“I still have some travel rations I packed from home.” Chun took out a depressing small pack and opened it to reveal slightly old rice and maybe-expired chicken.
Jack gagged. “You’re welcome to eat that, but I’ll have some nice warm soup thank you.
Chun perked up at the sound of warm soup. “How?”
Jack smiled. “Well, we’ll have to look way more run down than we do right now.” And
they were pretty run down. The fight with the sea monster had left their clothes soaked and ragged. “If we can nail the beggar look, then we can get some grub at the soup kitchen.”
Chun looked a bit more hesitant at that idea. Pretend to be a beggar? She crossed her arms and planted her feet in the sand. “No thank you. I would rather eat stale rice than rub my dignity in the dirt.”
Jack shrugged. She could eat dirt for all her dignity. Pride belonged to those who could afford it. “Up to you eh; I’ll be eating my fresh soup though,” and he left the beach, heading out towards the city.
Chun, left with no choice, followed her guide, glumly resigning herself to eating her rations.
Jack grinned and smugly wove the bread in front of Chun’s face. “How’re the rations working out for you eh?”
Chun made a grab for the breadstick, only for her prize to be snatched away and inserted into the taller boy’s mouth. “It does not matter. My honor is intact, something that cannot be said for you. Groveling for food is far beneath my station.”
“Your honor may be intact, but the one enjoying his meal is me eh?”
“Jack, we have to help the man!” Chun said, already running headlong into the skirmish.
“We actually don’t,” Jack replied.
But Chun had jumped into the fray. She went at them weaponless, neglecting to draw her weapon. The girl opened with a straight punch to the back of one of the thugs’ head. The thug seemed more annoyed than hurt. He turned and took a wild swing at the surprised girl. The blow connected well, staggering and dazing her.
Seeing someone he considered his friend be knocked aside so flippantly angered Jack. His nostrils flared and he flicked open his lighter, joining the fray.
There were three thugs. And Jack was alone; the vendor was cowering, and Chun was still staggered. Jack weaved a short club from his lighter; he had not yet learned how to shape his weave. The flaming weapon caught the attention of the trio of thugs. Before the toughs could react, Jack descended upon them like a crazy man fed up with building IKEA furniture and beat his half-constructed furniture with the unattached chair leg. He swung at the closest offender, scoring in several early hits. The thug definitely felt the blows landing on him this time, and raised an arm in a pitiable defense.
Jack was so caught up in the beating of the poor man, that he didn’t notice the other two toughs draw near. One of them was already in range of an attack by the time Jack realized their presence. The tough pulled his arm back in a mighty punch, telegraphing his attack so clearly he might as well have sent a postcard. Jack ducked to avoid the swing, only to be shoved into it anyway by the second thug. Ears ringing and nose bleeding, Jack was flung high into the air.
A small figure dashed in and grabbed ahold of Jack’s body, before depositing him nearby the trembling hawker. Chun had recovered from the mighty blow and was out for blood. Her honor had been besmirched, and somebody would be paying for it. The girl had located a piece of wood from the ruined shop and was wielding it as a weapon, jabbing it at any ruffian that came close.
Unlike Jack, she was much better trained in the use of weaponry, and she made her education in their methods clear. The slight girl flitted between the thugs, raining ineffectual blows upon all three of them. The plank was a crude weapon that required strength to handle that her small frame did not possess. The thugs exchanged glances and weathered the knocks before moving to deliver a final blow to end the conflict.
Jack took on his larger opponent readily. He weaved from the tiny, flickering flame of his lighter. This time he didn’t bother with a weapon, instead, forming a long column of pure heat that he manipulated into setting his foe on fire. The fire streamed from his lighter towards the gangster and crashed into the thug. While the weave hit no harder than a rubber snake, it still set the lad on fire. The gangster panicked, as normal people do when set on fire, and ran for a nearby sewer entrance. He put himself out with a spectacular hiss and a large volume of steam wafted out of said sewer entrance.
Chun circled her opponent, showering the thug with thrusts and jabs. Although the hits were easy to shrug off, the rain of blows Chun delivered gave the thug no time to recover. With no need to watch for other hooligans, Chun could concentrate wholly on punishing this one thug’s insolence. Body covered with bruises, the final thug retreated to lick his wounds.
The two heroes, content in their victory and glowing with pride, turned to face the shopkeeper, expecting gifts and praise to rain down upon them. Yet, all they received were cold stares and colder shoulders. The vendor himself seemed to overcome his earlier fear of confrontation and began shouting at the pair.
“Don’t you know what you have done? This could bring down the wrath of the gang upon all us! You idiots. This thrashing will be nothing compared to the revenge their gang will bring to bear!”
Throughout his rant, Chun grew more and more heated herself. “You can take your complaints and stuff it! We were trying to help – ”
“Oh? Trying to help weren’t you?’ The shopkeeper laughed coldly, his anger was not to be outdone by a pubescent teenager. “Why don’t you take your help and stuff it! We’re doomed I tell you. Doomed!”
Chun crossed her arms in defiance. She kicked the downed thug that still has not yet escaped, forcing him awake. The poor ruffian looked around, confused. Chun grabbed him by the collar. “Let it be known! Any revenge can be taken on my partner and I; Jack Dodger and Chun Li”
A wonderful realization dawned upon the thug. Their failure would be overlooked should they be able to make this… this Chun Li and Jack Dodger to suffer. He looked at the small girl holding him by the collar and nodded.
Satisfied that her honor had been restored, Chun kicked the thug towards where his partners had gone. The shopkeeper also seemed content with the way things had panned out, cooling down significantly now that he realized the gang had found new enemies to torment. They might leave him alone for at least a week… a month even. He offered some food for the fattening of the sacrificial lambs, which Chun accepted, while Jack tried to avoid throwing up the food he had already eaten.
After filling their stomachs, Jack pulled Chun aside. “You’ve put a hit on our heads for your stupid pride! What am I supposed to do eh! I’m not like you, I can’t run off to be a ruddy Cartographer.” He ran his hand through his hair, frustrated.
“And why not?”
“I’m duty-bound as a fireman!” Jack answered, exasperated.
“You seem pretty prone to using fire for a fireman.” This seemed to push a button in Jack, which was odd since he didn’t use fire for any irrelevant situations at all. His stance shifted, his eyes broke contact.
Chun decided to switch her line of persuasion. “It does not matter, Jack. I may have been out of it, but I could see your will to fight. And do you really think I do not notice the flash in your eyes whenever I speak of my ambition to be a Cartographer?”
“You must’ve been really out of it then because I tried to stop you from fighting in the
first place eh! And the Cartographer thing… Every kid has dreamed of being one of them at least once before.” He broke eye contact again.
Chun continued, undeterred. “You fought a monster, Jack. Didn’t you feel anything when you did that?”
“Exactly my point, woman, I was pissing myself when you fought off the bloody monster.”
“Jack, I was trying to shovel water out of a sinking boat when I saw you pull out a flaming club and poke a monster with what basically surmounted to a stick. You are the reason I even had the courage to use my sword. The reason I tried even though everything seemed lost.”
This gave Jack a pause. “I’ll bring you to the damn building. Then I’ll think about it.” He disappeared into a nearby alley, sulking.
Jack Dodger and Chun Li, Cartographers-to-be, Chun grinned and followed Jack into the city.