Longinus: Cage of Angel

Chapter 2a

In such a desolate neighborhood, the day was bound to be quiet. It was easy enough to see that it hadn't always been the case. The few that had chosen to stay, had learned to keep of the streets and out of sight. Daytime was only slightly less risky, and night had become anathema to the remaining residents.

Regardless, the rays of the dawning sun soon beat back the night once more, catching two figures standing in the middle of a main road running through the ward.

"You still sure this is the place," the shorter of the two peered up and down the street, eying the abandoned homes and boarded up shops with a dismissive glance. "Looks pretty empty to me. I mean, who'd be dumb enough to stick around here?"

"Things aren't always as they appear," the older one too, kept one eye on the heavier shadows at the corners of the buildings nearby. "Besides, it appears I still have much to teach you in the ways of duty and honor. A man's word is worth its weight in gold. You'd do well to remember that," so saying, the gruff looking man nodded to himself, and started walking in a particular direction.

"Gold, huh. Sounds like you stole that one too," the younger man scratched idly at the week's growth of stubble on his chin, "Probably got it all ass backwards." He adjusted the strap of the pack he was shouldering before following after the other. "You're the last person I want to hear preach about that crap."

The older one in the lead shook his head, "Twenty years, I've raised you, boy. Twenty years of your griping and complaining. If this were two months ago, I'd remind you that while you think you've reached the pedestal where I stand, you're still grasping at the pebbles by my feet," he grumbled, clenching an impotent fist to his side. In better days, he would have made good on his threat. But no longer. Even he understood the need to conserve their strength. This was the time of the true art, when each fight could be their last.

The very thought was nearly enough to bring tears to his eyes. He couldn't have planned for a better way to truly test the boy. No, this was beyond the fate that he'd imagined so long ago, back when he'd made the promise. A promise he'd kept in full, for the most part. He could safely say that he'd done the best he could, given the time and tools he'd had to work with.

No matter what he told the boy, he was proud of the end result. The boy's training was all but complete, though there were still a few things he had yet to learn. Those would come later, given the opportunity. In these dark days, it was harder to predict what each new morning would bring, provided they lived through the night.

"Yeah, yeah, old man. Let's just get this over with," he squinted, scanning the rooftops lining the street. The damn things seemed to like high places just as much as alleyways. Just because the sun was out, didn't mean it was any safer. The light made them slower, but if there was food, they would come just the same. "You still haven't told me what's so important about this Tendou guy, that we're risking our necks in a city?"

Up ahead, the larger man slowed his brisk pace, but only marginally. "Son, he's someone that I owe a debt to, and now seems as good as any time to pay it back," he looked up at the roofs the boy was scanning, the sunlight glinting off his glasses. "In fact, it might just be the last chance I've got to do so."

"And you're sure he's still around? I mean, the house was empty when we went back home, Mom wasn't," he trailed off when his father looked back at him. It was a glare that he didn't often see, and meant that it was better if he kept his trap shut for a bit. The last time, well it had been a while actually, but some memories were fresh no matter how long had passed. When he didn't continue, the look vanished as quickly as it had appeared, and his father turned his attention back to watching the road ahead.

Well, either way, he was dubious of his father's current plan, whatever it was. Like he'd said, running around the city was dangerous at best, and a death wish any time after the sun fell below the skyline. Besides, as he'd been about to point out, anyone with common sense had left the area weeks ago. As his mother had done, probably.

They'd made the trek back home shortly after the outbreak two months ago. It had been hell, even for two accomplished martial artists, such as themselves. In the beginning, the greater Tokyo area had been crawling with the damn things. It wasn't really a whole lot better now, but with most of the survivors having been evacuated by the JSDF early on, there wasn't as much reason for the things to be quite so, active.

It was lucky, they'd thought, to have been out of the country at the time it first started. But, once his father had gotten word of the troubles back home, he cut short their trip, and decided to try and return to his wife, whom neither of them had seen in nearly five years. However, the two of them had returned to find an empty neighborhood, and more importantly, an empty house. There had been nothing to say whether she was alive or dead.

So, father and son of the Saotome family, had spent the past month searching for a woman of whom they had no idea where she might be. Most of the government run shelters, had either been overrun or unused. Those who had been able, had fled as far from the cities as possible, if not the country altogether.

Still, they searched, because they had nothing left to go on. They'd run across several scattered groups of people, mostly spread out into the mountains, outside the Kanto plains. People that were all too willing to barter a few supplies in exchange for safety. It was hard work, dangerous, but not impossible. The damn creatures were sparse in the countryside, and much easier to handle one on one. It was in the cities, where they mostly hunted in packs, making an encounter far more deadly.

And now, his father was throwing far too much caution to the wind, in an effort that he couldn't, or wouldn't explain to his son. It was both stupid and foolhardy, but then again, it wasn't too much of a surprise, since those traits seemed to define Genma Saotome.