"I wouldn't ask that guy."
Gui Zhang stopped, and half turned to show that he was listening. The
fisherman beckoned towards the worker Gui Zhang had set his eyes upon, and
shook his head.
"Having a bad day. Broke up with his girlfriend right here, then nearly got
hit by a van as he walked away."
A flicker in Gui Zhang's eyes.
"Really?" he asked, still gazing forward. "Isn't that unusual?"
The fisherman ignored the comment. "Just my advice."
Gui Zhang nodded, and proceeded to walk straight towards the man having a
Bad Day, currently involved in ticking boxes on a clipboard, when he
noticed for the first time the tyre marks, burned onto the tarmac beneath
his feet. Stopping a moment to inspect the ground, Gui Zhang gazed towards
the Hoku Hoku lunch stand across the way, then across to the fishermen. He
took a momentary leave of his senses, forgot his dignity, and knelt to the
black scars, touching them with his fingers. And then it clicked.
With a start he glanced back up at the lunch stand. There was no van there.
Rising suddenly, Gui Zhang found himself at the mercy of a forklift,
stopping inches away with a jolt. The driver, a vague friend of Gui Zhang
now and then, was casting him a look of bemusement. But there was no time
for explanations now, as Gui Zhang strode coolly towards the lunch stand,
greeted Hisake-san, and asked where the van was. Hisake-san seemed colder
to him once the question was asked, but Gui Zhang merely radiated
"What do you need the van for?" asked Hisake-san, searching Gui Zhang's
face for something, as if in distrust. Gui Zhang resented this, but again
managed his self-control effectively and let it pass.
"I don't need it. But I would appreciate it if you told me."
Hisake-san's lips almost seemed to quiver. She smiled shakily, hesitantly,
conscious of her own appearance, before turning away to face the wall and
pretending to open a box. Gui Zhang stared in bewilderment. Walking around
the stand to face her from the side, he saw that she was fighting a losing
battle against her own emotion. Just what was going on here?
"Hisake-san. I need to know..."
Recklessness had always been an integral part of the son of the revered
Master Chen, and dealing with emotion had become something he could do
himself with ease, yet was powerless to help others with. As an
introspective person, Gui Zhang had perfected himself on the inside and the
outside. He was noble, determined, proud, and logical. His hair was combed,
his suit was smooth, his tie was central. But regardless of how the years
of discipline and nights alone had moulded him, there remained a barrier
that could not be crossed. He was the Yin to Ryo's Yang, their
personalities clashed in fiery dispute, and yet they were adjacent to each
other in moral stance. He would fight for the good cause, protect his own
father to the death, would shun everything and anyone he deemed to be
against him, as would Ryo. Like Ryo, his loyalty to those he knew was
unending. And like Ryo, when it came to issues of the heart and not of the
mind or spirit, he was helpless and lost for words.
"My friend... went to get some deliveries... for me," stuttered Hisake-san.
"Listen," said Gui Zhang. "It's very important. Where has the van gone?"
Gui Zhang had lived and worked here for far too long to believe the
delivery explanation. No afternoon delivery had ever been made for Hoku
Hoku, and besides, the counter looked full. Hisake-san was fighting back a
sob. Gui Zhang stood, stiffly, on her right side as she blinked repeatedly
and stared at the wall. There were no words for a very long time, and Gui
Zhang was mustering every ounce of will in his body to refrain from
speaking, from telling her the seriousness of the situation, that she
should hurry. He was all to aware that he may shatter her emotion, and lose
his informant in an instant, if he let his mind speak.
"They took it," she replied at last, stroking her dark brown hair. "They
Gui Zhang didn't even have the time to insert his questions.
"They took it, and they drove away in it, they said that if I didn't they
would hurt me. They didn't mean that they would hit me, they meant they
know how to ruin my business. Don't you understand? They could cut off my
customers, they could drive me from the harbour, they could find out my
home address! They threatened to hurt my relatives. Do you understand that?
There was nothing I could do to stop them!"
Gui Zhang sighed and mumbled that he understood. He had no need to ask of
who 'they' were.
"They... drove away?"
Hisake-san glanced at him.
"No," she said, in a different tone. "No, first they backed up all the way
to a warehouse back there." She motioned behind, but didn't say which.
"They must've stopped for something, because they didn't come past for
quite a while. They weren't the Angels that you see round here," she added,
"They were dressed more smartly."
As if they planned it, thought Gui Zhang, then dismissed the idea. Most
likely they stole some harbour overalls from somewhere to get past
security. Security, Thought Gui Zhang. They'd have seen where it went. He
thanked Hisake-san quietly and walked away swiftly, in the direction of the
Where was Ryo now? Gui Zhang looked back hesitantly at the lunch stand, at
the forklifts, at the sea birds and pigeons flocking and dispersing
distantly behind him, and for the first time felt a sense of panic. There
was something missing without him, and he had not seen until now. He needed
the rivalry; he needed someone to feel an ounce of respect for in this
harbour, which other than his father, felt full of subordinates and group
thugs. He needed the rivalry more than any friendship. And if he didn't
move now, Ryo was guaranteed to be dead.
Dead due to my loss of action, thought Gui Zhang. For now, something
mattered more than dignity. He looked forward.
The air was fresh and biting, and a brief gust flapped his jacket rapidly
against his waist. There was a distant rain coming from out on the sea. The
sky said it...