Chapter 138

Nick didn’t answer Alice’s question; instead he dropped off his stool and moved toward the bar. While the others had jostled and pushed their way through the crowd, Nick flowed through it like a river across a bed of rocks. He barely got touched by the time he reached the three drunken offenders.

“Good evening, gentlemen.”

The tallest one, a frosted-tip blonde who had made the stripper comment, looked him up and down. “What do you want?”

“I want you to apologize to my friend, beg her for forgiveness, and then get the hell out of this place while it’s still an option.” There was no aggression in Nick’s voice or his body language; if anything, he seemed to be perfectly peaceful. The only hint of what was simmering beneath his calm surface was his choice of words.

“Go fuck yourself.” This one was smaller than Tips, a dense figure with a close shave along the top of his head and a tribal tattoo encircling a sizable bicep.

“Yeah, get out of here before we get annoyed.” The third fellow was darker skinned than the other, lean with long hair.

“So, just to be clear, you are refusing to act like men and own up to your drunken acts of rudeness? Rather you prefer to be petulant children, content to wallow in their own idiocy while giving each other congratulatory hand jobs over their perceived prowess with women?”

“What the hell did you just say?” Tattoo asked. Nick sighed; it seemed despite their status as seekers of higher education he was going to have to go low-brow in order to move this along. He really had hoped for a quick resolution, but the longer he delayed the greater the risk that Thomas or Will would get involved. Well, when in doubt, play the odds. Since he was dealing with drunken adolescents trying to prove their masculinity, it didn’t take a big leap of intelligence to guess what might set them off.

“I called you cowardly morons and implied that you were gay. You know, pillow-biters, pole-smokers, fudge-”

Nick was interrupted as Tattoo stumbled off his chair and took a swing at him. “Finally,” Nick mumbled under his breath. He sidestepped the drunken punch and drove his own fist into the muscular man’s throat. Tattoo immediately began to cough and clutch where Nick had struck, which left him defenseless for the follow up blow to his right ear. Long Hair finally began reacting, lurching forward to help his friend. Nick delivered a sharp kick to his sternum, slamming him back-first into the edge of the bar. Nick made no attempt to conceal the boredom evident on his face.

Tips finally jumped into the fray, clearly surprised at his lackeys’ inability to handle one lone challenge. He reared back and swung with all of his might. Nick was disappointed; even if they weren’t intoxicated, these three were still too slow to be any kind of a challenge. As drunks, well, they were hardly worth all the training his Vegas teachers had given him in the art of quick combat. This was not a style most of his HCP peers would have been familiar with. The vast majority of their martial arts were rooted in the idea of defense, in minimizing harm to each party and subduing a threat. Nicholas hadn’t been taught that kind of fighting. He'd never learned how to win fights; he'd been too busy being taught how to end them.

Nick plucked an empty beer bottle off a nearby table and used to it meet Tips’ punch. He couldn’t hear the subtle cracking of the small bones in his hand, but the way the taller boy howled in pain still confirmed that Nick had been successful. He used the time to deliver a few quick kidney blows and send Long Hair stumbling to the floor.

This had all happened in less than ten seconds, so quickly that neither the other patrons nor the bouncers had time to react. That was changing; Nick could see two massive forms slowly shoving their way through the crowd. His way of fighting was quick and efficient, built for injury and swift victory. Still, he needed to step it up if he wanted to finish in time.

Tips was still clutching his hand as Nick’s fingers snarled through his hair and jerked him to a near standing position.

“Believe it or not, today I’ve been your damn savior,” Nick hissed in the now-terrified drunk’s ear. “We live in a world where gods masquerade in mortal flesh. Learn some fucking propriety.” Nick jerked the jerk’s head back then drove it forward on a collision course with the edge of the bar. He was well-versed in the use of hard surfaces in a fight; it was one of the first things you learned handling drunks in Vegas. If he angled it right, Nick could give this asshole permanent brain damage. In another direction it could do long-term damage to his eye. Briefly Nick entertained both of those options; however, in the end he remembered that Alice was watching, so it was probably best to show at least some mercy.

“Mah teef!” Tips slurred from his bloody mouth. Funny thing about people: they always clenched their jaws when anticipating a hit. If you drove that tight mouth into a hard corner, you could do quite a bit of damage along both rows of teeth. It would only be cosmetic and could easily be capped, but it would hurt like a mother fucker.

“You’re welcome,” Nick said, staring down at the victims of his carnage with a curved smile slicing across his face. As the bouncers closed around him, the smile never wavered nor faded: if anything it seemed to grow more intense. It would be years before Tips would stop seeing that smile in his nightmares, a predicament many regretful former drunken gamblers in Las Vegas could have sympathized with.

Five tables away, Alice’s mouth hung open as they dragged Nick out the door. As quietly as she could, Alice scooped up his phone and sunglasses and followed them at a distance.

By the time Thomas and Will had gotten the wings ordered, it was all over and both of their classmates were already gone.