story short, there was a drunk and horny asshole.” Cali comments, with the security guard having a snicker.

“Sounds right. But the man has been banned from the establishment, and I think your VIP booth will keep the bothersome guests to a minimum. Have a great night, ladies.”

ghost_01.jpg


He motions for the crew to get in and they enter the club. Some colourful lights begin to move in tune to the DJ’s music as patrons begin to file in, most of which crowd the bar with some servers running around to fetch orders. Over the bar area are lights reading the bar’s name along with a dance floor on the other side of the room in front of a DJ stand with that area decked out. The walls have a hip-hop design with some graffiti, bricks, and other art. In one of the corners of the venue are some seats, elevated slightly up some steps. It is separated by some ropes and has a sign reading “Reserved” in both English and Japanese. The three head in and step into their private spot for the night. There is a white couch with a table in the middle. On it is a drink menu which the girls look through. A female server heads over and greets them.

“Hello ladies, welcome to the Ghost. How may I help you tonight?” She bows slightly and the girls look through. Katsuki gets an idea.

“We will have a bottle of Rose Dry wine to share, does that sound good?”

“Who am I to say no to drinks?”
Cali chuckles.

Ririko nods. “I would love some wine!”

“Good choice. I will grab the bottle and get you some glassware.”


The server leaves to go over to the bar area to prepare their drinks. The friends engage in some small talk, mainly discussing the club itself, Katsu and Cali recounting a slightly more detailed version of the ‘incident’ from the previous visit. Sooner or later, the server returns with a tray. On it are three wine glasses and the bottle of their wine of choice. The server unscrews the cap and leaves it on the table for the ladies.


“Let’s drink up, girls.” Cali chimes in and pours herself a glass. Ririko does her glass.

“Mind getting mine?” Katsuki asks in Japanese. “I don’t think it would be smart for me to raise a heavy wine glass right now.”

“I got you.”
Ririko takes the wine bottle and pours her friend her drink, adding a little extra. “And I think you deserve a little bit more.”

The masked wrestler chuckles. “Thank you, guess your plan is to get me drunk tonight,” before she raises her glass with her left hand, taking a sip.

Cali has her phone out and has a warm grin on her face. She’s texting someone. Ririko and Katsuki both look over.

“Are you looking at a funny picture, Cali?” Ririko innocently asks and Cali looks down, blushing slightly.

“No… I know that face.” Katsuki gives a sly grin. “Let me guess, texting your ‘special someone’ again?”

“Yeah. She got up early and just texted me. It’s a little past 5am in Vancouver and we usually message each other when we get up and go to bed when we’re half-way across the world like this.”
The usually confident Cali has a sheepish grin on her face. “It’s always great to wake-up to some messages from her.”

“Someone sounds like they are on cloud nine.” Katsu comments.

“Are those wedding bells I hear?” Ririko teases Cali.

Cali gets flush red in the face. “H-Hey. Listen, I’m not popping that question anytime soon.” Cali defends herself before admitting, “But, yeah I love her. Like… a lot. I always miss her when I’m in Japan.”

Cali takes an embarrassed sip of her drink.

“Uhh, I know I’m your only friend who’s bisexual or anything, so I know this stuff is pretty foreign to you. But when we say ‘love is love’ that is kind of what we mean. We’re two consenting adults who care about each other. I’ve had a relationship or two in high school with guys. I even had a long-distance relationship with a girl before I was out publicly. But I honestly haven’t felt the same way about anyone, man or woman, like I’ve had with her.”

Nervously, Cali continues, likely over explaining to her friends.

“It’s pretty hard to get into a relationship with as much travel as I do or even if you have an online presence. Distance can ruin a relationship, she’s mentioned that it has ruined one with her’s before, but I guess we’re pretty understanding and we try to make it work. Then add the fact that sometimes I can’t keep every aspect of my life private since I have some mild YouTube fame.” She has a nervous chuckle. “Sometimes I wish I was the one who had a mask.” Cali looks at Katsuki who gives a small chuckle before admitting.

“It’s a challenge sometimes.”
Cali runs her hands through her silver dyed hair. “It’s easy for someone to create conspiracy theories about them cheating on you, or if you don’t hear from them right away. I guess I need to trust her, and I’m thankful I have no reason not to. I think she’s worth the effort. We both want each other to succeed and she knows how much wrestling in Japan means to me. So she puts up with it and we just cherish each other when we're around.”

“We never said all that was wrong.”
Katsuki smiles, showing some support to her friend. “We’ve learned a lot about that from you, so consider us, how you call it, ‘allies.’”

“And personally, I think it is adorable!” Ririko pinches her friend’s cheek and Cali gently brushes her friend’s hand away.

“Hey…”

“One of my best friends, with a princess of her own-”

Cali Hayama and Katsuki both snicker before breaking out in complete laughter. Ririko doesn't know the reason why they're laughing, but for some reason, they have them splitting their sides. When they finally calm down slightly, Ririko sheepishly asks.

“What? Was it something I said-"

“Uhh, nothing.”
Cali winks at Katsu. “But if there is some good news is I know she’ll be in Japan around Valentine’s Day, which in the West usually it’s expected that either one or both in a relationship exchange gifts or do something. So I think I’ll take her to some nice spots in the country.”

“I was thinking how that would work.”
Ririko comments. “Valentine’s here women give gifts to men then one month later on White Day, it is the opposite. But uhh, you know, it is a bit different with you two.”

“Exactly.”
Cali nods.

“I neve got a gift on White Day…”

Katsuki sips her wine. She’s genuinely happy for her friend to seemingly be in love, even if it breaks the heteronormative traditions she was raised with, but she feels slightly off. A shade of envy. The comment is picked up by Ririko.

“Aww, well, maybe we can get you with a guy tonight?”

Katsuki nearly spits out her drink, she coughs.

“Are you crazy!? Do you think a guy would want to get with a woman with one good arm?”

“Personally, speaking as a friend… I think a guy would be lucky to have you.” Cali tries to give her friend a vote of confidence. “But I get why you’re not keen on it tonight. Maybe some other time?”

Cali pats Ririko on the back. “Ririko, how about I be your ‘wing-girl’ tonight?”

“Wing-girl?”
Ririko hums.

“It’s a term we use in the west. A wing-man or a wing-girl is sort of a friend who supports and helps you win someone over at a bar or party.”

“If there’s a cute guy, I’ll give it a go.”
Ririko smiles as the music begins to change. She raises her glass of wine.

“Kanpai!” She shouts. Her friends shout it in return and they gently clang glasses. Cali and Katsu take small sips, but the overly excited Ririko chugs the entire glass of wine.

“Oh, that feels nice. Really yummy!” She listens as the wine hits her somewhat quickly. She pours a small bit extra and chugs it. Katsuki and Cali exchange glances.

“-I love this song! I’ll be back.” And Ririko heads to the dance floor. Cali leans towards Katsuki and makes a playful comment about their friend in English.

“Watch out world, we got a tipsy Ririko on the loose, nobody will handle what will happen next.”

“Keep her away from any mascots.” And they laugh.

“Ah, got to love Ririko.” Cali grins. “Never change her for the world-”

The friends watch Ririko dance and it might be the quick chug of her drink building her confidence, but she’s moving on the dance floor. Despite her height, she appears to be in tune and rhythm. A couple people near her join in and she’s quickly becoming the center of attention on the dance floor.

“Damn, didn’t know she had moves.” Cali comments.

“Well, she did want to be an Idol too, you know?”

Cali turns to Katsuki, surprised. “Really?”

Her injured friend nods, sipping on her drink.

“I know several wrestlers in CJW have experience in it. She never really would admit it to anyone for a long time even though it’s nothing bad.”

“-Makes me feel like shit for the day I ranted about Idols.”


Cali feels a hint of guilt. Katsu reassures her, and explains.

“You didn’t know and I didn’t know the details until after. To be fair, I didn’t know most of the details either. I thought she had just decided to focus on wrestling. It was I believe a show you were scheduled for a Battle Royale in CJW where we were backstage.”

“The one from September?”
Cali clarifies and her friend nods again.

“I think so. I heard her singing, thinking she was alone. It was really good. She panicked when I saw her, but we talked. She told me she tried out once for a group but got embarrassed.”

“Shame.”


“She told me she only ever sang in private anymore, but doesn’t want to dance.”

“Let me guess, until she got some alcohol in her system.”
Cali comments, snickering.

“I think she’s just happy right now. Hopefully she can rediscover that.”

“Well, I’m thinking I can try my best and join her. Show some support you know. Besides, I think I see a guy checking her out.”
Cali winks.

“Mind pouring me some more of my drink first?” Katsuki points to her glass, still needing assistance as it is approaching empty. Her friend obliges.

“No problem, bud. If you need something tonight, don't hesitate” Cali pours the drink and points to the dance floor. "Wing-girl, out."

Cali gets up and heads over to the dance floor. Katsuki picks up her drink with her good hand and watches as her friends get on the dance floor and socialize. She smiles at first. It is just time with her friends and even if she can’t join them on the dance-floor, they’re still happy she’s there with them. Cali taps Ririko on the shoulder and motions with her head to a young man who appears to be here alone, looking at Ririko on the dance floor. The bubbly young lady covers her face, blushing. Katsuki chuckles, finding it adorable.

Katsuki glances over to the bar area. She sees the bartenders preparing drinks for people crowding the bar and to hand off to servers. The injured wrestler continues to look over at the bartenders and she’s looking for a specific someone. The server walks by her booth and she tries to get her attention.

“Hello?”

The server turns back.

“Yes miss, what seems to be the issue?”

“There’s no issue. The wine is great actually. But-
Katsuki looks at the bar then back. “Uh, I was wondering, is Kenzo working here tonight? I remember him from the last time I was here and he did well with making my drinks.”

“Kenzo?”

Katsuki nods.

The server thinks before remembering. “Oh Kenzo. Now I remember. He left two weeks ago-”

“What?”


The young lady looks confused. Her heart sinks. The server nods.

“From what he said, he handed in his notice because he got a ‘better job opportunity’ elsewhere. Not sure what he meant, but he no longer works here.”

“Uhh, good for him.” Katsuki stutters. “Thank you, I was curious.”

“I understand.” The server gives a slight bow. “He was good at his job and got along with everyone, but I am sure we can provide drinks up to your standards. If you need anything else, let us know.”

“I will.”


The server goes back to her duties and Katuski looks down. She doesn’t know why, but the news is more than just disappointing to her. Part of her maybe hoped he could be here tonight so they can talk more. It’s weird, but she never really had that feeling about someone before. A desire to just be in their company, but not just a friend. Now-

She just feels empty.

Raising her glass, she tilts her head back, taking a larger gulp of the wine. A small bit splashes as she winces, covering her collarbone slightly. Yep, a long way to go. After the end of the song, she sees her friends make their way off the dance floor and back to the booth. And, as always, Katsuki puts on a brave face, gives her friends a small grin-

And wears her metaphorical mask once again.


-TO BE CONTINUED-
 
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December 10th

Tokyo Phyisio, Tokyo Japan.

zRdliJnqw0LiZNGcB-gIo7Lcr4OSBNlFGOoRL4PPaV0rMnXdo1zmUNGv4tLBaL4n5_IojwfJarERWTXJJam4GbH0LHH-XoylT6HRg1kU231Roehfg69eQI4FQMUogKIMecMP9p0LaxXLwzkmeUaTmNs


It’s been nearly two months since surgery and progress for Katsu has been frustrating, but on schedule, and after weeks of being at home, she’s been eager for a change of scenery. After talking to CJW, they agreed to help set her up with a physiotherapy clinic closer to Tokyo, the main base for the promotion. All it took was to find a hotel to stay in and it has all worked out. She has been coming here first thing in the morning, once after supper, and sometimes in the evening since the end of November.

The room is filled with weights, treadmills, and several other athletes who are fighting through injuries. Conscious about her identity with others around, Katsu has made the unique choice of going through physio in one of her masks. But this has been helpful both mentally and physically. She’s been motivated to continue with her exercises and talking to other athletes has been therapeutic by being with people who are in slightly different areas of work, but know what she’s going through. She ignores most of the weights and instead is going through exercises to help regain motion. Even after the sling was removed, she couldn’t even raise her arm to 80 degrees without feeling discomfort and picking up something more than a couple pounds was a pain.

A physiotherapist goes with her through some stretches, a gentleman with a surgical mask on and a light blue shirt. He gets the wrestler to raise her arm forward. Katsu’s hand raises to just above her eye level no problem, but she begins to feel discomfort further, taking deep breaths in.

“That’s a new personal best, miss.” The physiotherapist jokes. “Your progress has been quite remarkable.”

“The fact I can use my right arm to pick up my morning coffee alone is a miracle.”
Katsu rolls her eyes before she rests her arm to the side of her hip and raises it to the side. She manages to get it above her shoulder height and slowly raises it further. Her fingers twitch slightly.

“Though don’t expect me to reach the top shelf yet.”

“I have seen people have slower progress from a break like yours.”
The doctor places his hand on the repaired collarbone. “But I suppose with how much we know about injuries now, it should be no surprise people are recovering faster.”

“I guess that means I should be ready for my match then?”
Katsu says with hope in her voice. The doctor thinks, but doesn’t quite share her optimism. He helps Katsu put her arm behind her back, bending it slightly as if she was put in a chicken wing.

“I’m not certain. A collarbone break is usually two months to heal, but most physical activities wait for a month later. You broke it, what day again?”

“I believe October 19th?”

“So around mid-December would be around the average time someone would be cleared for a job like being at an office, or a cashier who does not do heavy lifting, and you are almost there. If you worked a job like that, then right now I would be considering clearing you to return within the next week. But to be ready for physical activity THAT dangerous in less than a month? That is a challenge, especially with what you do, Pro-Wrestling correct?”

“Why else would I be wearing a mask like this?”
Katsu points to her mask.

“Then I am certain you would not be at 100% by then. You would have to be careful.”

That is an answer Katsu expected, but it doesn’t make it sting less. The doctor senses her disappointment.

“So what I think we should do is just focus on what we can do. You wrestling on that show is not impossible. It will require you to take caution and change how you wrestle on that night. but you will need to be on schedule and work hard on regaining your strength and motion. And you need to understand that you are taking great risks.”

Taking a deep sigh, the masked wrestler nods. They move over to a fluorescent yellow resistance band against the wall. They know the routine at this point. Katsu reaches down and picks it up. She tries to raise her arm while pulling on the band, trying to build strength in her muscles again after several weeks of not using them.

“Are you okay to continue the exercises while I check on another patient?”

Katsu nods.

“I know the routine by now.”


“I will check back in a few minutes.”


The doctor goes to the other side of the room where there’s a gentleman walking in with a slight limp while he walks. The wrestler tries to tune out the room around her and slowly pulls the band in different ways, working different muscles in her shoulder and pec area. She winces as she moves her arm, taking slow deep breaths with each pull. Some frustration bubbles to the surface.

“I just want to wrestle Yuna and get it over with…” Katsu mutters to herself. “I have heard so much since joining FWA.”

She raises her arm while pulling on the band which gives her some resistance, letting go when it becomes too much to bear.

“‘Oh, we have Yuna at home now’ or ‘FWA just wants to appeal to the… ‘weebs.’ Even the classic ‘she is good, but she is no Yuna.’”

Katsu closes her eyes and breathes in for five seconds, exhaling for the same length of time. “No. It is not her fault for all that. She’s good. She deserves praise. You looked up to her. But-” She shakes her head. “I need to end that noise once and for all.”

“Talking to yourself again?”


A familiar voice asks in her native language. Katsu opens her eyes and sees, her mentor and MAYHEM leader, Saori Suzuki! The heavyweight wrestler is in gym gear with a loose shirt, and long leggings over her sneakers. Her short purple hair sticks out. She has a confident smirk on her face as she stands without any crutches, but a heavy knee brace still on her right knee. If Katsu’s arm wasn’t still tender, she’d give her a big hug.

“Suzuki!” She bows to her senior. “It’s a surprise to see you.”

“It’s a surprise to see you working out in your mask-”
The veteran chuckles as Katsu blushes under her mask.

“Listen, I don’t want my face leaking to the public.”

“Oh yes, you want to control the pictures so you can put one of those emoticons on your face. Will it be the heart? A fox? Maybe a winking face?”

“Okay, why are you here other… than to tease me?”
Katsu asks Suzuki,

“For my rehab.” Saori Suzuki moves her injured leg and it appears to be doing better overall.

“Weird, I have been here since the 28th and I have not seen you here?”

“I took some time to be home to see my family.”
She explains. “A relative had a birthday and I missed it last year so I stayed for two weeks.”

Katsu looks down at her mentor’s leg.

“How has the knee been?”

“Almost ready for the ring. I can walk with my brace no issue. I just need a bit more strength in it for wrestling and to run.”

“How many knee surgeries have you had again?”
Katsu asks.

“I honestly lost track. Two, three? Four?” The veteran sighs. “I honestly was considering retirement several months ago if my progress didn’t turn around. But seeing what you were doing in FWA, Hayama and Ririko doing well as CJW’s tag team champions did give me a little bit of motivation. Then when Miho and Fuka betrayed us, I knew I had to get back to help the people who stayed loyal to me.” She shows a small smile at her pupil. “Sometimes that is all you need.”

“I am glad you’re almost there.”
Katsu looks down, feeling somewhat sheepish by the compliments.

“How has your recovery been?” Saori asks Katsu. “I know it is not exactly like what I have been through, but I know how frustrating it is to be injured-”

“Especially when it happens out of the ring.”
Grabbing her right arm with her left hand, the masked wrestler looks away.

“-Challenging mentally.” She answers. “Just feeling embarrassed. Feeling like I let Cali and Ririko down. After my injury they pulled out of a trios championship match in FWA since my status for that match is in question and they didn’t want to find a ‘replacement’ partner. I honestly think they just want to wash themselves of that place for a while.”

“And yet you have a booking before that show which hasn’t been cancelled?”
Saori asks.

“My doctor says the chances of me being at 100% are ‘slim’ and honestly, even if I compete in that match at half strength, it’ll just delay me being at my best.”

Katsu goes back to pulling on the resistance band, but doesn’t even look Saori Suzuki in her eyes. It’s been frustrating. But Mayhem’s leader has been in her position.

“I know how it is to be young and just want to push more and more.” Suzuki’s voice is soft, almost motherly. “But I also know how dangerous it is to jump back in before you’re ready after an injury. You’re at risk for something worse to happen and you’ll be out longer. More-so, you might not think much of it now, but once you past 30, those decisions will catch up to you.”

“What are you saying?”
Katsu looks back at Saori.

“I am just saying patience is a virtue.”

“Please do not use the word ‘virtue’ after what those backstabbing monsters did to us.”
Katsu says, semi-hoking.

“You know what I mean…” She takes a deep breath. “If you can get cleared in time for that match against Yuna, that would be fantastic. If you’re not 100% but can compete, think before you wrestle. Think about what the match means to you.”

“It would not be the first time I wrestled not at 100%.”
Katsu explains. “Knee got hurt in the match I became FWA's Television Champion, a post-match attack hurt it more, and despite that I wrestled the next week against a future Hall of Famer.”

“Is she dressing like a rodent now?”
Saori Suzuki comments. “Why would she do that?”

“That is a long explanation and it is not important, though costume or not she's a dangerous woman... What I mean is that match was an important thing to me because I felt I needed to prove myself. I took the risk.”

“And if the match is important to you against Yuna, take that risk. But if you still can’t go, don’t be hard on yourself. You’re young. You have your career ahead of you, those opportunities will come. You are in your early twenties and have wrestled in venues larger than I ever wrestled.”


Katsu interjects. “And I personally think that’s a travesty. You deserve a lot of credit.”

“Well, Joshi wrestling was recovering from a down period when I started. You know, the last time a Japanese woman main evented the Tokyo Dome was in 1994. You were not even born yet, I barely began school. Since then, we have been lucky to get on a show as an ‘attraction match.’ You have done more outside of CJW and to grow Joshi more than I have in a short time. You’ll get those opportunities. So just do what you can to be at 100% eventually, and I know it is terrible to be on the sidelines, I have been for the past year. Patience, Katsuki, patience.”


Her mentor invokes her real name, just to get through to her. The masked wrestler takes a deep breath.

“Yes, Suzuki.” She bows her head slightly. “I will try.”

The heavyweight hums and gets an idea.

“Say, I have an idea. I’m going to make a call to someone who may be nice to talk to. The person is someone I have talked to some times and holds you in high regards. Someone who may be able to give some advice when needed.”

“Who are they?”
Katsu asks.

“I will leave it a surprise.” The veteran has a coy smile on her face. “But you will like it. Now if you will excuse me, I got some tests to run. Good luck.”

“Good luck to you too.”


Saori Suzuki heads over to the treadmill area where a doctor is finishing up with someone else. Katsu takes a deep breath and continues with her exercises. She tries to keep the words of Suzuki in mind.

“Patience, Katsuki… Patience.”

She mutters to herself as she continues her exercises.


-To Be Continued-
 
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Part4.png
DECEMBER 17th

GALAXYCllash2023ComboLogo.png


Ryōgoku Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan.

h3snyc30uxp81.jpg



In the halls of the famous Ryōgoku Kokugikan, CJW staff are on hand as the final show of the year is underway. On the wall are various television screens showing the live broadcast to other wrestlers and staff can keep up with the show. On the screen, we can see the arena has its usual set up of two entry-ways on opposite sides of the ring, having a short way to the ring. “Delete,” the theme song of YDS, echoes through the hallways as one person who is left out of the show leans against the wall. Katsu is in her mask which is white and mixed with neon trims in solidarity with YDS. She is near her co-workers, but she has isolated herself from most others and found a private area to watch her friend’s match. She has a turtleneck sweater on with jeans and folds her arms. Generally, her shoulder has healed up well, but stepping into the ring tonight is a pipe-dream. She gets a small smile as she sees her YOKAI Death Squad teammates make their way out with kitsune inspired masks outlined in neon. A small little way to show she’s in their thoughts. The current CJW Tag Team Champions pose with smoke shooting up before they walk around ringside, keeping an eye on their challengers.

Pulling her phone out of her pocket, Katsu sends a quick text message to Saori. It translates to “So, who you wanted me to meet? I’ve been waiting around all day?” But no response. The bell rings for the match to begin and Katsu looks on, keeping her eyes glued to the television screen, watching the opening stages of the match with Cali locking up with one of their challengers. Katsu’s phone vibrates and the answer simply says “He’s there.” The masked wrestler rolls her eyes and just keeps focused on the match, invested in the success of her friends.

Unbeknownst to her, an older gentleman stands beside her and she doesn’t notice. Maybe partially her mind is elsewhere, and also because part of her mask can obscure her vision, but it’s a surprise she hasn’t noticed him. He has a jacket and matching sweats, all decked out with a tiger print, something which would be considered gaudy outside of a wrestling show. The man is relatively short, though his hands appear as if they were made of stone, telling decades of battle. Then his face is covered by a mask inspired by a tiger with white fur, a gold base with black stripes. Katsu doesn’t seem to notice him until… He speaks.

“So, Suzuki has told me a lot about you.” He says calmly, his tone reflecting that of a caring uncle or grandfather. Katsu freezes and turns to see-

Her childhood hero.

The Grand Tiger.

She’s speechless as she covers her mouth which has a wide grin, practically laughing, in awe.

“Was it something I said?” The masked legend jokes as Katsu struggles to compose herself as she fangirls.

“Uh, Suzuki told you about me?” She stutters out. Grand Tiger nods.

“Yes, she has.”

“And how do you know her?”

“We’re both wrestlers in the same country. We have appeared on shows together before.”
He chuckles. “Remember, I got her booked for a Joshi match on my retirement show?”

Katsu is still flustered when meeting her Idol in person. Though she was able to see her in passing at NTE’s press conference, he’s here in the flesh, talking to her.

“So do you mind if we watch this match together?”

“Y-Yes.”
Katsu nervously bows to her senior and the two lean against the wall and watch Katsu’s teammates defend their tag team championships.

“Also, I saw on a screen walking over they had these nice entrance masks. They looked like yours.”

“Ririko’s idea.” Katsu explains, trying to calm her nerves. “She said ‘since you can’t wrestle tonight or be at ringside, we’re bringing you with us.’ Which I think was cute. I gave them the number to my usual mask-maker for their entrance masks, so he gave them a good deal.”

“I appreciate the solidarity.”
Grand Tiger nods. “One big team. Though I notice how many ‘units’ are a thing these days. It’s a little strange to me.”

“They were big in the 90’s, but have a new meaning today.”
Katsu responds, but the Grand Tiger jokes.

“Of course, I started wrestling in the 90’s. I know first-hand.”

“But I think it is the only way to really survive in Japanese wrestling today.” Katsu makes a somewhat strong statement. “Everyone needs someone to turn to for tag team matches, or someone to train with, and each sort of operates as part of its own flavor. COSMICA sort of uses their unit as just a ‘banner’ to fight under, but they rarely team outside of tag team matches. My first group honestly felt like a cult, a trap for me.”

Katsu shudders at the thought.

“And yet you have MAYHEM with Suzuki and now your YOKAI Death Squad team.”

“We consider us a sub-unit of MAYHEM. A group within our group… But with only Saori and us left, I don’t even know what will come of MAYHEM and since Suzuki has been injured, it’s just been YDS for a while.”


The wrestling legend thinks as Katsu looks up to the screen. She sees Ririko get tagged in and she knows what is coming.

“Now here comes a drop-toe-hold.”

Ririko and Cali Irish whip one of their challengers off the ropes and, sure enough, Rriko trips her with the move. The Grand Tiger hums as Katsu predicts what’s next.

“Last chancery hold from Cali-”

And Cali rolls over, bridging into the mentioned facelock.

“And dropkick from Ririko.”

Sure enough, Ririko runs off the ropes and hits a low dropkick on the opponent’s head.

“You really kn-”

The Grand Tiger is about to make a comment, but Katsu holds her hand up.

“One moment, triangle dropkick.”

-And yep. Cali quickly runs to the opposing team’s corner and springboards into the mentioned dropkick to remove the other team’s partner from the equation for the time being.

“You were saying?”

The masked legend gives a hearty laugh.

“You can read those girls like a book. I was about to ask, what your group is to you, because Saori told me all about how you three seem to be close.”

Katsu folds her arms and looks up as Ririko and Cali, with them in control of the match right now, rally the crowd behind them. She has a proud grin on her face.

“They’re my friends first, teammates second. Uhh,” She says something strongly before nervously explaining.

“Out of everyone in wrestling who I have known, there’s only a handful who have seen me unmasked. Basically MAYHEM, and Queen Yoshida when she told me to wear that ‘Vampyra’ mask. But only Hayama, Ririko, and Suzuki know my name. They are the only ones I trust to bring into my personal life as well. Ririko was able to put my past in the group SIN behind when Saori recruited me and she tried everything she could to help me, uhh, recover from the whole experience. She is a big girl with a bigger heart. Cali was an outsider gaijin who was filling in for her debut tour for Watase when she had an injury. I related to her a lot and Ririko and I extended an olive branch to her. She is from another country, with a different culture, but she’s got Japanese blood. She loves being here and the fact she is a bit different, we got to learn a lot about the world. It gave me an interest to wrestle internationally which led to me being signed to FWA.”

“So that is why you three formed ‘YDS,’ is it not?”


“YOKAI Death Squad means friendship to me.” Katsu turns her head to Grand Tiger. “It’s not just a unit. It is me and the two people I like the most. Opening them to my personal life is a big deal to me. But they earned my trust and love.”

The Grand Tiger gives a smile under his mask. “Well, then I think that is beautiful. I do hope you can keep those friends for life. Too many times friendships break apart in wrestling.”

“I will… I will.”
Katsu promises to her hero. The two lean back and continue watching the Tag Team Championship match unfold. There’s some back and forth between Ririko, Cali, and their challengers, but Cali and Ririko, after being together as a team for much of the year, seem to have their chemistry on another level.

As the match continues on, Katsu and her hero make some small talk. Katsu brings up each move of her friends, once again pretty much calling their strategy spot for spot. Grand Tiger, meanwhile, brings his own insight, pointing out moments in the match and little intricate parts of a match, something someone with his over 20-year career can point out. Eventually, the Grand Tiger lets out a laugh.

“Oh-ho-ho, you’ve got quite the mind for someone so young.”

There’s a sheepish grin on Katsu’s face. A high compliment from someone she holds in high regard. “Thank you, but I…” She stutters. Not sure what to share. “I know I still have maturing to do.”

“It takes time to build your legacy in the ring. It takes time to build a reputation and put something special behind your mask.”


“I don’t just mean as a wrestler.” Katsu explains. “I admit it is hard for me to control my emotions at times. I keep this appearance, this identity. I try to remain calm on the outside. Although when I still wore my ‘Vampyra’ mask it was a lot more and this mask… I do feel more myself. But…”

She loses her train of thought. Katsu lets out a long sigh. The Grand Tiger nods.

“When I talked to Suzuki, she told me your injury hit you hard, and she mentioned some losses that hit you hard.” The wrestling legend looks off. “Oh, to be young and ambitious again. But to be wise you sometimes need to leave that behind.”

Katsu looks back at the screen as the tag title match continues on. Cali is being worked over in the ring, held in a submission which has just her arms caught, but her head being squeezed tight. The masked wrestler doesn’t seem concerned though, as if she knows that Cali will break out. The Grand Tiger asks another question.

“Why do you wear your mask, young one?”

Katsu blinks and turns to Grand Tiger. A question she has been asked many times before, though never really had been asked by a fellow masked wrestler.

“A few reasons. Without getting into much detail, I was scared of my family finding out I was wrestling. So a mask fulfilled that purpose, though now my secret is out to them, so that is no concern.”

“And yet you wear it still.”
He comments.

“-Okay forgive me if I sound uhh…” Katsu gives a nervous laugh. “Like a fangirl, but I was also inspired by you. I was inspired by you and a lot of international junior heavyweight wrestlers.”

“Thank you.” The Grand Tiger grins through his mask’s ‘teeth.’ “The fact I have inspired a future wrestler alone makes my career worth it.”

“I honestly did not know who else to look up to. Women’s wrestling in Japan was on a downturn growing up. The last time there was an all-women’s show in the Tokyo Dome was before I was born.”


“1994.” Grand Tiger mentions the year. “I had begun my training just a few weeks beforehand.”

“You are so old…”
Katsu chuckles. “No offense.”

“None taken. My wife tells me that whenever she hears my knees crack.” The Grand Tiger makes light of the comment.

“So, yes. Women’s wrestling was not really accessible until maybe high school when it was regaining popularity. So I’d see you and other smaller wrestlers doing things the heavyweights could only dream of.”

There’s a small twinkle in Katsu’s eyes as she thinks back to her being young again. “The closest thing to real-life superheroes. Wearing a mask, creating a new identity, inspiring fans. It was magical. I really looked up to you when I needed someone to. I needed someone to give me direction, my own path in life, and wrestling was that.”

The heart of Katsu beats, nervousness sets in. She takes her deep breath. “Great, I acted like a geek…”

“I have seen worse. Do not worry.” Tiger reassures his fan. “I am happy to have made a positive impact on your life. Though I expected you’d be a tiger, haha.”

“Being a tiger is your thing.”
She explains. “I do not want to be called ‘the female tiger’ for my entire career.”

“So you chose a vampire, then a kitsune?” The Grand Tiger teases slightly, but Katsu gives an honest answer.

“The vampire was chosen by a woman who I refuse to name because that evil woman happens to be in the match after this… You know? The one I was supposed to have a title match in?” Katsu scowls, still feeling some negative feelings, years later. “But I felt the kitsune matched me. Some people consider kitsune evil creatures, but I think they’re magical. They can be guides. And much like me, they hide their appearance from enemies.”

“You act like you know one.” Grand Tiger says, which causes Katsu to raise an immediate eyebrow. Under her mask, her face is flushed. But he laughs. “Kidding. I do enjoy learning about people’s masks. Do you want to know mine?”

He looks up at the television screen, keeping an eye on the match as it unfolds. He explains.

“I was given a mask early on because there was a cross-promotion idea. At first I thought it was going to be temporary, but they asked me to go on an excursion in Mexico first to get used to wrestling with a mask and learn about the tradition.”

“How was it?” Katsu asks, before mentioning, “I know when I appeared in Mexico with FWA the fans latched onto me quickly because of my mask.”

“I was blown away. I learned about the traditions, how they kept their real lives separate. The honor that came with wearing a mask. By the time I returned I knew I wanted to wear a mask longer-term, and the Grand Tiger mask stuck. I didn’t even tell my sons and nephews what I did until they were old enough to understand the secret and why it needed to be kept.”

“And now…”
He closes his eyes, taking a deep breath. “I hope that the same tradition can be kept in Japan. My sons did not want to wrestle, but my nephew did and he wanted to wear a mask. I…” His voice catches. “I was so touched. I told him that it was up to him if he wanted to keep the Tiger name, or go on his own, and he wanted to keep it. He started wrestling last year and he’s keeping the masked tradition. But admittedly, I have not seen many women in Japan follow it. You are one of the few. And truthfully.”

He turns to Katsu.

“I think you have done it justice.”

Covering her mouth, Katsu is speechless, shocked at the praise. Even her tag team partners beginning to make a comeback as the fans become unglued doesn’t seem to break her state of shock. So The Grand Tiger continues.

“Saori Suzuki asked me to talk to you because she felt you needed something to lift your spirits. She said you looked up to me and at my age, with my in-ring career over, I just want to give back to wrestling when I can, especially to a masked wrestler.”

Katsu gives a bashful look as her hero explains more.

“When I was asked by the Nine Tales Entertainment company to help put together their show you were one of the first names I asked to book. I have watched you start your career and to now, you have come a long way. I did not want to book my nephew to avoid favouritism, but I knew that putting you on the card would help it. When deciding the main event, we thought about the champion from AMA fighting, or Alyster Black, but we knew that if we wanted to have this show grow the greater Japanese wrestling scene, we needed two Japanese stars in the main event. So we decided to book you against Yuna, two ladies with a bright future, international experience, and something that might be a bit of a ‘dream’ match.”

“I uh…”
Katsu stutters. “I admittedly was disappointed that the only appearance Yuna has made in FWA since I signed was in the Deathmatch tournament. If you have not guessed, I am not a deathmatch girl.”

“I had one Deathmatch… And there is a reason why it is only one. I do not blame you.”

He pats her on her good shoulder, letting out a laugh.And I hope you are healed in time to fight her. We found a good back-up plan, but I really want to see that match.”

“My doctors tell me it is a 50% chance.”
Katsu admits. “I have done extra rehab which has helped, but one bad day would likely mean I miss it.”

“Then I hope you can work hard to get there.”
The Grand Tiger tries to add some reality. “If it does not happen, do not be hard on yourself. It will take work, but other opportunities may come. And I say these things about you, but you still need to give yourself time. Believe in yourself, but keep modest. Then you can excel in your actions.”

Taking a deep breath, Katsu tries to take in the advice and just the experience. Being able to talk to her childhood hero, pick his brain, but hear some words of confidence. It is something she has needed.

“I will do my best.” Katsu says, her voice calm, but strong.

“And before I go, I got something.”

Reaching into his very unique jacket’s pocket. He pulls out something which he unfolds. A mask of his. Katsu’s eyes widened.

It is a version of his mask with a white base, golden stripes. The teeth are slightly different to the mask he has now. The legend hands it to the protege.

“-Is this the same mask you wore to your first Tokyo Dome match in 1997?!”

“A replica…”
He explains. “-The real one is on a shelf in my living room. My wife says it matches her curtains well. But I always created extras in case they were ruined, if I needed a keepsake, or, in this case, a gift. There is no greater respect from a masked wrestler to give another a mask. So consider this a vote of confidence to a remarkable young lady who I hope can inspire someone like I did her.”

Katsu takes a long look at the mask. It is somewhat older with its materials but it still feels like it is new; likely was rarely worn if at all. She looks at her idol and can’t help but shed a tear.

“I will cherish this. This means…” She looks up. “It means so much to me. I will keep this in a safe place.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to become the female tiger?”
The legend jokes. Katsu holds up the mask to her face and it clearly shows that it is much bigger than her.

“Does this look like it will fit on my head?!”

The masked wrestlers crack up at the joke as they are interrupted by the roar of the crowd. Katsu quickly puts the mask into her pocket to watch the ending of the match.

Ririko and Cali Hayama have picked up one of their opponents in a double-team electric chair position and nail them with the Dirt Bomb they call “CTRL + ALT + DELETE.” Their tag team finisher. Ririko sits on top for a cover as there is an emphatic three count. Katsu smiles, seeing her friends retain. That means they’ll be walking into Worlds Unite still champions. Cali and Ririko hold up their tag team championships as they are also handed a trophy, a token usually given to winners of title matches and main events. They appear ecstatic at the result, but coming in from one of the entry-ways are five women…

All members of Virtue. Miho Watase and Miss Fuka, the leader and her right hand, the heads of the group. With them are their first three members, who are all ganging up on Cali and Ririko. They push the official out of the way and take boots to the champions. Any trainee wrestlers on the outside are simply taken down. Grand Tiger looks at Katsu and knows their conversation has ended.

Katsu turns the corner and heads to what looks to be the production area. She is about to turn to go through one of the tunnels, grabbing a chair, but someone stops her, a security guard who is somewhat tall.

“No, miss!” He explains to her in Japanese. “I was told you are not cleared for physical activity. I can’t let you out there.”

“But you let them out to attack my friends!?”

“They’re cleared, you’re not. I can’t!”


The commotion causes several wrestlers to go over to see what is happening. COSMIC wrestlers from multiple units are seeing Katsu agonise over the fact that she can’t go out there to save her friends from a 5 on 2 beatdown. One of the wrestlers is one who wrestled in a match earlier on in the night.

She is Japanese with bright pastel blue gear, blonde hair. Rin Tsukiyama, leader of COSMICA, a group MAYHEM has had its ups and downs with. She looks at Katsu and the footage on the monitors. Miss Fuka is going outside to grab chairs. She turns to her stablemates and they know what to do. Katsu sees several wrestlers run past her.

“What are you doing?”

Rin stops in front of Katsu. The upbeat wrestler smiles

“Lending a hand.”

“-But, we’re different units?”

“So?”
Rin shrugs. “They are being jerks! We do not have to get along, but at least we can respect you guys. Now if you’ll excuse me-”

Tsukiyama turns to run out, but quickly turns around to grab a chair. The monitors are showing the members of COSMICA rushing out to make a save of wrestlers from another unit! Rin has a chair and with a sudden rush of people, Virtue decides to fight another day by rushing out of the ring. The commentators make note that it’s unique to see “Two different groups united against a common enemy.” Katsu sees Rin shouting at the former MAYHEM members in particular before turning to Ririko and Cali Hayama. The tag champions give a side-eye to Rin, but she appears to say something to them. There’s no handshakes, but the two nod and roll out of the ring.

Several security guards get between Katsu and one of the tunnels so that Virtue may go backstage and head to their locker room without another fight. Someone who appears to be with management heads over, a woman. She is seen shouting at the group, reprimanding them for what they did. Finally, with ice packs handed to them after a match, Cali and Ririko make their way backstage. They head to an area for interviews and press.

“Way to ruin a title defense, Watase!” Ririko shouts to the media in Japanese. “We are tired of this. You stabbed us in the back before and this has to end!”

“This is the last CJW show of the year…” Cali’s breathing is heavy, she speaks in Japanese as she gets on a knee, catching her breath while carrying her title. “But we don’t even need to wait for the next CJW show to put an end to this. Worlds Unite…”

She looks at the camera, speaking in English. “You’re fucking dead!”

“-That language…”
Ririko comments in Japanese. “You told me that’s a bad word in English.”

“And they deserve it…”
Cali comments before flinging her title belt over her shoulder. The champions walk off.

Katsu rushes over through the crowd of media to check on her friends.

“Are you okay!?” She asks. “I tried to help out, but security stopped me.”

“Tsukiyama told us.”
Ririko explains. “She said ‘you couldn’t help, so we had to help.’ Which is strange.”

“It shocked me.”
Cali rubs the back of her neck. “Considering before I joined MAYHEM, they offered me to join them and I rejected it.”

“Guess we are not the only ones Virtue has angered.”
Katsu sighs. “I’m happy you guys seem okay.”

“We could be much worse.”
Cali winces slightly, but seems to be mostly okay. “Just mad at this point.”

“Well, I know what can cheer us up.”
Ririko smiles before shouting. “Our favourite Sushi spot!”

“Your solution is always food, Ririko.”
Katsu laughs.

“So, is that a no?”


“I’m hungry. Of course it is a yes.”

“Wait, didn’t you say you needed to meet someone?”
Cali asks Katsu.


“I met them. It went well.” Katsu explains. “Go get a shower then we’ll head out. Do it before Virtue can find us and…” Katsu takes a deep breath. “You two are awesome. Remember that.” She looks down, slightly embarrassed.

“It’s a team.” Ririko says. “You are just as big part of our success as Cali and I. Now how about we get you some extra sushi to help your shoulder?”

“That makes no sense, but who am I to complain?”


Katsu smiles as her two friends head down the hallway. Some security follows, likely in order from one of the people in charge to prevent another Virtue attack. Katsu reaches into her pocket to get a look at the gift from the Grand Tiger.


-TO BE CONTINUED-
 
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JANUARY 4th, 2024

Nippon-Budokan

Tokyo, Japan


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Sitting backstage at Nippon Budokan, all alone, Katsu. In her locker room shared with her YDS teammates. But her friends have left her be for the moment.

Gear bags are around, with sweaters, masks, and entrance jackets lying on the benches. CJW’s tag team championships, held by Cali and Ririko, sit on the bench. In the middle of the room Katsu has her legs crossed, hands on her knees, eyes closed, trying to calm herself before a big return match. Her gear is an all white twist on her normal look, with the designs being done by parts sticking out of her gear. This gear was designed initially for Galaxy Clash. With her initially being scheduled to fight for CJW’s second biggest prize held by her former stable leader, she wanted to match the title’s beautiful white strap. But instead, it is making its debut for tonight. Though, sticking out from the white gear is black medical tape on her shoulder as a way to help with her range of motion.

The Kitsune Warrior continues to meditate, trying to grapple with her feelings for the night. Nearly three months out, now she’s cleared, just barely, for a dream match she’s wanted for some time. As Katsu’s breathing settles, she gets in a rhythm, inhaling…

Holding…

Then Exhaling.

Over and over again.

Then, a warm breeze is felt on her skin. A pleasant feeling. She opens her eyes as, appearing before her, is a familiar face. A tall woman of Japanese descent. She has a stunning kimono dress on, long dark hair with some bangs covering her forehead, and a warm smile.

“Been a while, Kosuke.” Katsu says to her guardian in Japanese.

“It has been hard to contact you.” The mysterious woman has a giggle. “What with your mind full of gloom and doom, then focus and hope. All emotions from anger to romance- you-”

“Excuse me?”
Katsu blinks.

“I just know you have had a lot on the mind, that’s all.” Kosuke responds.

Getting up, Katsu looks up to her guardian.

“Truthfully, it would have been nice for you to appear as a guardian to well, guide me?” Katsu quips.

“If I were to snap my fingers and solve all your problems, then you wouldn’t learn a thing now, would you?” Kosuke puts her hands on her hips before smiling. “But I am glad to see your mind, body, and spirit mostly intact.”

“Mostly?” Katsu points out that word.What’s missing? Is it the fact I have 30mg of medication to take each day to keep my mind from freaking out? Is it the fact that there’s a metal rod in my collarbone? Or just the fact I’ve been tired because I can’t sleep on my shoulder.”

Laughing, Kosuke puts her hand on Katsu’s shoulder and oddly, there’s an instant calming effect. A positive energy spreads through her body with a warmth going over her shoulder.

“I love that humour, my Kitsune. Never lose that, please.”

“I’ll try not to.”
Katsu gives a small chuckle, slightly at ease.

“Welcome back.” Kosuke nods. Katsu bows her head in respect and Kosuke places her hand on her head.

“Thank you, Kosuke.”

“I sense tonight will be one of the biggest physical challenges of your life. You are fighting a rogue pirate with a love of chaos. A dream which can easily turn into a nightmare. But if your spirit remains you will out-will her’s.”


Kosuke smiles and Katsu looks up again. She nods, understanding the advice.

“Oh, and one more thing.”

“Yes?”
Katsu asks, curious.

“Do not worry about him. You two are destined to meet.”

“What?”


The masked wrestler blinks. Him? Who is he?


“And you will find a connection you have ne-”

“Hey, Katsu?”


A voice interrupts as Katsu turns to the side. Cali Hayama, and Ririko have re-entered the locker room in their matching gear. Katsu looks back-

And Kosuke is no longer there.

“You looked spaced out.” Ririko says, looking concerned. “As if you were talking to a ghost.”

Katsu shakes her head, confused. Can anyone else see her?

“Are you okay? Stressed about tonight?” Cali asks.

Katsu shakes her head.

“No I was just…. Uh, spaced out a bit after meditating. It happens.” She lied.

“Doctors gave you the green light to go?” Cali asks Katsu.

“Well duh, why else would she be wearing her gear? Ririko answers for Katsu which causes some laughter from the Kitsune Warrior.

“What? No. I was just trying cosplay.” Katsu says sarcastically.

“Listen, cosplaying is awesome, don’t diss it.” Cali responds, getting defensive about a hobby of her’s.

“Ready for Funanori? Ririko asks.

Katsu signals yes with a nod.

“Are you ready for Virtue? I know I'm banned from ringside and the rest of Virtue's banned from the building.”

“They’re going to PAY!”
Ririko clenches her fists.

“Yeah, all those comments making fun of my silver hair are going to bite them in the ass.” The Canadian rolls her eyes. “But the show’s in two hours. So they want you to check in at the producer’s position to go over a few small things.”

“I will be there.”


Katsu’s friends exit through the door and Katsu follows. She looks back as Kosuke waves to her before disappearing before her very eyes. The wrestler stands confused, having more questions than answers now with this mysterious guardian.

“Are you coming?” Ririko asks.

Katsu snaps out of it and turns around, trying to refocus on her big night.

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