Chapter 572: A-Mei

    Chapter 572: A-Mei

    "Five glasses, then. I'll help," Su Xiaosu intruded tepidly.

    The Driver sat with the busy women plastered against his chest, arms encircling his neck. "Who's this skanky bitch," she complained, looking Xiaosu up and down. "Skulking around, who the hell do you think you are? Get the hell out of here."

    Xiaosu answered the woman's hostility with a small smile. "You want to know who I am?"

    The woman disentangled herself from the Driver and rose to her feet. "I don't give a ** who you think y-" Before she finished her sentence, Xiaosu remove her mask and pulled back her hood.

    The bar's interior was dark, at first she couldn't see clearly. Soon, though, Xiaosu's face was revealed by the neon lights. The pirate woman visibly shook.

    She tried to scream, but before a sound could come out, a giant hand clamped down on her throat. The five Long Island iced teas arrived, soundlessly placed on the table.

    The Driver took a drag of his cigar before brazenly blowing the smoke into the pirate woman's face. He nodded at Lan Jue. "Drink."

    Xiaosu didn't wait for her boss. She snatched one up, and guzzled it down without a second thought.

    The Driver, seeing this, chuckled and looked at her with respect. "She's quick! Little Lan, are you gunna let a girl outpace you?"

    Lan Jue, helpless to convince them otherwise, took one of the glasses himself.

    The effect of the iced tea had already brightened Xiaosu's eyes. "A-Mei... that's your name, isn't it? Redbeard's woman. Back in the day you were quite the seductress. Hard to count how often you made poor Redbeard a cuckold. 1 Then you turn right around, and sick him on your poor unsuspecting lover. It's a fascinating hobby! I hear you like to castrate them too, before they die. Or am I wrong... you're that A-Mei, aren't you?"

    The Driver jerked. With a cigar in one hand and A-Mei's throat in the other, he listened with increasing horror as Xiaosu revealed her identity. A chill ran up his spine.

    "Goddamnit, your Majesty, don't scare me like that!" His voice was a little too loud. Several nearby patrons were still watching out of the corner of their eyes.

    Xiaosu grinned. "Lying? Everything I've said is true."

    She flicked her wrist, and suddenly the whole bar was illuminated by a column of golden light. The pirates within were accustomed to the dim interior and were blinded when it suddenly changed. What followed was a chorus of grunts and muffled screams.

    Over the course of a few seconds, the light dimmed and the bar darkened once again. Now, however, it was eerily silent. The only people left standing were Division soldiers.

    The Driver unceremoniously chuckled A-Mei to the side. "That big chest hides one poisonous bitch. I don't kill woman. Empress, it's up to you."

    Mei shook uncontrollably. At first she'd thought she was wrong. She hoped it was a trick of the light. But when that golden column appeared there could be no mistaking it. This was the Moonfiend Empress.

    When Xiaosu commanded the Moonfiend Pirates, A-Mei and Redbeard were some of her eldest enemies. Their clans battled often until the Moonfiend Pirates clawed themselves up from an inferior position. Little by little she wrestled control from Redbeard and his murderous lover, nearly killing him in one encounter. They were Xiaosu's mortal enemies.

    "Empress..! Y-your Majesty!" A-Mei wailed.

    Xiaosu regarded her with a cold, heartless expression. "Is Redbeard in the palace?"

    A-Mei quickly nodded.

    "And other than him, who else is there?" She pressed.

    A-Mei's face twitched, but she didn't answer.

    Xiaosu laughed and crouched so she was level with the pirate's face. Her small pink tongue traced a line across her lips. "I could make you very happy. Or, I can give ten days and ten nights where you'll wish for death. It's your choice, but you don't seem like the kind of woman who'd commit suicide. Especially when there's a way out... Think about it."

    Su Xiaosu stood back up, after her ultimatum had been delivered. She snatched another Long Island iced tea, and swallowed it down without taking time to taste it.

    The Driver shot Lan Jue a glance. "I'm just now seeing how dominating our Empress can be."

    This made her smirk. "What do you mean, Empress? Just a pirate boss. And when you're a pirate boss, you have to be without scruples."

    The Driver was seeing her with new eyes. Up to this point she had stood meekly at Lan Jue's side, like a kitten. She'd proven herself to be a brilliant tactician, but seemed to rely on Lan Jue like a servant. At last she was bearing her teeth, and his esteem for her and Lan Jue grew. For his commander to have a woman like her under his command, it meant he had some skill!

    "I... I'll tell you." A-Mei pulled herself up on shaky legs. With a weak laugh, she added, "Your Majesty, beck to reclaim your crown. Good! That's very good. Kill them. Every. Last. One. Hah..haha! Haha hahaha haha!" She broke into a hysterical fit of laughter.

    Xiaosu rapped her knuckles against a table to get her attention. She didn't want to waste any time. After a moment the cackling subsided and A-Mei spoke again, somewhat dazed. "Empress, may I ask for one thing?"

    "Speak," Xiaosu replied curtly.

    "When I'm dead, take my ashes away from this place," she said. "Out of the Shattered Starfields. Anywhere will do, just scatter me and leave. I don't want to spend an afterlife in this dirty, diseased place."

    Su Xiaosu seemed struck by the comment. After a moment of silence, she nodded. "Alright."

    Mei went on. "You're here to kill Redbeard. Then you better be careful. There've been a number of strong people around him lately. I think I remember hearing they were from the Pontiff's Citadel. Redbeard's Discipline is his beard. He recently broke through to ninth level fifth rank. He's much stronger than he was when you fought him. More cunning, too. Redbeard doesn't get his hands dirty unless he absolutely has to, so only a few people know how strong he really is."

    Thanks to A-Mei's unusual cooperation, the team was told everything about Redbeard's organization and the state of the Moonfiend Pirates today. She gave them everything with razor-sharp clarity. The dullness in her expression before was gone, and her eyes were bright as diamonds. Halfway through she even grabbed one of the Long Island iced teas, drank it, then continued.

    " ... There are two people of note around Redbeard. The obvious one is Knives. The one you don't see is called Shadow. Both are ninth level Talents, though Shadow is stronger. You'll need to be careful. Redbeard's also made some additions to your Palace. There's a hatch below his throne. At the push of a button it'll open up below him, and he can escape through a tunnel. I don't know where it leads."

    Lan Jue and the Driver exchanged looks. They figured Xiaosu would get some information out of her, but this was a wealth of inside data. If all of what she said was true, it was going to make the scouts' jobs much easier.

    "That's all I know, do what you gotta do. Don't forget your promise, take my bones away from here. I can't stand the thought of staying in this piss hole." She heaved a bitter laugh as two glittering tears rolled down her cheeks.

    "What were you before you came here?" Xiaosu asked softly.

    A-Mei reluctantly opened her eyes. "What does it matter?"

    "If what you've told us is true, then I'll think about bringing your ashes back to your hometown," Xiaosu affirmed. "You know that the Moonfiend Empress' word is her bond."

    "My hometown?" 2 A-Mei's eyes sparkled, but quickly sadness overtook her and she shook her head. "No, no need. I don't want to tarnish my family name."

    Xiaosu scowled at her. "If you know what you do is shameful, why do you still do it? At last count a hundred men have died painful by your hand. Every one of them tortured, mutilated. Your name is bloodier than anyone's, even Redbeard's."

    "Hahahaha! HAHAhahahaha!" A-Mei doubled over as she howled with laughter. This time tears flowed freely and splattered against the floor.

    "You're right, my reputation is well known. Over a hundred men were my victims, even I've lost count how many exactly. But do you know how they treated me when I was first taken? They took turn ravaging me, disgracing me, until there wasn't a clean inch of my body left. They wouldn't let me go. If I was any weaker, I would have died.

    "I wanted to die. I keep living just so I can take revenge on these filthy animals. An eye for an eye. One by one I stalked them and took them down. What power did I have? I had to rely on my charms. The pigs couldn't control themselves when they saw my body. Then I told Redbeard, hoping it would eat him up inside. But to my surprise he didn't want to kill me. On the contrary, he loved it. That crazy bastard... he didn't kill me, and instead I helped him kill many more. The manner didn't both me - I was happy just killing pirates."

    1. In China, a man whose wife is sleeping around on him is said to be 'wearing a green hat.'

    2. Indelible ties to one's 'hometown' is a crucial part of Chinese culture. Hometowns, however, are somewhat 'passed down' from parents. Many people move from villages into cities then have children. Even though their children were born in the city, they still identity their hometown as that of their parents, and return there with them every year for holidays.
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