They stood just outside the hospital where Okita Souji had been staying for a month now, caught in a standoff at long last. The years of games were long gone, and it was time for them to finally make an end to it. She had been waiting for this for a long time.
"Go on, love. Go in. You'll be safe inside." Jarenna murmured to her child, who was barely three years old. The boy's wide lavender eyes were fixated on his mother. The danger he felt was overwhelming, and he refused to leave her. What if the same thing happened to her like it happened to Sister four months ago?
He shook his head and clung to her.
She gently pried his fingers from her kimono and fixed him with a steady stare. "I need you to go in, Koji. Listen to me."
Reluctantly, the child moved away from his mother, and headed to the gates. He did not go in, however, simply staying out of sight within the gates. He wanted to stay and watch his kaa-chan from the evil woman. He would protect her.
Fallen angels at my feet
Whispered voices at my ear
"You've changed," Kimiko remarked. It was a new Jarenna she was looking at now. Her dark eyes were weary, and there was a strange gentleness in them now. Her wild spirit had diminished, leaving a woman laden with unspoken sorrow. Yet there was an air of confidence about her, entirely different from the almost arrogant grace that had been her signature ever since Kimiko could remember. This Jarenna was a failure.
"So have you."
"Nothing personal, Jarenna." Kimiko said blandly as soon as the child was gone. She was toying with her blade casually; she had gotten improved vastly during the years, and had been wanting to test her skills out on a worthy opponent.
Jarenna smirked mockingly. She could read the younger girl like a book. "Indeed? You're doing this because Souji loved me instead of you. This is not just about the mission, is it?"
"You stole him from me." She bit off coldly.
"We both know that's a lie." The smirk in her voice was not completely gone. "He was never yours to begin with, was he?"
Kimiko was silent.
The other woman paused, studying her. "You've learned how to control your temper."
"I learned from the best."
Jarenna smiled, a smile borne of acceptance. She had lived by violence; she would die by violence. It was just the way it was. No matter how much she'd changed, nothing could change the fact that she'd killed too many people to expect to die in peace.
Death before my eyes
Lying next to me I fear
"You know the only way this can end, don't you?"
Jarenna looked up at the overcast gray sky and nodded. Yanagi had already been dispatched, her vengeance for her murdered daughter was complete. Now, it would be her final battle. "Of course."
"Nothing personal. You know our laws for renegade assassins."
Her voice was filled with quiet pride. "I taught you that."
She beckons me shall I give in?
Upon my end shall I begin?
Kimiko bowed slightly, a mark of deference for the woman who had once been her teacher. But her wary eyes never left Jarenna's, in case she tried a sneak attack. "You have trained me well."
Her eyes hardened in response. It was time to receive her vengeance. "Come. Let us end it, then."
Forsaking all I've fallen for I rise to meet the end…
Jarenna drew her trademark wakizashi, and the battle began.
Already weakened by her earlier pregnancies, the present Jarenna was no match for her nemesis. She failed to block a fatal stab, and stumbled to the ground, blood staining her sky blue kimono.
There were no other words spoken.
It was finished.
"Kaa-chan!" Koji screamed, running out from his hiding place to his fallen mother, sobbing loudly. "Kaa-chan!"
Kimiko stared impassively at the boy, flicking her sword to get rid of the blood. He was crying violently now. She watched Jarenna, a woman whom she'd both hated and admired. She was dead now, and a part of her was secretly disappointed. She had expected her to last longer. The years have not been kind to either of us, my friend.
Kneeling beside the heart-broken boy, she said nothing until he spun to her, eyes blazing. "You killed my kaa-chan! My tou-chan will kill you! He'll kill you!" He started to cry again, and she was reminded of the first time she'd seen a young boy cry like that. Jarenna had not showed an ounce of mercy to him, then. A lovely angel of death, she had bestowed that gift onto entire families, never losing her saccharine sweetness even at the moment of death.
He turned to run, but Kimiko was faster. Her sword went clear through his back to pierce his heart. The boy fell to the ground without a sound, and the blood seeped onto the ground, staining it a dark, dark red. It was almost black.
At least Jarenna would not be alone now.
Not too far away, within the hospital wing, Okita Souji, too, lost his own battle. With his last breath he whispered Jarenna's name, a faint smile on his bloodied lips.
The heavens wept, cleansing the two bodies of their blood, cleansing Kimiko of both love and hate.
It was over now. Their story was done.
Kimiko knelt over her friend's body and pressed her lips to her forehead. "Tell Yanagi I said hello," she whispered, getting to her feet.
She picked up Jarenna's fallen umbrella, opened it, and continued her walk down the empty street.
A lifetime ago:
Tsukino Yanagi sat peacefully across from her boss, calmly sipping the freshly-brewed tea. She glanced out the window; it was close to daybreak, and she'd been sitting here for three full hours. It had been a job well done, and they were waiting for their next assignment.
Beside her, Kimiko shifted, obviously restless and eager to go out.
"Excellent work, ladies." Hatsue smiled, setting the papers aside. "The clients will be very pleased with the information."
"I don't see why we had to accept this assignment." Kimiko said in disgust. "They're pigs. Why can't they just get someone else to do their dirty work for them?"
"Because, my dear girl, this is what we do. And this is what guarantees our continued existence in society. We cannot afford to judge." The older woman replied almost kindly as she pushed three envelopes of money towards them. "We have another assignment today. The details are in the envelopes, too. Make sure Jarenna sees it." She paused. "Where is she, anyway?"
Yanagi smiled. "Where she always is after missions, Hatsue-san."
"Do you think it'd be good to disturb Jarenna now?" Kimiko asked as they made their way down the long corridor. The three of them favored this inn greatly; it had beautiful surroundings and there were sakura trees everywhere. The innkeeper even had three rooms specially for them, something almost everyone in Kyoto would kill for. The Jade Blossoms Pavilion was an inn with high-profile clientele, after all.
Yanagi looked up from her paper as they stopped. She'd been so deep in thought that she hadn't listened to a word the other girl was saying. "Hmm?"
Kimiko repeated her question with a touch more impatience. "Do you think it's wise to disturb her? The last time we did, it was mortifying." She blushed at the memory.
"Hmm…" She folded the paper and looked outside, idly judging the time. Then her gaze travelled two doors down to the one Jarenna was in. A soft muffled shifting was heard in the silence, and she smiled. Holding up a hand, she counted down the seconds silently.
A man stumbled out onto the corridor, half-nude. Thankfully it was just his top half that was undressed. Yanagi ran an appreciative eye over said male while Kimiko simply rolled hers. Jarenna knew how to choose, all right.
"It was fun while it lasted, Kakuzo-han, but I really must freshen up," a lilting voice wafted out sweetly. The man didn't even bother to make a reply as he slipped on his haori, a silly kind of smile on his face. It was part of the Jarenna charm, no red-blooded man could be angry with her, no matter what she did.
He was still wearing that stupid grin as he swept past them. Kimiko scowled, disgusted.
Yanagi shrugged, very much amused. "Hey, he's cute."
There was a short pause, and the same voice called out again. "Well? Aren't you girls coming in?"
"Ahh, much better." Jarenna ran a brush through her hair. She'd just thrown on a thin yukata, and the other two very quickly made themselves at home.
"You never keep them around for more than five hours," Yanagi observed, leaning against the window sill and observing the servants sweeping the courtyard below.
"What's the point, really?" Jarenna agreed. "They're just tools to work off steam on."
"Seems like you're working them, all right." Kimiko remarked dryly, studying a painting that hung on the wall. It was pretty abstract, and she still couldn't figure out what it was really supposed to be. "That one earlier was grinning like a moron."
She shrugged. "I've got what I wanted, and he got what he wanted. What's not to smile about?" She tugged idly on the worn red string that she'd been wearing ever since she could remember.
"That's a rather strange accessory, isn't it?" Kimiko was sure that the particular string did not hold any religious meaning of any kind, and the fact that Jarenna was never seen without it was cause for curiosity. She'd never worn anything more than once, and that had also applied to accessories.
"Yes," she replied noncommittally. "It is, isn't it?"
Yanagi tossed the envelope over to her, and she caught it easily enough. Her expression brightened considerably as she saw the stack of bills, which wasn't a surprise. Out of all of them, Jarenna loved money the most. She pulled out a slip of paper and scanned through it.
"A minor one this time. Some businessman wants us to off his partner."
Her nose wrinkled in distaste, but the expression was quickly gone. "This'll only take an hour. Price?"
"Fifty Ryo. Each."
The other girl's smile widened. "Excellent. Let's get cracking, then."
"It's a nice day out. I was thinking of spending it in the marketplace later." Yanagi replied, turning from the window. "What do you girls think?"
"Cool," Kimiko beamed, her attention drawn from the painting. "There's a new fabric stall in town, and their fabrics are simply amazing. We could go and take a look!"
"Sure." Jarenna set her brush down hopefully. "Let's go and see if they still sell kuroame first, though. I want a few bags."
"No!" Akira Mazue snapped angrily at the pageboy, who looked like he wanted desperately to be anywhere but here. "I will not agree to the trade, tell your boss that!"
The boy was already shaking, and he took off before he could say anything else. Grunting, he moved to slam the gates shut when a sweet-faced young woman came into his line of vision, a frilly basket of flowers in hand. "Good morning, sir." She cast an admiring glance at the compound and smiled. "Wow, it's a wonderful place you have here. Would you like some flowers to enhance it? Or for your wife, perhaps?"
He glanced from her face down to the flowers, and jerked back when he realized that they were full of white chrysanthemums. The flowers of death.
"No, I'm not interested." He turned to shut the gates once more, but she shook her head.
"Please, kind sir, listen to me for a moment, these are—"
"You would sell this kind of thing to me?" he demanded coldly, glaring at her. What game was this wench playing at, selling funeral flowers? "These are flowers for dead people, not for living beings! What is this rubbish!"
"I know that, Akira-han," Came the assured reply, even as the cry of a woman pierced the air. "They are for you."
A second later, Akira Mazue fell to the ground with a final thud, throat slashed, eyes wide and unseeing, mouth open in a silent scream of horror.
Stepping over the corpse, she dropped the flower basket casually on it and entered the house.
It was done, the mother, and the nineteen year-old daughter were killed, their blood an ever-growing pool on the ground. Yanagi casually flicked the end of her katana to get rid of the blood, and Kimiko sheathed her own. But their focus, however, was on the ground in a corner.
Kimiko was hesitant. "Should we?"
"But he's so young," She protested. "Barely three. I mean—"
"Hush, Kimiko. You'll scare the poor child."
Jarenna didn't look at her as she inched her way forward, toward the crouching, terrified toddler, who stared up at them with wide eyes. He was shaking violently and starting to cry. She made her way to him, and he tried to move back, only to be blocked by the g wall behind him. Jarenna lovingly stroked the young boy's cheek, and he whimpered in abject fear. He was so young.
"Shh," she soothed with a gentle smile. "It'll be all right. Close your eyes."
Kimiko closed her own, unwilling to look. How can anyone just kill a small child like that without the slightest hint of emotion?
Her hand reached to cover his eyes, and with the speed of a viper, her blade found it's vicious way into his heart. A small cry, and Jarenna whipped her wakizashi out seconds before he fell over, face down on the ground.
She stood up and undid her blood-spattered kimono, revealing another brand new one underneath. In casual imitation of both her comrades' earlier actions, she shed the garment. Daintily, she stepped over the boy's corpse and smiled. It was as if this was some kind of excursion instead of a massacre. "Come on, let's go before someone decides to investigate."
You didn't have to kill the boy,Kimiko thought silently as they slipped out of the back gates. He was barely three, and obviously the earlier scene was traumatic enough for him. But then again, Jarenna being what she was, it had been entirely expected. Who in the underworld did not know that Nemesis' viciousness was greater than her charm? It was no surprise that not one of them knew her name. None of the denizens ever revealed their real names, even to each other.
Jarenna had noticed her acute discomfort. Who could blame her? Kimiko was very new to this, after all. "It's nothing personal, Kimiko," she said softly. "There was only one way it could end."
Yanagi led the way, pretty much unperturbed, her mind more focused on sending a quick report back to Hatsue. Their work was done, and like Jarenna, she was looking forward to a day of shopping.
The girls resumed their walk toward the Kyoto marketplace.
I am the one with the brightest hair, leather I don't care
Don't ever want to take the shirt off
That's my dare
You got a girl but you touching me like you don't care,
But just don't get caught out there
Man, I got ten surrounding me
Center of attention
A riot it's bound to be
Though I'm in the middle
My jewels you're bound to see
I ain't one to care
I ain't used to fair
Baby you can keep the truth
Choose the dare
Me and my girls will be there tell your boys prepare to share
We'll play the dancing truth or dare
If someone's standing there, stare say
Hey baby what's your name
Don't stand looking insane
Do you want to ride the train, welcome to the fast lane
If you're in love beware
'Cause these people they don't care
All hands in the air
This is what we call truth or dare
"Truth Or Dare"—N.E.R.D feat. Kelis
AN: This is the song that inspired the story, 'cause I think it's bold and kinky, LOL. What do you think of this story so far? Tell me about it!