Hwoarang stood in front of a large office building. It had been six days since the tournament, and it was time for him to collect his prize money. The building was near the center of town, in the business district. He walked inside only to be greeted by a young girl behind a central desk. He walked over to her.
"Do you have an appointment?" She asked. Hwoarang handed her the card. She looked at it, then at him, and then back at the card.
"Follow the hall to the elevators, take one to the tenth floor and there will be someone there to help you."
"Thanks." He paused for a moment and smirked. "So, what are you doing after work?" He leaned on the counter and winked at her.
"You don't want to be late," she tersely replied and handed him the card. Hwoarang rolled his eyes and left the entrance area. He had no need for women like that. Besides, she was probably no fun. Hell, she wasn't even that cute. He hit one of the buttons near the elevators, and was surprised to find one open soon after. He walked inside and hit the button for the tenth floor.
Once he exited the elevator, Hwoarang had to resist the urge to whistle. The room he was in had plush carpet, a chandelier and was full of expensive Western-style furniture. He saw another young woman behind a desk, typing on a computer. She looked up as he walked towards her.
"You must be the winner from the tournament," she began. "They are waiting for you inside. Follow me." She stood up and motioned for Hwoarang to follow her to a pair of doors near the back of the room. She knocked and then opened them leading Hwoarang into a room that looked even nicer than the one he had just left. He walked inside and she shut the doors behind him.
"Please, sit down," a man said. Hwoarang looked up and saw an older man sitting behind a large mahogany desk. He wore a black suit and had graying hair. His face looked rough, like he had been through a lot in his long life. He had two large men on either side. Both wore sunglasses and dark suits, and one had two scars that crossed on his cheek.
"I'll stand thanks."
"If you insist." Hwoarang stared at the man. "I am sure you are wondering where the prize money is. I have half of it here in a briefcase. However, before I give it to you, I have a proposition. We could use someone like you in our organization. You are one of the best fighters around. If you join us, you could make two to three times what you get from your petty street fights."
"Thanks, but I don't think so."
"You should really think it over. It is a good deal."
"You think I care about the money?" Hwoarang asked. He was getting upset, and that was not his style. He didn't lose his cool like others, and he really did not feel like fighting anyone at the moment. "Look, I just came here for the prize money."
"That is fine. However, I told you I only had half. Think about my offer and come back next week. It would be best for you to work with us."
"I don't even know your name, let alone what you do. I'm more than happy where I am though, so you can forget it."
"Please reconsider," the man urged. "My secretary will let you know when you can collect the rest of the money. Until then, I hope that this will serve you well." Hwoarang watched as one of the bodyguards walked over, holding a metal briefcase. He took it from the larger man and turned to leave. The whole situation was rather creepy and he had no intention of working for someone else. He stopped briefly to set up another appointment, for a week later but at an earlier time, and then left the building.
Hwoarang got on his bike and started driving. He didn't feel like going back to his place, but he also didn't feel like hanging out with the gang. He knew he should drop off the money, but he wasn't in the mood to go out with everyone. It worried him that that man, whose name he didn't even know, was so insistent on recruiting Hwoarang. It didn't seem like he was too happy with Hwoarang's rejection, but Hwoarang wasn't sure he cared. He wasn't about to start working for someone else and leave his gang. He had worked too hard and too long to build it up and he wasn't going to leave them now. He liked being able to do what he wanted, when he wanted.
If he started working for some damn company he would have virtually no control over what he did. He had already been in the military and dealt with that kind of thing, he was damned it he was going to do it again. He didn't need the money at all. Most of his expenses were for parties anyway, and the gang made enough to cover that. What would he do with more money anyway? He had a place to live and a bike. He never went hungry or was cold, so what did he need outside of that? Most of the women he knew were glad just to be around him, they didn't need expensive gifts. Hwoarang liked his lifestyle and had no intention of changing it anytime soon.
Hwoarang stopped his bike. Subconsciously he had driven to Isa's, and he figured it was time for his weekly visit. Besides, he hadn't seen her since that night at the bar, and thought it would be as good a time as any to see what she thought. He parked his bike and walked up the stairs to her place, briefcase still in hand. He knocked on the door and waited thirty seconds for her to answer.
"Yes?" She asked. "Who is it?"
"Hwoarang," he replied, and watched as she opened the door. She then ran back to the kitchen. Hwoarang stared at her, surprised by her reaction. He shut the door behind him and put the briefcase along the inside wall. He then followed her to the kitchen and saw that she was cooking.
"Got enough for two?" He asked, examining her body. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and was barefoot. He thought of making some joke about women belonging in the kitchen, but decided against it. He was rather hungry and didn't want to risk his chance of missing a free meal.
"Of course," she replied. She muttered something under her breath that sounded like "I always make enough for two" but he couldn't be sure. He leaned over her shoulder and stared at the pots on the stove.
"What is it?" He asked. She smiled and turned to him.
"Very funny." He was not amused by her response, but he figured it was payback for the night they went out to eat.
"Have a seat, it will be ready in just a minute." Hwoarang sat down at the table and leaned back a little in his chair. She was busy serving the food, putting it in bowls and covering it with some kind of red liquid. She sat a bowl in front of him and went back to grab a beer from her refrigerator. She placed the bottle on the table and sat down to join him.
"Eat up, it's good," she said. "It's just pasta." She started eating, and Hwoarang followed suit. The food wasn't bad and the red stuff tasted a bit like tomatoes.
"What is this stuff called?"
"Pici pasta with tomato sauce." She replied. "You like?"
"It's not bad." He pushed the bowl back, finished with his serving. She finished hers soon after and then got up. Hwoarang saw her place more food on some plates, and then set them on the table. It looked like some kind of meat and some vegetables. He looked at it like it was going to eat him first.
"It's just chicken with peppers," she explained. "It's really good." He watched as she took a bite, and he did the same. Hwoarang couldn't remember the last time a girl had cooked a full dinner for him. In fact he wasn't sure that any had. He knew that some of the girls would make small things for him, trying to impress him or get his attention. But none had gone as far as to serve him an entire meal. He didn't think any of them really knew how to cook anyway.
"You cook a lot?"
"Almost every night. I miss Italian food though, and it is so hard to get some of the things I need over here," she sighed and stared at her plate.
"It's really not bad."
"Thanks." She smiled. "Ready for dessert?"
"There's more?" She smiled and laughed before heading back to the counters. Hwoarang saw her pull out a large cake. Some of it was missing, and she cut two small pieces. She returned and the pair ate in silence.
"What was in that?" He asked as he finished.
"It's a family secret, so I can't tell." She smirked and giggled. "It's good, no?" He nodded.
"What did you think of Jin-ho?"
"Who?" She paused and looked at him, narrowing her eyes. He watched as her expression changed slightly. "Oh, that guy from the other night. He was nice enough, I guess."
"You should go out with him." He saw Isa's face fall and she stared at him. He couldn't place the look, but he had obviously made her a little mad.
"I didn't really get the impression that he liked me. More like he was only there because you ordered him to do so."
"Nah, I think he liked you." She shook her head and rolled her eyes.
"Not my type."
"What is your type? Italian?" She laughed.
"I don't really like Italian men." Hwoarang was sure his mouth was hanging open. "Too hairy," she explained, and he started laughing.
"Yes! It's so gross. Besides, so many of them just want some easy foreign girl for now. Sure, they will settle down with an Italian, but at our age all they care about is having fun."
"And that's a bad thing?" Hwoarang asked, raising an eyebrow.
"When they won't date you, yeah." She sounded like she couldn't believe Hwoarang hadn't figured that much out.
"Hmm….didn't think of that. So, what is your type then?"
"I don't know. I just want some guy I can talk to."
"That isn't too hairy."
"Yes, that isn't too hairy, and is taller than me."
"Jin-ho doesn't have a lot of hair."
"What is your obsession with him?"
"I dunno. I just thought you liked him." She laughed.
"I barely know him. He hardly spoke at all, except to respond to my questions. Do you know how boring and upsetting that is?" Hwoarang nodded.
"So what's your type?" She asked, standing to clear the table.
"I dunno. I don't really have a type." She was now standing beside him.
"Want to watch TV?" He nodded and followed her to the other room. They sat down on the couch and she turned the set on. She flipped through a few channels and stopped at a boxing match.
"Oh, that's Steve Fox," she happily exclaimed. "He's really good."
"He's not that good," Hwoarang replied dejectedly.
"What, do you know him or something?" She was teasing him.
"Actually, yeah, kinda. He's not that good, really." She turned and stared at him.
"You're joking." She paused and looked at him. He clearly wasn't joking and her eyes grew wide once she realized that. "You KNOW Steve Fox?"
"Like I said, kinda."
"That is so cool. What's he like?" Hwoarang was starting to get annoyed.
"If you like him so much why don't you just go marry him?" He crossed his arms and stared at her. He watched as she lowered her eyes.
"Sorry. I just thought it was cool that you met him or something. He's really famous and all." She turned back to the TV and changed the channel. Hwoarang grabbed her hand.
"Don't worry about it. I kicked his ass once in a fight. He's really not as great as everyone makes him out to be." He saw her smile and she turned her head back towards him.
"I can't believe this. I know someone who beat up Steve Fox. My dad loved him." Hwoarang looked at her, but she turned back to the TV. Hwoarang put his arm around her and she rested her head on his shoulder.
"This is nice," she said. Hwoarang looked down at her.
"Would be nicer if we could get out of these clothes," he replied. She rolled her eyes and didn't move.
"Would it kill you to be serious for five minutes?"
"I'm always serious." He paused. "Jin-ho is a serious person."
"Will you stop brining him up?"
"He's a nice guy." Hwoarang was on the defensive now.
"You know what," she started. She paused for a moment and cocked her head to the side. "Maybe you are right. Maybe I should go for him. At least he's not a cocky, arrogant jerk."
"I will have you know that I am not cocky, I really am that good." He twisted his mouth into a half smirk. Isa shook her head and turned back to face the TV. Hwoarang crossed his arms and set back against the couch. The pair sat for a few minutes, blankly staring the screen. Suddenly, Isa put her hand on his knee before standing up. She left the room and returned a few seconds later with two beers. She handed one to him and then sat back down. The pair continued to sit in silence for some time, Hwoarang staring at the TV. He was bored, upset and uncomfortable.
"Play me that song," he suddenly commanded. Isa turned and looked at him confused.
"The one you sang to me." She stared at him another moment and then stood up. She started looking through her CD cases, piling them up on her left side. Hwoarang watched as she continued to search. She stood up and walked to another room, while Hwoarang turned the TV off using the remote sitting near the empty beer bottles. She returned, CD in hand, and started a CD player. She passed through two songs and then stopped on the third. Hwoarang listened as the song started, watching her mouth the lyrics gently.
Hwoarang walked over to her and quickly kissed her. She stumbled back a few steps and looked up at him. He closed the distance between them and held her for a moment, letting the song finish. He kissed her again, this time lingering for a few seconds. He actually surprised himself with his reaction. He usually wasn't so soft and well, passionate. Hwoarang rarely had to try anything to get a girl instead they flocked to him. Therefore, he had never felt the need to kiss them like people did in the movies. Hwoarang broke the kiss and reverted back to his old self.
"That was to repay you for the food," he said. She raised an eyebrow at him and looked up.
"I'd hate to see what you charge for a date," she joked.
"Wanna find out some time?" He raised an eyebrow and grinned. She hesitated, eyeing him.
"Is this some kind of plot to get me into your bed?"
"I'm hurt that you would think such a thing." He cocked his head to the side.
"Sorry," she looked down at the ground. Hwoarang put a hand on her shoulder.
"I wouldn't charge you anything, not for the first date at least." She shook her head but smiled. She stared for a moment, looking as if there were too many things she wanted to say but couldn't decide on what.
"I meant to tell you that you were pretty cool at those fights last week. Thanks for inviting me."
"It was all too easy." He smirked. "You did pretty well on that guy. I see my teaching paid off." She smiled, her face lighting up a bit.
"Yeah, well, I had a good teacher," she added, shyly.
"Do you have to teach tomorrow?" He asked, noticing that her eyes drifted towards the clock.
"No," she replied, laughing. "Has it really been that long since you were in school?" Hwoarang shrugged. He stared at her for a moment and then realized that tomorrow was Sunday.
"It is pretty late," Hwoarang said, looking at the clock as well. Neither moved, but continued to stare at each other.
"I understand." She looked at him quickly then moved to the kitchen. Hwoarang followed her, and she handed him some a container.
"I put some cake in there, in case you get hungry later." Hwoarang smiled.
"You are too kind." He put his hand on her head and turned to leave. He stopped only briefly to grab the metal briefcase before heading out the door. It crossed his mind that he probably should have stayed, but Hwoarang didn't pay much attention to that thought.
I hope that you enjoyed this chapter. This one is my longest to date, I just couldn't help myself! I have a general outline for how the rest of the story will go, and I expect it to run at least five more chapters. Until next time!