“You’re in our house now. Welcome to the district, kitten. It’s shady around here… evil warriors are lurking. We’re in the darkest side of Frisco—where there be dragons.”
Chapter One: The Alleyway Meeting
You sighed quietly as you pressed your head to the car’s window. Countless telephone poles flew by your line of vision, as did the seemingly infinite rural road. The summer sun was shining and the sky was completely free of clouds. Undoubtedly, you were still far from the big city in which your family was driving to. “How much longer till we get there?” You asked your parents again.
“About… two and a half hours left,” Your mother peered at you from the front seat and smiled, “Aren’t you excited?”
You knew she was excited, as well as your father, so that was great. You were happy that they’d found a good job opportunity, especially after all those months of unemployment. However, you weren’t too happy about moving.
Your destination was San Francisco, California.
Your new house would be located in Chinatown, to be exact. You weren’t thrilled when you’d first heard this news, especially since you’d previously thought Chinatown to be nothing but a huge tourist trap. “We’re sorry about having to take you away from your friends, _____. But this move will do great things for us.” Your father had mentioned, to which your mother had added, “And our new jobs are right in that district. It’ll be easiest to commute to work.”
On the first day of summer vacation, you’d had to pack up your stuff and get ready to leave your old town behind.
“Oh, and didn’t we tell you about that friend of mine?” Your father suddenly asked.
“No, you didn’t.”
“I was meaning to tell you about a friend who lives right next door to where we’ll be living, and he has a son your age. So, you’ll be neighbors with him and probably become friends, so when school starts, you’ll already know someone. Isn’t that better than starting a new high school all alone?”
You sank down into your seat, “I guess…” You weren’t sure how to feel about this, or about where precisely you were moving to.
After a couple more hours, the drive was nearly over.
As the family car emerged from the well-known San Francisco Bridge, you couldn’t help but sync your smartphone into the car’s system and play a song from your playlist. ‘Immortals’ immediately blasted from the speakers, and you sat back to enjoy the scenery that passed your window that definitely reminded you of ‘San Fransokyo’.
“Hey look, that house looks like the one from Full House. Oh, and that one looks like Hiro’s!” You kept pointing out popular icons from the movie-famous city. “They really got the geography right in Inside Out. The roads definitely have hills like this.”
Your elation subsided, however, once you saw Chinatown coming into view. “I really… can’t believe… we’re gonna live in a district so different to America…” You knew more than anything that it indeed felt like China here. How would it feel to truly reside in this place? You knew you were eventually going to miss your home country’s architecture and culture.
“At least our apartment building is luxurious. Oh, but we’ll be living in a condo.”
“Right, so still a house rather than an apartment?”
“That’s right. Hey… looks like we’re here!” Your mother pointed to a tall red building that was clearly in a Chinese architectural style.
It looked like it had many levels, with each separated by dark red arcs that curved up—a definite sign of a Chinese building design. The outside was decorated with elaborate carvings and Chinese symbols. The roof was triangular and pointed, and there were ropes of red-and-gold lanterns hanging from a side of the building to another. In fact, most of the streets in this community were strewn with lanterns from roof to roof.
“I’m sure there’s lots to see here. My friend’s son can definitely show you around. We’ve already told him about you.”
You pulled away from the window to glare at your father via the rearview mirror, “You what?”
“I told my friend we were moving here, and about you, and he told his son and wife about you. He said they’re excited to meet us.”
You sighed, just as the vehicle pulled into a parking space in front of the tall building.
As you stepped out of the car, you glanced around at the shops that were scattered across your street. A lot of signs written in Chinese characters came into view, as well as large windows full of various and unique items. Some sold traditional Changshans, others showcased Chinese-style furniture, some carried trinkets such as hand-held fans and other knickknacks, while some showed off Ancient China-era swords. There was even a Hello Kitty shop way down on the left corner. But isn’t that… a Japanese thing? You thought to yourself, but soon shrugged it off. You’d noticed a few anime shops in this locality and even some stores solely for Asian sweets and candies.
“Why don’t you unpack your room and then go exploring for a bit?” Your father suggested. “We’ll take care of the rest of the unpacking.”
Once you were finished with your room, you decided it wouldn’t hurt to look around your new neighborhood a bit. After all, this sector of San Francisco was a popular place to visit.
“Oh, and while you’re out there, be on the lookout for Dave’s kid. I completely forgot his name, but he’ll be around Portsmouth Square. His dad told me he was there with some friends.” Your father told you as you stepped out the door.
“Yeah, yeah.” You waved it off as you walked out.
It was already getting dark, and that only meant that the streets were even more stunning than during the daytime. The countless lanterns all over the district’s rooftops were shining, all the neon signs were lit up to brighten the streets, and endless, soft golden glows were emanating from shops, restaurants, and dragon-themed lampposts.
Some people walking the streets were tourists dressed in casual clothing, while others were dressed in traditional Chinese wear. This didn’t seem to be out of place.
As you stepped out of a shop (you’d purchased a pair of elegant chopsticks as a memento of your first night here), you’d decided to check out Portsmouth Square—which was considered to be the heart of Chinatown.
…Also because you wanted to see if your new neighbor and his friends were there. You had no idea who or what to look for, but you were just there to check out the park anyway.
There was a large red Asian archway over the entrance to the area, which was only the beginning to a huge park that definitely looked like it came from the Far East side of the world. “Whoa...” You gaped as you stood in place, taking in the historical grounds.
After a few seconds, a voice was abruptly heard from behind you. “Heh… you look lost.”
You quickly swiveled around to face the person. “Er, what…?”
A male about your age stood there. He was smirking slightly and his red eyes appeared to gleam with mischief. He chuckled and responded, “You’re _____, aren’t you?”
Slowly, you nodded. “Yeah… how do you know my name?” You almost wanted to slap a hand over your mouth once you said that. The answer was now obvious.
He adjusted the brim of his hat, which was covered by the nighttime shadows so you couldn’t see what was on it. “Nice to meet’cha. I was told about you coming to live here.” He stepped a bit closer and threw an arm across your shoulders, “Looks like we’ll be neighbors.” He peered into your face and winked, “…We’ll have fun with you here.”
“I-I’m sorry, but—” You moved away from his arm and tried to smile, “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Oh, right.” As he started talking again, he opened up the sports bag that was over his shoulder. You hadn’t noticed it till he took off his cap—which you now recognized as a San Francisco Giants baseball hat—and stuffed it into the bag. “The name’s Allen,” He shouldered the bag, which also appeared to have a wooden baseball bat inside. “I’m done out here. Wanna head home, dollface?”
The next day, you were walking down the streets of Chinatown with your, er… rather eccentric new friend. “You moved here from where?” Allen asked as he gnawed on a celery stick.
“I just told you…”
He shrugged, “Well, anyway. It’s cool that you agreed to hang out today. I swear, all the other girls I go up to just think I’m some creep. Pfff,” He rolled his eyes.
“Really?” You looked him up and down. He was wearing a white t-shirt, torn jeans, a pair of red Converse, a silver dog tag necklace and black sunglasses. His brunette hair fell to the right side of his face and his tanned skin only gave him a more exotic look. You couldn’t see why other females thought he looked unapproachable or untrustworthy.
“…Also, I had nothing else to do today.”
You put a hand to your heart in mock hurt, “Wow, I am so offended.”
He laughed and patted your hair, then continued showing you around the district.
Half an hour later, you were standing between two different buildings. “That,” Allen pointed, “is a gay bar. Never walk in there by accident, haha.” He then pointed to the other building as you two stood in the alleyway, “and that, my friend, is a club for crossdressing. The signs don’t really say what these two places are, so just lettin’ ya know in case of… well, whatever.”
You looked down the alley. “And is anything down there?”
He glanced over, but soon shook his head. “Probably just some fortune-teller stuff.”
“Huh. You really know your way around here, don’t you?”
He shrugged, “I’ve lived here a while. Plus, a lot of my friends live here too.”
“So… who were those friends you were supposed to be at Portsmouth Square with yesterday?”
He put his hands into his pockets and looked down. At that moment you really had to admit he was attractive—especially with the way his hair shaded his eyes and his short-sleeved shirt showed off his muscles and tattoos. “I… only have about two friends, really. Two ‘real’ friends, or some shit...”
You tilted your head. In a way, you felt you could relate with him. “That’s… perfectly normal. What are their names?”
He looked back up, “Eh… Oliver and Flavio. I was making them play baseball with me yesterday, but I swear…” He chuckled, “Those two are the most sissy bitches I’ve ever met in my life.”
You laughed with him, “You can only say things like that about true friends.”
He fist-bumped you, “True, true.”
Allen was definitely not like how you’d imagined he’d be when you first met him, and frankly, you were relieved by that.
“Oh… and I guess I have one other friend…”
You playfully winked and pointed to yourself, “Me?”
He blushed a bit before he stuttered out, “Pshhh, n-no. He’s… oh—is that him…?” He peered over your shoulder to the left street of the alley. “What in the honest fuck is he doing?”
You turned around to see someone running down the sidewalk while looking frantically over his shoulder. He was sprinting in your direction while still not looking forward a few seconds later when you decided that oh hell nah, you were not about to get knocked over.
As the person was coming closer, you jumped out of the way and let the dude run smack into Allen. “Hey, what the hell are you—fuck!”
This, of course, caused Allen to get knocked over, rather than you which was all you wanted anyway.
“Bruh, Zao, what are you doing?” Allen hissed from the ground, the other guy on top of him. “I told you not to make deals during the day?!” He quickly pushed him off and stood back up.
The other guy laughed and got up, “No, ahahah, I stole Ion’s wallet!” He reached into his pocket and presented a worn leather wallet. “That piece of shit only got about half of what he deserved, man.”
“Hey, I hate him and you know it!”
Allen crossed his arms and sneered, “Who cares? His older sister with the huge tits is like, super fucking hot.”
The newcomer—who looked a type of Asian—retorted back, “Is that the only reason you get along with stupid Ion?” He scoffed and then walked a few steps over to a homeless musician who was playing a mangtong on the sidewalk. “Hey brother, you can have all this.” To your surprise, he gave the man all of the money that had been in the wallet. “You totally need it more than Ion.” With that, he stepped back over to Allen and threw the wallet into a nearby dumpster. “No one will find it now, haha.”
You weren’t sure whether to think his gesture was kind or criminal. No—he’d stolen that wallet, so it was definitely criminal. Even if he’d given the money to a less fortunate.
Allen was now checking his phone instead of listening to you or the other person, so you coughed awkwardly to get his attention. At that, he glanced back up and pointed to you, “Oh right. This is _____, my new neighbor.” He then pointed to the Asian and looked at you, “And that’s Zao Wang. He’s kinda creepy so don’t get too close to him, ‘kay?”
Zao shot him a look, and then shifted his attention back to you. “_____, huh…” He smiled sensually at you and took a step forward.
From a quick once-over, you could tell that he was easily one of the best-looking guys you’d seen here. Almost tied with Allen, that was for sure. His eyes appeared to be the color of crimson, and a military cap was over his dark brown hair. He was wearing a sleeveless black Changshan with red trim and cross stitches, which revealed a black dragon tattoo over his upper left arm and a lion tattoo over his right shoulder.
“You look so… pure and innocent. It’s cute, really.” He gazed into your face, analyzing, to which you felt a sense of discomfort with his scrutiny and backed away slightly. You weren’t used to people staring at you so closely and it made you feel just a bit self-conscious.
“…It makes me wonder how long you’ll last here.” Finally tearing his blood-colored irises away from you, he looked down and fumbled for something in his pocket. A moment later he was lighting up either a joint or a cigarette—you couldn’t determine which from this distance.
“Excuse me?” You weren’t sure what he meant by that and you weren’t about to leave it alone.
A wisp of smoke emanated from the roll between his lips as he smirked at you, “You’re in our house now. Welcome to the district, kitten.” Presumably on purpose, he crept closer and spoke in a shaky witch voice, “It’s shady around here. Evil warriors are lurking. We’re in the darkest side of Frisco, where there be dragons.”
You made a face and took a step back, “Stop talking in that creepy voice.”
He chuckled, waved his hand and stepped away. “Isn’t she adorable, Allen?”
Finishing off a text message, Allen glanced back up. “She sure is,” He then faced you and used your shoulder as an arm rest. “But he’s right, y’know, about this place too. Heh, ‘Chinatown of San Francisco’? More like ‘Opium Capital of the American west coast’.”
Zao nodded and made a peace sign, “And I’m the Emperor around here~”
“Uh,” Allen rolled his eyes, “More like everyone’s weird drug dealer.”
“What was that, American?” Zao used the peace hand that was already in the air to reach for Allen’s shirt collar.
He didn’t look intimidated in the slightest. “Okay, first off, I’m Native American—there’s a difference, asshole.” He flicked Zao on the forehead.
They continued to converse back and forth as you slowly backed away a bit more. Your phone was starting to blow up with messages from your friends in your old town, especially since you and Allen had taken a selfie earlier and he’d sent it to basically everyone in your Recents, much to your annoyance.
As you frantically tried to text everyone back saying no, he’s not your new boyfriend, you only picked up on bits and pieces of his and Zao’s banter.
“I’m the King of Chinatown’s Underworld and you know it!”
“You really don’t know much about me—”
Once your phone was in peace, you tried to tune back in to what they were saying. You were distracted, however, by Zao’s body language. He looked partially seething with indignation, and partially pleased with the attention he was getting from Allen.
You couldn’t help but watch him—his arms were pretty toned, and despite his short height, his entire anatomy appeared to be muscled and firm. There was a different look to his body than Allen’s. Instead of a naturally buff American look, it was easy to tell Zao either worked out or was on steroids. In other words: he was surprisingly hot and you weren’t sure if you should be attracted to someone like him.
As you surveyed him, you couldn’t help but blurt out that you liked his animal tattoos. “And that dragon one is cool.”
For some reason, you weren’t expecting him to acknowledge you. Instead, he ignored Allen and sent you a wink. “Hm. Thanks.” His smile was small but carnal.
You felt yourself blush. The first thought that came to your mind was why. You didn’t like the way Zao made you feel, and especially the way he effortlessly got you flustered.
“Anyways, I need to go find Kuro. See you two around.” He placed his hand over the brim of his military cap and grinned smugly at both you and Allen. “…Especially you, kitten.~” He looked at you a few seconds longer than needed before turning around and walking out of the alleyway.
You watched him for a moment as he left. Something about his personality was alluring and it didn’t help that he was somewhat attractive.
“…You have a c~ruuuush on him, don’tcha?” Allen suddenly teased. “Funny, I never expected you to be the type with an Asian fetish.”
You nearly choked on your own spit, “W-What? I don’t like him! I just met him and—”
“-Oh please,” He made a shooing motion with his hand, eyes closed modestly and a knowing grin on his face. “I saw the way you were checking him out. You’re totally into him, aren’t you?”
“No. And I don’t need you playing matchmaker.”
“I’m not,” A serious expression abruptly took over his features. “Look. That guy is a flirt and everyone knows it. But, really, girls hardly ever like him, and they usually just want either drugs or sex from him, I mean, to be honest, it’s true he basically runs this town’s red light district, but still, I think—”
You covered your face and groaned, “-Allen, where are you going with this?”
He stopped rambling. Now smiling ‘innocently’ at you, he continued, “I think you’re the type of girl he likes.”
Your jaw nearly dropped. “Huh?! How do you figure that? And, it’s not like it matters…”
“You seem like the introverted- or maybe calm-type. Are you quiet, _____? Never done a hell of a lot of illegal shit?”
“That’s you, isn’t it? Not some crazy-ass hood-bitch?” Allen watched you inquisitively, hands in his pockets. “…Thought so.~”
He suddenly began jumping up and down in excitement, “Ohhhhhh MAN!” He laughed energetically, “You wouldn’t want Flavio to hear of this, ahahaha! He’ll literally go full fanboy and force you two to get together.”
Your heart raced. “Uh, no thanks?! I just met him, Allen!” You cheeks flushed furiously.
He slowly stopped spinning around. “…Mm. Bummer.” Sighing, he looked up into the summer sky. “He… needs a good girl like you, but whatever.”
You both quieted down after that. Zao ‘needs a good girl’? What could that mean…? You wondered.
“Anyway. Wanna head back to my place and have a vegan shake with me? Shut up, they’re better than you think, I know you were about to say somethin’ stupid.” He turned and began walking back without waiting for your answer.
Somehow, you were tempted to ask him more about Zao.
In the back of your mind, you secretly wished you could know more about him.