Title : Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken
Author : lynlyn
Yahoo ID and email : cloud121383
Warnings : The main pairing here is Kurapika / Kuroro (slash, yaoi, whatever it is you call m/m relationships) and if you don't like, then don't read! But I'll try to focus as much as possible on the plot and character development, and the rating probably won't go any higher than light snogging. Ah, by the way, some knowledge of the HxH world is required, and this chapter takes up right after Kuroro's caught by Kurapika in the hotel.
Summary : Pakunoda thinks about what to do when their leader gets captured by the chain assassin – but a very welcome phone call removes the need to take drastic measures. Kuroro, on the other hand, is faced with a difficult decision.
Rating : PG-13 for adult themes and some swearing, and a teeny bit of violence
Disclaimer : I do not own Hunter X Hunter, its characters, or anything associated with it. I'm not writing this for profit; I'm only doing so for personal satisfaction, plus the fact that I want to try my hand at writing semi-professionally. Any resemblance of the characters or the story itself to actual people and situations is entirely unintentional and accidental. Please don't sue – I'm only a college student.
A/N : This isn't exactly my first try at fanfiction, but it will be the first story I'll post on the Internet. I'm technically a newbie – so please go light on me!
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WILD HEARTS CAN'T BE BROKEN
Chapter 1 – Impressions
The images came, unmitigated, unchecked, rushing by with near-impossible speed, but she saw them all, understood the situation with sickening clarity. She ignored her companions' calls, instead focused solely on the memories of the one who had left the innocuous-looking piece of paper wrapped around the ominous knife.
A figure leaping up from behind the hotel reception desk, hand darting forward to throw the nen chains around their target… Red eyes… and chains. A face set in determination and triumph, the face of the one they had dubbed "the chain assassin"… A uniform…? The enemy had dressed as a female receptionist! Ingenious of him, really… They hadn't been able to foresee that, and they'd been completely taken by surprise.
And now their leader will pay for their folly.
The message hastily scribbled on the piece of paper was simple – brief and straight to the point.
Tell them and I'll kill him.
And Pakunoda had no doubt that he would, if she did reveal the memories of their prisoners to the rest of the group. The emerging picture of the chain assassin was impressive, frightening at his worst. Simply put, he was a deadly enemy, quick, decisive, cunning and adaptable. He'd pulled off what was supposedly impossible: captured the leader of the powerful Geneiryodan within the time it took a person to blink. Even so, there should have been more than enough time for the leader to evade the attack. So why…
Of course. This sudden blackout. The resulting moments of confusion and indecision was all it took to throw the leader's concentration off guard for a few seconds. Mere seconds, infinitesimal in scope, but it was enough. Even microseconds counted in a situation where life was at stake. That they had no warning whatsoever confounded the problem. The foremost and most urgent thoughts she had drawn from the kids were "power cut" and "act at 7", inadequate to determine that the target this time was the leader. It was now glaringly obvious that that loud, angry man with the cellphone was an accomplice of the chain assassin. It was he who'd passed the information about when to act to their prisoners; and the kids, responding admirably, had distracted them so thoroughly that none of them had noticed the leader's abduction until after it was all over. She had a broken arm and several teeth knocked loose, while Machi probably had more than a few broken ribs. They would have been severe wounds if not for the fact that they were fighters, and were old hands at using nen. At the very least, though, their injuries will hinder them should they decide to pursue the assassin.
The whole thing was brilliant, extremely well-planned for a scheme put together at a moment's notice, probably the second the leader had mentioned the name of the hotel when they had first caught the kids out in the street fifteen minutes ago. Which explained why the hostages didn't know much about the plan.
But why is it that she hadn't been able to catch so much as a thought about the chain assassin's identity when she had probed their memories the first time they had been caught? They obviously knew him… Was it because he had kept his abilities secret?
Another point to the assassin, then. He had not revealed his cards to many people, even his friends. It was the mark of a cold, calculating strategist.
Which means that the note was not an empty threat. The assassin had been willing to waste precious seconds to throw the knife at them, even risking discovery and pursuit. He had a companion named Senritsu, whose nen ability was enhanced hearing, hearing so keen that that person could hear the heartbeats of people standing meters away, and pick up on emotions in subtle changes in the heartbeat.
If I spilled, this Senritsu would be able to detect the change in my heartbeat, know that I didn't do as he said… and he'll kill the leader, never mind the fact that he'll be putting his friends in even greater danger…
But… he must value his friends. No one was that cold-hearted… The kids were also valuable hostages. There will be a chance to rescue the leader, but only if they played things right.
But how? Oh, God, what should she do?
Should she tell? Should she – can she – risk the leader's life?
"From now on don't talk, ok? If you can't, then don't," Nobunaga said gruffly.
Pakunoda nodded. The others had apparently noticed her brooding, and had understood instantly. But she still didn't know what to do.
"Concentrate, Machi. Don't let them go. We can't risk them getting away again," Nobunaga commanded, turning to the other injured member of their party, who still had her arms wrapped tightly around the white-haired boy named Killua. This was the more dangerous of the two hostages. He was the one who had gotten loose from Machi's nen strings, and had broken Pakunoda's arm and Machi's ribs effortlessly.
She watched as Machi retied the boy's arms behind his back with Nobunaga's help. He wouldn't be able to escape again, with all of them on guard for even the slightest sign of struggle or resistance. Besides, he won't leave his friend here. If he dared to, he would have escaped long ago, back when the hotel's lights first went out. He had the chance, but he didn't take it, probably knowing that the other boy can't undo knots as easily as he did.
"The chain assassin will contact us again, I'm sure of it. We should guard the hostages well, they might be the ticket we need to rescue the leader…"
Nobunaga's words hit her with the force of a speeding train. Of course. The leader was more important now. She shouldn't think too much.
"I want to chase after that son of a bitch, of course, but we can't let these brats go. We'll wait for the others to arrive first, then think of what to do next. I think the chain assassin will use a car to get away. We can still catch up – he might get stuck in the traffic."
At the mention of the other members of their group, though, Pakunoda's uncertainties returned full-force. She remembered something the leader had said a long time ago, back when their group had first formed. It must have been years ago, but she knew his words, had them memorized by heart.
"Our group is called the spider – I am the head and you are the limbs. Hands and legs need to listen to the head, and they need to be loyal, according to the traditional working mechanism. But that rule doesn't apply to life and death situations. For example, should I die, anyone can take my place. It all depends on the circumstances. Sometimes the head is not as important compared to the whole. I have to make something clear, though. My command takes the priority. But that doesn't mean that my life takes the priority. I am part of the group too. And the group is more important than individuals. We can't forget this."
Reveal the chain assassin's weakness, give the group a huge advantage over their enemy, and lose their leader's life; or keep silent and follow the assassin's orders, and betray the group's code?
She – they will lose either way. Pakunoda spared a moment to curse the chain assassin. She dared not betray the group by submitting to the enemy's plans for them – and she had a feeling that if the assassin succeeded, he will go after all the members of the Geneiryodan – but she didn't want to put the leader's life in danger.
Wait a minute… What was the leader's prophecy? Didn't he get his prophecy from the fortune-telling nen ability he stole from Nostrad's daughter?
She had no idea what the leader's prophecy was, but she knew her own.
"In the midst of dark days is a thread of light
Within a tight room, two choices in your sight
Only when the God of Death stands by your side
The answer be glory or betrayal, you decide."
Of course, she'd memorized it the minute the leader handed it to her, and she'd been mulling over it ever since. It didn't make sense before, but it did now.
Did the God of Death mean the two kids? Or the chain assassin? Is it betrayal to the leader if I told? Should I keep silent, or should I betray the group? And the small room is… my own mind? …No! I think too much! Today is Saturday; the prophecy is for next week. At least, I don't have to make a decision today.
Should she tell them, or not? What would the leader do, if he were her…?
"Paku!" Machi called, "It's better if you don't think too much about unnecessary things. Just keep silent, okay?"
Pakunoda stilled, the hand clutching the assassin's message falling limply to her side. Seconds later, the hotel's lights came on, minutes later after they first went out. Everything about them was illuminated in near-blinding clarity, as what would happen when being subjected to sudden light after one's eyes had adjusted to total darkness.
"Phinx, come to the hotel. The leader has been captured." Nobunaga, on his cellphone, telling the other members of the group to come over…
The leader… Her heart literally ached to think about life without the leader beside them.
We still need you, Dancho… I need you.
The hotel lights had chased away the darkness, and it seemed that they had exorcised her doubts, too. She had selfish reasons, reasons that were stopping her from making a decision that would benefit the whole group. Pakunoda liked the leader; loved him, even, but alas, that love was one-sided.
I don't care. I'm sorry, Dancho, but I can't do it. I can't leave you to die, greater good be damned.
She smiled, remembering all the times they've spent together. Granted, those activities weren't legal, but that was what the Geneiryodan did. Morality didn't figure into their equation. It was a meaningless word for abandoned souls, left to die in barren wastelands dotted with mountains of refuse and garbage. Her life, as well as her companions' lives, started when they joined the group; and she would go to hell and back just to ensure its survival.
Let me be the traitor, Dancho. This way, at least, no one else would have to die.
-- -- -- -- --
"Why didn't you go after them?"
"Machi and Paku were injured."
"That guy had professional hunters with him. Even these two kids are hard to deal with, based on fighting ability alone."
"Read the message clearly! It certifies the value of these brats as hostages. As long as they're alive, we can get the leader back."
"If they ran away, we'd have lost our bargaining chip! The bastard who has the leader is the chain assassin, who even Ubogin couldn't defeat!"
Pakunoda sighed inwardly. Trust Feitan and Phinx to get Nobunaga all riled up. The tension between the three had started to rise mere seconds after the rest of the group had arrived. She watched as Nobunaga slowly turned red, a throbbing vein visible in his left temple.
"Didn't you hear what I said?! It was a power cut! By the time our eyes adjusted to the dark, the leader's gone! We weren't able to take any action at that moment. Look at the situation clearly!
Feitan laughed, tone derisive and provoking. Pakunoda couldn't understand why the child-sized fighter continued to taunt the frustrated Nobunaga. They shouldn't do this… they shouldn't fight amongst themselves, not when the leader's life was on the line… Ah, hell… Phinx had just pushed Nobunaga's patience over the edge with something she didn't quite catch over her musings. The samurai was fingering his sword, even as he held on to the white-haired kid. Pakunoda readied herself to restrain Nobunaga, should he think of throwing himself at his tormentors. Another voice suddenly cut in before anyone could do anything else.
"Anyway, we have to have another meeting. We have to find a strategy for this."
Pakunoda relaxed slightly. Shalnark, ever the calm, logical voice, one of the strategists of their group, had spoken. His boyish features indicated otherwise, but Shalnark was a fearsome thinker, and a ruthless fighter when he needed to be. The seemingly innocent cellular phone hanging by his belt was a quiet testimony to that. He was the best at information-gathering, extremely good at planning, and when it came to battle tactics and outwitting foes, came only third to the leader and herself. When he spoke, the others listened.
"From now on, we have to work as a group. We'll tend to Machi and Paku's injuries first, then we start tracking the chain assassin. Paku, do you understand?"
Actually, she didn't have to understand. If things would be going according to the course she had decided minutes ago, she wouldn't be following Shalnark's plan. Or anybody else's plans, for that matter. She listened half-heartedly to the hotel attendants, who were trying to appease the guests, then focused her attention back on Shalnark, who continued to give them the outline of the strategy he'd thought of.
"If anyone discovers the car the leader's in –"
It was her cellphone. The damned thing had to go and ring at the most inopportune of times. It rang a second time, the tone shrill and loud in the sudden silence their group had fallen into.
She moved slowly, taking the phone out from her pocket with an ease that she herself didn't feel. She looked at the glowing LCD screen.
"It's the leader's number," she announced calmly, without taking her eyes off the accursed thing. Then she looked up.
The phone rang again, and still she didn't answer it. By the expressions on her companions' faces, it seemed that they didn't want her to, either. They knew it was the chain assassin, calling to inform them of their leader's fate.
Oh, God, I'm not yet ready.
The phone rang a fifth time, and Shalnark nodded, gesturing her to give in to the inevitable, and answer the call. Pakunoda took a deep breath – It isn't enough, her mind screamed – and turned the phone on before it could ring a sixth time.
"It took you long enough!"
"Paku? Are you still in the hotel? Go back to the hideout immediately; tell the group to wait there. I'll follow you."
"Dancho, what happened? Where are you?"
A pause, as their leader seemed to regard something, then, "I'll explain later." And before she could ask, "Don't worry, I've got the chain assassin."
She must have sagged in relief, but things were happening so fast, she didn't notice. Out of the corner of her eyes she saw the boy named Killua stiffen. He must have heard that last sentence. His hearing was sharper than they gave him credit for.
"Do you understand, Paku? Go back, right now, don't stay in the hotel."
"Yes – Dancho, wait!" she added hurriedly, as the other was readying to put his phone down. "What should we do with the hostages?"
"Bring them. I have something in mind."
Then the line went dead.
She turned the cellphone off, and, moving with agonizing slowness, placed it back in her pocket. She looked up; her companions looked like they were about to pounce on her and wring her for answers.
"That was the leader," she said calmly, blandly, the flat tone indicating that her mouth was very much separated from her inner thoughts, which, at that time, felt like chaos personified.
"He told us to go back to the hideout. He said that he'll catch up with us there."
"I don't know. He didn't say," and before any of them could proceed with the pouncing, she told them what they had all been waiting to hear. "He did say that he's captured the chain assassin."
Trust their leader to turn the tables around.
Wait… "something in mind"…?
York Shin City was one of the biggest metropolises around. Hundred-story five-star hotels, grand theaters, flashy casinos, opulent auction houses, vast markets and huge department stores – it had all of those, and more. It was literally a playground for the rich and famous. People from all walks of life gathered here all year round, as participants, and as audiences in its daily – and nightly activities.
It's also one of those so-called cities that never sleep. Neon signs, to flashing strobes, to plain fluorescent lamps; every kind of lighting available to mankind were turned on when the sun set, the city welcoming its night revelers with wide-open hands. That was why rooms situated at the highest floors of hotels were never unoccupied. The higher you went, the more expensive the bill, and the more spectacular the view.
And you can't go any higher than where I am now – without flying, of course, Kuroro thought with detached humor as he jumped from the roof of Hotel this to the roof of Hotel that, spanning hundreds of feet in each leap, and summarily dismissing the dizzying height with a disinterested glance.
The view could be considered romantic… if it weren't for the fact that he had someone slung over his left shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
His mortal enemy, to be exact; the chain assassin, currently out like a light.
And even unconscious, the brat was annoying him, forcing his gears into motion, making him rethink his strategies and plans.
Why had he spared the blond? He should have killed the boy, the first – and the last, he hoped – who was able to catch him, even if the captivity had been brief.
And it was probably pure luck that he had been able to escape, he thought grumpily, grudgingly. This time, it had been a flicker, sudden darkness in the supposedly steady stream of light from one of the city's streetlamps, just as they were passing under it.
Maybe it had been his opponent's own jumpy nerves, or carelessness – wars have been won and lost due to carelessness; but all he knew was that the silver chains wrapped around him had loosened just a bit, right at that infinitesimal moment of sudden darkness.
It had been enough, the chance grabbed at and pounced upon immediately, and Kuroro had slipped from the chains before the other realized his mistake.
He'd been walking in front of the blond, so he'd spun on his left heel, then delivered the most powerful side kick he could manage, with his right foot. The satisfying thud of foot hitting stomach rang in the cool night air around them, and the fickle light of the streetlamp had flickered back on to illuminate the assassin's face set in a grimace of pain and shock.
That kick had been meant to cripple, and it had decapitated less powerful foes before, so Kuroro had watched in slight surprise as his opponent struggled to remain upright and conscious after flying only five feet backwards.
The kid had managed to put up a partial block, after all, right before his kick hit. But it hadn't been enough, as control over his muscles left him and he fell on his hands and knees.
The length of chain still wrapped loosely around Kuroro disappeared, its creator too weakened to maintain its solid state.
He'd moved forward then, to deliver a fatal, second blow, but before he could do so, Kuroro had found himself looking into a pair of livid red eyes. Well, actually, they weren't a constant red – the color wavered from blood-red to cerulean blue and back again to red, then blue, each change of color signifying that their owner was walking the line between the waking world and unconsciousness. A quick glance down at a pale hand showed the assassin's weapons appearing and disappearing in cadence with the color changes – appearing when the eyes turned red and disappearing when they changed back into blue.
He'd stared at the other's eyes, fascinated, a dim memory prickling at the back of his mind, and belatedly he'd realized that the blond was cursing him, the litany of oaths and death threats carving swaths right out of the air.
Only someone with the strengthening nen ability could have survived that kick, and the chain assassin was supposedly a materializing type of nen user. But here he was, still lucid enough to hurl abuse at him.
It was probably then that Kuroro had decided not to kill the blond, for reasons that had been unclear to him at that moment – and were still unclear now.
It wasn't because he'd been interested in stealing the other's power – the thought had actually been at the bottom of the list; immediate elimination of the danger and the threat had been at the top. Nor was he thinking of revenge through torture and slow, painful death. (That was usually Feitan's cup of tea.) Had it been because he was impressed, then? Impressed at the blond's strength and abilities, and intrigued at how he had acquired them…?
Whatever the reason had been, it had eluded him, just as it was eluding him now. Instead of the fatal blow, he'd delivered a neat chop to the back of the blond's skull, and the chain assassin finally stopped struggling and slumped into unconsciousness.
Pure luck – for him, that is – was probably also the culprit behind the chain assassin's decision to pick an empty street to traverse, or else there would have been hell to pay if anyone saw Kuroro leaning over the prone figure lying on the street – just as he'd done while he'd pulled out his cellphone to call Pakunoda.
He'd paid only half of his attention during the brief conversation, telling his second to round up the members of their group and head back to their hideout. The other half of his concentration had been used in contemplation, as he'd stared down at the infamous chain assassin.
He should have killed the enemy then, avenged Ubogin's death, but… one look at the killer's face and all his anger had drained away.
The chain assassin… wasn't supposed to be this young. Eyes closed in sleep, (unconsciousness would be the more fitting term, but it didn't sound as good) the enemy looked almost like a kid, a child untouched by darkness or sin.
It was also then that he'd discovered the correct gender of the chain assassin. He'd erroneously assumed that the blond (brunet then) was a female – blame it on the feminine receptionist outfit; but he'd looked harder, and noticed that something hadn't fit.
He'd crouched down, reached out, taken hold of the ponytail, tugged… and stared at the shock of blond hair that had spilled out from under the brown wig.
Then, after careful thought, he'd turned the chain assassin over to her – his? – back, and used a sleeve to wipe the lipstick away.
Yup, definitely male. Albeit a slight, girly-looking male.
After a few more minutes or so of staring and thinking, Kuroro had decided to damn all his plans to hell and head back to their hideout. He'd think of something along the way.
Which brought him to where he was now. Only a kilometer away from the cluster of abandoned buildings they'd chosen as their hideout, and he still didn't know what he was supposed to do with the blond.
All he knew was, killing the chain assassin had dropped quite far down the to-do list.
... But what should he do about the fact that the chain assassin had killed Ubogin? That would make the two of them mortal enemies, and the blond obviously hated the entire Geneiryodan... He'd probably try to kill Kuroro the moment a chance presented itself. Why wouldn't Kuroro want to hate him in return, and kill him before that could happen?
I don't hate him; he killed Ubogin, and as the leader of the group, it's only professional that I take him back to the others, then let them decide as a group…
Professional? Group decision? Even to his own ears, they sounded pathetic. Shallow excuses to cover his inability to find a defense for his actions.
Argh! I don't know! I just... I don't know yet. I'll find the reason... eventually...
If anything else, those chains should come in handy in bed.
Where in hell did that thought come from?!
--- end of chapter one ---
1. I translated the prophecy from the manga… but the raw text didn't sound good, so I added rhyme in. Conversations between the characters in the first part were based on the anime, and I tried to preserve their original meaning as much as possible. But the subtitles in the copy I had were terrible, so I can't be exactly sure.
2. Comments and criticisms will be greatly appreciated, but if you're flaming just for the heck of it, then don't waste calories typing and just hit the back button.
Reposted on March 6, 2007, with minor edits to tense errors and the inner voice formatting. I also added a few sentences to make the transition smoother in a couple of scenes. (In other words, I tried to cut down on the melodrama.)