Jiles sent the Yolk Sign, which no living human being dared disregard.
It came in the form of ten dozen eggs on and in his rental car.
Every Tuesday evening on Mercer Island, there was an event known as “Rogue Tuesdays”.
That’s when Allen Brown would gather together faces from his past to do battle with them in an arena of his choice. Sometimes, those battles would be cooperative. Sometimes, it was a deathmatch. Always, it was chaos. Allen’s friends and colleagues from his wrestling days would show up, either online or in person, in order to participate. There was a healthy amount of sniping and backbiting and betrayal, such as it was when you brought the Rogues in on a Tuesday.
The victor that night?
It was Waluigi, who was now the Super Star. He cackled in triumph, an annoying sound to be sure. Yet, such a cackle was merely the herald of what was to come, as though volcanic magma was about to spew forth. Tension rose in the room.
As sounds of despair came from the other three men in the room, the fourth shot up in his chair. He was already crotch chopping, and yelling louder than anyone.
“OOOOOHHHHHHH YEAAAAAAAH! SUCK DEEZ!”
Beef will not be specifying what he expected to be sucked and who would be doing it. Brown, El Janito, and especially Coral Avalon all had expressions of utmost defeat. Nothing Beef was doing could be considered healthy for any impressionable young children watching the Twitch stream.
Coral watched Beef celebrate his victory with a sense of mortal dread, the kind that he usually associated with his narrow world championship losses.
Even Beef was taking victories from him.
Beef. From Mega Job.
He wanted to throttle his old friend but in an effort best described as “heroic”, he refrained from doing so.
“SUCK DEEZ LONG AND HARD AND SIDEWAYS!”
Coral would want it on record that this effort was extremely heroic, and was definitely worthy of the oral traditions of Homer. Perhaps a tale that bards would tell in song across taverns the world over. Maybe there’d be a dragon burning a few Beef-shaped peasants.
Also, he’d get a sword, and also it’d be on fire.
After Beef’s completely legitimate and fair and not in any way bullshit victory in Mario Party, Mega Job went home. Wherever the hell that was. Nobody knew where Mega Job lived. Not Coral, not Allen, and not any one of their acquaintances, either. Coral liked it better that way. He’d hate to find out that they actually had families who have to put up with how they acted.
That left Coral and Allen sitting on the back porch of Allen’s home on Mercer Island.
From that position, they could get a good view of the lake. Allen was already on his sixth beer of the evening. Meanwhile Coral, ever the teetotaler and forever the designated driver, opted for water. They watched the lights of the city that reflected off of Lake Washington in silence.
Allen was the one who broke it.
“So, you’re an eGG Bandit, now.”
Coral’s face contorted into a grimace. “Please don’t. God, I beg of you. You have no idea what it’s like to explain to a rental car company how your car ended up getting yolked from the inside and out.”
Allen laughed, “Makes sense, though. Rogues and bandits go hand-in-hand, all shady-like. Brother, you’re like a magnet for weirdos, y’know that?”
“And whose fault is that?” Coral asked. “You’re the one who invited me to fWo, and brought all of your wacky friends along for the ride. And then they stuck to me like… crap, I probably shouldn’t say glue. Duct tape, then.”
Fifteen years ago, Coral Avalon and Allen Brown were the PRIME Tag Team Champions. They were the Blue Rogues, just the two sane parts of an entire collection of weirdos and freaks. It was through the Rogues that Coral became acquainted with the trio known as Mega Job, and set them all on a path to a cartoon that was close to securing a fifth season.
So while Cancer Jiles wanted Coral Avalon to join the eGG Bandits, Coral was a Rogue first.
While it might appear that the years haven’t been kind to Allen – portly, overweight from copious beer consumption, and unlikely to ever step in the ring again – the man once known as the Codemaster thrived in a way he never did as a wrestler.
After all, you could find him on most nights on Twitch! Like, share, and smash that subscribe button with the exuberant fury of a Super Mario ground pound! (It’s not just for your mom!)
“C’mon, brother, you knew Alex already.”
“Yeah, when she was fourteen.”
“Turned out fine, didn’t it?”
Coral often wondered if that was really true. Would he truly have been “Crownless” for as long as he was if the Rogues hadn’t been fired from PRIME?
“In all ways other than wrestling, I guess,” Coral sighed, staring up at the night sky. Light pollution from the city that surrounded the island made it difficult to make out individual stars, but it gave him something to look at that wasn’t Seattle’s skyline.
“More to life than wrestling, ain’t it?” Allen asked, throwing his empty can of beer towards a nearby trash can with a casual call of “Kobe!”
His shot missed, bouncing off of the rim of the trash can and off of the porch entirely. Judging from the sound of more tin cans, it’s apparent that this wasn’t the first time he’d missed that shot.
He didn’t care.
“I mean, lookit you. About to be a proud pappy.” Allen said, “Only gonna be the second one of us Rogues to be one of those, discountin’ the whole Schrodinger’s Mega Job thing we got goin’ on. You nervous?”
“Oh, yeah. Definitely.” Coral said, wistfully. “Have to admit, I never thought you’d beat me to the punch. I was married for a whole decade before you got with Jolie, and now you’ve got two of the little buggers running around.”
“Yep. Hell on the streaming schedule, though. The oldest of those little shits like to wander in while I’m recording and scare the hell out of me.” Allen laughed, something he’d done a lot more of since getting out of the business.
There was a long pause, during which Allen slowly raised his eyebrow at his former tag team partner, “Yooou definitely got the look of a man who wants to know how this whole thing works.”
Coral thought he saw a passing jet overhead. Maybe it’s the jet. He shuddered at the thought. The silence might have been one of the few things even more pregnant than his wife.
“Maybe a little,” he said, after a while, “To tell you the truth, neither of us were all that interested in having kids before we did our usual holiday in Japan this year. We’d been married for seventeen years, and we’ve survived constant travel, questionable wrestling locales, literal death, and Inoue. I didn’t think I’d ever meet someone so patient that they’d be willing to endure the worst parts of being a pro wrestler to be with me, you know?”
“Sure,” Allen said, “I remember when I’d give you a ring and you two would be in Mongolia or some shit.”
“Okay, I don’t want to talk about Ulaanbaatar,” Coral groaned, remembering how scuffed that entire tour was and how hard it was to get a good English-to-Mongolian translator that didn’t mangle both languages. “Anyway, while we were in Japan, we met Annie’s brother and sister-in-law. Nothing unusual, of course, but… something in both of our heads clicked when we saw their triplets. We talked about it for a while after we got back home, and… well, here we are now.”
Allen barked out a laugh.
“So, you planned for this, and now that baby’s at your doorstep, you’re all nervous!”
“Oh, shut up,” Coral complained, “Look, I don’t know how any of this works, okay? If you need me to teach you how to yakuza kick someone, I’m your blackberry. Fatherhood? I don’t know the first thing about it. I don’t exactly have a lot of shining luminaries to draw my experience from like I do wrestling.”
“Yeah,” Allen smiled, “Know that feelin’.”
“Guess we’re the same, then,” Coral said, “How’d you handle it?”
“Well, Jolie does the heavy lifting, to be honest,” Allen said, “But I’m always around to lend a hand. Don’t exactly got no work commute, except when I travel to do a convention or somethin’. Thing I think I should tell you is that you gotta be there for both Annie and your kid, even if it means slowin’ your roll on gettin’ thrown to the ground for a living.”
Allen smiled and pulled out another can of beer from the cooler next to him. After a moment’s pause, he tried to pass it over to Coral. Naturally, Coral declined. So, Allen cracked it open himself and took a long sip of it.
“That’s what worries me, I think,” Coral said, “I love wrestling. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. That part of me’s never changed, even after Gimmick Hell or Kingsley. But you know, the reason why I stayed out of the national scene all this time was because… well, I was always afraid that some of the monsters hanging out up here would come at me through Annie because I said something funny.”
Allen barked out a laugh that could’ve woken the neighbors, “Avy, you do realize that Annie’s scarier than a lot of the wrestlers, right? Shit, I’d like to see that Arthur Pleasant guy try something and get clobbered by a pregnant woman with a claymore.”
Coral gave him a nervous smile.
“Okay, that’s a funny mental image, but she’s still pregnant, there’s gonna be a newborn, we don’t actually own a claymore, and I’m 75% certain that guy eats babies.”
“All the more reason you should slow down, brother,” Allen said, “Ain’t young and reckless no more.”
Coral knew this better than anyone. The injury Pontiff gave him and was exasperated by his increasingly dangerous opponents over the last few months was proof of that. Years ago, he would’ve already recovered from it. Now? He was lucky to be cleared for UltraViolence.
“I know,” Coral acknowledged, “But that’s why I didn’t take Jiles up on his offer.”
Then I sank into the depths, and I heard the King in Yolk whispering to my soul, “Let’s make this nice and easy. Like your mom.”
“He sure does cheat a lot!”
Gavin Yum spoke the obvious, and was also a giant cheating scumbag hypocrite. Still, there was no denying that his observations of Cancer Jiles were accurate.
“And he’s definitely rude!” Gavin continued, “The rudest!”
Coral had been silent in the media room since they started going over the tapes involving Jiles. If he’d been paying attention to him at all, then he might’ve been tempted to remind the Lunch Lawyer that he probably shouldn’t talk.
The training was nothing worth talking about. Coral had approached this differently from most of his matches. He knew from the moment he first saw him that defeating Cancer Jiles wasn’t about out-training him. It wasn’t about out-smarting him, either. Coral considered him an idiot and a fool, but there’s nothing more threatening to him than a dangerous idiot.
That being said, it was the first time that he was grateful that Gavin was his training partner instead of Franco. For Coral, who cheated as often as the sky turned piss yellow, his opponent was his polar opposite. A bizarro Avalon from the far side of the COOL moon.
“No, he’s just ruthless.” Coral said. He paused the video right when Kenny Freeman experienced a dick kick for the ages. Even Gavin winced at the sight of it, “He’s more aware of what the referee’s doing than his opponent. He made poor Jimmy look like he had a The Who album made about him.”
“I would simply boot him in the knob before he did it to me.”
“I know you would be the knob-booter, Gavin, but no.”
The silence resumed as Coral watched Jiles work his brand of magic, though he’d already figured out that “Abracadickkick” was his favorite spell.
“Perhaps, Avy, I could stand to give you a piece of advice,” Gavin said after a while.
“To defeat a Bandit, you must become a Bandit.”
“Gavin,” Coral threw his hands up in the air and shot a look at the ugly gremlin sitting next to him, “Did you completely miss the part where the whole reason we’re fighting at UltraViolence is so I don’t become a Bandit?”
Gavin held his hands up defensively. “Think like a Bandit.”
Think like a Bandit?
Coral thought about that idea long enough that he might have gone a little crazy.
“Okay.” Coral said, smiling impishly. “Then I’m calling Flash.”
The cracked shells of the King in Yolk must hide within the Ivory Tower forever.
“Flash, are we rolling?”
Coral looked awkwardly off-camera. He was already sweating, because it was baking in this studio and he was dressed in his fur-lined leonine cloak. He’d chosen to wear a Brandon Youngblood “Beat Cancer” T-shirt underneath it.
Just for you, Jiles.
The voice of “Flash” Bravo was heard off-camera, “Yeah, man. You know what to do. Dynamism!”
Coral smiled awkwardly. Why was he always like this? He had no idea.
Oh well, time to get paid.
The name escaped his lips like some ill-cooked scrambled eggs coming back up to say hello.
“Admitting what I’m about to admit sends a shiver down my spine. It’s something I’ve had to reckon with over the last few months as we kept encountering each other.”
Coral looked up at the ceiling, letting out a long sigh as he began to regret the decisions he’s made in life.
“We’re not all that different, are we?”
There’s pain and regret etched on Coral’s face the moment he said it, yet he knew that the first step of dealing with a problem was admitting that he had one.
The problem is shaped like an egg.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? We’re polar opposites in personality, to say nothing of what we do in the ring. You can’t help but poke someone in the eye, metaphorically or literally. I’m the guy who shows up to deathmatches with nothing but my bare hands, and sometimes will literally die winning them. But the more I think about it, Jiles, the more I can’t shake this feeling…”
Coral let out a sigh, accepting what he was about to say in resignation.
“That we’re of a like, you and I.”
He winced. Again.
“We both strive to win in our own ways, regardless of what anyone thinks of us. We both like to make a big entrance. We’ve both run people out of PRIME, because we’re dangerous. We’ve both been champions. We’ve both main-evented pay-per-views. We both surround ourselves with, let’s face it, very questionable people.”
Off-camera, you could hear a faint British voice say “Hey!”, but Coral ignored whatever objections the Lunch Lawyer might have.
“Neither of us are here to purge PRIME of whatever ails it out of some misguided sense of justice. All I’ve ever considered myself was a damn good wrestler, and you’ve never been anything but the very salt of the earth. We’re not heroes. We are who we are. Also, we both have very impressive foreheads. It’s not just me.”
He paused to smile, letting that information drift in the air.
As he waited, he briefly wondered how he’d look in the T-shades.
Would his forehead look less fivehead if he wore them?
No. On second thought, maybe it’s best to not consider it. Gavin would hate the hassle of helping him settle the lawsuit that’s sure to follow, especially since he doesn’t understand copyright law.
“I might be one of the only people here who can see past all of the cheating and shenanigans, the Bobby Dean jokes, the egg yolk, the pegasii, and the salt… to see the brilliant pro wrestler lying underneath it all. If you were anything less, Jiles, there wouldn’t have been a COOLossus.”
Mercifully, there wasn’t a COOLture Shock. Or worse, a TropiCOOL Turmoil. We’re still workshopping the one for UltraViolence.
We can do better than that.
“I know the kind of man you are because I know what it’s like to be beaten nearly to death, lying in a pool of my own blood, and surviving. I hear you get described as a ‘cockroach’ a lot, Jiles, but that descriptor? It applies to me, too. Death does not take me easily, either. If I were anything less, I’d have given up in obscurity instead of being here today.”
It’s not often you met a man who could smile even after he’d almost seen what that light at the end of the tunnel looked like.
“In all honesty? Hat in hand. Just for you, forehead in hand.”
A smile. He thought the forehead jokes were actually funny.
But don’t tell Jiles he thinks this, you thought goblin. That’s just between me, you, the Multitudes, and whatever the holy shit is in FLAMBERGE’s brain.
“If it was just a few years ago, I really would have considered joining the Bandits.”
Do what now?
“Because you and I? We’re kindred spirits. We’re cut from the same cloth. Truly, I think that if I could look past the way you are on the surface, we’d actually get along. I’d have been a Bandit. Lord knows, I actually have worse friends than you. Some of them are even in this room.”
Just behind the camera, Flash laughed like someone who’d admit that himself. Gavin raised another objection from off-camera, too, because that’s what lawyers did. They objected.
Coral ignored them both.
“Mind you, that’s a lot of surface to try and scratch my way through, Jiles. I’ve wondered if it’d even be worth it to try. Would ‘COOL’ Cancer Jiles even want a friend? A fellow outcast? A fellow cockroach? An equal? It’d be damn weird to invite you to my birthday party. More importantly, and this is the real deal breaker here, I don’t think I’d want you to be one of the first people to see my daughter after she’s born.”
He pictured his future infant daughter in the T-shades, and he shuddered.
Just gonna add that to the ‘ol PTSD list, thanks.
“So, maybe it’d be simpler for the both of us if I came at you like I do everyone else. A Rhongomyniad for a MordreGG. Fitting, right?”
Right up there with Sir Yolkvain, Sir Scrambalot, and Brave Sir-Over-Easy.
“I know you’re not going to go down without a fight. We’re of a like, after all. I know I’m gonna have to bring everything to the ‘ol Round Table to put you down. I know that you’re going to keep believing that you’re the COOLest dude in the world until the day you die. Maybe you are. But when you do die, I know they’ll have to bury you and your T-shades in an unmarked plot of land somewhere in Wisconsin surrounded by your most hated enemies who want to make sure that when you’re in that ground, you stay there.”
Why Wisconsin? Coral couldn’t tell you why. It was the first place he thought of.
Oh, wait. I got it. UltraJilesence!
“The least I can be is a king that’ll give your burial some decorum. A kindred spirit to pay his respects to his favorite fellow cockroach. Deep down, I know you want that.”
A COOLroach, if you will.
“So I’m going to do more than scratch the surface of who you are, Jiles. I fully intend this to be a full-blown eGGscavation, and I’m going to dig down until I know the real you. Even if I have to bleed you dry. Even if I have to tear your arms from their sockets. Even if, Hoyt forbid, I have to bash your forehead in with my own. ”
He smiled at the thought. It would be fitting.
Wait, how do these usually end, again?
“So, see you in Chicago…”
Something about kissing?
“…O king in yolk.”
Nah. That’s weird. Go with the classics.
“Thy kingdom come.”
Woe to you who are crowned with the crown of the King in Yolk!
For the Crownless King shall surely take thy head!