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[Trickster Fanfic] The Velvet Curtain (2/10?) - Part 2

Posted 03-01-2009 at 01:21 AM by Catharsis
Updated 01-14-2010 at 06:29 PM by Catharsis

Read the rest HERE.


Elbows resting on her knees, Shawn leaned forward, violet gaze sharp on her enigmatic companion. “…What the **** are you doing in this hellhole?”

“The same reason politicians, business tycoons, and other aristocrats visit this place.” He smirked at Shawn’s puzzled frown. “Well, fox, for someone so perceptive, I’m quite surprised you missed it.”

“I’ve been in town for three days, and I’ve never seen anything besides the usual scumbags and criminals on the run…” Her eyebrows furrowed. “Except for you, that is.’

“And you never would have even noticed me had I not approached you first.”

Shawn wanted to contest, but she knew he spoke the truth. All this time, she had only seen the grimy surface of this town, but none of the underneath. Nothing was every what it seemed. What else had she missed?

“I wouldn’t hold that against you, though. After all, this is Caballa’s biggest and possibly dirtiest secret.” Luong shrugged, reaching for an sapphire-encrusted ivory pipe. “Have you heard of The Velvet Curtain?”

Shawn nodded. “That dingy run-down saloon where I first met you. What of it?”

“Upstairs, in a room behind an actual velvet curtain, is where the core of this town lies. It is the reason why the town persists despite the lack of civilians, a local economy, general disorder. Have you not wondered? Oops Wharf has been dead for years; there are no honest people here, only outlaws and *****s.”

“They come because it is lawless,” she supplied with a derisive snort.

“Precisely. There is no law here, only those enforced behind the velvet curtain. It is where the shadow kings of Megalopolis converge.”

“I’m familiar enough with the Caballa Underworld, but for what purpose do they dabble here other than to pass the time?”

“Tempering with Fate, of course.” An eerie glow glinted in his eyes, and Shawn’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“High stakes gambling? They can do that in Megalopolis with more posh surroundings; why seek this godforsaken place on the fringes of the island to—”

Luong laughed, and it was hollow and condescending. “You do not understand. Do you think this is about galders? What do you take us for?”

“…Filthy blue-bloods with too much time and wealth to burn?”

“Again, you fail to look past the surface.” Luong rolled his eyes, finally getting around to lighting his pipe on a nearby gas lamp. Pale lips gave the tip a soft blow before they closed around the top, inhaling a sample into his lungs before releasing a cloud of opium smoke into the already misty air. He chuckled huskily at Shawn’s derisive growl. “Care to try a smoke?”

“**** no. I discuss business sober.”

Luong shrugged, as if to say, ‘your loss’, and continued. “Speaking of which, do you want to know what I had won in my poker match last night? A treaty, my little fox, that will allow my country to ship opiates into Azteca unhindered.”


“In poker, you need chips in order to play. Political favors count as ‘chips’.”

Shawn snorted. “And pray tell, what exactly did you ‘bring to the table’?”

“Thirty-seven Leporidae slaves. They do say bunnies make good pets… Ah, I see that I have shocked you.”

“Slavery?!” She gasped. “You… Bunnies! They’re…”

“I claim sanctuary behind cultural differences. You Westerners are so sensitive about such things,” he dismissed with a wave of his elegant white hand.

The fox took off her hat and raked a hand through her disheveled brown hair, dislodging the ponytail. “Just… ****. Okay, whatever. I don’t really give a damn what you spoiled blue-bloods do to pass your time. I’m only here for him.”

“…You wish to play against Jack? I would have thought a hunter such as yourself would have no need for the services of another hitman.”

“I don’t.” She nonchalantly nudged aside her coat and stroked the row of kunai lining her thigh. “I can take care of my own…business.”

“Indeed,” Luong whispered, eyes momentarily drawn to the skin-tight leather clinging to a well-shaped thigh. The fox had potential, he thought with a smirk. “But other than gambling, that is what the underground elite come here for: A chance to play against Jack.”

“Elaborate, Dragon,” Shawn hissed, getting increasingly agitated at his deliberate evasiveness.

“Not only is he the luckiest bastard in this side of town, but supposedly anyone who wins against him may request for his service.” He peered at her curiously. “...And I’m quite sure that since you’re both in the same business, you’d know all about it.”
Eyes carefully averted, she fingered her hat in agitation. “Yes. I know all about him.”

“His reputation precedes him,” Luong continued, gaze still analyzing Shawn’s every reaction. “100% guaranteed hit, every time. Only one other assassin could match him in this regard, his old partner, and no one even knows where he… or she… is.”

Shawn’s lips curled into a sneer. “Saa, who knows?”

And Luong once again wore that mysterious smirk, eyes seeming to see more than what she will him to know. The desire to shoot it that expression off his face intensified.

“Whatever, Dragon, I need to play against him. You promised me aid; now make good on your word.”

Luong sighed exasperatedly. “You cannot ‘just’ play Jack.”

“Why not?!”

“It is a privilege you must earn.”

“I just need to get close enough for a clear shot.”

“…Which you will only gain when you earn a seat at The Deck’s table,” Luong explained as if speaking to a simpleton. “Listen very carefully. There are four suits in a deck of cards: spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts. Behind the velvet curtain, there is a VIP room with a table for four reserved for the top players of the room. Four of the saloon’s patrons occupy those chairs at all times, varying depending on their total accumulated winnings. One of them would be your Jack of Hearts, who has been occupying his seat since he first came to town. In order to sit across him, you will need to beat one of the three other decks in a game of cards to claim their chair. Now tell me, little fox, how good are you at poker?”

“This is ludicrous. Can’t I just blast one of their heads and kick them out of the chair?”

“In a room full of armed triad leaders, politicians, and criminals? Well…”

* * *

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