The locker room remained quiet and still as far away cheers rumbled the poorly built room. There was a loud clattering of a small metal door slamming shut, an ominous hissing of steam from boiling water being poured onto the body of our heavily bruised and battered youth in the locker room.

The steam curled upwards into the air as the hot water slowly made its way down onto the youth, soaking his body from head to toe. Steam surrounded him in a misty cloud while a gentle warm current flowed from the shower head.

The boy sat quietly on the tiled floor as he let the hot water fall onto his body, wincing from time to time as his bruises and bruises stung painfully. However, he didn utter a single word. He simply stared down at his hands as he rested them against his bare thighs, staring silently at the steam drifting about.

Gray sighed, feeling the humiliation of defeat once more.

”Another loss… ”

He said softly as he looked at his blistered-filled and swollen fingers. The teens whole body trembled with rage and despair. He looked down into his lap, clenching his fists again.

His eyes flickered upwards, looking straight up to the shower head that constantly poured out steaming water.

Gray shivered with anger and despair, turning his face away. He glared bitterly at the wall.

”Damnit…! ”

As he muttered these words, his voice suddenly shook with fear as another wave of pain surged through his body. He clenched his teeth tightly and squeezed his eyes shut. He gritted his teeth, enduring the excruciating pain.

However, there was no escaping it. No matter how much he struggled against it, his wounds wouldn close properly. It would take days or weeks for them to heal. The heavy cons of being an F-Rank. Painfully slow recovery from damage.

A state that infuriated the young man even more. Being completely unable to change this fact no matter how much he wished for more.

Being an F-Rank Brawler in his current world would be the equivalent of an ant trying to climb Mount Everest. A feat with chances so impossibly low that most would simply just accept that status quo and move forward with their lives.

But Gray wanted more… so much more…

It wasn impossible for him or any Brawler to grow stronger, but circumstances are… difficult, to say the least.

Damn Crowd Control Assosiation…!

He cursed in his mind, biting his lips with anger. One could easily believe that the steam surrounding him was due to his unbridled rage.

Out of pure frustration, Gray hit the wall of the poorly kept tiled shower room with his bruised fist.

”Why did I have to open my big mouth… ”

The infuriated teen said to himself as his fist cracked one tile on the wall.

Gray was the type of Brawler that relished every fight he was in, finding some enjoyment even if he was always losing. It had always brought him a sense of freedom and adrenaline. A sure shot of dopamine that never diminished.

But even so… he was still at the bottom.

His facial features cringed as a small piece of tile shattered and fell onto the wet floor. Gray cursed under his breath, clenching his jaw tightly as the pain shot up his arm.

Gray gritted his teeth, clenching his fists tightly once more. He took several deep breaths, trying to calm down.

I swear Im gonna snap that Orcs neck one day…!

A growl escaped his throat as his mind replayed what had happened during his match against The Orc Lord. In all honesty, Gray knew full well he wouldn be able to even lay a scratch on that monster in the first place.

The fact that he could even manage to stand up after a single blow was already unbelievable. Nothing short of a miracle.

However, the most impressive part was the fact that he managed to hold off against that Orc for nearly five minutes before being beaten to a bloody pulp by him.

I swear…!

Gray grit his teeth angrily while standing up straight. He reached up and gripped the edge of the shower wall as he tried to stand up without putting too much pressure on his battered body.

His body still ached and burned, but at least his injuries hadn worsened significantly. He gripped the two shower knobs, twisting them quickly as the steam and flowing water ceased.

Gray looked around at the locker room he had been forced into after the fight. They just threw him into it while he was knocked out. Thats how it usually went in these underground Brawler arenas.

He grumbled as he weakly walked to his locker with a stagger and slumped shoulders. He slid the handle across and opened up his locker, grabbing some of his things inside of it.

He then closed it and turned back around to place his dark green duffle bag on the bench. As he began to do so, he heard voices coming from outside.

”…Hehehe, we got quite the haul today…! ”

”Seems like it, Sir Massimo. Looks like the small amount of publicity weve received coupled with the fact that today our Dull Start showed up has paid off. It seems well be getting a bigger crowd next week. ”

”Well… if thats true, then we
e definitely going to get our moneys worth. ”

Massimos tone had a distinctively low pitch to it, sounding extremely menacing. Gray immediately felt uneasy as he listened from the locker room, his ashy black hair all spiked up as he finished drying himself with a towel, which hung loosely over his shoulder.

The teen put on a black tank top and grey sweatpants and tied his dark blue sneakers together before slipping his right hand beneath the elastic of the sweatpants covering the lower half of his abdomen. His hands were wrapped with old tattered gauze, especially around his more injured areas. He pulled his sweatpants up to his thighs and tied the shoelaces with ease.

”But Sir… I do believe this means we must up his pay as per our agreement… ”

Grays ears perked up as he heard this comment. His parentless family being on the verge of debt each month, this news made his mood slightly better as he continued to listen in on their conversation.

”Don worry about that now… Well make sure he gets exactly what he deserves. Though this should give us enough cash to continue our mission and expand our operation further… ”

”Right you are… ”

There was a soft chuckle from Massimo.

”Well be heading out after the brat gets his pay. Don forget our meeting tonight. Wait… Wheres that old coot? ”

”Mot? Hes outside… ”

”Smoking as usual I see… Peh! That coot should watch his health… hes my strongest asset after all… ”

Massimo spoke with a hint of a smile in his voice before Gray heard him and his associate leave the room outside the locker room.

After hearing the twos footsteps fade, he breathed a sigh of relief. He then slipped on the shirt he left behind and grabbed his jacket that was thrown over the back of a chair nearby.

He placed it over his sore body and zipped it up, making sure everything was snug and secure within.

He then adjusted the strap of his duffle bag on his shoulder before finally leaving the locker room and locking the door behind him.

A room with ripped wallpaper, broken and rotten floorboards, and multiple papers pasted all over the wall.

An old wooden table with some broken chairs pushed into the corner with a few random pieces of paper scattered all over the table. A broken window that lead outside into the alleyway beside the building and trash bins.

And sitting at one of those tables was a balding middle-aged man with glasses.

”Feeling well, Dull Star? ”

The man spoke, mockingly misusing his arena title, smiling at the teenager as he looked towards the direction of the sound. Gray narrowed his eyes at the man he knew as one of Massimos associates.

”Its Gray Star and you know it well, Cleto ”

Gray responded curtly as he walked over towards where the bald man was sitting. Cleto chuckled lightly as he nodded his head slowly.

”Of course, Gray Star. But I meant your injuries, I mean you aren hurt anywhere else besides your pride right? ”

Gray clenched his fist firmly, glaring silently at the ground. He lowered his gaze in annoyance and clenched his jaws hard, grinding his teeth together as he looked up, a dangerous glint flashing in his eyes.

”Why you…! ”

”Relax, Dull Star. Im merely speaking truths ”

The man grinned faintly, his face filled with a sinister charm despite his rather friendly appearance. The corners of his eyes wrinkled as his face twisted slightly.

Cleto spoke gently, waving his hands dismissively. Gray frowned. There was no way he was going to fall victim to a fools words again. Especially not someone like Cleto who knew his weaknesses almost perfectly.

”So, let me guess. You want something ”

Gray muttered. Cleto grinned widely.

”Why so wary? Afraid to fly so close to the sun, F-Ranker? ”

”Why I oughta-!! ”

”Ah! Ah! Ah! You know what happens if you lay a finger on one of Sir Massimos workers! ”

Cleto exclaimed loudly, raising a pointer finger at Gray with an excited expression.

Gray held back his raised fist, clenching it tight as he stared at Cleto in utter silence, refusing to speak another word. If he was honest, Cleto had managed to piss him off beyond belief and the bald man knew this very well.

Gray was nothing if not stubborn when it came to fighting against Massimos orders. But this time around, he decided to keep quiet.

Even though he was furious at having been forced into this situation by the arrogant bastard. Gray knew that no matter what he says, the man would simply send his minions to beat him up.

”See? Now that wasn so bad… Now, on to tonights payment… ”

Cletos eyes gleamed as he picked up a dirty envelope lying on the side.

”This should serve as payment for your little injury here ”

Cleto handed Gray the envelope. Gray eyed it warily before picking it up and examining it carefully. He then opened it up.

”What the-!? This isn even close to what we agreed upon! ”

”Oh please, Dull Star. You wanted to fight that Orc, didn you? I thought youd want any type of payment more than anything. You can expect a boss to be happy giving away freebies, can you? You caused some damage to our voltage cage after all… ”

”You can tell Massimo that he can shove-! ”

Cleto remained quiet as he gave Gray a grin that sent chills down his spine. It was clearly the kind of smile that could kill people.

Gray clenched his fists tightly, his entire body becoming rigid as rage began to flood through him. He glared hatefully at the man before having his face firmly pushed onto the wooden table by someone behind him.

”Can shove what? ”

The voice of Massimo spoke from behind Gray, his large hand holding him against the table in a vice grip as he leaned into Grays ear, sending shivers down his spine.

”I asked you, can shove what, Gray Star?! ”

Massimo roared, wrapping his large hand around the younger boys throat harshly as he continued to lean closer to his ear.

Gray let out a loud choked cry as he struggled and thrashed under the grip.

”Your stupid fight against that damnable brute made me loads of cash! But don think that because of that you can ask for extra cash! Do you understand me?! ”

Gray could feel the grip tightening painfully as he struggled to breathe properly and struggle to push the overweight kingpins hand from his throat.

”Nothing… nothing, Massimo. The amount… It doesn matter… Just let go- ”

Massimo tightened his grip around Grays neck. He felt like a ragdoll in the arms of a monster as he struggled to breathe.

Gray coughed violently, spitting out a couple of blood bubbles before gasping as much air as he could into his lungs. Massimo then released his hold on the boy, allowing him to breathe heavily once again while still coughing violently.

”I may not be a fighter… but I am an E-Rank Brawler! That places enough of a difference between us in terms of strength alone that you should know better than to try and question me! And don ever call me by name again, alright!? Its either Boss or Sir!! If theres one thing you shouldve learned about me over the years, you
e **ing lucky I haven killed you yet! You understand!? ”

”I understand… I understand Sir ”

Gray managed to say between coughs. He sat upright and wiped the spit and tears on his cheeks as he attempted to regain his breathing. Using his sleeve, he started wiping the blood from his lips.

”You overweight bastard… ”

Gray mumbled, still panting as he rubbed his sore throat. Massimo stood upright straight again and smirked maliciously down at his subordinate.

”Now, get lost! I have a meeting to attend! ”

As Massimo began to walk away, he quickly turned and spoke again.

”Oh, and just so you know, Im expecting you to be there next week. So don disappoint me, Dull Star! ”

Massimo scoffed before turning around. He started walking out of the room without saying another word. With that, Massimo left the room, slamming the door shut behind him.

Gray sighed deeply as he sat up, rubbing his sore throat. With a sour mood and a grimace plastered on his face, he slowly stood from the floor.

Breaking his silence, Cleto chuckled slightly, causing Gray to turn around. The balding man wore his trademark smirk while gazing at the teen from afar.

”That was quite fun to watch~ ”

The bald man purred while taking a sip of his drink, his leafy eyes shining maliciously.

”Tch! What a pain in the ass…. ”

Gray gritted his teeth in irritation.

”Oh well… You have your pay, Ive had my midnight entertainment, and now youll have to go… We
e quite busy here you know! ”

The balding man added playfully, grinning happily down at Gray.

Gray rolled his eyes, letting out a frustrated sigh. Cleto grunted as he stood up straight, placing his hand on Grays back before pushing him forward and away from the table, walking towards the exit of the small office building in an indifferent manner.

”Now please promptly get out ”

Cleto kept pushing as they reached the side exit which led out onto the street. Before the word could leave Grays mouth, he was shoved roughly by Cleto, causing him to stumble forward and fall onto the ground. He quickly got up and brushed himself off before turning around and looking at the bald man.

”Bye Bye~ ”

The associate cooly said with a mocking tone. With a smug expression plastered onto his ugly, fat face, he swiftly closed the door to the building harshly, leaving Gray standing there on the street glaring angrily after him.

He clenched his jaw, clenching his fists as he glared fiercely at the direction where the associate disappeared, the anger and hatred boiling within his blood and nearly shattered bones.

He let out a low growl, staring daggers at the closed door in front of him. His gaze darkened menacingly.

”Damnit. Dammit. DAMNIT!! ”

Gray gritted his teeth and balled his fists angrily as the anger coursed through his veins.He gritted his teeth so hard that his jaw started hurting. He breathed rapidly and forcefully to keep the fury down inside of him.


He exclaimed with a fury-laced scream that echoed throughout the street, attracting the attention of many people nearby.

They stopped and stared silently as Gray continued screaming profanities at the sky while he kicked a nearby trashcan with his foot viciously. Some bystanders even walked away and pretended they didn hear anything.

Rusty metal clashing against the cement floor sounded louder than usual as Gray continued kicking the trashcan violently.

He let out a few more curses before he stopped abruptly, his face contorted into a scowl. He suddenly took a step backwards before ramming his sore foot hard into the trashcan, causing him to collapse onto the floor. He clutched his head, letting out a groan, as he fell to the ground in a daze.

”Ahhhh… Fuck… This is a headache ”

Grinding his teeth together, Gray started sobbing softly and uncontrollably. He hugged his knees as he cried.

”This won be enough to help cover last months rent… damnit… ”

Clenching his fist tightly, he tried to get himself up again from the ground. However, his attempts were futile, as his body felt extremely weak and fatigued.

While to most if not all he told about it, Gray told that he did such dangerous and life-threatening battles in uncontrolled spaces because of the thrills and adrenaline rushes he felt when he did.

There was some truth to those statements…

But it was mostly about the payment he could receive by working as Entertainment for the audience. To Massimo and his lackeys, he wasn fighting to win… only squirming to entertain.

He felt his chest getting heavy and his head throbbed as it began pounding. It wasn long until Gray finally collapsed onto the ground, unable to move any further, due to exhaustion.

”Damint… Damnit… ”

He whispered weakly. Grays vision began to become blurry from exhaustion, forcing him to shut his eyes tightly.

He lay on the pavement for a while longer before he heard approaching footsteps. A figure appeared above him, making Gray look up weakly. His eyes widened.

”Oh… its you… ”

His breath hitched as his eyes locked onto the tall figure hovering above him. There, standing directly above him with a blank expression on his face, was the older male that was looking down at him during the fight with the Orc, Mot.

”What are you doing on the dirty floor, Lad? ”

His short greyed hair and his loose armless sleeve blew lightly in the breeze as Gray continued laying on the concrete street.

The sound of the wind blowing against the black fabric seemed to echo across the empty streets as Gray looked up towards the person in the air. Mot lowered himself until he was crouching beside Gray.

”Why are you crying, Lad? ”

”S nothin… ”

Gray replied almost immediately as he sniffled, trying to hold his tears back.

Mot remained silent, seemingly waiting patiently for Gray to speak up. He let out an angry sigh as he saw that the exhausted teen wouldn speak, deciding to start speaking instead.

”You need to eat. Are you hungry? ”

Mot asked with a slight tilt to his head as if in confusion.

”No… no Im not… ”

The teenager lied as he looked down dejectedly. Mot tilted his head more confusedly.

”If you are not hungry then why do you lie? Are you too tired to speak up? ”

”I don want to talk. ”

Despite the immense fatigue that he felt from fighting a giant Orc, the young boy refused to admit how tired he was from fighting such a massive opponent.

But Mot clearly saw past his facade; he could tell that Gray truly did tire out considerably, considering how much the latter fought back earlier when he was pushed down by the enormous Orc.

A few seconds passed in an awkward silence before Mot finally broke the silence.

”Get up… ”

Mot commanded coldly as he grabbed the side of Grays shirt.

”Oi! ”

Gray struggled violently under Mots grasp, struggling to stand up and resist. The old man ignored his complaints and continued pulling Gray up.

Once Gray was upright, his body began to feel lighter than before. The fatigue he felt earlier was lifted away as soon as he stood up, replacing it with new energy.

When Gray was finally upright, Mot let go of his shirt, and he fell back to the ground.

”There… think of this as extra payment for todays show ”

Mot remarked dryly as he looked down at Gray with narrowed golden eyes. Despite being completely covered in cuts and bruises, Gray gave Mot a look that said Mind your business, old man.

Gray grit his teeth together again as he stood up to his feet once more. Mots eyes followed the movements closely.

Gray once again picked up his duffle bag, walking past Mot in silence as the older man spoke up again, his raspy voice coming through in a hoarse and quiet tone.

”Remember why you are here, Lad ”

The younger male stopped and turned around, giving Mot a glare before responding sarcastically.

”I haven forgotten. ”

”Then stop acting like… this… ”

”Like what…? Like Im a weak F-Rank Brawler? Or like a child whose entire life has only consisted of loss after loss!? Like the pathetic piece of crap who couldn even defeat an Orc without falling unconscious after only a few punches?! Like a little brat who hasn learned his lesson yet? Like the kid who doesn have any respect for authority!? Like… like… Like an idiot whos been beaten to the point where he can see straight anymore!? ”

After saying what he wanted to say, Gray paused momentarily before continuing.

”Oh wait! Thats right! Like me!!!?? ”

Mot remained quiet as he didn even look Grays way, his loose sleeve whipped in the sudden gust of wind.

Gray stared at the man coldly for a few moments, before slowly starting to walk away without saying another word.

As Mot heard the slow but heavy steps of Gray fade away into the busy street behind him, he heaved a sigh deeply.

”That Lad… He really will end up in trouble one day… ”

With his head hung low, Mot sighed again and resumed walking into the underground arena building.

Before he closed the door, he looked back to where Gray had walked off, sighing one final time as he shut the door.

”Just be ready, Lad… ”

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