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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2317621
In which Kai learns a new(and extremely painful) technique and Chalam makes a decision
Chalam is angry.

He’s been angry for days now, ever since Nail told him the news.

News of the return of the one person who could be a real threat to him.

Jet Saetangmasawat.

Chalam stares at the smiling, confident face on his computer screen. The boy had been no more than sixteen the last time Chalam had seen him, standing in this very office suite, eyes burning with hatred, swearing that Chalam would pay for everything he had done.

At the time, Chalam had mocked him, this insignificant little orphan who dared to break into the OmniVentures building and threaten the CEO, only to be dragged out by security guards and thrown onto the street outside. All it had taken were a couple of phone calls to the right people and Jet Saetangmasawat had disappeared and the problem had been solved.

Or so he had thought.

An angry sixteen year old was easy to dispose of.

But Jet is no longer an angry sixteen year old.

He is now the COO of one of the most successful international automotive businesses in the country.

Which means that he has power and allies he didn’t have before.

But power can be taken away, and alliances can be persuaded to shift. Provided the right type of persuasion was used.

Chalam looks up as Nail enters the office suite. The bruises on his assistant’s face have faded, and his arm is no longer in a sling. Nail stands stoically in front of Chalam’s desk, waiting for his superior to speak. When Chalam finally breaks the silence, his question is not what Nail is expecting to hear.

“What do you know about ManiratInfinateDrift?”

Nail blinks, but his face remains expressionless as he responds. “They are an international company that operates in both Bangkok and Monza, under the corporate umbrella of Manirat Nexus, and one of the most successful independently owned businesses in the automotive industry.”

“Independent business always need investors,” The words are said quietly, but Nail knows Chalam is addressing him. “Set up a meeting.”
“I doubt they have any interest in merging with this company.” Nail knows it’s the wrong thing to say as soon as the words are out of his mouth. Chalam’s fingers begin their irritated tap-tap on the top of his desk.

“Independent companies require a little more--persuasion than others.” Each tap of Chalam’s fingers makes the hairs on the back of Nail's neck stand on end.

“You’ve never been interested in the automotive industry before. Why are you so interested in it now? And why ManiratInfiniteDrift in particular?” If anyone else had asked these questions, there would have been serious consequences. But Nail is not any other person--he doesn’t ask questions unless they need to be asked. “Or is it one particular employer you’re interested in?”

Chalam’s fingers have stopped their tapping, but the muscles in his jaw and temple are twitching again, and his eyes are boring into Nail’s. Both know the answer to the question, but Chalam wants Nail to say it out loud. When Nail doesn’t answer, Chalam supplies the name for him. “Jet Saetangmasawat is the COO of ManiratInfiniteDrift.”

Nail clenches his jaw ever so slightly to keep it from dropping open. Now he understands exactly what his superior is thinking. “You want to confront Jet professionally.”

“‘Confront’ is such a harsh word.”

“But it’s what you’re going to do.” Nail presses. “You think Kai gave the missing information to Jet.”

“That is a high possibility. But even without that information, Jet Saetangmasawat is dangerous. You’ll set up the meeting?”

Nail nods. Chalam rises from his desk and crosses to his office window. Nail doesn’t move. He has yet to be dismissed.

“I understand you were once a student of Muay Thai.”

“I was,” If Chalam’s question catches Nail off guard, it doesn’t show in his face. “While I was at university.”

After another moment’s silence, Chalam speaks again. “Perhaps it’s time you resume that practice.”

An email is sent out to all OmniVentures employees less than half an hour later, announcing a meeting between the CEOs of OmniVentures and ManiratInfinateDrift. To two employees in particular, this email is cause for concern.

Rome reads the contents of the email twice to make sure he’s got it right, then exchanges worried glances with Mali. “He’s up to something.”

“Your uncle is always ‘up to something’.” Mali confirms. “Why is he going after Jet this directly?”

“It’s probably not a direct attack,” Rome reassures her. “Especially since Jet hasn’t exactly posed an actual threat. Your brother won’t be meeting Chalam alone.”

Mali furrows her brow. “How can you be sure? Chalam won’t let you attend this meeting, even if you are the company heir, and Jet doesn’t know you well enough to trust your intentions.”

“I won’t be in the meeting,” Rome confirms. “But someone else will be. Someone who Jet trusts absolutely.”

“Do I know who this person is?”

“No,” Rome smiles at Mali’s question as he pulls his phone from his pocket. “But I do, and I also trust him, and you trust me.”

“Of course I do.” Mali takes out her own phone. “But if your uncle is going after Jet, that means he’s going to attack Kai too, and that’s not going to happen a second time.”

Rome finishes dialing as Mali leaves his office. The person on the other end of the phone call answers on the third ring.

“Chalam made his move,” Rome says into the phone. “You said you knew how we could get leverage against him. I’m ready to hear what that leverage is.”

“Kai,” Outside Rome’s office, Mali is careful to keep her voice down as Kai answers her call. “How are you?”

“Really weirded out by how casual you’re trying to be.” Kai sounds a little annoyed. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” Mali has answered too quickly, and she knows it. She continues to speak before Kai can say anything. “I just want to make sure you’re being careful.”

“Last I checked, I’m still on ‘medical leave’ so the only thing that could hurt me is Muay Thai.”

“That’s not funny.”

“I’m serious!” And Kai sounds it. “Did you know you have twenty-four muscles in your arms and thirteen in your legs?”

“I do now,” Mali is confused. “Why is that important information?”

“Because I can feel every one of them.” Kai’s grin is evident in his voice. “Mali, I promise you, until the next semester starts, or I finish whatever ‘medical leave’ you and Rome put me on, all I do is go to my dorm and the gym, unless Jet and I have other plans.”

Mali smiles in spite of herself. “I’m really glad you two are spending time together.”

“So you keep telling me,” Kai is trying to sound casual, and failing. “How much longer do I need to pretend I can’t come into work?”

“I can’t say for sure, but I’ll let you know. Just--please please be careful, and tell Jet to do the same.” Mali hangs up before Kai can say anything else.

Kai stares at his phone as his sister abruptly hangs up. That’s the second time that Mali has ended the conversation without answering any of Kai’s questions. But then, he is also hiding secrets, and he doubts very much that Mali would like finding them out. Rome would understand, but he didn’t want Kai to tell Mali anything just yet, so Kai was at a dead end trying to figure out what to do.

At least he has a good way of spending all the free time he suddenly has.

Over the past few weeks, he and Jet have established a daily routine. Jet calls Kai at five a.m. to go for a run, and then every other day they either go to breakfast, or to the gym. Jet still needs to go to work afterwards, but more often than not they have dinner together. It had still been a little awkward at first, but after the first couple of days, spending time together had felt like less of a chore and more of a choice.

Their conversations have become less stilted--they talk to each other, rather than at each other. As much as Kai doesn't want to admit it, Jet seems genuinely interested in what Kai has to say, and Kai can’t help but be just as genuinely interested in Jet’s thoughts and opinions. He still doesn’t understand why Jet just disappeared ten years ago, and not knowing still makes him angry, but Kai is sure that Jet will tell him when he’s ready. Or maybe the reason doesn’t really matter, because Jet is back and genuinely wants to be a part of Kai’s life.

That’s what he’s been telling himself, anyway.

He really wishes he believes it.

Today, instead of running, they’re at the gym. Jet disappears as usual to go train on his own, while Kai meets with Talay. As much as Kai complains about how much his muscles hurt, he’s also begun to notice that they ache less and less after each training session. Now he’s able to throw basic hooks, uppercuts, and crosses as well as jabs, and Talay has even shown him a couple of elbow strikes. Granted, he still needs more power behind his movements--Talay never fails to tell him that--but he’s making progress.

And he’s also enjoying himself more than he cares to admit.

Kai is already gloved up and moving toward the corner where Talay is usually ready with the punch pads. Only this time, he’s not holding punch pads. Instead, Talay has two sticks of bamboo in his hands. Kai stops short.

“What are those for?”

“Today we’re going to start working on your legs.” Talay hands him one of the bamboo sticks and keeps one for himself. “First we have to make sure you won’t break anything when you kick.”

Kai looks skeptically at the stick in his hands. “I don’t think I’ll be able to break this.”

“I don’t mean the bamboo, I mean your shins,” Talay explains. “If your shins aren’t strong enough, you could break it when you kick, and I don’t think you want a trip to the hospital.”

Kai shakes his head. Talay gestures to a bench against the wall.

“Prop one foot up on that. Take the stick in both hands and rub up the bamboo and down your shin. You want enough pressure that you can feel the bamboo against your leg, but don’t push too hard or you’ll get more bruises than you want. Then do the same thing with the other shin. This is called ‘tempering’.”

Kai does as he’s told, imitating Talay’s movements. “How long do I do this?”

“As long as you want,” Talay’s rubbing is more vigorous, and he seems to be putting more pressure on the bamboo as he moves it up and down his shin. “Be careful, though, if you do it too long it’ll make you feel nauseated.”

The coarse surface of the bamboo grates against Kai’s shin, making his jaw clench against the gritty, scraping sound that echoes in his ears. Heat builds up inside him—both from exertion and the friction of the bamboo. Gradually, the dull ache changes to a curious numbing sensation, and Kai can’t decide if that’s better or worse. By the time he’s finished, Kai stares in disbelief at the pink welts tracing down the length of his shins.

“Yes,” Talay answers Kai’s unasked question. “It’s totally normal for your legs to look like that. Those will be bruises by tomorrow.”

“Great,” Kai’s question comes through gritted teeth as he sinks into the bench. Sitting down doesn’t make the pain go away but it does reduce it to a dull throb. “Are you going to tell me why I’m doing this?”

Talay sits down next to him. “Remember how I’ve been telling you that you need more power behind your punches?”

Kai nods.

“Same goes with kicks. You throw kicks with your shins, not your feet. The stronger your shins are, the harder you’ll be able to kick.” Talay hands the bamboo to Kai. “I want you to temper your shins every day with this, whether you're running or here at the gym. It’ll hurt like hell to begin with, but it’ll get easier the more often you do it. Can you do that? Don’t just nod, say it out loud.”

“Yes,” Kai takes the bamboo, looking less than happy about this new addition to his exercise regimen.

“Good,” Talay gets to his feet, jerking his head in the direction of several bags hanging on the ceiling. “You ready to start learning some kicks?”

Talay teaches Kai kicks the same way he taught him punches, step by step, making minor corrections to Kai’s stance and extension before allowing him to make contact with the kicking bag. Kai's skin stings and his shin makes contact, and the impact of striking the bag sends a jolt through his body that almost throws him off balance. Talay makes him do it again, again, again, stressing the importance of leading each kick with the shin, rather than the foot. By the time the session is over, the welts on Kai’s legs have turned from pink to purple and the balls of his feet ache. Jet doesn’t quite hide his smile as they meet back up, but he doesn’t say anything until he's started the car.

“If it helps, my shins used to look like that. They even bled.”

“Thanks, but that doesn’t help.” But Kai looks a little less frustrated, so Jet continues.

“It’ll get easier.”

“So you keep telling me,” Kai starts to try to massage feeling back into his legs.

“Don’t rub them like that,” Jet’s eyes are mostly on the road, but he can still see what Kai is doing. “You’ll make the bruising worse.”

“So I’ll buy more bruise cream.” But Kai stops rubbing his shins.

They don’t speak for the rest of the drive. It’s not an awkward or angry silence, but a comfortable one. Jet pulls into the parking lot of Kai’s dorm, and they both get out. Sometimes, they go out for breakfast, and sometimes--like today--they cook breakfast at either at the condo where Jet is staying, or Kai’s dorm, and eat there. Kai lets Jet shower first while he prepares the food.

Before, Kai only kept enough food in his dorm for one person, since Zone spent more mealtimes with Iris, and is usually fine with a bowl of porridge or slices of mango or pineapple with bacon or sausage if he wants some extra protein. Now he not only buys enough food for two people, but makes a special effort to buy and cook food that Jet likes--sticky rice with custard, soft boiled eggs, guava, rose-apples, and bananas, both deep fried and with cream. He is not as good a cook as Jet is, but he’s learning.

At least, he hasn’t set his dorm room on fire.

So far.

Since he’s cooking today, Kai picked a favorite food of his, and a favorite food of Jet’s and made them both. Except, he didn’t really have to make the bananas, just cut them up and make sure there was also a bowl of cream on the table. Some mornings the only thing Jet would eat was a bowl of sliced bananas and cream. Today, Jet also wants a rice omelet, which is fine with Kai, since it’s his favorite, too.

Jet comes out of the bathroom as Kai finishes putting food on the table. The dorm is filled with the smell of the rice omelet, bananas and cream, and the same comfortable silence that was in the car is now in the dorm room as the two brothers eat. Jet is the one who finally breaks the silence.

“You left the bamboo in my car. Were you hoping I wouldn't notice?”

“No,” Kai keeps his eyes on his food. Yes. “I’m supposed to rub that up and down my shins every day even if the only thing I’m doing is running.”

“I know,” The grin on Jet’s face is evident in his voice. “I used to do that, too. Do you know why?”

Kai shrugs. “Talay called it ‘tempering’.”

“Do you know what ‘tempering’ means?”

Kai glances down at his bruised legs. “I think I have a pretty good idea.”

“‘Tempering’ is changing something by making it stronger or balancing it out.” Jet explains, speaking as though Kai hasn’t said anything. “The more effort you put into changing it, the stronger and more balanced it becomes.”

Kai has a sneaking suspicion that his older brother isn’t just talking about Muay Thai, but he doesn’t want to point that out, in case he’s wrong. Before either of them can say anything else, the dorm room door opens and Zone and Iris come into the room. Zone’s eyes light up when he sees the food.

“Is that rice omelet?”

“What if it is?” Iris rolls her eyes at her boyfriend. “Kai didn’t make it for you, did he?”

“Did you hear me say I wanted some?” Zone protests. “I just asked what the food was.”

“You can have some if you want,” Kai jerks his head in the direction of the heaping plates of food. “There’s plenty.”

Zone doesn’t need to be told twice.

“Fantastic, thank you! Kai makes the most amazing rice omelet,” He informs Jet as he heaps his plate with food. “It’s one of the few things he can actually cook.”

Kai glares at his friend. “Thanks.”

“It’s true,” Zone shrugs. “And even if it wasn’t, photo shoots make me hungry enough to eat anything.”

“You two were at a photo shoot this morning?” Jet looks genuinely interested. Kai just rolls his eyes again and takes another bite of food.

“Manirat Nexus got invited to sponsor a new racing team,” Iris says, since Zone’s mouth is full of food. “The team captain found Zone’s racing pics on IG and invited him to join the team, so we spent most of the day at the track.”

“Did you say ‘we’?” Kai raises his eyebrows at Iris. “What were you doing at the racetrack?”

“Meet the new photography intern for Manirat Nexus.” She smiles at him. “Kam offered me the internship last night, and I accepted this morning.”

“It helps that you’re dating the CEO’s little brother.” Kai scrambles back as Zone tosses rice at him. “What? ‘It’s true’.”

His movement brings his legs into view. Iris frowns when she sees the bruises. “What happened to your legs? Is this why you’re on medical leave?”

“No,” Kai is tempted to hide the bruises, but it won’t do any good now. “I’m learning Muay Thai, and I won’t be on medical leave for very much longer.”

Jet opens his mouth to say something, but Zone speaks up first.

“Kit was at the photo shoot, too. He got a phone call, and said to tell you that you should go in early today.”

“Oh?” Jet raises his eyebrows. “Why’s that?”

Zone shrugs. “All he said is that you need to come into work right now, because it’s really important. He said something about a shark?”

“A shark.” Kai’s head jerks up and he meets Jet’s eyes. “You’re sure he said a shark?”

Zone nods. “I’m guessing you know what that means?”

“Oh yes,” Jet’s voice is deadly. “We know exactly what that means.”

"14. Warning

Read from beginning: "1. Ignored
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