Fable 1:The Fleeting desert
Across the desert no hope could be found, from east to west and from south to the far north the only thing one could expect to find was sand and dying vegetation. Pestilince itself pervaded the area all things here were either dead or benefiting from the prospect.
Atop a tall mound of sand and rock,two wanderers wearing heavy cloaks brushed by the sand had reached a ledge overlooking a great divide. They surveyed the area with the aid of a pair of binoculars the larger cloaked shadow had pulled from a pouch around his belt. For miles and miles all he could see was rock, it could be observed the two had reached a canyon at the tail end of the desert.
"See anything?" Squeaked the smaller cloaked traveler.
The traveler with the binoculars grimaced as he looked out at the surrounding area he could see nothing but the labyrinth of a canyon they were currently misfortune to be inside vultures the size of small children and sand.
His smaller companion sighed and wiggled what looked like cat ears that stuck out from the hood of his long cloak "You know I was really looking forward to bathing sometime soon." He exasperated.
"Maybe I spoke too soon."
Adjusting the focus of his binoculars the traveler turned his sights directly below and spied a group of three, two short shadows one slightly plump by comparison and a third who led them grumbling. All of them were wearing gray suits with what looked like gas the wanderers they carried heavy luggage backpacks straddled neatly around their shoulders.
"Jin!" Exclaimed the smaller traveler "Look at all that stuff their carrying. I bet they have water and food and money too." He continued peaking over the ledge.
"Yeah I bet they do." The larger traveler called Jin replied with a grin.
The both of them let out a small snicker as they looked down at the traveling group treading through the canyon loudly complaining about aches and pains money issues and other trifles only measured by the middle two boys had seen enough, their decision was made and without so much as glancing at one another they had agreed upon an action.
The larger traveler was the first to break the silence "We dive on 'em quick."
The small group below had began to stagger with their steps with the shortest falling farther and farther behind "Daddy!" she groaned peering at the leading man from the ground "I'm hungry can we stop?"
The more plump member of the family bent down to her daughter and took a small biscuit from one of the pouches on her backpack and handed it to the small girl. Before she could eat the small misshapen biscuit she carefully removed her mask with a breath of fresh air she happily bit into the small biscuit.
"Arnold I think we should stop for a bit my legs are starting to hurt." The woman said looking at her small daughter eat behind her mask.
The man at the front of the group held tightly onto his backpack and looked at the ground with a frown "This is a really bad place to stop Rumba city is only about an hour away, and a sandstorm is coming up soon."
The woman who was kneeling beside her daughter clicked her teethe "We only need a few minutes to eat don't be so stubborn Bell is far too hungry to continue on at this rate." The woman groaned. Her payed little attention to the womans words. Turning a small nozzle placed at his cheek he looked toward the sky and through the use of his helmet could see the wind picking up speed "This really is a bad place to stop. We only have another hours way to go."
The woman stood firm with a hand placed firmly on her hip "Just a little while." The pitch of her voice higher this time.
"We really really can't afford it." He thought.
The man had no choice but to give in and sat on a nearby set of rocks that lined the canyon rummaging through his backpack for his canteen which he found underneath a large brown lunchbox he quickly handed it over to his daughter who casually sipped on it with a loud sigh of relief. The water had small traces of sand but desperation tempted her to continue sipping.
Relief suddenly came over the three of them and after placing his heavy backpack onto the sand Arnold began doodling pictures of a home a dog and other things that put his mind at ease into the sand slowly.
"It's been seven years since the quake and we finally recovered." The man's wife said looking at his drawings in the sand.
Just as the family had settled and relaxed a piercing sound rung through the canyon followed by the cracking of rubble a few feet away from where the man was seated, with a drop of sweat glazing his brow he looked to the left and saw what was clearly a bullet lodged in the canyon wall. Looking at the thin trail of smoke coming from the wall he found the origin of the bullet. A man holding a small rusted M191.1 beside him were two other men, one armed with a similar pistol and a third with what looked like a giant robotic claw that stood inches from the ground. All of the men wore gray suits, their equipment was rusted and had obviously felt the harsh realities of the desert the helmets were riddled with dents and the boots they wore were almost the same color as the sand they stood in.
The man holding the gun stared down the traveling man who was quite obviously terrified and had already raised his hands into the air as a precaution "You must be used to this sort of thing." said the bandit.
"If you plan to rob us-." The man was stopped mid sentence by the boot heel of the bandit with the large mechanical arm smashing his face into the wall of the canyon. The man holding the gun turned his sights to the groaning mans wife with a self assured smile hidden by his mask.
"I can assure you we don't have much." The woman pleaded with her hands held in the air.
The loan unoccupied bandit strode up to her and grabbed the mask that covered her face she made an audible squeak as he began to speak "We don't want much." his voice was calm as he wrestled with the woman.
"Please not my wife!"
The bandit with the gun kicked the man in the head.
The daughter of the family sat still in a corner too afraid to speak with a half eaten biscuit still in hand. The bandit quickly removed the mask to reveal the woman's face it was slightly worn with small wrinkles forming in the corners of her eyes.
The three bandits all grunted looking at each other for a short second before turning their attention back to the woman. The gun toting leader of the group kicked the husband once again "Making a fuss like that I expected her to look a lot better. We'll just leave things at stealing your food."
A sigh of relief followed by a weak smile emitted from the middle aged wife with a firm hand still placed around her neck. The unoccupied bandit took to slowly searching through the heavy backpacks the family had been lugging around his large covered hands grazed over several boxes containing very detailed reports written in a language he couldn't understand( he could barely understand any.) this confused but interested him and with a scratch of his helmet he looked at the whimpering man on the ground "You some kind of writer?"
The man replied with sudden profound clarity and a hint of pride "Im a meteorologist I come from the far North and planned to work at the weather station in Rumba city."
Behind his mask the bandit chuckled reviewing the enigmatic writings "You got it easy running into us. No hot wife to have our way with not much money and you work on TV too." The laughing coming from behind his mask was louder as he spoke "We'll just take your money fair?"
The loud call startled the armed bandit who scanned the area, gun ready he lowered his guard when a small black cat with green eyes peaked out. Looking at odds with the desert the cat stood in place and scratched itself.
"And you have a cat. You really are a lucky guy." The bandit with the large arm said.
The gun toting bandit sighed for a short second before composing himself long enough to speak to his preoccupied partner rummaging through the families supplies "Hurry it up a storm is coming soon we need time to get back to the hideout." his partner nodded and continued to gather supplies from the backpack.
The mechanically armed bandit preoccupied with the middle aged woman heard the sound of tumbling rocks a few seconds before feeling a tremendous shift in the weight of his mechanical arm. In an instant he glanced to his right to see a cloaked stranger sitting upon his large arm before he even had a chance to speak the stranger quickly kicked the man in the face knocking him and the woman to the ground.
Instantly latching on to the sliver of hope he saw before him the groveling meteorologists disposition changed almost in an instant "We're saved." almost as if on cue the bandit atop the man fired at the stranger four times with all four hitting his recently recuperated partner behind the man thrice in his large mechanical arm and once just slightly below the gut.
The stranger was unlike the rest of the men wearing nothing but a large cloak that covered the top half of his face a devilish smirk formed across his lips as he dashed towards the terrified bandit "You ain't gonna hit shit firing with one hand like that. It's sloppy." taunted the stranger as his fist connected with the mans face knocking him to the other side of the canyon wall.
The wounded bandit with his large mechanical arm raised menacingly whimpered loudly "You knocked out Kong ."
The stranger let out a chuckle before he unsheathed a small dagger from his side "This outta be enough to take you out." the continued taunting angered the bandit to no end "This is the newest model auto mail it costs two-hundred thousand rubies." with a quick stroke of his arm the cloaked stranger dealt a quick slash to the the wiring of the arm slumping it to the ground.
"Good. Now that we are at the same level we can talk."
The large man struggled to lift his arm but it wouldn't budge an inch "What do we have to talk about we're just simple bandits?"
"Don't get so down on yourself you are apart of the big kumatori gang right?" The stranger began twirling his dagger merrily his sharp toothed grin never leaving his face. The bandit couldn't help but grouse "Dammit this was supposed to be an easy snatch, but look what happens when a guy tries to get ahead."
"That will do as a yes. Now I need to know which train your gang plans to rob tomorrow."
"Go fuck yourself kid!" The bandit shot back spitting at the ground missing the dagger wielding stranger by a few feet "Come on you got nothing to lose but your other good arm if you know whats best you'll give up that info."
The bandit looked slightly tempted gulping nervously at the thought of losing another arm to a child was insulting even as a notion "It will be the train headed to Alac city harbor."
"Haha." Chuckled the boy kicking the man in the face "Good to know." with a flick of his dagger he cut a wire off of the auto mail and destroyed its wire trappings completely. The boy looked to his left eying the small black cat next to another passed out bandit "Hear that Nesa we got half of what we wanted. The cat mimicked a human smile and said in a soft voice full of relief "Yay!"
The man who had been groveling on the ground just seconds before had quickly brushed himself off and ran in the direction of the young cloaked boy in order to thank him "Young man I can't thank you enough for saving me." his wife looked slightly disgruntled beside the boy noticing she was mysteriously absent from her husbands thanks the boy removed his hood to reveal his young face he looked uncharacteristically sly for a youth his eyes were a very deep shade of brown and filled with characteristics common of a charlatan a thin coating of dirt covered his face and he generally looked uncouth his hair was black and very wild.
"I'm so glad you said that." with a quick flicker the youths dagger was inches away from the mans throat.
Within minutes the family had found they had no choice but to relinquish their canteens and a considerable amount of money to the boy. Jin slowly counted sand covered dollars with a soft smile "Saved for only Two-hundred rubies a person cut you guys a great deal."
The small black cat in a mysterious flash had morphed into the form of a small dainty blonde haired boy with green catlike eyes and an unmistakable pair of feline ears mounted at the top of his head he was incredibly small compared to his companion being only a few inches taller than the young girl he had just 'saved' "We'll be able to sleep in a hotel tonight yeah!" he exclaimed happily.
Jin quickly pocketed the wad of cash and once again donned the hood of his cloak "Well. Happy travels." he waved
The family stood dumbfounded and completely disappointed with the obviously spoiled fruits of their journey with the wife being the first to exert her groans "Why did I marry such a coward?" her small daughter looked on at the duo who had saved them and in the same breath robbed them blind "Cool" she peeped.
Rumba city the destination the two young travelers had sought for months was a fair sized city known for it's famous bullet train system that made it the hot spot for travelers of all backgrounds with many different goals.
"So the tram leaves tomorrow? What do we do until then?" Asked Nesa.
Jin smirked and pulled a cigarette from a dust covered carton and placed it between his lips to accompany his cigarette was a small package with two slightly bent matches he quickly pulled one of the matches from the packaging and lit it against the bottom of the cover to light his gasper "After all that walking we should get some food with all this money then find a place to stay."
"How boring is that though? We should find some women and have fun, we got lots of rubies just using them on essentials is kind of a waste."
The boy grimaced at his friends suggestion letting out a steady stream of smoke through his nostrils "Women? I think that would be the real waste."
"I swear I can't tell what team you play for sometimes. This is the third time you said that." The cat boy audibly scoffed.
The two walked through the town browsing their selection of places to eat and noticing their were very few restaurants to choose from Nesa had quickly come to the conclusion that the town was very conservative and people preferred to cook for themselves. The idea of going to a quick grocery had crossed Jin's mind but he quickly remembered neither of them could cook anything in the least.
Their stomachs grumbled thinking of food which they hadn't eaten the past two sundowns. All hope seemed lost until the small cat boy and his keen sense of smell had detected a loud aroma coming from their direct east.
"Jin!" He loudly exclaimed his ears standing above his blonde hair "I smell food this way." The boy pointed and Jin desperately followed "What kind of food is it?"
The small blonde who by this point was drooling on the ground had lost full function of his brain "Dunno the good kind hopefully."
As the boys continued to trek through the city the streets grew more and more crowded until they had reached a large crowd Jin with clenched teeth grabbed onto the shirt of an old man who quickly turned around to meet his gaze "This crowd is here for food right?" Jin sleepily asked with a dead gaze. The man was puzzled and quickly assumed the youth was a habitual drug user and gave a reply equally as sleepy "Yeah two ex-consors from the cait scratch cooking guild." the dead eyes the boy had a moment earlier disappeared he looked forward and pushed through the crowd determined to see the demonstration.
"Jin wait up!"
The crowd of people seemed to be endlessly enamored with whatever performance had consumed the street, the two boys found themselves quickly losing sight of one one another as they dove ever deeper into the sea of enthused city folk cheering and awing with raised fists. Between the smell of cheap cologne and soaked leather Jin could make out a distinct but unfamiliar aroma that grew as he closed the distance between himself and the center of the circle.
After an ordeal of shoving pushing and misplaced ashes from his cigarette the youth had reached the center attraction the crowd were two men dancing around the circle one tall with wavy hair and a slightly wrinkled face holding a giant frying pan with a handle about three feet long with a pan at its center burning with a giant green spider being cooked by large wild blue flames the other man was short and pudgy with a large backpack containing various colored bubbling liquids that he lobbed in the air from a distance as to avoid being burned from the flames of the cooking spider.
The first thing Jin had noticed was the small tattoo branded onto the backside of both of the men's hand a small black cat with three eyes and two tails with no mouth easily recognizable as a guild tattoo worn by consors who have joined a guild.
The guild in particular that the men must have belonged two was 'cait scratch' guild a small allied guild of cooks who specialized in the cultivating of rare recipes and who were renowned as the owners of several upscale restaurants in the eastern side of the continent. Like a flash the string of facts concerning the guild had swam through the boys mind before returning his focus onto the display at hand.
The two men continued their acrobatic feats juggling the spider yards in the air before quickly catching it in the large pan and dousing it with more colored viles that changed the hue of the flame from a bright blue to a vibrant green.
"And now for the finale." Exclaimed the excited performer throwing four test tubes at the pan causing the flame inside to dance and burst into the air and disperse like a firework display.
The large strongman holding onto the pan with a weighted grunt flipped the oversized skillet and slammed it onto the ground with the large sizzling spiders legs standing straight up high into the air, the roasted arachnid let out a tantalizingly sweet aroma into the air the crowd of people stood at the circles edge with a puzzled gasp.
"You may eat the creature off the ground the heat from the flames will sterilize any germs that may worry you." The backpack wearing performer declared with his motioning at the creature.
The crowd was still adamant despite the mans reassuring words and looked around with looks equally as puzzled as before but their was one from the sea of people; a girl who danced through the crowd dusted herself off and stretched out her arms towards one of the legs of the spider and with a light snap ripped it off before licking at the tuft of meat sticking out from one of its knee like joints "I-it's good." she whispered. The gong had been struck and members of the crowd flooded in to pick at the spider much to the performers delight.
Jin had stumbled through the group of people careful not to waste his cigarette in the ensuing chaos, he only had one more after all. As he closed in on the creature he raised a brow looking at its dead eyes before grabbing a half a leg someone had apparently forgotten to tear off he examined the meat and sniffed it before biting into a small piece, in that moment he could only make disgusted faces before spitting out the meat.
Surrounded by only puzzled looks the people watched the boy gag on the food shortly before wiping his mouth "Disgusting!" He yelled looking at the two smug consors "I want my money back." he continued.
The men both looked at each other utterly confused with the pan holder retorting "It was a free demonstration."
"It was shoddy. Very shoddy."
The men both grinned looking at the boy with a snide grin "Boy your barbaric lack of refinement will not get you far, you and that diseased tobacco ridden mouth of yours can not even begin to comprehend the taste we would demand from an audience."
Jin spat in the direction of the men "City folk never could understand good food, all style with no substance."
Those piercing words would prove to be the last the crowd would hear for in the instant he gasped the last inch of his sentence he was covered by the top of the pan the large man had placed upon him.
"Turn on the heat." said the pudgy consor to the other who nodded and complied "He won't last long."
A soft bombinating sound came from the pan steadily and with increasing volume he found the pan more of a struggle to keep to the ground their was without doubt a force fighting against him.
"Are you having trouble keeping him down?" His partner calmly mused.
The large man was visibly struggling by this point "I think he's still kicking in there." the man continued to struggle his palms turned red with his strengthening grip but the cohesion from the sweat of his palms did little to help him and he had lost the tug-of-war. Jin had punched the pan from the inside with nothing but his cloak burning he stood wearing a gray desert suit he had swindled from the patriarch of the family he was so kind to have saved earlier.
"You jokers aren't real consors. Never were." Jin declared facing the men with a stern gaze.
The two men returned his gaze with looks equally full of fear and disappointment the boy was unscathed though breathing heavily his suit seemed to have taken the brunt of the flames they showed signs of being cooked lightly on the shoulders. Jin made a strong right fist before pointing his index finger at the two of them "The cait scratch tattoo only has an extra tail not an extra eye, you two are obvious frauds." A subdued cough made its way into the boys speech "I bet you both showed up for the exam and couldn't pass."
This simply did not deserve an answer the men deemed to be satisfactory with a short sigh they prepared for attack. The pan wielding strongman extended his weapon outward while his partner jumped straight into it before being quickly propelled high into the sky. Jin followed the man through the air waiting for anything to happen until he saw small objects falling toward him.
"You guys really are amateurs." Jin sighed quickly dashing to bridge the gap between himself and the man holding the large pan climbing along the weapons handle like a tightrope walker he quickly reached a point where he was only inches from the man's face "Don't try to take the consor exam without knowing how to fight next time." without any warning at all Jin punched the man square in the face knocking him into the crowd.
All of the test tubes had missed the boy by a mile and as the man who threw them reached the ground he saw his partner being held by the people in the crowd he sadly smiled to himself "You were right about us kid we failed the exam didn't even make it past the first leg of the exam." he folded his arms behind his back.
Jin simply smacked his teeth and charged forward as he would have under any circumstances his fist clenched tightly he repeated his earlier action and punched the man who stood and took it without any resistance he fell to the grand immediately after.
"But you won't either...that test isn't as easy as people would like to assume the shining lights, chivalry and money, none of that is present in the exams and anyone who isn't a ruthless killer should stay far away."
Jin looked at the man on the ground and prepared himself a cigarette as he did earlier "I think you're close but I don't think a consor needs to be a ruthless killer I think above all else the quality a consor really needs is greed."