“Gakuki was no fool. He understood the laws of the universe and the wisdom of the skies, seas, and earth. He walked over the bridge, telling himself that whoever was waiting on the other side, he would grow to understand, too.”
Gon knew there was nothing more wholesome, more gratifying than turning the corner of a page and starting on the next one. He tried to think of at least one thing, but failed. To him, reading a good book was the equivalent to watching a classic movie or seeing an old friend after many years. The feeling was warm and familiar.
His current read was one Kite had recommended, Obliteration, and so far it had Gon literally on the edge of his seat, eyes strained from focusing so hard. The words spoke to him in a language he felt he’d understood his entire life, about a boy who left his hometown in hopes of finding his father, though upon the journey, dreadful things happened.
Gon was so enraptured with the novel, he didn’t notice the house quieting as his great-grandmother, Abe, brewed her nighttime tea. The desk lamp illuminated the words in his otherwise dark bedroom. It had to be at least 10 o’clock, and Aunt Mito would soon barge in his room and yell at him to “Take his behind to bed because he had school tomorrow.”
Reading was his first love. He’d always liked hearing stories Aunt Mito would whisper to him as a kid, giggling and eager to hear more, so when he finally learned to read at the age of only two, he couldn’t stop.
He loved to read because it was really his only source of entertainment, being that his aunt couldn’t afford cable or toys while struggling to find a decent-paying job. He loved to read because when the noise of their run-down apartment building irked his nerves, he could drown it out. He loved to read because if reality became too much, fantasy was only a page away.
The family of three lived in Section 8 housing, where low-income workers could have a roof over their heads in exchange for sanity and sense of order. They really had no other choice. Abe’s medical bills were relentless, and without a degree to her name, Mito couldn’t get anything that didn’t require her to use her hands.
After months of searching, she found work at a nearby hotel as a housekeeper, not making nearly as much as she was worth, but enough, and maintained a couple side-gigs like sewing and cooking for some needy families in the building.
Gon knew she was tired. She probably always had been, but he was too young to realize it. A woman in her early thirties should not have to commit her life to caring for her teenage nephew and sickly grandmother, but she did it anyway.
He felt a rush of anger surge inside of him, though he didn’t exactly know why. He was of age to get a part-time job, but Aunt Mito insisted that he dedicate his time to school. He wanted to help her, to not have to watch her fall asleep on the couch because she was too exhausted to walk to bed.
Because of one selfish person, they were struggling, and what she didn’t know was that while at school, Gon was hopelessly lost inside of himself, thinking of that same person, someone he loved, hated, yet had never met.
Gon knew absolutely nothing about him, other than his first name and the soul-cutting fact that he had abandoned him before he was even born. Mito refused to give any information on his background or whereabouts, and even went as far as removing any household items that would provide the slightest hint about who he was.
Gon tried not to be mad at her for this. He knew she was only trying to protect him. But when his mind wandered at night, and the silence of his room crept up on him, he couldn’t help but feel like she was making him suffer.
He remembered an argument they had one night.
“I have a right to know, Aunt Mito.”
The young woman was in no mood to talk, nor was she willing to give her nephew any sliver of hope. Hope would only turn into hurt.
“No, you don’t. But you do have a right to go to bed.”
“Why won’t you tell me? Do you think I’m stupid or something? I know you know. You’re keeping this from me on purpose.” He accused, fists clenched at his sides.
“Gon, honey. I’m not keeping anything from you. He isn’t important. He never was.”
“Aunt Mito, please—”
“Be quiet! Not another word from you. I have to arrive at work early tomorrow, and I won’t let you keep me up with this nonsense. Go to bed. Now. “
Gon wanted to scream. He just couldn’t understand why she thought keeping his father a secret was the best thing to do. Gon needed closure, to shut the door in his chest Ging had left wide open.
But right now, his guardian, mother figure, and doting aunt didn’t care about that. So, he gave up.
He marched away, fuming and filled with sorrow.
His Aunt Mito, a woman only thirty-one years old but had eyes like an elderly widow, sat at the kitchen table, and cried.
Gon stopped reading, sliding in a bookmark and placing the paperback on his bedside table. Indeed, he did have to go to school the next day, no matter how badly he wished to bury himself beneath the sheets and escape to a fictional world. Tomorrow would consist of impossible algebra tests, lazy teachers who didn’t give a damn, and rowdy teens running up and down the halls.
Despite this, he could still be thankful he would be spending his lunch hour with Zushi, Meleoron, and Mr. Wing in his classroom.
Their company was always anticipated, and he loved joking with Zushi about whose grade took the most damage after turning in a Distributive Property assignment, or chatting with Meleoron about a new card trick he learned.
And as for Mr. Wing, well, students weren’t allowed to lounge in rooms by themselves, so his presence was necessary.
He also had the woods to look forward to, which he discovered one afternoon when the air conditioning in their apartment broke for a few days, needing fresh, brisk air to cool off.
It was on a path behind the apartment complex, packed with trees whose branches danced in the wind and brown, rough dirt that exfoliated his feet. Small animals inhabited the bushes and hollow trunks were plotted along the ground, though his favorite spot was a lonely creek, one that filled his head with the tranquil sound of flowing water.
Nature and literature gave him solace, but the constant void in his chest made him sore.
Laying awake at night was typical—and it wasn’t because of noise. His soul often went away for a bit, only returning when he and his aunt went on flea market trips together on her rare days off, or when Abe was feeling good enough to take a short walk down the street.
He stopped caring where it went, after a while.
After tossing in bed for thirty minutes, he sat up and sipped the tea Abe had saved him, the scent of chamomile lulling his body to rest. Through the window, he stared at the row of houses, each of them so cramped together he could make out the figures moving.
He tried to imagine a life different than his own, one where he was fully accepted and free to do whatever he pleased. A life where he could laugh without the feeling of emptiness itching its way out and reminding him that he was only kidding himself, that joy and contentment were out of reach.
A life that felt like a good book.
My tumblr: wild-words
Chapter 2: Discovery
Gon is realizing too much, too soon.
Gon nudged his lunch tray with his elbow to get closer to Zushi, who held the smartphone up to his face.
“Yes, way. Two tickets including backstage passes to see The Phantoms in concert! Gon, man, we’re gonna have so much fun.”
Gon was overwhelmed with delight. His friend had gotten them tickets to see his favorite rock band during their Spider tour. He couldn’t wait to see the lead singer, Chrollo, sing live, and was even more excited that he would get to see him in person.
“Zushi, you’re the best. I don’t know how to thank you for this.” He expressed.
Zushi bit into his turkey sandwich while looking at Gon, who hung his head a little low as if he were sorry for something. He knew he was thinking of just how pricey those tickets were.
“No problem, Gon. Anything for my best bud.” He punched his shoulder playfully and turned to Meleoron, who was fixated on mastering his latest coin trick.
“Figure it out, yet?” Gon asked.
“Almost. I just gotta figure out how to flip it the right way…” He pressed the coin between his thumb and index finger. It shot through the air and right into Mr. Wing’s forehead, who had been sitting at his desk with his feet crossed over the surface, reading a newspaper and chewing on a granola bar.
“Meleoron, quit it! I won’t allow you students to socialize in here if you’re just going to cause a ruckus!” He rubbed at his forehead, annoyed, but continued to read the paper.
“Uh, sorry, Wing! Won’t happen again.” Zushi glared at Meleoron, who had moved to sit next to Gon.
“Wanna hit the park after school today?” He grinned, stealing a fry from Gon’s plate.
“I can’t, actually. Gotta study for the upcoming midterm. If I don’t get at least a C, my GPA will plummet.” He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
Meleoron looked disappointed for a few seconds but shrugged, flashing Gon a smile. “Yeah, I should hit the books, too. If I manage to flunk the 11th grade a second time, my folks will probably kick me out.”
They all laughed at this, and Gon couldn’t help but admire his light-hearted, self-teasing sense of humor. This guy was too funny for his own good.
“I mean, I could use a study-buddy. How about I bring my textbook here tomorrow and we’ll try not to be failures together?” Gon blushed, playing with the lid of his soda can.
“Dude, I would love that. Yeah, for sure.”
“Okay, then.” Gon smiled.
The bell rang, and students flooded the hallways, backpacks slung over shoulders and sneakers creasing with each step. Gon got up from his chair and thanked Zushi again for the concert tickets. He gave Mr. Wing a polite wave and Meleoron a quick nod as he left the classroom.
Ms. Krueger’s voice was as whiny and nagging as ever, and Gon could only hope that someone would pull the fire alarm or start a fight to cut the awful history class early.
“Does anyone know what took place on the morning of April 30th, 2004?”
Everyone was drawing blanks, looking at their teacher in sheer confusion. Gon was no exception.
She sighed, whipping out a dry-erase marker and writing a term on the whiteboard.
“Day of Despair”
“Do any of you know what this means?” She asked, eyes roaming around the room for raised hands. When no one answered, she pulled up a picture of a man with tan skin, a scruffy beard, and spiky black hair that pointed in all directions, as well as multiple pictures of dead bodies strewn on fake grass.
Gon tried to look away out of respect, but he couldn’t tear his eyes from the picture of the man, who appeared heroic in a careless, insolent sort of way. He wore a turban-like cap on his head that formed a shadow over brooding eyes.
“Hey, why does that guy kind of look like Gon?” Someone in the back shouted. The entire class erupted in laughter and Gon shrunk in his seat, face red with embarrassment.
“Quiet down!” Ms. Krueger yelled. Everyone went silent. When the only sound was the tick of the clock on the wall, she pointed at the term on the board, which meant they had to write it down.
"Day of Despair" is the name of one of the most gruesome and world-altering events in history. People don’t usually talk about it, which is probably why you haven’t already heard. Take notes, students. I won’t repeat myself.”
She dragged a wooden stool to the front of the room and sat, hands folded in her lap as she spoke.
“I remember where I was when it happened. I was practicing some Nen yoga in my living room when the television suddenly went black and live footage of people gathered in an abandoned building appeared. They were all screaming and crying, and I had no idea why.”
Gon listened closely, shocked at how strained Ms. Krueger’s voice sounded as she tried to continue the story.
“The newscasters seemed nervous. They could barely speak, which is never a good sign. They explained that at exactly 10:13 AM that Friday, a terrorist group known as the Chimera Ants locked about 700 innocent civilians in an old, deserted sports arena. Their leader, Colt, had recorded himself beforehand, threatening to blow the building to smithereens if our military didn’t back off and let them through our borders.”
She closed her eyes for a moment, searching for words to illustrate the sheer horror that struck the nation that morning.
“The Chimera Ants were notorious for disrupting the peace. Infamous for their violent attacks and clever strategies, people were deeply afraid of them, and they knew it. Before the incident, the Ants had ambushed smaller, less-developed countries, so we weren’t as prepared as we should have been. Our government thought everything would be fine, but it wasn’t.”
His blood ran cold. He didn’t know what to think of any of it. How could something like this happen? Could some human beings really be that evil?
“That’s when this brave soul-” She pointed to the image of the man. “-arrived, using his genius tracking skills, high-tech devices, and powerful combat tactics to defeat them. B-but not before, n-not before…” She buried her face in her hands, sobbing. The students were unsure of how to react, staring awkwardly at the floor and wall. Their teacher finally gathered herself, wiping her face with tissues.
“Not before Colt detonated the bomb, murdering every single innocent person in the arena.”
Gasps went around the classroom. Gon felt tears prickle at his eyes, unable to imagine something more traumatizing than what she described.
“Who is he?” a girl named Retz chirped.
Surprisingly, Ms. Krueger beamed at this question, her face prideful and assured.
“His name is Ging Eff. He was a self-trained mastermind who chose to work alone on missions, fighting crime and busting radical organizations, though soon after Day of Despair, he was scouted by the Zodiac Agency as an undercover agent. The ZA is more efficient than the military when it comes to national defense, so we should all be thankful we have Ging Eff to rely on.”
A tingly feeling formed in Gon’s chest, and he had no idea where it came from. Ms. Krueger had said the man’s name was Ging. She said that he joined the ZA after the attacks, which just so happened to be a few days before May 5th.
A few days before he was born.
The ride home was silent. Gon contemplated the thoughts flooding his mind, facing toward the window.
“Gee, what’s wrong with you, kid. You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Leorio glanced at him worriedly. He was Gon’s ride home, a college sophomore and intern at the medical center next to Huntling High School. They met one day when Gon came to the urgent care unit with a terrible foot rash from walking barefoot in the woods.
“I’m fine.” He muttered. Ms. Krueger’s history lesson made him question his entire life, from beginning until present. It felt like his world flipped upside down, falling indefinitely into space.
Ging Eff. Ging Eff. Ging Eff.
The name kept popping up in his brain, causing a headache he knew would call for a pain relief tablet later. He felt uneasy. Why did it make so much, yet so little sense?
“Well, you sure don’t sound fine. Something happen at school today?”
“Nothing happened, Leorio. I’m just feeling a bit under the weather, is all.” Gon fibbed, wanting his friend’s nurturing instincts to take over so he would stop asking questions that he had no real answers to.
Leorio was always concerned for him because he too knew what it was like to struggle. He hoped rumors hadn’t started about Gon’s personal life.
“Oh! Oh no, Gon. I told you to stop fishing when it’s raining outside! Now I’ll have to stop by a drugstore.”
“Don’t worry about me. It’s just a little cold.”
“How can I not worry about you when you always give me things to worry about? You’ve been mopey since you got in the car, you’ve hardly spoken a word the entire ride, and now you’re sick! Kid, I love you, but you stress me out. I mean, I know adolescence is a trivial time in one’s life and you—”
“Leorio, watch out!”
The tall man slammed the brakes, nearly projecting out of the vehicle if it weren’t for his seatbelt. Both he and Gon breathed frantically, shaken from the abrupt stop.
When Gon turned to Leorio, his seat was empty. He’d left the car, charging at a thin, white-haired teen on a skateboard.
Chapter 3: Confoundment
How many ways can a day go bad? How many ways can it go well?
Gon ran after Leorio, who was about to have at least three cows.
“Leorio, wait!” He called out, sprinting past road signs and traffic lights. Passing cars beeped at the two friends who looked like druggies going spastic.
“You little brat! Why don’t you watch where you’re going next time? You could have been hit!” He panted, bent over on his knees.
The kid Leorio almost made roadkill flipped the skateboard with his leg, landing on the ground with ease.
“Damn, that was because of me? Sorry.” He shrugged, walking away without a care in the world.
The teen’s eyes were sapphire, so deep in color you could dip a paintbrush in them. His milky-white hair fell in tufts, and his skin was so frighteningly pale that Gon could see the purplish veins in his body.
He wore a gray, brand-name hoodie, periwinkle gym shorts, and a pair of trendy basketball sneakers.
“Hey you, get back here! You nearly made us have an accident!”
“Leorio, I wonder, is it really an accident if you pushed the brakes on purpose?”
The kid stopped walking.
Unexpectedly, he laughed, back not yet turned. The muscles there were toned, even through the jacket. Gon noticed his shoulder blades stiffen when he chuckled a bit too hard.
The teen came back, one arm wrapped around the yellow skateboard he’d wielded seconds before and the other shoved in his pocket. Leorio was glaring like he wanted to strangle him, but the stranger paid him no mind.
“I take it you say whatever comes to your mind, huh?”
His silver billow of hair glistened under the bright afternoon sun, the locks uncurling a bit when a soft wind blew their direction.
“Kind of.” Gon answered, too distracted by his presence to think and still a bit sore from the near-crash.
“You go to Huntling High?” He asked, peering at the student ID landyard around Gon’s neck.
“Yeah, I’m a junior. What about you?” He managed to utter.
The slender boy looked away for a moment. “I-I’m homeschooled, but I sneak in Huntling sometimes during lunch, when I’m bored.”
Leorio crossed his arms, standing upright and irritated.
“You can’t do that, brat. It’s against policy.”
“You know what else is against policy? Being that tall yet that scrawny.”
“Why, you little—!” He lurched at the teen.
Gon jumped between them, holding Leorio back as he grabbed at the air, trying to tackle his new rival. Once he calmed down, he smoothed the wrinkles in his suit and huffed.
“Gon, let me know when you’re done chatting with this punk. I’ll be waiting in the car.”
Leorio stalked off, and the young boys simply giggled.
“What’s your name, by the way?” Gon wanted to know as much as he could, for reasons he did not understand.
“Killua. Killua Zo—j-just Killua.” He stuttered, his voice shaky. “What’s yours?”
“Gon Freecss. It’s nice to meet you!” He yanked Killua’s hand from out of his pocket and waggled it vigorously, causing Killua to lose his balance.
“Woah, dude! Okay, okay, that’s enough. Dude.” He pulled his hand back before Gon could tear the limb off. “Hasn’t anyone ever taught you about personal space?”
“Not really, but my Aunt Mito does get upset if I bug her while she’s cooking something with a difficult recipe.”
Killua rolled his eyes, but failed to hide the smile growing on his face. What the hell was this kid on?
“Gon, hurry up! Kurapika called and said it’s pasta night! I won’t miss it!” Leorio hollered out of the window.
“Sounds like you gotta go.” Killua glunched, ruffling his hair.
“Yeah.” Gon frowned, but lit up when a flurry of thoughts crossed his mind. “B-but we can m-maybe hang out? I mean, I’ve been pretty busy with school and everything. Plus I’ve got lots of cleaning to do and a huge reading list to catch up on, but I can work around it, I think. Eh, I’m not sure about your schedule, though. How rude of me to assume you were free. Who does that? I’m such a—”
“Gon, shut up. Yes, we can hang out. Just hand me your phone to input my number.”
The black-haired teen froze, feeling a rush of panic to his chest. He didn’t own a cellphone. Aunt Mito couldn’t afford one, not with all the more important bills she had to pay for. He figured he’d just make something up, fast.
“I-I forgot it in my locker. Silly me!” He lied, looking at the concrete below their feet.
Killua raised his eyebrow for a half-second but sighed, fumbling for a pen in his pocket. He set the skateboard on the ground and took Gon’s hand, scribbling numbers on tan skin.
He picked up his board and walked away without a polite ‘goodbye’ or anything close. Gon stood in the middle of the street, stunned, wondering what on earth just happened and hoping to the gods it would happen again.
When he arrived home, his Aunt Mito was sitting on the cheap couch still in her uniform, pulling a needle through thread. Gon hadn’t expected her to get off work early, and he really didn’t want to be asked any warmhearted questions like “How was your day?” or “Learn anything new, today?”
Because he did. He learned something that no amount of reading could distract him from.
Gon shuffled past his aunt, who watched him quizzically. She could tell when her nephew was in a bad mood, no matter how much he insisted he was fine.
He opened his bedroom door. Nothing had changed since he left that morning for school, but he certainly had, and it didn’t sit well in his gut. The instant he’d gotten back into Leorio’s car after talking to the most enthralling person he’d ever met, everything came back to him. Hard.
Kite’s copy of Obliteration was still on the bedside table, inviting him to cast his worries away. He knew it probably wouldn’t help—that the logical thing to do was to forget every single word spoken about Ging and to pretend like the entire day was just one long, confusing nightmare. But if there was one thing he knew about himself, it was that he only tried to forget the thoughts he wanted to keep most.
He started where he left off.
Gakuki was overcome with emotion, wanting so badly to hug the stranger he was bloodily related to, but knew it would only prove weakness. He was not weak, and he did not want this man to regret meeting there with him. Instead, he stood tall, hands at his sides and chin upturned, attentive. Oddly enough, the man reached out to caress his face. It was a strong touch, one that felt like wisdom and virtue. It was the touch of a father.
Gon swallowed hard, unsurprised when a teardrop fell on the fawn page. He couldn’t read anymore. It hit too close to home, and he felt like the universe was playing a joke on him. He shut the book, staring at the cover.
The paperback didn’t have an author’s name on it’s front.
Had the manufacturers made a mistake? He was unsure, annoyed that Kite gave him a flawed copy. He skimmed through the pages, searching for any other imperfections before a tiny piece of paper fell from the very end.
Gon felt his heart stop, then start again. A letter.
I know what I’ve done. I know why I had to do it. I know there is no way to say sorry. You must understand however, that I am an earnest man. I didn’t want to leave you, but my higher self called me to far more important things.
If you’re reading this, it means Kite has kept his promise and provided you with my book, one that is the only of its kind and was never published or widely distributed. I wrote it for you on one of my expeditions, low-spirited, having starved for days in a tropical jungle. I want to reunite with you. Gon, you are my only son. My flesh and blood. If you are interested in meeting me, please find one of my assistants at the time and location written on page 162.
There is one thing you should know, though, before you embark on this journey.
I will do anything to protect civilization.
AKA Ging Freecss.
Gon ran back into the living area where his Aunt Mito had fallen asleep, fabric still in her thin hands. He shook her by the shoulders, startling her awake.
“Aunt Mito, It’s Ging! Ging Eff! Ging Freecss! My dad!”
Chapter 4: Separation
Gon makes conscious decisions. Well, mostly conscious.
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The two Freeccss sat at the dining table.
Mito was quiet for what seemed like hours. She had done everything in her power to prevent this day from coming, but fate had other plans.
Butterscotch eyes scanned the letter over and over again, fighting the urge to crumple it up and feed it to one of the fox bears Gon constantly talked about.
“Aunt Mito, please say something.”
Gon hated making her upset, but this was beyond emotions or past grievances. He had a chance to meet his father, a chance he’d wished for over so many birthdays, so many shooting stars marking the night sky with promises.
She ran a hand through short red hair, resigned. Her arm looked thinner, weaker. Gon felt a pang of guilt in his heart.
“You’re sixteen, Gon. Nearly an adult. If you want to search for him, I can’t stop you.”
He perked up, pupils wide and eager.
“Thank you, Aunt Mito! I’m so excited! Oh, this is going to be great! I’ll have to tell Zushi I can’t make it to the concert. Crap. I guess he could always give my ticket to Meleoron. But didn’t we plan that studying thing? I have so much stuff to do. I wond—”
“Gon, I need you to know this.” She cut him off.
He was almost too afraid to ask. “W-what is it, Aunt Mito?”
“As I’ve told you before, your mother died after giving birth to you.”
The atmosphere in the apartment darkened, and Gon’s mind went far, far back, to when he still held hope that his mother’s soul was somehow in their gravity. He let her continue, biting his lip to stop the pain from showing.
“She cradled you in her arms, overjoyed. I was so proud of her, happy to see her happy.”
She covered her mouth with her left hand, elbow grinding on the table surface. He wanted to share the agony with her if it meant he wouldn’t have to see her expression.
“She was having trouble breathing, and the doctors couldn’t figure out why, or how to stop it. She was dying, leaving after having birthed her newborn son. I stood right there, watching life slip from her eyes as she took her last breath.”
Both of them were weeping now, sharing the ache that had attached itself to their bodies like duct tape.
“Almost a week before, Ging had left her. He left her pregnant and vulnerable. I think she just couldn’t handle the heartbreak. She didn’t hate him, but I sure did. I hated him so much.” The woman grinded her teeth, furious at the memory.
Gon rubbed her arm. “Relax, Aunt Mito.”
He had never seen her like this, because she had never allowed him to. His aunt was the type of woman to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders and insist that she could take more.
“Gon. I’ve lied to you. I’m so, so sorry.”
“What do you mean?”
She placed her hand over his, staring deeply into eyes.
“Gon, I am your paternal aunt, not maternal. Ging and I are related. He’s my cousin.”
He was speechless.
“Gon, talk honey. You’re scaring me.”
“What else have you lied about?” He whispered, louring at the woman who had dedicated her life to caring for their family.
“Nothing, honey, I only wanted—“
“To protect me? That’s what you think you did?”
“My entire life, you’ve claimed to know nothing about Ging. You said you hardly saw him, that he was just a guy my mother was involved with. Now you sit here and tell me you’re actually related to him?”
He was seething, blinded by pent up rage. He felt like his whole life was playing on a movie screen, laughed at by an audience who knew how it all ended.
“Gon, I didn’t want you to hate him too, okay? I didn’t want you to be so disappointed by his absence that it ate you up inside. I wouldn’t let him have that power over you!”
“So that you could? In case you haven’t noticed, my dear aunt, we’re broke. Neither you nor I have power. We never will!”
He ran to his room and slammed the door, wanting to drown in his misery. When Mito tried to follow, pleading with him to calm down and just listen, he locked the door and shouted a slew of profanities at the person who had given him everything under the sun.
He couldn’t think straight. It was too much to deal with.
Looking outside, it was pitch black, no stars or moon to pacify the growing monster within him. He hurriedly gathered clothes, a few bucks, and other necessities into a small duffel bag.
When his aunt gave up trying to explain herself, Gon sneaked into his great-grandmother’s bedroom, who had slept through the entire dispute peacefully. Wires were hooked up to her nose and pill bottles cluttered the bedside table.
“I’m gonna meet him, Abe. I’ll be back soon.” He leaned over to kiss her furrowed cheek.
Gon raced back to his bedroom, opening the window. The cool night air chilled his face, warning him to reconsider. He cast the curtain down the opening, clutching the bag to his upper body.
It was time to create his own story.
He felt so dumb. Of all the things Gon anticipated while going out past midnight—being mugged, robbed, kidnapped, stabbed, shot—he hadn’t thought once about the merciless cold.
His teeth chattered as he sped past trees and stop lights, having stolen an unsecured bike he came across in the apartment building’s parking lot. The harsh wind nipped at his exposed legs, and he cursed himself for not bringing a sweater. His muscles burned as he gripped the handlebars, fingers blue and numb.
Gon peddled so hard, he didn’t notice the terrain change from smooth cement to grainy, rugged mulch, and hit a ditch, headfirst into the dirt.
“He needs another pillow, brother.”
“I’ll go get one.”
The voices were faint, one ultra-feminine and one—not feminine—just...refined. Dim light sneaked between his eyelids, triggering a sharp pain in his forehead. He let out a low groan.
“Oh Gosh, you’re awake! Here, drink some water.” The delicate voice ordered.
Icy liquid met his lips, soothing his parched throat. He sat up to rub his head, dizzy and unaware of his current situation. Where was he?
Gon all but jumped out of the plush, princess-like bed he’d been laying in.
“Please, I know you’re scared, but don’t scream!” A little girl with long, dark-brown hair and bright, cyan eyes begged, holding a tiny glass of lemon water. Those eyes looked strangely familiar.
“Wh-where am I? What the hell?” Gon was bewildered, convinced that he must’ve hit his head a little too hard.
“You’re in my room!” The girl smiled cheekily, hands clasped together at her front.
He opened his mouth to tell her she was surely mistaken—that this was all a weird, embarrassing dream he’d soon wake from—but then a boy he’d wished with all his might would cross his path again walked through the fuschia door with a big, fluffy pillow in his arms, smirking.
“Well, it’s about time you woke up. We were beginning to think you were dead.”
Gon couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It didn’t make sense. Wasn’t he on his way to do something important? He didn’t remember.
How he ended up there was an even bigger mystery.
“The one and only.” He grinned, tossing the pillow onto the girl’s bed. It landed in his lap, the silky material too pretty and expensive for Gon to touch.
“Why are you here? Why am I here? And who is this?” He glanced quickly at the little girl, who couldn’t have been older than nine. She was busy looking for something in the mass of stuffed animals around her room.
“She’s my sister, doofus. Her bedroom was the only place in the mansion I could bring you without Gotoh or anyone else finding out. Do you know how heavy you are?”
“Big Brother is so strong! By the way, what’s your name?”
“His name’s Gon. I met him earlier today, he and the skyscraper with glasses.”
Normally, Gon would chuckle and smack him on the shoulder.
Alluka beamed, her glittery headband falling to the side. She rushed to the bed, holding out a tiny hand.
“Nice to meet you, Gon!”
Gon gawped at her, which rubbed Killua the wrong way.
“If you don’t shake her hand, I’ll drag your sorry ass back outside.” He threatened.
Gon nervously clasped Alluka’s hand, which nearly disappeared in his own. She then laid a teddy bear on the pink blanket. “For you, Gon. Mr. Snuggles will make you feel better.”
He thanked her and she nodded merrily, happy to be of help. It wasn’t often she got to see people other than her brother and their dozens of servants.
“Alluka, will you please excuse us? I’m just going to have a chat with our new friend.”
“Okay, Big Brother. Would you like me to bring tea and cookies?”
“That won’t be necessary. We’ll only be a minute.”
Something told Gon it would be much longer than a minute.
She capered out of the humongous room, humming a melody so high-pitched it could command dogs.
Once she was gone, Killua turned to Gon, his face serious and questioning. He held up the duffel bag and Ging’s letter, brows raised.
“Care to explain?”
Chapter 5: Exposure
Gon and Killua make a huge choice.
Comments make me so happy.
Everything flooded back to him—the history lesson, the book, the fight with Aunt Mito—everything.
“Give those back, Killua.” He demanded, angry all over again.
The white-haired teen gripped the items firmly. “Not until you tell me where you were going.”
“I hardly know you, why should I tell you anything? We just met today!”
“And I just saved you from being eaten by Mike! You should consider yourself lucky.”
“Our guard dog.” He stated, as if ravenous animals were things normal people had.
“So you’re homeschooled, live in a mansion, and keep a guard dog?"
“T-that isn’t important right now. What I really want to know is why you were lying unconscious in my backyard with these-“ He jiggled Gon’s belongings in the air “-left wide open where he could see them!”
Killua went stiff for a second, then turned away, dropping the bag. “Never mind that, just tell me what’s going on and I’ll give you your stuff back.”
Gon was hesitant. It wasn’t smart to tell someone he barely knew about the most significant news of his life and expect that someone to keep it secret, but for some reason, he trusted Killua.
“If I tell you, you won’t believe it.”
“You can’t tell anyone.”
Gon bit his lip, pondering.
“I just found out that my father is Ging Freecss.” He admitted.
Killua dropped Gon’s stuff in bafflement.
“Hey, be careful with that!”
“Your dad is Ging Freecss? The Ging Freecss? As in Day-of-Despair, ultimate mastermind, butt-kicking Ging Freecss?”
“I know what you’re thinking. Listen, if you don’t buy it, then whatever. But can—“
“Dude, that’s awesome!” Killua exclaimed.
Gon reddened a bit, watching as Killua read the letter out loud. When he got to the part about meeting Ging’s assistant, he rushed to Gon’s side and gripped his shoulders.
“Please tell me you ripped out page 162.”
Gon pointed to the duffel bag. Killua ransacked it, tossing shirts and socks over his head to find the single page. He found it crumpled at the bottom, the instructions sprawled under printed text.
He looked it over and checked the clock on the pink wall.
“You’ve gotta leave, like, now.”
“Then give me my stuff and I’ll be on my way. Hey, where’s my bike?”
“Oh, that? Mike’s probably using it as a chew toy.” He held his chin in contemplation. “Do you need a ride? I know someone who can get us there quick. W-well that is, if you’d like me to c-come along…”
Gon spoke before even considering it.
“Yes!” he shouted. Embarrassed by his enthusiasm, he added, “I-I mean, yeah. I’d like that a lot.”
Killua’s eyes lit up, and Gon suddenly felt the urge to snap a picture just to save their glow.
“Okay, then. I need to pack a few things. Give me a minute.” He bolted out the door, leaving Gon alone with only Mr. Snuggles to keep him company.
Killua shuffled back inside with a maroon-colored backpack, grumbling about having to take the stairs because a servant forgot to fix an elevator.
“I’m back. Sorry, my room’s pretty far from hers. Oh great, you’re up. We have just a few minutes ‘till we meet Canary outside. Need anything?”
“Not that I can think of. I’m pretty hungry, though.” He stretched his back, reaching above his head.
“I packed some snacks. Hey, you still have my number on your arm!” Killua pointed out, and Gon glanced at the digits jotted on his skin.
“Yeah, I haven’t showered.”
“Did you ever find your phone? Killua asked.
The same tense feeling he got when the topic came up earlier struck him again, and he couldn’t lie fast enough.
“You don’t have one, do you?”
“I-I, um, I, well—“
“You know what? Milluki has a bunch of phones he doesn’t use stashed in his game room. I’ll grab one with a no-tracking chip so you’re untraceable.”
Gon looked away. “Thank you.”
“No problem. C’mon, let’s go.”
“Y-yeah.” He stuttered. When Killua was nowhere to be seen, he grew flustered. “Hey, wait up!”
The shiny, 4G iBeetle rested in his palm, and he felt bad that Killua had snuck into his brother’s tech collection so that Gon could have a means to communicate.
Not bad enough to give it back, of course, but bad.
Holding the cell phone reminded Gon of his Aunt Mito, and how even with all the overtime she put in at the hotel and the amount of sewing and cooking she did, she’d never be able to purchase something like this for him.
He missed her. He knew he should apologize for leaving her without a goodbye, but how could he? The problem would still be there. No amount of sorry’s could mend the brokenness between them.
He decided to text Leorio to tell his aunt he was safe and that he just needed some time.
Unidentified: Hey, Leo. It’s Gon.
MedicalMe: Gon! How are ya, kid?
Unidentified: Fine. Listen, can you call my aunt tomorrow morning for me?
MedicalMe: Sure...and tell her what?
Unidentified: That I’m sorry, I’ll be home soon, and I love her.
MedicalMe: Gon. Where the hell are you? I’m coming to get you.
Unidentified: No, Leorio. I’d explain but it’s kind of a long story. Just call her for me.
MedicalMe: Tell me where you are. Now. Don’t make me ask again.
MedicalMe: Gon, hello?
Gon shut the iBeetle off, shoving it in his pocket. He didn’t have time to go back and forth with Leorio.
He and Killua were standing outside when a sleek black luxury car pulled up and a tall, dark-skinned girl with kinky hair stepped out, her stoic brown eyes piercing into his own. Her immaculate suit fit well over the curvaceous figure, and her cocoa-colored lips were set in a slight pout.
Gon thought she was beautiful, but tried not to stare as she opened the door for them to hop in, her stance confident and warrior-like.
He leaned into Killua and whispered, “Is she the Canary you were talking about?”
The taller teen seemed to know what he was thinking. “Yep, that’s her. She’s a little...intimidating at first. But she’s really laid-back once you get to know her.”
She started the car and they all lurched forward, speeding onto a path that definitely wasn’t the main road. Gon gripped the handle on the car’s ceiling, light-headed as Canary drove through bushes and between trees.
Killua laid a hand on Gon's back, gently rubbing his nerves away like they were on a rollercoaster and he needed comforting.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” He joked, flicking his ear.
“A ghost would be less terrifying than this.” He tightened his grip, trying hard to keep it together.
“If it helps, we’re almost there.” Canary announced from the front, peeping at them through the rearview mirror. “Master Killua hates long-distance rides.”
“Master Killua?” Gon questioned, puzzled.
The pale boy froze.
Chapter 6: Accelerate
What does it take to get close to someone?
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“This is as far as I can take you without violating my contract. Please be safe, boys.” Canary slid a pair of optic sunglasses over her face and drove away, leaving Gon and Killua on their own. It was early morning, around 2 o’clock, and both teens were exhausted but determined to find the undercover assistant.
They stood in front of a crooked, splintered sign, one of the many shattered lights flickering on and off.
Welcome to The County Fair!
Join us for food, games, and fun!
The fairground was vacant, with empty booths and rusted, shambly rides at every corner. The stench of rotting deep-fried food made Gon gag, and the absence of people walking and laughing made the whole scene feel eerie.
“Well, whoever it is, they’ve gotta be around here somewhere.” Killua guessed, treading carefully to avoid stepping on stale funnel cake.
Gon followed closely behind, creeped out by the complete silence of the area. He thought Ging’s location was kind of random, but prepared himself for anything that might come about on the journey. To him, the uncertainty was worth it.
“Yeah, but, like, this place is deserted. Wouldn’t we have seen them by now? I mean, how cou—ahh!” His skin went cold at the sight of a fake clown, it’s red ball nose and smiling face sending a shiver down his spine. He huddled next to his friend.
“Ugh, you’re such a baby. It’s just a clown. Back up, will you?” Killua surveyed the fairground, sapphire jewels steady and calculating. His bare arms didn’t twinge at the gust of wind threatening his skin. Gon noticed a purplish bruise near his elbow, but decided it wasn’t the time to bring it up.
After the whole “Master Killua’ thing, he was quiet for the remainder of the ride. Gon knew he was hiding something, and was a little irritated that he wouldn’t tell him his secret, even when Gon had told Killua his.
Within the nearly 24-hours he’d known Killua, he realized that the white-haired teen was not a riddle to be solved—Rather, a rare novel to be found, hidden atop the highest shelf, one you needed permission to read.
But Gon lacked patience.
“Why were you so willing to leave home? I mean, won’t you miss your family?”
“Won’t they miss you?” Gon pressed.
Killua hardened, staring into space.
He walked ahead.
They passed an abandoned bottle stand, some shattered, others piled on the grass. Gon picked one up and tossed it, hoping to frighten Ging’s assistant into revealing themselves. It didn’t work, and his lack of sleep was beginning to show.
“Oh, c’mon! What is this, a game of Hide and Seek? Come out, already!”
“Be quiet.” Killua shushed. “Your dad obviously chose this location because he didn’t want anyone finding out, idiot.”
Suddenly, a cacophony of mechanical noise came from behind them, and happy, upbeat music greeted their ears. They turned instantly, baffled and paralyzed with fear. A carousel had begun rotating, and on one of its basswood-carved horses sat a dorky, emerald-haired girl with glasses. She was laughing, tossing her head back in oblivious joy.
Gon glanced at Killua, who stood with his mouth agape.
“Why, hello friends! Wanna ride?” She waved, her floppy green hat falling to the side.
He was rattled. The very last inch of normalcy he had left was lost to the night.
“Stop playing games! We’re here to meet someone important, and you might’ve scared them off.” Killua scolded.
The weird girl hopped off the carousel and staggered toward them, dizzy and carefree. She stopped a foot away, smirking.
“Here to meet Ging’s assistant, by any chance?”
Killua choked. “How the hell did you know that?”
She laughed again, clutching her stomach as if he’d told the funniest joke ever.
“It’s me, babe! I’m Ging’s assistant! Oh, you two are just so cute.” She reached out to pinch Gon’s cheeks, and he squirmed as she tugged adoringly at the fat. He pulled away and rubbed his face.
Killua leaned to Gon’s ear. “Do you think this chick is, you know, all there?” He figured circles around his head.
“I heard that!”
The blue-eyed teen scowled at her, but Gon was curious.
“So, what’s your name? Am I gonna see Ging right now?”
She ruffled his hair. “I’m Cheadle Yorkshire, but you can call me Dog. And sorry, but you’ve got much more to do before you find him. My duty was just to guide you to your next location.”
Dog glanced at her Handroid phone, checking the time.
“I was having so much fun on the carousel that I completely forgot about the schedule. If we hurry, we should make it. Let’s go, my sweethearts!”
She sprinted off.
Gon had no idea where to place his hands.
They were zooming, seated on Dog’s three-seat, lime-colored motorcycle. She was steering, Killua was squished in the middle, and Gon was like a caboose, teetering on the end.
The air whipped past his ears. They moved so fast it felt like they weren’t moving at all—everything in sight becoming soft and blurry.
Gon’s fear of being splattered on the road overruled his fear of touching his friend.
He timidly wrapped his arms around Killua’s waist and felt the pale boy flinch at the sudden closeness.
When Killua didn’t pull away, he rested his head on the slim, but firm back, and fell asleep.
“Gon.” He felt a warm hand nudge his shoulder. “Gon, wake up.”
“Nehhhhhh.” He whined, rolling over. The cushion beneath his head was just too comfortable to part with.
“Seriously, Gon. We need to check in. Get up, dammit.” Killua yanked him by the shirt, forcing Gon to sit up.
The two boys were splayed on a lobby couch in a five-star hotel, travelers lugging suitcases and employees arguing over the reception line. A crystal chandelier hung above their heads and the aroma of fine coffee filled the room.
Killua joined the queue of impatient guests waiting to check in, carrying both he and Gon’s bags.
“Where’s Dog?” The black-haired teen asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“She‘s gone. But she did leave us further instructions.”
What those instructions entailed, Gon was unsure. When it was their turn at the counter, Killua faked a smile.
“Hello, sir, my business partner and I are here for the international convention.”
The man gave him a suspicious look. "May I have your names?"
Killua didn't falter. "John Nesmick and Peter Wilsh. We're with the banking company."
The concierge nervously typed something up and revealed two room keys.
“Why, yes. Your rooms are at the top floor, where you’ll be provided free room service as well as pool and spa access. Enjoy your stay, lads.”
Hearing that, Gon was wide awake.
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