August 2017. Ayutthaya, Thailand.
Nomsod popped his last couple of methamphetamine pills for breakfast, not knowing he would be dead by lunchtime — at a ripe old age of twenty-seven. If he had thought it through, his plan to pilfer a bag of Ya Bah Ice — crystal meths — that Thais called crazy medicine, from a pair of low-life dealers wouldn’t be stress-free. He could have stayed in his squat, watched porno movies on his stolen Samsung tablet, and breezed through the morning.
But he hadn’t got that far. What he knew, and what seeped into his already contaminated brain cells, was the fact that when the initial high crashed as low as his non-existent supply, he would need another hit.
Trouble was, a lack of money, and he sure wasn’t about to sell his Samsung if he didn’t have to. Or his body. Especially not to the low-life dealers from Burma.
Which sealed his fate.
Instead, he took along two other addicts — the Hit-men, he liked to call them — to bust into their hovel while he snatched their bag.
It didn’t work out that way.
Dealers, even low-life dealers from Burma, and especially those who answered to Black Hawk, were not inclined to lounge around in an unguarded hovel with open doors and open arms for any brain-dead users craving a hit. And that morning’s demise was determined when the Hit-men — cursing the locked door — bust their way in at 11.45 a.m. and were welcomed by a hail of bullets, instead.
Enough to send a message.
Hence, the gang’s bodies were openly dumped in a line on a grubby canal bank nearby; left to bloat in the summer sun, a putrid banquet for the monitor lizards that patrolled Ayutthaya’s rice paddies. A few days later, a fisherman stumbled across the carcasses and alerted the authorities, who — after heeding Black Hawk’s message — declined to investigate. Corruption, rake-offs and drug wars were common.
Not so for Nomsod’s family.
His mother sobbed, said Nomsod was a good boy whose addiction to Meths was his only weakness. But, being killed like a rabid dog and left to rot as discarded garbage was enough to enrage his elder brother, Somchai, who vowed revenge — not only on the dealers, but on the drugs that had taken Nomsod’s life.
For Somchai, it was a vow he was destined to keep.
6 months later. Old Rice warehouse, Ayutthaya.
Despite the humid heat, Somchai jogged to the warehouse from his home, carrying his kit-bag and boxing gloves. He pushed himself hard uphill and down, over stony ground, and across rutted tracks to loosen his limbs and clear his head, essential preparation for his fight.
Outside, he greeted his fellow students who’d come to cheer with a wave and a smile. Somchai — respectfully known in the school as Khun (Mr) Dragon — trusted he would, at long last, earn his graduation.
His greatest test awaited him.
Inside the timbered doors that creaked a welcome to everyone entering, lay a Muay Thai boxing ring, plus a ringside spattering of plastic chairs where more students sat. Somchai revered Muay Thai, and up to the day his brother, Nomsod, was killed, his was a lifetime pursuit.
From that day it would no longer be. One final trial. Five rounds of kick-boxing.
If it lasted that long.
He’d counted the weeks, months and years of preparation while he changed into his fighting gear and a trainer laced his boxing gloves. He was finally ready. Brushed away beads of perspiration, rose from his stool and stared at the school’s gifted instructor, Kru, who opposed him. Dragon planned to bide his time, erode his opponent’s tactics, and then employ his irresistible flying trapeze, a fiery technique he had perfected since Nomsod’s death.
The bell rang for round one…
Outside, a storm headed that way, about to bring a welcome relief to the parched paddy fields soon to be replanted with fresh green shoots, come the monsoon rains. But inside, a different storm brewed as Dragon absorbed and deflected Kru’s hammer blows. The first wave attack that Dragon rode like a ballast in choppy waters. While cheers became less frequent during this barrage, Dragon felt every sinew and muscle respond like well-tuned instruments, and his opponent’s lunges, just a passing wind.
Round two to four held no alarms for Dragon, as he sensed Kru had slowed the pace to conserve energy. An intermission where his body twisted and turned in deference to his skills, and his limbs moved in perfect harmony. No matter that students less qualified than him grew restless, in time they’d understand the ebbs and flows of his art. When an opening occurred, he softened up Kru by landing bruising knee jabs to the midriff, which drew renewed cheers from the students when they saw his opponent wince.
No matter, round five the final one, held his hand, his destiny. He’d practiced bare-kicking a gnarled tree-trunk a hundred times a day — blisters being treated with potent herbs that hardened into corns — until it bowed in submission. One kick could kill an opponent, but he was intending little harm to Kru, only to demonstrate his capability.
With the sound of excited cheers ringing in his head, he sprung off his stool as the bell sounded and launched his attack. A swift feint, and Kru’s balance wavered.
It was enough.
Dragon channeled the fire in his body to erupt in a swirling stream of whirling limbs, culminating in a crescendo that incinerated Kru’s attempts to counter. Four final hammerhead kicks sent Kru crashing to the canvas and sealed the victory.
Khun Dragon had achieved Grandmaster status.
And kick-started his destiny.