S E V E N
They were a mess.
Arsenal made sure that they all walked in front of him. He knew that the others were too emotionally and physically exhausted to glance over their shoulders. Only he could at that time and he couldn't take any risks if he had to protect all of them.
He had already lost one.
The thought made Arsenal's spirit sink further, but he strode on. He had to be strong because if he slacked off they'd be doomed. With almost everyone else's guards down, he had to be the one to make sure that they made it out alive and to safety. He would make sure of it.
Gum staggered on forward, drenched in sweat and face harbouring minuscule scratches. Arsenal had seen him perform his acrobatic stunts, in the process rolling on the floor that had scattered shards of glass that pierced his face. Small grazes everywhere, but the dried blood on Gum's face made him look the worse out of all of them.
Toppo walked half a step in front of Arsenal. It was enough for Arsenal to see Toppo's badly bruised eye. Toppo had copped a good punch in the face. Although Toppo was the master of chemicals and disliked fighting to bits, he was the type of person to fight back whenever he was forced into a corner – even if he had a high chance of losing. Arsenal respected that.
Leading them all back to the hotel was Mac and Jacky. However, Mac was multi-tasking. Mac had ripped off his right sleeve from his blazer and at that moment was wrapping it tightly around Jacky's left arm. Jacky had managed to get himself into a dagger fight with one of the boys in the yakuza. Both had put up a good fight and both had ended up with knife swipes. Jacky was lucky that it wasn't his right arm that had been injured.
Asides from himself, Mac had been the other boy in their group that had been uninjured. That was because Arsenal had made sure to shoot anybody that came near Mac. Mac was the mastermind behind many plans, but when it came to self-defence, he was weak. He was like a weak fire flame in a rainstorm. Mac was useless in combat.
Yes, they looked like a mess – but in actuality, they had been very lucky.
When they had finally arrived back at the hotel, Johnny greeted them. Even as they filed in the room, Johnny paced up and down while cradling Kohana in his arms. Arsenal knew that Johnny must have had been doing it all the time they were out, waiting impatiently for them to get back.
“You know what time it is? I've been waiting forever for you guys to return!” Johnny hissed, angrily as he examined them, frowning at all their appearances. “You could have told me where you went and where-wait...Where's Ace?”
“They've got him.”
Since no one else had chosen to speak up, Arsenal decided it would be him to break the bad news to Johnny.
For a second, Johnny remained quiet as if he were trying to digest what had been spoken. He spluttered, begging for clarification, “What do you mean 'they've got him'? How can someone get Ace? He's Ace. He's invincible. He can't be-”
For all Arsenal knew, Ace could be. He knew how the yakuza worked, but he also knew there was hope in the situation that Ace had caught himself in. What Arsenal hated is that he couldn't protect Ace. To him, Ace was like a younger brother and Arsenal knew that Ace had lost his game ever since Ai died. He was reckless, he didn't think straight. He was not in the right fighting condition at all. Arsenal knew that and he was disappointed in himself that he hadn't stopped it. He could have easily made Ace stay with Johnny that night with Kohana-chan, but he hadn't.
“He's not dead,” Gum stated, in a lame attempt to assure Johnny who looked like he was going drop Kohana. Toppo immediately walked towards Johnny's side, taking the baby into his arms.
Arsenal was annoyed that Gum had said that to Johnny. Arsenal relied on proof. Concrete evidence. That was how Arsenal had survived. Arsenal was not going to provide false hope until he would see Ace with his own eyes, and then he would tell Johnny that Ace may have survived.
Johnny raised an eyebrow. “So he's alive?”
“We don't know,” Mac said, truthfully. “However, we found this at the scene...”
Mac pulled out a playing card from his pocket and placed it on the centre of the marble table. It was one of the cards that Ace, Toppo and Mac had been playing with against Yoshida. Toppo had been the one to spot if first when they had been trying to find where Ace was. It had been in the bathroom – the last place they knew Ace had been.
Arsenal stepped closer, examining the card as the others also gathered around the table to study the possibilities what the card could actually mean.
Out of cards picked, it was the Ace of Spades.
It wasn't merely a card for on it had an address scribbled in messy handwriting. Nevertheless, Arsenal easily deciphered it and it didn't take him to second guess where the place was. Arsenal knew it.
“We're going there,” Arsenal stated without a second thought.
Toppo gave a glum nod and Jacky muttered a 'Yes' despite clutching onto his arm.
No one didn't dare to disagree with him. Arsenal had a feeling that it had to do with his icy tone and the fact that they couldn't afford to lose anybody else. Losing Ai had been enough for them to take. From losing one person, his family had changed for the worse. To think that they were continuing to get involved in deep waters was beyond Arsenal's belief.
But he would be a hypocrite to disagree with them because he too wanted revenge. Let him be as ruthless as he wanted. Arsenal didn't care because Ai had been precious to all of them.
“We'll leave in an hour.”
Arsenal didn't know if it was a trap or not, but for someone in the yakuza to know Ace's real name meant something that they couldn't throw away. It was a precious clue and it was a clue that gave them a window, an opening, to getting their brother back. Arsenal was going to take that chance.
He wasn't going to lose another person in his life. Arsenal was tired of losing people. He was determined that the plan go through to prevent losing another person in his life at all costs.
Kohana cried in the distance.
With another flick of the wrist, Arsenal watched the second dart dash in the air and land in the centre of the board next to his first dart. He smirked, wiping the sweat from his brow. He prided himself for his perfect aim. He worked hard to get where he was. Although he had decent aim to begin with, he'd practice every night while everyone would be asleep and he had improved magnificently to the extent that he was having thoughts about entering the national tournament.
Unfortunately, he couldn't. He had been judged from his height and the fact that he hadn't reached the age limit. In three or four years he'd be of age and when he won against all of them, he would happily gloat at their faces.
Discrimination at its finest, but Arsenal was used to it. He was used to being different. That's why he liked staying at club8. They were orphans, a bunch of misfits that accepted each other for who they were.
Arsenal was never an orphan because he knew where his father was, he knew where to go to contact his family but he chose not to. His family was trouble, and the boys at the orphanage were much more of family than his father ever was. Blood over water? Arsenal would easily choose water in a heartbeat.
Blood was disappointment. Blood was bleeding for no reason. Blood was unimportant and something that Arsenal no longer valued.
The third dart did not land on the board at all.
Thinking about his family always tended to make him lose focus.
The more Arsenal thought about, the more Arsenal knew there was no point practising darts. Thinking about his family would plague his concentration. It was better to sleep it off.
Stretching, Arsenal swigged down a glass of milk and wiped his lip. He glimpsed the time and sighed – two in the morning. He'd be woken up in five more hours to do chores.
Dragging his feet up the stairs, before he reached his room he heard soft mumbling.
He paused on the top step, staring down the hallway. Arsenal glanced towards his left. Nothing. Then to his right. Nothing. Arsenal retraced his steps, creeping down the staircase. Once he reached ground level, he heard the mumbling again. He wasn't hearing things after all.
“Listen to me. Ace, you promise you won't get mad, right? I've been meaning to tell you this for a while, but-” There was a pause before Arsenal heard someone kick something. “Argh, this is impossible! He won't like that at all!”
The voice belonged to someone that Arsenal was familiar with. It was a charming voice, gentle and soothing. How many times he had caught her singing both in and out of tune, yet her words sounded sweet. Just her voice could light darkness. She had the ability to set the atmosphere from boring and dreary to bright and lively.
“Ai, shouldn't you be asleep?”
Arsenal caught her at the bar. She was sitting on a stool, wearing her summer pyjamas and holding onto a notepad. Her legs swinging up and down. He could see a faint outline of her cleavage, but he looked away. It was weird. He had known her since she was a toddler and to see that she had hit puberty still hadn't made sense to him. Instead, he stared at Ai's face. She looked like a deer in headlights, utterly thrown off guard.
“I could ask the same question to you. Why are you up, Arsenal?”
He shrugged. “Couldn't sleep. It's too hot. I needed to grab something to drink.”
Arsenal was partially telling the truth. He didn't like people knowing that he practised darts. He liked them to think that he had the innate ability of precision.
“What are you hiding from your brother?” Arsenal queried, scratching the back of his neck. “What have you done to get him mad?”
Ace mad was not a pretty sight. Arsenal had to even hold the younger boy back a couple of times from sending flying fists at people that would start a fight with him. Ace was easy to provoke, but when it came to anything that involved his sister, he was deathly.
“I haven't done anything to get him mad,” Ai spoke. “Not yet.”
Now this was interesting. Arsenal wasn't going to let Ai go without her spilling the beans.
“...might as well just not tell him at all. It's not worth it. He's going to go berserk before I even get to tell him about it,” Ai continued to prattle on.
“If you tell me the story, maybe I can help you out?”
Ai looked at Arsenal for a moment and then burst out laughing. “You think I can tell you? I haven't told anyone.”
“You're lying. My bet's that you've told Johnny about it already.”
For the past month Arsenal had seen Johnny and Ai hanging around more often than usual. Almost every errand that would be dished out to Johnny, Ai would suggest that she go along to help and vice versa. Actually, Arsenal hadn't seen one without the other for a while – so the fact that Arsenal was seeing Ai by herself was a miracle.
“Of course Johnny knows about it. He's the reason why I need to speak to my brother!”
Regret flashes in Ai's eyes for what she had just exclaimed, but Arsenal immediately had caught onto it.
“You're with Johnny?” Arsenal solved, jaw gaping open. “What? Since when? How-”
“Shut up, Arsenal.” With Ai having told Arsenal to keep his mouth closed, she had revealed that his assumption had been correct.
Johnny and Ai were dating? His younger brother and sister were together? Although it sounded incest-like, he was exhilarated and ecstatic. Arsenal should have had seen the signs from the beginning. The two of them perhaps had been in love from the start. But what if...
“If he does anything to you, I'll beat him down,” Arsenal snapped.
“Great, I don't need you and oni-chan beating him up.”
“I'll have to have a word with Johnny too. I can't believe he hasn't told us! Why are you planning to tell Ace without Johnny?”
“I am! I was just...practising.”
“Johnny better put on some sneakers when you both tell Ace then. He's going to have to make a run for it.”
“Not funny, Arsenal,” Ai groaned. “Don't you see this is already going to be hard? Breaking this to Ace is like telling him I'm pregnant.”
“Are you?” Arsenal raised an eyebrow, massaging his knuckles.
Ai pushes him on the shoulder, frustrated. “Arsenal!”
Arsenal shook his head, taking a seat next to Ai. He felt gutted. How could Johnny and Ai be dating underneath all their noses without anybody noticing? To him, he had to admit, it was cute. The thought that scared him was what would happen if they were separated. What would happen if they were to break up? What would happen to the group? Would it alter them and change them for the worse?
Arsenal had to think about the present. That was what mattered. The future could suffer later because at that moment Ai was happy. Johnny was too. They all had to be happy for each other because happiness was a scarcity in itself.
“I feel like throwing the towel. I don't think I can do it. Johnny said he's ready for a black eye, but I'm not. It's oni-chan we're talking about here,” Ai muttered. “I hate getting on his bad side. I don't like it.”
“Give me advice, Arsenal. Since you're the only one who knows now, you might as well give me your opinion.”
Arsenal tilted his head in thought. No matter what, Ace would find out about Ai and Johnny's hidden relationship. It was a matter of time. But if Ace found out before Ai and Johnny told him, it would be worse.
“Well, let me break it to you Ai-chan,” Arsenal started. “Ace won't like it either way, but you can't not tell him at all.”
“If only it were easy...”
“There's no easy way out with the pickle you've got yourself in.”
“I know,” she sighed. “But I have to tell him, don't I?”
Arsenal gave a nod to confirm what she had said. Ai leaned back on the stool, staring at the ceiling as if wishing the Gods to to her a favour. He took her hand. “Ai, sometimes you've got to fight for what you want. I believe you can do it.”
Ai gave a firm nod, before letting her hand slip away from Arsenal's and giving him a appreciative embrace.
Sometimes you've got to fight for what you want.
Those had been the words he had promised Ai-chan, and it was a promise that Arsenal planned to keep. Rescue or suicide mission? Arsenal did not know what this was. However, Arsenal was going to go ahead with it. They had to get Ace back.
He steadied his breathing and licked his lips. He saw where he was and he decided. Teeth gritted, he ducked, bending his back and running swiftly under the warehouse windows before sliding his back against the building. His legs gave way, falling into a heap onto the ground.
Two others figured suit, miming his moves and squatting on either side of him. Gum grinned, teeth visible in the moonlight. He looked hideous from the scrapes, but his face was wild as ever. Arsenal noted that Gum appeared excited, but he knew it was all nerves. People reacted differently to fear, Gum's way of coping was through jokes and feigning amusement.
At his other side, Johnny squatted. His face was fierce and stern. Johnny was a serious fighter. He wasn't the best at fist fights, but when he was angry he held quite a punch. The reason why Arsenal had chosen him was because he wasn't as worn out as the others. On the other hand, Gum was the type of person that could run on adrenaline, despite being exhausted.
As for Arsenal? He had been brought up in a fighting environment. The key word was survival, that was had gotten him through everything.
Jacky, Mac and Toppo were hidden in a van nearby, observing them from afar. Toppo had wired them and Johnny even had a hidden camera tucked under his sleeve. Jacky had wanted to accompany them but none of them allowed him to because of his injury.
“Eight o'clock.” Arsenal picked Mac's warning through his earpiece. “Someone's coming.”
The place had been thriving with guards. They were bound to be seen on either way or the other.
There was a sudden flash of light. Arsenal sucked his breath in, hoping for the torch to disappear, but it focused closer to where they were squatted. Arsenal spread his arms out in front of Gum and Johnny, pushing them further against the wall. Instead of the light disappearing, it kept coming closer.
Arsenal cursed. “Stay here.”
He crept towards the opposite direction, worming his way behind a rubbish bin. It was darker where he was, but Arsenal could clearly see the outline of two figures gradually approaching Gum and Johnny. Arsenal cursed again. He wriggled out of his cover, circling over to the guards other side.
“Hands up in the air!”
Arsenal could have sworn his heart skipped a beat as he watched Gum and Johnny slowly rise up from the ground. Before the guards could do anything, Arsenal knew it was time to make his move.
He jumped at one of the men, cracking his neck. The other guard stepped back, gun still pointed at their direction. The guard whispered 'You!' when his gaze fell on Arsenal.
Before the guard could recognise Arsenal, he pulled out his silencer and shot him at the heart. He could feel Gum and Johnny exchanging looks in the dark, but he knew that then wasn't the time to be interrogated. They could bombard him with questions afterwards.
“Arsenal, you could have saved one for me,” Gum said, jokingly. On the other hand Johnny did not find Gum's dark humour amusing. Johnny stared blankly at the two bodies. They weren't used to seeing Arsenal kill. They were only used to childish fights and gang battles, but nothing concerning death. That was why Arsenal wanted to handle the situation. Arsenal didn't want their hands to be stained with blood. By himself, Arsenal had enough wrath to kill.
There was a new figure that walked towards them. Johnny immediately grabbed the person before he could threaten with a weapon, pointing Jacky's knife at his throat.
Arsenal searched him. He could feel that the person was awfully calm and the fact that Arsenal couldn't find any weapons on him baffled him. The yakuza always had weapons. The stranger had practically walked into them not wanting to fight. It was foolish, but Arsenal knew instantly that the boy wanted to compromise.
“Who are you?” Gum asked first.
The man laughed quietly. “The person who tipped you where Ryo-chan is.”
“Ryo?” Johnny repeated, but didn't move the position of the knife.
Johnny had been the last to join club8 so the name was foreign to his ears. How the person knew Ace's real name meant that he had known Ace prior to him living in the orphanage.
“Are you a friend of his?” Arsenal questioned, hesitantly. The fact that the boy was helping an old friend and betraying a yakuza order was entitled to some trust. “You're Uchi.” It wasn't a guess. Arsenal said the stranger's name as it was.
The boy stuttered. “How did you know?”
“I have my ways,” Arsenal stated. He motioned for Johnny to drop his knife. “You're doing something stupid getting out of your way to help us.”
Betrayal at the yakuza was a death sentence. Arsenal knew that, but Arsenal was untouchable.
Uchi gave a small smile. “Enough chatter. If we stay out here any longer, they'll find us.”
Arsenal agreed with that. They would be like shooting ducks. It was stupid that Arsenal had let his guard down for the moment. He ushered Gum and Johnny to the side so that they were covered in the building's shadows. Only Uchi stayed where he was.
Arsenal had forgotten how brutal the yakuza's interrogations were. Watching from the roof installation made him sick as they saw Ace getting asked questions and then getting kicked when Ace refused to answer them. He was bound on a chair, suffering from wounds all over his body. Amongst looking hideous from all the blood and bruises, Ace smiled. That was what irked the yakuza even more. The four men continued to pound him.
“He's lost it,” Gum growled, also staring at Ace in worry.
They had all been waiting for the right time to intervene. Uchi had said the best way to surprise them would be from the roof since no one guarded that area. The three dangerously climbed up to the roof. There hadn't been much to hold onto, but they had managed to get it up alive and that was what mattered.
Uchi said that he's distract the two guards at the door and that they'd have to take out the people interrogating Ace. So when Uchi appeared at the door, talking to the guards and cracking jokes it was then that Arsenal knew it was time to go.
They needed to take out six men.
There was a hole on the roof that they had seen. After digging and removing a couple of tiles off from the roof, it was enough for them to enter the warehouse from. The hole that they had chosen was luckily towards the right side of the warehouse, close to the wall so if Arsenal could keep quiet they'd hopefully not notice their presence. But Arsenal already had come to terms that there was a high chance they'd be seen. It was inevitable.
Johnny firmly tied the rope around the roof's gutter and let the end of the rope fall to the ground. Gum winced when the rope landed, but due to how the yakuza were battering Ace up they hadn't heard the rope fall.
Arsenal took his cue. With gloved hands he held onto the rope, wrapping his legs around it and swung down the rope. When he was midway down the rope it was only then that the yakuza noticed him.
“Intruder!” one of them bellowed.
It all turned into be a blur from there. Everything happened so rapidly that if you were to blink, you would have missed what had happened.
The four men surrounded Ace. One of them reached for his gun, aiming at Ace, but Arsenal was quicker. The gun was shot out of his hands and in a second he fell onto the ground, pooling in his own blood. Arsenal glanced at the guards by the door. He needed to eliminate them before they told other people. Luckily for him, the two guards were already down. The pretty boy, Uchi, nodded at him with a small sheepish smile. Although the pretty boy was tall and lanky, he must have had packed a strong punch.
Gum was next. Arsenal cursed when he saw Gum jump from the roof, avoiding the rope altogether. When he jumped, he tumbled onto the floor and rolled away from the gunshots. By Gum jumping from the floor, had caught the men by surprise.
Arsenal used their temporary shock to his advantage. He aimed twice and two men joined their comrade on the floor.
The last man shook. He had his arms over his head as if he was begging for his life. It was then that Arsenal vaguely recalled the man's face. He was the man that he had seen at the club the night Ai had died. Was he the man that-
Johnny had slid down the rope and was charging at the man with his knife. Arsenal heard Ace whoop in glee in the background.
“No.” Arsenal yelled. Before Johnny could stab him, Arsenal shot him twice on one leg, sending the man howling on the ground, grasping onto his leg. “Untie Ace, Johnny.”
Johnny glared, but Arsenal didn't care, but listened to Arsenal's order. Arsenal finished his business, hitting the man on the head and knocking the guy out cold. That would be enough killing for that day. Arsenal would make sure of it.
Once untied, Gum came to Ace's other side. “Can you walk?”
Ace tried a few steps, before losing his balance.
“Barely,” Ace laughed. “I should have just died.”
Johnny yanked Ace's arm around his neck and Gum copied in suit. And then Ace stopped walking.
Arsenal stared at him. “Get a move on. We needa get out of here-”
Ace had pushed himself from Johnny and Gum's grasp, kneeling over the body that had last fallen down. He spat in his face. “That's what you get, bastard.”
Arsenal had been right. The man that Arsenal had attacked last had been the one who had murdered Ai. Arsenal didn't have time to think more of it because the warehouse began to echo in laughter – Ace's laughter.
He wouldn't stop. It was ruthless laughter. Gum even looked scared. Arsenal was close to knocking Ace unconscious, but Johnny decided to step in.
“Snap out of it.”
“Sorry,” Ace said, meekly. His tone was hardly apologetic.
Johnny's voice seemed to wake Ace up from the trance. Ace blinked as if in a daze. Arsenal was worried that the men might have done more than physical damage. If they had gotten their earlier....would-No. Ace was fine now. Ace was a fighter.
“There's an opening. If you get your friend to park by Linton Ave you can sneak into the van from there.” Uchi had made his way to them. He also looked concerned for Ace. “Sorry, Ryo-chan.”
“The plan worked at least,” Ace mumbled.
Ace had a lot of explaining to do.
“Get out while you can,” Uchi said. “I'll see you again one day once this is all over.”
Ace nodded in gratitude.
Arsenal watched Gum and Johnny take Ace out of the warehouse first. He turned to Uchi. The boy made him feel uneasy. He still didn't know whether he trusted him or not, but the fact that he had helped get Ace back was enough. “Thanks for assisting us.”
Uchi laughed bitterly. “It's not like I chose to be involved here.” He scratched the back of his head and Arsenal could see the skull tattoo on his wrist. “It would be nice if everything could be normal.”
“There's no such thing,” Arsenal stated.
“We can hope, right?”
He wished that he could agree with the younger boy, but Arsenal knew better. Arsenal would leave it up to the Gods to decide. He depended more on fate than hope. Hope was never realistic.
<< CHAPTER SIX
Happy New Year! I'm glad that this chapter didn't turn out to be updated in another year. xD Been in a sorta writing mood lately, so I thought I'd try and write this chapter up before the mood goes away and I go back to work. I hope you enjoyed this chapter. :) Thanks for still reading this story despite me hardly updating ^^
If you want to get updated on each Infinite chapter, click here for the mini tutorial ;)