Thanks for the reviews, my pretties! (Evil laughter)There's nothing quite as satisfying as knowing that people are enjoying this story. Hopefully you all like this chapter as well.
"Thanks again for getting me out of there," Korra tells him, picking at a rice roll as they sit on the edge of the concrete levee overlooking Yue Bay. The water is flat and grey, but Tahno can feel the pull of the lapping waves in his veins. The connection makes him feel bolder, more alive.
"No problem," he replies smoothly. "The cops in this city can be jerks. You're just…you know, doing business."
Korra's mouth flattens, and her gaze drops to the tiny waves breaking against the concrete wall.
"Yeah. I just wish there was an easier way, you know?"
Tahno doesn't know, not really, because he's never been a prostitute, never had to sell his body on the street corners in exchange for a couple of yuans. But he's done things for money that he wishes he hadn't, and he thinks that that's close enough to what she means.
"Yeah," he agrees. "I know."
Korra tosses a few grains of rice into the water, watching as the koi that live in the bay swim over to snatch them up.
"I watched a man die last night," Tahno blurts suddenly, and immediately wishes he hadn't said anything at all. Korra turns to him, eyebrows quirked. She looks vastly concerned. Tahno find a sick fascination in the notion that he's able to inspire pity within her. He doesn't exactly want her pity, but at least she feels something.
"That's awful!" She looks as though she wants to know why or how the man died, but Tahno won't tell. He can't tell, not her.
He bites his lower lip, a habit he developed as a child and never really stopped.
Korra's face looks pale and genuinely worried.
Tahno stares at the dull grey waves, and sees in his mind's eye the flash of scarlet, the gaping wound of Wu's slit throat. He sees Lao, in his custom-tailored suit, hovering over the body. Spider-like hands tangling in Wu's hair, jerking the dead man's face upward. He sees the blank, glassy stare of the corpse's eyes.
"Yes," he says quietly. "It's awful."
Korra doesn't say anything, just silently takes his hand. Her skin against his is electrifying. Her hand is smaller than his, her fingers intertwining with his. Darker skin against pale. It makes Tahno think of other things, things where more skin might be exposed.
He glances sideways at Korra, and their eyes meet. Her gaze is bright, innocent, bluer than a midsummer sea. He wants to kiss her very badly, wants to lean over and press his lips against hers. He wants to claim her, and he doesn't know how else to do that.
He thinks of his father, how he claimed Tahno's mother. With dark looks passed between them, with angry, slurred shouts, with bruises that bloomed black and blue on her pale arms.
Instead he offers her a weak smile, as feeble as the thin sunlight attempting to break through the cloudy haze. Her beauty, her radiance, is enough for him.
Later that night, as Tahno eats cold noodles alone in his apartment and flips between radio stations, there's a knock on the door. He wonders if it's Korra, and finds that his heart rate increases alarmingly at the thought. He springs to answer it, fumbling with the lock.
It's not her. A teenage girl, yes, but not Korra. This girl has much longer hair, hanging loose around her face, and eyes that are narrow and suspicious.
"I'm Ling," she announces. Tahno wonders what in the hell this girl is doing at his apartment. She looks familiar, but he's not sure where he's seen her. She's not a prostitute; she's wearing the simple garb typical of the urban lower class-a worn tunic, baggy pants, thin sandals despite the chilly day.
She puts an emphasis on the last name, but she doesn't need to.
Wu. The man that Lao murdered. The man that owed the Monsoons money. This girl must have been part of the family he had attempted to protect.
"I'm sorry-" he begins, trying to cut her off and close the door, but she jams her foot in the doorway. Ling Wu has gumption, he'll give her that.
"I know you were there that night," she informs him. Ling's eyes are burning with a cold anger.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Tahno lies. Suddenly, Ling's hands dart out, seizing his shirt front. She pulls him close, their faces an inch apart.
"I saw you. I was standing outside the warehouse. I know exactly what happened. I know that you killed him."
Her voice is quiet, icy, trembling with barely contained fury. He pulls her inside the apartment, praying that the neighbors won't hear.
"So you followed me home!?"
She doesn't answer, but her eyes are narrowing even more dramatically.
"I'll go to the police. I know where you live, it won't be long until they're kicking in your door-"
"Listen to me," Tahno snaps, grabbing her arm roughly. "You have no idea what these people are capable of. You know what they did to your father, what do you think they'll do to a pretty girl like you? Doesn't take much imagination, does it?"
His voice is a low snarl, dangerous and feral. Ling's eyes are wide, frightened.
Good. Tahno knows how easily they'll dispose of a girl like Ling. The Monsoon's hulking enforcers wouldn't think twice about killing a young girl and dumping her body in the bay.
Ling twists out of his grip, breathing heavily. Her eyes are still burning, but fear has replaced the intense anger on her face.
"The police will find you if they hurt me," she promises, her voice tight. "The good side will always win."
Tahno watches her storm out of his apartment, slamming the door behind her. He feels shaky and ashamed for what the grief he's caused her. Tahno didn't personally cut her father's throat, but even in the dark Ling must have seen the blood on his hands and clothing.
He stand alone in the dim apartment, guilt swelling in his chest.
No man is innocent. Not anymore.
Sorry for another short chapter. Hope you enjoyed anyway!