Narita Airport. The sphere of light in the sky was fading. Ten minutes before 6 PM on what had been a searing summer day, yet even at this hour, the heat gave no sign of abating.
When word was displayed on the Information Board that Northwest Airlines Flight 411 would be touching down in five minutes, groups of television and news crews swarmed the Arrival area, hoping to get several photographs and at least a quote out of the arriving dignitaries from America. Maybe even a full story.
Leading the pack was a smiling heavyset brown haired man of medium height clad in a grey business suit and red tie. He had been chatting quietly with his associates until he walked into the sea of flashing cameras and voices clamoring his name. At this point, his smile widened as he playfully waved both arms at the cameras. "I LOVE YOU JAPAN!" he shouted, whence a round of clapping and loud cheering from the Japanese answered him. Reporters armed with notepads imediately got as near to him as space allowed and barraged him with a flurry of questions.
"And here we see the arrival of famed American millionaire philanthropist Ryan Mosely. Concerned about Japan's rising incidences of organized crime and delinquent youth, Mosely has promised to play a role in stemming the tide of these threats to society." said one female reporter as she stood before her cameraman's line of fire.
None however paid any attention to one man who silently strode past the merging sea of dignitary and reporter. He was tall and handsome, with somewhat hawkish facial features. The black coat he wore concealed a sleek-muscled form, though on the outside he would have seemed mildly slim. His eyes were sharp and piercing, their color the chaotic grey of a tempestuous sea. One reporter momentarily turned his head and was startled as he caught sight of the man, their eyes meeting for a mere second. It could have been the heat, but he swore to the kami the man's eyes had...glowed. For the briefest of moments, they had pulsed an eerie green.
He forgot the thought as he turned back to Mr. Mosely.
Through the crowd, a young man in a ratty grey jacket wearing shades of the current trend in the country steadily and casually picked his way through. When he was within meters of Ryan Mosely, there was the sibilance of something smooth leaving sheath and without the slightest pretext, dashed forward straight towards the American businessman. A cry of alarm rose from the crowd.
Bodyguards moved to shield Mosely, but they would be seconds too late.
The young punk raised his knife as he moved with blinding speed to Mosely. No ordinary knife. It was crafted from ceramics, making it invisible to metal detectors, yet designed to kill like any steel dagger. Mosely cried out as he raised his hands.
And half a meter from Mosely, knife aimed for the American's chest the intruder slid to a sudden stop, eyes glazed over in a blank horrified look. One would have noted he seemed to be staring at Mosely, but seeing the look on the assassin's face, looked more like he was staring...in front of it. The image, seen only by him, was in his own mind. And was something so frightening that going on a one way trip to Jigoku would have been a pleasant alternative. "I...YYEEEEEEEEE!!!" he screamed. Without warning the dagger came down.
Right into the intruder's own throat. Blood spurted from it in a cloying scarlet fountain, yet it was as if he felt no pain, all his senses fixed only on whatever horrible sight his mind was letting him see. Eyes maintaining that look of utter horror, Mosely's would-be assassin crashed to his knees and fell on his throat, hastening his death. What followed next were shouts of terror and confusion and more firing cameras as Mosely was led away within a ring of guards.
And away from the crowd, the strange man smiled to himself.
A taxi was waiting for him at the waiting stand. What was unusual was how the driver seemed to refuse all other passengers, as if targetting this man alone. The man climbed in and nodded genially at the young driver, who smiled even larger and raised his cap. "Komban wa, Cranston-sama! Welcome back!" He set the taxi in gear and began to maneuver it out of the airport and towards the city. "Good trip?" he asked.
Lamont Cranston smiled, more of to himself than the driver. "Airline flights, Jubei. Good food, bad movie. Akasaka Prince Hotel." Yamazaki Jubei chuckled. "Hai, we'll get there in no time! Oi, I heard just now some unknown guy stabbed himself at Narita's Arrival lounge, just when the American VIPs entered. It looked like he was aiming for Ryan Mosely when he just goes wacko and cuts himself."
"Yes, it's true. I was there and saw it myself. Fortunately, Mr. Mosely wasn't harmed." Jubei chuckled as his gaze met Lamont's knowingly in the rearview mirror. "Maybe the poor guy saw a ghost."
"Or a Shadow." said Cranston, and as he said those words, his voice seemed to harden and lower into a deep menacing whisper, the kind that drilled into a man's soul like the merciless voice of his conscience.
Jubei grinned again and picked up the speed.
And as the taxi swept down the road, a jeering sinister laugh sounded forth from the back of the cab, as if heralding the Shadow's return to this alluring yet hazardous land of the Far East.
The General from Black Lotus frowned as he heard the news about what had happened in Japan with the assassination attempt. "Hm...How odd. We hired that idiot believing that he could pull off an assignment quickly and silently. That's what I get for sending trainees down there." He said standing. The General took a look over at Lieutenant Travis and shook his head. "What do we do next, Lieutenant? Do you, perhaps, have any suggestions?"
The Lieutenant shook his head slightly. "No, sir. I do not even have the slightest idea to why one of our own would go over the edge and go straight for the assignment like that. Perhaps next time,we can pull it off with much more.........clean...results." He said thinking of a new strategy.
The General smiled. "Perhaps you are right. I'll send one of our much finer troops out there. I actually wish that your little friend down there was more prepared to go than what he is!" The General chuckled patting a boy standing next to the General on his head. "So, Kyle....Do you have any suggestions, son?" The General said kneeling down to eye-level with the child.
The boy remained silent and emotionless, standing at attention.
"At ease, Kyle....Your training for this evening is over with." Lieutenant Travis said smiling warmly at the young child.
The boy took a sigh of somewhat relief and looked up at the General. "Maybe if you sent my big brother down there, he could have killed off that guy you want dead!" He blurted out simply.
The Lieutenant chuckled lightly as he looked over at Kyle. "Now,Kyle...Don't be so rude to the General! Show him your manners! I'm sure that I have shown you some, yes?" He said ruffling the young boy's hair a little.
"Yes,sir! Sorry, General.." The boy said slightly discouraged.
"It's not a problem, Kyle. You'll grow up to be a fine individual here at the Black Lotus organization...You'll most likely even surpass me in ranking by the age of 19...But if you do...Don't forget how nice I was to you eh?!" The General laughingly stated poking the boy in the ribs, causing him to laugh.
The Lieutenant glanced over at Kyle and motioned him away. "Go play, okay? The General and I have some business to discuss alone, Kyle." He said smiling. Kyle's eyes lit up as the boy ran off happily. "See you guys later!" He said waving as he shut the door. Immediatly as he was out of sight, the Lieutenant turned to the General with somewhat angry eyes.
"We DON'T have to do this, you know! This entire colony doesn't deserve this just to get to ONE person!!" The Lieutenant said slamming his fist on the General's desk.
The General's face did not change from it's normal, serious look. "I know how you feel, Lieutenant, but we have no choice in the matter! If this person gets away, then there's a chance that we will be discovered! We have to take action immediatly!! Can't you see that?! We have no other alternative!" He General said taking his own defense.
The Lieutenant looked down, his fist still on the desk clenching even tighter. "I....I understand....Sir..." He said standing upright and saluting.
The General shook his head slightly saddened. "Lieutenant Travis? You are dismissed."
The Lieutenant walked off with his head in downward position thinking about the lives that were going to be taken at what cost? For the mere fact that this organization could be found out? His thoughts were interrupted by the General one last time.
"Before you leave Lieutenant...One more thing..."
"Yes, sir?" replied the young Lieutenant.
"..............I'm sorry." The General said looking down.
"Yes, sir......So am I." The Lieutenant said walking off, the shaft closing
Immediatly the General turned his back to the shaft door and turned on his computers glancing at the news incident over and over again. He watched as the punk rookie that had recently joined Black Lotus had so sloppily attempted to take down the man that they had wanted so badly killed. "Hm....Something....Is strangely odd about this.." He said replaying the footage in slow motion over and over again. He stopped at the now-deceased assassin's face as he had a look of utter shock and horror when his death occured. "Eh? What is he so frightened of? It's as if he had walked through the flames of hell and glanced at Lucifer himself!" The General muttered to himself watching the footage again and again. "We'll have to do something about this soon.....But what?"
Elsewhere in the desert, Jamar watched as Chad painfully trained hours at a time non-stop. He watched the young man do several kicks that he was shown to do, and several fist attacks as well. His speed was constantly improving, and his skills enhancing at record times!! Jamar smiled a little and walked over to Chad, placing his hand on his shoulder. "You are fighting as if something has you enraged. You have to calm yourself, boy! If you fight blindly, then you'll surely lose who you are, and THAT....Is not what I am teaching you, is it?" He said looking sternly at the young child.
"No sir, you taught me how to beat people senseless and to win by any means necessary!" Chad said smiling a little.
Jamar couldn't help but place his hand on his face and shake his head. In the background Ulira laughed away as she confronted the boy and his trainer. "Jamar, that is actually somewhat true!! You HAVE been teaching the boy some destructive techniques! When will you start with the flow of true martial arts, and teach him the balance, grace, and calm demenear it is meant for?" She said chuckling still.
"After I have shown him to defend himself against the creatures of this desert, dear." He said looking over. "This has been quite the evening, Chad....Let's call it a day for now. Say..We need some berries for Ulira to make desert, can you perhaps go and pick a few?" He said smiling at Chad. "Be careful, there are many creatures out there, eh?" He said waving to the young boy running off.
"Yes,sir!!" Chad replied running away to the small forest that strangely enough......grew in the "Dead Desert".
Jamar turned to Ulira and shook his head. "I hope that I can teach him enough to let him grow to be a good man...I do not want another child giving into the darker part of their chi, Ulira." He said hugging her.
"Dear....Don't worry..I'm sure Chad will do just fine! And maybe...If the spirits smile on us...He'll even find out son and daughter!" She said before kissing him.
"Perhaps....But I doubt we'll be so fortunate." He said turning his back to her and doing a few martial arts stretches.
"You are too Negative, Jamar!" She said placing her hands to her hips looking at him a little upset.
"Perhaps.....But I like to see realities...." Jamar said still warming up.
The Following Day....
The General shook his head as he watched the Colony explode due to what reporters said to be a "Generator Accident". As the Black Lotus ship flew out of the particular area where the Colony was being discovered. He looked over at the Lieutenant who was looking down holding an emotionally disturbed Kyle, who had previously met a few friends on that colony before they were killed by one of the members.
Kyle looked over at the General. "Wh..What happened to them?! Why did they die like that?! WHY?!"
The General closed his eyes with his back turned to Kyle and replied softly. "They were a threat, Kyle...It would have been them....Or us...Please forgive me....I'm truly sorry."
The Lieutenant shook his head an held Kyle as the boy's tears flowed like streams of water. Kyle couldn't contain his anger, his sorrow, and his inner pain as he shouted towards the General. "THEY WEREN'T A THREAT!! They were my friends!! We were playing tag when you decided to kill them!! Why couldn't they have come with me?! Why couldn't we have done something to save the innocent lives?!" He shouted.
The General's eyes opened at last, but he did not face Kyle. "You are.....Dismissed, Kyle."
The Lieutenant did an unusual martial arts chop to the back of Kyle's neck knocking him out painlessly. "I'm sorry, General. I'll try to keep the boy contained better next time." He said picking him up over his shoulder.
The General replied softly. "It's not a problem, Lieutenant. It's only natural for a human to cry over his fallen comrades. If he did not, he'd not be human, he'd be a machine, would he not?"
The Lieutenant stopped and turned back to the General before he left the room. "I mean no disrespect, sir....But by the way we were trained..To be emotionless and cold....Are we even considered humans any longer? Or do we have an iron heart....and are nothing but robots doing as we're programmed by the Admiral?"
The General fell silent after that remark.
The Lieutenant spoke softly for his next sentence. "Are we going to have to really carry out assignment 1012? Do we really have to drag more innocent lives into this than what is needed?" The Lieutenant asked calmly.
"I'm sorry, Lieutenant Travis...But I'm afraid so...Jamar is considered one of our biggest threats possible. He is the only member of Black Lotus to quit and still keep his life. We have been told by the Admiral to carry out this mission...And if we absolutely have to, then so be it. I cannot question the Admiral, you know that. If we did, we'd lose our lives for certain!" He said looking over at the Lieutenant at last.
The Lieutenant shook his head. "That bastard has us running around like his lap dogs...I'll make sure that someone gets Jamar's child so he'll come here. What do we do with the boy once we apprehend him?"
The General let out a small smile. "We let Kyle have a new friends.....At last."
The Lieutenant smiled warmly. "Are....Are you serious? Kyle would like that very much. Mission 1012 in progress now!!" The Lieutenant said carrying out Kyle and returning him to his room. "Soon, little brother, you'll have a new partner and friend to play with...Until then...Try to remain in focus of your training...I don't want you to dwell on your past pain. It will make you too cold........For once, I do not want you to be like your big brother." Lieutenant Travis said brushing Kyle's white hair out of his eyes.
They were seated around a large round table in a private room, big enough for twelve people, which was precisely how many there were. Voices chattered lively, covering a range of topics from the latest trends to inevitable business matters. Waitresses clad in crimson Chinese dress came and went, refilling drinks or bringing the next course of the meal.
Among the minor businessmen gathered around the table this night, two men were seated next to each other more or less at the head of the table. One was a Japanese in his mid twenties, clad in a sharp business suit, and had a fine crop of dark blue hair. The other was a tall American, older with gray eyes and jet black hair. His face was a firm, chiseled countenance that was almost masklike in appearance. Though his features were for the most part, solemn and reserved, when he did smile, it was always sincere and heartwarming. In conversation, this American showed no marked partiality between his companions, listening to all and giving them equal attention.
In the middle of the dinner, the blue haired man stood and raised his wine glass. "Ladies and gentlemen, a toast." He gestured and smiled at the American next to him, who seemed mildly embarassed. "To my friend and new partner: Mr. Lamont Cranston Jr. His actions of generosity and concern for the youth of our nation will one day, perhaps soon, bear fruit. Then we will be indebted to him. May he live a thousand years!!!"
All the other Japanese in the room smiled and raised their wine glasses. "BANZAI!", they called in one voice. The Nippon equivalent for three cheers, it roughly meant 'a thousand years!'. Cranston smiled and stood when his friend took his seat. "I wanted to thank you all for coming here tonight, and for such a wonderful show of hospitality. Yet Ryuuzaki-san neglected to toast another person: himself."
It was his turn to gesture to him. "My moves to protect a socially-endangered youth in Japan would not have been possible without his expertise and knowledge." He refilled his glass and raised it. "And so, united in arms in one cause, may the partnership between our companies serve as an example to international business relations around the world. And may HE live a thousand years!!!"
Another loud cry of 'BANZAI' erupted from the table, and once more they all drank. Ryuuzaki chuckled as Cranston sat down. "Sly one, aren't you?" The blurb of voices returned and the dinner resumed. Looking up from a small plate of fried rice and chicken with lemon sauce, the Japanese picked up where they had left off before the toast. "I am all for your idea, Cranston-san. But you do realize selecting a site for an after-school activity club would be quite the chore..."
Lamont Cranston creased his lips in an engaging smile as well, swallowing a sliver of Peking duck. Establishing after-school ativity clubs would serve as a way of diverting children's attention away from drugs and the like. "...what with the city being cramped as it is? Yes, Ryuuzaki-san. I was aware of that." He tapped a finger on the tabletop. "Which is why I am supporting you in the drive to have some gambling dens within the city torn down to service something much more worthwhile."
Ryuuzaki's eyes seemed to assume a pinched look. "The one problem with that," he said, voice dropping to a whisper. "is that those gambling dens are owned by the yakuza. Any interference with their daily activities would mean serious reprisal from them. And we cannot turn to the police for assistance, for belonging to a yakuza gang in this country is not illegal. Moreover, the yakuza keep the law happy, providing them bonuses to their salary, hence their reluctance to strike seriosuly at them."
Lamont leaned back, leisurely sipping his drink. An idea came to him at that exact moment. "Then...I propose that as a first step to establishing the youth clubs... that our companies begin provide funding to the police, higher than whatever amount the yakuza are handing out to keep them on their leash. With the police happy with their finances, they would see no more reason to let the yakuza have their way." He heard the unmistakable intake of breath from the blue haired man. He turned and slowly glanced at Cranston. "THAT my friend...is a rather bold move."
"But it would be worth it. Think about it. It's a step to helping the youth. In addition, crime in the city will suffer." encouraged Lamont. There was a brief uneasy silence from Ryuuzaki until one of the businessmen, Yotsuga Yahiko, broke in and changed the topic. "Ryuuzaki-san, let's not discuss business affairs now, ne? Surely Mr. Cranston wishes something more exciting." His eyes took in the table and the people, then he continued. "Let's talk about...the Kage."
"Ah the stuff of legend." said one woman. "Reminds me of tales of the tengu, the legendary birdman, that parents would frighten their kids with. Be a nice little child or the tengu will carry you away to his nest in the mountain and you will never return!" Yotsuga chuckled in response. "Hai...the tengu was a creature that was both avenger and menacer. The Kage is both himself, yet he is both exclusively to evildoers. He shows no mercy to them, and if he does, they have already lost their minds to his terrifying laugh. They say he knows many things, that no knowledge escapes him. Some say he is the vengeful embodiment of Justice itself. Rumors abound that he cannot be killed. He is a being of the night, he is everywhere yet nowhere.
"These may sound like superstitions, yet I have heard these words from the mouths of criminals themselves, those unfortunate enough to have crossed his path. Theories have been put forward. One of them is that the Kage must be a man of considerable wealth, with many resources. Such a description is perhaps one-tenth of Tokyo's population." This brought a general laugh from the table. "In fact he could be anyone at this table.", Yotsuga continued. He pointed to Lamont Cranston, the American's mouth formed a tiny 'o' eliciting a laugh from the gathered people. "Someone like Cranston-san perhaps?"
Lamont Cranston laughed. His mirth was very contagious, rather soon the whole table was laughing at the very idea of the American millionaire running around in a black cape. "Me? Kage? And who's my loyal sidekick? Santa Claus?" The laughs rose in volume until even Yotsuga was laughing himself. Everyone had a point: someone like Cranston, millionaire/globetrotter/philanthropist, being the Kage was something to derive a good joke from.
Had he spied the sly unseen glint in Cranston's eyes, he would have changed his mind in a hurry.
The reason they were all laughing was because the idea of someone like Lamont Cranston Jr. being the Kage was totally absurd. And that was just what he intended. The American spread his hands gamely. "Nothing but dreams, Yotsuga-san."
And none of them noticed the giant monstrous shadow that engulfed the table when Cranston spread his hands.
on the Black Lotus craft, Kyle was still resting, when the plan to capture Jamar and Chad was executed. Five of the Black Lotus group's best men silently snuck towards the forest in which Chad was training. They silently snuck around the young man hiding behind trees, and other backgrounds as the young man saw nothing at all. Inside the house in which Chad lived, Jamar and Ulira were busy spending time together, when all of a sudden they heard Chad's yells for assistance!! Jamar shot outside as fast as he could but made it a tad too late...Four of the five members of Black Lotus was lifted away by a cloaked jet not even the greatest of radars could detect!! However, one member was still standing around awaiting his escape!! Immediatly, Jamar took advantage of this situation and sent a spinning heel kick to the temple of the kidnapper. The jet left their fallen member for
Jamar and made their ultimate escape still holding Chad at bay. The boy turned to them and started using all of his strength to fight off as many as he could to no avail, however. Jamar watched in horror as the young boy they now had hostage vanished away before his very eyes....The only thing he could do now is question the hostage HE had acquired on what their plans were....Jamar took the kidnapper inside and awoke him with a sharp slap to his face. The man awoke and noticed that he was tied to a chair with shackled feet. The man looked up and saw that the "Desert Ghost" was now watching him closely, studying his every feature.
The man looked at Jamar now with a shocked expression. "You!! You are the one they call "The Desert Ghost"...Jamar Ryuuzaki, are you not?!" He shouted at the middle aged man.
Jamar let out a slight smile. "Perhaps, and you know a very well kept secret it seems." he said quietly.
The man struggled to break free. "We have been sworn to keep that secret...I have promised to take that to the grave with me!" He said still struggling.
Jamar turned his back to the man and pulled out a strange looking, and very dangerous looking dagger, and turned around, placing it to the man's throat. "And that.....You will..." He said preparing to finish off the man with no mercy in his eyes!!
"W...WAIT!! DON'T KILL ME!! IF YOU DO, YOU'LL NEVER SEE THAT BOY AGAIN!!" The kidnapper pleaded.
"You...What is your name? And what is your rank in Black Lotus?" Jamar asked.
"My name.....is Shao Fang..I'm the 5th top ranking of the Black Lotus apprehension team...I'm only here to help kidnap Chad, nothing more! We didn't plan to kill him, if that's what you want to know! The Black Lotus wants YOU, not HIM!!" He said shaking heavily.
Ulira crossed her arms and shook her head. "There's that name again...Black Lotus...I thought it was over with you and them, Jamar." She said sighing.
"It was...Until they decided to start a war they know they will lose." He said placing the dagger even closer to the man's throat. The man shook heavily, sweating badly. He knew that Jamar was known for his torturous methods and shown little or no mercy when getting what he wanted out of an enemy.
Ulira placed her arms around Jamar's waist. "Come on, now...he explained to you what you wanted...Let's let him live, eh?" She said smiling lightly.
Jamar looked back at her and swung down the dagger swiftly. Shao Fang closed his eyes in horror, but when he reopened them, he saw that he was free. He stood up at last. "Jamar....You should go to Japan..That is where they are going to keep the hostage. You have only a few days to get there before they eliminate the boy....Get going as soon as possible...and.....thank you...for sparing me." He said bowing respectfully.
Jamar looked back at him. "Do not thank me yet...You are going to be the one to deliver me to Japan...and at this very moment. Let's move." And with that, they took Jamar's only vehicle, an old, yet very sturdy blue truck, and went out of the Dead Desert, towards the airport..
Shifting neon lights, gaudy billboards, and light headed chatter in various languages. A melange of stalls dotted the sidewalks, their vendors calling for prospective customers, gaijin tourists mostly. Behind those simple stalls were better housed shops whose function varied, from sale of simple curios to one particular department store that seemed to take up an entire block.
Hoping to earn their pay too was a veritable army of costumed street singers and dancers, dressed in outfits of the modern trend to the more archaic kimono and hakama, a constantly twirling cloud of bright colors and gaiety, an attractive mosaic of old and new. The wail of the saxophone and the twang of the shamisen seemed to float about the air, entering the ears of passers-by and enthrall them, entice them to throw their money away to they who played beautifully.
For the incurable drinker, hundreds of bars' doors were thrown open to welcome them. One could take a stool before a TV and drain a whole mug of German beer, or simply sit in a far quiet corner and sip a tiny cup of sake. Restaurants that catered to diverse palates sat side-by-side like brothers. Hence were the scents of fried Japanese tempura, Italian macaroni, and American hamburger united in one pleasing, if somewhat cloying, scent.
This then was Nippon's famed Ginza district. Literally it stood for "Silver Place". Many decades before, a silver mine had been discovered in this area and had led to a boom. Shops, restaurants, bars, boutiques, cabarets and many more had grown up around the site, leading to its becoming what it was now, one of the biggest and best sites in the world for fun-lovers and tourists, young and old alike.
Yet for some, entertainment was far from their minds this night. Such as that of the black-haired American seated in the back of a cab that slowly but surely picked its way through the gathered throng of fun seekers and other cars. Lights from a hundred neon signs shone down towards the cab as it did on all the others, yet it seemed that those lights...-bent-...away from that taxi. As if reluctant to illuminate the one inside it.
11:19 PM. The man's gaze directed itself to the world outside the window, as did his psychic sense. People from many places were assembled here tonight. From the minds of the tourists came the purpose of purchasing or witnessing something exotic and perhaps bringing a piece of it home. For the youngsters, it was meeting friends and hanging out with them, leading to a fun-filled night in each others company that they would never forget. For the shopkeepers, it was that they hoped someone would purchase at least one curio, one item, before they retired for the night and returned to a waiting family.
And for a handful few, it was desire of the different sort, the man sensed. The desire to take a life, be it for money or insane pleasure. The desire to divest a man of his belongings, be it for himself or for another. Higher up, keeping their hands clean by working through lackeys, plot after plot after plot was being set by the vilest of minds, working in tandem to trap the unwary in their snares.
Justice in this land had waited far too long. Yet he would serve his own Justice.
The radio up front crackled, and a soft furtive voice sounded from it in a burst of static. "Kage-sama?" Eiji, his communications man. "Report." The American's voice had hardened, deepened into a low hissing whisper as he said that word. "No trouble so far tonight, Kage-sama. But I advise keeping on the lookout all the same. I will have some of agents in the area on standby."
"Sugoi. Over and out." said the man in the same eerie whisper. To the taxi driver he directed the voice. "Stop the cab. Wait nearby for further instructions." Promptly, the taxi slowed and slid to a stop, strategically towards one of the darker sidewalks of the district. A door opened and shut, as an enormous living mass of black seemed to slither off the taxi's side and form on the asphalt. The taxi drove off and was swallowed into the night.
And as the din of the roaring taxi faded, a low frightening laugh wafted through the night air, seeming to bounce off the baleful walls, loathing to hold that cacophony of impending doom. To the casual observer, it was as if a shadow kept detaching itself from building to building, to be absorbed into the darkness of one before moving to the next.
Two men were walking through the alley with the young Chad unconcious in their arms. They were members of the dreaded Black Lotus. Immdediatly they turned as they heard a frightening laughter echoing throughout the area. "Who is that?" One of the abductors asked.
"I'm not sure, but we should make quick work of it, before it gives us away. Let's seperate, first. We'll see if we can't use this boy as bait to lure that laughing maniac out here." Said the other. The one that held Chad set him down in the middle of the alleyway and fired off a few gunshots into the air. He then took refuge behind a trash can awaiting the arrival of the mysterious being that seemed to be mocking them. The other kidnapper hid under a few boxes with his dagger out, also awaiting his arrival.
Elsewhere, Jamar and the leftover Black Lotus member arrived in Japan at last. It had been a long trip, and both men were filled with tension. Jamar turned to his hostage immediatly. "Now...Where is it I can find the Black Lotus in this city? I do not wish to waste anymore time than necessary dealing with them!"
The man shook as he spoke. "I...I believe that our ship's hideout is behind a mansion south of here! It's very large, one of the largest here! And no one suspects that the ships come and go there! We need to get there if you want to send messages to the Lieutenant and General!" He said uneasily.
Jamar nodded his head slowly. "Alright. Let's go there, then. But...What's making me say that you are not setting me up, boy?"
The young man trembled. "There...there's nothing really making you say that, I suppose.." The man's sentence ended with a gulp.
Jamar shot a glare at him and started reaching for his dagger. "I'm going to go to this mansion....alone. Where is it?"
"You're going.....you're going to kill me?!"
"I never said that. Now tell me!!" Jamar said angrily.
"Um...Y..Yes..." The man said handing Jamar a paper. "This is where they told me to go when my mission was complete."
Jamar looked at it and chuckled lightly. "Idiot...Do you not realize that they had set you up from the beginning? They were sending you there for a reason. You were supposed to be caught, were you not? And you are a rank A soldier, high class, but not the best,correct?"
"Well...Actually, They have told me that I was one of THE best in Black Lotus. But yes, I was supposed to stay behind and purposely get caught..Why do you ask?" asked the actual-rookie assassin.
"You are NOT class A. They wanted to make you believe that to make you expendable. Those other guys. They could easily have taken Chad and I would have probably never even known it. But they want me there for some reason. That's why they made it known. They want you to lead me to that mansion to lead me into a trap. They'll kill you too, without blinking an eye. I know how they work, I WAS their best. Now you see how important you are to them, boy? Nothing more than a pawn in their game of murderous chess!"
The young man couldn't believe his ears, but he had known that Jamar was no liar. He sat down for a moment to gather his thoughts. "So...They were going to just take my life? For what? What did I do to deserve that?"
"You were not good enough. Now go...Stay away from ANY friends you might have had in Black Lotus! Go and lead a new life...NOW! Before I decide to do their job for them!" He shouted. The young man scrambled to his feet and bowed in respect. "Y..Yes sir! Sayonnara!" He sad running off.
Jamar shook his head. He knew that in truth it was most likely they would find him and kill him before he got to lead his "new life", but it was at least better than always living in the shadows as a killer. But maybe something good might be in store for the former rookie. He chuckled and walked towards the city, knowing by his senses that Chad was there, awaiting for someone to rescue him!
Warm night wind whipped at the two Black Lotus hitmen as Ritter blew his gunsmoke away, lest it reveal his hiding place. The German could not tell why at the moment, but something about the laugh...unsettled him. It seemed to force its way into the very core of his person and steadily tear apart his resolve from the inside. For the first time in his life, he was afraid. He tightened his hold on the Walther pistol, smirking as he did, his apprehension seeming to evaporate with the motion. He had an excellent gun and was no amateur at using it. Ja, let the merry meddler come.
He cast his gaze across the alley to the box pile, whence Mendoza was concealed. His partner was fingering a deadly serrated knife and itching for the chance to use it. If the meddler somehow avoided his shot while moving for the boy, Mendoza's knife would cut him open and give the walls a new paint job. There was no escape.
Neon signs from a brothel across the street shone into the alley, illuminating the sleeping boy's legs, upper part of his body in the darkness. But his kidnappers were hidden, watching and waiting. What Ritter
saw next seemed to open the door in his heart again, welcoming the fear back. For the light splashing from a lamp onto the alley wall was obscured by a sable sillhouette. The source seemed to be coming from the adjoining sidewalk, yet ready to make a turn into the alley. It was a black, totally black mammoth shadow that seemed to seduce the alleyway's darkness to unite with it. Almost alive.
Ritter could hear his heart beat erratically as he crouched there, still as can be but stinking with his own sweat. His breathing rate had risen. Mein Gott, the time for being afraid of the dark and shadows was long over with the passing of childhood!
The footsteps got louder, and Ritter tapped the trigger in readiness, aimed at the alley mouth.
And the German's blue eyes widened in surprise, confusion, and a little relief. For stepping into view now was a short roly-poly gray haired man in a dirty sweater. His left hand bore a round white jug of sake, which came up to his lips as he took a swig. Some of the drink dribbled down his neck then he swiped at it. "AHOU GA! OI!" he yelled at the German, shaking his fist. "Keep your whistle to yourself! Gaijin baka..." he stumbled down the alleyway mouth, past the two Black Lotus agents, banging into several boxes and trashcans and hiccuping more oaths against rude foreigners.
Ritter and Menodoza sighed and looked again towards the alley mouth. The German was considering taking the drunkard's life. No one, not even the casual passerby who chanced on Black Lotus and became a witness to their existence, could be allowed to live. Mendoza was slower in turning back and ended up noticing something that would have escaped either of them had the both returned to observing the entrance. "SANTA MARIA! Look, Ritter!"
The child's legs were gone.
Alarmed, they both leaped out of their hiding places, just beginning to hear the drunkard's footsteps rise in repetition. He was running. And true enough, the blond child was in his hands. He no longer moved the unsteady and wavering pace of the intoxicated. His stride was long and sure, the
speed in which he covered the alley exceptional.
"SCHEISS! Come back here!" screamed the German, blasting shots down the alleyway. None of them struck home, dark as it was and considering the distance, though there was an answering yowl from some alley cat. The two agents brought their weapons up to give chase, but stopped dead on in
mid-pursuit. Fear, raw and whole, seemed to squeeze around Ritter's cold heart. Mendoza mirrored him in expression.
For buffeted by the now chilling night wind, cast aloft by the ebony walls, was a quivering sardonic laugh. The taunting jibe seemed to invade their senses, as all the shadows in the alley seemed to rise and blot out all light. That mirthless laugh spoke more than mere words. It mocked them for their ignorance and it held an unspoken promise that it would return for them.
Ritter and Mendoza glanced at each other, shaken, then charged down the alley as the laugh began to fade far ahead of them.
The drunkard, if drunkard he was, rounded a corner then with surprising gentleness set the young boy down between a pair of trashcans. As long as the boy held still, they wouldn't see him. The child moaned, and held a hand up to his eyes, rubbing sleep out of them. He glanced up at the one who had set him down, then paled and tried to leap away from his position. "Let me go! Let me go! Sensei...!!!"
Chad could not see his rescuer well, but a gloved hand extended from the darkness and placed a finger on his lips. "Fear for your life if you make noise, young one. Be still and silent, and you may live to see your loved ones again." Those words were spoken into the boy's ear by a hollow unsettling whisper, a man's, that sent shivers down his spine. He cringed backwards, willing for the faceless shadows to hide him.
Rearing from the depths of Hades was a tall dark form, revealed by the light of the moon. A living shadow clad in a flowing black cape, a black overcoat beneath it, and a scarlet cloth concealing the area below the
nose. A black slouch hat was turned down over his face, all the boy could make out were a pair of emerald eyes that blazed with an odd hypnotic power. That and a strange pulsing gem on the being's ring finger.
Some kind of demon, a monster, thought Chad.
And though Chad, a child of the modern era, felt such things did not exist, perhaps a primal fear would arise and pepper that knowledge with doubt. Strange then that Chad should take comfort at the very sight of the dark being, albeit a haunted chilling comfort.
The Shadow observed the boy for a second, then a white blanket pooled around Chad's shoulders. "Don't catch cold." it rasped before departing.
Ritter led the way down the alley, gun first. Mendoza was some yards behind, bringing up his rear. He stiffened and clutched the gun as the mocking laugh came again, all around them. The German stepped deeper into the darkness, ready to fire at the sight of anything unusual. Not far, his ears detected the rustling of aluminum on asphalt, a trashcan had been unwittingly moved. Then there was a sudden shift in the air, flapping cloth, when Ritter spotted a black figure against the wall, as if trying to stay hidden.
He smirked and fired a round at it, then another and another as he got closer. The being lost its stance and collapsed to the floor, a grunt emanating from its lips.
Ritter stood over the prone body and toed it with his boot.
Most odd...he felt nothing that seemed remotely alive...only the cloth. He knelt and felt the fallen mass with his bare hands. And reared in confusion as he found himself clutching a black slouch hat and a cloak. His blood ran cold. For the sinister laugh seemed to be echoing in his ears.
And it was right behind him.
He whirled and screamed, firing and firing, as powerful gloved hands found his throat.
"Ritter! What has happened?!" yelled Mendoza as he heard the shots, ready to lend his strength to his partner. It was as if Ritter had stepped into the maw of darkness and been swallowed by it. Mendoza brandished his knife, twirling it once as he neared the edge of the light.
When from the darkness came Ritter's voice, German accent tinged with smug triumph. "Mendoza! Come and see! The meddler is no more, ha! He's nothing but a man in a cape after all, shot him to death with my gun I did!" Mendoza smiled as he neared. "Excellent, amigo!"
"Go on, take a look at that clown. No one gets the better of us, ja?! Take that scarf off his face, see him for what he is, a fool of a fool!" Mendoza smirked and knelt near the still form of the intruder. He grinned as he lifted the scarf...
And felt his face drain of all blood. Cold sweat ran down his face.
For staring right back at him, eyes locked in frigid pain and terror, was Ritter.
Mendoza screamed insanely and leaped from his crouch, swinging his knife at the persona he now knew was not his fellow agent. The sable being seemed to melt away from the strike. A low reverse roundhouse kick smashed the back of his knees as he stumbled past. Mendoza landed flat on his belly, pain lancing down his lower left leg. From his position, he made a wild cut for his assailant's legs, but it seemed to leap up and away.
Mendoza leaped again, knife thrusting for the ebony being's midsection. In response, the black form suddenly fell back and a pair of boots lashed up and caught Mendoza by the chest, then they pitched him over to the brick wall behind him. This time the Mexican's head burned, with what could be a fracture.
A hissed challenging laugh welcomed the Mexican as he slowly stood, shaking dizziness and scarlet vision out of his eyes. He circled the cloaked fighter, back to the alley mouth. He was moving his knife left and right as if trying to confuse the sable being.
Jamar sensed the boy nearby. It was time now to strike. He ran quickly, yet silently, he, too, concealed by the shadows as he moved. He at last reached the alleyway where he has sensed the boy nearby, and leaned against the front, turning his head to the side glancing in to see what was awaiting him. His eyes widened slightly at the sight of the Shadow's attack on the two Black Lotus member. "Hm..Ritter and Mendoza..Losing terribly. So what else is new. They must have failed, because I sense Chad's on the other
side. But...What have they stooped to, this time? Summoning demons to do their work? Pitiful." He said to himself turning and walking in the alley. His tan-colored scarf blew wildly behind him as the breeze swept through. He slowly approached The Shadow and finally realized, that he was not wearing any type of Black Lotus gear. "Hm..He obviously is Class A." He said to himself still approaching. Finally he stood next to the Shadow. "The boy...What's his condition, before I check myself? I would like to
know what to expect."
Elsewhere, Kyle had awoken from his sleep on the Black Lotus ship. "Wha? Hey!! What's the new mission, Lieutenant?"
Lieutenant Travis smiled and looked over. "Well...Right now, we're on standby. We're awaiting the arrival of your new partner, Kyle." He said chuckling.
Kyle smiled gleefully. "New partner?! You're kidding me, right?! This is awesome!! We can go on missions together, when I'm ready?!"
"Yes, little brother, you will. We just have to await further instruction."
The Lieutenant was happy to see Kyle's face in happy mostion once more. But how much longer would they have to wait? Had they failed? Perhaps it was time for the Lieutenant and General to make their own moves personally.
The Lieutenant walked over to the General's chamber. "I'm going down to the alleyway. I believe that they might be losing. Ritter and Mendoza are definetly not two of our best men." he said concnerned.
The General turned his chair over to the Lieutenant. "I agree. Just be careful. I don't want anything happening to you or the boy. We want him back in one piece." He said cracking his knuckles.
"Very well. I'll do my best." And with that the Lieutenant stepped in a strange capsule. This capsule teleported him directly to Earth to a nearby location by the alleyway. As he walked by, he heard a cough coming from a few trashcans. He walked over and moved them aside revealing the young Chad
huddled in the shadows.
Chad growled slightly. "Alright, buddy, get back! I'll make mincemeat out of you if you aren't careful!"
The Lieutenant chuckled. "So you must be Chad. Such a hasty attitude, my friend. Come with me, will you? It's very important that we keep you alive, and I doubt Jamar would be pleased if someone would have killed you. Please forgive me for Mendoza's and Ritter's actions. They were NOT to be so
hostile with you, my friend. Now come on, let's not waste anymore time, shall we?" He said placing his hand out to help Chad up.
"Heh...Alright..Let's go." Chad said reaching out for his hand. Suddenly he struck! Chad flung the blanket into the Lieutenant's eyes and leaped to his feet and leaped again bringing a jumping roundhouse to the Lieutenant's abdomonen area, knocking him back a bit!! "I'll come with you when hell freezes over, you jerk! You guys want to jump me from behind?! Bring it on!" He shouted fighting his heart out.
The Lieutenant was more than a match for young Chad, He sweeped the boy's feet from under him and caught him quickly in the side of hte neck with a hand chop. The boy fell unconcious quickly, yet painlessly. The Lieutenant finally shook his head in confusion at the boy's attack and lifted him
gently over his shoulder with a warm chuckle. "That was interesting. This child has the same potential as Kyle....It's as if they were brothers, or something." He said laughing at the thought. He teleported the boy to the ship and awaited Jamar's arrival patiently.