A/N: Set before A Loan Shark's Tale (any missing information here can be found in all the related series). Written for The Hostile Takeover Forum Theme Writing Challenge: Good versus Evil.
"What is evil to one at one time, becomes good at another time to somebody else." - Mencius
Rebellious clients were never a big deal. Whenever they owed money and couldn't pay up, Brandon and his fellow loan sharks would simply break into their houses and steal something of an equal value to the debt. If they fought back, Brandon and his colleagues would only inflict a broken nose or other sorts of injuries that would hurt, but hardly do any harm. They would never kill any civilians.
It was why Brandon, the ace loan shark in Millennion, would never tolerate the act of leading a swarm of commoners to beat his fellow loan shark to death. The leader of that riot sure didn't know what was fair and unfair.
Holding his notepad tightly, Brandon walked out of the moneylender bureau with a scowl. That rascal had to die, to correct the imbalance he had caused. Approaching Arnold and his van, Brandon showed his notepad to the man.
Arnold gazed at the notes momentarily before looking up. "Hit list? You sure you wanna do this, Sir?" He took a key out of his pants pocket. "It's late in the evening now. You'd better leave the target to the organization's sweepers and go home. Miss Mika always prefers that you come home fast."
Still frowning, Brandon returned the notepad to his coat pocket and grabbed the handle of the car door. Mika could wait. For now, he had an urgent matter to deal with; this troublemaker had to die before he could lynch another Millennion man.
"Well, then, let's go." Arnold pressed a button on the car key and unlocked the car doors with a beep.
Having no idea about who had headed this commotion, Brandon would beat some information out of the rioters. Most of them were his former customers, so with their addresses known, he could visit them immediately. However, he wouldn't harass all of them. Once he had learned the information he needed, he would set off to find the leader of the riot.
Walking along the pest-infested alleyway, Brandon read his notes without giving a damn about the rustles and high-pitched squeaks coming from the scurrying insects and rodents around him. His former customers who lived here had better kindly provide him the correct information; the faster, the better. Else they would find their skulls cracked open.
Soon, a block of two-story houses with chipped wall paint loomed before him. After matching the house numbers with the ones in his notes, he kept his notepad in his coat pocket and approached one of the doors. Steve, the resident of house number 11A, had better be nice. However, the swaying curtain of the window hinted an unfriendly greeting.
Brandon knocked on the door, but there was no response. In an instant, he kicked the door down with his sound leg. If Steve didn't want to open it, then Brandon would do it by himself.
As he stepped into the house, a wooden chair to the chest greeted him. He looked to his side and spotted a trembling Steve with a timber backrest in his hands. The seat was gone; it had probably joined the fallen door as chunks of wood.
"W-what do you want?" Steve asked as the remnants of the broken chair slowly slipped out of his hands. "I don't owe you m-money."
Brandon seized the man by his neck. "You owe me a life."
"Life? What life?"
"You killed my colleague, didn't you?"
With a bead of sweat trickling down his temple, Steve stammered, "I d-don't know!"
It was an expected answer from a rioter, so Brandon slammed Steve against the wall. His grip remained tight, and Brandon would tighten it further if Steve refused to share some information.
"I d-don't know anything!" Steve raised his arms. "I'm just a f-follower!"
"You should know who led this riot then."
Steve said nothing until his skull struck the wall and Brandon's hand threatened to choke him to death. Holding the back of his head, Steve asked in a raucous voice, "If I t-tell you, will you l-let me go?"
Brandon nodded, still glaring at Steve. Only if he spoke the truth would Brandon stop harassing him.
"Leonard l-led us," Steve continued. "He lives at this b-block. His house n-number is 11F."
Loosening his grasp, Brandon nodded. After releasing Steve, he took his notepad out of his coat pocket to confirm if Steve's statement were true. Fortunately, it was; the name and the address matched the data on the notes. Steve had likely told the truth.
"Thank you." Brandon trod the busted door lightly and walked out of the house. As he did, he could hear a sigh of relief from Steve, which prompted Brandon to pause and glare over his shoulder for a moment. Not so fast. If it turns out to be a lie, I'll be back.
Leonard's residence was just a few doors away from Steve's house. The curtain behind the closed window, though, was unmoving. Maybe Leonard wasn't aware of the dark fate that would soon befall him.
This time, Brandon didn't bother knocking on the door; he simply banged his palm onto its flat surface and sent it crashing to the ground. Stepping into the house, he saw Leonard standing beside a sofa with a hand on the holster on his belt. A little girl crouched behind the couch, cowering in terror as she held her head with her tiny hands.
Leonard pulled out his gun. "I knew you guys would soon find out that I led the riot, so I bought this for self-defense. Guess I'll eliminate another loan shark today."
A gunshot roared, but the bullet turned into a dented pellet after jabbing Brandon's torso. At the same time, a girl's wail broke out, piercing Brandon's eardrums and spawning a wince on his scarred face.
"Papa, stop!" the girl cried out.
For a moment, Brandon saw Leonard and his daughter as himself and a crying Mika. Shuddering, he took a step backwards. Arnold was right; he should've let Millennion's sweepers do the job.
Has taking care of Mika softened me? His eye squinted shut as he shook his head. I had done this heinous thing over a hundred times when I was still alive.
All of a sudden, a shove to his forehead snapped him back to his senses. Leonard now stood before him, pressing the barrel of his pistol against his head.
"Long-range bullets won't work," Leonard muttered sternly, "but I believe a point-blank bullet to the head will."
Brandon immediately swatted the pistol out of Leonard's hand and knocked him down with a straight punch to the face. As Leonard lay on the ground with a bloody nose, Brandon picked up Leonard's gun and took aim. Execution time was nigh.
But then, the girl walked towards him. Standing between him and Leonard, she spread her arms. "Don't kill Papa!"
At this, the vision bothered him again. The girl and the injured Leonard had changed to Mika and himself. Maybe it was his good side trying to convince him not to kill.
No, this man is still the one who led the riot and killed my colleague! He gritted his teeth and took a step forward. After pushing the girl aside, he closed his gradually watering eye. I must kill him before he does more harm! Trigger pulled, and a girl's wail exploded once more.
Opening his eye, he could only stand silently with the gun slipping out of his quivering hand. The sight of a crying Mika hugging a motionless Brandon was just an illusion, but it still tore his heart. What would become of this orphaned girl?
Turning around and walking away from them, Brandon couldn't help but shed tears and curse himself.