In the Southwest Cardinal Sea is an island known as Vacule Island. Golgi City is the only major settlement, and is divided between two districts: Noble’s Paradise and Vescle. As a testament of superiority the city is built on a slope with Noble’s Paradise towering over the other, a reminder that all who live at the top are inherently blessed and those below should consider themselves grateful for being able to live under such people.
The blessed blood of the nobles allow them to walk over Vescle without so much as a care – that is, if they wished to tread upon filthy ground. A commoner should pray to the gods for forgiveness if he ever bumped into one. The nobles may keep to themselves but everyone in Vescle knows they only tolerate them with a sneer. Fortunate favors them compared to those in White Fog, the dumping grounds for unwanted belongings where thieves and vagrants thrive.
The inhabitants of Vescle find enough compassion with White Fog to trade with them for any interesting things they salvage from the hills of trash. Life is modest for both peoples and well enough to be fortunate the nobles do not sweep down and snuff them out with the heels of their expensive shoes. Everyone is content enough to keep themselves away from the nobles and make their livings as the troublesome freeloaders on Vacule Island.
In the western section of Vescle a dark shadow looms over the stone buildings which everyone has become accustomed to. The high stone walls watch over them, neutral observers unaffected by any plights they express. The sounds of cooking sizzle through the large, cobblestone street and trail an aroma of grilled fish through the air. Life in Vescle seems the same as any other day, with people busying themselves with their lives and children running around as if wrapping themselves in the scent.
“Chance!” Fols shouted behind him as he flipped a large trout with two pairs of chopsticks. “I need more!” His orange hair covered the back of his neck but was secured by a blue bandana. He stood at least 5″6 and cooked the trout before him like he’d been doing it for several years, switching between his chopsticks and seasonings while also taking orders from the patrons sitting near the counters. “Chance!” he whined with a pinch of singing. “Why you no get fish?”
“I got it!” Chance bellowed back as he unveiled himself from the door frame cloaked with a burlap curtain. He stood at 5″4 with his short blonde hair wrapped with a blue bandana. His navy blue eyes scanned over the restaurant, watching the people from the four large wooden tables enjoy themselves as they ate. The stools in front of the grilling counters were filled save for two sitting beside an unmanned grilling station. Chance slid the wrapped raw fish tucked underneath his arm toward Fols’ way and then took his place at the empty grilling station. “Yeesh, cry more,” Chance mumbled as he began preparing a plate with vegetable rolls.
“You’re so sweet,” Fols replied with a chuckle. He glanced to the entrance and smiled broadly, waving his hand at the two elderly patrons entering the establishment. “Welcome back you two!”
“Ah!” One of them mused with a toothless smile of his own. “Business seems to be good today.”
“Sure is! Take a seat and Chance’ll be right with you.” Fols took the grilled trout and placed it with a bed of rice and a little cup of black liquid. He smiled to the man sitting on one of the stools and slid the dish to him.
“Can’t wait until this day’s over,” Chance said wearily as he added some wasabi to the prepared plate of vegetable rolls before him. He took a small cup and poured some soy sauce into it, then dunked the wasabi into it and began mixing.
“You gonna run off to your gal upstairs?” Fols teased with a grin.
Chance flashed a scowl and blushed. “Whatever,” he retorted with some spite. “Favro says he found something interesting today on the shore.”
“He always says that,” Fols uttered nonchalantly as he plucked a salmon from his grill and dropped it over a bowl of rice with wasabi on the side. “Order up! Salmon and fried rice with wasabi!”
“He says this time it’s actually special.” Chance tossed some anchovies on his grill before sliding a bottle of soy sauce to Fols.
“He always says that too!” Fols shook his head as he poured the soy sauce into a small bowl and dunked some wasabi in it. He blended it with chopsticks as his other hand nabbed a small trout with a different pair and flung it on his grill. “You gotta make your own miracles if you wanna get out of here, you know that.”
Chance flashed another scowl. Fols slid the soy sauce over to him and he snatched it and jabbed the contents into a bowl of rice. Chance plopped the grilled anchovies on top of the bowl and yelled, “Order up! An hour of Fols lecturing me about stuff I know already! And anchovies on rice with soy sauce!”
The restaurant flooded with laughter, Fols laughing along with a vibrant smile on his face and Chance managing a small grin. Time passed by quickly, and when the last customer left the two let out a sigh of relief and removed their bandanas. They immersed themselves in the afterglow of the end of the day until Fols let out a mock gasp.
“Hang on,” Fols said as he listened to the entrance with an open palm behind his ear. “Did you hear that? Wait for it….”
A dark-skinned man with a fat face barged into the restaurant, a large linen sack draped over one shoulder that barely fit through the double doors. The dirtied clothes he wore looked like they never knew the warm touch of a washing machine while the thick black stubble of his facial hair was an obvious stranger to hygiene. String wrapped around his left black boot in order to keep the sole from ripping apart, but the boot would perhaps be relieved when that time finally comes.
“I come bearing gifts!” he shouted proudly as he stomped his way to the counters. Fols lifted his arms up and cheered goofily, closing his nasal passages and squishing his face as he gazed at Chance’s indomitable expression. Chance kept his eyes on his counter as he cleaned it, sweeping a rag elegantly over the wooden top, then focusing on the oil-streaked grilling plate. Once he found his station to his satisfaction he threw the rag into Fols’ face, simply let out a laugh and draped it over his shoulder.
“That’s not all, Chance,” Fols continued while restraining his enthusiasm. He gasped silently as he watched Favro slam the sack onto the counter. “He’s got something more special than usual!”
“I have something more special than usual!” Favro bellowed as he grinned triumphantly. He nodded to himself and moved to open the sack, but then paused and glared at Fols. “Hey! This time I mean it!”
“You’re so predictable,” Fols confessed, shaking his head. “You have a navy ship in there?”
“I do?” Favro peered into the sack and rummaged a hand through it. “I… Hey!” He growled at Fols, who started laughing again, this time clasping his forehead. Chance took the rag from Fols’ shoulder and tossed it in his face again.
“Let me see.” Chance nabbed the sack and looked through it, sweeping past broken chunks of wood, rusted pipes, some empty glass jars and a ripped leather boot. A moment later he sighed dejectedly. “Figures.”
“Ah, Chance,” Favro said pitifully. “Chance, Chance, Chance. Of all of my patrons you should have more faith in me!” He grinned smugly and then took a small, wooden chest out of his pocket. “This is the true treasure!”
Chance and Fols looked to each other before gazing at the chest. As Favro basked in his high sense of victory Chance took the chest and opened it. He pulled an apple from it and furrowed his brows, Fols tilting his head and tapping the apple a few times.
“An apple?” Chance rotated the fruit, following the strange stripes of green and yellow painted across it.
“Maybe it’s some mega fruit?” Fols questioned. “Who’d store this in a crappy box anyways?”
Favro chuckled without realizing what’s going on. “Have you no knowledge of the sea? Why this is a….” He looked to his empty palm and his eyes went wide. “OY!” He growled at Chance and then tried to snatch back his prize but failed. “Give that back!”
Chance glowered at him with a crooked scowl. “Your outstanding tab says this thing belongs to us.”
Fols chuckled again as he smiled at Favro, who stammered with excuses but gave up after a moment. “So what’s so special about an apple too fruity for its own good?” Fols inquired. Favro lit up as if he had spare aces to play against them.
“You may have the fruit,” Favro chortled while he shook his head. “but you don’t even know what it is!” He rubbed his index and thumb fingers together and continued. “Maybe for some grandle I could tell you that’s a Demon Fruit of ages past!”
Chance stared at Favro with a blank expression. Fols tilted his head at him and then looked to Chance. “Demon Fruit?” Fols pointed to the apple. “This thing?”
“Looks stupid.” Chance sighed as he shook his head. He dumped the apple into the chest and slid it underneath the counter. “But I can’t argue with its value. Maybe someone will actually care about it.”
“What?” Favro gasped, his jaw slacking low. His blood runs thin and he starts stammering again. “Wait, won’t you throw some cash to poor Favro’s way? Chance? Come on!”
Chance’s blank expression focused on Favro, whose fat lips formed a nervous smile as sweat started trickling down his grime-stained face. Chance’s face slowly turned into a fierce stare, one that glinted of daggers and cutthroats.
“Your outstanding tab is now cleared.” Chance stated with subtle venom. “Thank you for your patronage.”
Favro chuckled loudly, nodding frantically at the words. “You’re welcome!” he stuttered as he hoisted the sack over his shoulder and bowed repeatedly, quickly backpedalling toward the entrance while sweat continued trickling down his face. “I am happy to have come here and I wish you both good health!” His backside caused the double doors to swing open and he continued bowing even after coming outside. The hairs on the back of his neck still felt Chance’s glare tugging on them, and with a squeak Favro jerked his body to the side and ran for his life. The echoes of his hysterical chuckling slowly died out in the winds.
“Well,” Fols said contently as he flipped the rag over his shoulder. “So much for that.” He shut his eyes and rubbed them for a minute. “Who’d you think would wanna buy a rainbow fruit?” He opened his eyes and peered toward Chance. “Maybe we can pitch it to a noble and….”
Chance held the apple over his mouth and prepared to take a bite out of it. “Whoa hey!” Fols yelled out, snatching the apple as Chance chomped on air. “Are you crazy?”
“I never liked swimming anyways,” Chance admitted.
Fols tossed the apple into the chest and slammed it shut. “That’s not the point. What if you turn into some glob monster? Or maybe some sort of clam goblin?”
“Clam goblin?” Chance gave Fols a strange look.
“Okay, maybe not that, but what about a house centipede?” Fols winced a bit as the color from Chance’s skin turned pale.
“Uh,” Chance managed to utter as his body freezes up. “Good call.” He stared at the chest and swallowed a knot. “But, even so it’s better than this place.”
Fols slapped two fingers against Chance’s forehead. “Liar. What about Eirin?”
Chance bit his tongue and rubbed his forehead. He looked away sullenly and mumbled something.
“What was that?” Fols said expectantly with a hand behind his ear. “I couldn’t hear that.”
“I said shut up!” Chance snatched the chest and pocketed it. Fols placed his hands on his hips and watched Chance stalk through the burlap curtain with a lowered head.
“Chance,” Fols called out softly as he entered the doorway. “I know what you’re thinking but think about it very carefully.” He followed Chance through a small hallway littered with various supplies for the restaurant. They passed a freezer door to the right and through another burlap curtain, entering a room big enough for one person with a ladder in the bottom right corner leading to an attic. Bookshelves towered over the left wall while a simple wooden desk rested near the upper wall just below the only window for the room.
“You don’t have to tell me that,” Chance barked out matter-of-factly as he plopped onto the bed beside the desk. “I know a lot more than you do and I know the risks.” He tossed the chest onto the desk and slipped his work shirt off.
Fols scoffed. “Says the person who tried to eat a fruit he’s only read about in textbooks! Do you even know what kind of fruit that is?”
“An apple.” Chance tossed his work pants at Fols and put on a pair of silk pajamas. “I appreciate you stopping me from eating it, but this just leaves me time to find out what kind of abilities this fruit can give me.”
“Bah!” Fols snatched the work pants and hurled them at Chance, who catches them without a worry on his face. “So be it. I hope you know what you’re doing then. Just don’t come crying to me when you find trouble on dry land!”
“I think the worst thing about these Demon Fruits is not being able to utilize the gifts they give you.” Chance shrugged. “Not like I can’t take care of myself anyways.”
Fols laughed spitefully. “You would say that, mister ‘I learn from my mistakes all the time’!”
“Night, Fols.” Chance said as he walked to one of the bookshelves and plucked a book out. Fols shook his head and then waved a hand before climbing up the ladder and shut the attic door. Chance slid an oil lamp near the bedside and lit it, then climbed into the bed and nestled himself near the light for warmth. He opened the book and flipped halfway through, reading deeply as the oil of the lamp burned into the night. Hours passed before he realizes how much reading he’s gotten done and prepares to sleep until his hand accidentally flips the page.
He furrowed his brows at the page and leaned onto the wall to continue reading. The section reads, “Demon Fruit Mythology: A Devil’s Gambit.” All sorts of various fruits are shown with patterns similar to the apple save for the different colors and how they’re painted across the fruits. The text foretells of various abilities when the fruit of choice is consumed, from being able to control the elements to becoming invisible or manipulating one’s body to become as hard as steel or as stretchy as rubber. Chance’s rapid absorption of this knowledge comes to a stop as the apple’s details are unveiled.
“Reflex fruit?” he questioned to himself. The text explains the potencies of the fruit, allowing the person who consumes it to gain a great amount of dexterity without the weakening of the senses. The oldest man would find himself being able to excel against the fittest of soldiers without breaking a sweat.
“Huh,” Chance mused to himself. He looked to the chest, peering warily at it as his hand took it from the desk and placed it onto his lap. His heart slowly quickened as he opened it and took the apple out. He inhaled deeply and then slowly exhaled, afterwards referring to the book once more for any other information he missed.
“It will take several hours for the ability to come into effect,” he mouthed slowly to himself as he also tried to steady his heart. “The researchers of this book cannot vouch for their taste, so prepare as needed.” He cringed as his eyes moved to the apple again. After a deep breath he threw caution to the wind and gulped the apple down, sparing no seconds to admire the horrid taste of fish heads creeping down his throat. He felt his face turn pale and green as his stomach churned rebelliously. He clutched his stomach, letting out a sickening groan and then snuffing the light out while haphazardly tossing the book onto the desk afterwards. He wrapped his blanket around his body and curled into a ball while Fols grinned under his sheets in the attic.
“Hope you make good use of whatever,” he whispered to himself as Chance’s stomach gurgled loudly once more. Fols brightened his grin into a smile, stifling his chuckles in order to hear the cacophony of gurgling and groaning below sing him to sleep.