The tradition must be maintained... This was the thing Jesoran Tarnysk had been told by an old Tournament fighter when he was young, and he'd never forgotten it. When he had grown up, he had founded the Midnight Sun Academy to train young fighters, to fight in prestigious tournaments, in hand-to-hand combat. Many of the students had come to Jesoran, hoping to enter into the time-honored profession of Tournament Fighter. Some Jesoran had sought out himself.
It had not been easy. There had been many setbacks. Threats to shut the Tournaments down forever, perpetrated by several humans that had been horrified at the idea of fighting for entertainment, something that the humans had eradicated from their own societies. Jesoran's own grief when his beloved son, Barinsk, had gotten lost for years on the streets. Hard financial times.
But still he'd powered through. Many humans now not only embraced the tournament, but even fought in it. Barinsk had returned, through the efforts of police who had compared notes between an arrest at an illegal fight club, and an old missing person report. And the MSA was now wealthy, gaining new students every year.
The tradition must be maintained ...
At the moment, Jesoran was on a scouting mission. He'd heard of a young wrestler, who seemed to show promise. This youngster apparently was a fox, by the name of Michael. Interesting that a fox would have a human name, but that wasn't unusual in this day and age.
Jesoran Tarnysk observed the wrestling class in session, having been given permission by a coach who clearly didn't recognize him. No surprise there, I hardly recognize myself when I look into the mirror, the greying fox thought. Nor had the coach been told why the old fox was here.
He smiled, looking around to see the youngsters tussle with each other. He smiled, touching the medal he always wore, a medal he had won during his younger days.
He had showed it when training his offspring: Noturnus who was now a doctor specially hired by the tournament, and Barinsk, who was either working at a bouncer at some bar, or winning this or that minor tournament, and Damsonpaw, married to a warrior who now taught at the MSA.
He had prized it while training his grandkits, which, between his daughter, who was one of the most fertile vixens Jesorans had ever seen, Noturnus, who had ended up with two wives, and his once-promiscuous son Barynsk, had been numerous.
And he now showed it to his great-grandsons, who were yet in training.
He grinned as he finally saw the fox Michael, who had won all the matches so far, and was acting pretty cocky. Like Barinsk at that age, he thought to himself with a grin, remembering what his son's gang leader had once told him.
Michael was a red fox, lean, lithe, and quick. In Jesoran's experience, a quick fighter could often bring down a large one, for blows only counted when they landed.
He went over to the coach, and spoke with him briefly. "Who is that lad over there?"
"Oh, him? Michael? He's the absolute star of the team, sir. I'm VERY proud of him. Do you know he has never lost a match?"
"Neither have four of my grandsons, except to each other," grinned Jesoran. "But if he always wins, what does he learn? If he loses, he has something to learn from."
"What are you implying, sir?" asked the somewhat amused coach.
"Well, how would he do against a more experienced wrestler? Someone who has seen a great deal?"
The coach laughed. "Sir, that kid has seen EVERYTHING!"
Jesoran slowly raised an eyebrow. "Everything? Oh, no. He has seen NOTHING. When he is carried from the ring, beaten within an inch of his life, bleeding, limbs broken and twisted, muzzle shattered, and every breath an agony, then he will have seen something."
The coach cocked an eyebrow. "What in hell do you mean by that?" he asked.
"I happen to know a few Tournament fighters, whose fights have turned nightmarish," Jesoran replied.
The coach laughed. "I hadn't thought of that,"he said.
Jesoran laughed. "I used to wrestle like he does when I was young. I wonder if I still had it. Mind pairing him up with me?"
The coach gaped at him. "Sir, aren't you a bit old to be wrestling?"
Jesoran shrugged. "I keep in shape," he said. "I'm quite sure the lad won't hurt me."
The coach laughed, and called out to Michael. "Hey, Michael! This old fellow wants to wrestle you!"
Michael laughed. "HIM?! Does he even have a wrestling outfit with him?"
Jesoran laughed. "Well, laddy, I think I might have. If I haven't, I'll fight you as I am." He took off his backpack, and looked into it. "Yep. It's here. I'll go change."
The coach watched him disappear into the locker room. "Huh... don't hurt him too badly, Michael. You know how old men are, always remembering what they could do at one time, and wondering if they still can."
Michael grinned. "I won't hurt him," he promised.
Then Jesoran appeared. Well, he was still old... but his body was WAY too toned for someone twiddling their thumbs in a retirement home. He grinned, stepping onto the mat. "Well, youngster? Are you ready to take on an old and feeble fox like I?" he asked, amusement in his eyes.
"I'll take you on, all right," the fox grinned, getting onto the mats as well.
Jesoran calmly stepped into the ring. "Ready when you are, youngster."
Michael grinned, and lunged. The two locked up. Suddenly Jesoran's weight seemed to drop from one side, which the fox quickly compensated for, only to be send over in the opposite direction. The next thing he knew, he was on his back, with Jesoran pinning him.
Michael was absolutely stunned. This was the first time he'd ever lost a match.
Jesoran helped him to his feet. "How long can you stay?" he asked.
"Um... another couple of hours," said Michael.
"All right," said Jesoran. "Then let us wrestle in that time."
It was a long two hours for Michael, as Jesoran turned into a wellspring of advice and humility, as Michael's back hit the mat time after time. "Come on," said Jesoran. "You are too stiff, that cuts down on your mobility, and adds to my leverage!" -Whump- Michael ended up getting pinned, but he'd managed to bring Jesoran to his knees. "Much better, young pup," said Jesoran, readying for their last round. This again ended in defeat for Michael, but Jesoran grinned. "You are doing well, young friend. Keep my advice in mind when you go into the tournaments."
Michael nodded with a wince. "I don't think I've ever gotten my ass kicked THIS badly in my life!"
Jesoran smiled. "Well, defeat can teach you, or break you. You seem to be the kind that can be taught," he said. "So, remember what caused you to lose, fix them, and you will win."
He headed back into the locker room, and got changed. He came back out, back in his street clothes. "So, I will bid you all farewell, and depart."
"Wait," said Michael. "Who are you?"
"Oh, nobody important," grinned Jesoran. "Just an old fox who knows a little about wrestling."
"Oh, come on," pleaded the young fox. "What's your name?"
"I am Jesoran Tarnysk," came the reply.
Michael gaped. "Jes- Jesoran Tarnysk?!"
The coach's jaw dropped. "Father of Bustfang Tarnysk? Patriarch of the Tough Tarnysk Clan? Founder of the Midnight Sun Academy?!"
Jesoran nodded, and pulled his medal out of his shirt for them to see.. "The very same."
The coach was just about beside himself. "'Know a few tournament fighters,' MY FAT HAIRY ASS! You TRAINED your damned family, and most of the other fighters in the Great Tournament! Michael... you just wrestled with a legend!"
"I know! I've heard so much about you!" Michael was just as astonished as the coach was.
Jesoran laughed. "Well, young one, most of it is probably terribly wrong, so don't start asking questions. However, when you get out of school, and if you are still interested in combative sports... I'd like to see you. Good luck at the tournament. I'll be watching."
Michael was in awe as he watched Jesoran leave.
The day of the tournaments was a BIG one. Schools from all over came. Michael couldn't help but look around, to find Jesoran. Jesoran was sitting in the box, and gave him a slight wave. Michael grinned, taking in a deep breath. He was ready. He was focused. He was kicking ass.
~Ten Years Later~
Jesoran watched silently, as Michael battled it out with Zrayven, one of Jesoran's great-grandsons. Jesoran no longer taught; after Michael finished his training, the elderly fox's health had turned for the worse, crippling him, making it almost impossible to move. He sighed, as the sand ran out. "Round 7 ends in a tie," he said. "You two..."
This one-on-one tourney had been meant to end the rivalry between them. It wasn't working so far. "Very well. Fight! No time limit, no rules! See who is the better in an all-out brawl!" He leaned back to enjoy the show.
Neither needed any second bidding, and gleefully tore into each other, struggling for mastery. Jesoran smiled. Good, hard fighting. It was not common these days, this level of animalistic ferocity. Slowly, but surely, Michael gained dominance over his foe. It ended with the two foxes, wheezing in utter exhaustion, as Jesoran counted to three, then called for the medical team. They came, to care for the two fighters, as Jesoran was wheeled back to his room.
He lay there, thinking about the two, who would join yet another generation of fighters, fighting in a tournament which had come to mean so much to Jesoran.
He looked at a note from his grandson Silverblade. "Grandpa. Heard about a kickboxer in Nanton, who seems to be doing really well. Gone to check him out." Yes... the tradition would continue. He lay back in bed, smiling. The tradition... would... continue...
Last night, Jesoran Tarnysk, who founded and ran the Midnight Sun Academy, and helped maintain the Great Fighter's Tournament, died in his sleep, following...
Michael: "Sure, I'll take you on!"
Artwork and character of Michael copywrite Lysozyme
Character of Jesoran Tarnysk copyright John-David Kraaikamp