Strength in Numbers
Rays of the scorching hot sun beamed through the window pane of Zanaris’ room and splashed down onto his face, forcing him awake. He blinked several times before sitting up, leaning his spine against the headboard, and burying his eyes into the palms of his hands to thoroughly massage them. Upon looking about the room, it was then that he started remembering the events that had taken place the day before; he had agreed to become a member of the Fable guild, and thereafter, he was shown to his room before collapsing from exhaustion.
It was odd; he didn’t remember being so tired, but a good night’s sleep was something he would never pass off. The room was quite nice as well, with superb wooden flooring, a large window in the center wall, a single bathroom, and two beds. Two beds? Zanaris looked over to the other bed, feasting his eyes upon a figure he had never quite seen before in his life. Sporting shaggy dark red hair, he was of average height, and rather well built, judging by his refined muscle mass. Coincidentally, it was just then that the man began to move, reaching first to grasp ahold of his shirt that was lying in a large pile on the floor, and then sitting up to put it on.
He looked over towards Zanaris and waved, before a woman sat up beside him all of a sudden, with no more than the bed’s sheets covering her body. “Looks like you’re finally up! I didn’t get the chance to greet you properly last night, since you were so tired and all, but it’s nice to meet you,” he said, as the woman beside him looked around with a confused expression across her face.
“You may be wondering who I am; I’m your roommate. Well technically, you’re my roommate, since I was here first, but either way works,” he continued, donning a brilliant smile that even blinded the rays of the sun. At the same time, the girl beside him began to panic, upon taking notice of her naked body; in response, the red haired man simply snapped his fingers, and she fell back down onto the pillow.
Zanaris himself was quite confused at this point. Even despite taking notice of this, the red haired man simply shrugged, and then yawned, before casually taking up his speech once more. “I’m Tiyo. You got a name?”
“Zanaris? What kind of a name is that? It’s retarded!” he exclaimed, his loud voice forcing the girl beside him awake yet again. As she sat up, she was met by the familiar siren of his fingers, and before she knew it, fell back asleep.
Shaking off Tiyo’s remark, Zanaris decided to finally ask his new roommate what the heck was going on. “What do you keep doing to her? And why is she even here in the first place?”
“I use Sleep Magic,” he explained, causing a lightbulb to go off in Zanaris’ mind. “I used it on you too when you walked in here last night.”
He paused, before realizing it wasn’t the nicest of house warming gifts one could offer. “Sorry about that, but trust me, it was for the better. You wouldn’t have been able to sleep with what was going on over on my side of the room, if you know what I mean.”
Looking over at the girl who appeared to have no idea what was going on, it was quite obvious that Tiyo was one who abused his magic. “You’re a lucky guy, though, having me as your roommate. You’ll never not be unable to sleep, but don’t worry, no need to thank me or anything,” Tiyo went on, shrugging his shoulders.
“Anyway, Cuda-sama said since you’re the new guy, I should probably show you around a little bit. So let me know whenever you’re ready,” Tiyo sat up, and threw the sleeping beauty over his shoulder. “I’ll be back in a second, gotta go drop her off real quick.”
When Tiyo took a bit longer to return than he had promised —a bit longer being over an hour— Zanaris decided to venture the guild on his own. It was during this time that the scent of food carried him towards the main lobby, where several of the guild’s mages were scattered, many with drinks already in their hands, even at this hour. Through the large pool of people, Zanaris spotted Tiyo, who was seated on a table with several different women.
“Yo, Zanaris!” a voice called, steering the lost Zanaris towards the left, where a table seating two mages awaited him. He recognized one of them as Remno, a man he had met last night. “That is your name, right? Well come on over here; word on the street is that you’ve got a pretty nasty appetite!”
Zanaris walked up to the table and took a seat. “Aw, yeah, homie, you know, just that’s how it be,” he said upon doing so, allowing his wannabe attitude to possess him in public once more.
“Yeah, don’t do that,” Remno said, shaking his head, before reverting back to his previous subject. “Anyways, I heard you were going to be Monique’s partner; you know, the smoking hot chick who got you here in the first place?”
A waitress appeared in between them, setting down numerous places in front of Zanaris. They all contained breakfast materials, from eggs with ketchup to piles of bacon. Without waiting another second, the dark haired man dug in with both hands, confirming the rumors.
“Yeah, what about her?” he said in between his chews, causing bits of food to scatter across the table.
“Well, I was wondering if you’d consider switching partners with me?” he asked, pushing another plate with a pie closer towards Zanaris. “Monique’s been on the market for awhile now, you know, but her partners always end up going missing. So, I’m just trying to look out for you.”
The other man seated at the table shook his head. Zanaris kept eating.
“Oh, yeah,” Zanaris said, pausing a second to gulp down the last of the pie. “I think I should be fine, I’m not really like those other guys. But, thanks for the concern.”
“Not like those other guys?” Remno repeated, leaning back in disbelief. “Whatever, look. I didn’t want to say this, but I think you’re way over your head here. Are you even aware as to what kind of a mage Monique is? She doesn’t deserve to be paired up with someone like you; moreover, I don’t think you deserve to be paired up with her.”
The other man finally snapped. “Look, Remno. You already got your answer. Now, why don’t you just go out and get yourself some fresh air? Or you know, start up that mission you took up over a week ago.”
Remno exchanged glances with the other guy, and shook his head, rising to his feet. “Alright, whatever. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
As he left, the other man reached out for his bottle and took a sip. “Don’t pay him any mind, he’s a bit full of himself.”
This other one had short, spiky blue hair, and length comparable to Zanaris. Unlike the other mages he had come across, this one seemed to have a different look in his eyes, one that was much more precise.
“I’m not the best at introductions, but most people here call me Whale. I’ve already heard quite a bit about your battle with Zack,” he said, nodding his head. “I must say, I’m rather impressed, though, he is still quite far from one of our strongest.”
The conversation had suddenly become one worthy of discussing. For a high spirited individual such as Zanaris, fighting was the sole purpose of living life. Speaking of matters relating to the topic were intriguing to him, and they often left him very, very excited.
“Oh, yeah?” he said, leaning back in his seat a bit and patting his stomach; the many plates on the table had since been cleared out. “That’s good, I would’ve been kinda disappointed otherwise.”
Whale chuckled. “Here in Fable, we’re all assigned a number based on our overall strength. Out of the hundreds that refer to this place as home, Jack was ranked within the top forties,” he took another sip from his cup and looked over to the now emptied seat on his left. “Remno has himself a spot in our top ten, which is why he’s as arrogant as he is.”
Zanaris’ eyebrows suddenly defied logic, ascending high above his forehead, so as to emphasize his growing interest. “And what about you?”
A grin appeared across Whale’s face, and after nodding for a brief second and discerning his otherwise humble persona, he rolled the sleeve of his left arm up past his elbow, where the number “7” was inscribed in blue on his forearm. “Got it last week, actually, by defeating that guy in battle,” he pointed across the lobby towards the table of women, directly at Tiyo. “You can move up through the ladder by defeating a person with a rank, taking it for yourself in the process.”
Just then, the entire lobby grew silent. For, a majestic being had suddenly stepped foot through the front doors, adorned within a large blue coat with towering collars. His long blonde hair fell down his back miraculously, and as his colossal physique walked on along the path, some around the room even lost consciousness. Within his hands, he bore a trident-like staff of the sorts, which he used in a manner similar to a walking cane.
“That’s Excel, the first of Fable’s Five Seeds, a position given only to those ranked within the top five of our system. As you might already be able to tell with him just walking in here, there’s a pretty substantial gap between our powers, even despite there only being a difference of two levels between the two of us,” Whale continued, albeit this time, in a whisper. “Among them, the number one spot is reserved for the guild’s ace, who, as strong as he may be, still pales in comparison to our guild master, with him being one of the ten wizard saints.”
From a distance, the two watched as Excel approached a wall filled with posters and peeled one off, storing it into his coat for safekeeping. “He’s a bounty hunter,” Whale explained. “He makes a living out of tracking down dark mages and sending them over to the Magic Council.”
“Hey, you’re a God Slayer, right?” he later questioned. “In that case, Excel may be the guy you’re aiming to dethrone here; he’s regarded as our strongest within that classification."
While keeping their eyes on the position of the posters, another familiar figure approached Excel. Zanaris recognized her as Monique. She took off a poster for herself and started a conversation with Excel.
“That’s rare,” Whale stated in disbelief, before going in to take a sip from his cup.
“What, that a girl like her would go after a bounty mission?” Zanaris questioned, wondering suddenly why Monique hadn’t consulted him before selecting a mission.
“No, that two Seeds would be at the guild at the same time like this without having been summoned,” Whale explained.
Zanaris’ eyes widened. “Monique… is one of them?”
Whale nodded. “Number four, to be exact. That places her above even Excel over there; only, she doesn’t have nearly the same level of intimidation.”
Monique then left the guild with the rolled up poster in her hand, prompting Zanaris to stand up from his seat. “Looks like she found a mission for us. Thanks for everything, I really appreciate it,” he said, walking off towards the exit, before turning around and hitting Whale with one of his bizarre poses. “Catch ya later, homie!"