Kings of Fortune

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Episode Forty - No Party like a Motel Party

“Zylo.”

A foot taps against his arm and he awakens.

Zylo sits up in a fright, stretching open his eyes and hurrying to reorient himself.

“Whoa, calm yourself.”

Standing over him is a well-rested man with new resolve and flashy sneakers. They’re still on the roof with Juniper lying asleep on his thigh.

“Xin…” Zylo groans, “What are you doing here?” He wipes the cold sweat from his forehead and tries to recall his dream, but only retains stray parts.

“What’s going on?” Juniper wakes just as confused as Zylo. She fidgets on his lap and sits up, looking around with squinting eyes to understand her surroundings. “Oh.”

The sky is already darkening toward the sunset with the overcast grown dominant. The rampant grey clouds float like a beautiful palace in the sky with its intentions to rain indiscernible.

“How long were we asleep for?” Zylo stretches his arms and chest, feeling the cracks and pops around his joints.

“Well, if you guys came back this morning, I’d say about eleven hours.” Hands dug in his pockets, Xin steps toward the railing beside Fia. Her copper-red hair flutters aside and reveals her well-healed wound.

Xin glances back to Zylo with an intrigued smile, “Things are coming together. I’ve called Kitsune and Renzo to meet us up here.”

Sure enough, a slow thumping comes from the stairway, and Kitsune and Renzo emerge.

“You guys just woke up too?” asks Kitsune.

Juniper yawns and forcefully bites down to shut her widened jaw. She stands to stretch her stiffened arms and legs, and copes with the post-sleep impatience she tends to have.

“A lot happened last night, didn’t it?” Xin looks at everyone.

“No shit. You see my clothes?” Juniper snaps aggressively. “…Sorry.”

“No worries.”

Kitsune treks across the roof, his drowsy eyes shielded by his sunglasses. “I got the Metal Monkeys, they got Split Se7ens and Concrete Brawlers. Right?”

“And Ricochet Riders. Get it straight,” Juniper adds. “Sorry.”

“We win.” Zylo smiles and jumps up to his feet. Surprisingly, his bullet wounds have reduced to negligible aches.

“Since we’re all here…” Kitsune lifts a bag into the air, a bag filled with alcoholic refreshments. “Let’s toast.” He rips off each can of the six pack and passes one to each person.

Juniper pops open her beer. “What are we doing?”

“A toast,” Kitsune raises his can. “Things are moving fast, but this is progress. Honma ookini—thank you, guys.”

“How sentimental,” Xin smirks.

“Yeah, you’re scaring me with all this emotion.” Fia holds her drink tight with both hands.

Kitsune raises his beer into the air and the others follow suit. “Whatever. Let’s drink to tonight, because tomorrow is going to be a hell of a day.”

“And to those who’ve passed on,” Xin adds.

The group grows silent, but somberly nods in consensus.

“Cheers,” they say in unison, and the six hunters inhale the alcohol.

They drink fast, hoping to avoid pondering the stresses of tomorrow. Tonight may well be their last night of freedom, and the last night to their immortal lives. If they planned to relax before then, now would be the time.

“Okay, let’s get some food in this joint,” Juniper grins, crushing the empty can in her hands.

“And Renzo, you get more booze. Let’s go!” Kitsune heads toward the stairs and the group trails behind in a festive heat.

“Party in a motel room. Classy, I like,” says Xin.

The wandering mob follows Kitsune into his room, and dumps their weapons in a neat little pile by the corner. Like a good sport, Renzo departs for an alcohol run while Juniper hastily calls for a pizza delivery. The rest hangs out on the bed watching the TV.

‘This week, action star, Stark Ramsey, best known for his role in “Phoenix: Rise of a Champion”, was caught stealing cans of tuna from local grocery store. The internet has already exploded in images of Stark—’

Eck, who cares.” Kitsune flips through the channels, except every program seems to be some reality show or sitcom with an overused laugh track.

“Don’t you know? Television sucks now,” Fia remarks.

“Thank you, Fia, I didn’t realize that.” Kitsune continues changing channels, “I guess I’ve been out of the loop.”

‘A roaring surge of crime emerged across the city yesterday. Authorities have not provided an explanation for these sudden acts of violence, but claim they are currently still investigating. Two suspects were placed into custody, but escaped shortly after being arrested. They have yet to be found.’

Juniper gasps at the screen and her lips curve into a laughing smile, “Zylo, that’s you!”

On TV is footage of Zylo fighting with Rumble Bee and Flash Dee from the perspective of the helicopter. The blinding spotlight really highlights Zylo’s features.

“Hey, you look pretty badass there!” Kitsune laughs.

“Yeah, I’m a star now.”

No one seems to care that Zylo is now a wanted suspect.

In the video, Zylo leaps toward the two Lightning Boys with the swinging force Shield, instantly blinding the camera in white light for a half second and finding Rumble and Flash unconscious immediately after.

‘This suspect was caught fleeing from the police. The suspect managed to elude the numerous officers on the scene, and has so far not been found. He is armed and dangerous.’

“Fleeing? They couldn’t handle me!” Zylo shouts excitedly, then adds, “Just kidding, I was running pretty scared after I got shot.”

Juniper raises her fist following his initial enthusiasm, “New Pirates!”

“The invincible New Pirates!” cheers Kitsune. The room fills with laughter and excitement, and the noise travels through the hallway of the motel.

Arriving just on time, Renzo swings open the door holding several cases and bottles of alcohol. The hunters’ faces sparkle at his return. “What did I miss?”

Kitsune quickly rises from his seat and embraces his large friend in a hug. “Renzo, my friend, I am without words.” He eagerly reaches for the bags, “Welp, time to get drunk!”

The alcohol quickly distributes around the room and they begin their night of debauchery. The room gets warm with festivity and the noise only gets louder as the night progresses.

“One, two, three… SHOTGUN!” Juniper cries.

Zylo, Kitsune, Fia and Xin stand in a circle, quickly popping the tops to their beers before chugging. Their lips are placed around the pierced hole at the bottom of the can as the pressurized beer flows down into their throats in rapid gulps.

“Go, go!”

Zylo relaxes his throat and the alcohol streams right down to his welcoming stomach. Xin on the other hand, fails to keep up and the beer nearly spills out of his mouth. The alcohol leaks from the side of his lips but his hand quickly intercepts the drips.

Aw…damn why do I suck!” he coughs and groans.

Juniper can’t seem to contain her laughter, “Oh, looks like Xin can’t handle himself! Weak ass!”

Finishing first with a victorious smile, Kitsune pats Xin on the shoulder, “It’s okay, don’t be embarrassed. At least you have your looks.”

A sudden and low knocking comes from the door, barely noticed if not for Renzo’s keen sense of hearing. Standing outside is the delivery man, and Juniper jumps to snatch the stacked boxes of pizza from his hands.

The pungent lifting aroma of cheese and breadsticks floats through the room as Juniper places them onto the bed, and the hunters swarm for a slice. Even with the stinging taste of alcohol in their mouths, the cheese and toppings are devastatingly satisfying.

The room is small for six people, but the cramped space makes for better bonding. Zylo hops onto the bed eating a slice of beef and broccoli pizza and Fia lies beside him drinking another beer.

On TV, a standup comedian stands on stage telling a joke,

‘When I was in prison, I had the worst problems. I hated the showers the most, especially when I just opened a new bar of soap. Sometimes, just when I’m about to use it, I accidentally drop it. My heart literally stops. As soon as I reach to pick it up, I’m seriously praying, praying for the corners of the soap to not be physically deformed in any dramatic way. Of course that’s never the case and at least one side is all dented and asymmetrical, so I try to shape it back as I rub it over my wet hairy body. It’s, the worst.’

“Oh god, I do that.” Fia takes a light sip of her beer.

“Try to shape it back by rubbing it over your wet hairy body?” Zylo laughs, “Me too, I hate that so much.”

“Hey, you’re getting red!” Juniper walks over and rubs her hands against his warm flushed cheeks, then leans in to kiss him.

“You guys are cute,” Fia says, gently smiling at the couple.

Juniper leans closer and whispers to her, “Hey, how about… how ’bout you and Xin? Anything between you two?”

Fia blushes, her face stretched with a modest grin. “Us? No…no way! We’re crewmates, nothing more.”

“Oh, I don’t think so!” Juniper takes another sip straight from the bottle of soju, then bites into a slice of sausage and cilantro pizza. “You should just kiss him.”

Zylo rapidly nods up and down at the suggestion, “Yes, I agree. You have no idea how easily that works. No offense, Junie.”

“None taken. But if I see you doing that to anyone else,” Juniper glares and drinks another gulp without breaking eye contact with Zylo.

“I won’t, I swear!” Zylo pleads.

Standing by the sink beside the bathroom door, Kitsune’s arm playfully wraps around Xin’s shoulder. “You know. I’ve known you for a while now, Xin. Despite our numerous rivalries, I’m glad we can have this drink.”

“Next time, we should spar when we’re drunk.” Xin eagerly opens another can of beer.

“Inebriated sparring! That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard! Renzo, you be referee!” Kitsune pulls Renzo over and together, the three quickly chug their beers in unison.

Renzo burps low and loud, and Xin claps at his bravado.

“So,” Renzo wipes his lips. “What’s the deal with you and Fia?”

The three are suddenly quiet from the abrupt change of subject.

Kitsune looks up with a devious smirk, surprised by Renzo’s unexpected interest with anyone’s relationships.

Xin on the other hand, grows uneasy. His smile, his posture, his movements—everything grows tense and constricts. “What do you mean?”

Kitsune steps back ready to laugh, “Oh…oh, I just saw everything. What happened, cool guy?” Then, he leans closer to Xin, “A motel room all to your selves and you guys didn’t…?”

Xin chuckles awkwardly, “Oh yeah, so you and Renzo did?”

“Whoa, let’s not change the subject. This is about you,” Renzo blurts. “You should go over there…and kiss her.”

“You’re crazy!” Xin exclaims, “We’re crewmates, that’s it.”

“You wouldn’t believe how easily that works,” Renzo adds.

Kitsune leans close again, putting his face beside Xin’s and speaking low, “Xin, you gotta understand women. When they appear uninterested or say no, they actually mean yes.”

The group is silent.

Kitsune amends, “Okay, that’s just blatantly untrue. But you’re either an herbivore, or a carnivore in relationships. Are you gonna wait to be eaten, or are you gonna go out there and eat?”

“Very philosophical, Kitsune. I approve,” Renzo gently nods.

Xin is skeptical. “She’s never seemed interested.”

“No, Xin. Look at her.” Arm still wrapped around Xin’s shoulder, Kitsune turns their bodies until they face Fia and the others on the bed.

“No, Fia. Look at him,” Juniper points. “Here, put your hair down.” She reaches to Fia’s ponytail and pulls out the hair tie.

Her wavy, crisp copper-red hair quickly falls loose and gracefully drops down below her shoulders.

Then, Fia glances to Xin and smiles sweetly.

Kitsune then pushes Xin toward the bed and laughs, loudly.

Maybe from their intoxicated states or their own undisclosed affections toward one another, though most likely from the peer pressure, Xin and Fia kiss on the bed. Their lips touch and hold for one tender second before they slowly lean away from one another, both smiling and gazing.

Woot!” The New Pirates cheer, though Renzo’s voice hollers the loudest. He’s drunk.

“Okay, now Renzo and Zylo kiss!” Juniper excitedly cries, her voice nearly screeching.

“I’m down if you are,” instantly replies Renzo. “Just kidding.”

Kitsune approaches Zylo, smiling deviously, “Hey, you’re… glowing.”

“Yeah, isn’t he cute?” Juniper stands with them, drinking another sip before affectionately rubbing her nose against Zylo’s cheek for warmth.

“Yeah, the cutest allergic rash I’ve ever seen,” says Kitsune.

Zylo waves the team together for a huddle and the New Pirates quickly group together. “Guys, guys. I just wanna say…I love you guys.”

Juniper pats his shoulder. “Me too. This whole thing woul—” she pauses, burps, and then continues, “it wouldn’t have been as fun if not for you guys.” She abruptly burps again even louder, “Jeez. Excuse me.”

“Yeah, being a hunter would’ve sucked. I don’t know what I would’ve done without all of you. Thank you.” Zylo’s eyes start to water.

The New Pirates slowly inch closer to the center of their big group hug. Arms grasped over shoulders, the crew tightly embraces each other’s loving company for several moments.

The hug continues to tighten until Juniper asks, “How long we doin’ this for?”

“I’m good.” Kitsune tries to break away but Renzo pulls him back.

“Just a moment longer,” Renzo breathes in with eyes closed.

The night goes on with more drinking, laughter, and singing. Kitsune outdrinks Renzo, as expected, and Juniper starts dancing on the soft mattress of the bed. She loses balance and falls, but quickly recovers and starts dancing again, ever vigilant.

With the enhanced sense of the alcohol guiding his mind, Zylo finds every joke from the standup comedian excessively hilarious. He pants and struggles to breathe from the laughter, clutching his pained sides with nearly every word. Like a vicious cycle, Zylo consumes more beer to replenish his dry and hoarse throat.

“Shotgun!” Xin shouts. Everyone takes a can from the last six pack and hurries to chug the beer. In almost no time at all, Xin finishes first and throws the empty can against the sink before putting his hands up in triumphant victory. “I win!”

Ack,” Zylo coughs desperately for air after drinking too quickly. He tips his beer can upward to avoid leaking, but some has already spilled onto his shoes. “Damn, my suedes…”

“Zylo sucks,” Renzo teases, softly placing his empty can on the sink counter.

By the end of the long night, empty cans and bottles of soju, rum, and sake lie scattered around the room while stacks of empty pizza boxes sit on the tables and counters. The TV continues playing in the background but no one is watching. Xin and Fia are passed out together on one bed while Juniper sleeps on the other.

Beside the bedframe is Zylo sitting calmly on the carpeted floor coping with his ecstatic, inebriated mind.

Kitsune joins him, eating a slice of the remaining pizza and taking a nice, long sip from a bottle.

That man is forever thirsty.

Zylo nudges Kitsune’s arm as he eats. “Hey, remember when I went to see King Kuro the first time? In his weird throne room?”

Kitsune lowers the pizza slice from his mouth, then raises his bottle for a drink. “Yeah, what’s up?”

“He invited me to join the Immortal Spades, but I never told you guys.”

Sou ka. Is that so?” Kitsune downs another gulp.

“Yeah. I didn’t know what to think of it… Actually, I forgot all about that until now.” Zylo leans his head back against the mattress and relaxes his body.

“Things might not have turned out that differently. We’d probably still be going after Kuro.”

“I hope so. I realize now, he was trying to get me on his side.”

Renzo carefully drops his rear onto the floor across from Kitsune and Zylo, tired and ready to fall asleep. Eyes half closed, he manages to say, “Don’t worry guys. When we fight King Kuro, I’ll protect all of you.”

“Remind me. How are we fighting him?” asks Zylo. “From what I remember, he could’ve easily killed all of us if he really wanted to.”

Kitsune puts down his bottle. “We don’t have much of a plan aside from charging him head on. I know it’s not much but…I guess I just have total faith in us.”

“I see.”

“Chances are, this is going down tomorrow. The other crews are ready. When we go, we’re gonna go ’til the end. Either he dies, or we all die.” Kitsune’s foot taps Renzo’s leg, “Try not to die, Renzo. I’d be devastated.”

There is no reply, because he has already passed out.

Kitsune bites through the remaining cheese of the pizza slice and washes it all down with a last gulp of rum. He slides his body to an empty part of the carpeted floor beside Zylo and lies down to sleep. “Oyasumi.”

Zylo’s weary eyes drift to a close. Refusing to even consider the thought of tomorrow, he allows the joyous mood of the night lull him to sleep.

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