Episode Six - Hunting Club
Leon screams shamelessly as he soars through the air. Though he aims for the closest coming telephone pole, he realizes everything is actually much farther than he believed. The distance he assumed to be ten feet is actually twelve, and even then, ten feet is exceptionally far for a long jump.
Luckily, his body doesn’t splatter. Leon manages to clear the edge of the bridge but free falls toward the street below, his throat drained from the wailing.
Reaching out with flailing hands, his splayed fingers manage to snag one of the many power lines and he desperately struggles to hang on. The strong momentum of the free fall pulls Leon down, scraping his hands painfully along the wire.
“I did it, I’m alive! I’m the champ!” he laughs, joyfully hanging from the power line. Looking up, however, Leon spots the two hunters leaping from the train onto a rooftop halfway down the street. His optimism flushes away in an instant.
Cursing and anxious with urgency, Leon sorts out his options. The street below is about two and a half stories down, and he can’t risk breaking a leg. Is jumping from the third floor enough to break a leg?
He’ll never know because he doesn’t plan on doing it.
Instead, Leon aims for the balcony by the nearest apartment complex. Gripping the wires and ignoring the burn on his palms, he inhales a large breath and begins swinging his legs. He feels like a monkey, except he’s the worst kind of monkey who isn’t very good at doing monkey things.
When he finally gathers enough momentum, Leon throws himself and wildly reaches out for the bannister. He watches as his body descends, terrified to drop before his body can close the distance. Eyes wide in astonishment, his hands manage to slap against the railing of the balcony, and he quickly climbs over.
Unfortunately, the door into the apartment is locked. He checks around and sees a foot-wide ledge running along the side of the building, easily reachable from the balcony. He feels courageous now, and quickly jumps over the bannister onto the small path before following it around.
His head is covered in sweat and his entire body is sore and burning. There are store signs to climb over and cables to duck under but he keeps going. His instincts nudge him at every step knowing the two hunters are persistently following behind.
Reaching the end of the ledge, Leon reaches for a rain pipe along the wall of the building and carefully slides down the single story to the street. His hands scrape against the brick wall but there isn’t time to complain. The moment his feet hit the ground, he hears his voice again, the voice of that man and his preposterous hair.
“You know, I like your spunk!”
Leon doesn’t bother to respond. Instead, he keeps running. The hunter is already coming up extremely close, just seconds behind.
“Okay, I can see you’re tense, so let me help you!”
In the middle of his run, Leon suddenly feels a breeze behind his neck and he impulsively ducks. Kitsune’s deadly pipe spins through the air just over everyone’s heads until it smashes into a pile of cardboard boxes and metal trash cans.
Old discarded fruit, plastic bottles, paper cups and food wrappers erupt into the air like a violent volcano, hitting people’s faces and scattering over the sidewalk.
“What the hell!”
“Jo mut guay ah!”
The pedestrians shout. Others moan and groan as they traverse the mess, branding the street with anxious commotion.
A few pieces of debris throw Leon off balance in his sprint and he urgently reaches down to catch himself from falling. Before his palm even touches the ground, however, a heavy knee kick rams into his side.
The force of a speeding ox slams into his body, and Leon finds resisting the momentum utterly impossible. His limp body flies across the air before smashing through the glass window of a bank, and dropping onto the hard ground like a dead fish.
“Ugh…” Leon groans. He tries to recover though he feels a massive ache in his side now. From his rib cage and down over his oblique feels like an enormous bruise had emerged, and any kind of movement wrenches his body in pain.
Renzo casually steps over the shattered window frame into the bank. “Quite a runner,” his stern eyes fixed firmly on Leon.
Kitsune appears from behind Renzo with his pompadour higher and more arrogant than Leon had ever seen. “This one had us goin’ hard. Move aside, Renzo.” He walks past his partner and punches out the approaching security guard with a single hit.
“Sayonara, Leon Zylo.” He raises his pipe.
“Wait, wait wait! You don’t have to do this!” Leon cries, his palm held out pleading for his killers to stop.
The two hunters glance at one another, and then back at Leon, silent and unchanged.
Kitsune scoff, then rests on a smirk.
“You don’t even know me, you’re just doing what other people are telling you to do.” Leon persists to catch his breath. “Don’t be a follower! Don’t just kill people because someone tells you to!”
It was worth a shot.
“Hmm…I like what you’re saying,” Kitsune pauses for a second, but only a second. “Sorry, mate, but you’re going to die. I want you to know though—you were harder to catch than I expected. I really thought you were just gonna roll over and let me kill you,” he chuckles. Still gripping the pipe, his feet steadily trace toward Leon. “Looks like it still turned out that way. What a shame…”
*BEEP BEEP BEEP* *BEEP BEEP BEEP*
Leon’s watch. Three hours on the clock. HEAT time starts.
Kitsune looks at his own watch. “It’s already half time.”
Before Renzo can respond, a cinder block flies through the open window and smashes his face, throwing him onto the ground and shrouding the area with a cloud of dust and rubble.
The panicking people immediately run out of the bank from all directions, and for good reason.
A large man with small eyes and thick brown dreadlocks stomps into the room. His puffy, bright-red vest hangs over his bare chest, revealing a row of frighteningly large pectoral and abdominal muscles.
This beastly man, with the bulging arms of a body builder on steroids, stands more than seven feet tall, looking akin to an elephant on two legs. Adding to his intimidating demeanor is a set of shining brass knuckles that glimmer golden around each of his enormous hands.
“The Red Wreckers are here to party!” the man furiously bellows.
Kitsune doesn’t hesitate to swing his pipe toward the giant, but his swift attack is easily blocked by both forearms. Quickly jumping back from the man’s sudden enormous punch, Kitsune eagerly rushes again at the blink of an eye and slams the pipe against his stomach, or rather his enormous abdominal muscles.
The fast and powerful attack swishes a gust of wind, and a reverberating tremor quakes the ground. Though the impact echoes a loud thump throughout the entire room, the giant merely stumbles, just a little.
The colossal man recovers and throws a heavy back-handed fist that smashes into Kitsune’s unfortunate face. The brass knuckle rams through his jaw and cocks back his head, dragging his body into the air as he flies back.
Leon flinches from the sight of the painful attack before quickly shuffling aside to avoid Kitsune’s dropping limp body. He recalls the description of his contract paper and realizes this man is another hunter from a different crew, and most definitely not his savior.
Glancing behind the giant toward the street, Leon spots a young woman fast approaching. Her unnatural speed is immediately noticeable among the panicking crowd outside.
Is she a hunter as well?
Wrapped over her head is a white bandana that fails to cover all the streams of her tied-back crimson hair, while gripped in her right hand and propped over her shoulder is a slick red and teal colored electric guitar.
As she approaches, her hand lifts the guitar and her body gracefully twirls in a circle. Using the momentum of her spin, she throws a powerful swing, ramming the thick end of the guitar straight into the elephant man’s spine.
The force of the hit clears the dust and shattered glass along the floor, and another small vibration tingles through Leon’s fingers splayed on the ground. The large man topples forward but catches himself just inches before his head hits the ground.
Rolling her eyes in disappointment, the young woman remarks, “Wow, Bull, just fall already. No shame in losing to a girl.” Standing over the slumped giant, Bull, she slams her guitar down onto his back and this time, his chest surrenders flat to the ground.
“So, you’re the bounty.” She cocks her head toward Leon. Without breaking eye contact, she slowly walks over one leg in front of the other, swaying her hips and dragging the guitar on the ground behind her.
She carries a sadistic smile through her red lipstick and cat-like eyes, her beautiful face twisted with the obvious desire to take his life. If this was any other situation that didn’t result in Leon’s death, he might’ve found this moment a turn on.
It’s a shame.
Staring back at her, Leon forces a smile, “If you wanted me that badly, you could’ve just asked.” He starts scurrying away from her, eventually backing into the wall.
“Maybe in your next life,” she devilishly grins. “Ready to die, sweetie?”
Leon doesn’t bother to answer the blatant rhetorical question. Instead, he watches her fingers tightly grip the guitar, ready to put him out of his misery.
This is it, what he always wanted—to die at the hands of a beautiful girl.
But not yet.
Before she can lift her guitar, Kitsune dashes toward her with lightning speed. Fast as a blurring image, he swings his pipe and forces the woman to jump out of the way. If Leon had blinked, he would have failed to see it.
Kitsune retreats back toward Leon, standing as a guardian and keeping the young woman from him.
At that moment, Renzo recovers onto his feet and hurls his chain with precision, quickly wrapping around one of her arms.
“Sorry, Juniper.” Renzo tugs down on the chain and slams her chest straight into the ground.
She groans, trying to get up, but Kitsune steps over and punches her unconscious.
“Well, that was inconvenient,” he says, brushing the dust from his pants. “It’s heat time already. Might as well wait ‘til the peak to claim him.”
Perfect, Leon isn’t going to die yet.
He slowly stands, striving through the enormous pain in his side. Several bystanders cowering along the wall decide to escape into the street, and Leon follows. He gently creeps from his position and tip toes toward the door.
Not a few steps later, however, Kitsune raises his metal pipe and pushes against Leon’s chest, preventing him from going forward.
“You sure about that? What if someone else snags him?” Renzo nods toward Juniper and Bull while his thick hand grips Leon by the collar.
“We’ll have to watch him for the next few hours. If it gets too risky, then we’ll take him.” Kitsune turns toward Leon, pipe still resting against his chest, “Got that?”
Leon nods contemptuously. He is now a prisoner in the hands of ruthless murderers.
With Kitsune and Renzo closely hovering on both sides of him, they make their way out of the bank and into the street.
“So, what are we doing if you’re not killing me yet?” he glances back and forth at his captors. With his life in their hands, the hunters can choose to kill him at any time, which is probably, maybe, somewhat stressful for Leon.
“We’re going to hold on to you for as long as we can,” Renzo answers, eyes looking straight ahead. “So you better behave like a good boy.”
The three start speed walking down the street, dodging and pushing through the stray crowds of people. Police cars with booming sirens race past, undoubtedly heading toward the wrecked bank.
“You’re worth much more to us over the next two and a half hours than you do now. Consider yourself lucky,” Kitsune smiles.
“Yeah, I’m the luckiest guy in the world…” mumbles Leon.
“Don’t be like that. Chances are, you’ll get to die by the end of all this, so don’t fret.” Kitsune glances upward over the buildings. “The second it seems like you’re slipping out of our hands, or into the hands of these other vultures—we’re claiming you.”
“Why do you guys have to compete?” Leon asks.
“Fighting for your life gives your life value. Remember that,” and he nudges Leon into an empty alleyway.
The more Leon tried to stay alive, the more precious he became to these hunters.
Staring at the back of Kitsune’s head, Leon snidely asks, “So, this is what you guys do? Just hunt bounties like me for sport? You couldn’t just find a more wholesome hobby?”
Kitsune whips around to face him, pinning Leon against a wall by the entrance of the alleyway. An overly friendly smile appears on his face, “Sport? Oh no, no no no, you’ve got it all wrong.” He tilts his glasses down for Leon to see his sincere, green eyes just over the frames as he speaks. “There’s a far more noble reason than that, I can assure you.”
Kitsune nods his head upward toward the rooftops. “Renzo, check the tops, please.”
Renzo climbs up the rain pipe to a second story balcony. From there, he continues up to the rooftop. A few pedestrians stop and stare but most don’t bother getting involved.
“Okay, this might be weird to ask but…what are you guys?” Leon can no longer contain his curiosity. “I saw your freak friend over there get hit with a speeding car and now he’s completely fine.”
Kitsune grins wide, almost about to laugh, “You must really want to know. Trade secret, I’m afraid. Though, I did admire the way you evaded us at such a disadvantage. Truth is…we can smell you.” His grin stretches wider.
Leon scowls impatiently. “Okay, so seeing how I’m going to die anyway, mind enlightening me? What is Soul? Is it money from some foreign country? I can help you get as much as you want, you don’t have to kill me,” Leon offers, though he comes off sounding desperate.
Kitsune elaborates, “That’s awfully sweet of you, but no. The only way to get Soul is to take life. And to compare it with money? That’s…blasphemous. Soul is equivalent to life, and it means more to us than anything in the world.” His voice becomes low and grave, “I’m sorry, but your life is our reward.”
Exiting the alleyway, Kitsune pulls Leon through the dispersing crowd. “I’m only tellin’ you this because you gave us such a good run. Honestly, I’m surprised you had it in you. Makes me not wanna kill you actually.” Leaning toward Leon, Kitsune pats his shoulder and reassures him with a smile, “But I will, eventually.”Today is filled with disappointments.