For a normally boisterous woman like Yang being stalked wasn't anything to worry about. Having paparazzi shadow her, horribly, was normal. She had gotten used to them hiding in bushes and rooftops a long time ago. She considered that a game and their prize was getting exactly what they wanted when she got tired of them.
The stalkers and the fan-boys were even more amusing to her, normally. They made the paparazzi look like pros (In fairness, they were pros, just not in the same league as a huntress). Sometimes sweet, sometimes creepy, but they were never anything to lose sleep over.
This guy was different. He was good. At first it had been entertaining, and something she respected. When they had parted ways after their first encounter she expected to see him again to play another round. She hadn't expected it to be that night. Or the next morning, or every other minute she thought to check for him, which had increased at an accelerated rate.
The situation was starting to leave her edgy. It brought back memories of another who had stalked her. She hadn't known his identity either until he wanted to reveal it. That had been after he nearly killed both Sun and Neptune, and left her temporarily blind.
If she was really honest with herself it was scaring the hell out of her. She was hovering over Jerry and Jeff almost religiously now, even when she shouldn't be to hold on to her public image.
She knew his aura well now. He was never too far away, but when she tried to turn the tables and find him he managed to avoid her. Last time he escaped her she had gotten so pissed she shattered a light pole with a single punch.
Well, that helped maintain her image at least. The photos of her doing it were already circulating.
The fear was embarrassing though. While Jeff had managed to spin it as Yang trying to make up for the last affair, he still didn't know why it was happening. Neither of them did. Not completely at least. How could she admit that?
Oh, she knew she was being stupid. Jerry and Jeff both knew she was human under the tough exterior, and she knew they would understand. It was her own pride stopping her.
Normally their sleeping arrangements were a trade deal. One weak Jerry was with her, then next he was with Jeff. During Jerry's sleep time with Jeff was normally when Yang had her supposed affairs. Her lover must feel a bit like a yo-yo between the two sometimes, not that he complained of course.
Most of her "affairs" were with friends; close ones she could trust to keep the truth away from the public. They didn't mind the notoriety when it (purposely) got out. It gave them their ten minutes in the sun. Enough to enjoy, not long enough to get burned. If their metaphorical skin started to get pinkish all she had to do is have some other scandal rise and he'd be quickly left in the shadows.
For the last few days however they were all sharing the same bed. Contrary to what most believed of her lifestyle this didn't happen often, but tonight she needed it. She needed to know they were both safe. They weren't fighters, she was. If they were near she could protect them. Their safety was the source of her fear, not hers.
Her room was purposely set so photos of clandestine meetings could be taken from outside. Because of that tonight they were in Jeff's room. The change of scenery was nice actually, and the lack of windows was reassuring. It was as safe as she could make it right now.
After two nights of being stalked Yang woke up as his presence invaded her sleep. Normally a tank running through her bedroom was what it took to wake her, but at that point she had started sleeping lightly as if she was in the field. His aura wasn't outside this time, which is why it had alerted her subconscious.
This guy is pretty ballsy if he's in my house, she thought to herself. Feeling as if she had her prey trapped she slowly got up, managing not to wake either of the others. She put on Ember Celica, but left the rest of her clothes where they laid on the floor. It wasn't like the rest of the world couldn't find pictures of her somewhere, and she wasn't the shy type. That night she didn't have time for such niceties.
Her house in Vacuo, much like her houses in the other three kingdoms, was far larger than she needed or wanted. Image was everything however in her line of work. Every room was furnished, but most of it was much cheaper than they looked. That size allowed her to prowl, moving as silently a lioness.
She didn't think he had enough training, if any, to control his aura or to sense others, but she suppressed hers to be sure. This was her home turf. She was going to make the best use of it she could and not lose this opportunity.
He was moving with purpose, which worried her. He knew exactly where he was going. As far as she was knew the plans to the house wasn't in any public forum. By his direction she thought he might be heading to her room which was even ballsier than coming in at all.
Then again, he could know it was empty. It was purposely set so anyone making the effort could get a good view from outside. If he hadn't known she was here this might not have seemed that risky. That wasn't his fault.
What a pity.
Her room and Jeff's were on opposite sides of the house. She could be rather loud when she was with Jerry. It was a kindness to be so far apart so Jeff could get some sleep. It meant the intruder had a good head start. She decided to lay in wait instead, going to the only set of stairs down from her room and sat in the shadows.
Lucas, or Luke as he preferred to be called, shifted through the house quietly. Where Yang was he wasn't sure, but she wasn't in her room. If her press was to be believed she was probably sleeping around again. It was an opportunity he couldn't turn down. His employer was getting aggressive, and he didn't need that aggression aimed at him.
The plans to the house had been provided. Where she got them Luke didn't know. It wasn't from any source he knew of. He'd looked. He was grateful right now. This place was massive. Looking for her room would have taken too long.
He wasn't certain what he would find, but anything incriminating was most likely to be in her bedroom if it existed anywhere at all. What could be incriminating to a woman with little shame he wasn't sure, but he had to try. He had come to understand that taking this job was a mistake, but at the time the money had been good. Better than good actually. Little had he known that the risk wasn't from Ms. Long.
Getting to her room he quickly looked around. He didn't take the time to hide his actions. They wouldn't be effective anyways. All he found was what should be in any couples room. Mostly her boyfriend's clothing, who seemed to be the clothes horse of the two. There was a bit of jewelry, but not much. That wasn't surprising. Yang never seemed to have any on during any of her appearances. The attached bath was much the same.
He had to find something. This attempt was the last real chance he had. He had given up on her making a mistake and showing too much. Why he had expected that to start with he didn't know. Even bottom feeding reporters got lucky, and as many as there were on her there couldn't me any secrets left.
After ten minutes of searching, five more than he wanted, he had to accept defeat. He grabbed what jewelry he could to cover his real reason for being there and started heading out. He would take a look at her living room, the largest one at least, in hopes of finding something, but he didn't have much hope.
He was heading out. There wasn't a sound to be heard. If she wasn't tracking his aura she would never have known. The game of cat and mouse would end soon and maybe she would get a good night’s sleep again.
What was he expecting to find anyways? Whatever it was it wasn't there. At least nothing that hadn't already been seen. If he really was paparazzi surely a few pictures of her underwear wasn't going to get much, and Jerry's wardrobe was even less interesting.
He was here. Moving at a crawl he made it down to the last step. He hadn't noticed her, which was good. She wasn't taking any chances this time. This guy could move silently, but so could she. By the time he had taken three steps from the base of the stairs she was on him, putting him face down on the floor before he could know what was happening.
"You got a large brass set to be in here," she whispered into her captive's ear. With one of his cheeks firmly planted on the floor, and her forearm firmly planted on the other he didn't have many options. To make it even more clear how much trouble he was in she placed her fist on the floor in front of his eyes.
She gauged his reaction as her bracelet changed into a weaponized gauntlet. It wasn't as severe as she would have liked. He was a professional. Either that or he was too stupid to know he should be scared, which was laughable. He definitely wasn't paparazzi. Those types never held their cool when threatened. They'd been on the receiving end of a beating enough times to be properly gun shy.
Still leaning over him, she whispered one more time. "So, who are you working for?" That time she got a reaction. It was one that proved she was right.
Yang didn't have the taste for torture, and anything short of that wasn't likely to get him to talk. So what to do? She wished that Alice was here. This was her field of expertise.
No sound was coming from him of course. Silence was his best option. Anything else and Yang might get some small clue to what was really going on here. She would already know more than she should by his estimation.
At the very least she was going to find out who he was tonight. Sitting up but still on his back she noted that he didn't attempt to fight his way out of his predicament with the new freedom this allowed. A smart move on his part, but it didn't stop her from giving him one hell of a headache when he woke up.
After delivering the knockout blow she threw him over her shoulder and headed to the living room. It had the only locatable camera. She took the picture and then contemplated further.
She wasn't a spy. She didn't have any way of putting a tracker on him, and even if she did there was no chance that he wouldn't find it. That meant setting him somewhere and letting him lead her to whoever hired him was out. It was a cliché move anyways.
Holding him wasn't going to help either. This wasn't a jail, and if he was able to get free he would be able to snoop more.
Only one thing for it then. The cops showed up quickly. A unit must have been near her estate. Breaking and entering would keep him in their custody at least for a day even if he did get bailed out. It might be enough time to figure out more.
Her next move was to call Alice and send her the picture she had taken. If she couldn't figure out more no one could.
Coming back to consciousness the first thing Luke recognized was the feel of cuffs on his wrists. They weren't the standard type. This set forced his arms into a painful angle behind him so the back of both wrists were towards each other. It made it harder for his fingers to get to the locks. Nearly impossible really. They were not standard police equipment.
Remaining still and keeping his breathing calm, he continued to play unconscious while he tried to figure out more. It was a wasted effort.
"You're awake." He hoped it was one of Yang's friends. He didn't think any of them would do any true harm to him. Better still was the police despite being the wrong type of cuffs. If it was them he would be out before morning.
When he looked up from his sitting position he noted the man in front of him. There was nothing remarkable about him. Average build, average looks, average clothing. The closest thing to a distinguishing characteristic was his age. For a spook he was remarkably old. They usually retired, one way or another, twenty years younger than what he looked.
There was no doubt in his mind he was facing another spy. Luke was young to the game, but he knew the rules well and the general shape of its pieces. If this had been a game of chess this man was the Queen, second only to the King who he took orders from. Luke was a pawn in comparison. He had no chance of crossing the board and become more. Not now.
Flipping a switch his captor started a winch. Its chain was attached to his cuffs somehow. This was clear when his arms, already registering mild pain, became pure agony as they were pulled upwards. First it forced him to stand up, and then to lean forward to avoid dislocating his shoulders. His hands continued to get pulled up. When his feet started to leave the ground his scream was unstoppable. The pain ended, relatively speaking, when his shoulders did dislocate from the pressure of his own body weight.
"I have a message for your boss," his tormentor said casually. "But you don't need to memorize it. I think she will understand."
Before that statement had a chance to register the real torture began. Torture without a single question ever asked.ns188.8.131.52da2