“Hey squirt, you can go now!”
An old rusty sounding voice shouted from the kitchen. While the boy was finishing wiping the table clean, he turned towards him and responded.
“Thanks old man. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“No. Take the day off tomorrow. It’s that time, isn’t it? Don’t worry. Sarah is in tomorrow anyways.”
The boy didn’t answer back, but his face clearly showed traces of appreciation towards the old man. Without wasting another moment, the boy quickly left. The bell didn’t even have time to ring and the boy was already outside in the street.
The snow was falling softly on the warm night although the boy didn’t take any time to notice. His view was completely and entirely focused on something else. The direction his eyes pointed to was a billboard. The advertisement was not simple. It didn’t contain a makeup or fashion ad but was about entertainment. A certainly new form of entertainment as well. It was the birth of virtual realities and how could anyone especially a young man like himself not be interested. The new and uprising fantasy world of [Second Saga] containing magic, swords, Demons and Gods, and the best of all, dragons. It was practically the dream of any man to roam the world fighting dragons like in a common fantasy book. His eyes showed a trace of excitement, but later flickered and soon died. This boy, Landon Strade, was not someone who could afford such an expensive luxury. For lower class citizens, it was impossible to pay for a VR B.O.X which was a unit priced in the thousands. This was no doubt the case for Landon as well who was an orphan. His parents had passed while he was a young age. He wasn’t even old enough to have a memory of his parents raising him. Being taken in by the state orphanage was the only option available to him. Why was that? His parents would no doubt have relatives of their own. It was true that he had relatives, but no one was willing to bring him into their family. But no one could blame them, even Landon, as the world was no longer one of equality.
World economics was on the brink of collapsing and it was noticeably, getting harder and harder to make profits. The only solution was of course to leave the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. Left with no jobs, people started to starve and become homeless more often. Necessities such as medical and schooling were no longer provided by the government. Although it was not an easy topic to discuss, there were simply too many problems in this day and age for it to be blamed on simply one idea or one party. Therefore, Landon blamed no one. With the maturity of an adult and the body of a child, Landon was quickly raised as a smart boy. While he didn’t go to school, the orphanage had teachers to teach basic arithmetic and English. Although tough, Landon was enthralled at the opportunity to learn and absorbed everything he could. The foster parents and employees were quite frankly more than impressed with his ability to learn despite the little amount of teaching that was given. Landon taught himself whatever the adults couldn’t and became self-reliant before he even became a teenager. With the addition of him being the oldest orphan and the others being much younger other than two girls whom had no common interests as a boy similar to their age, it became much harder for him to talk to his peers. Though, Landon soon felt it was his responsibility to take care of his new younger siblings. After all, they were the only thing he could now call a family. It was something he treasured greatly even if it was one-sided.
As Landon had a quick reminiscence of the past while staring at the billboard, he realized his hands were starting to feel slightly chilly. He shook his head and muttered softly as if to convince himself.
‘Well, I’m no longer a kid. I can’t be playing games anymore’
He ran off before the night got any colder. However at that moment, the Old Man walked outside the small restaurant and stared at Landon’s back. It was an isolated back, but it had the sense of shouldering a strong responsibility. A small smile curled as he stared at the boy.
“Hey, old man, you still have me as a customer. Stop slacking off!”
“How can you call yourself a customer? You’re drinking and eating for free.”
The smile disappeared at the unfriendly call of his ‘customer’ as he was walking back inside without another word.
Landon opened the door to his apartment. As he was eighteen, he was no longer living at the orphanage. Now he was considered to be an adult by the age of eighteen, but it was more an excuses that the government no longer had to pay for the children to be fed. As the poor and jobless gave no taxes, it was unlikely for them to care.
“Ah, today was tiring. The old man is starting to get more and more strict.”
Landon cringed at the thought of when he broke a plate earlier today and he was swatted in the head and buttocks. Being slapped in the buttocks was triple the pain and number of slaps. He softly rubbed his buttocks before throwing the worn jacket on a hanger. Just as he did, footsteps could be heard down the hallway. While it was technically a hallway, it was not even seven feet long. It only had two rooms and one of those was a bathroom.
“I told you, when you come home, to speak louder!”
The footsteps arrived and quickly reprimanded Landon. It was a young girl with long brunette hair. The straight hair gave off a soft elegance while her bright blue eyes showed her temper. Crossing her delicate white arms showing her unhappiness.
“Hey, that’s not something you say to the person who owns the place, Azla.”
Landon quickly showed thanks with his eyes towards the new girl who just arrived. This girl had long black hair with a hair band running through giving her a soothing feeling. Her hands were crisscrossed and gave a sense of elegance and lady-like mannerism. However, there was an awkward look to her. Her glasses covered the majority of her face and were clearly not very meant for her. Glasses became more and more expensive, so second-hand was the best someone like her could get. Although this added towards her charm, it was not something that looked very comfortable, though Landon knew this girl was not someone to complain about something as petty as that.
“Exactly! Listen to Lisa. As the younger sister, you should listen to your elders!”
Landon rebutted Azla. It was only a front as he definitely would never stand up against Azla without Lisa’s support. Was it because he was a coward or weak willed? No, just to him Azla was worse than nightmares. So he did everything in his power to stay on her good side when it was just those two. Though, his cynical nature crept out when he had the chance. While the two were young, they both knew Landon’s train of thought. Azla glared back while Lisa gave a soft chuckle. At sixteen, these two girls were the ones who had lived at the orphanage with him previously. While he no longer lived there, they still did, so they would visit him nearly every day to either bother him or bother him even more. At least in his opinion, these two were only there to annoy him even more. His two little sisters were his family and without a doubt, he would not send them away unless they were satisfied.
“Okay, How about I make some lemon-marinated chicken nuggets for my mistake?”
The girls’ eyes clearly showed their approval, so he wasted no time lifting his hand waving them off.
“Alright, go play on the computer while I cook something up.”
The girls were off nodding at the same time and ran back into the small hallway, rushing into his room although the door quickly opened again and Azla poked her head out waiting for him to notice her. Though she didn’t have to wait because he was still staring at her direction the whole time as to him, his sister’s personality was something he understood perfectly.
“You’re the best!”
He smirked at that response and gave a thumbs up to her. She might be fiery, but she cherished him and her sister the most. Getting angry was only a front. After all she was just a mischievous girl and liked her own attention as well. Her head left his sight while he took out the marinated chicken and proceeded to cut it up in slices. This was, without a doubt, his masterpiece while it seemed strange to marinate it with lemons first. The juicy tenderness of the chicken was exquisite when combined with breaded chicken. Of course there was a secret to the juice used in the marinating however he wasn’t going to tell his sisters that. Cause no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t replicate it. After all, it was that simple and it was his number one way of getting out of trouble with the two. Whenever they were sad or angry, he had only to cook them that and they were back to their bright and cheery attitudes.
The dinner quickly went by. They enjoyed the night with jokes and small talk. Clearly jokes were thrown back and forth between Azla and Landon while Lisa sat chuckling. To them without families, it was the happiest times for them, but it couldn’t last as the girls had to return to the orphanage and he had to get up early.
“I’ll walk you two back….”
Just as he was about to grab his coat, he was stopped by Lisa.
“It’s not that late yet and it’s only a block away. We will be fine. Get some rest. We will be back tomorrow!”
Lisa waved softly while Azla was energetically waving so much that her whole arm might fall off. A smile crept up on him as it was a truly adorable sight.
“Alright I’ll see you girls tomorrow. Give the brats wet willy to make sure they stay in line.”
“Brother, that’s only something you would do.”
Before Azla could respond with an enthusiastic ‘yes’, Lisa quickly denied any part of it. Of course Lisa was in front of Azla and had no idea she was dejected about it, but felt it was a natural response from her sister. Landon waved once more as he closed the door and saw them off. In his room, Landon quickly fell on top of his bed. His eyes were barely able to stay open any longer. He quickly fell asleep with his clothes still on.
Waking up to the bright sun shining on his face, while most would think it is a great feeling, he however did not. His apartment was situated in the worst position as the rising sun always lit up his room. While grumbling, he could not help but think that it was a curse and at the same time a blessing. This way he did not need to spend money on an alarm clock as he would wake up at sunrise without fail everyday considering how impossible it was to sleep with the light blinding him in morning. Lazily getting dressed, Landon had a quick bite to eat which was literally only a piece of bread with peanut butter on top. Landon ate what would easily fill him up, giving him the most nutrients while trying to save as much as possible. It was needless to say that Landon was without a doubt nearly broke every day and renting his apartment was already the best he could do with a normal job. Therefore he had to work extra hours whenever he could at the restaurant. Luckily the Old man was easy going and helped him many times along the way like today.
Today was the death anniversary of his parents. He knew it as well as the Old man, who gave him the day off, and his sisters. Even though he didn’t have any memories of his parents, he was not ungrateful to them for giving him birth. He loved them even though, to anyone else, they would be strangers.
“Father, Mother… I’m doing well.”
As Landon was weeding the plants around the gravestones, he told them his sincere feelings. Landon felt it was sorrowful to only say that, but he wasn’t talkative in the first place and didn’t even know what his parents liked or disliked. Had he been raised normally, he would’ve known that his parents would have been happy just to hear him talk about how his normal everyday life was going. That was obviously an impossible reality for him. He gave a prayer and stood up. His eyes had a hint of mist covering them, but to him, this was his place that allowed him to show his weakness. It was only to his parents that he could show it to. He had to be strong in front of his new family. It was Landon’s choice to act strong in front of them, but it was that determination that led him to be as strong as he is now. Rubbing his eyes, he turned around and left without another glance back, his determination even stronger than it was yesterday.
‘I’ll make sure that Azla, Lisa and the rest won’t have to live unhappily. I’ll give them the best lives they can hope for.’
Clenching his fist tightly, he knew he had to find a way in order for his dream to come true. He then thought about the truing meaning of strength in a world ran by money.
“I have been training martial arts under the Old man for quite some time. But that’s not the way to be truly strong in this world. I must make money! I must find a way to truly make my family happy with my own power! Only then will I become stronger!”