Chapter 1.3Mature

On his side, Tom disappeared in the crowd of the market. Getting found was bad news for him, He knew how to shield himself from all manners of divination and how to disappear from the view of CCTV. But nothing could shield the sight of prophets, now one of them was begging for his help, he had sworn never to get involved again, that was why he'd exiled himself years ago to the city-state.

Hong Kong was a great place for him to disappear, the mix of eastern and western culture had made a conflux of supernatural energies. In the heart of the city, beings of British legends and those of Chinese mythology cohabitated. It wasn't uncommon to see Fae and a Yaoguai together in the goblin market.

Above, the cloud were gathering, Tom knew there's be a storm breaking out any minute. He climbed inside of the nearest tramway, ready to go to the end of the line. Once at Kennedy town, he got off, walking the rest of the way. Not too far from the piers was his flat. 

The old tenement was as shabby as you could find on the island. A gray box of concrete with tiny windows spread all over and many air conditioners hanging off them. He walked in the courtyard that featured a mix of gravel, concrete perimeter walls and an entrance to the cramped garage for the building. Four old men sat around a cheap plastic table and a parasol, playing mahjong.

The lobby wasn't much to look at but in reality it was a step up from the apartments themselves. Not far from the stairs a pair of young men sat wearing knock-off expensive clothes, faking reading a journal. Tom noticed them and opened his senses. There was nothing superhuman about them, but he could feel their predatory instinct. He continued non chalantly and pushed the door to the star case open. Without missing a beat the two followed suit.

They opened the door and just as the second of the two passed that he stopped a sword raised to his throat. His eyes went down and raced up the blade to the hilt. The black bladed weapon didn't look like a replica, alchemical symbols engraved and painted in gold ran along it. 

"Not very subtle." Thomas remarked, long-sword in hand, freshly taken out of the scabbard hidden in his duffel.  "Who sent you?"

The one behind, a short but muscular chinese man with a sweat-drenched V-neck pulled out a switchblade, but the other spoke first.

"Cheung Wai, no." The one held at sword point said, his hands slowly raised up. "Mister Xi Huang sent us to talk to you." 

"You're Sun Yee On?" Tom said, remaining perfectly composed. 

"Yes." He answered. 

Tom gave a brief glance at the other one. "Tell him to put that thing away." He said, motioning toward him with his head.

He obeyed, asking in Cantonese. Wai reluctantly obeyed but kept a hard stare pointed at Thomas, his eyes positively glowing with distrust. With a smooth movement, Tom put the sword back in the scabbard and let it hand on it's strap.

"Alright, speak."

"Mr. Xi would like to talk to you. Something very urgent and important. He talked about big compensation." 

"What's it about?"

"He did not tell." The man slowly opened his windbreaker and pulled out a small red envelope, handing it to the Irish man. "He wants to meet you, tomorrow. Said to give you this."

"I'll think about it." Thomas said, snatching the thing away and stuffing it in his jean's pocket. "You can leave now."

The two of them quickly made themselves scarce and Tom ran up the stairs. Thirteen stories and twice as many flights of stairs weren't easy, but it was always good exercise. He unlocked the door of his apartment, slipped inside and effectively barricaded the door, closing both locks and adding a security chain.

To say the apartment was empty was almost an understatement. The two room flat contained very little, a kitchenette, a corner with a pair of old couches, a table and four chair where a laptop had been left rather than placed and a handful of massive wire shelving unit where books, and random sets of jars and bins were filled with unidentifiable trinkets, oddities, powders and herbs. Which all left the place feeling cluttered and claustrophobic.

The bedroom was emptier,  the futon bed having been pushed against the far wall as more of an afterthought than the main feature. The ground bore pain marks that had been mostly removed but still left a scar.

Digging through his pocket, Tom pulled out the envelope before laying down on his favorite couch. It contained a small stack of bills with the note:

First part of the payment, We'll pick you up. 9pm.
-Uncle Xi.

"Uncle Xi." Tom remarked aloud. "How adorable." He tossed the stack onto the coffee table, not bothering to count it he could guess by the bills and the thickness it was good, but regardless of how much money the Triads would toss money his way, he wouldn't be impressed. 

He got up and picked one of the older tome off the shelf, a leather bound book with a blank cover. He opened it and his eyes began racing through the script on the vellum pages. He didn't know what the Sun Yee On wanted, but he wasn't going to let himself become a pawn.

The End

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