WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
1! 2! 3!
GONG GONG GONG!
The gong rang loudly as the victor stood proudly, cheering along with the audience as the match had drawn to a close. However, among those cheers, were faces of utter shock. Because, no one could have predicted, that the one who was standing as the winner in the ring…
Was not Hollywood Jurina.
2 and a half years ago, that was the only other time anyone could recall a loss for the ultimate champion of WIP. But, now…
“Oi! Jurina!!!” Shiroma Miru hurried into the ring to her partner, who was passed out on the floor of the ring. She turned her around to lay her on her back, seeing through her messy and sweaty hair, a slightly pained expression. “Oi! Wake up! Jurina!”
She shook her, but to no avail. Jurina wasn’t waking up. She just laid there as if fast asleep, her head tossed limply to the side.
“Hehehe, looks like it really got to her,” the girl who had just beaten Jurina, her opponent clad in black and white, giggled. “It must’ve been heavy… her ‘absolute despair’.”
“What the hell did you do to Jurina?!” Miru grabbed the girl’s collar, but she just giggled again.
“Shall I do you next?”
She then pushed her away and walked out of the ring, continuing to cheer with the audience as she left. With nothing else she could do, Miru picked up her unconscious partner and carried her out of the ring.
“She’ll be fine,” the doctor spoke to Shiroma after the fight. “She’s simply lost consciousness for the time being. From what I gather, it seems she had a lot of physical and mental stress.”
“Yes. Just give her some time to rest and she’ll be okay.”
“But when will she wake up?”
“I can’t tell. Has she been doing anything that might be the cause of her immense stress?”
That’s just it. Miru knew well enough, Jurina never let the pressure get to her before. She was always training by herself, always trying to make herself better.
Even so, even though she’s been her partner, there was a clear distance between them. She could never tell what she was thinking, unable to read the expression in her eyes. If Jurina really was dealing with some sort of issue causing her stress, she never knew about it.
“That seems to be a bad habit of Jurina’s… She never told anyone else about her worries. No one, except for maybe…”
“In any case, just allow her to rest until she fully recovers.”
“Yes sir…” After the doctor walked away, Miru leaned up against the side of the door, glancing over her shoulder to see Jurina lying in the bed, asleep. She muttered under her breath, “What the hell happened to you up there?”
At the start of the match, Jurina was fully in her element. She didn’t hesitate in any of her movements and had that glimmer of confidence in her eyes. Miru had no worries that Jurina would win.
But then, her behavior grew more and more strange. She was beginning to hesitate, her concentration was wavering. She had no clue what happened. It was a split second, she blinked, and the girl’s behavior had suddenly shifted. What happened?
Concentrating on her partner’s opponent, she saw the girl clad in black and white that she was whispering something to her as they got close. But her voice was drowned out by the crowd, she had no clue what she was saying to her. But whatever it was, it was likely affecting her.
“Hey, get a hold of yourself!” she yelled as she saw Jurina taking hit after hit, failing to dodge or block, and letting herself get tossed around.
She ran to the other side of the ring, seeing her fall to her knees. What confused her even more was… the emptiness in Jurina’s eyes.
It was then that her opponent spun around and kicked her in the back of the head. Her finished, the “Despair Twister”. Jurina fell onto the mat, her breathing rigid.
The girl then knelt down on one knee and grabbed Jurina’s hair, staring at her with a wicked grin. She lifted Jurina’s head up to look at her and whispered something Miru couldn’t hear. After that, Jurina had passed out. And her opponent had placed her foot on her back, counting along with the referee and the audience.
1! 2! 3!
GONG GONG GONG!
End of Flashback
“Was it true?” A voice rose, breaking Shiroma from her thoughts. She saw her rivals, the three members of the Koji Genba Alliance, staring with shared expressions of worry. “That girl, Yagura… beat Jurina?”
“Yeah. Why do you ask, though?”
“We came in halfway through the match. Just to observe.”
“Jurina didn’t seem to be fully there… What was going on with her?”
“I don’t know. The doctor says it was stress, but I think Yagura was messing with Jurina somehow. Like, she got inside her mind…”
“YHKJUO WAIUHA HGUERD (Y’know what I heard)?!” Yamada shouted, “YGUHREASDX IKMJOKNASX UHNDRT (Yagura was Ikemen Momoka’s under)!”
“What the hell did you say?”
“Apparently Yagura was offered to come here by Kinoa,” Mion explained. “I’ve been around Yamada long enough to at least interpret most of what she says.”
“Yamada, is that true?”
“A mad genius and a crazy… doesn’t seem too far fetched.”
“Now that I think about it, Yagura did say something odd. Something about Jurina’s ‘absolute despair’...”
Matsumura furrowed her brows. “Despair?”
“QWASE JHUREA YUJPOSTD BHUOT SEMNHTG (Was Jurina upset about something)?!”
“God, you’re noisy…” Miru groaned. She looked back at Jurina again. “Jurina, were you really going through some kind of despair?”
“How’s the view at the top?”
“You still haven’t had enough? Are you gonna keep going until you can’t go any higher? Is there no way to satisfy you?”
“The top is where I belong… I won’t easily give it up to anyone.”
“And yet… you always had to carry that burden. Especially after ****** **** ***”
Jurina groaned, waking up to find herself in an empty classroom. She got up from the floor, holding the back of her head.
“What.. happened..?” she hissed, feeling her body was suddenly very sore.
She could barely remember her fight with Yagura. For a moment, in that ring, her body and mind were numb. And the next thing she knew, she blacked out. She gripped onto her brown hair, the pulsing at her temples intensifying.
“It hurts, huh?” A voice rose, making her blink.
She turned around, seeing a reflection of herself, wearing her school uniform, standing behind her. Her mirror self, just with blonde hair.
“You lost…” her mirror reflection spoke. “Have you given up?”
“Hell no! Why would I?!” Jurina screamed before wincing, her head still throbbing. “What even are you..? Why do you look like me?”
“I was your past self… from 2 and a half years ago.”
“That was…” Jurina’s eyes widened. “When I lost to Momoka?”
“Didn’t you say you wouldn’t lose again?”
“Then why?!” Her mirror self suddenly punched her, knocking her to the ground. “Why? Why did you let yourself lose?”
“I didn’t…” Jurina gritted her teeth. “I was… ugh… why can’t I remember..? I was fighting.. And then…”
She then hissed as her reflection grabbed her hair, pulling it to make her face herself.
“You really are hopeless. Without her.”
“..!” Jurina grabbed her own self by her collar and threw her down to the floor. Her blonde hair sprawled out on the floor. “She’s got nothing to do with this! I’ve moved on! I--”
“Have you really?”
In one second, in the blink of an eye, Jurina suddenly found herself in the ring. Blinking furiously, she looked around dizzily as the crowds cheering voices were drowning her hearing.
JURINA! JURINA! JURINA!
She looked down, seeing two belts on her body. One wrapped around her stomach, and the other strapped over her shoulder. The ref was raising her arm in the air, silver streamers and pink metallic confetti raining down on her.
“You are the champion… You are unbeatable… And yet…”
Jurina suddenly turned around, hearing as if someone had called her name.
“And yet there is a void.”
And suddenly, beyond her control, her legs started sprinting.
“Hey, Yagura,” a voice called out to the girl as she started to leave. She turned and saw Suda Akari with her two fellow teammates, Shizuka and Chiyori. “That was amusing… your match with Jurina.”
“Ehh~ thanks,” the girl smiled.
“But, I can’t help but be curious. What did you do that allowed you to beat her?”
“We were hoping you could teach us your secret.”
“Yeah. What exactly did you do?”
Yagura giggled. “That’s~ because I did something only I can do.”
“And that would be?”
“I tapped into her ‘absolute despair’ and awakened it.”
Chiyori tilted her head. “Her what now?”
“No one else could see it. The deep despair that she hid away in her heart. Even she herself tries to deny it. I just showed her the light of truth to uncloud her vision. Right now, I’m sure she’s experiencing it… Or perhaps, she’s fighting against it.”
“Her very own spiral of despair… Her frustration, her guilt, the torment she kept silent. Everything mixed together until it’s black… like a twister.”
Suda smirked. “You’re something else.”
“Hehehe… see ya,” Yagura waved goodbye, leaving the two.
“Hey, Dasu, what does she mean by that?” Oya asked. “A twister of despair?”
“Is Jurina going through something?”
“If I had to guess… it had to be that which occurred almost 3 years ago. You two know about that, right?” She glanced over to them. “A sudden change that shook Jurina.”
“3 years… wouldn’t that have been..?”
“Yeah… When Haruka left.”
Yes. During that match, Yagura was able to delve into the depths of Jurina’s heart. She saw what had been locked away, for no one to see. A burden Jurina carried by herself…
“The Power Stones as they are now are just pebbles beneath my feet… Hollywood Jurina… I will awaken her despair that she refuses to acknowledge.”
She gathered as much information as she could. About Jurina and Haruka, about when Haruka left, and how Jurina had to continue on with this heavy burden on her shoulders.
“I want to stay as the champion of WIP!!!”
“Eyes on the prize… So focused, you can’t even see you’re slowly crushing yourself from the pressure.”
So, when the time came…
“How’s the view from the top, Jurina?” she asked as the two locked arms.
“You’ve been the reigning champion for years now. I’m asking what it feels like for you!” Yagura lunged forward again, Jurina swiftly dodging.
She elbowed Yagura, who just laughed as if it was nothing.
“You wanna know what it’s like at the top?” Jurina smirked. “It’s the best feeling!”
Punching her again and constricting her right arm, she prepared to flip the girl over. However, Yagura broke free of her and wrapped her arms around her shoulders to restrict her movements.
As Jurina tried to break free, she heard Yagura whisper in her ear again.
“You still haven’t had enough?”
“Haa?” Jurina hissed as the girl pulled her body.
“It seems you’ve been stagnating for a while. Are you going to keep going until you can’t go any higher? Is there no way to satisfy you?”
“The top is where I belong..!” the brown haired girl broke free, running forward to push her against the corner and elbow her multiple times. She glared at her seriously, “I won’t give it up to anyone. Ever.”
“Hmm~ is that so?”
Yagura pushed her away, the two circling each other like two predators targeting one another.
“You’re the champion… You are unbeatable,” Yagura spoke with a smile. “And yet…”
“Yet there is a void.”
Jurina furrowed her brows, unable to react as quickly as Yagura suddenly charged toward her. She held herself against the ropes as her opponent was suddenly really close to her, giving her a wicked grin.
“That grin… She looks like… Momoka.”
“You always have such a stoic aura to you. You act like the pressure never gets to you, that you don’t even feel it. You just fully embrace what you are; the queen of the ring. And yet, you’ve always had to carry that burden. On your own… especially after Haruka left you.”
Jurina’s eyes widened, her heart stopping for a moment.
“That was her name, right? Your former partner, Emerald Haruka.”
Jurina impulsively grabbed her, turning her around. “What do you know about me and Haruka?!”
Yagura pushed her away and landed an elbow blow at her chest, knocking her back.
“Isn’t it lonely without her? She’s gone, Yunbo Shimada left to join the WWZ. There’s no one you can concile with, no one you can truly open up to.”
“You’re wrong..! Shiroma is--”
“Shiroma? You mean your ‘partner’? You aren’t even on a first name basis with her?!” Yagura laughed. “And you call her your partner? Just answer me honestly… is she a replacement for Haruka?”
Jurina’s breath suddenly hitched, an uneasiness welling at the pit of her stomach.
“N-No… she’s not a…”
She then felt Yagura pull her hair back, making her look up at her.
“Can you look me in the eye and honestly say that you don’t view Dotonburi Shiroma as a replacement for Emerald Haruka?”
Jurina was shook. She couldn’t speak at all, the words failing to escape the lump in . The chatter of noise in the room was indistinguishable. She couldn’t even hear Miru’s voice.
After that, her mind and body were suddenly numb. Unable to react and dodge Yagura’s attack, she could just silently process everything her opponent was telling her.
“Face it, you’ve always kept your heart closed, because you latch onto the past. You pretend that you’ve moved on, keeping that confident smile, but it’s all a facade. Because you don’t want anyone to see your true feelings. You don’t want to shed any tears in front of anyone.”
Yagura tossed Jurina around like a ragdoll, Shiroma desperately trying to snap her partner back to her senses, but to no avail.
Jurina fell weak to her knees, her mind dizzy. She then heard Yagura whisper again.
“I can sense it within you. The true identity of your ‘absolute despair’.”
After a hard kick to the back of her head, Jurina was knocked harshly to the floor of the ring. Yagura walked closer and knelt down, giving her another wicked grin.
And she spoke the final words, which finally broke Jurina.
“You’re all alone now…”
“Sakura, did you hear?!”
Sakura turned around, seeing her friends with panicked expressions.
“Jurina-san was defeated in a recent match!”
“Eh?!” The short haired girl raised a brow. “To who?”
“Someone named ‘Psycho Yagura’.” Rena got out her phone and showed Sakura the footage from their match.
“And Yagura flies off the ropes and lands a hard elbow on Jurina! What’s wrong, Hollywood Jurina?! She’s not blocking at all!”
“It’s weird… She just suddenly stopped fighting, like her mind just shut down.”
“She looks completely out of it.”
Sakura just watched in silence as Jurina was knocked down with a final kick and given a three count. She couldn’t comprehend why this girl, the champion, had let herself get beaten. Seeing her being carried out by Shiroma was heart wrenching.
“What on Earth happened..?”
“This is an update on Hollywood Jurina’s condition,” the announcer then said. “Right now, Jurina is resting in the infirmary area of the Shirogane Gym. As of now, she shows no signs of being responsive.”
“Yagura got her in the back of the head, pretty hard, too. Of course she got KO-ed,” Yui pointed out.
“Of course I’m worried about Jurina,” Shiroma Miru’s voice then spoke from the phone. They saw her being interviewed by the staff, leaning up against the wall. “It was unexpected… Jurina was never one to show weakness. I think Yagura got inside her head.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I couldn’t hear clearly everything she said… But at one point, I thought I heard the name ‘Haruka’.”
“There’s only one person I know that she could’ve meant. Emerald Haruka. If I were to guess, it must have to do with her…”
“Has Jurina ever mentioned that she was struggling or missed Haruka?”
“No. Like I said, Jurina was never one to show her own weakness. Even as her partner, there’s a side to Hollywood Jurina I’ve never seen.”
“Hee~ so such a thing was happening…”
“When she wakes up, I’m telling her straight. ‘Next time, tell me if there’s anything that’s troubling you.’ I’m her partner, after all…”
Jurina’s legs gave out, her muscles sore from running. She had been chasing a fleeting image of her former partner walking away from her. No matter how fast she ran, she couldn’t seem to catch up to her.
“You’re always looking forward, you’re always reaching the top… But there’s one thing that holds you back.”
She looked up and saw an illusion of Shiroma staring down at her with a disappointed look.
“What? Is that all you got?”
“You wavered,” Yunbo Shimada’s voice rose, the silver haired girl standing at her side with a slightly pissed expression. “I thought you were better than that.”
“No! I didn’t!”
“When are you going to stop denying?!” Yagura’s voice yelled, the images of Shiroma and Shimada fading.
Jurina saw Haruka again, getting farther and farther away from her.
“Haruka!” she tried to reach out, but even her image faded away.
“You’re all alone…”
Jurina fell forward, collapsing onto the floor. That single word echoed in her head, leaving a void of loneliness in her chest.
“I feel… so tired… I’m at my limit…” Her eyes slowly closed, the darkness beginning to drown her thoughts in despair.
“Are you going to give up just like that?!”
Jurina suddenly snapped awake, feeling a stinging sensation burning her cheek. She saw Shiroma Miru in front of her again, this time with much more determination in her eyes.
“You aren’t acting like yourself at all! You’re Hollywood Jurina! Get a damn hold of yourself!”
“I already lost, though… Yagura won.”
“She’ll only win if you give yourself up to despair!”
“Oi!” She felt a push at her shoulder, seeing Yunbo Shimada, her rival, standing in front of her.
“The next time we meet, it’ll be at the international tournament. Until then, don’t lose to anyone else.”
“That’s what you promised, right?! So don’t lose here!”
“Hey, tell me the truth. Do you prefer Haruka over me?”
Jurina’s eyes widened. “No! I--”
“Then what?! Stop keeping everything to yourself, and just spill it!”
“I miss her!” Jurina blurted out, her voice echoing loud enough to shatter glass. “I… miss her,” she repeated.
A cold droplet fell onto her balled fist. A tear.
“It’s been 3 years already… I haven’t heard from her if she was coming back any time soon… I’m afraid she’s moved on and forgotten about me.”
“What about you?”
“Of course I’d never forget her… But… she’s…”
“Then, let’s do a replay.”
Jurina looked up, seeing an image of Ikemen Momoka. The girl grabbed her head with both hands and headbutted her hard.
The first image that appeared in her mind was when she was at school.
“Do you wanna do wrestling with me?”
“Come on! It’ll be fun! You don’t have any other hobbies, right?”
“No, but… I don’t even like it. I’ve never even seen a match before. Why are you even asking, Haruka?”
“Tada~” Haruka showed the black haired girl a flyer and two tickets. “I was scouted by this place! They offered me to join; only high school girls can participate! They even gave me tickets to their next match!”
“That’s… nice. But what do I have to do with it?”
“I want you to come with me and join! We can be a tag team! Please~”
“Ahh, fine, fine! I’ll at least go with you to watch the match, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to sign up to join.”
“Hai~ but, if you change your mind…”
Matsui Jurina, before joining Shirogane Gym and WIP, was just an ordinary girl who didn’t know what to do with her life. The thing that changed her, that made her obtain her dream, was WIP.
“Wooooah! Amazing!” Haruka cheered as she and Jurina watched the match unfold. “So cool!”
Meanwhile, Jurina just stared in awe. She never expected to see such intensity, such passion. It moved her, watching the two wrestlers in the ring. This was something she wanted to experience herself.
So, after the match was over…
“I want to join with you. I wanna do wrestling with you!”
This was the day it started. Jurina’s love for wrestling, and the start of her partnership with Haruka. They began rigorous training, visiting the gym regularly and meeting up after school to practice together. And then…
“Now that I think about it, Jurina, why not dye your hair?”
“It’ll make you stand out more!”
From Haruka’s suggestion, Jurina decided to dye her pitch black hair into a striking golden blonde.
“Woah, amazing! You look like a Hollywood actress, Jurina!”
“Hollywood…” the blonde girl smirked. “Hollywood Jurina, eh? That’s a nice stage name.”
The one who offered her to join WIP with her, the one who helped give her her name, the one who was by her side from the beginning… It was always Haruka.
Haruka was her partner, no matter what. That’s why, when she does eventually come back…
When I meet her again, I will…
“..!” Jurina looked up, the darkness in her world finally finding light as she smiled, seeing the very person she had longed to see.
“Eh? Is that..?”
“Why are you here?”
“Why else? I’m here to see Jurina.”
“Ngh…” Jurina stirred, hearing voices as she woke up. As her eyes fluttered open, blinking to adjust to the brightness of the room, she saw someone she hadn’t met in three years.
“Hey. It’s been a while, Jurina.”