Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster
Chapter information

The Warlord Era: Internal Perspectives



Written by

Blex Luthor


Blex Luthor

Release date

March 23, 2014

Last chapter

A Deserter's Legacy

Chapter 2: Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster

101 ASC

You can tell by my everyday fits that I ain't rich. I'm just another zinaman caught up in the mix. Trying to take your gold and your copper bits. Yeah, yeah, that's me.

See, I'm the bad guy, understand? That ain't never phased me though. Even still, being the bad guy and all, I couldn't help but see the irony of finding myself on my knees before the Avatar, accepting his accolades for my, what was it, "commendable service during the war". Weren't just the nomad neither. Earth King What's-His-Name be standing to his right and the charred dragon princeling to his left. Look at these goody-goody fools congratulating me, calling me an unsung hero, a benison to all of Mo Ce Shi. I'm not entirely sure what a "benison" is, but I can tell by the way Lord Beads-and-Glasses said it that it most probably don't apply to me. You hear them tell it, I personally was the only thing standing between every man and woman with a bit of green in their eyes from all the fires across the pond. Then again, for all I know, maybe I was.

Look at 'em all, actors. Kowtowing and glad-handing. Acting like I ain't every bit a smuggler and extortionist. Acting like they wouldn't be sending me on a magistrate mandated vacation out to Koh Tralach for the same "heroism" they're honoring me for now. Wouldn't be no mentionable difference between them and the dragons but the color of the banners. I'd be the same, city'd be the same, they'd be the same sans a few sideburns. The only real change is I'd be called a villain then, not a hero. Might sound odd for a man in my position to say, but I got myself respect for heroes. Heroes don't live happy lives most times. Not long ones neither. Being a hero means laying yourself down so others don't have to. Even a lowdown Pig Pen hustler like myself can admire that. I might rethink my position on heroes now that I know the title can be had with a turning of the color wheel.

Maybe this little cenobite don't know. Some of them, one of them at least, have got to know. Maybe they all know and they just think I'm going to stop now. Yeah, yeah, I could see that. They be thinking I was defying the Fire Nation because it was the Fire Nation. That might could be. But have they consider that I might just be defiant? Oh no, it's all so simple in their eyes. I might be the bad guy, but them dragons were the worse guys, right? So when I wrapped my corrupting hands around the city, when I killed and maimed the gold-eyes that took exception to that, I went and got myself bumped up to good guy to this inky monk, right? Being on the side of truth, justice, and the Earth Kingdom way once, how could I go back to my criminality? Especially now that they've lifted the yoke of draconian oppression from my shoulders? Yeah, I threw some gunk in the gold-eye war machine, it's true. Helped out plenty of bugs, pigs, and goats too. Even a few 'moles got the ol' Sai Mock helping hand. But that ain't why I did none of it. Not out of love for the Earth Kingdom or hate of the Fire Nation and I ain't do it because it was the right thing to do or nothing like that. I got down in the war to make money, simple and plain. I'm going to keep getting down to make money, simple and plain.

I can see it in their eyes, I can hear it in their voices. They think I'm going to stop. Oh yeah, they be thinking I'm their boy. I done held the city for them, kept it warm and prosperous, and now I'm fixing to just hand it on back for a medal and their gratitude. Can't they see my name and nature tattooed proud and blazing on my arms? The shine of diamonds on my neck, the glimmer of gold in my teeth? The tetsubo strapped to my back? They must be thinking that because there's a boar goring a golden dragon on my left shoulder that them same tusks won't turn on a green badgermole just as easy. I know the dragon king must recognize the catfish on my right arm, the Yasuki family done been a problem in the Fire Nation. Don't worry, my royal friend. Ain't been much love between the Yasuki and me for a few years now. What is it they say about the enemies of your enemies again?

Hold up, I done had myself a thought. Maybe they know what I am, know I weren't planning on changing nothing but the pay-offs, and this whole ordeal is a bribe. Maybe they think they might need me after the war as much as during it. Maybe they think they can speak to me on my level and I'll listen. Maybe after they seen me play they want me on the team. Ain't unwise to keep a bad guy in your pocket just in case. Well, let me just say that I've given out my fair share of bribes, and this here? This wouldn't stop me from saying a mumblin' word. I've heard of some insultingly low bribes, spirits know I've given some insultingly low bribes, but a medallion and a thank you? Gentlemen, let's not embarrass ourselves.

Maybe it ain't a bribe, maybe it's a little threat. They done brought a good bit of the Earth Kingdom Army and the Fire Navy out with them. Nice little show of unified force. Thinking could be I'd reconsider my errant ways in the face of the Avatar and the two biggest militaries in the world. Then again, might could be blasé to bring all this noise to these sorts of ceremonies. Or might could be they thought an uncultured sickleman, such as myself, wouldn't know what pomp and circumstance is called for. What can I say? When they're right, they're right. Don't matter no how. If they want to get bloody it just means the eel wasps out in Body Bay will eat well.

But those are thoughts for tomorrow. Today's a celebration, ain't it?

I've always liked to have myself a good laugh and I like other people to laugh too. I might be a gangster, but ain't no harm in sharing a hearty chuckle when you can. Everything about today is a joke, whether the silk robes standing over me espousing my virtues get it or not. I do hope one of them, an adviser, a retainer, the pretty blue-eye with them hair loopies, the Bei Fong girl, anyone really, picks up on it. It'd be a shame to have the Avatar, the Earth King, and the Fire Lord all together on the steps of a brothel thanking me for excelling at organized crime and let them get away without someone telling them why I couldn't stop smiling the whole time. This ain't no respectable Kocho Island geisha house for adulterous admirals and goatish governors neither, oh no, this here is the seediest bagnio I have. Smack in the middle of Zinatown.

Maybe they won't get it. They all be so young, even the Earth King. Ain't no doubt he's a man, but he couldn't have more than a decade on me. Fire Lord Half-Face looks about my age, but the Avatar? Spirits alive, he's barely begun wiping himself. All so young. And they grew up so soft. A whorehouse might be, how would Jei Lin say it? "Outside of their frame of reference". Jei surely do like his words. Still, so young. Don't matter none how fancy you're born, war'll still grow you up quick.

Now they tell us to stand and it's their turn to kneel, not near so low or so long as we, but ain't much point in arguing over degrees of bowing. Might could be nothing more than the tricks of perspective on the mind, but I can't help but disdain these supposed great men as I look down on them. My mother was born of the great Khans of the north and I've inherited my grandfathers' size. Even after we all straighten our backs I tower over them: the Earth King, the Fire Lord, the Avatar. Such big names. Such tiny men. I like that. I stand above them just as my name stands above theirs in this city. I am Sai Mock. The Mantis. The Mayor of Zinatown. The King of the Pigs. The Oni with the Iron Club. Who are they? Who are these big names with their honor and their fate? They'd be nothing if they were born on the muggy, buggy shores of the Mo Ce Sea.

I know they be looking down their noses at me. At all of us. Even as they break bread with us. Even as they embrace us like long lost kin. I'm a parasite. I fill my coffers feeding people's demons. I'm the Blue Spirit and corruption and intimidation are my dao. They ain't see the honor in what I done. I ain't see the honor in starving virtuously. Fate for an Avatar or a Fire Lord or an Earth King be a mite different than what fate is for bastard boys from the Pig Pen. Fate for us is the bloody flux. It's beatings from Fire Nation magistrates. It's a short life and a painful death. Might could be they don't know that. Might could be they do.

I wouldn't even pay none of that no never mind if it weren't for the hypocrisy. For all I know, they could be right about fate and honor and all that. But they ain't even got the courage of their convictions. Either what I do, don't matter how convenient it is for you and yours, is wrong and you should condemn me or what I do ain't wrong, in which case we won't have no problems and we can all sit back and make some money.

But they won't condemn me and we will have problems. The things they be looking down on me for helped them. So they thank me. Ignore all my crimes as long as I was doing them to people they ain't like. I see them. I see through them. People like them need people like me if they want to win. I'm here for when their ideals go one way and victory goes another. I keep the dirt off their robes and they pretend not to see the blood on my hands. At least until some of that blood is theirs.

They'll give me some time to fit myself into the new order of things. They got bigger bugs to fry. They got a world to build. And all while they be trifling with that, I'll treat their new order just as I treated the old. It's the way of things. So they'll try to stop me. I'll offer them gold or steel, same as I offer anyone. Plenty will take the gold. Plenty will feel the steel. My youth belies how well I've known both, but ain't a doubt that I prefer peace and gold to war and steel. Fate and honor ain't never took heed of my preferences before. I don't expect them to now.

They'll be back. They'll try to push me from throne to my knees. They have to. I won't move a spirits blessed inch for them. For anyone. I refuse to.

Let 'em come. I've stood against hurricanes. Against gangsters. Against lawmen. Against armies. The Pig Pen couldn't kill me. The Liquid Swordsman couldn't kill me. The Yasuki still can't kill me. These silk shirts won't either. I went into the Tong Wars a boy and came out a king. I am exactly who I say I am. My branches reach far and my roots run deep. I'm ready. Let 'em come.

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