Chapter 5: Yvinka's Affections

Three people sit within the small hideout filled with colorful vapors writhing through the air. In the center, Kanso sees the plump Fredryko sprawled out over a leather sofa watching his holoplayer. In the chair to his left sits Kento, a tall, muscular nan with midnight hair tied back into a long ponytail. His face and complexion are of the Tybattan bloodline. Standing to Fredryko’s right is Yvinka, a beefy, towering lady the likes of which could only be forged from the genetics of people descending from Yrsa. They’re watching a news broadcast on something that happened at The Temple of Light. The footage shows the iconic white beam of light being turned blue as The Clergy recites their chant. The headline ribbon reads “Miracle from the Heavens or Elaborate Religious Hoax?”
“Can you believe this garbage, Kanso?” Fredryko muses, shoveling some fried goma chips into his mouth. “I mean is it even possible to believe that The All Powerful personally came down to our level, just to change the stupid color of some light that may or may not even actually be produced by the prayers of the holy.”
“I never believed in any of it,” Kanso states simply.
“Of course,” Fredryko tosses back another handful of junk food.
Yvinka saunters over to where Kanso stands, fists clenched at his sides like a child about to get scolded. “I’ve missed you, baby,” she jeers.
She slides a large hand across the side of his face with a surprising amount of tenderness. Then without warning, she balls her free hand into a fist and sinks it into Kanso’s abdomen. He keels over coughing and falls to his hands and knees. Before he can recover, she takes hold of his shaggy hair and yanks him up to his feet with a yelp. Then she shoves him against the wall and squares off to him. He shrinks away, unsure of if another blow is coming his way or not.
“It’s been too long!” she grumbles, doing her best impression of a neglected girlfriend.
It seems to Kanso then that she looks like a reaper. Her skin is whiter than the moon, her eyes are a crystalline blue, and her half-buzzed blond hair fails in pointed locks on one side of her face. Everything about this wonan looks cold and hard. She spreads her broad shoulders wide, letting him see the veins pop in her arms as she clenches them. She knows he’s terrified of her and she loves it.
“Did you at least finish the mark? If you didn’t, don’t worry, I’ve been craving a good long date with you. I’ve got something extra special planned for us tonight if you were stupid enough to show empty handed.”
Kanso’s hands tremble as he withdraws the comm unit from a pouch in his belt. His entire arm quakes as reaches to hand it to her. She snatches it out of his open hand and grins at him coyly.
“Ah, well maybe Fredryko will still let us have a little special alone time anyway given how monumentally late this is.”
“I’m sorry,” Kanso says softly. He tilts to the side, trying to look around Yvinka and meet Fredryko’s eyes.
“Hey! You’re talking to me you little piss!” Yvinka growls.
She charges up to Kanso and grabs him by the collar of his jacket. He shrinks back into the wall with even greater force as though it might embrace him in his time of need. His whole body quakes now and his breathing comes sharply.
“I didn’t mean any offense,” he pleads.
“Offense taken!” She pulls him forward and shoves him back against the wall. The blow rattles him.
“That’s enough, Yvinka.” Fredryko sounds bored as he calls off his enforcer.
Yvinka gives him one last shove before stepping back from him and bringing the comm unit over to her boss. Fredryko scrutinizes it before powering it on. He flips through the contents that display on the holo screen for a minute before shutting it down and looking back up at Kanso.
“Can I trust that this was at least acquired cleanly?”
“Yes sir,” Kanso replies, perhaps a little too quickly. “Mon Patel and his nen think they simply tried to mug the wrong Fendaren. I made it look like I just robbed them once I’d defended myself. I even have the comm units for all his nen.”
Kanso frantically rifles through the pouches in his belt until he has all three of the other devices in hand. His legs shake as he steps up to his employer with hands held out. Fredryko eyes him with an unreadable smirk.
“You could have made a nice profit off of these if you kept them for yourself,” he muses.
“I thought your client might like to have them.”
“You mean you thought that delivering these as a bonus might save your ass from a beating?”
Fredryko takes the devices from Kanso, his grin a little wider. Kanso shifts from side to side, his arms crossed and his eyes downturned. “I thought it was the least I could do. I stole their money too, but I thought it might be nice to hold onto that if that’s alright.”
“Well you really did rob them blind didn’t you?” Fredryko chuckles. It’s a deep, raspy laugh, the kind that comes with years of poisoning one’s lungs.
“I wanted to make sure it seemed real.”
“Well if there’s one thing that can be said about you, kid, it’s that your work is beyond thorough. I value this quality, as you know, but I also value speed.”
Kanso gulps although his mouth and throat are exceptionally dry right now. His eyes come up to meet Fredryko’s for a second before they shoot back down to the floor.
“Quality and efficiency. You really need to work on that second part.”
Kanso wants to explain that he didn’t realize Mon Patel would be so well guarded. He wants to deflect some of the blame to incomplete intel. He’d even like to yell at Fredryko for putting him in so much danger. Part of Kanso hates Fredryko. He hates how smug he is. He hates how he can just lean back on his couch and take a drag from his long, cylindrical pipe while Kanso stands here in fear and shame. But he remembers what Maiya told him so he keeps his mouth shut about all of these frustrations.
“I tried to do my best,” Kanso says at last, kicking a tuft of pink smoke that slithers by his feet. He sounds as defeated as he feels. Every part of him just hopes that Fredryko really will let him off easy.
“Just be better,” Fredryko says after he’s puffed out some more of the fluorescent smoke. “Oh and don’t think my daughter can save you the next time you screw up. Don’t get me wrong, I love that girl, I’d do anything for that girl. But this is business and I’ll not have her telling me how I should run my business. Got it?” Fredryko tilts his chin up in the air and exhales some smoke through his nose.
“Got it,” Kanso answers, no longer sure if he’s really off the hook.
“I honestly don’t know what she sees in you, ya know. I mean you’re alright and all, you’re one of my boys so of course you’re alright, but gosh is she smitten with you. You know you’re no good for her right?”
“I know. I’ve tried to tell her that myself...” Kanso admits.
“Well, such is life,” Fredryko chuckles, taking in another drag and blowing it out. “One day you’ll break her heart and she’ll learn her lesson. I’ll have Yvinka beat you half to death, of course, but I won’t shed a tear over any of it.”
“That sounds reasonable.” Kanso tries to keep his voice steady, but he really just wants to run out of this room to the safety of his apartment. He feels exhausted from everything he’s had to endure.
“The real reason I’m letting you off the hook today is that I’ve got another job for you, a big one. Actually it’s so big that you won’t be flying this one solo. It’s also not in Maccaan.”
“I – I’ve never been outside of Maccaan…”
Kanso’s mind reels at the idea. In fact, he’s never even been outside the city of Senten, though the city itself accounts for half the continent. He’s heard plenty about the other three nations in the Juun Empire, but he can’t imagine what they’re like in real life.
“Don’t worry, kiddo,” Fredryko chuckles. “You’ll have a chaperone.” He waves a hand to where Kento sits, inhaling bright blue smoke from his long-pipe, one ankle crossed over the knee of his other leg.
Kento breaks from his smoke to bob his head in confirmation. Then he returns to nurturing his pipe. He’s a nan of few words, this Kento. Kanso fears him, but not as much as he fears the brooding Yvinka. There are even some things about Kento that makes Kanso feel at ease. For one, there is a certain serenity in the way his deep brown eyes look at Kanso. There’s a smooth, matter-of-fact quality in his voice that makes Kanso feel calmer, though the nan rarely speaks. He also gives off a sense of refinement in the way that his pin-straight hair is so expertly tied back and the way it falls like satin ribbons down his neck. Kento’s also been there for Kanso when no one else has. While he has sometimes played a role in his punishments, usually through holding him while Yvinka hits him, he’s also been known to carry Kanso home when the beatings were particularly severe. Hearing that Kento will be guiding him on this new journey makes the proposition seem that much less scary.
“Who else is coming,” Kanso asks.
“Gart will be joining you two to Tybatta, once there, you will be joined by some local talent I’ve arranged to have work with you. Kento will take care of all of the arrangements. You and Gart just need to show up ready to do what you do best.”
Kanso’s heart races in hearing that Gart will be part of this mission. His mind reels with the fact that their last operation together still haunts him. “How soon will we be departing?”
“Tomorrow,” Kento answers in between drags.
Kanso’s stomach drops a little at the timing. He’s used to taking jobs on short notice, but this feels more like an adventure than a mark. His head spins at how little time he has to prepare himself. He’s not even sure how to pack for a trip.
Reading Kanso’s reaction, Kento adds, “The details of the mission will be explained along the way. Just make sure to meet me at the Ryden Docks by 700. You’ll want to pack two days’ worth of clothing most likely.”
Before Kanso can protest that he doesn’t even own a bag, Kento twists around and grabs a brown cloth pack from behind his chair. He tosses it to Kanso without another word.
“You’re payment’s inside” Fredryko announces. “I’ve docked it substantially for your inability to complete the mark on time. You can keep what you stole from Mon Patel’s nen though.”
“I understand, thank you.” Kanso turns to leave, but stops short. Turning back, he asks, “Do you really think I have what it takes for this job in Tybatta?”
“I wouldn’t pick you if I didn’t…”
“I’ll do my best, sir.”
“See that you do,” Fredryko replies, waving him out of the room.

Kanso exits the way he came, leaving the smoky room behind him. When he gets to the closet door, he knocks three times and then waits several minutes before the girl behind the counter opens it for him. He steps out before anyone can see him and gives her a nod of thanks and farewell. Then he leaves the shop and practically trots home, afraid of Fredryko changing his mind. He got very lucky today and he knows this all too well. He has no plans to push this luck so he heads straight for his apartment. Along the way, he passes an old Fendaren sitting curled up along a wall, hands outstretched.
“Help me, brother.”
Kanso thinks it’s funny that his fellow Landborn Fendaren call him “brother” only when they want something. He doesn’t feel like he owes this old fellow a thing. Not once has one of his kind ever come to his aid so he sees no reason to assist any of them. Even with these thoughts in his head, he comes to a stop before the beggar. He reaches into his belt and withdraws a handful of pensen to drop into the beggar’s hands. Without a word he turns and leaves.
“Thank you, brother,” the old Fendaren’s crackly voice calls behind him, but Kanso doesn’t respond.
As he walks, Maiya’s words echo through his heart, “Not everything in life has to be a barter. Sometimes you can do something just because you want to.”

This brings a light smile to Kanso’s face. He’s not totally sure why this small deed makes him feel good. Maybe in a way this is his manner of giving back to the universe for his good fortune. Perhaps he just didn’t want to be another selfish Fendaren. Maybe he did it to feel wealthy and powerful. In the end he doesn’t care why he did it, he’s just glad that he did. It feels freeing that he did it simply because he wanted to.

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