Noisy chatter echoed through a cramped, dusty room. The air was a bit pungent with a musty stench, but the young teens scattered throughout the room didn't seem to pay it much mind.
Worn down desks were lined up and down in rows, though the room was so tiny that it looked as though only a handful of them could comfortably fit inside without making things feel cluttered. Even so, it was yet another thing that no one seemed to pay much attention to.
Towards the back of the room, sitting at one desk in particular, was one young man, his feet resting on the desk just in front of him as he leaned back in the chair. His shoulder length hair a snowy white, only darkening to a blackish gray the farther down the tips it went, perhaps it might have been a bit surprising to see he sported a pair of white and black speckled, cat-like ears atop of his head. However, while this trait wasn't shared by anyone else in the room, it was by no means as unusual a thing as one might have thought.
Many of the young teens within the room had some peculiarity or another, and some even looked no less average than an ordinary Human being. These were natural phenomena, with no known cause, and as such, these people were given a simple name; Mutants.
Being such a norm, it went without saying that no one held prejudice against one another.
As for the young, cat-like individual, he showed no interest in the lecture being given by the 'teacher' at the front of the room. His long, speckled tail only flicking just slightly in apparent agitation, his emerald gaze fixated on the ceiling as he simply tuned his surroundings out.
All he could do was wait for 'school' to hurry up and end, but those hours would drag on painfully until he would finally be able to leave.
The sound of a bell rang out, and he didn't miss a beat in grabbing his things, taking his leave of the room, and eventually out of the building in general.
Perhaps it would come as no surprise, given the shabby interior of the building, that the exterior was just as bad.
Worn down and dilapidated, it was a wonder whether or not the building would collapse at any given moment...And yet, surprisingly, it seemed to hold together just fine.
Of course, the school building wasn't alone in the way it's appearance was. Many buildings that lined the cobble stone roads shared similar appearances, that same worn down, shabby exterior being the only constant between them...And yet, people came and went as though it were entirely natural, because they were used to the way things were.
Each of them were just trying to go about their lives, accepting things as they were.
Quietly...Obediently...But not him. He couldn't stand it. He couldn't accept things like this. Feelings such as those rose within him, growing stronger every day, alongside his resentment for the pitiful state of their city. It pained him to see his fellow city-folk like this. People he knew. People he grew up around. Some weren't even lucky enough to live in one of those shabby buildings, simply lining the streets with an empty look in their eyes...Those kind of people were just as numerous as the ones who had just a little more to go by.
Women, children...That fate befell almost anyone without prejudice.
"Tch." He clicked his tongue in irritation as he continued on past the residential district, eventually coming upon a quieter part of the city, farther away from the central most area.
Over time, he would come across a somewhat hilly patch of well kept grass, only broken apart by a gate, and the white fence that surrounded a little home perched within the center.
Despite being two stories high, it wasn't a very large home, but one could tell just from looking at it, that it felt cozy.
While nowhere near perfect, the brick building was more well maintained that those further within the city, and he couldn't help but feel some of his annoyance and tension fade at the familiar sight of home, a single, white fume of smoke puffing out from the chimney.
He made his way to the redwood door, turning the bronze doorknob, and heading inside.
A long hallway stood before him, a single stand to his left, and a coat rack just a bit beyond that.
Moving along in that direction, was an entryway that lead into the kitchen, and just beyond that, another that lead into a living room across the narrow hallway, in which he could hear the subtle sounds of a television.
"I'm home." He called out, slipping off his boots and coat before setting them aside, his ears twitching at the sound of the TV clicking off, and footsteps coming from the living room to the left.
He was greeted by a somewhat elderly man, yet despite that, he was quite well built. His hair was obviously white, and short, along with his somewhat stubby beard.
"Syrus, welcome home!" The old man greeted him, lighting up at the sight of his grandson, the only joy he had in his life. "How was school??"
Syrus immediately frowned, both annoyed and having expected such a question, even though his answer should have been obvious.
"...I don't know why you ask me every single day, when you already know how I'm going to answer." He scowled, rolling his eyes. "Oh sure!! It was great! I had a wonderful day of fun and learning. I quite enjoy hearing the same lecture about our glorious leaders day after day! How exciting!" He added in, finishing it off with an overdone, cheery smile.
"...Syrus..." The old man, named Taharo, heaved a sigh, also expecting such a reaction, but feeling disappointed all the same.
"What? Isn't that what you wanted to hear?" Syrus gasped, acting surprised at Taharo's obvious exasperation. "I mean, it's obvious you did, right? That's why you asked, right? Am I right, or am I right?? I so hope I was right...I was right, right-"
"Alright, I get it." Taharo interjected, furrowing his brow and pinching the bridge of his nose, to which Syrus responded with a satisfied grin along his face, his tail swishing from side to side in amusement.
"Careful gramps, I think I saw another wrinkle. Rather, your hair is looking especially vibrant and white today...Is that the sunlight reflecting in it that I see?" He chimed in on the dime, that devilish grin still not leaving his face.
"You say that as though your hair isn't white itself...Ah, now that I think about it, I couldn't help but notice an unusual amount of fur throughout the house today. Are you sure you're not going bald??" Taharo shot back, to which Syrus let out a small gasp and gave himself a onceover before promptly frowning. "Anyhow, why don't we throw together a late lunch, now that you're home?" Taharo added in, chuckling in amusement towards Syrus' reaction.
"Good idea! I'll help out." Syrus nodded in agreement, his ears perking up as the two disappeared into the kitchen just across from the living room.
Inside was minimalistic inside, not much aside from the dining table at the center of the room, a decent sized counter, the fridge, the sink, and the stove...It wasn't much, but it felt cozy none the less.
The next couple of hours ticked by uneventfully, calmly...As though everything that was going on outside just might have been some kind of illusion. A bad dream.
Syrus truly appreciated peaceful moments like these.
Time just ticked right on by until Syrus happened to glance up at the overhead clock hanging above the kitchen counter.
"Ah, is it that late already?" He blinked, surprised on how time just flew right on by. "I finished up the dishes, so I'm going to head out for a bit. I promised I'd go meet up with the guys today." He explained, turning off the sink and wiping down the counter before making his way over to the dining table along the center of the room.
Taharo, who had been dozing off slightly, glanced up at the clock to look at the time.
"Ah, good timing. I had some work I needed to do anyhow. I'll see you off, at least." He nodded, pushing off of the chair, which gave a slight creak in response.
Syrus however, didn't really say much in response to this particular comment, and Taharo understood why, but neither of them spoke on it as Syrus made his way to the entryway, slipping on his boots and jacket before looking over his shoulder with a smile.
"...Right. I'll make sure I'm back before it starts getting dark."
"Stay out of trouble, alright?" Taharo laughed heartily.
"No promises there." Syrus shot back with a mischievous grin, watching Taharo head off further down the hall, past the kitchen, and past the living room towards the very back. From there, there were the stairs leading to the second floor along the right...And stairs leading to the basement on the left, which is where Taharo disappeared into.
Syrus lowered his gaze, the floofy tip of his tail giving a slight twitch as he stepped out the door and back out into the city, lost in thought.
The basement...It was a forge. His grandfather was a smithy, always had been, even in the past...But now, his weapons were sold to the Diou as a source of income. Syrus didn't really approve of this, but he understood why Taharo did it. He needed to make a living for the two of them, and to Taharo, taking care of him was the most important thing in the world to him...So that's why Syrus understood, regardless of his own personal feelings on the matter.
As for the Diou...That was another story entirely.
The Diou were a tyrannical race, capable of all sorts of strange magic and wizardry. Their city, sheltered, and lacking any kind of impressive military force to back it up, was suddenly invaded by them a decade ago...And from there, everything had fallen apart.
Syrus himself barely had any recollection of the event, having been incredibly small at the time.
As for the city, it had been completely overrun and overpowered, the rulers overthrown and massacred. Any traces of the city's heritage and previous prosperity was long since a thing of the past. Any trace of military opposition, or even those who resisted, long since perished from this world that day.
Now, the city folk barely scraped by. Overtaxed, overused. If one wasn't of use to them, they were as good as dead, or perhaps even worse off than that. There was no place in this city for those who were weak or without purpose.
...All things Syrus desperately wanted to change...-No, he would change them. He would be sure of that, even if only one step at a time.
With all these thoughts growing turbid within his mind, it wasn't long before Syrus hit the main streets again, the familiar, shabby apartments and run down kiosks reflecting in his gaze...And further beyond that...A magnificent, white castle at the very far end of the city, towering over it all.
Despite the shambled state of the city, the castle itself still stood as a testament against time, glowing radiantly in the sunlight, it's two, twin towers seeming to scrape the very sky itself, and between them...Was a single, glass dome.
It's purpose was unknown to him, but Syrus always thought the way it caught light within the polished surface was beautiful.
Surely, the castle alone was the sole symbol of Hope this city had left.
"S~y~r~u~s!!" A cheery, bubbly voice suddenly called out to him as he felt weight drawn around him from behind, snapping him out of his thoughts.
"...Kiara..." A small sigh escaped him. "One of these days you're going to surprise the wrong person and they're going to drop kick you." Syrus frowned, glancing over his shoulders to see a familiar, cheerful voice, a little giggle reaching his ears.
He let his slightly puffed out fur fall flat as he turned around to look at his friend as she stepped away from him, tucking her hands behind her back, her checkered skirt swaying lightly in time with her motion.
She was about his age, she had a petite frame, her long, ash colored hair kept up in a neat pony, her hazel eyes peeking out from her somewhat short bangs. Compared to some other people who walked the streets, she looked as ordinary as any Human, but make no mistake, she could definitely break someone over that little knee of hers.
Like him, Kiara had lost her parents during the invasion...In fact, something like that was pretty common for most of the kids within the city. Almost everyone lost something that day.
"I'd like to see someone try." She replied with yet another one of those signature giggles of hers.
"Yeah, me too honestly." Syrus said back, his tail swaying with slight amusement at the thought of the poor soul who might attempt such a thing. "So what's up? Are you working at the café today?"
"Yep! I was actually heading off to help when I saw you, so I just had to say hi!" She nodded, smoothing down her black shirt, which had been crinkled up just a tad. "Are you off to meet with the guys??"
"Yeah I was. Did you want to tag along later? I could hold things off for a bit, if you'd like."
"Nah, I'm good! It's probably all just a bunch of boy talk! Sounds boring!!" She shook her head, casting her gaze off to the side rather specifically...Or at least to Syrus, anyhow.
Syrus subtly followed her gaze as he kept up with the conversation casually, careful about his wording, just to be safe.
"Hey, hey, you never know, maybe we might share some interests!" He laughed, catching sight of the problem.
Off to the side, a Diou soldier was on patrol. It was typically easy to pick them out, most sporting either a bright, red or orange hair color, or sometimes black.
The guard was hardly dressed in anything that struck out as a soldier, wearing casual, clothy armor. They obviously didn't worry about anyone trying to attack them, and with good reason. There weren't any who dared to go against them. The consequences were swift and brutal.
Everything within this city was entirely under their lock and key.
The two of them kept up with a senseless, chatty conversation as to not draw any attention to themselves, and after a short while, the guard continued on with his patrol.
"...At any rate, just give me a holler if you or the others need anything, okay?" Kiara finally said with a small breath of relief after the solider was well out of earshot and sight.
"Of course, and if you ever need help with the shop, let me know, aight?" Syrus smiled, waving Kiara off as the two of them parted ways for the time being, and Syrus continued on with heading to where he needed to go.