The kids today are gone away petitioning the dust
Just misfit melancholy dregs gone lost in the mall
Wanderers to nowhere at all
It was never in Max’s honest intentions to fall asleep with his head in Devynn’s lap. It was never in his expectations that she would stay to watch him fall asleep.
She knew not to probe, and merely studied the way his eyebrows knit into a frown that deepened in his troubled slumber. Her thumb traced the anxiety written all over his forehead, finally applying a little more pressure to ease the creases between frowning brows. That appeared to help, as Max was evidently falling into a more peaceful sleep, marked by a tiny snore…
Lithely, Devynn slipped out from under his weight, replacing herself with a soft pillow. When she had smoothed out Max’s dark brown hair, she pulled the duvet blankets over his sleeping frame. Quietly, she left him to his dreams.
“Don’t leave me!”
Max awoke in distress, gripping the blankets so hard his knuckles turned white. It took a full minute for him to remember where he was. The bedroom was dark but not pitch-black, and it was Devynn and not the servant-boy who had stayed by his side.
She too was gone, and he was tucked comfortably in bed. Max ran his fingers across his shoulders, feeling a phantom warmth that still lingered from Devynn’s presence.
Suddenly, a fear struck Max. His friends always vanished or were taken away, simply because they had been in touch with Max. He was afraid this fate awaited Devynn and his new friends. That Devynn would abruptly vanish like a servant-boy whose companionship had kept him sane during those long nights. His only friend had departed one day like a burst bubble, whose disappearance he missed from blinking his eyes.
He did not wish the same fate upon Devynn, or Sora, or Thierry.
He looked around for his room-mates but they had not returned.
Something else caught his attention.
The dining table was adorned with colourful plates, all laden with a selection of Korean cuisine – rolls and rolls of fat kimbap, beef stew, cold noodles, bean paste noodles, and kimchi pancakes, inducing an audible growl from the pits of his stomach. A note to him was written in a beautiful cursive hand.
‘You must be hungry after your sleep. Don’t skip any meals. I am known for my excellent culinary skills, so…count yourself lucky! – Devynn’
It was like he had been dead to the world when she had prepared all these food. No clanging pots and pans were heard. After all, despite a brief nightmare, he just had one of the best sleeps in a long time.
His mouth watered as he sat down to savour the sumptuous spread. He made a mental note to ask for a recipe for her salmon sushi rolls. A trace of a smile tugged at Max’s lips when an image of Devynn arranging the sushi rolls on a plate popped into his mind.
The buzzer to the apartment door sounded.
“Package for Mr Max? Please sign over here.”
The bulk was loaded into the living quarters, a red ‘FRAGILE’ label intact on the rock-hard casing. Finally! — his beloved guitar was here, shipped from Korea on request. It was not smashed, after all.
Hastily shutting the door, he threw open the casing, and ran his fingers over the familiar rosewood and strings – the familiar scent soothed his anxieties.
Their den swarmed with movement, speech and activities. All of their members were in attendance. A heavy cloud of smoke hung in the air, filling every nook and cranny with the odor of filthy tobacco. Above them, busy streets of Tokyo were bustling with cars and traffic.
The clubhouse was their second home, where everyone gathered when nobody desired to go home. That happened often.
Hazily lit by a flickering lamp was a round table where they gambled. Each filled their usual spot, puffing away on weed and cheap cigarettes.
“That new guy– what’s his name again?—was such a dick. Did you see how the girls were all over him? Is that why you’ve been brooding the whole damn day?” Shiwon asked, giving Justin a light push on his shoulder.
“Shut the hell up, Shiwon.” Justin sat down on a chair and slunk further in his seat.
“Do you want us to teach him a lesson? Just say it.” Dong Hae cracked his knuckles and smirked.
“The girls were all ‘oh look at that hunk’. Bleargh. He looks a bit like Taguchi, don’t you think?” Shiwon laughed.
“Shut your mouth.” Taguchi banged a fist on the table. “Justin, just holler if you need back up.”
“Honestly, do you guys like violence that much?” Akanishi asked with a frown. He looked at Dong Hae, then at Shiwon and Taguchi.
“What’s the matter with you, Akanishi?” Shiwon challenged, his fists balled up in a combat stance.
“Enough.” Justin’s word brought silence.
Hee Chul, who had been curled up in his mid-afternoon nap, was awokened. Annoyed, he sat up and flipped his long hair. Running his tongue over his dry lips, Hee Chul said, “Simmer, Justin. You ruined my beauty sleep.” Hee Chul unfolded his legs, got up and sashayed towards Justin who was still in his seat, looking away from the group. Running his perfectly manicured fingers across Justin’s chest, Hee Chul gave a seductive moan and stared into Justin’s eyes. “Who angered my dear Justin?”
Justin pushed Hee Chul’s hands away. Hee Chul gave a seductive laugh. He cocked his head and looked at Justin. “You are one stubborn bitch, and I love you anyway.” Looking around the room, Hee Chul asked, “Since Justin won’t tell me, would any of me kindly give me an update?”
“It’s the new guy.” Dong Hae explained. “Someone’s been frowning the whole day and he won’t admit that the new douchebag is the real reason.”
“Lies. Why would a new guy get on his nerves? No one can out-fight our Justin.”
“This one can,” Justin mumbled.
“What did you say?” Akanishi leaned in to hear Justin, but caught nothing else.
Just then, Dong Hae’s cell phone rang. “Hello….speaking…….WHAT? Holy shit. Right now?” He hang up abruptly.
“Guys, it’s Daiisun. The previous dealer. Our loot was seized. The people from Che-mun Corporation is on their way.”
Everyone stood up, vulgarities flying in all directions.
“Listen up! We have to leave right now.” Justin was in control.
“Get to Daiisun. We have to keep to our promise.”
And they were off.
It was 6 months ago. The deal was made within the hour.
The 7 boys -Justin, Taguchi, Akanishi, Dong Hae, Chris, Shiwon and Hee Chul – accepted Daiisun’s offer to be runners. They would have to back Daiisun in every deal. They knew the market like the back of their hands, and Daiisun could use a whole bunch of street-smart high-school thugs.
On paper, Daiisun was an international trade union, working under pseudo licenses from the local government. In truth, they were an underground organisation amassing cash from trafficking humans and transacting drugs and all other types of illegal or fake goods. Their activities centered around South Korea and Japan as well as the rest of Asia.
The terms of the contract were listed when Daiisun bought their loyalties for 10 million dollars.
1. They were to abide by the leader and Daiisun’s words under all circumstances.
2. Betrayal would result in immediate death.
They became slaves to money in the underworld.
Daiisun’s biggest rival was Che-mun Corporation, which dealt in Korea, Japan and China, and whose leader led with an iron fist. Often, both sides have come to blows over clashes in trade.
With the boys’ help, Daiisun had come to an agreement with Che-mun over the use of trade space in the local region. Daiisun would have clients that will not overlap with Che-mun’s clients, such that both corporations would work hand in hand in the market and no boundaries were crossed.
6 months later, all these right would come crashing down.
In a dark alley linking Daiisun’s warehouse to the Daiisun main building, tall men in trenchcoats and dark glasses lined the place. Tension hung in the air.
Daiisun’s head honcho stood face to face with Che-mun’s. Both were tall enough to see eye-to-eye, unwavering in their poised stance.Unspoken fury threatened to boil over.
“It seems like your men stepped out of line first, secretly made deals with our biggest client, having sold 200 pounds.” Daiisun spoke.
“My men did nothing of the sort. In fact, your men killed mine in order to get a deal that was rightfully ours. Your men are at my mercy.”
“Let them go this instant. My men would never jeopardise this agreement. You are using this excuse to break off our agreement, so you can raid our warehouse.”
Anger flashed in Che-mun’s eyes. He took a step closer to Daiisun.
Instantly, Daiisun was backed up by his members straightening up in their bearings, as if to warn Che-mun against any rash actions.
“Why don’t you get those boys who initiated this deal to get here right now?” Che-mun challenged. “Those boys presumably made a promise to safeguard this promise.”
“We did.” Justin announced as he stepped into the alley amidst the heightened tension.
Behind him, the other 6 boys assembled.
“You hired…kids? Boys, go home to your mummies. Curfew’s over,” he chuckled, looking over his shoulders at Justin.
Several men sniggered as they watched the young boys doubtfully.
“What are you laughing at?” Dong Hae grimaced and stepped forward brazenly.
Justin placed a hand on Dong Hae’s arm.
Looking straight at Daiisun, then at Che-mun, he said, “We’ve kept our promise. We hurt no men, nor did we break any agreement.”
“Then where are the goods? Did they fall into the sea? You boys were last seen trading.” Daiisun boomed.
“We did as told. Che-mun himself was present, we saw you getting into the limo outside the ferry terminal. It was a tri-party trade. The other party acknowledged the loot.” Justin rocked back on his heels in disbelief. The tension in the air was rising rapidly. He heard a few knuckles cracking. It was a multi-million dollar deal. Tempers were bound to be a lot more short-fused.
Che-mun laughed and turned to face Justin. “Is this all you can do? Daiisun was too stupid to trust you boys, but I am not. Perhaps you looted them all to make a bit more…extra cash. Who else is in this game? Who else bought you?” These further insinuations seemed to produce a veil of doubt on Daiisun’s already cynical expression.
He sniggered, turned back to look at Daiisun. “The deal…is off.”
Instantly, an uproar rose in the dark alley. It was of bodies slamming into walls, fists smashing and breaking jaws, and screams of fury and agony blended into one. Daiisun and Che-mun were each surrounded by bodyguards.
“Che-mun, I’m going to kill him!” Dong Hae exclaimed. With clenched fists, Dong Hae charged forward angrily.
“Wait no! You will be killed, Dong Hae!” Akanishi exclaimed and reached out to grab him, but only grabbed at air. Justin followed after Dong Hae who had managed to snag a knife from a dead Daiisun member.
Hee Chul was calmly tying his hair with a rubber band, while the rest of the boys, too, charged forward to help their leader.
A man in black threw a punch in Justin’s face. He dodged, grabbed the man’s arm, and swiftly threw him over his shoulders in a perfect karate move. Another attempted to stab Justin’s back, but Dong Hae saw it and crashed into the man with all his might before he could reach Justin.
Behind them, Akanishi and Taguchi were fighting off Che-mun’s men.
Justin reached the human barricade around Che-mun faster than any of his friends. With two flying kicks, he threw off 2 bodyguards in his path, but they were quickly replaced by more. There were so many, all armed, with pistols gleaming in their gloved hands. Any bullets fired from these weapons could not be traced back to any sources. Che-mun was watching all these in amusement, thinking he was safe and sound within his human barricade.
All 7 boys were now charging towards Che-mun, breaking down the barricade as swiftly as they could. Groans of agony and exertion could be heard all around.
Shiwon fell to the floor as a hard punch threw him off balance.
“You alright?” Taguchi reached for Shiwon’s arms and got him back to his feet.
“Never felt better.” A thin stream of blood was running down his chin. Shiwon swiped his bleeding lips with his bare hands.
The men in black were falling in large numbers, as some were running away from the scene, and others fell defeated. The human barricade was thinning. However, the boys were utterly drained, tired out from fighting.
Swaying, Akanishi threw a punch in a man’s direction but missed. Someone from the back kicked him and he fell to the floor, twisting his ankle. He let out a loud cry.
“Akanishi!” Chris lost focus as he saw his comrade fall. He did not notice that there was someone in black behind them. A sharp blow slammed into the base of his neck.
It was now 5 against God knows how many more.
A gleam of sharp and shiny knife flashed somewhere in the tangle of flaying arms and legs. Hee Chul saw it first. Then Shiwon noticed it too.
Hee Chul whipped out his handy hair brush from his pockets and charged for the man. Leaping into the air, Hee Chl landed on the man’s back and began to ravage the man’s face with his hairbrush.
“You wanna play with weapons, two can play the game!”
Hee Chul whipped out a hairbrush, brandishing it as his weapon. Justin had to control his laughter, when suddenly, he felt a sharp stab on his left side. Pain shot through his insides and rapidly spread to his entire body. He doubled over in pain.
“Justin!” Shiwon was being pressed down by another man, but he had seen the whole thing. The guy with the knife who was being attacked by Hee Chul had slid the knife over to another man. His movements were too quick for Shiwon to give any warnings.
With fury, Hee Chul grabbed the man’s hair and smashed his face against the concrete floor. Blood spurted from a deep gash in his forehead, and pooled around his now-limp body.
The knife protruded from Justin’s left side as he struggled to stay up. Blood was gushing from the gaping wound with every small move he made, and Justin could feel his skin go cold.
Taguchi had just flung a man against a wall and rushed over to Justin. “Let us do the job!” But Justin knew that they needed him. Waving his hands in dismissal, Justin stood up tall and bit his lips. He was strong, and stubborn, he would not back down while he was still able to fight.
Shiwon was getting on his feet. He limped towards Justin.
“We…we must not stop.” Despite his quivering thighs and greying lips, Justin gave a weak smile and encouraged his friends.
Just then, the barricade fell open with Hee Chul’s flying kick, taking down 3 men effortlessly.
Seeing that he was the nearest to Che-mun, Justin clenched his fists and charged, his knuckles connecting with the crook of the corporation leader’s nose with such blinding force.
Che-mun crashed to the floor.
And so was Justin, as he fell atop Che-mun, and rolled onto the floor, unconscious.
One by one Che-mun’s men fled, not only because their leader was down, but also they had heard the siren of police cars in the distant.
It was only when every one of the men in black was gone that the boys realised the siren came from Hee Chul’s mobile phone. But no one wasted any time complimenting his wit, as they rushed to Justin. By then, Chris was conscious again and Akanishi was hopping on one leg.
“Justin!” Loud cries rang through the dark alley. Not even Hee Chul’s slap could get their leader to open his eyes.
That face. Justin thought in that split second when he had knocked the dark glasses off Che-mun’s face. Where have I seen him before?
It was only when Justin fell to the floor that the memories that had long pervaded him returned.
Max was fidgety and uncomfortable as he fingered his red star pendant. Something in his heart told him that things were not right. Something was happening right at this moment.
As Max stood up from the table, he knocked over a glass of water. The glass cup rolled off the table and fell to the floor with a loud smashing crash.
Max stared at the fragments that now lay on the floor and thought to himself: Now they can never be patched up again. No matter what I do, these will always remain as broken pieces.
He sat back down, staring limply into blank space.
✦ Dangerous Mind ✦
The blackholes in the deep recesses of your mind, secrets you never wished to hide.
The lovers you never want to remember and the history you can never leave behind.
You can’t run further if you’ve only been escaping your own mind.