Published by Quintin Fortune at Smashwords
Copyright 2015 Quintin Fortune
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
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“And a grand hello to you too. Japan,” Deadguy exclaimed as the Professional Heroes stepped out of the airport terminal and into Nagano. “Everyone’s favorite Professional…um, where are all the screaming schoolgirls?”
“Probably still in school,” Jill replied. “It is Three-thirty in the afternoon here.” She wore large white sunglasses to hide her jet lagged eyes, making her red hair even brighter in the sunlight.
“Konnichiwa, Nippon,” Kiri exclaimed as she walked out, almost skipping. “Watashi wa modotte kimashita!”
“This isn’t a vacation,” Valkadaidan growled. He walked out with a large duffel bag.
“I get tackled by the TSA for having a toothpick and he gets six swords through without anyone batting an eye,” Our Hero complained.
“Three words: I’m a professional,” Valk stated.
Deadguy silently mocked him.
“Besides,” Valk pulled out the idol of Unmei no hakobi-te. It seemed quite harmless after everything they had to do to get it. “We don’t need this falling into the wrong hands.”
“Again,” Deadguy added.
“So what’s the plan,” Jill questioned.
“Easy. I head to the Enshi Clan Temple and find out what’s going on.”
“Fine, you two have fun at the temple.” Kiri said. “DeeGee and I are heading to Akibara.” She grabbed Deadguy’s sleeve. “Come on, you’ll love it! There’s Manga shops and game stores and cosplay cuties so kawaii you will just die!”
“We’ll catch up in a week,” Our Hero called back as he was being dragged away. “Maybe.”
“That at least gives us some peace and quiet,” Jill remarked, waving them off.
“Oh, I’m going with you. This is a business trip, after all.”
Deadguy and Kiri sat on a train heading straight for the Akibara district in Tokyo. Deadguy was doing his best to fight off jet lag while Kiri was happily humming to herself. “Explain to me why we’re going to Ake…Aku…” he started.
“A-ki-ba-ra,” Kiri finished. “It’s the cosplay capital of the world. Geeky Nippon Central.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I think cosplay girls are hot and all, but do we really need to spend and entire week there,” he questioned. “A day or two maybe. But a week?”
Kiri’s head sunk into her chest. Her mood changed drastically. “If you didn’t want to go,” she said softly.
“And now I feel guilty,” he declared. “Alright, we’ll spend the week there.”
“No, it’s okay,” she continued, a tear rolling down her eye. “If you just want to be like all the other gaijin…”
“Kiri,” he said, cutting her off. “We’ll stay the week. It’s important to you, so we’ll do it.”
She looked up at him, giving him a huge grin. “Domo, Deadguy-san,” she squealed, wrapping her arms around him tightly.
“Were you faking that,” he exclaimed. “Little tight, Kir.”
Valkadaidan walked up to the grand doorway of the Enshi Clan Temple. The doors that once glistened in the sun had lost their luster. The scenes of battle and of enlightenment had chipped and eroded. How long had it been since he last traversed this doorway?
“Five. Hundred. Steps,” Jill wheezed. “I do cardio three times a week, but this.” She dragged her legs over the last few steps. She collapsed into a sitting position. “I think I just got a year’s worth of exercise.”
“I had to walk those steps five times a day for five years before the Clan would even acknowledge me,” Valk stated.
“Well good for you,” she grumbled between breaths.
He shook his head, then turned back to the grand entrance. “I am the Supreme Dragon-Blooded Warrior Valkadaidan,” he announced. “Envoy of the Toyotomi Clan. Guardian of the Western Wind. Champion of the August Male. I seek the council of the Ancient One.”
The Grand Entrance stood. Minutes passed. An hour. Then, the doors slowly opened. Before them sat another long stone staircase.
“More stairs,” Jill groaned. “You never said anything about more stairs.”
“Forgot,” Valk replied. “Climbing them ten times a day for ten years tends to put one in a meditative state.”
“Fif…fifteen years.” she sputtered. “You climbed all this ten times a day for FIFTEEN YEARS?”
“Thirty,” he corrected. “Just wait until we get to the second gate.”
Deadguy and Kiri walked into the tiny Buddhist temple that sat on one of the side streets. Kiri almost broke the door down to get in. The final rays of the day tickled the sky. “Kiri,” Deadguy said. “You can’t just barge into random Buddhist temples.”
She giggled as she bounced across the small court, stopping abruptly in front of an old bald man with a long white beard. She bowed deeply, and he bowed slightly in response. “Master,” she exclaimed, jumping up and wrapping her arms around his neck. “It’s so good to see you again.”
The old man chuckled. “It’s good to see you too.”
“Um…Kir,” DG asked. “I have no idea what the hell you’re saying. Wait, can I say ‘hell’ in a Buddhist temple?”
“One moment, Master,” she said. Walking back to Our Hero, she started messing with her phone. “This trip is going to be annoying if I have the translate everything, so…” She pulled a wire out from her Shock-Ra bracelet and connected it to the phone. “I’m going to give you a little boost to help out.”
“What do you mean by boost,” he asked, wary of the answer.
Two small rods popped out of the front of her bracelet. “You’re going to feel a slight…sting…” She touched the rods to his head. One was inside his ear, while the other was pressed on the side. A jolt of electricity shot into his brain.
Deadguy convulsed and collapsed. Master joined Kiri as she stood over him. “Is he okay,” he asked.
“I heard that,” Deadguy responded. His eyes shot open in shock. “I understood that.” He sat up. “Kiri, what did you do?”
“It’s an app I made. Helps rewire the brain to understand any language,” she explained.
“That’s brilliant. Why haven’t you tried to market it?”
“Well, the process involves sending 4.3 amps of electricity into the Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas of your brain. Something like that would kill a normal person.”
“Of all my teammates that would kill me…”
Valkadaidan trudged up the last few steps,the small idol in his hand and a very tired Jill on his back. The night air was cooler up here. The doors to the temple opened as four guards came out with a thin man. The man wore the clothing of an imperial courtesan. “Greetings,” the man said. “The Enshi Clan welcomes you back.”
Valk did his best to bow without Jill falling off. “Praise the Ancient One’s infinite benevolence for seeing me so quickly,” he replied.
“No more stairs,” Jill weakly groaned.
“Take her to my quarters,” he said as the guards helped Jill down.
The courtesan glanced at the idol in Valkadaidan’s hand. “You have Unmei no hakobi-te,” he asked, a hint of concern in his voice.
“Yes, and I bring with it questions.”
Deadguy and Kiri sat in the tiny temple kitchen with the rest of the monks and nuns, eating a modest feast. The smells of meat, vegetables, and rice waft through the room. Kiri’s Master sat at the head of the table, watching over the others like a father watching his children. Our Hero heaped some noodles and slices of beef into his bowl. “Okay, so what’s the story,” he asked.
Kiri quickly swallowed a mouth full of rice. “Story?”
“Is he your grandpa or something?”
“No. Master is Master.”
“So, you’re Buddhist? Didn’t that conflict with the whole ‘Moondagger’ thing?”
Kiri gulped down some green tea. “Actually, the Moondagger clan is how I ended up here to begin with.”
Deadguy chomped on a piece of beef. “How?”
“It was my first mission. I was sent to retrieve a small statue from this temple. I infiltrated the compound and there Master sat, almost as if he was expecting me. He asked what I was after, I told him, and he just gave it to me. All he asked was for me to say ‘Thank you’. It totally blew my mind. He clan always taught me that people were fiercely protective of their possessions, and here’s Master, just giving the statue to me like it was a gift.”
What happened then?”
She shoveled some noodles into her mouth. “Well, after I completed the mission, I started thinking. Then there were questions. About who I was, who Master was, Buddhism, and everything else. So, after some time, I replaced the statue with a copy, brought the real one back, and asked Master to teach me the ways of Buddhism.”
Deadguy sipped some tea. “How did your Buddhist nature handle the Moondagger jobs?”
“I just looked at it as alleviating people from their materialism.” She popped a piece of broccoli into her mouth with her chopsticks. “I swung by here whenever I was in the area or in need of some guidance.”
“Is that why you wanted to spend the week here,” DG asked. “It’s cool and all. A week of spiritual fulfillment could do you some good.”
“Actually, I came here first for more than one reason.” She lifted her cup of tea into the air. “Master. Brothers and sisters. I have an announcement. I have left the Moondagger clan and turned away from my life as a thief. Now, I have dedicated my life to helping others as a Professional Hero.”
The monks and nuns began to cheer and applaud. Master looked at her, pleased by this news.
Jill awoke to the feeling of silk caressing her body. Her entire body. ‘I’m naked,’ she thought. ‘Naked, and in a strange bed.’ She sat up, covering herself with the silk sheets. Valkadaidan was standing at a podium, looking over a scroll. His back was to her.
“Anyone tell you your snoring sounds like an angry tiger,” he asked, still looking over the scroll.
“I don’t snore,” she argued. “and where are my clothes?”
“They have been put away for now. The temple doesn’t allow anything from the outside world in.”
“Not even clothes? I’m not walking around this place naked.”
“Why not? There’s an entire wing dedicated to sky-clad practitioners.”
“You’re kidding, right? Please tell me you’re kidding.”
“No.” He paused. “But we’re not in that wing.” He pointed to the robes hanging over a changing screen. “Your temple attire is there.”
She began to move, then stopped suddenly. “No peeking,” she commanded.
“Do you want me to peak,” he questioned.
She blushed slightly. A lot of thoughts ran through her head. “No, she said finally. “I am your boss, after all.”
“Then I won’t peek.”
She hesitated, then jumped out of bed and ran behind the changing screen. It was a little chilly in the room. “What’s the scroll for,” she asked as she started to dress.
“It’s a doctrine about the forging of the Ten,” Valkadaidan explained. “A theory one of the older monks had back in the Eighteenth century.”
“Theory on how they were created,” she questioned.
“Something like that.”
Jill stepped out from behind the changing screen. The robes she wore tended to be a bit big on her. “I take it they didn’t have anything in my size,” she stated.
“The clan doesn’t have very many women. I had to get the young boy’s robes for you.”
Jill looked shocked and annoyed. “You got me clothes from the kid’s section,” she yelled.
“Laugh it up,” she fussed, joining him at the scroll. “What’s the theory?”
The doors to the room flew open. One of the Ancient One’s personal attendants stood before them. His robes shimmered like red dragon scales. “Pardon my intrusion, but the Ancient One has demanded your presence.”
Deadguy and Kiri sat in a fast food restaurant. The Techie had a hamburger in one hand and a Japanese comic, a ‘Manga’, in the other. The manga in question was about guys pining for love from other guys. “How can you read that,” Our Hero asked.
“The same way you can read Yuri,” she replied, not taking her eyes off the manga.
“How? It’s two people of the same gender experiencing love and sometimes sex for the gratification of the reader. The only difference is one’s socially acceptable and the other isn’t.”
“Depends on whether you’re on the left or the right,” DG commented with a huff.
“Left or right of what,” Kiri asked.
“Nothing,” he covered, taking a gulp of pop. “I try not to discuss politics while I eat.”
“I end up throwing things.”
“That’s a mature way to end a debate.”
“But it does end them.”
“Throw facts, not fists,” she said, almost as if she was reciting a quote.
“What if I put the facts on my fists,” he asked with a cheesy grin.
Kiri glared and shook her head.
“Or you can just take all the fun out of it…”
The two finished their lunch, then Kiri started dragging Our Hero to a cosplay shop. One their way, he caught an all-too-familiar sound. It was two young men harassing an older man for protection money. Deadguy stopped, causing Kiri to almost fall backwards.
“What? What is-” she started, but stopped once he put his finger to his lips. He walked down the side street towards the argument. He found two young men, one tall and thin, the other short and round. They were pestering a man with a bad comb over who was trying to hold his wife back.
“Come on, old man,” the tall one sneered. “You know the rules. Today’s payday.”
“I never agreed to such a thing,” the old man stated.
“You heard the man,” Deadguy said, catching the thugs off-guard. “He’s off the payment plan. Go hassle a food cart vendor or something.”
The two thugs stepped away from the old man and turned to face Our Hero. “Stay outta this, punk,” the thin one growled. “or we’ll mess you up.”
“Yeah,” the short one added.
“Wow, you guys are smart and clever,” Deadguy remarked. He plunged his hands into the pockets of his long coat and pulled out his fingerless fighting gloves. He tightened them onto his hands. “Maybe you didn’t get the memo. I’m Deadguy, the Professional Hero Extraordinaire. Now, leave the old man alone or things are going to get messy.”
“I’m only 45,” the old man whined.
“Enough talk,” the short thug yelled. “Let’s just kick his ass.” The tall thug nodded, then charged at Our Hero. He took a swing, but Deadguy simply dodged the hit and retaliated with a punch to the stomach. The thug swung his fist back, trying to catch him off-guard. Deadguy grabbed it and threw him back at the short thug.
The two fell to the ground. “The Witch will hear about this,” the tall thug threatened as the two scrambled to their feet and ran off down the alley.
“The Witch,” Deadguy asked.
Kiri just shrugged.
Valkadaidan and Jill kept in step with one of the Ancient One’s attendants.”It still is a mystery to us how Unmei no hakobi-te was removed from the Vault of Ten,” he stated.
“Vault of Ten,” Jill asked Valk.
“Ten artifacts, forged by the gods at the beginning of time, that will be called upon to destroy this world when the time comes,” the Dragon-Blooded explained.
“What,” Jill yelled, her voice echoing through the hall. “Ten artifacts to destroy the world?”
“When the time comes,” Valk finished.
“When will that be?”
“Only the Ancient One knows,” the attendant answered. “My apologies for interrupting your conversation, but we have arrived.”
The Heroes stood in front of large, ornate chamber doors. There was a heat emanating from the other side, along with a low rumbling growl. “What’s behind the door,” Jill asked, worried that she already knew the answer.
“The Ancient One,” Valkadaidan answered.
Dusk began to cover Akibara, but that didn’t seem to slow Kiri down. “Ya know Kir,” Deadguy said. “I’ve fought demons, robots, Mongers, and even Chaos. But you, you have officially worn me out.”
“Let’s grab some sushi, then hit a few karaoke bars,” she squealed with enthusiasm.
“You. In the trench coat,” a voice yelled. Deadguy turned to see a man with a spear standing in the middle of the small street. He was clad in red samurai armor. “I am Sanada Yukanna. On behalf of the Witch of Akibara, I challenge you to battle.”
“First off, Red, this is a long coat,” Deadguy stated. “Heroes were long coats now. Second, I’m guessing you don’t know who I am.”
“You have interfered with my lady’s business,” he said. “That is all I need to know.”
“Um…DeeGee, he could be Yakuza,” Kiri whispered to him. “Might not be the best idea to fight him.”
“Relax, I got this.” Our Hero stepped into the street to stand a few feet away from him. “You want a fight, then we’ll fight, but ditch the spear first.”
Yukanna looked at his weapon. “Why?”
“I’m unarmed. If we’re going to fight, let’s make it a fair one at least.”
He looked back at Deadguy and nodded once. “You,” he called to Kiri. “Hold this.”
She crossed her arms. “Ask nicely.”
He looked confused. Deadguy gave a weak smile and a shrug. “Fine,” he sighed. “Please hold this.”
Kiri gave a warm smile and a nod as she took the spear from Yukanna.
He turned back to Deadguy. “Now are we ready to do battle?”
“Sure thing Sparky,” DG replied. “If you’re in that much of a hurry to-” He was cut off as Yukanna slammed a right hook into his jaw. Our Hero staggered back. “Okay,” he muttered just before his nose was broken from a direct hit. It quickly healed as he caught Yukanna in an uppercut.
“Tougher than you look,” Yukanna commented.
“Um, thanks,” Deadguy said before landing another punch.
The two Heroes stepped into the chamber of the Ancient One. There was a faint glow of fire coming from the mouth of what appeared to be a dragon-shaped fireplace. The chamber appeared bare otherwise.
“Where’s the Ancient One,” Jill questioned, looking around.
The dragon’s head moved to tower above them. Its eyes shot open, burning like flames. “It is I, mortal,” he said in a low booming voice.
“The Ancient One is a dragon,” she asked, taking a step behind Valk. “Is it going to eat me?”
The Ancient One glared at her. “Why would I do that,” he questioned. “Mortals are in no way fulfilling. You are like a grain of rice to me.”
“So you’re not going to eat me?”
“Dragons don’t eat people,” Valkadaidan explained. “That’s a lie spread by simple-minded, fearful fools.”
“Step forward, Senshi ,” the Ancient One commanded. Valkadaidan took a few steps. “Why do you bring us something that is locked away in the Vault?”
“That is why we are here,” Valk answered. “and the only answer I can some up with is there is a traitor in the temple.”
The Ancient One laughed. It was a low bellow that vibrated through the two Heroes bodies. You have lived among the mortals for too long,” he said. “It is impossible for deception to escape my sight.”
“And yet, here I stand with Unmei no hakobi-te,” Valk stated. “Only three beings know of the content of the Vault. Two are standing in this chamber.”
“And the third has long since died,” the Ancient One finished. “You were the one to see to that.”
“That was centuries ago,” the Dragon-Blooded said. “but it wouldn’t surprise me if he came back.”
“The dead cannot come back.”
“He hasn’t met Deadguy,” Jill muttered.
“Someone has had access to the Vault,” Valkadaidan stressed. “These things can’t come alive without the blood of a Chosen One and the spoken words.”
“You and I are the last of the Chosen Ones,” the Ancient One announced. “It is either your blood or mine that can activate the artifacts. Or have you forgotten that, ‘Dragon-Blooded’?” The Ancient One suddenly turned to the Vault door. “Unless…”
The Ancient One spoke in a tongue that humans could never hope to speak, and the door opened quickly. Inside, one of the servants that tended to the idols stood with a small clay idol in the shape of a man in his hand. In his other was a vial of blood.
“Sabanto, what are you doing?”
“What I must,” he replied, filled with conviction. He dabbed the blood on the forehead of the clay idol. He turned back to the Ancient One, then froze in shock once he saw Valkadaidan.
“Where did you get that blood,” Valk questioned.
“From you, when you fought that man in the strange armor.”
“Does he mean Rampage,” Jill whispered.
“You are indeed a strong warrior,” Yukanna stated, rubbing his shoulder. “Forgive me for my duplicity.”
“Huh,” Deadguy asked before a black sack was thrown over his head. “Hey! Not cool.”
He started flailing his arms around, trying to hit whoever was closest. Someone grabbed his arms and handcuffed them behind his back. His shouting was muffled by the black sack.
He felt two people grab him and throw him into the back of a van. Someone fell on top of him. ‘Must be Kiri’, he thought. ‘If they do anything to her…’ Our Hero continued thinking of ways to try and get out this situation up until the van stopped.
The Heroes were dragged out of the van and thrown onto cold, hard cement. Deadguy felt small hands fiddling with his handcuffs. Once his hands were free, he ripped the black sack off his head. His hat popped off as well. He saw Kiri close to him, holding his handcuffs.
“You okay,” he asked.
“I’m fine,” she answered, looking around. “for the moment.”
Deadguy started to look around as well. He noticed that they were completely surrounded by men and women ready for a fight. The two stood back to back. “Kiri, remind me to kick our travel agent’s ass when we get back,” he remarked.
“If we get back,” she corrected.
“Oh, we’ll get back.”
“Not if you don’t make it out of this room alive,” a female voice said. A few of the men parted as a plain-looking Japanese woman with a large nose stepped forward. She wore a big witch hat and a dark robe. “You gaijin have made a huge mistake.”
“Wait, why didn’t my brain translate that,” Our Hero asked.
“It’s a bug,” the Techie replied. “Insults, derogatory terms, and proper names won’t translate. It’s…something I’m working on.”
“Silence,” the woman yelled. “You will pay dearly for interfering with the work of the Witch of Akibara!”
Deadguy looked at the Witch with bold determination while Kiri watch the group of fighters closing in.
“What is this,” the Ancient One boomed. “How dare you commit such an act.”
“You have not seen the world master,” Sabanto replied, holding one of the statues. “It has descended into a madness that is beyond even your capabilities.”
“There is still hope for humanity,” Jill defended.
“Fool,” the dragon said. “Humanity is still very young. You are all but children bickering amongst yourselves like siblings do over a toy. There is still much time for humanity to learn. To grow. To mature.”
“Put it back,” Valkadaidan growled.
“No,” he yelled. “Humanity is too far gone. Humanity took my beloved away from me. Humanity will pay!” He held the small idol above him. Toshi Enda , Mezamemasu ! As the second artifact, you have been summoned. Go! Go and fulfill your task.”
Toshi Enda shot out of Sabanto’s hands like a meteor. It flew past the Ancient One, smashed through the walls, and plummeted to the earth. As it fell, it started growing in size. It reached the city of Nagano below, its enlarged feet crashing into the houses. Toshi Enda stood for a moment, a giant, unfinished clay golem among the sudden chaos, then started to walk.
The Heroes rushed to the giant hole. “Where’s it heading,” Jill asked.
“Couldn’t say,” Valk answered.
“Tokyo,” the Ancient One said. “Each artifact goes after the pinnacles of power. Unmei no hakobi-te was meant to destroy the strongest warriors humanity had.”
“Which is how we ended up fighting it,” Jill stated.
“ Toshi Enda is meant to destroy places of power,” the dragon continued.
“World capitals,” Valkadaidan said. “We need to stop it.”
“You are not strong enough to stop it, not as you are,” the Ancient One said. “Neither of you.”
“Then make us stronger,” Jill demanded.
The Ancient One smiled. It was unsettling. “So be it.”