- November 6, 2022
The Wolf Pack (Chapter 13)
The Lesson Learned
The kids stayed and trained for months, I stopped counting after five, and even though I warned them that the world will be the same when they get back, they didn’t care. They decided that the jarring leap is worth suffering if it meant growing.
Finally, though, they’re ready to go home, and Emily still can’t get over one thing.
“I still can’t believe you don’t like guns, that’s like, your main weapon of defense!”
Yes, even as we’re leaving, she’s still on this.
And the Hood indulges her. “Yeah, and if I could get away with using swords, or better yet, only my knives, I would, without hesitation.”
Marie and Tommy were ready before us, saying their goodbyes to Ken as I follow behind the future divorcees still arguing, Emily still pressing that, “Are you kidding? For one, you’re in a bulletproof suit, and two, what the hell does that have to do with not wanting other people to have them?”
“We can barely trust cops, you think I would trust regular everyday people? Most of them are dumber than Tommy!”
Tommy purses his lip. “I’m not sure if I should feel complimented that I’m apparently smarter than most people, or insulted that I’m a benchmark for stupidity.”
Marie tells him to, “Just take the compliment, you’re not going to get many from him unless it’s to say you’re pretty.”
“I am pretty, aren’t I?”
Emily is still yelling at him. “Do I have to give you the whole ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ speech?”
“For one,” he starts to boil, holding up a finger to emphasize, “people are my whole point, they suck and I don’t trust them. Secondly, I wouldn’t be the one talking when you’re bulletproof and none of the many idiots with guns can kill you with them.”
I see Emily’s cheek’s blow up like they’re about to explode. “Need… I remind you… that you wear a bulletproof suit!”
Marie and Tommy begin to groan now, as the Hood retorts, “Not always, I didn’t always have it, and I don’t always wear it.” As Emily grows annoyed with the Hood, the others are growing annoyed at their teammates insistence to argue.
At the bottom of the stairs, Tommy tells them, “You know, you two are going to make everyone wonder if we’ve actually improved at all.”
Emily mocks being offended, “What are you talking about? Of course, we did, we know respect each other enough to have different opinions.” She takes the Hood by the shoulders and asks him, “Isn’t that right?”
“Right,” the Hood says, not even being half-way subtle with the bullshit before he adds, “even if the other person is wrong.”
Marie chuckles at that at least, and Emily furrows her brow as she points out, “You’re not helping.”
The Hood shrugs. “Wasn’t really trying to if I’m being honest.”
Emily’s face sours on that note, and we all laugh at her expense. When we’re done, the Hood turns to Ken, who’s dressed and packed, ready to leave just as we are.
“You’re going back home too?” he asks the martial artist.
Ken shrugs, dressed in normal clothes, which includes a shirt for a change. “I have to go back to Seoul through the portal, but after that I’m not sure. I think I’ll make my way around the world again; I have a few friends to catch up with.”
Tommy narrows his brow, overthinking and missing the finer points. “Wait, if you literally live in Korea, do you speak Korean?”
Ken arches his brow as Marie rolls her eyes. Ken asks Tommy, “Did you think I spoke Spanish?”
“No, I mean, you have an American accent and everything… but if you live in Korea?” Tommy asks.
Ken makes a look of realization.
Ken smiles and assures Tommy, “I was born in the U.S., just moved to Korea a couple years ago.”
“Oh okay, cool,” Tommy agrees. Marie stands between them and crosses her arms, staring up at Tommy. “What?” he asks her.
She shakes her head as she comments, “You always make everything so difficult.” Tommy shakes his head and tries to ask her what she means, but she won’t say.
I don’t care much for their conversation, but I wish to talk to Ken. I want to thank him.
“I know we just met a few months ago, but you’ve really helped us train and grow. Knowing that you’re from the same era only makes me want to make this offer even more. Would you be willing to join us in Aegis City?”
Ken smiles, which seems like a good sign, but he shakes his head.
He assures me, “Maybe in the future, but right now I have my own path to follow first, and old friends to help,” but as he looks at all of us, he does say, “though I would like to think of you all as new friends.”
“Of course,” Tommy says with a nod of his head.
“Didn’t hang out with you because we didn’t like you,” Marie tells him.
The Hood just says, “You know.”
Emily holds her hand out him to shake, stepping before the others. “You helped us, that makes us friends so you’re always welcome in Aegis City, and if you ever need help you know where to find us.”
Ken is a little surprised, but is happy to take Emily’s hand and tell her, “Thank you, I appreciate that.”
Behind him, a portal opens, the Place Without Time signaling to one of us that it is time to leave.
“I have this feeling that this one’s for me,” Ken says, likely feeling it call to him. He turns back to us to wave, and says goodbye one last time. “It’s been my pleasure, and I’m sure we’ll meet again.”
Ken turns his back to us as we wave goodbye to him, even as he goes through the portal, he’s looking back at us in his goodbye. I look to my side and realize that the Hood is the only one not waving.
“Really? You can’t even say goodbye properly?” I joke to him.
“It would mess with my allure,” he says, continuing to cross his arms.
The portal closes, which means there’s still something left for us to do before we go. With the portal dying out I can hear the footsteps coming back down the steps again. I turn around to the two remaining elders, Darwin wearing Uub’s white color, and Ali still wearing her black.
Darwin greets us, asking, “You didn’t think you could leave without saying goodbye, did you?”
“I was hoping,” I joke to him as I turn back.
Thankfully, Darwin is someone who can bounce back from the ground quickly. He had to. Ali guards this place, she doesn’t run it.
Darwin lays his hand on my shoulder, and I ask him first, “Are you going to be alright here?”
I know there isn’t anything I’m going to do, or anything that I’m going to change, but I still feel that I should ask. This place has done a lot more for me than I have for it.
Darwin nods his head, and assures me, “Yeah, we’ve been running this place longer than anyone’s ran anything, we’ll do alright.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” I say, and he moves out of the way for the Tiger Fist to stand with me, face-to-face. “Is there anything we can do for you?” I ask her, because something tells me she wants something that Darwin would never ask for.
Alekandra pulls down her hood, and looks at all of us. “Shadow Mask… I’ll find what you need from him, and the Savaage… anyone…”
She stops talking to look at the ground, and clench her fist before her chest, her bandages around them thicker and stronger since her battle with the mercenary. Darwin tries to place his hand on her fist, but she pulls it away.
She looks between all of us, me and my team, and tells us, “You see them, you find them, ever…” and with a thumb towards her chest, “you tell me. We kill them.”
Behind my back, my grandson says, “I think we can arrange that.”
The portal behind us opens up again, and I feel the pull on my mind towards it. It’s for us.
“I think it’s time,” I tell everyone.
“Finally,” Marie groans, “I never thought I could miss my apartment… but I want to see the little squirts.”
Emily moves next to Marie as they face the portal, and asks her, “Maybe they may want to come over, my brothers have a ton of games to play. I don’t know what they are, but they seem to enjoy them.”
Marie looks over at Emily, and any other day I’d expect her to act like Emily was crazy with some snide look and angry comment.
This time Marie smiles back. “That… sounds nice.”
Tommy comes between them and wraps his arms around their shoulders. “Aw, it’s so nice that my girls are finally getting along”
They’re both quick to elbow him, Marie questioning, “Your girls?!”
“I’m kidding, jeez that actually hurt,” Tommy groans as he rubs his stomach.
“Enough,” I tell them, “we’ve said our goodbyes, now let’s go.” With that we begin to walk back through the portal, at least that was what I was hoping.
“Wait!” a girl yells behind us, and I look up at the sky in annoyance.
We turn around to see the girl Tommy had been hanging around with in his off-time, Andrea. She comes barreling down the path, and on the last step, trips, stumbling all the way for Tommy to catch her before she falls.
She’s gasping for breath as she looks up at him, trying to tell him that, “Can’t *hah* leave without *hah* saying goodbye *hah* first.”
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t find you,” Tommy tries to tell her but she waves him off.
She assures him, “I know, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see you or not, considering…” She looks away, and I’m sensing a hint that maybe there is a reason Tommy kept wanting to hang out with her.
She shakes her head and straightens herself out, hanging onto his arms as she looks up at him and admits, “I know that when you go back, I won’t be, well, I won’t be 16 anymore, I’ll be 30-32 where you’re from- I mean when you’re from. That being said…”
“I’ll still go find you, no reason being friends is a crime,” Tommy tells her, and I swear to god I’m going to puke if he doesn’t wrap this up.
“Yeah…” she trails off again, thinking of what to say, and all I can think of is how I want to go back home. “By then, I should be a professional, I could actually help you out.”
Marie’s thinking the same thing as me and tells them, “Hey, not that I hate this place, but I want to go the fuck home.”
Tommy turns to tell Marie, “It’s only a minute, no one’s saying you have to wait!”
As Tommy turns around, I think I hear Andrea distinctly mutter, “Fuck it,” before she stands on her toes and pulls Tommy into a big tight hug. “Be careful.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be careful,” he tells her.
“What you’re going through is tough, that doesn’t mean you have to be… I don’t know… don’t be a dick.”
“Can do,” Tommy jokes.
“Now go before they kill you,” Andrea jokes back.
The Hood comes up and grabs Tommy by the arm, pulling him along. “Yeah, before I kill you, now let’s go.”
Oh, somebody’s jealous.
Emily and Marie go through the portal immediately, and the Hood is pulling Tommy along as he stares and waves back to a girl he can’t kiss when he gets back home. Well, I guess he technically can, but I’m pretty sure it would be a felony in the state of California.
I follow last, watching Tommy’s sad face as he waves goodbye to who he thinks is the love of his life. Alright, maybe I’m just making fun of him, the kids are friends, but his face as he goes through the portal is priceless.
When I’m the last one, I hear Darwin call out, “Later bitch!” I wave goodbye with my middle finger.