"Shui, tie up the boat, will ya?" came the gruff voice of the captain.
Shui nodded and stood on the edge of the boat as it drifted up to the dock. He gracefully hopped from the boat and landed softly on the dock a few feet away, grabbing the rope in his hands. He prepared to jump back on the boat when something caught his eye.
There was a girl walking along the pier. Shui narrowed his eyes. She was a sight, seeing as how she looked to be about his age but already sported several tattoos. Blinking a couple of times, he kept watching as he took a step towards the boat. Quite unexpectedly, his foot never hit the dock or the boat but instead plummeted towards the water.
Giving off a loud yelp, he hit the water four feet below with a loud splash and slipped under the murky surface of the port. Even under the cool water, he could feel his cheeks burning with embarrassment and he shuddered slightly at the thought of what the captain might say to him.
With a few strokes of his arms, Shui emerged at the surface and looked back at the land where the girl he was watching snorted loudly and continued to walk away.
Still embarrassed, Shui narrowed his eyes and slowly lowered his head back underwater, a plethora of bubbles floating up from his mouth as he went under.
A minute or so later, once he was sure his cheeks were a normal color again, Shui popped back up out of the water and slithered onto the dock where he hastily tied the thirty-foot boat to the wooden walkway.
"Smooth move, Shui," said one of the sailors as he walked off of the boat with the four other men.
"Thanks," replied Shui quietly. He turned back around and made eye contact with Captain Chifu. The large man's face was unreadable as he stood at the edge of the boat, shaking his head.
"Idiot boy," he muttered. "I can't have people like you around if all you're going to do is slip up. I'm going to have to--"
"Please, sir," Shui interrupted, knowing the words the captain was about to see. "Give me one more chance. If I mess up one more time, you can fire me and I'll be gone like that," he continued, snapping his fingers. "But I beg you, one more chance."
Shui had been working with Captain Chifu and his small crew for the past two weeks on the fishing boat. He was almost like a bodyguard for the boat, ready to help fix any damages and watch out for things like large pieces of driftwood or small bands of thieves that sometimes rowed around the bay in the morning. The captain paid quite well, and due to the fact that it would be challenging to find another job, he needed to keep this job. Without the money, he wouldn't be able to provide for his brother, sister, and father. If he lost this job with Chifu, he'd have two options: Find another job, fast, or join the Triads.
Shui moved through the streets, hiding in the shadows, stalking a tall man. Standing on a roof about ten feet above the Triad member, he jumped down from the roof and drew a knife hidden in his coat. He grasped the knife in his right hand and looked down at the thug lying beneath him. Turning away, eyes closed, Shui brought his knife down into the man's heart, ending his laugh quickly and quietly.
Four men approached Shui two months later in a dark alley, surrounding him. They spoke to him with their twisted words, subtly threatening him by showing ice claws on their fingers and wicked daggers hidden in their coats.
A year passed. A year of violence, angst, stress, anger, and fear.
But he never killed. Not once. He just injured or stole, anything but murder.
The next year involved hazy memories of running the streets and sneaking through the underground, illicit areas of Republic City. Shui learned the city's secrets like the back of his hand, being able to quickly maneuver from one end to the other without touching the surface of the streets.
But he rarely saw his family. He missed a whole year with the most important people in his life. They tried to look for him, but he was never there.
Then everything became heated. Soon, Shui and his Triad were in hot water with the Agni Kai. They pounded through the alleyways, meeting in an abandoned lot in the Dragon Flats.
Ice. Water. Flames. Lightning. A bright, orange flash. Heat on his face. Pain. Excruciating pain.
Then warmth. Safety.
He realized as he sat in the hospital bed that he nearly died that night. Realizing that everyone in the Triads thought he was dead, he decided to free himself from the gangs. Forever.
Shui shivered on the dock. He wasn't going to join the Triads.
Captain Chifu sighed and crossed his arms. Sighing louder, he shook his head and then looked down at Shui. "I'm sorry, Shui, I really am," he said quietly. "I just can't afford to have you keep slipping up like this. It's embarrassing and a hassle on my part. I wish you better luck in the future."
He pulled out a small stack of Yuans from his back pocket and pressed them into Shui's hands. "That's all I can do for you, Shui. Goodbye."
And with that, Captain Chifu stepped off of the boat with a thud and walked after his crew.
A sinking feeling rose in Shui's stomach and he slouched his shoulders. The sinking feeling started to turn into something red and hot, eating away at his stomach and making him want to lash out in anger and pain. He raised one of his arms, ready to send a large water whip towards Captain Chifu, anger pulsating throughout his body.
No, Shui, don't, a voice inside his head whispered soothingly. It's not worth it. Just walk away, walk away.
Shui froze, the anger slowly dying down inside his body and he dropped his arm. Nodding he said, "You're right. It's not worth attacking Chifu. He just did what he had to do."
Although he was still angry, Shui felt much better as he walked off of the dock and towards the land. He held up the stack of Yuans and slid his thumb down them, watching as the money flipped one after one. Judging by the weight and height of the stack, Shui guessed that this was anywhere between sixty and eighty Yuans, which was a pretty generous donation from Chifu. It would provide for his family for a week or so, giving him time to find a job.
Fighting off his anger, Shui made his way from the docks and started to walk towards the park. Everyday, he'd walk to the park after work, walk around the calm, quiet trees, and then head towards Central City Station, where he'd take the train across the bay to where he lived a few miles from Dragon Flats Borough.
He moved quickly through the busy streets, slinking through the crowd and darting across the busy intersections. In just under fifteen minutes, he reached the outer limits of the park and walked towards one of the main entrances.
A girl about Shui's age walked up beside him, smiling and looking around at the upcoming park. They made eye contact and Shui politely smiled back at her and then looked up at the towering buildings around them.
Then the earth exploded.
All around the city, deafening explosions rang through the streets and shook the earth. Shui was knocked to the ground and he looked up at the girl who was walking next to him. She was standing there in shock as massive clouds of smoke towered up over the skyscrapers.
After nearly a minute of the roaring bombs bursting throughout the city, the noise died down and everything stopped. The people stood their, the Satomobiles were still, all gripped in silence. Then a moment later, people began to panic, filled with deep terror.
Just a minute after the initial explosions, and a few seconds after the bone-chilling silence, everything turned to hell as people began running around, screaming and shouting, crying and sobbing. Shui stood there, a look of pure horror written across his face as the smoke grew thicker and the citizens of Republic City began to run and scream in pure, utter, hair-raising confusion...