“You don’t have to do this,” Rigo said, tearing off the last bit of tape and smoothing it down on Silas’ fist. Silas said nothing but stuck out his next hand to be taped.
“The Family Heads think that you are weak,” Rigo continued, “But we both know that you are anything but that. You don’t have to prove anything to them.” His Boss hadn’t looked up from the floor since he had come in and sat down in the locker room. Rigo felt frustrated but he bit down on the harsh words that wanted to come out and continued to tape his Boss’ fist. When he was done, he sighed and moved to get the boxing wraps out from the bag.
“You can still tell them that you won’t fight,” Rigo tried again, “Silas….” This time his Boss looked up at him.
“Then that will prove to them that I am weak,” Silas said quietly, “You are wrong when you said that I don’t have anything to prove. I do have something to prove. I am the Head aren’t I? I am the Boss of all these men, aren’t I? If they lose faith in my ability to lead, then they will think that they can step up and take my place. It was the same when I was a BreadWinner, it is the same now.”
Rigo pressed his lips together and looked away for a few seconds.
“It is my place to fight for you,” Rigo said slowly, his voice tight. “I am your BreadKeeper aren’t I? Wasn’t that how this worked?” he gestured between the two of them. Silas laid a hand on his shoulder.
“That is how this works,” he replied, mimicking the gestures, “except for the Bread Winners fight. That was how it worked when we were in prison; that concept applies here.”
“But the heads of the Families are not the ones that are fighting you. You are not fighting the BreadWinners here. You are fighting BreadKeepers. I should be the one fighting,” Rigo slapped the velcro fastening of the wrap on and began on the next hand. Silas was silent for a few seconds.
“Do you think I will lose?” he asked. Rigo snapped his head up in surprise.
“What? What makes you think that?” Rigo asked. Silas cocked his head.
“You keep insisting so much on me not fighting and you said it yourself, the Heads think I have gone weak. Has that thought also crossed your mind? Do you think I have gone weak and I will not be able to beat these guys?”
Rigo held the gaze of his Boos for a few long seconds.
“No,” he said softly, “It’s just….I know how much you like to fight. I know how easily you lose yourself in the fight. I know how deep you go. I also know you hard it is for you to come back from that. You haven’t done this in such a long time and I’ve been really happy that you haven’t had to. I didn’t want you to have to go through that again.”
Silas leaned forward to rest his forehead against Rigo’s.
“You know me as well as I know myself,” he said, “Will you put be back together after my fight?” Rigo felt his breath catch and his throat was suddenly tight. He nodded and then cleared his throat.
“Yes,” he said simply. Silas pulled away from him and took a breath.
“Now finish this,” he gestured to his hand, “We have a fight to win.”
They stepped out and the place just goes silent. Rigo smiles a little to himself. No matter what the Heads think, Silas has a commanding presence. When he steps forward people automatically look in his direction and for his lead. He nods to the other families and they walk over to a section of the chairs and sits down. Rigo looks over the wraps and nods satisfied that everything is in order. Silas pulls his hood over his head and his body hunches over on itself. Rigo knows that he is putting aside the Silas that the Heads of the Families know and bringing out the Silas that was born in the Prison. The man that remained undefeated in all his Prison Fights and earned the title of The BreadWinner. He looks over the other Families and sees that they are taking Silas’ body language as a sign of him being nervous about the fight. Small smirks are sent his way and the noise starts up again. Rigo leans back and shoves his hands in his pockets and looks around at the place. It’s a usual boxing ring but there are no screaming fans in the seats. The fights taking place here won’t be judged by points but by the last man standing. And the prize is not just a title but an Empire.
A few minutes later, an elderly man dressed in a highly expensive suit walked in flanked by no less than ten guys. The guy nodded to everyone and made his way to the judges table. He wasn’t part of the Families; he was above everyone else. He was the GodFather. He was also the only neutral party in all of this. He was here to make sure that the fights were kept to the rules that were agreed on by the Families. He caught Rigo’s eye nodded to him. Rigo made a curtsy with his hand and bowed his head. The GodFather’s eyes flickered to Silas’ hunched body and Rigo saw the flicker of concern. But it was concealed as quickly as it was shown.
The other fighters were beginning to make their way over to the table where the fighting order would be chosen. Silas would not be part of that. He would be facing each one and should he get knocked out before the last opponent; the rest of fighters will continue to fight till a last man remained.
With the fighting order done, the GodFather got up and made his way to the center of the Ring. He did a short speech about why this annual Fight was done and what was at stake. Then he called Silas to come into the Ring. At the sound of his name Silas uncurled.
Rigo’s breath caught as Silas stood fluidly to his feet, rolling his shoulders back and forth. It was a familiar move that he never thought he would see again. Silas didn’t look at him as he passed but Rigo wasn’t hurt. The Silas that he had grown used to over the past four years no longer existed. This was The BreadWinner; the most ruthless fighter he had ever seen. And now these people were about to see why he had such a fearsome reputation.
The first guy walks into the ring and begins to walk around, gesturing and mouthing off on Silas. Rigo rolls his eyes at the guys crap talk about being the best and being the one to take down Silas. He makes a feint toward Silas and in that exact moment Silas steps up and the sound of the punch seems to echo. The man drops like a rock, a small spray of blood stains the floor. Silas still has his hood on all he does is step back. There is utter silence and then the guy’s Family is rushing to pull him out. There is a few minutes hesitation as if people are still working their way out of the shock. Then the second guy is nudged by his Head and the ascends the steps.
He walks up to Silas and extends his hand in greeting. Silas does nothing for a few seconds then reached out and takes the guy’s hand. They hold hands for a few more long seconds then they part and Rigo can see the frantic bob of the guy’s Adam’s apple. The guy tries to circle Silas but Silas isn’t moving so he simply returns to face off against him. There is more inaction until the guy seems to pull his courage together and attacks. Silas weaves out of the way of the punches and snaps out a kick that catches the guy in the midrift. As the guy doubles over he steps forward and again his punch echoes; a solid blow the temple. The guy crumples and again Silas steps back. The second guy is removed and Silas’ hood shows nothing of his facial expression.
The third guy is more confident and a whole lot faster. Silas actually trades blows with him and during one spin kick the guy manages to flick the hood off Silas’ head. Silas looks up with those dead, cold eyes of his and the guy actually takes a step back. It’s like looking into the eyes of a shark; a natural born predator. You know when you look into its eyes that it is here to kill you and there mostly nothing you can do to change its mind. The guy swallows hard; the self-confidence seemed to have vanished. He then shakes himself and gets back into the fight. But his heart isn’t in it. Silas’ punch catches him in the jaw and as his head snaps to the side, Silas rocks it back with a short, powerful hook. The guy stumbles back and Silas turns to deliver a side kick to ribs that sends the guy bouncing off the ropes and onto the mat. He strides over, drops to one knee and delivers the final blow with a sick crunching noise. He then gets up and walks back to his usual spot and takes off his loose silk coat. He stands waiting for the last man to step up.
The last guy gets practically shoved out of his seat. He makes his way up slowly and takes up a stance. Silas just looks at him. The guy makes and swing and Silas ducks it, comes up into the inside of the punch and grabs the guys throat. With one fluid move he lifts the guy up and slams him down. Rigo swears he could feel the ground shake with the force. The guy’s head bounces off the floor a few times. Silas lifts him by the throat again and slams him down. Then he snaps a quick punch to the guy’s nose and blood spray out before the guy passes out.
The silence is even thicker and no one makes a move to get into the ring to remove the last fighter. Even the GodFather seems paralyzed but the turn of events. Rigo smiled. They came here thinking that they were going to get a fight but what they really got was a massacre. This was always his way; going in for the win in the shortest possible time. And still he had held back because those fighters were still alive. It was only at the last man that he had slipped a little into full killer mode.
Rigo sighed and got up. He made his way up the steps and came to stand in front of his Boss. Silas looked into his eyes with no recognition in them. Rigo stared right back and then took a step back. He clasped his hands behind his back and got down on his knees. Silas’ gaze followed his motions and he blinked a few times. Rigo leaned forward, still holding Silas’ gaze until the last moment when he dropped his forehead to touch the floor. Long minutes passed but he held the submission pose. Finally he felt a palm rest on his back, trail down to his hair and grip tight. Silas tugged and Rigo got up, hands still clasped behind his back. They looked into each other’s eyes again and this time the dead look was gone and his Boss was returning back to him.
Silas moved his hand to his shoulder and patted him. Rigo let his hands fall to his sides and then stepped so that he was standing beside Silas. Silas nodded to the Heads who all returned the nod, albeit with a certain degree of stiffness and fear. Then he turned to the GodFather and bowed. The man nodded back and then got up to make his way over to them.
“You have defended your Empire,” the GodFather said. Silas nodded. The GodFather turned and made the usual announcement and then gestured for the last man to be taken out the ring.
In the locker room, Silas was silent again.
“So what is it this time?” Rigo asked. Silas smiled a little.
“I just don’t like having all my cards on the table. I don’t like that they now know what I can do,” Silas shrugged.
“They don’t,” Rigo said, “They just know what you showed them. Don’t think I don’t know that you held back.” Silas looked away.
“I was nearing it,” Silas said, “I didn’t recognize you when you came into the ring.”
“But you came out of it a lot faster than you normal do,” Rigo replied, “So yeah, you were nearing it but you weren’t all in. Or else those guys would be dead.” Silas gave him a tight smile and then ducked his head to one side to concede the point.
“Well I think that next year they will defiantly ask for you,” Silas said after a few seconds.
“Thank God for that,” Rigo said. Silas laughed.