Oh Captain, My Captain

By: Sebastian Everett Bryce

Writing Prompt: Yes

Date: 4th Mar 2022

Hello Atara…

I won’t ask how you are – apparently that’s a touchy subject, even between friends. I guess I’ll start our little tête à tête with a thank you. A thank you for helping to introduce me to a world outside the small, Coalition-shaped box within which I’d found myself since stepping onto the new shores of Americana back in 2019. You and Sloane and Shawn. But the reality is that Shawn and Sloane were friends, but it was you – dearest Atara – who extended the hand of friendship and led me into a whole new world.

And whilst I’d dipped my toe into the cool refreshing waters of a new world, once again you dragged me kicking and screaming into the fore. For it was you, Miss Themis, who called me late one night. A dark and stormy evening in September when you asked if I would join Team Atty on the Charity Cruise. I skirted over the fact that I was an alternate, ignored the fact that I was a back up because your first choices were taken already. I threw myself into our attempt to overthrow our oppressors and take control of the ship.

I watched you dive naked from the ship to avoid being arrested.

It was quite the ride. The cruise I mean. Not… Anything like… You know. Dry docks and all that.

My point is, depending upon the point of view, it could be thanks to you that I am here in Fight. Though I suspect that some will come to see it differently – it will be your fault that I came to Fight. They’ll blame you for what comes next – and I understand that. Because the truth that you and I both know, Atty, is that one’s failures are much easier for most to digest should they have someone else to blame for them. It’s much easier to look out than look within.

From my own personal perspective, it would be easy for me to blame you for my experiences through the end of last year. Had you never asked me to join your team, I may never have lost at Keeper of the Keys. Had you not chosen me, I would never have tasted my first loss to James. If you’d chosen someone else, it may never have led to James beating me at Horizons. But if my aunt had gonads, she’d be my uncle.

The reality is that I made choices, Atty – and whilst I could stand before you and tell you that it’s your fault those choices were available to me, they were still mine to make. I chose to say yes and join your team, because you’re my friend. Because I wanted to be on your team. Because I like you and I wouldn’t want to let you down. I made choices in that ring that meant James beat me on that ship. I made choices in the lead up to Horizons that led to him beating me at Horizons.

And then I chose to come here, to Fight! NYC.

Because I saw a new opportunity to dominate. To rise. To be better than I’ve been before. There will be those who are weak who choose to blame you for being part of the reason I’m here. There will be those who will blame me for choosing to come. But we know the truth, don’t we Atara?

It’s their own fault. Not ours.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2022 – Chicago, Illinois

“What’s your favourite nursery rhyme?” Sloane asked as she lay against Seb, her fingers circling the broken heart tattooed into his chest.

“… What?” Seb asked. There was no real reason to be surprised, other than the fact that these kinds of questions were usually reserved for three am when Sloane had Tik Tok’d herself into oblivion.

“I just wondered what your favourite nursery rhyme is?” Sloane asked.

“Not sure I had one – my parents weren’t the kind of people who sing you to sleep.” Seb replied as he took a sip of a beer.

“But you must know some…” Sloane asked.

“I know some, sure. But I don’t think they ever happened enough for me to attach myself to a favourite.” Seb said, tilting his head towards her. “What about you?”

“Mine was Row Your Boat!” She said excitedly. “You know, Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.”

“Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, Life is but a dream.. Yeah I know that one.” Seb said with a smile.

“Row, row, row your boat, gently up the creek, if you see a little mouse, don’t forget to squeak.” Sloane continued.

“… What?” Said Seb, his eyes wide.

“Row, row, row your boat, gently to the shore, if you see a lion there, don’t forget to roar.” Sloane carried on.

“… What is happening here?” Seb asked, looking even more concerned.

“Row, row, row your boat, gently up the stream, if you see a crocodile, don’t forget to scream.” Sloane added.

“What is this madness?! Witchcraft?! Tomfoolery!?” Seb questioned, leaning away from Sloane who sat up.

“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream!” She finished with a flourish and a somewhat Seb-esque air grab.

“I have no idea what has just happened here.” Seb said, blinking rapidly.

“Most people don’t know the rest of the rhyme. They lazily learn the first verse and think they’re done. Well not me, Sebastian Everett-Bryce, I learned the entire thing.” She said with an assured nod.

“Evidently.” Seb said before leaning back into his place on the bed and taking another drink. Sloane giggled and settled back into her previous position, leaning against his chest and tracing his tattoos.

“You know, you always give me ridiculous reasons for your tattoos.” Sloane said quietly. “I think you owe me a real explanation for them.”

“What makes you think that?” Seb asked.

“Because I do that thing you like…” Sloane said smugly.

“Which thing exactly?” Seb asked. She looked up at him mischievously.

“Exist…” She said before leaning forward and kissing him on the lips. He let out a chuckle before settling in.

“Alright – what do you want to know?” Seb asked. “You know some of them – heartbreak hotel was for my boarding school. Little did he know was for my dog, Jeremiah…”

“I don’t need to hear that story again.” Sloane said with a pouty face.

“The 21g – that’s the weight of the soul. Or so I was told – but I got the tattoo after my first victory that wasn’t exactly clean. It was a reminder that even though my soul may be light, the things I do can weigh heavy upon it.” Seb said, taking another drink.

“Deep…” Sloane said, with a hint of mockery.

“If you’re going to make fun of me, I’ll keep lying about them…” Seb said.

“Alright, alright, I’m sorry.” She said. “The feather was for gramps, right?”

“Yeah – he loved the Westerns. Always wanted the Native Americans to win – plus the feather stands for trust, honour, strength, wisdom, power, freedom. All things that represent my gramps.” Seb said with a smile.

“I like that.” Sloane said with a smile.

“And this one?” She said, pointing to the writing on his arm – ‘You make me feel like the one’.” Sloane asked.

“That one’s changed.” Said Seb with a smile.

“How so?” She asked.

“When I got it, it was to remind me of the worst betrayal of my entire life. How could my girlfriend and my tag team partner hook up behind my back? When I found Tasha and Ollie, that’s what I heard him saying to her. That she made him feel like the one…” Seb said.

“And now?” Sloane asked.

“Now whenever I can’t help but think of you – I know what he meant. Because everytime you look at me? You make me feel like the one.” He said. She turned her head and kissed him on the shoulder.

“The pinup girl was a stupid drunk mistake.” He said pointing at his arm. “Though when I think about it, it looks a bit like you…”

“It’s a naked woman, Seb!” Sloane said.

“And sometimes you’re naked, Sloane.” Seb said with a smirk. Sloane blushed a little. It was cute – she often blushed when he said something inappropriate.

“Aaaaaaaanyway.” She said pointing at the writing on the inside of his bicep. “That one is very you…”

“Hmm?” He said looking down at the words ‘The World Is Mine’. “Oh. Yeah… Just a little reminder that I can have anything I want if I set my mind on it.”

“Oh really?” She said, her eyes widening.

“Yes…” He said pointedly looking down at her. “Really…”

She blushed again, once more reaching for another change of subject.

“And then there’s that.” She said quietly as she bit her lip and nodded towards the date on his wrist. ‘16/02/11’. Seb cleared his throat, and took another drink. “I understand if you don’t want to talk about it…”

“It’s fine.” He said quietly. “It’s come up a few times since we met and I always brushed it off.”

He sat up a little, and Sloane pulled back and turned so she could face him fully.

“Oliver Reinhold-Majors. Just Oliver Majors, really – he added the Reinhold to try and match my Everett-Bryce-ness.” Seb said with a small smile. “You know he was my tag partner when I broke into the business, right? We were good too – won the LEW Tag Titles three or four times I think. He liked to party – don’t get me wrong, we both did. But I was happy to drink and flirt my nights away whereas he’d disappear into every bathroom in every bar we were in. It got to the point that he’d have small packets delivered to him at his seat no matter where we were – London was our town. I had connections, and we had the ‘It’ factor.”

“Mmhmm, I bet you were popular.” Sloane said, trying not to look disapproving.

“I used to keep him relatively even – make sure he didn’t overdo it.” Seb said, as he looked down at the bottle and started picking at the paper around the outside of it. “Then I met Tasha.”

“Ugh.” Said Sloane. Seb chuckled – she’d never liked Seb’s ex, and with good reason.

“I guess I took my eye off him?” Seb said, shaking his head a little. “He resented the relationship – said that he felt like he’d lost his best friend. We were still on the same nights out, but now I had Tasha around and maybe I didn’t pay him enough attention. He had a couple of injuries, and Tasha convinced him to fight through the pain I guess? We were just getting somewhere, and she didn’t want us to be derailed by a lay off.”

“Of course she did.” Said Sloane with a roll of the eyes.

“Around the same time, I guess he started with pain pills. He kept it hidden for a while. Then I found out about him and Tasha. She told me she’d done it to convince him to keep fighting or some bullshit. I believed it at the time because I thought I was in love with her and I blamed him. I guess now I know what a manipulative bitch she could be.” Seb said.

“Yeah. She is.” Said Sloane, with a hint of bitterness in her voice.

“What little care I was taking for Ollie all but faded – then the next thing I know he turned up to a show off his face. I don’t know what he’d been taking, but he fell out of the taxi. He was barely dressed and when I asked him where his gear was, he seemed to think he was supposed to be on a night out.” Seb said, his eyes filling a little. “Anyway… We couldn’t let him wrestle. We made up a story about him being sick and he hid in our dressing room. I guess he sobered up, because by the time I was done he was wide-eyed and apologetic.”

“As he should be – he could have really hurt someone. Himself even.” Sloane said.

“That’s what I said.” Seb replied, pausing for a second, as he put the bottle on the table. “Anyway, I drove him home and he asked me if I’d come in for a drink. That he missed me and just wanted to talk. I could hear Tasha tsking in the back of the car – she was pissed with him, because she was worried he was going to get us fired. I said no – said he should just get some sleep.”

Reached out and put a hand on his wrist.

“Anyway – Tasha wanted to go out. I said no – said I wanted to go home. We got into a fight and I ended up dropping her off with Grant in the city.” Seb said. He didn’t see Sloane roll her eyes at another name from Seb’s past of whom she no longer approved. “I woke up the next morning to a dozen missed calls – turns out that Ollie had gone to bed after taking a fist full of pain pills and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Never woke up – his cleaner found him.”

“Oh Seb…” Sloane said.

“The sixteenth of February 2011 – just over eleven years ago.” Seb said, running his thumb over the date on his wrist. “If I’d gone in? Or if I’d gone back after dropping Tasha off, he’d have been okay.”

“You can’t blame yourself.” Sloane said quietly.

“And yet…” Said Seb with a small chuckle. “I could never understand it – he was so guilty for what happened. I never believed that he’d go home and start again. I guess he was angry at me… Or at himself…”

“Or he just couldn’t help it. Addiction is hard, Seb.” She replied.

“Yeah…” Seb said, taking the last sip from his bottle before climbing to his feet and walking towards the refrigerator for another. “Afterwards I felt so alone. Tasha was there, but she was too busy trying to make me forget. But the reality was that I’d always known it was coming. Ollie was just… Too far gone. Too deep?”

“What do you mean?” Sloane asked, shaking her head when he offered her a drink.

“You know how in movies, you can see the ending before it happens but knowing it doesn’t alter it? It just increases the level of dread that the thing was going to happen. It was like that – I could see the end for Ollie. His drinking, the drugs… I knew where it was going. But no matter what I thought of, I couldn’t stop it. I was helpless – and I hated knowing that one day I was going to find him cold and alone, and I hated knowing that I’d blame myself even though it was always going to be the end for him.”

“Seb…” Sloane began as he dropped back into the seat on the edge, the top popped off the bottle.

“He always talked about his heroes being rock stars and celebrities that went out in a blaze of glory – he never wanted to be famous. He wanted to be infamous.” Seb said, shaking his head. “And he got what he wanted – a memorial show. A charitable trust set up in his name. They named a tag tournament after him in LEW. But I just had to stand by and watch it happening… Doomed to let it happen. I can’t help but wonder if deep down that’s why I never went in that night.”

“I don’t believe that.” Sloane said, putting a hand on his wrist. “You would never…”

“Maybe not.” Said Seb. “Not consciously anyway – but I was so tired of waiting for it to happen, Sloane.”

“I’m sorry that it happened.” She said.

“Me too.” He replied. “He didn’t deserve the life he chose. Or the end.”

A moment of silence hung between them.

“Thank you… For telling me.” Sloane said.

“I’m just sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.” He said, with a little chuckle. He reached up to scratch his forehead as Sloane pulled him close for a deep hug. “I love you, Sloane Taylor.”

“I love you, Sebastian Everett-Bryce.” She replied, before they sunk back down into their pillowy existence. Sloane changed the subject, but Seb’s mind drifted away as he felt the sting of the tattoo on his wrist as if it had just been inked.

It is, however, oddly fitting that it would be you and I standing opposite one another. Afterall, through UGWC and Valor we have been in the same companies at the same time and yet save for that one glorious night at sea, we’ve never shared the same ring. Even at Blood Money, our paths were separated by your current glory. We have mused, the two of us, that neither of us would take what the other said personally should we ever choose to face. Afterall, we are above the petty nature of those who seek permanent harm from a temporary opinion.

The reality is that I have watched you from afar for the longest time and have always wished to face you. I’ve long acknowledged and admired your chaos and your ability to take your opponents off their game with a single tweet or uttered word. Until now, I have been little more than an abject voyeur at the delights of your ability to, often publicly, cut apart those who stand before you as if your tongue were a rapier while they were little more than that crumbly greek cheese. Though, that might be a terrible example. Most people get it already cut up in those little tubs with weird brine stuff… I feel like I’ve wandered off point.

The point, such as it is, is that I have stood by and watched in awe whilst you somehow manage to handle yourself with the poise and predatory capabilities of a multi-time world champion and yet manage to find yourself on the short end of history. And let me be clear – to those of us who hold you dear, we will always consider you in the round. Your success both in and outside of the ring. But the reality is that, you’re only ever one moment away from tripping yourself up and falling down. It’s the sad truth of Atara Themis.

So talented and yet so incapable of keeping herself straight for long enough to prove to the world just how talented she is. Sure, you’ll point to your championships won and rightfully declare them proof of your capabilities, but the one thing that separates you from those that will be remembered eternally is that one moment of greatness that can never be denied. But let’s be honest – you never walked into Blood Money as the Brooklyn Champion with an expectation of leaving as Islands Champion with Betsy. It wasn’t the kind of moment you were looking for.

Though I suspect what you took from her was more important than that which the two of you gained, am I right?

And yet, on that same night, I can’t help but think of how our paths diverged. Whilst the gums flapped in lip service to Dickie and Shawn, the truth is that the real talking point was the man who fell just short of making history at Blood Money. The man who finally managed to do that which he’d failed to do on two previous occasions. The man who eliminated James Raven from Blood Money and came within a hair’s breadth of ruining the perfect end to the Warstein-Watson story.

You and I both know that while the chatter was about those who were there already, the eyes were already upon me. Because Sebastian Everett-Bryce had arrived in Fight! NYC and had already had everyone’s attention.

All the while, you and James had eyes only for one another. It’s a rare thing, for Aphrodite Incarnate and The People’s G.O.A.T. to be able to slip by unnoticed while those watching peepers are focused entirely on someone else.

You’re very welcome by the way.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2022 – Chicago, Illinois

Sebastian Everett-Bryce the original, the grandfather of our hero and father of the perpetual villain of the piece, was rarely backwards in coming forwards. He had been known, on more than one occasion, to raise his sword and rush headlong into battle swinging wildly whenever he had an opinion on a risen subject. And if you thought Seb was dramatic, his gramps had thespianic levels of ostentatiousness – and yes, I know exactly how hypocritical that sounds.

His opinions were legendary. From telling Sebastian almost weekly that he should drop all pretence, declare his undying love for Sloane and wade into the sea of uncertainty – he may have had a point about that one – to suggesting that Kit Taylor abandon his plans for further education and partake on a voyage of self discovery, much to the chagrin of his mother and sister. Yes, Bastian Everett Bryce would rarely hold his tongue when a thought came to mind.

Which is why the almost month long silent treatment Seb had received since returning from London had him concerned. Bastian would only return a text to confirm that he was both alive and well. Other than that, he had ignored Seb entirely. This, of course, made Seb sad – his gramps was one of the most important people in his life and the idea that Bastian could be mad with him was painful in the extreme.

And so, in an attempt to build bridges, Seb had sent in the cavalry. The big guns. In some ways, he’d probably gone over the top. He’d done the only thing that he could think of that would elicit any kind of reaction from his gramps.

He’d asked Sloane to call.

And so, after a short and entirely pleasant conversation, Bastian had agreed to meet his grandson for coffee and a chat. And that is where our story picks up – with Sebastian slipping through the doors of a coffee shop and spotting an overdressed eighty-two year old in the corner, looking out of the window wistfully smoking a vape pipe. Seb waved to him from the counter as he ordered his drink – but Bastian pretended he hadn’t seen him. One other thing to know about Bastian? He is a huge bitch.

Seb moved through the tables until he reached his grandfather and placed his drink down on the table.

“Hey, gramps – looking sharp.” Said Seb with a wink.

“Mmm.” Said Bastian, casting Seb a sideways glance and returning to the window.

“Are you not having a drink?” Seb asked.

“I shan’t be staying very long.” Said Bastian, turning his head slightly. “I’m merely here because the lovely Sloane asked me to come.”

“Well I appreciate it…” Seb began, but Bastian cut him off as he finally looked at Seb fully.

“You are definitely punching above your weight.” Bastian said, before turning back to the window.

“Ouch.” Said Seb with a chuckle. “I mean, you’re right, but still… Ouch.”

“Mmm.” Said Bastian again as he took a drag from his pipe.

“When did you start vaping?” Seb asked with a chuckle.

“Around the time you decided to start playing happy families with that BOY.” Said Bastian. Seb took a deep breath.

“That’s why you’re mad. Because I went back home?” Seb asked.

“I’m not mad.” Said Bastian, turning his head slowly to face Seb. “I’m disappointed.”

“You seem kind of mad.” Said Seb with a smirk.

“I’m not mad.” Said Bastian sharply.

“I mean, you feel kind of mad…” Said Seb.

“I’M NOT FUCKING MAD!” Snapped Bastian. Seb tried his hardest not to burst into laughter as he looked around at the shocked patrons casting a disapproving look at the furious octogenarian.

“Sure?” Said Seb as Bastian quayled at his outburst.

“I suppose you think you’re funny, don’t you? Tricking an old man?” Bastian said.

“Mmhmm, right.” Said Seb as he sat down opposite his grandfather. “If anyone knows about trickery it’s you.”

“I have no idea what you’re babbling about.” Said Bastian, with his nose upturned and looking off into the middle distance once again. “I’m an honourable gentleman.”

“Oh really – is that why I’ve had two calls from the retirement village this week to inform me that you’re one strike away from them kicking you out for that book you keep running.” Said Seb.

“Oh good lord, it’s just a bit of fun.” Said Bastian rolling his eyes.

“It’s a dead pool, gramps… You’re betting on which of the residents is going to die next.” Seb said.

“It’s easy money – no-one wants to pick their own friend, but the loners seem to live forever.” Said Bastian. “Though Marcus Weatherby was incredibly upset when I came back to the village – he had a hundred dollars on me.”

Bastian began to chuckle, until Seb joined in, at which point his gramps became stony faced once more.

“Oh come on gramps – we can’t fall out.” Seb said.

“Until your father tells you that you need to cut me out again.” Bastian said quietly. “After what he pulled before Christmas, I would have thought it was the last thing…”

“I’m not doing it for me.” Seb said.

“I don’t care what you’re doing it for, my boy, I don’t like it. I don’t trust him. My son is a snake – and the moment you think you’re in control is the moment he is at his most dangerous.” Bastian said. Seb smiled. “Why are you grinning like a moron?”

“You said ‘my boy’.” Seb said. “You’re not that mad at me really.”

“Well… I…” Bastian said, searching for an excuse that lay out of reach. “Oh alright… I’m not mad.”

“I’m sorry if I hurt you, gramps – I should have talked to you before Sloane and I went back to London.” Seb said.

“I’m just worried – not just about you, but about Sloane too. She’s far too good to be tainted by this family.” Bastian said. Seb smiled again.

“Why do you think I waited so long to tell her how I felt?” Seb said. “I never wanted her to have to deal with any of this – and like clockwork, the moment that she and I became official up pops my father and his fucking tendrils start to spread.”

“You could just refuse.” Said Bastian. “Let him rot in the mire of what he’s reaped throughout his miserable life.”

“I can’t.” Said Seb.

“Why not?” Said Bastian.

“Because if he fails, you know as well as I do he won’t go down alone – and I can’t risk his poison reaching you, or Sloane, or her family.” Seb said quietly. Bastian paused for a second to allow a moment’s thought. “I can see it playing out in my head, gramps. The more hurt he is, the more dangerous. I can’t just sit by and watch everything go wrong. I’ve done that before and I can’t do it again.”

Bastian tsked, shaking his head slightly.

“Has he threatened them?” Bastian asked.

“Only if I renege on our agreement.” Said Seb in a musing sort of way, his thumb trailing around the edge of the lid of his takeaway cup.

“You have an agreement?” His grandfather queried with raised eyebrows. “That’s not your smartest move, my boy.”

“No, but I had to do something.” Seb said quietly, pausing again. “Sloane doesn’t want to see my mother hurting. She met with us at Disney – turns out she almost left him after what happened at Christmas.”

“I had heard rumour.” Bastian said thoughtfully, leaning forward towards Seb. “Do you think it’s true?”

“At Disney she told me she wanted a relationship with me… With Sloane. Whether my father wanted it or not.” Seb said, chewing his tongue. “As much as I want to trust her, I also know this could all be part of father’s plan – he could be using her, and if he is…”

“You want to be able to help her should she need it.” Bastian said with a deep sigh. And then, he did something Seb hadn’t expected. He reached out and took his grandson’s hand. “I understand. I just want you to be careful.”

“I know.” Seb said with a shake of his head. “If I could do this without Sloane being involved I would – but any scenario I think of that keeps her out of it either sets up for us to look like we’re just playing a game, or worse that they don’t approve of Sloane and I’m keeping her away.”

“Yes, it is quite the conundrum.” Bastian said thoughtfully. “What is this agreement, anyway?”

“Pretty simple. He stays out of my life, supports our relationship, gives me access to the trappings of the Everett-Bryce family. In exchange, I remain active as a part of the family and as you saw, make a public statement to show that me and my father have a healthy and stable relationship.”

“You steady the waters for the company?” Bastian said. “Anything else?”

“I may have made a few demands of my own.” Seb said, his eyes darting towards Bastian and then away.

“Such as…” Bastian said, knowingly.

“I’m still only using your name – no number. It’s your name, not his. When we’re in London, Sloane and I will enjoy the life. But back in Chicago, we live our own way.” Seb said, pausing.

“Go on…” Said Bastian.

“And… Maybe… He’s agreed to kind of… You know.. I guess… Pay for your living costs at the retirement village…” Seb said.

“Absolutely not. No. That is not happening.” Said Bastian throwing his hands up in the air.

“Gramps… Hear me out. This is so you can spend your money, however you want. He’s just footing the bill for you to have a place to stay.” Seb said.

“Sebastian I am not…” Bastian began, but Seb cut him off.

“You don’t have to think of it as owing him – think of it as a con. We’re extorting your cost of living from a man who deserves to be extorted.” Seb said quickly. Bastian opened his mouth to speak again. “Think of it like you’re Robin Hood – you’re taking from the rich, erudite elitist to support your much more modest lifestyle.”

Bastian paused for a second.

“I do like Robin Hood – and I am much more modest than your father.” Bastian said quietly, staring off out of the window again. As the silence built, Seb considered that there was a chance that his grandfather had actually fallen asleep with his eyes open. “Fine!”

Seb visually jumped at the break in silence.

“Good.” Said Seb. “I can’t just sit around and wait for the shoe to drop, gramps. I have to do something… And this is it.”

“You need to be careful, my boy. I appreciate you wanting to protect us all, but you can’t leave yourself vulnerable.” Bastian said. Seb smiled.

“You know, sometimes I have to put other people before me… As shocking as that is to hear. I’ve seen enough people hurt because I did nothing… I’m not doing that again.” Said Seb with a smile at Bastian. His grandfather sighed again, before climbing to his feet. “Wait, you’re really leaving?”

“I told you I wasn’t staying – I have a baccarat tournament at the village in half an hour.” Bastian said as he pulled his scarf around his neck, followed by his purple velvet jacket embroidered with lilacs. He cast Seb a sideways glance and a smirk. “Care to walk me back? We can finish our conversation on the way.”

“Sure.” Said Seb with a smile. “It would be my pleasure…”

That being said, your thanks can only extend so far – I care not for sentiment when it comes to being inside that ring. I learnt that the hard way from fighting Sloane. When it comes time for that bell to ring, friends and lovers are cast in the same light as enemies. Our friendship matters less to me in that moment than the spoils of victory. It’s nothing personal, and as I’ve said to you before, I will share no animosity for any words spoken or actions taken.

Alas, my captain you are no more. This coming Monday, you are but the first hurdle that must be overcome in my attempts for success. The truth is, despite my performance, my record here is simple. One match, one loss – in years to come, no-one will remember that Seb finished third at Blood Money. So victory is paramount to me, Atty – and I don’t care if that upsets you. I don’t care if it makes you mad. At this point, I don’t care if it makes you swear off our friendship until the end of time.

I came to Fight to win, and in my ambition there are those who must lose. You, Sahara, Shawn… Your dear, dear James. I don’t care who it is, or who they are to me outside of the ring. Quickly and without remorse, each and every one will become a notch on my belt that earns me the opportunity to prove that I am without doubt the very best there is to do what we do.

I’m better than you, Atara. And whilst that is little more than mere theory right now, I’ll do whatever it takes to prove that this coming Monday. I am better than you, Atara. Let that sink in. Let that marinate and sink deep beneath your skin. Because the sooner you realise that fact, the easier it will be when it becomes reality.

I suspect you know a lot about Empires, Atty – you’re a clever woman. You know your history, and you know that they spread like wildfire. I know, I know – Empires fall. But that only becomes a fair truth once they’ve reached their full potential.

I plan on reaching mine, Atara. Do you?