I worked double-time to make sure this story got saved. Thankfully I remembered enough of it to play around with it, and plus I was lucky enough to find a not-quite-as-older version on my laptop. So without further ado: this.
Ryo and Manabu sat on the edge. Their legs dangled like hanged men over the side of the old building. A bag of snacks was nestled between them. They stared out at the cityscape and enjoyed their idle Sunday chatter. From where they sat, they could see the towering skyscrapers of Oldtown stabbing the clouds in the West Quarter. Neon rainbow lights erupted from Central Square. Oily smells from the Langstrom Factory crossbred with the sweet marketplace aromas. A zeppelin soared over the West Gate.
Languidly, tall and greying Manabu popped a chip into his mouth, “Are you proposing to Asami yet?”
Ryo nodded, his dyed-gold hair bobbing, “Mm. That’ll be tonight.”
“Thanks. What about you and Michele?”
“That’s her, right? The blondie from Wayfarer.”
Manabu sucked air through his teeth, “It’s too early to say. I think I want to get married more than she does.”
Ryo laughed a little, “She’s young, that’s why.”
Manabu punched his friend’s arm, “She’s your age. Don’t –”
A horn roared behind them. They looked over their shoulders. The massive doors of the South Gate were not far from where they sat, and they were opening. A chorus of joyous cries came from the streets.
Manabu winced and faced the street again, “So noisy.”
Ryo kept facing the gate, “Someone returning from battle, no doubt. The frogfolk by the South Lake are getting restless. Fishermen turning up dead and all that.”
“Doesn’t mean they have to be so noisy,” the greying man grunted.
Something in Ryo’s pocket chirped. He pulled out a small golden circle decorated with flashing lights. He pressed its middle. A blue light shot into his eyes and disappeared. He pocketed the device. “Billy’s at Naga Square. Let’s go.”
“How can you stand those things?” the greying man asked, sliding away from the building’s ledge, “They’ll give you eye cancer or something.”
“There’s no such thing as eye cancer,” Ryo grunted, grabbing the snack bag.
Manabu brought himself to his feet and headed for the stairway down, “There will be if you keep using that. Anyway, let’s go.”
Back in the streets, they headed for the marble fountain in Naga Square. Shop windows obnoxiously flashed advertisements at them. Newsboys trumpeted local gossip and tales from abroad. A priest called out passages from old holy texts. Schools of people overtook the streets; girls in tight pants and bright shirts, a dirty-faced man in his leather jacket, three old men at a chess table, young lovers and tradesmen and vagabonds and soldiers stomping the streets for satisfaction and excitement.
There were also the hunters. Swarthy, cocky fighters in stolen clothes and improbable homemade weapons swaggered through the streets, joking with each other and making passes at whoever was nearby. Women wearing iron and silk teased hard-bodied boys decorated with bone and leather coats. Modified guns and long blades were slung over their shoulders or holstered on their belts, in blatant disregard of the law. Among themselves, they were unique and heroic, but to the general public they were suicidal thrill-seekers with no sense of subtlety.
Manabu saw one particularly large man pass by and huffed, “I heard Keith’s brother is joining those guys.”
Ryo raised an eyebrow, “Who?”
“Keith! Narumi’s boyfriend. Remember, he’s got those big pale eyes?”
“Oh! Creepy Eyes!”
“Yeah, yeah! Him!”
“Wow!” Ryo said, leaning back and folding his arms, “So Creepy Eyes’ brother is going to be a hunter, eh?”
“Looks like it. I wonder if he has creepy eyes too,” he wondered, eying his young friend, “Would you ever do that?”
“No way,” the boy scoffed, “I can’t even walk into a butcher’s shop. Besides, who says we can’t share the land?”
“Careful, talk like that’ll get you arrested,” Manabu warned, “I just might start screaming ‘Traitor, there’s a traitor here!’ Then what?”
“Then who’s going to cook my special biryani chicken?” Ryo asked, flatly.
Manabu meditated on that, “Good point.”
They stepped around a voluptuous hunter in a lizard-skin dress chatting up two sensibly-dressed men and saw the fountain. It was a tall and twisting marble monolith, depicting four snakes bent around a nude woman, covering the important parts of her body. Water poured out of their mouths.
Tan and muscular, Billy was pacing in front of it. As they came near, he checked his messenger-disc one last time before putting it aside. “Hey, guys.”
“Hey, Billy!” Manabu laughed, waving, “How’s it going?”
He shrugged, “Not much. Have you heard about Keith’s brother?”
Ryo clucked his tongue, “Yeah. I feel bad for Creepy –” Manabu nudged his friend and shot him a look. The young man grunted, “I mean: I feel bad for Keith. How did it happen?”
Billy pulled out a cigarette and lit it, “A valtonite made it into the sewers last week. It popped out of the manhole in the East Quarter. Keith’s brother, Charlie, he was working there, but when he saw it attacking people, he charged it with a metal chair and beat it to death. Kid’s lucky to be alive.”
“Okay, I have to admit,” Ryo said, putting his hands up, “that’s pretty impressive. Those things are huge.”
“Yeah, but now the little man wants to be a hunter,” grunted Billy, taking a drag, “He’s half my size and he thinks he can hold his own out in the wild.”
Manabu looked left to see two hunters bickering over a gaudy scythe that one of them held, “How’s Keith taking it?”
Billy took another drag, “He’s mad as hell. Ron and Obie stopped him from drinking his weight in spicewine last night. Narumi’s a mess, too, but more because Keith’s a wreck now.”
“Poor girl,” Ryo sighed, pocketing his hands, “We should go cheer her up.”
“We should hold an intervention instead,” Manabu proposed, lifting his arm and waving it high. A carriage in the distance slowed down and veered, heading their way “Charlie’s almost ready to kill himself and we’re sitting here.”
“I agree,” Billy started, heading for the carriage, “Kid’s full-on delusional. He put this big post up on the MyLife bulletin board, saying that he ‘feels alive,’ like he’s standing above the city and that the world’s below his feet.”
Manabu sighed, folding his arms, “I guess he never sat on the edge of a building before.”
See you next time,