|More from Iluvcinderella||Noir||PG-13||Positive||One-Shot|
7 Decemeber, 2013
Mr. Jiquin considered the Republic City Park his home.
He had lived there for as long as he can remember...or cannot remember. Jiquin doesn't know his own history; who he was and what he must do. A goner.
A funny thing happens when Jiquin would sit beneath one of the many crimson trees for two days. He loved the tree and the mystery of it all fortifies as everyone ponder over that strange act Jiquin seems to lovingly reenact every two days in a month. No one understood why he loved that crimson tree.
Jiquin wrapped his arms around the tree and held it as tenderly as he could, caressing the smooth, worn bark with his stubble-laden cheek and tracing its all-too-familiar bumps and irregularities. To him, it was as warm and comforting as he assumed hugging another human felt. It had been so long, he could scarcely remember the last time he held someone in his arms...
Out of the corner of his eye, movement stirred just beyond his vision. As he slowly turned his head, the brief blur coalesced into a stout woman wearing a coat with entirely too many feathers who was giving him yet another puzzled stare, just like everyone else. When Jiquin's eyes finally met hers, the woman quickly averted her gaze and pretended to admire the flock of turtle ducks bobbing up and down in the nearby pond.
She doesn't understand, though Jiquin. No one does. The people assume he was just a very lonely person.
"Poor guy. Gone completely bonkers," some would say.
There was no lie to this. Jiquin really was a lonely fellow. With no one to talk to, Jiquin only talked to himself and, more importantly, the crimson tree. It made the locals frightened whenever Jiquin does that.
However, it wasn't just him that lived in the park. Surprisingly, there were a lot of other people like him in the park.
All of them coexist each other, forming a perfect ecosystem of lackluster nobodies.
During the day, they hid under large thick bushes, clearly avoiding the police officers roaming about. At night, however, they wander aimlessly like a dog scavenging for food.
But Jiquin is a different kind of vagabond. There was this peculiarity in him that made his persona stood out from the rest. Perhaps it was his harmless nature. Jiquin had never harmed a human being, nor will he ever. It was never in his intentions to hit back or to kill forcefully, be it for food, Yuans, or even if he was being hurt by others. He thought that these factors were a nuisance or was better left as it is. Instead, Jiquin was searching for something else entirely, something the other hobos were not seeking. The only question was what it was that Jiquin deeply wanted. The poor scrounger knew less to ever think how his life would be changed forever.
It was that time again.
Jiquin went running to his beloved crimson tree. An angel as he would put it.
"I'm coming, pretty one." Jiquin said while panting under heavy breath.
Jiquin's tattered clothes reflected shades of green and red; its folds rustling against the wind. His worn-out slippers almost beaten down as he ran towards the godforsaken tree. Jiquin's blue eyes, his square jaw and his astonishingly well-build, muscular body was all he ever oved about himself other than the tree. Jiquing took notice of those as he ran towards the tree. While he was running, he touched his abs, caressing it with his dirty, stubby fingers and while doing it, he saw how tan his skin was, and rage bubbled up like steaming gas and remembered that he hated seeing his skin color. Jiquin ran faster now, shouting at his feet to paddle the ground harder.
The sun's warmth poured down over the entire park, signaling the people around to wear their hats and fedoras. Jiquin, on the other hand, did not mind any of the distractions the earth could throw to him as he's deeply focused on reaching his tree, the solitary reason he exists. Somehow, he really needs to reach the tree. To touch it and feel it with his bare hands.
"Yes, yes. Almost there."
He ran and ran and ran. Unfortunately, Jiquin was too ignorant, distracted and easily fooled as he did not realize that Mother Nature intended to throw one last piece of mischief at him.
Jiquin's foot slipped on something while he reached for his tree. An unseen obstacle; a joke that the park unknowingly had in its magnificent body of luscious grass and decadent trees.
Jiquin's heart fell. He could hear the entire earth laughing at his failure. The humid air slapped his face as his entire mortality was being squandered without mercy. Like a metal reacting to amagnet, Jiquin's body was directed downward towards the laughing ground.
He could feel the hard blow on his head as he fell to the ground. His adrenaline surged through his veins. Jiquin felt anger at himself for being too clumsy; for not being too observant to have hit that lump of rock. Ironically, the beautiful tree radiated its ugly, hidden side: a sense of betrayal. The quality that Jiquin last thought the tree would possess.
"Won't you help me? Can't you see I'm hurt?"
But the tree only answered with the unforgiving sound of rustling leaves. His body had now fully prostrated itself on the ground and looked just like one of the falling leaves of the crimson tree. Jiquin unconsciously reached for his head and found that it was wet which bewildered him. There wasn't supposed to be body of water right where he was as the lake was still twenty walks away. The wetness, he deduced, must come from some other source, but what? He rubbed his head to get some of its specimen and looked at it using the fingers he used. As he looked at it, he clearly saw that his fingers were coated with some sort of red substance and this recognition, the discovery that the vagabond's globe was drenched with a sticky red liquid was immediately followed by the arrival of an excruciating pain throbbing at his temples and later, his entire head.
Blood. It had been a long time since he saw blood.
When was it exactly? I knew it involved someone that I knew before.
In a mysteriously sudden turn of events, his past memories flashed before him bit by bit like how Varrick movers present its moving pictures accompanied by prerecorded sounds. These bits of memory enabled him to remember how he witnessed a murder in action in the not too distant past. It was a waterbending hobo attacking a hapless woman. Jiquin remembered vaguely at how scared he was at that moment.
The hobo shouted, "Gimme Yuans or I'm gonna have to kill this child of yours!"
"You're gonna have to deal with me first. You ain't gonna touch any of my money."
No, what are you doing?!
The hobo's face etched annoyance after hearing an affirmation of noncooperation on the part of the woman.
"Have it your way dumb lady!"
Mom?! No! Please...
Jiquin's vision was now milky, almost like he was inside a tunnel with the light fainting towards the horizon. Shadows. He saw shadows. This must be death, he thought as a dark but silky silhouette formed while Jiquin's vision neared its epilogue.
"It'll be alright."
How long has it been? Three, five hours? Surely, Jiquin did not knew.
Jiquin could hear jazz music playing somewhere in the background. He used to love it. Did I?
"Mom. Can I please turn on the radio? Pleeaase."
"Alright baby, but please lower it down. You now how our neighbors hate it when you play your sounds too loud."
"I love you, son."
I love you
"Love, love, love. Now baby I love you. Never a fallacy. Maybe a fantasy, oooh..." The song continued on as jazz instruments played along. Jiquin wasn't sure what happened after he fell.
"Oh no, my tree!" he exclaimed.
Suddenly, the pain in his head re-surged. On the outside, Jiquin's face displayed no signs of pain, but he felt it.
Jiquin opened his eyes, beating the dirt embedded in his eyelashes. At the first moment his vision worked again, Jiquin tried to register his status quo. Sure enough, he was in a place he'd last thought he would be: somewhere that is not the outdoors. The four corners of the room were coated with alternating horizontal strips of blue and white paint. Several antiquities and pottery were standing alongside the bed he's on. Then he touched the surface of the bed. He wondered how many years have past since he had lied down to such a soft combination of springs and cushions. Jiquin also felt the pleasurable sensation of the softness the pillow brought to him. He like it so much.
Am I in some sort of a Spirit World?, he thought of that possibility.
The radio playing the music was across the bed, perched on a table. There seemed to be no sign of another person within the room. The door was on his right side. He thought it would be the gateway of answers in order for him to know where he was. Still not being sure if he wanted to get out or not, he thought that maybe if he waited a little longer, then someone would enter and explain to him how he got there in the first place. One thing is for sure for Jiquin, he was no longer at the city park, the place he forever called "home". That daunting fact produced a wet product on both ends of his eyes. Tears shed as sadness surged through his mind. He couldn't bear to leave that place. In fact, it was the only place he had.
Jiquin stared at the window which was on the same side as that of the radio. The moon was up. Nighttime. Its illumination beamed at Jiquin's face. The moonlight seeped through the darkened room and was the only source of light for Jiquin. It wasn't totally dark from where he was and at the same time not too bright to clearly see everything. He thought of the tree. That crimson tree. Jiquin considered the tree's beauty synonymous to the beauty that emanated from the moon. A myriad of stars were glued in the night sky together with its symbiotic partner. Both of these factors of mystery accompanied the lonely Jiquin. The light reminded him again of the tree, and now he wondered, for the first time in his life, as to why he loved that tree so much.
Jiquin's spellbinding view returned as a background when he heard footsteps on the other side of the door, approaching the room. The doorknob turned. Jiquin braced himself as he saw the door open.
Creeeak. Rusty hinges of the door sounded their painful cries, thirsty for oil.
The light from outside his room entered, creating a shadow of that someone opening the entrance. It opened wider and wider. The door was moving so slowly that Jiquin forgot about his head. What took like five minutes made Jiquin impatient than ever until finally he could clearly see the outline of a person.
The person wearing that mystifying smile.
That person, Jiquin thought, was more beautiful than the tree. How could this be possible?
The pretty woman wore a trimmed, sapphire blue jacket, hemmed with snow-white fur and patterned with images of the crescent moon and undulating waves. Her hair braided on the sides, and the rest hanging loosely from her back. Jiquin's eyes transfixed at the perfect curvaceous body the beheld before him. An angel per se.
It seemed like an eternity of euphoria passed through Jiquin's body as he gazed upon the glamor that the woman seemed to possess. It captivated his eyes, hypnotized his senses in a way the crimson tree never had.
The woman moved her luscious lips to utter some words to him.
"Oh my spirits, you're awake. You're actually awake. I can't believe it worked," she said as she smiled at him.
The smile made Jiquin more silenced than ever, unable to respond.
"Your head, how is it? I made sure I used the right amount of water to bend. The chi path in your head was severely broken, so I had to bring you here at my apartment. You see, no one really helped and I can't see a poor guy just die like that. I had to do something."
Jiquin, upon hearing those wonderful words, gathered what little strength he had to muster a response to this beautiful woman.
"Oh, uhhh, thanks." What? That's it?
Jiquin thought of more things to say, but he couldn't think of more. No one could blame him. He had not spoken to any human beings for a long time.
"Can you manage to get up now?" she asked.
Jiquin gathered all of his renewed strength towards his feet. He knew he could get up, he had to. Jiquin tried all of his might to do so and later on, a glimmer of happiness escalated within him as he managed to slowly bring forth his body out of that bed. Slowly. Ever more slowly. And...
"There," Jiquin said as his feet felt the roughness of the floor carpet.
The woman clapped her hands ferociously as she witnessed him stand up with only the help of his will. She stopped only to realize that...
"I'm sorry. I haven't really introduced myself, have I? Joan here," Joan said as she extended an arm to Jiquin, offering a handshake.
Jiquin responded by reciprocating the act and said, "Jiquin. Hey, we even have the same first letter."
"Yes. I can see that." Joan's smile was just cloud nine for Jiquin.
Joan then let go of his hand and turned to look at his clothes.
"I just love your outfit. I personally chose them. They're cheap, didn't cost me more than fifteen Yuans."
"Wait, what?!" Jiquin gazed at his trappings and found out that they were brand new.
He was draped in a blue-colored Water Tribe shirt topped with a red-motif Fire Nation loose polo and on his lower extremities, a brown-colored Earth Kingdom pants with patterns that resembled Earth Kingdom coins.
Jiquin asked something only Joan could answer, "How exactly did you change me?"
Joan's lips smiled even more and said, "I took those off myself. I also gave you a sponge bath while I was at it."
Jiquin's face turned red. He was so embarrassed that he was literally frozen at the spot.
"Did you see me naked, then?!" he violently asked.
"Well, if you're a healer, you gotta have an open mind. Don't worry, I didn't do anything that was out of the line," Joan said as she laughed at how red his face was.
Jiquin wasn't sure how to mask his embarrassment at her, so he foolishly said, "You know, I could have done it myself."
"Oh, really?" she mocked, "You were even whimpering while I brought you here, saying stuff like 'Crimson Tree, oh my Crimson Tree.' Ha! Of course you couldn't do it. Believe me, you wouldn't be alive if I didn't give you my help. So be thankful, okay?"
Jiquin, who was still embarrassed, did not respond and it was Joan that changed the topic first. "I have dinner prepared already. How about you eat first while I clean your room? We won't have to talk about this ever again. Truce?"
"...and then I saw you fell. Clearly the impact was really hard for anyone to bear, even for a young lad like you. Look, I'm sorry if I may come off as melodramatic to you. I know most people don't help vagabonds, but I do my best to do so, in my own little ways. I was raised a healer. I found out that I can utilize this ability to help people. Y'know, like the Avatar does. Helping people." Joan narrated as she gulped some Four Seasoned soup.
Jiquin doesn't have anything else to say to her other than that crimson tree and he cannot afford to tell he about that. He thought that he would just make her bored.
Both were silently eating their meals. Jiquin ate without hesitation and at the same time, thinking. He thought for a moment if he should trust this woman, a stranger. To clarify things, Jiquin broke the silence, an uncomfortable silence. "Joan, thanks for everything. Really, I appreciate it. But I need to return to the park, Joan. Look at me and my place in society. I don't belong here. We don't even know each other. I feel that, I really don't deserve this kind of treatment. I don't know Joan, maybe I'm doing you a favor if I wasn't here."
Joan took a while to respond to what he had just said. Jiquin sensed that she was thinking deeply about something. Joan's eyebrows constricted, her lips suddenly shaped to a frown and the way she ate her rice was what gave away the supposition Jiquin had towards her.
"Why bother?" she said.
"I have some...stuff there," he replied.
"Oh yeah, like what?" Joan's voice was now louder, making Jiquin terrified.
The crimson tree "Errr...I guess...well nothing. But you gotta understand. I live there."
"And now, you're living here with me." Joan's words made Jiquin tremble. But he questioned it. Was it out of fear of leaving behind the park or was it out of the fear to what lies ahead?
Jiquin did not say anything. However Joan reassured him. "Look, I know this is really weird for you. But, somehow I need you Jiquin. I need you to fulfill my wish, my desire to help people and, who knows, you may even like it here. I promise Jiquin. If things don't work out well for one week. I'm letting you go."
Upon hearing this, Jiquin was more confused than ever. He loved the park but he's also starting to feel like he likes her and his new found life out of the park, comparable to a phoenix rising from the ashes.
Jiquin was facing a dilemma. The park or her.
He eventually chose the latter. "Okay, one week, Joan. One week."
After eating dinner, Jiquin went to his room while Joan went to hers and sleep entered to both.
The next day, Jiquin woke up to the sound of chirping hybrid birds. He proceeded to stand up and walk towards the door. But before he exits the room, he noticed the sun. Never before have he appreciated the beauty of the sun. He also listened to sounds of the busy streets below. Jiquin missed the outside world so much.
Brrrrm Jiquin pressed his stomach as it growled with hunger. "Now, to find something to eat." But before he opened the door, he heard people conversing outside his room. Jiquin wasn't sure why but he felt that he had to do this. To eavesdrop. Jiquin pressed his ear on the door's surface and let the soundwaves pour in to his hearing.
"You sure?" It was a man's voice. It sounded stern, kinda like a bossy man, Jiquin deduced. "We're losing it Joan."
Joan then responded to this man, "Please Guzko, I'm sure of this. There's no doubt"
There was a moment of silence and then he heard this Guzko went out of the apartment. Jiquin wasn't so sure what he just heard but he just shrugged it off.
"Probably nothin'," he said to himself.
So he went out of his room and found that Joan was professionally dressed, wearing blue blazers and white slacks. Once again, Jiquin was entranced by this beauty goddess. He smiled at her and Joan returned the pleasure.
"Wow," Jiquin said, "I've never wore clothes like that."
"Oh this? I had to 'cause my boss, Guzko was here, and-Oh my spirits, look at the time! And I still have chores to do!"
Jiquin's hypnotized state of mind made him more generous than he ever had been. "Y'know what? Since now I'm officially your roommate, I'll do the chores. Go to that boss of yours and have fun doing work," he smiled.
Joan responded, "On second thought, why don't you and I go to Guzko? There's a job offering going on there now. I bet you're gonna be hired there as the cleaner or something. That way, you have income." Joan's silky voice made anyone who listened to her follow whatever she demanded.
"Okay, Joan. But remember your promise," he said.
"Yeah yeah. I won't forget it."
The taxi they were riding halted, apparently they had reached their destination. Looking outside, Jiquin witnessed a not-so wonderful view. In fact, it was not at all cleaner compared to Republic City Park. It was like they had reached the other side of Republic City.
Both went out of the cab and Jiquin looked at Joan lovingly as they entered through steel gates. The gates had a sign on it that read Notice: Only authorized personnel are allowed to enter.
After passing through it, something was now standing foolishly in front of Joan and Jiquin. It was a squarish building with a plaque that contained the title:
"You work here?" Jiquin asked her.
"I'm the communications officer," Joan explained, "Today, I'm gonna help you stand up again and a job is what you just need."
They entered the building through its gigantic doors.
A professionally dressed man immediately greeted them, almost like he knew they were coming. "Good day Ms. Joan." That voice, Jiquin believed, was from that same man he heard awhile back. "I see you've got company."
"Good morning Mr. Guzko," Joan answered, "This here is Mr. Jiquin."
Guzko exclaimed, "Ahh! I can see a person made of opportunities! Just in time Mr. Jiquin, we have job openings. You can be the cleaner. Yes! That's what we're lacking."
Joan then whispered to the confused Jiquin, "Hey, do this for me, okay?"
Jiquin was so blinded by love that it's impossible to refuse her. "Anything for you Joan."
"...and sign here, aaand done!"
Jiquin scribbled some gibberish onto the blanks because he did not have a personal signature.
"Unfortunately, Mr Jiquin, that means that you'll have to stay here. No going out. Cleaning the junk requires twenty-four hours. You will have to sleep in the workers sleeping quarters." Guzko explained as he pointed towards the window showing the pair of dead end-doors at the right hallway outside Guzko's office.
Jiquin's eyes frowned and turned to Joan who was behind her boss.
Joan's eyes said something in its own language: "Remember, Jiquin, you're doing this for me."
Jiquin could never refuse her. He immediately loved her since the first moment he laid eyes on her, although he doubts if Joan had noticed.
"Okay," Guzko said, "Ms. Joan it's time for you to leave and let Mr. Jiquin do his job." No more Joan. Jiquin thought, But I'm doing this for her. For Joan. For my love.
Months have passed since Joan and Jiquin have been together. He still hoped he would see her walk through those steel doors. He longed for her presence, almost to the extent of killing someone just to see her. And while the days go by, the love he feels for her, an unusual love, grew stronger and stronger.
Jiquin was cleaning the last piece of junk before his shift would be over. While rubbing the cleaner on a junk radio, a co-worker went near him and said, "Friend, I've been observing you since that day you made it here. This junkhole." The co-worker was an old man that Jiquin had never seen before but he felt as if he knew who he was. Dad?
"My friend, you've been deceived."
"Mister you can chitchat with me later at the quarters but right now, I gotta finish this."
"No, you don't understand. Listen carefully my friend, all of us working here have been a vagabond once."
"I know right. My friend Ms. Joan brought me here and gave me a job. She's so kind to me and she is all I ever want in life."
"No, you don't really get the magnitude of the situation. I tried to tell the others but they won't just listen. Such fools. Please hear me out. The first day I saw you, I knew you were special, that you are the one who can end this. I know because I've been through the same process as you have."
Jiquin's eyes squinted as he listened deeply. "Process?"
"That Mr. Guzko. He's an abductor. He hires beautiful women to deceive you into working here. But all you got in return? Nothing. I missed being a vagabond, at least I was free with no one to dictate what I do. I'm so sorry, my friend."
"The junk must be getting in your head. How about I accompany you to the quarters?"
"Oh c'mon my friend. Think about it? if she really did love you, then why isn't she making an effort to see you at least for a day?"
Jiquin's heart beat rapidly. He had to churn down all the facts that were forced down on him. So, I was a fool? Jiquin's confusion turned to hatred. Hatred towards all that deceives.
He had to ask one more question, "What should I do?"
"She must be eliminated."
Joan was combing her hair. Another problem solved. "I'm glad that went well. Sooner or later, I may have to find another job. These hobos are getting the worst of me." Humming as she did her woman duties, she barely noticed the glaring eyes staring right behind her.
"So, you've been lying all this time."
Joan jumped and saw him. She did not expect someone else to be there with her. The room was all quiet when she entered it. Joan saw how his clothes were red all over. His left hand was holding a shard of glass, the tip of it coated with a crimson-colored liquid that matched his shirt. Joan believed it was blood. The horror that was about to pounce at Joan stared at her intently that it cause the hairs at the back of her neck to shiver. And then she saw his eyes.
Oh my spirits, those eyes.
A waterbending hobo was attacking a hapless woman.
The woman looked at Jiquin's eyes sympathetically, "Don't be scared, honey." The hobo then shouted, "Gimme Yuans or I'm gonna have to kill this child of yours!" But the woman was brave, "You're gonna have to deal with me first. You ain't gonna touch any of my money."
"Please don't do this! You need to understand. They were payin' me. I needed money!" Joan shouted, "Please, we can still work it out."
But the man knew he was only hearing lies from a talented liar.
Joan fell off her chair as he slapped her hard on the cheek. Then he grimly said, "You will be eliminated."
The hobo's face etched annoyance after hearing an affirmation of noncooperation on the part of the woman. "Have it your way dumb lady!" The hobo motioned his hand and summoned water out of thin air. Grinning at the success of his bending, he controlled the floating water and willed it to inflict the woman.
The water went past the body of the woman and blood spurted out.
The act was done. On the floor lies a dead Joan. Jiquin knelt before the dead body and cried. Somehow, this was familiar to him.
"Why?" he cried.
The hobo was now gone, but the aftermath of his horrible act did not. The atmosphere was tainted by the scent of decay. Little Jiquin managed to bring her body to the nearest crimson tree. He rested for a while but minutes later he dug a hole beneath the crimson tree and buried his mother's dead body.
The Daily Republic
Headlines: Murder at the Professional Junk shop
A murder heist occurred inside the Professional Junk Shop. Police authorities are still investigating on the links of another crime scene at a downtown apartment. Two bodies were found dead inside the room one of a man and another of a woman.
"We assume that a third person went inside the room and killed both of these presumed innocents. The President has declared Martial Law on the Downtown Area in hopes of capturing the murderer." Chief Beifong said in an interview.
The dead man and woman are believed to be named as Jiquin and Joan, respectively.
As of this day, the murderer is still out there and the case is left unsolved.
I would just like to say, thank you Air Nomad Critic for helping me so much in giving some advices on improving this fic. You have been a great factor in my life and help alleviate some doubts I have in mind to pursue writing.
Once again, thank you very much.
|"I absolutely adore the storyline itself. In such an action oriented world like Avatar, its nice to see some of that toned down in favor of intrigue. I also really like the twist at the end, I thought that was brilliantly done. To tell you the truth, I think it could have worked very well being set in our own world, as it was very realistically done, and I applaud you for taking that leap.
|— The Air Nomad Critic on|
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Republic City Noir: A Collection of Noir One-Shots|
|Downtown Killing •• Spirit and Scar •• The Waterbender at 9th Avenue •• Scarlet Road •• All About The Rising Stocks •• My Lovely Abductor •• Avatar Fanatic •• Smog City|