Episode Seven - Coffee and Decisions of a Lifetime
Leon and his captor rush to traverse the wild urban jungle. Renzo stalks along the rooftops above, watching for ambushes and any surprise assailants.
They reach a quaint little coffee shop and Kitsune nudges Leon inside, “This looks like a good place. You wanna talk? I’ll indulge you, I’m thirsty anyway.” He snaps his finger directed at Renzo overlooking the roof above, “Hey, stick around for a bit. We’re getting a drink.”
The café is mellow, themed brown and olive green, fitting for an afternoon coffee and a nap. Leon’s been thirsty for some time now, so he hurries to the counter and orders a green tea frozen coffee while Kitsune orders a dark mocha latte.
Snatching a table by the entrance, Leon goes for the couch seat against the wall and Kitsune takes the mahogany wooden chair across from him. Leon doesn’t hesitate to sip through the whip cream swirled around the top to reach the sweet, cold drink beneath.
“Cheers, to the end of your life,” Kitsune toasts, though a poorly worded one.
Leon reluctantly raises his cup, albeit not as high as Kitsune. “Do you do this with all your victims? Give them a drink before you kill them?” Leon asks in a spiteful tone.
“I do what I want. I felt like getting a drink, so I got a drink,” he takes a long sip from his latte. “If I felt like killing you now, then I’d kill you right now.”
Leon notices Kitsune’s metal pipe is very conveniently hooked on to the side of his pants, ready to be drawn at any time. The hunter wasn’t kidding.
Kitsune smirks, eyes catching Leon’s glance at his weapon, but he simply leans back in his chair. “And how about you tell me why you’re a victim?”
“What do you mean how? You just show up one day saying you’re gonna kill me! And why?” The pent frustrations from unanswered questions are quietly released, passionate but not loud enough to draw attention.
Kitsune lowers his glasses and his green irises become hypnotically visible. “What would you say your life is worth?”
This question, a follow up to the dinner with Rachel. What has he been doing with his life? And now Kitsune is asking, how is his life of any value?
Leon stumbles for words. In his mind, he pieces together a few reasons to live. “I had a job, a girlfriend…and there’s a ton of stuff I haven’t done yet…things I haven’t had the chance to do.”
“That’s a lot of…conviction, you have there. I didn’t stop you, did I? From doing those things? Correct me if I’m wrong but you’re spending your third year at an office job you don’t even like.”
“Well, is there even such a thing as a dream job? Or just a job you’re content doing?”
“Okay, but what about everything else? No hobbies, no real pastimes, no goals. Aside from your girlfriend, which is also a shaky relationship, I’d say I’m doing you a favor.” Kitsune casually takes another sip.
This hunter knows a lot about Leon, apparently. In fact, Leon only just realized those things about his life a few days ago but Kitsune managed to summarize every relevant bit.
Then again, so what?
“That’s not the point,” Leon snaps. “What I do with my life is up to me. But here you are, trying to take it.”
“Valid point. But there’s nothing we can do to change that. I have to kill you. All the regrets you had about your life—forget about them. They’re meaningless now. With this contract on your head, you’re finally stopping to look around, and that’s great. But there’s no escaping this.” He puts down his cup and firmly articulates, “You are going to die. The only thing you can do is accept it. Just accept your fate and be on with it.”
Leon is silent for a moment, staring blankly at his drink.
Kitsune goes on. “Everybody thinks they have more time until they actually don’t.”
Should Leon just accept his fate? He ponders for a second.
No, of course not.
Leon leans forward. “I’m gonna be straight with you. I want to live, I really, really do.” With nothing to lose, Leon decides to ask the one question that could save his life.
“How do I become Baya?”
Surprisingly, Kitsune laughs out loud. “Really now? You want to become Baya?” He takes his cup and finishes the drink with a big gulp. “Well, this is going to disappoint you, but the only way to become Baya…is to die.”
What a joke. Is he being serious? Wait. Did he sound sincere just now? He may be elusive and clever, but not a liar.
Before Leon could question any further, Renzo’s voice shouts from outside of the café. “Time to move!”
“Let’s go—Ikuzo!” Kitsune quickly grabs hold of Leon’s arm and pulls him out of the seat. “If you wanna live a little bit longer, then you start sticking close and paying attention.”
Kitsune is serious. The moment they step out of the door, a fast flying bowling ball hurls directly to Leon’s head. Though he instinctively ducks, Kitsune dashes ahead with a hard swing and smacks the ball, propelling it back into the street with a breeze. Kitsune then pulls Leon through the crowd of panicking people.
“Keep your head low and follow the wall, now!” Kitsune forces Leon down into a squat and pushes him along the street.
Bricks and glass bottles shatter around them but Leon doesn’t bother to look up. He continues hurrying along the wall keeping his head low as shards of glass and rubble rain down around him.
Kitsune skillfully bats away numerous bricks and bottles with the pipe while keeping pace with Leon. “Renzo! It’s Bull and Fia. They’re up top across the street!”
On the roof, Renzo takes a few steps back before sprinting at full speed. When his foot touches the barest edge of the roof, he kicks off and leaps across the street, body soaring until finally landing onto the other roof.
“Keep going, stupid!” Kitsune pushes Leon into an alleyway and effortlessly smashes another brick into dust. They run deep into the alley to escape the projectiles’ line of sight.
“Renzo’s gonna try to hold ‘em off while we climb.” Kitsune walks further and scans the alley.
“Climb? Here?” Leon looks around and sees only the two parallel walls of the buildings lining the alley. More than fifteen feet up on the second floor is a fire escape with its ladder retracted, and he can’t possibly reach that from here.
Leon asks again, “Climb up? From here?” He really isn’t confident.
“Uh, yeah. Try to go fast.” Kitsune sprints toward the building. He runs a few steps up the brick wall and grabs on to the thin protruding ledge lining the top edge of the first story. From the same momentum heading up, he pulls himself past the ledge and kicks off the wall to catch the platform of the fire escape. It took Kitsune two seconds and he made it look so simple.
“Ladder’s broken, so you better hustle.” Kitsune looks expectantly at Leon.
“Yeah…let’s see.” With little time and no choice to reconsider, Leon runs toward the wall and takes two steps up before gravity yanks him back down. He tries again and gets two inches higher, but the ledge is still a foot out of reach.
“Hey, you were doing some pretty wild stuff back when we were chasing you. Now you can’t even climb this? Come on!”
Leon takes a further step back for a better running start this time. He sprints fast and manages two and a half steps up the wall, but his fingers still fail to grasp the protruding ledge. His body immediately drops back to the ground.
“Okay yeah, I think this is physically impossible for me,” Leon pants.
“No it isn’t. You just don’t have the right motivation, so I’m going to ask you again. Climb up now before they get here, or I kill you.” Kitsune threatens with a smile, leaning over the railing of the fire escape.
Though anxious, Leon tries to focus and imagines himself performing each movement. He takes a deep breath.
Without further hesitation, Leon sprints forward, rapidly steps up the wall, and extends his hand as high as he possibly can. His body stretches and nearly strains until finally, his hand fully grasps the thin ledge. Surprised by how high he managed to reach this time, he loses his momentum and fails to go any further.
“Little help!” He hangs on the ledge and sees the fire escape still too far. Kitsune, however, generously extends a hand and Leon jumps from the wall to catch it, pulling him up the rest of the way.
“Zannen da. Was hoping you’d fall and I’d get to kill you,” Kitsune smirks.
“Why’d you pull me up then?”
“Time is money, and I decided to put in the time. Now go.” He pushes Leon up the steps of the fire escape until reaching the top.
On the roofs of the buildings across the street, Leon can see Renzo fighting three other people in a wild free for all. Most likely from different crews, all of them are hunters trying to claim Leon’s life for their own. He has to admit, Leon has never felt so wanted.
Quite flattering before he has to die.
“Kind of romantic in a way, having Renzo fight for me.”
“It is, isn’t it? To have all these violently frustrated men and women come after you like this.” Kitsune speeds up and pulls Leon with him.
The two run down the building rooftops until Leon’s breath starts to catch up to him. In fact, the whole day is starting to catch up to him. His feet pound heavily with each step requiring more effort for the next.
Even with Kitsune pulling him along, Leon’s right leg eventually submits and he collapses to his knees. He manages to catch himself with his right palm slapping the cement, and throws his body against a metal railing to catch his breath.
“Come on, man. You gotta tell your body not to crap out on you.” Kitsune stands grinning over the exhausted Leon. The sun reflects off his tilted sunglasses and is nearly blinding.
Leon winces as he stretches his legs, feeling his hamstrings pull and strain painfully from today’s sudden exertion. The rest of his body is weak and sore in unexpected places, and it isn’t going to get any better.
Kitsune continues, “Classy guy like you doesn’t work out regularly? Would’ve fooled m—”
A brick smashes into Kitsune’s face and launches him head first against a column, inevitably dropping his pipe several feet away. Surprisingly, his sunglasses remain on his face, though the rest of him is slumped and jumbled.
The large disheartening behemoth of a man, Bull, reveals himself zooming across the roof. Kitsune edges his way up the column to recover, but Bull is already here.
The executioner readies his axe in the form of a knuckled fist, and takes the swing. His clawed punch crashes against Kitsune’s nose and immediately drops him back into a disoriented slouch.
Then, Bull’s enormous hand grips Kitsune’s collar and lifts the helpless prey into the air. Even with his sunglasses on, Kitsune’s struggling look is immediately apparent.
“Leon, my pipe! Give me my pipe!” Kitsune struggles to breathe while his hands desperately pry at Bull’s gripping fingers.
Leon spots the pipe no more than a few feet from his legs, but Bull glares him down. The elephant man breathes out from his nose and roughly grumbles like a dog, ready to pounce with any sudden movement.
Kitsune manages to kick Bull’s chin and break free from the grip. He drops down to his feet and extends a hand, prepared to catch the pipe.
Leon has other plans in mind though. Helping Kitsune is a loss, but helping Bull is no better. He gets up, moves toward the pipe, and kicks it away before sprinting on.
“LEON!” shouts Kitsune’s fading voice, just before Bull throttles him with a flurry of fists.
Leon runs and doesn’t bother turning back, not even for a second. He sprints and passes several buildings before descending the nearest fire escape.
The mere thought of being punched to death by Bull’s fists is motivation enough to move his tirelessly sore and sluggish body to extreme lengths.
He returns to the street and flows down the stream of endless people, allowing the current to take him away into the unknown.After several blocks, he finds himself wearing a grin of a madman, overjoyed with his temporary freedom.