Author's Confession: Yes, I intentionally posted this story on Halloween. So sue me. (Please don't. It's a pain.) Anyway, onto the disclaimers: anyone claiming I own Hunter x Hunter should have his or her head checked and should be admitted to multiple therapy sessions. With the exception of the quotes from Hunter x Hunter, Nen, Hisoka, the inclusion of a Death Note notebook and a few other references here and there, everything else came straight out of my overactive imagination. Enjoy!
Rated M for verbal vulgarity, plenty of violence and descriptive death scenes, later sexual content, but mainly rated M for Hisoka's presence. Because he's just that explicit.
Chapter Title: In Which I Smell Like French Vanilla
Blacklist Hunter X Proposition X Newbie
"Only a person who is really hated by others gets killed by an assassin." ~Killua Zaoldyeck
My index finger idly circled the lip of my tea cup, and I sighed, my other hand supporting my chin. My next client sure was taking his or her sweet time and wasting mine. Here I was, seated at a table outside a local coffee shop, bored out of my mind when I could be improving on my shooting accuracy, perfecting the Dark Step, or training my Nen. I sighed again.
Unless this person had an interesting offer, his or her tardiness would cost them. Literally. But how many zeroes to add?
Smirking, I grabbed the tea cup and lifted it to my lips, sipping the bitter drink. A man—blonde-haired, brown-eyed, five foot eight in height, and weighing approximately one hundred and eighty pounds—paused in his tracks and stared at me before approaching the table.
"Pardon my asking, but are you…by any chance, the Pixie?"
My eye twitched at the nickname. Ah, a newbie. That explained his inability to find me. "Why yes," I said politely and sweetly through gritted teeth. "Please have a seat. Did Tsukasa tell you to call me a pixie?"
The blonde-haired newbie picked up on my displeasure and squirmed a little in the metal chair. "Yes, he, um…did. Was I not supposed to call you that?"
That ass…I'll get even with him for telling an incompetent messenger to call me by that degrading nickname. Just because he was the head of the Blacklist Hunters and my boss did not give him the right to harass me!
"Yes." In the mean time, I had to be patient with the new guy. "Please refrain from calling me a pixie or mocking my short stature. I tend to kill people when that happens."
Although I spoke in a calm, nonchalant tone, Blondie went pale and his hands began fidgeting even more. He was almost quaking in his brown trench coat and black slacks. Any sympathy I might have felt for the man was dashed by the reminder that he had been twenty-three minutes late. If he had been more handsome or had Nen, I might have cut him slack. Ah well, onto business.
Seeing that a cat had my messenger's tongue, I leaned back in the chair, crossing my legs. "According to a little bird, you have an interesting proposition for me. Let's hear it." Picking up my tea cup, I patiently downed it as Blondie snapped out of his little trance.
"I, ah, yes! Yes, in fact, I do." Jerkily sitting up, he seemed to regain his confidence. Awfully fast, I might add. "You see, my client is offering 162,760,000,000 zeni if you kill the target and provide the head to confirm the target's death."
My eyebrows had shot up at the amount of currency. 162,760,000 zeni for one target? Unheard of! Antiques and rare items at the infamous York Shin auction were sold at those prices! Who was this unnamed human being who had such a heavy bounty looming over his or her head?
Suspicion kicked in. My green eyes narrowed. "Does the target have cotton-candy blue-colored hair?" I inquired warily. That guy was the only one I knew of who had a ridiculous bounty for his pretty head. Well, other than the Zaoldyeck family but no one was insane enough to try and assassinate them. And if they were, they died trying.
"No," Blondie replied, looking a tad perplexed. "He has reddish-orange hair."
Good. The target wasn't Hisoka, but was a male. Inwardly, when I had first become a Blacklist Hunter, I had sworn to myself that I would never ever take a job that involved assassinating Hisoka or the Zaoldyecks.
Reaching into the pocket of my jeans, I took out a small black notebook, removing the worn pink rubber band that held it shut. On the cover in silver letters and a fancy script, it said Death Note. It was from some foreign animated series, but I enjoyed carrying out a notebook I used to schedule and write information about my targets, targets who would die by my hand.
My pen poised above the paper. "Description?" I jotted down male.
Blondie's confidence quickly degenerated back to nervous fidgeting. His fingertips touched and separated repeatedly and he couldn't look at me for more than four seconds. Yes, I counted. The poor man was probably hoping I wouldn't suddenly lose my patience and kill him.
Part of me wanted to put him out of his misery and the other part felt too much pity for the poor, scared newbie, but heavens above! If he was going to be dealing with Blacklist Hunters or assassins on a regular basis, the man needed to grow a spine!
Clearing his throat, Blondie began rattling off facts. "Around six feet tall, in his late twenties or early thirties…um…"
He shrugged. "No idea. Ah!" Recalling something, Blondie snapped his fingers. "He's a Hunter and a Nen-user."
I swear my eye twitched again. How could someone forget such crucial information? Knowing if the target possesses or uses Nen requires different approaches and could mean the difference between life and death! Then again, this guy was new. Patience…is a virtue.
"Do you know the Nen ability or recall what year this Hunter took the Exam? Or his number during the Hunter Exam?" I queried, scribbling down Hunter and Nen-user with asterisks beside both.
Knowing the Nen ability would give me an edge and allow me to factor that into my plans. Knowing what year or number for the Hunter Exam would give me a treasure trove of information. I would know exactly who I was dealing with and what they are capable of.
The perplexed look returned, and Blondie shook his head from side to side. "Sorry, I wasn't told any of that." And the fool just admitted he was a messenger, a mouth piece for someone else.
"Is there any other information?" I glanced up and stared into his brown eyes. He was such a male Plain Jane and a spineless nervous wreck. Absolutely no appeal, physical or personality-wise. Such a pity.
He shook his head. "None that I can think of." He was lying.
I could see it in his manner—his eyes met mine, his fidgeting vanished and in a way, Blondie reminded me of a deer. A deer standing in a tranquil forest, staring at a sharp-toothed hunter and frozen, deciding whether to bolt or wait for the predator to seek more satisfying prey.
"Ah." Lowering my green eyes, I slowly shut the book with the pen inside it. My eyes darted up sharply. "How will I contact you to confirm I have the target's head?"
My guard went up as Blondie reached into his brown trench coat, and I tensed, prepared to snap his neck with my bare hands if he pulled out a weapon. It had happened. More than I care to remember and the frequency of those incidents had increased lately. Fortunately for Blondie, he pulled out a white business card and handed it to me.
I examined it carefully, flipping it over and over.
The only printed information was a single telephone number in black ink, rather pricey blank ink judging by the way the sun made the ink gleam. The quality of the paper—it too was a higher grade. Thicker but softer.
"Your organization pays well," I said, appraising. The way Blondie spluttered in astonishment made me smile. "They've been in business for some time, have a stable foundation, and are not terribly concerned with money despite the current worldwide economic dip." Not if this organization could afford to print fancy business cards that nearly rivaled thick, small silk handkerchiefs.
"Y-You're right," Blondie mumbled, stammering and staring at me with undisguised awe.
Tucking the business card into the Death Note and slipping the black notebook into my pocket, I leaned forward and pinned the new guy to his seat with a glare. His fidgeting worsened immediately and he paled. Even his lips lost their color.
"You're a rotten liar." My voice was firm and hard to grab Blondie's attention. "There is a catch to this deal, isn't there? If you want my consent, start talking. Otherwise I am out and you can inform your superiors of your failure. I highly doubt your rich and sly organization is as forgiving as I am, newbie." The last line was more my self-pity for the newbie speaking.
The poor guy looked like he was having a minor seizure. From what I could tell, a lot of his muscles had gone rigid and were shaking pretty violently. His color had literally drained from his pasty skin, and his brown eyes spoke of vacancy. His mouth opened and closed wordlessly, and strange choked noises came spilling out of his mouth. A panic attack? How annoying. The newbie was starting to attract attention from passersby.
Standing, I grabbed my tea cup and pried open his lips with my free hand, pouring the cold, bitter drink into his mouth. At first, he choked and coughed it out, spraying my nice crimson short-sleeve blouse, my new black leather jacket, and my navy-blue jeans. The rest dribbled down his chin. His shaking stopped as he coughed, one hand over his mouth, but his complexion remained unusually pallid.
With an irritated sigh, I retreated into the coffee shop to return the tea cup in exchange for water in a small plastic cup and a handful of napkins. Splashing water on Blondie's face, I dropped the empty cup and began dabbing the dampest areas on my clothing. Namely my blouse.
"Damn it," I growled under my breath. Smelling like French Vanilla was not on my agenda.
"You're not the only one."
"What are you talking about?" I snapped, confused and irritable. My hand pressed a napkin against my stained crimson blouse, and, turning my head, I glowered at Blondie. Screw mercy and forgiveness. Maybe I would just kill him.
Blondie flinched before running a hand down his face, wiping off the water. "There are other Blacklist Hunters and assassins being hired. It's like…like a…like a competitive, sick game of sorts. The offer is open to any competent killer, but not only do you have to worry about the target but your fellow competitors killing you."
I shrugged. "That's normal in this business." The shaking of his head from side to side implied otherwise.
Slicking back his damp hair with one hand, Blondie frowned. "This one is supposed to be worst to date. My organization is placing a bounty price on all participants, and for each competitor you knock off, the higher your bounty."
"That's stupid," I blurted out, replacing the sodden napkin with a new one. "Why would any intelligent assassin or Hunter want to raise their bounty? That's like skinny dipping in red paint and running down the streets of York Shin, screaming 'I'm over here. Kill me now.'"
"Lower level mercenaries who lack the skill necessary to kill the target or desperate people will kill off the competition to get that person's bounty. All participants will be informed they are free to eliminate competition, but they won't be aware that their own bounty will rise in proportion to their kills," Blondie explained, grabbing a napkin off the glass tabletop. He wiped his face and continued, "The organization hopes to save money and wipe out the incompetent assassins."
I nodded, thoughtful, as I crumbled the napkin in my fist. "Makes sense…How do you know this?" He was a newbie, Nen-less, and a shivering, pathetic excuse of a man. What made him privy to this undisclosed knowledge?
Blondie rubbed the back of his head with an awkward, nervous smile. "I…have my methods."
Well, he wasn't entirely hopeless.
Stuffing the wadded napkins into the empty cheap, plastic cup, I tossed the cup into the trash can. "Your proposal is interesting as promised; however, it sounds too much like assisted suicide and I plan on killing a lot more people."
Truthfully, this job wasn't my style—hunting while being hunted by anyone in a faceless crowd. I preferred stealth, poison, and quick or impersonal kills. Not long, drawn-out affairs and paranoia.
Blondie's gauche smile faded into a half-hearted, disappointed one. "That's a, um…shame, Miss Blacklist Hunter," he told me, his hands moving restlessly. "You seem like an ideal candidate for this assignment."
Yeah, I was totally ready to be massacred at a moment's notice.
Ignoring that last comment, I shot Blondie a wry half-smile and said, "Later." I walked away from the little coffee shop and blended in with the tourists and citizens.
As I buttoned up my leather jacket, my nose caught a hint of French Vanilla.
Tsukasa, head of the Blacklist Hunters, sniffed the air and wrinkled his olive-colored nose when I walked into the room. He arched his black eyebrows. "Remember the tip I gave you about using odorless soaps, lotions, and deodorant? Or avoiding perfumes?" He sat in a brown leather swivel chair at the head of a long, polished wooden table. Empty swivel chairs lined the sides of the table.
"Do you find the smell of French Vanilla offensive?" I inquired innocently as I shut the door. "Your messenger boy didn't. By the way, you're an asshole."
My boss waved his hand dismissively. "That's old news. By the way, he wasn't my messenger boy. That guy is with Intelligence Corporation."
Ah, so my guess wasn't far off. Intelligence Corporation is a wealthy business that manufactures weapons for Nen users and is rumored to have links to the Mafia and other underground groups. Small wonder Blondie was surprised at my accuracy.
"Did you accept?" His small hazel-gray eyes gazed at me with unnerving intensity.
I smiled cheekily. "I splashed water in his face."
One side of his lips tugged upward in a half-smile before he drummed his fingertips on the table, giving me this funny look. "You said no, but I received a phone call from Intelligence Corp and they claim you said yes."
B-But I distinctly remember telling Blondie that I—
My lips pressed together in a grim, thin line before I growled, "Blondie."
"Lied to save his own ass," finished Tsukasa, sighing. "Are you really surprised, Miko? His choices were pretty slim—die by your hands or the organization's hands. He managed to open a third option—cheating death."
I scowled, crossing my arms under my chest. "Whatever. I'll just kill this guy, lop off his pretty head, send it packaged in a brightly-colored box to Intelligence Corp, and collect my money." Get my two hundred dollars and pass Go. Then get on with life. "Now that I'm involved, I might as well check out who this mystery man is. The reward money is pretty choice."
"According to Intelligence Corp, your target has scheduled a reservation for tonight at the Rosetta Restaurant," my boss informed me, standing. "Be there by seven to grab your reserved table. If you're ten minutes late, you're on your own."
Bending down, he momentarily disappeared under the table. Seeing the silver glint and hearing the familiar sound of air being cut, I quickly stepped to the side and avoided catching the knife with one of my thighs. Tsukasa stood up like he hadn't just tried to hit my femoral artery and kill me. "I believe that was yours." Ah, he'd kept my knife from a previous encounter. I'd been wondering where that knife had vanished to...
"Thanks," I said sweetly, "but you're still an ass."
He tapped the gaudy silver watch on his wrist. "Better get going. You have less than four hours to prepare."
Dropping to a crouch, I retrieved my knife and tucked it back into the sling on my wrist; the sling was hidden in the right sleeve of my leather jacket. "So?"
"Your make-up artist is going to need all the time she can get to make your ugly mug look tolerable. Wouldn't want all the people in the restaurant to run out screaming, now would you?"
Needless to say, my boss and I engaged in a vicious impromptu sparring match. Unfortunately, he won again which is a major reason why he is head of the Blacklist Hunters. However, when I left the meeting room with a slam of the door at least two hours later, the furniture was unsalvageable, my boss had a black eye, and I walked out with my bottom lip bleeding and several new cuts in my clothes.
And I had just bought this black leather jacket, damn it!