The Livingwater Crisis - Chapter 3
Showdown in the City
Before either of the girls could react, an elegant net of ornate silver chains was thrown around Olivia and Xaviere, rooting them in place.
At one end of the chains stood the Minesweeping Receptionist, who sprang from behind his desk. The other was caught by second man, built like a Bodyguard. He had long blond locks and wore a tight T-Shirt under an authentic shark-tooth necklace, with artificially aged jean shorts hand-cut at mid-thigh. His fair-trade sandals showed off a set of immaculately pedicured toenails.
“Well done, men!” sneered a third man, who emerged from behind a pillar, clapping his right fingers against his left palm with sardonic amusement. He was short, with round sunglasses and a long, twirled mustache over handsomely cropped chin hair. He carried a glass cane and walked like a cat. “Bind them well!”
“Who is this clown?!” Xaviere grunted, struggling against the powerful chains while the Receptionist and the Bodyguard obeyed their orders.
“My agent!” shouted Olivia. “What are you up to, Hector? If you think you’ll get away with this poorly-timed joke without a good explanation, I’m going to give a lot of thought to maybe seeking alternate representation!”
“Hah!” Without warning, Hector pulled a glove from an inside pocket of his silk suit and slapped Olivia across the cheek, turning it a radiant pink. “I purchased this entire studio with my own money for precisely a time as this!” He put the glove back in his pocket, savoring the feeling of the tasteful fabrics gliding against one another.
“Did you spread those rumors about me for some kind of stunt?”
“A stunt? Foolish, beautiful, naive girl! Do you think my efforts amount to nothing more than publicity games? Or that my goals are fame or fortune? Do you honestly think any of this is about you?!” Hector laughed again. “All those methodically calculated rumors I spread about you having lunch with scandalous celebrities, notifying those media vultures which hotels you were staying at so they could wait outside?”
Olivia blew a few strands of hair out of her eyes. “You know I’d never pose in a bikini magazine!”
“Of course not!” Hector’s cane smacked against the polished tile. “And after my subtler plans failed, that was precisely the key I needed to lure the former great Angus Livingwater into the perfect trap!”
“What?!” shouted Xaviere.
Hector’s leather shoes clapped like summer raindrops as he sauntered to the window, looking up at the brilliant orange westward sky. “Many years ago, before any of his children were born, your father... a legendary, barbaric martial artist... defeated my Master in the Eurasian Martial Arts Championship.” The modeling agent’s lips tightened. “Winning second place drove my teacher mad with vengeance. After that shameful loss, my fellow students and I could only watch as he forsook the school and spent every waking minute deep in the mountains training like a demon, barely stopping to eat or even sleep.
“And then, when the time came for the Budokan once again, my Master stepped forth to reclaim what was his by right – only to find that Angus Livingwater found religion, got married, and became what, of all things? A carpenter!” Hector turned on his heel and leaned toward Olivia, whispering dangerously. “Can you know the madness which consumed my teacher when his greatest rival, perhaps the only living human worthy of facing him, refused to fight? Worse yet, do you know what your father did in response to this official challenge? He gave his old trophy to my Master without any contest at all, saying that he had found an even greater prize - Eternal Life! Can you imagine the indignity when he proceeded to ask if my Master had heard the good news?”
Hector spat dry air at the floor in an outburst of fury. “Ptoo! As if some gilded bauble meant anything to us! My teacher wanted retribution! Satisfaction! And your cruel father insulted him by refusing the opportunity to take back his honor!” Hector shook his head, a small tuft of hair in front bouncing from side to side. “My Master went insane. And as the most loyal, and only remaining student of his school, I vowed that no matter how long it took, I would use the proceeds from my up and coming fashion career to form an agency to fund my revenge. It took many years of toiling and planning before an opportunity to work in this country arose. And indeed, as if by an act of providence, when all hope seemed lost, who should grace the doors of this very studio one afternoon for an internship but the lovely, criminally modest daughter of my sworn enemy?”
“The joke’s on you!” Olivia shouted, with a swipe of her gorgeous shining hair. The handsome Minions gripped the chains and crossed their arms at her. “My dad doesn’t read the tabloids anymore! I do all the grocery shopping!”
“Your beloved father,” said Hector with carefully measured words through a wolf smile, “has already been sent a free copy of the rumor we planted. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were on his way now. It has been enough time. In fact, he should be arriving very... very soon.” He chuckled with pleasure.
“Xavier?” Greg whispered, crouching nearby.
“Sorry – I know you’re in the middle of something; I was just wondering if I could get the keys real quick.”
Greg adjusted his posture on the floor next to Xaviere. The tiles smelled like lemon and appeared clean enough that he didn’t worry about getting too much dust on his clothes, though he made a mental note to definitely wash his hands as soon as possible. “I want to move the car. I’ve been thinking about it, and I might’ve left my glove compartment unlocked. Someone from the city might look into the passenger window and see that the key hole is horizontal, not vertical. They might break the window thinking there’s something valuable inside, and get mad when they realize all I have is a basketball pump and the owner’s manual. Then they’ll take the registration papers and know where I live and stuff.”
Xaviere huffed loudly through her nostrils.
“Also,” continued Greg, “I left my DS in there and I want to play Dragon Quest.”
Speaking through gritted teeth, Xaviere tightened her posture. “Just play Persona on my Vita. It’s in my bag.”
“What?! No, I can’t.”
“Persona is story-based and I won’t know what’s going on unless I start a new game. Also, I’ve been holding off on playing it in case I ever get really sick.”
“What are you talking about?!” Xaviere hissed.
“Like, what if I have to stay in bed for a long time? They say Golden is one of the best RPG’s of all time, so I wanted to save it for a special occasion, like if I ever end up in the Hospital. Besides, you know I can’t open a lady’s bag. It wouldn’t be chivalrous.”
“Obviously! You think I meant you could look through my stuff? Untie me real quick and I’ll get it for you.”
“Could you give me the car keys, then?”
“Just untie me!”
Greg hesitated. “Are you sure? I don’t want anyone to get mad at me…”
“DO IT, MORON!”
Hector, having been looking out onto the street while recounting the finer details of his plan, turned his head to his captives and noticed Greg. “Who are you?”
The attention embarrassed Greg. He flushed red and looked away.
“Hmph!” Hector grunted, throwing his cane to the floor at his startled Receptionist’s feet. “Imbecile! How did he make it past you?!”
The Minesweeper enthusiast spoke. “This gentleman came in here with the petite one. He said he wants to move his car real quick -”
“I don’t care what he said! Why did you let him...” Hector stopped, because it was too late.
Xaviere was free of her restraints. She cracked her knuckles so loudly, everyone on their feet took a step back. The chains rattled to the floor, allowing Olivia to stand as well. She patted at the fabric of her designer slacks.
Xaviere pointed a hard finger at Hector. “Creep. You’ve made the biggest mistake of your life.”
“Xav, no, let’s go easy on them,” said Olivia gently, dusting her sister off as well. “We have to be willing to forgive.”
“No, no,” Xaviere insisted, adjusting her studded belt. “Forgiveness is a two-way street, and I don’t see this guy begging for it on his hands and knees. Not yet. Papa didn’t teach us the killing arts to let things like this slide. We need to set an example or these fools are going to think this is something they can walk away from. We have to show them the only way out of this is on a stretcher.”
Olivia sighed, looking her former Agent up and down. “Okay... fine... but no permanent damage, okay?”
Hector slammed his foot against the floor. “What is this?! Men! Earn your paychecks for once! Detain them, and don’t let go this time!”
After a moment of consideration, the Receptionist and the Bodyguard both stepped forward and reached out to carefully take the ladies by their wrists.
The whirlwind of force generated by Xaviere and Olivia was devastating. As it ravaged the Receptionist, knocking him to the floor, he erupted into tears of frustration because he knew he’d never get up unless he was allowed to, and there was nothing he could do about it. The humility was even more overwhelming for the Bodyguard: Later that day, he accepted his powerlessness in the face of circumstances outside of his control, and sincerely reflected upon his life. He sold all his earthly belongings and decided to volunteer in Central America, building houses for the needy. There, he met a lovely local woman and got married, and they had three children named Esperanza, Eugenia, and Javier. (But that isn’t part of this story.)
With both obstacles out of the way, Olivia and Xaviere planted their feet with perfectly balanced fighting stances which sent waves of nostalgia through Hector’s soul: This was the exact posture favored by Angus Livingwater himself, during the height of his career.
“How… dare you!” Hector bellowed between heaving, exasperated breaths. “All the wrath I’ve stored for your father over the years, so close to my moment of justice, will not be wasted! He’ll certainly pay for his crime, but not before witnessing the results of my fury upon his offspring! Prepare yourselves to taste the Forbidden Style!”
Hector leapt forth, descending toward the sisters with two hands extended like a hawk’s talons. His posture was like that of a coiled snake, springing forth toward its doomed targets.
“Oliver!” Xaviere shouted.
“Xavier!” responded Olivia.
“Livingwater Combination Attack!”
Greg, sitting Indian-style off to the side, grimaced in horror as the two young ladies launched themselves forward to intercept their opponent in mid-air. The series of rapid strikes they delivered resembled such unspeakable carnage, Greg had to close his eyes. The sounds were worse: Like a thousand volleyballs being spiked into thawed hamburger meat. Hector’s body crashed to the floor without resistance, a rag doll filled with gelatin. Greg peeked through his fingers. Hector writhed in unmistakable agony, though it seemed the unnatural howls which escaped from the man’s mouth emerged not from the physical: Rather, it was spiritual, emotional pain. His wails were not unlike those of a child who ran away from its parents at the mall to explore but was unable to find them again, believing itself to have been abandoned forever.
Lying there, with his moistening eyes wide open and boogers dripping out of his nostrils, everything Hector believed during his lifetime was called into question in the span of seconds. The implacable source of his existential distress was so great, he couldn’t remember who he was anymore. All these years of training, of planning, of investing and social climbing, were like building his empire on sand. All was lost - Lost, to this pair of immaculately trained young women. Their fighting style - that of the Living Water - pierced body and soul, and Hector wept on the floor without reservation or shame.
A single tear fell from Greg’s eye as well, upon witnessing both girls landing gracefully on their feet. He could only try in vain to comprehend the perfect execution and synergy of their combo, but his mind felt like a jug trying to catch a waterfall. This, he thought, was what the Japanese call mono no aware: sadness at the transience of all things. Like that of the Sakura tree, which only bears fruit for one week out of the entire year, he wished that time could stop right then and there, so he could contemplate this moment forever.
Olivia brushed a few loose strands of hair behind her ear and walked over to her handbag, which she had placed on the nearby couch. She pulled three pamphlets from inside which read Jesus Loves You! and placed these on the chests of the breathless men lying on the floor. Seeing Miss Livingwater stand over them in turn made their pain melt away briefly, and each one - even Hector - felt something in their hearts like love, but no love they had ever known before. For each one of them, it was like seeing new colors which didn’t appear in the rainbow – colors which they had no tools of language to name or even describe.
Xaviere reached into her bag and shoved the car keys into Greg’s open hand.
“Er- wha… I hope it hasn’t been towed,” he said, suddenly remembering that he meant to move it. He stood and wiped moisture from his cheek.
“Oliver, you coming?” asked Xaviere. “Greg’ll drive us home.”
“Cheers!” Olivia chirped with a happy bounce. “Thanks so much, Greg – I hate taking the bus, to tell you the truth. The hours of waiting in the terminal at this time of day, I tell ya…”
To Greg’s relief when they walked outside, they found the car whole and untouched where it had been parked, with no parking tickets to be found anywhere on the windshield.
To be concluded tomorrow, in Chapter 4!
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