Episode Seventeen - I am Zylo
Looking down at Renzo’s motionless body in triumph, his smirking glance traces to Zylo with enthusiasm.
Standing on the shattered windowsill is a slim but toned man with sharp features and a youthful smile. Short dark-brown hair protrudes from under his red fitted cap, matching his puffy red vest over a white V-neck shirt. He’s calm and composed, hands placed confidently in his pockets staring down to the street below.
Eager to introduce himself, the man jumps from the window down to the sidewalk beside Renzo. A heavy thud trembles from his feet upon landing, smashing imprints of the bottom of his shoes into the pavement.
The pedestrians standing over Renzo scurry away at the sight of this man, worried they would be next.
“Renzo!” Zylo calls out to his partner as he runs, but no response. Renzo is unconscious.
“Another Pirate? I’ve never met you.” The man keeps eye contact with Zylo as he kicks Renzo’s body.
Hands still deep in his pockets, the man calmly walks toward the charging Zylo with a daring grin smeared over his face. “My name is Xin, of the Red Wreckers. And you are?”
“Don’t worry about it, pretty boy,” Zylo readies his rod. Upon reaching Xin, he pulls the weapon toward the front throwing a powerful horizontal swing.
Xin notices the wide angle of the attack and rushes forward. He steps rapidly toward Zylo before the rod can reach him, then jumps into a spin kick.
Like a bolt of lightning, his fast kick strikes the side of Zylo’s torso. The heavy impact of the sneaker thumps against his rib cage and his body flips to the ground in a splat.
This is definitely not Zylo’s day.
“Yah!” Xin grunts and continues with an axe kick, raising his leg straight into the air and dropping the heel downward over Zylo’s flat chest.
The attack misses as Zylo frantically rolls away, face covered in sweat as he scrambles back to his feet. He watches Xin’s heel continue into the ground, implanting a small cratered print of his sneaker in the pavement.
The cocky smirk widens on Xin’s face. He doesn’t chase any further but waits and allows Zylo to recover. “So, mysterious stranger. You think you can match steel with me?”
He’s so smug.
“Ah…so tired of getting my ass kicked today...” Zylo holds the injured side of his chest and feels a wicked bruise already settled under his shirt. “You’ve got steel plates in there, don’t you? The heel and the toes…”
“You noticed,” Xin smiles, hands snug in his pockets.
Perhaps the worst timing ever, Elza reemerges from the sidewalk and stands against Zylo.
“Well, come to join the party?” Zylo is completely out of ideas, and hardly experienced enough to fight two hunters.
Matters are made worse when he hears her voice calling from a distance, immediately sending an anxious shiver through his already troubled mind.
“Leon! What are you doing? Run!” yells Rachel.
’It’s too late for that!’
Elza and Xin are already charging. Even from different crews, these two hunters decide to take Zylo out first and deal with each other after. Perhaps he is just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe his trusted immortal deity has abandoned him.
Coming in fast, Elza spins into a lunging stab with her umbrella while Xin leaps into a falling axe kick.
In his last desperate moment, Zylo prepares a final block. He leans forward, clasps each end of the rod tightly in his hand, and raises the weapon to the front of him. He digs his feet into the ground and braces against their attacks.
The bright light flashes over their eyes with a rushing wind. All within a split second, Zylo feels the pressure of a thousand pounds push into his arms. His body is forced into a squat and he feels his knees about to collapse, but they don’t. Looking up, he sees Elza and Xin suspended several inches away from him, repelled by the same invisible force from before.
Zylo reacts fast. Vigorously pushing the rod outward, he grips one end with both hands and sweeps the weapon wide against the two hunters.
Elza and Xin are forcefully batted away several yards, dropping onto the ground before they skillfully roll back onto their feet.
“Well, that’s unexpected,” mutters Xin, wiping the spit from his mouth. “He can Shield.”
“Yes, I noticed that earlier,” says Elza, standing poised.
“There’s only one other hunter I’ve met who’s been able to Shield,” Xin continues, “and you’re not her.”
‘By shield, they must be referring to the invisible wall that stopped their attacks. Today is the first time I’ve done it and honestly, I don’t even know how I did it. Now, I have to look confident, as though I could do it again if I needed to…’
He turns back and sees Rachel standing at a distance. She watched everything, but stares silently in wonder.
Turning his attention, Zylo spots Kitsune and Juniper hurrying down the street toward him. He calls, “Well, I’m glad you guys are so damn punctual.”
Xin watches their approach and shakes his head. “The entire crew is here to claim this small bounty? Such a waste of time.”
“Whoa, calm yourself, we just happened to be in the neighborhood,” Juniper grins, then glances at Zylo from the corner of her eye. “Hey, sorry we’re super late.”
“No worries,” Zylo smiles, still clutching his aching chest.
“Renzo? Damn, you got whooped!” Kitsune chuckles, standing at a welcoming distance from Xin. He runs his hands through the thickest part of his pompadour and unbuckles the metal pipe from his belt. “Come on, Xin, show me those moves now.”
Zylo decides to go after the bounty, and races through the crowded street in a huff. The pedestrians stand idly by, staring at the commotion that appears to be another common gang fight.
Xin moves after Zylo but Kitsune steps in his path. “Whoa, we didn’t even start yet.”
Chuckling softly, Xin spontaneously dives into a snap kick, clanging his foot against the edge of Kitsune’s blocking pipe.
Kitsune pushes away and twirls the pipe in his hand. “Gonna have to teach you some manners. Yarimasho!” and he steps forward with a fast swing.
On the other side of the road, Juniper swings continuously toward Elza, not giving her a chance for the offensive. Even so, Elza gracefully dodges the guitar with well-placed steps.
Juniper exhales a tired breath after another attack, and says, “I’m guessing you didn’t drink very much last night?”
The sky is flooded with frightening grey clouds rumbling from the thunderous clash of lightning. A light drizzle rains down over the neighborhood and its inhabitants, softly tickling Zylo’s face and dampening his hair as he runs.
“Wait!” Rachel is halfway down the road chasing after him, but he doesn’t stop. “Come back, Leon, please! Talk to me!”
“Just leave! Please!” Zylo shouts, urgently scanning the wet street for the bounty. “You shouldn’t be here right now.”
“I’m not losing you again! Come back!”
But he doesn’t.
The street is noisy with commotion. Off in the distance is the growling thunder, and even more threatening is the howl of police sirens. Their red and purple lights flash through the street to reveal the gradually thickening rain falling from the sky.
The police will arrive soon and Zylo has to finish fast. He feels Sanae Hernandez’s presence somewhere close, somewhere very close along the street, but he can’t seem to spot his face.
Suddenly, a crowd of people starts to panic, screaming and dispersing from one section of the sidewalk. As the street clears, Zylo sees Sanae at the center of the chaos holding a knife to a woman’s neck.
Rain drops clink onto the glimmering blade of the knife just slightly chafing the woman’s skin. Her face is covered in fear, eye brows curved low and lips quivering.
Zylo isn’t sure what to do but continue to step toward them.
“Come on, Sanae. Don’t do that.” Zylo cautiously edges closer but the knife begins cutting into the woman’s neck.
A light drop of blood trickles along the already wet blade before fading with the rain. The trembling woman wants to scream but forces herself to stop, resisting all urges in an effort to remain calm.
“I-I won’t kill her if you don’t kill me! I s-swear!” Sanae is stuttering and shaking, even more terrified than his hostage.
The pouring rain intensifies and the street becomes noisy from the monsoon. Zylo’s face is drenched with streams of water running through his hair and down his face. Sanae and his hostage are the same, only his miserable face is mostly soaked with his own tears.
The frightened crowd is willing to help, but stands powerless. They can only watch and wait for the police, fearing their actions might endanger the life of the woman.
“I can’t let you go, Sanae. If you kill her, you’re only making it worse for yourself.” Zylo takes a step closer as the water continues running over his eyes.
“How could it get any worse?! Y-You’re going to kill me!” Sanae steps back with his hostage, mumbling and sobbing uncontrollably. The knife cuts deeper but the woman resists, pulling against the man’s arm to keep the knife from pressing further into her neck.
“There are far worse things than death, Sanae.” Zylo walks forward, hands tightly gripping the lengthened rod.
“I-I didn’t want to kill them, I didn’t…just let me go…I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…Emi…” As Sanae speaks, the woman feels his grip loosening.
She takes a gamble and quickly pulls his arm away just enough to slip under. With a firm elbow to the gut, she knocks the man down onto his knees and escapes.
Zylo seizes the opportunity, striding through the falling rain dragging the rod readily behind him. With a swift motion, he pulls the sturdy weapon vertically down onto Sanae Hernandez’s head. The steel edge of the tip strikes bone and the body drops limp to the ground.
The street is silent.
The howling sirens, the pouring rain, the crackling thunder—all is muffled, all is quiet.
From the corner of his vision is Rachel standing in the open road staring emotionless past the pouring threads of water.
Zylo slowly tilts his head toward her before hastily dislodging the rod from Sanae’s skull. Too late though. The deed is done, and he’s surrendered all efforts to explain himself to her.
Rachel’s lips start to move, “…Who are you?”
“Rachel…” he speaks over the violent rain drenching his body. “Please believe me. I had to kill this man.”
At that moment, a light-blue essence flows out from Sanae’s body and streams into Zylo’s weapon, acting as a vacuum pulling in the life force.
At the same time, a smaller amount enters Zylo’s fingertips and he feels a familiar tingling course through his body. He closes his eyes trying to savor every refreshing sensation energizing his chest and limbs.
‘The Soul. I can feel it running in my veins, bringing me more in touch with my body than ever before. Maybe Bull was right. Maybe I am different from other hunters, and maybe that’s why I can Shield.’
His body pulls erect for a few seconds until the feeling fades, and he drops onto his knees.
Zylo exhales and finally opens his eyes again.
Sanae’s body, now devoid of his essence, dissipates and crumbles into dust before washing away with the rain. In a matter of seconds, his physical remains are gone.
“What are you? …and why do you look like Leon?” Rachel asks, eyes glaring and body standing just as unwavering.
She remains silent. The expression from her eyes, her mouth…
‘I can’t stay here. I can’t look at her…’
The police sirens approach with lights flashing from the end of the street. Without saying another word to Rachel, Zylo rushes into the scattering crowd and disappears before the patrol cars arrive. She doesn’t try to stop him, and stands in the rain watching him vanish.
Stuck in her own thoughts and flustered emotions, she replays every moment of him. His face…his stern unyielding glare. There was a fire raging in his eyes, something she’d never seen.
Rachel saw him sprint with incredible speed and chase with the ruthlessness of a bloodthirsty predator. He didn’t hesitate, he didn’t falter. He killed with conviction, and Leon would never do that.
He is not the same person she remembers, and not the same person she loved. Deep down, she knows that Leon is gone.
‘Continuous streams of rain wash over my eyes…but I don’t need to see. I just killed a man. My first bounty, my first contract, my first murder. I did it, and I feel no remorse. I’m surprised, to be honest. I didn’t blink, I didn’t stop, and it somehow feels…justified. I no longer need to see…because my eyes are already opened.’
The rain pours down over his body. Standing by the edge of the roof, he watches the street stir with commotion and the sirens wail in chaos.
He feels different.
He is different.
’Who am I,she asked. I know what I’m not, and what I can’t be. I can’t be afraid of the hunt, because the hunt is my only salvation.
Who am I?
I am Zylo, and I am a New Pirate.’
He wipes the water from his eyes, and the rain finally stops.