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19 September 2008 @ 06:51 pm
 
Title: Apologia Pro Vita Sua II: Antebellum (Chapter 3)
Authors: Scorpions angelinaii, murasaki_plum, rawthornewrites
Characters: Cast List (Warning: Contains spoilers to APVS-I)
Rating: PG-13 to R
Genre: AU, organized crime, postcyberpunk
Summary: In the ever changing world of Judoh and the Bottoms, new lines are drawn, and loyalties tested...in the end will order be restored?
Warnings: violence, swearing, sexual situations
Prologue & Chapter 1 | Chapter 2
APVS-I and Apologia!verse drabbles can be found at cityofjudoh

In his place, Hankyung would have turned to guns as soon as he was out of his Master's tutelage. There was nothing to tie Henry to the sword but worn habit and, perhaps, preference. Guns, he had been told, were impersonal and simplistic. An honorable kill was to feel your mark's heart give out under your blade, to see the blood spill. Perhaps Henry had been told as much by his Master that he still kept the weapon strapped to his back all these years later.

"Twenty heads," he repeated Eeteuk's order, "with these."

The syringes were filled with paralysis-inducing fluid - a helpful if not altogether legal drug hospitals kept on hand for nerve operations. Theirs wasn't to be an operation, he thought, but an execution. Was there any honor in that?

Henry nodded at the medkit, then glanced up at him with eyes crystal clear and impossibly dark, with almost no white to crowd his pupils. "Together?"

An odd request for a loner like him, but Hankyung didn't press it. Teamwork was the way of the triad and this was no simple hit commissioned for money. Henry was no simple helper sent out by the boss to make sure he didn't screw up.

"Together," he agreed, soundlessly snapping the metal lid shut over the collection of syringes. Out of pure instinct, he extended a hand around the elevator cable, over to grasp Henry's. The younger man held fast and tight, not hesitating a second before placing his trust in him.

Do you know why? Hankyung wanted to ask. Have you figured it out yet?

Instead, he threw his weight forward, over the metal cage to the roof of another, Henry following soon after. Together they landed on their feet on the top of another elevator, this one climbing to the fifteenth floor and, more importantly, housing their first target.

Jamming the mechanics of the apparatus with the butt of his sword, Hankyung smiled placidly. Neither he nor Henry even showed surprise at the screeching sound and the sudden stop. Politely, he signaled for Henry to move in first, persuading himself it was not a test but a proof of faith.

The other man didn't stop to question any of it. Smashing his heel into the ceiling panel, he drew a dark mask over his head and jumped through the hollow. Darkness flooded the small cabin before the emergency lights picked up the slack. By then, it was too late.

The syringe went first, smacking into the bodyguard's neck and sending him down before he could reach for his gun. The effects would wear out in four to five hours, but the beauty of it was that the man would remain conscious. He would be able to attest to what he saw, gruesome and haunting as Hankyung knew the crimes to be.

It was different, having to copy someone else's work, but not impossible. Henry emerged thirty seconds later with blood on his hands, a long dark coat covering his usual attire to complete the disguise. His eyes were unreadable behind the mask and for a second Hankyung truly felt he was faceless.

What he did in the cabin was deserved, yes, but it would stay between him and the silent walls - at least until the guard could move and speak anew. Hankyung, for his part, had no desire to know.

"Ready for the rest?" he asked, excitement transparent behind the eerie voicebox sounds.

Hankyung nodded. "Ready." And removed his sword from the mechanism, thus sending the cabin back up on its usual route. The two of them meanwhile, jumped onto the next henchman.

One down, nineteen to go and he thought he might let Henry try them all. It would be a useful experience for them both - to see how deep the code went with the younger and how loyal he
or how deadly the older.

Little Henry. The one of us who was different.



*


Henry heard cicadas and because Henry heard cicadas, so did Sungmin. It wasn't the night that brought the sounds; there hadn't been cicadas in Judoh or the Bottoms since the climate started twisting and changing like shifting sand. Imagination was a powerful motivator.

"Hear it?" Sungmin whispered and in the dark Henry's eyes glittered like jewels, blue sapphires that the boy had chosen to wear for seemingly no reason. Henry didn't seem to believe in being in fashion and one would think that as an assassin he wouldn't want to be noticed, but no one pressed him for answers; not even Sungmin. In the dark it was a little eerie to see the glassy surface of the contact lens reflect the light of the moon like a mirror.

Despite himself, he shuddered, shedding the childish quest.

If his friend noticed, he didn't let on. So Sungmin found himself feeling blindly into the night, for something to fill the silence. "Sounds like running water..."

"Running feet," Henry corrected, adamant and rough, his voice tinged with meaning. "If you don't swim, you drown." And if you drowned, Sungmin didn't have to be told, you ended in a body bag with a black and white tag tied to your big toe.

City lights on the horizon glimmered. A thousand lights for a thousand dead bodies. Not tonight, but maybe some day.

"I can swim," Sungmin frowned. He could swim and fight and protect those he cared about - he could do everything Kangin did, except Kangin would have more sense not to play a dangerous game of follow the leader over rooftops and along rickety fire escapes. He reached for Henry's fingers on the banister attached to the top of the tallest building in the Bottoms. "I can't surf. Now I'd love to try." Levity forced its way out of his throat. The words smooth like cough drops that tasted of cherry, maybe, like the ones he was given when he was a helpless little boy who needed help; back when playing chess didn't have stakes and climbing buildings was a sport.

Henry's lips turned into a pout as he glanced over his shoulder at the sword strapped to his back. "Surfing is a surface water sport in which the participant is carried along the face of a breaking wave, most commonly using a surfboard." He shrugged. "It's not what I was meant to do."

In the way that only he could, Sungmin thought he understood what the other boy meant. Eeteuk had pitted Sungmin against Ryeowook since they were children. Kangin had taught them to fight and to kill and to plot to survive - but Sungmin hadn't been meant to lead like his brother; yet he knew enough to protect those he cared about. He figured it had to be the same with Henry, who, in his own way did the protecting along with every other enforcer. Except Henry did it with a sword or handguns and sometimes with a cruel smirk that looked like it belonged on another face in another time.

Long fingers fanned over the banister, grasping the cool metal tightly before Henry swung over, silent and delicate. Like a shadow that would move over the pavement, Henry moved from landing to landing, falling through cool air and drifting smoke without hesitation or any outward sign of effort. He was like a laser guided bullet that couldn't miss its target.

Henry landed on his feet, five floors down and Sungmin clapped. It was an ancient trick by now, but it distracted him nevertheless.

"Romeo, oh, Romeo!" Sungmin called down, feigning longing he didn't particularly feel.

The younger man frowned. "My name is not Romeo." In the next breath adding: "Come."

Sungmin might have teased him about many things, but he let it lie. Let the confusion persist in the unnatural blue irises trained on him. Sungmin went for the slower choice, descending using the steps nestled within the heart of the building, with its graffiti-tinged walls and grime. Not a sorry state, not really; not when all his life he hadn't had any reason to wish for something better.

Life wasn't so bad in the Bottoms. Even with the dangers, even with Ryeowook getting hurt, even with the H&E keeping them looking over their shoulders; life wasn't so bad, he decided, sliding down the banister to the ground floor like he used to do when he was a kid, if he had the triad and Henry waiting when he hit the ground.

If he didn't...

The look on Henry's face was frozen and though their eyes met, Sungmin saw him looking through him, through the wall and onto the other side of the street, his senses attuned to something Sungmin himself couldn't see.

Someone.

"What-" do you see? he began, voice dying abruptly in his throat at a nearly imperceptible shake of Henry's head. No. Don't talk. Don't attract attention. You are not here.

Sungmin's first instinct, attuned as it was to games of survival since childhood, was to chance disobeying Henry's uncharacteristically stony expression. It was short lived. As leaves rustled on the ground by their feet, mixing with garbage and years of neglect, the slightest change drew itself over the assassin's expression. Confusion.

As a rule, Henry was a marble statue when it came to facial expressions. At that moment, he looked almost human. Scared. The sudden metamorphosis froze both men in time. Only a few feet apart, one in the dark, the other in what little light fell from the block across the street, absolutely still.

Animal fear raised the hairs on Sungmin's arms, like pinpricks teased under the brush of cold air. There was no sound, no movement to indicate another's presence - nothing but Henry's frazzled exterior and Sungmin's own, possibly flawed, interpretation. How to be sure he wasn't imagining it?

"Henry..." His voice faded with the brush of cool steel against his neck. Everything tightened into a ball of panic at the center of his chest, but most of all, anger ruled him. No one put a knife to his throat, not even Henry, and this took him by surprise. Self-confidence knocked fear to the backseat and he all but turned against the body pressed against his back, elbow poised to find that place between the bottom two ribs, the one that hurt even when Ryeowook had tried it out on him back in the day.

"Don't... move, child," a voice he couldn't place breathed right into his ear, sugar and threat mixing with no discernible accent. "Or I'll carve hole into you. Don't move."

It wasn't that the menace hit home, not really. Henry's eyes, blue or black or whatever color they were, told Sungmin that to disobey would be madness. His mind began to race. Who could scare Henry? And who could sneak into the Bottoms without anyone in the triad noticing? Certainly not H&E and certainly not another trained killer. Hankyung... Zhou Mi would've picked up its scent.

The knife twisted against his bottom lip, the flat edge reflecting what lay behind. Two blue eyes, two similarly fake irises and no emotion. As though feeling was below him.

A little like Henry used to be described by the others - and still was, by Heechul.

Henry took a step forward, his hands by his side rather than reaching for the sword strapped to his back, nor the gun strapped to his hip. He took another step and stopped again, as though bewitched. Hypnotized.

Sungmin clenched his teeth. Why? Why aren't you fighting?

The man behind him - he was certain it was a man now - said something in another language. The words fell over each other, connected in a number of sounds and nothing intelligible. Henry frowned, but did not reply. For a second, Sungmin thought he didn't understand, but then the man added something else and Henry's eyes widened and Sungmin's heart collapsed onto itself.

Henry's eyes widened in recognition.

"Let him go," the younger man interceded, "Sei. He's--"

Sungmin felt the man behind him stiffen. "He's not one of us," he spat, twisting the blade.

Rather than elaborate on what he was supposed to know, Sungmin felt the knife turn and press into his skin, sharp and cold and deadly. His eyes beseeched to Henry for help only to find no recognition. His friend's eyes lay fixed over his shoulder and the feeling of betrayal bit hardest.

Just like Kyuhyun and that woman-machine. Just like she hurt Ryeowook and Kyuhyun was useless, his hands trapped behind his back while his brother's were cut off--

Reason took a backseat. The surge of adrenaline sent him slithering through the tight hold on his neck, planting his elbow into the man's side when he felt his grip tighten. It was a short second's escape, but it granted him reprieve and he tumbled to the ground, tripping over his feet with a single mantra running through his head.

I won't end up like Ryeowook. I won't end up like Ryeowook.

Whatever the effect on the third man, at least his fall roused Henry from his stupor, because the next thing Sungmin saw was the glimmer of his sword - and then the other man retaliating. Where Henry was faster and deadlier than any other assassin in the triad, the older man was faster. There was nothing to see but the swift edge of blades slicing through the air.

Sungmin dragged himself back up to his feet, searching the dark for their interlocked figures and trying to discern which was which. They were so similar in height and build and look, they might have been brothers. Regardless, he couldn't let Henry go it alone. Incensed, he turned back into the darkness of the dilapidated building only to see another shape descend.

The ash blond of his hair came into view first, then his eyes and his painfully familiar features.

"Hankyung, thank the Gods--"

Just as soon as the sharp edge of a knife had been turned away, another had taken its place. Only, this time, it was held in familiar hands. Hands he had spied around Siwon's, buried in Heechul's hair. Hands that had coaxed bullets out of gunshot wounds and drawn thread to heal open flesh.

Hands that had sworn to protect the triad and Eeteuk. And the overlapping tattoos crisscrossing on his right arm that coalesced in one last, proud addition with Eeteuk's rose. A mark of allegiance indeed.

"What do you... what do you think you're doing?" Sungmin half-yelled, half-seethed with clenched fists. "So this is what you've been doing all this time?" All the absences, all the silence from his part of the Bottoms - this was why. Years of trust diluted into one betrayal. Into choosing an outsider and turning on his own.

Henry's loud fall against the stairs intervened before Hankyung could answer, if he'd ever meant to. The younger assassin fell like dead weight, sliding from the higher ledge onto the ground full of grime. His sword clattered from his hand to the ground with a dull sound.

To Sungmin's horrified mind, it sounded like a death toll.

The man stepped down over Henry's body almost carefully, his eyes set like Henry's - no, not like Henry's.

"Hangeng," he muttered. "Finish him."

The order, Sungmin realized in the second before the sword fell, was not meant for his friend.
 
 
 
Xeniaayray on September 19th, 2008 05:07 pm (UTC)
Next chapter, please. I will not be able to breathe properly till the next chapter.
⚜ tempest in a teacup ⚜pieces on September 19th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
askjhfdal;ifdasdf.
h.: forget me not ↔ park jungsoojiyeop on September 19th, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)
holy shit speechless D:

adh;sjh;lah moar plz
Katanakatana28 on September 19th, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC)
Gosh I love this series. Please update quickly!
{ howling at the autumn moon  }+{ s h i g u r e }hyperballad on September 19th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
SIDFUSODIUFA WHAT WHAT WHAT

FIC. NOW. DEMANDS IT.
God, I love this universe *~*
Eddie of Eyor: HenWook (SJ-M)queen_eddie on September 20th, 2008 01:28 am (UTC)
You did not just kill Henry!!!!! NO!!!!!
Next chapter soon. Please!!!
미녀 수현 ᄏᄏ || soohyeonmochafreeze on September 20th, 2008 03:25 am (UTC)
oh my god. @_@
so..breathtaking and filled with so much tension..
loving the great imagery, loved how you describe hangeng's hands & the settings..
gahh <33 definitely anticipating the chapters to come!
FollowUrDestinyfollowurdestiny on September 22nd, 2008 12:24 am (UTC)
"holding my breath" ...