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Podlihob greets me somewhat morosely, and Rhynn wraps me up in a bear hug.
“You’re a free man! Or ape. Whatever.” Rhynn smells just as one would imagine, like a bar full of whiskey and cigarettes. The odor cuts through my dumpster reek and is a nice reprieve from the stink.
We were just hanging out a few hours ago in prison, getting drunk, right?
“Oh, I actually was never imprisoned at the same time as you. I just like to visit the SHUs when players get thrown in there, see if it is anybody I want to gloat over. If I had told you I wasn’t a prisoner, though, you might have wanted to escape. And if you want to actually be a member of this society, escaping from prison is a terrible way to go about it.” Rhynn pulls out a flask and hands it to me. I drain the entire thing and pocket the flask.
“I keep that now. That’s what you get for lying to me.”
I laugh despite the situation.
“Okay, let’s keep the public drinking to a minimum outside the courthouse.” Gadlihob is justified in admonishing us here, I suppose.
“We need to get you to an immigration office, but it might be in your best interest to get a shower and some better clothes.”
“You look like a troll who ate a wizard and put on his dirtiest pajamas,” Podlihob supplies. Hey, maybe that clown mask isn’t just for show!
Rhynn laughs loudly at Podlihob’s quip.
“I like this hob, he’s okay by me.” Rhynn tosses Podlihob a gold coin. As Podlihob opens his mouth, disgust splayed across his face, Rhynn pulls out another gold coin, tears off the foil and eats the revealed chocolate. Podlihob’s mouth snaps shut, then twists into a grin. I think they just became friends! I need to watch Rhynn do this some more, he’s awesome at it!
“A shower and new outfit sounds awesome. I have more clothes, but when I try to put them on, they all become like this.”
I promise I am not trying to look like a hobo on purpose. It just happens.
“More evidence of a curse,” Gadlihob mutters. “There’s a gym I’ve done some favors for nearby, you can get a shower there.”
“And I’ll take you clothes shopping, all on me, you furball,” Rhynn puts in. I am going to have new clean clothes! I am elated at the idea of clothes that only have the holes the tailor intended.
We walk a couple blocks and arrive at the gym. The sign for the gym, labeled PUISSANT FIGHTERS, has been graffitied over to read potato fatties. We enter the lobby, and an elf girl is completely overshadowed by the wild colors and patterns she is wearing. She might be mousey and colorless, or maybe she is pushed into the background by the visual clash that is her wardrobe and makeup.
“Hi Darcia, is Mikhail around?” Gadlihob gives the teen a bright smile and is met with disgust that appears to stem from boredom.
“No, he’s at another gym for a training match with Akibo. Rondinald is the only trainer here right now.” She makes these declarative statements sound like resentful accusations. Well, it takes all kinds to make the world go around, right? Possibly not too many of this kind, though.
“I will be speaking with Rondinald, then. These gentlemen are with me, and we will be borrowing a shower for my friend here who just enjoyed a spell in the pillory.”
“Well go in, and far be it from me to hope for anybody to pay for our services. It’s dicey if I get paid most weeks.”
Ah, her resent to the world is explained! I will imitate Rhynn and make friends.
With a flourish, I pull a gold coin out of my inventory to make it look like I am stage magician.
“How will this do for payment?” I ask with all the charisma I can summon.
“I am not touching anything a fucking troll has,” she says, looking at me for the first time. “Especially one that smells like whiskey, shrimp, and ass.”
You know what? I don’t think I’m very charismatic.
“Don’t test him, girlie. He’s the dread fecalmancer, and his shit magic will follow you to an early grave if you treat him poorly!” Rhynn nearly bellows at the end, and the girl shrinks back, cowed by his ferocity.
We hustle through the lobby into the gym. A run-down ring droops in the center of the gym. Around it is a variety of exercise equipment. Flopped across a chair is an elf idly poking at a small slab of stone.
“Hey Rondinald. Had any problems with those permits?”
“No, everything is wonderful here. Look at how well we’re doing. Just swimming in fighters.” He barely glances at us and continues to poke and drag his finger around on the slab.
Rhynn walks over, looks at the slab, and snorts.
“You’re sure working hard to fix it, using that dating service. I can just picture your profile on there: Ambitionless twat seeking sugar-mama.”
Rondinald finally looks up and says
“Where do you get off…” He takes in Rhynn’s form, as wide as he is tall, with more muscle in one arm than many people have in their bodies, and his anger turns to resignation.
“Fuck you, man. Ain’t worth it.”
“You’ve a prime cut of beef in front of you and you can’t even consider recruiting me? No wonder they’re calling you potato fatties.”
My man Rhynn is savage. Rondinald won’t even look at him.
Gadlihob leads us to a locker room in the back, and I hop in a shower. My robe vanishes into my inventory, and a soap dispenser on the wall gives me a tiny dribble of crusty cleaning. Hot water helps a lot though, as I watch food particles and stains wash into the drain. I finally come out in a different robe ruined by my low level to see Rhynn and Podlihob smoking in one corner of the locker room and Gadlihob standing as far away from them as possible.
“Let’s get you some new threads, furball. I know a decent tailor, and if you want that classic wizard look, he’s got you covered.”
Rhynn kills the cigarette he and Podlihob were sharing, with a final exhalation of earthy smoke.
“Sure, let’s head out. Thank you for helping me get a shower, Gadlihob.”
It always pays to be polite, even if this gym is a dump.
We exit the locker room and find two additions to the gym. An orc jumps rope in the ring, while a short guy is yelling at Rondinald. When he sees us, the short guy stops and trots over to grab Gadlihob’s hand.
“My friend! You are always welcome here, I am sorry my staff are so rude to you!”
The short guy has an accent and is old. His nose has been broken in the past and curls around his face, with his face framed by mutton chops.
“It’s fine. I’m sorry my associate here responded in kind, but it is all as water under the bridge, Mikhail.”
They share a hug. The orc in the ring has stopped jumping rope and come to the side of the ring, eyeing Rhynn.
“He looks like he could give me a workout, coach.” The orc’s voice is a deep rumble.
“By the system he could! Do you know how to box, friend?” Mikhail eyes Rhynn appreciatively, taking in muscles that strive to live in different mailing districts.
“I have been known to box. Fair’s fair though, I’m a player. I don’t want to break your fighter.” Rhynn shows a nasty grin and waves at the orc, holding his hand still and wiggling his fingers.
“Akibo is training for the Unlimited division, that is perfect!” Mikhail is enthused by Rhynn’s declaration. I guess we’re helping out with training a boxer? I thought we were going to get clothes and get me immigrated in and it looks dark outside now… Hey if it is dark, I bet that immigration office is already closed!
Rhynn borrows some trunks, refuses some headgear, and comes out of the locker room stretching and swinging his arms. Akibo is grinning as Mikhail laces up his gloves. Podlihob brings some gloves to Rhynn and helps him lace them, and soon Mikhail is between the two of them in the ring.
“We go to the first knockdown. Two-minute rounds, and only three rounds. Akibo, don’t get emotional.” Mikhail stares at Rhynn as he says all of this.
“I’ll be a good teacher, kid.” Rhynn stretches out his arms, and Akibo taps their gloves together, having to reach down to the much shorter player.
After the ring of the bell, they briefly circle each other in the ring. Akibo tries to hang back and use his superior range to land a couple of jabs, but he can only aim at Rhynn’s head due to the size difference. Rhynn keeps his guard high and tight, until he delivers a straight punch into Akibo’s stomach.
The orc collapses, folding up and groaning.
“Sorry about that. You need to remember that just because you have range doesn’t mean you can neglect your guard. One step brought me in for the money shot.”
Mikhail is already helping Akibo up. Akibo nods at Rhynn’s words.
“I wouldn’t mind another training match sometime if you’re available.”
“We’ll see. I’m not sure how much time the furball will take up. He’s like a little brother I can’t leave alone.”
Suddenly everyone is looking at me, and I’m not sure how to respond.
So instead of saying anything, I begin conjuring. Carbon with 4 double bonds and… There. A lump of diamond falls into the ring.
“Please accept that as gratuity for the shower in case I keep Rhynn too busy to train,” I say with a deep bow. I tried to match the size of the diamond with Akibo’s fist because I really don’t know values, but I figure that’s big enough to be worth something.
“I’ll be a motherfucker,” Mikhail breathes that out, just barely audible. Gadlihob comes over, grabs my wrist and pulls me towards the door.
“Thank you so much for your hospitality but now we really must go,” Gadlihob machine-guns out the sentence, and we are leaving. Rhynn is suddenly in a different outfit, with no indication that he needed to visit the locker room, and his gloves, boots, and trunks are in a neat pile on a chair by the ring. Akibo, Mikhail, and Rondinald are all gaping at the diamond still.