|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Crime/Noir||PG-13||None Yet||N/A|
|Into the Mix|
You ready for this? No, seriously, are you ready to hear my story? This shit is not for the faint of heart. My story involves some pretty gut-wrenching stuff, so if you'd rather listen to a story about a bald kid with an arrow on his head who teams up with all of his friends to save the world, then go right ahead.
Okay, so if you've gotten to this part, that means you're here to stay. So let's take it back to the beginning.
The year was 145 AG. The scene was a dark street in Republic City where the air was so cold you'd swear you could icebend it. Even for a firebender like me, that was pretty chilly. And there I was, walking along the sidewalk in my gray overcoat on the way to Gan's.
I swear, his night club was the only place I could really relax. The comforting melody of the jazz band playing and the occasional drunk asshole with nothing better to do than to start a bar fight coalesced perfectly, creating the perfect balance of peace and excitement. I could never have just one of those things. All my life, I never understood how anyone could.
The city was quiet tonight with the exception of the occasional honking of the Satomobile horn and someone yelling, "Taxi!" It was so silent that it made you wonder what was going on inside rather than outside. There were probably a dozen different things going on within people's homes. Couples arguing, babies crying, people yelling at their favorite pro-bending teams.
The stillness had a certain charm to it, though. It made you feel kinda tranquil, even in a city like this.
As I kept walking, I saw some homeless guy hoveled down near the street corner begging for change, as was the case every night. It always filled me with a sense of pity to look at these people. Most of them were these old guys with gray beards that were smothered with grime and dirt, which means they had to have lived in some other nation before coming here. What must they have thought once they got to where they were now? Republic City had always been renowned as a place of opportunity and prosperity. And these poor saps had to find out the hard way that that wasn't necessarily the case.
Sometimes I wonder if either Avatar Aang or Fire Lord Zuko knew what this place had become. If they knew that their ultimate vision was nothing more than a gutter filled with crime.
I stopped for a second and gave the old guy ten yuans to get himself something to eat. Normally it would have been less, but I was feeling generous tonight. I kept walking as the guy said, "Thank you!" and I crossed the street.
Once I got to the other side, I had finally made it to Gan's. The stench of cigarette smoke hit me the second I opened the door, causing me to hold my nose as I made my way through the crowd near the front of the nightclub.
The place was packed with familiar faces tonight. There was the tall guy with the pencil mustache who wore the same gray suit every night and a fedora to match. I guess he thought it made him look cool. I had seen him in there plenty of times, but I didn't know his name.
Then there was the pretty ginger-haired lady who looked like she was an actress or something. She had this nasally yet kind of adorable voice and some kind of accent that I couldn't place. I couldn't remember her name either.
I turned my head to the side to avoid the line of sight of the next regular I saw. It was that debonair gent that I'd spent a night with once. He had slick, brown hair and, if I may say so myself, a rather impressive build. Boy, you don't know passion until you've spent a night like that. I would've loved to have spent more with him, but it turned out he had a wife. I'd never felt so bad about anything in my life. And unlike the others, I could remember his name. It was... uh, well, shit. I guess I don't remember. Oh well.
I finally got to the back of the club and seated myself at the bar. Without missing a beat, Gan's smiling face came up to greet me. Seeing that smile was always comforting to me. Gan was one of those guys who looks like he was born to be a nightclub owner. He had a bald head and a thick, black mustache that spread across the tops of his lips and a build that was somewhere between medium and large and he always made an effort to look as swanky as possible.
"Hey, child," he said in his ever-so-smooth voice. "How you doin' tonight?"
"I'm freezing my ass off," I replied. "It's so damn cold out there."
"Whatchu doin' out in the cold this late?" he asked as he picked up a washcloth and started wiping down the counter. "It's cold enough out there to give a camel yak hypothermia. You'd be a damn fool not to take a cab."
I waited a moment before speaking again; trying to word this as subtly as possible. "Well, I was, uh, just a block or two from the club and I thought I might as well walk. Why waste some money on a cab that you could use to buy yourself some drinks later on?"
"What were you doing just a few blocks down the street?" he asked without looking up. "Your apartment is all the way over-" he stopped wiping the countertop and slowly raised his head to look at me.
I couldn't help but smile devilishly as he looked at me. I knew he knew what it meant.
"Never mind," he chuckled. He picked up one of the glasses at the bar and started wiping it with the washcloth. "I'll tell you what, Song," he said. "You are something else. So what's this fella like? Is he nice?"
"Yeah, he's alright," I replied. "Nice guy, but he talks a little too much."
"I've never known any guys who lived in this area that were nice," he said.
"And I've never known any guys who lived in this area that weren't animals in bed," I said back.
"I didn't need to know that," Gan said.
"I'm just saying," I replied. "What is it about this place? Do you guys just all know how to do fuck down here? Do they teach you in school or something? Or did every guy who lives here immigrate from a place where they teach you how to do it really well."
Gan put down the glass and the washcloth and let out an exasperated laugh. I could tell I was making him uncomfortable, but in the way that friends do to each other that you don't mind.
"Are you finished?" he asked in a quiet, joking tone.
I responded by playfully slugging him on the shoulder. "I can't believe you let me go on for that long!" I said. "Do I have to tell you the positions we were in before you finally get me a drink?"
Gan went back and poured me a nice glass of scotch on the rocks. That means it had ice, for all you non-drinkers out there. I swear I'm not an alcoholic, but if I was ever trapped on an island and I could only have one think to drink for the rest of my life, it'd be scotch. Best stuff ever invented. He came back to the bar and set the glass down on the counter. "There you go, child."
I took the glass in my hand, raised it in appreciation, and took a gulp. By the way, even though you've heard Gan call me 'child' twice now, don't ever call me that. Ever. I'm twenty-five years old, dammit. I'm not a child anymore. Gan is the only person I let call me that. He's called me 'child' ever since we actually were children and for some reason it never bothered me. I guess it's because we've known each other for so long.
Then, as I took another swig of the scotch, I heard the sound of glass shattering.
I turned around and, sure enough, there was some stocky asshole with sideburns and a trench coat who had thrown his glass to the floor for some reason.
"Listen to me, dammit!" he shouted to the woman sitting across from him. You could tell this poor girl was used to this by now. The smooth blonde hair ran down her face in a way you could tell that she arranged it to hide the bruises this guy had given her. "I'm tired of you disrespecting me!" he hollered. "Who the fuck do you think you are?! Huh?! Answer me!"
"Baby, please," the lady said. "Can we not do this here?"
"Shut the fuck up!" the man barked. "Don't interrupt me when I'm speaking! If you didn't wanna go through this, then you should've just kept your fucking mouth shut!"
"Hey, hey!" Gan said, trying to defuse the situation. "Whatever this is, take it outside. I ain't having this in my club."
"Hey, fuck you, asshole!" the man shouted. "Just mind your own business!"
I took another sip of scotch and put down the glass, then started walking towards this guy. "I was hoping some asshole like you would stop by here tonight," I said to him as I cracked my knuckles. "I've been itching to give some lowlife degenerate like yourself a black eye all night."
The man turned away from his lady friend and decided to give me his full and undivided attention. "You've got some mouth on you," he said.
"You should talk," I retorted. "Actually, you know what? Stop talking. I'm sick of hearing your voice."
The man snickered and cracked his neck, presumably in an attempt to show off. "Oh, boy," he said. "You're gonna regret running your mouth so much once it's connected to a breathing machine." Then, like a wild boar-q-pine, he lashed out at me with a stream of fire, which I nullified with a swipe of my hands.
I shot back with a fireball in his direction, which he dodged.
Everyone else in the club hit the floor and took cover from the stray beams of fire that were being shot left and right.
The man came back at me with a fire whip, lashing it at me like I was some kind of circus animal.
I retaliated with a fire slash, which managed to knock him off his feet. I guess it wasn't that shocking, really. He was clearly too drunk to fight.
Everyone rose from the ground, relieved that there were no more fireballs being shot anywhere.
Boy, I gotta say. Taking that son of a bitch down gave me a lot of satisfaction. I mean, I saw guys like this come in here and do this shit all the time, but there was something about this guy that really rubbed me the wrong way more than the others.
I sat back down at the bar and finished my scotch with a nice sigh of pleasure. "That was fun," I said to Gan. "When do you think he'll get back up?"
Very soon, it turned out. Before Gan could reply, the man was back on his feet and, quite to my surprise and horror, he shot a lightning bolt at me.
Without even thinking, I threw my arms up in front of me and raised an earth shield to defend myself, which managed to stop the lightning bolt from reaching me.
Everyone in the bar, including the man, gazed in shock with their eyes wide open and their jaws all the way down to the floor.
Oh, yeah. I guess I should have mentioned that I'm also an earthbender. Confused? Well, let me explain. My mother was a firebender and my father was an earthbender and apparently I inherited both of their bending genes. Now before you ask, no this isn't a common thing. In fact, as far as I know, I'm the only person this has ever happened to. It's been like this all my life. I've been mocked for it as far back as I can remember. People have always called me freak, monster, etcetera, etcetera. You name it, then chances are I've been called it. I wonder what this asshole is gonna call me. I hope it's at least creative.
"Screw off, you freak!" he said as he ran out of the bar.
Guess not. Oh well.
I turned back around towards Gan, but I could feel everybody's stares from all over the bar. They were either still trying to comprehend what they just saw or they were just judging me. Either way, I decided I was tired of it. I took out my wallet and slid some yuans towards Gan. "I think I'm gonna take off," I murmured.
"I don't blame you," he said.
I stood up and made my way for the exit.
"Take care, child," Gan said.
I could still feel everyone staring at me all the way to the door. I was sure that at least one drunk idiot would mistake me for the Avatar. What would you think if you saw someone bending two kinds of elements when you had had that much alcohol?
I was once again bombarded by the unpleasant aroma of cigar smoke once I got to the front of the club. I'll never understand why Gan put the smoking section in the front. It was such a turn off to have cigar smoke be the first thing you smell once you walk in the door. Just before I got to the door, the blonde woman who that asshole was screaming at ran up to me. "Thank you," she said.
I turned my head and nodded. "Don't mention it," I said right before walking out the door.
To my surprise, once I walked outside, it had started to snow. The tiny, white flakes were already starting to stick to my wavy, black hair. Some of it was even sticking to my favorite red scarf I had on.
Luckily, this time I could call a cab. I stood out on the sidewalk in front of an alleyway and waited for one to drive by. Each second, the air got more and more frigid and I had to rub my hands together for warmth.
When is a damn cab gonna drive by? I thought. I knew it was a slow night, but this was ridiculous.
Before I could spot one, I was being jerked backwards into the alleyway by some punk I couldn't see. The next thing I knew, there was a bag over my head and I was fighting for breath as I kicked and screamed for help. Help didn't come, though. No one could hear, but whoever was doing this to me. Before too long, one of them socked me in the head and I was out cold.
Everything slowly came back into vision one bit at a time. The whole world was spinning and I couldn't get it to stand still. The dizziness was almost unbearable. If it had lasted just fifteen seconds longer, I probably would have hurled. Thankfully, it began to decrease as my consciousness came flooding back to me.
It took my eyesight a little bit longer to come back. For a minute or two, all I could make out was the shape of a man who looked like a shadow. He was ensconced in black from head to toe. His skin, clothes, even the rose he had in his suit pocket was an unnatural shade of black. If he was a shadow, he was the tallest, most muscular shadow I had ever seen.
Finally, my vision made its way back and I could see that I was sitting in a room with only a desk right in front of me, two chairs facing it – one of which I was sitting in – and the being that I could now very clearly see wasn't a shadow, but a man. A man whose coffee-brown eyes were gazing directly at me, commanding me to fear him. And that was no easy thing to do. I can't remember the last time I was afraid of anyone. He just simply stood there, exemplifying how much control he had by forcing me to wait for him to explain what was happening.
The silence lingered for a good amount of time while I sat there waiting. He just stood there by the desk without making a sound. I swear it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. After a while, I decided I couldn't take any more of the silence and that I needed to speak. The man in black, however, beat me to it.
"Do you have any idea who that was you fought in that bar tonight?" he questioned, in a deep, booming voice that somehow managed to sound calm and authoritative at the same time.
The only words my completely flabbergasted mind came up with were, "I have no idea."
The man in black took a step towards me and sat down on his desk with his arms crossed. "He was a triad enforcer," he elaborated. "One of our best."
The realization of what I had gotten myself into sent chills down my spine. Yet I couldn't help but feel kinda proud of myself. I tussled with a triad enforcer and won. That was no small feat. And it would certainly be something to tell my future grandkids one day. Well, if I made it out of here alive, that is. Before I could think about it for much longer, he went on talking.
"Do you understand what I just told you?" he queried. My silence must have been an indication that I either didn't understand or just couldn't.
"Yes," I said. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," he replied.
That wasn't exactly the response I was expecting.
"He could stand to be taken down a peg or two," the man in black continued. "And besides, anyone who can hold their own against Zolt has my respect."
So that was that asshole's name was. Zolt. What kind of fucking name was that?
"I guess you could see up close that he was a little fiery, huh?" said the man in black.
"Fiery?" I repeated. "He was more than that. He was quick. The guy was like a damn lightning bolt."
The man in black chuckled. "Lightning Bolt Zolt," he said. "I like the sound of that. I doubt he would, though."
It was so bizarre. Even though I was clearly his hostage, it didn't seem that way at all. It seemed like we were just two people having a friendly conversation. Like we both knew each other or something. I could only assume he was speaking to me this way so that I would let my guard down. That's when he would lay it on me and then I would be in a world of hurt.
He stood up from the desk and continued speaking. "It sounds like you put up a damn good fight," he said. "And like I said, I respect you for that." There was a pause before he said anything else and he knelt down to my level. "However, you attacked one of my enforcers and I can't let that go unpunished.
There it was. The bone-chilling statement that sent me into panic mode. My first response was a simple plea for mercy. "You don't have to do this," I said.
"I'm afraid I do," he replied. "How would the other triads respect me if I let you live after you attacked one of my men? You don't get to where I am by showing mercy."
I was thinking of as many possible answers to that question as I could. Then I was filtering out all of the bad ones and trying to pick one that actually worked and on top of that I was doing it under pressure. Out of fear that he would strangle me at any moment. Then something clicked in my brain and I spat it out instantly.
"I could work for you!" I said in a burst of desperation.
The man in black's brow narrowed and his eyes locked on me like he was an eagle hawk and I was a meadow vole that he was getting ready to swoop down and kill. "You work for me?" he said.
"Think of it as me paying a debt," I explained. "By letting me live, I'm in your debt. And I'm paying off that debt by working for you and doing whatever you want."
"Why, that's a capital idea," he said. "But why should I trust you?"
"I've got no reason to double cross you," I said. "I'll be loyal to you and you already know I'm a capable fighter."
The man in black folded his arms once more and nodded as he took this in. It was clear he was contemplating the 'ifs' of the situation, but judging by the expression on his face, I could tell that in his mind, the positives outweighed the negatives.
"Alright," he said. "We'll do it that way."
I had never been more relieved in my life. I swear to the spirits, for a second or two, I thought I really was a goner.
"But if you ever double cross me," he said. "You ain't gonna like what happens. You understand?"
"Yes," I replied.
In an instant, he took a completely new tone with me and spoke in a voice so gravely serious it was kind of horrifying. "From now on, you call me 'sir'. Is that understood, Song?"
"Yes, sir," I said in a voice so quiet it barely registered as a whisper. I hated showing weakness like that, but how in the fuck did this asshole know my name? Excuse me for being human for a second, but that was the most terrifying moment of my life.
"Good," he said. "I'm glad we understand one another. Now get your ass out of here."
Without a moment's hesitation, I shot up out of the chair and made my way through the door without trying to look to nervous. Everything in my body was telling me to get out of that room as fast as possible, so it was hard to slow down even a little. Then something occurred to me and I had to stop.
"When will you need me?" I asked.
"When the time comes, I'll send someone over to your apartment with a job for you," the man in black answered.
"And what's your name?" I inquired.
"My name is Kingpin Qin," he said. Without saying one word more, I walked out the door and down the hallway to the elevator. Kingpin Qin. I was speaking to the leader of the fucking Triple Threat Triad. The Triple Threat Triad. These fucking guys were no joke. I don't know if you knew this, but these guys ruled the streets. I was genuinely lucky to be alive. I would be even luckier if I stayed alive for much longer, considering they now knew where I lived.
The elevator doors opened and I got inside. I pushed the first floor button and rode down with only my thoughts to keep me company. That wasn't really a problem though. I had so many thoughts going through my mind, it's a wonder my head didn't explode.
Three had days passed since the night I was abducted by the Triple Threats and I hadn't left the house since I got home that night. In fact, I barely even left my chair. The shock and anxiety of it all wasn't exactly easy to get rid of. In fact, for the entire first day, every time I got up out of my chair, I couldn't stop myself from shaking. At one point, I spilled milk all over the floor just trying to pour myself a glass.
The most terrifying thing was that I wasn't used to feeling this way. Fear had never really been a major emotion in my life. I mean, I'm not saying I've never been scared before. We all have. I'm just saying fear wasn't something I was used to feeling and certainly not on this level. I've dealt with two-bit hoodlums and crooks all my life and they were no problem, but these people were part of the triads. That was something different entirely.
After a whole day of having my body wrapped in a coat of goosebumps due to my uncontrollable shivering, I was finally able to come to terms with the situation. And the more I thought about it, the more silly it seemed to be as worried as I was. I could take any of em down in a fight if I ever needed to. I beat one of their best enforcers like he was nothing. I knew how to handle myself in a fight. But I already knew that. The main source of fear was the fact that these people knew who I was and where I lived.
That's why I hadn't left the apartment since that night. I didn't want them learning my daily routine. But I guess that was just one of those problems I had to learn how to solve on my own. The best thing I could think of was to learn the system. Find out how to play their little game and play it better than them. That's what I spent the second day doing. Getting my confidence back.
Today was the third day and I had spent the whole day laughing at myself and the way I acted. It's amazing how certain situations can bring out a side in us that we never knew existed. I gotta tell ya, it was pretty embarrassing, but thankfully you're the only person who knows about it. So how about you and I just keep this to ourselves? It'll be our little secret. Sound good? Great.
It was around 8 o'candle at night and I was in the kitchen of my apartment making myself some dinner when I heard quite an aggressive knock on the door. It must be time. I thought. I was about to partake in my first assignment as a gangster.
I made my way to the door, unlocked it, and opened it to see a man standing on the other side. He had a black trench coat and matching fedora as well as a crimson red rose sitting in his upper coat pocket and even though he was wearing a hat, I could tell he was bald. He also had what looked to be a small scar running up his right cheek and onto the side of his nose. He looked considerably older than me as well. If I had to guess, I'd say he was at least thirty years older than I was. "Are you Song?" he asked in a gruff voice that fit perfectly with how he looked.
"Yes," I said.
"Come with me," he said. Without waiting for any sort of reply, he walked away.
Having no other choice, I followed him out the door and locked it behind me. I wasn't gonna let those bastards break into my home.
I ran down the hallway to catch up with him, hoping I could get to him before he got to the elevator, but for some reason he walked right past the elevator and took the stairwell. I decided to follow him. Surely there was a reason he was taking the stairs and not the elevator. He had to have been leading me through some back entrance or something. Whatever the case, I hoped he had a good reason for making me walk down six flights of stairs.
I finally managed to catch up with him once we got to the second flight. "Hey, is there a reason we're going down the stairs?" I asked.
"Yeah," he replied. "It keeps me in shape."
I couldn't tell if he was joking or not, so I just flat out let him know. "I can't tell if you're joking or not," I said.
"Listen," he said, clearly annoyed with me. "Can you please not speak until we get to the car?"
"Fine," I muttered.
This was shaping up to be one of the most insufferable nights of my life. I was gonna be stuck with the world's rudest mobster for spirits know how long and I was gonna be committing whatever heinous crimes he told me to. I had only spoken to him three times in the last few minutes and I could already tell this guy was a jerk. I mean, really, out of all the gangsters in the Triple Threat Triad, they had to stick me with him? He was so damn emotionless, I swear his gangster nickname must have been 'Deadpan Zan' or something.
At long last we reached the bottom of the stairwell and, just like I predicted, went out the back door into an alleyway. There was a light green Satomobile parked on the curb that was the most spotless piece of machinery I had ever laid eyes on. I guess this guy took great pride in his car.
We both got into the car, with the man sitting on the driver's side and me sitting in the passenger's seat.
Finally, the man spoke to me. "Alright, first thing's first," he said. "My name is Gun. I'm an enforcer for the Triple Threat Triad. And you are Song. The gutsy little bitch who had the balls to stand up to Zolt."
I obviously wasn't too thrilled with him calling me a bitch, which I guess I must have let slip with the look on my face.
"Hey, I meant that as a compliment," Gun said. "You don't have a pair of testicles and you still have more balls than more than half the guys in this city. That's saying a lot."
"Is that how you give women compliments?" I shot back. "By calling them a bitch?"
"I only refer to a woman as a bitch if she's done something stupid or reckless or anything warranting me not liking her and right now you fit into that third category, sweetheart," Gun replied. "Because you had to go and get yourself into trouble, now they stuck you with me."
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"It means you better get used to seeing a lot of me," Gun answered. "Because we're partners."
I didn't even try to mask how much that made me want to vomit. I was gonna be stuck with this asshole for every night for the rest of my life until I got out of this mess? Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. Something had to be done about that. "You've gotta be shitting me," I said.
"I'm not happy about it either," he said. "But like it or not, this is the way it's gonna be. Unless you wanna take it up with Qin."
I swear to you, in that moment, I could see a smug grin take shape across his cold, blank, expressionless face. He knew there was nothing I could do about it. I wanted to knock the man's teeth out, but I could tell that even with my fighting experience, this guy could take me down in seconds.
He turned the key in the ignition and the Satomobile came to life. Then he turned his attention to the back seat of the car. "Yin, why don't you introduce yourself?" he said.
I whipped my head towards the back seat and saw a woman with tan skin and a navy blue coat who was just as young as I was sitting there with her legs folded. I swear on my life, I didn't even notice she was there. She could have strangled me from behind and I never would have seen it coming.
"Hi," she said in a shy, polite tone. "My name's Yin. I'm gonna be coming with you guys tonight."
Gun pulled out of the alleyway and before we knew it, we were cruising down the street on our way to presumably make someone's life worse for a profit. Just what I always saw myself doing when I was a girl.
"So what exactly are we doing?" I queried.
"There's this guy down in one of the boroughs who won't pay up," Gun said. "We're going to take care of him."
It was then that I decided to ask what was likely a stupid question. "Can't we just give him a warning?"
"We already gave him two warnings," Gun said. "And he ignored them both. The boss wants us to take care of him, so that's what we're gonna do."
I figured it was best not to push any further for something that wasn't going to happen. There was no point in turning this into an argument. So we just rode in silence the whole way there.
The whole time we rode to wherever we were going, I couldn't stop trying to come up with a story for Yin. I ran through at least three or four in my head and each one of them involved her being recruited into the triad against her own will. The moment you laid eyes on her, you could see she was as sweet as a nice pot of honey. She was no killer. She was no extortionist or crook. Why was she here? It was gonna drive me crazy if I didn't figure it out.
I must have really gotten lost in a massive train of thought, because next thing I knew, Gun was saying, "We're here," and had parked the car. I looked around at the buildings around us and saw that we were all the way in the Dragon Flats Borough. That must have been at least a twenty-minute car ride. How could twenty minutes have gone by so fast already?
I snapped out of it when I noticed Gun was standing at my window and saw how impatient he looked. Yin was already out of the car too. "Are you gonna get out of the car or am I gonna have to drag you out?" Gun asked.
I got out of the car without answering and walked over to the sidewalk with the other two. Gun started walking and Yin and I followed him close behind.
"Now I want you two to follow my lead, got it?" he said.
We both nodded in understanding.
We stopped about four houses down from where we parked the car and went up to the porch. Gun gave the door a real forceful knock, which was evidently so loud we heard the sound of a baby crying from inside.
Oh, shit. This guy had a family. Things made things way different. Up until that moment when I heard that baby crying, I just told myself that this guy was a lowlife who nobody would miss. That was the only way I could really stomach what we were about to do, but now that was out the window. This guy had a family and if they were living in the Dragon Flats, that meant they were already struggling financially. What would happen once we killed this guy? His family could end up homeless.
The man who lived here swung the door open to greet us and his face was already sweating bullets. "Hi," he said. Not bothering to make small talk, he cut right to the chase. "Listen, I don't have the money right now," he said. "Just give me a little more time and I'll have it, I promise, but right now I just don't have it. I'm sorry."
"Calm down," Gun said. "Everything is fine. We came here to tell you that we've figured out a way to make this all work. Just come with us and we'll get this whole thing sorted out."
The man breathed a sigh of relief and started laughing as he calmed himself down. "Oh, thank the spirits," he said. "For a minute there, I thought you were here to kill me."
"The boss doesn't want it to come to that," Gun said. "He cares about all of his clients. He just gets frustrated when they don't pay up. I'm sure you can understand that."
"Yes," the man agreed. "Yes I can."
"Well, let's get on our way so we can all get to bed, eh?" said Gun.
"Sounds good," the man said.
The four of us walked back several houses down and got back in the Satomobile, with each of us sitting where we sat on the way down and the man whose name I never learned sitting in the back seat with Yin.
Gun started the car and we pulled off of the curb and got back onto the road. We drove about three blocks down until we took a turn into a darker part of the neighborhood that looked extremely shady. Even for the Dragon Flats. The man in the back seat didn't seem to care though. That idiot didn't recognize this was a trap when it was practically being shouted into his ears.
"So, where are we going?" he asked, casually.
Bang! The crackling fireball shot from Gun's fist into the face of the man instantly, splattering blood all over the car like someone spilled a bucket of red paint. At least the poor bastard had a quick death. And as horrifying as it was, I couldn't look away. All I could do was stare at the man's flaming head as it slumped over onto the window and think about how this was my life now.
Yin bent a tiny stream of water out of a pouch strapped to her waist and put the flames out. She didn't even look distressed in the slightest. Her expression read more like she was watering her flowers than putting out the flames on a man's head. Maybe she wasn't here involuntarily. Maybe I had read her wrong completely. This woman was an enigma to me and one that I would go crazy if I didn't solve.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that I was the only one who hadn't actually done anything and I became curious. "Why did you need to bring me along for this?" I questioned.
"To show you how it's done," Gun replied.
For some reason, in that moment I just got furious from completely out of nowhere. I don't know why. I guess seeing a man's head get blown off when you didn't even need to see it will do that to you. "How can you be so heartless?" I demanded to know.
"This is a heartless business, kid," Gun said. That set me off even more. Remember how I said that I don't like to be called child? Well, kid meant the same thing, so that was just as bad to me.
"How can you as a human just shoot a ball of fire into a man's head like that?!" I asked, in a voice more fierce than before. "That guy had a family! He had a wife and a kid! They're probably gonna be homeless now because of you and for what?! Because he didn't pay you crooks the money you don't even deserve?!"
"You better watch it, girl," Gun warned.
"What? Are you gonna kill me next? You gonna have her put the flames on my head out?" I said, motioning to Yin. "You heartless fuck."
"I do have a heart, Song," he replied.
"Oh, really?" I asked.
"Yeah, I do," he insisted.
"Name one thing you've done so far that showed you have a heart of any kind!" I screamed.
"I saved your life!" Gun shouted back, displaying any kind of emotion for the first time since I met him.
"What?" I said.
"You wanna know where you'd be right now if it wasn't for me?" he asked. "The bottom of a river! Zolt wanted you to suffer. He was gonna throw you in the river while you were still fucking breathing. I stopped him. I didn't wanna see someone like you die and I told him we could use someone like you."
"But Qin said that he was gonna kill me," I said.
"He wanted to look tough," Gun explained, nearly cutting me off. "He made sure you understood what kind of situation you were in and I'd say he did a pretty good job."
Now I was feeling guilty. This man had saved my life and the whole night I had been treating him with nothing but disdain. I may not have been able to figure him out yet, but there was one thing I knew for sure now. Gun lived by a code of honor. Now that I was thinking about it more clearly, he killed that man in the least horrible way. He could have easily done it in front of his family, but he chose to do it in a way that nobody would see it.
Then there was another question that dawned on me. "You said you didn't wanna see someone like me die," I said. "What did you mean by that?"
"I don't have to explain myself to you," he replied.
The car made a U-turn and the three of us rode away from the Dragon Flats Borough, each of us doing our best to put the horrors we had seen tonight out of mind.
Once we got back to Triple Threat headquarters, we immediately went in to see Kingpin Qin. It was weird facing him as one of his soldiers rather than a prisoner, but there we both stood along with Gun and Yin, talking about the crime we had committed that night.
"The deed is done," Gun said to him.
"Excellent," Qin replied. "You three are free to leave for the night."
The three of us exited the room and made our way to the elevator where we rode in silence the whole time. Once we got out and walked into the main lobby of the building, Gun turned to me and handed me a slip of paper. "Here is my business number," he said. "If you ever need to get in contact with me, call this number."
"Alright," I replied.
"And Yin, you know the drill," Gun said. "Next time I need you, I'll call."
"Of course," Yin said with a simple nod.
"Get some sleep, girls," Gun said. "We've all got a lot of work to do tomorrow." Then the man walked out the front door as if he had just finished a long day at the office and wanted to clock out. I guessed he had gotten to a point where this was normal for him and that I would eventually get to that point too.
As Yin and I walked out of the lobby, we happened to spot probably the last person in the world I wanted to see.
Zolt approached the both of us and it looked like he had brought a couple of his friends. That asshole must have known we were here.
"Well, look who's here," he said. "It's the firebender-slash-earthbender freak from the bar. And Yin, always so nice to see you."
"Likewise," Yin said bitterly.
"So, did you ladies just get back from a shopping spree or are you actually here for something important?" he said in the most condescending way possible.
I decided to cut the bullshit. "I know what you tried to do to me, Zolt," I informed him very bluntly. "How you wanted to throw me in the river while I was still alive. And I just want you to know what I won't forget it."
Zolt nodded slightly. "That's fair," he said. "But I just want you to know that I haven't forgotten what you did to me either. So you better watch your step, missy. Because this is a dangerous game you're playing and you don't have a lot of experience, so nobody would bat an eye of some unfortunate accident were to befall you."
I said nothing and instead stared intensely into those glaring, amber eyes of his.
"You dames have a good night," he said as he and his cronies walked away.
Yin and I went straight out the door and thrust ourselves into the frosty outside air. Yin started to walk away from me, but I just one more thing I had to say.
"Hey," I said, causing her to turn back around. "What's your story?" I inquired. "I've just been trying to figure it out all night and it's gonna kill me if I don't know."
I was disappointed when all she said was, "I don't have one," and walked away, leaving me alone on a dark Republic City street. I guess I would find out another day.
So, yeah. That's my story so far. It may not have gotten too intense yet, but believe me when I say that that disclaimer I put at the beginning was not a joke.
Republic City's criminal underworld is a dark place that most people are lucky to avoid. And then there are people like me who become buried in it so deep that there's no way out.
For the collective works of the author, go here.