Episode Fourteen - Intuition after Twenty-Two Shots of Vodka
‘The Yaki Wok’, a local takeout restaurant. The smell of stir fry and grilled food flood Zylo’s and Juniper’s nostrils, driving their hunger into a frenzied rage.
Acting on impulse, Juniper orders an entire platter of fried curry fishballs and bell pepper skewers, and Zylo, a boxed meal of fish fillet and fried tofu with rice. Eager as an excited child, he snatches the bag from the clerk the moment their order is ready.
Colorful neon signs guide their path along the busy nighttime street, but their attention is focused solely on their food. Neither pays any mind to the road in front of them or to the busy festivities taking place.
Juniper’s shoulders constantly slam against the stream of incoming pedestrians, but she continues unfazed. Bite after bite, she eagerly mows down her sauce-drenched skewers.
Drums and bells sound through the street from a live concert, but the two Pirates pay no attention.
Zylo hastily opens the box with anxious, trembling hands. A warm, alluring aroma envelops his face, bringing an immediate smile of joy. The sweet soy sauce scent with a hint of scallions and ginger waters his mouth and he digs in.
The deep fried tofu, though drenched with sauce, is crispy on the surface while soft and warm on the inside. Zylo takes a bite of the fish fillet, tearing through the saucy crisp layer into the smooth meaty center. Paired with every bite is a carefully proportioned amount of rice that Zylo trained to instinctively measure over the course of his life.
“Where’d you get that? Hen xiang ah!” asks a curious and hungry businesswoman passing by.
“Takeout down the street. Here, have a piece,” Juniper generously hands her a skewer of steaming and dripping curry fishballs, and the woman gladly accepts.
“Xie xie! Really!” she happily grins, slightly tipping her head with grateful thanks before strolling away and gobbling the food.
Fortune City can be a kind, friendly place, as long as the loud-mouthed profanity spewing scum are absent.
Finishing their food and tossing their trash away, Juniper finally gets a call from Renzo.
“Juniper?” Renzo greets.
“Heyo. You here?” she replies.
“Yes. I can take over. Kitsune is at a burger bar down the street from where you are, ‘The Night Bun’. He says to go there now.”
“Sounds urgent,” she curiously looks up around the rooftops trying to spot him. “We’ll be there,” and she hangs up.
The Night Bun is quickly spotted by its name in bright neon lights and the gathering crowd beside the doors. Holding no consideration for the doorman, Juniper leads the way, mercilessly pushing her way through with Zylo following closely behind her.
A warm, damp heat of the room surrounds them as they enter. Though refreshing at first compared to the cold air outside, it’s one of those that eventually becomes an uncomfortable nuisance further into the night.
Under the dim lights, people are shouting and dancing to the loud, deafening hip-hop music. With barely any space to walk, they make their way through the standing crowds of people socializing, drinking and eating.
The smell of burgers and fries roams the entire restaurant bar and if not for the fact that Zylo had just eaten, he would’ve stormed the counter for food by now.
Eventually, they find Kitsune standing by a small table at the center of the room surrounded by more crowds of people.
“Oi, you made it!” Kitsune greets and takes a sip of his cola and rum. “Take a look around, Zylo.”
Kitsune motions his hand and Zylo scans the room. Immediately, he notices several familiar faces. In fact, Bull is awkwardly standing at the center of the dance floor hovering over the crowd while Violet is by the bar counter, devouring a burger with an entire bottle of whiskey in her hand. The rest are random faces Zylo recognizes from the halls of the Citadel.
If it’s anything a band of immortal assassins need, it’s a night to party.
“What is this?” Zylo asks.
“Relax, it’s just a gathering. Harahetta? There’s food over there.” Kitsune turns toward the counter for a refill until a man with a handsome but smug face pushes through the crowd, and makes his way to the New Pirates’ table.
“Well, glad you teens made it through the door. Enjoying yourselves?” Jacks greets.
“You know, I’m surprised you’re here. You must be pretty bored with no one to talk to,” Kitsune teases.
Just then, two hunters appear from the crowd standing side by side behind Jacks. One is a petite girl, her black hair in a modest bob cut, and her bright-red lips contrasting her pale face. Fitting a slim black dress, her face screams with silent attitude, staring blankly but confidently at the Pirates. On the side of her shoulder is a tattoo of a black spade.
The other is a taller man but at the same time, less intimidating. His groomed Mohawk stands high on his head. His unbuttoned plaid shirt drapes low over his white tee, covering a majority of the tattoos on his arms but not the black spade on the side of his neck.
They are the Immortal Spades, Elza and Rolly.
Jacks smiles, “No one to talk to?”
“It was a joke. Calm your nuts,” Juniper replies with her chin held high.
“Well, since we’re all friends here,” Jacks winks at Zylo, “how about we make things interesting?”
“Yeah, I’m down.” Zylo reaches for the rods sitting in his back pocket, but Kitsune quickly pulls his brash hands back onto the table.
“Whoa, violence begets violence you know. Maybe you should meditate. It’s good for the stress.” Jacks raises his hand, “Waitress!”
The passing waitress nudges her way through the crowd and asks, “How can I help you?”
Jacks begins, “Hi. We’re here to party down like the middle ages, so we’d like a hundred shots of vodka. Oh, and some bread sticks.”
’A drinking contest? Damn, I haven’t drank since like…a really long time ago.’
“We don’t serve bread sticks,” the waitress says.
“What? Then give us some fries, whatever. Just go already,” Jacks impatiently shoos the waitress away, then turns back to the New Pirates. “So, you and Zylo,” Jacks points to the two of them, “and me and Elza,” pointing to the Spade girl behind him.
“You’re on!” Kitsune is excited—overly excited. Finally, a chance to put his talent to use. “Can we get some chairs too, please?”
Several hunters from the surrounding crowd quickly pull over some barstools and the four sit comfortably by the table. Moments later, the waitress brings over a large tray of one hundred filled shot glasses. She carefully slides the tray onto the table, and the noisy crowd turns their attention.
“Thank you, missy,” Jacks winks. “Now then,” he raises the first glass, “cheers?”
The four of them reach for a glass but Zylo is the first to shout, “Go!” and he downs the shot. The other three quickly follow, each taking their shot of vodka with ease.
The crowd starts to gather, including Bull hovering across the dance floor overlooking everyone.
Juniper stands behind her crew for support, then smirks at Rolly, the other Spades member. “Sup, bitch.”
The night drags on and after every shot, the music becomes louder and the lights get dimmer and the crowd grows rowdier. The fifth shot comes around pretty quickly, and no one is even remotely buzzed yet.
“So, nice day today, wasn’t it?” Kitsune wipes his mouth.
“It was. Not too hot, not too cold,” Zylo acknowledges, eating some of the fries on the table.
“Six!” Jacks calls. They down the sixth shot.
Before long, the tenth shot rolls around.
“Ten!” Kitsune yells, and the crowd yells with him.
They tap glasses and drink.
“You know, Jacks, I really want to know. Is your jacket actually custom made? By you?” Zylo asks.
Jacks is eager to explain, “That’s a very interesting question. I actually came up with the design for the ‘Jacks’, this stylish lettering—right here,” he points to his jacket. “But then the company mixed up the type of jacket I wanted, and then it was just a matter—”
“Never mind,” Zylo interrupts, “eleven!”
If Zylo remembers correctly, the smell of alcohol usually affected him by the sixth or seventh shot, but that was his other body. Now they are up to fourteen, and suddenly, the alcohol kicks in. He starts feeling uncomfortable.
Or buzzed. Or beyond buzzed. He isn’t sure. No, actually, that is most definitely, probably, maybe the most likeliable.
Slamming another glass, Zylo’s face starts to get warm, and then his chest and his ears. He pulls off his jacket for this heat wave and throws it sloppily over his chair. Out of impulse, he even begins rubbing his warm heated earlobes because they feel nice.
“You’re looking awfi-fully red there.” Jacks barely avoids slurring his own words.
“I’m not drunk yet, why does everyone say that? I just get a glow…and it’s making my face hot as hell right now!” Zylo runs his hands over his warm cheeks. His white hair contrasts incredibly with his red face, but then again, he forgets his hair is white.
As their cognitional functions starts to deterioratorizing, they are suddenly abruptly for some reason up to shot number eightyteen and the four of them are way too thoroughly surprised and uncertain to handle. By now, all of them has blurted a incoherentable sound at one point or some other time, except for Elza, who manages to maintain her composure.
Kitsune says, “You’re lucky, Jacks. Elza’s pretty cute, too cute to be hanging out with you.” He nods his head at Elza but she remains silent and uninterested, proceeding to down the next shot instead.
The rest follow.
“Yeah,” Zylo agrees, putting down the empty glass. “She looks soft, really soft,” looking over her as well.
‘I’m so sorry, Rachel. I’ll never say that again.’
“Did you just apologize to your girlfriend in your mind?” Kitsune asks, having seen Zylo tilt his head down for a second.
Zylo persistently shakes his head, “No…of course I did.”
“Twenty!” Jacks yells and the crowd cheers with him.
The four consume the shot, but everyone has had more than enough by now. Kitsune wraps his arm over Zylo’s shoulder and starts singing along with the song blasting throughout the restaurant bar. Together swaying side to side, they sing loudly and horribly, but it doesn’t matter. Their inhibitions are long gone.
“You know Kitsune…I think you’re a really cool guy, and I’m sorry,” Zylo mutters into Kitsune’s ear.
Kitsune giggles. “Eh? Nande?”
“What for? For a lot of things…I was being such an ass to you…and then you changed your hair just for me…Thank you, that hair was terrible, so thank you so much…” Zylo’s voice gets raspy and hoarse from shouting over the music, but he continues, “I should’ve just let it go, moved on. I’m sorry, I should’ve…it’s whatever now I guess.”
Though inebriated, Zylo was genuine. He meant every word. Probably.
Kitsune gives Zylo an acknowledging pat on the shoulder, “Don’t worry about it. Daijoubu da, honma ni. I should be sorry.”
Zylo speaks excessively loud, “You know Jacks, I just want you to know…I hate you, and I hate your jacket… No, just kidding, your jacket’s cool...but I hate that stupid face of yours.” He downs the shot and everyone follows.
’Uh oh. Breathe. That last one was…oh man. I need to concentrate! Oh, god, the smell burns. I’m losing it, just breathe. The smell is everywhere, I can’t escape it. I can’t even stand now. Breathe.’
Zylo’s vision starts to blur and everything looks hazy. He felt it a few shots ago but now his balance is completely non-existent. He can’t seem to hold up his own body and instead, leans all his weight onto the table. His mind wanders and he can no longer recall what this was all for. The only thing he does know is that he is smiling and he can’t stop.
“Twenty-two, bam!” Without thinking, Zylo carelessly downs another.
Jacks doesn’t hesitate and reaches for the next shot. Though his mind is willing, his hand is not and he misses the glass, nearly knocking over the other shots.
Elza comes to the rescue, pulling up Jacks’ head and pouring the shot straight into his mouth.
“God, you’re beautiful Elza…I don’t tell you that enough,” Jacks loudly mutters beside Elza’s ear. He says something else but Zylo is already too far gone by then to understand.
From head to toe, Zylo’s body feels like an oven, particularly his face. His ears and throat are burning and his temples pulsing. The music pounds in his head and the crowd is suffocating. Taking a moment to breathe, the hot and damp air covers his face and Zylo starts gazing across the room for an escape, a patch of cold air, anything.
The place is too crowded. At a distance, Violet is aggressively dancing with a bunch of other hunters holding a bottle of whiskey. Maybe it’s the same bottle, or a new one.
Bull, having noticed Zylo’s drunk, wandering look, starts laughing hysterically while standing unnecessarily tall. And across the room sitting at a booth is Juniper, vigorously arm wrestling Rolly. She has her own crowd cheering along but Zylo can’t concentrate any further.
His mind goes blank for several moments and all his efforts are put into staying conscious. His hands and legs are light, and when he tries to move them just a little, they jerk and move too far, hitting something he didn’t mean to hit.
From his peripherals but mainly his paranoia, the entire crowd seems to be staring at him, laughing at his inability to cope and prodding at his insecurity. Everything is irrelevant now and all he wants is to focus on not vomiting.
Looking through the haze of his own vision, Zylo sees Kitsune mouthing something, but all he hears is muffled silence. Beating Jacks suddenly becomes an insignificant priority as the alcohol sitting in Zylo’s system gets uncomfortable—extremely uncomfortable. Each time he burps, he tastes all the alcohol again which immediately sends a shiver down his spine.
‘Breathe. Just breathe. Just—’
The urge to resist is virtually absent. He leans forward and watches every second as the alcohol flows out of him like a fire hose.
About a liter of alcohol streams from his mouth and onto the floor. He shouldn’t have eaten this time.
The nearby hunters quickly step back but continue to cheer and laugh.
“Welp, he’s out,” Kitsune says, before chuckling hysterically. He reaches for the next shot with one hand and with the other, rubs Zylo’s back, who is now grunting and groaning in self-pity.
Together, the remaining three contestants consume the twenty-third shot. Right after, Kitsune picks up another consecutive glass and quickly pops it into his mouth.
Jacks tries to keep up with Kitsune’s daring move. He raises his hand toward the glass, and immediately falls off his chair onto the ground.
“Me and you, babe,” Kitsune nods to Elza with an eager smile.
“Jin jong hae.” She picks up the glass and holds it to her face for a moment. She waits. The crowd watches on but Elza is motionless like a statue. A second later, she places the glass back down onto the table, and eloquently utters, “We’re done.” With a strong hand, she pulls Jacks up from the floor.
Kitsune throws his arms into the air in triumph for all to see, and the entire room cheers in an uproar, celebrating his victory. “WOoo! Suck it, Spades!”
All the while, Zylo is sitting on the ground leaning on the leg of the table beside his vomit, weakly lifting up his arm to cheer.
“Free shots on the table!” Kitsune waves the few remaining glasses of alcohol away, then cheers and shouts with the joyous crowd. After a moment, he crouches down beside Zylo and pats him on the shoulder. “Well, you had fun. Ikuzo, let’s get some water in you!”
Tracing through the upheaved crowd, Kitsune leads Zylo into the restroom and leans him over the sink.
Zylo turns the faucet to maximum pressure, running water into his mouth and over his face. His skin is already pale, and a cold sweat runs from his forehead.
Lifting his head away from the water and up to the mirror, he sees a zombie suffering from a drug withdrawal staring back at him. Zylo quickly dunks his head back into the sink, continuously drinking the water from the running faucet.
Moments after, Juniper bursts through the restroom door joyfully cheering, “Kitsune! You won!” She double high-fives Kitsune, then places an arm over Zylo’s shoulder as he inhales the water.
“Here’s the real champ. How you doin’?” Juniper’s voice changes tones with every other word, indicating the influence of alcohol.
In her hand is a new ring Zylo had not seen before, and he nods at it.
“Oh, this. I won it from Rolly,” she lifts her hand and shows off the intricately designed silver ring. “Dude’s got small hands. Fit my finger quite nicely, I must say.”
Kitsune walks over from the urinal and rinses his hands on the sink beside Zylo. “Harahetta yo, gonna get something to eat. You gonna be alright?”
“I’ll be out in a sec…” Zylo rinses his mouth with more water.
“Feel better.” Juniper blows Zylo a kiss before following Kitsune outside.
She’s such a tease.
After throwing another handful of water on his face, Zylo finally feels his mind coming back together. With his vision and hearing recovering, a strong sense of calm overtakes him. He becomes mellow, though he still looks like a drug-addicted zombie.
The three Pirates continue their night of partying and hedonism followed by more alcohol. Kitsune orders a double avocado cheeseburger and a coffee liqueur with milk and equal parts vodka, while Juniper proceeds to the dance floor.
Zylo, still feeling buzzed despite having vomited a majority of the alcohol he consumed, finally works up the courage to talk to Bull.
“Bull, I saw you a while ago at the Citadel…but I thought it’d be totally awkward so I didn’t say anything.”
“I can’t say I feel the same way,” Bull replies in a low voice. “You did a good job before. Never saw so much puke come out from anyone so fast,” he pauses for a moment, then grins.
“You’re a funny guy, Bull. I bet not many people realize that.”
“They don’t…it’s a shame,” he sounds disappointed. “They’re always intimidated by strong guys, or think strong guys can’t be funny, but we can. I try to tell people all the time but they never believe me. We can do other things too, but—” As if he suddenly became extremely thirsty, Bull pauses and takes a huge gulp from his pint of beer.
‘Thank goodness for that. Any more talk about strong guys doing things and—’
Zylo takes a long thirsty drink from his glass. Reaching up to Bull’s shoulder, Zylo tries to give him an encouraging tap, only to realize it’s almost as difficult as climbing a tree. “Never mind. But you get what I’m trying to do.”
Zylo zones out and stares through Bull into nothingness.
“You know, you feel different from when I first met you,” Bull starts.
“What do you mean?”
“When I was hunting you, I could feel your Soul, and sense how you were as a person.” He raises an eyebrow at Zylo, “But now, you’re different…Like there’s something…extra.”
“Well, I am a hunter now. Wait, how do you sense my Soul now?” Zylo asks.
“I’m a good people person. I have a keen intuition for these things, but particularly your scent.”
Zylo doesn’t know what to say. “…Are you hitting on me?”
Bull assures, “But, what do I know about people? I’m already drunk,” and he finishes his drink.
‘Okay well, I’m getting hungry now, like really hungry. Jeez, why am I so hungry.’
“I’m gonna go get something to eat. It’s nice seeing you again, Bull, when you’re not trying to kill me,” Zylo farewells.
Bull looks extremely humorous to Zylo when he waves farewell with his enormous hand, but he doesn’t laugh.
The rest of the night goes by in a flash. The three burgers he wolfed down were most memorable for him, despite his taste buds barely tasting anything. Their night continued after leaving the Night Bun, roaming the streets in a carefree spirit.