We’re nine days into JuNoWriMo, and I should have a total of 25,000 words to show for it by the end of today. It’s been a harder – but strangely more productive – JuNo than the last one, mainly thanks to several weeks of bad sleep. I don’t know if the classic portrait of the Author is true, and sleepless nights + irritable moods = literary genius (or at the very least, increased productivity) but if so, I may have to condemn the idea of a classic Author and find a different route.
Anyway, to everyone out there also in the throes of JuNoWriMo, here are your friendly reminders to stay inspired (my inspirations this month include re-watching my favorite kdrama, Liar Game), get outside every now and then (wherever you can, honestly; I laid out in the sun for five minutes while my coffee made this morning), and take frequent breaks (I bought a new compact sketchbook I’m in love with, and I’m currently in the middle of sketching Baekhyun from EXO’s new ‘Monster’ music video in my free minutes).
YOU’VE GOT THIS. Even if you don’t like what you’ve written (me, yesterday) or you have the sudden urge to revamp everything from page one onward, just wait. Write your 50,000 words, and then worry about revising or scrapping it. It’s not necessarily about the product, but about the invaluable act of doing the thing. You can do it. I believe in you.
One-Eye’s breathing grew heavier, either from fear or the pressure of Saizou’s fingers digging into his throat. “If I tell you where it is, the Prince-Regent will kill me.”
“If you don’t tell me where it is, I will kill you. Giving it to me might buy you five more minutes.”
Some people had others they would die for. That, he thought, was something special. Something precious, even, or so it seemed. People could endure incredible amounts of pain when someone they loved was on the line. Loved ones brought out the hero in people.
They also brought out the weakness.
It was almost cruel, an irony like that.
“We’re bounty hunters, not bodyguards,” said Virgo firmly. “You want us to follow and watch from a distance, you pay for the time.”
“Fine,” said the voice, clipped and icy. “Just do as I say. You’ll be compensated, you have my word.”
“We’re not talking coins here. We’re talking five thousand yen to keep up this spy nonsense.”
“I’m well aware of your monetary needs and I’m fully willing to meet them. Even if you do overcharge,” said the voice. There was another click as the client hung up.
There were eight of them in the task force – Captain Akita, Lieutenant Shota, and six soldiers with no official rank. If they were caught, they had no serial number, they had nothing to identify their position. They could be anyone, and they could die as no-one.
“Less than a week since your…frankly spectacular exit from these very walls,” said Kirikizu. His voice was almost idly curious, but not quite. There was too much calculation behind his tone. He was attempting to mask the true depths of his interest. “And yet here you are. Again. For what?”
Saizou tested his voice. A faint sound scratched free, and he twisted the sound into the only weak rebuttal he could think of. “Your mother.”
The Prince-Regent’s Hand chuckled then, deep and bemused. “That’s the best you could come up with?”
Saizou shut his eyes again, weary with the effort of keeping them open. Then he nodded; a faint gesture, only once. It took less effort than he anticipated. That was something.
The blue light of Hiro’s computer screen flickered, and the speaker switched on unbidden. “How’s my favorite reptile?” asked Riza.
“How’s the safe house coming?” Hiro retorted, removing the pen from his mouth.
“I found the perfect location. It should be wonderfully safe for a few days, at least.”
“Fine. Just tell me where it is.”
“Like I’m that sloppy. I’ll guide you there.”
Hiro snorted. “After all we’ve been through.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know who I am, and I’m certainly not affiliated with you in any way.”
“Right,” said Hiro blandly. “I forgot.” He clicked the pen against his knee and tossed it onto the desk. “Will the safe house be ready tonight?”
“Oh, I’m afraid we’re going to have to tweak the schedule.”
Hiro straightened, his eyes narrowing at the screen. “I’m sorry,” he said politely. “But please repeat that.”
“Just a minor change, nothing big,” said Riza coolly. “You’re going to have to move the packages this morning, not tonight.”
Hiro glanced at the door across the room, and lowered his voice. “Hilarious.”
“It’s funny because it’s true.”
Kirikizu strode away from the house. He saw One-Eye exiting the infirmary, a bandage wrapped around his throat.
“You,” Kirikizu called, changing his trajectory and heading toward the poisoner instead.
“What do you want?” One-Eye asked, sullen, as Kirikizu approached.
“The Prince-Regent wants to know how the Dog is faring.”
One-Eye shrugged, but the way he pressed his lips together told Kirikizu he was more concerned for the Dog than he let on. “He’ll live. He’s taken a few beatings this week.”
“What poison did you give him?”
One-Eye frowned. “Poison?”
“First of all, it isn’t poison,” One-Eye snipped. “It’s venom. Secondly, don’t say ‘I gave it to him’ like I tried to kill him. Building up an immunity is a long and difficult process, and do you realize what a breakthrough it is to make a living subject venomous without killing them?”
“Answer the question before I finish strangling you myself.”
“Your ruler is asking you a question.”
“My ruler,” said Saizou softly, “is spearheading an army in China to keep us safe while his baby brother destroys the nation he left behind like an angry child throwing a fit.”
Slowly, the Prince-Regent exhaled and leaned back, his palms pressed flat to the smooth stone floor. “‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ An English historian, Lord Acton, said that in the nineteenth century.”
“I’ve heard it,” said Saizou.
“Then perhaps you’ve heard another saying of his.” The Prince-Regent closed his eyes and in a silken, almost shuddering voice, said, “‘Great men are almost always bad men.'” He opened his eyes again and gazed, unblinking, at Saizou. “Greatness and goodness don’t need to walk hand in hand. History rarely remembers the deeds of good men. However, it holds corrupt men with great power up to the light and watches them shine. Every mass slaughter in history is romanticized. Cruel leaders are hailed as geniuses.”
“That’s how you want history to remember you?” Saizou loathed meeting the Prince-Regent’s gaze, but he kept it, unwavering. “A grim reaper with a diamond scythe?”
A distant look entered the Prince-Regent’s eyes. “‘The greatest names are coupled with the greatest crimes’. Another lesson from Lord Acton.”
“I learned about Lord Acton in grade school,” said Saizou. “He wasn’t just a historian, he was a moralist. He condemned the great, cruel men you prize so greatly.”
“Nobody’s perfect.” The Prince-Regent shrugged one bare shoulder.