The Past and The Presents

By: Sebastian Everett Bryce

Writing Prompt: Yes

Date: 18th Mar 2022

Hello, Anne – I’m not sure Your Majesty fits so well these days, so I’ll stick with Anne. I hope you’re well and bountiful. I know you and everyone else are expecting some kind of mockery from me, but if anyone in Fight knows the plight of the upper classes in England, it’s very much your friend, Sebastian. I know our first meeting didn’t exactly go off without a hitch – some would say we didn’t see eye to eye, alas I can appreciate a good performance as well as anyone here – and your performance at Blood Money was beyond anything I would have ever expected.

Your performance last week was even more impressive. For you managed to gain some semblance of revenge for your untimely demise at Blood Money. It’s funny, because for someone who’s role was so diminutive, you are the reason for almost everything that unfolded at Blood Money. Had you not struck out at me, in an attempt to steal my sight, I may have thrust myself into the melee between Austin and Bam much earlier than I did putting an end to my hopes of victory.

Had you not gone on to find James Raven, he may not have struck you down. You may have been successful and gone on to the final four. I may never have had my chance to gain my own touch of revenge against the man with the abs. And yet, had you not almost blinded me, I may not have taken so long to spot Shawn’s trickery. Perhaps, Anne, had you not interjected we would be fighting tonight with me as the one to face Dickie Watson in May.

Perhaps I owe you a little revenge of my own.

It had been a fun night for Sebastian Everett-Bryce and Sloane Taylor. As they often had during their early days of friendship, they had made the snap decision to just go out and walk. Whilst Chicago wasn’t always the safest city in the world, Sloane’s knowledge of the city was so detailed that Seb had rarely ever seen any of the trouble that people would talk about when describing their hometown.

They’d eaten Korean street food, watched street performers do their thing, talked, laughed and watched the sunset behind the city. Then they watched a movie, before walking home talking about all of the little details they’d noticed throughout.

Back when they’d first met, no-one could understand what brought them together. Seb was a spoiled, entitled rich boy who had a mentality of ‘do whatever it takes to win’, whilst Sloane was just so… Good. She was honest, she was fair – she only ever wanted to win because she was the best. Sure, she could throw down if the match dictated it, but she barely put a toe out of line. She had more integrity than anyone Seb had ever met. They just… Didn’t make sense as friends. Not to anyone but each other.

Seb wasn’t entirely sure when friendship became love, but for him it was long before they finally admitted it to each other and to the world.

And she’d changed him for the better – granted, he wasn’t the same spoiled… Okay, fine. He wasn’t the same entitled… Right, yes. Okay. He wasn’t a rich boy anymore – but something about her made him want to do better, to be better. And when he thought back he realised that it had been a long, long time since he’d broken the rules to win a match.

Sloane had infected him with her integrity, that sneaky bitch.

But he didn’t hate it – not really. For the first time in his career, his wins were earned as were his losses. He’d started to feel aggrieved when he was cheated out of a victory. Though, his history made him think twice before calling out anyone else with a ‘do whatever it takes to win’ mentality. He’d wanted to scream from the clouds that Larry fucking Tact had only beaten him because he’d held onto his tights. But rather than outwardly complain, Seb merely internalised his anguish and vowed to kick him extra hard the next time they faced one another.

That satiated his thirst for blood.

On the flip side, Seb would like to think he’d helped shape the edge that Sloane had managed to pick up over the years. Though, he suspected, it was her experiences more than his constant prodding. She would never be the cheat to win, kind of person, but her friendship with Seb had forced her to be more thick-skinned, especially considering that for the longest time, Seb’s transgressions would be oddly attached to her rather than him. And then came what was arguably Seb’s most controversial moment. His split from Hide Yamazaki in the build up to their World Title match eighteen months earlier.

The detail was well documented, but the summary was simple. A jealous and frustrated Seb had lashed out not only against Hide but also against Johnny Hitmaker and their non-wrestling counterpart, Dr. Numbers. Regret was almost instantaneous – but this was professional wrestling, where admitting a mistake could be career suicide. And so, Seb doubled down on the attack. For some reason, Sloane caught almost everyone’s ire for not condemning her best friend.

Outside of injury, that had been her hardest time. And it had been Seb’s too.

Time passed, as did blame – but Sloane’s edge maintained. Injuries made her harder. Disappointment too. But deep down, Seb knew that when she snapped back with a semi-bitchy retort with that cute tilt of her head and the cheeky smile that she was fine – she’d just learned that being nice all the time never cut.

And that was something she managed to bring to the fore whenever it was required. For example…

“The part I don’t quite understand is that, out of the two of us, why it was you who was crying like a little girl.” Sloane said, head-tilt and smile in place as they opened the door to their apartment building and slipped inside.

“It was incredibly emotional, Sloane – don’t mock my pain.” Seb said.

“It was Terminator 2…” Sloane said with a giggle.

“Look, when he lowers into the molten metal… And the thumbs up…” Seb began, already starting to choke up again. He held up his hand. “I can’t talk about this again.”

“Oh stop, I’m kidding – it’s sweet.” Sloane said pulling his hand up to her mouth and placing a kiss on the back of it as they entered the elevator and pressed the button to their floor.

“And yet you treat me with derision.” He said, acting wounded. Sloane turned to face him and lifted onto her toes.

“How about I apologise to you properly when we get inside?” She asked, kissing him on the chin with a mischievous look in her eyes.

“I could be swayed.” Seb said, doing his best not to look like this was a foregone conclusion. Sloane giggled and shook her head as the elevator stopped at their floor and they stepped outside.

“You know what I never quite understood about Terminator 2?” Sloane said as they walked down their hallway. “In the first movie, they said that only living organisms can travel through time – that’s why they put the first terminator inside living flesh. But the T-1000 has no flesh at all, it just looks like flesh. So… Did the technology change? And if so, why go through the bother of adding meat to Arnie’s robot in the second movie? And if not, how did the T-1000 make it? Did the Time Machine just go ‘oh, well, that looks like flesh so go right ahead?”.

Seb pressed the key into the door and turned it, pushing open the door and stepping inside. Sloane followed him. He closed the door.

“You know, I read an article about how…” Seb began as he flicked on the light to their apartment. However, whatever Seb’s theory was about that giant plothole in one of the few movies in the Terminator franchise that is seen in a positive light was lost with the scream of terror that had come from Sloane as the light filled the room.

Seb spun around, readying himself to fight a ghost or a muscled robot sent from the future to destroy him, but the reality was much, much worse.

“The security in both your building and your apartment is awful.” Said the man, sat on their couch with his feet up on their coffee table with a pair of hedgehogs curled up on his knee.

“What the fuck, Wesley?” Seb said, dropping his keys on the table, staring a hole through his father’s former Head of Security. “You can’t just walk into someone’s house and make yourself at home.”

“You can if they have shitty security.” He said, leaning forward and placing Quill and Wigg into their dual pineapples on the table in front of him. “Hello, Sloane – sorry if I scared you.”

“That’s… Okay…” Sloane said quietly, casting a look in Seb’s direction.

“What are you doing here, Wes?” Seb asked, trying very hard not to lose his cool.

“I’ve been sent as something of an envoy.” Wes said with a smile as he leaned back against the couch. “Apparently that’s my job nowadays.”

“Yes well, my father tends to have unique ways of using his lackeys.” Said Seb with a harsh smirk.

“I don’t work for your father, Seb – I work for your mother.” Said Wes, smiling. “She’s a wonderful woman, Sebastian.”

“I don’t need to know that you’re in love with my mother, Wes.” Seb said walking around and taking a seat on the couch. Sloane busied herself in the kitchen.

“Don’t talk about things you don’t understand, boy.” Wes said, with danger in his voice.

“Holy shit.” Said Seb, with a snort. “I’m right aren’t I? You’re in love with my mother…”

“Hold your tongue before I cut it out – I can make sure it looks like an accident.” Said Wes.

“Well, well, well… Isn’t this a turn up for the books – the loyal servant falling in love with the master’s wife. Did she give you the eyes one night and you felt your head go boom, boom, boom…”

“I swear to God…” Said Wesley.

“Oh please – don’t bring God into this. You can’t do the things we both know you’ve done and evoke deities. They’d all boil you alive.” Seb said, dismissively. Wes sat, staring, his jaw flexing as he considered his next words. His relaxed demeanour changed as he leaned forwards, his fingertips pressed together and elbows on his knees.

“Your mother has asked me to remind you that your newly mended fences are currently a stiff breeze away from collapsing. And that whilst she has no mind about the repercussions of your relationship with your father, she would prefer it if there were no obstacles put in place of her relationship with the two of you.” Wesley said.

“Sounds threatening – interesting choice from a woman who not a month ago said that she didn’t care what my father wanted… Has her stance changed?” Seb asked.

“It hasn’t.” Said Wes, with a slight smile. “But you understand the requisite simplicity of having your father onside. Much easier to visit one another for example. Plus, his mood has improved which does make her life somewhat easier.”

“Requisite simplicity…” Said Seb with a mocking smirk. “Has mother been teaching you some big words during pillow talk?”

“I’m a tolerant man, Sebastian.” Warned Wes. “Do not… Disrespect your mother.”

“I’m not disrespecting her, Wesley. I resent her sending you to deliver messages when she could have just picked up the phone. So either, she doesn’t actually care enough to bother or in reality… She never sent you. Someone else did…” Seb said sagely. Wes shifted uncomfortably. “Should I call her? Ask her how she is? Ask how you are?”

Seb pulled his phone from his pocket and unlocked it.

“Wait.” Said Wes, his hands starting to wring nervously. “Okay fine.”

He shook his head and cleared his throat, before reaching out and scratching the pudgy stomach of Quill who seemed to enjoy the gesture. Finally, Wes looked up.

“I’m here because of your mother, but not because your mother sent me.” He said quietly. “Your father called me into his office and suggested that you may be having second thoughts seeing as though you haven’t visited in the last month. He’s been getting questions about… fake reconciliations.”

“And?” Said Seb. Wes didn’t like how he was being spoken to, but he grit his teeth and continued.

“And he suggested that things could get very difficult for your mother if you didn’t start picking up your slack.” Wesley added.

“What, you couldn’t threaten him with a beating? That’s what you’d do to anyone else.” Said Seb, knowingly.

“You know that’s not going to happen.” Said Wes. “It was suggested that, for her benefit, it would be good for me to come and talk to you.”

“And like a good little puppy, you did as you were told.” Said Seb.

“Seb…” Said Sloane from the kitchen.

“What? It’s true – Wesley here doesn’t have an independent thought. If he’d decided to come off his own back, I’d have had some respect, but he’s still doing my father’s bidding even when he doesn’t have to.” Seb said.

“Maybe you should just honour the deal you made, hmm?” Said Wes.

“I’ll play my part in my own time…” Seb began.

“And to hell with the consequences with anyone else? Sounds like Seb – always looking after himself and not giving a fuck how it effects anyone else. You made a deal, Sebastian. Have a little integrity.” Said Wes, angrily.

“Int… Integrity?” Seb said, leaning forward himself.

“Seb, relax…” Sloane said, Seb held up a hand.

“Fucking integrity? That’s rich coming from you, and astounding coming from my father. What the fuck do you know about integrity?” Seb snarled.

“I know that when a man gives his word, he keeps it.” Wes said.

“That the same when you’re holding a man by his legs off a bridge? Or when my father’s calling in favours to make his problems disappear. Is that what you call integrity?” Seb asked, getting to his feet. Wesley did the same.

“Sebastian!” Sloane said, walking around the couch and getting in between them. “Stop. Now. Both of you.”

“You’re lucky your girl is here to protect you.” Wes said.

“I swear to god, I’ll kick both of your asses if you don’t back off.” Sloane said. For a second, Wes looked down dangerously. Seb’s fists clenched but Sloane turned and backed him off. “Sit.”

Slowly, despite the tension, each of them began to take a seat.

“Seb – Wes has a point. We made promises, which means we should be making more effort to visit.” Said Sloane.

“Thank you.” Said Wes.

“And you should thank your lucky stars, I’m not calling Sofia to tell her how much fun we had when Wesley visited us.” Sloane said, with Wes shrinking slightly.

“Tell Seb’s dad we’ll be there after the next UGWC Pay Per View – we’ll spend a few days in London, take in dinner and a show or whatever nonsense passes as social in London these days.” Said Sloane.

“Thank you.” Said Wes, a small bow with his hands pressed together. “That’s all I was after.”

“Oh Wes, we both know that’s not… All… You’re after.” Sneered Seb. Wesley shook his head and chuckled as he reached out and picked up his jacket.

“You know something, lad – there are times when you’re not much more likeable than your father. Just because you like more people than he does, doesn’t mean that you can’t be an insufferable arsehole.” Wes said before slapping Seb on the arm. He turned to look at Sloane. “See you around, kid.”

“Bye Wes…” She said. Seb slowly got to his feet, and watched as Wes pulled open the door to their apartment and left without another word.

“Can you believe him? Insufferable arsehole?” Seb said. When Sloane didn’t immediately answer he slowly turned his head to face her.

“Well… I mean… I love you…” She said with wide eyes.

“Unbelievable!” Said Seb, tossing his hands into the air before heading to the bathroom and closing the door behind him.

“He’s so dramatic.” Said Sloane with the shake of her head.

“DRAMATIC!?” She heard, from behind the locked door, before what seemed to be a significant amount of mumbling from within.

But don’t you worry, Anne – don’t lose your head. I don’t come for blood, I merely wish to take another step forward in my career here in Fight. Many people have done much worse than scratch me and gotten away with it. Instead, I look at this as another opportunity. You see, should I beat you that will mean that in the first two matches of my career here in Fight, I will have beaten the two wrestlers that competed so valiantly for the Brooklyn Championship at Countdown.

And while I had to make careful and considered choices about how I would beat my friend, Atara Themis, I have no qualms about how far I’m willing to go to beat you, Anne.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m a changed man. Some would argue that perhaps I’ve lost some of the killer instinct that made me the fighter I was when I came into this business. But the truth, Anne, is that I’ve come to learn that victory by any means is less satisfying than proving that you’re the one. And here’s the dirty little secret – I’m not getting any worse at it, I’m just getting better.

And I know, my detractors will clutch at my nearmisses this past six months and tell me that it’s proof that I’m not quite enough, but in actuality Anne, it’s just the opposite. They’ll say different, because it’s what we do, right? But Matthew Knox doesn’t want to have to face me again. Duncan Ryder doesn’t want to have to face me again. James Raven doesn’t want to have to face me again… Shawn Warstein doesn’t want to face me at all. Because there comes a moment in the careers of every great that’s ever been where everything just clicked.

And they all know I’m a snap of the fingers away from becoming the man who will one day be one of the greatest there’s ever been.

Seb sat at the table in his kitchen, looking down at the screen where Chris Page looked back at him.

“Come on, brother, things went great for you out there.” Said Page with a smirk. “Pretty damn close.”

“I know, I know – I just have history with this particular victor.” Said Seb through gritted teeth. “I don’t dislike Mr. Ryder slash Sheppard as much as I used to, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t burn.”

“I’ve been there.” Said Page with a nod. “You never want to lose, but it’s tougher to take against some than others. But let’s be real here, Seb – in the past couple of months you’ve walked into two separate companies and taken them by storm. Blood Money was huge – The Last of Us Gauntlet was too.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Said Seb with a nod. “I’m not disappointed. Far from it.”

“Did you give it everything you could?” Page asked. “Because if you left nothing out there, then there’s no reason not to be proud of what you’ve done.”

“Funny you should say that…” Seb said, chuckling slightly. “You know, I’ve been thinking about this strange run I’ve been on for the last six months. And I realised that, I’ve not took a shortcut to a victory for almost eighteen months.”

“You think that’s the difference between winning and almost winning?” Page asked, sagely.

“Maybe? I don’t know – I guess, once upon a time I had this reputation for being willing to take any steps necessary to win. The win was all there was, you know? No matter what I had to get the W on my record and how I made that happen didn’t matter so much.” Seb said.

“So what changed? Sloane?” Page asked.

“A little – she made it harder to shrug off the bad things I did. But at some point I started to realise that if I’m not good enough to win without the short cuts, then what am I doing it for? If I wanted to be dissatisfied with my application, I’d go back to London and work for my father.” Seb said, shaking his head. “When I was younger, I was trying to prove to everyone, my father included, that I could be a success – I didn’t need him. That this was the career I wanted, and I didn’t want him to have any room to look me in the eye and tell me I was a failure.”

“I can feel that, brother. Trust me, I have a fair few parental issues of my own.” Said Page. “And I’m not going to tell you wins don’t matter – they do. Your legacy is built on your victories. But in between each milestone, there’s ups and there’s downs. And sure, you could pick up a few more wins along the way if you take a shortcut or two – and I’m not saying it’s a bad choice, but the fact is that you can win by any means or lose in the right way and leave a legacy behind.”

“Makes sense.” Said Seb quietly.

“And you have to know, I don’t care if you take a tough loss or throw in a shot with a pair of brass knuckles. I’m looking at your performance from bell to bell, not the last ten seconds. And so long as you keep showing all the promise you’ve been showing since the day I first set eyes on you, I’ll be able to keep selling to the world that you’re the future of our business, brother.” Said Page with a nod.

“Thank you Chris.” Seb said with a smile. “I know you’ve been getting a lot of heat for what you’re doing for us – me, Thad, Sahara, Pete… Everyone seems to think this entire enterprise is about us helping push you to the top. But I want you to know that I appreciate what you’ve done for me – and most of all, I appreciate you not trying to push me to try and be anything other than who I am.”

“No point, brother. If I try to turn you into something you’re not, we’re just going to end up going our separate ways.” Said Page with a smile. “I’m just here to get the best I can for you, and set you up for all the success in the world.”

“Thanks Chris. Seriously.” Said Seb with a smile.

“Speaking of which, I’m pretty confident I could get you a great deal over in Level Up, brother – probably even work out a title shot for you too. They were really impressed with you over there.” Said Page with a nod.

Seb smirked, leaning back in his seat. He slowly rubbed his jaw, before shaking his head.

“I appreciate it, Chris. From you and them, but I just signed with Fight and I still have UGWC commitments – I’m not looking for anything else right now.”

“I like that – priorities.” Said Page with a nod. “Another chance to show everyone in Fight what a hell of a talent they have on their hands.”

“Anne Bolynn…” Seb said darkly. “You know, if it hadn’t been for her, I think I’d have spotted Shawn’s clever little trick. Her and her talons damn near blinded me, Chris. Blinded. Me.”

“I take your word for it, brother.” Said Page with a smirk. “Listen, I’ve got another meeting coming up, but I’ll be there Monday for the show so we’ll catch up then, alright?”

“Sure, Chris.” Said Seb with a smile. “I’ll see you on Monday.”

Seb reached out and pressed the button on the screen of his tablet, and the call ended.

I don’t want to make an example of you, Anne. In fact, I quite like you – I like your attitude, and given that we’re both high born, we both know the value of our position. And I know you’ll think you’re better than me – wrestlers lie about their fears, aristocracy lie about their position. Here’s the truth, though, Anne – you’ve had a good run here so far. You’re entertaining and you’re talented, but there’s a reason you’ve been fed to me.

Everyone around us knows that I’m better than you, and it’s nothing personal, I’m better than most of the names on our roster. One by one, I’ll tick them all of the list until no-one can doubt that the day I walked into Fight NYC was the darkest day of all. Not because of some lofty mission statement or delusions of industry change. But because it was the day that every single person on this roster had to recognise that there was a new threat, and that they had no idea how to deal with it.

But for you, your majesty I reserve a simple and yet poignant lesson. So often those doubted most are the authors of our demise. I recognise your capabilities and the threat you pose. I take you seriously, unlike so many others that came before me. I implore you not to make the same mistake with me that the do with you. See me for the challenge that I am – the competitor that I am. And maybe, just maybe we can steal this whole same show.


“And THEN he called me an insufferable arsehole!” Said Seb. “Can you believe that?”

“Yes.” Said his grandfather. Seb slowly turned to look at him with wide, mad eyes.

“What is wrong with everyone today?!” Said Seb. “Sloane agreed too!”

“I think perhaps you should read something into that, don’t you?” Bastian said as he continued to flick through the greetings cards.

“That you’re all misguided and deeply disturbed?” Seb said with incredulity. “I am not an insufferable arsehole.”

“This is one of your shortfalls, my boy, you tend to hear what you want to hear. Either for good or bad – we didn’t say that you are an insufferable arsehole, but that you can be an insufferable arsehole. To Sloane and I, you’re mostly an absolute delight, but when it comes to people who you don’t think deserve your respect you can be something of an…” Bastian began, moving his hand in circles as if searching for the right word.

“… Insufferable arsehole?” Asked Seb through gritted teeth.

“Precisely.” Said Bastian. “Take that Duncan chap, or the man who looks like a potato. Or Wesley. At one time or another you’ve been deeply unpleasant to all of them.”

“Justifiably so!” Said Seb.

“Not entirely, Sebastian. If you were being brutally honest with yourself, do you really thing that anyone deserves the level of snark you reserve for those you loathe?” Bastian asked.

“I… Yes… I think.” Seb said, whilst trying to stuff various items into a wicker basket in a way that looked pleasant.

“Sebastian…” Said his grandfather.

“Okay fine, maybe not.” Said Seb, as his grandfather handed him a greetings card and a pen. Seb leaned down and began to write.

“And that’s okay – no-one is nice all of the time. You just have to accept that if you’re going to be so very you to the people that draw your ire that perhaps they’ll remember it. And there will always be people – Wesley for example – that don’t believe they deserve it. And if you’re honest, most of the time you don’t think they deserve it either. Because you tend to try and make amends – look at that Knox fellow. You spent an awful lot of time running him down cleverly on the internet, and now you call him daddy.” Said Bastian.

“… Dad. Not daddy.” Said Seb.

“I’m not judging, my boy, I’ve called my fair share of roguish individuals daddy before now.” Said Bastian.

“Excuse me? Are you trying to say I’m the roguee not the rogue?!” Seb added, clearly disgruntled. “I’ll have you know that I have been called, on more than one occasion, a scoundrel.”

“Of course you have my boy. And don’t you let anyone tell you any different.” Bastian said, reaching up to tap his grandson on the cheek.

“I have!” Said Seb. “Don’t make me find the tweets, gramps.”

“I believe you, I do.” Said Bastian as he began to tie a large bow around the handle of the basket. Meanwhile, Seb wafted the greetings card to dry the ink. “It’s just that he seems the more roguish type.”

“I resent that, gramps.” Said Seb, as he placed the card down to his side and began tying a large balloon to the basket.

“What else did Wesley have to say?” Asked Bastian.

“He said that I needed to have more integrity.” Said Seb, poutily.

“Ha. After working for your father, he can talk.” Said Bastian.

“That’s what I said! That’s what made him call me… You know.” Said Seb.

“Yes, but I said it behind his back, not to his face, Sebastian.” Said his grandfather, with a roll of his eyes.

“And where exactly is the integrity in that?” Asked Seb. Bastian opened his mouth to speak, but couldn’t seem to find the words. “Ha! See!”

“I’ve always been a man of loose morals, my boy, you know this.” Said Bastian. “We can’t all be a paragon of virtue like your darling Sloane. We can’t all even reach the lofty levels of Sebastian Everett-Bryce formerly the third of his name.”

“You’re making fun of me.” Said Seb.

“Of course I’m making fun of you – it’s idiotic to suggest that anyone can be virtuous at all times. Save for Sloane. Though I suspect in the last six months many of her virtues have been tested.” Said Bastian with a sly smirk.

“Moving on.” Said Seb, who would much rather have focused on the more recent couple of months than the ones previous.

“My point is that integrity is something that varies from person to person. For your father, integrity is ensuring the threats he makes come to pass should be crossed. For me, it’s ensuring that my friends and family are happy and healthy and that if I lose a bet fair and square I pay. For Sloane it’s a constant and unyielding need to do the right thing – something I greatly admire, but could never live up to.” Said Bastian. “But I suspect not a single one of us would suggest we are devoid of integrity, my boy. No matter how many times others will point fingers and tell us different.”

“You have a point.” Said Seb thoughtfully.

“I usually do.” Said Bastian. Seb smiled, before stepping back from their handiwork.

“What do you think?” He asked.

“Who is it for again?” Asked Bastian.

“It’s for my friend Atara and her soon to be baby daddy James Raven.” Said Seb with a nod. They looked down at the large wicker basket filled with baby related gifts, a large stash of chocolate for Atara and a bottle of thirty five year old whiskey for James.”

“Why do you use his full name?” Asked Bastian.

“Because you always call James Raven, James Raven. If you don’t call him James Raven, people might assume you mean a lesser James, and what’s the point of talking about James Raven if people don’t know you’re talking about James Raven.” Said Seb.

“Clear as mud.” Said Bastian. “It looks lovely, I’m sure they’ll be ecstatic.”

“I wouldn’t go that far.” Said Seb.

“What did you write in the card?” Asked Bastian.

“Oh. Right.” Seb cleared his voice. “Dear Atty and James Raven, congratulations on your recent news and I’m sorry that I kicked you in the face whilst you were with child. My bad. Anyway, I wish you both all the best with this new chapter in your lives. And if you have a boy, I wish for it to look like James Raven including but not limited to the abs, and the brains of epic historian Atara Themis. And if you have a girl, I hope she has Atty’s ability to navigate almost every situation with the kind of chaos and tumult that we’ve all witnessed these past few years. And also that she looks like James Raven. Basically, I hope your child looks like James Raven. Sorry Atty. But what’s the point of being impregnated by James Raven and not wanting your child to look like James Raven? Anyway, Sloane would like me to make it clear that we will babysit whenever you need it, but I would be remiss if I didn’t make you aware that recent studies have shown that hedgehog bites can cause night blindness and terrible body odour in babies. So, keep that in mind before you call us. Anyway – point being. Congratulations! You’ll make amazing parents – can’t be any worse than mine, lol. Lots of Love, Seb and Sloane. Then I put three kisses at the end.”

Seb looked at his grandfather who appeared to be horror-struck.

“What in god’s name was that?” He asked.

“Sloane asked me to be genuine!” Said Seb. Bastian snatched the card from his hand and snapped a picture before sending it to Sloane.

“What did you do that f…” Seb began, before his phone began to beep furiously. He looked down, five messages and counting. He looked at the first ‘SEB!!!!!’. “Thanks a lot gramps. For that, I’m telling her you made me send it.”

“Don’t you dare!” Said Bastian. And thus began a somewhat odd scene of an octogenarian chasing his adult grandson around the shop. Who would have ever imagined?

Don’t mistake my wish to defeat you on the merits of my own capabilities as a weakness – it’s not. I have a new found integrity that I once failed to grasp. I win because I’m better or I lose because I fall short. That way, I can look myself in the eye with pride. But you can feel it, right? How close I am? How near it is to the undeniable moment in which I show everyone that I don’t need the shortcuts anymore. That when I win, I win because I’m so very good at what I do. And I win with pride. And with integrity.

This coming Monday, Anne, you face your greatest test yet. Not the guillotine or a goddess. Not a G.O.A.T. or the notion of online banking. Box this Monday you come face to face with Sebastian Everett Bryce. The most stubborn and unyielding man you’ve ever met – and I know my history. That’s saying something.

But just understand, I see you, Anne. I see what you are, and what you could be. It’s just unfortunate that I can’t allow it to be at my expense. Instead, I’ll beat you – as I beat Atara. As I beat James at Blood Money. I’ll beat you and move on to whatever comes next for me – but whatever it is will be just the next step in my elevation to a place in history all of my own. A place that doesn’t end with my execution – but begins with yours.

You may have missed the building of the last great empire by a couple of hundred years, but you’re slap bang in the middle of this one. You can thank whatever god you pray to, that you’re lucky enough to see me rise.


And see you on Monday. I can’t wait.