|By Agent Slash||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Agent Slash||Crime/Noir||M||Positive||N/A|
It was so ironic. Just when I thought I was gonna get to go the whole day without killing anybody, there I was in the middle of an ambush. Forced to murder in self-defense.
The three men the Agni Kais sent to kill us were closing in like a pack of hyena-lions. They had already taken down Zolt, and now they were intent on taking the rest of us out.
I ducked immediately as the one on the far left sent a fire disk roaring past my head, then shot a slab of earth back at him in retaliation.
He sidestepped the attack and unloaded on me with a barrage of red-hot fire blasts, which I countered by raising an earth wall to block it. Then, with my full might, I slammed my fist into the left side of the earth wall, breaking the wall in half and sending the left side rocketing towards my assailant.
Not having anticipated the suddenness of my blow, the firebending hitman was knocked clean off his feet, flying straight back into a fruit stand on the other side of the street. Just to make sure he was dead, I shot a fireball right into his face. He became my second kill.
As I turned to help my fellow Triple Threats, I saw that they already had the situation under control.
Grimy Gao had already metalbent somebody's car door into the middle guy's stomach, and the guy on the right was getting his ass kicked by Twitchy Toji and Shady Shin. Before Gao or I even had the time to take a shot at him, Toji shot a lightning bolt directly into his face, causing his head to explode and a slew of blood and brain chunks to litter the street.
Once the three attackers were taken care of, the four of us rushed over to Zolt. He was still sprawled out on the ground with blood gushing from his stomach, and was still alive, much to my shock. With all the blood and all the wheezing he was doing, he looked like a wounded animal.
"Shin!" Shouted Toji. "Go inside and call Qin! Tell him to send Lu to clean this up!" Then he tossed Shin a set of car keys. "And bring the fucking car around!" Not a moment after Toji gave the order, Shin was already bolting into the deli faster than an eel hound, on his way to find a phone.
Meanwhile, the rest of us knelt down around Zolt, watching him slip away more and more by the minute. The only words he could get out, albeit very slowly, were, "Those slimy... Agni Kai... cocksuckers!"
"It's alright, they're dead," said Gao. "We're gonna get you to a hospital and you're gonna be alright."
It was weird. I knew that Zolt was my worst enemy. I knew that I hated him with every fiber of my being, and that nothing would give me greater pleasure than to get revenge on him for everything he'd done to me. But in those few short minutes where none of us were sure whether he would live or die... I kind of felt this slight twinge of compassion for him.
I felt kinda bad about it at first. It made me feel like some soft-hearted old lady. But, by the time Shin's car came screeching up to the curb, I had decided it was a good thing. That even though I was a killer now, I could still feel compassion for others. Even if it was someone I despised.
As soon as Shin reached the curb, we all climbed into his Satomobile. With the bloody Zolt in tow, we raced away from the deli and made our way towards the nearest hospital.
Three hours had passed since we got to the hospital. Zolt was in the emergency room, finally in stable condition. The doctors managed to stop the bleeding, and were treating the third-degree burns he received. They told us he was very lucky to be alive.
Meanwhile, I was standing out in the waiting room with quite a few of my fellow Triple Threats. Toji, Gao, and Shin were all still there, along with Gun, Qin, and Rampaging Ryu.
Now that the chaos had finally subsided, and we all knew that Zolt was gonna be okay, we could finally begin discussing the incident and how we would move forward.
"I want immediate retaliation for this," Qin said. "Gun, I want you to send your crew out to find and take care of Hothead Hanzo."
"You got it," Gun replied. "I'll put Mong on it. And Song too."
Great. Just when I thought I was finally gonna have a break today. In my book, going to a gambling addict's apartment to kill him, and having to fight off three Agni Kai hitmen was more than enough work for one day, but I guess I was about to put in some overtime.
And I'd heard of Hothead Hanzo, and let's just say, there was a reason he earned that name. After Khan died, and they promoted Mao to underboss, Hanzo filled his old position, and became the Agni Kais' latest capo. And while the temper that earned him his nickname was a great asset, it was also his greatest weakness. A weakness we would no doubt try our hardest to exploit.
But as much as I didn't wanna do this job, I figured I may as well try to seem at least somewhat enthusiastic about it. So I made myself look determined, nodded my head and said, "Happy to do it."
"There's one more thing," Qin said, scanning the room and taking a much more hushed tone than before. "After Lu finished cleaning everything up, he called me and said he noticed something strange. He said that two of the assassins' faces were damaged beyond recognition, but he saw the face of the third. He said he had no idea who it even was."
"Yeah! We didn't recognize 'em either!" said Gao.
"So, what does that mean?" Gun queried.
"It means that Tang hired someone outside the Agni Kais to carry out the hit," Qin explained.
"Hold up, hold up," said Rampaging Ryu. "That's an awfully big stretch. It seems much more likely to me that Lu probably doesn't know every single soldier the Agni Kais have working for them."
"Hey," said Gun. "Lu's been in this business way longer than most people. Even longer than me. If there's a single person he doesn't know at this point, in any triad, I'd be very surprised."
"Exactly," said Qin.
"So, what does this mean?" asked Shin. "Why would the Agni Kais hire outsiders to whack us instead of sending their own guys?"
"I don't know," said Qin. "That's what we intend to find out. But for now, it is imperative that we keep this a secret. We're already at war. We don't need any more panic to spread."
Outsiders. Tang used outsiders to try and kill me and Zolt. The amount of alarms this set off in my head should've caused me to freak out a lot more than I did.
This was the latest in a series of strange occurrences that had happened recently involving the war. All of which involved me somehow. First I overhear Qin and Zolt talking about some woman they were suspicious of. Then Kodana implies to me that she wants inside information on the Triple Threats, and borderline threatens me once I start acting suspicious. Then, somehow, Yin finds out about this conversation and tells me to keep it to myself. One thing was for sure. Not everything was as it seemed.
Then, speaking of Kodana, the boss of the Red Monsoons herself came strutting into the place in the same fashion she always did. Seemingly without a care in the world.
Accompanying her was a woman I had only ever seen once before, at the infamous meeting where the war officially began. It was the Red Monsoon underboss, Lorako. She was short, kinda hefty, and had a face sorta like a badgermole, and I had heard she was very... direct with people.
"Qin!" Kodana said with raised arms.
"Kodana," Qin replied. "What a pleasant surprise."
"Well, surely you didn't think I wasn't gonna stop by after hearing the horrible news, did you?" Kodana said.
"How is Mr. Lightning Bolt holding up?" Lorako queried.
"He's in stable condition," Qin answered.
"I'm very happy to hear that," said Kodana. "Thank the spirits he was the only one that got hurt."
"Yes," said Qin. "We were all very fortunate."
"And Song!" Kodana said, turning to her right to face me. "So nice to see you again. I mean, it really is. I would've thought that if the Agni Kais were aiming for any one person in particular, it would be the person who started this whole thing in the first place."
"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked immediately, without even thinking about the tone I was taking.
"Nothing," Kodana said. "I just find it strange is all."
All it would've taken was one more sentence out of either one of our mouths. One more sprinkling of words into the garden of tension would cause the seeds of confrontation to grow until they were ripe. She was being coy about something, and I wasn't gonna stand there and take it. Not from her. Not in front of all of my associates.
Thankfully, Gun decided to step in before anything started. "Well, thanks for stopping by, Kodana," he said. "You too, Lorako. I'm sure Zolt will appreciate the gesture once we tell him. Now, if you'll excuse us, Song and I have to leave."
Normally I'd have been annoyed by Gun speaking for me, but in this case, I was grateful, if it got me away from Kodana. So, I just went along with it, as I'm sure he knew I would.
"Nice seeing you again, Kodana," I said as the two of us walked away from the others, and out the exit door.
Later that night, I found myself sitting in a parked car in Linuki, on the most average-looking street in Republic City. Just a line of delis and dry cleaners and dentist's offices, and all kinds of unassuming shops you'd find in a suburban neighborhood.
The one we had our eye on that night was a diner with the simplest name possible. 'Lee's Place'. Did I mention that Linuki was inhabited mostly by firebenders?
The plan was actually pretty simple. We just had to wait for Hothead Hanzo to show up, then go inside and whack him. The hard part was trying to make conversation with the person I haven't named, but keep referring to. Madman Mong.
We'd been sitting there on the curb across the street from the diner for over an hour, and every conversation I'd tried to strike up ended in about twelve seconds due to lack of interest. At that point, I considered it a personal mission to find at least one thing he was willing to talk about.
"So, uh," I said, after about two more minutes of silence. "How'd you get the nickname, 'Madman Mong'?"
"Through the Tribunal of the Four Triads," Mong replied.
"What?" I asked, highly puzzled.
"Yeah," said Mong. "A person gets their nickname when the leaders of all four triads get together and decide on one."
Huh. Well, that was about the weirdest thing I'd heard all day. "Are you serious?" I asked, not entirely sure if he was joking.
"Of course not! What's the matter with you?" he laughed. "I got it like anybody else got theirs. Somebody said it once and it caught on."
Feeling slightly embarrassed, I did my best to brush off that little moment and carry on the conversation. "Right, but I mean, how did you get that particular nickname? You don't seem like a madman to me."
"It's because of my body count, sweetheart," Mong replied. "I've carried out more hits than anybody else in this entire triad."
Finally we were getting somewhere. I was starting to learn more about him, and my hope was that we could build something off of that.
Sadly, before we could continue the conversation, we spotted Hothead Hanzo walking right down the street on his way to Lee's Place.
He was a real clean-cut motherfucker. Flawless face, gorgeous, jet-black hair, all slick and combed back, and a pretty impressive body to boot. I definitely wouldn't have minded breaking me off a piece of that. Not that I would actually be stupid enough to try. I think dating one Agni Kai was enough for one lifetime.
The second we saw him strut into the place, we sprang into action. The two of us got out of the car, cloaked in heavy, black trench coats and fedoras, and crossed to the other side of the street. We also kept our heads down so that he wouldn't recognize us if he looked out the window.
Then, once we got to the door, Mong stopped and turned around to face me. "Follow my lead, alright?" he said.
Then, with the cute, little ding of a bell, we entered the place and took a quick gaze around. Luckily for us, the place was mostly empty. It was just Hanzo, some guy behind the counter, and some poor blonde girl sitting over in a booth. Hanzo had plopped himself down on a stool at the counter.
The two of us headed in that direction, and were greeted on the other side by the guy who I assumed owned the joint. "Hey, fellas," he said. "What'll ya have?"
"You know what?" Mong said. "I think I'll have the turkey-goose. The one sittin' at the counter. Burnt to a crisp."
By the time Hanzo realized what was going down, Mong thrust his fist forward and sent a fireball crackling right into his side, as he'd only turned halfway around.
The Agni Kai captain emitted a prolonged yowl of agony, clutching at his side as he fell to the floor. "Ah, fuck, fuck, fuck!" he cried out. "Ah, you Triple Threat motherfuckers!"
"Whoa-ho!" said an amused Mong. "You suck your boyfriend's cock with that mouth, pretty boy?"
"Look, guys, come on," said the guy behind the counter. "Don't do this in here, please."
"Shut up, unless you want some too!" Mong threatened. Then the two of us walked over to the fallen Hanzo, standing around him, as if we were trying to prevent him from jumping up and escaping. Not that there was any chance of that happening.
"Hey, toots," Mong said to the girl sitting over in the booth. "Do me a favor and take that sweet ass of yours outside, alright?"
Without hesitating for a moment, the girl flew up out of her seat and was practically sprinting by the time she got out the door.
Then we turned our attention back to Hanzo.
"Well, Hanzie," Mong said. "I guess this is where it ends. Say hi to Khan for me when you see him."
"Wait, wait, wait!" Hanzo begged, moments before the two of us unloaded on him, each of us bending our own concentrated streams of fire right into his chest.
After about seven or eight seconds of firebending at him, I bolted outside, trying to put some much-needed distance between me and the body.
It wasn't actually killing him that made me run outside. It wasn't watching his skin melt off like wax off a candle. It was the smell. The vomit-inducing stench of Hanzo's burning flesh nearly had me hunched over and nearly retching in the middle of the street.
Mong came outside soon after and came up to me once I'd finally stood up straight again. "The smell get ya?" he asked.
"Yeah," I replied. "I wasn't ready for it."
"Yeah," Mong chuckled. "It got me at first too. Now I'm just too used to it. Come on. Let's get in the car before the cops show up."
It was pretty clear to me after witnessing that whole deal in the restaurant why Mong had earned his nickname. It was also clear to me that trying to make conversation with him was a bad idea. I knew when I first joined Gun's crew that Mong was my least favorite out of all of the crew members, and that he didn't seem like the kind of guy I would wanna go out of my way to interact with. Witnessing him at his most vile only reinforced those thoughts.
I could tolerate behavior like that, but becoming friends with him would expose me to it regularly, and that wasn't something I wanted.
The two of us got into the car and Mong started the ignition, pulling away from the block in a hurry so that we weren't around when the cops showed up.
The instant we pulled off the curb, Mong turned on the radio, and the familiar sound of pro-bending commentators came pouring out of the speakers. He already had it set to that station, meaning that he listened to this on a regular. Well, what do ya know? Something we could finally talk about.
"You listen to pro-bending?" I asked.
"Of course," Mong replied. "I've been a fan ever since they invented it."
"Well, it just so happens I'm a life-long pro-bending fan myself," I informed him.
"Is that a fact?" Mong asked. "Well, then you and me have a lot to talk about! Who do you pull for?"
"The Elephant Koi," I replied.
"Ah, not bad, not bad," said Mong. "I'm more of an Eagle Hawks man myself. Haven't missed a single game since the first season."
"Yeah?" I replied. "I never really watched them much, but I always respected them." "Ditto to your elephant koi," said Mong.
Now you might find it weird that we were having such a calm discussion about pro-bending after shooting fire into a man until he died, but, frankly, I found it was an effective way to take my mind off of it.
Plus, I finally got to connect two members of Gun's crew in the same day, so, yeah. I'd say that was a pretty good day overall.
- Lorako's name is a tribute to actress, Lorraine Bracco, known for her roles in several crime films and television shows such as Goodfellas and The Sopranos.
For the collective works of the author, go here.