Chapter 1:Bearing no Blood, Brothers Three
The smog coiled about in the air as it had since long ago, though one difference was that the smog was purified, no longer desiring the life of the weak. The second difference was the smog now stalked the streets of a city. Glowing through this dark emerald smog were the lights of the city. From windows, from lamps, from signs, and a particular fashion of Smogpolis, the neon-striped clothes of the dwellers of the city.
The citizens seemed less like regular people and more like spirits, will o’ the wisps shifting back and forth in the smog. It was hard to precisely see things, but what could be seen…
What was once such a dire and deadly location had become a booming tourist trap, yet one more symbol of Sunder’s triumph over the poisons they were once mired in. Yet, while physical poisons were diminished…
Were there not many who under the cover of the smog would rob, murder and go about their wicked ways? Were the hapless tourists not an enticing target? So, one danger gave way to another, for everything has its price, but even so…
To not struggle for life in the smog, for all the other poisons that come, it could be said to be worth it.
It wasn’t as if you were under constant risk in any case. Keeping to groups, keeping to the main streets, or even just being strong enough that two-bit thugs wouldn’t mess with you. There were plenty of ways to be relatively safe in the smog covered streets of Smogpolis.
Speaking of safe, you’d be hard pushed to be safer than near one of the city’s gyms! To the casual thugs on the streets, the people that went to the more serious gyms were the kind of person they’d least want to encounter. It was arguable that without the assistance of the gyms, the Meyrian police would have been unable to keep order in Smogpolis.
If you talk about the gyms, you have to think of the three big ones. Aryaithic Body would be what one could consider the most orthodox, having people who were just improving their body and staying fit. Lots of normal people went there. Body-Weapon Furnace tended to be filled with combat maniacs, the patrons of this gym were those who thugs were terrified most of. Bounty hunters, policemen, heroes and all manner of people who fight in actual life or death combat made the atmosphere of the gym too much for regular people. Far too heavy a scent of blood was in that furnace, regardless of how virtuous any of the patrons were.
Where our story takes us though, is one of the branch gyms of the last of the big three. The gym that Luca, who is yet unknown to you goes to. The name of this gym?
It’s the pride of the city, Smogpolis Competitive.
The patrons of the gyms of Smogcomp (as it is locally known) are mostly all involved in sports, both professionals and aspirants! Everything from tennis to dungeonball to dance! Luca himself was trying to get into the big leagues of Hang Basketball, a game played entirely by hanging from hoops and using the feet to hold and kick the ball.
He stood in front of the branch gym, due to being descended from gazed lizardmen, his tan scales were like stone armour, and his eyes had a strange green light to them that cut through the smog. Floating next to his head was a round ball with three lights like the light of his eyes. Even through his sports hoodie (plain grey gym issue with Smogcomp in large flashy neon on the back) one could see the terrifying contours of his barrel-like arms. It was hard to believe that he was only recently at an age where he could be called a man.
It isn’t uncommon for gazed, those whose descendants were either cursed or blessed by the Dragon Sun, to look older than their age. Turns out that when your body is transformed to survive hostile environments, you lose out on some things.
Like many of his kind he didn’t wear shoes, after all, he didn’t need them. As for his lower body, well those were gym issue shorts too. Luca didn’t really get fashion, but he was somehow popular with lizard girls anyway, I’m sure it had nothing to do with the shorts and muscles.
Somewhat less popular with women, never-mind lizardkin ones, was a figure who seemed comically small next to Luca.
If it was hard to tell the age of Luca, this person was quite a bit easier to figure out. A boy on the cusp of full manhood. His rose scales gave the impression of a lizard demihuman, but he had not the tail or long head of such. Instead given that he had pointed ears, it was clear that he was a half-breed. Both of lizardkin and those humans so distantly descended from tree elves
Apart from the size, there was a massive difference between him and Luca in terms of style. He wore pinstripe trousers, brown dress shoes and a red hooded waterproof cloak with neon red lines that only reached to his waist. One might wonder why on earth it was waterpoof, when it only reached as far as that. Beneath the cloak was a creamy shirt that had a few to many ruffles to it, but that was the style in Meyr at the moment. Holding up his trousers was a plain brown leather plain with a brass-like buckle that was anything but plain.
It was in the shape of a comically angry beast.
Luca spoke to this person beside him.
“You know, Picky, these kind of things would be easier if you just got a familiar”
Piccolurg, who was nicknamed Picky shook his head and laughed.
“This again? Hey, look you know I’m not gonna do it, and besides, I’m not late this time! We’re actually waiting for our glorious leader”
“He got held up at his part-time job” Luca instinctively defended.
“It’s that final boss monster of a man that he works for isn’t it?”
Luca nodded, and Picky shivered in response.
“That guy is seriously scary, don’t know how Gaddy can work with him. That evil eye of his…”
“Hard to believe he’s an honest businessman”
“I was so surprised when I investigated his background, he should be nominated for sainthood by the Sun Coven, or something”
“Still can’t believe you did that”
“I admit, I probably shouldn’t have spread my disbelief and the evidence for sainthood all over the ethernet”
“Actually, I told a lie, I can believe you did it”
There was a moment of silence as Picky considered what he thought was his brilliance and Luca considered the madness of his friend.
“We aren’t going to be late are we? I was born for this concert you know”
“All of us were, and calm down, we’ve a load of time still. Gonna be a huge crowd there”
“We’re counting on you to get us to the front, O faithful battering ram”
“I just hope the girls don’t ask to stand on my shoulders again”
“If it wasn’t those two, I’d chew you out for complaining about having two cute girls standing on your shoulders, I couldn’t believe when I had their blood tested that they weren’t related.”
“That was by far the creepiest thing you ever did”
“Hey, they still talk to me!”
“I remember someone being a porter and paying for expensive meals for a whole year”
Picky and Luca continued to chatter nonsensically about this and that, until another figure stepped out. While Luca had his familiar (the all purpose personal companion! Calls, item storage, ethernet connection, gamedives buy yours now!) visible, this person had his hidden. He wasn’t a half-breed like Picky or a gazed like Luca. He was descended from lizard demihumans who had taken shelter in early Sunder’s history, and thus they had kept their form.
His scales were red, he wore a brown leather pilot’s jacket and a black tank-top along with forest camo cargo trousers, and to complete the look, he of course had steel-toed brown boots. He wasn’t as frighteningly muscled as Luca, but he was certainly fit and strong. His golden eyes were filled with a warm firmness.
His back was ramrod straight, and he walked as if the streets were his. For a moment, you might have been tricked by your mind into believing they really were.
“Brothers!” he called.
They weren’t brothers of blood, but surely there was brotherhood between them. Their ‘big bro’ Gadha ‘Gaddy’ Mimassh had arrived.
“You eaten yet?” He asked.
“I ate in the gym’s kitchen earlier” Luca replied.
“Old Zangr’s Forbidden Noodle cart in my case… and… take a look!”
Picky swept his hand at his buckle and with a blink of the eyes of the beast’s face, several chocolate bars appeared in his hands.
“Shacklers! As you know, none better for wars, hikes, conventions, concerts and fasting!”
Indeed each of the bars had on them in red and black letters ‘Shacklers’. Otherwise known as the most sustaining bar in all of Sunder. It even had a cult! A cult that worshipped the bar! Salmonking, the company behind the bar weren’t too happy about the existence of the fanatic cult, but it had to be admitted that the jokes on the ethernet about nutty people eating nutty chocolate bars were free advertising, as were the antics of said nutty people. Not that the best bar in the world™ needed advertisement, nope.
“I don’t need you to sell me them Picky, but I’ll take one now, good job”
“They for the concert later?” Luca asked.
“You know, you ask that every time we go to something and I do this. Yes Luca, they are, I brought them for you, because I love you, you big lug”
“You don’t have to give me lip Picky” Luca mumbled.
“You bring drinks too?” Gaddy asked, having finished scarfing down the sustaining goodness of a shacklers.
Picky semi-mockingly got down on one knee and pulled out a bottle of some luminous purple bubbling liquid from his buckle. It was the one drink that Picky refused to investigate. He didn’t want his hopes and dreams broken… that and it was what the orphanage matron had always gotten him.
“Only the best for milord!”
“Good stuff, when I’m king of the universe, I’ll give you a duchy”
“Ah, you see that Luca? I betray my mother’s expectations for me by spending my time buying drinks for dudes and all I get out of it is a duchy!”
Ignoring Picky’s bad comedy routine, Luca posed a question to Gaddy.
“You even eat yourself bro?”
Gaddy held up a finger as he chugged the bottle from full to empty.
“*Paaah* That hits a good spot. I did eat, but with what Bossman put me through, it feels like I didn’t have anything since breakfast. Ok. Now that I’m fed and watered, let’s meet up with the girls, they’ll be finished eating soon.”
The trio began to move away from the gym, Gaddy leading them, though Luca walked in front to his right, while Picky lurked behind at his left.
“Couldn’t you have eaten where-ever the girls are eating?” Picky questioned.
“They couldn’t decide where to eat again”
“Oh no, so they ended up at that accursed place again?” Picky exclaimed.
“Yeah, may Zhulougr have mercy on their bodies tomorrow” Gaddy said, drawing a circle on his chest.
“Hey, sometimes it was fine” Luca said, but he still circled himself as if the Dragon Sun himself would ward away the terror.
“My stomach is churning just thinking about it” Picky moaned.
They left the gym behind, until only the neon strips in their clothes could be seen in the smog, as they headed to that dread temple of famine and hunger, Mackerel Don’s.