|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
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|The Acid Ocean|
I'll never forget the way I felt when I sent the entire triad peace summit into a fiery tailspin that ended with it violently crashing into the ground. It wasn't a feeling power or control, and it damn sure wasn't fear. It was an almost overwhelming sense of righteousness. It was as if there was a whole ocean of it, plunging me into its watery depths and cleansing away all of the sins I had committed while working for the triads. But this ocean wasn't made of water. No, no, no. It was made of acid. Because diving into this vast sea of righteousness would end my life. Of that I was certain. But I managed to drown Qin, Tang, Khan, and all the other triad higher ups of this city in the process. Finally, the people who were turning this city into a spider-rat infested crime hole would pay for their crimes against Republic City and all of its inhabitants who had suffered abuse, extortion, and murder at their hands. And frankly? I couldn't have been any fucking happier that I got to be the one who delivered the blow.
There was a brief but viciously uncomfortable silence the moment after I said, 'no'. I think everyone in the room was more stunned than angered by my response. They hadn't expected this rookie who was obviously way in over her head to show this kind of moxy.
Amazingly, Kodana, of all people, was the first one to speak up. "Geez, holy mother of the moon spirit, this girl's got guts!" she said, both amused and impressed with me.
No more than a second later, Yai rocketed out of his seat and slammed his fist against the table. "Don't fucking test us, bitch!" he threatened. "You apologize for kidnapping our father right now!"
"Hey, why don't you sit the fuck down?!" bellowed Slippery Suji. "This is bullshit! I mean, are you kidding me with this apology crap?! Your dad is alive, you're alive, and we're not rolling over for you or anybody else! End of the fucking discussion!"
"That's not your call to make, Suji!" Qin roared.
"Suji, seriously," Gun added, offering his input for the first time this started. "Shut your fucking mouth."
"Fellas, fellas," Khan interjected, surprisingly calm. "While I'd hate to interrupt this beautiful exchange of words, I'm afraid I need to take a moment to make things clear. If we don't get an apology from that broad right fucking now, then we are gonna have no choice, but to go to war with you." Then, his piercing, gold eyes - the ones I'd looked into on so many nights when all I wanted was to escape the pressures of this world for a few hours - turned their line of sight directly towards me. "So, what's it gonna be, Song?"
"Geez, this is fucking unbelievable!" Motormouth Moku hollered. "I can't believe what I'm fucking lookin' at here! Are you gonna share your thoughts with us at all, Big Bang Tang?" he added, speaking in an extremely condescending way.
"You watch your fucking mouth, you piece of shit," Tang warned.
"I'm just asking!" said Moku.
"Moku, enough!" Qin ordered.
"Don't you wanna hear what Tang has to say?" Moku continued. "Because I do."
"I've already said what I had to say!" Tang fought back. "If she doesn't apologize, then that's it! This meeting is over!"
"Ho, ho, boy," Moku laughed. "Who the fuck do you think you're kidding? I think if we take anything away from this meeting, it's that now we know who really runs the Agni Kai Triad! The guy sittin' to your left!"
"Shut the fuck up, you motherless piece of shit!" Tang shouted, bursting out of his chair.
"I think you're right, Moku," said Suji. "I think the only big bang going on here is Khan's dick in your ass!"
And that's when things got a little nasty. Tang bolted over to Suji, erupting like a volcano, and began beating the living shit out of him, tackling him to the floor as he rained down blow upon blow.
This comment also managed to shatter the aura of level headedness that Khan had managed to keep around him, causing him to charge over to Moku and send a bone-rattling punch directly into his stomach.
As the Triple Threat and Agni Kai higher ups engaged in the bloody brawl of brutality that had replaced the once civilized peace summit, I and a few others sitting near me leaped out of our seats and darted over to the other side of the room, so as not to get caught in the middle of the confrontation. Meanwhile, the others in the room attempted to break up the fight.
Mao and Saru were trying their damnedest to get Khan away from Moku, but were unsuccessful in doing so, with Saru receiving an elbow to the gut from his superior and falling back to the floor.
In the meantime, Silver 'Stache Yash and his associate, Ren, ran over to Tang and attempted to pry his hands from around Suji's throat. They managed to yank at least one of his arms back, causing the Agni Kai leader to turn around and cough up a minor and non-lethal blast of fire from his mouth in defense.
I was so gripped by the intense display of violence, that I practically jumped in fear when I heard Qin's deafening bellow of anger echo throughout the place.
"HEY!!!" his voice boomed across the room, causing everybody to stop what they were doing. "No bending in here! This is a peace summit! Have you forgotten our honor system?!"
Tang removed himself from the floor, allowing the bloodied collection of bruises known as Suji the chance to finally breathe. He wiped a bit of blood from his bottom lip and pointed a finger at Qin. "You might wanna teach some of these motherless pieces of shit about honor yourself," he said.
"These two will be promptly dealt with. I assure you," Qin replied.
"Yeah, you got that fucking right," Tang shot back. "If these cocksuckers can even still breathe after today, they'll be dealt with very promptly. By us." He looked down at Suji, who was lying flat on his back, and looking like he had just gotten run over by a truck. Tang kicked him as hard as he could in the side, causing him to emit a wheezing groan of agony. "You hear me, you filthy fucking mutt?! I'm the motherfucker who runs the Agni Kais! I'm the guy who's gonna give the order to have all your fucking friends shot down like dogs in the street! Not Khan! You fucking hear me?!" he said with one more kick.
"Kick him again," Gun finally spoke up, catching everyone's attention. "And you and me are gonna settle this outside."
Tang turned his attention from Suji to Gun, giving my only friend in this room a look of unmistakable hatred. The two locked eyes and held each other's gaze for a moment, making me think the two of them were gonna leap over the table and come to blows right there in the room. But Tang was the one who ended up taking the high road, and looked over to Qin instead. "I hope you're happy," he said. "You wanted to avoid a war, and now you've got one. Now get the fuck out of here."
Showing no weakness whatsoever, Qin remained silent for a moment before making a statement of any kind. Despite his talks of peace, he wanted it to be known that he was in control, not anybody else. That he wasn't scared of a war between his triad and Tang's. Just as the words were about to leave his lips, he was interrupted by someone else.
"Well, it's been fun," said Kodana. "But I think I'm gonna hit the road." All of her associates got up from their seats as well, following her as she walked over to the door. "Again, just make sure none of this crap spews over into my territory. That would be great." Then, just before she made her way out the exit, she managed to get my undivided attention. "And Song, seriously, feel free to look me up if you ever wanna have lunch or something. I mean, if you don't get shot on a street corner first. You've got guts, girl. I like that about you."
Then the Red Monsoons were on their merry way, making it seem as if they had never really been there in the first place. I was seriously tempted to take her up on that offer. Again, assuming I wouldn't be dead by the end of the week, which I probably would be.
Then, finally, Qin quickly buttoned up his suit and motioned for all of us to follow him. "Let's go," he said, prompting me, Gun, and a heavily bruised Moku to follow him. "And someone get Suji off the floor."
The ensuing months since the meeting were difficult. I tell ya, I know I sound crazy saying that the universe is actually conspiring to make me unhappy, but in times like this, I don't see how you can deny it.
I stood up in that meeting and defied everyone, and I did it for the good of Republic City no less. In that moment, for the first time since the night I got abducted outside that club, I didn't feel scared. I knew that what I did would have a major impact on this city's organized crime and, yes, I knew I'd pay for it with my life, but I took solace in the fact that I'd have a quick and easy death waiting for me. But over three months later, and I was still walking down the streets, looking over my shoulder and afraid that they could come for me at any moment.
The fact that they'd waited this long to kill me meant that my death wouldn't be quick and painless. It meant that they had something special planned for me. The same must have been true of Gun, because he was still alive too.
I agonized constantly over how they were going to do it for the first month or so, which often led to fits of sobbing. I was usually able to keep my emotions in check when I was in public, mostly letting myself cry in the comfort of my own home. But there were several times when I just couldn't keep myself together and had to let it out. Mostly it happened whenever I was walking down the street.
And with the countless amount of violent bending shootouts and slayings of all kinds, each one seemingly more horrible than the last, I was able to get a better idea of what was in store for me. And I wondered if that was Khan's plan all along. To show me the many malicious ways they were capable of murdering me, and watch me worry myself into the ground and make me wish I was dead.
After two more months of endless triad warfare raging all around me, and the year 146 AG having just recently arrived, I decided to finally just give up. I knew they were gonna kill me. I knew it would be a surprise. I knew Khan wasn't gonna stop letting me squirm until his sadistic needs were satisfied. So I just accepted it and waited for it to happen. I wasn't gonna live my final days worrying about this. I was gonna live them being myself. I was gonna live them doing the things I loved. I was gonna live them like they were my last days on Earth.
It was currently around ten o'candle at night, and I was making my way down to Gan's nightclub. He and I hadn't spoken in a few weeks, as the result of an argument the two of us had. Well, it wasn't really an argument. It was more of me snapping at him after a particularly excruciating day of mental anguish, and storming out. I felt too bad about coming back, seeing as how the man had never done anything other than try to comfort me whenever I was feeling down. Tonight, though, I just had to see him again. I couldn't bear the thought of that being the last conversation we ever had. Plus, I owed him an apology above all else.
I stepped out of the cab I was riding in after paying the driver his money, and placed my feet onto the sidewalk, walking inside with my hands tucked in my coat pockets. I slowly and carefully waded my way through the crowd of people that populated the nightclub, noticing that they all looked far happier than me, and allowing me to remember what I was like before all this. Before I joined the Triple Threats, you couldn't tell me apart from any of the other people in here. I remember the night the incident happened, I was sauntering through here, bragging about whoever the fuck I'd slept with earlier that night, and boldly taking somebody on in a fight. I was as happy and carefree as these lucky bastards were now.
I put that out of mind though, seeing as how it didn't really matter at this point, and finally reached my usual spot at the bar, only to see that Gan wasn't there. I plopped myself down on the bar stool and looked around for a second or two, trying to see if I could locate him or figure out where he had possible gone.
Then I spotted Yoshi, that comedian who had performed here a couple of times, standing a few feet away from me, and I decided to ask him. I got up and quickly walked over to him, having caught his attention before I reached him.
"Hey!" he said, extending his hand to me. "Song, right?"
"Yeah," I replied, shaking his hand out of courtesy. "Do you have any idea where Gan is?"
"Oh, he called in sick," Yoshi answered. "Said he wasn't feeling well."
Great. Just my fucking luck.
"Oh," I said, trying not to sound too dejected. "Well, thanks anyway," I added.
As I turned around to leave, my heart nearly burst out of my chest as I saw Zolt standing right behind me, grinning the most malicious of smiles. "Hi," he said. "Is this a bad time?"
"What do you want?" I asked him, determined to stand my ground.
"Moku and Suji got hit today," he said quietly, making sure no one could hear him, but still managing to convey an extremely threatening tone.
I don't know why I was surprised. Frankly, I should've been surprised that they didn't get hit sooner. Tang made it extremely clear during the meeting that they were at the top of his hit list, even if Gun and I were at the top of Khan's.
"How did it happen?" I asked.
"How did it happen?" Zolt repeated. "Well, let's see, a few months ago, you decided to be a mouthy little bitch - as you're known to be - and didn't wanna apologize to Khan. Then, three months later, Moku and Suji both got shot in the head while they were eating at a restaurant."
This motherfucker was making a big mistake pushing me on a night like this. I had never been less in the mood for his crap than I was that night, and he wasn't holding back with his douche-baggery. I also didn't feel like fighting either, so I decided to keep sparring with him verbally, rather than physically. "I only said one word," I replied to him. "They said a lot more than me."
"They were my fucking friends, you little cunt!" Zolt said. "Moku was my fucking mentor! And they died because you couldn't keep your bitchy little mouth shut!"
That was it. I simply wasn't gonna take it anymore. All of my inhibitions completely disintegrated as I lunged forward at Zolt, socking him square in the face and sending him crashing to the floor. Taken completely by surprise, Zolt didn't have a chance to get back up and was completely helpless when I knelt down and began to mercilessly pummel him, my fist repeatedly popping against his face as I unleashed all of the fury that had been building up in me since the day this madness started.
"Fuck you!" I screeched, tears soaring down my face. Then I kept repeating the phrase with every blow I landed on him. "Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you! FUCK YOU!!!"
Then I finally back got up, the helpless Zolt still curled up on the floor. "This is all your fault! You ruined my life! You ruined my fucking life! You're blaming me for this?! If you hadn't abducted me that night and just left me alone, none of this would've happened!"
Without even caring about whether he still wanted to fight me, I carried myself towards the exit, intent on going straight home and going straight to bed. Then, just because I thought to myself, 'what the fuck?', I turned around to say one final thing. "And you can stop with the derogatory comments. Calling me a bitch and a cunt. I've kicked your ass twice now without even trying." Then I just marched out the door and stood out in the freezing cold, waiting for a cab.
By the time I got home, I was feeling somewhat better. I guess taking all of my anger out on Zolt really took a load off. Still, things weren't exactly peachy. Really, all I wanted to do was go to bed in the hopes that something good would happen tomorrow.
Once I got inside, I hung up my coat and started to go towards my bedroom, while briefly being annoyed by the sound of my telephone ringing.
Tomorrow was, thankfully, my day off, so I was planning on going back down to Gan's club again and trying to hang out with him at some point during the day. That is, if he was feeling better. And even if he wasn't, I was still at least gonna go over to his house and apologize.
Then the telephone rang a second time, which is when it hit me. That was probably him trying to call me now. He must've heard from someone that I was at the club, and he wanted to talk to me.
I quickly ran out into the living room and picked up the phone to answer. "Hello?" I asked.
"North end under the Silk Road Bridge. One hour. Come alone," said the voice on the other end of the line before hanging up.
When I hung up the phone, I wasn't scared. I wasn't anxious. I wasn't anything other than prepared to walk out that door and meet my end. After three long months, Khan had finally decided to make his move.
It was a little over half past eleven by the time I got to the Silk Road Bridge. Once I got out of the cab I had taken, I began walking towards the underbelly of the great metal structure, striding down the mile to my doom as if I were a prisoner on death row. I shivered as the frosty winds hurled themselves at me, chilling me to the bone.
Damn. Why does this city have to be so cold?
Once I got near the bridge, there was only one thing I kept pondering. Why would Khan make me wait all this time, only to let me know when and where his attack was coming? He knew where I lived, he knew where I often hung out, and he knew where I worked. Heck, he could've just whacked me on the street if he wanted to! Why do it this way?
I was almost underneath the structure when I saw him finally emerge. From around the corner of the building closest to the bridge, he walked out, looking as smug as ever. "Glad you could make it, Song," he said.
"I want you to know something," I said to him, stepping closer and closer to him. "You may have hurt me. You may have caused me mental abuse on a rather large level. But you didn't break me. Even now that I'm here on my last leg awaiting death, you still haven't broken me. So just go ahead and kill me." By the time I had finished walking towards him, we were right in each other's faces. We were practically on top of each other.
Khan stared me dead in the face for a moment. His expression was as serious as I'd ever seen it. I seriously felt with every bone in my body that he was going to strangle me right there underneath the moonlight. And with every passing second, I was more ready to embrace it.
Then he let out a laugh of genuine amusement and backed away from me, having gotten a kick out of the little bit of the psychological torture he had just inflicted upon me. "I don't want to kill you!" he proclaimed. "No, no, no. Quite the opposite, honey. I want you to kill me."
This would have caught me completely off guard if I actually thought he was serious.
"What?" I asked him, not really getting what he was trying to do and annoyed that he was still trying to toy with me.
"The original plan was to just bump you on the street a week after the meeting was over," Khan explained. "But I saw something in you that day when you said no to me, Song. Something I'd never seen in you before that changed everything."
"And what was that?" I asked.
He took a pause before questioning me again. "Why did you say no to me, Song?" he inquired.
"You really wanna know why?" I asked.
"Yes," Khan replied. "I really wanna know why."
"So I could send all of the organized crime in this city crumbling to the ground," I answered. "So I could avenge every single person who's lost something because of you and everyone like you. So I could die knowing that I was the one to do it."
"Bullshit!" Khan said. "Tell me why you really did it."
Completely indignant, I spat more words back into Khan's face. "That it why I really did it!" I insisted.
"No it isn't!" Khan barked. "Why'd you really do it? Be honest with me."
It had gotten to the point where I was having shortness of breath. I was absolutely terrified to speak the words that had entered my mind. I couldn't say them. To speak these words would be the death of me. The person I had been for my entire life up until now. The most horrifying part of it was... it really was the truth.
I squinted my eyes and resigned myself to my fate, spitting out the words I was so mortified to speak. "I did it to get back at you. I did it so you would feel weak. So you would feel something close to the way you made me feel."
Khan let out another pompous chuckle, having basically made me commit character suicide in one fell swoop. It was just starting to dawn on me that he was actually very serious about this. He actually expected me to kill him. He was trying to goad me into it as much as possible. "And you knew what was at stake," he said. "You endangered all those lives. The lives of all of those people working in the triads and any potential bystanders, all so you could get back at me. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Such a naughty girl you are, Song."
"Shut the fuck up!" I snarled, igniting a flame in the palm of my hand and holding it above my head.
"Atta girl!" he said. "Now kill me. Show me who you really are underneath that soft, weepy skin of yours."
I wanted to kill him so badly. I truly, intensely and with every fiber of my being, hated him. More than I had ever hated another human being. But I couldn't do it. I wasn't going to let him win. If I killed him, I would go on for the rest of my life pretending like it was justified. That somehow he deserved to die and that I had no other choice. But it would all be bullshit. If I killed him, he would have the final laugh for all of time. I wasn't going to let him have it.
I extinguished the flame in my hand and took a few steps away from him in order to calm myself down. "No," I said. "I'd rather die than end up being a murderer. So just go ahead and kill me, you sack of shit. I'm tired of you wasting my time."
Khan smiled once more and, even to my surprise's surprise, the man actually walked away, going back behind the bridge.
I couldn't fucking believe it. For a good couple of seconds, I felt an immense jubilation, the likes of which I didn't think were possible to achieve at this point in time. Against all odds. Against any kind of reasonable logic. I had been given another chance.
Then Khan emerged from behind the bridge, holding Gan hostage with a gag around his mouth and flame to his throat. So that was enough to send me plummeting back down twelve feet deeper into anxiety than I already was before.
"Alright," Khan said. "I guess we're gonna have to do this the hard way."
"Let him go!" I screamed, more terrified than I ever knew I had the capacity to be.
"You're gonna have to make a choice, Song," Khan said. "You either kill me or let your friend die. So which is it gonna be?"
"Please let him go!" I begged. "I'll leave the city! I'll never bother you again! I'll do anything you want! Just please, please let him go!"
"Five seconds, Song."
"PLEASE!!!" I shrieked.
"I'M FUCKING SORRY!!!"
In the undisputed worst two seconds of my life, I watched as fire shot from my fingertips into the head of a man, taking his life away in an instant.
I couldn't feel. I couldn't breathe. Everything around me was spinning. I could do or say nothing except watch Khan's lifeless body, that was lifeless because of my direct actions, topple to the floor, then drop to my knees. Using whatever energy I had left in my body, I emitted a star-shattering howl of despair that rang across the entire city.
In my brain, there was only one constant thought. I've killed a man. I've killed a man. I've killed a man.
Then it was replaced by the overwhelming despair of the fact that, in the end, he had won. He was dead, lying on the ground with singe marks on his face, but he was the one who defeated me. Not the other way around. In his final act, the man I once cared very deeply about had managed to bring the ultimate torment upon me.
Gan managed to undo the gag in his mouth and dashed over to me, kneeling down beside me to try and bring me comfort as I began sobbing. "It's okay, child," he said to me in his smooth, soothing, voice. "I'm here for you. It's gonna be okay."
I clutched onto him, not even thinking, and continued bawling into his arms. "I killed him, Gan," I wept. "I killed him."
"Listen to me," Gan said, looking me in the eye. "You are not a bad person. That man had it coming. You did what you had to do. Don't you go thinking for one second that you're a bad person because of this. That's what he wanted you to think."
"But it's true," I said.
"No, it's not," Gan replied. "Song, the best way to get over this is to keep on living. Show him that he died for nothing. That after all this, you'll still be the same old Song."
I put my head back in his arms and continued to sniffle and weep. "Thank you, Gan," I said.
"I'll always be here for you, baby girl," Gan replied.
The next morning, I went down to Triple Threat headquarters, even though it was my day off, and personally delivered the news to Qin. The face he made when I told him was something to behold. I honestly don't think he believed me at first, but no one else was claiming responsibility, so what else was he supposed to believe? Then he made a phone call to someone whose identity he didn't disclose with me and turned his attention back to me.
"Well, I must say," he said. "This is really something. When I heard last night on the radio that someone had whacked Khan, I thought it must've been one of our enforcers. Heck, I thought maybe Gun did it. But it was you."
I wasn't too appreciative of the fact that he kept reminding me of that.
"Perhaps hiring you to work for me wasn't such a bad decision after all," he added.
Well, at least now I had something resembling his trust, which is more than I had before. And I was gonna need it in spades, because last night made something perfectly clear for me. I wasn't gonna get out of the Triple Threats. I was past that at this point. I was driving myself crazy striving towards that impossibility, so it was time to accept the fact that this was my life now and try to live with it. Try to advance as far as I could in this world while simultaneously keeping my life.
"Believe it or not, we're actually winning this war," Qin continued. "Last night, only a couple of hours before you killed Khan, Zolt took out an Agni Kai enforcer. One of their best."
"Zolt?" I asked.
"Yeah," Qin replied. "Then he went to a club and got sucker punched by some guy. Or so he says."
"Yeah, I'm sure that's exactly what happened," I muttered.
"In light of that," said Qin. "He'll be getting a promotion to capo, seeing as how we just lost two."
While it worried me that Zolt would have more power from this point on, I took solace in the fact that he wasn't my boss. Gun still held that position, and I knew I had his protection.
"Oh, and you can leave now," Qin said. "It is your day off, after all. Just make sure you show up for work first thing tomorrow."
"Thank you, sir," I said before leaving the room.
I began making my way down the hall towards the elevator, wanting to get out of here as fast as possible, when suddenly, I saw Gun, Yin, Lu, and a couple other men I'd never met step out to meet me.
Gun approached me and gently took hold of my shoulders. "Hey," he said. "Qin just called and told me what you did. I'm proud of you, Song. They're all gonna fear you because of this."
All I did was simply look up at the man and say, "Thanks." Then I made my way into the elevator and waited for the doors to close without saying another word.
While the rest of them kept walking down the hallway towards Qin's office, Yin just simply stared back at me and said nothing. Nothing at all. In the few seconds that those doors stayed open, I was trying to read her facial expression. Was she proud of me? Angry? Disappointed? It was, as usual, impossible for me to understand what she was thinking.
Then the doors closed and the elevator began going down to the ground floor.
I'd had a lot of time to process the events of the previous night. I barely slept at all, as I was tossing and turning and thinking without end. My brain had been running rampant with all kinds of thoughts, most of them unpleasant, until, finally, I fell asleep. Then I woke up this morning and thought about it some more.
And, honestly, I didn't feel as bad about it the next day.
- Looking for something to read while you're waiting for book 2? Check out Agent Slash's latest short-series fanon, , coming soon.
For the collective works of the author, go here.