The Dragon and The Raven.

Submitted into Contest #149 in response to: Start your story with the flickering of a light.... view prompt



This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The light from the rising sun flickered through the slits in his cheap motel blinds. The gentle breeze flowing through the open window pushed the blinds forward, creating a fluttering, rhythmic clattering as they bounced off the plaster walls bordering the window frame. He opened his eyes, softly groaning as the harshness of the light collided with his whiskey-soaked blue eyes, which were suffering the effects of his nightly ritual. He slowly sat up, blindly reaching for the nearly empty bottle of Hibiki Japanese whiskey he used as sleep aid....and a cure-all for everything else. The deep burn of the alcohol danced on the tip of his tongue, and coursed down his throat, gently warming the rest of his body. The numbing lukewarm liquor gave his rippled body life. Hair of the dog, that's what they used to call it in the Army.

He arose from his bed, and admired his naked form in front of the mirror from the old tattered bathroom. He was tanned, muscular, and scarred. His large detailed tattoo depicting a stark black raven carrying a soul to the underworld sprawled across the entirety of his back. It was symbolic to him. He had sent a good many souls to the afterlife. Here, in Japan they called him "Karasu" which meant "The Raven." they called him this due to the nature of his work with the area Yakuza. They would give him a file, a complete profile of a person they needed to disappear. Once his eyes read their name, and memorized their face, they ceased to exist evermore. He was good at it. It was a living. A skill he picked up while being deployed to Afghanistan in the early 2000's.

It made him laugh when people attempted to profile him. He didn't kill because he enjoyed killing, he killed because it was his job first, his duty. But killing is a lot like making a horcrux is described in the Harry Potter books. For every life you take, a little piece of your soul is forever trapped with it. Drop enough bodies, and turns the energy that powers your soul cold and dark. You don't ever get those pieces back. Anyone can kill once, it's the second and third times that you begin to get a taste for it. You get good at it, it becomes just another day to day activity, like getting the mail. After the first firefight he could see the faces of every single person he put his bullets into to. They haunted him. He couldn't eat, couldn't sleep for days, but the mission came first. When he enlisted, most would have thought of him as a gentle soul, but the battlefield is no place for gentle men. So the trauma hardened him, and he learned to live with what he had become by killing off the part of him that internally argued against its indecency. He found solace in temporary escapes, alcohol, recreational drugs, woman, and all he had to do to stay basking in the bliss of the "eternal nothingness" was make money. He was good at killing, and as the old saying goes "If you're good at something, never do it for free."

He got dressed in his usual business suit. Black on black, with a bulletproof vest tucked tightly underneath, a Glock 9MM handgun, a satchel of throwing knives, and an old WWII era grenade he had no idea whether or not even worked, just in case. He took one last look around his cheap, dumpy Japanese motel room, and headed out the door.

He arrived at Shokin-tei, a historical teahouse in the Katsura Imperial Villa, an hour before his scheduled meeting. He was cautious and diligent like. He liked to mark the exit points, and be prepared for every possible outcome. That sort of attention to detail was a quality that made him one of the most sought after clean-up men on the market. the tea house, or pavilion if you will, required visitors to cross a large stone bridge. The hut was delicately placed in an area that overlooked a beautiful pond. The beautifully manicured sprawling gardens that made up the ground made him realize just how small he was in the grand plan of the universe. He couldn't help but marvel at the precise placement of every angle, plant, and feature. it was the kind of precision and quality a man like him could truly appreciate. Everything mattered, or nothing mattered.

He took his shoes off and entered the two story hut. He was lead to a room in the center, where he sat himself down crosslegged on the mat. The smell of sweet burning herbal incense permeated the air. Tea was then served to him by an old Japanese woman who didn't speak, just smiled politely, and bowed. After a few minutes, Victor Fukada entered the teahouse, flanked by three men, tattooed with Yakuza ink, and clearly packing weapons. Victor was tall and thin, but moved with a powerful purpose. He carried himself with the kind of quiet violence that made him unexpectedly ruthless, and unpredictable. A small scar lined his cheek, a battle wound from killing his father, who was skimming from the organization. Victor had killed him to prove his loyalty. The Raven gave his entourage a once over, noting the vitals that were exposed, and calculating the best way to take them all out and stay alive in the event of double cross. Victor sat calmly beside him, and without saying a word, slid him a file.

The Raven took the file, and thumbed through it, stopping on the photo. It was a red-haired freckled woman, strikingly attractive, with kind eyes. The target was far from his usual job, and Victor could tell he was taken by surprise.

"Is everything alright?" he asked.

"Fine, it's just....she's an American..." replied the Raven.

"Does that matter?" Asked Victor, as he sipped his tea.

"Not really." said The Raven, matter of fact.

"Good, you have 48 hours. No mistakes."

Victor finished his tea, and stood up to exit the hut.

"What has she done?" blurted out The Raven. He looked shocked with himself that the question had escaped his lips.

Victor turned, taken aback by the brashness in his hitters voice.

"Since when has that been any concern of yours?" asked Victor, part suspicious, and part amused by the unusual outburst.

"It's not," he said quickly, embarrassed that he had even asked.

Victor bowed to him, and left the tea house with his guards. The Raven thumbed through the file, fixating on the photo, and letting out a heavy, audible sigh.

Dr. Christine Kinross was a professor at the University of Tokyo. She held a masters in psychology and was on the fast track to a doctorate. She liked yoga, sushi, and anime. She was sporadic, disorganized and brilliant. She was the kind of unpredictable that made her a difficult target for anyone looking to take her out. Her one fatal flaw however, was her love for coffee. She visited the same coffee shop in Tokyo, at the same time almost every morning. This morning The Raven was there, waiting, prepared to take her soul to the afterlife. He had a small vial of arsenic at the ready. It was a rather crude, but effective poison, and one that would likely evade detection. Christine got her coffee, and brought it to an empty table. The Raven approached her, and made his move. With an acting job that would have made Johnny Depp smile, he bumped the table with his backpack just enough to tip over her coffee. She was startled, and he turned around and abruptly apologized, offering to buy her a new one. She refused, but he insisted. He dumped the vial into the coffee discreetly, and brought it back to the table. She smiled warmly and thanked him. In that moment something happened to him, something that hadn't in a long time. He felt.... something. Without a second thought, he calmly switched the coffees, declaring that he had given her the wrong one, and scurried off.

Back at his motel room, he lamented in his sudden change of heart. He stared at himself in the mirror as if he would find some identifiable feature in his own reflection that would explain why he just jeopardized his life and his reputation on a woman he never truly met. He kept reflecting back her shimmering green eyes. The way they drew him in. In that moment it was if she saw past all the blood, and all the violence, and she saw his heart, his real heart, the one that existed before Afghanistan. Somehow she was able to speak directly to it, to make it beat with life again, even for a singular moment, without ever saying a word. He knew that the Yakuza would come for him, and her. He knew that there was no end to the hunt that would ensue. Even if he saved her, it would likely come at the cost of his own life, and she would be looking over her shoulder for the rest of her life.

Perhaps this was what love is. An unexpected, unexplainable phenomena that you could only understand once you've known it. Perhaps Christine was Lenore in the his own twisted tale of Poe's Raven. The only thing he knew for sure, is that he had to protect her, and this feeling, for as long as he could. Perhaps it would only be for a day, a week, a month, or a moment. Now that he had twisted the sweet perfume of pure angelic love, he could not bear the thought of letting go. She could never know how he felt about her, as it would put her great danger, so the time had come for this Raven to take flight. He would circle her, watch over her, and protect her from the Yakuza, until either he freed her delicate soul, or his own feathers had been plucked. On random Tuesday, in a random coffee shop in Japan, a new war had begun without a single shot being fired, or a single word being spoken. Now begins the dance of death between the Dragon, and the Raven.

June 10, 2022 21:07

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Ellyn Garcia
09:05 Jul 07, 2023

this one had me..i want more!


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Olivia Snead
16:01 Jun 16, 2022

I was gripped in your story. I'm captivated with your protagonist. You should make a series of it. I'd love to read the Raven being confronted by his enemies, the ones who hired the hit on Christine, and Raven, being extremely dangerous, intelligent, and skilled defeats them. He saves Christine, and changes his life stemming from his love for her. Maybe he will tell her. Maybe not. Perhaps he will make a sacrifice, content that she will live. Great Job!


Eric Falvey
14:07 Jun 17, 2022

Thank you Olivia!


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