Tiny slivers of blue hair alighted on the dirty and cracked edge of a wash basin that water had not entertained in years. The graceful descent of these azure fragments was interrupted periodically by a slow but painfully steady dribble of red emanating from the forehead of their owner. Ryu's hand slowly guided a small dagger over a section of his scalp with all the precision and skill befitting his dragon heritage. The cold metal might have been ragged enough to cut him, but he couldn't tell this close to the open wound. Prepping the area for the stitches was always the worst part.
"Why the hell do I do this every damn night?" Low mumbles escaped from his mouth, lips wrung with concentration. He honestly didn't know why, but he honestly felt that he had to. There was something primal, basic, something human about the ritual he embarked upon every night with strangers and men he hardly knew. And that sense of pride couldn't be ignored either. Pride in something he had started that had become a counter-culture staple all over the alliance.
He chuckled to himself at the depths of depravity (and drunkenness) that it had all begun in. He woke up in a strange world, not even clothing protecting him from the elements, and only a business card lying next to him to offer any reconciliation. "Fou-Lou, Empire Soap Company" it had said. He remembered the confused payphone call, and he barely recalled the bar binge afterwards with his mysterious new friend, but he would never forget the rest of the night at the lake behind the bar.
"Stop, stop, wait up a minute." Fou-Lou turned to Ryu with his newly trademarked mischievous grin. "I've got an idea. You ever been in a fish fight?"
Ryu looked confused for a moment, let a cooperative smile slide across his face, and warily replied, "I guess so, I used to catch some fairly monstrous fish back in grade school."
"But you've never been in a real fish fight before. It's okay though, I haven't either. But really, how much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fish fight?" Fou-Lou reached into his jacket and produced a small but trustworthy rod, a simple reel accenting the time-worn bamboo textures. "Take this. I want you to cast that as hard as you can."
"What?" Ryu looked at Fou-Lou in disbelief. "Dude, I'm not gonna do that, what are you talking about?"
"Come on, just do it man, cast it as hard as you can, do it quick before I lose my nerve." The silver-haired endless started to bounce up and down on the balls of his feet and shake out the cramps in his limbs like a boxer entering the ring.
"Okay man, but remember you asked for this..." Ryu stepped back a few paces and stared straight into the eyes of the God-Emporer. "This is so stupid," he thought, tightening his grip on the bamboo shaft. "He asked for it, so oh well." He leaned back with the pole, had one fleeting thought of reconsideration, and then sliced through the air in the direction of Fou-Lou, sending a lure inches from his head into the lake behind him. The spinner lure had barely graced the placid calm of the water when he felt a bite.
"I think you got something!" Fou-Lou was already perched on the bank of the shore, peering excitedly into the darkness settled over the body of water. The splashing of the fish near the surface suddenly abided as it leaped out of the water, soaring through the air and then landing in a ripple of its own wake. "Oh my God! You hooked it in the ear!"
"Well where was I supposed to hook it?!"
"No no, it's okay, just let me get something real quick..." His words trailed off as he dashed at Ryu, a deluxe rod appearing from seemingly nowhere. Ryu was startled and distracted with his catch, and had no time to think before he felt a baby frog whiz by his face and into the lake opposite his.
"Whoa! This is crazy! I can't believe I've never been in a fish fight before!" The blue-haired boy's words came in short bursts in between the heavy panting accompanying his frantic tugs on the rod. "We should definitely do this again sometime..."
The rest of that night was just a blur to Ryu, but the memory of when Fish Club was still that small was something he hoped didn't get lost in everything that had happened.
Reality came drifting in as a misplaced needle. "Ow!" A small stream of blood appeared on Ryu's scalp. "I always drift off into reminiscing when I have to do this..." Only a few more loops stood between him and completing the arduous task of 9 stitches on the forehead. "Finally. Too bad they'll be ripped out tomorrow night most likely."
The dragon-to-be put down his tools of the trade and leaned forward to put both hands on the edge of the basin, staring straight into the jagged reflection of himself in the cracked and antiquated mirror. Dried blood crumbled from his worn fingertips as he ran them over the top of the porcelain, finding small patches of smoothness spotting the cracked texture of the aged material. "Another day, another night." Ryu turned and left the sink, stepping over random figures and trinkets as he slowly and meticulously made his way across the dilapidated house to his "bedroom" upstairs, consciously tuning out the sounds of Fou-Lou and Mami that were resonating from the floor above. "This is my parents all over again." One solitary particle of maddeningly tiny plaster shook from the ceiling and floated down to landed on the fresh stitches. "At least she never hangs around in the morning. She's so weird too, why in the world does she always want to talk to me? It's not my fault Fou-Lou is a hit-an-run operation, why the hell is she always pissed at me?" Uncertainties and anger all danced in his head as Ryu's blue-covered crown settled in it's pillow of old laundry. "Why does he bring her over any... ways..." Sleep.
"Forget you, forget Mami, forget Fish Club!" Ryu screamed at Fou-Lou from the passenger seat of their generic and utterly forgettable boat. Their fish-head "troops" were in the back seat, as stoic and unfazed as ever as worlds collided in the front seat.
"Feeling a little out of the loop, Ryu?"
"Fish Club is ours Fou-Lou, we started it together, remember?" Ryu was sick and tired of finding out what was happening as it was happening. They had just come from a near-castrating incident with the Winaln police chief and Ryu felt like the last guy picked for dodgeball. Now they were speeding away on a stolen boat to across the lake, and that night's Fish Club.
Fou-Lou looked totally unconcerned and distant as he lavished upon Ryu his total detachment. "Forget us man, there is no us." He took his hands off the rudder to gesture his point better with a thumb and a glowing finger pointed at each of them. "We do not exist. I don't know what notions you have about life or friendship or whatever, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, so let it go!" Fou-Lou's hands never came back to the steering wheel. "Just let it go." He reclined back in the driver's seat with a formulatingly sly almost-smirk on his face, and peered ahead in the drizzle that beat down on the lake they were currently speeding through at 30 knots.
Ryu started to look a little worried, and looked back for support from his fish-heads only to be greeted with 3 calm and uniquely anonymous faces. He looked ahead to see how far off the lighthouse was just in time to see the luminescent beam from the tower sweep through his world. "Hey, we're coming up pretty fast on the light house Fou, lemme steer for a sec..." He reached over for the rudder handle and Fou-Lou promptly swatted his hand away.
"No man, look at you! You're like a little jellyfish with no spine!" Dejected and wet in the ubiquitous drizzle that ate all the light reflecting off of his face, he really did look like one as he reached for the handle again. "No! Just let that which does not matter truly slide, just let it go! LET GO!"
"Fine." Ryu's only retort in a mind full of replies. "Fine." He reclined back in the passenger seat as the light house parted a curtain of drizzle and rushed towards them. He looked over as they were flying through the air together and thought he saw himself among the fish-heads before the jagged rocks below interjected. Sleep.
Ryu could feel the rage boiling just below the surface, seething right underneath the skin on his face, but not beneath the bone of his skull; enough to make his face radiate heat and anger. He was tired of Fou-Lou's crap, he was tired of Mami, tired of the injuries from the boat wreck, and tired of Fish Club. Yet here he was, line hooked on an Angelfish some dreary Saturday night in Anytown. Various chants and masculine spurts of encouragement phased around his head, the 30 or so 30 or so-aged men screaming out their affirmations as if it would make the fish fight that much more brutal and fulfilling. But he didn't hear them, he only felt them, knew they were there. It was just him and Angelfish. When the fish finally landed at his feet, he didn't smile, only stood and glowed in the cold heat of his suddenly meaningless victory. Meaningless to him. His companions were all shouting for him to hit it, to punch the fish. Their odd custom of random brutality was what sealed all fish fights now, and his mob called him out for it. Ryu obliged. He got on his knees atop Angelfish and landed one solid punch right across the left gill and his subjects screamed with approval. He started to stand, but looked back at Angelfish, coughing for water and oxygen, unable to move, breathtaking in it's gracefulness even now. Another blow pierced the cool lake air and landed on the marine victim. Roars of worship for their founder. How brutal, how primal it was of him to keep hitting Angelfish. Ryu left then, left his body and his sanity and floated into sort of a dream state, where the only constant was the primordial beating of some far off drums. All of his anger flowed into one small spot on the ground underneath him, and for a moment he was free, elucidated, illuminated. The drums came closer, closer and faster, until they were right in front of him, coming from his channeled ball of anger. Then he was back, and Ryu's drums were the sounds of his own fists, knuckles breaking on the bloodied and torn remains of Angel face. His pupils did not roar. They stared in shock as wave after wave of Ryu's blows pummeled through the fish and into the ground, a breaking knuckle every few blows the only compliment to the dull thuds before them. Ryu stood up with an effort, and turned to look at his people. Something mingled in their eyes: fear, respect, the unkown. Maybe all of those. Maybe they were all related. He shrugged his way out of the sweaty and dank crowd, leaving Angelfish on the ground and walking by Fou-Lou, who was calmly leaning against a pier pillar away from the crowd.
"What's with you?" Fou-Lou offered, in a way only he could that implied he didn't desperately need a reply.
"I felt like destroying something beautiful." Ryu's only retort in a mind full of replies.
"Is Fou-Lou my bad dream? Or am I Fou-Lou's?"