It was the summation of my situation.
Lung whoever else he was, he wasn’t stupid at least about leading his people. But it didn’t matter because he wasn’t the one who caused this mess. It was all Bakuda, as much as Lung could turn into a monster she was already there.
I could see it in the way the gang looked at her, at their eyes. They’re lives on the line and whim of this madwoman, it just terrified them.
During the first night I had to make a fast decision about what I was going to do and it wasn’t a great one but one I had to make.
I had to stay.
From here I could figure out when or where the bombs were going to go off. If I ran away I could only tell people it was going to happen. That wasn’t helpful at all since by this point they already freaking knew.
The night was noisy, the explosions seemed endless and in the morning I only slept maybe an hour at a time. When I did get up Lung had clothes for me. It was a catholic school uniform complete with mary janes and dirty knee socks. Looking at him I raised an eyebrow.
“(Donated from one of our newer recruits.)”
I didn’t argue if only because I didn’t have many other options. At least it fit, or fit well enough, the shoes were a bit big and I had to stuff the blouse in the waistband but it was workable. We left the building around eight and headed towards a small chinese restaurant. I saw on the sign that it wasn’t normally open for breakfast but the moment the owner saw Lung, well I guess exceptions were made. We were led in and already sitting in a booth was a man who was dressed amusingly enough like what people think when they see a ninja. He was mostly black with an oni mask on his face. There were knives strapped to multiple places on him as well as two swords on his back.
“Oni Lee, it is good to see you.”
Lung sat down at the table. He patted the chair for me to sit though he glanced at me. Bakuda moved to sit at the table but Lung pointed to a separate place to sit.
She said flatly.
“You can leave the restaurant if you like, but you no longer deserve a seat here.”
“You pick up some stray girl and give her my seat!”
“You were nothing but a stray when I picked you up and even then Ume did not turn all of the city against us with her recklessness.”
He stared at her and she backed down. Oh great, now Bakuda is going to hate me, lovely.
“(Are you sure you should push her away like that? If this really is war we still need her.)”
I said as an old woman appeared and put a pot of tea on the table. She looked away from us as she moved.
“(Even if she did, there is no where she can go. The police will be out in force and we are the only people who won’t turn on her now.)”
That was probably true, but it didn’t make me feel any fucking safer around her. I stood up and grabbed the teapot and poured the tea for Lung, Oni Lee then myself. He nodded at how small it was as he looked at me.
“(Now that there is more time please tell us about yourself. You carry yourself well, very respectful are you from a Yakuza family?)”
I shook my head.
“(I was born and raised in an Asian mercenary company. Until recently I worked jobs exclusively for them.)”
It was a close approximation to the truth.
“(I see, what happened.)”
“(There was an accident, one of my companions had powers that dealt with bending space. She accidently created a black hole and I got sucked in. Not sure how I ended up here, but I was injured and the Protectorate captured me. As soon as I got my bearings I had to make my choices quickly. It seemed obvious once I heard you were in the area.)”
“(You’re legendary, how could I possibly reject the opportunity to work with you?)”
I kept my tone even with a slight notation. A master manipulator I was not, but flattery was a basic skill for any ninja.
“(It is true. What are your powers?)”
Straight to the point that. Whelp may as well get this over with.
“(I control wind, so that would make me a blaster and a mover. I also have higher reflexes, strength and hand eye coordination than a normal person which puts me in a low end brute classification.)”
It was a basic assessment that didn’t contradict what Lung already saw me do.
“(Is there an upper limit?)”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“(Yes and no, I can control large amounts of wind but doing so takes a physical toll. I can do so on a smaller scale in short bursts longer. I can also control composition to some extent, making clouds of gas. Though that’s harder.)”
Which was a lie and not a lie, it was harder at that scale but I could and often did make small amounts of poison with little effort. I had to have a very clear formula in mind when I did it but I’d worked with that jutsu enough to be able to get off small amounts very quickly.
“(Very versatile, very useful, but not all. You are muscular and have a fighter’s frame. What is your weapon of choice?)”
Also a lie, but I could manage with what the academy taught me of knife work.
“(I can use chains as well, and I have hand to hand training. I’m best doing ambush work as opposed to straight up confrontations though.)”
“(I saw, you were very clever last night. Though I have to ask, did you kill those supers?)”
I shook my head.
“(Killing heroes like that just puts a target on your back. Makes them want to hunt you all the more. If I couldn’t avoid it I would have but it’s messy and unnecessary to just go for the kill because you can.)”
That wasn’t a lie, as much as I didn’t like it. I glanced at Bakuda as I said the next part.
“(There are better ways to show strength than simply causing destruction.)”
The woman in question replied from the table.
I raised an eyebrow.
“(She speaks Mandarin, but not Japanese despite her heritage.)”
“I know enough about the language to know when someone’s badmouthing me.”
“Then do you know enough to be silent!”
He said it so loud I was surprised the windows didn’t shake. It certainly startled the server who actually jumped back the tray slipping from her fingers. I slid out catching the bottom of the tray with the underside of my prosthetic then grabbing the edge with my right hand. The woman stared at me before bowing and muttering out apologies.
“It’s okay, here.”
I gave her the tray back and she accepted it by shaking hands before setting it out on a stand and unloading it on the table.
It was a simple meal, rice with sliced boiled eggs, cut salmon, green onion, spinach and string beans. Smelled great though, and I fidgeted while I waited for Lung to begin eating himself. It was a little thing but you don’t eat before the person in charge. When he began he actually looked at me and nodded.
Then I destroyed the food.
No one commented on it, though I think I heard something about being a savage from Bakuda. Didn’t care much honestly. No point raising to confront her, not yet.
When we finished Lung got up and I moved out of the way to give him room. He wasn’t a big man, at least not that big. He was just a little shorter than Gonmaru and only about as muscular as Zabuza but he still held himself as the biggest meanest person in the room at any time.
Which if a fight started, I didn’t doubt wouldn’t be the case after long.
“(Ume, you’re with me. Oni Lee, you go with Bakuda.)”
He started at the door.
“(Shouldn’t I maybe go with Bakuda, maybe I can do damage control.)”
Or try to get some position where she’s not hostile. I might be able to salvage her opinion of me if only so she could mouth out about her plans to me. Just needed some time.
“(No, you are to be by my side. Understood.)”
I straightened a bit.
It was a command, I couldn’t push without seeming suspicious.
“(Though, maybe not call me by my given name.)”
He only paused to look at me for a moment.
Pretty on the nose that.
“(God has little to do with our plans, and if he interferes I’ll strike him down.)”
Kid Win collapsed onto the couch of the Wards main room, he wasn’t the only one. They had been spread out over the last hour with other heroes to help response teams deal with the wreckage and moving things about. It wasn’t that they were physically tired, more emotionally. Especially the three of them especially.
He, Vista and Gallant were well rested because they had no choice in the matter. Whatever that girl had dozed them with it knocked them out for hours. Once they were up they were swept away for debriefing then immediately put to work to help with the explosions. Vista was still out there, her power the most useful for moving the buildings of places that had half collapsed but the two boys were left alone once Shadow Stalker tapped out of the computer watch with Gallant.
For about twenty minutes they just sat there not enjoying the silence, more just taking a breather from the noise and the images they saw. People missing pieces of themselves, blood, buildings that had been destroyed and very little they could do about it.
Then there was what happened the previous night.
It was Kid Win who finally cracked when he looked up at Gallant. They hadn’t been in the same room for the debrief.
“What do you think was up with her?”
“No, she’s just crazy. The redheaded girl. First thing she does is sweeps down and grabs me when I get knocked off my board. Moments later she stops Vista from being toasted and then, she helps Lung escape? What the hell…heck?”
“That’s pretty much the feeling most of the adults have too.”
Gallant said as he smoothed down his hair.
“But they didn’t tell us who she was? Or even where the hell she came from?”
“They don’t know. They’re frustrated as we are about it all. Hell I’m surprised Armsmaster didn’t blow a gasket at us when he heard he was so angry.”
He leaned back.
“But we can’t do anything about it until she shows back up again, if she shows back up again.”
“Well you’d know, but seriously. That was something. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an air blaster.”
Kid Win turned in his chair.
“You get any reading off her?”
“Yeah, but it didn’t match. She was concerned, she even told me to have us back down. I don’t think she thought we could have handled Lung.”
Kid Win thought back.
“Well all things considered, I mean, even if we could get close enough to foam him. He was getting a bit more fiery I guess?”
“She was frustrated too, not sure when she made her decision. I was distracted and she got out of my range when she went to knock you out.”
He nodded and winced at that.
“Yeah, maybe I should add an air filter to my helmet. I think I could get some parts for that.”
He started running through the components, filters didn’t get everything though. Maybe he could put a whole separate emergency tank. Not much, but something to help in the long term.
“You may have to make one for all of us if we have to fight her again.”
Gallant said, leaning back.
“I’m pretty sure they’ll be made a standard part of the officers outfit if Piggot has any say in it. There’s losing to Lung then there’s being taken out by an unknown superman younger than Vista.”
“We had her in custody, she came from above which meant she was in the building.”
Kid Win replied.
“Whoever she was, they didn’t tell us about her. Maybe if we had known….”
“We would have gotten our asses kicked by a known super.”
Kid Win supplied.
“She kind of came completely out of left field there, first she helps us, then she knocks us all out and runs off with Lung.”
“Yeah, it’s hard to say what she had in mind. It’s good enough to know what she was feeling, but there’s no instinctual context, at least there isn’t if you don’t know anything about that person.”
“What do we know about her?”
Kid Win said aloud as he started going through the database. He was almost surprised to find there was a file. Name, Ume, age thirteen so not younger but smaller than Vista, from.
“The Land of Water?”
Gallant leaned over his screen.
“That’s what it says.”
“There’s also a note that says that maybe she means Japan. So she’s Japanese? She’s somehow here, she can control wind and she went with Lung? Why didn’t anybody tell us?”
“Look at the log date, it was made by Dragon maybe twenty minutes before the incident. Says she was brought in by Battery the previous night and was out for most of the day.”
“So, we got an unknown thirteen year old cape, running around with Lung who was somehow able to take us out in under a minute and the reason there was no response is because no one bothered to tell anyone?”
Kid Win said, looking at the log.
“I guess the bombs distracted us, bombs do play a part in that.”
The two of them look at the screen and let out a breath.
“So how likely are we going to fight this girl again?”
Kid Win said again.
“About as likely as we are going to try and recruit her.”
“Great, so we either get our ass kicked by a thirteen year old girl or get teamed up with a thirteen year old girl who can kick our asses.”
“Don’t tell me you’re afraid of having another strong girl on our team.”
“Depends, if she’s like Vista it’s cool, be annoying if she was like Shadow Stalker. But if she’s anything like Victoria, I’m doubly afraid. We’re still getting flak for the collateral damage from the bank.”
We went through the day doing what I suppose was what Lung thought was standard. He got me a mask, it was a simple ceramic noh mask. I guess it fit the theme, he had a dragon, Oni had a demon, I guess I was noh one in particular. I also requested a wig and he got me a simple black one in a hime cut. He also got me a chain that I wrapped around my shoulder and a set of knives. Looking in the mirror I actually paused and looked at Lung.
“(Are you a Tarantino fan or something?)”
“(I’m not sure to what you are referring.)”
I guess if he hadn’t seen the movie, or it wasn’t made it was probably just a coincidence that I was two large metal balls away from being a Gogo Yubari stunt double.
As we moved through the city he took time to explain the basic outline of his territory. He had territories in the docks, the middle area of the town and some of the upper class area. Apparently there was an Asian presence throughout the area, mostly Japanese. According to Lung most the first generation refugees from both Kyushu and those who saw the downfall of Kyushu as what it was and fled to first world nations to preserve their way of life. America was the most popular place to go because of the presence of the Protectorate but also because several of the other Asian nations blocked the influx of people from the ruined island nation or forced them into organized crime as payment for their stay. The range of social standing was just the results of people who either had family available, significant enough funds or were skilled enough to adapt well enough to American life being able to stay in the upper middle class range. Everyone else either came here with nothing and managed to push their way up to lower middle or poor, or joined local organized crime to supplement their lifestyle.
So basically the Azn Bad Boys were active or at least received tribute from all walks of life. The most common who were actually members were the lower class but there were one or two middle and upper class who had membership.
“(So you’re a bit like Yakuza almost.)”
“(The structure is much less organized. But I am, well, trying to make a foundation for something similar. Japan is gone, as far as the world is concerned there is no point in trying to recover it. I came here and banded together those who were otherwise lost and defenseless against the other gangs. Especially those of Empire 88 who would have us thrown out of the country if they had their way.)”
“(It’s a good goal, though execution is kind of lacking.)”
Which I meant, completely and totally incompetent. I couldn’t blame Bakuda for it. There seemed to be some sort of universal respect, but from what I’d seen it all went to Lung and maybe those under him. All of them just went back to him.
“(We have the resources available to hold the territory, we just lack the raw power. Capes are rare and we are but a small portion of the population. Still if we can weather this storm we may come out stronger because of it.)”
Not likely honestly, his organization was like a chess board. Mostly pawns, with a few stronger players. Even if the king was as strong as a queen it didn’t matter if he got taken. Hell him being captured was what started this entire mess. I’m kind of surprised they lasted this long.
“(How do you intend to do that? You say this is a storm, who is coming?)”
He said looking back.
“(I guess I shouldn’t be surprised you don’t know, or maybe the rules from where you are from are simply different if they exist at all. But Bakuda dragged civilians into the world of capes, not only with her forceful enlistment but also her destroying public places. It is part of the balancing act of the so called civilized world. Those with powers do not drag the uninvolved masses to prevent anarchy from taking this land as it has our home.)”
“(Pragmatic, but practical.)”
I replied as we moved.
“(So she broke the rules, and now we are at war.)”
“(With both sides, the Protectorate and the other gangs will be out in force, most of them are of little concern. Though the Undersiders are a pain, I plan to crush them thoroughly next time. No, our primary concern is Empire 88.)”
“(Who are they?)”
“(They are, you know the term Nazis right.)”
I raised an eyebrow.
“(They are not a new organization. The number of capes who are also white supremacists is high partially because they indoctrinated white capes early in their empire to create entire families under their employ. They have the most firepower of any gang. They are also the largest in established business, a benefit of the local population. Unlike the other gangs they will not hesitate to kill us. Well the Merchants may try to do so, but they do not have the discipline to make the effort. Empire 88 does and will use that to wipe us out completely.)”
“(There is no other option but to fight?)”
“(We are less than people to them. They believe themselves superior and will use that to justify removing any and all asian presence from the city. There is no dealing with extremists, only the unwritten rules kept them from simply executing our people in the street. We no longer have that protection.)”
Which will drive more Asians to our side. Even if they didn’t have bombs in their heads. God damnit, that made things more complicated. I could probably take out Lung if I surprised him. I could certainly take out Bakuda but in the end if they were the only thing protecting every other asian in the city I’d need to go about this carefully. If war was already upon us what would call an end to this, could we force an end to this? If Empire 88 was even half as bad as Lung described I’d need to go about this carefully.
I could probably protect them if I cooperated with Lung, but there were other considerations, especially….
“Kaze, go with them.”
Lung was speaking English.
“I need you to deliver a message, they are your escort. I have some other business to attend too.”
“Oh, um, where are we going?”
I looked at the small group of men. About four, two of them looked maybe early twenties, with piercing to match. The other two, the nervous ones, looked more like businessmen who had been dragged in. Which was entirely possible considering the brain bombs.
“Down eleventh, the entire trip should take less then half an hour.”
And that’s all I have for this story.