Kings of Fortune

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Episode FIfteen - Amateur Anarchy

Birds are chirping.

Light rushes over his eyes and they force open. Tree branches halfheartedly cover the sunlight above him, but fail. It’s not their fault nature made them so scrawny. The warm bright light filters through the intricate shapes of the twigs and leaves and shines an patterned patch over Zylo’s face. Still drowsy, he feels the tickle of soft grass brushing against his palms.

It’s a park. A wonderful park the New Pirates chose to sleep in. Juniper is comfortably snuggled up on the grass beside Zylo, and Kitsune lies out on a nearby bench, both asleep.

Zylo slowly sits up, and his eyes fail to open completely.

People are already enjoying the day, happily walking through the park with their children and dogs. Several pedestrians stare in their direction, curious about the wellbeing of the sleeping individuals, but doing nothing about it. A beautiful woman with white hair scoffs at the sight of them. Sadly, she too moves on.

Perhaps remaining uninvolved with these delinquents is the best choice of action. There is certainly no better way to destroy a child’s innocence than needing a parent to explain why there are folks passed out in the park after a night of drunken depravity. Or maybe they can say the grass is really comfortable.

From across the park, the black and white uniformed police officer curiously walks over to investigate.

“Uh oh…” Zylo hurries to get up and rushes to wake his teammates. He violently shakes Juniper’s arm, then Kitsune’s chest.

Moments later, they awake abruptly in confusion, both holding their aching heads trying to understand their surroundings.

Ah, where are we…?” Juniper forces open her eyes, squinting at the sun and massaging her temples.

“Bad hangover?” Zylo softly places a hand on her head, and she gently nods.

“Hey guys,” Kitsune mumbles, shaking his head hoping to lose the headache. “The bounty… Hunt starts in half an hour.”

The officer arrives, “You folks okay?”

“Just dandy,” answers Kitsune, standing up from the bench.

Zylo reassures, “We’re just about to leave. Sorry about that.”

The officer nods and watches them with the firmness of a hawk as they slowly stagger out of the park.

The group waddles their way onto the street, but only Zylo manages to walk straight. Kitsune and Juniper drag their tired bodies while coping with their premature awakening. They stumble and sway paying no attention to the world around them.

Struggling through their clouded minds and blurred vision, they eventually find their way back to Renzo’s stakeout building. They are without their coordination to climb and must forsake their hunter abilities by taking the stairs, like a bunch of pathetic normal humans.

The team stumbles onto the roof and Renzo turns to greet them with a blank stare. “Fun night?”

“Yeah, totes,” Juniper yawns vivaciously with her jaws snapping shut. She curiously inspects the new ring sitting on her hand and cries, “Oh yeah, I won this last night!” Barely able to keep herself up, Juniper throws her body against the nearby wall and slides down until her rear hits the ground.

“Who’s gonna start with me?” Renzo inspects his broken crew.

Kitsune is sitting against the wall with his legs straight out and eyes hidden behind his sunglasses while Juniper sits beside him, eyes closed and head leaning against his shoulder.

Zylo is the only one capable of standing, or staying conscious for that matter.

“I think Zylo is most fit right now,” Renzo decides.

“Um, sure… You guys gonna rest up and join us later?” Zylo glances expectantly to Kitsune and Juniper. The pair slowly nods in unison before returning to their solemn nap.

With the team settled, Renzo and Zylo set off for Sanae Hernandez currently at the hotel.

“So I assume we just scare him a little for now until heat time,” Zylo says.

“Right. Do you want to start off?” Renzo adjusts the chains around his wrist.

Zylo wants to say no. First of all, he’d never done this before. Second, his head isn’t even in the right place right now. Five, Zylo constantly finds himself zoning off and concentrating on everything irrelevant. And eight, he should’ve eaten something first.

With no concern for the front desk, Zylo and Renzo race past the lobby and make for the stairs. They reach Sanae’s room, and Zylo decides to knock.

*Thump* Thump*

No response. Zylo knocks again,

*Thump* Thump *Thump*

Still nothing.

Zylo lifts his hand again until a loud, thunderous bang deafens his ears. Something pierces the door faster than Zylo can see and whizzes past him, hitting the wall behind.

A second bullet zooms past and Renzo quickly pushes Zylo out of the way. Several more shots hit the wall and the doorframe, and Zylo isn’t sure what to do aside from keep his head down. His partner, on the other hand, is far more experienced.

After a pause from the gunfire, Renzo bravely kicks the door open and leaps in. He pries the gun from Sanae’s hands before landing a vicious knee into his stomach. The impact hits like a wrecking ball and Sanae is thrown limp against the wall.

With swift hands, Renzo dismantles the gun and tosses the pieces onto the floor. The fear is struck and the Pirates stand idle as the terrified bounty escapes into the hallway.

“Whoa, he runs a lot faster than he looks,” Zylo laughs, standing and watching from the corner of the room. “You were good though.”

Renzo calmly nods and brushes off his clothes.

The sky grows into a cloudy overcast, replacing the cheerful blue sky with dull melancholy. The chase goes on for nearly two hours under this dreadful weather. By now, the hunt becomes more of a wild scare trying to make the most of the heat time.

Sanae, though quick on his feet, makes almost no attempt to hide. Street after street, he slows down and leaves behind a clumsy trail of his path. Needless to say, there have been few other bounties this deserving to die.

All throughout the wild chase, Zylo feels his prized body strengthening. The sores and muscle aches from the other day though gone, serve as a reminder that his champion body still needs work.

He takes every opportunity to climb a wall or vault over a high fence faster than he could before. He wants to get stronger and this is his free gym membership.

Never again does he want to be the slow, fat liability trailing behind his more efficient partners during hunts. He wants to be powerful so he can beat up all the bullies that made fun of him with righteous fury. That’s the spirit!

“Hey Renzo, thanks for saving me from those gunshots before.” Zylo jogs along the sidewalk beside his partner.

“No problem. Wouldn’t want my only teammate getting shot now.”

“Where’d you learn to dismantle a gun so quickly? A lot of bounties carry guns?” Zylo abruptly slides through a group of teenagers and rejoins Renzo on the other side.

“Learned in the academy. I used to be a cop.”

They cross the street heading on to the next block.

“You were a cop? No way! Wait, actually, never mind. I can totally see that,” Zylo exclaims. “How’d you die?”

“It’s a long story.”

“Oh…”

Hearing his disappointment, Renzo decides to enlighten him. “I was a detective for several years.” They turn into a street following stray pieces of garbage along the sidewalk. “There was this big-time crook I’d been investigating. One day, my partner and I finally got a lead on him, and we follow it to a construction site. We were told there was a deal going on.”

“This isn’t as exciting since I know how it ends…” Zylo’s voice gets quieter, but sees Renzo’s willingness to tell the story, “But, please continue.”

“Well, my partner and I watched the exchange go down and managed to apprehend the crook. What we didn’t expect was a fourth party being there. Just when we realized it, a bomb goes off. After that, I woke up on the spiritual plane and became a hunter.”

They slow into a walking pace, and Zylo asks, “Were you surprised about the whole hunter thing?”

“Yes, but I was even more surprised to find Kitsune chosen to be a hunter, too.”

But Zylo doesn’t understand. “Wait…why? You knew Kitsune before you became a hunter?”

“Yes, of course. We died together.”

Zylo’s jaw drops in surprise, but he takes a guess, “Wait, wait…was Kitsune your partner?”

Renzo glances down at Zylo. “My partner? No, of course not, Kitsune was the big-time crook!” he chuckles a low, cheerful laugh.

Before Zylo can reply, they cross into an extremely familiar neighborhood. Zylo stops and immediately recognizes the colorful buildings and decorative lanterns along the light posts.

Like an epiphany, a lifetime’s worth of memories race back to his mind. Along the avenue is a long chain of restaurants while the intersecting alleyways are rows of street vendors and shrines.

This is Old Treasure Hill.

“Twenty percent discount!”

“I’LL TAKE TWO!”

The merchants yell and the customers yell even louder. Zylo is struck with a remarkable sense of nostalgia from the noise and commotion. Among the ruckus, he gazes to each stall, stepping his way along the shopping crowd.

“Buy one get one free!”

“I’ll buy one but you give me two free!”

The people are malicious.

Zylo trails through the busy crowd and Renzo follows behind. He doesn’t stop for a second to check anyone’s wares, despite how persuasive they sound. Finally, he steps out of the congested crowd onto the empty road and stretches his arms in the open air.

“See anything you liked?” Zylo asks.

“Eh…maybe that shark tooth necklace.” Renzo was very intrigued and even had his money in hand, but Zylo was walking too fast.

“Leon?!”

A loud surprised cry of a name from his past life.

‘Leon, that’s what they called me.’

He turns and sees her. Anxiety strikes when he notices her familiar figure, her long black hair, and the gentle gleam of her eyes.

Zylo gazes at her for a moment, recognizing the same sweet face he’d fallen in love with, Rachel. Like stretching open an old wound, he rekindles the pain and regret of losing the love of his life. A string of wild emotions erupt within him and he is unsure of how to act and what to say.

’It’s been over a year, should I reintroduce myself? Do I make small talk? Oh great immortal spirit of the universe, please show me the way! Don’t let this be awkward!

Speechless, he hesitantly walks toward her with carefully placed steps, unsure of his own intentions.

As for Rachel, her eyes begin to water, overwhelmed by confusion and shock at the sight of Leon’s ghost. Her arms and legs continuously adjust along with her posture, looking for the most comfortable position to meet him.

Rachel watched Leon die. She remembers clearly how he pulled her back onto the ledge before plummeting ten stories into the ground.

After he died, the hunters disappeared while she remained on the roof, crying for what seemed like an eternity. When the authorities arrived, she told them a number of strange people were trying to kill her and Leon, but Fortune City’s finest found no suspects.

As the year went on, Rachel continued her job and completed medical school despite copious amounts of mourning. She is now in fact, Dr. Rachel Loreto. Even after all that time, she never fully moved on. His death was too sudden, too heartbreaking, and too unexplained.

But now, there he is. Alive, standing in the street. Was it all a joke? Some outrageously distasteful, cynical joke?

“I can’t believe what I’m seeing…” Rachel holds both hands over her mouth and the first tear falls from the corner of her eye.

“I know…” Zylo leans closer, startling her when his hand lightly traces her face. His delicate touch never felt so foreign and unnatural.

She tries to relax, and reaches out to softly touch his face. Her fingertips caress his cheek and from her pent up emotion comes a joyful burst of laughter.

For a moment, they are stuck in their own world with the streets of Fortune City and its citizens, non-existent.

Zylo stares into her eyes, then wraps his arms around her without hesitation. The hug is abrupt, almost frightening, but she gradually squeezes back.

“How…how are you alive? I saw you…” Sudden tears break from her eyes and her voice crumbles before the last word.

“I did die…but it’s…it’s a really long story…” Zylo sobs.

’I don’t know how to explain, and I don’t want to come off sounding like a jerk who faked his own death, but I’m restricted by Baya law to tell any secrets or I risk the banishment of my Soul. Right?

“What do you mean you died? You’re…you’re right here!” Rachel’s face becomes tense with each word and her voice grows upset from the confusion arousing her deepest frustrations. “Was it because I didn’t want to marry you? And you faked your death to break up with me or hurt me?!”

“No! Of course not! I loved you!” Zylo’s hands tightly grip her shoulders, wanting to express the regret he feels.

“Then why? You even dyed your hair white so I wouldn’t recognize you?!”

Renzo steps over and places his hand on Zylo’s shoulder. “The other crews are coming. Do you need more time?”

Zylo needs a lot more than time. There is so much he wants to tell her but nothing more he can say.

“Look, Rachel. I died. It’s just…something strange and complicated brought me back. I can’t tell you everything right now but I will, eventually. I swear, I swear to you! I love you,” he kisses her cheek and reluctantly follows after Renzo. Glancing back one more time, he promises, “I’m going to get my life back for you! Just wait for me, please!”

Rachel watches the two disappear into the street, wiping her frowning red-flushed face with her hands. She contemplates whether or not to follow the apparition.

“It’s unfortunate,” Renzo sympathizes as they race down the avenue.

Zylo repressed his urges, knowing that his first duty is to succeed as a hunter. Only then, can he rightfully be with Rachel again.

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