Aw shit, here we go again.
This time I'm delving back into King's post-L'Amour experience for realsies, and not in a dream, as I did previously (Grim Struggle, yo). Anyway, some stuff happens in this story. You can read it if you want.
The woman who went by the alias "King" sat on the floor of L'Amour Restaurant and Bar, her arms wrapped around herself in an effort to keep her torn shirt and sports bra from revealing too much of her chest, and glared at the pair of men standing over her.
"I told you everything I know," she said as she somewhat clumsily wiped blood from the corner of her mouth while trying not to show off any more skin.
"How do we know you're telling the truth?"
King turned her head so she could get a better look at the dark-haired man who addressed her. She decided that he would have been very handsome if he had been better dressed and maybe grew a goatee or something. Nevertheless, he was regarding her with distrust. Hell, maybe even outright contempt.
"Do I look like someone who would lie?" King asked, the irony of her question not lost on her. After all, she had spent the last seven months doing nothing but lying to everyone about everything. Who she really was, what she really did for a living, why she really needed the money… She couldn't help letting out a bitter chuckle, which clearly annoyed Mr. Almost Very Handsome.
"You're obviously a shining beacon of honesty," he said with a nicely timed eye roll. "How do we know you're not full of shit?"
"You don't," King said with a shrug. "But…"
It was then that the other guy — the one who had just kicked her ass and blown her shirt open with some kind of ki blast — knelt down in front of her. He squinted at her thoughtfully, so she squinted right back and tried not to get too distracted by his garish, orange gi. Or his eyes, which were a very pretty hazel.
"Why do you suddenly want to help us?" Mr. Orange asked carefully. "What do you get out of it?"
"A clearer conscience," King answered.
The distrust practically dripped off of him.
"I don't know what else you want me to say —" King scowled while holding herself even tighter — "I'm not proud of the things I've done for Big… sometimes it keeps me up at night. Just like this will, because I was never okay with it. If I had known ahead of time… I don't know. Maybe things could have been different…"
Mr. Orange continued to study King, who was beginning to feel more embarrassed than she already was. This guy had just beaten her in a fight, destroyed her shirt, which exposed her secret to any and everyone who so much as walked by the damn restaurant, and was now regarding her as if she was some kind of lab specimen.
"You're not like those others," he commented after a moment.
"Yeah, no shit," Mr. Almost Very Handsome spat.
"Dude," Mr, Orange said. "Back off for a minute."
King took a deep breath and looked from Mr. Orange (holy shit, those eyes…!) to Mr. Almost Very Handsome, who was glaring daggers at her.
"If you don't believe me, then that's your problem," she said evenly, "but I suggest you stop wasting your time trying to figure out my motives and get the hell out of here so you can find your sister…!"
Mr. Orange made a face before standing up and turning to his companion.
"She's right. We're wasting time!"
"So we're just gonna ignore the fact that she — not he — might be screwing with us the same way she was obviously screwing with the people she works for?!"
"We have no choice but to take her word for it," Mr. Orange replied as he started walking away. "Let's go!"
Mr. Almost Very Handsome narrowed his eyes at King and blew air out through his nose. He stared at her for just a moment before mumbling a grudging "thanks," and turning away to catch up with his partner.
As for King, several minutes passed before she even considered getting up, as the skirmish with Mr. Orange had taken a lot out of her. She had never fought anyone like him before: his technique actually gave her quite the run for her money, and his determination to find his sister shone through with every punch or every kick he threw. It was admirable… and relatable: If someone ever kidnapped her little brother she would do everything in her power to find him — just like Mr. Orange was probably doing everything in his power to find his sibling...
At that moment King was startled by a noise from somewhere behind her. She quickly turned to see the bartender, a very old man named Bruce, hesitantly emerging from the other side of the counter. In all of the excitement she had completely forgotten that he was even on the premises. Had he been crouched back there the whole time?! King never took her eyes off of Bruce as he made his way over to her, his face steeped in bewilderment. His gaze lingered on her upper half for just a little too long before he finally offered his hand to help her up. She stared blankly at him, still a little shell shocked about everything that had taken place over the last half hour.
"I always knew there was something funny about you," the bartender remarked.
King didn't say anything. She kept one arm wrapped around herself and hesitantly took the old man's hand, allowing him to help her to her feet. She then turned her back to him so she could survey the damage to her shirt and bra, as well as the tape that had been binding her chest. The word "mangled" immediately came to mind as she pulled a loose button from the shirt. She reached off to the side of her left breast and tugged at a bit of athletic tape that was hanging limply: she started pulling it off and out of her top, all the while frowning at the warped, broken zipper on the front of her ripped sports bra. She then pulled off her crooked bow tie and unbuttoned her collar, which felt like it was choking her.
"You know, Big is going to be very upset when he finds out about this," Bruce spoke up.
"I don't care," King sighed while she dropped the tie on the floor.
And she really didn't. She had been following Mr. Big's orders for far too long — had watched him do reprehensible things while she got her hands dirty, and, in a lot of cases, bloody. Little by little and bit by bit every single aspect of her job as Big's enforcer had become too much for her. She spent countless hours trying to formulate a plan to get away from it — to just get out — but being part of the fucking mob didn't exactly work that way. So she stayed… and reminded herself that she was only doing it for the money; she was only doing it for her brother. But, thanks to Jack, the cash (or lack thereof) wasn't as much of a consolation prize as it should have been.
With a shaky breath King adjusted her top so that it covered as much of her bruised flesh as possible and hugged herself once more before turning to acknowledge Bruce, who was staring right at her as if a light bulb had gone off over his head.
"I remember you," he said before King could speak. "That pointy nose of yours… You were the waitress with the legs…!"
King pressed her lips in a thin line, utterly defeated, and gave a little nod.
"I hate to say it, but I don't remember your name."
"It doesn't matter."
King squeezed her eyes shut while continuing to press her lips together as a massive tension headache began to set in. She wanted nothing more than to pick herself up, go home, and break down over a bottle of wine and some candy, but she needed to keep herself cool and composed; if she lost it in front of anyone she would come across as a stupid, weak woman, which was exactly what she had worked so hard to avoid. She also needed to make things right… though she wasn't entirely sure of what the hell that even meant anymore. There was a long silence before Bruce finally asked, "What are you going to do now?"
King sighed and started toward the exit.
"...Something I should have done a while ago."
Oh, damn. What's she gonna do you guys?! Here we go with the notessssssuuuhhhhhhhh:
* King's thoughts are obviously a nod to the future glow-up Robert has for KOF XIV. Say what you will about the character redesigns (I know I've said plenty) but Robert's is dope.
* I think seven months is a more reasonable amount of time for King to pull the long con as opposed to, like... YEARS before AOF, which wouldn't even make sense, since she was a literal teenager.
* Although Ryo is Mr. Orange because of his gi, there's a character in the movie Reservoir Dogs called... Mr. Orange.
* Looks like King has always thought Ryo's eyes are nice, huh? :D
* Bruce, the bartender, first makes an appearance in R&D, which is a few clicks that way.
* Jack Turner defeats King at some point prior to AOF. I wrote about this event in another fic, A Profound Impact, and ties into this narrative that he's blackmailing her (which I hope to expand on and explain in more detail in the future.
I think that covers this chapter, so, like... yay! I do hope you'll let me know your thoughts on this, and join me next time when... stuff!