Primanti Brothers. A sandwich chain that originated in Pittsburgh before eventually expanding outward throughout Pennsylvania, with a scant few located in West Virginia and Ohio. Their specialty was stacking fries and coleslaw on top of tomatoes, provolone cheese and a customer’s choice of meat. Those that loved their food swore by it while others would assure you it was overrated. Most that have been tended to have more than a neutral opinion on the food. Kohime Mori was about to form her own.
With ReVival 42 being hosted across state in Philadelphia, RIA made the choice to bring Kohime to Pittsburgh. Though Mori had been before, it was a short stay in which she wasn’t able to experience much of what the area had to offer. RIA sought to make this trip far more memorable for her friend. The plan to make this time meaningful began with a hearty lunch at the Mount Lebanon location.
Kohime Mori. A 21 year old wrestler born in Okayama, Japan. Mori was trained by Raiko (stylized as RAIKO) Hayashi back in their shared hometown. After a year and a half gaining experience on the Japanese independent scene, Kohime found her way to PRIME, thanks to the connection between RAIKO and Lindsay Troy. During her short stint, the young lady would be exposed to the highs and lows that come with professional wrestling. A collection of a few nagging injuries over time lead her to step away to heal up. As she neared recovery from the wear and tear, Mori spotted an ad for a bodyguard. Still a bit apprehensive about getting fully back into the sport, she felt this could be a good compromise.
As it turned out, the ad was placed by one Ria Lockhart. The 29 year old transgender woman was born about an hour south of Pittsburgh. Lockhart started her wrestling career at the tender age of 16 back in 2010, her mother signing a waiver to make that a possibility. After a decade of grinding away all over the world, Ria found herself in SHOOT Project circa 2020. In her time there, Lockhart would subsequently meet Lindsay Troy. When PRIME set to be born anew, Ria managed to be named as a part of the initial roster. But it wasn’t Ria Lockhart. Instead, it was Ria Nightshade. Over time, it was revealed Ria suffered from dissociative identity disorder. This was only one of many struggles she faced.
It was Lockhart’s most recent dilemma that nearly proved fatal. At ReVival 35, Lockhart was soundly trounced by Rocky De Leon. The antisocial, arrogant personality she had adopted left her isolated. Only Mori, who she shared an apartment with, was around frequently and Ria went to great lengths to keep that relationship purely professional. She soon found herself very fortunate to have Kohime around. Two days after that match, Lockhart overdosed on heroin. A recovered addict, she had relapsed due to her spiraling personal life and extreme dissatisfaction with her career. Had Mori not been there, there’s no question how things would have gone… Ria would be dead.
Alternatively, Lockhart spent a week in a coma. Her overseeing doctor wasn’t optimistic with his outlook; she would likely die, suffer from post-coma unresponsiveness or find herself at a severely diminished capacity. It was considered a miracle when she came out of her comatose state with only partial memory (both short and long term) damage and a diagnosis of severe ADHD. It was during her recovery that Lockhart made it clear she wished to be addressed as only RIA. The DID she had been afflicted with prior seemed to be gone, though there was no sure fire way to know that was a concrete fact.
Kohime made it a priority to visit RIA in the hospital every day. In contrast to her previous frosty behavior, the former Lockhart was jovial and welcoming towards Mori. The two agreed to continue sharing the Las Vegas apartment they were renting for the foreseeable future. Once released from the hospital, RIA and Kohime began to grow a bond. They shared time cooking meals, watching television, playing video games, as well as occasionally engaging in personal discussions.
The two women put in their orders (Kohime ordered ham while RIA got turkey and bacon, along a side of bacon cheddar ranch fries for them to share). As they waited, Kohime flashed a dazzling smile RIA’s way.
“I’m so excited for you, Miss Ria!” Mori beamed. “Back in PRIME, how awesome is that?!”
RIA matched Kohime’s grin with a sly smile of her own. She loved the younger woman’s energy, her optimism. It was an attitude she was doing her best to adapt.
“It’s pretty bitchin’, no doubt.” RIA mused. “But hey…”
The former Lockhart leaned forward with a purpose, elbows on the table, palms cradling her jaw. Her rainbow colored eyes locked onto Kohime’s big browns, the small smirk growing.
“So you and Nate…”
Kohime was quick to break eye contact, her gaze finding the table instead. Her lightly tanned cheeks had a faint redness creep across them while Mori fidgeted with her fingers under the wooden slab they were seated at.
“It’s nothing, we’re just friends.” Kohime quickly insisted, focus still shifted downward. “He’s nice and we talk sometimes. That’s all.”
RIA adjusted her positioning, leaning backward and letting her right arm drape over the head of the chair. She had gotten to know Mori well enough that getting her friend to blush wasn’t much of a challenge. RIA enjoyed lightly teasing Kohime, if for no other reason than to see how she’d react.
“It’s fine! So what if you do?!” RIA gave her left hand a lazy, dismissive wave. “Good looking dude. Well mannered. Great family. What’s not to like?”
Kohime bit her lip gently, allowing her eyes to raise ever so slightly in RIA’s direction.
“It’s just…” Mori paused, letting out a heavy sigh as her eyes traveled downward once more. RIA titled her head, her eyes narrowing a bit before Kohime continued. “The last time I thought I liked someone… It didn’t turn out well…”
RIA straightened her posture, face softening. Is this what a parent felt like being exposed to a painful truth their child had been hiding deep inside? Her right hand reached up, rubbing across her cheek and lips. Usually, RIA was impulsive, blurting out the first thing that came to mind. This situation? It was delicate. Words needed to be chosen with care.
“Look, ‘Hime…” RIA began, locking her hands together, forearms resting on the table. “There’s times in life where we gotta take a chance. Letting fear control you will only cause you to miss out.”
Mori slumped in her chair. The quiet air had a heaviness to it, despite being formless. After a lengthy pause, Kohime jerked her head upward.
“But what if he doesn’t like me like that?!” The Moé Monster lamented almost frantically. “What if he laughs if I tell him? Or he calls me ugly? Or he hits me…”
That last line. RIA felt like her chest had been recklessly ripped open, leaving her heart bare for a knife to plunge right into the center. The table tremored as the Psychoberry’s palms slammed down onto the wooden material. The sudden thud caused Mori to jolt in her seat. She started at the older woman, confusion and a touch of worry framing her face.
“I won’t let that happen.” RIA spoke, her tone almost a growl, eyes flickering like a fire of fury. “And anyone that does something like that to you again has to answer to me. I promise, I’ll make them regret it!”
Kohime’s eyes widened, her jaw hanging open. Her thoughts drifted back to Rowan, AKA Mortimer Kjedelig. The feelings they had exchanged over the weeks, the blossoming feelings, shattered by one punch. There was outrage, both from fans and other wrestlers that had taken a liking to Kohime. Anna Daniels (sworn sister to RIA), ever enterprising but still perturbed all the same, even sold rocks with the message ‘#Justice4Mori’ emblazoned on them. Though she appreciated the received support, part of Kohime had wished there was something more… She remembered crying on the floor after being hit. She felt alone, isolated, embarrassed. But the pledge RIA had just stated…
“You’d… You’d really do that for me?” Mori sputtered out, doing her best not to get emotional. RIA’s gaze stayed trained on Kohime.
“In a heartbeat.” Her friend answered back. If confidence and vigor were tangible, such things would be spilling out of RIA like water flowing through a colander at the moment. The redness from earlier on Kohime’s cheeks deepened. A bashful grin gradually forced its way onto the young woman’s face. Mori grabbed a napkin off the table and dabbed at her watering eyes.
“I… I really needed to hear that. Thank you, Miss Ria.” Kohime said, her smile gaining more space on her mug. RIA leaned back in the chair, resuming the position she had taken earlier before everything had turned serious.
“Don’t mention it!” RIA responded, voice much livelier now. Kohime bit her lip once more. Unlike last time, she stared at her friend, eyes sparkling.
“Have you ever been in love, Miss Ria?” Mori inquired. RIA closed her eyes, a smirk on her face as she softly snorted. Opening them, RIA propped her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her fists.
“Heh. I suppose I have.” The Psychoberry started. “It’s kinda complicated. I’ve never been an easy person to love, ‘Hime. I can be spontaneous, irrational, emotional… Anyone that wants true love from me has to put work into it. You know the saying, ‘If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best’? That’s kinda how I feel.”
Kohime leaned back in her chair, arms crossed on her chest, eyes traveling skyward. A tick after processing what RIA said, Kohime places her hands in her lap while leaning forward.
“What about Mr. Sid?” Mori’s voice almost squeaked with the question. Though a smile remained on RIA’s face, there’s a coat of melancholy painted over top. Still resting her cheek against her left fist, RIA traced small circles with her right index finger. A soft sigh escapes her person.
“No simple answer there.” Her voice drifted out like a somber piano tone. “Sid… He’s like a bank vault. Layers of hard steel that can exhaust you physically and mentally if you try to break in by force. But if you have the combination to open it… Well, you get to the bounty on the inside.”
Sid Phillips, the master of the powerbomb and probably not much else. The two had gone on a few dates, though there was never any official relationship claimed by either. Sid joining the villainous Glue Factory and the chaos that has been RIA’s life made this a complex jigsaw puzzle, one that may have lost pieces along the way. The two hadn’t shown much public interaction since the Psychoberry’s reemergence. What remained? What could be? Heavy questions that may never be answered.
Kohime’s eyebrows raised as the young woman inclined back ever so slightly. She was used to the random nonsense RIA usually reveled in. This? A window to her heart. Their interactions weren’t usually this raw. Goofing about video games and anime, RIA picking on her as if Kohime was a little sister… That was the vibe she was used to. That didn’t mean she hated this. Far from it, Mori hadn’t had a relationship like this in a long time, if ever.
“Why don’t you tell him how you feel?” Kohime gently prodded at her friend. The only response RIA could muster was a shrug.
“I dunno, Sid isn’t really the talking type.” RIA responded. “Not that he can’t be, mind you. It’s just not his default state, you know? Plus, he’s busy, I’m busy… We might have just been ships passing in the night.”
Kohime’s turn to lurch forward with conviction, hands gripping the edge of the table as she leaned over it.
“You gotta!” Mori insisted. “You deserve to be happy! I know he’s done some questionable things, but I think Mr. Sid is a good person deep inside!”
RIA glanced up to her friend after having her sight locked on the table top briefly. What could she say? What should she say? These questions would have to wait. The food had now arrived.
“We’ll talk later, alright?” RIA insisted. She knew the truth. It wasn’t a conversation she wanted to revisit, at least not for awhile.
“Let’s stuff our faces!”