“There’s been a scuffle…”
Sloth is a ninja in the night. She has on the all hooded, black-clad ninja attire as though she’d stepped right off the scene of a Hollywood set. She bends down and sniffs the dirt as we approach our destination. She doesn’t seem to even notice the fucked up patio furniture and the huge wall that looks like a demolition ball hit an entire side of the house. She thinks there is a scuffle because of the goddam dirt she’s sniffing.
“No shit Sherlock,” I state, “Did you have to come as the black ninja? It’s not even night time, Sloth. You know REAL ninjas didn’t even dress like that.”
Don’t tell Sloth that we weren’t real ninjas. It was a sore spot for everyone in the Assembly. Real ninjas were Asians and the truth is only about 10% of the assembly had bloodlines descending from REAL ninjas.
I just so happened to be one of them. And so was Desire…
“They dressed more like you huh? Sweatsuit?”
She had a point. I still had my duffle bag and yes, I had managed to change on the way to something comfortable. Why the hell not?
I roll my eyes, “What’s the point of the theatrics? Someone walks past and they’ll call the cops just by looking at you.”
“If someone walks past they die!” she states.
“You’ll kill an innocent.”
“They’ll be lucky they don’t die,” she quickly corrects herself, “And if the cops come I’ll stop them. I’m an Assembly assassin. I am more dangerous than 20 cops.”
“What about 40?”
“I could take 40.”
“What about 100?”
“What’s your fuckin point Ardor?” Sloth asks.
“They got 100 people. You’re just one. We aren’t fucking ninjas, Sloth. We’re assassins. Modern assassins. Stop wearing that shit.”
Sloth rolls her eyes, “Tom says…”
“Fuck what Tom says. Are you going to ride with me right? You chose me instead of Tom back there. You know that right?”
Sloth nods, “Yeah. You. Of course.’
“Then fuck what Tom says. No more of the theatrics. Let Lust have to spend an hour explaining why he has a large fucking sword strapped to him. We’ll walk by in a white shirt and jeans. What I like about you is that no one notices you. Let’s keep it that way.”
She nods. The idea of having someone with her she is close with seems to really encourage her.
“I get it. If we were in normal clothes we could walk right up to Desire and kill him.”
“Whoa. Where’d that come from? No one is killing Desire.”
“I thought I got the story right,” Sloth tries to remember, “Desire and Urge are here. Looking around it seems like they are fighting someone. Odds are they are fighting your boyfriend. You with me so far?”
“I’m with you.”
I hadn’t been completely honest with her until now. Maybe the idea of reuniting with Pride had taken over the idea of Desire and Urge being here.
“So they are our enemies,” Sloth explains, “You with me so far?”
“Desire is a good kid.”
Sloth doesn’t seem to be making the connection. She looks around as though I’m talking to some invisible ghost, “What do you think we are? Girl Scouts? You think we giving out merit awards for good behavior? We’re fuckin assassins. We want something. He wants something else. We kill him. Period. Put the fucking gold award on his corpse.”
I look over at her. Somehow she has a cigarette and in the midst of this has lit it. She’s smoking openly right there still wrapped up in her ridiculous ninja outfit. Just as I suspected someone walks by, sees Sloth and seems immediately to get nervous. The person jets off in the other direction. Sloth turns her head and seems for a second to be considering tracking this innocent person down and killing them.
I wave at Sloth almost immediately.
“Hey. So unless you want your theory of how many regular humans you can kill be put to the test today, I suggest we hurry up,” I state, “And also if you don’t want a taste of why Tom is scared of this Desire guy, I suggest you leave all the talking and negotiating to me.”
I don’t give Sloth an option. I don’t even wait for her to respond because I’m halfway into the building before she can fully comprehend everything that is coming out of my mouth.
I know she doesn’t agree. As we walk into the house though she’s silent. I can hear her behind me shuffling through her weapons. I hear a gun, a poison dart somewhere in there, a smoke bomb and some sort of blade. She has it really hidden and I can’t even get a peripheral view of it. I know it’s on her.
“That knife. Get rid of it” I tell her.
“How’d you know about my—-”
“Get rid of it,” I state, “This is Desire. However good you think you are with knives won’t matter today. We should pray he doesn’t have a knife of his own. The worst thing you’d want to do is bring a backup knife for him. You know how embarrassing it would be back in the Assembly to die from your own weapon. You know they keep track of it in a book.”
“Yep. It’s called the Wrath Wrap-Up. It was started by the real Wrath. You know the original—not—not—-me—-”
“Clearly I know you didn’t start the fucking Wrath Wrap up, Ardor,” she states, “I know you’ve discovered you’re a genius assassin or whatever now but the rest of us aren’t idiots, you know? No one has considered you Wrath for a long time.”
I ignore it.
“Anyway, Wrath, Tom’s son actually kept track of all of it. Even back then when they used to bring them back. He kept track of every single assassin and assassin fights. And every time someone died he recorded it. Even now they say Wrath keeps track of it.”
“Who tells him?” she asks, “He can’t be doing this alone.”
“Everyone. I guess. Those loyal to the cause. It’s a really cool thing Wrath is doing. Even though he and his dad want to kill one another. He’s really keeping our legacy. Tom’s legacy.”
“Not if we keep changing names like that. It’ll get confusing. You honestly were confused about whether or not people still considered you Wrath. What if you were in charge of your legacy and wrote Wrath instead of Ardor?”
“Fuck it. They’ll get the point. Whoever is reading is smart enough.”
“Weird. Who would be reading our story anyway? Future assassins? Maybe future societies after we conquer mankind? Assassin’s forever?”
Doubt it. We could never unite. Goddam assassins couldn’t make it down the street without wanting to kill each other.
“They’d probably think it was fake.”
“No one would be that dumb to think that—-”
“Shut up. Someone’s here.”
He’s standing there. He is dressed in all black but not a goddamn ninja suit like Sloth. He has on a black sweater and black jeans. His skin is brown. Darker than I remembered. It makes me even more shocked that we are related. Brothers? How shocking? I knew his father must have been black and mine was clearly white. Sure we were mixed but we appeared truly our real race. Our mother looked mixed. So here I am a white man, for all intents and purposes looking at a black man. And knowing he’s my brother.
“Desire,” I whisper.
“What’s with the ninja suit?” he asks, “Halloween coming early?”
“Halloween the movie is coming early,” Sloth states raising her head and looking at Desire in a way that would cause anyone to panic, “And guess who is playing Michael Myers?”
Goddamnit Sloth. She had to go pissing off the one goddam guy we didn’t want to piss off. I look over at Desire and I notice that he pulls out a knife. It’s a goddam long knife too. Somehow this motherfucker had graduated to walking around with machetes. Where the hell did they do that at? How the fuck was it cool to bring a machete to a fight?
“It must be me,” Desire states, “Either that or you are. In that case come get your knife, Michael. I dare you.”
“OK, that escalated quickly,” I state, “Desire hey, remember me, how are you?”
I try to take a step forward. He’s a good friend of mine. He wouldn’t threaten me. Right? I wasn’t right. I was wrong.
He turns as quickly as lighting. Throwing the knife from one hand to another and quickly turning into a stance that I know would put me in striking distance if I’m not smart enough to pivot in the very second that I’m able to pivot in. Anyone else would have still lunged feeling like they could put me back into the striking distance but not Desire. He’s smart. Real smart. He stands stiff. He knows I’ll know what’ll happened. He knows what will happened too. We both are so aware of how close things almost went bad.
But Sloth isn’t.
And at that moment we just nod. It’s a small agreement but it’s something. We’ve agreed not to say anything to Sloth about how close we were to conflict.
“Ardor, old friend,” Desire states,” It’s nice seeing you.”
“Nice seeing you too.”
“I would hug you but…”
But we didn’t trust each other and it was weird as fuck. That was the real reason. He clutches his machete and looks over at Sloth. Maybe it was a mistake to bring Sloth. She is clearly an irritant to Desire. But I’d rather make a mistake on his behalf than make a mistake on mine. If I had not brought Sloth, Desire would have been relaxed. Maybe he would have been nice to me, or maybe he would have been more aggressive feeling as though he can take me. Now he’s on guard.
And I have the upper hand.
For now at least.
“There’s fighting,” Sloth states.
“No talking to each other,” Desire states.
“I’m talking to everyone. We’re all friends,” I tell Desire, “So how about this. Desire, where is there fighting?”
He’s pushing back. I’m trying to make this casual between us. I’m trying to take away the tension between us. I look at Desire and through my eyes, I’m pleading that he remembers the times we had together. Whatever they were worth to him, I needed him to remember those now. I didn’t want this to end in blood.
I look down.
Underneath us, we see a hole in the floor. The floor clearly leads to the basement. I don’t know how the fuck half the living room floor has collapsed but it has. That’s where we are right now. The floor has collapsed and a story below us there is Pride. He’s not alone. He has Urge with him. Just to be clear, Urge is Desire’s soulmate. They are very close. So the fact that my man Pride has his man Urge in some sort of headlock isn’t a good thing.
“Pride, ok Pride you are going to have to let him go,” I state.
“It’s not that simple,” Pride states.
Pride shifts a little bit. I’ve underestimated Urge. Urge has a knife pressed up underneath Pride’s rib cage. Any sort of pressure from Pride and Urge can thrust his knife into his ribcage. Now it makes sense why Pride was holding onto Urge’s neck so hard. He wants to make sure in any moment he would be able to snap Urge’s neck before Urge can thrust his knife in. They are at a complete standstill.
“How long has it been like this?” I ask.
“Hours,” Desire responds.
Sounds about right. Desire must have tried to intervene but Pride wasn’t an idiot. I see the red marks against Urge’s neck from here. He’d come real close to snapping Urge’s neck a few times. Close enough that not even Desire with his perfect knife skills would keep risking the love of his life.
“So how about you tell your husband to drop his knife Desire?” I ask.
“So that thing down there can snap his neck.”
“That isn’t a FUCKING thing!” I bark almost immediately.
“Calm down,” I hear Pride screaming.
Desire looks at me and then looks at the Pride through the collapsed floor, “You two care about each other. My apologies for calling him a thing.”
“However…” Desire states shaking his head, “Urge is the love of my life and that thing down there has shown increased levels of aggression.”
“He was confused,” I immediately state, “You don’t understand his background.”
“We understand his background,” Desire states, “My mother Willful Ignorance has been sending us information on you all for quite some time even without me wanting to have a relationship with her. I know he isn’t the best in social settings. My Urge isn’t either. You know that. I understood.”
“So why are we fighting.”
“He insisted. Even after we gave him opportunities to stop.”
“He just wants the ability to kill his father. If you need to talk to him fine. Talk to him, just don’t touch him. Please Desire. Don’t kill the father. Where is he? Where is the father?”
“He’s already dead,” Desire states, “Hence our conundrum.”
He could have explained that from the beginning. He could have mentioned that from the beginning. The thing was anyone that killed Dr. Victor Ward was dead. I knew that. Pride wouldn’t stop until that person was dead. Even if that person was me.
“Why? Why was he killed?” I ask, desperate to understand.
He shrugs, “We caught him without the animal…or…I’m sorry I don’t know it’s alias…”
“Oh right,” Desire states, “The rename. Confusing. Anyway. Pride. We caught Victor Ward when Pride was away. We talked and Victor asked us to kill him. Said his son was taking too long.”
“It wasn’t you though,” I ask, “Right Desire?”
“That killed Victor?” he asks, “No. I refused.”
“Oh thank God.”
“It was Urge,” Desire states, “For his own reasons.”
Urge, hearing our conversation immediately states, “Anyone who was forced to work for my father deserves to be liberated in any way they so choose.”
That’s when I see the animal coming out. I don’t know how long even a knife to his abdomen is going to stop Pride. He had a soft spot when it came to his father. One that Urge had crossed. And this was now personal.
Pride’s voice is so deep I think it’s coming from some demon or unnatural force, “IT’S UP TO THE VICTIMS OF THAT PERSON TO LIBERATE!”
“Tom is the victimizer, not us.”
“My father’s sins were before Tom.”
“No more talking,” I state, “It’s making it worse. The talking is making it worse.”
“Agreed,” Desire states, “Let them calm down. They’ll tire themselves out. We’ll talk then. Unless more of you are coming. Are there any more of you coming?”
“Sins? Oh yeah, but they’ll take forever to get here,” I state.
“I doubt they’ll come,” Sloth states, “Most of us have figured these so-called missions are personal by now and returned to headquarters. It always ends up being some type of the test with Tom.”
“Shut up,” I look over at Sloth, “Please.”
Sloth nods, “Shutting up.”
We look over at Desire. The last thing I wanted to do was remind him that we were still Tom’s operatives at the end of the day. Desire looks over at us and smiles.
“DInner then?” he asks and when we look confused he shakes his head, “Dinner. I was going to make dinner. I have enough for everyone.”
“What can you possibly make out here?” Sloth asks.
“You’d be surprised,” Desire states, “You know who my mother is. Ardor, clearly you know?”
He gives me that weird look. I nod.
Dinner it was, then.
To say things are weird is an understatement. I’m sitting there with Sloth, my new best friend who probably has like 20 ways designed for Desire to die tonight. Then there is Desire, an old friend who may not be a friend anymore. I’m wondering how much he’s read up on Sloth and if he’s prepared for just how sneaky she can be. He keeps his knife close so I don’t think he’s dropped his guard. Then there’s Urge and Pride. Two sexy ass, dreamy guys who were performing an inhuman feat of being locked up in compromising situations on the ground for hours on end with no complaints. I wondered what was going through Pride’s mind while he was locked up down there. He seemed too calm almost like he knew I had his back.
He was right.
“This is amazing,” I state.
“I didn’t want to compliment you,” Sloth agrees with me, “Because we are in such a compromising situation but you are a true master of food. Desire-San.”
“Enough to let my man go?” he asks.
“I’m afraid no,” I state.
Sloth looks at me, “No?”
Seems like Desire’s food has literally had sway over her.
I look at Desire and shake my head, “No. See when I came in I had every desire of this not ending in bloodshed. I think for a while it’s been Desire is the good guy and Tom is the bad guy. I wanted to be a part of the good guys. I thought we could make it work. But there was one thing that couldn’t be done. One thing in the world. Victor Ward couldn’t be killed by anyone but Pride. That has happened. There’s no going back.”
“I see…” Desire states, “An apology would not work? I could talk to Urge—-”
“I’m not apologizing for shit,” Urge screams out.
Desire signals me eye-to-eye, “I can work with Urge to apologize to Pride. Ninja on ninja.”
“He’s not going to accept that,” I state, “There is one thing though that can save our relationship. One thing that can make us all the good guys. One thing that can make this a simple story. Otherwise, the shit hits the fan. Otherwise, it’s three sides. Otherwise, everything we thought we knew about the Assembly is reset.”
Desire is just as desperate as I am.
“Join us. Sacrifice your love for Urge. Let him die here. KIll him even. People will understand. It’ll almost be romantic.”
“You know what would be romantic?” Desire asks me.
“When you fuck yourself,” Desire spits, “I love Urge. I found out that you were my brother, Ardor. I want to build a relationship with you. But you mess with the love of my life and we will FUCK up your world.”
“Sloth leave,” I state.
“Fuck no I’m not leaving.”
“It’s two against one.”
“Two against three,” Sloth corrects me as though it makes it any less fair.
“I’m not a villain,” I state, “Desire and I will fight with honor. Either that or you go and find Allure.”
“She’s with the others.”
“You’re tricky, goddamit,” I tell Sloth, “Figure it the fuck out. We’ll wait.”
“No need to wait,” a voice states.
We turn at that moment and behold Willful Ignorance. I should have known she would be here. She would be here for her son Desire.
“Did you think I wouldn’t make it here myself?” she asks, “No need to wait, as I said. The odds have evened.”
“You’re an old lady,” Sloth states, “Barely fair.”
“You’re a weak young woman. I knew the odds were in my favor but I figured it was worth it,” Willful Ignorance shoots back.
I look over at Desire, “Desire this woman is a villain. If you align yourself with her you are going to go down as a villain. Everyone is going to hate you.”
“Who’s everyone?” Desire asks.
“There’s a book.”
Desire rolls his eyes, “Fuck a book. I’ll go to any lengths to save Urge. You’d do the same for Pride, I assume.”
I didn’t want this. I didn’t want this to end this way. But there was no choice. This was it.
“It would have been nice in another life to be brothers with you,” Desire explains to me, “It would have been nice to bond in a way. Unfortunately, that isn’t our destiny.”
He had no idea what he was getting into.
“Only one of us leaves this room, Desire,” I warn him, “Last chance.”
“Enough talk then.”
“Ok then. Parley.”
“We’re samurai, aren’t we. Not parley,” I tell him, “Desire——hatashi-jou!”