|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Crime/Noir||PG-13||Positive|
|Four Hearts and Souls, Part 1|
Mother of mercy. That was just about as amazing as I thought it would be.
It was the morning after I'd slept with Ito, and I was sitting in bed with my consciousness slowly coming back to me, still just thinking about how fantastic the previous night had been. I've shaken some earth in my day, both in the bed and as an earthbender, but never quite like that.
I yawned and stretched my limbs around in each direction, before hopping off of the bed and bending over to pick up my clothes.
Meanwhile, Ito was over at the closet putting his clothes on as well. "So how about you let me treat you to breakfast?" he asked, slipping on his white undershirt. "I make the best fucking egg white omelet you've ever heard of."
"As appealing as that sounds," I said as I zipped up my pants, "I think I'm gonna have to pass. I've gotta be at work by nine o'candle and if I'm late, my boss is gonna kill me." He had no idea how literally I meant that. And hopefully, he'd never have to know. This guy was everything I'd ever looked for and I intended to stay with him for a long time. I wasn't gonna let this triad stuff fuck that up.
"Maybe another morning then," he said, having gotten fully dressed now.
I raised my arms up and brought my shirt down around my body, letting it embrace my torso with its cottony touch. "You got it," I replied.
I made my way over to the door and grabbed my coat off the coat rack, wrapping it around me as well. Before I opened the door, Ito came up from behind and I turned around to face him.
"I want you to know how happy you made me last night," he said. "Not just with the sex, but just talking to you too. You've got so many broads in this city who are self-absorbed and shallow. I could tell last night that that's not who you are." He leaned in and gave me a peck on the lips. "Thank you for being different."
I smiled and kissed him back, and the two of us shared that embrace for a couple of good, solid moments. As the moments went by, my emotions were getting a little too riled up inside of me and I started to get kind of horny, so I broke away from the kiss before it escalated to anything more than that.
Then I opened the door and stepped outside the apartment. "Until next time, Ito," I said.
"Until next time, Song," Ito said as I swung the door shut.
So wouldn't you know it, I got all the way down to Triple Threat headquarters, and Qin told me I didn't even have to show up until ten o'candle at night. So apparently I missed out on a perfectly good omelet breakfast and a nice, pleasant morning with Ito for nothing. Geez, these fucking people. If they're not jumping you in an alley or making you murder someone, they're totally fucking up your social life.
I was sitting in the back seat of a cab, on my way downtown, when suddenly everything started to feel so much lighter. I had my head pressed up against the window, looking out at the sights this city had to offer.
We were passing by Republic City Park and I just looked through the glass at the numerous things that made the sight so beautiful. The leaves floating ever so slightly down from the branches they were once attached to. The cavalcade of various colors that came with them. The majesty of the trees and their branches that were bent in a manner that made you feel something euphoric, but you never really knew how or why. It really was a beautiful day outside.
And yet, as amazing as it was, passing by it made me a tad depressed. Not, like, a lot or anything, but it was sad. Passing by all that beauty, knowing you were a murderer in the making.
Normally, when I was in a mood like this, I would just go to Gan's and try to relax, but it was eleven in the morning, so that wasn't exactly an option. Instead I decided to stop and get some breakfast and try to organize my thoughts. It was the next best thing to talking to someone, honestly. I've always found that breakfast can be the most relaxing time of the day.
We finally got into the downtown area and the cab driver pulled up to the curb to let me off. I handed him the money and got out of the cab, stepping out onto the sidewalk and making my way inside.
The place was Fong's Diner. A classy little place that served amazing breakfast stuff, among other things. It was a little pricey, but I figured I owed it to myself to eat there.
I walked inside and the waitress came up to me with a menu in her hand. "How many dining today?" she asked. "Just one?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Alright, follow me," she said, leading me through the restaurant past a collection of booths and tables to a booth of my own. I sat down just as she laid the menu down on the table.
"My name is O-Ren and I'll be your server today," the waitress said. "Can I start you off with something to drink?"
"I'll just have a green tea please," I answered.
"Alright, I'll be right back with that for you," she said, walking away to carry out the task.
I just sat there reading the menu, trying to decide what I wanted. I figured it out pretty quickly and set the menu down as I waited for the waitress to come back. I leaned my face against my hand and darted my eyes back and forth all over the restaurant, just trying to kill time. I let out a rather loud sigh, then just moments later, I heard a voice from a few feet away.
"You okay? You look kinda down," the voice said.
I turned my head to see some guy standing right next to my table. He was a heavyset guy wearing a white, button-up shirt and an apron who looked to be about sixty or so. He had short, combed-back white hair and a handlebar mustache to match. He gave off a real 'friendly grandpa' vibe if you know what I'm saying, so naturally I just trusted him.
"How could you tell?" I asked.
"I've owned this joint for thirty years," he said. "I've seen enough people come in here with that same look on your face to know that it means you're upset. And it usually makes 'em feel better to talk about whatever it is that's got 'em down. Oh, I'm Fong, by the way," he added. "The owner, as you probably already guessed."
I didn't trust this guy enough to tell him exactly what was going on, mind you, but he seemed nice enough for me to tell him the basic situation I was in, so rather than spill all the beans, I just spilled some.
"Well, it's my job," I told him. "I'm not really happy with it."
"Oh, I've been there," he told me. "When I was your age, I was just a busboy. Cleaning tables and junk like that. So what's your job?"
I thought very carefully about how to respond. My response couldn't be truthful, of course, but I couldn't just make something up. It had to sound realistic. After a second or two, I just came up with something I thought was good enough. "I work in the mail room for a big law firm."
"Oh, I see," said Fong. "So you're just trying to climb the totem pole of this big law firm and end up as a big, hotshot lawyer, but they've got you down in the mail room paying your dues. Is that it?"
"Yes, that's exactly it," I replied. "The problem is, though, I don't exactly want to be a lawyer."
"I see," Fong said, stroking his chin.
"You see... my parents kind of pressured me into this job," I continued. "I never really wanted it in the first place. I don't really like the work these... lawyers are doing. They're sneaky and underhanded and, honestly, I feel like I'm working for bad people. And now, I'm a whole lot sadder than I used to be and I'm letting all this work stuff interfere with my personal life. Meanwhile, I'm young and I've still got this whole life ahead of me. I just feel like I could be doing something else."
Fong nodded in silence, stroking his chin some more. Then he leaned against the booth directly opposite from mine and began to speak again. "Well, uh... sorry, I didn't catch your name," he said.
"Well, Song, here's what I'm gonna tell ya," he said. "Now you may not like it at first; you may not like it at all, but just hear me out, okay?"
"Okay," I said.
"You're gonna be stuck there a while," he said. "I don't know how long. It could be a year. It could be longer. But eventually, something is gonna open up for you, and it's gonna be something you enjoy. And once that something opens up for you, you're gonna move on with your life. You're gonna look back on these years you spent at this job feeling miserable and treat it as a distant memory."
It was so strange. I had absolutely no way of knowing if he was right or not. More than likely, he was wrong, considering he didn't actually know my situation. But something about this guy's optimism gave me hope. It gave me hope that I would somehow find a way to get out of this situation with the triads and that I'd end up living a normal life after that. I had no idea what I'd end up doing with my life, but who the fuck cared? At least I wouldn't be in the service of murderers like I currently was.
"Thanks," I said. "I think I'm feeling a lot better now."
Fong responded with a warm smile and moved away from the booth. "Glad I could help," he said as he walked back towards the kitchen.
Finally, the waitress came back with my tea and placed it down on the table. "Sorry for the wait," she said.
"Oh, it's fine," I replied. "It was worth it."
About twelve hours later, I was sitting in my apartment, waiting to hear the sound of Gun's fist pounding against my front door.
Then, at precisely ten o'candle, and I mean not one fucking second later, I heard the inevitable knock.
I made my way over to the door in about five seconds, and was surprised to see not Gun, but rather Yin standing on the other side.
"Where's Gun?" I asked.
"He's not coming tonight," Yin said. "It's just you and me." Then without saying another word, she walked out of the doorway and towards the stairs.
Well, that was just great. It was just gonna be me and Yin for the entire fucking night. With every step I took down the hall, the level of annoyance I felt grew higher. At least I had gotten used to being with Gun at this point. Any problems we'd had at first, I was accustomed to. But Yin was a completely different story. I had only been on two missions with her, and both times she barely said a word to anybody. Plus, I had no idea how good of a fighter she was. What if we got into a situation where I needed her help and she couldn't defend me? Or even worse, what if she just cut and run? It was variables like these that made me uncomfortable with the whole situation.
We made our way down the stairwell - because apparently no one in the entire Triple Threat Triad believes in taking the elevator - and found ourselves on the streets.
Yin lead me to the light blue Satomobile she had parked on the corner, which I happened to notice matched the color of the coat she was wearing.
As we got into the car, something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. I couldn't tell who, but it looked like the shape of a person standing in an alleyway to my left. I turned my head and, in the split second I saw whatever figure I thought I saw, it disappeared.
Was I just seeing things? Was the paranoia I felt on nights like this making me see what I thought I'd see? Someone waiting to jump me from behind and end my life? I got in the passenger's seat of the car and forced myself to relax. It was probably just the paranoia. Even if I did see somebody, chances were it was just a bum poking his head out of an alleyway. Harmless as could be.
I put it out of mind we drove off, of course, without even speaking to each other. It wasn't until we got a couple blocks down the road that Yin decided to tell me what the plan was for the night. Well, after asking me a question first.
"Are you well-rested?" she asked.
I responded with a casual, "Yeah."
"Good, because we're gonna be up all night," she said.
Great. There went my chances of getting this over with quickly.
"So what's the job?" I asked.
"We're gonna scratch some names off of Qin's hit list," Yin explained. "Four to be precise."
Four? Did I hear that right? Did she mean four at the same time, like a bunch of lugs sitting around in one room playing a card game, or four individual targets scattered through different parts of the city? I mean, I don't know, maybe four wasn't that many, but that just didn't sound right to me, so I asked.
"You mean four separate targets all in one night?"
"Yes," she replied. "It's an all-night job, but it can be done."
Well, that settled that. I guess I really was in for a long night. Then, as silence reclaimed the inside of the car, my mind started to fill with questions. And all of them related to who these people were. I knew if I asked too many, Yin wouldn't answer me, so I just decided to keep it simple.
"Who are they?" I questioned.
Yin glared over at me. She seemed to be hesitant to tell me for some reason. "It doesn't matter who they are," she said to me. "They're targets. People who we're gonna have to kill. End of story."
I decided not to ask any more questions. I was only gonna get answers I didn't want to hear. So the two of us just rode in silence until we got to our first stop.
Our first stop was an apartment building down in Linuki, which worried me, because that was Agni Kai turf. I guess it didn't matter as long as we weren't trying to steal it from them. Still though, it worried me. That was the last thing we needed. Them getting pissed at us after all the shit we had to go through to prevent a war with them.
Yin parked the Satomobile on the curb and the two of us got out and started walking. We walked into the building and headed up, thankfully, only one flight of stairs.
All the way up, I was just hoping that whatever happened here - whatever situation we found ourselves in once we opened that door - that I wouldn't be the one to kill the person on the other side.
Once we finally reached the top of the staircase, we made our way down the hall, stopping at the third door down on the left. Yin knocked on the door and just a couple seconds later, it was opened.
We found ourselves staring at a rather muscular woman with her hair in a bun, dressed in a green kimono and wearing an emerald lipstick. Starkly contrasting with the rest of her appearance, she had crystal blue eyes and if I had to guess, I'd say she was probably about my age.
Her emerald lips formed into a smile and, to my surprise, she and Yin shared a hug for a moment. "It's so good to see you, Yin," she said.
"It's good to see you too, Miho," Yin replied.
The woman, apparently named Miho, turned her crystal blue gaze to me. "Who is this?" she inquired.
"This is my associate, Song," Yin explained. "She'll be joining us tonight."
"Can she be trusted?" asked Miho.
"Yes, don't worry," Yin assured her. "I wouldn't have brought her along otherwise."
"Nice to meet you then," Miho said to me.
"Likewise," I replied.
"I have my stuff packed if you're ready to go," said Miho.
"No, let's sit down for a bit," Yin suggested. "We've got time."
"Are you sure?" Miho asked.
"Look, it's been a long day," Yin said. "I promise we'll make it out of here undetected, but right now, all I want is to just sit down for a minute." The monotony never left her tone.
I could hear a bit of hesitation in Miho's voice, but nonetheless, she agreed. "Alright then. Come in," she said, motioning for us to come inside.
"Thank you, Miho," said Yin. "I promise this'll only take a minute."
The two of us stepped inside and hung our coats up on the coat rack by the door.
The living room of Miho's apartment was a simple enough place. Just a couch, two chairs, and a table in the middle. Next to one of the chairs were a bunch of suitcases, which I assumed contained all of Miho's things. Yin and I each took a seat in one of the chairs, while Miho plopped down on the couch.
At this point, I was just trying to figure out what the fuck was going on. What exactly had Yin told this woman? What impression was she under? And most importantly, who was she? Was this all an act or was there something Yin hadn't told me? I just decided to talk as little as possible and listen to their conversation.
"So how has your day been?" Miho asked.
"Long," said Yin. "I've been making all the final arrangements and whatnot for this trip."
"I can't thank you enough for doing this by the way," said Miho. "How fucking lucky am I to have not only found someone that could get me to safety, but someone in your organization. Someone who has all the information about when your guys are gonna strike."
"That's what they think we're doing now," Yin said. "Whacking you."
That statement sent shockwaves of anxiety jolting through my body. What the fuck had Yin gotten me into, because this was sounding more and more like she was betraying the triad by the second. Or maybe this was all a trick. Maybe I was the one getting bumped off. I had no idea why they would try to do that, but it was possible, considering the circumstances that got me into the triad in the first place.
I kept listening and told myself that if there were any signs of imminent danger, I would act.
"So after we leave and you vanish, they'll think you're dead," Yin continued.
"And you're sure they won't check the river?" Miho asked.
"No," said Yin. "They never check. They're too lazy to check."
"Well, thanks again," Miho said. "And thank you too, Song," she said to me. "I can't imagine how risky this is for both of you."
"No problem," said Yin, leaning back in her chair. "Now I've got a question for you," she asked. "And I mean this seriously. I genuinely want to know. Was all this worth you not throwing that match? I mean, you'd never thrown a match before. Ever. Most people we deal with get asked to throw matches every other day and they get tired of it. That's why they eventually do what we tell them not to and end up winning. You knew the risks of crossing the Triple Threat Triad and it's not like one loss would've damaged your career either. So why'd you do it?"
Miho leaned forward and looked Yin directly in the eye. "Because I'm not a loser, Yin," she said. "In fact, I'm quite the opposite. I'm the best pro-bending player this city's ever seen. When they're little, everyone has something they wanna be the best at when they grow up. Something they spend their whole lives putting blood, sweat, and tears into trying to achieve. For me, it's pro-bending. One day, they're gonna put my name on the front of that arena and there's gonna be a statue in my honor. And when they talk about all the pro-bending legends this city has had to offer, they're gonna say that Miho was the best. They're gonna talk about how she never lost a match. How she never took a bribe from any of the triads and how, in the end, her spirit and her determination paid off, and at such a young age on top of it."
"Then why'd you say yes to our bribe?" Yin asked.
"I don't know," Miho answered. "I guess I was too scared to say no. I guess I thought I could just swallow my pride and take just one fall and be done with it. But when they called our names and I went out under those lights and heard all the fans cheering, I remembered who I was. I knew this was the moment that would define my legacy."
I can't believe I didn't recognize her sooner. The woman we were speaking to was the leader of the Red Sands Rabaroos. And, like she said, she was one of the best pro-benders in the entire Pro-Bending League. I'd hardly ever seen her before, because I only ever listened to the matches on the radio. I guess the name just didn't register until she started talking about pro-bending.
"Don't worry, Miho," Yin said. "I'm sure they'll remember you fondly."
"Thanks, Yin," Miho said. She leaned back in her couch and released a rather loud yawn from within her throat. "So, anyway, I've had the craziest day today. I had to come up with a cover story for my pare-"
Whack! Yin sent an icicle whizzing towards Yin, penetrating her eye, as well as the back of the couch, and emitting a mad spurt of blood from her face.
As the crimson liquid poured out of her face, I watched in horror as she tried to finish the words she was speaking, her brain not having caught up with the rest of her. "I... told them... I..."
Then she slumped over on her couch as any traces of her life vanished completely. Now she had a crystal blue spike made of ice to match her eyes. Or at least, the one she still had left. So basically, that more or less proved I was a hundred percent wrong about Yin being a traitor.
Right as the blood started to pour onto the couch, we heard a knock at the door. Yin got up and answered it, to see Lu on the other side. The old guy who was there the night we took Yang hostage.
"Thanks for showing up on time," Yin said.
"You said to be here at ten forty-five, I'm here at ten forty-five," Lu said.
"Come on, Song," Yin said to me as she walked out of the apartment. "We've gotta go." I shot up from my chair and walked as fast as I could out the door, almost knocking Lu over as I tried to catch up to Yin.
"That was a really great strategy, Yin," I said to her, my hushed voice coated in an armor made of sarcasm. "Let's really get the poor girl talking and get her to tell us her life story before we shoot an ice spike through her head! Oh, and let's just not tell Song about it, because why the fuck does she ever need to know anything?!"
"You should be thanking me," Yin said, not even turning her head back to look at me.
"Oh, ho, ho, really?!" I said, more incredulous than you can imagine. "And why would I thank you for making me watch something as horrific as that?"
"Because I didn't make you do it," Yin replied. "Before the night is over, you won't have gotten off that easy four times in a row. So be thankful you still haven't had to do it yet."
That fucking bitch. Using not making me kill someone as a reason to be thankful. What the fuck kind of business was I in? I swear to you, it took everything, and I mean absolutely everything I had, not to knock her out and run away. Just get in her car and drive off into the mountains. I had no idea where the drive would take me, but I knew it wouldn't be here. It wouldn't be in this situation where I was being forced to assist someone in the murders of four innocent people.
By the time we hit the sidewalk and got back in the car, I was overwhelmed with sadness. I mean, how could I not be? The last thing that woman talked about before she died was whatever cover story she told her parents. Her parents were gonna think their child was missing for the rest of their lives. They would spend an immeasurable amount of time coming up with explanations in their heads. Whether it was her getting abducted by some lunatic or her running off and not telling them or her joining a cult or whatever. For the rest of their lives, they would be feeling inconsolable grief that their daughter was gone without a trace. That piece of shit, Lu, was getting rid of any evidence right now and it made me sick. The part that made me even sicker? We would have to do this three more times tonight. Fan-fucking-tastic.
- This chapter, as well as it's second part, were partially inspired by the film, Collateral.
- Miho was named after a character by the same name from the film, Sin City.
For the collective works of the author, go here.