|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Crime/noir||PG-13||Positive||N/A|
What's something that you like to do on a Friday night? Go out, hang with some friends, get a few drinks, maybe go out to dinner? Basically, any variation of unwinding after a particularly grueling week at work. Not only was I still at work, but I was having to spend my Friday night sitting in the back room of the restaurant I'd had my initiation ceremony in, and listening to all the other dunderheads in Gun's crew go on and on with stories they felt it necessary to share with everyone. Like the one I was listening to right now.
"So, anyways," said Madman Mong, getting towards the end of an especially chauvinistic joke he'd spent the last two minutes recounting to us all. "I wake up the next morning, and the fucking broad's still there! So I wake her up, and I'm like, 'hey, why the fuck are you still here? I told you to be gone by the morning'! And she says, 'I stayed overnight, because I charge by the hour. The longer I stay, the more you pay me'. And I said, 'what are you fucking crazy? I'm s'posed to pay you for just sleepin' in my bed?'. And she goes, 'well, you have to pay me more, because if I come back with any less than what you owe me, then my pimp is gonna hurt me, and then he's gonna come after you'."
Everybody in the room let out a collective 'ooh', as Mong's joke had reached its climax. I've gotta admit. Even I was a little curious to see where it went from there.
"A threat? She's got some fucking balls," Lu chimed in, I guess without realizing his contradictory statement.
"That's what I thought," Mong continued. "So I say, 'your pimp?', and she nods without even saying anything. And I say, 'honey, if your pimp tries to come anywhere near me, I'm gonna be the pimp in that situation, and he's gonna be my bitch'!"
The whole room burst out into laughter, minus most of the women of course, while Gun only stood there chuckling.
Yep. This was my life now. Spending every day sitting in the back room of this restaurant, which was the headquarters for Gun's crew. Same dingy, leather chairs, same worn out sofa against the wall, same card table in the back, day in and day out, with the only source of entertainment being the pool table in the center. Well, that and everybody's riveting stories.
"That was nothing," said Lu. "You should hear what happened to me last week with this girl I've been seeing."
"Really?" asked Chilly Chi Pa. "You're seeing a girl, as old as you fucking are?"
"Now hold on, fellas," Kyoko interjected. "I say we let the new girl tell us a story."
In an instant, all the eyes in the room shifted their gaze towards me, as I suddenly felt the pressure of having to entertain everybody. Obviously at a loss for words, I just sat there like a cat deer in the headlights, with my mouth hanging open like an idiot. I wanted to refuse their request for a story, but I didn't wanna piss them off. It just didn't seem prudent to get off on the wrong foot with these guys, so I did the best I could, and tried to rack my brain for any tales that might possibly interest them.
Before I could open my mouth to say anything, Gun interfered on my behalf.
"Come on, Kyoko," he said. "She obviously can't think of any. Lay off her, eh?"
While at first grateful and relieved that Gun had saved me from having to come up with some kind of anecdote, I actually got kinda pissed after a second or two. I may not have been able to recall an especially outrageous story that a seasoned triad member might come up with, but I had done some out there shit in my life. "Wait a minute," I said. "What makes you think I haven't done anything crazy or interesting?"
This got some pretty hearty, amused chuckles from everyone else in the room, minus Yin of course, being the emotionless machine that she was.
"Hey, I was just trying to save you from embarrassing yourself," Gun replied, in his usual deadpan tone.
Without waiting for another round of snickers from the peanut gallery, I defensively shot back at my older mentor. "Believe it or not, Gun, I'm not as vanilla as you think I am. I've done crazy shit before."
Everybody else in the room laughed even harder this time. "Damn, Gun," said a highly amused Chi Pa. "The new girl's got some fight in her."
"Yeah, Song," Gun replied. "Your stunned silence seemed to imply that pretty heavily."
That smug son of a bitch. At this point, I considered it a personal mission to prove him wrong. I didn't care if I had to completely fabricate it; I was gonna tell him the funniest, most laugh out loud story he had ever heard in his life. "Alright," I said. "Gimme until tomorrow to think of something. I'll knock you all on your asses, you'll be laughing so hard."
"I can assure you we'll all be looking forward to that," Kyoko said.
"Alright," Gun said, clapping his hands together. "Sorry to spoil the fun, but I have a few business matters to discuss with a friend of ours over the phone, so everybody out."
And within seconds, the whole room cleared out, with myself and the others making our way out of the back room and into the main area of the restaurant.
The place was deserted, seeing as how it was after closing time, so none of us had to worry about startling any customers. During the day, though, it was a whole different story. If, for whatever reason, we had to meet in Gun's office, we had to sneak in and out through the back door, so as to avoid being seen by anybody. Needless to say, it was a real pain in the ass.
But most of the time, if we were discussing business matters, we would just sit down and order food. Qin had us sweep the place every week for wire taps, so it was perfectly safe to talk there.
As the group of us stepped outside into the freezing Republic City air, the others decided to strike up another conversation.
"Y'know, one of these days we're gonna get you to laugh, Yin," Lu said.
"Yeah, don't hold your breath," Yin replied.
"Maybe Song over here will be the one who finally gets a chuckle outta you," Lu teased further.
"How 'bout it, Song?" asked Mong. "You think you can get Yin to laugh?"
Finally, my sense of humor kicked in, and I blurted out the first response that came to mind. "I think the only way you could make Yin laugh is if you show her a picture of a dead puppy."
This got a raucous batch of laughs from everybody but Yin, who was obviously less than amused.
In typical Yin fashion, rather than show me an emotion of any kind, she simply stared at me blankly, then started walking off down the street.
"Aw, come on, Yin!" Kyoko called after her.
"Come on, we were just breaking your balls!" Lu added.
"You know she doesn't have any," Chi Pa piped up.
"You know what I mean!" Lu shot back.
I silently thanked Chi Pa for correcting him that time.
"Well," Kyoko said. "it's been a fun night. But I guess it's time to go home and hit the hay."
"I definitely second that," said Mong. "I'll see you fellas later."
While everybody else either started walking down the street or drove away in their own car, I went ahead and made my way towards the nearest tram station.
I knew it probably would've been a much better option to just hitch a ride with one of the others, but the tram station wasn't that far away, and I'd rather just ride by myself than with one of them. I guess I didn't really have anything against any of them personally, but I just couldn't connect with them, y'know? I'd been hanging around these guys for a little while now, and even though I spent practically every day with them, there was nothing I could relate to about any of them.
Except maybe Kyoko. She just had this really lively, carefree attitude that I really admired. Yet at the same time, she could also be this really awesome badass. I once saw her slam a guy's head against a table, then shoot him backwards into a wall by bending a huge rock at him. I heard it gave him a concussion. Plus, she knew what it was like to be a woman in this business, which not many people did. And unlike me and Yin, she had decades of experience. One day, I'd have to sit down and ask her to tell me some stories about the things she had seen.
Then there was Mong, who I thought was kind of an asshole. Not that he had done anything to personally offend me, although his jokes didn't really help. He was just a really big ballbreaker, who didn't realize when he had gone too far in making fun of someone. There were even a few times when he had tried to include me into a conversation, which made me feel pretty good. It made me feel like I was part of the gang. But like so many other people in this business, he had a really bad temper, which often led to vicious, verbal disputes with others, and showcased how much of an asshole he could be. Not really someone you'd go out of your way to talk to.
Chi Pa was a pretty interesting guy to me from the start. You'd think he was a shaman, if you hadn't seen firsthand what a gangster he was. He was this deeply spiritual guy, who had a strong fascination with Water Tribe culture. A fact that you'd know within ten minutes of meeting the guy, because it came up in nearly everything he talked about. One time, I pointed out to him how pretty the moon looked, and he went off on this diatribe about the moon spirit and how she and the ocean spirit were responsible for all the balance in the world and blah, blah, blah and shit like that. And while he was highly spiritual, yet at the same time a murderer, and I found that interesting, it didn't change the fact that he was also very boring.
Then there was Lu. Lu may have actually been my favorite. Lu was fucking awesome. He just said whatever came to mind, and for a guy in his late seventies, he sure had some pretty interesting things to say. He didn't really say much, but when he did, you knew it was gonna be something worth listening to.
I guess I was gonna have to learn to like them all, which I was pretty sure I could do, but still. I just wished there was somebody I could really relate to. That's when it occurred to me. Kodana. If there was anyone in this business I could relate to, it was her. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I felt like me and Kodana shared a lot of the same qualities. Same personality, same profession, same sense of style. Well, for the most part. I never really thought blue was my color. The key difference between the two of us, though, was that she was a merciless, fear-inducing, cold-as-ice killer. Or at least, that was what her reputation led me to believe, and I had no reason to doubt it. You don't get to be the leader of a bending triad without possessing those qualities.
But she seemed to like me the one time we met during the peace summit a few months ago, and she even offered to take me to lunch. So I figured, why not take her up on her offer?
Ever since the Agni Kais had started causing trouble on her turf about a month ago, she and the Red Monsoons had taken our side in the war, so it wasn't like I was breaking any rules or going behind anybody's back or anything like that. Just having lunch with an ally of ours. And, of course, I would run it by Qin first anyway, just in case.
Once I reached the tram station, the thought of a delightful lunch with Kodana was all I needed to make the streetcar ride home a lot more pleasant.
As I strolled down the halls of Triple Threat Triad headquarters, a question formed in my mind that I had never really thought of before. Why was our headquarters located in a five-story building in the middle of downtown Republic City?
I mean, on the outside, it looked like the headquarters for a construction company, but I just thought it would be a better option to choose something smaller. Like the restaurant where our crew was located. It was small, inconspicuous, and it wasn't even on a main road. I don't know. It just seemed like it would draw less attention.
As I made my way towards the end of the hall, where Qin's office was, I was able to hear his voice, as well as somebody else's, discussing something important. At least, it sounded to me like it was important. If it was, though, it was stupid of them to just leave the door open so that anyone could hear.
Having made the decision to listen in, I started to take slower steps, so I could eavesdrop on their conversation longer.
"We can't just go jumping to conclusions," I heard Qin say.
"I'm telling you! It makes perfect sense!" said the other voice, who I recognized belonged to Zolt. "Look at her history. Tell me it's not something she would do!"
"As of right now, this is all just speculative," Qin replied. "We have no definitive proof yet that this problem even exists."
"Even so," said Zolt. "You've gotta admit there's something fishy goin' on here."
"I know," said Qin. "But for now, all we can do is keep our eyes peeled."
Before either of them could continue, I finally approached Qin's office and knocked on the open door.
Zolt nearly jumped out of his skin upon hearing the knock, while Qin simply turned his head over to look at me. I wasn't sure if Zolt was just scared of me in general, or if he was worried I'd heard anything. Either way, seeing him so spooked for a second gave me pleasure.
"Hi," I said, still on the other side of the door. "Is this a bad time?"
"No," Qin replied. "Zolt and I were just finishing up."
The Triple Threat leader then motioned for his associate to leave, prompting Zolt to walk out of his boss' office and shoot me a glance as he walked past me. I didn't take too kindly to that narrowed gaze of his, nor was I threatened by it. I just brushed it off and stepped right into Qin's office.
"I just came by to tell you I was thinking of having lunch with Kodana," I told him.
"Lunch with Kodana?" Qin asked, raising his eyebrows upon repeating the words.
"Yes," I replied. "I just thought I'd tell you since I don't know how to get in touch with her, and... well, I thought I should ask you first anyway, so it doesn't look like I'm going behind your back."
Qin paused for a moment before speaking again, annoying me more and more by the second by making me wait for an answer longer than I needed to. I didn't even try to guess what he was thinking. I just wanted him to hurry up. "Alright," he said. "I'll give you the number."
"Thank you," I said, waiting for a moment while he scribbled the number down on a piece of paper and handed it to me.
I turned to leave the office, but before I could even take two steps, Qin called after me. "Song," he said.
I turned around to see him once more, only for him to pause again. "Be careful with Kodana," he said. "She's a slippery one."
Not really understanding why I had to be so cautious around a supposed ally of ours, I simply nodded and said, "Okay," before walking off down the hall towards the elevator.
The only thing I thought of on the way down was who Qin and Zolt could've possibly been talking about. Was it Kodana? Yin? Me? There weren't very many people to choose from, considering it was a 'her' they were talking about. Whoever it was, it was somebody they seemed very suspicious about. Maybe it was Kodana, seeing as how Qin just told me to watch out for her.
I figured it best not to worry about it for now, and put it out of mind once I reached the elevator.
Two days later, I found myself sitting opposite the boss of the Red Monsoons herself, in the outside dining area of a restaurant on what I assume was her turf. The waiters knew her by name, and she acted like this was her usual spot, so I'm guessing this was the place she usually met with people.
I had only just sat down a minute ago, and we'd spent most of that time ordering food, so the two of us hadn't really had the chance to chat very much yet.
But now that we'd gotten our orders out of the way, it was her that started up a conversation.
"I gotta say," she said. "I didn't think this lunch would ever happen."
"How come?" I asked.
"I just didn't think you'd even still be alive by now," Kodana replied. "Those guys wanted you dead so bad. I guess it's lucky for you that somebody killed Khan." I hesitated for a moment before I replied, something I knew that she noticed. "Yeah," I responded. "Lucky for me."
What was even more lucky for me was that she decided not to press me on the matter any further, and instead changed the subject.
"So, how's this life been treating you?" she asked. "I know all about your, uh, kidnapping, shall we say? And, frankly, I would've thought you'd be plotting to take Qin and his guys out, but I heard you just got made not that long ago."
"Yeah," I replied. "It's certainly been crazy so far. I started off hating this job with every fiber of my being, but now I've just kind of accepted it. And to get made this soon is really an honor."
"Yeah, I'll say," said Kodana. "It took me forever to get made. Even longer to become the boss." Then there was a pause, as Kodana leaned towards me and spoke in a much softer tone. "But would you say you're still pissed at Qin?"
Caught totally off guard, I leaned back in my seat while a quizzical expression took hold of my face. "What do you mean?" I asked.
"Nothing," said Kodana. "It's just that, y'know, if you were stilled pissed at him for what he did to you... you could always come talk to me."
I wasn't completely sure of what she was implying. I mean, I had an idea of what she was implying, but I didn't dare say it unless I was absolutely sure. So I asked her again. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Kodana's expression shifted to one of puzzlement. I was clearly not giving off the vibe she thought I was. "Correct me if I'm wrong," she said. "But isn't the reason you came here today to... y'know... talk to me about Qin?"
Okay. That confirmed it. She definitely thought I was here to switch allegiances. Now I knew exactly why Qin was so cautious about me meeting with her. Spirits, I can only imagine what everyone else must have thought of me for doing this. I probably looked like the biggest fucking traitor. There was still a chance to turn this around though. I could tell her the truth and completely deny it.
"No," I said. "The reason I'm here is because you offered to have lunch with me during the peace summit, so I thought I'd take you up on it. Y'know, since we're working together now." I put extra emphasis on that last part, just to remind her that we were, in fact, working together and had no reason to turn on each other. A fact that, when thought about, really made you wonder why she was even trying to get me to change teams at all.
"Well, I'm sorry," Kodana responded. "I just thought it was a little strange for you to call me up out of the blue months after that summit even happened and randomly ask to have lunch for no apparent reason."
"Look, I don't mean any disrespect," I said. "But why would you need information on the Triple Threats if we're working together at the moment?"
"Y'know, you really shouldn't ask so many questions, Song," Kodana said rather bluntly, in what was basically a threat against me. "I'm obviously not planning on moving against Qin," she added. "It's just always good to know as much as you can about the people you do business with."
And it was at that moment, when the waiter finally came back with our food at the most awkward moment possible, that I realized what a mistake this was. That not only were the two of us able to find any sort of common ground on anything, but that she more or less saw me as an enemy now. Or at least someone whom she couldn't trust.
So the two of us just sat there eating our meal and talking about whatever subject came to mind. All the while, I was thinking of who I was gonna tell about this and what I was even gonna say.
Later that night, and me and the rest of Gun's crew were huddled together back in the back room of our restaurant hideout, shooting the breeze as usual. However, unlike most nights, tonight's subject matter actually captured my interest. Everybody was talking about Zolt, and basically how much of an asshole he was.
"I heard his latest girlfriend left him not too long ago," Mong said. "On account of a few bruises she may have gotten here and there."
"He's been going around telling everybody the opposite," said Kyoko. "Saying that he dumped her."
"I'll tell you something else he's been lying about," said Chi Pa. "Those bruises he got a while back. He says it was these two huge guys who beat him up, but I heard it was a girl."
This got a couple of oohs and ahs from the majority of the people in the room.
"And why is that so implausible?" Yin asked.
"And she speaks!" said Mong. "It's a miracle!"
"I didn't say it was implausible," said Chi Pa. "I'm just saying what I heard."
"I don't believe it," said Mong.
"Well, you should," I piped up, causing all eyes to focus on me. "Because it was me who did it."
Everybody just kinda stared at me for a minute. Not really sure what to say. Not really sure if I was joking or not.
"You did it?" Kyoko asked.
"Yep," I replied. "Knocked him to the floor with a punch and beat his ass without even trying."
"Damn," Lu said. "Respect."
"Oh, by the way, that reminds me," Gun chimed in. "Weren't you supposed to tell us all a hilarious joke tonight?"
"Oh yeah!" said Mong. "I really wanna hear this. I wanna hear what you spent all day coming up with."
Fuck me. I had been so focused on my lunch with Kodana that I had completely forgotten about the story I was supposed to tell. "Uh, okay," I said, racking the deepest parts of my brain for something, anything, to tell these guys.
"We're waiting," Gun said, his passive aggressive behavior pissing me off once again.
Then, just when I thought I'd have to concede and admit that I had nothing, a story came to mind.
"Okay, I've got one," I said. "So, this one night, about a year ago, I was in my friend Gan's nightclub, just sitting there and having a few drinks as usual. Actually, it was a few more than usual, and I was feeling kinda tipsy. So I just turn over to the person sitting at the bar to the right of me, and I say, or rather, slur, without any inhibitions whatsoever, 'Why is it that there are no good guys in this city? It just seems like, no matter how hard you try, you can never really find one you just click with, y'know what I mean? Like, do you know what I mean?'. And she says, 'Yeah, I've definitely been there before'. So I go, 'How do we fix that problem? How do we find somebody we, like, y'know, actually wanna be with?'. And she goes, 'Well, I'm not looking for anybody right now, but I'll tell you what. I'll set you up with this guy I know that I think you might like'. So I say yes, and she tells me to tell him that Lee was the one that set him up. And, of course, I realize that that's a guy's name, but I'm too drunk to care or even ask any questions."
At this point, I could see that everybody in the room, even Yin, was completely riveted by this story. They were all either leaning forward, or staring at me with laser-like focus. I practically had them all eating out of the palm of my hand.
"So she gives me his number," I continued. "And I call him, and we have this great night out that ends with me going back to his apartment fucking his brains out. And after it's over, we're lying together in bed, right? And he says, 'Wow, I'm gonna have to thank Lee tomorrow for setting this up'. And I said, 'So am I. She really came through for both of us'. And he says, 'Wait a minute. She? Lee is a guy'. And I'm so confused, right? I'm just like, 'No, Lee is a she'. And he insists that Lee is most definitely not a she, and I'm like, 'Well, the person who gave me your number was a she'. Then before we can figure it out, the woman comes barging into the bedroom, scaring the crap out of both of us. It turns out he was married and his wife was the one that set us up. She'd suspected him of cheating on her with several other women, and set us up in order to see if she was right. And, well, obviously, she was. So she kicked me out and I never saw the guy again after that."
I didn't even have to wait for the thunderous laughter that followed from everyone in the room once I was finished. They all busted out laughing immediately afterwards, with Mong and Lu even laughing so hard, they were hunched over in pain.
"Oh, my gosh, that was fucking hilarious," said Mong. "Oh, that almost made me cry, I laughed so hard," said Mong.
"I think you owe her an apology, Gun," said Lu.
Gun let out a chuckle and nodded towards me. "Yeah, I guess you're right," he said. "I'm sorry, Song. I didn't know you had it in you."
"Well, now you do," I replied, just before letting a yawn escape from my throat. "Well, it's getting pretty late. I'm gonna go ahead and head home."
"See ya around, Song," said Mong, as I stood up and made my way towards the door.
"Take care," said Chi Pa.
"Have a nice night," said Kyoko.
"Thanks," I said.
Then it just hit me that I'd forgotten to tell him about what Kodana and I talked about during lunch. Shit. I was just forgetting everything tonight. As important as it probably was that I told him, I didn't really feel like getting into a whole conversation about it now. I was way too tired. Plus, I didn't wanna spoil everybody's night by asking them to leave. So I just decided I'd tell him the next time I saw him.
"Oh, and Gun, remind me to tell you about something tomorrow," I said. "It's pretty important."
"Okay," Gun said simply, without even looking over at me.
Then it didn't take me long to walk all the way through the sea of empty chairs and tables that made up the restaurant, and out onto the dark Republic City streets.
That night was notable for being one of the few up until that point that I left with a mile-wide smile on my face, and finally feeling like one of the gang. It would take me a while to become comfortable with them the way they were comfortable with each other, but I had to start from somewhere, and this was a good place to do it.
However, everything changed the moment I felt somebody from behind grab my arm. Without even thinking, I instinctively whipped around in a flash and ignited a flame in the palm of my hand, prepared to take down whoever my assailant may be. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief once I saw it was Yin, and lowered my defenses. I could tell from her reaction that she hadn't expected me to turn around so fast like that.
"A bit jumpy much?" she asked.
"Well, how do you expect me to react when you just grab me from behind?" I retorted. "And when you've been jumped as many times as I have-"
"I'm sorry I said anything," she interjected, cutting me off like a bitch. "I just wanted to talk to you real quick about your lunch with Kodana."
Completely flabbergasted, and a bit pissed off that she had interrupted me, I narrowed my gaze and stared at her in confusion. "How did you know about that?" I asked.
"Just keep whatever she said to yourself for now," she said. "Okay?"
Again, not really understanding how or if she knew about that at all, all I did was nod and say, "Okay."
"Promise me," Yin said, taking a step closer to me.
"I promise," I said.
Then Yin just simply nodded and was off on her merry way back to the restaurant, leaving me alone and confused on a dark Republic City street.
Once I started walking again, I began thinking about the conversation between Qin and Zolt I heard earlier. Maybe it wasn't Kodana they were talking about. I mean, it seemed likely, considering how suspicious she was acting at lunch, but that didn't mean it was definitely her. It seemed more to me like it was Yin they were talking about. Why wouldn't she want me telling anyone what happened? How did she even know about the lunch, let alone what was said during it? Or maybe it really was me. I don't know. Come to think of it, I didn't even know what they were talking about. It only sounded like they were suspicious of somebody they knew.
I let those thoughts occupy my mind as I boarded the streetcar and began my ride home.
For the collective works of the author, go here.