The night is cool and dark. Most people are tucked into their beds for the night, resting up for the day ahead of them. However, tonight someone won't be going to bed peacefully. They won't wake up to tomorrow’s light and it will be my fault as it has been many times now. I realize that and yet, what other choice do I have?
"Don't move," I say firmly, quietly. My gun is pointed toward the man and clicks as I pull the hammer back with my thumb. The feeling of it is all too familiar.
"Please don't! I-I can pay you! Whatever you want!" the man pleads, his knees hitting the floor. His eyes are wide and his hands are up in surrender.
I grip the cold black steel in my hand tighter. I know I have to do this. It's the only way. The moonlight hits my face as I take a step closer. The man’s breath becomes shallow and his hands fall in defeat. He stares at my eyes, the color of blood.
"You—you’re him…The Red Dragon," he gasps shakily. He knows he won't survive. His life is over now.
"I am," I murmur and pull the trigger.
Cold, black, and alone
Stay away my love, it holds no mercy
A place with no door, forever trapped
You can't save me now
You hear my call for you
So somber, sad and lonely
Death is not far
Please stay away my love
Still you come to save me from this hell
Your light breaks through the dark
My life is found
I see your face and all is okay
For you found me under all the lies
Now I know these words to be true
Because I love you
No life...no love.
I remember when I first started hearing those words in my head, when I was thirteen years old. A girl I knew was killed because of me. When Commander told me, I started hearing that poem. Even now I don't know what it means, but I know that it made me feel somewhat sad and lost. I heard it then too, when I pulled the trigger. It sounds so tortured and it always says the same thing. I've heard it so much I doubt I will ever forget the words.
"Stay away..." I whisper to myself. All I know is that my job is done today and another will be awaiting me, as always, and I dread it.
"Your job is to do as I tell you and kill who I want you to kill. That is all you will ever be good for. You know the consequences if you disobey me. Never forget who you are," Commander told me once before, when I was still new to the Renegades.
How could I ever forget something like that?
My next job is to kill the boss of a lower Tokyo mob, Hurachio Rujik. I feel the scowl melt onto my face as I walk. My steps are quiet and my black coat nearly touches the dirt covered pavement. I stay in the alleys and move quickly with my head down, knowing that if I step where most people can see me it would cause a panic. People usually don’t notice as long as they can’t see my eyes though.
The Red Dragon is everywhere. They started calling me that after a while because of my blood red eyes. I’m in newspapers, TV, radio, even wanted posters. The police are constantly trying to find me. They don't have many leads on me though since as soon as I finish a mission I don't stick around and I don't allow myself to be followed. I can't allow my efforts to go to waste, no matter how much I know it's wrong. Not when I have so much at stake.
I look up and see Hurachio's hideout, a small mansion surrounded by a concrete wall. Taking a deep breath, I jump and scale the thirty yard high wall. I grab onto railings and such, flipping and turning as I make my way up quietly and effortlessly, a piece of cake for me. A few guards are positioned around the grounds so I sneak through the shadows and make my way up to the roof, not making a sound.
That was the easy part, now to get to Hurachio. He would most likely be on the top floor, so I climb through an open window and begin to look around for some indication of a main room, where the boss would most likely be. After looking around and avoiding any contact, I come across a big mahogany double door with gold embroidery. Two people are out standing guard. I’ve found my target.
I quickly knock out the guards and burst in. There he is, a man with a black suit and perfectly slicked back hair standing before a desk. He looks up at me, but doesn't look scared as is the usual. More interested in something; interested in me.
"You are The Red Dragon," he says and tilts his head a bit, “You really do have red eyes. Interesting.”
I point my black 9mm Sig Sauer handgun towards him. Maybe he will see I'm serious now, not that it matters. "And you are Hurachio Rujik, a murderer," I say coldly, eyes narrowing.
"Last time I checked, you were too," he says, grinning coyly.
I know. I know, but-- "It's my job, my purpose," I say firmly.
I've been told that so many times by Commander that it escapes my lips easily. Sometimes I even believe it. A few guards are behind me in the door, their guns all pointed at me. I’m sure more are on their way.
Hurachio gives them a signal to lower their weapons. "There is a rumor about you...about you being a demon so bad that hell spat you out. Are you really?"
Then I see images flashing through my head and hear familiar voices screaming at me. 'He's a demon!' 'He’s cursed!' 'What're you gonna do monster?' 'Why don't you go back to hades where you belong?' ‘You should have never been born…’
I stay silent, staring at the man as I have no answer for him. Maybe I am and I just don’t know it. Maybe this really is what I’m meant to do.
He laughs. “Then maybe it's true, maybe you are a demon!"
Glaring, I aim my gun toward the spot between his eyes and pull the trigger, holding it down until there are no bullets left. The hammer clicks against an empty shell until I release the trigger. All bullets fire, but not one of them hits their target. I stare, unable to believe my eyes.
A girl bathed in a soft white light appears in front of Hurachio, but I can't see her face. She almost looks ghostly, her hair incredibly long. Everything seems to slow down, even myself, as she sings the poem I have heard so many times before.
"No life... No love...." she sings and the bullets hit her, the bullets meant for Hurachio.
She lets out a cry of pain and falls to the hardwood floor, lying in a white puddle I can only imagine being blood. Then she disappears like a whiff of smoke. I stare, unbelieving. What happened? How did she know that poem? What was that anyway?
Somehow during the weird vision I dropped my gun and five guards had surrounded me with theirs pointed at me. How could I let this happen? Hurachio walks into the circle and chuckles then picks my gun up from the floor.
"Why would you put blanks in your weapon?" he asks me, chuckling as if he knew all along he wouldn't die tonight. His overconfidence shows in his white grin.
"Blanks?" I whisper, staring at the floor.
Then I realize what he’s saying. They didn't see the girl, so they think the bullets were blanks, but how? The bullets were real. She couldn’t have been. Am I going insane?
"You will regret trying to kill me," Hurachio says nonchalantly as he steps out of the circle and chuckles, "I bid you farewell Red Dragon."
He snaps his fingers and I hear the sound of about five guns go off. I taste blood in my mouth. Everything becomes fuzzy as I watch the floor get closer and closer, inevitably hitting my head on the floor. My body feels like it’s been ripped apart and everything is blurry. It's as if my eyes are now full of fog and my ears are ringing from all the gunshots.
I begin to feel as though a truck is sitting on top of my chest and it's becoming harder to breathe. Is this it? Is this where it all ends? I haven't become strong enough to avenge Mina yet though. I can't die now!
Soon, I hear mumbling. From the few words I am able to make out they are going to dump me in the bay. Then I hear Hurachio say, "Give him his gun back. We'll at least let a murderer die with his only friend."
Such a foolish thing to say. You know nothing Hurachio, nothing at all. They put my gun in its holster on my right leg and I see small flashes of light I assume coming from a camera. Evidence of my end. He will probably make millions off the pictures of my death, having been the one to kill me.
I black out after that and the next thing I know I am engulfed in freezing water. It may be summer, but the water is cold just as everything I have ever known has been. Deeper and deeper I go and it keeps getting darker. I can feel my life slipping as I sink, but I have no strength to fight back.
Maybe this is a good thing. I won’t have to take any more lives and will no longer burden anyone with my presence any more. The people of Tokyo can go back to their regular lives and sleep better at night knowing I am gone. The Commander will have no reason to harm them either. Yeah, maybe this is for the best.
Soon, I am engulfed in darkness.
Birds are outside chirping, happy there is a blue sky today. That the breeze is nice and slow carrying the scent of the sweet grass and hay. The air is clear and the day is just simply beautiful. Yep, it's going to be a good day today. I can feel it.
"I'm going to the store Mama," I call, the sound carrying through the house.
"Okay Kiara, don’t forget the milk this time. Oh! Take Jeremiah with you to carry the bags," Mom calls back from somewhere upstairs.
"Okay, fine," I call back then sigh to myself.
Why doesn’t she just say to take him for protection? I walk out of the house and go into the barn where Jeremiah is grooming the horses. Then I start getting out my saddle and bridle.
"Hey, Mama said you have to come to town with me," I tell him, hoisting the saddle up over my horse, Sugar, a red paint.
He sets the curry comb down and I brace myself for whatever he plans to say next. "And why would that be?" he asks as he turns around, a big grin on his face.
His short brown hair is damp from sweat and his blue-green eyes look at me teasingly.
"I don't know, maybe because the list is so long. It is grocery day," I say dully, buckling a strap.
He smiles. "Okay, I'll get Black Jack ready," he says. Then he saddles up his black horse that has a white star on his forehead.
I feel somewhat uneasy about riding the horses into town, but the truck needs maintenance. Actually, the truck needs a new engine and a new everything else. Besides, the horses need their exercise. The town is used to it anyway; it's very small. I just hope to avoid any unnecessary attention.
As we ride out I notice gray clouds on the horizon. It's going to be a rainy weekend. I sigh, partly not wanting to go into town, but maybe if Jeremiah is with me it won't be so bad.
He looks over and notices me anxiously playing with my white hair. "Don't worry Sis, I'll make sure nobody picks on you," he says with a mushy tone.
"And who's going to keep you from picking on me?" I ask, looking over at him. He shrugs, unashamed.
I sigh heavily. I'm always nice to other people, but they still reject me. All because of my pure white hair. I was always bullied in school, so I quit and started homeschooling. I already finished and got my diploma though, so I help around the house and earn my allowance that way. Honestly, I’m a bit scared to get a job because I don’t want to get picked on again.
Sometimes people mistake me for an old lady if they see me from afar too. I guess my being different scares them. I wish they would see past my outer appearance though and get to know me. Then I would have some friends. That is my biggest wish right now, to have a friend.
As Sugar trots down the road I feel my spirits lift up. I love the feeling of the breeze flowing through my hair. It almost feels like I’m flying. Getting a little carried away, I kick Sugar with my heel and she goes into a trot. I kick her again and we are flying!
"Go, Sugar, Go!" I shout.
Jeremiah gets competitive and is soon flying in front of me laughing. I catch up to him and stick my tongue out at him. We laugh and decide to just watch the scenery. I watch the trees pass by and then we are on the beach. The water is deep blue and the dark clouds above it seem to make it look somewhat haunting or eerie. The shoreline is hypnotizing as the tide sways in and out. I watch for a few seconds as we pass by them. Then on the shore I see a strange black lump.
I pull back on the reigns, my curiosity getting the better of me as usual. "Whoa Sugar," I tell her and she comes to a stop, breathing out heavily.
"What is it?" Jeremiah asks, stopping beside me.
"I'm not sure," I say, looking at the thing in the rocks. I kick Sugar and she walks toward it as I guide her with the reigns. "I wonder what that is. I've never seen it before," I mutter to myself. Did someone dump their trash out here? Who would do such a thing?
Jeremiah follows and as we get closer I realize it's a person! What is he doing here? Taking a nap? I hope I don't spook him. We’re about to leave when I stop. Something is wrong, I just know it is. I get down and kneel next to him then gasp once seeing him up close.
"What the...? What in the world happened to this guy?" Jeremiah breathes as he kneels on the other side of him.
I just shake my head, not knowing what to think. His clothes are soaked with blood and sea water and the sand beneath him is red. I see one, no two, bullet wounds in his back. Jeremiah and I turn him over and there is another one in his left arm and one in his right, plus exit wounds. Blood is dripping from his mouth and head. I almost can’t believe what I’m seeing and he looks about my age too. Oh god, is he dead?
Miraculously, his eyes start to slowly open. He suddenly grabs the collar of my shirt and pulls me forward, my head snapping back at the sudden movement. I yelp and my heart races. What is he doing? Jeremiah grabs his arm and tries to pull him off, but he won't budge at all.
"Ie! Mou shinai!" the boy yells his eyes tortured. They are so red from the saltwater.
His eye lids droop and his arm relaxes then he falls back onto my lap, unconscious. I stare at Jeremiah as he stares back at me. I reach up to fix my collar, but the seam has torn apart and a button is missing, not to mention my hands shake too much from the shock.
"What do you think he meant?" I ask with a weak voice. What language was that anyway?
"That's what you’re asking? What about why he just attacked you?" Jeremiah asks in a loud voice.
"He was scared! I mean, look at him! We have to help him!" I say. Jeremiah's expression turns to a glare. "We can't just leave him here! I refuse to and I'll get him home by myself if I have to!" I protest.
He lets out a sigh of defeat. "Fine..." he says quietly, knowing I’m right. He pulls the boy off the ground and lays him on top of Sugar.
"Just go slow, we don't want him to slide off," Jeremiah tells me as he helps me back up into my saddle.
"Yes, I know," I say and start trotting Sugar back toward home. Jeremiah follows behind me, watching the boy carefully.
My anxiety rises as each second passes by. I know that if we don't get help for this boy soon, he will die. I don't want that to happen. I feel that if I let him die under my care, I won't be able to forgive myself. His life is in my hands right now.
Soon, I finally see home getting closer. "Mama we need help!” I yell at the top of my lungs. When we get to the front of the house she is standing on the porch staring with wide green eyes at the boy lying there limp.
I jump off of Sugar quickly. "Mom he's hurt really badly! He's got several gunshot wounds!" I tell her. My hands shake from the adrenaline.
"O-okay!" Mom says, rushing into the house. Jeremiah pulls the boy off Sugar's back and lays him on the porch.
"What now? What do you think we should do?" I ask. Everything is happening so fast. I don't know what to do.
"Well, maybe if we can get his shirt off it'll help, so Mom can get to the wounds faster," he says.
I nod and pull the boy's cold, wet coat off while Jeremiah holds him up. Then I notice something on his leg that his coat had been hiding and my eyes widen in shock.
I point to it. “Is that a gun?” I ask, almost too quietly.
Jeremiah looks over and unlatches the holster, taking the gun out. “Wow, this is quite a piece here,” he says and checks it out, an empty shell falling onto the porch, “Why would he have something like this?”
I shake my head, not knowing what to think. What has this boy been through? Why would he need a gun like that? I quickly take my mind off of it and think back to the more important task at hand. Jeremiah cuts the boy’s shirt off with his pocket knife and I lay my head on his bloody chest to listen for his heartbeat. For a long moment I am quiet.
"What is it? Has his heart stopped already?" Jeremiah asks.
"No... His heart sounds fine. It's not racing or slow. It's just...fine," I say, confused.
"That's strange," Jeremiah murmurs, "Wow. He looks a lot worse than I thought."
"What’s going on?" a small voice asks. I look over to see the twins on the other side of the porch, staring at him.
"Jade, Harmony, go in the house! You don't need to see this!" I tell them, trying to cover the boy with his jacket so they don't see the blood. Jeremiah gets up and takes them into the house, taking the gun with him. I hold onto the boy, letting his head rest on my lap.
Mom rushes out. “Get him into the house!"
Jeremiah rushes out and picks the boy up, trying to be careful. Then he hurries back into the house and into the kitchen. I follow, my heart pounding and tears well up. I can be such a cry baby at times like this. I just don't know what to do.
Mom puts her hand on my shoulder. "Listen carefully, Kiara. You need to concentrate very hard on closing these wounds and forget your worries right now. I can't do this alone. He needs you," she tells me, looking me dead serious in the eyes.
I look down at him, lying on the table looking so fragile. If we don't do something now he'll die. I take a deep breath and nod, reaching for the first aid kit on the counter. Then we start to stitch up and clean his wounds.
Mama has taught me many things about caring for injuries and such. She’s quite knowledgeable since she’s a nurse at the clinic in town. I know I’m not as good as her when it comes to fixing people though, but I know she can handle this. I mean…I think I do. I hope.
It would be really difficult to take him to a hospital anyway. The closest one is in the next town, an hour away, and he would surely not make it that long. It would be better not to move him either and we can have a doctor come to look at him later. How long was he out there anyway? Where did he come from?
We finish cleaning the blood off his back, arms, head, and lastly his chest. I look down at his chest and see something that has been hidden under all the blood until we cleaned it off. My eyes widen in shock.
"Mom..." I murmur quietly.
"Yes... I see," she says, just as horrified as I am.
There on his chest is a huge X shape scar. It's old, but still...it's terrifying. Who would do something as terrible as this? It couldn't have been from an animal, because whoever had done this made it so it would look like this. It's a perfect X mark stretching over most of his chest.
"Let's not think too hard about it Kiara. This boy may not want us knowing too many things about him. We are strangers after all. Just don't say anything about it after he wakes up, okay? We want him to feel as comfortable as possible," she tells me.
I breathe in and nod. "Yeah…" I murmur, clenching my hands.
We bandage him up, hoping that what we’ve done is enough. Of course it’s better than nothing. Then Mama and I clean up, tossing his ruined shirt in the trash.
"So I guess he's going to be asleep for a while," Jeremiah’s voice says from behind. We turn to look at him.
"Yes, we should take him to a more comfortable place and let him rest. Jeremiah, you’ll need to share a couple sets of clothes if you don’t mind," Mama says. He shrugs, knowing he can’t say ‘no’.
I look around. "Where are the twins? I was sure they would be all over us asking questions and stuff."
He grins. "Out pickin’ wildflowers for the sick boy."
So he managed to divert their attention. I look down at the boy. He seems fine at the moment, but what about in the next hour or day? Would he still be here? We know nothing about him. What would we do if he dies? How would we tell his family and friends...wherever and whoever they are?
Jeremiah sighs and I look back up at him. "I wonder what he meant though when he yelled at us... What language was that?" he asks, his arms over his chest, leaning back against the wall.
I think back on it. ‘Ie! Mou shinai!’ I should go to the library later and try to figure out what that means.
Mama purses her lips. "Let’s put him in the guest room and take turns watching him. Sound good?"
Jeremiah and I both nod. He walks over to the table as Mama goes upstairs. I follow closely behind as Jeremiah carefully carries the boy up the stairs and into the guest room. Then he lays him down on the bed under the window and Mama covers his with a blanket.
"Okay, now we wait," Mama says, “I’ll call the doctor and have him over here soon.”
Jeremiah leaves the room and I sit down in the chair next to the bed. I look down at the boy then back up at Mama. "What should we do while we're waiting?" I ask.
She smiles at me. "If you hold his hand maybe he will be able to find his way back to the world. Another presence beside him may be exactly what he needs."
I look down at the boy then reach over and take his cold hand gently. Yeah. This is what he needs, someone to stay close to him. I sigh and hope that it won't be too long before he wakes up. What if he never does? Then we'll never know anything about him. Not his name or background, nothing.
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© Zakura Wolfe