My Hero - Chapter 7 - Real Danger
"Mikel! I'll race you to the shore!" She smiled, and it was like he was looking at an angel. She looked so at home in the salty water, her eyes narrowing beautifully from the bright sun. She laughed and, like a goddess of the sea, gracefully began to paddle her surfboard towards the shore.
Mikel de Garonne took in a deep breath, trying to capture this perfect moment. The surf was great today, and he couldn't think of anything else he'd rather be doing. He then pulled himself up on his board, having just finished riding their last wave of the day.
Once ashore, the two decided to relax on a sand dune, content to let the sun dry them. Mikel was lying with his hands underneath his head, and beautiful Itsaso rested her head on his chest, both looking up at the few clouds.
Itsaso turned onto her side slightly and looked at him, her eyes questioning.
"Mikel… So… You're serious about leaving the College Privé Notre Dame? You're really going overseas, to Japan?"
He nodded solemnly, finding it hard to look at her.
"I can't stay here anymore, Itsaso. It's my damn father," he sat up, causing her to do the same, "He's pressuring me into taking up… his line of work. I want to stay. Really, I do. But you know how my father is." As he said it, Mikel wished that his father, a stubborn man from Paris, knew just how content of a life he was living in Tarnos. Why would anyone want to leave or make anyone else suffer through leaving the place he loved?
Itsaso looked down at the sand as she played with a few nearby shells, turning them over in her fingers.
"I'll miss you… But don't worry," she said, smiling, "You can visit, right? We'll stay in touch, won't we?"
"I promise." Just as he was about to reach to caress her face, a burning pain shot through his arm. He shot up to his feet, trying to see what was causing him such agony. As he stood up, however, the world around him became a blur. Itsaso disappeared into memory and as he groped his throbbing arm, the sand and sea disappeared as well.
De Garonne lurched up in the small bed he had been placed in. He found himself in a small, stark room with no more than a bed and a table with two chairs. His arm, which must have been treated during his lapse of unconsciousness, was in a sling and a temporary cast. He had plenty of blankets, he noticed, and despite the rooms Spartan look, it was very clean and comfortable. However, he made sure to keep in mind that it was still a holding cell. He remembered being captured by Yoshimitsu, and he couldn't help but remember what he had done to his arm.
Almost as soon as he was on his feet, two Manji ninja walked into the room, closing the door behind them. De Garonne warily took a step back. He could clearly see that neither of these two men were Yoshimitsu, but he wasn't about to put his guard down. It wasn't until then that de Garonne saw that they had food and water for him.
"This is for you. Eat it all." They placed it on the table and left promptly. They didn't have to tell him twice, de Garonne realized, being that he hadn't eaten in quite some time. He didn't care if it was drugged, even, as he sat down and quickly started eating the plain meal of rice and some sort of bean curd. The water wasn't cold, but who cared at that point?
Once finished, he knew that it would be no time at all until they came in to have a "talk" with him, and he wanted to have enough energy to make it through such an ordeal.
Kawamitsu let out an exasperated sigh, having finished doing his inventory check. There wasn't much left for them for the week, and the next supply wasn't to be expected for more than half a month.
Making the last few marks on his clipboard, he set it aside on the table he was working at, being shaded from the sun by a portable awning. Most of the refugees had returned to their living quarters, except a few stragglers who were making conversation with the Manji Clan members.
"You look stressed," stated Hakujitsu, a bright young boy who had been living on the Manji Complex for a few years now, "Is everything okay Mr. Hiroyuki?"
Kawamitsu smiled, not having heard that name in a while.
"Yeah, everything's fine. The usual, you know… Hey, Haku, have you seen Hiyamitsu anywhere?" he asked as he turned to the boy.
"Hiyamitsu? Last I saw her she was talking with Yoshimitsu. I think they were talking about her leg or something."
"I see. Thanks, kid." He patted the boy on the head and left for the day, retreating to the Main Building. Once inside the large, traditional style building, he found Hiyamitsu in her room, sitting by the low table in the center.
"Hi," greeted Kawamitsu, entering the familiar room, "I haven't seen you in a while, it seems. Been busy? Are you doing alright? I've missed your company."
"I've been fine," answered Hiyamitsu, looking over an astrology book she had been browsing through the past couple of days, "Why? Do you need something?"
"What?" he asked, perplexed at her business-like attitude, "No, I just… Kitsune, you've been different lately. You haven't… We haven't been spending a lot of time together lately. I know we're all busy, but that never got in our way before. We don't even eat together anymore."
She closed the book and looked up at him, an almost bored look on her face.
"You're making something out of nothing, Hiro. I've just been busy thinking… Aren't you concerned about Yoshimitsu? He's been trying to look for Kunimitsu for a while, but now he has that… girl to look after. It's bad enough that he had a pesky assassin after him."
"…" Kawamitsu sat down next to her, placing a hand on her knee, "… Yoshimitsu? He's fine, Kitsu. And Ling Xiaoyu is a friend of his. She's a skilled fighter, so it's not like she's completely helpless.
"She's taking up his time," she said firmly, a hint of bitterness in her voice. She then rose to her feet, in turn forcing Kawamitsu's hand off of her.
Kawamitsu let out a sigh, growing more and more frustrated. He didn't want to admit it, but he knew inside that she had little to no interest in him anymore. He knew that her surgery for her new leg had more than a little to do with it, but that didn't make it any easier to accept. Also, in the back of his mind, he knew that she was different in terms of how she viewed her place in the Manji Clan. She was a great woman, he knew, but now things were different. Her concern for Yoshimitsu wasn't a surprise. Her robotic leg made her more like him. More like him. Like him. She likes him.
Kawamitsu shook his head, trying to forget his momentary lapse into absurdity.
"Well… I'm sure this won't last for long," he began, rising to his feet as well, "I guess I'll… see you around then." He turned to leave, but Hiyamitsu grabbed his arm. She then pulled him close and embraced him like she used to, smiling.
"I'm sorry, Hiro. I'll cheer up soon, and things will be fine."
Xiaoyu could barely contain herself. The two had gone back to that same dumpling and noodle stand they had previously visited, only this time there was no threat of assassination and nothing to get in the way of Xiaoyu enjoying the feast of a lifetime.
"You sure ordered a lot," commented Yoshimitsu, plucking up a dumpling with his chopsticks and dipping it into the dark, salty sauce.
"That better not be complaining I hear," chirped Xiaoyu, her face beaming as she tried to decide which one to eat first, "It's all coming out of my pocket after all." She finally decided on a rather large, scrumptious-looking dumpling, and as she munched on it, she glanced over at Yoshimitsu, casually at first, but then her gaze grew more focused.
He had decided to shed his usual suit of armor and instead took on a more civilian look for their trip to the market district. He was still wearing an oni mask, this one having red eyes and long fangs, but the rest of his attire was nothing out of the ordinary. He wore a dark, hooded jacket which was made out of a thick, canvas like material, a pair of sand-blasted denim jeans, and lightweight biker boots. It was almost funny to see the mask peering out from underneath the hood, and she could see the small glimpse of his neck, noticing how the muscles in his throat moved as he swallowed the food. It still amazed her that there had always been this person under all of that unusual armor- a person with flesh and blood and, yet, something more. Something inhuman- no, superhuman.
Yoshimitsu could feel her gaze on him, and turning to look at her, his optical HUD focused on her face. There was always so much going on that he hadn't really noticed when he didn't have this new cybernetic sight. His vision was all red, but that didn't seem to matter. Everything about her was colorful.
He coughed, pretending to clear his throat.
"So, umm… Thank you, for the dinner."
"You're not done already, are you? You only had one!"
"Oh, no, I'm just saying thank you. Thank you, and not just for the food, but… You see, I…" He wasn't quite sure how to say it. Xiaoyu smirked at his attempt and, holding back a giggle, decided to say it for him.
"Yoshi, I'm glad we've become friends. You're a lot of fun! Spending time with you, even if it's life threatening- especially if it's life threatening- has been the most exciting thing I've done since the last King of Iron Fist tournament!"
Yoshimitsu looked at her for a moment and then nodded, returning to the dumplings. When things were simple with Xiaoyu, things were great. It was only frustrating when things got confusing, so this moment was just fine to enjoy for as long as possible.
"Hey, Yoshi?" asked Xiaoyu, reaching for another dumpling, "I haven't asked you about it because I didn't want to be rude, but… What's it like, being what you are?" Yoshimitsu looked over at her, lifting up his mask slightly. She could see his chin and his very human lips as he popped the next dumpling in his mouth, quickly returning the mask to fully cover his face.
"Well, what am I?" he asked her in reply, eager to hear what she had to say. He decided not to be too self-analyzing over why he cared so much about her opinion of him. Underneath his calm exterior, he was sitting on the edge of his seat, and that was just something he would have to accept.
"Well," began Xiaoyu, thoughtfully, "I suppose you're… Well, you're a cyborg, right? That's two different worlds. You're obviously human, but I've seen the sort of things you can do. Especially that arm of yours." Her eyes narrowed and she shot him a mischievous glance. "You know, sometimes, I think that if they made it illegal for you to have your sword in the tournament, you wouldn't fare so well at all."
"Oh really?" he asked, incredulously, "Sword or no sword, I could still defeat you, Xiao, even back when I wasn't a cyborg and didn't have this robotic arm of mine."
"You're lucky we have these delicious dumplings to attend to. Otherwise, I'd challenge you to a fight right now!" she declared, scarfing down a few more dumplings, "By the way, Yoshimitsu, when did you, um, change?"
He paused a moment and then answered, "A while ago. A long while ago." He set his chopsticks down and gazed off into his past, "I was young…" He chuckled. "And boy, was I stupid sometimes. The things we did… We must have figured we were invincible."
"We?" asked Xiaoyu, taking a drink of water.
"Kunimitsu and I," answered Yoshimitsu, who was then suddenly brought back to reality.
Xiaoyu noticed his suddenly somber tone, and so she quickly pressed the conversation forward.
"Well, what's it like? Does it feel cool?" she asked quickly, continuing to eat. She noticed that he hadn't eaten anymore dumplings, so she plucked one up and set it in front of him. He casually picked the dumpling up, thinking about her question as he lifted his mask and placed the dumpling in his mouth.
"It's like waking up in a hospital after any other surgery, I guess. Only with this one, you feel like you've woken up in the body of someone else. It looks like yours, but it doesn't feel the same. I mean, it's nice to have improved abilities, but it's been so long that I hardly notice the difference now, and I'm far from perfect."
"Do you age normally?" she asked, growing more and more curious.
"Well," he began, trying his hardest to give her the best answers he could to something he still didn't quite understand completely, "I'm not sure. I know a long time has gone by. I can feel it, but I don't really feel any older than I was before the surgery."
Xiaoyu wanted to follow on with more questions- the questions she was the most inquisitive about, such as 'How old were you?' and 'What do you look like?' However, she decided against it. The more she thought about it, the more she felt as if she already knew the answers. He would probably live forever, stuck in that same age, and he would probably look the same forever, and that was okay.
"Hey look," she mused, pointing with her chopsticks, "There's only five left." Yoshimitsu looked down at the dumplings, biting his lip.
"You can have the odd one out."
Meanwhile, a young college student was making his way through the crowd, hoping to get something tasty to eat on his way to his apartment so that he could have brain food for what looked to be a long night of serious study.
"…!" The young man stopped in his tracks at catching a glimpse of Ling Xiaoyu at a noodle bar, "Hey Xiaoyu! Ling Xiaoyu!" he called out, waving his hand. He remembered the last time he had asked her out, but maybe his luck would be better now that Miharu wasn't around.
Xiaoyu looked over her shoulder in the direction of the calling voice and smiled, waving, "Oh! Hi Chiteki! Come on over!"
"Hm?" asked Yoshimitsu, puzzled. The dumpling stand that the two were sitting at had the typical strips of cloth hanging from its small roof to give the illusion of an enclosed space, and this was obstructing Yoshimitsu's line of sight. So, upon lifting the wide strip of dyed cloth, Yoshimitsu poked his head out and looked over at the boy. The name Chiteki sounded oddly familiar.
At first, Chiteki thought Yoshimitsu was just a regular guy sitting with Xiaoyu, but upon a closer look, he saw the distinct oni mask and all at once knew who he was. The two stared at each other for only a moment, but it didn't take long for memories of their first encounter in Chiteki's apartment so many months ago to come back to them.
"S-See you later, Xiaoyu!" called out Chiteki, as he quickly turned around and took off.
"Wait!" demanded Yoshimitsu, who quickly bounded from his seat and, even without the aid of his beetle suit's wings, was able to catch the college kid by the collar of his shirt in just a few steps. "I remember you! You're that kid Kunimitsu brought me to when I was shot with that dart!"
"L-Look, this isn't a good idea. I have to get out of here!" Chiteki began to struggle and, not wanting to attract the attention of all the pedestrians, Yoshimitsu loosened his grip, but he turned Chiteki to face him.
"Wait, Chiteki, is it? Look, I know you've already helped me before, and I'm forever grateful, but I need your help once more. Just a few questions and we're done."
Xiaoyu, confused, placed some money on the counter and forgot about the rest of the dumplings. She stepped closer to the two, a bewildered look on her face.
"How do you two know each other?" she asked, looking back and forth at them.
"That was a while ago. A long while ago!" stammered Chiteki, "Nothing against you, cyborg, but things have changed. I can't be seen with you or my uncle's going to-" He choked off that last bit, unable to believe he could slip up so easily.
"Your uncle? Who's your uncle?" Chiteki tried to move away, but Yoshimitsu held fast to his shirt.
"No one. Now let me go or I'm calling the cops!"
Yoshimitsu, sighing, glanced around at the many pedestrians and then back at Chiteki.
"Okay, okay, but just one more question. Kunimitsu. Where is she?"
"I don't know what you're talking about!" There was the line, and Chiteki had crossed it. Yoshimitsu's grip became fierce and he had to restrain himself from lifting Chiteki off his feet.
"Listen, boy," began Yoshimitsu, in a tone that was dark enough to not require any physical threat at all, "I owe that woman a hell of a lot more than I owe you, and she's in danger. Real danger. Now if you know something that could help me find her, and you don't tell me, I will make you regret it and I will not have a problem doing so, despite what you've done for me in the past."
"… Okay, okay," surrendered Chiteki, freeing himself from Yoshimitsu's grip. "But you can't let anyone know that I told you this." He looked around, terrified that someone might be watching him, "The rumor is that she's in hiding. She owes… some syndicate a lot of money, and they've hired an assassin to track her down and kill her-"
"And what about your uncle?" interrupted Yoshimitsu, trying to exploit that as much as possible. Chiteki closed his eyes, glaring at himself for that one.
"My uncle, he… He works for them. He's not a field agent, he-"
"He's higher up on the ladder!" added Xiaoyu, hoping to guess right.
"… Yeah." Chiteki looked down in shame, and then looked up at Yoshimitsu. "Please, whatever you do, don't bring me and my uncle any trouble. Sure, he's kind of scummy, but he's the only real family I have."
Yoshimitsu was quiet for a long time, and then he nodded.
"Thank you. I just want to find Kunimitsu and stop the people who are trying to kill her. If I can do that without harming your uncle, then I will. But if not… that sort of thing is to be expected in your uncle's line of work." He turned to leave, heading in the direction of his parked bike, a newer one since the last one was trashed.
"I'm sorry, Chiteki. I'll do all I can to help you, okay?" assured Xiaoyu, as she followed after Yoshimitsu.
Chiteki turned and continued on his way to his apartment, forgetting all about getting something to eat. The heavy feeling of despair in his stomach left no room for food.
"You're not really going to hurt his uncle, are you?" asked Xiaoyu, taking advantage of their time waiting at the stoplight to talk to Yoshimitsu without the roar of the bike's engine drowning out the sound of her voice.
"Xiao, I have to stay focused on what I started out for. I need to find Kunimitsu."
"But why?" asked Xiaoyu, pleadingly, "Who is she? Why's she so important?"
The light turned blue and, revving the throttle, Yoshimitsu urged the bike forward. Xiaoyu held on tightly until their next stoplight.
"Xiaoyu, I'm not heartless. Believe me, I've given my fair share of second chances. I don't want to kill that boy's uncle, but if I have to sacrifice that to find Kunimitsu, I will. Please, don't question it, okay?" Blue appeared again, and the two sped off down the road, making their exit onto the highway.
Xiaoyu held on even tighter now, trying to feel as safe as she could in her helmet. What she didn't admit to herself, however, was that she was getting more and more used to this, and she wasn't really all that afraid anymore. Yoshimitsu could feel her grip around his waist tighten, but he didn't really care to find a reason to ask her to stop.
The two proceeded to travel towards the Manji Clan Base, and Yoshimitsu was already making mental preparations for the clan's next big mission.
She tried her best to calm her breathing as she crouched behind a yellow compact car. They were starting to catch up to her now, more and more each day, and she feared that soon they would be certain they had found her. She didn't have much time, so she looked around the parking garage, looking for any sort of exit out of this underground cement labyrinth.
Taking a chance, she quietly made her way in between cars, careful to remain crouched over. She could see the dim glow of twilight spilling into the entrance of the parking garage, casting a golden hue onto the cement walls. That looked like her only escape.
Taking in a deep breath, she bolted forward like a spring and sprinted to the entrance of the parking garage. She could hear shouts behind her and the sound of gunshots, but she continued to sprint down the sidewalk.
Yoshimitsu saw that they were going to be passing through Chofu, where there was currently a lot of construction work. That resulted in Yoshimitsu and Xiaoyu being forced to take a detour through the downtown area. Hoping it wouldn't take too long, Yoshimitsu pressed on, weaving his way in and out of traffic.
Yoshimitsu made a turn onto Koshu Street, and as they continued on, Xiaoyu spotted something odd. There was a woman running down the sidewalk, and she seemed to be in the kind of hurry that was much more urgent than as if she was running late for a meeting. She looked like she was running for her life.
They passed the woman and Xiaoyu, not too worried at this point about being rude, continued to stare back at the her. Just when she was about to break her gaze away, she saw two men in typical suits appear out of the alley. One pointed in the woman's direction and, as far as Xiaoyu could tell, they both started chasing after her.
"Yoshimitsu, pull over! There's a woman over there being chased! She might need help!"
Yoshimitsu glance over his shoulder and screeched to a halt, sliding into a small spot on the side of the street. They both dismounted the bike and looked back in the direction of the chase. Xiaoyu was surprised to see that the woman had somehow disappeared, but the two suits were still there.
Yoshimitsu made eye contact with them and, somehow, he knew what kind of men they were. He pulled his sword from its sheath on the bike and, running towards the two men, shouted back at Xiaoyu, "Watch the bike!"
"Yeah right!" retorted Xiaoyu, following him closely.
The two men, at first puzzled by the charging strangers, finally recognized Yoshimitsu's demonic mask and they drew their handguns. Normally, Yoshimitsu would have kept charging and would have had no problem disposing of them, but he was all too aware of how dangerous the situation was for Xiaoyu.
So, he dashed to the right, avoiding the first gunshot that was fired. Then, he leaped in front of Xiaoyu and prepared for the worst. Xiaoyu couldn't help but let out a scream as she saw the whole brutal process unfold. The shot was fired, and in a fraction of a second, it hit Yoshimitsu square in the chest. She heard his deep voice cry out from the force of the blow, and she saw him fall backwards, landing hard on the sidewalk.
The people in the surrounding area all scattered at the sound of the gunshots, and Xiaoyu knew that if she hesitated now, she'd be dead. And so, without missing a beat, she rushed forward to the first assailant. Just as he was about to fire, she dove down into a sweeping kick and knocked him down. Then, as soon as she was upright she charged the other assailant, which put her in too close of a proximity for gunfire. He took a swing at her, but before his fist traveled even half the distance of a full swing, she ducked down, her arms sweeping like a fan, and she came back up with enough force behind her small fists to knock him off his feet. Once she was sure the two thugs were unconscious, she rushed back to Yoshimitsu, her heart racing.
She knelt beside him as his hands found the zipper of his jacket. Xiaoyu, expecting blood, was surprised to only see a clean bullet hole in the thick fabric. Her eyes grew wider still when she saw Yoshimitsu sit up, shedding himself of the jacket altogether.
Yoshimitsu looked down to see the bullet crushed in the dense, scaly material that made up his state-of-the-art bulletproof vest. A single scale had taken the brunt of the force from the bullet, falling off like a snake shedding skin.
"Are you alright?" he asked her, his voice teaming with concern.
"…" Xiaoyu let out a scream and hit him across the head, "Don't scare me!"
Yoshimitsu then stood and pulled Xiaoyu to her feet.
"Hurry. We have to get out of here fast," he said, practically dragging her to the bike. Xiaoyu couldn't help but stare at him, this being the most she'd ever seen of him. The bulletproof vest covered his entire torso, but it stopped at his shoulders, leaving his arms fully exposed except for the biker glove on each hand. She noticed how normal his right arm looked when compared to his left, which was mostly a compilation of various moving, metallic parts. There were so many she could hardly see how it worked. And again, she noticed his brilliantly bright red hair, which was tied up, leaving a few strands hanging down around the face of his mask.
Just as they were nearing the bike, Yoshimitsu picked something up on his sensors and, turning around, he saw one of the thugs struggle to his feet, aiming his gun at them. Yoshimitsu, preparing himself to yet again act as a human shield, was a bit taken off guard when he saw a figure leap from the first floor window of the adjacent building. The figure landed on the thug, thrusting something slender and shining into him, and there was a violent spurt of blood as their assailant crumpled to the ground for good.
The figure, who was dressed fairly normal, rose to her feet and turned to face them, one hand on the strap of her back pack while the other held the bloody dagger.
"Tonight, after sunset," called out the woman as she looked over at the two, "Meet me at Mushanokoji Saneatsu Park."
Xiaoyu was just about to call out to the woman, but she was gone in a flash, darting down the alley. Yoshimitsu was too stunned to chase after her, and he really didn't see a good reason to. She had already told him the time and place.
The two were back on the highway, and Xiaoyu was resting her head against Yoshimitsu's back, letting the bright strands of his hair whip above her like the tails of a kite in a storm. Yoshimitsu was thankful that they had gotten out of there before the police showed up, and he figured it'd be safer for them to lie low in the nearby Setagaya. They would wait for sunset, and they would meet that woman in the park back in Chofu.
'That was her alright,' thought Yoshimitsu. He could never forget her face.
Xiaoyu, who normally would have been worrying about all the classes she would be missing and all the near death experiences she's had, was content to continue resting against Yoshimitsu, knowing that she'd be perfectly safe so long as he was there.