Episode Thirteen- Blueberry Waffles and a Warrant to Kill
Zylo fell asleep trying to think of solutions to his dilemma. He rationalized that in order to be with Rachel again, he’d have to accept his duty as a hunter. If he was willing to die for her, he’d have to be willing to kill for her.
Zylo told himself this, knowing full well he wouldn’t be prepared to follow it through.
Getting out of bed, he throws on a new outfit, a classier one. This time, a charcoal grey blazer over a turquoise V-neck shirt and dark jeans.
He finds his arms in excruciating pain as he slips into the sleeves. All those hits from the golf club tenderized his limbs into bruised lifeless appendages clinging to his shoulders.
The swollen aches on his face and the rest of his body feel dramatically improved compared to yesterday, though still faintly present. His busted lip is still busted. Maybe next time though, he should use his face instead of his limbs to block a metal golf club.
As he prepares, the smell of some deliciously fragrant blueberry pastry seeps into Zylo’s room and wafts over his nostrils. He is eager to find the source and quickly strolls into the kitchen.
Sitting by the table is Juniper in her pajamas happily eating blueberry waffles and drinking a hard lemonade by herself.
“Does everyone here drink in the morning?” Zylo grabs a plate.
“Feel better?” she asks.
Juniper puts down her waffle and stares firmly at Zylo. “You know, I was wrong. Not all bounties look pathetic when they’re about to die. In fact, I thought you were pretty righteous when you hit Jacks in the nose before jumping off that roof.”
“I didn’t jump. And…was that a compliment?” Zylo can’t help but smile at the gesture. “It actually hurt my hand a lot more than his face, I think. But thanks.”
The doors to Kitsune’s and Renzo’s rooms swing open and they emerge into the hallway simultaneously. Aside from walking into the living room at the same time, they are also adjusting their outfits in unison. Kitsune fixes the knot of his black tie and Renzo repositions his bowtie.
“Do you guys practice that? Like, a lot when nobody’s looking?” Juniper smiles, amused.
“Practice what?” Renzo genuinely unaware, grabs a gallon of milk from the fridge.
Kitsune continues to straighten out his tie and vest, and then begins patting his sleeves flat.
“You look fine, bitch!” Juniper laughs before crudely gobbling down her last waffle, the crumbs and bits sprinkling all around her.
“Hey, Renzo, teach this girl some class, please,” sneers Kitsune. “How are we supposed to go anywhere with this unrefined savage on our crew?” He walks over to the stereo and puts on a song that seems to blend an upbeat bass with a funky jazz tune, and then routinely heads to the bar.
“You’d be lucky to be seen in public with my fine ass.” Juniper finishes her hard lemonade and shuffles back to her room. “Be right back.”
“Plans today?” Zylo is afraid of what he might hear.
“Plans? Oh, yeah. You’re gonna pick up a contract and give the day notice.” Kitsune pours an amaretto with milk.
A notice. Zylo should’ve expected as much. Seeing some leftover waffles on the counter, he snatches a few and drowns them in syrup before wolfing them down. He is hungry. Very hungry.
Maybe it’s his new body that requires nourishment but Zylo often finds himself starving for large quantities of food. Either that, or he is trying to binge eat his troubles away.
Zylo finishes the last waffle and Juniper comes out from her room, dressed and ready to go. Though she only spent ten minutes preparing, she was able to French braid her smooth crimson hair along one side of her head while letting the rest hang down on the other. For their little outing, she has on a short black leather jacket over a crop top that slightly exposes her belly button, and burgundy skinny jeans.
‘Wow…this took her how long? I should probably change into something better, too. This is embarrassing…’
“Let’s go,” she says.
‘Welp, never mind then.’
Together, Zylo and Juniper hop onto the platform bringing them back to the circular room of the Citadel. Once there, Juniper swiftly leads the way to the all-important bounty board room.
“This one.” She pulls two attached pieces of paper from the New Pirates designated bounty box. “Sanae Hernandez.”
“What’s he in for?” Zylo is quick to ask.
“He stabbed his wife twenty times until dead, and then killed his brother-in-law after he found her body. Bad enough for you?”
Sounds pretty bad, which is a good thing he supposed, but not really. Zylo looks over the contract that included the details of the bounty.
Sanae is forty years old, his wife was thirty-eight, brother-in-law, thirty-two. He is currently on the run from the police and is hiding out somewhere on New Sapphire Street, West Sunset District. The reward is thirty-six thousand Soul.
“Sounds bad,” mutters Zylo.
“Which is good, then. Now, show me your rod, big boy.”
Zylo draws his rod, and her hand places on top of his, gently guiding and pushing the metal tip against the paper.
A print quickly emerges on the contract, as if Zylo’s weapon had signed his name. Then, Juniper tugs off the notice hanging underneath.
This notice is almost identical to the one Zylo received from Kitsune long ago. The rules of Baya and contract details about Sanae Hernandez are all right here. Like every notice, this one is going to bring dread to yet another person.
The two head out, transporting into a small cramped room lined with cardboard boxes along the walls.
Juniper is quick to lead out of the room, and Zylo follows. Rows and rows of furniture and inventory line the walls, and he realizes they are on the basement floor of a department store.
Their outfits definitely stand out among the workers but Juniper doesn’t care, casually walking past them with an attitude that declares she has a perfectly good reason to be here.
Clever as Zylo is, he follows her lead, even acknowledging one of the staring workers with a nod, who reluctantly nods back.
“Luckily, this transport location is in West Sunset District, so it should just be a ten minute walk.” Juniper heads up the stairs and into the street.
Though the sky amassed an endless pile of clouds, the sun manages to shine brightly through like another warm sunny day.
For some strange reason, an impulse seems to guide Zylo toward the bounty, Sanae Hernandez. After every step he takes is an instinctive urge to follow a specific direction, as though he knows Sanae’s exact location.
He felt the same phenomenon when searching the abandoned building for Johnny Chen, but he didn’t understand it, and he didn’t embrace it. Now, Zylo can feel Sanae’s mood, his state of mind, and sense his presence calling. The feeling is intimate…and unusual.
“So that’s how you guys kept finding me,” Zylo says to himself, both dumbfounded and disappointed. All his efforts when he was on the run were pointless.
Juniper realizes that Zylo hadn’t known about the hunter sense, and she smiles, “Oh…that. You mean the sense?”
“How is this possible? It’s like…I can feel how he is, and where he is. Almost…exactly where he is.”
“Once a contract is made, it’s bound to the Soul of that person. All hunters that take the contract, even the ones stealing, can accurately track their Soul. It’s like smelling where food is…or something.”
“I see. Kitsune said the same thing. He said he could smell me. I thought he was just being weird.”
“Yeah, you’ll come to realize, everyone’s Soul has a particular scent.”
The streets become less crowded as they enter the residential neighborhood, and Zylo suddenly feels free. Released from the burden of having to modestly move through people, he walks openly breathing the fresh air and taking up as much space as possible. Now, he only has to shove stray pedestrians that remotely impede his path.
“So, how’d you feel seeing Jacks again?” asks Juniper. “I heard you almost got into a fight with him at the Citadel.” She sounds surprisingly eager to hear the gossip.
“What? No, it wasn’t like that. We were just making fun of each other for a few minutes, and then King Kuro showed up. Jacks thinks he burned us, but he totally didn’t.”
Juniper laughs and skips along, playfully swinging her guitar. “Yeah, Jacks would be pretty hot, if he wasn’t so annoying.”
“Yeah, he sure is…hot.”
“He took Kitsune’s crew, the Immortal Aces, if you didn’t know. Jacks transferred his entire posse from the old crew, Jacks of Spades, and then changed the name to Immortal Spades. There was some crazy rivalry at the time,” Juniper elaborates.
“Yeah, they kind of hinted at that.”
“It was pretty controversial. Immortal Aces was THE King crew, and Jacks of Spades was like third or something.” Juniper leads into New Sapphire Street and Zylo sticks close. “Immortal Aces usually had first dibs on all the high bounties, like yours.”
“How did Jacks get his crew though?”
“Some of the other hunters said he worked out a deal with King Kuro, but I’m not totally sure.” Juniper points across the street. “This way.”
The pair enters the parking lot to a small two story motel.
“Oh. You can rent a room by the hour here,” Zylo laughs.
“Eck…why do these people always stay in the worst places,” sneers Juniper. They walk through the row of parked cars in the lot and along the row of motel room doors.
“Ever encounter a really nice bounty?”
Juniper walks by all the doors trying to sense the right one. “Rarely. There was this one time, I found this really good looking guy. He was charming, but then he got all grabby so I had to put him down quick. I’ll always remember him, Matsumoto something or whatever.”
At that moment, the two approach a door that feels instinctively… right.
“I’m assuming you know what to say.” Juniper leans to Zylo, eyes staring expectantly.
‘I have no idea what to say. In fact, I’d completely forgotten why we were even on this trip. Crap.’
She should’ve expected nothing less, but sighs regardless. “Fine, I’ll do it.” She immediately bangs away at the door with her fist. “Sanae Hernandez!”
After a few moments, a voice calls from inside the room. “Who…who is it?” The voice is faint. Perhaps he’s in the bathroom ready to escape, or he’s sitting on the toilet and this is a bad time.
Without hesitating, Juniper kicks open the door, immediately breaking through the chain lock.
A loud scream of a woman within the room deafens Zylo’s ears as he enters. The screeching naked woman is lying in bed beside the naked man, Sanae Hernandez. She nervously jumps out of bed to pick up her clothes while the man remains panic-stricken, sitting up against the headboard and pulling the sheets over his legs.
Before he can move any further, Juniper rushes over and leaps up onto the bed, crouching over the man’s trembling naked body.
Zylo signals the other woman to leave, and she eagerly runs out of the room with her clothes in hand.
“Well, lookie here.” Juniper leans close to Sanae’s face. One hand pushes down on the man’s shoulder to keep him in place, and the other grips her guitar.
“Sanae Hernandez,” Juniper continues. “You are hereby contracted by the Baya and you have a bounty on your head. For the terrible deeds you have committed, you have twenty-four hours to live before we…” she points her guitar to Zylo, “the New Pirates, come to claim your life.”
She thumps the guitar against the headboard beside Sanae’s head. “If you go to the police, we will kill you immediately. If you try to leave Fortune City, we will kill you immediately.” She leans closer, hovering inches from his trembling face. “Any questions so far?”
“Piss off!” Sanae spits on Juniper’s cheek and quickly grabs a knife from the counter beside the bed.
Juniper doesn’t scare easily. She slaps the man hard across the face and he instantly drops the knife in a daze. Without breaking eye contact, she wipes the spit from her cheek, “Calm your nuts, we’re not killing you yet. And put that thing away,” not referring to the knife.
Juniper hops down from the bed and picks up the knife from the floor, continuing, “All contracts must be fulfilled by Baya. Contracts cannot be broken at any time once the contract has been confirmed.” She nods to Zylo, signaling him to drop the notice and leave.
Standing by the door, Juniper finishes, “See you in twenty-four hours,” and she chucks the knife across the room, piercing two inches into the wall above Sanae’s head.
The two walk gracefully out of the motel grounds.
Zylo glances to Juniper, “Is it just me or…was that extremely blunt?”
“The guy’s a murderer, Zylo. A cold-blooded, horny murderer. And you saw him! He drew a knife on me.” Despite sounding agitated, Juniper still wears a smile across her face.
Zylo continues staring at her and she stares back, “You enjoy this too much.”
With his broken door, Sanae Hernandez quickly leaves the motel in a matter of minutes, and the two Pirates carefully follow. Their responsibility is to watch the bounty, checking to make sure he doesn’t call the police or leave the city.
Luckily, Sanae doesn’t do anything special. In fact, he might not even take the contract seriously.
By sunset, he rents another room at a cheap hotel, ordering takeout food and watching TV. Juniper and Zylo stand on the roof of the building across the street with a straight line of sight into the window of the bounty’s room.
“I think he’s calling another prostitute. Is that how he wants to spend his last day?” Juniper scoffs, leaning her elbows on the railing and watching contemptuously.
“He knows he’s a criminal, now he’s just acting like one,” Zylo turns away and sits down leaning against the railing. “Maybe this is the life he wanted.”
“I swear, it’s always annoying to deal with people, no matter the occupation.”
“At least our occupation involves killing them,” Zylo chuckles.
Juniper crouches down beside him saying, “Eh…it’s like any other blue collar job. Physical labor with a hint of visible benefits, and over excessive periods of time. And then you wonder how you even got into this.”
“Or start to realize you’re actually committed for life.” Zylo decides to change the subject, “Lemme ask, were you a musician?”
“Um, not really? I tried playing the guitar when I was like… twelve, but I totally sucked. Not sure why the Baya decided to give me a guitar, if that’s what you’re talking about,” she clarifies. “Looks badass though.”
They’re quiet for a moment with only the night sky to distract the silence. The moon slowly emerges from the passing cloud, and the roof grows pale blue.
Zylo decides to ask, “So…how’d you die?”
Juniper doesn’t say a word, but sighs and stands up beside him. The conversation quickly returns to silence.
“Okay, never mind.”
The night is young and the streets are stirring. Crowds of people line up for the dinner rush and the neighborhood only gets noisier. While looking down at the street, a cold night breeze sweeps by and the two Pirates shiver harmoniously.
Zylo clutches his cold arms. “How much longer do we have to do this for?”
“Technically, Renzo and Kitsune should’ve gotten back to us a while ago,” Juniper says, looking at her phone. “Don’t know what those two idiots are up to. Let’s go get some food. I don’t think this guy’s going anywhere anyway.”Zylo is already by the stairs before she finishes, “Let’s go!” he cheerfully waves her over.