Chapter twenty seven: The finale
Hashiro’s district contains a port which can only mean one thing.
I’m not surprised to see the desperate, sitting in front of the rat’s nest, holding their heads and muttering to themselves. I try my best not to look at them as we pass the threshold.
“I believe this is the first time you’ve been here, Hui?” Hashiro asks.
“Then welcome, to Walawe.” He says gesturing pompously to his empire.
I want to run.
The smell of death lingers in this place.
Ghosts made of smoke haunt their way through the barren hall with rows of beds on either side. I keep my eyes fixed on my brother and try not to get hung up on details.
I’m here for Himowa, nothing else.
My heart breaks as I hear a child cough somewhere in the distance.
“Now don’t look at me like that little brother, I didn’t leave your girlfriend down here. I left her in my office with tea and snacks. She’s been well cared for. He signals to a spiral staircase behind the bar.
We go up.
Upstairs I’m greeted with music, leather wallpaper decorated with gold-leaf flowers and guests dressed in fine clothes sitting at tables and playing games.
“Hashiro sir! You up for a game of dippers?”
“Not now mister Poissant, I’m working, but I appreciate the offer.”
“He’s afraid I’ll beat him again.” The man cackles and his guests laugh along heartily.
I wouldn’t have let him say that, I would have made him eat those words. My brother just keeps a mild half-smile going on his face before excusing himself and walking to the back with me.
“You worked in a restaurant before right? Perhaps I can find you work here?”
I grit my teeth and nod. You don’t have to act like that’s a question. You tried to beat Shiwaso into the ground.
The worst part is the past tense, ‘worked’.
With Yobu dead and us on the run, that’s all over with.
Is it strange I didn’t even consider that?
“You’ll fit right in with time, if you behave, I might even give you a new gun, one that’s a lot better than that piece of scrap metal you used to walk around with.”
I squeeze my hands narrowly keeping myself from losing it “Are you trying to piss me off just because I can’t do anything back right now?” I hiss trying to keep my voice down.
He chuckles “Perhaps a little bit. Well, here we are.” He pulls a key from his pocket and unlocks the door.
Inside, Himowa is standing by the door, eyes fierce and holding a letter opener ready to attack.
“Okay smartypants you’re going to- HUI!”
“Himowa!” I rush up to her and hug her, her shoulders are shaking.
“Why are you here?” she asks.
“To get you out of here of course.”
“Okay but…why is he here?” she points at Hashiro and pulls a disgusted face that I just realize, have never seen on her before. Even the foulest customers get a smile from her.
But then Hashiro is a whole other level of scum.
“Well… you see I-.”
“Hui has very graciously decided to stay with his family so you’re free to go now.” Hashiro muses with delight.
Her eyes grow wide “What?”
“It’s okay, I’ll be fine. I just need you to do something very important.”
She shakes her head “You can’t stay here, this guy beat you when you were just a child. Hell, he probably still would or worse. That’s not okay!”
“Downstairs Dana is waiting for you, just go to her and forget about me.”
“Who the hell is Dana?”
She puffs up her chest “If you think I’m going to let you sacrifice yourself for my sake-”
“Shut up!” I shout trying to sound commanding “I’m trying to break up with you gently but that clearly doesn’t work so just get out, will you?”
She deflates, her voice small and pleading “Hui I don’t want to leave you here-”
“But you’re making a mistake!”
“I love you.”
I want to cry, I want to hold her and comfort her and tell her ‘It’s okay.’
But I just can’t right now.
I turn away from her, try not to hear the sobs as she runs out the room.
I feel nasty, she shouldn’t have to go through that.
But getting her out of this place is the most important thing in the world right now.
I do hope the others set her straight soon. I don’t want her in agony for too long.
Hashiro claps his hands, grabbing my attention “Well, that was unpleasant, but at least that’s over with.” He closes the door behind her and walks up to me again.
“Aren’t we going back?” I cross my arms, hand covertly reaching for my gun.
He ignores my question and puts a cold hand on my shoulder. “You know Takeyo will be delighted to see you, all he’s ever wanted was for our family to be complete again.”
I huff “Takeyo is a fool brainwashed with your twisted ideals.”
“I think he just likes you.” He says airily “Did you know he even tried keeping information from me to keep you safe at times? When he was younger, of course, I beat that habit out of him the moment I found out. Now he tells me everything.” I feel a chill go up my spine as his hand squeezes my shoulder “Give me the gun Hui or I’ll make you wish you were never born.”
Cold sweat breaks out on my back as every swear I know shoots through my brain in rapid succession.
“I’m way ahead of you on that front.” I huff bitterly at him but there’s a crack to my voice.
Guess I shouldn’t have let that weasel go after all.
My hand cramps around the cold stone handle, ready to blast him to pieces but he spots my movement, grabs my wrist and folds it backwards on itself.
I scream at the pain but he doesn’t stop, keeps going.
Is he planning to just casually break my wrist over this!?
The gun clatters to the ground with a heavy thud, the bastard picks it up with a sneer “You know I almost doubted brother when he told me you were tight with the Chattoway-daughter, but this isn’t something you can afford on your own. It’s funny you refuse money for honest work yet gladly accept expensive gifts from the enemy.”
“You and I have different definitions of the word ‘honest’, or ‘enemy’ for that matter.”
He huffs, pockets the gun and pushes me towards the door “Just walk, last time I made the mistake of locking you in your room. A softhearted but ultimately foolish decision making it far too easy for you to get out. We’ll rectify that this time.”
I can feel the panic overtake me, grasping at my throat, thumping in my chest but I can’t look at the window or signal for help as long as this guy is looming over me, watching my every move.
“Are you leaving already mister Hashiro?” the guests complain loudly as Hashiro pushes me back to the stairs.
“My apologies, I have important matters to attend to.” Hashiro bows meekly “My little brother is unwell and I must escort him home.”
There’s a smattering of ‘get well’s’ and ‘come back soon’s’ from the guests before they go back to their game.
Can’t those idiots see what’s going on here?
Do they pretend not to?
If I call out to them ‘help, I’m being kidnapped!’ would they care?
How long has it been since Himowa has left the room? Is she out of danger already?
I’m not sure I can risk it.
“Come on Hui, it’s time to go.” My brother shoves me towards the stairs, I go down.
All the way through the den my hands itch to grab my other weapon.
End this fight, one and for all.
But not yet.
Not before the signal.
Outside it’s still early morning, most people have just started their workday or are still in their beds.
The streets are practically empty.
I look around for the signal, then spot Dana hidden behind a tree. She holds up her hand telling me ‘Himowa is ok’.
I feel a burden lift off my shoulders and a righteous fury unlocks in my chest.
With renewed fighting spirit I open my mouth “You do realize I still hate you right?”
Hashiro waves my remark away “That’s fine, most of my underlings do, comes with the job of being a leader.”
“I think you’re wrong.”
He looks at me, eyebrow raised.
“I think you’re just a sadistic piece of trash who enjoys beating up children cause it makes you feel powerful.”
His eyes narrow “Not just children.” There’s a warning in his voice. “Just because you’re eighteen now doesn’t mean you can talk to me like that.”
“Guess you still got a long way of beating it out of me”
“I think your tongue is a tad too sharp for someone unarmed.” He turns to me, blocking my path “And don’t you dare think that just because your girl is gone I have no leverage anymore.” He raises his hand to strike but before he can make it come down to me I pull my cooking knife from my sleeve and jam it forward into his chest.
He howls out in pain and lunges for my throat with far too much strength left for comfort. His giant hands wrapping around my scrawny neck.
His face is warped into a scowl “You’ll pay for that little brother.” His eyes are burning with fury, but I’m more interested in the blood gushing from the wound.
He should be dying right?
I can feel the adrenaline surging through my body. The smell of blood wafting through the air. My brain is in overdrive as I think, just die already, just die already! I can feel my neck bruising underneath the skin.
It shouldn’t take this long!
I was supposed to be the gun, he was supposed to die right away. My hand is clamped around the knife handle, knuckles turning white.
I pull the knife back, try to go in for another stab-
He tries to snatch it from me, I swipe it at his arm.
Then also his other arm, the one holding me as if it were an afterthought.
He stumbles backwards cradling his injuries.
I gasp for air, knees shaking, no clue what’s holding me up at this point anymore.
Panic? Adrenaline? The sheer need to watch this fucker hit the dirt?
Probably all three.
The commotion has pulled the Kashuya lackeys from Walawe, they stand around with weapons ready to strike.
“Sir!?” one of them yells holding a rifle in his hands.
“Hold your weapons! Hashiro shouts in an unhinged tone “No one touches the boy!” His blazing eyes bore into me “You can’t kill me, it’s not my destiny! I bring glory to the Go family! I-”
“Fuck your destiny.” I spit at his feet.
I notice the faintly swaying of his form, he’s weakening.
I need to act fast before the others realise as well and start ignoring his insane orders.
I close the distance between us and reach for my gun, he wipes his sticky blood all over me as he tries to stop me. The scent of rotten rust makes me wanna hurl.
But the feeling of that cold stone handle can do a lot to cheer a guy up again.
As he sees me holding the gun his scowl turns into a grimace “Even if you kill me, you’ll never be able to outrun your destiny.” He tries to sound tough but the colour is draining from his face. Finally, he’s going into shock. “You’re kashuya Hui Go, always will be.”
“We’ll see about that.” I grab hold of his hair pulling his head back to face me and place the barrel in between his eyes before asking in a voice cold as ice. “You got any last words ‘dear brother’?”
And as my hated enemy looks down at the inevitability of death, his thin lips pull into a smile “I will see you in hell little brother.”
I huff “get ready to wait a long time.”
And that’s that.
I breathe out.
I expected relief.
I don’t feel relieved.
Why don’t I feel relieved!?
I killed him. He deserved it. Everything should be all right now, right? Why do I feel nausea crawling its way up my throat? My eyes are glued to the brain-sprayed cobbles, the destroyed form of what used to be my biggest fear.
“Hui! Hui! Are you okay?” Elizabeth shakes my shoulders and I try to look at her but all I see is the corpse laying on the floor.
When did she even reach me?
The gun slips from my fingers.
Far off I hear people shouting.
“Dana, take Hui and get him out of here!”
“What about the guards?” The woman shouts back.
“We’ll deal with them!”
“Gotcha.” Two strong arms pick me up like a rag doll and I feel myself flung over the big lady’s shoulder.
Somehow it feels like it’s happening to someone else…
The woman starts to run, I bob up and down with her steps. The steady rhythm feels oddly soothing.
As the sounds of fighting fade, I try to pull myself out of it.
Elizabeth and Himowa are still back there.
I need to help, need to fight.
“You okay there buddy?” the woman asks with worry in her voice.
I grunt again.
“Don’t push yourself, we’re almost at the ship.”
I press my elbow on her shoulder, she sets me down reluctantly.
“I need to go back.” My voice is a raspy whisper. What if Himowa gets hurt trying to protect me? That’d be the most backwards thing!
She crosses her arms “You think you’re of any help to them now?”
“I have to do something.”
“Yes, you have to come with me and focus on processing whatever just happened because it didn’t look good.”
“You’re not, now you can either walk on your own to the ship or I can pick you back up again if you prefer.”
I cross my arms in defiance but in my head I know she’s right. I’m not even sure I could hold a gun with these shaking hands.
“Did anyone pick up my gun?”
“I did, but you’re not getting it now.”
I sigh relieved, then shrug “That’s fine I guess.”
I start to walk.
As we enter the ship it feels oddly familiar despite having only been here twice before.
Dana immediately heads to the cockpit.
Not quite sure what to do with myself, I follow suit.
“So what now?” I ask as she sits down on the captain’s chair and starts pulling levers.
“I’ll start the engine so the moment the girls get here we can get out.”
“You’re coming with us?”
“For now.” She says as if that doesn’t spring a thousand more questions “As for you, how are you feeling?”
I cross my arms and lean against the door opening “Don’t know.”
“I take it this was your first time killing someone?” her eyes are on the controls yet I can’t help but feel like she’s looking straight through me.
I nod “I expected it to feel…better?”
She huffs “I’m not surprised, reality can never live up to the dream of revenge. ”
“He had it coming.”
“I didn’t know him. But I’m not doubting your motives.” The woman twists a key on the console and says “I’ll make us some tea-”
“No, let me, you need to be here when the others get here.”
She looks at my face for a moment, as if to try and spot a lie then nods “All right.”
I get up and walk to the kitchen. Put some water on the stove. It feels good to do something but as I wait for the water to boil my eyes drift through the porthole windows, out to see if there’s any movement at all.
It’s pathetic really, I went out to rescue Himowa and now she’s out there fighting for me because I choked up.
If only I were stronger.
The shriek of the kettle pulls me out of my head and back to reality.
I heat the pot with a bit of boiled water first, then steep the tea.
I leave the endless jars of preserves, syrups and sweeteners and simply add two cups to the tray before bringing it down to the cockpit.
I find the woman staring out into the dark, her hands fidgeting with a piece of fabric.
Looking at it closer I find it’s an arm-band embroidered with a flower in rough, homemade stitches. It reminds me of the dragons the kashuya wear but…nicer.
“What’s the flower for?” I point at her hands.
She starts, looks back at me “I didn’t hear you come in”
“It’s okay.” She gathers herself again and then holds the badge up for me to see. “The iris is the symbol of manta.”
“You don’t know? It’s…” She pauses for a moment to think “I guess it’s a society devoted to bringing more good into the world by helping where we can.”
I take a step back “In exchange for what exactly?”
“Making the world a better place.”
“Not much else, sometimes people are grateful which is nice.”
At first, I’m flabbergasted, insulted even at her thinking I’d fall for something like that. But her face stays serious and I can’t detect a lie…I chuckle at the thought “That’s wild.” I can barely believe those people exist, never mind enough to make a society out of it. “Is that why you’re here now too?”
She chuckles at this “I guess it is.”
There’s a loud thud at the door.
I jump up and rush to see.
“All right! We’re here, let’s go, go, go Dana!” Elizabeth shouts throughout the corridor. Trailing behind her, Himowa is leaving her blood-stained sword in the umbrella stand and runs up to me.
“Are you okay?” she asks.
I shrug “My pride is bruised for sure but aside from that, I could be worse. But never mind me, are you okay??”
She looks exhausted but nods nonetheless “That brother of yours is a creep, I’m not proud to say it but I think I’m glad he’s dead.”
“Did he hurt you?” I ask putting a gentle hand on her shoulder.
She shrugs, pushes my hand away gently “He said some strange stuff, but he never laid a hand on me.”
“Good.” I’m not sure if I want to know more but curiosity is a fiendish thing “What did he say?”
“Just vague stuff about destiny and you having ‘the blood of the kashuya in you. The guy is an absolute lunatic.”
My eyes cast down to the floor “Someone else will take his place, I feel like I accomplished nothing.”
She wipes her hand on her skirt, then puts it gently on my cheek “You shot your abuser between the eyes, I wouldn’t call that nothing.”
The brain tries to reject those words yet my eyes start tearing up despite myself.”I’m sorry I-”
She shushes me, hugs me tightly and we almost fall over together as the ship stutters to life and takes to the sky.
“We should probably sit down.” She tells me.
“Agreed.” I chuckle awkwardly as we slide down the wall, and sit on the floor.
I put my head on her lap, and close my eyes.
I take a deep breath.
We’ll fly far away from here.
Have amazing adventures.
Aboard the Royal Griffin.