Chapter 3:

Play Nice

Lionheart Act 1: Orin

“Miles?!” Saliva flew out of Hiro’s mouth. “Miles! Why are you here?!”

“Isn’t it obvious, asshole?” Johnny said. “We’re here ‘cause of you! Now, what I wanna know is what the hell you did to—”

A gunshot echoed in the air. Bandito’s boss had raised his metal hand; a golden muzzle protruded from his wrist. With heavy steps, he walked over to his subordinates. “Who the hell are these two?”

Kin stepped forward. “Well, funny enough, while we were looking for those two troublemakers, they came to us. Apparently, they work with that guy over there at the melon farm on the other side of the village.” He pointed at Hiro.

“And what about the girl?”

“They don’t know her.”

The boss aimed his open palm at Johnny. “Are you sure you don’t know her?”

Almost immediately, Johnny threw his arms up. “I don’t! I really don’t! I swear, man! Never seen her before in my life!”

He turned to Miles. “And you?”

Miles shook his head. “I already told your men. This is some big misunderstanding. I’m just here for Hiro. We don’t know the girl.”

“Then why…” The boss knelt down and rubbed his muzzle against Hiro’s cheek. “...are you with her?”

“It wasn’t my choice.” Hiro’s voice trembled. “She lied, said I was her brother when I knew nothing about her, made me look like an enemy, and now here I am. That’s everything. I promise.”

“Is that so? Then why did you try to escape?”

Hiro froze. He ran away due to fear, but he knew saying that would just make him look all the more suspicious. Any excuse he thought of would’ve only worsened the situation. He was starting to give up.

A sudden giggle diverted everyone’s attention from him. Maki snorted as she failed to stop herself from laughing. “Sorry, sorry. It’s just… Hiro? That’s your name? I don’t know what’s worse: that or Bandito!”

“You gotta be kidding me,” Hiro said.

The boss clicked his tongue and stormed to her. “Enough games! Who are you?”

“You really think I’d tell you? What good would that do?” she scoffed.

“Do you want to die?”

“Why? You gonna end me? Lose your one and only lead to your killer?”

“Tch. Let’s see how long you can hold that smug face of yours.”

“U-Um, excuse me?” Miles bowed his head. “Pardon my intrusion, but if there’s anything Hiro did wrong, I apologize on his behalf. Is there any way for us to settle this in a more peaceful manner?”

Kin took his gun out. “Shut it, old man. Can’t you see they’re busy?”

“No, no! He might have a point. Let him go.” At the boss’s command, Miles was released. Before he could fully stand up, the boss draped his metal arm over his shoulder. “So, as you know, we have a bit of a problem here. I know these two aren’t telling me the complete truth. You seem reasonable, right? If you can convince them to cooperate, maybe things won’t look so bad for the three of you.”

“It would be my pleasure. If I may, I’d like to speak with him.”

The boss nodded. Miles knelt down beside Hiro and whispered to him loudly, “What the heck did you do?”

“It wasn’t my fault,” Hiro whispered back. “Everything happened so fast. I panicked.”

“Who is she? How did you get involved?”

“Like I said, she just roped me into this.”

“And you let her?” Miles lowered the tone of his voice. “Do you… like her?”

“What?! No!”

“Hiro, she’s a child!”

Apparently, she’s not!”

“Alright!” Maki yelled out. “You bozos are useless! Now that I know my friend’s still out there, I’ll go find her myself. I think it’s about time to go. Don’t you think so, Hiro?” She snickered at him.

“What are you on about?” the boss asked. “Are you finally g— guh…”

All of a sudden the boss and his subordinates dropped their weapons and convulsed rapidly. One after the other, they fell to the ground. Foam frothed in their mouths; their eyes rolled back. A few seconds later, tiny machines that resembled hornets flew out of their clothing. They gathered underneath Maki’s robe as she got back to her feet.

Hiro stared in awe, utterly speechless.

“Phew!” Maki stood up and casually stretched her arms. “Sorry that took so long. Didn’t expect more of ‘em to show up. We only got a few minutes before those paralyzers run out. They’re lucky I forgot to bring anythin’ lethal.”

Hiro scratched his head. “Um… What in the world…?”

“No time to lose! Let’s get outta here!” As fast as her short legs could carry her, she darted down the street, waving her arms in victory.

Hiro got to his feet, still baffled. A decision lay before him. Should he run after Maki? Should he stay and reason with Bandito? Can they even be reasoned with in the first place? He was stumped. Turning to Miles, he knelt down and tugged on his shorts.

“What should we do? They’re gonna wake up soon.”

Miles placed his arms around him in a tight embrace. “Leave her be. Why make this situation any worse? For now, the best we can do is bow our heads and beg for forgiveness.”

Tears formed in Hiro’s eyes. “It’s too late, isn’t it? There’s no way they’d only take an apology now.”

“We don’t have any other choice. Just… Just play nice. You have to. That’s how we’ve survived here all these years. And it’s a truth you have to accept. Bandito’s above us; they are our law. So be a law-abiding citizen.”

“Yeah, right.” Johnny stood up and pointed at the Bandito members. “Look at this! Are you seeing this? Our lives are over. They’re dead!”

“Relax!” Miles yelled. “They’re still breathing. The girl herself said this was only temporary.”

Johnny placed his hands on his temples. “That’s even worse! We’re screwed! They’re gonna wake up and kill us! Why the hell did you even bring that idiot to our farm?”

“Enough! Whether you like it or not, Hiro is part of our family. We’re not abandoning him.”

“Speak for yourself. I’m throwing him under the bus the second I get the chance.”

“It won’t be necessary. They’ll understand if we just cooperate.”

“A little… too late for that… you sneaky bastard,” a raspy voice said.

Bandito’s boss gasped for air as he wiped the foam off his mouth. He used his knee as support and struggled to his feet. His men followed suit, wheezing and coughing as they did so.

“Eek!” Johnny dropped down and kept his face close to the ground. “I’m not with that asshole, I promise! Spare me, please!”

Miles groveled before the boss. “Please. I know this is asking for a lot, but I’m begging you. We don’t know anything about the girl.”

Hiro stared blankly at the men surrounding them. Panic settled in. He turned around; Maki was already long gone.

“Get down!” Miles looked sternly at Hiro. “Before this gets any worse!”

Escape was no longer an option. Hiro listened to Miles’ orders and got down on his knees. While his head was bowed, the boss walked up to him and kicked him in the cheek. Hiro fell flat on his back with barely any room to catch his breath as the boss stepped on his stomach.

“No! Please!” Miles cried. “Have mercy on him! He knows nothing! I swear!”

Johnny hugged him tight, not letting him get any closer. “Don’t! You’ll get hurt!”

“That’s twice in a row that someone managed to escape me. I’m not letting it happen a third time.” The boss stomped on him repeatedly. “I’m gonna beat the crap out of you until you tell me every damn thing you know.”

Hiro spat out a mixture of saliva and vomit. A scowl formed on his face as he grit his teeth. With great effort, he grabbed the boss’s ankle and pushed it back. The two were at a standstill. Miles desperately cried for him to not fight back, but Hiro couldn’t let go. He knew that if he did, a powerful blow awaited him. To his surprise, however, the boss lifted his foot away and stepped back.

“Wanna fight back, I see,” the boss said. “I can respect a man who has guts. Why don’t you get up and show us what you can do?”

Hiro wrestled with the pain as he fought to regain his footing.

Impatient, the boss grabbed his collar and lifted him up to his feet. “Go on. You wanna fight, right?”

The crowd of Bandito members burst into cheers. Their voices drowned out Miles’ desperate pleas for Hiro to stop. To surrender or fight back—Hiro couldn’t decide. In the end, all he could do was stand still.

The boss pointed at his own face. “Free shot.”

Hiro’s chest felt tight; he didn’t have the courage to lift up his arms.

“How disappointing.”

With a swift swing, the boss rammed his metal fist into Hiro’s jaw. Blood splattered all over the boss’s arm as Hiro crashed back onto the road. It felt as though the whole ground shook. A sharp, high-pitched noise rang in his ear.

Hiro’s vision began to fade. His body felt numb. He tilted his head toward Miles, mouthing the words “I’m sorry” through his bruised lips. A towering figure, whom he could only make out to be Bandito’s boss, approached him.

“Uncle! Stop!” he heard Johnny shout.

All of a sudden, a lavender silhouette leaped onto the figure. Blurred images of the two were all he could see; muffled screams were all he could hear—at least, for a few short-lived seconds.


Hiro snapped back to his senses; his heart rate skyrocketed. His mind slowly pieced things together as he watched Miles plummet to the ground. A pool of blood formed underneath him. Standing before him was the boss, disheveled; smoke rose out of his golden muzzle.


Mustering up what little strength he had left, he forced himself to stand on his feet. Though his legs quaked, he stumbled toward Miles. A large, gaping hole lay at the center of his abdomen.

“Miles? Can you hear me?”

“UNCLE MILES!” Johnny shoved Hiro aside and leaned close to Miles. “Uncle! Are you okay?”

He wasn’t responding.

“Doesn’t look like he’ll make it,” the boss said.

“No…” Johnny covered his face and bawled aloud.

“You…” Blood rushed to Hiro’s head. “BASTARD!”

He was about to jump at the boss when he fired another bullet into the air.

“Stand down. Or I’ll shoot him again.”

Hiro had no choice but to obey.

Villagers poked their heads out to get a closer look. Scattering whispers got louder over time. The boss turned to them and raised his metal hand.

“This is a warning to all of you. We play nice, but if you play around for too long, things can end up dirty. And others can get caught in the crossfire, like him.” He pointed at Miles with his thumb.

“This asshole…” Hiro mumbled to himself.

The boss turned to him. “No one’s ever survived my shots. Probably won’t last ‘til the evening. It’s unfortunate, really. I liked the old man. He knew his place, unlike you. For his sake, I’ll let you bury him.”

Hiro glared at him with disdain.

“Heh, I like that look. I’m impressed, actually. Either you really do know nothing, or you have the will of a champion. Still, if you think I’m going to let your actions slide, you’re sorely mistaken. You and your farm are going to serve Bandito, and you’re going to serve me.”

The boss then turned to his subordinates. “Men! Attach the explosives to these two. The girl took us by surprise; we’re not letting it happen again.”

“Yes, sir!” Keeping their guns pointed at Hiro and Johnny, they attached black metal bands to their ankles. A red light lit up on their surfaces.

“You two!” The boss tossed two remote devices at Kin and Chiho. “I’m putting you in charge of them. I’ll leave the logistics to you, but I want a good portion of their farm’s produce. Make sure to watch their every move just in case. Am I clear?”

Kin threw his arms up. “Aw, boss. You’re putting me on babysitting duty?”

“Got a problem with that?”

“No sir!” Chiho elbowed Kin’s side. “It would be an honor. Right, Kin?”

He saluted. “O-Of course!”

“Good.” Their boss turned to his men. “Alright. Tomorrow, we’re having a meeting regarding the missing girls. Rally all the troops. We’re heading out.”

He went on his way; his subordinates followed him down the road, except for Kin and Chiho. After they’ve left for a while, people soon emerged from their hiding places. They gathered around, but none dared to step closer.

Amid the commotion, they heard a quavering voice. “Johnny… Hiro…”

“Miles! You’re alive!” Unsure of what to do, Johnny shook him violently. “Wake up! Don’t fall back asleep!”

Hiro turned to the bystanders. “Please, someone! He needs help! I need to take him to the clinic!”

He was met with terrified looks from all around; no one answered his plea. Hospitals were only accessible in the larger cities, so an ambulance was also out of the question.

“Really?! Someone? Anyone! Miles is dying! Please!”

“You heard the boss,” Chiho said. “He told you to bury the old man. He has no chance of surviving.”

Hiro glared at her. “I don’t wanna hear that from you.”

“Tsk, tsk!” Kin gently rubbed his finger over the red button of his remote device. “You don’t wanna go kaboom, do you?”

“Please…” Johnny sniveled. “Just shut up already. You’ve done enough, Hiro.”

Miles lifted up his hand. “Hi…ro? Is he… here?”

“Miles!” Hiro hurriedly knelt down and held his hand. It felt so frail; one false move could snap it in two. Miles gently caressed Hiro’s skin, but let go when he had a coughing fit. Blood spilled from his mouth.

“Are… you two… alright?” Miles asked between deep, heavy breaths.

“I should be asking you that.” Johnny’s lips quivered as he gave his best effort to stop his tears.

Hiro looked away, unable to face him. “Why did you do it?”

Miles forced a smile. “You think I… could just… leave you alone?”

Hiro didn’t smile back. “That’s not fair. You told me to stand down. Why couldn’t you?”

“It’s okay. You’re… safe. That’s all that… matters.” He gripped Hiro’s hand. “Boys, I don’t… think I’ll make it.”

“No! We’ll get you help!” Hiro placed his hands under Miles’ back, but underestimated how heavy carrying dead weight was.

Johnny pushed him away. “What are you trying to do, kill him?! Keep your hands off!”

Miles pointed at the plastic bag lying on the ground just a few feet from them. “Hiro… That’s for you. Open… it.”

Hiro grabbed the bag and pulled out a black jacket with a green hood. It was wrinkled and dusted with sand. The price tag still dangled from its collar. He clutched it firmly, holding it to his chest.

“What did I tell you about jackets in the desert?” Hiro chuckled softly.

“Haha… That’s good. Smile more.” Blood welled up in Miles’ mouth, causing him to cough once again.

“I don’t even like the color green.” Tears streamed down Hiro’s cheeks.

“Take it or… leave it.”

“You didn’t deserve this, Miles. You did nothing.”

“Tch. I know who does deserve it,” Johnny mumbled.

“Boys.” Miles’ voice grew softer with every word. “You have to submit. It’s the only way… to be hap…”

He didn’t finish. Hiro noticed his hand stopped moving.

“...Miles? Miles?! MILES!”

Hiro and Johnny leaned on his chest and wept bitterly.

Miles had breathed his last.

Sui Mai Files