Like a Broken Orchid


sf_yi-min2_icon.gif sf_yi-shan_icon.gif

Scene Title Like a Broken Orchid
Synopsis Delicate and destroyed. Yi-Min unintentionally charts the path of her future.
Date March 3rd, 2021

The Orchid Lounge

March 3rd
6:38 pm

In retrospect, choosing to come out to the Orchid Lounge tonight with Yi-Shan might not have been the best idea, at least based on the nature of the conversation that Yi-Min planned on having with him once there.

At the same time, this is one of the last opportunities Yi-Min had held close for maintaining some pretense of normalcy. Outings like this weren't unusual for the two of them; surely the notion that they could both take tonight to relax wasn't too radical, either. It wouldn’t have been fair to trap her hardworking twin into a doom-and-gloom talk inside silent, private walls, and Yi-Min
wasn't so sure she could have taken another one herself.

And so: here they are together, seated at one of the marble tables furthest from the stage— a comfortable, gloomily-lit position that affords them some relative amount of privacy.

Everything was perfectly normal.

…But it wasn't.

Yi-Shan knows his twin sister well. There was nobody in the world who knew her better. He can see that despite his sibling’s outwardly relaxed form, one bare arm draped over the vibrant pillows arrayed against her back, she also seems curiously withdrawn. Her spiced rum has also barely been touched.

"Something happened to me that I did not tell you about before, ah-Shan," Yi-Min murmurs after a minute without warning, the tonal shift accompanied by no visible change to her posture. Her gaze still rests on the distant form of the jazz singer with some nominal amount of analytic calm. But the intensity of her focus clearly lies somewhere else, and flatly so. "What do you know of the name Asami Tetsuzan?"

“I know you have bad taste in friends,” Yi-Shan says with a crooked smile, “but not that bad.” For a moment it felt like he knew more than he let on, but as Yi-Shan laughs, it genuinely feels like a joke.

“She’s wanted by the feds?” Yi-Shan says with a broad gesture toward the windows looking out over the night street. “I know she worked for the Linderman Group, but only because of what I heard on the news. I don’t think she and I worked in the same circles, so to speak.” He eyes his sister across the table, one brow raised in silent inquiry.

“What do you know of the name Asami Tetsuzan?” Yi-Shan parrots back the question.

"I know that an 'Asami Tetsuzan' attacked me inside my shop the other day, and that the very boundaries of reality seem to literally crumble wherever she steps."

Well. There it is, then: less a confession than what is essentially a sarcastic-sounding complaint. Yi-Min doesn't like mincing her words, and even less so around Yi-Shan. Her eyes narrow only slightly, still not leaving the singer.

"As for bad taste in friends. Well. I have no argument with you there, little brother. It would appear I need to start doing background checks on the women that I learn recreational fencing from."

All the humor drains out of Yi-Shan’s expression. His brows pinch into a furrow and he looks around the room as if reassessing every diner and staff member. In a low, conspiratorial tone he asks. “She hurt you?” It’s rhetorical, though.

Already, Yi-Shan is taking his cell phone out of his jacket. “Do you know where she is?” He asks, in the middle of dialing a number from memory. She’s seen him like this before, when they were younger, when a man made the mistake of cornering his sister at a club and pulled away a broken hand.

Furious, protective; but in this moment also oblivious to the literal nature of Yi-Min’s poetic description of the nature of reality. He sees it as a metaphor, because how else could it be seen?

"Hold on." Yi-Min's hand strays onto the top of Yi-Shan's, firmly preventing him from dialing the rest of that number. At long last, she also withdraws whatever is left of her attention from the musical performance going on in the background, settling it with quiet, guarded care on her sibling's expression instead.

She had been expecting to arouse this reaction from him— how could she not?— and she loves him all the more for it.

It’s also not the point she wants to dwell on, not least because she is no less protective of him, even if her way of going about it is necessarily much less physical. Yi-Shan is technically only her junior by a few minutes, but minutes may as well be years as far as she has always been concerned.

"This is what I wanted to talk to you about, Ah-Shan. It is so strange to say, but… I think I may have hurt her in that moment more than she hurt me. I don't know."

Oh, but there is so much that she, the perpetually self-assured, self-possessed elder sister, has recently ceased to know. Among all of that is even where to begin, judging by the tightening gloss of tension in her eyes.

“I would hope you did,” Yi-Shan says, finger hovering over the last digit on his phone screen. He studies his sister’s face for a moment, then sets the phone aside, face down. Then, considering the situation further he adds, “I would have hoped you’d make sure someone who attacked you would never be able to do that again.”

Sitting forward, Yi-Shan furrows his brows and reaches out across the table for Yi-Min’s hands. “What was she after? Money? Leverage?” He searches his sister’s eyes for the truth.

"’’My potential.’’" The truth doesn't take long in coming out, as bizarre as it is. Yi-Min lets those two words drop from her lips as quizzically as she still feels their presence in her mind.

"We are probably going to need to talk for real after this," she then comes to realize aloud, with more dryness than anything— it's a suspicion she had been hoping to disprove. The Orchid Lounge, as lovely a place as it is, is not a place for A Talk.

But. Well. "Anyhow, little brother. If I told you that monsters were real— the kind we hear about in ancient ghost stories and folk tales, and that Asami turned me into one … what would you say to me?" The light in Yi-Min's eyes fades into strange territory as she says this, growing frighteningly bright and more dead all at once. She is seething deep inside, so much so that all that she can manage on the surface is some glassy, sweeping sheen of wry wrath. Her lips press grimly closed. There is no response from her when Yi-Shan’s hand overcomes hers.

Yi-Shan knows full well that his sister doesn't do drugs, despite her lifestyle of surrounding herself with them. And there are no physical signs of anything like that affecting her now.

Yi-Shan narrows his eyes and watches Yi-Min with uncertainty. “I’d say she drugged you,” he answers in a hushed voice. “This isn’t like you,” he continues, “this sort of… furtive double-speak. You normally are the one to talk plainly and I’m the one with frustrating metaphors.” That alone has him concerned.

“What do you mean monsters?” Yi-Shan asks as he leans in closer across the table. “Tell me what happened.

"It isn't doublespeak," Yi-Min counters with decisive shortness— though from the way she looks away when she says it, the abruptness seems to be directed far less at Yi-Shan than at her situation at large.

"Ah-Shan, when Asami made her escape from the top of the Linderman Building however many months back, she… flew. Like a bird. Off the top of the roof. I would never have believed it, but I have now seen it with my own eyes. No, I was not drugged, nor am I now. Flight, healing, creating fire with her mind— she is capable of all of these impossible things, and much more. The reason I call her a monster is because I do not really know what else to name her. What would you? What else, but a demon? A yāomó?"

Truly, a figure from straight out of a book of old Chinese fairy tales.

Or a cautionary tale.

"I have spoken with Isaac Faulkner already. Yes, I know well of your feelings about him, but whatever Asami is— she is a threat that must be stopped. And what is more, I intend to work with him to make it so."

Yi-Shan squints at Yi-Min, tilts his head to the side, and then lets out a rough bark of laughter and slouches back into his chair. For a moment he lets the levity take him, lets relief pour out of him, until he sees none of that levity or relief in his sister’s eyes. There is no shared delight in having tricked him, or the tense struggle to hold in laughter when she thinks she might. Instead, there’s just this tense sense of dread.

For a while, Yi-Shan says nothing. He looks down at the table, then up to his sister and slowly reaches across to offer her his hand. “Ah-Min,” he says in a breathy whisper, “we’ll… get through this together. Maybe we should… go.” From this public place, from this city? It’s hard to tell which he means. “I am overdue for a vacation, and… maybe we could just—go somewhere for a while. Relax. Clear our heads.”

She knows what this is.

He thinks she’s lost her mind.

Before Yi-Shan can let more words drop from his mouth, Yi-Min can feel and see the nature of his reaction. The incredulity. The worry.

Above all, the unbelief.

Seeing it disappoints Yi-Min, but she does not let it slow her down. Indeed, a part of her is a little glad to see him resist such an onslaught of logical absurdities, even as she herself had on the day of Asami's assault.

Yet, this cannot continue to stand. So: instead of responding to his faintly-spoken suggestion, she only slowly leans in towards him, fixing him with a glance as impish as it is veiled. "Humor me, baby brother. Just for a minute." With a languor born from suddenly deep thought, she casts her gaze around the moodily-lit architecture of the lounge, inviting Yi-Shan to do the same.

"Choose something that you see. Anything you please, but something… small. Preferably."

Yi-Shan follows his sister’s stare, but then looks at her side-long as if trying to assess her mood from her inscrutable expression. He threads a lock of hair behind one ear, then looks back around the dining flood. “Is this a game?” He wonders, a hint of tension in his voice. Yi-Min doesn’t answer, and Yi-Shan instead is forced to play along.

“That,” he says after a moment of scrutiny, pointing across the room to a tall and narrow glass vase holding three white orchids arranged on an empty table. “An orchid,” he says with a look back to her. Something stirs behind his eyes, more than the disbelief and the concern.

It’s curiosity.

An orchid, Yi-Shan had said.

It was a favorable selection, whether he knew it or not. The unoccupied table sits a healthy distance away in a shadowy fringe of the room, much as theirs does. As such, there are few who pay any notice when one of the three decorative orchids threads its way up and out of the vase into midair like a snake wriggling free from a cage.

Nor is any real notice paid when a moment later, still in darkness, the orchid violently crumples in on itself even as it comes to hover flat just above the rim of the vase. Meanwhile, on the surface of their own table, Yi-Min's apparently resting hand has kinked shut into a claw.

The longer and harder she curls her fingers, the more damage is rendered to the frail decoration— until at last, multiple shreds of orchid-colored polyester drop onto the distant tablecloth.

"This is no game," she answers him at last after the destruction of the flower, her voice sounding hollow in her ears.
Yi-Shan’s eyes are drawn wide at the display of his sister’s supernatural gift. His mouth opens, though no sound escapes. It is caught in the event horizon of his confusion. He exhales a shaky breath, looking back and forth between Yi-Min and the crumpled orchid.

How,” he finally manages to exhale, his gaze finally locking on Yi-Min and nothing else. “How is—Asami?” He remembers something Yi-Min mentioned about her earlier. “This isn’t possible. This can’t be—” and his gaze wavers again, eyes darting around the restaurant looking for someone laughing at the shared joke that Yi-Shan isn’t in on.

No one is laughing.

"Ai. Asami. As I told you, it would appear that she can do what I just did, in addition to all those other things I mentioned."

All of the impossible things, with some to spare. Yi-Min continues to gaze at her brother with demonstrative dispassion, her inner empathy for his disbelief not breaking her stare. "I tell you all these things, Ah-Shan, so you will not think me completely out of my fucking mind whenever I tell you what I am up to these days." Gossip between twins hardly meant much if one was not being truthful, after all.

There is another side to this, too, likely the more important one by far. "Even more: so that you can prepare should any harm come your way as a result of… any of this. Our world going mad, piece by piece." Dispelling her own trancelike state, Yi-Min’s breathing slows for a forceful moment. God forbid that it would.

Still, God was not always kind.

Propping his elbows up on the table, Yi-Shan folds his hands in front of his mouth and stares off into the distance at the broken orchid. He breathes in deeply, closing his eyes as he sighs, and blinks his attention back to his sister at the sigh’s conclusion.

“How many more people like this are out there?” He asks. “This—is a paradigm shift. Are you all the first? Are there more?” He casts furtive, conspiratorial glances around the lounge, no longer trusting any diner to be who or what they say they are.

"«I know personally of several others besides me. I have no idea how many there are in total, or more accurately, how many that madwoman has managed to reach.»" Though Yi-Min has been conversing with Yi-Shan in English up until now— a carryover of an old, determined habit she had made of practicing the language with him, back when they had both been new immigrants to the country— she now dips back into their native Taiwanese.

It seems that Yi-Shan's deeply apprehensive mood has rubbed off on her.

"«None of them are the same as me, either. Your good friend Faulkner has gained the miraculous ability to heal others, as though he were some manifestation of Bǎoshēng Dàdì himself."

A Chinese folk god of medicine. The memory is evocative: once, Yi-Min and Yi-Shan had played as children in the shadow of his grand temple near their house.

Yi-Shan looks down at the table, his eyes tracking from side to side in deep thought. He looks back to the broken orchid, then back to his sister. “«This knowledge could change the world,»” he says in a hushed breath, even if they’ve switched from English.

“«You could change the world.»” Yi-Shan says.

"«Nonsense,»" Yi-Min returns immediately, tamping down her displeasure at this direction Yi-Shan had taken. It's a reasonable train of thought, after all.

Or, it would be. "«Recall what I told you about the visions I suffered from, and likewise all the odd things that have happened to my friends. All of this feels wrong. I think, rather… it is a sign the world is falling apart.»"

Yi-Shan’s brows furrow as he angles his head to the side like a dog that just heard an unusual noise. “What?” He slips into English.

“«Ah-Min, this is a tool.»” Yi-Shan says as he reaches out across the table to take her hand. “«Can you imagine what you could do with this? An invisible weapon? With others like you, under your control?»”

Always the dreamer, always the one with aspirations.

“«What proof do you have that the world is falling apart?»” Yi-Shan asks, squeezing his sister’s hand. “«We are here. Eating. People are going about their lives. This is…»” He tries not to be too optimistic, settling on, “«an opportunity of a lifetime. Not a sign of the end times.»”

"«Excuse me? Under my control? Keep dreaming, little brother.»" That's optimistic even for Yi-Shan. Yi-Min can't help but snort with a somewhat dry smile at his imagination, even as she lets her expression fall back to a more serious level right after. "«Yes, everything looks fine now… but, I don't know, Yi-Shan. Every gift has its price. You know that better than most, don't you? In your line of work. And I fear that whatever price will be asked of me is one that I have only begun to pay.»"

As if Asami's mental defilement of her hadn't been enough.

As though witnessing visions of her brother as a sinister little ghost-child, as though one straight from a Japanese horror film, wasn't enough.

Yi-Shan laughs, a small and immaculate thing contained behind one hand. “Ah-Min,” he says with a delighted smile and a feigned chastising tone. “«The best part about debts is figuring out which ones you repay, and which ones you don’t.»” He says with a sly smile. “«Maybe there’s a price, but no debt collector is unstoppable and no price too high if you are the one with the power. Mr. Linderman taught me that.»”

Yi-Shan leans forward, his brows raised and excitement in his eyes. “«If this power is a gift, then so be it. If it is a curse, own it. If it is a transaction… we pay the price, together, or we bury the tax man in a shallow grave by the side of the road.»”

Sliding his hand out across the table, Yi-Shan leaves it palm-up for his sister to take. “«Together.»”

There is much— too much Yi-Min wants to say to all of that, but her rebuke turns to an ashen sigh inside her mouth when she sees the excitement in his eyes.

What can she do, then, but place her hand on top of his? "«Together,"» she repeats with more assurance than she feels, particularly regarding his claim about whom the power belongs to. Nevertheless: for his sake, she forces her worry far deeper into her heart where it cannot be so easily seen.

It would be just the two of them, against the world.

As it had always been.

What more could she ask for?

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