Need my name? Call me Leon Kirkland. Otherwise, call my agent.
I am Hong Kong; breathless energy, dancing lights, martial arts legends, weaponised umbrellas, and the best counterfeits that have ever ripped you off. Enjoy yourself.
[independent rp blog for APH Hong Kong]
When the great heaving wave of cheers and jeers and stomping feet rose up to roar down the fighters’ cage and rattle its bones, Síu Chūn rose with them, anxieties and all. Drowning his own voice in the same howling flame that had threatened to swallow him up and destroy him, he was only one scream among many, allied to those who had bet on Chess, and warily so to those who had only come to see blood and hardly cared for much else.
Delight and pride swept him away so completely that he didn’t even stop to think whether anyone else in the crowd had family in that cage.
It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter, because they’d won, he’d won and having to wait to run off and reunite with his brother was downright agonising. No doubt there was somewhere for the fighters to go, like some filthy through-the-looking-glass version of a theatre’s backstage, but for licking wounds and testing the tenderness of bruises.
Suddenly the crowd is nothing more to Síu Chūn than a bloodthirsty sweatbox. He slips away, unnoticed amongst the feral crowd; his brother can’t hear him cheering from here anyway, and besides, the two men in the cage now are strangers. They are strangers and he hadn’t bet on either of them. They could kill each other for all he cared, so long as neither man was his brother.
His own apathy surprises him, for a moment.
Not quite the same boy he’d been when he’d walked in, it is Chess who accosts he bookmaker for the return on his bet, and, vanishing amongst the crowd, it is that same boy who requests to fetch Domino from the back room, to collect their second serving of winnings, deservedly belonging to his brother, not to him.
One look at Shìhóng makes his voice hoarse with equal parts worry and applause. Even while he checks all over for bruises starting to form, he promises ice and a shower and clean clothes and a hot meal because holy shit, they’d won— and even while he lavishes praise upon his brother’s adrenaline-heavy shoulders, he still winces at whatever injuries he does see.
Apathy? What apathy?
He is still roughing up Shìhóng’s sweaty hair even halfway down the street.
The smoke and noise and the stinging smell of sweat spat them out back into the crisp evening, just the right amount of humid to make the mere act of breathing feel incredible. He is laughing, bouncing in his step; they are on top of the world. Behind them, the shoddy little arena feels like an entirely different world, noise thick as a haze but too far away to reach them.
He can only imagine how the cool night air must feel on his brother’s skin, too. The brightest light in the streets this night is Shìhóng, nothing and no one else; possibilities sprawl out before them. He wants to buy his brother the best food he’s had in months, some new clothes, and, moreover, a first aid kit— a few more nights like this one and someone would have to hand over the keys to the whole city.
It’s a silly exaggeration, he knows, but God, having this kind of money practically falling right into their trembling hands, just for doing something they’d had to do all their lives anyway, after having spent so long scraping and barely surviving…
It was intoxicating. And in this moment at least— to him, at least— Shìhóng looks more triumphant than any hero the world has ever known.
Triumph is too small a word to describe what Shìhóng felt that night. Despite his bloodied lip and the bruises he wore now like medals of honor, he walked with such an aura of pride, an arm slung across his brother’s shoulders and let forth from his lungs a laugh so loud it seemed as if the streetlamps shook in its wake.
That night he felt like he was the richest man alive, and he knew he could easily keep this up. He thought for a moment that he could turn his life around, turn Síu Chūn’s life around. Shìhóng thought that just maybe they had a shot. That they could rise to the top and that nothing could stop them.
Because right then, the two of them were absolutely invincible.
So Shìhóng did indeed give in to his brother’s idea; when they finally settle and find some place they can actually eat and not worry about the check afterwards Shìhóng practically stuffs himself, and he doesn’t even wonder when the last time he had eaten that well.
The meal passes with loud conversation and laughter, and there was a twinkle in Shìhóng’s eye (a spark if you would better call it that) as he retells his fight to Síu Chūn, and he spares not a single detail.
"Oh, god," He said, his mouth still half full, "that guy just came running and honestly for a second I thought he was gonna smash my fucking face in!”
His tale doesn’t carry the tone of fear more than it does a boastful quality, like a child who had picked up a spider when his friends cowered in the background.
Fighting nights turn into weeks, and by the time two months have passed they own the universe.
If the two of them make more in fights and well-placed bets than they actually spend, they end up with money left over. This sounds obvious, even juvenile, but it’s a very simple fact to forget when money has been running through their hands like sand through their fingers for as long as they can remember. By the end of two weeks they’d packed up their keepable shit, tossed the rest and picked out a better place to live. They move over the course of maybe a week, in between Síu Chūn sparing his brother’s sore arms by carrying the heaviest of their stuff, icepacks for black eyes and bandages for pretty much everything else Shìhóng ends up with, and nights spent with the both of them just lazing around because they can, they’ve earned it.
And a few days after they’re settled into their new flat, Síu Chūn announces one afternoon, lithe and easy as you please, that he’s taken a numbers job alongside their fighting gig.
(Apparently, seeing one’s brother stagger around bruised and bloody, or waiting around to heal up for his next fight, works havoc on the conscience. Even if said brother hardly actually seems to mind, seeing as he can haul people around all night no problem and has the cash to prove it. But that’s beside the point…)
But when you’re that good, people notice.
People start to recognise Shìhóng after a while, not just watching the cage but just out in the city. People catch his eye and something passes between them, something that doesn’t quite belong in broad daylight. Síu Chūn they notice less, but that works for him just fine. No good having people watching the numbers guy too closely, in that pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain kind of way. You came here to watch a fight, not to watch me skim the tops off profits for myself. Nothing to see.
Eventually even the big names start to notice.
Someone comes to find Shìhóng. Not to try and knife him or challenge him or anything like that, nothing dramatic like that— just some guy with the worst kind of expression, built like a brick shithouse, face like an old shoe. Chomping on a cigar with a sickly smile that makes Síu Chūn want to retch.
He carries himself like a king but the two brothers are too new to know exactly who he is. They would have embarrassed themselves by asking, but luckily, they don’t. Instead Síu Chūn just holds up a pawlike gloved hand to slow their play-fight, his face darkening.
"… What, is he like, an agent, or something," he grumbles, trying to sound as unimpressed as possible and less like he’s shaking in his skin.
"Nah. Probably just here to see how good you are. He’s gonna bet on you like everyone else. Fucker. You win too much and you start lowering the odds I get, you arse—”
A laugh, and a playful whack upside his brother’s head, and the man is forgotten.
The next time Síu Chūn glances over, the fucker’s gone, whoever he was. Good riddance.
Since you said so, yeah. Can’t believe you talked me into going to the flower street first, like, now we have to carry these absolutely everywhere and look completely daft.
Wait, it had been my idea all along. Nevermind, it was brilliant.
「Smile settling more into place, Leon ran the fingers on his free hand across the back of his neck, fingers looping under the pendant’s chain until he pulled the key and charms out from under his shirt. To his eyes at least, it didn’t seem to suit him, but Carlino insisted that it did, so…」
「As they walk, Leon keeps half his attention on Carlino (to keep him from floating away as he is wont to do), and half on the people they passed. Here and there, especially for humans who looked to be around their age, Leon would hand them a flower or two as they passed. It got the two of them a few giggles, but the good kind.
For the longest time they walk along the outside of the park, with a metal railing and a road on Leon’s left side, a low stone wall and a swath of plant life on Carlino’s right. And it felt right. Strangely so but right all the same.」
// He supposed going to the flower street first was a bit of a poor choice, but he’s so smitten with the potent smell of flowers in his arms that he can’t regret it even remotely- They just look a little silly is all, but with Leon handing out flowers and Carlino quickly following his lead, it looked to outsiders that it’d been planned all along. //
// But his necklace— So lovely and strange in its nature, seemingly thrown together with things found in the grass on an evening walk and it seemed to buzz the closer Carlino drifted to it. It would be difficult to slide it over his neck now, but he could watch it in Leon’s hands with wide wide eyes, heart leaping forward to grasp it. //
Have y-you been wearing it at all..? Or just today be-because we were together?
… Sometimes. I wore it under my clothes. Wasn’t sure if I should or not, so sometimes I did, sometimes not. You know? Like… because I couldn’t decide. So… sometimes?
「A momentary diversion from their flower-giving. So far as anyone else knew, the two of them were simply performing some kind of event or performance art, or some such thing— first the cluster of pandas and now this. But such things aren’t exactly strange, except perhaps for Carlino’s own inherent strangeness, and the odd sense of comfort nation-folk bring to their own people.
At first, Leon had only wanted his hands free, but a few minutes into it, he found himself smiling.」
You’re, like… consider yourself on probation, kind of. But while we’re in the park—
「With his hands free of flowers, Leon reached around the back of his neck and slipped the chain over his head, clumsily fighting Carlino’s head full of tangled curls and flowers to slip it over his head instead.
He flinched when the chain hit bony shoulders, as if he thought Carlino’s odd flighty spirit might suddenly be put to rest and he might disappear on the spot— his hands linger, careful, just in case.」
… There. You’re not mad, right? I was— erm, I guess, I was… holding it for you.
if domino the destitute is the undisputed champ of misery then what’s all the fighting about??