My Hero - Chapter 5 - Pushing the Payload
He was back in his own hotel room, sitting out on the small balcony. The early morning air was beginning to warm up as the sun took its first peeks over the horizon. The smoke from his cigarette wafted up, disappearing into the air. He had traded his black stealth suit for a wine-colored button-up shirt and dark-wash jeans. He continued to clean out the barrel of his rifle as he debriefed himself on the failed killing. Just as he was flicking the built up ash off the tip of his cigarette, his cell phone let out a soft chime. He picked it up from its resting place on the top of the tiny patio table and held it to his ear.
"De Garonne," he answered, eyebrows furrowed as he blew out smoke. He took another drag as he listened to the speaker on the other end. "No, I didn't… Exactly that: I didn't… Well, they were right when they said he isn't entirely human. I shot him in the damn head and it just knocked him off his motorbike." He thought back to that moment, remembering the impressive endurance of his target.
"I don't know. Later today? Tomorrow? These things take time," he continued with his accented voice, exhaling smoke, "Look, I never lose a target, so you can tell Aikuchi that his money will be well spent… How am I sure? Last night, the target revealed a weakness. He has a little girlfriend or something… No, she's no one important. Just some college kid… I'm not asking for more money to take her down, too. I'm just saying that if I need to, I can use her to get to him, but it won't come to that, alright?" The call was then ended and he placed the phone back on the small table.
"Alu hori," cursed De Garonne, as he returned to his work of cleaning the rifle. This job was beginning to be more of a hassle than it was perhaps worth. He wasn't too keen on killing women, especially young girls, so he was really banking on this ending before it came to that. However, a job's a job, and if he was to fail, it would be awful for his reputation. So, obviously, failure would have to go bugger off.
"Oww," Xiaoyu muttered under her breath as she sat up in her bed. Stretching made the wound on her back hurt, but at least it hurt less than it did the night before.
'My Saturday morning better run smoother than last night,' she thought to herself, adjusting her sweater as she rose from the bed. Her hair was back in its familiar pigtails, and they seemed to go well with her pink pajamas.
As quietly as she could, Xiaoyu edged to her bedroom door and took a peek out into the living room. With the door opened just a crack, she could see Yoshimitsu lying on the couch in the traditional Japanese clothing that he wore under his suit. His armor, including his mask, was lying on the floor neatly beside the couch. Xiaoyu opened the door a little further and took a step closer. Yoshimitsu's right arm was dangling off the couch and his robotic left arm was draped across his face, covering everything but his mouth.
Overwhelmed with curiosity, she took another step to get a closer look. However, just as she did, Yoshimitsu's deep voice broke the early-morning silence.
"Good morning, Xiaoyu," he greeted blankly, his voice buzzing. Xiaoyu quickly spun around, shoulders tense like a criminal who was caught red-handed.
"G-Good morning, Yoshimitsu! I'm sorry, I thought you were asleep," she replied quickly.
"I was," he added, rising from the couch and reaching for his mask, having placed it on the nearby coffee table. Once that was in place, Xiaoyu turned slowly to face him.
"I'm sorry if I woke you up," she said, walking up to the couch, "I just couldn't sleep. I think my injuries woke me up or something. They really itch." She sat down on the couch, making sure not to sit too close. Yoshimitsu yawned as he stretched his arms out.
"I'll re-dress them here in a bit," he offered, glancing over at the digital clock on the DVD player. It blinked 12:00. Useless. "What time is it?" he asked her, turning a bit to face her.
"About 5:00 AM. Too early for my taste." She looked over at him for a moment and then added, "Did you sleep alright? Not too cold?"
"It was fine," he answered, his head feeling a little dizzy. There was so much to think about now, what with last night's happenings. He had to get in contact with the Manji Clan, but he couldn't just leave Xiaoyu alone here. Not after that killer saw her.
Xiaoyu, tired of the weird feeling that was floating in the air, stood and asked happily, "Want some breakfast?" She then walked over to the lamp in the corner, bringing it to life with a click.
"No, thank you. I'm not hungry," lied Yoshimitsu, as best he could. Eating, showering, changing clothes and all that morning stuff could wait until he got back to the base. Instead, he began putting his armor back on.
"Oh, come on, you have to be hungry. Especially after you fought off that assassin guy," said Xiaoyu, making her way into the kitchen. The sun was rising higher in the sky now, sending beams of light in through the windows. She could feel the tenseness in the air dissipate after mentioning the incident from the night before, and the sun helped to improve her mood.
"Some juice would be appreciated," said Yoshimitsu, knowing he would have to have something if she was going to stop bothering him about it.
"Great!" exclaimed Xiaoyu, her enthusiasm at the chance to be hospitable making him feel less annoyed than he was pretending to be.
The two sat there at the wooden kitchen table, Xiaoyu eating a bowl of cereal and Yoshimitsu sipping on some orange juice. Again, he tucked the straw under his dragon-faced mask, making small sipping sounds.
"So," began Xiaoyu, her voice mingled with the sound of birdsong and passing cars outside as the area woke up, "What are you going to do about that assassin?"
'Look at this girl!' thought Yoshimitsu, taking another sip of juice, 'Why does she insist on getting more involved?'
"I'll take care of that as soon as possible," he answered, finishing off the juice, "If you don't mind, Xiaoyu, I need to use your cell phone. I'm going to have to contact my clan to let them know I'm alright. And now that our new found friend knows where you live, I'm going to have to be careful about it…"
"Does that mean…?" Xiaoyu knew what happens now. She'd seen it in a dozen action movies before, and it was obvious, "Does that mean that you have to take me with you? Because this place isn't safe anymore?"
Yoshimitsu knew it was inevitable, but he had foolishly hoped that he would be able to think of another solution before it came to this.
"Yes," he sighed silently, trying not to appear too distraught at the idea, "So please pack some essentials. Enough for a week, at least."
Xiaoyu nodded, hiding her renewed excitement, as she stood from her seat. Picking up the bowl and the empty glass, she walked into the kitchen and washed them hurriedly.
"My phone's here on the countertop!" she said as she darted into her bedroom, her bright voice revealing a bit of her excitement.
Yoshimitsu sighed out loud then, wondering how he was going to keep her under control once they arrived at the Manji Clan Complex. She was going to ask so many questions and probably try to touch everything in sight.
Xiaoyu was in her room going through her clothes, trying to decide what to leave behind and what to take with. Soon, various articles were strewn all around the floor. While she continued to sort through her clothes, she could hear Yoshimitsu's voice in the small kitchen as he talked on the phone.
"Yes, immediately," replied Yoshimitsu, tapping a finger on the countertop, "Also, Kawamitsu, make sure one of the spare rooms in the Main Building is ready. We're going to have a… visitor." The word was almost painful to say. On the other end of the line, Kawamitsu new better than to ask about it. The call was ended shortly thereafter, leaving Yoshimitsu to his thoughts once more.
'Who would hire someone to kill me?' he asked himself, leaning back against the counter top, 'Are they connected with the syndicate that's after Kunimitsu?'
"Okay, ready!" cheered Xiaoyu, emerging from her room with two large pieces of luggage full of clothes. Yoshimitsu looked back over his shoulder at her and, upon sight of her excessive luggage, he placed a hand to his head.
"Didn't I say to only pack the essentials for a week?" he wasn't afraid to let a little frustration be heard in his voice, "Why are you bringing so many clothes?" What? Does she change clothes every hour?
"They're not all just clothes," she explained, smiling, "this one's got everything else in it." She pulled the luggage to the door, leaving it there to wait until they left. Yoshimitsu crossed his arms and, deciding it was best to pick his battles carefully, just let her bring it all along.
"I requested an airlift. I hope you're not afraid of helicopters," he stated, gathering up his sword and the keys to the bike.
"Not at all!" answered Xiaoyu, "So, are they picking us up on the roof? I should probably start heading up there. I think I have everything I'll need."
"Go on ahead," allowed Yoshimitsu, "Just don't go up on the roof until they get here, okay? That man might be out there, watching." Xiaoyu nodded as seriously as she could, her pigtails flowing like streamers.
"Are you not coming with?" she asked, opening the door.
"I'll follow on the ground, if my bike's still out there," he answered, "Now get going. They're quick to respond, so they should be here soon." His thoughts went to Iiguru and Taka, the Manji Clan's duo of pilots to the helicopter they named Youkai. The two pilots were inseparable from their aircraft: they practically lived in the thing.
Soon, Xiaoyu was in the elevator, heading up to the top floor. Yoshimitsu had locked up the apartment and began making his way to the other elevator down the hall. The elevator opened to reveal a young couple standing there, on their way down to the first floor. He stepped into the elevator, taking care not to look at them. They seemed to be too weirded out by his appearance to say anything, which suited him just fine.
He walked briskly down the hall and out into the sunlight. It was considerably warmer today, and he couldn't wait to get back home. However, he would first have to make sure things here went smoothly.
Taking a look around, Yoshimitsu wondered if the assassin really was out there, watching him. The most favorable outcome would be if he were to follow Yoshimitsu, as opposed to hanging around to see the helicopter pick up Xiaoyu. Then he could at least fight him alone.
Crossing the street, he made his way over to the bike, which was still lying on the side of the street. There was a lot of paint scrapped off and both of the mirrors were broken off, but it looked like the engine was still together well enough to run. He lifted the bike up then, ignoring the onlookers passing by. A few of them said the occasional "Hey man, look at that!" but no one actually came up to him.
So, he just sheathed his sword and sat on the bike patiently. Yoshimitsu, knowing he would have to wait for the helicopter to show up, continued to sit there in silence.
Xiaoyu stood at the very top of the stairwell, waiting to hear the chopping blades of a helicopter, but she soon grew bored of waiting. Wheeling her luggage with her, she opened up the door that lead to the roof and took a few steps outside. The sun was very bright, she noted, and its warmth was comforting. Leaving the luggage by the stairwell door, she ventured further out onto the roof top, not really feeling any danger.
"I'll be alright," she said to herself, blocking out the sun with her hand as she scouted the skyline, "It's such a nice day!" She continued to venture out until she was at the edge of the roof top. She glanced down and smiled at seeing Yoshimitsu way down there, sitting on the black street bike.
'I should try to throw something at him to test his super-ninja reflexes,' Xiaoyu mused, looking around for a pebble or anything else she could toss. As she scoured the roof top, she looked up to see an open window across the street. There wasn't really anything too spectacular about the open office window, except that she could just barely pick out what looked like a black metal tube poking through the closed blinds. It seemed to be pointing at something, so she followed it down the street to where Yoshimitsu sat, waiting patiently.
Xiaoyu's eyes grew large as she rushed to the edge of the roof. Holding onto the stone barrier, she leaned over and screamed, "Yoshimitsu! Watch out!!"
Yoshimitsu, from his spot on the side of the road, heard someone shout his name. He looked up to see Xiaoyu, waving her arms and pointing at something down the street. He grumbled at her disregard for his earlier warning, but then he realized the urgency in her voice. Looking to where she was pointing, he could see the tip of a rifle poking out of a window.
A fraction of a second later, he threw himself down to pavement in a rolling motion, careful to use the bike as a shield. A dart, which had just barely missed him, made a loud pinging sound as it embedded itself into the car behind Yoshimitsu's bike. Lying on his back, he looked up at the car's front bumper to see the small, dark red dart sticking out. He reached up for it and, taking it in his hands, noted how the point of the dart had opened up to release small wires. They were like the feelers of a hermit crab, poking out of its shell in search of something to connect to.
"This is…" he began out loud, thinking back to that time at the airport. Kunimitsu, his long time friend and enemy, had surprise attacked him while he was picking up supplies. However, someone else seemed to be out to get him as well, and they had shot him with this very same type of dart. "Is he..?" He looked up at the window, taking care to stay behind the bike.
De Garonne, upon missing the shot, cursed under his breath as he began to quickly pack everything up. He only had a few moments time before anyone came looking for him. He was then motivated to move faster as the chopping sound of helicopter blades could be heard in the distance.
"Finally!" exclaimed Xiaoyu, still standing on the roof of her apartment building. From the large, imposing helicopter emerged a rope latter, rolling down until it came within Xiaoyu's reach.
Meanwhile, Yoshimitsu had started up his bike and sped off in the direction of the sniper. He would catch him this time, and then maybe he would have some answers. As he neared the building, he had to weave in between cars whose drivers had slowed down to look up at the helicopter that had suddenly appeared out of no where. People standing off to the sides hadn't noticed the sniper, but it was hard for anyone to miss the Manji Clan's multi-task helicopter.
"There's Yoshimitsu," pointed out Taka, the female co-pilot, "Where's he going?"
"Dunno," replied Iiguru, "He said that he'd follow us back to the base, but now it looks like he has other plans."
"Well, should we follow him? I mean, we don't have much time, you know. It's not like we have permission to be flying this thing over here…" Taka continued to keep the helicopter hovering perfectly over the apartment building as two other Manji ninja lowered themselves down to help Xiaoyu bring her luggage up.
"Heh… Talk about pushing the payload," Iiguru muttered, referring to both the bulk of this strange girl's luggage and the Manji Clan's bold appearance in this quieter part of town. He wondered why their leader would allow someone like her to follow them, but he knew the reason would be clear in time.
De Garonne threw his rifle case in the back of the small commercial truck and hurriedly jumped into the driver seat. He then pulled out of the alleyway and sped off in the opposite direction of the helicopter, unable to believe his awful luck.
Just as De Garonne passed a couple of small shops, Yoshimitsu hit the throttle and charged out of the small alleyway nearby. He was glad he'd been right about the sniper trying to escape this way and, ignoring the honking car he'd pulled out in front of, he zoomed off after De Garonne.
It didn't take long for the dark-haired sniper to see Yoshimitsu in his side-view mirror. He sped up even more as he grasped for his handgun. After rolling down the window, he reached out and fired a few shots back at the persistent cyborg.
Yoshimitsu ducked down as low as he could on the bike, continuing in his pursuit. Just as he was getting closer to the truck, De Garonne hit the brakes, jolting the truck to a stop. To avoid a head-on collision, Yoshimitsu squeezed the brake of his front tire and, with the back tire still propelling forward, he stood the bike up in a front wheelie. The momentum spun the bike in 180 degrees, hitting the back tire up against the back door of the cargo truck.
Yoshimitsu let out a breath, tense in his white-knuckle grip on the bike as it sat there for a second, back end up. Then he could feel the truck continue forward, letting the bike drop back down. Not wanting to risk losing his target, Yoshimitsu quickly stood up on the bike and leaped to the truck, just barely grabbing onto the top. The bike fell down in the middle of the street as the truck sped off. Yoshimitsu struggled to pull himself up, the side of the truck proving to be quite slippery.
De Garonne glanced in the side-view mirror, expecting to see Yoshimitsu lying in road with his bike. Unfortunately for him, all he saw was the bike, and it didn't take long for him to hear Yoshimitsu's feet scraping the back side of the truck as he tried to pull himself up. De Garonne sped forward, weaving the truck back and forth to try to throw Yoshimitsu off.
"Bastard!" cursed Yoshimitsu, trying to keep his hold on the truck. Things got especially hairy when they sped through a stop light, just barely missing the oncoming cars. Eventually, Yoshimitsu was able to pull himself up completely, but the top of the truck was just as slippery as the sides, so he had to lie down carefully to keep from sliding off.
De Garonne heard a sound to the left and so, continuing to drive, he pulled his handgun up and prepared for Yoshimitsu to appear in the left-hand mirror. He was then surprised by a double-footed batter to the head after Yoshimitsu swung down from the right, breaking through the passenger-side window.
Lying on his back, Yoshimitsu kicked the gun out of De Garonne's hand. He then sat up and reached for the steering wheel. De Garonne back-handed Yoshimitsu in the head with his right fist, but Yoshimitsu grabbed his arm and punched him in the jaw. The two continued to brawl with each other, each trying to get control of the truck. It wasn't too long before they were clipping parked cars and crashing through roadside clutter.
Just then, the two saw a large semi-truck pull out into the intersection up ahead. Going too fast to stop in time, De Garonne took the wheel with both hands and made a sharp turn to the left. Yoshimitsu, momentarily forgetting his battle in the truck seat, grabbed onto anything he could to help brace himself. The truck did its best to make the sharp turn, but physics wasn't impressed by its efforts and sent the truck tipping over, sliding into the intersection.
Yoshimitsu had been jarred pretty badly, his head having hit the roof of the truck when they crashed. When he opened his eyes, he saw that the driver-side door was open. Yoshimitsu scrambled out of the car just in time to see the city police pulling up, lights flashing and sirens blaring. De Garonne was gone.
Yoshimitsu then jumped from the truck and ran to the back. He opened the back door of the cargo truck and found a long, black gun case. He took it up in his hands, reemerging to see he police officers with their guns aimed at him as they stood behind their opened car doors.
Yoshimitsu, gun case in one hand, raised both his hands up in the air. Before the police could move in, however, the Manji Clan helicopter came up to the scene. The police, startled by the sudden aircraft hovering over them, could only look on as Hiyamitsu dove out of the helicopter with a line around her waist. The length of rescue line was just enough to bring her down to Yoshimitsu. She wrapped her arms around his waist and he held on to her legs as the two were quickly pulled up into the sky.
The helicopter soared higher as Yoshimitsu and Hiyamitsu were pulled up to safety. Hiyamitsu smiled behind her plain oni mask as she handed Yoshimitsu his sword, which he thought had been left behind with his bike.
"We saw your bike in the road and decided to pick this up, Master. Figured it was important," she said as she leaned back in her seat, stretching out her legs- both the natural and robotic.
"Important is an understatement," replied Yoshimitsu, nodding to her, "Thank you."
"Are you okay?!" asked Xiaoyu while she sat in the back of the helicopter with her luggage. She was glad to see that he had survived the high-speed chase.
"I'm fine," answered Yoshimitsu, kneeling down in the center of the fuselage, "I even picked up a little surprise." He brought the rifle case up to rest on his knee, hoping that whatever was inside, along with the information on the flash drive, would hold a few clues.
"This is some very extensive information you've brought to me," commented Dr. Bosconovich, the Manji Clan's resident scientist and Yoshimitsu's long time friend. It was Dr. Bosconovich who, after Yoshimitsu rescued him from the Mishima Zaibatsu almost 20 years ago, had giving Yoshimitsu his robotic arm and had eventually performed the cybernetic enhancement surgery that turned Yoshimitsu into his current self.
"I was hoping that there would be something in there to connect to the syndicate that's after Kunimitsu," stated Yoshimitsu, leaning against a stainless steel table with his arms crossed.
"It will take me some time to go through everything," replied Dr. Bosconovich, as he sifted through the information on his computer screen, "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I won't have anything substantial until tomorrow at the very earliest."
"I understand," said Yoshimitsu, nodding, "Please, let me know as soon as you find anything."
At the other end of the lab sat the Manji Clan's oldest and most experienced weapons expert: an aged, blind ninja named Yuromitsu. Having worked for the Manji Clan almost his entire life, Yuromitsu was the go-to man for any sort of weapons and machinery. He was easy to spot, too, wearing a dark blue sash around his eyes and a plain oni mask over that. The blue sash could be seen through the holes in the mask that were meant for his eyes, and although he was completely blind, his other inhumanly heightened senses made up for it. He was now sitting at a worktable in the lab, going over the contents of the rifle case.
"These are interesting indeed," Yuromitsu began, leaning towards Yoshimitsu so that he could see the darts he held in his hands, "They have these tiny wires that come out the tip upon impact, and each dart contains a microchip of some kind."
"That's the same dart that hit me at the airport last winter," commented Yoshimitsu, as he looked at the sniper rifle. He picked up the scope in one hand and peeked through it.
"We should have these analyzed carefully," recommended Yuromitsu, placing the darts back into their compartment in the case, "They might reveal a clue to their manufacturer. And as for this rifle, it's unmistakable. There's only one person who uses a rifle like this."
"Jean-Luc Roi Mikel de Garonne," Dr. Bosconovich pronounced the name clearly as the four men huddled around the computer screen. It had taken hours for him to sift thought the stolen information to find the hired sniper's almost empty file, "Age 26. Born in Tarnos, France. Family unknown. That's all it says. I wonder who hired him, and why? If it was the syndicate that's after Kunimitsu, wouldn't they have hired this Jean-Luc de Garonne fellow to kill her instead?"
"Unless they want her alive and they're just trying to get Master out of the way, knowing he'd try to help her," offered Kawamitsu, playing with one of his throwing daggers.
"He brings up a good point," commented Yuromitsu, nodding, "No doubt this mysterious syndicate is aware of Kunimitsu's connection with the Manji Clan."
"Even so," began Yoshimitsu, arms crossed as he stared at the picture of the hired killer on the computer screen, "I don't know how we'll be able to find out who this man is working for. At least it shows us that Kunimitsu must still be out there somewhere, if he's continuing to hunt me."
"I'll continue working tonight," said Dr. Bosconovich, turning in his seat to look up at Yoshimitsu, "I suggest all of you go back to the base. And get some rest, Yoshimitsu. You've been here in my lab since you got back. I'm sure you have things to take care of back at the Manji headquarters."
Yoshimitsu nodded and, after thanking his old friend, he led the other Manji ninja out of the lab. They went upstairs and made their way outside the doctor's large, western-style home. They walked down the front walkway silently, heading into the woods to meet up with the path that led to the secluded Manji Clan base.
The walk went well, and although not all the answers had been found, Yoshimitsu certainly felt better from the progress they had made. He took this time to enjoy the forest and the weather, knowing that soon the autumn would bring colder temperatures during its transition to winter.
Once back at the base, the three Manji ninja parted ways. Yoshimitsu made it a priority to first do the things he had meant to do earlier in the morning, like taking a shower and eating food. It was now already late into the evening, and by the time he was done with everything and had changed into comfortable clothes, he was ready to turn in. As he sat in his room, meditating before sleep, he heard a loud knock on his door that rattled the wooden frame.
"Yes?" he asked, looking up to see who could possibly be in such a hurry. It didn't really surprise him to see Xiaoyu standing in his doorway, wearing light blue pajamas and holding a stuffed panda bear. She had a look of resentment on her face, irritated beyond reason.
"What took you so long?!" she asked, trying her best to look as frustrated as possible, "I was so bored! There's absolutely nothing to do in the room they gave me! How do you stay alive out here?" She invited herself into his room then, sitting across from him on the mat floor. Yoshimitsu let out a sigh, scratching his head.
"What did you expect?" he asked, shifting back into the mindset he seemed to have whenever around her, "This isn't an amusement park. We do serious work, here."
"It's nice that you help refugees," stated Xiaoyu, her bright eyes wandering around the room, "But if you do nothing but work and never have any fun, it'll kill you."
"I don't think I have to worry about dying from stress or overwork," replied Yoshimitsu, sure that his cybernetic body could withstand a few hours a day of stress, among other things.
"That man with the knives told me that you got the sniper's rifle case," she brought up the fact, hoping to find out something interesting, "Did you make any incredible discoveries?"
Yoshimitsu shrugged, saying, "We got a name, but that's it. Don't worry about it, Xiao. This rifle of his is a one-of-a-kind, so I don't think we need to worry about him getting another one for a little while, at least."
"Okay," replied Xiaoyu, surrender in her voice. She was getting tired, anyway. She rose, hugging her stuffed panda bear as she walked out of the room, "Good night!"
"Yes, good night," Yoshimitsu said in response, rising to close the door once Xiaoyu was down the hall a little ways.
'That man, Jean-Luc de Garonne, is going to want his rifle. We'll just have to see how much he's willing to do to get it back.' With that thought, Yoshimitsu switched off the light at his desk table and went to sleep.
Author's Note: Well, I hope you enjoyed reading the fifth chapter. I'll try to get the sixth one posted up soon. Again, any comments are welcome. Thanks!