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Fall Of The Runaways #2: "Separation Anxiety", Part Three of Four
Posted: Jun 11 2018, 02:38 AM
Joined: 29-December 16
Location: Where the English people live.
San Diego. Morning.
The sky is grey but it's not rainy or bad. Just very, very early. The streets are almost bare, and quiet enough is the world that the rustle of wind on the trees is the only real sound we can hear. Soon, though, another noise accompanies it. Footsteps. Rather rapid foot-steps, too, belonging to not just one but two people. Dressed in work-out gear, Amy Taylor leads a run followed by her client, the Worst of the Pavees, Emery Layton. The King Cobra Champion of Union Battleground is nearly out of breath, feeling the burn. Amy, however, is right and ready.
They slow down until eventually, they stop. Em doubles over, panting for breath. Amy drinks her water, leaning on a bench as she watches Em.
Yeah. Yeah I'm okay just...whew.
I had expected you to keep up more.
Yeah, me too. Won like a million titles or something and I can't even keep up with my manager. Losing my touch.
Oh, you kept up fine. Lets sit down. You bring water?
Nah, forgot it.
Amy passes the water bottle over to her and they sit. Em downs it like it's a bottle of wine and hands it back to Amy.
I ain't had a running partner for a long time. I like to keep it at my own pace, y'know? Forgot how much attention you gotta pay to someone else while you're doing it.
On the subject of running partners, I've er...I've had a look. Reached out to a few people about your friend.
Nothing. No one's heard the name 'Aki Yasuko' that I know of. You sure she didn't have any other names? Wrestling's full of that sort of thing.
Em sits back, curling her lip.
Not that I knew of. I'm starting to think she had more secrets, though. I can tell you she definitely doesn't wanna be found. If she knows we're looking, she'll be making it difficult.
They pause for breath. Amy takes a drink of water.
You never told me about the last time you saw her. I know Chelsea's story, I know Serena's. I don't know Yasuko's. Mind if we talk about it? I mean, we don't have it, it just might make it easier if I knew from your point of view...
Yeah, yeah, it's fine. It's just...three years, y'know? Long time ago. Long time...
Much has changed for the Runaways. A year ago, a Faustin deal pulled the tormented Serena Maxwell into madness. Several months ago, Chelsea Ray fled Tokyo to escape a group...but paid before she could.
Now, only two remain in the Winter.
Emery Layton and Aki Yasuko- best friends, life partners- have made moves in the Joshi leagues, finding work as a tag team recently since Yasuko was able to get her knee fixed...but even the functional still have demons.
But right now, they're not wrestling. Rather, they're climbing. Step by step, Emery- with an oversized rucksack on her back- leads Yasuko up a pathway. Snow is splattering in their faces and all around them. It's Winter, and they're fighting the cold to conquer Mount Fuji.
"Come on! Comeoncomeoncomeon," barks Emery, like an excited Golden Retriever, "they said 'six hours'. I already tried this last year and I didn't even make it this far. I wanna see the world from the summit!" Yasuko- with a big old stick to help her up those steep, steep hillsides- tries her best to keep up. 'Six hours?' she thinks. It's been four already! "Yeah okay...I'll be there. Just gimme a few moments..." Though Yasuko is up for anything, she wishes she could go back to the safety of the tea house. Em, positively bouncing away, shows a little restraint as she watches Yasuko sit down on a pile of rocks. "Say you tried to climb this once before yeah?", Yasuko calls, "well there's a saying- a wise person will climb Mount Fuji once in their lifetime, but a fool climbs it twice." Em grins. "Well, I never reached the top, so the first time don't count! I got a good feeling, though."
The young Pavee turns her attention to the world below them. They're not even at the top, but they're already up so high. Another big push, Em reckons. Just another big push and they'll be at the top. But right now, as they look down, Emery can't hide the grin. "Look at that. When I was a kid, I had a little scrapbook. Loadsa different places I wanted to visit. Not to live there, just...just to see 'em, know what I mean? Loadsa different places..." Emery looks around her, sitting down cross-legged and just touching the ground on the mountain. Experiencing it. "Canada, Florida, Australia, all over the place, really. Came here last year, just on my own, not Chelsea or Serena or anything, managed to scrape together the money myself. Tried to climb this mountain and just couldn't. Too young. Too daft. Guess I wasn't ready. Wasn't ready for a lotta things. Still ain't really...but then again, who is, eh?" She taps her knees. "But this time I got you! How's that for--"
Em stops. Yasuko is doubled over- hands over her abdomen, head down to the ground- spluttering and coughing like her lungs are trying to escape. Emery, eyes wide, runs across. Yasuko looks up at her, shaking her head, but she is literally almost purple in the face. "Leave it," she demands, but Em isn't having it, as she fishes in her bag for something- anything. Pulling out a bottle of water, Em presents it to Yasuko, but she doesn't take it, once again telling her "leave it!" She pushes the bottle away as the coughing stops. Pushing the hair out of her face, Yasuko's eyes are red-raw, streaming like Niagra Falls. Emery looks up to the summit...and then down to the ground. The safer, forgiving ground. The snow and the cold are waiting for them at the top.
Emery looks back up.
She grabs Yasuko's hand and pulls her up to her feet, linking arms with her. She can feel how weak she is. How frail. Yasuko, begrudgingly, obliges. Through the falling snow, Emery helps her friend.
Even the functional have demons.
In Melbourne, a clock chimes in the distance to signal midnight has arrived. Stood out on her balcony with a glass of wine is Chelsea Ray- alone, contemplative, watching the stars as they begin to flicker. A few moments later, she hears a knock at her door and turns. It's midnight- who on Earth could this be? It's twelve. Best not be that weird guy from upstairs again. She decides to leave it. Couldn't be important.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Finally, rolling her eyes, Chelsea turns on her heel and approaches the door, but not without muttering several four-letter words under her breath. She checks her security system, a little camera installed at the side of her door, just to make sure it's not some idiot kids. Oh, but it's not. It's so not.
Oh my God...
She drops her glass on the floor, which smashing the glass. Wine goes everywhere. She opens the door to be faced with a ghost from the past, leaning on her door frame.
You would not believe how long it took me to find you.
Chelsea is stunned silent. Yasuko raises her eyebrows.
...Can I come in or...?
Chelsea nods slowly, stepping aside. Yasuko steps over the broken glass, pointing to the the puddle of wine.
That's gonna stain your carpet.
Never mind the bloody carpet!
Chelsea embraces Yasuko immediately. Yasuko returns it, but only after a moment of hesitation. It's been a while since anyone has shown her this sort of affection and she's taken aback. Chelsea lets go, stepping back.
I can't believe this. I actually can't. I always said you'd come back. I need to call Emery and let her know know you're--
Yasuko raises her finger.
No. Don't call Emery.
I don't get it. Why not? What happened to you, Yasuko?
I need somewhere to stay. Promise you'll leave Emery to me and I'll tell you everything. Promise me.
Okay. I promise.
You're gonna wanna sit down for this...
"We need to do something about this."
Em and Yasuko are no longer up Mount Fuji. Now, they are back at a small Tea House, belonging to a small, kind old man called Akihiko. He sets down two cups of steaming tea for Em and Yasuko, who sit opposite each other, on the floor, with a table in-between. "If they find out you got this," Em begins, "no one's gonna book you. There's gotta be something you can do to get over this div..dov...thing you got." Yasuko takes a swig of Tea. "Diverticulitis. My mother had it. Could be genetic. Although I only really read Wikipedia, I dunno if that's a real thing. All I know is I need surgery for it. And loads of medication. Can't really do that right now. Can't afford it." Emery raises her eyebrows.
"Okay...well...we'll fight this. I mean you got your leg fixed up. We can get your diverticulations fixed up too." Yasuko shakes her head. She never quite knows when Emery is being serious or trying to make her laugh. The Worst of the Pavees leans forward, "and then, we'll go climb that mountain. We'll climb EVERY mountain!" Yasuko cuts in, "are you about to burst into song?" Em puts her hand on Yasuko's forearm, which is sat on the table. "We'll fight this. You and me. We'll fight this. You said we'd rule the world and we're gonna do it." Yasuko blinks. "Is there ever a moment where you're not sickeningly optimistic?" Em shrugs. "Not in your life."
Em and Amy are still sat on the bench.
Diverticulitis. Took me three years to learn how to say that. That's what she reckons she had.
And you reckon that had something to do with it?
I dunno. What I do know is Yasuko never liked being 'weak', know what I mean? Like, she was the kind of person who thought that you should make things happen for yourself no matter who gets in your way. Think it's cos of how her parents used to treat her. They wanted her to be something else, get a real profession, don't go down the 'wrestling route'. She cast them outta her life, never thought about them again. Guess she thought, in a way, the illness was something from her Ma, passed down to control her all over again.
But she couldn't have helped that- it was a sudden illness.
She knew about it already. I don't think it was so sudden.
So what happened next?
Well, we went out that night...probably shouldn't have, to be fair. And that was it. That was where we had our last conversation. Wish it had gone another way...
The dark and the snow isn't enough to deter the bright, vibrant lights of Tokyo. It's like a city from the distant future, but happening now. There's hustle and bustle from it's people, but right now, we focus on a small club in the middle of all of it. Martika's 'Toy Soldiers' plays in the crowded, somewhat futuristic-looking establishment. It's like Blade Runner jumped out the screen and shoved it's self into a small building in the middle of Tokyo, but with more Martika playing, obviously. As we walk in, we follow Emery as she has small albeit rather meaningless conversations with people on her way to the bar. A little 'what's the craic' here and an 'oi oi, looking sharp' there, nothing too fancy. It's been a few hours since they came out, so naturally she's not managed to avoid the clutches of the monster they call 'Tispy'.
Sat at the bar with a big bottle in her hand, generally moping around, is Yasuko. She too has had a bit to drink, and unfortunately it's not had the same effect on her as it has on Emery. Instead, Yasuko thinks. She remembers, and not necessarily in a sentimental way, more out of spite. She's almost as bitter as the drink she's got in her hands. Em reaches the bar, sitting next to her. "Here's trouble! How's everything?" Yasuko doesn't respond. Emery turns around on the spinning stool, being discreet. "If you're feeling brave, there's a blonde over my shoulder who's been eyeing you up all night. Small thing, cute, probably all yours if you go over and have a chat." Yasuko takes a massive swig of her bottle. "I'm not in the mood for guys tonight, Em." Em shakes her head. "Oh no, not a guy." Yasuko slams her bottle down, looking up at Emery. The young pavee shrugs- "what? I known you a year. You think I didn't know? Ain't no flies on me." Yasuko laughs, "so that's what kept around..." Em is silent. There is a pause. Yasuko shakes her head, grunting. "Either way, not in the mood for people right now. No thanks."
Em watches as Yasuko pours her drink down her throat, quite violently too. Emery can drink with the best of them and is all for a good time, but this seems different. Before Yasuko takes her final swig, Emery reaches forward and grabs Yasuko's wrist, keeping it in place. "Maybe that's enough, yeah?" Yasuko looks up. She is slow, lumbering and numb. "Actually," she begins, "I think I'm good. Everyone else here is drinking, why can't I?"
"You know why," Emery retorts, quickly.
Yasuko pulls her arm away, smacking the bottle onto the bar and turning around to watch them. The dancing masses. The drunken gaggle. She smirks, which quickly turns into a sneer. "Look at them. Look at this lot. All they're gonna care about after they've left this place is the next time they can come back. Their normal little lives. Meanwhile, there's a war going on underneath their skins." Yasuko brings her drink towards her, swinging it back. "People spend life fighting themselves, Em. And then they spend their lives fighting each other just so they can go off and fight themselves in peace. How silly is that? People can be so much more...and they choose not to be." She turns to Emery. "I won't be like them, Emery. I wasn't put here to be like them!" Em places her hand on Yasuko's shoulder. "Oi, take it easy," but as soon as she's got her hand on her, Yasuko pushes it off in a manner Em has never seen before from her. "I'll take it easy when the rest of the world wakes up and realises it's changing. I'm sick of walking into promotions full of people who are just 'glad to be there' when I'm going outta my way to get my leg fixed so I can be at the top of it all and then boom, I'm sick. I gotta get more surgery. I might even have to go back to..." Yasuko stops herself.
Em considers everything she's said- clearly it's the drink talking. And yet, if she's learned anything about being around drunk people, it's that they don't often lie about how they feel. Embellish, maybe, but not lie. Em looks out to the same crowd of people. "Y'know who I see out here? People who just wanna have a good time. People who wanna make the most of their lives. Maybe they are thinking about the next time they'll come here but that don't make it wrong. Sometimes, you don't have to fight people off to rule the world, you just gotta see it. Be IN it. I also think maybe we've had a bit too much to drink and we should go ho--"
Yasuko cuts Emery off immediately. Standing up and nearly stumbling, Yasuko's glazed eyes try as hard as they can to fix on Em's, as people now begin to take notice. "This...this is your problem. Emery, love you to death but you just don't get it. You're an optimist and I'm a realist. You think 'you'll get there' is enough but it's not!" Yasuko wipes her forehead and points at Em. "You left your family behind cos you wanted to be something better and so did I! All I wanted to do was wrestle, but instead, I ended up in a world where the only way to get ahead was to get rid of people in your way, and y'know what? You should know that first hand, Em. Last year, Serena got rid of us and she's better off for it. Whisper's War got rid of Chelsea and she's worse off for it while they thrive! We go out there, we 'wrestle really well' but no one wants a piece of us!" Em stands up. There's no smile, no twinkle in her eye, no trace of her usual cheer. "Lets. Go. Home." Yasuko shakes her hand. "No, cos I want you to know something- the world is changing, and it's people like us who are gonna have to lead it. One day, Em, one day you're gonna be somewhere. You're gonna be somewhere new and the old guard aren't gonna like that you're there. They're gonna wanna put you out before you can take away what they've 'built' and the only way you're gonna get by is by taking them out yourself." Yasuko coughs twice. Her voice gets hoarse. "I know I'm gonna beat this, because when that day comes, I'm gonna be there, I'm gonna fight whoever doesn't want me around and you'll either be with me or against--"
She has to stop. Doubling over, Yasuko coughs and splutters like a broken machine. Looking up at Em, Yasuko's blood-shot eyes water. Brushing her hair back, she sits up. She feels weak, which only frustrates her more. "I can't do any of this while I am the way I am." Em puts her hand on her back but Yasuko pushes it away, again. And for Em, that's the last straw. "I get what you're saying," says Emery, "but I just don't agree with you." Finally, she's had enough. Em stands, dusting herself down. "Catch you later. You should really go talk to the blonde over there. Maybe she'll understand you." And Emery Layton leaves Aki Yasuko to her own devices, pushing her way through the crowd of people.
She looks back, one last time, as the vision of Yasuko fades away into the night.
Emery hadn't gone home last night, and neither had Yasuko. Woken up down an alley-way by a cat licking her fingers, Em sits up. Her head feels like it's been whacked by a million hammers and her stomach, ooh her stomach. Nevertheless, Emery has felt this before and knows how to deal with it. Time to go home, get some tea and proper sleep, maybe sit on her camper-bed feeling sorry for herself. But above all else, she needs to talk to Yasuko and smooth things over. So off she goes, journeying to Akihiko's tea house. Alone.
Once there, Emery struggles not to crawl through the door like a wayward stray. Her head pounds. Akihiko is brushing away the dust on the floor. He looks up. "Thought you leave." "No," Em says, "just out for the night. Yasuko been back yet? We gotta have a chat." Akihiko brushes away. "She come. She take things. She leave in night." It takes a few moments for Emery to process what she's just heard. But rather than press answers from Akihiko, she darts across towards her room.
Emery bursts in. Everything on her side is still there. Yasuko's side is bare, except for her bed and her beanie hat, which she must have left behind. She's gone.
The remainder of the day is the most frantic Emery has ever been. She calls Yasuko, but receives no response. She looks through the room for clues, but finds nothing. She leaves the tea house and goes back into Tokyo, back to the bar. They cannot tell her where she went- they don't know. No one in the world knows where Aki Yasuko is, and if they do, they're not telling Emery.
She visits all the old haunts but does not find her. In the evening, as Emery sits on a wall and through the tears, she finds herself having to accept it as fact now- Aki Yasuko has gone, and she never told her why. Maybe it was the argument. Maybe she gave up. Maybe someone took her. Maybe she went to get help.
Emery has no answers, and it seems until she speaks to Yasuko herself, she never will.
Em is sat, resting her jaw on her hands and her elbows on her knees. Amy listens, intently.
And that was it. I didn't know what else to do. She'd gone and...I didn't know whether I felt responsible for it. I still don't.
But she left of her own accord, it seems? You didn't send her off, she left.
Yeah but at that point, I'd let Serena go nuts without doing anything and I'd let Chelsea go off to face Whisper. I just felt like this was another where if I'd have said or done something else it would be different. I coulda helped her. I wanted to help her.
She pauses for a moment.
See it's different with Yasuko. I can talk to Serena. Might not get much sense out of her and she might try to kill me, but the option's there. I still see Chelsea whenever I can. I haven't a clue where Yasuko is. I dunno how she feels about me anymore. And the thing is, you move forward as much as you want but just cos you don't look back don't mean you can't have closure.
And we'll get it. We'll keep looking. She's out there somewhere and we'll find her.
Yeah. But one thing I did know- I still had to make a living. if I was gonna be on my own, I'd need to work harder. I had to keep on running. See one of the first things Yasuko ever said to me was that 'belief' was all some people need. Well I believed in myself. I know she did...and far as I cared, that was all I was gonna need.
And then there was one.
Emery Layton used to have Serena Maxwell. She had Chelsea Ray. And now, Aki Yasuko is another 'used to have' for her collection. Alone in the world with nothing to remember her friend but a hat and memories. She took everything else. She wants nothing to do with her.
Well, fine. Five years ago, Emery Layton ran away from home to become a wrestler and be someone in this world...but then she got complacent. She put too much of herself into other people.
Time to live by her own mantra 'Always Forward.' If she's going to be on her own, if she's going to have to fend for herself then so be it. If she's the Last of the Runaways...then time to show the world how fast she can go. Emery takes Yasuko's beanie hat. She places it on her head and from this day forth, she begins to run and, if she can help it, she'll never, ever stop.
The eyes of the wrestling world very rarely pass over you, unless you're very lucky. And it takes a lot. It takes her a while, but after a few months in Japan, they start to notice.
And Emery continues.
It's not always wins. There are losses along the way too, but that's not enough to deter her. It's like Chelsea said 'Be Someone.' With every passing match, Emery grows in confidence. No one's cheering yet, but they will. Just keep grinding. No one's noticed yet, but keep fighting.
And Emery continues.
Emery is bruised. More bruised now than she's ever been, stitching her own wounds. And yet, she keeps going. Slowly, but surely, people begin to recognise her. Those who know what she can do support her greatly, and those who don't know begin to. Little by little. At a show in Osaka, she pounces off the rope, grabbing the neck of her opponent and driving their head into the ground. It's the first time she'll do it. It's not the last. A phone raises in tha air to capture the moment.
And Emery continues.
It doesn't go un-noticed. Soon, a promoter in Mexico flies her in to work with the luchadores. The first time anyone has ever flown her into another country. She fights all sorts- lucha libre vets, high flyers and death-defiers, good men going to war and bad people trying to start one, the strong and the weak and even a man who wrestles in a sheet trying to look like a ghost. As they learn her name, Emery Layton hears it chanted in arenas across Mexico. Like a familiar rhythm, it flows its way through her body, a song she must always dance to.
And Emery continues.
Emery comes back to Japan months later- red hair, leather jacket, fingerless gloves, still with Yasuko's beanie- a returning hero. She's faster now- tougher, crisper, more agile, more inclined to take risks. And something else? Never turning down the option to get a mic in her face.
"--And lemme tell ya, man, you wanna step in there with me, you got yourself a whole new problem...you got yourself an--"
And Emery continues.
She continues and continues and continues. In all weathers, all conditions, under every circumstance. The wrestling world was looking elsewhere before, but she's nigh-impossible to ignore. While the ELITE dominate the wrestling business and Survivors try to steal it back, on the outskirts, this young girl absolutely Will Not Stop. Concussion? Broken wrist? Dislocated finger? Doesn't matter. She never stops. Prikasa after Prikasa after Prikasa on any person who bothers to exist in the same ring as her.
Prikasa here. Wuthering Heights there.
An 'Em had your Da' shirt here and a dancing entrance there.
One last push.
The contract slams onto the table. Emery stares at it for a few seconds- more in disbelief than anything- then looks up. She can hear the hustle and bustle of traffic in Chicago's streets through the walls of the office. Bella Quinn holds out a pen.
Emery signs. Bella Quinn smiles.
"Emery Layton, welcome to the XWA."
They shake hands. Emery Layton, for the first time in twenty four years, is someone.
Emery sits up.
I became who I am cos I lost everyone else. And yeah, there were other friends along the way like Christina and whatnot but I had to lose to gain, and one day, just one day...I want her to see what I became like the rest of 'em did.
And she will. I promise you, we'll make sure that happens. The minute I hear anything.
Anyway- we stopped too long! We're supposed to be running, ain't we? Let's go.
And Emery and Amy take off into the morning mist.
Chelsea Ray has poured herself another glass of wine. A larger glass, this time. Aki Yasuko has told her the whole story we've just heard, but from her point of view...and with a sandwich full of things she's nicked from Chelsea's fridge.
Em told me about the argument. But you were ill and, well, you look fine.
Thanks. I do my best.
So...I mean, how? What happened?
You can't tell Emery. Say it now for me. Say 'I won't tell Emery'.
God, I won't tell Emery. Yasuko...what happened to you. Where did you go?
Yasuko dispondently finishes her sandwich, cleaning peanut butter off her fingers with her tongue. It looks as disgusting as you're imagining it.
Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea...I was sick! Where do you go when you're sick?
I just wish I hadn't. You wanna know who wronged me? Wanna know where I went? I'll tell you...
"I can't do any of this while I am the way I am."
We're back at the bar in Tokyo. The last night, again. But this time, from Yasuko's side.
"I get what you're saying," Emery says, "but I just don't agree with you." Em stands, dusting herself down. "Catch you later. You should really go talk to the blonde over there. Maybe she'll understand you."
Emery Layton leaves. Yasuko watches her walk away and takes one final swig of her drink, listening to Martika jabbering on about 'step by step' and 'heart to heart' through the medium of song before she finally looks in the direction of the 'blonde' girl. When she spots her, Yasuko, somehow, goes paler. Their eyes meet.
Yasuko looks down at her knee. The knee she had fixed. She looks back up at the blonde girl. She knows her.
Her name is Isabella.
She looks to the exit, but Isabella's brothers are stood guard. If she leaves, they'll follow. Yasuko closes her eyes. She thought she'd escape them. She thought this day would never come. She thought it was just rumours. But you don't escape them.
Minutes later, she's followed them outside, down a dark alley. There are no bright lights or huge crowds of people. Only one man. A man in a cloak. The man who fixes you for 'a favor in the future'.
"I hope you appreciate the effort we went to..."
He walks towards her.
"...but it would appear we've finally found you, Yasuko. Perhaps in future, when going into hiding..."
The man approaches, step by step.
"You should Try Harder."
Dr. Adam Fenric and his family surround Yasuko.
To Be Continued...
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