Noblesse is not mine, I simply exert my will upon the characters.
Soooo… *shifty eyes* I was feeling blocked on The Contract and this idea came into my head. It wouldn't leave, so I decided to give it a new home and it's still being an intractable little bugger and has decided to occupy both places. No worries, I'm still working on Contract, but I suppose this will be yet another project I go to when I get stuck. :-D Enjoy and tell me what you think!
M-24 looked out over the city. After finding a dirty, poorly furnished apartment to use as a base—really more of a bolt-hole—he had left M-21 there to sleep after their trip as M-24 instead scouted the area a bit then bought food.
Cities were nothing new, but as he looked down at the streets where several students in matching, white uniforms happily, innocently walked home from school, M-24 felt a turbulent mixture of emotions settle in his stomach. He quickly pushed them aside and, with a resigned sigh, M-24 looked away and continued his way across buildings until he found a supermarket.
In trench coat and hat, M-24 cut an imposing figure as he pushed his cart through the grocery aisles. As an older woman passed by, he ducked his head and tipped his hat—she went from suspicious and frowning to slightly less suspicious and acknowledging his friendliness with a nod.
As he approached check-out, he carefully avoided looking at the mother with two children loudly asking her for candy—they tended to get nervous like he thought he was going to abduct their children if they caught him looking at all. It was a relief to avoid that particular hurdle and gather his groceries into his arms for the walk to their hide-away.
The walk back to the apartment was uneventful, and the two bedroom was quiet as he entered—unlocked since they didn't have a key—and he silently put his gains away in the kitchen.
Everything done on his list, M-24 couldn't resist the urge to check up on his partner. The giant was capable of incredible stealth when it came to that part of his self-appointed duties, and so he was practically a ghost as he strode to the room M-21 had settled down in before he left.
Sure enough, the other was there, half-curled on top of the bed's worn, threadbare comforter with the spare blanket that had been at the end—an ineffectual attempt to make the room look 'homey'—covering his form until only his hair could be seen peaking out of the top.
Satisfied for now that M-21 was fine—any closer and his partner would likely wake up from his much-needed rest—M-24 detoured into his own room to grab a book before heading back to the kitchen. From experience, he knew that once the kid woke up he'd be starving, and M-24 had found a new recipe to try out of his cookbook.
The smell of stir-fry and meat pulled M-21 out of his slumber, and he grudgingly slid out of his comfortable nest and leisurely sat at the bed's edge for a moment as he blinked the sleep out of his eyes. Once he was more awake, he padded on sock-covered feet down the small hall where he was confronted with the site of M-24 in the kitchen sans trench coat.
He was humming a song they had heard during their previous mission as he poked and prodded at something—pork, egg, rice, carrots, cabbage, something sweet—in a frying pan that could easily turn into a lethal weapon in M-24's hands, and not just because of its' size.
"What're you making?" The gray-haired teen asked as he drew nearer with a mixture of genuine curiosity and ravenous hunger.
Glancing at M-21, M-24 chuckled and blocked the younger's path to the pan, "Don't get any ideas, it's not ready yet. Found it in that book I got; it's Pineapple fried rice.
"Pineapple? Is that the sweet stuff in it?"
A quick stir, and the elder steps away from the pan—while still keeping himself as an obstacle in case the teen was hungry enough to eat it right from the pan—"It's a fruit. I looked it up and the actual thing before it's cut up has a weird, kind of spiked skin with a bunch of grass-like leaves at the top. The inside of it is yellow and really sweet. I tried a bit before putting it in."
Convinced he wouldn't be getting at the food for now, M-21 back off by settling on the very well-worn couch in the living room. "Aside from weird fruit, did you find anything interesting? Any idea where we should start looking for those thieves?"
"If our information is correct, they should still be around here with the coffin. Best place to start would be in the abandoned warehouses looking for anyone who's heard of them or anything unusual. If we could find one of the thieves, I could make him take us to the coffin."
Sprawling out on the couch, M-21 grinned with vicious satisfaction, "It could take us days just to find someone with any information."
A sigh, "We can't take too long, kid. The higher-ups don't like wasted time."
M-21 growled. "Then they should have had better security. Unless we get really lucky, there's no way this'll be a quick find."
"We'll start tomorrow, and if it takes us a while, so be it. Just don't go flaunting the time in their faces—no good'll come of it." After this gruff proclamation, M-21 could hear a clatter in the kitchen as M-24 turned off the stove and served portions for each of them into a pair of bowls.
The days went by much as they had anticipated, and eventually, after a week and a half in Korea, they tracked down a man who was quickly convinced to take them to the room with the coffin.
Too bad it wasn't there.
M-21 refused to be excluded as M-24 drank from their former source, but the giant still did it—not that it bothered M-21, the elder simply felt guilty about doing something like that in front of a kid.
The Union wasn't very accepting of failures.
Business for the day finished, they headed back to the apartment to wait for night to fall and their new 'friend' to go hunt.
M-21 quickly settled on the couch waiting for dinner to be ready, and M-24 happily began on another new recipe. In what seemed like no time, M-21 was asleep once again, and M-24 looked at him with worry. They had never reported anything different about their conditions so that they wouldn't be examined and their improvements discovered, and when M-21 had begun to take an inordinate number of naps the giant had no way to be assured that his partner was alright.
On good days, M-24 decided that it must just be a teenager thing—he'd heard about how kids needed more sleep than adults, and even about students sleeping in classes. On his bad days, M-24 was sure that there was something wrong with his partner; he would remember how the napping suddenly came along after M-21 no longer needed the drugs, and that couldn't be a coincidence.
Mostly, M-24 just let the younger sleep whenever he wanted and prayed to their dead comrades that the kid wouldn't end up dying as well. He had also started to cook healthy meals—or at least as healthy as he could while still making it taste good—which he actually found enjoyable.
As soon as M-24 was done cooking, it was as though M-21 hadn't been asleep at all, so quickly did he enter the kitchen, and M-24 momentarily forgot his worries in favor of ruffling grey hair—an action which earned him a scowl.
As soon as M-24 realized his infected was attacking a girl about the same age as M-21, he headed off to stop the creature with M-21 following him with confusion at the sudden rush. When the two arrived, they were both shocked to see the red-headed boy's skills.
"He's good," M-21 murmured as he leaned forward with curiosity at the spectacle below.
"Very," M-24 agreed with a touch of frustration.
Smirking knowingly, M-21 turned to him, "Mad your infected got beat by some kid?"
"Heh, maybe. That 'kid' is the same age as you, though, so maybe I shouldn't be too disappointed."
"I'm not a kid," M-21 retorted stiffly.
"Sure, you're not."
"I'm not." M-21 stated again insistently.
"M-24," the teen hissed.
Ignoring his partner's aggravation, M-24 jumped down from the roof they had been watching from to riffle through the bag the red-head had left behind. "He forgot his bag." A moment later he stilled in surprise before suddenly pulling out a series of strange magazines.
M-21 momentarily overlooked his exasperation with his partner as he jumped down as well for a closer look. Picking up one, he stared at the title incredulously, "'Please, Don't Do This?' What type of book is this?"
M-24 chortled as he picked up another book, "'123 Ways to Capture a Woman's Heart,' maybe you could use this one, kid."
The teen simply rolled his eyes and began to page through the strange book in his hands with curiosity.
Shrugging, M-24 put his book back in the bag and turned to the infected, "Pretty pathetic how you got beaten like that by a normal kid."
The infected growled, and M-24 could sense the anger and desire for revenge it now had—though that was quickly overcome by all-pervading hunger.
"If you want food, you'll have to go try again, we're not helping you—especially not after that performance."
With a snarl, the creature stumbled away to hunt again, and M-24 returned his attention to the bag then M-21 then to the bag again. Making a decision, he reached forward and picked it up. "Let's take it with us."
"Hmm." M-21 agreed distractedly.
The teen was still reading as they arrived back at the apartment, and he refused to tell M-24 what the book was about. Uneasy, M-24 looked through the rest of the bag and found that an address was printed on a tag on one side. Occasionally, M-21 would let out an amused scoffing sound which at least added credence to the book not being some sort of porn—and didn't that thought make the elder feel like someone's mother.
Sighing, M-24 sat contemplating the bag now sitting on their table. He felt a bit bad that the kid had forgotten it after showing such skill and worth, but it wasn't like he could just deliver it to the kid's doorstep.
Well, he could, but with his appearance most people would be frightened to see him standing on their front stoop. Although, the kid wasn't most people… He glanced over at M-21 again and suddenly grinned. The teen could certainly use some time around other people his age, so he'd drag the teen along with the added bonus of returning that very, very strange book.
"Why are we returning it?" M-21 asked sullenly as they walked down the street the next day. He had finished the first book then started looking through the martial arts one—avoiding the one about women like the plague, probably because M-24 would never have let that go.
"Aren't you interested in seeing that kid up close? He showed a lot of talent, and he's your age."
M-21 looked at him strangely, "I'll never see him again, so there's no point in getting to know him at all."
M-24 slapped him on the back with a strength that would have hurt a normal human but simply annoyed M-21, "You're too young not to have fun, and we don't know what he'll do anyway. Could be he'll take the bag, say thank you and go along with his life."
"Then why are we doing this again?" As he spoke, M-21 seemed to be eying M-24's grip on the bag as though mentally assessing if he could grab it and run off before the man could catch him.
Rolling his eyes, M-24 grinned, "Because he's interesting and he deserves some sort of reward for being able to beat back that infected with such skill."
M-21 glared at him, "You're doing this to annoy me."
"That, too," the giant smirked.
Huffing, M-21 followed along behind him. For all of his complaining and logic, he admitted to himself that the other boy had impressed him and it was a little exciting to actually talk to someone like that who was his own age.
M-24 could never find out.
Unknown to M-21, M-24 had secretly watched to ensure that the red-head was home ahead of time—the boy with glasses was also there—so when they knocked on the door, M-24 was smugly satisfied to hear the rustling of someone standing and heading for the door.
Reds opened the door in casual attire, and M-24 tried to make himself appear as harmless and friendly as possible for such a big man.
"Er, hi. Can I help you?"
M-24 grinned, "More like we can help you." That said, he lifted the bag into easy view, "Found this bag and your address was inside, hopefully it belongs to you?"
The boy suddenly grinned and happily took the bag. "Thanks a lot for returning this!"
"It was no trouble," M-24 grinned. He'd always been soft on kids, even before he and M-21 had been paired together, and the sincere gratitude, despite his intimidating appearance, gave him a pleasant, warm feeling.
"Do you practice martial arts?" M-21 suddenly chimed in casually. "There was an interesting book on it in there."
"Not that we're nosy or anything, but we had to look inside to find you," M-24 interjected a bit sheepishly.
The boy grinned, "Yeah, I'm considered pretty good. What about you?"
"I've had some training," M-21 admitted.
"Cool! I'm best with Taekwondo and Hapkido, but I'm always trying to add in new stuff." He paused for a moment as though remembering something, "My name's Shinwoo, by the way."
Prepared, M-24 chimed in, "I'm Jung Kwan, and this is my cousin, Jung Hyun Su." Extending his hand for a shake, he grinned and added, "Nice to meet you, Shinwoo."
After quickly placing his newly returned bag down inside, Shinwoo met M-24's handshake firmly, "Nice to meet you, and thanks again for returning my bag. Can I get you a drink or something?"
M-24 smiled at the offer but shook his head, "I should really get back to work."
Suddenly, the boy with glasses they had seen before joined Shinwoo at the door. "What's going on?"
"Ah, these guys returned my bag." Turning back to them he introduced the newcomer, "This is my buddy, Ikhan. We're planning on playing the new Ultimate Soldier game since we got out early from school today."
"Ultimate Soldier?" Surprisingly, it was M-21 who was asking.
"You've never played?" Shinwoo asked with shock. "It's pvp with new weapons, better graphics, and a team mode where you can fight your way across ruined cities in a war zone."
M-21's expression of incomprehension seemed to be too much for the two boys.
"What games have you played before?" Ikhan asked.
"I haven't played any video games. We've never had any." M-21 answered with a hint of embarrassment.
"No way! You have to try playing!" Shinwoo announced. He then looked at Ikhan, and the two almost seemed to be having a silent conversation.
Coming to some sort of conclusion, Shinwoo turned back to the pair on his doorstep—M-24 trying to hide his grin of amusement at M-21's discomfort—and made his offer, "If you've got time, you could come with us to the PC Bang."
The two stared at the grey-haired teen for a moment. "You're a bit like Rai, but you talk more. I don't think he's ever played video games either," Ikhan stated as he adjusted his glasses.
"You should go," M-24 pronounced with hidden satisfaction. Overall, the visit had gone beyond his expectations.
His partner seemed to waver for a moment before as he looked between M-24 and the two teens grinning in the house, "Are you sure?" What about the mission?
"Yep." I can handle it.
"Cool! Let us get our stuff, you can come in if you want, uh, what was your name again?" Shinwoo asked sheepishly.
"Hyun Su," M-21 replied as he cautiously took a step inside—had had immediately begun rehearsing the names in his head after M-24 had given them.
"See you later, kiddo." M-24 stated with a grin as he started walking back to the street.
The nickname made M-21 clench his jaw and unhappily mutter, "Not a kid."
Meanwhile, Shinwoo was running about trying to find his shoes while Ikhan had already gotten his shoes on and was waiting by the door with M-21. Sighing, the short boy turned to M-21, "He's always been like this; he forgets his books for school a lot, too."
Thankfully, M-21 was saved from having to generate more of a response by the return of a disheveled Shinwoo. "Let's go!"
M-21 stared at him in cleverly concealed nervousness, and Ikhan adjusted his glasses with a sigh of exasperation.
When they arrived at the PC Bang, M-21 found himself wordlessly following the other two boys. When they gestured to a seat then each entered one of the booths to his sides, he took the seat and stared at the screen.
Noting that he hadn't logged on, Ikhan quickly joined him and ran him through the basics of the game, though he was soon interrupted by Shinwoo saying something about learning by dying?
"That didn't work for Rai," Ikhan stated crossly.
"It will eventually, I bet!" Shinwoo defended.
"He'll go against me first, Shinwoo. I will at least go easy on him."
So, Shinwoo was shunted back to his booth with much grumbling, and M-21 found that Ikhan was a pretty good teacher.
Soon, he had a decent grasp of the controls and was beginning to have fun, even on those occasions when Shinwoo killed him.
Finally, as Shinwoo boasted and crowed from the booth to his left, M-21 thought up a brilliant plan that he was sure would finally bring Shinwoo to his knees. With utmost care, he positioned himself in what he had analyzed would be the best place for a sniper based on his own training for missions.
Then, he waited.
Ikhan passed through first, but M-21 refused to scare away his prey or reveal his position yet, so the hacker was safe for now. Shinwoo walked through next, and even though the red-head was goading him to come out in the real world, he kept his character still as he lined up his shot. The red-head's character suddenly started sprinting across the courtyard, zigging and zagging to stay behind cover.
He wasn't protected from M-21.
Headshot! KO! Player Shinwoo killed by Player Hyun Su.
"What?" Shinwoo shouted.
Smirking, M-21 leaned over to peak in at the red-head whose screen sported the scene of his character lying prone on the ground in death. "Gotcha."
Seeing the glee on M-21's face, Shinwoo grinned in response before turning back to his screen as his character re-spawned. "Won't happen again!"
"Suuure," M-21 teased as he returned to his console.
"Nice job, Hyun Su!" Ikhan called out, "Serves him right for being so tough on Rai before."
"Who's Rai anyway?" M-21 asked as he carefully hid on his way to his next spot—Shinwoo was good, he'd have to change positions or the red-head would find and kill him easily.
"Transfer student," Shinwoo answered. He carefully maneuvered his character behind where he thought M-21's shot had come from.
"He doesn't know Korean too well, and his name is actually Cadis Etrama di Raizel." Ikhan added
"So, he's from a different country?" M-21 asked as he lined up his shot.
"Yeah, though we haven't asked him what one. He's really quiet." Ikhan responded.
Headshot! KO! Player Shinwoo killed by Player Hyun Su.
"Noooooo!" Shinwoo wailed.
"Nice job," Ikhan commented. "Shinwoo isn't patient enough to be a good sniper, but you're doing really well at it."
"Thanks," M-21 grinned as he moved again. He could really come to like this game. Maybe once he had killed Shinwoo a few more times, he'd try using some of the more close-range weapons.
An hour later and several deaths more for all of them, the three stood outside of the PC Bang ready to part ways.
Ducking his head, M-21 started the good-byes, "Well, I had fun. Thanks."
"You should meet us here tomorrow," Shinwoo suggested with a grin and both hands behind his head in a relaxed posture. "We were going to come by with Rai again—he won't get any better if he doesn't play."
"I'd have to talk to my cousin," M-21 responded cautiously but with a bit of hope.
"Well, we'll be here at around 1 since school has been getting out early," Ikhan informed him. "Make it if you can."
He could always only come for an hour or so. "Yeah, I'll see you then."
The smug, pleased expression on M-24's face when he got back to the apartment and informed him of the meeting almost made M-21 change his mind about going.
"You kids go have fun," the elder stated teasingly. "It's not like we have any real leads right now. I'll just do a round about the building that guy said the coffin was in."
"Not a kid," M-21 growled.
The next day, he made it to the PC Bang a bit early and used the time to people-watch instead of pick at his clothes—his usual uniform, though without the trench coat—or pace. Meeting up with Ikhan and Shinwoo was fine, but he hadn't really factored in that they would probably have other people with them.
He heard Shinwoo first, and the red-head's voice prompted him to stand up from his seat on a bench and look towards the source of the noise. Shinwoo, Ikhan, and two others, a girl and an incredibly handsome boy, were approaching dressed in their classy, white uniforms. The uniforms made him feel a bit more confident about his own—not as formal as he had feared—and it also helped that Shinwoo approached him right away with a grin.
Once they stood next to each other, Shinwoo introduced him, "Hyun Su, meet Yuna and Rai. Yuna, Rai, meet Hyun Su."
"Nice to meet you," the girl murmured with a light blush. The boy nodded in greeting.
"You, too." M-21 answered with faux confidence.
"Just you wait," Shinwoo grinned as they entered the PC Bang, "I'm prepared for you now, you won't be killing me today!"
"Didn't you say something like that yesterday?" M-21 asked with a smirk.
"Ha! Just watch!"
And so the games began, and M-21 found that there was a whole new element to sniping with more people playing. He could hit several people before having to move, but as they caught on to his tactics, it became more and more difficult to switch places without getting shot.
Sadly, he now understood why Shinwoo and Ikhan had kept referring to Rai the other day. The guy sucked. M-21 would purposely not shoot at him, considering it too easy, and he was relieved that Ikhan had been the one to teach him and not Shinwoo like it had been for Rai. After a few more kills it just became too painful to watch—he didn't enjoy killing people over and over without resistance like Shinwoo did—so M-21 eventually logged off and pulled his chair into Rai's booth.
"Here, it can't be fun to die all the time," It had never been fun to be among the weakest experiments in the Union. "Let's team up."
Scooting in close, M-21 watched as Rai's character—standing in the middle of a room—was ruthlessly killed by Shinwoo again. "First off, you've got to get to cover so he can't see you."
Red eyes looked at him without expression, but M-21 could swear there was confusion. "Just watch. You use the arrow keys to go in different directions, and you want to find someplace people can't sneak up on you."
Despite Shinwoo's protests that Rai would learn eventually if he died enough, M-21 patiently coaxed the brunette through the various ways to move and then shoot.
Considering the mess Rai had been before, M-21 considered it a personal victory when the foreigner managed to kill Yuna—even if it was partially luck.
"No fair! Hyun Su was helping him!" Shinwoo cried in Yuna's defense.
"It's fine; I'm glad Rai is learning how to play better." Yuna responded before calling out what sounded like a very genuine 'good job' to Rai.
This small victory seemed to increase the brunette's confidence, and soon he could at least hit Shinwoo and Ikhan, though he still occasionally messed up with his controls.
The high point of M-21's day, though, was when he managed to perform several KOs on Shinwoo while the red-head had been creeping up behind Rai. The brunette was excellent bait, and he seemed to wordlessly understand what M-21 was trying to do—almost like a mind reader.
As they stepped out of the PC Bang, M-21 couldn't help the pleased smirk clinging to his face. He couldn't remember having this much fun before.
"Hyun Su, what school do you go to? I don't think I've seen you at Ye Ran, but I don't think there are any other schools out right now." Ikhan asked with Rai silently standing by as Shinwoo entertained Yuna with exaggerated accounts of his kills.
M-21 paused a brief moment to formulate his reply, "My cousin had work here, and he's my guardian, so I came with him. We're not sure how long we'll be staying."
"You're not from nearby, then?" Ikhan asked with disappointment to which M-21 simply shook his head.
"That stinks!" Shinwoo suddenly butted in.
"Could be worse," M-21 stated with a shrug.
"Well, we're glad we were able to meet you at all," Yuna interjected kindly. She looked to the others, "Right?"
"Definitely!" Shinwoo laughed as Ikhan grinned and nodded. "It's always fun to see someone beat Shinwoo in games."
M-21 chuckled. "Well, maybe we'll run into each other again," he found himself saying with some surprise and genuine hope.
"Yeah! Hey, we should exchange numbers!" Shinwoo grinned as he got out his phone.
"Er, I don't have a phone."
"Whaat? Who doesn't have a phone these days?" Shinwoo shouted.
M-21 shrugged with a small smile tugging at his lips at Shinwoo's reaction.
"Well, you know where I live, come by some time to play games if we don't catch you at the PC Bang again!"
A pause, "You're sure?"
"Yeah! Actually, why don't you come by tomorrow? We still have to play the new Ultimate Soldier game, and I bet we could get really high scores if you were playing, too."
"Sounds fun," M-21 murmured, and if there was something resembling a real smile on his face, then at least M-24 wasn't there to see it.
Author's Note: Jung is a fairly prevalent last name in Korea. Kwan means Strength, and Hyun Su means Long Life. The idea is that M-24 chose the names and because of his worries about M-21 chose Hyun Su as a sort of good luck charm. Also, sorry to those who might want more action. I really like exploring the characters rather than having a really serious, intricate plot, which means I'm not just gonna zoom through the story in order to get to the fight scenes and such.
As for any pairings, I don't have any in mind, but let me know what you think I should do and if you give reasons I like it just might happen! XD (Except for Yuna and M-21. I'm fairly against that pairing, no matter what age they are. I also tend towards slash for my main, male characters, though hetero is still an option.)