“Jean-Luc! I look at you and all I can think of is how much of a disgrace you are to me! I’ve spent almost my entire life working hard to provide everything I can for you and your mother! And now you drop this on me? How could you even think of staying here in this nowhere town?! What, did your silly little girlfriend try to convince you of this?!”
“Don’t call her that! Itsaso is my best friend: the only friend I’ve had since Mom died!”
“I’ve spent all this time and energy to train you, to prepare you! Our family has been in this line of work for generations! It’s what you were born to do!”
“Father, I told you before! I don’t want to have to carry your rifle for the rest of my life!”
He opened his eyes to see his hands pressed up against the tile wall of the shower, warm water pouring down from the showerhead and filling the tiny space with steam. His thoughts drifted back to the present, and he once again pushed his memories of the past to the very darkest reaches of his mind.
“What am I doing here?” Mikel de Garonne had to ask himself, his deep voice echoing through the small shower room, one of many on the Manji Clan’s mountain compound. He stood there, clear-headed and confused at the same time, warm water running down his back. He ran his dexterous fingers through his dark hair, deciding then that he was done. Best to not waste the water of his humble hosts.
He dried himself off and dressed quickly, knowing that he had to move fast. There wasn’t much time left, and he didn’t want to wear out his welcome before completing his final goal.
“Itsaso… Hold on.”
“And so, I believe it will be best for us to continue our work as usual. Let us hope that the worst is behind us, but remain ready for any surprises. Understood?” asked Yoshimitsu, concluding the emergency meeting that he had called into action upon returning to the Manji Clan mountain stronghold.
“Yes Master!” sounded his close followers, among which were Kawamitsu, Hiyamitsu, Morimitsu, and others. Kunimitsu had taken a silent place near the back of the room, far from the low table where everyone else was seated. She was content to lean against the wall, her arms crossed in solitude.
As everyone began to make their way out of the rather stuffy meeting room, Kunimitsu rose and hung back a bit, still debating on whether or not it was a good time to bring up what she had found on that flash drive. Eventually, Yoshimitsu was the only one left in the room with her. He stood to his feet, noticing her apprehension. For a moment, the long-time rivals regarded each other with a sense of seriousness, their newly rebuilt alliance still leaving an awkward aura hanging in any space they found themselves in.
“Do you need something?” asked Yoshimitsu, the detailed engravings of his suit of armor pulsating with a reddened glow. He couldn’t quite describe why, but he still felt a sense of tension around Kunimitsu. His hand, endowed with meticulous muscle memory, was constantly aware of exactly where his sword was and how quickly he would have to unsheathe the ancient blade if this dangerous woman were ever to make a threatening move. He sincerely wanted to feel silly for such paranoia at this point, but his instincts could never forget his memories of the battles between the two of them.
“No,” answered Kunimitsu, leaning back against the wall to give him the impression that she was relaxed, “it’s just that… I have something you need to see. I don’t think it’s any reason to be alarmed…” Liar, she thought to herself. Oh well; it can’t be helped now, can it? “… but it’s definitely something you’d be wise to take into consid-”
Just at that moment, they were interrupted by the sliding door opening quickly to reveal a perpetually perky and curious Xiaoyu.
“Are you done with the meeting yet, Yoshi?” she asked, smiling. Soon, however, her smile faded upon seeing Kunimitsu and Yoshimitsu standing there, together and alone. Had she barged into the middle of something?
A light pink blush bloomed on Xiaoyu’s cheeks as she bowed hurriedly, “O-Oh! Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.”
“Oh, don’t you worry your little head,” replied Kunimitsu, her voice caked with a cheery forgiveness but sprinkled with a patronizing tone. She then turned her masked gaze to Yoshimitsu, “I was just leaving.” With that, she sauntered past Xiaoyu, a slight smirk on her face at the very thought of how annoyed Yoshimitsu must have been.
‘We’ll talk later,’ silently thought Yoshimitsu, determined, ‘Count on it, Kunimitsu.’ It was then that he addressed Xiaoyu, who seemed delightfully oblivious to what just transpired- or what didn’t, more like it.
“Yes, Xiaoyu? Is there something I could do for you?” Yoshimitsu held back a sigh as he placed a hand on one of the lacquered plates that protected his thighs and hips. His uneasiness with Kunimitsu had left him with a lingering feeling of restlessness.
“Oh, don’t sound so miserable!” Xiaoyu responded, full of optimism, “Since this whole mess with the G Corporation seems to be resolved, at least temporarily, I figured you could use a little break from all of this stressful stuff!”
“Oh? How so?” Yoshimitsu felt like he should at least humor her. The young Chinese fighter did take a risk in going to the G Corporation building to see if he was alright, after all. He tried not to think too much on the extent of her concern as he made his way out of the meeting room and down the quiet hallway.
Xiaoyu was hot on his heels, eager to offer up her idea.
“Let’s go downtown! Think about it. It’ll be so much fun! We could eat a whole bunch of street food and go to the arcades!” She could barely contain herself, and the excitement welled up inside, forcing her hands to come up to the large grin that was beaming on her face.
“What?” Yoshimitsu’s puzzled response ended with a deep chuckle, the melodious nuances of his mechanical voice filling the hallway with a reverberating hum. “You want to go downtown? Now?”
“Well, maybe not now,” replied Xiaoyu thoughtfully, mindful to keep in step with her extraordinary friend as the two continued down the hallway and out into the main lobby, “But sometime soon would be nice. What, do you not like arcades?”
“No, I love them,” Yoshimitsu stated admittedly, reminiscent of the fun he used to have in those vibrant palaces of noise and light, “It’s just that I still have so much to do, and…” He paused his steps just as they reached the large wooden front doors of the Main Building. He sighed, placing a hand on the door, knowing that he wanted nothing less than to disappoint her.
“And?” Xiaoyu asked, hoping she’d finally be able have some real fun.
“… Alright, alright,” finally answered Yoshimitsu, opening the door with a firm push. “Tomorrow night, but that’s it for a long while. Some of us have to work hard, you know,” he added, grinning at the ecstatic look on her face.
“Yes!” Xiaoyu cheered, following Yoshimitsu out into the open afternoon air, “I‘ll meet you there, then! In Shinjuku!”
“As you wish,” conceded Yoshimitsu, continuing down the wide stairs, “Wait here and Morimitsu will take you home now. Try to stay out of trouble.” Without looking back, he waved at her casually, oddly exultant in his defeat.
Xiaoyu smiled to herself as she took a seat on the lowest step, content to watch the refugees and Manji ninja that surrounded her with their daily work. It was then that Hiyamitsu, having overheard the last bit of their conversation, approached Xiaoyu from her place in the crowd.
Xiaoyu noticed the female ninja’s plain black apparel and steel gauntlets, immediately recognizing her as the woman who was almost always at Yoshimitsu’s side. She stood to greet the Manji ninja, curious as to why she was coming up her.
“Umm… Hello,” said Xiaoyu, almost nervously. All she could see of the ninja’s face were her piercing eyes behind that intimidating oni mask. Hiyamitsu hesitated for a brief second before summoning her resolve.
“Yoshimitsu… He’s a killer, you know. A trained killer,” Hiyamitsu began, a indication of annoyance on her voice. Xiaoyu grew a bit alarmed by this sudden statement, but Hiyamitsu continued, “Sure, you’re a fighter. You’ve fought in the King of Iron First Tournament more than once. I get that. But when those highly publicized matches are over, what do you do? You go back to your school and your apartment and live your peaceful little life. But Yoshimitsu, he fights for blood. He’s cut down demons and the corrupted filth that have destroyed innocent people’s lives. You may think you understand him, and at least on some level you just might, but you two come from completely different worlds. Don’t forget this.”
Having said her piece, Hiyamitsu turned and made her way back to her work before Xiaoyu could let out one syllable. She didn’t know what exactly made her want to say all of those things to Ling Xiaoyu, but she felt an odd sense of relief. Was it contempt for the outsider? Jealousy? Whatever it was, as petty as it may have been, Hiyamitsu didn’t care at this point. She had gotten it off her chest, and hopefully the bitterness she felt
would lift soon.
Xiaoyu stood there, a bit speechless. She felt like retaliating with some sort of defense, but all she could think to do was try to contemplate what would make this other woman say such things to her. Xiaoyu watched Hiyamitsu slip back into the crowd, heading towards some sort of covered medical booth. What was that woman thinking now?
Just then, Xiaoyu saw the crowd part as a horseman made his way towards her. The rider, another Manji ninja, looked down at her and bowed his head. Although his face was covered with a black scarf, Xiaoyu could see a smile in the wrinkles near his eyes, and it cheered her up to see such a friendly visage.
“Hello there, Miss Ling. I’m here to give you a ride back to the city.” He leaned over slightly, holding out a hand for Xiaoyu to take.
“Morimitsu, is it?” asked Xiaoyu. She took his hand and let him help her up to sit behind him, “Thanks a lot.”
As he kicked the chestnut mare into a trot, Morimitsu looked back slightly, having noticed the rather sullen look on the young woman’s face.
“Is everything alright?” he asked, holding the reins carefully in his gloved hands, “You’re not afraid of horses, are you?”
“Oh, no, it’s not that,” answered Xiaoyu, smiling briefly before looking back in the direction of Hiyamitsu, “Umm… That woman, over there…”
“Hiyamitsu? What about her?” he asked, looking over to see Hiyamitsu help load medical supplies onto a wooden pallet.
“I don’t think she likes me. Do you know why she would have a reason to think badly of me?” Xiaoyu asked, letting her drive to find an explanation for Hiyamitsu’s animosity towards her outweigh the sense of immaturity she felt at having let the female ninja’s bitter words affect her so much.
“Oh, she’s just that way,” assured Morimitsu, “I’m sure she’s just been worried lately, what with all the fighting. This kind of life can get a bit stressful at times.” With that, he clicked his tongue against his teeth and the strong horses legs propelled them forward into a faster gallop.
“I see,” replied Xiaoyu. She held on tight as they began traveling towards the rough forest path that lead towards the city, “You’re all like one big family, huh? I bet it’s hard to think about losing anyone in one of those fights.”
“You bet,” agreed Morimitsu, “She’s crazy about Yoshimitsu, like all of us. She’d be torn up if anything were to happen to him.” Morimitsu thought about it more and let out a chuckle. “But I can’t even begin to think about how crazy she’d get if anything were to happen to Kawamitsu. Those two are a really tight pair, you know.”
Xiaoyu nodded, feeling marginally comforted by the revelation of Hiyamitsu’s concern for those surrounding her. It reminded her of her own concern for Jin Kazama, and that was something that she could definitely relate to.
Mikel went over everything in his mind, knowing that this would be his final step. There really was no going back. He gathered his few possessions, rifle included, and laid them out on the small cot he’d been given to sleep on. His hosts hadn’t moved him out of his cell, but the door was no longer locked and his living conditions were considerably more comfortable. He could leave whenever he wanted.
His back was rigid against the cold metal chair he sat on as he gave one last look over his belongings. The bright florescence of the single light above his head cast a strange glow on the blackness of his rifle. He took the rifle up in his hands, it’s cold smoothness contrasting with his warm, course hands.
“… I have to do this.” Mikel could hear the apprehension in his own voice, as if he were trying to convince himself of a lie. But he knew that it wasn’t a lie. This was just the way things were.
Suddenly, a soft chime sprung from his mobile phone, it’s mellifluous peal sounding more like an explosive outburst in the quietness of his cement cell. He quickly picked up the cell phone and brought it up to his ear before answering tersely with, “De Garonne.”
“Ah, so you’re alive,” replied Aikuchi, the mob boss having doubted the call would be answered at all, “I thought I had made a mistake by investing in you. Did you find her?”
‘That’s right,’ Mikel thought. He was suppose to be pretending to hunt down Kunimitsu, to help make her pay for her deceit. Aikuchi… What a fool. Did he really think his measly problems were something worth worry about when there were powerful juggernauts like Heihachi Mishima controlling people’s lives like a puppeteer?
“No,” continued de Garonne, “But I’ve made remarkable progress. In fact, I’m here in the Manji Clan’s mountain stronghold as we speak.”
“What?!” asked Aikuchi, sitting up in his large desk chair, “How the hell are you there?! Don’t tell me you’ve been captured.”
“In a sense. They think I was after their leader, Yoshimitsu.” Another lie, but a seemingly convincing one. Mikel thought back to his conversation with the Manji leader. He was surprised they had believed the idea that Heihachi Mishima himself had actually approached him with a job of finally ridding the Zaibatsu of the philanthropic pest. If only it were that simple…
“Well, if you could eliminate Yoshimitsu as well, that would certainly make a lot of people happy,” Aikuchi added nonchalantly.
“It doesn’t really matter now,” Mikel continued to pack his things into his rifle case, holding the phone up against his ear with his shoulder, “I’ve convinced them that I no longer want to get involved in G Corporation affairs.” At the mention of G Corps, de Garonne could hear Aikuchi’s trepidation through the phone in his silence. “Don’t worry, I’ve left no traces. Those corporate power-grubbers don’t know I was involved, so they won’t be tracing me back to you.”
“They better not,” replied Aikuchi, a hint of threat in his voice, “The last thing I need is to have another contractor bring trouble to my doorstep. So, what’s your plan now, De Garonne the Sniper?”
“I’m going to stick around a bit. Wait for Kunimitsu to show up. She still has ties with the Manji Clan, no doubt. Yoshimitsu is looking for her as well, but I don’t think he’ll be making any rash decisions. Especially with Xiaoyu around…”
“Xiaoyu? Ah, yes, the school girl who’s been seen with Yoshimitsu. My men had a brief run in with that bitch Kunimitsu and her former leader. They said that they saw a third person with them, apparently this Xiaoyu girl. I had a few of my people trail her to a school, the Mishima Polytechnical Institute- the same school my nephew goes to. Is she someone I need to worry about?”
“Certainly not,” answered Mikel, almost a little too hurriedly. The last thing he wanted was an innocent person, especially a young woman, having to be dragged into this, “You don’t need to worry about her at all. In fact, I think she could be a benefit to us. She has a particular talent in… distracting Yoshimitsu. It’ll keep him out of our hair.”
“… I see. Very well, then. Keep me informed on what happens. And don’t fail me, de Garonne.” With that, Aikuchi hung up, turning in his chair to look out of the window at the city below.
‘I’m no fool,’ he thought to himself as he mused over the conversation, “That girl Xiaoyu is going to lead me straight to Yoshimitsu. And wherever that bastard is, Kunimitsu will surely be close by.’
The next day, Yoshimitsu found himself back into a surprisingly normal routine. He rose before the sun, and he couldn’t help but delight in the refreshing sensation of the cool morning air filling his lungs. He then spent a good deal of time in a deep meditation before consuming a meager breakfast of rice and pickled vegetables. Even with the meal being as paltry as it was, he felt like a glutton when compared to the starving population of the world, but it only gave him more resolve. After that, Yoshimitsu then took great care in donning his elaborate suit of armor. In his mind, each layer, every piece was like a commandment to his life. Hard work, compassion, diligence, generosity, determination, inner tranquility… It all fit into place.
After his regular morning schedule, Yoshimitsu decided that it would be best to give Dr. Bosconovich a visit in his lab. The two long-time friends had much to discuss in regards to the new additions to the orbital base and what the Manji Clan would do next. With that in mind, Yoshimitsu finished his morning preparations and quickly made his way outside.
“Good morning, Master!” greeted Kawamitsu upon seeing his leader emerge from the Main Building and make his way towards the horse stables, “You slept well, I hope.” Kawamitsu quickly picked up his ever-present clipboard from it’s spot on a nearby table and caught up to Yoshimitsu.
“Good morning, Hiro. What news do you have for me?”
“We’re all up to date on vaccinations, which is a plus considering that the summer months are approaching. Our food inventory is steadily decreasing, but that’s no surprise. Water is good. Clothing, good. Sanitation is good…” Kawamitsu shuffled through the pages of the clipboard in search of notable information, taking care to keep up with Yoshimitsu’s quick pace, “Ah, yes. Iiguru and Taka keep chewing my ear off about getting more fuel for Youkai. That last trip to the G Corps really drained her. Plus, you’ll be pleased to know that we’re expecting a new shipment of various items to the airport tomorrow. Standard things like packaged food, blankets, needles… That should hold us for a little while at least.”
“That is good news,” replied Yoshimitsu, stopping just short of the path that split off towards
the stables, “Kawamitsu, have Harper meet me in the training dojo later today. I’m going to teach him a bit of sword work before heading out to the city.”
“Yes, Master,” Hiroyuki bowed quickly and took off back towards the Main Building, a smile behind the black scarf covering his nose and mouth. He thought about all the rare free time he’d have now that his usual training session with Harper would be taken up by their leader.
After a brisk walk along a forest path, Yoshimitsu found himself at the Manji Clan’s horse stables. He then entered through the wide, steadfast doorway, it’s smooth wooden beams having endured storm and sun alike. The smell and warmth of the horses filled his nostrils, and it was all suddenly very comforting.
“Gessekai,” called out Yoshimitsu, with a whistle, “O, lord of the moon! How have you been keeping?”
Gessekai, his fair coat glowing underneath the beams of sun that leaked through the windows of the old stable, shook his head from side to side and exhaled hard through his velvety muzzle. He stamped a foot restlessly, growing excited upon seeing his most favorite human approach.
“I know, I’ve been neglectful,” Yoshimitsu responded guiltily, reaching a hand out to pat Gessekai on his strong neck, “And I don’t even have a suitable offering for your forgiveness.” He pushed opened the heavy stall door, allowing the white horse to step out and stretch his legs a bit.
In no time at all, Yoshimitsu had Gessekai brushed to a brilliant white and geared up with simple tack. Once outside the stables, Yoshimitsu lifted himself up onto the steed’s strong back, enjoying the sensation of eager exhilaration that washed over him. He could almost feel the raw power in each step the horse took, and it filled him with vigor.
A click of his tongue against the roof of his mouth, and the two were off. For now, Yoshimitsu could leave his worries behind him.
“I never had to write this much in high school,” Xiaoyu muttered under her breath as she sat slouched back in the computer chair. She looked around at the other students, all busily writing their own research papers and essays in the crowded computer lab. Xiaoyu, looking back at her own screen, tried to break free of her procrastination.
Her attempt at getting to work, however, was defeated by a sudden memory of the last time she was in this very room. She smiled to herself as she remembered the night she had snuck into the school with Yoshimitsu. It had been so exciting and fun for her, and the thought of their antics only increased her anticipation for tonight’s arcade adventures.
“Xiao,” whispered Miharu as she poked her friend’s arm with a pencil, “Look.”
Xiaoyu returned to reality and looked to where her friend was pointing. There, she saw their fellow classmate Chiteki on the other side of the computer lab. He was waving at them quite enthusiastically.
Xiaoyu waved back, her head lowered slightly as Miharu let out a giggle.
“He’s so thrilled to go to the amusement park with you next week! I’m surprised his excitement hasn’t killed him,” Miharu joked as she leaned towards Xiaoyu, “I bet he’s going to ask you to be his girlfriend!”
“Oh shut up,” Xiaoyu retorted with a smirk, laughing a little at the idea, “To be honest, I actually kind of forgot that I said I’d go.” She took another look over at Chiteki, who was hard at work typing away. “Although,” she continued, “I guess I could get him to help me with this research paper if I go. It’s due at the end of next week anyway, so the timing isn’t too bad.”
“Well look at you!” Miharu replied, her keen eyes narrowing with mock accusation, “Ling Xiaoyu, using her feminine wiles to get out of honest work.”
“Oh come on,” said Xiaoyu. She looked back at her computer screen and decided it was best to call it quits for today, “Besides, there are women out there who are much better at that kind of stuff than me.”
Kunimitsu twirled her dagger in her hand as she bit her smiling lips ever so slightly.
“So, you’re finally taking your leave, eh?” she asked the Basque assassin while he finished packing what few possessions he had.
“I think I’ve worn out my welcome, so to speak,” replied Mikel de Garonne, casually. He didn’t know why this woman was in his cell, talking to him, but he was certain that it wasn’t for any sincere reason. The way she stood, leaning in the doorway as she coyly played with that menacing dagger of hers… No, he didn’t trust her one bit.
“You interest me,” continued Kunimitsu, “You tried to kill the leader of the Manji Clan and then managed to get yourself captured. For one reason or another, Yoshimitsu left you unharmed, and now you’re going to waltz right on out of here without a fuss.”
“That’s the gist of it, save for the ‘unharmed’ part,” coldly replied Mikel, raising his still-recovering arm up and wincing in pain. Would she leave him alone now?
Kunimitsu smirked as she moved across the room, coming within arm’s reach of the aloof assassin. She leaned against the cold cement wall, watching him closely as he fastened the last latches of his rifle case.
“You say you were hired by Mishima to kill Yoshimitsu, but now that there are other parties involved- particularly G Corps- you figure it’s best to cut your losses. Am I getting this all correct so far?”
“That sums it up so far, yes. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a flight to catch.” Mikel was glad to finally get out of there, away from this shifty woman, but it seemed his relief came all too soon.
As he was making his way to the door, Kunimitsu’s arm reached out with explosive power, hurling her dagger at an alarming speed. It whizzed past Mikel, just narrowly missing his head before embedding itself into the cement wall. The sniper paused and took a moment to regard the dagger in the wall. He noticed small, powdery bits of cement beginning to crumble around it before turning his gaze back to Kunimitsu. He raised an eyebrow.
“Liar,” Kunimitsu stated bluntly, her voice like black iron, “I don’t believe a word of it.” She took a few steps towards him, cautiously waiting for his next move.
Mikel de Garonne pulled the dagger from the wall, noticing his dark reflection on the gleaming surface of the blade. He could feel the tension in the air, and he could see the muscles in Kunimitsu’s lithe body grow taut as she watched him like a feral fox ready to strike. There was something else in the air, he noticed. This woman… Was she afraid?
He tossed the dagger back to her aimlessly. He would not play her game. He’d refuse her a reason to attack him.
Kunimitsu caught the dagger almost as swiftly as she had thrown it, and Mikel could see her frustration as she grit her teeth.
“Damn you,” she muttered.
Kunimitsu then suddenly rushed at him, pushing him up against the hard wall. Her right arm was pressed up against his throat, and her hand shook with restrained rage as she held the edge of the dagger up against his cheek.
“What are you really after?” she demanded, pressing the blade slightly harder against his skin, “… Tell me!”
Mikel’s eyes narrowed at Kunimitsu’s last outburst. He had no time for this. As if the female ninja had awakened a slumbering tiger, Mikel suddenly grabbed her arm with one hand and took up her leg with another. With a shout, he threw her back, sending her flying through the air.
Kunimitsu managed to do a backflip in mid-flight, her back arching as her hands reached for the floor. Using the momentum and her powerful arms, she pushed herself up and landed on her feet with ease, dagger at the ready. She took a step back, a bit surprised at Mikel’s sudden burst of aggression. She had underestimated him, it seemed.
“I don’t know why you are trying to interfere. What reason could you possibly have to harass me now?” asked Mikel, reaching for his rifle case, “From what I gather, you were once trying to kill Yoshimitsu as well. Do you really think you have the right to defend him?”
“I know you’re hiding something, de Garonne. The Manji Clan may be blind to what you’re really after, but you haven’t been able to put that shroud over my eyes.” Kunimitsu crossed her arms, content with words alone, “In fact, I’d go so far as to venture to say that what you’re looking for is somewhere close. Somewhere around here, even.”
At this, Mikel’s expression grew gravely sober. Despite his best efforts, this woman had defeated him. She had him hooked.
“What do you know about it?” he asked, his voice lowered to a solemn growl.
“I found this,” began Kunimitsu, holding the stolen flash drive up into the cold starkness of the florescent lighting above, “It contains some rather interesting data. It’s all really quite complex. In fact, it’s downright difficult to discern if the information contained within is pertaining to a man… or a machine. Now, doesn’t that sound familiar?”
Mikel de Garonne set his rifle case down slowly, unable to take his eyes off the flash drive and the manipulative woman who held it.
“However,” Kunimitsu continued, “This all may sound like the data files on a cyborg, but it certainly isn’t Yoshimitsu.” She paused for a moment, a slight hint of reminiscence in her voice, “I’d know for sure if it was Yoshimitsu.”
“…What do you want?” asked Mikel, bringing Kunimitsu’s attention to his frustration, “You apparently already know everything. So, let’s get to the point already. What could I possibly do for you in exchange for that data?”
“Simple.” With a flick of her wrist, the flash drive was hidden once more as Kunimitsu brought her hand back towards her
chest, “I want in.”
“Oh, do you want more food?” asked Xiaoyu cheerfully, with laughter in her voice, “You have quite an appetite today!”
The giant panda staring back at her let out what sounded like a high-pitched bark of sorts before reaching for more of the bamboo that Xiaoyu held under her arms.
“You’re so cute, Panda, that you can have as much as you want!” exclaimed Xiaoyu, letting Panda wrap her paw around a few of the stalks. The giant panda then sat down in the middle of the large enclosure, content to munch on more bamboo while admiring the serene surroundings.
Xiaoyu loved her job as a panda caretaker, and she felt lucky to have this beautiful place to escape to when her life outside in the hustle and bustle of the city became just a little too chaotic.
“It’s not that I don’t mind it,” suddenly stated Xiaoyu, letting her thoughts be heard out loud. She sat down next to Panda, glad that her animal friend was such a good listener. “School can be a little boring sometimes,” Xiaoyu continued, “But I love that I always have something fun to do.” Her thoughts then went to her plans of going to the arcade later that evening.
Just then, Xiaoyu’s train of thought was interrupted by the upbeat, chirpy ring tone of her cell. Dropping the bamboo, she reached into her book bag and brought the cell phone up to her ear eagerly.
“Hello! This is Ling Xiaoyu! … Oh, Chiteki!” Xiaoyu made a face at Panda, who had hungrily snatched up all the bamboo, “What’s up?”
“Hi, Xiaoyu. Umm… I was wondering if… Well, I know we aren’t going to the amusement park until, like, next week, but I was wondering, if you’re not too busy that is, if you’d like to go, I dunno, see a movie tonight or something? If you’re not busy, that is! I mean, I know you have a lot going on… which isn’t a bad thing! It’s really cool! Not that you’re busy a lot, but that you’re active, I guess.” Chiteki let out a nervous laugh, wishing that he didn’t have to make this phone call.
Xiaoyu was silent for a moment, wincing at the awkwardness. “Uh, I’d like to, really, but I already have plans for tonight. Sorry.”
“Oh! Um, that’s okay. I just thought I’d ask. So, uhh… Where are you going? Someplace fun?”
“I’m going on a date, actually,” replied Xiaoyu, thinking one little lie wouldn’t hurt, “We’re going to the arcade! You know, the big one in Shinjuku. It’s going to be so much fun!”
“Ah, cool. Well, I gotta go. Bye!” With a cold click, the phone call was ended and Chiteki sighed deeply.
“Oh, don’t worry, Chiteki,” began his uncle, Aikuchi, turning in his desk chair.
“You promise she won’t be hurt, right?” Chiteki asked worriedly, setting the phone down on his uncle’s glossy wooden desk. He could already feel the horrid sense of guilt creep over him like a wave.
“I promise,” answered Aikuchi, waving his hand as if he was being pestered. He then turned to one of his subordinates who had been listening to the phone conversation. “Find out exactly where that arcade is and send a little welcoming party. Wherever this Xiaoyu girl is going, I’m sure that self-righteous bastard Yoshimitsu will be there. If we can get to him, we can get to that bitch, Kunimitsu. I’ll get my money one way or another. Now go!”
Xiaoyu hummed along to the song coming from her pink earphones as she stepped down from the bus. She couldn’t help but smile as she began the quick walk from the station to the nearby arcade. The street was full of people, and their voices floated through the evening air mixed in with the noisy bustle of the city. Xiaoyu’s eyes lit up upon nearing the arcade, its many stories emitting bright lights like a beacon..
“Eeeee!” Xiaoyu jumped and turned to see Yoshimitsu standing beside her suddenly. “Yoshimitsu! You scared me!” She let out a laugh, patting her heart.
“Terribly sorry,” replied Yoshimitsu, “I thought it’d be best to hide until you arrived. People are already staring…”
Xiaoyu looked around at the people who began to crowd around her and her odd companion. Her gaze then went back to Yoshimitsu. He was wearing his silver-colored demon mask with sharp, red eyes and black mesh inside its fanged mouth. His long, bright red hair reached his lower back, and his armor shone with the reflections of the light around them.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about it,” reassured Xiaoyu, smiling, “You look like another one of the people around here who dress up in costumes and stuff!” As she said that, a few onlookers took some snapshots on their cell phones and moved on. “Now c’mon! Let’s go!”
Xiaoyu took Yoshimitsu’s hand in hers and made her way towards the large arcade building. Yoshimitsu, staggering a little from Xiaoyu pulling him around, began to grumble to himself until the two made their way into the bustling arcade.
A wave of lights and sounds overtook their senses as the sliding doors closed behind them. Yoshimitsu’s cybernetic sight seemed to want to look at everything at once, going in and out of focus quickly. There were so many fun-looking games, and he smiled under his mask as he could feel the long-missed feeling of exciting entertainment well up inside him.
“Which one should we try first?” Xiaoyu asked as she beamed with enthusiasm. “How about-?”
“That one,” Yoshimitsu interrupted, quickly making his way towards a fighting game, “Let’s see your skills!”
The two wasted no time feeding the machine a few coins and starting a match. Xiaoyu was determined not to let her companion defeat her, and her gusto only strengthened Yoshimitsu’s resolve. The computerized announcer beckoned them to “Fight!” and the battle began. It was over in second, with Yoshimitsu as the victor.
“Wow!” gasped Xiaoyu, her widened gaze moving to the triumphant cyborg, “Yoshimitsu, that was ridiculous! I mean, I could hardly get in a hit!”
“Haha!” beamed Yoshimitsu, crossing his arms, “Skilled as you are in fighting, you’re no match for my gaming prowess, it seems. Would you like another go?”
“Or, let’s try that!” Yoshimitsu cut Xiaoyu’s response off short as he pointed to a larger machine not too far from where the two friends stood.
Xiaoyu smirked when she saw that he was motioning to a dancing game, certain that she could beat him in this if not anything else. Once they both had taken their places on the dance platform, Yoshimitsu inserted the coins and began browsing through the song selections.
“Hmm… They’re all so interesting. Would you happen to have a preference?” he asked, continuing to flip through the songs as he glanced over at Xiaoyu. She was beaming, ready to give it her all, and he couldn’t help but feel revitalized by the energy she was giving off.
“Ooo, that one!” responded Xiaoyu, upon hearing a bright pop song. “This is one of my favorites! You better watch out, Yoshimitsu, because I have insane dancing skills!”
Yoshimitsu chuckled at her lighthearted threat and, soon, the song began and the arrows started to flow down the vibrant display. Matching their footsteps to the arrows with perfect timing, Yoshimitsu and Xiaoyu found themselves immersed in the music. As the song progressed, the beat grew faster and the moves became more difficult. Being skilled martial artists, both were more than capable of keeping up. However, while Yoshimitsu’s moves were direct and calculated, Xiaoyu’s upbeat style was unmatched. A crowd had gathered, cheering them on, and it only added to the frenzy of the moment.
Yoshimitsu, feeling his heartbeat quicken with each passing measurement in the song, glanced over at Xiaoyu for a second. In that brief moment, he could see the focus in her eyes, and her joy was clear from the beaming grin on her face. He could see the glow of the video game screen reflect off of her glistening skin, and time seemed to slow to a crawl. He noticed how her hair flowed with every movement, and when she became aware of him looking over at her, she instinctually turned to meet the cold gaze of his demon mask, knowing that he must be smiling underneath.
Xiaoyu turned her focus back to the screen, and it was in that moment that Yoshimitsu saw it: a small red dot on Xiaoyu’s forehead. Everything seemed to come crashing back to reality as Yoshimitsu leaped towards Xiaoyu, throwing both of them to the ground. The bullet whizzed past them and went right through the screen of a nearby racing game, horrifying all of the arcade goers who saw the glass shatter.
“Damn it,” the female sniper cursed under her breath. “I missed, go in,” she spoke into her radio, hoping the team Aikuchi prepared was up for the task.
From his place shielding Xiaoyu, Yoshimitsu looked back over his shoulder out through the large windows of the arcade. He searched frantically for any signs of a gunman, but he couldn’t see much due to the crowd of panicked civilians. Xiaoyu, with her back pressed down on the arcade floor by her protective companion, was still a bit shocked by the suddenness of the attack. Her breathing was heavy, her heart racing, and she could hear her own pulse pounding through her ears. She noticed how calm and steady Yoshimitsu seemed, and she could feel her adrenaline-laden fingers grasping at his armor firmly, relieved that he had acted so quickly.
Once most of the people had escaped, Yoshimitsu could see a group of dangerous-looking men quickly approach the arcade. He rose to a low crouch, bringing Xiaoyu up with him to a place of cover behind a nearby gaming machine.
“Are you alright?” he asked, taking her face in his hands. She seemed worried at first, but then he caught a glimmer
of determination in her eyes.
“Let’s teach them a lesson,” Xiaoyu muttered to him, annoyed at having their evening of fun ruined. Yoshimitsu secretly smirked at the young fighter’s moxy. He could hear the sliding door of the arcade open and the footsteps of the hitmen grow closer and closer, and he knew he needed to act fast.
Just then, one of the thugs made his way around the machine and looked down to find Xiaoyu huddled behind it, alone. Looking very much like a helpless girl, the man reached down to grab her right as Yoshimitsu suddenly reappeared above him. The Manji ninja planted a kick in the back of the thug’s neck, sending him crashing down to the hard floor.
The other hitmen, startled, rushed towards Yoshimitsu. Xiaoyu leaped to her feet just in time to block a punch before unleashing a barrage of kicks to her nearest opponent. The man blocked most of them, but she managed to land a clean kick to his head, leaving him reeling with pain.
Yoshimitsu quickly grabbed Xiaoyu and pulled her out of the way as another brute slashed at her with a knife. Using that momentum, while still holding onto Yoshimitsu’s arm, Xiaoyu swung around and kicked another attacker in the stomach as Yoshimitsu blocked the knife-wielder’s attack with his more formidable sword.
Xiaoyu let go of Yoshimitsu and charged towards her next opponent, a tall man sporting brass knuckles. Knowing she was no match for his height, she used her agility quickly scale a nearby machine. Once high enough, she pounced towards her attacker and reached out with a fist, aiming for a punch to the face. He surprised her with his own quickness, however, and grabbed her out of the air. Xiaoyu let out a startled shout before being thrown towards Yoshimitsu.
Having just knocked out his own opponent with a strike to the temple, Yoshimitsu turned in time to catch Xiaoyu, sending them both colliding into the side of a nearby arcade machine.
“Sorry!” Xiaoyu shouted before rushing back to the tall assailant, leaving Yoshimitsu to face the rest of the attackers.
The first young man struck out at Yoshimitsu with a baton, which Yoshimitsu dodged with ease. Crouching down, Yoshimitsu kicked at the second assailants legs, sending him crumpling to the ground with a shout. Rising, Yoshimitsu grabbed the other man’s shoulders and planted a quick knee bash into his chest, knocking the wind out of him. To make sure he stayed down, Yoshimitsu kicked the second man in the head as he tried to get up, knocking him out cold.
Meanwhile, Xiaoyu had managed to dodge all of her opponent’s attacks before taking his enormous fist in her small hands and, using his own weight against him, she then sent him lurching forward. Crashing into one of the nearby gaming machines, the attacker groaned before collapsing to the floor. Just when Xiaoyu thought it was over, more people suddenly ran into the arcade.
“Freeze!” shouted a young cop, brandishing his handgun as he took a stance near the door. His fellow police officers took their places next to him, some of them down on one knee for better coverage.
Xiaoyu quickly raised her hands, shrugging, while Yoshimitsu remained still.
The young officer, upon seeing Yoshimitsu’s gleaming sword, reached for his radio, shouting, “I’ve got two suspects here! One is armed. He’s… He’s Yoshimitsu! Send back-up!”
“I know you just called it in, but there’s really no need for that,” suddenly said an older man who had just entered the arcade. He seemed different that the other police officers, and Xiaoyu had seen enough cop movies to know that this guy was a detective. She was sure of it, from his long, black coat to the cigarette in his mouth.
“Yoshimitsu, long time no see,” the older man said, smirking, “To what do we owe the pleasure?”
“I am merely enjoying all of the pleasantries Shinjuku has to offer, Detective Tantei,” Yoshimitsu responded coolly, “It’s been a while. Who’s the new guy?”
Detective Tantei took a drag from his cigarette, blowing the smoke up in the air as he turned his gaze towards the younger cop. Tantei then looked over at Yoshimitsu’s female companion. She seemed familiar, but he couldn’t quite place her face.
“Don’t be so hard on the kid, Yoshimitsu. He still thinks we can bring in all the bad guys. And you, missy,” Tantei said, narrowing his eyes at Xiaoyu, “Just what the hell are you doing running with an outlaw like this? Do your parents know you’re out this late with such a strange man? Who are you?”
“Don’t answer that,” Yoshimitsu muttered to Xiaoyu, who was just about to reply, before turning his attention back to Detective Tantei, “Certainly you don’t mean that I’m a ‘bad guy,’ do you? Well, if that’s the case, I have no doubt that you’ll do well to teach the lad how things really work around here,“ retorted Yoshimitsu. He motioned for Xiaoyu to come to his side, showing that he wasn’t too concerned with their current predicament.
Years ago, Detective Tantei would have been infuriated by Yoshimitsu’s flagrant disregard for the law, but he knew better now.
“You’re one of the most wanted men in all of Japan,” stated Tantei, dropping his cigarette to the floor and crushing it with the sole of his leather dress shoe, “But I know there’s really no point in trying to capture you. So how about you just leave this part of town and not come back around here for a while, huh? Gimme a break.”
Just as Yoshimitsu was about to reply, more law enforcement officers came charging into the arcade, armed to the teeth. Yoshimitsu caught a glimpse of the word “INTERPOL” on one of their bulletproof vests and that’s all he needed to know.
“Well, I must be off, Detective. Until next time!” He quickly grabbed Xiaoyu’s hand and, in an instant, the two seemed to disappear into thin air.
“After him!” shouted the chief of the INTERPOL squad, “Check the back exits!”
Detective Tantei merely sighed, shoving his hands into his coat pockets as he made his way outside.
“Be sure to bag those goons on the floor, boys,” he ordered, taking this time to light another cigarette. This was going to be a lot of paperwork.
Nearby, Xiaoyu let out a shriek as they reappeared on an nearly empty floor of a neighboring parking garage.
“Eeeee! How did you do that?!” She asked, patting herself all around to see if she was still in one piece.
“With lots of practice,” responded Yoshimitsu. He quickly sat down, a little shaky from all the energy it took to pull off a stunt like that. They didn’t end up very far from the arcade, but he figured it would at least give them some time.
He did his best to focus his energy and recover while Xiaoyu paced around a bit, still amazed at their disappearing act. Feeling slightly more calm, she took a seat next to Yoshimitsu, making sure to fold her legs like his.
“I would have won that dance-off for sure. You were distracted by my awesome moves. Admit it!” she teased, feeling that the night hadn’t been completely ruined after all.
Yoshimitsu sighed, knowing Xiaoyu wouldn’t give him a moment of peace even if she was sedated.
“Let’s go back to base,” he said, almost with a hint of reluctance in his voice, “There’s no way it’s safe to stay in this city, even for you.” He rose to his feet, followed quickly by an excited Xiaoyu.
“You mean…?” she began, almost unable to contain her glee.
“… Yes…” He winced.
‘I swear,” Yoshimitsu thought to himself, hoping Xiaoyu’s cheers wouldn’t get them caught, ‘It’s almost as if she takes pleasure in my misery…’
Author’s Note: Well, I hope you enjoyed the latest chapter of “My Hero.” Again, I apologize for the delay in updating. This next chapter will be the final one, so I hope I don’t let any readers down. Thanks again for reading! As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated.