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438 The Gym

 Dave felt like he hadn't slept this great for ages. A quick glance at his clock revealed that it was relatively early. He had made sure that his alarm was set to 07:00 am yet he managed to wake up 5 minutes before it. A bit saddened at the 'loss' of those extra minutes, Dave knew that trying to catch up on them would be a bad idea, so he stood up.

After enjoying a quick breakfast, cereal with chocolate flakes, he took a shower before he went into his closet space which seemed more like a private shop exclusively for his own use. He looked around until he discovered one high-quality tracksuit to his liking. He left the house heading toward the gym where Desmond had hoped to meet him for some time now.

The city was packed full of people. It might be very early in the morning, but many were headed to their jobs. Seeing Dave casually jog along the streets of New York spurred a bit of jealousy in the people who were begrudgingly on their way to yet another 8-hour-shift, if not longer.

Doing sports in these times had become a luxury not many could afford.

Along his run, it was only a matter of time until a few people had recognized David Ruster, the world's current sensation. After all, he was the player who had single-handedly taken down all of the Super Guilds, Guild Masters and had managed to wrestle out the East for himself. One man against an army of players... and he had come out victorious.

The aftermath of this now caused some problems for Dave. Many of those men and women had blocked his way, asking for a picture or a selfie with him. Some had outright given him their numbers, men and women alike.

Dave felt a bit embarrassed and thanked his lucky stars when he found a taxi nearby. He immediately rushed to it to get out of the clutch.

"Too much," Dave grumbled under his breath.

But the taxi driver had heard him and turned his mirror to face Dave saying: "That's the price of fame buddy, now buckle up." The taxi driver grinned and drove off with Dave.

"Don't mind me, but, someone of your fame should have their own driver, or at the very least their own car." The taxi driver offered some friendly advice.

"Yeah, that is a great idea. Here I was thinking of doing some innocent jogging but it seems like I've vastly underestimated the situation like this. It's time I pick up my car."

"Right, it'll make things much easier for you. Although if you want to do some runs, it's not like it's impossible, even for a celebrity of your caliber," Dave could see the amused grin on his driver's face. "You just need a better location. I'd recommend you head to Venia Park. It's pretty close and it has a lot of people. You'll blend in easily among the crowd. If you want, I could take you there right now?"

"Thanks for the offer, but please take me to Manhattan 1st Ave. next."

"Alright, then, I know the best way to avoid traffic."

After half an hour the driver dropped Dave in Manhattan. The old city had always retained its beauty. Most of the people walking around its streets were dressed in brand suites on their way to work. Some of the shops were open to the public, with traditional food, hot dogs and take-outs.

Dave walked along the street until he stopped in front of the only gym in the whole area. An enormous building that had pictures of a few MMA fighters' pictures on the gym board. The most prominent, however, was that of Desmond Malcolm.

As he walked into the building his nose was immediately assaulted by the smell of sweat, his ears by the sound of loud beat music and his eyes by people following a trained choreography.

The gym was simply enormous. From what Dave could see at the entrance, it was divided into three sections. If he chose to go in through the center door, he would come to what most expected out of a gym. A large area with training weights, treadmills and many other machines to enhance physical fitness.

The door to his left led to an area with temperature-regulated pools and showers. Apparently, that one was for people who came here because they enjoyed swimming.

Finally, the right door lead to a carpeted area, with shock-absorbent material. It had three rings where people were currently sparing against each other.

"Wassup kid, you look lost. You need any help?" an immensely muscular but friendly-looking man smiled at Dave. He behaved in the classical way any first-timer did.

"Uh, yeah. I am looking for Desmond. Is he here?" Dave asked.

"Hah, aren't you an ambitious one? You're a newbie and yet you ask for the devil coach on the first day. You should come to do some muscle training with me and the boys before you are ready for his regime," the man spoke while flexing his muscles at Dave.

"The girls dig these!" he added while making his chest muscles jump up and down.

Dave gulped hard. "Gotta admit that is hella impressive, but I'm not interested in increasing muscle mass. At least not by this much."

"Bummer, but let me tell you, it's really hard to get Desmond to train you. Nothing personal, but his schedule is packed full. Unless he makes an exception it's nothing unusual to wait weeks or months for an opening. So don't feel bummed if he refuses you. After all, there is a reason why the rest of us work here. I'll help you gain at least some mass. You're too scrawny like that," the man said.

Dave laughed, "I'd say I'm pretty regular, it's more like you're the giant. What's your name by the way?"

"Call me Jacob."

"Jacob then. David, but my friends call me Dave," he introduced himself. He was about to offer Jacob a handshake but given that hulk's mass, he changed it to a fist bump at the last moment.

"Right then, Dave. Seeing as you're a nice fellow, let me check if we catch Desmond in a good mood. Let me throw in a word for ya. If you're lucky enough he might find some time to teach you the basics."

Dave smiled at the man and said, "Sure."

Jacob gestured for Dave to follow him and went ahead toward the arenas where Desmond was standing. He wasn't much different from his In-Game avatar, the most notable difference was that in real life he still had hair on his head.

"D, here's a new recruit. Are you interested in putting the fresh meat through the grinder?" Jacob asked jokingly.

Desmond, on the other hand, wasn't paying much attention. "Sorry J, got my hands full today. Check with Brian, he's open today."

Jacob had a wry awkward smile on his face, embarrassed and apologetic at the same time.

Before he could apologize to Dave, the latter suddenly went forward and addressed the star of the gym. "And here I thought you'd spare me a few moments of your oh so precious time. Guess I'm better off hanging out with Brian."

Desmond frowned and turned. If he had a nickel for every cocky newcomer... well, he'd be able to build another gym of this kind. Those people should know that he was very popular among the clients of this gym. Only Desmond had the right to outright refuse clients, and none dared to complain, because he was that good.

As he was about to ask Jacob to escort the guy away, he turned around and swiftly recognized Dave. "Holy shit! You finally came! I was worried you had just paid me some empty lip service last time."

"How could I not come, after you messaged my girlfriend. Besides I'd never go back on my word!" Dave replied, smiling.

"Rick, cancel all my appointments for today. J, you should have just told me the new guy was Dave!"

"My bad. Didn't know you guys were acquaintances," Jacob scratched his head.

"I'd go so far as to call him a friend," Desmond corrected. "It's not your fault, J, you've been a great help."

"You two have fun. And if your friend decides to become a regular, send him my way. Surely you agree that he can use some gains," Jacob bid them farewell, but not before pitching his idea to Desmond who just nodded.

"So brosky, what's the deal?" Dave turned to Desmond.

"Right, let's get you started. You just threw me off my rhythm with your surprise visit. By the way congratz on getting the East. That was pretty dope. You're the talk of the game, the forums, and even in the gym."

"Thanks, man, it wasn't easy. Just swinging weapons and skills around wasn't everything. As it turned out the thing that helped me out the most were the Sworn Stalwart Fists."

"The what?" Desmond asked.

"Sworn St... they are fist weapons. I used them to take out the White Ghost, the Priest. Haven't you seen the fight?" Dave asked.

"Nope, CCN hasn't released it in full yet. Teasers were out, but the real deal should only be released today at 20:00. Thanks for the spoilers, man." Desmond accused him in a friendly banter way.

"Oh, then you'll see what I'm talking about by then. Now how do we do this?" Dave asked bringing them back to the matter at hand.

Desmond sized Dave from head to toes, "Well first, you should take off your clothes."

"Shouldn't you buy me a drink first?" Dave joked.

Desmond cracked a smile, "Wise-ass. Your outfit might be good enough to jog around or to work a sweat with J, but it won't do you any favors for what I have in store for you. We'll start with basic Karate, Judo, and transition into Kung-Fu. You need to gain a good form and good flexibility to perform some of the Katas."

"Right then, I should probably buy a Karate suit, right?"

"It's called a Karategi, and don't worry, we have a lot of brand-new ones. I'll fetch you one. Consider it my tribute to the almighty Sovereign of the East," Desmond teased leaving Dave in the arena.

However, Dave wasn't quite alone. After all, this was a gym, so many people were whispering amongst each other wondering who the new guy was and more importantly why Desmond the ever so hard-ass, would be so lenient.

The collective hive mind needed less than a minute before one of the people in the gym recognized Dave.

"IT'S MR. SKELETAL!" the speaker had shouted the name so loud that everyone in the gym must have heard it. That was enough to cause a scene. The bustle of the place had turned to muted muffles and even the music had stopped.

"Ah shit, here we go again," Dave cursed under his breath.

"Everyone, get the hell back to your workouts!" A hollering voice sounded from within the weight lifting area. It was none other than Jacob.

"You guys know the rules! We're here to better ourselves, so don't waste your and other peoples' time. If you wanna talk, do it AFTER your workout. If I catch anyone not busting his ass up on the tracks or the machines, I'll throw you out personally! And I mean that quite literally!"

And just as if nothing had happened the music resumed and everyone went back to whatever they had been doing.

Dave was surprised. Apparently, the big man over there had quite the say in this place.

Desmond came back to Dave with a white Karatagi and a white belt.

"Congrats, you've beaten the record for causing a scene as a newbie," Desmond stated amused.

"Yeah, but Jacob over there dealt with it pretty well."

"We have a lot of famous people coming here, and it's always like this. Thanks to J, we never have paparazzi or nosy people hanging around the gym for long though."

"Great guy," Dave praised.

"Yep, he is the co-founder. He loves this place more than anything. You should have seen how much he toiled and busted his ass before getting this place to look like this. That guy is a good man and a hard worker."

"Sounds like a great friend. Man, now I feel like I owe him at least one training session. So where are your changing rooms?"

"Get to the locker room, put your stuff in one of the lockers and just deposit your key at the receptionist over there. I'll clear a ring for us, and we can start right away." Desmond said.

"Right, on it."