“So, what’s your name, Mr. Pinky?” the balding, mustachioed man asks me.
“Eryk Solbourne, D-Rank [Adventurer] from North Spire and a member of Team Fanghook,” I answer on instinct before quickly realizing the folly of my ways. “I mean, my name is Eryk.”
“Well, Eryk, welcome to Jim’s Gym. I’m Jim.”
“Hi Jim,” I greet Jim. “I’d like to join your gym, Jim.”
“And what about your two friends here? Little cutie and chubby boy?”
Delta and Francis, standing behind me at the entrance to Jim’s Gym, take Jim’s nicknames with a potent amount of anger. I will admit that I am a bit uneasy about them as well; he is being quite rude with those kinds of names, and probably making them uncomfortable as well. However, this whole “boxing” plan was Francis’s idea, so even if I am immediately repelled by this Jim and his gym, I will steel myself through and through.
“Only me,” I say. “They are here to observe, is all. Is that okay?”
“As long as they pay, hey,” he says with a chuckle.
“We’ll pay,” Francis says. “Sigh...”
“Did you just say ‘sigh’ out loud?” Delta asks.
The man Jim tilts his head to the side. “Y’all good?”
“We’re good,” Francis says. “Let’s watch Eryk practice.”
We enter Jim’s Gym, which surprisingly is home to no diamonds, no sapphires, no emeralds, nothing of the sort.
According to the plan that Francis and Delta formulated, I am to show off my prowess by training as much as possible in the art of boxing.
On Earth, boxing is a sport where humans punch each other until one of the two is knocked on the ground. It’s seneless gladiator-style combat, but given safety protections where the contestants wear thick gloves and are treated with urgent medical care if anything happens. They have taken the lowest of all combat and turned it into a spectator sport that attracts apparently millions upon millions of watchers.
I respect that.
After I change into some nice training clothes and put on some boxing gloves, I come into the training area where Jim is sitting back in a chair drinking orange juice.
“So, you ready to train?” he asks. “I’ll let you show off your skills and then I’ll see what kind of training regiment you wanna be on. I got three different classes every week based on different levels and you can join any of them if you want. ‘Course, looking at you, I don’t know if you’ll quite qualify for those, but hey, feel free to try stuff out and get a feel for it.”
Francis comes up to me and whispers, “Just remember, we’re trying to impress everyone and maybe get you into some practice matches. that’s the main goal here.”
“I understand. I shall fulfill it with great haste.”
With that in mind, I step up to the main practice stage and crack my neck in both directions. It’s been a long time since I’ve sparred before, and so this is going to be an interesting one.
Lowering to the practice stage are a few punching bags of various sizes. They dangle from the ceiling on metal chains. A quick tap to each of the three of them confirms to me that despite their small size, these things are as heavy as goblins, druidfish, and small humans, respectively.
I’ll start with the middle-sized one. It’s been ages since the last time I fought a druidfish, but I will not forget the pain and annoyance that they have caused me.
With sharp fangs entering the skin of my arm in mind, I wind up for a punch, muster everything I can before I unleash my mind.
The punching bag is in front of me.
It is my enemy. Perhaps not a real one, but an enemy nonetheless.
And with a mighty thrust, my arm rockets forward and my hand collides with the bag.
THUD. The entire punching bag rips off the metal chain and flies into the air! It falls off the stage, crashes on the ground, and rips open. Sand pours out all over the floor.
“Yes!” I shout.
“No!” Jim shouts. “What the hell are you pulling here?”
“I wanted to showcase my strength to all onlookers,” I say. “See what I can do?” I punch the smallest punching bag and it too breaks off its chain and zooms into the gym’s front window. It crashes through the window and shatters it.
“You puny little bastard!”
“I want to prove to you that I am strong enough to fight,” I say. “I can fight even the strongest enemies.” I take on the heaviest punching bag, smacking it with successively powerful blows until it wobbles around like a broken pendulum. For my finishing move, I lean down and uppercut it—the punching bag flings itself up into the air, not breaking off the chain but crashing into the ceiling instead.
The bag explodes and sand comes falling down onto the main stage. A little bit of it covers my head.
“Get out of my gym!” Jim shouts.
“But I thought...”
We three leave very quickly. We do not receive refunds on our gym membership.
As soon as we leave, though, Francis bursts out laughing. “That’s not quite what I expected, but... oh man, did you see the look on that guy’s face?”
“I could tell he was a jerk,” Delta says. “We did him over good.”
“But I didn’t even gain any Destiny Points,” I say. “What purpose did any of this accomplish? I thought I was going to do some boxing against real people, not simply bags of sand and dust.”
“Psssssst,” a voice loudly whispers from behind us.
We turn around to look at a man in a trenchcoat and long hat. His face is obscured and he sits on the wall in the alleyway between the gym and the tanning salon next to it.
“Pssssst,” he repeats.
“Yes?” I ask.
“Come here,” he says.
Francis puts a hand in front of me to prevent me from walking closer to him. “I wouldn’t do that.”
“Yeah, why not?” the man asks. He tips his hat down, further covering himself. “I just want to make a little proposition.”
“Definitely a hard pass,” Francis says. “We’re all clean here.”
“No, I mean... I saw your impressive work in the gym,” the man says. “I’d like to offer you a spot in a lucrative business, if you are willing.”
“A lucrative business...”
Delta scrunches her eyebrows. “You don’t mean...”
The man tips his hat even further down. “I’d like you to join my fight club.”