Kings of Fortune

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Episode Thirty Six - Civil War

Kitsune strolls through the front doors of the ‘Soaring Tea’ indoor mall, carefully stepping over the broken glass and metal trash cans spread across the floor. Plastic mannequins, clothing, and bags are scattered in a mess while frightened shoppers scurry for the exits. Designer brand items are valuable, but abandoned at the first sign of trouble.

Kitsune walks against the storming flow of people toward the cacophony of loud grunts and clanging metal further inside. He chases the noise echoing along through the level and finally, finds the Metal Monkeys in a massive brawl.

More than ten hunters are engaged in the melee but the Monkeys hold their own. They kick off from the walls and leap madly through the air to attack, chaotic in appearance but in fact extremely well-coordinated.

The Monkeys haven’t revealed whose side they are on, so Kitsune relies solely on the trust of his friendship. He inhales a breath and calls out the name, “Wu!”

Heads turn at his sudden cry and Kitsune finds the world staring down on him.

“Kitsune!” replies a friendly, acknowledging voice. The fighting doesn’t stop and Wu hastily sweeps his long staff around him, knocking away his assailants.

Kitsune tears through the two hunters running toward him, swiftly swinging his pipe left and right against their bodies. After throwing a hard kick at an approaching third, Kitsune races to the grouped Monkeys by the central square of the mall.

Wu spins a fast roundhouse kick, then wallops another hunter with the end of his long staff. He turns just in time to see Kitsune approach.

“Tell me, Wu. Are you down to kill King Kuro or are you otherwise?” Kitsune asks with a hint of doubt.

Wu scratches his fuzzy-haired head and says, “Kitsune, you shouldn’t have come here…” His voice falls low.

Kitsune slowly takes a defensive step back, until Wu smiles, “Wow, the look on your face. You know I’m always down to kill whoever you want me to, for a price.”

A smile sweeps across Kitsune’s face and he grasps Wu’s hand for a firm shake. “By the way,” he starts, “what did you actually fix with the truck?”

“Um…” Wu chuckles awkwardly, and gladly turns his attention to his approaching crewmate.

The Monkey hunter anxiously reminds them, “Guys, we’re still in a fight,” and leaps over a bench dropping into a sliding kick.

“Oh, right,” replies Kitsune and Wu, and they charge out simultaneously.

Zylo and Juniper race through a street festival trying to outrun the Shark Princes and Flash Dee. They pass under long red banners hanging from the streetlamps and curve around food carts by the side of the road.

The neighborhood festivities rile their senses and fuel their momentum. Loud drums boom to the beat for street performers, and the Pirates’ feet pace with the fast rhythm. Cymbals and tambourines crash and jingle to their rapid steps, complementing their movements as they storm the street.

Juniper shoves through the numerous groups of chattering people, and Zylo slides past the narrow crevices. They break through the crowd into a performance circle, quickly running past dancers and musicians in the middle of a routine.

Hey, watch it!”

“So sorry about this!” Zylo stumbles beside a dancer performing a backflip and races across to the other side of the circle, “Really impressive though!”

The road is blocked off from cars and the masses of people occupy the entire street. Even then, there is little space to sprint, and they rely solely on small maneuvers and fast reflexes.

“Coming through!” Juniper howls. She pushes over a tall man enjoying a brisk walk, and nearly crashes into a woman looking the other way. Her desperate attempt to avoid collision causes her to trip and she falls into a quick tumble.

Fin, the third member of the Shark Princes, quickly emerges from the crowd and tackles Juniper back to the ground. She pummels the Pirate with a violent flurry of fists while Zylo is lost somewhere in the mob.

“Junie!” He catches sight of her, but a blunt wrench whams into his back, followed by a hard kick knocking him against the side of a lunch truck.

Ouch, damn!” Zylo shouts as his chest slams the hard metal frame. The air is squeezed from his lungs and he struggles to breathe for a second. He continues moving, taking short breaths and eventually pushing off from the truck. His reflexes manage to duck the incoming wrench, which engraves a clean groove into the truck’s back door.

“Get outta the way!” shouts a beautifully familiar voice.

Bursting from the crowd with blooming blonde hair is Starlet, butting her baton into Mace’s cheek. She follows with a raging knee strike into his stomach and low kicks him to the ground.

Mace is finished.

“Are you ready for me? Here I come!” Marina’s voice cheerfully announces her arrival. She runs across, skirt fluttering along, and swings her heavy sledgehammer into Fin. Her struck body barrels away from Juniper until hitting a newspaper rack.

Extending a hand, Marina pulls Juniper up from the ground, saying, “Come on, we’re friends now. Let’s go!”

“Thanks.” Juniper jets past Marina and heads straight for Bomba. She bashes the guitar against his stomach, then grips his collar and hurls him to the ground.

“Lookie here,” Juniper leans down to Bomba’s frantic face, “guess we bagged ourselves the Sharks.”

The spontaneous brawl deescalates in moments and Flash hastily escapes into the road without anyone bothering to chase.

“What do you guys want?” Starlet presses her shoe on Mace’s chest, pushing the air from his already pained lungs.

His clambering hands struggle to lift Starlet’s crushing foot. “We were gonna… bring all of you back to King Kuro…”

She presses even further, squeezing the words from his lips. “Looks like you’ll have to try harder.”

Just then, Starlet looks toward the clearing street and sees Flash standing beside Violet, Ronnie, and Cody of the Split Se7ens.

Sirens, flashing lights, and shuffling feet of countless police officers flood the parking lot of the indoor mall. “Get on the ground or we will shoot!” They demand with pistols aimed, but the hunters couldn’t be more unconcerned.

Kitsune and the Metal Monkeys sprint out of the front doors into the parking lot, keeping their heads low as they stride between the parked cars.

Raging in a hurricane, the Monkeys leap toward the uniformed police like hyenas on panicking prey. The wild scuffle lasts only seconds before the ground is littered with the bodies of the officers.

Kitsune races across the parking lot, sliding between two cars trying to escape the scene but running into two policemen.

Drop your—”

Kitsune’s metal pipe whacks across the officer’s face before he could finish his sentence. The other draws his baton, but is quickly butted in the stomach and roundhouse kicked to the ground.

Urusai yo.” Kitsune disappears into the hedges and promptly answers the vibrating mobile phone in his pocket. “Renzo? Uh huh… you’re sure you’re feeling better?” Kitsune scans the area for more patrolling officers, “Okay, I’ll come get you.”

The street fair continues unabated with citizens watching and recording the violent scuffle from their mobile phones. This is just another festive day in the city perhaps. Police are nowhere in sight, and no one seems bothered.

Starlet blocks Ronnie’s golf club with the side-handle batons lining her forearms, and quickly throws a knee kick into his stomach. She spins into a backswing striking his cheek, and Ronnie goes down without a struggle.

“I’m too fast for you, kiddo!” Marina is swift to hop and dodge Cody’s attacks, efficiently evading each one.

Cody’s eyes are bloodshot red with an unbreakable smile plastered across his face. Fueled with an elated high and a desire to fill his endless appetite, he swishes the pool stick in wild directions and even comes close to hitting an innocent pedestrian.

“Hey, that’s dangerous! You could really hurt someone, especially me!” Marina cries. Her sledgehammer pounds against his pool stick, and the dense weight throws him back. She steps into a fast front kick and Cody is knocked away, stumbling through the fleeing crowd trying to regain balance.

“Cool your jets!” Flash blocks Zylo’s jabbing rod with the netting of one racket, then sweeps low with the other. The fast weapon strikes Zylo’s calf and drops him onto his knee, then swings again.

Zylo quickly leans back, dropping his rear to the ground with his head falling just out of reach. At the same time, he thrusts the rod forward and the tip strikes Flash’s chest.

“Why wasn’t I invited?!” Violet screams and flails her weapon.

Juniper grows hot with frustration, dodging and shouting through her gritting teeth, “What the hell are you guys doing?”

Violet’s raving laugh is unsettling, and thoroughly annoying as usual. “We’re just here to fight, calm down!” She immediately lunges forward and slaps her hockey stick across Juniper’s chin.

Stumbling back and clutching her jaw, Juniper’s eyes steam and her arms ache for vengeance. Just as Violet charges again, Juniper steps forward and musters all the hate-fueled strength from within. She pulls her guitar into a vicious upward swing.

The raging rim of the guitar drives up into Violet’s stomach, reverberating an electronic riff from the instrument. The wind is immediately knocked from her lungs, and Violet crumbles into a low, pained slouch.

The Se7ens are incapacitated, and Flash Dee quickly disappears into the crowd again. His sense of self-preservation is unrivaled.

“Are you guys done?” Juniper grips Violet’s collar and pulls her face close.

Rarely has Violet been so tamed and subdued, dropping to her knees with only Juniper’s grasp carrying her weight. The overwhelming pain in her stomach leaves her incapable of standing straight, so she slumps to her knees.

Violet struggles to breathe for a second, “We were…supposed to be helping the Sharks hunt you.”

For that brief moment, her voice sounded calm and normal, leaving Juniper thoroughly surprised, or scared.

“And?” asks Zylo, turning to discover the Shark Princes had escaped during the last fight. None of the three are anywhere to be found on the street.

“I’m not letting that, Dick King, push the Se7ens around...”

“Then why the hell did you fight us?” Juniper releases her grip from Violet’s jacket and her sagging body drops.

“Because…” Violet pushes up from the ground to stand, “I thought it’d be really funny.” She leans closer to Juniper’s face, “Bitch.”

Violet’s warm breath brushes against Juniper’s cheeks, immediately urging her to step back and readily gripping the guitar. The discomfort of being so close to Violet is…inexpressible. “And you changed your mind after I ran my guitar into your gut.”

Violet spits on the ground and steps close to Juniper again, “How ’bout we run this again then?”

“Can we do this somewhere else? Please,” Starlet interrupts.

The street is cluttered with viewing pedestrians, staring and recording at a safe distance. Others watch while standing in line for food and the rest couldn’t care less.

Police sirens approach from no more than a few blocks away, and only then do the three crews retreat. They move away from the street, shuffling into another obscure back alley.

“What did King Kuro want with us?” Zylo carefully scans the buildings and rooftops for eavesdroppers. The danger of other hunters is all too real.

“He didn’t say…” answers Violet’s raspy voice. “I assumed he wanted you guys dead, which I wouldn’t be so against.”

“Piss off,” replies Juniper.

Violet smirks and shakes her head in pity, “Take a joke. He gave all the crews multiple contracts to hunt. There were no notices, but a lot more reward. Just run the streets and kill.”

“No one thought that was strange?” asks Starlet, eyeing the entrance to the alley.

Cody and Ronnie chuckle about something but Violet glares them down until they’re quiet again. She goes on to say, “Some of the crews were suspicious, but a number weren’t. They just wanted Soul, and King Kuro offered a lot.”

“And here I thought hunters are supposed to be the best and brightest of humanity,” Zylo says.

“Don’t get it twisted. A number of crews refused and there was a ton of infighting inside the Citadel. When things got too rowdy, King Kuro even slaughtered a few.” Violet explains the bitter events but her raspy voice sounds unconcerned.

“Only one thing left to ask.” Juniper raises her guitar, “Whose side are you on?”

Violet smiles the same cruel grin she always does, “Do you even need to ask?”

“Um…yes, we do,” replies Zylo.

Violet knocks the guitar away from her face. “I’m gonna help you kill King Kuro, and then I’m gonna kill you.”

Police lights flash along the street and the hunters know it’s time to move again.

“Okay. Let’s just stay in touch.” Zylo heads toward the other side of the alley with Starlet and Marina. “If you wanna help, rally the other crews willing to fight. Then we storm the Citadel together, when everyone’s ready.”

Starlet nods and races toward the street beside Marina. “We’re meeting up with Breakers Sunrise. I’ll let them know.”

Violet snaps her fingers and the Se7ens begin departing in the opposite direction. After a few steps, however, she whips back saying, “Oh wait, Zylo, something you should know. One of the crews had a contract for a girlie, a girlie named Rachel.”

Zylo freezes.

’What?

Juniper comments, “Everyone knows about your girlfriend, even King Kuro.”

“Oh damn it, that bastard!” Zylo gets antsy.

It’s been a while since he’s felt such panicking anxiety. His fists clench and his feet tap uncontrollably on the ground, aching to start moving. “Thanks, Violet. See you soon.”

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